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The Beginning of the End by shade

Format: Novel
Chapters: 50
Word Count: 157,125
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Strong Violence

Genres: Romance, Action, Humor
Characters: Harry, Dumbledore, James, Lily, OC, Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, Snape, Voldemort, Tonks
Pairings:

First Published: 03/10/2004
Last Chapter: 08/14/2004
Last Updated: 08/14/2004

Summary:
++ Story Completed - Repost of the original story. The tale of Lily, James and their friends beginning in the 7th year. James and Lily begin their romance. After graduation the original Order begins its sometimes grueling work. However, everyone finds time for lighter or more personal moments as the first war commences. All Marauders are included as well as new characters. This is an Action/Adventure Tale also. This story contains everything up to the present day. The Rating reflects later chapters. Humor, heartbreak, horror and hopefully heartwarming moments.


Chapter 1: Fleeing Filch
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Please see the Author's notes at the end

Chapter One:


As with all things there had been a beginning and an end.

::::::::

The beginning:

This time he wasn’t going to get away, he was certain of it. His heart was hammering in his chest sweat pouring down his face and Argus Filch was hard on his heels. If he had stuck by Padfoot he could have been safely concealed underneath the invisibility cloak. Instead James had been caught across the hall in the open trying to bewitch one of the portraits to insult the Slytherins as they exited their dungeon common room. There had been nothing for it but to run like hell.

It had really been a brilliant revenge on the Slytherin prefect Montague, he’d never have a clue what hit him but when that blasted portrait of Sir Cadogan had begun yelping, “Interlopers! Intruders! Stand and fight you blasted curs!” Filch had heard and now James Potter was done for. Swearing at the Knight’s portrait James understood again why the staff was always insisting it be moved to another area. He had heard Cadogan’s clanking armor running from portrait to portrait practically broadcasting his location to Filch every step of the way. Up from the dungeon, through the Great Hall in a mad dash he had reached the corridor outside the library only to find himself within a few feet of the Bloody Baron. The Baron’s back was turned and James had flung himself in through the library doors. Now crammed against a suit of armor in the empty library, after-hours his breath coming in desperate gasps. There was no way out of here.

Filch entered with his lantern held high, “I hear you!” He trumpeted.

James shot a desperate look around the large room but there was nowhere to go that wouldn’t land him in the open. Filch’s lantern was approaching accompanied by the soft sound of his wheezing laughter.

“Mr. Filch?” A cool voice called and to his great dismay James Potter saw Lily Evans stand up from her seated position at one of the tables. Her hair gathered in a loose ponytail, she was obviously studying. Large dusty tomes littered the desk in front of her, one of which tried to get up and scamper away as she stood. Lily pointed her wand at the book and casually stunned it.

“What are you doing in here?” Filch asked the Head Girl suspiciously. “After hours. Out after curfew!”

“I have a note, Mr. Filch.” Lily answered with unruffled courtesy and she produced a piece of parchment from the pocket of her robes. “Professor Flitwick and Professor March both gave me permission to be in the restricted section. I’ve been studying for my NEWTs.”

Filch snatched the parchment and hastily read the note. “But you aren’t alone in here! I saw him, running like the Beast of the Black Forest was after him!”

Lily was just barely in James’s sight line but he saw her forehead furrow as she seemed to consider the stooped man’s words. “No. No one’s come in here while I’ve been studying Mr. Filch. I would have heard them.”

“Lying!” Filch screeched but with somewhat less certainty. The Evans girl had never been in any trouble and she was a particular favorite of Professor McGonagall’s.

“I assure you, I’m not.” Lily answered in that same smooth, unruffled voice. Filch might have been about to argue the point but it was at this moment that Peeves went swooping through the library, cackling madly as he went.

“Oh Argus Filchy!” Peeves taunted from his position fourteen feet up in the air. “Looking for students who never are there! Don’t know why the headmaster even keeps you here! Put you out in the bins with the other useless things!”

Laughing still Peeves rocketed through the wall and there was a shattering of glass from the corridor outside followed by successive crashes as Peeves made his way down the hall. Filch desperately looked around once more before uttering a half-smothered curse and chasing after Peeves.

Potter couldn’t believe his good luck. He’d been inches from being caught and Lily Evans of all people had been the person to unwittingly save him. James wasn’t sure how she could have missed his spectacularly ungainly entrance into the room but it didn’t matter. No house points would be lost. He wouldn’t be in detention all he need do was continue hiding until Lily was finished with her studies. It wasn’t an attractive proposition, cramped as he was but it certainly beat being at the mercy of Filch.

“You can come out now.” Lily Evans called and for a moment James Potter thought that perhaps Filch might be the better alternative. Her dislike of James was well established her adherence to the rules never varied, she seemed immune to his charms. He was done for after all.

“Hello there. Knew I was there, I take it?” James tried to make his voice even and charming but it came out as something of a squawk.

“Of course I did. God Potter, what a racket!” Lily looked James up and down carefully he was red-faced and perspiring. His unkempt hair seemed to have found new angles at which to stick out from his head. He even looked slightly frightened.

“Oh. Uh, well then. Thanks. Thanks for covering for me.” He said with what he desperately hoped was a winning smile. It evidently wasn’t.

“You’re not in the least welcome. I wouldn’t have done it but you’re Head Boy, I’m Head Girl and I didn’t want to hear the Slytherins crow about your detention tomorrow.” Her vivid green eyes never left his face her dark red hair seemed to crackle with vitality in the glow from the torchlight. “What in the world have you done this time?”

James shifted uncomfortably from one foot to another. Moonrake Leeches in Montague’s bed had been a particularly difficult prank to pull off. That rat would be covered in bright green pustules until Madame Pomfrey could procure the antidote of Hogswidth Thistle. Hogswidth Thistle only grew in France in a large enchanted valley and was protected by the most vicious herd of wild Hippogriffs in Europe. It served him right though.

“I wasn’t doing anything.” He was shooting for innocence but knew he fell far short of the mark. Lily huffed in irritation. “Alright, I was outside of the Slytherin Common Room when…”

“The Slytherin Common Room?” Lily found herself fascinated despite herself. “What were you doing there?”

“Uh, er, waiting, for a friend to come out.” James’s hazel eyes blinked rapidly as he often did whenever he was covering up his mischief.

“A friend? In Slytherin?” Lily said doubtfully. “You don’t have any friends in Slytherin.”

“Well, I should say I was waiting for a friend who had gotten into the Slytherin common room.” James felt desperate. He could lie smoothly to teachers but found himself scrambling when confronted by the composed seventeen-year-old girl in front of him. If she would only quit looking at him! It had something to do with her eyes, he felt sure of it.

“A friend that got into…” Lily paused in confusion and then a look of dawning realization spread across her even features. “How did he get in there?”

Now was not a good time to tell her about the invisibility cloak or how he and Sirius had followed Achbot, a Slytherin third year in order to overhear the password. Two hours later Sirius had crept in with the jar of leeches and found Montague’s bed. James was to have kept an eye on the Marauder’s Map, checking for movement but no one had been about. He’d taken a moment to try the insult charm he had learned on the portrait and that was when the creaking knight had awoken from a light doze and begun shouting. Padfoot had arrived in the hall behind him and announced “mission accomplished!” just as Filch rounded the corner.

James didn’t know what to do now. As always whenever he was near Lily he had trouble thinking clearly. Although he was widely admired by nearly all of the students at Hogwarts Lily had never been one of his fans. Plus, there was something about her green-eyed gaze and thick black lashes that made clarity of thought somewhat impossible. He decided to settle for half the truth.

“It’s a long story but we were just trying to exact some justice.” James hoped that the word justice would distract the slight, red-haired girl in front of him.

“Justice?” She asked with a note of doubt in her tone.

“Yes, justice. Look, Montague was harassing Fielding earlier today. Giving him a truly rotten time of it, hexed the poor kid with a nausea spell that made him miss Potions.”

“A prefect hexed a fourth year Hufflepuff?” Evans still sounded doubtful but possibly slightly outraged also. “Well, you’re Head Boy, why didn’t you just put a stop to it?”

“I didn’t get there in time!” James answered honestly. “By the time I reached the landing Fielding was as sick as a dog, Montague was reprimanding him for rudeness to a Prefect and March was there backing him up!”

Sylvania March was the much-despised teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts and the current head of the Slytherin house.

“Oh. I see.” Lily chewed her bottom lip for a moment and seemed to consider the situation. James Potter had an ego that could practically fill the entire castle but all of this seemed to line up with what she knew. Professor March was always biased in favor of the Slytherins and Hector Fielding had been plagued by the Slytherin Prefects since his first year. Fielding was muggle-born and had a particularly earnest quality about him. He was tiny for his age and prone to doing things like tipping over under the weight of his own bookbag. Lily sighed. It didn’t seem that any of the Mauraders would go too far out of their way for a Hufflepuff boy but Montague was equally hard on the Gryffindor students. Whatever they had done to him he probably richly deserved.

“So, what did you do to him?” She asked with a slight smile.

Thus far a version of the truth had helped so Potter decided to continue in that vein, “Moonrake Leeches, in his bed.”

“Oh! James he’ll be green for a month!” Lily was astonished.

“Well, it will match Fielding’s face this afternoon and Montague’s robes.” James allowed himself a small version of his famous grin.

Lily Evans looked at the young man before her. He was taller now than he had been in previous years, his hair was certainly no tidier but there was a difference in his manner. He seemed almost…kind.

“Fine then. I’ve got loads of studying to do so good luck getting back to the common room.” She was dismissing him.

“You aren’t coming then?” James asked, this was shaping up to be the most pleasant conversation he’d ever had with Lily. He wasn’t anxious for it to end.

“No. Professor Flitwick had to force Professor March to allow me access to the Defense Against the Dark Arts section and I doubt I’ll get another opportunity to study them this extensively.”

“All right.” James conceded. He had never liked the Dark Arts and it wasn’t simply because he loathed his teacher. “I’ll head back then. Goodnight and Lily? Thanks again.”

“You’re welcome.” She answered absently as she turned away.

Thanking the stars for his good luck James whipped out the door into the empty corridor took a moment to check his map in order to avoid further disaster and legged it for the Gryffindor common room. Five minutes later the portrait of the fat lady was swinging shut behind him as he arrived back at his school house. His three closest friends, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew were waiting for him.

“Prongs!” Sirius spoke from the long couch in front of the fire. “We’d nearly given up all hope. Figured Filch would have you licking trophies clean until dawn or something.”

“Very nearly did but I caught a lucky break.” Potter answered.

“Oh? Did you trap Filch in a room that only appears every fifty years?” Padfoot asked.

“Not quite.” James told him what had occurred in the library.

“Lily Evans saved your neck?” Remus Lupin asked with a frown. The full moon had only passed two days ago and Remus still looked weary.

“Yes, she did.” Prongs answered with a small smile.

“And how exactly did you get around the fact that she disapproves of everything about you?” Peter asked. His pinched face and watery eyes glistened in the firelight.

“Hey now, she doesn’t think I’m all that bad.” James felt a tad defensive.

“Oh, certainly not. Fat Head is usually a term of endearment.” Padfoot added as he stood and stretched his long frame.

“Fat Head?” That didn’t sound promising.

“Don’t worry, she also calls you His Royal Fat Head from time to time, so there is a mark of respect there.” Sirius yawned hugely and suggested they head up to bed. James felt oddly deflated after the evening’s activities and agreed. They trooped off to the tower room together.

::::::::::

The next morning at breakfast Lily Evans was feeling quite tired. She sipped some pumpkin juice and absently munched on a piece of toast as she put the finishing touches on roll of parchment for Professor Binns’s class. She muffled a yawn, as she threw her long ponytail over her shoulder and tried to concentrate on the History of Veela manipulation as it pertained to the peace negotiations between the McTavish family and the Chzortchoy clan in 1865.

The history should have been interesting, Boris Chzortchoy of Russia had called down a befuddlement curse on all male McTavish’s after one the McTavish family members had fallen in love with Boris’s wife, Irina who was among other things a Veela. The McTavish’s, before confusion had struck nearly everyone, had enacted a poverty curse against the Chzortchoy family. It was only through the intervention and persuasion of the Irina’s mother, a full blood Veela that all out war between the powerful wizarding families of Scotland and of Russia had not broken out. There had, of course been problems, the McTavish’s were all too bemused to remember exactly how to remove the curse and the Chzortchoy family had been accused of kidnapping and holding prisoner the oldest male heir to the McTavish fortune as leverage. It could have been interesting but Professor Binns only wanted information regarding the impact on the Russian economy instead of the strange romance or the power of the Veelas. Lily yawned again. As usual she had a pencil stuffed behind her ear but she wrote with a quill.

“Lily, he’s watching you again.” Amelia Strong a fellow Gryffindor seventh year whispered to Lily.

Without glancing up Lily asked, “Who’s watching me?”

“That horrid Severus Snape.” Amelia hissed back.

Lily was used to this Severus Snape had a habit of staring at her when he thought no one else was watching although whenever he spoke to her he called her filthy names and insulted everything she did. Boys, Lily thought, were quite confusing. She looked towards the Slytherin table briefly and sure enough, the tall thin Slytherin Snape was staring at her with an odd, hopeful expression. As soon as she caught his eye he tossed his hair back from his high forehead and sneered at her. She went back to writing on her parchment.

“Lily?” Amelia said again and Lily snorted in irritation.

“Let me guess, still watching?” She asked her friend, a tall, spindly girl who would have been pretty if she had managed to tame her unwieldy blonde hair and remembered to push her glasses up on her long, straight nose occasionally.

“No, well, actually yes but now James is staring at you.” Amelia sounded confused, why was everyone always staring at Lily? She was pretty certainly, with her glowing hair, clear complexion and sparkling eyes but she generally wasn’t particularly friendly to any boys. Amelia contemplated asking Lily what kind of shampoo she used for roughly the 100th time but said nothing.

“James Potter?” Lily tried to keep her voice light but a slightly nervous edge had crept into it. She didn’t care for James at all with his swaggering ways and disregard for the rules. Still, she was surprised because her heart fluttered briefly. She glanced up.

“No, I’m sorry, I guess he was just looking towards Megan Hogan.” Amelia apologized.

“Oh.” Lily refused to admit that this disappointed her slightly. She finished her essay and began stuffing her things into her bag. If James Potter wished to stare at Megan that was entirely his business. After all, Megan had an exceptionally well developed figure and curly chestnut hair that perfectly framed her heart shaped face. Boys were not only confusing they were generally shallow.

:::::::::

“You’ll bore holes into her if you keep that up.” Remus “Moony” Lupin commented in a whisper to James. “Eat your breakfast you git.”

“Eh?” James asked, his eyes locked on Lily who was bent over her parchment again her quill scratching busily away. That silly Muggle writing instrument always tucked in her mass of gleaming hair.

“I said eat before you perish from unrequited loved.” Remus teased. His voice was pitched low enough that neither Sirius “Padfoot” Black or Peter “Wormtail” Pettigrew could hear him. Besides, they were busily engaged in an argument about how to turn the treacle tarts at the Slytherin table into tar tarts for that evening’s dinner.

James still did not look away but just at that moment Lily looked down the table towards him. He quickly shifted his gaze to Hogan, the sixth year student who wore too much makeup and always seemed to be sticking out her chest. Hogan immediately smiled at him and James glance darted across the great hall in a panic, his eyes coming to rest on that towering, nasty piece of work, Snape.

“Snivelus is certainly getting an eyeful this morning.” Padfoot had settled the tart argument and was watching the Slytherin with vague interest. “Why’s he ogling Evans?”

“I don’t know.” James growled but he found that he was flushed with anger.

“Easy there Prongs,” Sirius eyed his friend warily, “he hates her, remember?”

“I remember.” James couldn’t believe how flushed he felt. “Let’s just hope he does too.”

Sirius regarded his friend with interest. James had gone out with many of the girls in the school, but he’d never actually shown a prolonged interest in any of them. He decided to distract his friend.
“Ah look at that, the well endowed Hogan is taking an interest in Prongs.” As soon as Sirius spoke the busty girl switched her gaze to Sirius who smiled mildly in return. She was a pretty thing, even if she did look like the prow of a ship. Admittedly, there was nothing wrong with being curvacious he mused…and with that, he lost all thought of James’s interest in the self-contained Evans girl.

:::::::::

Severus Snape sometimes wondered if he had been bewitched. He wouldn’t put it past a Mudblood, trying to ingratiate herself with one of the oldest, pure-blood families like the Snapes. He’d heard his father talking to his mother about it often. Evidently Lord Voldemort cautioned all of his followers against such dangers.

Once again Severus wondered how much Voldemort had to do with the disappearances over the last two years. Muggle-born wizards and witches who had married into pure blood families had gone missing with increasing regularity, sixteen to date. It wasn’t until the first death had been confirmed by the Daily Prophet that Severus became nervous. Not wishing to associate with Muggle-borns was one thing, but killing them? Certainly Lord Voldemort wouldn’t consider such a thing? If he did, he certainly wouldn’t consider hurting a student, would he? Against all reason Severus found himself hoping that Lily Evans would remain safe.

Lily’s hair caught the light as she turned and looked at Severus and the tall student felt as if the bottom had dropped out of his stomach. He tossed his head and glared at her.

He was bewitched, he decided. There was no other explanation. Why else had he sought out the cream from Madam Pomfrey to clear his skin, why else would he be secretly washing his hair in a potion specially concocted to help his hair be less greasy? Snape had no interest in any of the girls at Hogwarts, least of all a Mudblood Gryffindor like Lily.

Still, the words of his father came clearly to him once again, “Soon we’ll be free of these impurities, Lord Voldemort knows what to do.”

Was Lily one of the impurities? Severus Snape’s confusion deepened when his stomach lurched again, this time in fear.

:::::::

At the staff table Minerva McGonagall and Ablus Dumbledore were discussing the latest edition of the Daily Prophet. Another Muggle-born wizard was missing and the tearful interviews with the family of the man were heart wrenching. Looking out across the dining tables McGonagall’s gaze came to rest on Lily Evans who suddenly turned her head looked toward the Slytherin table. There, Severus Snape flushed with what appeared to be surprise or anger and glared back.

McGonagall’s gaze shifted back to Lily and wandered to James Potter who was staring at Lily quite intently. Minerva watched the rest of the activities with interest that bordered on concern.

“Albus,” She began hesitantly. The Headmaster was generally not concerned with the romantic entanglements of the students but this particular development was alarming. “I think that two boys are showing a pointed interest in Miss Evans.”

“Indeed?” Asked Dumbledore, his long crooked nose still pointing downard towards the paper. “And who might those two boys be?”

“Severus Snape and James Potter, unless I’m very much mistaken.” Minerva said a bit anxiously. “Albus, this isn’t going to end well.”

Beside her Dumbledore sighed, “No, I fear that it will not.”

Author's notes: Okay guys...this is still the original story. It's going to take me a bit to get it back up again but....Please review. If you liked it before, let it be known that you like it now.

You guys were really good to me the last time and I'm reposting this story because I've had a lot of requests. I will also repost the sequel. However, this is a booklength fic. To any new readers...please know that. It's a long, complicated story.

Please review if you have a moment - even if you've reviewed in the past because wow...will this ever look pathetic with 40 odd chapters and no reviews.

Thanks as always for reading.


Chapter 2: Teaching and Watching
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Chapter Two:

Walking to Transfiguration with Amelia, Lily saw Charles Montague at the end of the hall.

“Good lord, what happened to him?” Amelia asked as she stared at the tall young man’s vividly disfigured face. Gretel Finch, another Slytherin prefect was trying to cast some sort of spell on his disfigurement but with each flick of the wand, Montague’s pimples seemed, if anything, larger. There certainly wasn’t any way they could get greener.

“Haven’t a clue but I must say it suits him.” Lily answered lightly and glanced over her shoulder to smile at James Potter who was only a few steps behind them.

“That’s encouraging.” Remus smirked. “Perhaps you’ve been downgraded to His Royal Slightly Swollen Head.”

“Marvelous.” James answered dryly but couldn’t help feelingly oddly hopeful nonetheless. For two years James had tried to catch Lily Evans eye. Who knew it would take bright green acne to accomplish?

As the students took their seats in McGonagall’s class there was a general murmur of voices. Tiny snippets of conversation could be overheard.

“Oh you needn’t worry about him, Alice.” One Gryffindor girl comforted another. “Alexander Greer has no taste if he’d rather take that stuck up Cordelia Monfet to Hogsmead.”

Alice Moore was a round-faced, sweet seventh year that had been dating one of the Ravenclaw boys. She looked as if she had been crying recently, her pale green eyes were rimmed with red. Catching her eye briefly, Lily smiled at her encouragingly.

As Professor McGonagall swept into the room all conversation ceased. She opened her lesson plan on the top of her massively carved desk and began to speak without preamble.

“As NEWTs will be the focus for most of you this year we will continue to study the art of transfiguring an inanimate object into a living creature. Today we will be turning Muggle Artifacts into Barn Owls. Remember to pronounce this spell slowly for maximum effect and also, take note, this is not to be attempted outside the confines of this classroom. The Ministry tends to frown on the bewitching of Muggle things. The spell in question is ‘Ocsavora Fidichio”, you may begin. Please work in pairs.”

Minerva turned her back to the class as they began to separate into their accustomed pairings. James and Sirius were settling down to examine their alarm clocks with interest, Peter and Remus were across from them.

“Pairs, that I will assign.” For the life of her Minerva was not sure what she was playing at, but she wanted to make sure of something and this seemed one way to do it. “Potter and Evans, Strong and Lupin, Black and Moore…”

Minerva McGonagall would have blushed furiously if she could remember how but it had been years since she had occasion to recall. She was breaking apart her class into a veritable match making session. However, if romance had any sort of role to play in the coming battles, it was best to know now and why not experiment a bit while trying to gauge some of her students?

James Potter’s hand began to rise towards his hair, perhaps to ruffle it, perhaps to make a futile attempt at straightening it. Either way, he stopped in mid-gesture as he remembered that Lily Evans seemed to like his constant hair adjustments least of all.

“Well, we’d better get to it.” Lily said as James hesitantly approached her table. He looked flustered and Lily could count on one hand the number of times she had seen this young man ill at ease. She took stock of the lad before her. He was pushing six feet tall now, if he wasn’t ever so slightly over that. His fair skin was unmarred by freckles and whereas it was rather pale, it still glowed with health. He had an athlete’s grace and attitude, she thought. He smiled at her warmly and despite herself she smiled back.

That smile, James thought absolutely delighted. He blushed to the roots of his hair. He’d watched her so often, never realizing that at least one of his friends was always aware of this. Perhaps it was because he was a werewolf and reluctant to make friends with too many people but Remus Lupin was always observing the behavior of his friends. It was safer to watch than to risk attachments himself.

As for Remus he smiled kindly at Amelia and set to work. He pronounced the spell slowly and carefully, with more emphasis on the first word than the second and instantly, a small, spotted barn owl sat before him blinking in the sun. Amelia stared in admiration but Lupin didn’t notice, instead, he was watching his friend James having something of a time with it.

What was it about Lily Evans? Sirius had once asked Remus as they had prowled through the forest one evening. They had been out collecting Manifest Mushrooms (ingest one and your ears would grow to twice their natural size!) with the plan of dumping them into the Slytherin’s soup. Lupin had shrugged noncommittally but he knew full well what it was, there just wasn’t any point in explaining it to Sirius.

Like the flower after which she was named, Lily Evans was a delicate beauty. She was small boned, porcelain skinned and her enormous green eyes seemed to penetrate all the way through a person. Her hair was so luxurious that on the few occasions it was loose, it fell in a glorious shower. If you happened to catch the sun reflecting from her hair, it was as if a ruby had twinkled at you. Then there was her voice. Unlike many girls her age, Lily’s voice was not particularly high. Instead it rang in a melodious fashion but still managed to be slightly deeper than you would have thought such a tiny young woman could produce. Her voice alone had guaranteed that most of the young men at Hogwarts were goners for her at one time or another.

But they usually recovered, whereas Remus knew, James Potter might ask out girls from the various houses, and they would accompany him to the tea shoppe in Hogsmeade but James Potter had fallen for Lily when he was fifteen years old, and he had never recovered. He might bluster that she was all about rules and had no fun in her, but Remus knew that’s all it was, bluster.

Remus’s attention was dragged back to the table in front of him when Amelia uttered a startled cry. She had pronounced her spell incorrectly and the small clock in front of her had merely sprouted wings and tried to take flight. Stifling an urge to laugh, Remus reached up a hand and caught it.

James and Lily concentrated on turning alarm clocks into hooting barn owls. James couldn’t seem to get the incantation right and as a result his owl sat disconsolately hooting “Bing!” He blushed furiously, feeling the hot blood creeping up the back of his neck.

“Are you alright?” Lily asked as she struggled with her own owl which for some reason seemed to tick. James was one of the best Transfiguration students. In fact, Lily pondered all of the Marauders seemed to be particularly gifted in this class.

“Fine.” James muttered and tried again. All he got for his troubles was a small poof of feathers and another “Bing!” This was becoming mortifying.

Sirius was paying no true attention to poor Alice, who would have liked nothing better than to show Alex up by appearing in the village with Sirius. However, Sirius Black had little time for the kindhearted girl in front of him. He transformed his clock without any true effort and went back to watching James with Lily.

What the hell had gotten into Potter? He was a red as a brick and if he kept up his ham fisted jabs with his wand the owl would soon be burping springs.

Lily finally managed to get her owl to quit ticking and she looked up at James with a bright smile of triumph. It was evidently more than the Gryffindor Seeker could take. He thrust his wand out and desperately barked out the incantation once more. The owl suddenly grew to three times its size and fluttered its wings with surprise. “Bing?” it seemed to be asking.

Professor McGonagall sat at her desk and watched carefully. Pettigrew had transformed his object with some difficulty. Black and Lupin had done so with ease. The rest of the class was have varying ratios of success. It was Potter and Evans to whom Minerva’s discerning eye was most often drawn.

Potter’s large owl shot up from the table and straight towards Lily Evan’s face, she shrieked and ducked as it soared around the room. Evans was on the floor, Potter was trying to help her up and as she stood, her hair came loose from the ribbon that tied it back from her face.

There was no mistaking the look on the boy’s face. He was smitten. Evans’ mirth filled laugh tinkled out across the room as she untangled herself from her disarrayed robes and said:

“Potter, I don’t think you’ve got much of a future in Muggle Artifacts!” Before she collapsed giggling.

They were definitely warming towards one another, thought Minerva. Amelia kept shooting quick glances at Remus also, and to his credit he had thrown a protective arm around the girl, drawing her underneath the table as Potter’s miserable attempt at Transfiguration dive bombed them. Sirius was too busy laughing to notice that he was on the receiving end of more than one admiring female glance.

The seventh year for students was always confusing. They paired off more seriously then, and the object of the pairings was often more than a shared butterbeer or stolen kiss in the library. Alliances for life were often set in the final year. Alliances and grudges that because of the current climate of the times might very well turn deadly, Minerva thought uneasily.

James Potter was from an old wizarding family. Lily Evans was a Muggle-born. That sort of connection could prove quite difficult now, with Voldemort drumming up supporters and so much talk of pure-blood vs. mixed. Then McGonagall thought of Severus Snape’s bitter, unhappy face in the Great Hall and a shiver went down her spine.

Whatever the rest of the student body might think of the young Snape, there was no denying he was extremely powerful. Perhaps more powerful than he knew. Worse still anger could make a powerful man mighty indeed.

“Bing! Bing! Bing!” Potter’s unfortunate transfiguration swooped near her head and Minerva muttered the counter spell so that it fell benignly onto her desk once again a clock where it lay ticking.

::::::::

As Head Boy and Head Girl James and Lily had many an occasion to speak with each other. For the life of her Lily couldn’t understand why Dumbledore had chosen James as Head Boy. He took nothing seriously and he was a disaster at disciplining the prefects. Seemed he much rather jinx them than speak to them directly. Still, he had his strong points she supposed only Professor March seemed immune to his charms so he could talk nearly any of the teachers into favors. Long ago he had asked her out but after her scathing refusal he hadn’t asked again, now he seemed to spend half his time thinking about Quidditch and the other half asking out girls. He never seemed to ask them more than once or twice though.

James watched Lily carefully, she was still flushed from laughing and her long hair was still hanging around her face. On the one hand, he’d made a complete mess of his lesson, on the other, he’d finally gotten Lily’s full attention. Later he would swear to himself that it had been an unconscious move but his hand moved to her hair.

“What are …” Lily began.

“You’ve got a feather in your hair.” James lied and inadvertently blinked twice.

He was lying, Lily knew. His fingertips briefly tangled in her long hair and for a moment, Lily had no desire for him to remove his touch. She’d never noticed his hands before, they were always moving so quickly but James Potter had beautiful hands. Long tapered fingers, slightly rough as they caught in her tresses.

“Hey, Prongs, what’re you petting Evans for?” Sirius called playfully and James’s hand dropped immediately to his side.

“She had a feather in her…” He began and looked at his closest friend. There was no point lying he supposed, Sirius looked evenly at him. Remus was staring with a slight smile on his face, Peter was somewhere behind James but he knew that he would be staring too.

“Right.” Remus said, “If we’re all done grooming each other, we’d better get to Potions. Harrington won’t like it if we’re late.”

Professor Harrington was an aging witch who was retiring at the end of this term. She had no tolerance for her young charges any longer and could be a bit stiff with them.

“Potions.” James repeated seemingly in a daze. Lily was putting her things in her bag in front of him, her eyes on his face still.

“Yes Prongs, Potions.” Sirius stood beside him. “See you later Evans. You’ve got History of Magic next, don’t you?”

“Yes.” She answered shortly and began to leave. Then she paused. “James, we really should get together and talk about the prefect duties. I’ve just heard that Montague is a bit ill, we may need to keep an extra close eye on Slytherin.”

“Right.” James croaked. “Meet you after dinner maybe? In the common room?”

“The common room? No let’s meet in the prefect’s lounge, we’re less likely to be disturbed there.”

James didn’t answer. Lily Evans was suggesting a private meeting with him? Remus pointedly stepped on his foot as he made his way to the door. “Sure, the lounge.” James was attempting to sound composed. Lily smiled and left the room.

The Marauders were gathered around the dazed Potter.

“So, we’ve got a project.” Remus said.

“Sirius and I have to sneak into the kitchens to get at the treacle tarts. Don’t eat any tonight, by the way.” Peter piped in.

“Not that project you ninny. Prongs here has an interest in a certain lady, and we’ve got to help him figure out how to woo her.” Remus’s grin was nearly devilish.

“Indeed.” Padfoot added, his voice equally mischief. “Our James is all grown up, and wooing is in order.” He added with a wink.

“Please stop saying ‘wooing’ would you?” James seemed to snap back to himself when Lily was gone. “Sure, I like her, she’s nice. I wouldn’t mind…”

“If she bore your children.” Sirius teased mercilessly.

“If she’d …” James voice faltered, what did he want? “If she’d at least consider being friends.”

“Friends?” Sirius laughed.

“Okay, more than friends maybe. Take her out perhaps.” James tried to keep his voice casual. It was almost as successful as his attempt at Transfiguration had been that day.

“Right, take her out.” Remus cutting the teasing short Harrington would take points like mad if they didn’t get a move on.

“Take who out?” Asked Peter eagerly.

“Lily Evans you knob. Did you see James here nearly swooning from love?” Sirius laughed as James cuffed him lightly in the head.

“Evans?” Peter asked suspiciously. “But why would you want to date her? She’s a…”

“What?” James’s voice sounded suddenly very sharp.

“She’s a…bit aloof, wouldn’t you say?” Peter finished.

“A bit. That’s where the wooing comes in.” Sirius was nearly helpless with laughter.

Relieved that no one had guessed what he had been about to say, Peter Pettigrew walked towards Potions with his friends. Why would James want to date Lily Evans? He’d always looked up to James. What did James want with a Mudblood? It was very confusing and disturbing. And why was Moony staring at him like that?

Author's Notes: Thanks for reading :-) This is a completed story but it will take me a bit to repost it all.

Please take the time to review.


Chapter 3: Conversation
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Chapter Three:

There were few things in life more boring than listening to Professor Binns drone on about the various Goblin rebellions. Today the featured subject was the rebellion in which the Goblins had joined forces with a group of particularly pernicious trolls. It might all have been gripping but for the fact that it had all happened 600 hundred years ago and the fact that Professor Binns was the very antithesis of exhilaration.

Lily stifled a yawn and was simply grateful that she had already read all about this bloody rebellion. Goblins, she decided, were best left to themselves and their money. She shifted in her seat and caught Amelia’s eye.

“Hello, still alive over there?” She whispered although she need not have bothered. Binns might not have noticed if one of his students burst into flames, a bit of light chatting was well beneath his radar.

“Barely. I think I lost my pulse earlier but I seem to have found it again.” Amelia grinned back. She seemed to be in a particularly good mood.

“I really think I loathe Goblins.” Lily grinned back. “So, when are you going to tell me?”

“Tell you?” Amelia feigned ignorance.

“What’s making you smile so much. You’ve been a grinning fiend ever since we left Transfiguration.” Lily prodded. She liked Amelia, in fact, truthfully Amelia was her closest friend. They shared a dormitory together as well as all their secrets. Only Amelia knew about Lily’s struggle with her older sister Petunia and how she dreaded going home at breaks. Only Amelia knew that the reason Lily was so focused on her schoolwork was that she was determined to take tops marks with her when she went looking for a job. She had to make as much money as possible so that she might leave her parents home, and the dreadful Petunia far behind. Lily was ambitious but only because her sister had made it her life’s work to make her miserable enough to strive for escape.

“Well…” The other girl began and her glasses slipped down her nose a bit. “What do you know about Remus?”

“Remus Lupin?” Lily was honestly surprised. “Not much really. He seems like a nice enough fellow but he’s always hanging about with those Marauders. Why do you ask?”

“I rather like him.” Amelia said primly and Lily nearly laughed but she quickly saw that her friend was serious. Lily was used to the underclassmen liking either Potter or Black, but Lupin rarely entered into the equation. In fact, come to think of it, Lily didn’t think she’d ever heard that he had dated anyone, ever. Or Pettigrew for that matter, but that was understandable.

“He’s very nice.” Lily said slowly. “But I’m not at all sure about his health. He sometimes looks rather pale and drawn. Are you sure you want to set your sights on a boy who’s the color of parchment a few days a month?” Something about the phrase ‘a few days a month’ tugged at Lily’s brain. It was true Remus seemed to fall ill monthly. Or was she imagining it?

“I don’t mind that he’s pale. Or that he hangs out with those Marauders.” Amelia was quite serious. “Besides, I think the Marauders can be quite nice. I like how Remus treats people. I’ve never seen him picking on anyone, not the younger kids, not the Slytherins, not anyone.”

Lily considered this. It was true Remus was not prone to teasing. He had a good sense of humor but he was less likely than his friends to try and pull a prank on someone. She looked again at Amelia. Her hair was a disaster, curly, tangled, too long and parted incorrectly. Aside from that, her glasses didn’t flatter her face much but she was actually pretty. Her skin was clear except from a light dusting of golden freckles and her eyes were a warm brown. With the right haircut…

“Amy?” Lily used the nickname for her friend.

“Hmm?” Amelia was evidently still thinking about the kind blonde boy from earlier.

“What do you say you let me cut your hair tonight?” Lily asked. She had several magazines in their room, and it should be as simple as pointing a wand here and there.

“Uh…do you think I need to?” Amy’s hand shot up to her riotous hair.

“I think it might suit you.” Lily said encouragingly. “Oh, and in the Muggle world we have contact lenses so people needn’t wear glasses.”

“Oh!” Amelia was beginning to sound alarmed. “Do you think that…”

“I read that there’s a daily spell you can use to have perfect vision. Save you the trouble of always having to wear glasses.” Lily’s tone was light but in truth she rather longed to help her friend look prettier. So what if it was to catch the attention of a boy that most girls wouldn’t have looked at once, let alone twice?

“I…well…oh. No glasses?” Amelia unconsciously pushed her glasses up to the bridge of her nose.

“Uh-huh.” Lily was smiling. “Tonight, after I’m done with my meeting, we’re going to turn you into a knockout!”

“Knock…huh?” Amelia couldn’t decide whether to be terrified or excited. She settled for asking a question. “What meeting?”

“I’ve got to meet with James tonight, we have to discuss the prefects.” Lily was surprised that her skin seemed to be warmer when she said this.

“Well, that will only take a few minutes.” Her friend answered but her gaze was suddenly shrewd. She’d been Lily Evans’s closest friend for years and not once had she ever heard her refer to the James Potter by his first name. They had loads of meetings in the two months since the term had started and Amelia had seen Lily, managing the whole thing. Instructing James and sending him off. It only ever took about ten minutes. “Meeting in the common room again?”

“Uh, well,” The warmth in Lily’s cheeks was spreading. “no we’re always getting interrupted there. We thought we’d meet elsewhere.”

Her friend was being deliberately vague Amelia realized and smiled.

“So, what do you think it will take? Fifteen minutes? A half an hour?” Amelia tried not to grin as she asked.

“Oh…something like that. Maybe an hour.” Lily was shocked at the words that had just left her mouth. Only yesterday James Potter had been a thorn in her side, then he had come sprinting into the library and somehow changed everything.

“An hour then. I’ll think about what to do with my hair, or maybe yours.” Amelia grinned wickedly and Lily knew that there was no point in trying to hide secrets from her clever friend.

:::::::::

In the tower room a meeting was in progress. The tarts had been absolutely inedible and several of the Slytherins had been seen desperately trying to wash the taste of tar from their mouths with repeated gulps of pumpkin juice. A few had simply spit the dessert directly from their mouths. The Marauders had managed to warn all the other houses so only the Slytherins had found themselves biting happily into roofing materials.

“Good work Padfoot, Wormtail, how’d you do it?” Remus asked.

“It was easy.” Wormtail answered cockily. “We just had to distract the stupid house elves long enough to transfigure the tarts slightly.”

“What did you do?” Prongs asked but there was an edge of tension in his voice that had nothing to do with tarts. He needed to get a move on, he was due in the prefect’s lounge in less than fifteen minutes and he was determined not to be late.

“Hurled clothing at them.” Padfoot answered easily. “They scattered like frightened mice.”

“Whose clothes?” Moony asked but knew the answer.

“Yours of course.” Padfoot grinned.

“As long as you recovered all my underwear we’ve got no quarrel.” Moony said with a slight threat.

“All but one pair mate, it landed in the soup. No one ate the soup tonight did they?” Peter asked but without concern.

“God, let’s hope not.” Moony laughed.

“Right then, new business. How is Prongs here going to get around Evans’s highly developed idiot sensors?” Padfoot asked casually. James decided that because he was pressed for time he’d forgo hitting Padfoot with anything.

“He could try a romance charm on her.” Wormtail suggested without much enthusiasm.

“I don’t want to magically enslave the girl! I want her to like me!” James nearly shouted. This was worse than the blind leading the blind. This was like an army of imbeciles converging on group of scholars. Girls were notoriously difficult to understand and for some reason, James wanted to finally get this thing right.

“No, of course not Prongs. I think you should try and get a good healthy look down her robes to see if there’s anything there worth pursuing.” Padfoot jeered and James decided that he did have time to smack him with pillow or two after all.

“Don’t be an ass, Sirius.” He said between blows and Sirius uttered a muffled apology that seemed to be sincere.

“Be yourself James.” Remus said in suddenly earnest voice. “Ask her about herself but don’t push too much, you’re just getting to know her.”

It sounded like sage advice to James.

“Also, whatever you do, don’t ask her out yet.” Padfoot had suddenly become serious also. “She’ll just be suspicious of your motives. If you do really like her already, I guess you can skip the robe peeking. That or you could always use your invisibility cloak to sneak a look at her in the shower.”

James pummeled Sirius for the next few minutes as Remus laughed. Off to the side, Peter sat and stared.

“You lot are no help at all. If I listen to you I’ll be in detention for the rest of the term or at worst Azakban for perversion!” He was laughing. “I’ll just go and talk to the girl, that ought to be easy enough. Listening to you all will just ensure that I’ll end my days unmarried and unloved.”

He left the tower room at a run.

“Did he just mention marriage?” Sirius asked incredulously. “He can’t possibly be serious.”

“He isn’t.” Remus commented. “At least not yet but he’s liked the girl for years now and there’s finally a possibility …who knows, maybe someday.” He looked somehow sad and thoughtful. Marriage was a long way away for any of them, but Remus knew it could never be in his own cards. He didn’t even need that daft old bat Hyperia Storm the divination teacher to tell him that.

“Well, I’ll make sure they get married on something other than the full moon.” Sirius said sarcastically. “Honestly Moony, sometimes you’re a bit too damned mature.”

“How foul.” Peter muttered under his breath. How could they be joking about this? James dating that Muggle born girl was one thing but to even joke about a possible marriage no matter how far off in the future? The Potters were established and had a long and proud bloodline. James would never be such an idiot as to pollute it with the likes of Lily Evans. No, he was just amusing himself, Peter comforted himself with the thought.

“What’s that?” Sirius asked.

“That’s all? I just asked, ‘That’s all?’” Peter covered quickly.

“Yes Peter, that’s all for now. Except for this blasted homework, we’re done for the night.” Sirius was looking at him oddly. Peter began to gather his books up and head down to the common room to study. As he tried to leave the room he found that Moony was staring at him again.

“Everything okay Remus?” Peter asked in a friendly tone.

“Yes,” Remus answered. “I think my hearing’s just gone a bit funny. Must be an after effect of the moon.”

He sounded confused.

::::::::

James Potter seemed to spend most of his time sprinting from place to place. He was well known for his headlong rush through the castle and underclassmen were wise to clear a path for him. No matter what his intention, he always seemed to be running just a tiny bit late to everything.

He pulled up short in front of the entrance to the prefect’s lounge on the sixth floor. All he need do was speak the password and the tapestry concealing the doorway would move swiftly to the side. Across the hallway from the door there was a small, gilt framed mirror and James took a moment to examine his reflection. At least he wasn’t red in the face this time but he did wish his hair didn’t look as if he’d been intentionally ruffling it again. He tried an experimental pat on the top of his head to see if he could get any of it to lie down.

“Admiring yourself Potter?” Professor March sneered at him as she walked briskly down the hallway. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be studying?”

Luckily for Potter Professor March had a companion, a miserable looking second year Ravenclaw boy who was evidently being dragged off to March’s office. The boy looked desperately to James for help but there was nothing to be done. James half shrugged at the boy.

“No Professor.” James answered easily. “I was checking to see if my robes were straight.”

“Straight?” March eyed the always slightly rumpled Head Boy with distaste. “I wouldn’t call that mess straight.”

What an utterly grating person Professor March could be. James found himself marveling once again that she had ever gotten the job at Hogwarts. She had a broad nose, tight curly gray hair and she was easily six and a half feet tall. It was nearly freakish.

“May I go now Professor?” James wanted desperately to be waiting for Lily, making it look as if he had arrived long before and had been whiling away the time in from one of the comfortable and large couches.

“Certainly Potter. Go about your business.” March said with a sharp look at the Head Boy. “How’s your Quidditch team shaping up this year?”

The old bat was stalling him. “It’s going well Professor, thanks for asking. We’re ready to beat Slytherin at any time.” And with a large smile James slipped across the hall to the tapestry and muttered:

“Europa.” The unicorns on the tapestry bucked as they were disturbed by being rolled aside.

He entered the lounge triumphantly, ready to take a seat and wait.

She was already there.

“Hello, James.” Lily greeted him from a deep armchair, a large book balanced on her knee.

“I ..uh…hope I didn’t keep you waiting long.” James stuttered. “Did I keep you waiting long? How long have you been here?” Was he never going to talk this girl without making a perfect ass out of himself? Who talked like this? All in a rush, barely pausing for breath.

Lily stared for a moment. What was wrong with Potter? He was usually rather smooth and spoke with ease.

“I had a bit of dinner and then came up here to study.” She answered, thoroughly baffled as to why James had a vaguely pained expression. She waited for him to comment but he didn’t. She continued. “Listen, I know that Montague never keeps the Slytherins in line anyway, but I talked to Madame Pompfrey and she’s decided to keep him in the hospital wing for a couple of days.”

James felt like he had lost his mind entirely, thoughts raced through his head but none of them formed a coherent sentence.

“Er…well, anyway, seems he has a leech wedged in a particularly odd place.” She smiled briefly at the young man before her and wondered why he was becoming increasingly red with each word that came out of her mouth. Had someone hexed him?

“So, I thought we could ask LeStrade from Ravenclaw to keep a closer look on the Slytherins for the rest of the week.” She finished resignedly. Why had she ever asked this boy to meet her in private? “That about takes care of it, so…”

He had to say something, absolutely anything it was as if a hag had his tongue.

“Where are you from?” He blurted.

“I beg your pardon?” Lily asked but found herself amused in spite of herself. He was asking about her and whereas Lily Evans was dedicated to her studies, she had actually been asked out on many occasions. They all started this way.

“I don’t know anything about you. Well, not really. I mean, I know a bit. But I don’t know…where you’re from. Exactly.” James wished the carpet would swallow him whole. He asked out at least a dozen girls in past three years nothing had ever been these disastrous. Even the Hufflepuff girl who had gotten horribly sick to her stomach in the middle of the Three Broomsticks had gone off better than this.

“I’m from England.” She said in a mocking tone but she saw him flinch slightly and relented. “I’m from Surrey.”

“Oh?” said James. “I didn’t know that.”

“So you’ve said. Look Potter, what exactly is wrong with you at the moment?” Lily was half amused and half vexed.

“I’m nervous.” Now who the hell had given those words permission to leave his mouth?
“Nervous? About what? Quidditch?” Lily was honestly confused.

Oh to hell with advice, he’d spent all of last year trying to get over Lily’s stinging rejection of him and now here he was in his final year and there was absolutely nothing to lose.

“No, not Quidditch. I’m nervous about you.” James began and like a freight train gaining momentum it all came spilling out. “I’ve liked you for years. Since the third year I think, but definitely since the fifth year and no matter what I do, whenever you notice me it’s to look at me like I’m an experiment that escaped from Care of Magical Creatures.”

Lily was stunned. Boys asked you out, boys flirted with you or teased you or followed you around but never before had a boy just told her what he was thinking or feeling as straight-forwardly as James Potter was right now. She made an effort to keep her jaw from going slack.

“Now finally, you’re talking to me. Well, sort of talking to me and you even called me James and …and…I guess that made me hopeful that you’d like to get to know me.” James swallowed heavily. “And that perhaps I might even get to know you and we could….”

“Get to know one another?” Lily finished for him.

“Yes.” When exactly he had started to sound like a croaking scummet frog James did not know.

Lily paused and stared at him. “You’d like to be friends?”

“Yes.” Ribbit but he wasn’t done yet. “More than friends, maybe?”

“I see.” Lily was seemingly deep in thought. “Why?”

“Because ever since I’ve known you, you’ve been kind to everyone. You’re smart, I hear you talking to other people and I know you are funny. Sometimes I can’t stop watching you and I wish that I could be the person you’re talking to.” This was literally the worst conversation James had ever had with anyone. He was gawking at her like a schoolboy and he’d done everything but recite a love poem at this point. Death might be the only honorable alternative.

“Any other reason?” Lily asked quietly.

In for a knut, in for a galleon. “Yes, I think you’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.”

Lily would have laughed but for the fact that James Potter the cocky Seeker of Gryffindor didn’t look in the least like he was joking.

“Are you having me on?” She asked. If he was joking she’d strangle him.

“What? Hell. Absolutely not.” Sirius would rupture something vital if he were to ever repeat this conversation to him.

“I see.” Lily wished that she could quit saying that because honestly, she didn’t actually see anything. “Okay. You’d better sit down.”

“Down?” James felt oddly lightheaded it was probably a good idea at that.

“Yes James, down. Sit down and we’ll talk a bit.” Lily rather liked this version of James Potter, unsure of himself, stumbling over his words. He seemed genuine to her for the first time in all the years that she had been around him.

James walked over and sank into the large couch. “So.” He began. “You’re from Surrey. Do you have much family?”

An hour and half later they were still talking. James knew about her sister, her family even her desire to get away from the Muggle world that no longer wished to accept her. Lily learned that James was an only child, his father worked for the Ministry of Magic and that the house he had grown up in had a room in it with a ghoul who liked to pitch puddings at your head.

“So, why Quidditch?” Lily had long since moved over to the couch with James. “Do you want to be a professional player when we leave here?”

“No, not really. I think it’s fun, I’m good at it, it just came naturally to me. It makes my father happy too, so there’s that…but after this, well, it sounds foolish but I’d like to do something important. My turn,” They had been questioning each other for at least the last hour, “since you seem to be absolutely brilliant at everything are you going to try and get a post here as a teacher?”

“No, I think I’d like to work for the Ministry actually. Maybe something in Muggle relations, I think I’d be good at that. Or Potions, I’ve always liked Potions even though Harrington more or less kills every ounce of fun having to do with the subject.”

It was now her turn and the strangest question entered her mind, “James, is there anyone in the world you think is worth dying for?”

The young man furrowed his brow. “I never really thought about that specifically but yes, I think there are some things. I’d die to protect my family or even my friends I suppose. That was an odd question, what made you ask it?”

“I don’t know. There’s something going on with this Voldemort. I …sometimes wonder if….” She hesitated but James nudged her knee with his own to help her keep going. “…if maybe there isn’t something that we’ll all end up having to fight for in the end.”

“I like beginnings more than endings.” James smiled at her. “But I do know what you mean, at least, I think I do. You think he’s killing those wizards, don’t you?”

“Killing, or maybe….Oh my….I’ve got to go! Amelia!” Lily suddenly remembered her friend. “I’m so sorry James, I have to run. I promised I’d help my friend Amelia with…with…a problem.”

“No! I mean, all right but, can I talk to you again soon?” James looked hopeful. “Maybe we could go to Hogsmead together, the first trip’s next week…although, I don’t really want to wait a week.”

“I…yes, I’ll go to Hogsmead with you.” Lily was hurriedly packing up her things. “We could eat lunch together tomorrow, if you like.” She went rushing past James towards the door and he reached up with his incredibly swift reflexes and caught her hand in his for a moment. She stopped and stood staring down at her own hand before looking at James’s face.

“Thanks Lily.” James said simply, “I’d like that.”

She smiled and then it occurred to her to ask something more, “James, your friend Remus, he doesn’t have a girlfriend anywhere, does he?”

James was still holding her hand but his expression became troubled, “No. He doesn’t have a girlfriend but ….”

James never got to finish the sentence. Neither of them had heard the tapestry swishing aside and so neither realized that Severus Snape had entered in time to hear James invited Lily to the village, and to hear her acceptance. He stood staring at their loosely held hands. He was after all a prefect.

“Isn’t this a perfect picture?” Snape sneered. “The Great Potter and the Muggle Evans baring their souls.”

Lily flushed but James was on his feet with his wand out in less than a second.

“Don’t James.” Lily cautioned.

The evening had been going too well to let Sniveling Snape ruin it.

“Walk with me back to the common room?” James asked, his voice warm but his icy eyes on Snape all the time.

“Sure.” Lily answered and together they left.

Severus Snape sank onto the sofa, his knees shaking too much to hold him up any longer. What did he care if that Mudblood Evans was going out with that piece of dung Potter? But something whispered to him that he did care, very much indeed.



Chapter 4: The True Seer
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Chapter Four:

“Mercy! For the sake of Christmas, Mercy! You’ve got to stop now.” Amelia was crying and laughing through her tears. Alice Moore was sprawled on her bed, laughing helplessly and Sophie Burns the fourth seventh year they shared the room was watching absolutely aghast.

“I’m sure I can get it right.” Lily said miserably.

“Before I’m entirely bald?” Amelia yelped. Already her hair was just above her shoulders, piles of her formerly long locks forming a hairy pool at her feet. “Stop. We’ve got to figure out what to do.”

Alice spoke up once she’d regained her breath. “I think I know someone who can help.”

“Madame Pompfrey?” Amelia wailed. To say the very least, the haircut had thus far not been a success. It sounded like such a simple spell in the magazine but whenever Lily pointed her wand at Amelia’s head the result was always crooked.

“No. Megan.” Alice announced and noticed the uneasy looks of the girls in the room. “Oh honestly, she’s perfectly nice. It isn’t her fault she’s got a bust the size of my backside and she understands everything there is to know about makeup and hair. Shall I get her?”

There seemed to be no alternative, Amelia miserably nodded her agreement. Alice flipped gracefully off of her bed and headed to the hall outside. Sometimes it was easy to see that she was one of the top Quidditch players.

“I’m so unbelievably sorry, Amy!” Lily said again.

“It’s okay. I agreed.” Sniffed Amelia and then she burst out laughing. “Even after you mucked up the eyesight charm the first time I agreed. Lily, has anyone ever told you that you have exceptionally small pores?”

The remaining girls doubled over with laughter and did not recover until Alice returned with a smiling Megan Hogan in tow.

“What on earth did you do to her and why?” Megan said in astonishment.

“I was trying to give her a new look.” Lily said quietly.

“It’s new alright.” Megan eyed Amelia’s head and added, “Lily, when you cut hair and it isn’t going well for goodness sake stop before there’s a disaster.”

Normally Lily would have been rather put out at being lectured by a sixth year but in this case she knew full well the girl was right. “Is there anyway to fix it?”

“Oh of course,” Megan said cheerfully. “Don’t worry hon, we’ll have you fixed up proper in no time. Look at those cheekbones of yours! A shorter cut will be just the thing for you.”

Immediately Amelia’s woebegone face looked cheerier. Megan stepped back, surveyed the damage and with a flick of her wand and a muttered incantation, it was fixed. Where uncontrollable waves had been that morning, there was a decidedly smart looking cut with a sharp layer landing directly below Amelia’s cheekbones.

“What do you think?” Megan asked in a friendly voice.

“Well, that’s the other problem, I’ve got a bit of a problem with my eyesight….I can’t see the entire cut, but I can see the length…in fact I can see individual strands of hair.”

“You messed about with her vision too?” Megan asked. “Was it the myopia spell?”

So much for pride. “Yes,” Lily admitted, “I was trying to make it so that she didn’t have to wear glasses.”

“It’s okay, I know the spell. I’d have to wear glasses myself if my mum hadn’t taught me how to fix my vision each day.” And with that she plopped down next to Amelia, quickly reversed the spell and instructed her in the fine art of vision correction. Within five minutes Amelia had reversed the spell and successfully executed it herself several times.

Amelia stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her three roommates seemed equally astonished.

“Look at you, aren’t you the stunner?” Megan said happily and indeed, Amelia was stunning. She was tall, nearly 5’10” and normally she looked like a long legged spider but suddenly her long neck looked graceful, something about the shorter hair and removal of the glasses has made her look proportionate.

“Thank you Megan.” Lily said humbly.

“Oh you’re welcome, no problem.” She was a cheerful girl, half Muggle herself and in the off hours from school she like to run around in jeans and a T-shirt. The blue cotton of her shirt strained against her large bust and it was rather hard not to look. “Oh look now, you’re all staring at my chest. I hate these ruddy things, tried every reduction spell I know but they never seem to get any smaller.”

“Could I try?” Lily asked and felt hideously awkward.

Megan’s eyes were the brightest blue Lily had ever seen as she whipped around and stared intently into her face. “Alright, sure, have a go then.”

Lily blushed scarlet, went to her trunk and hauled out large book. She began thumbing quickly through the pages.

“What’s that?” Asked Alice.

Lily mumbled something in reply so Alice asked again, “I’m sorry, didn’t quite catch that.”

“It’s a spell book I got in Diagon Alley.” Lily said and wondered if you could actually catch fire from blushing. “It’s a potions book, I bought it because I was considering…uh…certain enhancements.”

“You mean to tell me you were going to go mucking about with your figure?” Megan asked. “What in all the stars would make you do such a thing? You’ve got a perfect figure just the way you are. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. Better than me, that’s for certain. The only thing I’m sure of is being stared at and the comfortin’ knowledge that I’ll never drown.”

Pleased but still blushing, Lily thanked her quietly. Why didn’t she know more about this friendly girl?

“You never asked me.” Megan said softly and Lily gave a start, she hadn’t spoken aloud. “Sorry, don’t mean to startle you, I’ve got…we’ll….some call it the sight, I just think of them as flashes. Sometimes I can tell what people are thinking. Sometimes I know what’s going to happen before it comes about.”

All the girls in the dorm room had become rather quiet.

“Is that so?” Alice finally broke the silence.

“Sure enough. Can’t help it, it runs through my mum’s side of the family.” Megan answered easily. “Unless I hold someone’s hand I don’t get much, just the occasional thought here and there.”

“Alright then, tell us something about each of us.” Alice asked eagerly perhaps with a hint of challenge in her voice.

“It doesn’t always work like that, but I’ll try.” Megan said easily and she crossed the room and held Alice’s hand for a moment. Her bright blue eyes became hazy and her voice dropped, “Forget about that Sirius Black, it’s Ferngrow in Hufflepuff you want to concentrate on. He’s a good lad he’d never hurt you. Oh, and that Alex was a two-timer from the beginning, you’re best shut of him.”

Alice looked as if she’d been slapped for a moment and then yanked her hand back. “Thank you.” She said stiffly but there was an edge in her voice.

“Try me!” Sophie crowded in close to Megan and the younger girl took her hand.

In the same tone she began, “It …it’s dangerous what you’re thinking of doing. He’s a nice boy but …you could start a baby easily and then you’d have to get married, wouldn’t you? Best to let him go for now, he’ll be there after you graduate, honestly.”

Sophie gasped and yanked back her hand. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” But her face said otherwise. The other girl’s in the room knew that she dated Forest a boy who had left Hogwarts two years ago and now worked in Diagon Alley. They had seen her crying after reading the post sometimes.

Megan looked around the room expectantly suddenly the entire thing seemed like a dare. Amelia swallowed heavily and then said, “Fine, now me.”

Her eyes were once again bright as she crossed the room to Amelia and took hold of her hand. Her eyebrows drew together as she concentrated and when she looked at Amy they were a stormy gray. “It’ll be fine hon, just fine. There’s a secret there, with this one you like but you’ll be able to handle it. Don’t go too far from him though when the Order starts.”

All of the occupants of the room suddenly had chills. Lily knew it was her turn and she was shaking in fright.

“You don’t have to if you’d rather not.” Megan said cheerfully.

“What do you know about your own future?” Lily asked suddenly because she was convinced that this girl actually could see things that were to come.

“Nothing. Nothing at all. That’s something I can’t see no matter how hard I try.” She didn’t seem sad about it though.

“Well, I can tell you something that’s in your future, a reduction potion.” Lily briefly turned the book towards her, indicating the potion she’d found. “It should take an hour to brew, want to help me?”

Megan smiled at her gratefully and readily agreed to give it a try. After all she said, what could go wrong? The worst thing she could think of was them getting bigger and really, all that meant was she’d be hard pressed to find adequate bras. Already the one she had to wear had back support and it “makes me look like I’m waving my chest in everyone’s faces!” she finished with a cheery laugh.

All of the girls in the room quickly tried to busy themselves with homework or the like lest this cheerful, kindhearted and rather frightening girl were to somehow know that they’d all thought that at some point or another.

::::::::

“Oh do be quiet Myrtle!” Lily yelled at the ever present ghost as she and Megan sat brewing the potion in the bathroom.

“You’d like me to try, wouldn’t you?” Megan asked, leaning a bit closer to Lily.

“The potion?” Lily asked evasively. “Of course.”

“No. You know what I mean.” Megan held out her hand and Lily, after a brief hesitation placed her own in the younger girl’s. The eyes clouded again and Lily felt her grip tighten almost painfully. She heard Megan gasp after a moment.

“What is it?” Lily said anxiously.

“It’s nothing. Nothing really.” Megan said, her voice perfectly normal. “When will that be ready?”

“Right about now actually.” Lily said and ladled out the bright pink liquid into a cup. “Don’t worry, I’m much better at Potions than I am at hairstyles.”

“I trust you.” Megan said and happily downed the contents. “Hmm. Peppermint, makes it sort of pleasant, doesn't it.”

The two girls sat companionably on the floor for a minute or two waiting for the potion to take effect. Suddenly with a hiss of what sounded like steam, Megan’s estimable bust began to shrink. By the time it was done she was still a bit larger than most girls, but she looked decidedly less top heavy.

“Oh, look at that!” Megan said preening in the mirror with pleasure. “I can walk into rooms without my chest arriving five minutes before I do! Is it permanent?”

“Yes, unless you take the antidote potion.” Lily answered with a smile, although she was distracted. “Megan…”

“Get out of my bathroom! Come to mock me in death have you? It’s all a joke to you, but I’ve been dead, dead for years and no one cares!” Myrtle moaned.

“Yes, yes, Myrtle. Go ponder that why don’t you?” Lily said heartlessly.

“What were you going to say?” Megan asked, but Lily could tell from her face that she knew.

“Tell me what you saw…please.” Lily asked.

Megan glanced down at her reduced bust and back up at Lily in gratitude. Suddenly she bent and kissed the older girl briefly on the cheek.

“I saw that you’ll know more love in this life than most people can ever even dream about.” Megan said, and her eyes were clouded with tears this time. “I saw that there are hard things ahead for you, but for the rest of your life you’ll never, ever be alone.”

Lily gulped down tears, it was such a lovely thought. “But you saw something else.”

Megan looked away and then back, “Yes, I did but I can’t tell you everything Lily, it was all a bit hazy.”

She began gathering Lily’s potion equipment together and helping her straighten up.

“Please?” Lily asked, surprising herself. Once again the younger girl met her gaze without difficulty.

“Fine then.” Megan’s eyes never broke contact with her own. “Tell me this, Lily Evans, have you ever given much thought to marrying young? Because you should, you really, really should.”

Lily knew that whatever Megan had seen, she wouldn’t tell her any more about it.

:::::::::::

In the tower room that evening was moving along a bit more slowly.

“So….” Sirius asked as he raised his eyebrows.

There was no use trying to beat around the bush here, the Marauders would all know by lunchtime tomorrow.

“We talked. Actually, I made an ass out of myself and then we talked for a long while.” James said with a grin.

“Ah and by the look on fine young Mr. Potter’s face, I would say the talk went well!” Sirius crowed. “Congratulations, another fine conquest for Prongs!”

“She isn’t a conquest.” There was something steely and dangerous in James’s voice.

“Of course she isn’t.” Remus answered in a calm tone. “She’s Lily and you’ve like her for ages. Besides, Padfoot, it isn’t as if old Prongs here has been racking up notches on a bedpost or something. He’s taken a bunch of girls out for butterbeers or tea.”

“Moony, is it the werewolf in you that makes you want to take all of the salacious fun out of dating?” Padfoot asked.

“Possibly.” Remus answered with a mischievous grin.

“Fine then, Potter here’s hardly ever been kissed, although we all know that he has been. Hell, didn’t you even have a girl vomit on you once on a date? It’s a proud tradition of enthralling females for our young James.” Sirius never liked to take things too seriously, unless there was possible suspension on the line.

“For the record, she threw up near me, not on me…and it was only because she was overwhelmed by my masculine appeal.” James grinned.

“Right you are Prongs.” Sirius replied. “But on other matters, the first Hogsmeade trip is coming up and even though we can sneak into town when we like it’s still a good opportunity to hang around in the Three Broomsticks trying to become corrupted youth.”

“Oh, about that…” James began.

“Let me guess, you have a date with Lily.” Remus grinned at him.

“Now that you mention it, yes actually.”

“Fine then, we’re forsaken for a pretty redhead.” Sirius said philosophically. “We should all get dates and go in a group!”

“Hmm, let me think about that, how about…No!” James said. “It’s bad enough that I hang about with you ruffians I don’t think I need to subject the poor girl to you on our first date. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that would make it our last date.”

“That’s an excellent point, James.” Sirius said. “We’ve been known to drive off the hordes before this.” His grin was huge. “Fine then, it will just be the three of us then, having fun without our valiant leader Prongs who has forsaken us for some green-eyed damsel.”

“Speaking of damsels…” Remus began.

“Oh no, not you too?” Sirius said with mock concern.

“No actually, about you. I know someone you ought to consider asking.” Remus was being serious again. His remarkably good looking friend sighed.

“Is that so?” He finally asked.

“Yes,” Remus seemed lost in thought, “I think you should ask Meg Hogan.”

“That sixth year with the cosmetics shop on her face and what appear to be floatation devices in her robes?” Sirius laughed. “Why on earth would I want to ask her anywhere.”

“I don’t know, there’s something about her. She seems like she’d be worth getting to know.” Remus answered.

“That a fact? Then ask her yourself, Moony.” Sirius said.

“Actually, I would but I’m not the one she’d like to go anywhere with, you are.”

“Oh really? Because I could have sworn she was giving Prongs here the eye this morning.” Sirius huffed.

“No, she didn’t seem to be to me.” Remus said quietly. “I think she’s just friendly and smiles at everyone, male or female.”

“So what makes you think that she’s interested in me?” Sirius was interested in knowing despite himself.

“Because you’re the only one she bothers to look at when she’s not smiling. You’re the one she looks at when she appears to be thinking.” Remus had an odd tone in his voice.

“Right you are then, Moony. If it means so much to you, I’ll be happy to ask the young lady to Hogsmeade.” Sirius was staring at his friend, unsure of what he was saying exactly.

“Good, I think she’d be good for you.”

“Heavens forefend.” Sirius answered with a smile. “What about your Wormtail? Who’ve you got your eye on since we’re all dating up for Hogsmeade.”

“Me? No one. I thought I stay here and study actually.” Peter sniffed in disapproval.

Hogan was a halfbreed, Evans a Muggle, what were his friends coming to anyway?

“Suit yourself.” Sirius said and then groaned loudly. “Quidditch practice tomorrow evening. Don’t forget that we’ll need to stuff ourselves stupid at lunch to be fueled for the pitch, Prongs.”

“Oh, about lunch…”

“Let me guess, Evans.” Sirius said, but without any malice. “We have lost him lads, we have lost him.”

:::::::::::


Chapter 5: Segue the first
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Chapter Five:

The next morning at breakfast Lily Evans was trying to read a Potions book when Amelia tentatively entered the Great Hall. Several heads swiveled in her direction and Lily could hear the vague whisperings around her.

“Who’s that?” A fifth year Ravenclaw named Mullet asked with interest his back was directly to Lily’s making it easy for her to overhear. .

“It’s Strong, from Gryffindor.” His companion answered uncertainly. “At least I think it is, she’s …done something to herself.”

“Hasn’t she though?” Mullet answered in obvious admiration.

“Don’t go getting any odd thoughts into your head, she’s a seventh year she’d never give you the time of day.” The boy with him answered sensibly.

“More’s the pity.” Mullet mused aloud.

It was nearly pure agony for Amelia. She wanted to duck her head and unconsciously reached a hand up to draw her long hair down towards her face, her hand encountered only air. How she wished for her glasses so that she might hide behind them. Looking uncertainly up her house table, she saw Lily and immediately felt relieved. She dropped into the seat next to her friend.

“You’ve made quite the impression.” Lily commented and tried not to giggle. Even some of the Syltherins were gaping in open admiration.

“I feel a perfect fool, Lily!” Amelia said but reached toward a platter of scrambled eggs. If Amelia didn’t eat very regularly she had a tendency to become even thinner than she was now. As Amelia tried to settle herself in to eat she spared a glance across the table. “Honestly Lily, why must you study at every meal? I feel like I do nothing but converse with the spine of a book.”

In the seventh year even students from the same houses had their classes at different times. It all depended on what their OWL scores were. Luckily for Lily she and Amelia had both excelled in the same subjects.

“Sorry Amelia.” Lily said and closed the book resolutely. Her friend had been willing to risk being cosmetically maimed at her hands, the least she could do was give her full attention for at least one meal. “Oh look, there’s Megan.”

Megan Hogan had also entered the Great Hall, alone as usual. Lily wondered why she had never really given much thought to the fact that Megan was nearly always by herself. Perhaps she’d always assumed that she was shunned by the girls in her own class because she had been seemingly so proud of her bust. After last night though, Lily wondered if perhaps Megan hadn’t been a bit too candid about her rather uncanny sight.

“Let’s ask her to sit with us.” Amelia said immediately.

“Are you sure? She didn’t make you nervous last night?” Lily asked.

“She did a bit but she also saved me from slinking off to the hospital wing to try and have essentially my entire head repaired. I just won’t shake hands with her over orange juice or something.” Amelia answered with a smile.

“Hey Megan,” Lily called in her clear voice, “join us over here.”

Megan looked surprised but pleased as she dropped down next to Lily and immediately plowed into breakfast. “Morning! I wondered if any of you would talk to me ever again.” She said this with a grin but realized that the girl was being completely sincere.

“Why wouldn’t we?” Lily asked.

“Oh, I don’t know. People get a bit funny about…well, you know.” Megan’s smile faltered slightly. “I probably shouldn’t have told you but it’s never seemed like something to hide.”

“It isn’t anything to be ashamed of!” Amelia said kindly. “You could end up helping a lot of people.”

“I’m not ashamed, I just find that most people are a bit put off by …” Megan looked at the book Lily had been reading. “Aren’t you just the devoted Potions mistress? That’s an advanced book and they’re dead hard to qualify for from what I hear.”

Lily smiled by way of an answer. “What class do you have up first?”

“Defense Against the Dark Arts.” Megan made a face. “Wouldn’t you know that I went and scored an outstanding on my OWL? Gave me a turn, never saw that coming. Hours of March at her most intense, don’t envy me do you?”

“Actually, no…not all.” And the three girls laughed.

“Where are the others?” Amelia suddenly asked.

“Well, Sophie wanted to finish a letter to that boyfriend of hers,” Lily said with a knowing smile at Megan, “and strangely enough, Alice decided to eat breakfast with some of the Hufflepuff girls she knows.”

“Ah it’s nice to know that even though I’m a bit terrifying, people do listen.” Megan laughed, then her eyes automatically switched to the doorway. “Look sharp you two, several very interesting lads have just entered.”

Sure enough, the Marauders were moving swiftly towards them. Amelia looked obviously nervous and Megan patted her hand kindly. Almost involuntarily Amelia jerked her hand off of the table. “It’s all right you know, I can’t do it unless I’m trying…and sometimes not even then.” Megan seemed at ease with Amelia’s reaction.

“Good morning.” James spoke first. “How are you?”

“Oh fine as can be Mr. Potter, and yourself?” Megan answered with a light laugh.

“I’ve got Divination up first this morning,” James said with a grin, “I’m thinking of drowning myself in the lake and then coming back as a ghost to see if old Hyperia managed to predict my untimely death. Gads, have you ever even heard of a subject that’s more useless than Divination?”

“Certainly have not. It’s all complete and utter bunk.” Megan laughed and dropped a wink in Amelia’s direction. “Isn’t that right, Amelia?”

“Amelia?” Remus Lupin asked in a startled voice. He had wondered who the gorgeous girl sitting next to Lily Potter was but he could barely believe his ears. She looked entirely infatuating. Remus flushed as he felt his pulse increase slightly.

“Yes Remus,” Lily said, swiveling around to face the Marauders, “Amelia’s got a new haircut, what do you think of it?”

“It looks…” Remus faltered as his face grew rather pink.

“Like a million galleons, Strong your heartbreaker! Have you finally decided to steal my heart?” Sirius smoothly covered for his friend, his tone light and mocking. However, Strong really did look a treat. Bit tall for his tastes though.

“Thanks,” Amelia blushed, “Megan did it actually.”

“Ah, hidden talents there Hogan?” James asked and then took a good look at Megan. “Hey, something’s different about you too! What’s different?”

Lily thought she would die of embarrassment, James Potter had immediately noticed the size of Megan’s breasts? Perhaps he hadn’t changed at all.

“It’s your face!” James said sincerely. “Your face looks different. I mean, it looks quite pretty as always but….what have you done?”

“Frankly I didn’t have time to put on any makeup this morning.” Megan blushed.

“You didn’t eh?” Sirius said, staring intently at the girl before him. “Well here’s hoping you run short of time everyday. It suits you, perfectly.” His tone had begun as teasing and then suddenly become completely sincere.

“Thank you.” Megan was startled but obviously pleased.

“Come on, we don’t have time to stand here and stare all morning.” Peter’s voice sounded a bit whiny.

“Right you are, see you later, lovely ladies.” Sirius said but as he walked away, Lily noticed that he looked directly back at Megan again. Remus trailed after his friends but did manage to take another peek at Amelia, Pettigrew didn’t spare any of them so much as a glance. Only Potter remained.

“Lily?” James stooped down close to her. “See you at lunch?”

“Yes, absolutely.” Lily answered with what she hoped was a calm voice.

As the young man followed his friends, Megan caught Lily’s eye and then dissolved into giggles. After she had recovered she spoke rather tentatively, “So, what’s on for tonight?”

Lily realized the girl was asking if she was welcome in their group, she hesitated, waiting to see what Amelia would say.

“Studying, what else?” Amelia answered. “We’ll be in the common room if you feel like it.”

“That’d be nice. Believe it or not, I’m having the devil of a time with Divination.” Megan said and all three girls laughed again.

“Well, maybe we can help you unfog the mists of the future.” Amelia imitated Hyperia Storm’s voice quite well. “After we cut Lily’s hair that is.”

“My hair?” Lily yelped.

“Right. Absolutely, turn about is fair play Evans.” Amelia looked fit to burst with laughter.

“Oh no.” Lily moaned and then turned to Megan, “Please tell me you’ll be there or I’m in for it.”

“I’ll be glad to lend a wand.” Megan said with a smile.

:::::::::::

“Good gravy.” James said as he piled into his fried tomatoes, sausages and eggs. “What did Strong do to herself? She looks great.”

“Doesn’t she though?” Sirius said with admiration. “Hogan’s looking rather lovely herself. Did any of you notice anything different about her besides her face?”

“What? No.” James answered honestly around a mouthful of eggs. “What’re you talking about Padfoot?”

“She looks a bit…” He trailed off. “So you think I ought to ask her out Moony?”

But Remus Lupin wasn’t listening he was still staring down the table towards Amelia.

“Oh lord, now Moony’s going to moon over Strong for the foreseeable future.” Sirius seemed resigned to his fate. “What’s to become of us Peter? James is head over feet for Evans, Moony’s forgetting to eat because Strong’s turned into a Siren, it’s just the two of us mate.”

Peter didn’t answer for a moment and then shrugged casually. “Bound to happen Padfoot, the Marauders have been infiltrated.” Peter’s smile was small and tight. “What about you? I can’t help but notice your eye keeps straying to that sixth year.”

“Hogan? Well you have to admit she looks loads better without all that goo on her face.” Sirius shifted uncomfortably.

“I take it you’re interested?” Peter asked.

“Woormtail, I’d have to be blind not to be.” Sirius seemed confused.

“Is it her mother or her father who’s the Muggle?” Peter asked as casually as he could. Perhaps Padfoot didn’t realize…

“Father, I think, but why’d you ask? It’s not like it matters.” Sirius’s eyes were suddenly suspicious. Peter had just sounded almost exactly like Black’s father.

“No, of course it doesn’t. Just trying to get to know a bit about the girls who are stealing away all my friends.” Peter answered quickly and Sirius seemed to be satisfied.



Chapter 6: Segue the Second
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Chapter Six:

As the winter term passed it became a common sight to the students at Hogwarts. The Head Boy and Head Girl were seldom far from each other’s side. They could be seen strolling through Hogsmead together, always holding hands nearly always laughing. Lily’s now shoulder length hair loose and flowing in the breeze. She had seemed to finally abandon that pencil thing she had used for so many years. Evidently the Muggle born students rather missed it, seeing the Head Girl with one of their writing instruments always on hand had reminded them of home.

Fielding of Hufflepuff had sworn that he had seen them kissing in the library for at least ten minutes. When asked why he’d stood their gawking for so long Fielding’s only response was to blush crimson and collapse under the weight of his books.

The Marauders had always been watched closely by nearly everyone and there seemed to be a change in all of them. Sirius Black was even rumored to be dating the pretty brunette sixth year Hogan but this was harder to confirm because they were seldom seen alone together. One of the Gryffindor second years swore up and down that she had seen them holding hands near the owlery and that the Hogan girl had laughed as she mentioned something about Sirius’ hand being cold. She’d only be able to hear Black saying that he’d gladly warm her up when the tall young man had caught sight of the much younger girl and warned her off.

Remus Lupin had eyes only for Amelia Strong and the gossip ran fast and furious that they too were an item but again, they were only seen together with the rest of the group. Sometimes he looked pale, sometimes not but he did seem to smile more often. As for Strong, her confidence had seemed to improve tremendously and she would stride down the halls, her tall frame held straight smiling at those who met her eye.

No one really spared much thought for Pettigrew, he was the least dashing of the Marauders and recently he’d seemed rather quiet.

It seemed that all of the seventh year students were dating someone and from all appearances, some were seriously involved. One of Ferngrow’s love poems to Moore had been intercepted and pinned up on an announcement board for nearly a week, magically affixed. Sophie Burns had even received a proposal of marriage from the long since graduated Forest but she had been overheard saying that there was plenty of time for that later so who knew what would come it all? Of course, that dreadful Snape didn’t have a girlfriend. All he could talk about was Mudbloods and mixed families. Then sometimes, just occasionally he could be glimpsed staring at Lily Evans and opinions varied as to what his expression meant. Some said he was secretly in love with her, others claimed his hatred for her knew no bounds but for the most part no one pried. It was best to leave Snape to himself as he was a master of hexes and there were even rumors that he knew how to obliviate a person’s memory. It was hoped that wasn’t true as Potter and Snape were engaged in one of the worst feuds Hogwarts had ever seen. When they weren’t hexing one another, they were nearly coming to blows.

The Marauders pranks were still legendary of course. At Halloween they had managed to make all of the dining room tables float ten feet high in the air, consternating poor Professor Flitwick for nearly an hour. The day that all of the Slytherin fifth years had grown pig’s snouts would go down in prank history and it was said it was directly attributable to one of the fitfth years calling Hogan a filthy name.

Quidditch wasn’t much to talk about this year because the Gryffindor team was dominating thus far. Their victory over Slytherin hadn’t even seemed to require any effort. Potter had caught the snitch in only twelve minutes after Black had knocked away two bludgers at once leaving the field wide open. Moore had a nice block as keeper though, although Montague had bloodied her nose for her trouble.

Minerva McGonagall had taken to drinking Peppermint tea saying that it soothed her stomach and that this year’s graduating class would be the death of her.

Rubeus Hagrid, the mammoth groundskeeper had been put in charge of decorating the Great Hall for the Yule Ball and although some students feared that the place would be adorned with skinned polecats, for the most part everyone was just anxious to see who would show up with whom.

Fourteen more witches and wizards had gone missing, all of them Muggle-born or part Muggle. People had begun to fear the name of Voldemort and hesitated to speak it. The worst of it was, a lot of the missing had eventually been found, murdered. A new name had been heard more and more often, DeathEater.

::::::::::

“It’s not a disaster, we’ll fix it.” Megan Hogan tried to soothe Amelia.

“I don’t know why I’ve even bothered getting dress robes for the ball, it isn’t as if I’m going to be asked.” Amelia looked down at her red velvet robe that had arrived and was missing several inches of material at the bottom. “I’m taller than half the trees in the forest!

“You’ll be asked.” Megan said firmly and took out her wand as she paced around the tall girl. “The only question is will it be by the boy you actually care to go with? Also sweets I’d give anything to have legs the length of yours. You’ve never seen anything as silly as me in a mini-skirt.”

Megan was handy with everything, hair, makeup and even sewing. Although all the girls had noticed that she’d stopped wearing makeup herself and she looked the prettier for it. She concentrated for a moment, pointed her wand carefully and magically a gorgeous deep hem of midnight black velvet appeared to make up for the missing inches. Pushing up her sleeves she concentrated on the neckline and then cuffs, giving them both the same detail.

“It’s lovely Meg, really it is.” Lily commented as she watched her friend. “Where did you get that material?”

“Oh my dad sent it over. I’ve already made my robes but my dad loves to spoil me.” Megan was still concentrating because Amelia’s hair needed another trim. “Hold still, you wiggly thing.”

“No point asking who you are going with?” Amelia asked.

“Hardly any point, I suppose. Black’s gone and saved the rest of the male population from having me step on their toes while dancing. Quite gallant, he is.” Meg laughed. “I wish to hell he’d let me wear some makeup for the dance though but he says it comes off on his robes.”

“Use a cleaning spell Megan, it’s our last dance here and you should choose what you want.” Lily said but she was preoccupied. Megan had already seen to the alteration on Lily’s emerald green dress robes. Sometimes she found it hard to concentrate these days, even on her studies. She’d be dutifully trying to write an essay on Potions when and unbidden image of hazel eyes and messy black hair would rise up in her mind. It was proving to be quite distracting.

“Please Megan?” Amelia was extending her hand.

“Listen, I’ve already told you, I only get to know a little bit!” Megan was exasperated but as always, cheerful about it. “I can’t tell you if Remus is finally going to get up the nerve to ask you to the dance. What I can tell you is you ought to come down from your high horse and ask him!”

“I couldn’t’ do that.” Amelia was scandalized.

“Suit yourself.” Megan said but grinned. “I’ll tell him to ask you then.”

“No!”

“Yes.”

“Oh God, how mortifying.” Amelia couldn’t imagine anything worse. “Please don’t Megan.”

“Sorry, my mind’s made up. It’s high time someone had a talk with that boy.” Megan look determined and by now, they all knew what it meant when Megan looked determined.

“Look on the bright side, at least you’ll know for certain whether or not he likes you.” Lily said and checked her watch. She was certain that Remus cared for Amelia but he certainly was a slow starter. It was nearly time to meet James.

“Megan?” Amelia began.

“It’s no use Strong, I’m fed up with watching you twist in the wind.” Megan would not be swayed.

“No, not that. Actually, I guess I’d appreciate it if you would talk to him. I’m getting tired of waiting around, truth be told.” Amelia glanced down at her robes, they were much improved. “Oh Megan, how are we ever going to manage without you next year?”

The plans were already set, Amelia and Lily were going to get a flat together and whereas they would miss Alice a bit, and Sophie was always good company, it was Megan Hogan whose loss would be most sorely felt.

“You probably won’t have to. I don’t think I’m coming back next year.” Megan tried to keep her voice light and casual as she’d already been cautioned to do.

“What?” Lily was startled out of her reverie. “You aren’t going to graduate?”

“No, I’m going to set up a shop. My dad made a packet in the Muggle world you know.” It was true that Megan’s father was known to be quite well off. “He’s giving me the start up money.”

“Is it going to be a fortune telling shop?” Amelia asked as casually as she could. Not returning for her final year? It was nearly unheard of.

Megan laughed. “No, you daft creature. It’s going to be a rare book shop actually.”

The stunned silence of the girls around her made Megan laugh all the harder.

“Well you needn’t all look so thunderstruck, I can read you know!” In truth, they all knew that Megan was incredibly bright. She’d had as many Oustandings in her Owls as Lily.

“Where did you get such an idea?” Lily asked suspiciously. If she had ever imagined Megan going into business she would have thought a beauty parlor or dress shop made the most sense.

“Dumbledore actually.” Megan said lightly, praying that her voice betrayed nothing.

Lily and Amelia stared at each other. The Headmaster had given Megan Hogan advice about her career, evidently fine with the thought of her leaving school before graduating.

“When did you talk to Dumbledore?” Lily couldn’t stop herself.

“I talk to him fairly regularly, actually. Have ever since my third year when my roommate turned me into McGonagall for telling her that although her dad was sick he’d recover and the mediwizards were wrong.” Megan spoke easily now this was the full truth. “He recovered and I got hauled in to see Dumbeldore.”

“What do you tell him?” Amelia asked, clearly apprehensive.

“Oh nothing about you lot, silly.” Megan again was being entirely truthful.

“So why would he encourage you to leave school?” Lily was fascinated.
“Oh he knows I’ve had enough of this place.” Megan answered airily. Besides, he needed her help with something but there was no way she could tell either of them about any of that, at least not yet.

“Meg, are you certain you don’t know anything about your own future?” Lily felt that strange niggling sensation in her mind again.

“Not a blessed thing.” Megan answered honestly.

“What about Sirius’s future?” Amelia asked with interest.

“I already told you, I can’t read him.” Meg answered in a half-truth. The first time he had ever taken her hand in Hogsmeade she had known something but it had been only the once, and only something very vague. She’d heard him laughing hysterically before a deep, penetrating cold had descended upon her. Oddly, it had not been off-putting though. Instead, for some reason Megan felt a tremendous surge of pity for him in her heart. Just as she had known that Lily would know tremendous love in her lifetime, she knew that Sirius Black would be desperately alone someday.

“Well that proves it!” Amelia was enthusiastic. “You can’t read him because he’s your future. You’ve said you never know anything about yourself.”

“Could be.” Megan said with a small smile but in her heart she doubted it, if she was Sirius’s future then why had she felt that gaping chasm of cold? She shivered slightly.

“Do you need a jumper?” Lily asked kindly as she stood and checked her hair in the mirror.

“No thanks, just a bit of a chill for a moment.” Megan’s bright blue eyes looked clear and untroubled. “Have fun with James.”

Lily paused in the doorway and looked back at the girl who had become one of her closest friends. Amelia could nearly always guess her secrets, but it was Megan that she felt simply knew them.

“Sometimes,” Lily said seriously. “That’s half the problem. The fun.”

::::::::::

James had the Marauder’s map out and was consulting it. They’d found the necessary room ages ago but it hadn’t occurred to James to use it in the fashion he was now until he began dating Lily. The prefect’s lounge was out of the question, you never knew when Snape or Montague would try to enter. They’d even tried bewitching the door to stay locked once, but an over eager fifth year prefect from Hufflpuff named Grupp had discovered the locked door and stood outside banging away on it. Yelling in not to worry, that he’d get them out of there.

It was impossible to find a place just to have a private conversation in this entire castle. That was when Remus had brought up the necessary room.

James never got tired of talking to Lily, holding her hand, looking into her eyes. He looked up now and saw her running down the hall towards him.

“Are we all set?” Lily asked as James cleared the map.

“Not a teacher or snoop in sight.” He smiled and they entered the hidden room. James had stocked it with butterbeer and they each opened one as they settled down onto the pillows on the floor. “Tell me about your day.”

It was a ritual of theirs, they would meet, drink a butterbeer or two and talk about their day. Or their families, or utter stuff and nonsense. It didn’t matter, as long as they had this hour to themselves each day then everything in the world seemed fine.

For Lily, it was the first half-hour that was always the nicest although the second half-hour held its attractions also. The problem was, it held incredible attractions at times. The first time that James had ever kissed her Lily had been surprised by how incredibly warm his lips felt against hers. How that warmth had spread through her entire body. His hand had woven itself into the hair at the back of her neck as the kissed deepened and Lily had pulled away breathlessly. She had no idea how long they had been together.

“I’m sorry.” James’s apology had been automatic. “I didn’t mean to…”

“It’s okay I just,” Lily’s white skin had been suffused with pink. “James, have you ever kissed anyone like that?”

“Honestly? No. Not quite like that.” James’s heart was pounding so hard he was sure she could hear it. No, he’d never kissed anyone like that, taking time to explore their lips, mouth…even the thought of it made him tremble. But it wasn’t just the kissing that had been different, everything had been. He was a young man of course he’d had urges before but this was completely different. This was a fiery passion that begged to be resolved.

Now with their nightly meetings there were issues. They always stopped at kissing but Lily was troubled because she knew that she wished to do more and considering how James would moan against her neck she knew she was not alone in that feeling.

It was very confusing indeed.

:::::::

“I’m not sure what you want me to tell you James, but if you think I’m going to tell you to try to get it on with the girl, I’m not going to.” Sirius Black was uncharacteristically serious.

“Actually, I was a bit afraid that you would.” James said with a smile, they were alone in the tower room. “Worse still, I was a bit afraid that you wouldn’t.”

“You love Lily, don’t you?” Sirius already knew the answer to that.

“Of course I do.” James no longer was sure where he ended and Lily began. Sometimes something would happen, anything at all, and James’s first thought was when he would be able to tell Lily about it. It was as if nothing was real until he could share it with her.

“And if we’re going to be honest here, you’ve loved her since before you went out with her.” Sirius could be very astute at times.

“True also, you’re really not helping me here Padfoot.”

“I imagine I’m not. Get ready because it gets worse,” Sirius said the rest in a rush. “If you’ve loved her for a long time, and you truly want to be with her forever…which is what you keep saying…then wait. There’s plenty of time to figure out what the lovely Miss Evans hides under her robes when you two are married.”

“Married.” It wasn’t a question, just a statement.

“Well, you do intend to marry her don’t you? Not mind you that I think marrying at eighteen is a grand idea, but you always were a bit advanced Potter.” Sirius was mildly teasing now.

“Actually, no I haven’t but I guess I am now.”

“So it would seem.” Sirius grinned. “Let me know when I need to be a best man James.”

“Oh lord, whoever would have thought you’d be suggesting I do the right and noble thing?” James said with mock severity.

“I know, if I’m not careful I’ll become a good influence.” The incredibly handsome boy had a rather good heart.

:::::::::

Lily’s hair was tickling James’s neck as they lay back on the pillows, fresh from another marathon kissing session.

“James, this is getting much harder.” Lily said in a worried tone.

James managed not to make the obvious joke. “I know, but this isn’t forever is it? We’re forever.”

“Forever?” Lily asked in surprise and her heart began to beat wildly.

“Yes, forever.” James said. “I know that we’re supposed to be too young to even think about things like that Lily. But Voldemort is really dangerous. I don’t know what’s going to happen in this world. All I know for sure is that I want you with me through all of it. Then I know I can bear anything, anything all. ”

Lily Evans sat up in surprise. Suddenly visions of a flat with Amelia and possibly Megan were far from her head.

“What exactly are you saying?”

“That we ought to get married as soon as we graduate.” James realized he was muffing it up. “I mean, Lily Evans, would you do me the honor of marrying me as soon as we graduate?”

“Yes.” Lily’s voice was tiny but there was certainty in it. “But James, we’ve been going out for such a short time, are you sure?”

“Aren’t you? I’ve been sure since the first time I kissed you.” James smiled. “If you want to know the truth, I’ve had this feeling since the first time I saw you, I just didn’t know what it was until I kissed you.”

Lily was crying now, but the tears were happy. So what if it had been three months? They’d been around each other since they were children they knew each other.

So that was how it came to pass that Lily Evans and James Potter decided to join their lives together. They would still meet everyday that they could, they would still talk about their days, but they would also talk about their future, forever.

Instead of saying “Stop.” When things became too heated, they were able to say, “Wait.” And smile at each other knowingly.

::::::::::

“Really Remus, I don’t know what holds you back.” Megan said lightly.

“I’m not much for dating.” Lupin answered, trying to be evasive.

“The poor girl’s got a dress and everything, you can’t deny that you have feelings for her. The entire bloody school knows you have feelings for her.” Meg was brisk.

“I do but,” Remus was looking tired again. “There are things you don’t know. Things I can’t explain. Things that mean I can’t ever be with anyone.”

“Is that a fact? Because I think it’s a load of rubbish.” Megan was irritated. “Things this, things that. We’re all facing ‘things’, Remus. You’re bright, you know it as well as I do.”

“This is something different.” Remus looked far older than his eighteen years sometimes.

Megan suddenly grabbed his hand and without even needing to concentrate, her eyes widened in surprise. Dumbledore’s lessons were paying off. “She won’t care, Remus. I know her well by now, better than you can imagine. It won’t make a difference to her.”

“What won’t?” Remus was immediately guarded.

“Your secret. I knew about it before, I just didn’t know what it was.” Meg’s blue eyes were cloudy. “Amelia Strong will not care that you’re a werewolf. Trust me.”

As the sweet girl with the normally brilliant blue eyes dropped his hand and turned away, Remus realized that he did trust her.

“So, what’s her dress like?” Meg turned back to Remus with a grin lighting up her face. “I need to know so I can get the right flowers.”

:::::::::::

“He asked me!” Amelia trumpeted as she bounded into the room.

“Did he now, imagine that.” Megan’s grin gleamed at her. She brushed some of her curly dark hair away from her face. “There’s more news.”

“More?” Amelia asked and looked around to see Lily sitting on the bed, aglow with such happiness that it was nearly too bright to witness.

“James and I…” She began and found that she didn’t know how to word it. “Well, you see, we know we’re young but…”

“You’re going to get married aren’t you!” Amelia crowed with delight.

“Yes, we are and I’d like you and Meg to be my bridesmaids, please.” Lily looked serene, secure, and thoroughly completely loved.

“Married!” Amelia shouted to Megan who laughed happily in return.

“I know!” Megan shouted right back and went to tackle Lily in an affectionate hug. “Ah, trust you to run off and do the sensible, perfectly right thing.”

Sensible? Lily thought. She wondered who else might think it sensible but she agreed with Megan, it was perfectly right. Suddenly her mind went back to the night in the bathroom, Myrtle whining about death and Megan telling her about life.

“I love both of you, you know.” She told her friends.

“Well now, that’s sensible too.” Megan said brightly. “After all, where would you find a pair like us?”

“For the sake of the world, hopefully only here at Hogwarts.” Lily joked.

For the sake of the world thought Meg, hopefully…

She hoped that Dumbledore would gather them all together soon, she hated keeping this secret. Why was it that they were all so young, yet they had to face so many adult things? Lily and James would have each other, thank goodness for that. Remus and Amelia might have each other if Remus could quit being so silly about something that happened to him once a month.

Who would she have?

“Well, I’ve got a date with Sirius, so I have to run.” Megan stooped over and kissed the seated Lily’s cheek. “Be good now and make some plans for your wedding. I’ve always wanted to make a wedding dress so that you know. No pressure, of course.”

With a wink and a smile, she was gone.

“Does that girl ever take anything seriously?” Amelia wondered aloud.

On her way to meet Sirius Megan stopped in Myrtle’s bathroom and had herself a good cry. She was so glad that Lily and James were to be married but in her mind’s eye she saw that flash of green light once again. She didn’t know what it meant exactly, but it had been terrifying to see.

“Ah well, they’ll have each other for all of their lives.” She said to her reflection and hoped it was true.

“Life, life, you all come here and torment me with your lives!” Myrtle screeched.

“Go soak it, Myrtle.” Megan said and rinsed her face with cold water before running off to meet Sirius. There were advantages to not wearing makeup after all.



Chapter 7: After the Ball is Over
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Chapter Seven:

It was after the Yule Ball now and they were all relaxing together in the common room. Amelia, Megan, Remus, James and Peter were all leaving in the morning but James had promised to return as soon as he had told his family about Lily. Lily had merely written to her parents and although they expressed concern, they had given their consent. Lily loved her parents but nothing could make her face a Christmas with Petunia again.

“I’ll miss you.” James whispered into her hair, watching the firelight flicker.

“I’ll miss you too, more than you can know.” Lily answered, her face pressed to his chest.

“Would you two like to be alone?” Sirius asked dryly.

“There’s a marvelous idea altogether.” Megan proposed. “Let’s all figure out where we can go to get away from lovers over here.” Her tone was joking but Lily knew her intent was to give them some time together.

James opened his mouth to say that he and Lily would leave when Sirius leaped to his feet.

“Come with me fair lady, let me show you a certain room in the castle.” His smile was infectious.

“Right. A room. Marvelous, we’re off to get a room evidently.” Megan said but she rose and took his hand.

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” James called after Sirius rather earnestly.

“Never fret James, never fret.” Sirius was guiding Megan out through the portrait hole, his hand on the small of her back. He winked at his friends.

“What say you and I take a walk together?” Remus seemed nervous but Amelia leapt to her feet readily. She was only an inch shorter than he was.

“Right then, we’re off to explore.” She confidently put her hand into Lupin’s and they too disappeared through the portrait hole.

Peter had left his date at her house, Ravenclaw. “I’m off to bed. Try not to maul each other too extensively.”

There was something funny about Peter sometimes, Lily thought. It was as if he tried too hard to be friendly. Maybe she made him nervous, she thought. As Peter reached the tower room, he flopped down onto his bed in confusion. For so long he had been friends with the Marauders, certainly they were making some bad choices, but that didn’t mean…

Did he know them at all? He wondered. They certainly didn’t know him if they were unaware that they were making disgusting spectacles out of themselves. Certainly the Strong girl was from a decent family, but she knew about Remus and had decided she wanted to go out with him anyway. Peter transformed into a rat and crept back down the stairs to watch.

On the couch Lily and James were kissing each other deeply. They would pause occasionally and look into each other’s eyes. It looked as if James was having a hard time keeping his hands off of Lily and the sounds they were making were frankly shocking to Peter. He scurried back up the stairs, transformed again and sat on his bed. Surely there had to be someone somewhere who understood how he felt? James Potter had been like a hero to him and now, now he was pawing at that disgusting Muggle girl as if she held the secret to life itself.

Perhaps over the Christmas break he would send an owl to someone who might understand. Someone from a good wizarding family but he’d have to choose carefully. Certainly not that Snape, or Montague. It had to be someone unconnected with the school any longer. Or perhaps not. All Peter really knew was that he was horribly confused and nothing made sense to him any longer. That and he very much suspected that he now hated the friends he had once worshipped.

Back down on the couch James was whispering to Lily again, after all there might be some of the younger kids still hanging around here somewhere. “I think we need to break this off for a bit. Want to dance with me?”

It was their code. When either of them felt they were pushing too close to their limit, they suggested a break of some sort.

Lily smiled and happily agreed. James Potter stood, pulled her into his arms, tucked her head beneath his chin and swayed with her to the nonexistent music.

:::::::::

“Interesting room you have here, Sirius. Decorate it yourself?” Megan was looking at the scattered pillows on the floor, the crate of butterbeer. “Listen, if you think you’re going to get lucky, I’m sad to inform that…”

“Don’t be a fool.” Sirius said quietly and handed her a butterbeer. “As lovely as you are, I’m not going to pry any clothing from your body.”

“Is that so?” Megan was smiling but couldn’t decide whether to be slightly offended or not.

“Yes, that’s so. I like you a lot Megan, in fact, I’m mad about you but…” Sirius paused and frowned. “It may sound stupid to you but until we know we’re in love, I think that having sex is a bad idea.”

“Aren’t you just the silver tongued devil?” Megan teased but she was oddly touched. He was honest, he was straight forward, no wonder they liked each other.

“Besides you’d box my ears or turn me into a newt if I tried anything.” He grinned. “Actually you’d probably box my ears and then turn me into a newt.”

“Quite right I would.” She laughed. “Sirius?”

“Hmm?”

“I’m mad about you too.”

“Oh now, and why wouldn’t you be? Fine figure of a man such as myself?” He said gently aping her accent.

“You may not mock the Irish in my presence!” Megan said and hit him with a pillow. He set his butterbeer down and hit her very gently with a pillow also. Before they knew what was happening it was all out war. They collapsed onto the floor laughing together.

“You know, a little passionate kissing never really got anyone in trouble.” Sirius said lightly and kissed her.

“It certainly has not. There are huge families throughout Ireland who can attest to that very fact.” She laughed and kissed him back. It all became much more intense than they had intended it to be, ten minutes later Sirius pulled back and sat up. His hair was mussed and his lips swollen.

“Okay, so we can only handle some passionate kissing.” He said breathlessly. His body ached oddly.

“Right.” Meg was equally in disarray. “So, what should we talk about? I’m open to anything.”

“Sex?” Sirius said, not seeming to be able to get his mind back on track.

“We covered that topic. Pick another one.” Megan said liltingly.

“Okay, here’s one. How did you hold Remus’s hand and know he was a werewolf?” Sirius was staring at her now.

“Lord above, maybe we should talk about sex, or kiss some more!” Megan laughed. There was only so much she could tell him for the time being.

“Do not force me to tickle information from you, I’m willing to do it.” Sirius moved in towards her. “What you fail to realize is that I’m actually quite ruthless.”

“What you fail to realize is that I’m not ticklish!” Megan squealed as Sirius descended upon her. Once again, in a flash they were panting, pulling at each other’s robes, their lips locked together. Megan broke away desperately.

“Did Lily and James put a desire charm on this room?” Megan laughed.

“Damned if I know. Let’s get out of here while I still have my virtue in tact.” Sirius said but could barely muster up a grin. He hauled Megan to her feet and found that he was trembling, what further disconcerted him was that she was too.

“Good plan, Black.” Megan said and headed for the door but Sirius caught her hand.

“You will tell me someday, won’t you?” Sirius looked so handsome that Megan was afraid that if they didn’t leave now, she’d tell him anything he ever wanted to know.

“I swear to you, I’ll tell you everything someday.”

They left the room together.

::::::::

Remus Lupin was having something less of an action filled time of it. He’d never done this before, not really. He walked with his hands clasped behind his back, as if afraid to touch Amelia. He’d released her hand as soon as they had reached the hallway.

“Give me your hand, Moony.” Amelia said confidently and Remus grinned and put his hand in hers. “Oh look at that, you managed to hold my hand without transforming into a werebeast!”

She was teasing him, trying to get him to loosen up. “That only happens at the full moon, Amelia.” Remus said seriously.

“I know that. I was just making sure that you know that.” With that she paused and did something she never thought she would do in her life, she pulled Remus Lupin towards her and kissed him gently on the lips. “Oh, another discovery! You can kiss me and…”

But she never got to finish the sentence, Remus pulled her back close and kissed her so thoroughly she thought her knees would stop supporting her.

“Ahem.” A male voice nearby. To their absolute shock and horror, Ablus Dumbledore stood before them, looking over his half moon spectacles. The two students broke apart quickly and practically stood on opposite sides of the hall.

“Headmaster,” Remus began miserably. “I don’t know how to explain…”

“I was just thinking to myself that the stars are particularly bright tonight and that if one had such an inclination, it is said that being kissed under the stars in garden is a pleasure without equal in this world.”

They both gawked at the headmaster.

“If one were to have such an interest. Good evening. Happy Christmas.” Albus Dumbledore continued down the hall, thinking to himself that these poor young people should find every happiness that they could. While there was still time.

“Oh that was the most embarrassing thing ….” Amelia was stopped short when Remus grabbed her hand and began dragging her down the stairs. “Where are we going?”

“To the garden, of course.” Remus said. “I may be a bit of a rebel when it comes to school rules, but even I wouldn’t disobey an direct order from the headmaster.”

Amelia laughed and followed him.

::::::::::

Severus Snape returned from the Christmas break with brand on his arm and many questions in his mind.

DeathEaters, they called themselves and now Severus knew exactly why. That night in the forest, chasing after that man all of them in hoods and robes. What had been his name? Finneaus Smartholder according to the Daily Prophet, founded maimed and murdered two days after Christmas. All Severus could remember were his pleas for mercy and the blood running from his ears.

How the woman with the high, shrill voice had laughed as she had cursed him again, and again, “Crucio.” And Finneaus had twisted in pain, screaming. The men and women around him in robes had laughed, hell he had laughed himself although it was all he could do to keep from vomiting in his hood. He thanked the stars over and over again that he had mastered Occulmency and developed a potion to eradicate all traces of his true emotions.

When he had met the Dark Lord, he had shown no fear because he had rendered himself incapable of truly feeling it, at least at the time. He had bowed, he had said all the right things but he had not scraped around like nearly all the other followers. To his horror, this made Voldemort like him more.

“You show no fear of me, young Snape.” His eyes were cold and his voice like daggers. “It is not wise to displease me.”

“My lord, I live to please you. I wish only to serve but fear will not serve you, at least not fear from your followers. Respect and the awe you deserve my lord.” And then he had smiled that cold, horrible smile that he’d developed in the mirror.

If the potion had failed him, he would have been dead in an instant but it had worked and Severus had been honing it for over a year to make sure it could not be detected by anyone. There was one way, if someone were to drink his blood they might taste some of the ingredients, but that was the only way.

Then there had been the matter of dueling to prove his worth. He’d taken down three grown men and the Dark Lord had laughed.

“You will be a fine DeathEater, young Snape.”

“I live to serve you, master.” Snape had said and then he had been branded along with three other masked young people, he knew one of them was Montague and the other was a youth of about 23. Severus thought he recognized him from Hogwarts, the proud, drawling voice. He had graduated just as Snape had finished his first year a man named Lucius Malfoy. The brand burned incessantly and glowed dark against his pale skin.

After they had killed the Muggle-born there had been an incident, a muggle child of about ten or so had wandered into the woods his house was evidently nearby. He’d heard the noise and come to see what had happened.

“Kill him.” Said a man named Crabbe. “He matters not to the Dark Lord.”

“Wait.” Severus had said, his voice deliberately cold. “Why not obliviate him instead?”

“Why would you care for the life of a Muggle child?” Several of the DeathEaters began murmuring.

“Care?” He had answered his voice proud and cold. “I care nothing for this worm but our master is not yet ready to conquer the Muggle world and Muggle deaths lead to Muggle attention. Let his time not be soiled with such foul worries.”

They had let him spare the child.

Later that night, back in his home he had listened as his father proudly told his mother what his son had done. He had aided in the killing of a Muggle-born. He had come to the special attention of the Dark Lord. Much later, he had heard his mother weeping secretly and wanted to slip out to comfort her but to do such a thing would be to risk all.

As he walked down a staircase he heard a commotion above him and the sixth year Hogan had tumbled at his feet, she’d evidently tripped. He nearly reached out to help her to her feet but caught himself. Under no circumstances could he touch this girl, he had been warned. Who knew how quickly her powers were developing.

“Nice to see you’re such a gentlemen, Snape.” Hogan said as she clambered to her feet. “I forgot about that damned trick step.”

“What else could anyone expect from a filthy Mudblood like you?” He snarled and for a moment he thought he had gone too far, he thought the Hogan girl had been about to slap him.

Instead she spat at him and said, “Well aren’t you just the nastiest piece of work on the premises, Snivelus? A good day to you too!”

He reached the statue of the Phoenix and spoke the password quickly. The statue turned aside and Severus Snape walked the stairs up into the secret room.

“What can you tell me Severus?” The room Severus knew had many protection spells on it. He related everything from his standing position.

“How long will I have to do this, headmaster?” Severus asked. He had approached Dumbledore at the beginning of the year saying that he had to speak to him privately. The plan had formed from there.

Dumbledore stared at the young man before him. “Possibly for the rest of your life Severus, are you prepared to do that?”

A lifetime of never allowing himself to express his feelings, even acknowledge them? A Lifetime of loneliness and isolation? He would die inside. Perhaps he was already dead.

“Whatever it takes to defeat him.” Severus answered slowly.

Later at dinner in the great hall he had sat beside Montague and listened to him pour forth his hatred. When had he stopped feeling such hatred? He wasn’t even sure that he had. He truly wished that only pure wizards were allowed in the school. But he was no murderer although he knew that he might have to kill in order to keep this up. In truth, perhaps he did not hate as he had thought. It mattered little, their world had to be saved, no matter the cost.

No one could ever know, Dumbledore had told him. Not until the Dark Lord was defeated and possibly not even after that. He would still have followers that might escape, it would probably never be safe.

To never be known, not by a single soul. Severus thought about this and as he looked up, he saw Lily Evans, her new engagement ring flashing in the candlelight, a knife twisted in his stomach. A pureblood such as he could never have truly loved a Muggle-born anyway. Such things were impossible. Weren’t they? He looked at James Potter, who could not bear to be more than a few feet away from Evans. Potter was a pureblood.

“Disgusting, isn’t it?” Montague spoke beside him.

“Utterly vile.” Snape had responded.

Lily laughed and the sound was like music. No, he was not dead yet, he realized.

But he was dying inside.


Chapter 8: Discoveries
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Chapter eight:

“She doesn’t touch anyone any longer, I’m worried about her.” Lily said to Amelia as they sat in their room.

“What are you talking about? She touches Sirius quite frequently.” Her tall friend answered.

It was true, in fact, Megan seemed to be addicted to touching Sirius. Laying her hand on the back of his neck in the dining hall, leaning her cheek against his as he embraced her. It could only be guessed what they got up to when they were alone.

“But she doesn’t touch anyone else, ever. Not any more.” Lily was concerned her vivid green eyes were troubled.

“That’s not that odd, Lily. After all, how often do you touch people other than James?” Amelia couldn’t understand her friend’s apprehension.

“No. You don’t understand, she’s afraid to touch people, or be touched. The other day Hawkins was reaching for a pot of ink at the same time Megan was and their hands brushed. She was shaking and saying ‘Don’t touch me, whatever you do, don’t touch me.’” Lily felt tears come to her eyes. She feared for her friend’s sanity.

Amelia considered this for a moment, “Well, that is odd.”

“Remember how she used to do our hair for us? Help us with our clothes? Hug people just because she was affectionate? She hasn’t done any of that in months now and I’m getting worried. I think we need to talk to McGonagall about her.” Lily was obviously frightened.

“Or, you could just trying asking me, I suppose that’s one approach.” Megan Hogan stood quietly at the door, her hands shoved into the pockets of her jeans.

Lily and Amelia both flushed with guilt. They had been caught out, talking about their friend. But Megan did not seem angry, or upset, instead she just looked weary.

“I was wondering how long it would take you to notice. You’re too damned bright for your own good, Lily.” Megan said with a sigh.

“What?” Lily was completely astonished.

Megan walked into the room and sat down at Lily’s desk. “Well, there’s nothing for it but to confess I suppose. But I can’t, see, there’s the problem. I haven’t been able to touch anyone since the term break and it’s been two months and I knew sooner or later you’d all catch on.”

“What is it Meg, you can tell us, are you in trouble?” Lily Evans was one of the kindest souls on earth.

“No. I’m not in any trouble. I swear to you.” Megan looked about the room desperately, “Very soon it will all be explained but you’ve got to promise me…you can’t tell another living soul about this, I’ll go now and talk to someone, someone who can explain to you.”

Lily’s confusion was deepening, Megan sounded a bit as if she had lost her mind.

“I’m perfectly sane Lily.” Megan said, it was one of those odd moments when she caught a thought. “You’re going to have to trust me.”

::::::::

Every now and then something happens in life. Circumstances align, fates converge and perhaps it is destiny that is fulfilled. If only she hadn’t tripped.

As she had been doing for months Megan Hogan walked down the deserted hallway to the secret room, her wand out ready to hex anyone who crossed her path. She stopped in front of the statue of the Phoenix, whispered the password and waited until the staircase was revealed. She stepped into the secret room and called for Dumbledore softly, although she knew no one but he could hear her when she spoke here. Then she settled down to wait.

Within minutes he joined her.

“What is it Megan?” He asked promptly, conjuring a pot of tea for the young woman, she looked a bit pale.

“Sir, listen, we’ve got to tell them.” Megan was desperate. “I can’t keep this up much longer. My friends know there is something wrong with me and I’m not any good at lying to them.”

Dumbledore regarded her. She had done so well developing her powers. Now with the slightest brush of her hand she could tell if a person was trustworthy if they had true hatred within their heart. It was seeing their fate that stung her and Dumbledore desperately wanted to tone down this side effect of her abilities before he gathered together the Order of the Phoenix.

“I know you need me, and you know I want to help.” Megan was crying now. “But they could help me. They could make sure that no one got too close, hell I’ve touched nearly all of them at one time or another, I know their fate…even if I don’t truly understand what it means. It used to be hands. But now it’s any exposed skin. I brushed against Fielding in the hall the other day and his hand touched my arm…do you know what’s going to happen to the poor little mite?”

“I confess, I do not.” Dumbledore watched the young girl carefully she was near the end of her tether.

“He’s going to die in agony. Sheer, utter, complete agony but that isn’t all, first he’ll get to watch his parents die in front of his eyes.” She was sobbing. “And I felt it! I felt the pain of his death in that split second he brushed against me. The only person I can stand to touch is Sirius because he feels so cool and lovely.”

It would have taken a stone not to be moved by Megan. Dumbledore was not a stone. He had let her pain go on too long hoping that he could help her refine what was in her. She was very strong and he had recruited her for this but he had let this continue too long. In more than four centuries there had not been a seer with Meg Hogan’s particular gift. There were seers who made prophecies but Meg was a tactile seer, if she touched someone she knew both their fate and the quality of their soul.

Megan collapsed on the floor sobbing, “Please, tell them. I need their help, just as you told me you needed mine.”

Dumbledore stood and walked to the girl. He offered her a handkerchief after gasping for a moment she took it and wiped her eyes and nose.

“I can get Madam Pompfrey to give you a potion to soothe you.” He said kindly.

“No. I don’t need it. I’ll be all right.” He had been right to choose her, she had the heart of a lion. “Will you tell them? Not everyone you need yet, but at least tell my friends?”

“Yes, it is the very least I can do for you.” Dumbledore decided. “I will go now and gather them in my office, but Megan you need to understand something…”

She looked up at him and waited.

“I will need you to shake their hands before I tell any of them anything.” Dumbledore hated to ask this of her. “Then, when we know it is safe, we can bring them here and explain the rest.”

“I can do it.” Megan said and Dumbledore knew she was telling the truth.

“Take a few moments to compose yourself and then go to my office, they will be waiting there for you.” In the years that were to follow, Albus Dumbledore knew it was one of the few times that he let his emotions overwhelm everything. It was a mistake he vowed ever afterwards not to make again. But on that night, with the nearly broken, sixteen year old girl in front of him, he acted with his heart, and not his mind.

It was the reason he forgot that Severus Snape was due in the room at any moment. It was the moment that forever sealed Megan Hogan’s fate.

::::::::

Megan drew a deep breath, it was going to be all right. She sat for a moment and felt truly happy for the first time in months. They could help her they could make sure that she remained isolated until she got this under control.

She stepped from the room and onto the staircase, just as it began to rotate. The sudden motion caused her to stumble and it was thus that Megan Hogan tumbled down the stairs and right into Severus Snape’s arms.

It had been a reflex to catch her, Snape cursed himself. He saw her eyes fly open wide and her mouth gape momentarily and then he was dragging her up the stairs and flinging her into the room.

“You!” Megan gasped. “How can it possibly be you?”

But she had seen his soul in that moment. Yes, there was hatred there but there was honor. He would die rather than betray Dumbledore or the Order and what he was doing was the most dangerous thing she could imagine. She had seen him, Voldemort, talking to the young man she had felt Snape’s deeply buried pain, his revulsion.

“Shut up! I need to think.” Snape paced the carpet his wand out all the time. Finally he decided.

“Stand still, I’ll obliviate your memory of this, it won’t effect your abilities.” He said with a strong voice.

“It won’t work, I’m protected by every known anti-hex, anti-curse spell on the planet.” Megan was now watching him with interest.

“Damn.”

“I could obliviate you, I’m quite good at it. Then you would have no memory of meeting me here.” She said hopefully.

“No, I’m equally protected. Probably more than you.” Snape sank to the floor and stared at the girl in front of him.

“What do we do now?” Megan had an appointment to keep.

“I have no idea whatsoever.” And for the first time ever, Megan Hogan realized that Snape was as human as the rest of them.

“You’re doing something very brave.” She said.

“So are you.” Snape said grudgingly.

Megan decided what was to be done. She stood, and so did Snape. “Listen, we’ll have to tell Dumbledore about this, he’ll have to decide if there’s anything to be done.”

“Agreed.” Snape said with a sniff.

“Fine then.” Hogan made towards the door and then paused.

“Snape?” She called to him.

“What is it?”

“I don’t see everything, just little bits here and there. I know when someone can be trusted, and you can be.”

The tall boy with the sallow skin and hooked nose just glared at her. These were things he already knew.

“You can’t ever, ever speak to me again Hogan. No matter what.” Severus was trying to protect both their lives.

“I know, but there’s something you need to know.” Hogan hesitated. “You’re going to live through this battle.”

He digested this in silence. He knew he would not, particularly if he became too cocky and believed it to be so.

“What about you?”

“I haven’t the first, foggiest notion.” She said with a smile, and left.

Severus Snape had to sit down again for a moment before leaving. He had never understood until then how brave these strange, half-Muggles could be. She was trying to do something just as dangerous as he was. It stood to reason that because of what she had to do, she would know the most about the Order and the people in it.

The Dark Lord would kill to get his hands upon her, quite literally.

:::::::::::

Fate could be changed, Megan told herself firmly as she walked to Dumbledore’s office. At least she thought it could. If they all fought hard enough, if they sacrificed enough, if they were very, very careful then things could be all right. She told herself this because she would be shaking her friend’s hands soon, seeing whether they were to live or die. She wasn’t sure that anything could be changed, but she had to bolster herself up somehow.

They were all standing at the base of the other Phoenix statue, the one that led to Dumbledore’s office. Professor McGonagall was with them. James, Lily, Sirius, Amelia, Remus and Peter all looked towards her.

“Hello.” She said cheerfully.

McGonagall said the password and another staircase rolled into view. They trooped up together, completely silent.

Dumbledore sat behind his desk, his long thin fingers pressed together beneath his nose. As they entered, they were instructed to remain standing by Professor McGonagall.

“Good evening.” The headmaster began. “This, I promise you, will not take up much of your time.”

Lily looked to James who nodded his encouragement, but he looked equally baffled.

“As you all know, there is a dark force at work in the wizarding world. It threatens our very existence and the lives of many.”

Everyone was nodding and as Dumbledore spoke, Sirius hedged over to Megan and placed his hand in hers.

“All means necessary must be utilized to try and stop this force. Already there is an organization that fights against this tyranny and I would like you all to join us.”

More hesitant glances were exchanged between the students.

“However, I cannot lie to you, this is an extremely dangerous undertaking and your lives may well be at risk. I will give you a few minutes to decide whether or not you are willing to make such sacrifices. If you are not, you may leave and I assure you no one will think the less of you.”

“You’re forming a society to fight Voldemort?” Sirius asked. “Sign me up.”

“And me.” Said Remus without hesitation.

Lily was torn for just a moment but then she thought of the increasing death toll. The terror in which the wizarding world was living and the answer was clear to her:

“And me, of course.” She said, her eyes blazing.

“I’m in.” James said, all he had needed to hear was that Lily was on board and then he felt free to act upon his first inclination.

All eyes turned towards Amelia, Peter and Megan.

“Well, I’m in, but I expect at least some of you already knew that.” Megan said and Lily’s head turned towards her, sudden realization dawning on her face.

“I’m not sure what good I will be, but I want to help.” Amelia said. “Count me in too.”

Peter Pettigrew wasn’t sure what to do. He half wanted to leave right then and there. The other half of him was curious, he had yet to act on anything in any other camp.

“Yes. Yes it needs to be done. Me too.” He finally said.

“That is precisely what I had hoped would be your reactions. Now, I suggest we all shake hands with one another to guarantee our secrecy that we may not break faith with one another.” Dumbledore’s voice was casual but Lily’s clever gaze was upon him. She understood what Megan had been trained for now.

The handshakes took a fairly long time but Megan knew her mission, she had to make sure she shook the hand of every student in that room. She turned first to Amelia, just as she broke off her handclasp with Remus. Amelia readily put her hand in Meg’s.

It was like being punched in the stomach now, but Megan smiled through it all. She saw Amelia’s trustworthy soul and once again felt the terror, only more deeply this time. She wanted to blurt out once more, ‘Don’t stray too far from Remus Amelia, there will be a night when you think it’s safe, but it won’t be’. She kept her mouth closed and simply smiled.

Lily put forth her hand next and Megan steeled herself. The feeling of her utter goodness washed over her and then she heard a scream and saw a blinding flash of green light. She knew in her heart that it was Lily screaming. Fighting tears like mad, she smiled happily into her friend’s questioning gaze.

James was almost too much for her, his handshake was almost exactly like Lily’s. So full of love, trust and bravery and then the acid green flash of light. He had screamed something, but she couldn’t make out what it was.

She grinned at Remus as he put his hand into hers. Steadfast, kind, brave of heart and just that touch of loneliness.

Sirius’s hand was in hers now and she felt his goodness, his loyalty and then the hysterical laughter and the deadening cold but this time she heard him shriek “I am innocent.” She shivered slightly.

She began to cross the room to shake Peter’s hand. Their fingertips were within inches of each other when it happened, a huge wave of nausea swept over her and she became lightheaded. She stumbled and started to fall but Sirius was there as quick as a flash, catching her before she ever hit the carpet.

In the turmoil that followed, Megan completely forgot to mention that she hadn’t shaken Peter’s hand. She must have touched him at some point, she was sure of it. Only of course, she had not.

She had however touched Sirius Black on more than one occasion. Poor, affectionate Megan, cut off from the world had taken him back to the necessary room again and again. They did love each other after all, there was nothing wrong with it.

But it was still an inopportune time to discover that she was pregnant.

:::::::::


Chapter 9: The Hospital Wing
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Chapter Nine:

The hospital wing was the most boring area of the school in fact it made Professor Binns class seem a non-stop roller coaster ride by comparison. Yet Megan Hogan’s friends were there for the entirety of her stay. Sirius Black haunted her bedside and even Madame Pompfrey’s orders that he leave and at least get something to eat were met with a cold stare.

“No offense meant, but make me.” Sirius had said almost tonelessly. He held Megan’s hand even during the time she was unconscious and Megan remained unconscious for a full day.

“Should you wake her, Poppy?” Minerva McGonagall asked anxiously.

“No Minerva, she’s fine.” Madame Pompfrey answered sadly, “She desperately needs the rest. I don’t think she’s been eating or drinking properly for ages. They’ll be time enough to talk to her when she does wake up.”

Lily, James, Amelia and Remus were just as faithful as Sirius but they seemed to respect that Padfoot would not leave her side and wished to be alone with her. Peter begged off, saying that he was worried that he had somehow caused her collapse. The foursome would peer in at every opportunity and had become such fixtures in the hallway outside that Poppy had made the very real mistake of joking that she ought to turn them into decorative planters. Four pairs of eyes stared at her without a hint of a smile.

Finally, McGonagall intervened when it came to others. “Take a walk, all of you. For mercy’s sake, off with you now. You can come back in an hour she’ll still be here.” As the teenagers turned to leave she commented softly to herself, “And so will he.”

:::::::::

“I don’t feel much like walking.” Lily said listlessly.

“Nor do I.” Amelia was equally without energy.

James and Remus looked at each other, they knew that this behavior was good for none of them.

“All right then,” Remus took Amelia’s hand. “It’s off to the herbology gardens with us. Come on dearheart, it will do us good.”

Amelia look at him miserably but let herself be led away.

“Where should we head off to?” James tried to sound pleased at the prospect.

Lily looked at him. His hair was, as always, a mess. His eyes behind his glasses were so beautiful and kind. “Anywhere that features you, I suppose.” She tried to smile.

“Let’s sneak off to Hogsmeade.” He said with a grin.

“Hogsmeade?” Lily asked somewhat taken aback.

“Yes, Hogsmeade. Why not? You know I’ve got the map. Let’s do it Lily, let’s go exploring.” He was shooting for enthusiasm but in truth, he did not feel it.

“All right James,” Lily consented and James felt as if a feather could have knocked him over. “Let’s go and have tea in Hogsmeade.”

When they finally emerged from the tunnel in the basement of Honeydukes they were covered in spider webs and slightly breathless. After a quick check around for the proprietor they were on their way to the tea shop which was blessedly deserted.

“James, I love you.” Lily said as soon as they had ordered tea.

“I love you too, more than life itself.” James answered, taking her hand in his own and kissing it softly.

Then the moment was slightly spoiled when Lily began to cry. Seeing Lily cry was one of the worst things James could imagine.

“Darling, what is it?” James asked. “She’ll be all right. Madame Pompfrey said that more than anything else it was exhaustion.”

“She’s pregnant James.” Lily said but James had already worked that out for himself.

“Yes, but you don’t think that Sirius would just leave her do you?” He was amazed that Lily could think such a thing of Sirius. “He’ll marry her Lily, and it will be just fine because he does love her you know.”

“I know.” Lily said letting her tears just roll down her face unheeded. “But you and I both know that could have been us.”

“No darling, it couldn’t. We made that decision.” James drew her close to him and didn’t care if the waitress look scandalized.

Now Lily was crying in earnest. “Oh lord James, if I’d been a better friend. If I’d talked to her, figured it out sooner, maybe she wouldn’t have been so lonely.”

“Lily, I know that she was lonely but you can’t forget that they do love each other. They joke around a lot but they’ve loved each other for months now.” James was distressed beyond words now, tears were pouring down Lily’s face.

“Promise me?” Lily asked.

“I’d promise you anything in the world.” James said and no man had ever been more sincere.

“Promise me that we’ll get married and be together, and that whatever happens, no matter how bad we’ll be there for each other.” Lily was hiccuping gently with her sobs.

James stared at Lily for a moment. “Lily, I promised that to you in my heart the day I asked you to marry me.”

::::::::

Remus and Amelia’s walk was almost entirely silent. Remus made an effort though, he’d point out this flower, or that commenting on the various uses and occasionally the possible dangers. Amelia however was as silent as the tomb. Finally they reached the edge of the forbidden forest and Remus said that it was time to turn back. To his surprise, Amelia flopped down right on the cold ground and began to cry heavily.

He sat beside her, holding her close and stroking her short hair.

“She never asked a thing of anyone you know.” Amelia finally managed to gasp out.

Remus nodded.

“She always wants to help people and be kind.” Amelia sobbed. “Oh what’s wrong with us Remus?”

“What do you mean?” He was puzzled but terribly concerned.

“Why didn’t we think to try and give anything back to her?”

“We all gave her our friendship.” He said honestly. “I think that was all she ever wants from anyone.”

Amelia looked at the drawn young man beside her and wondered how anyone so young could be so mature.

:::::::

Megan’s eyes fluttered open and immediately took in Sirius his head was down on the blanket covering her, his hand firmly in hers.

“Where’s the wake?” Megan said with a weak smile. “I just fainted you silly boy.”

Sirius looked into her eyes and his breath caught in his throat.

“Megan?” She looked at him kindly. “I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I let this happen to you.”

“I was there too, you good looking fool.” Again she smiled. “I knew we should have done something to keep us from making a baby, but I just plowed ahead.”

“You know then?” Sirius asked.

“I do now!” She smiled triumphantly.

“Oh God.” Sirius’s head dropped down to the blanket again but he felt Meg’s fingers tugging at his hair and he raised his head. “I want to marry you Megan. I want to spend the rest of our lives together.”

She was three weeks shy of her seventeenth birthday and the rest of her life stretched far ahead of her. At least, she thought, in theory.

“Are you certain about that? Because if you aren’t Sirius, it’s all right. I’ll not think the less of you.”

“Megan ever since we started…” His voice faltered. “Do you think I could have kept going back to that room with you if I wasn’t certain?”

“Been know to happen.” She said.

“Well, it didn’t happen this time.” Sirius’s chest actually hurt from the effort to keep from crying. “I was with you because I love you, and I am with you because I love you.”

“Ah then, won’t we make the handsome couple?” Megan smiled in delight. “You looking like the most handsome devil on earth, me looking like the size of a rotund little elf. Then there will be the baby….”

Sirius flinched and in her heart, Megan knew exactly what he was going to say but for the tiniest moment, she hoped she was mistaken. Please, just this once, let her be entirely mistaken.

Sirius sat on the edge of the bed and pulled her gently into his arms. “Megan, I love you and I want to marry you, right now if you’d have me but there isn’t going to be a baby.”

“No baby?” Megan’s voice sounded far off to her own ears. “What happened?”

“You had a miscarriage right after they brought you in here. Madame Pompfrey isn’t sure why, maybe it was exhaustion and too much stress. It might have been a fall you’d taken…” Sirius started as he saw Megan visibly cringe. “But we lost our baby.”

“It wasn’t exhaustion and it wasn’t a fall.” Meg was angry. “It was seeing all those deaths, it drove the life right out of me.”

“What?” Sirius was baffled.

“Nothing, it’s nothing.” Megan was crying now, softly, just a few tears rolling down her cheeks. “You’d have to be a fool to want a baby at this age, during this time. I don’t know what’s the matter with me.”

“Megan…” Sirius said and touched her cheek gently. “I still want you to marry me.”

“No.” The answer was cutting and rather cruel but for once Megan Hogan didn’t care. “I won’t marry you.”

Sirius stared at her, dumbfounded. “Never?”

She opened her mouth to say that it would be a cold day in hell when she realized that tears were splashing down Sirius’s cheeks. What was wrong with her? She did love Sirius and not simply because she could touch him frequently without the terrible barrage of feelings, sounds, sometimes even sights. She loved him because of a thousand reasons.

“I won’t marry you now, my love.” Her voice softened. “But I will marry you someday, and then we’ll always be together.”

He gathered her close and nearly broke her heart by whispering, “Thank you.”

In her mind she heard the hysterical laughter and felt the numbing cold again. She hated lying, she hated it with a fiery passion. But it hadn’t all been a lie, she would love him always, she knew that.

But if she saw nothing but cold, empty loneliness stretching on for years, what did it mean?

::::::::::

“Did you hear?” Montague was laughing.

“Hear what?” Severus asked.

“That Mudblood Hogan tried to trap Sirius Black by getting pregnant.” He sneered. “The joke’s on her though, she lost the idiot baby. She’s up in the hospital wing now.”

Severus thought for a moment about the kind eyed girl who had told him he would live. It was on the tip of his tongue to ask if she was all right but he couldn’t do that.

“Filthy Muggle whore, serves her right.” He said with ice hanging from every word.

Montague leered in appreciation. “Too right.”

Severus bent back over his studies. There would be nothing left of him when this was over, he was certain of it now, whether he lived or died.

Strangely though, he found himself hoping that Hogan lived and lived unchanged.

::::::::::

Madame Pompfrey and Professor McGonagall had tried to be kind. This sort of behavior was not tolerated at Hogwarts, ever but McGonagall new these were different times and special circumstances. They told her kindly about the different birth cotnrol spells she could use, Madame Pompfrey even instructed her in how to conjure them.

If either of them noticed that the young woman in the bed simply stared sadly at them, they tried to ignore it. She’d had a rough time of it, after all.

::::::::::

“Ablus, should we try and keep them apart?” Minerva asked with concern.

“No Minerva.” Ablus Dumbledore “In this time and place, I’ll have nothing done to prevent love, whatever form it takes.

“Whatever should we tell her parents?”

“Tell them she fainted but that Poppy has taken care of everything.”

So they both ignored the fact of the necessary room. When Megan left the hospital wing with Sirius Black there were no attempts to separate them.

These were not children any longer, these were soldiers in a war, and they must make their own decisions.



Chapter 10: NEWTS and New Places
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Chapter Ten:

The NEWTs had been a nightmare, worse than anything Lily could have imagined before. Still, they had been a necessary evil because they all had to have jobs or at least the appearance of them, Dumbledore had warned the Order. The less conspicuous they were, the safer they might be. Then just three weeks after graduation she was going to marry James. It was impossible to think of this event without smiling.

“So, you’re to be married soon.” Professor Harrington, the ancient, retiring Potions mistress had said to Lily when she’d encountered her in the hall. “Congratulations.”

“Thank you Professor.” Lily said dutifully.

“Stop by my offices later today please, I have a gift I’d like to give you.” Harrington was not known to be warm to her students so Lily was surprised.

“Thank you, Professor Harrington, that’s very kind of you.” Lily managed to say through her shock.

When she’d stopped by the old witch’s office there had been three potion bottles sitting on the desk. They were particularly handsome bottles and each was filled with a different color liquid. One was azure blue, another a murky green and the last was the color of pearls.

“This really is so kind of you, Professor.” Lily tucked her beautiful hair behind her ears. Lily had already accepted a post at the Ministry of Magic, in the development of experimental potions. The job was just a cover her real work lay elsewhere.

“Not at all, Evans.” Harrington said stiffly. She knew what her students thought of her, and her mind revisited a time when she too was young and the most popular teacher at the school. She smiled at the memory. She could only hope that Lily Evans would live long enough to grow old and remember fondly her youth. She held up the azure bottle.

“This is a potion that will heal any wound sustained in dueling.” She replaced the bottle on the desk. She picked up the murky green bottle, “This is a fertility potion, if you are ever having trouble becoming with child, this will aid you.” The old witch felt slightly uncomfortable discussing that subject. She held up the pearly solution and said, “This potion will cures headaches. If you notice, I’ve made it a bit larger than the rest, you’re getting married dear, you’ll doubtless have many headaches.”

The old witch smiled and waved away Lily’s thanks.

“Professor, I feel a bit awkward accepting these.” Lily said honestly.

“Why would that be Evans? Because you couldn’t stand my class?” The wizened old witch leaned closer to her, “I’ll tell you a secret dear, there were times I could barely stand teaching it.”

To Lily’s surprise the old woman winked at her.

:::::::::::

Later in her dorm room Lily took stock of the place. She was nearly packed although there was still a week to go at school. After that, she would be leaving for the Potter’s home, where she would stay until her wedding. James had already found a house that absolutely delighted her, in a place called Godric’s Hollow.

“Where’s Megan?” Lily anxiously asked Alice Moore. Alice had joined the Order just two weeks ago along with her sweetheart, Timothy Ferngrow. Whenever a new member joined and they had all shaken hands, Lily had taken to watching Megan. As she had turned away from her handshake with Timothy, Lily noticed that her smile was horribly strained and she had excused herself from the room. Lily followed.

She found Megan in Myrtle’s bathroom, running cool water on her hand and fighting tears.

“What is it Meg? Why won’t you ever talk about what it is that you see?” Lily asked her friend.

“I can’t Lily, everything’s changed. I can’t tell people what I see any longer because if I do, it might change something that needs to happen. I don’t know what things are meant to happen for the good, and what are for the bad. I can’t talk about it.” Megan was still running her hand under the cool water. Dumbledore had been very specific, she was not to discuss anything that flashed through her mind but sometimes Megan desperately needed a confidant and Lily was incredibly trustworthy. Sometimes though, it was better not to tell her anything. She saw in her mind the bright flash of flame and remembered what Ferngrow had felt beyond the pain, he had been relieved. He would die without revealing anything.

“Did it burn?” Lily asked and Megan had smiled at her as if her heart were completely light.

“Don’t be silly, how could a handshake burn?” But Lily knew her friend was lying, she knew that something in Timothy’s touch had physically hurt her.

Lily gobbled up every piece of news the Daily Prophet had to offer and the news was becoming increasingly grim. An entire family had been wiped out in London, their home had been nothing but a masses of ashes with the mark of the DeathEaters in the air above it. What was strange though was that they were not a mixed family, they were purebloods. However, the Crafts had been very vocal in denouncing the DeathEaters. It was all escalating now and no one was safe. The meetings for the Order had necessarily increased.

Lily was dragged back to the present once more when Alice continued to speak.

“I don’t know where Megan is at the moment.” Alice said and smiled broadly at Lily. “Timothy and I both got jobs at Gringotts! We’ll be able to work together.”

“That’s lovely, Alice.” Lily understood more than Megan gave her credit for, in that moment, she understood how hard it would be to know what Megan did and be bound not to tell anyone. She very much suspected that Megan had felt Timothy burning alive and Lily shuddered at the thought.

Amelia came striding into the room and collapsed on her bed. “There is one thing that is absolutely marvelous about leaving Hogwarts and that one thing is I will never have to take another ruddy test again!”

Lily smiled, and Amelia marveled at her for a moment. Lily Evans was growing more beautiful by the day. She’d always been pretty but now she was gorgeous, as if she had left her girlhood entirely behind and grown into her adult beauty. They all felt older now, Amelia supposed. Would any of them ever be carefree again?

“Have you seen Megan?” Lily asked Amelia in a worried voice.

“No, I haven’t Lily and I’m saying this for your own good, you’ve got to quit mothering her.” Amelia loved Lily dearly and she could now say the same about Megan but there was no purpose being served by Lily’s constant fretting.

“I’m not mothering her.” Lily said defensively. “I needed to ask her about some material for my dress!”

“Oh, I’m sorry Lily, I just assumed…” Amelia looked guilt-stricken.

Lily tried to make her voice light when she asked, “Well, have you seen Sirius? He barely lets the girl out of his sight.”

“Lily! You are checking up on her!” Amelia shot up on the bed. “Listen, we’ve talked about this before, no matter what’s happened in the past Megan and Sirius need each other. We can’t worry ourselves sick every time they disappear together.”

“No, of course not.” Lily answered but she still worried.

Weeks ago she had found Megan staring out a window a small smile on her face.

“What are you thinking about Meg?” Lily asked affectionately.

“Sirius.” Megan had answered quietly.

“Megan, you two aren’t…” Lily had begun.

“Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell you no lies.” Megan had answered in a teasing tone.

“Megan!” Lily was alarmed. “I don’t understand. Sirius wants to marry you, he’s said so over and over again. Why can’t you marry him?”

“I just can’t.” Megan began and looked pained. “But don’t you worry about us. Hand to higher powers Lily, I’m dead careful now. I swear to you, please quit worrying.”

Lily tried but it was hard not to worry about Megan. Her heart was so good. She moved to hug her friend and was surprised when Megan allowed the embrace.

“Now, don’t go trying that too often. I’m becoming less affectionate in my old age.” She’d grinned mischievously and ignored the pain that she felt as the light flashed in her mind yet again.

:::::::::

“This isn’t right Megan.” Sirius said as they collected their clothing.

“Yes it is, it’s more right than a big lug like you can understand.” She kissed him gently.

“We could get married now…” Sirius began again hopefully.

“Not this again.” Megan said, rolling her eyes. “Who in the world would have ever thought that Sirius Black would have qualms about having relations outside the bonds of marriage?” Her smile twinkled at him.

“It isn’t that exactly, Megan. To be absolutely honest, I’d never considered my feelings on the subject before I met you.”

“I’ve made you a changed man, have I?” Megan was teasing.

“More than you’ll ever know.” Sirius held her hand.

“I’ve told you before, I’ll tell you again. I will marry you after he’s defeated.” Megan’s tone was intentionally airy.

“Do you promise?” Sirius asked. This was all beyond confusing to him. She was a lovely woman, she adored him and he adored her. Why was it so important to him that she wait to marry him?

“It’s a matter of time.” Megan’s tone was different it wasn’t joking.

“What?” Sirius asked quickly and he knew he did not imagine the look of panic on her face.

“A matter of time until we win, of course.” She put her arms around his neck and kissed him properly.

“Oh, good.”

Megan thanked her lucky stars that she thought quickly on her feet. When had she started picking up on Sirius’s thoughts like this? She thought it had been after the hospital, before she’d talked him into resuming their physical relationship. They’d been arguing about it, Sirius seemingly believing that he could somehow force her to marry him by holding out. It might have been amusing because there was a definite role reversal in genders, wasn’t it the boy who was supposed to push the girl?

She had distinctly heard, “Why is it so important to you?”

She’d answered honestly, “It’s the only time I don’t feel like I’m drowning in pain and fear.”

It was only when he had looked at her in surprise and asked why she would say such a thing. Her ability to see was growing still. Would it ever stop? Would she just be driven mad someday?

She’d gotten Dumbledore’s permission to take Sirius with her to the secret room one day and she explained to him what she was and what she could do to an extent and how it had become so powerful that sometimes it was terrifying.

“Why can you touch me then?” Sirius had asked.

“Who knows lover boy, maybe it’s because you are filled with such good things.” She smiled.

“We’ll have to be very careful.” Sirius said, relenting at last.

“Very.” She agreed.

Although she knew that in Sirius’s heart, he actually wished for something different. Something more but Megan had been unable to tell him that a lifetime together was impossible.

::::::::::

The practice dueling sessions were so important. Although they’d left school two days ago, nearly all of the group had assembled at the boyhood home of James Potter. The Marauders were experienced with hexes and light dueling, but now they were practicing something far more serious, the spells they were learning could easily be the difference between life and death.

They became familiar with the unforgivable curses, the Imperius curse, Crucio, there were several others but the worst of them by far was Adava Kedavra because it meant instant death. James was sparring with Sirius, Meg with Lily and Amelia with Remus. There were many other members of the Order on hand including a young couple with the last name of Longbottom. They were both Aurors and evidently rather famous.

Since poor Remus couldn’t even pretend to aim a curse like Petrificus Totalus at Amelia, she was having the easiest time with her Impedimente and Protego counterspells.

Lily was astonished by what a good dueler Megan was. She’d yet to be able to get a curse by her, she couldn't even disarm her. For her part, Megan always aimed her spells to the left or right of Lily because she was terrified of hitting her.

“What we need is an invisibility spell,” Megan said thoughtfully, “I really think that’s your best chance.”

Lily was lying panting on the grass, exhausted by her efforts, “How in the world did you become such a master at dueling?”

“Outstanding in Dark Arts, remember?” Megan said and grinned. “No, I’ve just always had a flair for it.”

Sirius and James were having a grand old time of it, blue and red curses flue back and forth.

“You’re never going to get me Prongs!” Sirius shouted triumphantly just as James stunned him.

“Sorry Padfoot.” James called in a laughing voice. It was so good to hear them laugh and to call each other by their nicknames. Lily couldn’t remember the last time either had seemed so lighthearted. They had played out the Quidditch season and even managed to win the trophy for the Gryffindor house yet somehow, none of it seemed to matter as it might have at one time.

“Well, at least we’ll never have to worry about either of them.” Lily giggled. Just then, the Longbottoms walked up and introduced themselves to the girls. They were both pleasant, round faced people and it was hard to imagine that they had dedicated their lives to ferreting out the Dark Arts and defeating them.

“It’s lovely to meet you, Albus speaks quite highly of both of you.” Alice Longbottom introduced herself, and then her husband.

Lily shook hands politely but Megan faked a sneeze when Mrs. Longbottom extended her hand. “Oh, pardon me.” Megan said smoothly.

“It’s quite all right dear,” And to Lily’s horror she reached out her hand out to Megan once more. They knew, she thought sadly. They all had roles to play in this, Amelia, Remus, Sirius and James were being trained for combat, it was obvious. Lily herself worked on potions that would provide them with extra protection when out in the field. Ways to make them harder to defeat or break. Potions that could force traitors to speak the truth and that might bring any captured Death Eaters under their control. To her enormous shock, Lily had found herself working side by side with Professor March on more than one occasion. There was no telling who was good or evil in this fight, at least not for Lily. Poor Megan did have a terrible burden to bear. To date, seven people who had wanted to join the Order had been inexplicably turned away after their initial meeting with Dumbledore. The Death Eaters were trying to find a way in.

There was nothing for it, Megan shook hands with Mrs. Longbottom and Mr. Longbottom in turn. Lily watched as Megan’s faced became strained and finally begin to twitch as she took the slightly older man’s hand.

“It’s lovely to meet you, both.” Megan managed to gasp out but her voice sounded nothing like her own.

“You too dear.” And thankfully, they left.

“Megan, are you all right?” Lily asked.

“I can’t see Lily, will you help me please?” Megan was sweating profusely now and shaking.

“Would you like me to get Siri…” Lily began, knowing how Megan disliked being touched now by anyone but him.

“No, we’ve got to hurry Lily, get me to the woods. I’m going to be sick.” Megan sounded desperate and she had gone a funny shade of green.

Half supporting, half dragging her friend Lily made way to the tree line. She heard James shout, “Oh look, Lily’s finally stunned Megan! Do you need a hand Lily?”

“No thank you, we’re fine!” Lily called in a bright, cheerful voice. She got Megan into the woods and out of sight just in time. Lily watched as her dark haired friend lay on her side, unable to stand, vomiting.

When she was finally done Lily couldn’t stop herself from asking, “Are they evil, or are they going to die?”

Megan began to cry helplessly, but after a few minutes she raised her face and looked at her friend, “They are most certainly not evil. They may be two of the best people I’ve ever met, certainly the bravest.” She began to cry again miserably.

“They are going to die then?” Lily felt miserable too.

“No. They’ll live.” Megan said sadly.


Chapter 11: Loss vs. Gain
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Chapter Eleven:

The Owl arrived at six in the evening and stood before Lily proudly. She disengaged the letter from its leg and pushed a knut into the leather pouch on its leg. James and Sirius had gone into the village to do some shopping.

“Oh, it’s from Hogwarts!” Lily sounded excited. Amelia sat by her side but Megan was in an upstairs room lying down. Lily tore into the letter. “It was forwarded to me…”

Her voice trailed off and she became deathly pale. She read the letter twice through and then handed it numbly to Amelia. She got up and wandered away on shaking legs. How could this be? She’d seen her parents three days ago, smiling cheerfully at her graduation, even if they did look confused.

Dead, both of them. How did a person lose both their parents in one day? They’d been riding in the tubes evidently, and the underground train had gone off the tracks, killing them both at once. Where was James? Lily thought desperately but she knew he wouldn’t be back for hours. She was too numb to cry, she felt as if she too had died.

Amelia read the letter through and gasped. She started after Lily and then seemed to think better of it. She ran swiftly up the stairs, her long legs taking two steps at a time with ease and burst into the bedroom where Megan was lying down.

“Not now Amy, please. Lily hit me with one hell of a good curse, I’m still not feeling well.” Megan moaned.

“Well get up anyway!” Amelia barked. “Lily’s parents have both been killed in an accident.”

Megan shot out of the bed and down the stairs with even more speed than Amelia could have mustered. She burst outside and screamed Lily’s name. There was no answer.

Lily sat on the floor of the forest, gently rocking back and forth. Tiny little moans escaping her lips every few seconds. This wasn’t real this couldn’t be real. It was a bad dream and she would wake up soon.

“Wake up.” She said faintly to herself. “Please, oh please, wake up.”

Back by the house, Megan’s gaze was darting everywhere. Amelia sprinted to her side.

“Lord you’re fast when you’ve got a mind to be.” Amelia gasped.

“Apparate into town Amy, do it now. Get there and don’t come back until you’ve found James.” Megan instructed her and although Megan was the younger of the two, Amelia did exactly as she was told. With a pop she disappeared immediately.

It took Megan fifteen minutes to find Lily.

“Oh lord, you poor lamb.” Megan said as she crouched down beside her but Lily’s gaze stayed locked in place.

“Wake up. Wake up.” She muttered there were leaves in her red hair and a smudge of dirt was on her cheek.

“You’re awake pet,” Megan said soothingly. “Lily? You’re awake.”

Lily’s gaze shifted to Megan and she spoke in a voice that belonged to another person, a voice that was broken with horror and grief. “It isn’t real, is it Megan?”

“I’m afraid so, darling.” Megan drew Lily’s head into her lap and began to stroke her hair. “But love doesn’t die Lily, wherever they are, they love you just as much now as they did when they were here.”

She held her friend and spoke gently to her, and when she heard James Potter shouting from the house, she called out to him in a clear, strong voice.

::::::::

“No James, my mind is made up.” Lily’s tear stained, swollen face was still somehow lovely. It wasn’t safe to love anyone in the world as it was now.

“Lily darling, please. I know that this has been a terrible shock for you, but we can’t cancel the wedding.” He had held her and comforted her in every manner possible. He held her hand now and hunkered down so that he could look directly into her green eyes. Those beautiful eyes that usually glowed with life, love, intelligence now just stared back at him as vacant as green glass.

“I’m not marrying you James.” Lily said and a chill went down his spine at the finality in her voice.

James ran a hand through his hair and wondered what to do. There had been a time when he had acted before he thought but now everything had to be thought carefully through. He loved Lily and no matter what, he was determined to marry her. Something bright and shining had to survive this time and he was determined that it would include the two of them, together.

He briefly considered talking to his father, but he knew his father was not well. His mother spent most of her time nursing him. There were few things that were exactly the same in the Magical world versus the Muggle one but in either word, a failing heart was a failing heart.

He was going to lose his father, that was clear but he would never lose Lily. He drew her close to him, his arm around her waist.

“Please, Lily think this through.” James was pleading.

“I have James. Even before this happened. We’d be fools to marry in such a time as this.” Her voice quavered slightly.

“We’d be fools not to,” James replied steadily. “if we aren’t together, how will we know what it is we’re fighting for?”

Lily had not answered but instead began to cry again. James held her close to his heart, where he hoped to keep her for the rest of his days.

::::::::::::

“How is she?” Remus Lupin was the first to speak when James entered the room in which all of his friends had gathered.

“I think she’s in shock.” James said. “At least, I hope she is.”

“Why do you say that?” Amelia asked, her hand gripping Remus’s.

“She says the weddings off.” James had never felt so miserable in his life, there was a dull, thudding ache in his chest and he wondered if it meant his heart was actually broken now. There couldn’t be a life without Lily, ever. He thought back over his schoolboy infatuation with her, and then the dawning of their love. How perfect they felt together. It was all he could do to keep from crying in front of the group.

“Postponed?” Sirius said.

“No, she’s canceled it for good.” James said, and looked as if he was about to be sick.

“The hell she has.” Megan said and got to her feet. “Pardon me.”

:::::::::

Lily lay on the bed, knowing she should be packing but unable to find the energy to do so. Loving someone meant endless opportunities for pain. She had to put an end to it. If she felt like this after losing her parents, how would she feel if she ever lost James? She loved her parents dearly, but this was the natural order of things in a manner of speaking. Children outlived their parents. But she couldn’t stand the thought of outliving James. She’d forced her engagement ring back into James’s hand, ignoring the agony she saw in his eyes.

The door to the bedroom swung open without a knock Megan Hogan stood in the doorway and stared at her friend.

“Lily, I love you.” She spoke quietly. “But I want to know exactly what in the hell you are playing at.”

“Leave me be.” Lily cried, her eyes were rimmed with red, her hair a disaster.

“Sit up this instant.” Megan said as gently as she could.

Lily did not budge. She knew why Megan had come to her room.

“Sit up Evans, or as God as my witness, I’ll haul you up.”

“My parents are dead!” She was on her feet shouting. “Dead Meg, do you have any idea what that means?”

“Evidently you think it means that you need to crawl into the grave next to them. Now sit down.” Megan was not tall, but she seemed to be towering in the doorway.

“I’ll do as I please.” Lily shouted, her face resolute.

“So it would seem.” Megan yelled right back. “Now sit down on that bed. I need to talk to you.”

“It won’t change anything.” Lily said but she sank onto the bed miserably.

Megan picked up Lily’s hairbrush and began brushing her hair gently. At first Lily tried to shrug her off but then she sat staring vacantly at the wall.

“Makes you mad, doesn’t it?” Megan said.

“Oh what would you know about it?” Lily was angry.

“More than you’d care to know actually.” Megan said quietly and continued brushing. “Lily, you’ve got to listen to me, I love you and I’ve nothing but your best interests at heart.”

Lily said nothing.

“Your parents are dead and I know your heart is breaking now.” Megan said. “I can’t even begin to imagine the pain you must be feeling.”

“But there’s something you need to know Lily, and I swore that I would never speak of it to you but now I must.” Megan’s brushing never ceased. “There’s a lot of death coming our way Lily. It will never be easy but we’ve got to be strong, we’ve got to face it but most importantly….”

She grabbed ahold of Lily’s shoulders and turned her towards her, “We’ve got to keep on living Lily. All of us. It’s the only way we’ll ever really win. He wants us crushed and beaten. If we stop acting as if we are alive and that there is hope then Voldemort will win.”

“I don’t care about Voldemort!” Lily cried, but knew even as she said the words she was lying.

“That a fact then?” Megan said and her voice was kind. “Tell me this Lily, where had you decided to settle your life? Was it with your parents at home? Or was it with that man downstairs who loves you so much his heart is as shattered as yours is now.”

Lily did not respond but her eyes flickered towards the doorway.

“He is a man you know, just as you’re a woman. We aren’t schoolchildren any longer, not a one of us.” Megan stood and walked to the window. “Lily Evans, you are the smartest, bravest, most loving woman I know. Don’t shut him out because you’ve been hurt. I know this is devastating but you’ve got to grab life…”

“What do you know about it?” Roared Lily. “You don’t know anything! You’re the one hiding from life if you ask me.”

“I understand one hell of a lot more than you’re giving me credit for Lily.” Megan roared right back.

Downstairs the assembled group shot terrified glances at the ceiling. Lily and Megan were having a shouting match?

“Is that so, well tell me, all great and powerful seer,” Lily was so angry with Megan she wanted her wand so that she could curse her and this time she wouldn’t miss. “What’s in our future?”

“You and James for one.” Meg’s voice was quiet now. Shouting would accomplish nothing, it never did. “And more death, and pain and loss than I thought could fit into a thousand lifetimes! Are you afraid to marry James because you think you’ll lose him and have to go on without him? You won’t Lily. You’ll never be alone, not one single day of your life unless you choose to be.”

Lily swallowed heavily and began to cry.

“Don’t choose to be.” Megan begged her. “Your parents are dead Lily, but they had each other right up until the end. It’s tragic, I know, but they’ll never know one day of grieving for the other.”

James was standing in the doorway now, come to see what all the racket was about. Lily looked at him, truly looked at him and knew once again that without him, her life would be nothing but a pale imitation. A pretense. A farce.

“James!” She cried and launched herself across the bed towards him. “Oh God, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

Megan wisely chose to take her leave.

::::::::::::::

The funeral had been horrible. Petunia and that red-faced, puffed up Vernon staring at them the entire time. When Lily had introduced James to them neither had wished to shake his hand, but had done so anyway.

“Are you one of them?” Petunia hissed at him later.

James Potter looked at the thin-faced woman and saw the deep-seated fear within her.

“We went to school together.” James answered. It was the only answer he could think of that would not have these people recoiling in terror.

Later, as they packed to head back to his parent’s house he found Lily sitting quietly in a chair.

“What is it, love?” James said as he took her hand in his, the one that once again sported the engagement ring.

“I was just thinking about things.” Lily said and suddenly she smiled at him with such intensity, he thought he might cry. “I love you. I want a life with you. I want you in every way possible.”

Then he did cry and so did she, but they were tears of gratitude. The dead were buried, but they were alive and together.


Chapter 12: Until Death do we Part
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Chapter Twelve:

At the reception for the wedding a happier group had seldom been seen. The ceremony had been beautiful and Lily Evans had looked so breathtaking that James Potter was almost unable to recite his vows in an audible tone.

The photos were being taken now and the laughter rang through the small valley in which the house was situated. Glasses were constantly being thumped with forks in order to make James and Lily kiss again.

Megan Hogan sat on the steps leading into the back garden and smiled towards the woods.

“Aren’t you a funny one?” Amelia said sitting down next to her. “You skipped out on all the pictures.”

“I’ve never liked having my picture taken.” Meg said. “In fact, some religions believe it steals part of your soul you know. Then again, I’ve got no soul, so maybe I’m just camera shy.”

The girls laughed together. They could hear the majestic voice of Albus Dumbledore giving yet another speech.

“You know, I bet those two newlyweds would like to get their honeymoon underway. We should get ready to give them a proper send off.” Megan commented with a grin.

“Hmm. Yes, well, they do seem a bit anxious to be alone together.” Amelia giggled. “Admittedly, who can blame them?”

Amelia paused and then asked the question that had been plaguing her these last few weeks.

“What’s it like, Megan?” Amelia asked tentatively.

“Oh god, not another question about what I can…” Megan started with a smile.

“No, not that.” Amelia had blushed crimson. “I mean, what’s it like being with…having…what’s it like making love?”

Megan stared at the girl before her. James and Lily weren’t even going on a true honeymoon because the work with the Order was so important. The patrols would start soon and every member was needed.

“Well, there’s really no explaining it unless you’ve tried it yourself.” Megan said as lightly as she could.

“Remus…” Amelia trailed off.

“Has always been a bit of a slow starter.” Megan finished with a laugh. “You’re out of luck here Strong, I’ve no intention of telling him to make love to you.”

Amelia laughed so hard that she nearly fell off the steps. “God, I would hope not!”

“I suggest you take matters into your own hands.” Megan said. “Figuratively speaking.”

Amelia giggled again, she couldn’t even imagine propositioning her kindhearted boyfriend. It was probably best to let it lie for the moment there was plenty of time for them.

“What about you? What are your plans for the evening?” Amelia asked.

“Oh I’m headed to Diagon Alley at last, have to get my store set up so that it gives all appearances of actually being a business.”

“What about Sirius?”

“He’s coming with me, I’ve got a flat above the store. Two bedrooms and everything.” Megan dropped a wink at her friend.

“But you won’t be using them both will you?” Amy smiled knowingly.

“No. No we won’t.” Megan admitted and grinned wickedly. “What can I say? I’m living in the moment and having fun doing so.”

“When are you two going to get married?” Amelia asked quietly, there was no judgement in her voice.

“When this is all over.” Megan said firmly in a bright tone. When had she become so accustomed to lying to her friends she wondered?

Peter Pettigrew came walking out of the house, carrying a glass of champagne. He seemed happy to see them both, feeling a bit festive himself but there was always something a bit odd in his manner. As if he was desperately clinging to a role and hoping that it would someday stick.

“Hello ladies…” and he caught his shoe on one of the stair treads. He went tumbling down the stairs, knocking painfully into Amelia.

“All right Amelia?” Megan inquired and received a nod as Amelia rubbed her elbow. “Oh dear.”

Peter was lying in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. “Here Peter, let me give you a hand…” Meg stood and extended her arm with every intention of helping Peter up from the ground. She was becoming numb to the pain she felt in some people and knew that the only way to maintain that numbness was to continue facing the pain. His shirt sleeves were rolled up, and his tie was loosened. Her hand was less than six inches away when Peter shot up from the ground as if powered by springs.

“I’m fine, I assure you.” He said quickly, with an unnaturally bright smile.

“Well at least let me help you dust off…” Megan said.

“I’ll see to it myself.” When Megan gave him an odd look he smiled and said, “I feel like a bit of an ass, truth be told. Please excuse me.”

“Suit yourself.” Megan called out to him and suddenly she heard:

“Don’t touch me.”

“I’m not touching you Amelia, what are you on about?” Megan was confused.

“I didn’t say a thing.” Amy said, honestly confused.

“Sorry, must have been a thought then…” This still happened sometimes, there was no predicting it.

“Megan, I didn’t think it either.”

Megan Hogan stared after Peter Pettigrew. Well, it wasn’t surprising some people didn’t want her to touch them, although she’d gotten much better now about being able to touch without so much pain on her end. It must have been an unpleasant experience for Peter when she’d last touched him, she reasoned. Suddenly it occurred to her that she had no memory of Peter’s fate and she smiled. The training was still paying off after all. She could let things wash through her and let them go after all.

“Come on Megan, let’s go and see James and Lily off.” Amelia stood up and brushed off her bridesmaids dress.

:::::::::::::

In the house in Godric’s Hollow James and Lily Potter were finally alone. The day had been so beautiful and many happy tears had been shed. Truly happy laughter had rung through the house too.

“James?” Lily asked as they sat for a moment on the sofa, looking around their new home.

“Love?” James Potter had achieved everything he had ever wanted. Now they would help fix this world and live in it together. He felt confident, happy and above all love.

“Are you ready to head upstairs?” She asked and felt oddly shy.

“Lily, I’ve been ready for ages, weeks, months, hell, maybe even years.” He grinned at her.

“No more waiting.” She smiled back at him, feeling perfectly content.

He gathered her to her and began to kiss her, knowing that now he need never stop again. She moved against him, ready also.

They forgot about moving to the bedroom, in fact they lost all sense of time.



Chapter 13: The Deadly Raid
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author's note - Well, this is story about the first war against Voldemort and for about the nexty twenty chapters or so there will be a blend of sorrow (I don't classify this as angst), violence, occasional humor and happiness. Every character that dies in this story dies for a reason and if you stick it out, you'll find out that there is actually a happy ending....for nearly everyone. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Thirteen:

Amelia Strong had never known such fear. Three of them were still behind her, pounding through the woods, searching. Her heart raced and she had the dreadful feeling she was going to be sick. She could still smell the burning flesh in the air. She looked around wildly, there had to be a way to hide. No one could apparate because of the spell Remus has placed in the graveyard by the tiny village. It was a spell given to him by Dumbledore, it was nearly impossible to break. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, it increased their chances of finally apprehending a Death Eater and perhaps learning more about Voldemort’s plans. Her face was bleeding where it had been scratched by the branches she plowed through desperate for safety.

“Crucio!” She heard a man shout behind her and she could have sworn she knew the voice. She flung herself sideways behind a tree, and saw the red spell strike in front of her. She stuck her wand out and shouted:

“Protego!” It ought to buy her some more time but Amelia knew how much trouble she was in, she wasn’t a good dueler. God alone knew where Remus, Sirius, Alice and James were. She’d seen what had happened to Timothy and the memory made bile rise up in her throat.

Remus had wanted her to go with him to the mausoleum, the reported headquarters of one of a group of Death Eaters but she had chosen to remain behind. She had even laughed and told him that she could protect herself.

She’d seen the uncertainty in his face and it had been pride, cursed pride that made her insist that she remain with Timothy. She would be perfectly safe, she had said, her chin raised in defiance. Besides, what could happen to her here? Remus had looked concerned but with a final warning to stay hidden until he gave the all clear, he had left with the others. She had emerged into the open when she’d heard his voice calling her name. Relieved, she had heaved herself out from cover and found herself facing five Death Eaters. Even through the mask, she had seen the mad glint in the eye of the grinning man that had his wand pointed at his own throat. She had been tricked. She hadn’t waited for the password.

She might have died right then had it not been for Timothy Ferngrow, who had disobeyed orders and leapt from the safety of his hiding place and managed to stun two of them before a tall figure had gotten him.

“He’s no use, we need the girl.” The man with the familiar voice had said. “Kill him.”

Amelia had thought she was frozen to the spot, paralyzed with fear.

“Incendio!” Cried one of the Death Eaters, it had been a woman’s voice, shrill and insane. To Amelia’s absolute horror Timothy had burst into flames before her eyes. That had done it. That had shocked Amelia back to life and with Tim’s screams still ringing in her ears she had pointed her wand at the DeathEaters and shouted:

“Stagnatum!” It was a weak spell but it would effect all three of them at least, make it difficult for them to move for a few moments. It was the best she could do with the sight of Timothy engulfed in flames right before her eyes. She’d turned and fled.

Up until then the patrols had been going well, whoever their informant was they were reliable. Although there had been seven more raids by the Death Eaters, the Order had managed to intercept two and had saved the lives of the people who had been targeted. Now they were safely hidden in another town, with a secret keeper they trusted to protect their location.

The wizards and witches who had been killed all had one thing in common they were either Aurors, or the family members of Aurors. Voldemort was targeting those trained against the Dark Arts first but they all knew that others were in danger.

Amelia’s eyes searched the forest, and saw that there was a clearing off to the side in one area. If she could make it there, perhaps she would be able to apparrate back to headquarters and get help. She had to try.

::::::::::

Inside the mausoleum James stooped and examined the evidence. There were spell books instructing the Death Eaters on mind control. By prowling through the room carefully, sometimes on hands and knees as Sirius and Remus stood guard at the door James and Alice had found the protected areas, the scrolls of parchment.

“Hurry up and figure out the counterspell, Alice.” Remus felt tense and could not explain why.

“I’m trying my best.” Alice hissed and tried once again to break through the magical barrier that kept them inches away from the scrolls. If they could be decoded, the Order might have a list of who was being targeted, perhaps even why. Or plans, or any piece of information. Anything would help. The sweet-faced girl looked grimly determined as she finally broke through the incantation.

“Got it!” She cried happily.

The sounds of screaming filled the air. Screams and an unpleasant smokey odor.

Without wasting a moment, they grabbed the parchment and sprinted back towards the rendezvous.

“Oh my God, what is that?” Remus Lupin had stared at the flaming pile on the ground. It was twitching and writhing about.

“Timothy!” Alice screamed and as she tried to run to him, James Potter caught her and held her firmly. She beat against him futilely with her fists. “Timothy, no, oh no…how? They were hidden, they were so well hidden.” She was sobbing, her throat aching with the acrid smoke she was inhaling.

Sirius Black pointed at two unmoving mounds nearby. “Someone got two of them, knocked them out cold.” He too felt as if he were going to throw up, he’d never smelled anything worse in his life.

“Where the hell is Amelia?” Remus said in a near panic.

James looked towards the forest, broken branches clearly marked her path. Poor Amelia, she had chosen the only route of flight, but she had left a trail as easy to follow as breadcrumbs in doing so.

“Sirius, get Alice and one of these DeathEaters back to headquarters now. Remus and I have to find Amelia. Remus, take the anti-apparation spell off of here.” James had no idea when he had become so used to giving orders.

“Which one?” Sirius asked, still unbelievably sick to his stomach.

“Your pick. Make sure you bind them well though.”

Sirius flicked his wand and bonds shot out onto both of the prone DeathEaters. He grabbed the closest one and ripped of his hood. He gasped. The man before him was the father of Patrick Grupp, one of the Hufflepuff students. “What the devil?”

Not all DeathEaters came out of Slytherin obviously.

Remus removed the spell his blood running so fast in his veins he could feel his pulse in his temple.

“James, we can’t apparrate to where she is….”

“Because we don’t know where she is…” James finished miserably. “We’ll have to follow the trail and for mercy’s sake be careful Remus, there could be any number of Death Eaters in those woods.”

Remus met James’s eye but looked quickly away. They both knew that Amelia Strong was as good as dead but they began to follow her trail, safety dictating that they could not proceed in a headlong rush. They had to check carefully for Voldemort’s followers as they went.

Remus tried not to count the passing seconds that he knew were bringing Amelia’s death closer and closer. Would they burn her alive too? Why would someone choose such a cruel method?

To revel in the pain it caused, Remus realized. He proceeded with as much haste as he dared.

::::::::::

He had to think. There had to be something that he could do. Severus Snape ran through the forest chasing the Strong girl.

He had thought his plan was brilliant. He had leaked information to a spot where he would be that very evening, thereby hopefully throwing all suspicion off of him when it came to the Dark Lord. It had all gone horribly wrong though. He had planned to take Grupp with him when he went on their nightly search of the graveyard but he hadn’t anticipated the alarm Bellatrix had put in place.

As soon as the members of the Order had entered the graveyard, a high pitched squeal had announced their presence. The four Death Eaters plus Severus had at first scattered but then come together again. Montague had overheard the instructions to Strong and Ferngrow. He’d sent up the green sparks that told the Death Eathers where to pounce.

The damned Order members hadn’t been able to see the sky from where they were hiding.

Montague and Bellatrix were still with him, and it was obvious that Strong couldn’t fight well.

Montague spotted her and sent the Crucio curse flying, but the girl had managed to duck it. Her Protego spell had shot uselessly into a tree. Now they were closing in on her and there was nothing Snape could do.

:::::::::::

Just as Amelia made a break for the meadow, someone had launched at her, pinning her with veritable ease to the ground. She struggled with all her might, kicking out with her long legs, trying to gouge at the eyes behind the mask. Her wand had been knocked from her hand when the tall man had struck her.

“That’s right, fight Strong.” The Death Eater laughed.

“Montague!” Amelia screamed, recognizing his voice at last.

“Filthy worm, associating with Mudbloods, halfbreeds, and scum.” He kicked her viciously in the stomach.

“Now, now Montague,” Bellatrix’s voice was terrifying. “The little warrior won’t be able to talk, if she can’t get her breath.” They had all tried to apparate when the alarm had sounded, they knew they were blocked.

Snape sent a Crucio curse flying at Amelia but had deliberately missed by inches he had hoped to keep stalling but this too had gone wrong.

“That’s it, that’s it.” Bellatrix said in approval. “We know how to do this.”

She pulled Amelia to her knees by her hair and crooned, “Crucio.” With her wand pointed directly into the terrified girl’s face. Strong screamed and blood began to seep from her nose.

:::::::

The pain was unbelievable. Amelia knew she wouldn’t be able to take it for long.

“Crucio.” The mad woman cursed her again. Amelia felt her shoulder separate but was thankfully unaware that blood was pouring from her ears. She gasped in agony.

“More to come, little warrior.” The woman laughed. “Tell, us…tell us where your headquarters is, we need things from there. We need certain people.” Then she laughed.

“Out of luck.” Amelia managed to gasp.

“I think not.” The woman answered and blasted Amelia in the stomach this time. Strong was brave but as she knew her resistance was wearing down quickly. This spell wouldn’t kill her it would break her soon.

She came to a decision.

::::::::

James and Remus both heard Amelia screaming, and the eerie echo of mad laughter.

“Over there!” Remus hissed to James, “Move!”

But James was sure that they would never get there in time.

::::::::

Snape couldn’t look. Amelia was writhing in agony, screaming but there was nothing he could do. If he saved her, he would deprive Dumbledore of his inside information.

“Hurry up you fools!” Snape thought as sweat trickled down his brow, thinking of the members of the Order that he knew would be coming.

::::::::

“Montague, Montague. How lovely to see you. Pity you have to hide behind a mask. Face still green?” Amelia taunted, her voice coming in gasps.

“Shut up, filth.” Montague snapped.

“I’m filthy am I? That’s not what Sirius said about your sheets, have trouble keeping some of your parts clean?” Amelia was terrified and shocked by the words that came out of her mouth.

“Crucio!” The woman screamed again and Amelia howled in agony. There were very faint sounds coming from the forest now. Twigs snapping, branches being pushed aside but Amelia could not hear them.

“Hurry!” Snape yelled, in spite of himself but Bellatrix and Montague both thought he was talking to them.

Amelia had recovered enough to talk again.

“He’ll lose, Montague.” She sneered. “He’ll lose and what will you be? Just another foul Slytherin who can’t wipe his own…”

“Crucio!” Montague shouted. Blood poured from Amelia’s nose now, it wouldn’t be long. But Montague’s spell was much weaker than the woman’s.

“Can’t do any better than that, you impotent, useless….”

Montague completely lost his head. “Impotent? I’ll show you impotent.”

“Adava Kedavra!” He yelled and shot a jet of green light into Amelia’s chest. She gasped once, and was still.

“You fool!” Bellatrix screamed. “We could have broken her!”

“The clearing, now!” Snape shouted desperately, the Order members were nearly there. “We can apparrate from there.”

“We can fight whoever’s coming.” Bellatrix said eagerly.

“Yes and risk this idiot losing his head again?” Snape snarled. Bellatrix considered for a brief second.

“Run.” She said simply.

All three turned and ran with a pop, they were gone.

::::::::::::

Oh God, what had they done to her? James wondered as he stared down at the body of Amelia Strong. Her face was covered in blood. He reached her before Remus did. Bending swiftly her tried to find a pulse in her neck but she was gone.

“Don’t Remus! We were too late.” James said trying to restrain his friend who knocked him aside.

Pulling Amelia’s tall frame towards him and into his lap, Remus wiped the blood from her face with the sleeve of his robe. In death she had a triumphant smile on her face. He knew she had died without betraying them.

James Potter turned away for a moment so as not to interrupt his friends tears. He wanted to be sensitive to his pain, but the danger was still very real. At any moment they could be surrounded.

“Grab hold of her and let’s go.” James said. “We’ll take her back to headquarters.”



Chapter 14: Remus Reacts
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Thanks again for reading. This was a really interesting chapter to write because I had based Amelia Strong on a very close friend of mine. So I actually made myself cry when I was finishing this one up. It isn't just heartbreak from here on in though, I promise.

Chapter Fourteen:

Lily tried not to cry as she washed the blood from Amelia’s face. It was no use though, she’d known Amelia Strong since they were first years and to see her dead before her was unbearable.

James came into the room and put his arms around her waist, leaned his head against hers and kissed her cheek.

“Lily love, are you all right?” His voice was full of concern.

“No.” Her voice deeply sad. “She should never have been there James, she wasn’t a strong enough fighter.”

“Lily, none of us should be in this position, but we are.” James tried to keep his voice steady but he had heard Amelia screaming in the woods, he knew her death had been incredibly painful. “She chose Lily, she chose to fight.”

For the most part, Amelia’s face was unmarred but for some scratches. She looked so pretty, perhaps even more so than she had been in life.

“What are we going to do with….” She couldn’t say it. She was unable to ask what was to done with the body of her friend.

“I imagine her parents will want to bury her, Lily.” James was equally appalled by the thought of this young woman being no more.

“Bury her.” Lily repeated as if she could not connect this phrase to her friend.

For several minutes they were silent before Lily turned in James’s arms and buried her face in his shoulder. She began to cry earnestly now that the shock was beginning to wear off. The headquarters of the Order were located in a cavernous mansion not far from Lancaster. It evidently belonged to a friend of Dumbledore’s.

“I hate this place, it feels like death.” Lily cried.

“It doesn’t love, you know that.” James was being truthful The rooms that they used had all been cleaned and aired months ago. Bright, roaring fires blazed in nearly every room. There were no portraits anywhere, the Order couldn’t even risk a figure in a painting slipping off to an unknown rendition of the subject and perhaps betraying them.

“What about Ferngrow?” James had not been able to tell her yet about what had happened to Ferngrow. It was still too fresh in his mind, the smell, the horror of the concept but his wife deserved an answer.

“Lily, what was left of him,” He began and felt his stomach try to heave. “His Parents wouldn’t have wanted to see that.”

“Was he burned?” Lily asked.

“Yes.” James looked down at his wife and wondered how she could possibly know that.

“What are they doing with the DeathEater?” Lily felt her anger blaze within her.

“He’s in the upstairs parlor, bound, ganged, stunned by everyone who comes anywhere near him.” James answered.

“And the other?” Lily questioned.

“Sirius put the Ministry Portkey into his hand, the Minister will know what to do with him.” James was unable to say the word Azkaban to his wife.

“We’re waiting for Megan to get here, aren’t we?”

“Yes Lily, we are.” James was young and there were other, older members of the Order but he had become one of its leaders. James had always been good at anything he tried. People naturally gravitated to him, wanted to listen to him.

“Was Remus with her when this happened?” Lily asked and her memory shot back to the day months and months ago when the strange Irish girl had held Amelia’s hand and told her not to stray too far from Remus.

“No, we’d gone off to search their headquarters, Amelia wanted to stay behind and keep guard.”

A voice spoke from the doorway, “Hello.” It was an exhausted voice, worn down and almost without inflection.

“Remus!” Lily cried out and moved swiftly to hug her friend, she was surprised when James followed suit.

Lupin’s eyes never left Amelia’s face as he spoke, “We’re nearly ready. Dumbledore’s arrived and Megan is on her way.”

“Remus, would you like us to leave you alone with her for a bit?” Lily thoughtfully asked.

“Please.” There were dark circles under his eyes, although the full moon had been ten days ago.

James and Lily left together and Remus pulled a chair up to the table. Amelia was so tall it was barely long enough to accommodate her. He sat staring at her profile for what seemed like years and remembered everything he could about her.

Her profile for one, he’d always loved that. The day he’d first noticed her in the dining hall, blushing and uncertain. The delighted smile that had lit up her face when he’d finally asked her to the Yule Ball. The way she had laughed as he had swung her around the dance floor that night and how he had somehow forgotten to mention that she looked beautiful in her deep red dress robes, trimmed with black, the velvet so soft and inviting. He thought of the time he had kissed in the gardens of Hogwarts and the countless times since. His nickname for her had been ‘Stretch’ because of her height. He would never hold her in his arms again, or take her hand under the table during meetings. She was eighteen years old and she was dead. Suddenly, sobs racked his body and he leaned his head against the table.

He felt a hand on his shoulder eventually and looked up to see Albus Dumbledore looking kindly down at him over his half moon spectacles.

“I didn’t know it was going to hurt this much.” The weary young man said. “I didn’t know what we were doing here would come at such a cost…and we aren’t done paying yet, are we?”

“No, we are not done yet.” Dumbledore said simply.

“She’s dead. That’s forever.” Remus looked up at his former headmaster.

“The soul takes flight into the world invisible and upon arriving finds bliss.” The powerful old wizard quoted. “That may be a slight paraphrase.”

“What’s it from?” Remus asked quietly.

“Plato, the Death of Socrates.”

“Weren’t they Muggles?” Lupin asked.

“That, my boy, is a common misconception.” Ablus smiled slightly and led the young man away from his dead love.

::::::::

Alice Moore was inconsolable she had been sobbing ever since they had returned. Minerva McGonagall sat beside her on the couch, allowing the girl to cry on her thin shoulder. Every now and then she would pat her head.

“There, there now.” She comforted, but she did not add that it would be all right because she wasn’t sure that it would be.

Megan Hogan hadn’t meant to upset the poor girl when she stopped in the doorway and spoke to the distraught young woman.

“I’m so sorry, Alice.” She’d said sincerely.

“You!” Alice’s head jerked up from her former professor’s shoulder. “You could have prevented this, warned him! You could have saved him…and me from this.”

Megan’s eyes had been wide with shock when Alice had sprung across the room, slapping her so hard across the face that a red handprint had stood out on the younger girl’s face. “You and your damned ‘sight’, what good does it do? You told me to seek him out but you didn’t bother to utter one word of caution to him.”

Alice was hysterical.

“You’re as good as a murderer!” She’d shrieked before collapsing to the floor. Megan had moved to hold her, offer her solace but Alice was not done yet. “Don’t ever touch me again! I hate you! You’re the reason he died like that, you could have prevented it, and you didn’t.”

Megan backed out of the room, stung to the core but the girl had a parting accusation for her:

“You’re the reason I have to be without him!” She had screamed.

Not for long Alice, you won’t be without him for long, Megan thought and leaned her head against the wall outside. She was so tired.

“It wasn’t your fault at all.” Said a deep voice by her side. “You’re doing what you have to, just like the rest of us. I wish I had your strength.”

“Sirius.” Megan cried and fell into his arms wishing that she could stay there forever.

::::::

Grupp had been stunned so many times that he was unable to hold his head up any longer, every time he would regain consciousness, a new spell would knock him out. The worst thing about the Imperius curse was that part of you was always aware, always trying to fight it. It was too strong though.

There were even times he would find himself truly believing that Voldemort should be worshipped that he should have power…all the power. At times like that Grupp had fought the hardest and he had found deep in the recesses of his clouded mind a tool: He would think of the laughter of his children. Voldemort hated human emotion so much, particularly happiness or love that even his most powerful curses recoiled ever so slighty from them.

Grupp was the head of the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry. He had proven to be an incredibly useful agent for Voldemort. In the graveyard, when the boy had leapt into sight, his wand at the ready Thomas Grupp had done something he thought he could never do. From deep inside of him he pulled every feeling of love and happiness he could find and he had stunned Goyle in the second before Ferngrow had gotten him. He hoped it had been enough to save the lives of the two terrified young people but he feared it had not. Thomas Grupp, a kindly, bookish man who was a good father and husband had seen so much death already, he knew when the Death Eaters intended to kill.

:::::::::::

Lily had given Alice a potion to make her sleep but the rest of the members in the house came to watch Megan try to extract information from the captive Death Eater.

Pushing her hair back from her face, Megan steeled herself. She’d been training all this time for a moment precisely like this one. Now she needed to actively search the man’s memory as well as see his fate. She knew she would probably see things now that would wake her in the night screaming, but this was one of the most important things she could ever do.

The man was awake now, looking terrified.

“Not very brave now, are you?” She said forcefully, trying to ignore her own terror.

She grabbed his hand and suddenly felt herself rigidly locked in place. What was this? A sunny home, a smiling wife and babies growing into children…and capture. Such intense fear and a mammoth struggle within as the tall, horrible Voldemort had raised his wand. Then there had been screaming, of children, women, and men. Huge books being read and memorized, so many secrets unwillingly revealed. Then such sadness and regret that would be felt over the course of a long lifetime lived forever afterwards alone.

Meg wrenched herself away, gasping. Her eyes were steely grey from the intensity of the visions but her voice was trembling, “Professor Dumblebore, hurry, take it off of him.”

Dumbledore was beside her in a second, “What is it Megan?”

“An Imperius Curse Professor, take it off now. He’ll tell you everything he knows.”

Dumbledore did not question her, he raised his wand and uttered the counterspell. Immediately Grupp’s head cleared and he spoke with great urgency:

“My family, help them! He’ll have them all killed as a warning to the others, go and help them now, please!”

The members of the Order stared at him, completely aghast.

“Where do you live?” Asked James, his voice strong.

Grupp told them quickly and James, Sirius, Remus, Sliverton, Mettrid and Fortesque all apparrated from the room. They had never sent this many of the combat members off at once. When they arrived there had been nothing but ashes, bodies and the Dark Mark floating high in the sky.

::::::::::::::

The parchments were useless. The first attempt at decoding them had caused them to dissolve it was the capture of Grupp that would probably help them the most. He had taken the news about his family with a shaking moan but had immediately wanted to tell them everything he knew. He wanted justice.

The Death Eaters were never allowed to know all the other Death Eaters, secrets were kept even within the organization. Grupp gave out the names he knew for certain:

Malfoy, Mongatgue, Lestrange…the list went on for quite some time and the bewitched parchment on the table recorded all of them…Goyle, Crabbe, Snape…

“Severus Snape?” James growled.

“Yes, and his father, be careful, they are both insanely powerful wizards.” Grupp was tiring.

Grupp continued to try his best and he told them the information that Voldemort had most wanted from the department. Information about prophecies and seers in particular as well as how to manipulate the future.

Sirius was standing beside Megan when Grupp said this, and he pulled her closer protectively. Megan thought about how often and how freely she had spoken of her gift before this last year. She silently cursed her own candor.

No one in the room needed to see the dissolved list to know that Megan Hogan’s name had been on it. No one who had witnessed Grupp being freed from the Imperius Curse doubted what Voldemort wanted to do with her either.

If he could get his hands on Megan Hogan he could force her to tell him future after future…and he could take steps to alter whatever she sensed as he saw fit. She swallowed involuntarily and Sirius felt her tremble by his side.

She could be used as a weapon.

::::::::::

It wasn’t until the next day that James and Lily Potter had managed to finally go home. They had both gone to their jobs at the Ministry, she in Potions, he in Cursed Artifacts and Protection. The day had dragged by horribly and more than once Lily had wanted to lay her head down upon her desk and sleep.

Now they stood together in the kitchen, having finished their evening meal. Neither was expected at headquarters until tomorrow, they were blessedly alone. James began kissing her lightly at first, and then with tremendous passion.

“Let’s make an early night of it Lily.” James said but his voice no longer sounded tired.

“You go up, I’ll be there in moment, I just want to get these dishes cleaned.” Lily Potter smiled at her husband. She too needed something life affirming in the wake of all this death and terror. They loved each other so dearly and made love whenever they could.

As she heard him walk up the stairs, she opened a cupboard full of Potion ingredients and saw the three bottles shoved towards the back. She grabbed hold of the smallest one, took out the cork and sipped the murky green liquid once again.

She didn’t want to tell James how anxious she was to have a baby. He’d become so mature and focused that he might have argued that now was not the time. But Lily Potter knew the time was right and she knew in her heart that James would love a child as much as she would. They both needed this, something with hope for the future. She swallowed several more sips of the pleasantly flavored potion and went upstairs to bed with her husband.

When they had finished the young couple lay back together in their bed, spent but happy. Their sleep was deep, neither of them realizing that on that night they had begun the life of a child who was the only true hope of their world.

::::::::

Despite the potion that was meant to block his dreams, Severus Snape was afraid to sleep lest he dream. He had seen so much death since undertaking this task, heard so many people beg for their lives and seen them crushed regardless. He’d seen people die bravely too, but he’d never seen two people willing to sacrifice their lives with such courage.

Ferngrow could have stayed hidden, he wasn’t a friend of the girl’s the others might have left him where he was in order to secure Strong and deliver her to the Dark Lord. She might have had the information Voldemort so desperately wanted.

He’d seen Ferngrow burning and marveled as Strong had managed to taunt Montague into murdering her. He never wanted to sleep again.

It was his last conscious thought as sleep overtook him. Possibly because he was so exhausted, the potion didn’t work.


Chapter 15: A Happy Christmas
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Chapter Fifteen:

The House in Godric’s Hollow was decorated to the hilt. Bows of holly, mistletoe, the sweetest little Christmas Tree Lily had ever seen. Everywhere her eye settled she saw something festive as she merrily cooked in the kitchen.

Every now and then, with a loud pop, the gifts beneath the tree would vanish and reappear. It was a spell James had placed on them to keep Lily from peeking. He told her she was too impatient to ever wait for anything and they had both laughed.

But she was waiting for Christmas to give him his special gift. She’d gone to Hogwarts with the excuse that she wanted to talk to McGonagall.

“You see Minerva all the time at meetings,” James had commented, “Why do you need to run off and talk to her now?”

“I need to ask her advice about my sex life.” She grinned and stuck out her tongue, they’d both collapsed with laughter at the mere thought. Then, when they were done laughing, they were rather busy doing something else entirely so the subject hadn’t come up again.

Madame Pomfrey had tears of joy in her eyes when she had confirmed what Lily suspected, she was pregnant. “Are you happy Lily?” She’d asked.

“Happy is too small a word for this!” Lily nearly shouted with glee. “But you can’t tell a soul Madame Pompfrey, not anyone, not even the Headmaster.”

“My word of honor, dear.” Poppy had promised. “When are you going to tell James?”

“I’m going to tell him at Christmas.” Lily left Hogwarts, running lightly through the Great Hall, delighted by the enchanted ceiling that was sprinkling her glistening hair with snow.

It was three days until Christmas and Lily was already hard at work getting things cooked for the feast. She’d taken time off from the ministry in order to get ready for the party. James had transferred into the Auror’s department and spent a great deal of time training with the Longbottoms primarily.

“God they’re good!” James had told her enthusiastically. “You wouldn’t know it to look at either of them but they are both unbelievably skilled. They can block spells with just the flick of a wrist and they even have incantations for protection against mind invasion.”

“You used to hate the Dark Arts, James.” Lily reminded him.

“I still do in a way Lily, I just know now that it’s necessary to know as much as possible about them.” James was suddenly serious.

But strangely, the violent activities of the last few months had slowed as Christmas approached. When Lily had asked Dumbledore why that was his answer had made perfect sense, “He’s weaker at Christmas, Lily. He despises it. Such a time of life and hope, it is against everything that he is.”

“It’s going to be a wonderful party Lily.” James said and led her into the living room where the tree lights twinkled. “I have a surprise for you.”

“You do? Well let’s have it then but we can’t take too long, I’ve got to ice that cake soon.”

“Not that, you lusty woman you.” James teased her then considered. “Well, perhaps after you ice the cake.” He smile was full of mischief. They were all enjoying the break from the hard slog they had been facing.

No one ever spoke his name any longer, even the Daily Prophet had taken to writing out “He Who Shall Not Be Named” when there were reports. Still, the air of terror that had been pervasive for what now seemed like ever had definitely lessened.

“So, my surprise would be?” Lily prompted and James waved his wand at the tree. Immediately it began to sing Christmas Carols in a low tone and magical snow sifted down around it, vanishing before it ever hit the carpet. “Oh! How lovely!”

The fire in the grate suddenly burned bright green and they knew that there was a visitor coming.

Remus Lupin stepped from the fire and smiled at them. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

“Not at the moment, Moony but I’ll be frank, you can’t stay long.” James said with a huge grin. Lily blushed crimson.

“I won’t be.” Remus’s hair had developed a few strands of grey in it. He never spoke of Amelia though and overall, he seemed to be doing well. “I just came to see if there was anything you’d like to send to Megan we’re doing sort of a relay, it will be harder to trace that way.”

Megan Hogan would not be at the Christmas Party, she was spending the holidays somewhere else. Probably the same place that Dumbledore had whisked her off to after the night Amelia had died. Not even Lily knew where it was, but she suspected that Sirius Black did. He sometimes went missing for days at a time and everyone knew not to question him when he reappeared.

“I’ve got loads of things for her.” Lily missed Megan and hoped that she would be able to come out of hiding soon. She gathered together a large stack of presents and handed them to Remus.

“Lily, I’ll need a sack the size of Santa’s to haul all this with me.” Remus was amused, but obviously pleased.

The firelight glowed green again. Entrance to the house was blocked to anyone but a member of the Order and they all turned expectantly towards the fire. Alice Moore stepped out and began brushing off her clothes. Her face was no longer round as she’d lost weight. She was thin and rather pale, but she was smiling.

“Hello. I heard you might be here.” She was speaking to Remus. “I’ve got something for Meg, if you’d just take it along.”

Alice Moore had apologized to Megan as soon as she had come to her senses but they would never be true friends again. No matter how much Alice didn’t want to blame Megan, in a small corner of her heart, she still did. She handed over a small package.

The fire glowed again.

“For heaven’s sake Remus, did you put an announcement in the Daily Prophet?” James laughed.

Into the room stepped Peter Pettigrew struggling with the weight of an enormous turkey. “Lily, you’ve got to get a house elf.” He said by way of greeting.

“Thanks Peter, James would you mind…” James grabbed the turkey and headed for the kitchen.

“We’re just getting our gifts together for Megan.” Remus told his short, stout friend. “Have you anything you’d like to send?”

Peter Pettigrew blinked oddly and said, “No, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that anyone was traveling out to…”

He left the statement open-ended for moment. “Wherever she is.” Peter finally finished. Of all the members of the Order, Peter seemed the only one to ever hint that he’d like to know where Megan was. Lily suspected that he had a bit of a crush on her.

“Well, wherever she is, she’ll have a Happy Christmas.” Remus said with all the enthusiasm he could find. Somewhere inside of him, the hollow feeling threatened to rise up again.“That reminds me Lily, Sirius…”

“Won’t be here for Christmas. It’s all right Remus, I already guessed that.” They were all silent for a moment. Lily hoped that poor Megan wouldn’t have too lonely of a holiday.

:::::::::::::

Megan ran through the glen shrieking with laughter. Plowing through the snow as she went.

“Come back here Hogan!” Sirius Black was laughing, snow still clinging to his face. “That was a dirty trick.”

“All the better because you fell for it!” Megan shouted over her shoulder. Sirius had arrived an hour before and Dumbledore had left quite promptly afterwards. His eyes twinkling behind his glasses. Since then, Sirius and Megan had been playing in the snow. Megan had bewitched the forest to bombard Sirius with snowballs.

Megan had no real idea of where she was but she was fairly certain she wasn’t in England. There was a Confudus charm on the fireplace, if anyone were to arrive, they would promptly forget where they were when they’d arrived. The same thing would happen to them when they emerged on the other side. It had been Professor Flitwick’s idea and it helped make Sirius feel better about Meg’s safety. If anyone happened to stumble across Meg’s location, they would forget it immediately. It was very unlikely that anyone would, her flu was not on any network and operated only under a cloaking spell. Only Sirius and Dumbledore were immune to the charm, or so Sirius thought.

One time when the fire glowed green Dumbledore had stepped forth and was quickly followed by two confused looking people, a man and a woman with the last name of Weasley. Megan shook their hands, greeting them pleasantly and if they had ever wondered why she had nodded to Dumbledore afterwards, they would have promptly forgotten as soon as they left.

It was a gorgeous little cottage though and Megan was not too unhappy there, although the days did drag a bit. Sometimes she would amuse herself by bewitching the contents of the house. She had spent an entire afternoon making the china cabinet waltz with the sideboard. However, Dumbledore came frequently and Sirius was as faithful as could be. She never told Sirius that Severus Snape had visited her three times. It would have enraged Sirius to the point of homicide and betrayed Snape’s role. Megan had no choice but to conceal these strange visits from her devoted boyfriend.

It had surprised her to no end, the day she had been sitting reading a book on the sofa and the firelight had flared green. She put the book down immediately, ready to welcome either her old headmaster or her lover. She’d nearly died of shock when Snape’s tall, thin frame had emerged.

“God you put the heart across me!” Meg screamed and had her wand out, pointed at his chest. “What are you doing here? Is there trouble?”

“No.” Snape sniffed. “There’s no trouble.”

“Then why are you…” but suddenly Meg understood. Severus was lonely. Unlike her he had no group of friends. “Would you like a pot of tea?”

“Tea would not be out of the question.” Severus said stiffly. “I can’t stay long.”

Won’t break my heart, thought Meg but what she said instead was, “Dumbledore told you how to find me?”

“Indeed.” Snape’s eyes roamed around the room. Megan’s large comfortable bed was off to one side in the cottage.

“Have a seat then, stay a bit now that you’ve bothered to come.” She knew Snape was trustworthy. What she could not make out was why Dumbledore would have told him where she was.

:::::::::::

Severus Snape had tried long and hard to figure out a potion that would stop the dream. He knew that his mind was more vulnerable to penetration when he was sleeping and so he had finally been forced to sneak away and consult with his former headmaster. It was imperative that the dreams stop or else he might be discovered.

“Severus, these dreams never vary?” Dumbledore had not looked perturbed. “Because I can assure you that Miss Hogan is quite well and entirely unharmed.”

Severus had been loathe to admit what they contained, horrified to confess to Dumbledore that he dreamed. nightly of Megan Hogan’s dead eyes staring at him.

“It worries me headmaster,” Snape had said, “And it is beginning to effect my ability to keep my mind closed even when I am awake.”

“Tell me Severus, why is it that you worry for Miss Hogan’s welfare?”

Snape wasn’t even sure himself. “It would be a terrible loss for the Order. She’s still needed.”

Dumbledore had stared at him with his penetrating gaze for more than a minute. “It would indeed be a crushing loss.”

Dumbledore felt troubled. Severus Snape was a very proud man and he already hated Sirius Black, James Potter and Remus Lupin with such intensity that the emotion was nearly flammable. He had always thought that it was Lily Potter that Snape had loved and perhaps he still did. He leaned back in his chair and thought carefully.

The young man had no idea of his own feelings for the Hogan girl but it was sad indeed that Severus Snape seemed doomed to only love those whose hearts belonged to the two men he hated most in the world.

Dumbledore had answered. “It seems best that you see Miss Hogan from time to time, it should ease your mind about her safety.”

Severus had agreed to the plan but Dumbledore was troubled as to what it all might mean.

The very infrequent visits had in fact stopped the dreams.

::::::::::

“Oh you’re a cad! Let me up!” Megan had squealed from the snow covered ground.

“Certainly m’lady but you must agree to certain terms…” Sirius was laughing.

“Ask me to marry you again Black and I’ll light your britches afire!” She had been laughing.

“Oh I’ve given up hope in that area.” Sirius lied. “I had other terms in mind.”

“Speak your piece and be done with it you daft bugger.” Megan was still pinned in the snow.

“I was thinking of a hot bath.” Sirius said loftily.

“Well what’s stopping you then?” Megan struggled against him but he was much larger than she was not to mention incredibly strong.

“I wasn’t thinking of taking one alone.”

“Ah well then, you’ll have the cake of soap to keep you company. Now let me up you silly thing.”

Laughing in defeat, Sirius had released her. She was up and away in second. Sirius had played Quidditch for years but he swore that Meg was swifter on her feet than most people were on a broom.

::::::::::::

“Don’t Megan.” Sirius said later when they were alone in the house and thoroughly warmed.

Her wand was out, pointed at her own chest. She had been about to utter the contraception spell.

“You’re being ridiculous again. You’re prone to that you know.” Megan completed the spell.

“Fine then, I can’t even trap you into to marrying me.” He’d laughed but it had been without mirth, then he’d lunged at her. He wasn’t even sure that he wanted a child, but he knew that the only time Megan had been willing to consider marrying him was when she had been pregnant. He longed to hold her and know that she was his, and he was hers forever.

“Wait a moment love, you know that spells you put on yourself always take a bit longer to take full effect.” Megan giggled and tried to get away from him, moving quickly across the bed. But he was used to her movements now and had anticipated the dodge. He caught her easily.

“Then I’ll just have to be otherwise occupied until we’re ready.” He laughed and kissed her some more.

:::::::::

Lily looked down the table and smiled. Nearly everyone she loved in the world was there in her magically concealed home in Godric’s Hollow. They had all eaten their fill and lounged about, talking, and laughing.

“You’re the best cook in all the country, Lily.” Alice Moore had said and Remus had agreed with her.

“Truly a spectacular feast, Lily.” Peter said, although in truth he had barely picked at his food. He was still trying to fight it, the dislike he felt towards his own friends. Most of the time his head ached with the effort. He hadn’t wanted to eat Lily’s excellent food it seemed tainted to him.

She had been the one who had done this all. The Marauders had been a solid and tight knit group before James had become obsessed with her.

“Knut for your thoughts, Peter.” Alice said to him across the table and he realized she had been watching him rather closely.

“I was just hoping that we all have a Happy Christmas.” Peter said with forced cheer.

::::::::

After everyone had left and they had cleaned up the mess James and Lily were alone at last.

“Maybe we really should get a house elf, Lily.” James joked as he helped with the cleaning.

“Well it certainly isn’t as if it’s too strenuous to keep this place up.” Lily flicked her wand and the sink full of dishes began washing themselves.

They retired together to the living room, looking at the tree, holding each other. Sometimes Lily wondered how they could be so absolutely happy together with the world in the state that it was. The magical clock on the mantle shifted gears and announced “Happy Christmas.”

It was past midnight. James looked closely at his wife, and thought how truly beautiful she was. She’d put on a tiny bit of weight and it suited her, filling out her cheeks, seemingly adding even more luster to her hair. She turned and looked at him, her almond shaped, emerald green eyes dancing with joy.

“We should each give each other one gift now.” She said suddenly. “It could start a tradition. Our first married tradition for our first married Christmas.”

“I like the sound of that.” James said, admittedly he would have worn a goose for a hat if it would make Lily happy. “You first.”

He stood and handed her a package from beneath the tree. She made a great show out of shaking it and listening to it before removing the paper.

It was an intricately carved silver picture frame, with their wedding photo in it. There they all were Lily and James flushed with happiness, Sirius grinning charmingly, Remus raising his glass in a toast. Peter looking a tad uncomfortable in his dress robes, Alice waving like mad and Amelia, smiling jubilantly. Megan wasn’t in the photo and this made Lily wonder where her dark haired brilliant eyed friend was this evening.

“It’s lovely James!” Lily said and kissed him. “Are you ready for yours?”

“Why? Do I have to prepare?” James teased her.

“You may well want to.” He looked at her enquiringly and she drew his hand onto her abdomen. For a moment he looked baffled and then he whooped with joy and pulled her into a fiercely protective embrace.

“A baby?” He asked, his face buried in her hair, his eyes glistening with joyful tears.

“That would seem to be the rumor.” Lily was blushing and grinning from ear to ear.

He drew back, held her face in his hands and then kissed her softly, taking time to trace both of her lips gently with his own.

“Well God bless Argus Filch!” James finally shouted.

“I beg your pardon?”

“He chased me into the library, he put all of this in motion.” James was tickled.

“I absolutely forbid you to use that name in connection to our baby again.” Lily was laughing so hard she could barely speak.

“Well then, give me something else to think about.” James grin was definitely mischievous.

“Fine, I will.” Lily said, and then she did.

::::::::::::

Sirius watched Megan sleeping, her hands tucked under her chin, her long black lashes curving down onto her cheeks. Her hair curled around her face, making her look angelic. Then she snored lightly and he burst into gales of laughter.

This immediately woke the sleeping woman and she sat up indignantly. “What’s so riotously funny?”

“You snore!” Sirius was gasping for breath. “Tiny little, snores. It’s the most adorable thing in the world!”

“You should hear yourself Black, it’s like trying to sleep with a freight train.” Megan was laughing now too.

Sirius peered underneath the covers at Megan for a moment and then returned his gaze to her face with a grin.

“You are entirely insatiable.” Megan said in mock disgust.

“Well, I’m young, and at my peek.” Sirius answered.

Megan giggled, “You know, if you weren’t such a handsome creature I’d never consent to this, disturbing my sleep so that you can satisfy your…”

He stopped her with a kiss that left her breathless. “You were saying?” He asked.

“I was saying that you should hand me my wand.” She snuggled closer to him. “You’ll be the death of me yet, Black.”

A chill suddenly ran down her spine but she decided to ignore it. Even a hunted seer deserved to take a break from pondering fate at Christmas.



Chapter 16: The Veil Flutters for New Year's
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Chapter Sixteen:

They had gathered for Christmas, but spent New Year’s Eve separately for the most part. They all knew that the holidays would end and the temporary lull in activity from the Death Eaters would be done. Lily Potter tried to put this far from her mind as she checked the roast in the oven.

They had told their friends about the baby and everyone had been delighted. James felt the tiniest bit awkward telling Sirius but his longtime friend had been so filled with happiness for the young couple that if he thought at all about what he had lost, he did not show it.

“So I’m going to be a Godfather, aren’t I!” Sirius had shouted, picked Lily up in his arms and swung her about in a circle. Sirius Black was his closest friend, he would of course be the Godfather. “Is Megan going to be the Godmother then?”

“Stop!” Lily bleated, “It’s called Morning Sickness but it can strike at any time Sirius! Yes, yes Megan’s going to be the Godmother!”

He promptly put her down on the sofa and shook James’s hand heartily. “It’s the best news I’ve ever heard.”

The three friends had sat together talking afterwards. It had felt like old times. James and Sirius were nearly as good as watching a comedy routine and when Remus had arrived the show had only improved. There had been games of exploding snap, glasses brimming with good drink and a tea worthy of royalty. Tales of past adventures recounted and sides had ached with laughter at the memories.

“Lord Lily, where did you learn to cook like this?” Remus had asked, deeply appreciative of her talents.

“Best grub I’ve had in ages, Megan’s not all that fond of the kitchen.” Sirius’s eyes twinkled as he thought of the dark haired girl who might not be much of a cook, but never failed to make his heart sing.

“How’s she doing?” Lily asked, careful not to ask about her location.

“She’s restless Lily, you know her, can’t stand to be away from people for too long. She’s cooking up some scheme but thinks I don’t know about it.” He swallowed a raspberry tart he had been talking around. “Just as well, the girl needs to learn how to cook something.” He winked.

Lily promptly hit him with a couch pillow and Sirius had yelped, “No fair Lily, I can’t fight back because of your delicate condition.”

“Yes, isn’t it marvelous?” Lily teased. “I can walk around for the months belting people with whatever I please and then cry ‘pregnant!’ if anyone tries to fight back.”

Everyone had laughed but James’s laughter was false. If anyone harmed his wife ever, he knew he would kill them.

The other men had departed and Lily and James were settling in for the evening together. They would have a late dinner and then cuddle by the fire. As Lily turned away from the oven she saw the grate flare green and wondered who could be calling at that hour. Instinctively she pointed her wand at the fire.

Albus Dumbledore emerged from the green flames and looked at Lily’s ready wand.

“Sorry professor!” Lily said, immediately chagrined.

Albus looked at her gravely, “Lily, where is James?”

Something in his tone sounded odd. “He’s upstairs. I’ll get him for you.” Her pulse was racing.

When James and Lily Potter came back into the room their former headmaster was seated on the couch, rubbing the bridge of his nose with one hand, his glasses clasped in the other.

“What it is professor?” James asked anxiously. He could have sworn that his old headmaster had tears shining in his eyes when he answered.

“I’m so very sorry to tell you this James, but your father died an hour ago at St. Mungo’s.” Ignatius Potter’s heart had finally given out. “Your mother was with him to the end James, I’m sure she’d like you to go to her now.”

“Of course.” James felt numb, he had known it was coming for a long time but the finality of it was still stunning. “Lily…”

Lily Potter got on well with James’s mother, although they had been unable to spend much time together Penelope Potter had made it clear that she approved of James’s choice of a wife.

“You go love, she’ll want to be alone with her son, I’m sure.” Lily felt tears sting her eyes. Ignatius had been a kind but sickly man when she met him. “I’ll come in the morning.”

James nodded sadly and began to pull on his outdoor robes. “James? Tell her she’s going to be a grandmother in July, maybe that will make her feel a bit better.”

Albus Dumbledore started, but neither of the grief stricken young people noticed. His mind raced back to the Hog’s Head Inn and saw the glittery eyeglasses of the woman who had spoken the prophecy. Lily Potter was barely two months pregnant, but Dumbldore understood that she might well be carrying their one true hope inside of her.

:::::::::

“Thank you for coming.” Alice Moore said to Remus Lupin as he clambered onto the stool next to her in the Braying Banshee, a small pub not far from her lodgings.

“Of course, I’m glad to join you. Ring in the New Year with a friend.” Like all of them, Remus Lupin had to remember he needed people. He wondered why Alice had asked him though.

“Don’t look alarmed Remus,” Alice smiled slightly, “I’ve not asked you here on a date or anything like that.”

It would have been ungentlemanly of him to look relieved, and he endeavored not to do so. Although it was wonderful to see James and Lily so in love, and Sirius so devoted to his sparkling Meg Remus knew in his heart that he had lost the possibility of love in a dark forest months ago.

“I thought you’d be the only one who might understand what it feels like.” Alice said quietly. “Another year coming, we’re growing older and they’ll…they’ll never…”

She stopped speaking and smiled as brightly as she could, “So shall we toast them?”

“Yes, let’s…” and Remus scrabbled in the pockets of his robes as he called out to the bartender.

“I’ve got this round, Remus.” Alice Moore said, everyone knew that since Remus could not work he was a bit short of money. “If it’s okay with you, I thought we’d have a drink now, but I’d like to be by myself at midnight.”

Remus understood perfectly. They sat together and drank in a companionable silence for a bit not talking except as they raised their toast.

“To those we’ve lost.” Alice said and raised her glass. “We’ve outlived the people we love Remus. Let’s make sure we win this war. It’s our best way to honor their memory.”

Remus nodded and raised his glass. Shortly thereafter Alice began to gather her things together.

“I’m headed home.” She smiled at him as she raised her glass one more time. “To the fight, Remus, and the victory.”

“To the victory.” He echoed and watched as Alice left.

She’d walked the short distance to the pub and set off on foot for home. As she rounded the corner that would take her to her flat she was lost in thought and perhaps that was why she hadn’t noticed that there were people standing in pairs near her door.

She mounted the stairs and it was only then that she heard the light tread behind her. She was being followed. She turned and saw them then, four figures, now masked. She nearly laughed.

Alice Moore had been one of the best Keepers the Gryffindor house had ever seen, her reflexes were legendary. She blasted one of the Death Eaters in the face with the Petrificus Totalus spell, causing him to snap rigidly to attention. Then she grabbed hold of the railing and nimbly kicked him in the face, sending him flying feet over head down the stairs into his comrades who fell like so many dominoes.

She ran up the stairs lightly and onto the roof where she stored her broom. She’d been within inches of it when she was tackled but she’d deflected many quaffles in her life and she flipped the man off of her and over the side of the roof without difficulty. Her hand was closing on her broom when she heard the woman’s voice behind her:

“Such a pretty candle he made, burning bright in the night.” Bellatrix Lestrange’s voice was jarring, terrifying. But Alice Moore suddenly felt no fear. There were things worth dying for in this life and she would capture this horrible creature or die trying.

She had tried with all her might. She heard the murmuring voices of friends and loves thought lost.

“Timothy?”

Then the veil fluttered and was still.

:::::::::::

“You have failed me again.” The icy voice of Voldemort screamed with displeasure. “You know what this means to me and yet you fail me again.”

Lestrange was lying on the ground in front of him. The large marble room caused her master’s voice to echo around her.

“Please, please master, I tried not to kill her! I would sacrifice all for you!” She was sobbing in terror.

“Achbot thrown to the ground like a useless muggle worm, Montague and Malfoy knocked unconscious by a mere kick to the head and you cannot even capture one, helpless girl?” His anger was such that the catacombs around them shook and dirt could be heard sifting in the corridor outside. Voldemort sat high on his dais and screamed down at his servant. He sat in a throne, but sprang to his feet.

Montague cowered on the floor beside Lestrange, and Achbot his leg broken from the fall. Near him huddled Malfoy cringing against the wall.

“She was not helpless master! I had no choice, she knew the unforgiveable curses, she knew how to use them!” Bellatrix was bleeding heavily from the slicing spell Alice had managed to hit her with. The girl had fought ferociously, she had known how to block spells too. “She would have killed me!”

It wasn’t true, Alice hadn’t ever had any intention of killing the deranged woman. She had very nearly managed to disarm Bellatrix though.

“Then you should have died!” Voldemort roared. “You displease me in your weakness.”

“I will never show weakness again, I swear to you master. I will make this up to you.”

“Yes, you will, a thousand times over again.” He cursed her and she screamed as excruciating pain shot through her.

Montague watched in terror, wondering if he would be next.

“But you have displeased me for the last time.” Voldemort rounded on him and Montague’s last memory was of rending pain followed by a flash of green light. As he died, he heard his master laughing.

::::::::::::

Sirius Black stirred in his sleep and reached out for Megan but her side of the bed was empty. Raising his head he saw her perched on the couch seemingly lost in thought.

“What is darling?” He called in a groggy voice.

“It’s nothing, go to sleep my love, I’ll be there soon.” Megan answered softly. Her mind was racing, sleep was hours away. Voldemort wanted her to be captured, he thought of her as his prey.

What if she could be the bait instead?



Chapter 17: A Visitor for Lily
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Chapter Seventeen:

Lily Potter came slowly down the stairs at the house in Godric’s Hollow. She always tried to be careful when it came to the steps because they were particularly steep and they certainly weren’t getting any easier to walk down the bigger she became. Just a little more than seven months pregnant and she already felt like she was the size of the Albert Hall. Finally she reached the bottom.

“When the baby’s born, we’ll need to put a gate up there.” She said absently to Murphy, the large Tabby Cat that had belonged to Amelia Strong, but now lived with them. Murphy meowed by way of an answer.

The firelight flashed green and she looked towards it expectantly, Murphy narrowed his eyes and hissed. He never seemed to like it when people stepped out of the fireplace and really, who could blame him? To a cat it must have been a mystifying manner of transportation. As she had been told to do, Lily had her wand pointed at the fireplace.

James wasn’t due home for quite some time so she wondered who it could be. Out from the flames climbed the imposing figure of Alastor Moody, a rather famous Auror and a member of the Order. Lily knew he was very good at what he did and that Dumbledore trusted him implicitly but he was still a bit creepy. He was covered in countless scars for one thing, for another, he would never accept so much as a cup of tea from another soul. He’d evidently been rather badly poisoned once and feared another occurrence. Just being in the same room with him had a tendency to make everyone paranoid. Remus liked to joke that when Moody was around you became convinced that even the chairs where spying on you.

Still, it was because of Moody that Mettrid was still alive. Moody had pulled the stupefied young man from the flaming Fielding mansion and carried him single handedly back to rendezvous point. He’d also captured two of the DeathEaters but it still hadn’t saved most of the Fielding family. Only the daughter survived and like Mettrid, she faced months in St. Mungo’s. The Order was still trying to figure out why Jonathan Fielding, had been targeted at all, he was just the proprietor of a shop for custom-made potions. Fielding had been tortured before he died and the Order could only speculate about what information had been extracted from him.

Alastor walked directly into the room and over to the window. Using the tip of his wand, he opened the drapes a crack and peered out apprehensively. “No one here?”

It wasn’t much of a greeting. “Not at the moment.” Lily answered.

She was used to how rude the Auror was by now. At Dumbledore’s insistence Lily had stopped working as soon as he had found out she was pregnant. He’d also insisted that she’d stopped going out alone. The Auror was a frequent visitor these days he would sometimes go with her as she shopped for food and other supplies. Lily never failed to be amused by how he insisted on examining everything she bought. Growling at clerks, poking suspiciously at chickens.

“Nice to see you Alastor.”

“And we’re well cloaked? Only those that know the password can even see this house, correct?” He wasn’t much for pleasantries.

“Yes, still cloaked.” Lily wanted to sit down and put her feet up. “And before you ask, yes, we’ve changed the password daily as you’ve suggested, and put a double cloaking spell on the floo.”

Moody huffed in irritation. “Being sure of safety is the only way to stay alive. Wait here.”

“It’s my home Moody, where else would I wait?” She said but he was already throwing powder into the fire and disappearing again. Lily walked over and sat down in one of the armchairs, propped her feet up on the table and pointed her wand at the fireplace. She knew Moody would lecture her endlessly for not being at the ready, on her feet. As soon as he’s pregnant, he gets a say Lily thought firmly. Until then, she would do as she pleased.

Bright green flames danced in the grate again and Lily waited expectantly for the unsociable Auror to appear but the figure that emerged from the fireplace was far too small to be the towering Moody. Her dark head was bent as she brushed the ashes from her robes. Her smile was huge as she stood and fixed her brilliant blue eyes upon the young woman in front of her.

“Pleased to see me at long last?” Megan greeted her friend.

Lily’s wand dropped from her hand and she burst into tears.

“Apparently not.” Megan noted.

:::::::::::

“Just stay where you are pet, I’ll get the tea.” Megan had already hugged her friend and dried her tears with the sleeve of her robe before finally locating a handkerchief. She bustled about the kitchen. “Hopefully you don’t want anything to eat though, Sirius swears I’m a disaster as a cook.”

She was back shortly with a cup of tea for Lily. “Now, tell me, why the tears? I can’t be such a ghastly sight.” She teased but her concern was obvious.

“No, no it’s not that.” Lily was still crying a bit. “It was just such a surprise and I’ve missed you so much.” She began to cry even harder.

“Lily, heaven’s above, what is it?” Meg sipped her own tea and wondered why it was that she never could get the amount of sugar right. Perhaps Sirius was right, she ought to be banned by law from making anything for human consumption.

“It’s just that,” Lily blew her nose loudly and Megan tried not to smile. “Oh hell, I don’t know. Everything seems to make me cry these days. Something to do with hormones.”

She wasn’t telling the complete truth and Megan knew it. Yes, being upset easily was part of being pregnant but this was more.

“Had yourself convinced you’d never see me again, did you? Sorry Mrs. Potter but you’ll not be getting rid of me anytime soon.” She smiled and squeezed her friend’s hand.

“It’s been months and months Megan. I haven’t seen you since…since….” Lily wiped her nose again.

“Amelia died. Or Alice for that matter.” Megan said evenly. “I know Lily, I know you needed me here as a friend, but I had no choice. Sirius did tell you I was all right though, didn’t he? I’ll have his hide if he didn’t.”

“He did, but that’s all he could tell me! That’s all I ever heard.” Lily was beginning to settle down, she imitated Sirius’s voice. “ ‘She’s fine, just restless, a bit bored.’ For all I knew you were fighting dragons or living in a cave with giants.”

“Oh sweets, it wasn’t like that at all. I was living the soft life, huge meals, cozy beds, hot baths. It’s all of you that have had the hard time of it.” Megan hugged her briefly. “I’m sorry Lily, I wanted to write, I truly did but I couldn’t. Nothing could leave that cottage without risk. Dumbledore and Sirius were both taking a huge chance just by coming as regularly as they did but I think they both thought I’d perish from loneliness if they didn’t.”

“Were you very lonely?” Lily asked anxiously.

“Not at all, I had loads to keep me occupied.” Megan lied. “The only thing I missed was being able to be here for you.”

It was time to lighten the mood, thought Megan. “Now let me see, what have you changed about yourself? Is it a new haircut?” Meg teasingly peered closely at her friend’s glorious hair. “No, that’s not it. Done something new with your robes perhaps? There does seem to be a difference….”

She sat back and gasped in mock surprise, “Why Lily Potter, I do believe you’ve gained some weight. What’s that all about? Or did you just swallow a quaffle?”

In spite of herself Lily laughed. She’d missed Megan terribly. She adored James but there was something about having another woman to talk to that she’d been missing for months. She liked Alice Longbottom, and they were both pregnant but it wasn’t the same. She didn’t have Megan’s sense of fun besides Mrs. Longbottom was older and nearly always accompanied by Moody anyway.

“I’m teasing of course, you look splendid altogether.” Meg sipped her tea again. “Lord, this is awful isn’t it? Where’s Sirius when you need him? The man makes fantastic tea and I’ll let you in on a secret, he makes a mean breakfast too.”

She paused, it was good to see Lily smiling and laughing again. Megan knew that the last few months must have been a tremendous strain on her.

“So tell me, what’s it like? Can you eat anything you like?” Megan asked. There would be time enough for serious talk later. Now it was time for a good gossip.

Lily Potter began to tell Megan about being pregnant. The initial nausea, the thrill of feeling the baby kick and how truly odd it felt to watch her body changing almost daily. How she could be suddenly hungry at four a.m. in the morning.

“You should hear James trying to make Lasagne in the middle of the night. I think the cheese grater actually tried to bite him. “ Lily laughed. “He’s been wonderful though.”

“Well, you’re both wonderful. You deserve each other.” Megan said sweetly and then was mystified when Lily began to cry again. “What is it?”

“I just realized I’m hungry, again.” Lily sniffed as she tried to joke.

“Oh well, and I’m the only possible chef? That would be enough to make a person weep.”

The sound of Lily’s laughter rang through house.

::::::::

When James came home Megan greeted him warmly but said it was time for her to go.

“I’ve just arrived.” James said he was also thrilled to see Hogan again apparently entirely unharmed. “Can’t you stay for dinner?”

“I can’t but you’ll have to come out and have dinner with me soon.” Megan grinned impishly, “Don’t worry, I won’t subject you to my cooking.”

“Where are you staying Meg? Can you tell us?” James was as in the dark as Lily was.

“I’ve got a lovely apartment of sorts.” Megan said. “It’s in the castle, fourth floor corridor.”

“You’re staying at Hogwarts?” Lily was instantly suspicious. What was her friend up to? No one but the staff stayed at Hogwarts.

“That’s the plan.” Megan’s tone was light but her eyes determined.

“What about…him.” Lily asked.

“That monster wouldn’t come within miles of Dumbledore, you know that Lily.”

It was true Albus Dumbledore was the only wizard that Voldemort feared.

“Wouldn’t it be best to wait until the students have all gone home for the summer?” Lily asked anxiously, there were only a few days left in the term.

“I’ll keep to myself until they do.” Megan said vaguely. “Well, I’d best be off. Sirius is out with the Order tonight, but if he gets back early and finds that I’m not at the castle he’ll likely burst a blood vessel. Perhaps even an important one.”

When she was gone, Lily stared at the fireplace for a moment.

“Everything all right love?” James asked, watching his wife’s gaze and noticing her concerned expression.

“Fine darling. Help heave me to my feet and I’ll see about dinner.” Lily answered quickly.

“I’ll get it, I know your back has been bothering you again.” James had first hand knowledge of this because when Lily’s back ached she had a tendency to kick in her sleep. Unconsciously he rubbed his bruised shin.

“Oh thank you, it is getting harder to stand for any length of time. I think I’m going to give birth to an elephant sometimes.” It wasn’t a comforting thought but she patted her belly with affection. As James headed for the kitchen Lily thought of Megan again.

What was she up to?

::::::::::

The next morning after Sirius had left Megan leapt swiftly from bed, dressed and crept out into the corridor. Her mind went over again the names from Grupp’s list. Moving quickly she descended to the dungeon level and stood outside the entrance to Slytherin house. Sir Cadogan’s portrait tried to harass her by yelling, “What mischief is this! You are not dressed as a lady, are you a sorceress?”

“Yes, I am. Now shut up you bucket of bolts or I’ll call down an enchanted rain on your portrait and you’ll rust solid.” The knight had clanked off to the left.

As the Slytherins exited their common room many of them gave her a cold stare.

“Hello there.” Megan said to a chunky, beady-eyed fourth year. “Achbot isn’t it?”

The boy had stared in a haughty fashion. “Is there something I can do for you?”

“As a matter of fact, you can tell that putrid pile of a father of yours that Megan Hogan sends her greetings.” Megan smiled.

“Does he know you?” Achbot said cuttingly.

“He knows of me.” Megan looked the boy directly in the face and said, “I’m hoping to have a lovely summer here at the castle. So much peace and quiet.”

And with that she turned on her heel and walked briskly away. Two birds with one stone, thought Megan. At least Voldemort would stop trying to capture her friends to find out her whereabouts. It might buy them some more time. Dumbledore had consented to her living in the castle for the summer because the students would not be there. He might be too afraid of Dumbledore to come anywhere near there, but he was still not above sending his Death Eaters after her.

After all, he didn’t seem to care how many of them he lost. There seemed to be an endless supply of people who were choosing to follow him. They seemed convinced he would win and it seemed that was all that was important to some people.

They lived in strange times.


Chapter 18: The Traitor's Decision
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Chapter Eighteen:

It was too hot to sleep. Lily sighed as she lay alone in bed, James hadn’t wanted to go to the meeting but evidently there was something big afoot. Not mind you that anyone had told Lily this specifically but she’d have to be a dunce not to realize that the meetings were becoming more and more frequent. She’d always been able to tell when James wasn’t telling the full truth.

Then there had been Dumbledore’s insistence that they cease to receive visitors for the time being. All of the members of the Order had been selectively Obliviated by Dumbledore himself. Only Dumbledore and McGonagall were skilled enough to be able to remove only one specific memory. No one even remembered where the Potters lived now. Whenever they met anyone it was always at headquarters and they would receive the calls to the meetings by Messagesteam so as not to risk discovery by any of their enemies. After the meetings, they all stood in line and were systematically selectively Obliviated by the old witch or wizard.

“It mak’s me that nervous, that it duz.” Rubeus Hagrid had confided to Lily as they stood, awaiting the tap of Dumbledore’s wand. Well, Hagrid had stood, Lily had to sit down more and more. “After all, wot happenz if the wrong memory gets tak’n out? Wouldn’t even know your own name.”

Hagrid always carried a large, pink umbrella with him and Lily wondered about this, he didn’t seem the type to mind getting wet. Also, she wasn’t entirely certain what use a half-giant who was banned from doing magic might be. However, she liked Hagrid tremendously. As rough hewn as he was, he was kindly and he doted on Lily from the start. James too, he’d always been fond of them when they were students but now he was as protective as guard dog. For all his fear of the memory wipe spells, Hagrid was also fiercely loyal and had said more than once in his booming voice that he’d die for Albus Dumbledore, who was in his opinion the best wizard who had ever lived.

“Do yer need another cup o’ tea?” He asked kindly, the Obliviations were taking a bit longer this time.

Another cup of tea had been the last thing that Lily needed, as it had been she was very much afraid she’d have to excuse herself from the line and visit one of the mansion’s bathrooms. Across the room she had seen Longbottom and his wife waiting in the line for Professor McGonagall. Alice Longbottom had looked as if she too had been regretting having imbibed any tea. Their eyes had met and they had shared a knowing smile based in discomfort.

It had been the last meeting Lily had been allowed to attend until after the baby was born, two weeks now and three meetings missed. Lily longed to be able to attend again but mostly she was anxious for the birth of her child. As if in answer the baby kicked and Lily decided there was nothing for it but to get up and wait for James.

She waddled down the stairs carefully, remembering with a grin when she had been lithe and graceful. Now she felt as if she trundled about like a hippo.

“Doing okay in there?” She spoke to her stomach lovingly as the baby kicked again. Sometimes she could swear that their baby understood every word she said.

She settled down onto the soft sofa with a groan of relief. She drifted off to sleep and dreamed of green eyed baby with riotous black hair.

:::::::::::

James stepped out of the fireplace. Due to the heat there wasn’t a fire burning but the network still functioned just fine. He saw his sleeping wife, cuddled on the couch. As he was debating whether or not to wake her, she stirred and opened her eyes. Seeing him, she immediately smiled.

“Darling.” Her face glowed.

“Love, why aren’t you in bed?” James kissed her swiftly and then moved to the other end of the couch where he immediately began to rub her feet.

“Oh thanks, that’s lovely.” Lily sighed with gratitude. “How’d the meeting go?”

“It was fine.” James was being evasive and Lily decided not to push. She was hot, she was tired and for once she decided, she was going to concentrate on just the two of them. Three of them, her mind automatically amended. She smiled happily to herself.

James Potter was incredibly grateful for this because if Lily knew what they were up to, she’d likely scalp them all.

::::::::::::

“I don’t like it.” Remus Lupin frowned at the small, exclusive team gathered around. Only the best duelers were present and none of the other Order members even had a notion as to their plan. He looked down the table and saw that he was not alone in this feeling.

Alastor Moody looked particularly grim, Elizabeth Fortesque was toying with her butterbeer, not really bothering to drink it. Longbottom looked somewhat uncomfortable also. Atticus Sliverton even looked a bit ill at ease and Sliverton was known to have nerves of steel.

James Potter looked nearly miserable and was the first to speak after Remus, “Are you sure we can’t tell Sirius?”

Of all the assembled members only Albus Dumbledore and Megan Hogan seemed calm.

“I suppose you could tell Sirius,” Megan joked, “If you’d like to find out first hand just how many swear words he knows.”

James knew that Megan Hogan was right. Sirius Black would never have consented to this and it had taken a great deal of energy to figure out how to keep this all a secret from him. James knew that Peter would have shared his concern so they’d managed to keep him out of the planning also. Besides, they needed someone to be out on patrol with Sirius and it was better that Peter not know anything. Sometimes on the dull patrols, it was almost impossible to keep from some light chatting. James knew that Peter would hate himself if he let anything slip. Yes, it was for the best.

“Megan, this really does seem to be tempting fate a bit.” Remus was still concerned.

“Enough of this.” Moody growled. “The girl’s right, tomorrow night it is. We’ve got to strike a blow here and the plan is solid. But we must all remember, above all else to be…”

“Cautious.” Several voices groaned at once.

“Yes,” Atticus said and grinned at the assembled group. “that and don’t take chocolate frogs from strangers. Got it Moody.”

Everyone in the room smiled but no one had the heart to actually laugh.

Moody glared at Atticus who grinned back at him. Then turned to the girl. “Right, so you’ve made sure you were seen? You know for certain that they’re aware of your movements and you’re sure of the time?”

“Yes Alastor, I have it on very good authority.” Megan met his piercing gaze without trouble. “Tomorrow night, they’ll come after me.”

:::::::::::::

Until the day before Megan had never understood why Severus opposed the plan so vehemently.

“This is foolhardy.” He had said in a glacial tone. “You have no idea what it is you are risking.”

It had been one of the few times that Severus had been unwilling to give out information. He had worked tirelessly to develop the Messageteam, a complex potion that would allow the members to communicate without the need for actual contact or letters. The boiled frogwater had to be added at precisely the right temperature to the other ingredients, the cubed dried broardworms had to be exactly the right size but when done correctly, the steam would rise and contain a message. A dash of pickled bats juice was added when you wanted to send a message, a strand of hag’s hair was needed to insure receipt.

Dumbledore had spoken quietly but firmly as they all stood in the secret room. “He believes that he is invincible Severus, we need to buy time and striking now is for the best.”

He couldn’t tell either of the young people with him why it was imperative that Voldemort be distracted now. Alice Longbottom was due at any time, as was Lily Potter. He knew that Voldemort’s spy had overheard part of the Trelawney’s prophecy and he had to do something to take his attention away from those two young women now. He knew full well that he was taking a great chance but the members of the Order had become incredibly skilled fighters and Megan seemed to know no fear.

“If you think it is best, then.” Snape had said unwillingly. “I must go.”

She hadn’t meant to bump into him as they turned to the hidden staircase but her shoulder had knocked his upper arm and her hand had brushed his wrist. Snape jerked away as if burned by acid and stared into her eyes with what anyone else in the world would have mistaken for hatred.

His emotions were always so well concealed because of the countless potions that he drank. A normal wizard would never have been able to glimpse his feelings even with the use of a revealing spell. Even an incredibly powerful wizard would have had to search for hours to discover anything Severus Snape felt and they would probably still be unsuccessful but Megan didn’t need any spells. The potions muted his emotions even for her, but what she had felt had been so bitter yet so powerful that it had managed to break through in that split second.

“Sorry Severus,” Megan said thinking quickly. “You’ve really conquered those concealment brews haven’t you? No wonder he can’t get a thing out of you.” She’d smiled then but Snape had stared back at her frostily and swept from the room.

Megan turned and looked at Dumbledore’s face. As usual, he had seen it all and Megan knew from his steady gaze that he had known for a long time. For once, she herself had been blind to it all. She deliberately dropped her wand to give her an excuse to remain behind a moment. Looking up she was certain that Snape was out of earshot.

“Why didn’t I feel it before?” Megan asked quietly.

“Probably because it has no bearing on his future, Megan.” But in a way, Dumbledore had been wrong.

Megan left the room wondering how in the world Severus Snape could possibly be in love with her.

:::::::::::

As they left the inn in Hogsmeade Megan walked swiftly between Alastor Moody and Atticus Sliverton. She knew that the others were concealed nearby, lying in wait.

It wasn’t possible to apparrate into Hogswart and everyone knew that the Death Eaters had developed ways of snatching people from floos that were on the network. They walked briskly towards the gates, Moody and Sliverton’s eyes never stopped sweeping the lane, searching for signs of trouble.

“Keep a move on then.” Growled Moody.

“We’re too close to Hogwarts for anything to happen.” Megan said breezily.

“She’s right you know.” Sliverton said casually but his eyes never stopped roaming. They all remembered their lines perfectly.

Severus had given them the list of the Death Eaters who were going to be sent and Moody had lectured the other fighters on the known weaknesses of all of them. For once, no one had rolled their eyes at Moody’s long tirade instead they had listened to every word with great attention.

They were coming up over the hill now, the village behind them. A few scattered trees lined the road, a boulder here and there. An owl hooted in the night and then with a flash, they were there. Six Death Eaters, all with their wands raised.

Sliverton quickly pushed Megan behind him but she leapt to his side her own wand raised. Curses flew at the group and Sliverton’s shield just barely held as the red curse went bouncing back at the originator.

“We’ve got you Hogan.” Said a nasal voice. “Come quietly and we won’t kill the others.’

“NOW!” Screamed James as he sprang into the road behind the Death Eaters. Two had whirled on them but Elizabeth had already screamed “Stupefy!” as she dropped down from a tree. One fell and lay still. The attack had taken farther from the gate than they had thought it would. Potter and Fortesque had supposed to have been bringing up the rear.

With a loud pop Lupin apparrated within feet of the attackers and before the startled woman in front of him could begin to form a curse, he had her stunned and bound. Two down, four to go.

Megan deflected a curse and had one aimed when Sliverton went down beside her, hit with a Crucio spell. He kicked out in his agony, accidentally knocking Megan to the ground. In breaking her fall, to her horror her wand snapped in two. She was defenseless.

Moody was engaged in a massive duel with a hulking masked figure. The air around Megan felt charged with the spells that winged through the night.

Lupin was in trouble now, stunned and on the ground but James had thrown himself bodily onto his assailant and now they too were dueling. Sliverton still writhed by her side when Megan felt strong arms grab for her and she knew that she was about to be taken. Using the only tool she had, she elbowed the man in the face as hard as she could. He recoiled briefly but reached for her again. Just as the hand closed on her arm a shattering roar had broken through and Longbottom had appeared, knocking the Death Eater out with a spell so powerful he had flown back at least fourteen feet.

Fortesque stunned another one and as Sliverton recovered he was up on his feet, having hexed the Death Eater battling Moody.

When it was all over, they took five of them with them back to headquarters, bound, gagged, prevented from apparrating. Their wands were tucked safely inside Moody’s robes. They yanked the hood from Lucius Malfoy’s face as he lay in the road, when the paralytic spell wore off he would be able to apparate back with the message James Potter had shouted at him.

“Go back to your master, if you dare Malfoy. Tell him that anyone who rules through fear will die in terror.”

::::::::::

“You did WHAT?” Lily Potter was quite agitated she had never raised her voice to James before.

“Lily, sit down, you shouldn’t be angry, it all went off without a hitch.” James tried to calm her down.

“Oh, without a hitch is that it? Just a lark then?” Lily was furious and for once her feet didn’t hurt as she stood.

“No, not a lark. Not at all, we’ve got five of them held prisoner. Only one was under an Imperius Curse according to Meg, some poor sod named Hathaway. Really Lily, please sit down.” James was pleading.

“You put yourself in all that danger and you’ve come away with four Death Eaters?” She was livid.

“Well the fifth one still had useful information Lily, we’ve got a long list of people we know to protect now. It’s put half his plans in shambles.” James was alarmed he hadn’t realized Lily was capable of being this angry.

“James for God’s sake, this isn’t like school where you can have plans and schemes and the worst thing that will happen is that you’d be expelled.” Lily sat down and began to cry. “You could have all been killed!”

“But no one was even seriously injured.” James was confused.

“But you could have been!” Lily shouted.

“Lily, we’re taking risks all the time. Tonight was no different.” James kept his voice intentionally calm. She had to calm down, it wasn’t good for her and it wasn’t good for the baby.

Lily digested this in silence. She knew what they were fighting. She knew that every time James went out there was a possibility….

She couldn’t even finish the thought. Her anger ebbed away from her and a strange feeling of pride swelled within her heart.

“Fine then. Meg dangled herself like a carrot before a cart horse. James, that was very dangerous. Why didn’t you tell me any of this?” Lily felt an ache in her side for a moment but it passed quickly.

“I assumed you’d object.” He flashed his smile, the one that never failed to elicit a response. “Strenuously.”

“Well, you were right there at least.” Lily let her breath out slowly. “You’d better tell me all of it now. How in the world you ever convinced Sirius to go along with this I’ll never know.”

“Uh…” James tried to think of a way to word his next sentence that would not land him in the hospital.

“Oh my stars! James, Sirius didn’t know?” Lily was truly shocked. “He’ll have a stroke.”

“Just one you think?” James smiled and sat down next to his wife, taking her hand in his and kissing it.

:::::::::::::

At headquarters the meeting was going well until Sirius arrived with Peter in tow.

“What’s all this?” Peter asked as he surveyed the table that was strewn with parchment. As they’d walked down the hall towards meeting room they had heard excited voices. It had taken a long time to get the Messagesteam potion that contained the password for the headquarters right. All any of them need do was speak the password and if they were a member of the Order, the floo would whisk them to the mansion no name for the location was needed. Flitwick had even managed to enchant the floo with a sincerity charm so that anyone who was had an underhanded scheme in their heart would be shuttled off to the now disused floo in Megan’s closed bookshop. Unless someone was a master of concealment, they’d never get by it.

“Sit down you two, we’ve a lot of material to go over here.” Sliverton looked a bit strained his hand would wander up to his sore ribs occasionally.

“Information from what?” Sirius too was confused.

“We set a trap for some Death Eaters. Dumbledore has them down in the basement now, they’re still being interrogated.” Fortesque looked invigorated. “March gave them all Lily’s new truth potion and they can’t stop talking. It’s bloody marvelous!”

“Trap?” Peter was suspicious.

Moody outlined the circumstances to the two other men and seemed oblivious to the fact that Sirius Black’s face was growing increasingly more contorted with rage.

“Meg’s idea? This was all Megan’s idea?” He finally burst out.

“Stroke of genius, wouldn’t you say?” Longbottom was anxious to get home to his wife and was just pulling on his outdoor robe as he spoke.

“Where is she?” Sirius asked in a low growl. Remus moved to his side and tried to begin explaining.

“Look Padfoot,” He began, “I’m sure you’re angry and you have….”

“You have exactly one second to tell me where Megan is before I punch you in the nose Remus. You knew about this?”

By way of an answer, Remus said, “She’s with Dumbledore.”

:::::::::::

Megan heard Sirius shouting her name as he came galloping down the stairs.

“Oh dear.” She turned to Dumbledore and offered him a slightly shaky smile. “We who are about to die salute you.”

She ran out into the corridor to meet him, fully prepared for the biggest argument of her life.

“Sirius, I swear I can explain…” She began but she was cut off as the large man engulfed her in an embrace so tight she could barely breathe.

Then the shouting began and it didn’t stop for quite a while. Finally, his rage spent, Sirius was prepared to speak with a modicum of calm.

“Are you all right?” Sirius asked with tremendous concern. He held her back from him and searched her face. “Are you hurt anywhere?”

“Well I’ve got a broken wand but other than…” She was cut off as he kissed her hard on the mouth. When he drew back she stared at him and said, “What in the world…”

“I’m only going to say this one time Megan, and I mean it. If you ever, and I do mean ever take such a risk again without telling me, I’ll …I’ll….” He couldn’t think of a threat he was that shaken.

“You’ll what, fiercely cuddle me?” She asked.

“Megan! This is not in the least funny.” Sirius was holding her tight again.

“It actually is a bit.” Megan’s voice was muffled against his chest.

“No, it’s not. It’s not in the least amusing. Megan, I should have been there to protect you for the love of God.” Sirius was nearly in tears.

She nearly said that she could protect herself very well but remembered the long legged girl who hadn’t heeded that exact advice. “I swear to you Sirius, I won’t ever deceive you again.”

She eyed him for moment and then said, “Who would have thought you’d disapprove of adventure?”

He held her and said nothing but she could hear his heart pounding in his chest.

::::::::

Peter Pettigrew arrived back at his small house and sat down with a bitter look on his face.

Leaving him out in the cold, were they then? He’d fought against it, he’d tried to recapture the feeling of friendship and loyalty he had for his longtime companions but it was useless.

He knew what to do now, he supposed he’d known for ages. Why side with this bunch of fools who thought they could defeat the most powerful wizard their world had ever known? Why fight for the side that was bound to lose? Where would it get him?

The idiots, sitting around thinking that their lists meant anything. The Dark Lord was crushingly powerful and Peter wanted to be on the winning side, to share in the spoils. Enticing the Death Eaters had been the most foolish plan he had ever heard of.

But he’d have to have something to offer. He’d been with the Order too long he’d have too much to make up for now. Then it occurred to him, he knew exactly what he had to offer.

He’d start with that Mudblood whore, Hogan.

:::::::::::::::


Chapter 19: The Birth of Hope
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Author's Note: What happens to Moody isn't according to canon (I try to keep this story as close to canon as possible) but that is actually covered in a chapter much later. In other words, he's hit twice in the nose, years apart. Thanks for reading

Chapter Nineteen:

On a day late in July Sirius Black and Remus Lupin ran through the street in London, not caring that the Muggles nearby had stared in fascination at the two figures wearing robes running headlong through the crowded area. They arrived at the old store front and spoke urgently to the mannequin in the window, immediate entrance had been gained.

“Have a care now!” The nurse at the reception desk at St. Mungo’s said reprovingly as the two young men had stormed in, robes flapping around their heels.

“Sorry.” Remus Lupin apologized and tried to help up the little wizard he’d knocked flat to the ground. Where his nose should have been there was a beet. “Uh, hope you feel better soon.”

The wizard had glared at him and sneezed causing twin plumes of earth to exit his ears. Remus wasn’t sure if he should offer a handkerchief or a dust broom. “Never flirt with the barmaid in front of your wife.” The vegetable nosed wizard advised.

“I’ll…uh….keep that in mind.” Remus turned and ran with great speed after Sirius.

“Atticus Sliverton and Alastor Moody.” Sirius demanded of the nurse.

“What’s the difficulty?” The nurse asked and tried to indicate the sign that listed the various wards.

“Some kind of attack, we don’t know for sure.” Remus and Sirius had been visiting Megan at the castle when the owl had arrived. Moody, Fortesque, Potter and Sliverton had been in Lancaster helping the Fobbes gather their things in order to go into hiding when they had been intercepted by a group of Death Eaters.

“I’ll take you to them.” The crafty little witch in the nurse’s hat had said with a strained look on her face.

They had come out of seemingly nowhere, practically shooting up through the floorboards it seemed. At one moment the group had been in the house, the ever cautious Moody prowling around the windows, his sneakascope tucked firmly in his pocket, his wand as always at the ready. Thank God for Moody, he’d thought to bring a foe glass with him too and had it propped on the table as the family had packed in haste.

James and Elizabeth had both been helping them heave things into trunks upstairs when the sneakascope had begun to whine and Moody whirled towards his foe glass in time to see five figures, cloaked and masked hazy but definitely far too close for safety.

“Trouble!” He had shouted and immediately Sliverton was at his side, his wand raised.

James had kept his head about him and yelled to the terrified family, “Forget your things, grab the portkey NOW!” The Fobbes had all obeyed except for the six year old girl named Catharia. She had stood in the corner screaming as she clutched a stuffed Gryffin. Without a second’s hesitation James had scooped her up and practically thrown her into her father’s arms. Downstairs he heard the desperate duel that was taking place. The family vanished, their expressions of horror still etched in James’s memory.

“Move Elizabeth!” Fortesque had not needed further prompting. She shot down the stairs with James directly behind her.

Later, James would thank the fates that two of their strongest fighters had been downstairs or else they all might have died that night, taken by surprise at they had been. How had the DeathEaters known how to disarm their anti-apparation spell? His mind worked with horrified rapidity.

Moody was holding off two of the DeathEaters and Sliverton had taken on two of his own leaving two of them to dash up the stairs towards James and Elizabeth.

Elizabeth had half the hair on her head singed off when a green flash of light aimed at her head had missed her by less than an inch. James screamed “Protego” and then followed it rapidly with a stunning spell. Fortesque had been terribly shaken by her close call but still managed to viciously disarm and then disable the other Voldemort follower. Mad for speed, they hadn’t taken the time to bind either of them but had leapt over their unconscious bodies and raced down. What they saw would be a sight that would have made less courageous people drop from fright.

Four DeathEaters converging on the desperate fighters for the Order. Just as James leapt into the room, Moody had taken a maiming spell to the face, his blood spattered onto Sliverton’s robes. James shouted a curse and saw one of the Death Eaters plummet to the ground.

“Kill them!” Shouted a shrill, mad voice.

:::::::::::

Severus Snape had to think very quickly. He had to get back to Voldemort’s headquarters so that he might discover who the informant in the Order was. Someone had tipped off the DeathEaters as to the whereabouts on that stifling night. Severus had no idea who the informant might be and if he not come on the raid, it would have raised suspicion. He’d eagerly volunteered.

He had been fighting Moody along with Bellatrix and it was Crabbe and Malfoy who were battling Sliverton. He’d seen Bellatrix raise her wand towards Moody and he’d shouted out that maiming spell “Disfiguratum!”

He’d hit Moody directly in the side of the nose. Pretending to stumble, he knocked into Bellatrix, then swiftly pivoted towards Sliverton. God, it had to be Sliverton he had no choice. There was nothing for it he had to try to kill him but perhaps if he didn’t aim into the chest….

“Adava Kedavra!” Screamed Snape and out of the corner of his eye he’d seen Potter’s head snap towards him, recognizing his voice with ease. They had hexed and cursed each other so often at school and Snape had a distinctive voice.

Sliverton took the glancing spell on his shoulder and immediately collapsed.

::::::::::::::

“Atticus!” Elizabeth screamed and the woman had rounded on her. James had no choice but to aim for her first, he would deal with Snape in a moment.

In a blinding flash of white light, he had been there, Dumbledore, tall and determined. He knew what he had to do and with a mere flick of the wrist he had knocked Malfoy, and Bellatrix unconscious. The tall form of the former Slytherin collapsed onto Crabbe. If he didn’t allow all of the Death Eaters to return to Voldemort, it would cast too much suspicion on the one he was determined would be able to.

James had Snape in his sights now, his wand raised and his face furious. His wand pointed at the floor, Dumbledore let loose a spell that momentarily stunned all of his fighters. They would never have any memory of it. It was in that split second that Severus Snape had taken the potion bottle from his pocket, thrown it to the floor and as black smoke immediately surrounded all of the Death Eaters in the house, he had shouted out the return incantation. All of the Death Eaters instantly vanished and the James and Fortesque had looked around in bewilderment.

“What happened professor? Where are they?” James stared at the tall, white bearded figure in horror. How could they just vanish like that? He couldn’t believe that Dumbledore wouldn’t have been able to prevent it.

However, Albus Dumbledore had the perfect way to distract James, “James, you must go home immediately. Lily’s in labor.”

James wasted no time and all other thought was driven from his mind. He apparated quickly to field in front of his home and breaking land speed records he ran towards the door. Once there he spoke the revealing spell, turned the knob and flew into the house and to his wife’s side.

:::::::::

Dumbledore surveyed the damage. Moody was down, bleeding profusely from the face and he had been hit in the arm also at some point. There was blood everywhere. Sliverton was immobile on the floor. Fortesque and Sliverton had both once been in Ravenclaw together and perhaps that was why they were so close. There wasn’t any romance between them but their friendship ran deep. The woman’s distress was so acute it was nearly palpable.

“Atticus.” Elizabeth’s voice was strangled as she hastened to his side. She’d seen the green blast of light and knew well now what it meant. She threw herself onto the floor beside the man she was sure was dead. Her hand reached out towards his neck automatically though. They had all been instructed that this was the best area of the body to feel for a pulse. “Professor! He’s got a pulse, just barely but he’s still alive!”

“We must get them to St. Mungo’s now Elizabeth.” Dumbledore’s voice was grave. He knew that the deathly blow was killing him slowly any contact with this curse would eventually kill unless there was intervention, but perhaps if they wasted no time there was a chance.

::::::::::

Three hours later James and a very tired Lily were looking down at the tiny little bundle in Lily’s arms. Madame Pompfrey had been there with them and so had Minvera McGonagall. They withdrew from the room quietly and headed down to the kitchen. Leaving the young family together at long last.

“He has charming ears.” Lily rhapsodized and her husband smiled. He wasn’t quite sure how anyone could have ears that were beguiling, but if Lily thought so, he was more than happy to agree. “And James, look at his tiny little fingers!”

“He’s beautiful, Lily and so are you.” James Potter was holding his wife and he kissed her forehead, then her eyelids and then her mouth. His body still felt tense from the battle but a message had arrived from Dumbledore saying that no lives had been lost in the house in Lancaster. His overwhelming joy eradicated all else.

“Hello Harry, I’m your mummy!” Lily tickled the baby’s stomach and he blinked at her slowly, his eyes were enormous and green. “James, he knows who I am!”

James believed that he actually did the little mite’s eyes never left Lily’s face. “He has your eyes.” When James spoke, the tiny baby had looked towards him with interest. It was the best moment of his life to date, he held his wife close and bent to kiss the baby’s head.

::::::::::

Severus Snape would have no opportunity to find out the identity of the informant that night, nor would he ever despite his best efforts. Voldemort had been raging since the night of the failed kidnapping and now his servants were going to suffer the full weight of his displeasure. His suspicions were raised by the appearance of Dumbledore. He felt that there was betrayal in the air. He would find out for sure.

“You are weak, and worthless!” Voldemort had spoken in a voice so cold it was far more frightening than when he screamed. He pointed his wand at Snape and it took every ounce of self-possession Severus contained not to tremble in terror. “You used the death curse but that man lives! Have you learned nothing?”

The Crucio curse ripped through Snape’s body and he felt as if his skin were afire, his organs exploding. Clear your mind, clear your mind, he thought through the pain. It seemed to have worked because Voldemort had paused. Bellatrix, Crabbe, Malfoy, Achbot and Flint all cowered in the room together. Bellatrix’s sobs racking her body:

“I nearly had him master, I could have killed two of them” She panted desperately. “But Severus only maimed the Auror and his spell barely struck Sliverton!”

Snape’s insides felt as if they were liquefying but he forced himself to keep from screaming out. He knew the torture curse would not kill although it might damage. The damage would heal. The concealed parts of his mind whispered this thought to him.

Voldemort towered over Snape who felt the blood seeping from his ears and nose. If it had been any other follower the Dark Lord would have crushed him. But Severus was particularly valuable. He had a gift for potions that Voldemort knew could prove useful. Potions were an art form few could entirely master.

“Still you show no fear.” Voldemort’s voice rang in his ears feeling like swords inside his splitting head. “It’s time you learned some Severus.”

It took every ounce of will he had not to beg then because he understood what was coming. In his mind’s eye he pictured the few remaining things that still had the ability to make him something akin to happy and prayed that it would somehow lessen the pain.

“You care for maiming curses Severus?” The Dark Lord’s cold laugh rang through the room. “Let us see how much you truly like them.”

::::::::::::

“Do babies usually have that much hair?” James peered at the bundle.

“Only the perfect ones.” Lily cooed to her baby. “Isn’t that right my sweetness?”

She turned her face up towards James’s and smiled with such serenity that for a moment James was convinced that time had stopped and that they would forever be there, together, in that moment of crystalline perfection. Time however could never stop.

“You like the name, don’t you James?” Lily had chosen Harry’s name and as usual whatever suited Lily felt absolutely right to James.

“I think it’s a wonderful name.” James remembered for a moment his grandfather. He had only known him in his old age, stooped but always with a sweet or a knut for his treasured grandson. It was good to have family names continuing.

“We could name him after your father.” Lily was burying her face lightly in the tiny form’s mass of hair.

“Ignatius? No, I don’t think so Lily. They might call him Iggy at school.” James smiled at the memory of his mother calling his father by that nickname. He wondered if his mum had ever guessed that Ignatius wasn’t fond of it. He supposed it didn’t matter, they had been so fond of each other.

Harry Potter began to cry energetically as if in protest at the thought of having such an ignoble nickname.

James smiled at his son in delight. “Look at that, only a few hours old and he already has an opinion. Must take after his mother.”

“James, don’t tease.” Lily said and shifted the baby to her shoulder. “I think he’s hungry.”

“He might well be it must have been a tiring day for him, not to mention you.” James watched as his wife began to nurse their baby.

“It wasn’t tiring James, Well, during it was, but afterwards?” Lily fed the infant uncertainly. She hoped she was doing it correctly. “It felt like the most special day that had ever been. I suppose all parents feel that way though.”

“They probably do Lily, but in our case, it’s true.” James Potter tucked himself in close to his family and despite the events of the evening, he felt nothing but peace.

::::::::::::

Sirius and Remus felt true joy for James and Lily as Dumbledore told them of the birth of Harry Potter.

“I’m a Godfather.” Sirius said but his voice did not ring with his usual enthusiasm. They were still in the ward with Moody and Sliverton. Moody would be permanently disfigured but he would live. It was Sliverton who had come off the worse by far.

“His heart is damaged, as are his lungs.” The mediwizard spoke in a tired voice. “But he’ll recover. He’ll be in here for at least two months though.”

Sliverton’s shallow breathing barely disturbed the blanket that was covering him. He was a handsome man, but there was dealthly pallor about his face.

“Thank the stars that whoever hit him with that spell didn’t know what they were doing.” The mediwizard said as he excused himself to fetch another potion.

Dumbledore thanked all that he believed in knowing that had Severus been any less skilled Sliverton would be lost entirely. In a chair near Sliverton’s bed Fortesque sobbed.

“He’ll be all right Elizabeth.” Remus tried to comfort her but his mind was very much distracted. More than anything else in the world he wanted to be at the house in Godric’s Hollow, sharing in his friend’s joy.

“I don’t think I can do this anymore.” Elizabeth Fortesque was twenty two years old, after leaving Hogwarts she had been a professional Quidditch Player for Chudley before joining the Order. Dumbledore remembered the day over a year ago when Elizabeth had just come in from practice with her team and she found him sitting by her doorstep, Sliverton at his side. She’d listened gravely and agreed immediately. She’d not only abandoned Quidditch claiming she had an injury, she had left behind her fiancée who was a Beater on the Chudley team.

Dumbledore put his hand on the young woman’s shoulder and felt her trembling.

“My friends are being killed off one by one and if they aren’t killed…” Her voice broke. “I used to date Mettrid, years ago when he was a sixth year and I was a fifth year, did you know that?”

Dumbledore did know but he feigned ignorance.

“Now he’s in the long term ward, and they’re trying to piece his mind back together but…” Her tears were starting to ease up. “Now, Atticus…”

“Will recover Elizabeth, and you know him well, he will return to fight.” Dumbledore wished that he had something more positive to offer the young woman.

This seemed to bolster the young woman and she stared for a moment at her friend’s still face.

“So will I.” She said firmly, convincing herself as she spoke.

::::::::::::

Severus Snape groaned as he eased himself onto his bed in his cloaked lodgings. His robes were matted with blood. He’d studied Muggle History at Hogwarts and had learned of their strange torture methods. The Chinese had been particularly prone to using a form called “The Death of A Thousand Cuts”. He peeled off his robes and looked into the mirror above his dresser. He didn’t have a thousand cuts, but he had close to it he thought. Shallow, stinging cuts that had caused blood to flow across the marble floor.

Finally Severus had realized that the only way to save himself would be to scream for mercy and although he would have preferred death, he had done so. The Dark Lord had finally been pleased and released him. He’d also tried to pry into Severus’s mind but the potion had miraculously held and Voldemort was once more convinced that he was trustworthy, possibly because he had encountered the fact that he was, just not to the camp that nearly everyone believed him to be.

He drew forth the ingredients for a healing potion, the pain was intense and he would never be able to sleep unless it eased. Later, as he sipped the potion that would block out his dreams the closed off areas of his mind touched the memories that had helped him resist the Crucio curse and later the maiming spell.

He saw a girl with beautiful red-hair, the sun dancing on her head as she walked across the green at Hogwarts but that memory had begun to fail him. Then he had seen the dark haired girl bent over a teapot, her eyes confused, but her tone pleasant.

How he would have liked to have skipped the potion that would repress his dreams and to visit that land where he might have been able to talk to her, hold her, tell her things he could never speak in life. The thought of being denied this was so bitter that it cut like shards of glass.

He drank the potion bottle dry.

:::::::::::

In Godric’s Hollow the newest member of the Potter family lay sleeping peacefully in a cradle drawn close to his parent’s bed.

“Are you asleep?” Lily whispered to James. Her husband’s breathing was deep and regular he did not stir.

Lily sat up in bed and touched her sleeping baby’s cheek, loving him with such a bright intensity that the centaurs in the Forbidden Forest noticed that the stars blazed with a brilliant light that evening.

They knew what was to come but Lily Potter did not and she lay down beside her husband, tucking her body in close to his and slept alongside him. Her dreams undisturbed and her world happy.

:::::::::::::



Chapter 20: A Traitor Suspected
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Chapter Twenty:

“If that’s the best you can do Hogan, you’ll never win another duel again.” Moody said darkly.

It was a bit hard to look at Alastor these days, his face had some many scars that it no longer looked like human flesh and had taken on the experience of tanned leather, or perhaps wood. Plus, there was that chunk missing from his nose.

“I’m trying.” Megan was struggling a bit with her new wand. It had been difficult to get out to the wand shop but Longbottom and Moody had taken her as soon as Moody had been released from the hospital. Poor Longbottom would have rather been at home with his wife and new baby but he was devoted to the Order. Mr. Ollivander had been even stranger than Megan remembered. In the end she’d left the shop with a ten-inch long, rosewood wand with a hair from a fire lion as a core. It was proving to be difficult to manage now that Moody was training her so relentlessly.

“Try harder.” The battered Auror huffed. “A well prepared wizard can use any wand in a battle.”

“Well I’m a witch,” Megan retorted and then had yelped as the disfigured warrior had sent a spell into the ground inches from her. “Lord Moody, what are you trying to do? Deprive me of my toes?”

“Nonsense, you should have deflected that with ease.” Moody growled. He suddenly tossed her his wand. “Give mine a try.”

Four hours later, after finally having taken turns using Longbottom’s, Moody’s and her own new wand over and over Megan limped up the stairs towards her rooms. She’d be leaving again soon because the students would be coming back. Moody had stunned her twice, making her angry enough to force her to master the use of the three separate wands. Her arm ached like the devil though, Moody’s wand in particular had a very strange kick to it.

“It fights against use by others.” Moody had said proudly. “Once nearly took my nephew’s hand off when he tried to play with it.”

“Thanks for the loan of it then.” Megan was too tired to figure out how to hex Alastor and then he had turned and looked at her. His nose still was raw and incredibly painful looking, she was immediately ashamed of herself.

“Thanks for taking so much time with me, Alastor.” She said and smiled. He was just trying to make sure they were all safe.

Her body ached terribly though and she wanted a long soak in a hot tub. As she lay back in the bathwater she felt her tired muscles begin to relax. She heard the door open and immediately tensed.

“Megan?” Sirius’s voice called and she grinned.

“In the bath. I’ll be out shortly.” She called. The bathroom door opened and she yelled, “Sirius! You haven’t got a decent bone in your body, get out of here!”

“Calm down Hogan, you’ll have the entire staff in here to see what’s the matter.” Sirius’s eyes gleamed. “Anything the matter in there?” He peered into the bath.

“No you devil there is nothing wrong with my bathwater at all. Thank you very much for asking.” But she was laughing despite herself.

“I’d better see for myself.” He said, his smile was incredibly mischievous.

If the staff at Hogwarts heard anything amiss in the fourth floor corridor they’d chosen to be selectively deaf, as they had done for the entire summer.

::::::::::::::::

Lily was struggling with a bath of her own in a manner of speaking. She tried to lower Harry into the shallow, warm water and then couldn’t bring herself to do it. She had one of those handy little magic bubble cushions for him but she still couldn’t quite bring herself to put her baby into the tub.

“Lily,” James was there, trying to give moral support, “You know that Poppy can’t be here every time you bathe him.” The young father thought that his wife’s nervousness was very endearing but he didn’t dare tell her. She’d have probably chucked a sponge at him.

“I know, I know,” Lily still sounded nervous as she finally worked up the nerve to place Harry on the bubble. She began quickly washing his little body.

“Lily?” James watched his wife, her hair pulled back into a short ponytail, her brow furrowed with concentration. There was something about her these days, everything she did seemed to just sing with beauty.

“Hmm?” Lily was watching Harry very closely.

“You’re the best mother in the world.” James said.

::::::::::::

After Sirius had managed to splash water over half the bathroom he’d carried Megan soaking and mock struggling to the bed where he put her down. He immediately pounced on her and somehow she didn’t seem to mind much.

Later, as Sirius was pulling on his clothes Megan groaned from under the covers, “Are you going out again tonight?”

“Just for a bit darling, I promised James and Lily I’d stop by and continue in my on going battle to corrupt our Godson.” After Harry’s birth with the entire Order clammering to go and see the newest Potter Dumbledore, McGonagall and Flitwick had worked liked slaves to enchant the house so extensively that it was possible for the members to visit.

He kissed her on the nose. As he was pulling on his shirt he asked quietly, “Megan, why won’t you hold Harry?”

It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him what she had told James and Lily, ‘I’m hopeless with babies. The scream blue bloody murder if I so much as glance at them’ but it wasn’t true. Megan had nieces and nephews and was actually quite good with children. She remembered her promise to never deceive him again.

“I’m afraid to.” She answered honestly.

Sirius looked at her and nodded. He understood it must have been an overwhelming thought to her, to glimpse the lifetime of a person who had just started life. To feel everything they might experience.

“Well, you’ll have to hold our children someday you know.” He grinned. “You do want to have children with me someday, don’t you?”

“More than you can possibly ever know.” Megan answered easily. The truth was always so much easier for her.

::::::::::

“I will not go into hiding like an escaped convict again.” Megan was facing down Dumbledore.

“Megan, you can’t stay here at the castle and I believe it is best that you be in a concealed location.” Albus knew how the girl hated the thought of being shut off again. He hadn’t had the heart to tell her that there was almost certainly an informant in the Order. There were only two possibilities, someone had managed such a powerful concealment charm that Megan could not feel their deceit or…and the second possibility made his blood run cold…the informant was Sirius Black. Dumbledore knew she was unable to read much of anything from him.

Yet, that didn’t make any sense. Voldemort had actively sought Megan, and Sirius had always known where she was.

“Fine.” Megan said suddenly and Albus had known that she had some sort of plan in mind all along. “You know what they say about hiding things, if you want to hide something put it in plain sight.”

He raised his eyebrows and looked at her quizzically.

“The bookstore.” Megan said. “Why would he look for me there any longer? It’s been closed up for ages now, the windows are even boarded up….”

“Megan, you did not sneak out to…”

“No, no, I saw it when we went to get my wand.” Megan said quickly. “That way I could be close by and I could at least go to the meetings at headquarters.”

Dumbledore himself was the secret keeper for the location of the headquarters now.

“I suppose that you will insist that young Mr. Black know where you are?” Dumbledore’s gaze was piercing.

“Of course, Sirius must know where I am.” Megan looked startled. “He’d go mad if he didn’t.”

Albus Dumbledore was a troubled man.

::::::::::::

Severus Snape had managed to get only one message through to Dumbledore and that was to tell him that he didn’t know who the traitor was in the Order. It had become too dangerous for Snape to have much contact with Dumbledore these days. It would have to be a matter of life and death before he could break silence for some time.

Snape’s body had healed well enough and he gave every appearance of being a devoted servant of the Dark Lord. He tried to spend all of his time in his potions laboratory in the catacombs and to avoid being out on raids but sometimes there was no escaping going into the field. He spent as much time as he could trying to overhear conversations between the others but not once did he ever hear the name of the traitor who had sworn he would deliver Megan Hogan to Voldemort.

::::::::::::

It had been three months since Atticus Sliverton had nearly been murdered but he was finally being released from St. Mungo’s, his recovery had taken a bit longer than anyone had expected.

As Remus Lupin and James Potter brought him back to headquarters they noticed that the young man seemed to become easily short of breath still. He eased down onto the leather sofa in the large meeting room and smiled at his friends. Moody and Hagrid flanked him on either side.

“Need a drink?” Remus offered. He was concerned, this once vital man looked years older.

“Thanks Lupin, I can get it myself.” Sliverton said but Elizabeth had immediately pushed him back onto the couch and ran off to fetch him some coffee.

The members would all be arriving soon, glad to get back to business and to have them all together again. Lily and James stepped from the fireplace with James holding Harry in his arms. Soon after McGonagall arrived, and then March soon to be joined by the Longbottoms and their son Neville.

Dumbledore joined the group and they were ready to start the meeting. Flitwick was keeping an eye on the babies for the young mothers. The diminutive Charms teacher had an especial fondness for babies. Lily could hear Harry chuckling as Flitwick floated a rattle in the air.

“Where are Sirius, Meg and Peter?” James asked as they gathered round the table.

“Sirius said they’d be along.” Remus answered and then flushed scarlet. Atticus shot him an amused grin.

“Peter’s not feeling well again I’m afraid.” James answered. He was concerned for his friend who seemed to be having some difficulties with his health.

Albus Dumbledore looked up from the spell book he was reading, he and Moody planned on trying to instruct the members on a new spell that March had worked out.

“I’ll be a moment.” He said resolutely and stood.

::::::::::::

Megan and Sirius had never intended to be late for the meeting but after they’d had a meal together Sirius had begun to press once again on what sometimes seemed to be his favorite topic.

“Don’t be silly Sirius.” Megan was trying to be evasive. They had argued for the next hour.

“Listen, I’m tired of this game Megan.” He felt the box that contained the ring in his robes. “You’ll spend every waking moment with me when we can find the time to be together, but you won’t marry me?”

“I’ve told you over and over again, I’ll marry you when…” But Megan was stopped short when she saw honest anger flash in Sirius’s eyes.

“When he’s defeated, when he’s defeated. That’s all you ever say. Fine then, when you decide to quit pretending that there’s no life worth living until then you can put this on.” He’d thrown the ring box down onto the table and turned to leave.

Megan stared at the box and then up at Sirius’s retreating back. “Wait, Sirius, please don’t.”

They had never parted on bad terms before. Sirius hesitated, and sat down.

“Please tell me, what’s really bothering you?” Megan asked and knelt down, putting her head on his knee.

Sirius didn’t know what to do. He had promised Remus and James that he would not discuss what they all suspected, that they had a traitor in their midst. There had been just something too odd about the appearance of the Death Eaters at the Fobbe’s that night.

“Traitor?” Megan gasped and lifted her head to look him in the eyes. Sirius silently cursed this odd ability of hers to pick up a stray thought.

“Yes, a traitor and the worst of it is….” Sirius couldn’t finish the sentence.

“They think it’s me.” Sirius’s decided to lie, his face looked miserable.

“Oh God.” Megan moaned. “But they can’t possibly believe that, you could have turned me over to him at any time, it doesn’t make any sense.”

Sirius couldn’t meet her eye she suddenly understood. She spoke again. “They don’t think it’s you, they think it’s me.”

“Of course they would.” She continued although her heart stung so that she could barely breathe. “After we captured the Death Eaters, the first information we acted upon nearly had so many of the Order killed. They think it was a trick and I was gone for all those months.”

Megan couldn’t help but ask. “Does Lily think this?”

“God no Megan! Neither does Remus or James. Truthfully, I don’t think anyone really believes it but Elizabeth brought it up and of course, you know Moody, he was immediately suspicious. It’s utter nonsense, they know that in their hearts. Besides, everyone knows how close you are to Dumbledore.”

“That’s half the bloody problem I take it.” Megan tried not to feel bitter. “They think he’s so fond of me that I have him fooled.”

She remembered Moody lecturing them all on the known weaknesses of their opponents on the night they had laid the trap and realized with a dull ache in her stomach that he had been testing her to see what her weaknesses might be when they had dueled. She thought of Atticus and Elizabeth, the Longbottoms and Hagrid. She thought of the staff at Hogwarts who had lived with her all summer long. She thought of March who knew that Megan had been so good in Dark Arts and she began to sob. Of course they would think this, Sirius hadn’t been there at the Fobbe’s, that would seem even more suspicious. Megan remembered Alice Moore slapping her across the face and screaming that she was a murderer.

Sirius pulled her to his chest and let her cry there until she was done. Then something occurred to her and it was like someone had lit a candle in her heart. “The Order thinks I might be a traitor, and you want to marry me?”

“Yes.”

“Why?” Megan’s bright gaze was on his face. “To prove to yourself that they’re wrong?”

“How could you ever say such a thing to me?” Sirius looked as if she had mortally wounded him and she immediately wished the words unsaid. “To prove to you that I love you, I believe in you and I always will. To be with you forever.”

“I’m sorry Sirius, I’m sorry.” Megan kissed him. “Well, if you’ll have me, then I’ll have you.”

“What?” Sirius was certain that he had heard her incorrectly.

“I said that if you want me to marry you, I will.” Megan’s face looked determined. What did she know the future anyway? She certainly never would have suspected that the people she cared most for outside of her family would think she was traitor. She hadn’t even seen her family in over a year so that she could do this work, and she knew it was nearly breaking her father’s heart. To hell with this sight, this gift, it was a curse.

“She finally sees reason!” Sirius’s face looked truly happy and Megan stubbornly pushed away any thought but the two of them. She began to kiss him earnestly.

::::::::::::

Neither had realized that Ablus Dumbledore had come in through the fireplace downstairs, concerned for Megan or that he had overheard the end of their conversation from the bottom of the stairs.

Deciding to leave the young people to enjoy some happiness, Albus returned to headquarters knowing that they would be along as soon as they could tear themselves away from one another.

He had put her in this position, where she would be both feared and mistrusted, he reasoned.



Chapter 21: Of Visions and Vermin
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Chapter Twenty One:
As the meeting continued the assembled members had moved to the basement where dueling could be practiced more easily.

“Lily!” Remus shouted. “Pay attention, you’ve got to shield better than that.”

Across the room James caught her eye and tried to smile encouragingly but Moody was bearing down on him mercilessly. Lily’s eyes tried to wander back to the staircase and Lupin had called out to her once more, “Lily, for heaven’s sake, Harry’s fine. Flitwick and Atticus are both with him. Now honestly, don’t make me stun you.”

Lily smirked because she knew that the likelihood of Remus Lupin actually aiming a stunning spell at her was about as high as Petunia dropping by for tea. Her sister had never even answered her letter about Harry’s birth, although Lily had dutifully sent a gift and a card to Petunia when her son was born.
The spell they were working with was particularly difficult but they all knew how important it was to try and have new disarming spells, it was more difficult to shield against an unknown spell. In theory, it would keep them safer in battle but March’s discoordination spell was hell to execute.

“Clumsatinata!” Lily tried again. This was useless, she thought, by the time they got the inflection right, the sun would be rising.

Next to her Fortesque suddenly went down, successfully hit by the new spell. She flopped about for a moment shouting “Gah..nuttin wokth dah wah ith shud…nob eben mah thung.” March reversed the spell and Elizabeth sat up, looking dazed.

“It’s not bad Professor! I couldn’t have reached for my wand if I wanted to!” As usual she looked invigorated by the dueling. Then she tried to stand and nearly toppled over. “Wow, there’s even an after effect!”

Alice Longbottom laughed in triumph, she had been the dueler to hit Elizabeth. Fortesque was incredibly skilled in battle, but the older woman was both an Auror and surprisingly quick on her feet.

Not far away her husband was battling the newest member of the Order, the tall, thin Arthur Weasley. He seemed an incredibly nice man but he needed a lot of practice when it came to fighting. Upon meeting her Weasley had said enthusiastically, “You’re were raised as a Muggle, weren’t you?”

Lily had stared in surprise.

“I study them you know! Absolutely fascinating, entrancing really. Shooting around in their flairopanes trying to get from place to place.”

“Airplanes.” Lily had kindly corrected him.

“Right, Airoflames! That’s it.” He smiled at her with such genuine enthusiasm that Lily had not had the heart to correct him again.

“I’ll give you a hand upstairs if you like Elizabeth.” Alice Longbottom called to Fortesque.

“No, I’m fine. I’ll go up on my own in a few minutes. I want to see how Atticus is getting on anyway.”

Dumbledore had returned after he had checked on Megan and had now been watching for quite some time but now he turned away and walked slowly up the stairs. Lily watched him too and wondered why the wizard had look so downcast.

“Lily! I mean it!” Remus was shouting again.

“What, you’ll actually aim for me?” Lily teased.

::::::::::::

Upstairs Megan and Sirius had finally arrived. Sirius was beaming with pride and Megan wore a relaxed happy smile. Black’s hair was incredibly mussed.

“Robe, Sirius.” Sliverton greeted them from the couch.

“What’s that?” Sirius asked.

“You’ve caught the tail end of your robe in your pants, might want to fix it.” Sliverton looked tired but amused. “Got dressed quickly I take it?”

“Uh, something like that.” Sirius yanked the hem of his robes out of the back of his jeans.

Sliverton smiled at Megan and she returned his smile uncertainly. What did he think had happened that night at the Fobbe’s? “You’re looking lovely as usual.”

“Thank you.” Megan answered brightly. “Are you feeling well?”

Dumbledore entered the room as Megan continued to converse with the former Ravenclaw. He saw that on her hand was a sparkling ring and he smiled gently at her.

“Sirius, you may wish to join in on the dueling session in the basement.” The old headmaster said.

“Actually headmaster, I’d like to have a word with you, if you don’t mind.” Megan said and nodded towards the basement to Sirius who looked at her, waiting to see if she needed him with her or not.

“You’re sure then?” Sirius spoke in a low voice.

“Quite sure, don’t worry.” Megan was all smiles again.

“I’ll be downstairs if you need me.” Sirius turned and began to stride towards the hall that led down to the basement. At the doorway he turned and smiled, “I love you Meg.” His words rang across the room, Atticus grinned to himself and Dumbledore even allowed himself a small smile. From the blanket set out near the table Professor Flitwick’s distinctive laugh could be heard.

“Well isn’t that lucky since I love you too?” Megan was not one to be easily embarrassed. Sirius cast one last fond look at her and headed down the hall.

“Megan, you’d like to speak in private I take it?” Dumbledore asked.

“Yes, please, if we could.”

“Certainly.” The old wizard said with a heavy heart. He ushered her towards one of the small rooms that served as an office.

:::::::::::

“I’m very sorry, I truly am but my mind’s made up.” Megan’s jaw was set her expression stubborn.

“Megan, of course you must do as you think is best but I am sorry to inform you that I don’t believe it will be as easy as you think.” Dumbledore voice was troubled.

“It most certainly will be. Look Professor,” Megan pushed her curly hair back from her heart shaped face and looked earnestly into his eyes. “Before you ever trained me, I had to concentrate to read anyone. So now all I need to concentrate on not reading anyone. I’m not trying to let you down sir, but honestly, what good am I really doing? All I see are rushes of images and often they don’t even make sense. I get a feeling for people, certainly, but how do we even know it’s correct? There’s only ever an occasionally clear thing.”

Megan was pleading with him. He knew she was wrong, but it was best to leave that discovery to her.

“Will you be leaving the Order?” Dumbledore’s voice sounded worried.

“Oh no, of course not!” Megan spoke sincerely. “I’m a good dueler, we both know that. I’ve still got ways I could be useful. I just…I just don’t want to do it any longer. The reading, the trying to see. I don’t think I was meant for it. If you want to know the truth, I’m not sure that anyone should see into the future. It mucks things up more than anything else.”

The wise man before her said nothing for a moment and then, “Megan, you will doubtless be angry with me for saying this, but you cannot turn away from who you are. We all have a purpose in life, and regardless of whether your choose to fulfill yours, I can say with certainty, you will live to regret this decision.”

Megan’s temper flared momentarily, “I don’t regret anything Professor, other than having people be afraid of me. Of having to see the pain and loss in a person’s life? If that’s a gift Professor, I’ll not be wanting it.”

She would change her mind, Dumbledore thought.

“Ah, yes well, we must all carve our own path in life, dear girl.” He felt tired and he still had things he wished to accomplish this night. “If you will excuse me.”

“Of course.” Megan said as Dumbledore stood up and left the room.

I forgot to tell him I’m to be married, thought Megan and refused to give any credence to the shiver that ran down her spine again.

“Time enough for that later.” She said firmly to herself. Megan rested her hand over her eyes for a few minutes. Her head ached inexplicably.

:::::::::

Dumbledore walked into the meeting room and approached the large fireplace. Flitwick was out of the room and Sliverton was asleep on the sofa. Elizabeth Fortesque sat on the rug, playing with the babies.

“Ah, Elizabeth. Would you please tell Professor McGonagall that I have gone to check on Peter Pettigrew?”

“Of course, sir.” Elizabeth looked happy playing with the babies. “Professor Flitwick just went to brew some tea.” Flitwick was known to like a particularly complicated brew.

Dumbledore nodded, his mind elsewhere, he threw powder into the fire and called out the name of Peter’s lodgings. He found the young man apparently asleep on his own small sofa, a book resting on his chest and the low table before him cluttered with mugs and plates. Without disturbing him Dumbledore left and went on his next errand, he needed to consult a certain book at Hogwarts.

As soon as he was gone, Peter opened his eyes.

::::::::::

Down in the basement the duelers were tiring and some sat companionably against the stone walls together. James, Remus, Lily and Sirius were all propped up in a row.

“You look remarkably happy Padfoot.” James observed. “Has Megan finally learned to cook?”

“No Prongs, but I have.” The dark haired young man smiled. “What about you Lily, I thought you’d be tearing up the stairs, wild to get back to your offspring.”

“I would be,” Lily laughed the sound was as usual musical. “But that ruffian Remus stunned me with the new spell and I’ve got to wait until my legs quit wobbling.”

“I did warn you Lily,” Remus smiled, “repeatedly.”

“I’m not at all sure how I feel about you stunning my wife.” James joked. James knew it was for the best, Lily really did need to learn how to duel better.

“I’m fine with it James, it isn’t his fault if he has neither manners nor breeding.” Lily giggled.

“By the way, I’ve got some news…” Sirius began and then stopped. He should wait until Megan was with him.

“Well, don’t keep it to yourself.” James prodded.

“It can wait.” Sirius said. “However, another duel can’t. Come on Prongs, on your feet! Let’s have it old boy, I’ll turn you into an over cooked noodle.”

“We’ll see about that.” James was up and the two of them were quickly dueling.

“Want a hand upstairs, Lily?” Remus asked.

“No, it’s all right Remus. Flitwick loves Harry. Between you and me, he’s better at changing him than James is.” Lily smiled.

:::::::::::::

Megan walked into the meeting room and looked over at the sleeping Sliverton. Poor soul, he really did look as if he needed the rest. He seemed dead to the world.

“Hello Elizabeth.” Megan said in what she hoped was a friendly tone.

“Hello Meg.” Elizabeth looked uncomfortable. She was playing with the babies.

No time like the present, thought Megan.

“How’s my fine little man?” Megan said to her Godson and swooped him up in her arms concentrating hard on not feeling anything. To her joy it was work….

Green light flashed as Lily’s voice pleaded for mercy….another blinding flash and….a cold voice screamed “Noooooooo”…Hagrid’s voice saying something about defeat …...then a feeling of emptiness that stretched on until….a friendly red haired boy asking “Are you Harry Potter?”….a bushy haired girl was saying something about the History of Hogwarts….the cold voice was back and a burning pain flashed across the boy’s forehead…the voice of boy roaring “He killed my mum and dad!” and Sirius’s voice… barely recognizable saying something she couldn’t understand….then the boy was struggling as he held the body of a slightly older boy….

On and on it went, seemingly forever but in reality it was only a few moments. Elizabeth was watching Megan intently, trying to pry Harry from the Hogan girl’s hands.

….he had risen again….and the boy screaming for Sirius as if their was nothing else in the world for him….Dumbledore’s voice saying that he had been marked as his equal and he must kill Voldemort or be killed….and…finally there was peace, happiness, love.

Megan Hogan gasped and nearly stumbled.

“Where’s Dumbledore?” Megan asked as soon as she could find her voice.

“He went to check on Peter.” Elizabeth answered in confusion. Megan was setting the baby down on the blanket again.

“I have to speak to him now.” Megan looked ghastly. Tears were standing in her suddenly gray eyes. She moved towards the fireplace.

“Megan, you can’t go out alone.” Elizabeth warned.

“I’ve got to speak to Dumbledore.” Megan insisted and Elizabeth noted that she had gone all pale and sweaty. She was shaking badly.

“Well, I can’t let you go by yourself in that condition.” Elizabeth Fortesque didn’t understand what was going on but she knew the headmaster’s orders. She thought for a moment, looked at the sleeping form of Sliverton on the couch and said, “Come on then, I’ll go with you.”

Megan was already taking a pinch of powder and preparing to fling it into the fire.

“We really ought to tell…” But Elizabeth never got to finish the thought. Megan had stepped into the fireplace.

Flitwick would be back at any moment and if either of the babies cried, it would certainly rouse Sliverton. She sighed, took out her wand and followed after Megan.

:::::::::::::

Peter Pettigrew was sitting on his sofa when Megan Hogan stepped from his fireplace and looked around.

“Peter, where’s Dumbledore?” Her voice was urgent.

“In the kitchen.” Lied Peter and as Megan turned to look, he took out his wand and stunned her. Megan Hogan was protected by powerful anti-curse spells designed by Dumbledore himself but the power of the spell that Peter Pettigrew hit her with was immense.

When had he become so powerful? She wondered in a daze, fumbling for her wand in her robes. God, Moody’ll never forgive me for not being at the ready.

Peter cursed her again and Megan fell to the side, painfully knocking her head against the stone mantle.

“Peter…” She tried to speak but her voice was fading, her hands weren’t working properly and she couldn’t seem to grasp her wand. “Stop…why…oh …your…hand….”

It was as Peter Pettigrew stunned her for the third time, finally knocking her out that Megan remembered that she had never clasped Peter’s hand.

The flames flared green and Peter was ready, his wand held high.

Elizabeth Fortesque stepped from the flames and stood up straight, “Peter?”

Her wand was in her hand by her side as she stepped forward but it was not until her foot knocked against Megan Hogan’s limp form that it ever occurred to her to raise it, by then it was far too late. Oh hell, thought Elizabeth.

It was the last thought she had as Peter Pettigrew killed her.

Author's Note: The first time out with this story a lot of people were very angry with me for killing Elizabeth. However, hang in there because there's a specific reason she was killed. The Order needed a trail to follow.

Chapter 22: In Voldemort's Lair
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Chapter Twenty Two:

The light was odd, thought Megan. What’s wrong with the light? Her head hurt fiercely, lord, what a headache.

“Oh God.” Megan realized, her eyes snapping open. She was in a huge room and it was cold. Long steps led up to a platform where some kind of throne sat, it had to be at least twenty feet high and it dropped off in all four directions, like an enormous pedestal with steps. Where the bloody hell was she? She wondered, her face was lying against cold marble. There were voices and one of them was the coldest thing Megan had ever heard. He was speaking from up there but she couldn’t see his face.

“Where was her body left?” The strange, cold voice asked.

“In clearing, outside the town of Beckett my lord, they will never know where she died.” Answered a voice, trembling in fear.

Megan tried to swivel her neck to see more of the room but she was still a bit groggy. She recognized that voice. Peter. Rage went flooding through her and Megan’s hand shot towards her pocket, trying to grab her wand but it was gone.

“Awake now are we little thing?” A woman with a voice that could have cut glass said in a sing-song voice. “Won’t my master be pleased? The little seer sees again.”

Megan sat up, and immediately three forms were close by, all of them in robes and masks but Megan recognized the shape of the smallest. It was Peter Pettigrew. Using all the strength she possessed Megan was up from the floor and immediately had her hands around Peter’s throat, her fingers digging in burrowing past the fabric of the hood and touching flesh.

“I’ll kill you, you bast…” Her voice cut off and….

Deceit…so much deceit….power that wasn’t his….hatred flaming through his soul….”Master, the Potter’s have made me their secret keeper!” said in triumph…a street and Peter shouting something loudly as she heard hysterical laughter in the background…and then….rat??…..try to be a good pet…..

It continued and Megan heard the boy’s voice again…”He killed my mum and dad!” and Sirius’s voice…and…..

She was thrown to the floor, her head striking the marble painfully.

“Bind her.” The cold voiced man said. “You, leave now. I am pleased with you but need you still. Speak to no one of this, no one here and no one elsewhere or I will be forced to anger and vengeance.”

Megan watched Peter leave as the woman and another man grabbed her and threw her into a hard chair, binding her wrists to the arms of the seat, her ankles to the legs. Megan knew where she was now and she knew who the cold voiced man was.

She was in Voldemort’s lair and she was helpless.

:::::::::::

Severus Snape worked with his accustomed precision in the laboratory. His face bent down close to the table as he wrote out the ingredients for the potion…the famine potition. Whoever consumed it would be possessed by such hunger they would immediately be driven mad. It was yet another potion for torture that Severus had been forced to develop if he wished to keep his place in the Death Eaters. He hated this foul work and his lip curled as he wrote. He dared not write out any ingredient that might somehow spare the person forced to drink, but Snape knew all the ingredients that could. Whenever he felt he had a safe opportunity, he would add them to these horrific brews.

His hair hung limply about his face, constantly made greasy by the potions as they steamed. Malfoy entered behind him.

“Come along Severus, and bring some of that truth potion with you. The master has need of it.” Malfoy drawled. “He has a very special guest.”

“In a moment,” Snape answered as he reached for the bottle on a shelf and grabbed a goblet from the table nearby. The truth potion had been difficult to work out. Severus himself was immune to it because of the counter potions he drank constantly. In the small part of his mind that was always there, keeping him sane he cursed Fielding for having revealed the most important ingredient as he died. “I’ve just made a fresh batch.”

“Don’t dally, Snape.” Malfoy said and blessedly left the room with a lightning quick movement Snape added the few grains of mustardweed that would allow the recipient to hold at least some truth back, if they fought hard enough. Most of them didn’t though, most of them told all. He wondered who Voldemort had in his clutches now and what he wanted from them.

Snape pulled his hood up and over his face, picked up the goblet and walked into the long tunnel lit only by red flamed torches. The walls, floor and ceiling were dirt, all held in place by braces overhead. They were in the large catacombs that Voldemort had chosen for their main headquarters, the tombs of those who had died centuries ago lined the passageway. To Snape’s disgust a large brown rat went scurrying past him and towards the marble stairs that would lead to the outside. He kicked out at it with his foot and was momentarily pleased when it squealed before scampering off.

“Filthy beast.” Snape muttered and as he continued down the passage, he was surprised that someone had just left their hood and cloak lying in a heap on the ground. Voldemort despised such untidiness. He walked into the large room that had been hacked out and lined with marble centuries ago by a group of rebellious goblins trying to conceal their gold.

“Master, the potion.” Snape said and it was then that his blood turned to ice in his veins.

Megan Hogan was tied to a chair, a bit of blood trickling down from a wound on her head. When she heard his voice he saw a muscle in her jaw jump slightly but her eyes did not turn to him at first.

:::::::::::::

Flitwick sipped his tea and watched the sleeping infants with a smile on his tiny face. He’d enchanted the air above them to play a low lullaby as they slept. Behind him Sliverton slept on, and Flitwick hoped the rest would help him continue to heal.

Lily Potter came into the room, her face glowing with cheer. Flitwick loved to see the members gathered, they nearly always found time to laugh together. Yes, they really were a lovely group of young people.

Lily, slight and slim again dropped down next to her old Charms teacher and thanked him warmly for looking after little Harry. Harry was sleeping peacefully so Lily decided to let him sleep until James came up, then they could go home together.

Alice entered the room, thanked Flitwick also and dropped with a grin into a chair. “Everyone’s improved so much!” She said with her characteristic energy. Lily looked at Alice Longbottom closely, it seemed so odd that she was a master of the Dark Arts and one of the most famous Aurors in the land. She seemed spunky and sweet but James had assured her that Alice Longbottom was perhaps even stronger than Moody and her husband, perhaps stronger still. You never could tell by looking at a person, she supposed.

The duelers were up shortly and she could hear James, Sirius and Lupin laughing together in the hall, Mr. Weasley assuring everyone that he was fine, the fall hadn’t hurt and Professor March sounding like the killjoy of the bunch as she spoke in sharp tones. Moody’s voice growled in reply.

As James walked into the room it suddenly occurred to Lily, where was Elizabeth?

Directly behind James’s shoulder, Sirius Black’s eyes were sweeping the room looking for Megan. He was anxious to share their news with the group.

“Where’s Megan?” Sirius spoke first.

::::::::::::

It had taken fifteen minutes to search the mansion and they’d turned up no trace of either girl. McGonagall had been down in the kitchen the entire time, trying to have a quiet read while the others battled and she hadn’t seen either. None of the upstairs rooms yielded anything.

“Wait, where’s Dumbledore?” Said Atticus who had been roused and joined in the search. No one knew. “Well, he’s probably just taken them off somewhere with him. Maybe one of the Professors could go and see if he’s at Hogwarts?”

McGonagall and Hagrid had left together, Minerva could check the castle and Hagrid would be able to see if perhaps they were in the Forbidden Forest for some reason.

“It’s fine, I’m sure.” Lily said to Sirius who was beginning to look just short of frantic. “He probably took them off with him to run an errand.” But Lily was becoming worried herself, Dumbledore did not take Megan with him on errands and Sirius had already checked the bookstore.

Albus Dumbledore stepped from the fireplace with McGonagall directly behind him.

“Have you had any word?” He asked in his resonating voice.

“They’re not with you?” James asked, his voice tense.

“I am sorry, but they are not.” Ablus answered.

James turned and looked into Sirius Black’s face and the distress he saw there was painful to behold. His eyes flicked to Lupin and they were both obviously having the same thought. Megan Hogan was missing, and so was the girl who believed her to be a traitor.

As the minutes ticked by Sirius became more and more convinced he would simply be driven mad. They had to do something, go somewhere with every passing moment god alone knew what could be happening to Meg. He’d killed Elizabeth Fortesque if she’d harmed her in anyway.

::::::::::::::

Dumbledore, Sirius, James, Lupin and Lily all emerged one after the other from Peter’s fireplace, looking up with interest from his book Peter said:

“Oh hello! All of you at once? Did I miss something important at the meeting?” He was smiling, they had no idea that he had transformed in the trees outside of Voldemort’s headquarters where he had left his wand when he apparated there with Megan Hogan’s unconscious body. Peter had just arrived home minutes before. “Sorry but I’ve still got a hell of a cold.” He coughed then, a racking sound that left him gasping…just as the potion was meant to make him do. He ran a fever, coughed and had a stuffed up head whenever he liked.

He’d cleaned up the blood from Megan’s head wound without any problem, all it had taken was a flick of his wand and Elizabeth’s body had been apparated far from here by Malfoy at his suggestion. There was no evidence. His plan was working perfectly.

“Peter, has Megan or Elizabeth been here?” Dumbledore asked him quietly.

“No, neither. Why would you ask?” Peter stood up and made sure that his expression was alarmed. “Something’s wrong, tell me what it is. I’ll help.”

The concealment potion was working just as well as Malfoy had told him it would. Not even Dumbledore could sense his deceit. Severus Snape had created a weaker version of his own concealment potion for the Death Eaters, but this version was still quite powerful. He had no idea that Malfoy had stolen any of it. Unwittingly, Severus Snape had provided Peter Pettigrew with the very thing he needed to be a master of concealment.

::::::::::::

The group stood in a crowd in Peter’s house, explaining to him that they couldn’t locate either girl.

“Do you suppose there’s any chance that they went into town for something?” Peter asked. “No. Sorry, of course not. Where the hell could they be?”

As he spoke the fire glowed green and Longbottom followed by Moody stepped into the room, the tiny house was now incredibly crowded.

“Professor, this came for you at Hogwarts and Hagrid brought it straight to headquarters.” Longbottom handed Dumbledore the letter.

Albus Dumbledore read the letter from one of the agents in Becket, Elizabeth Fortesque’s body had been found, dead in a field. Dumbledore looked up at the assembled group and found his voice at last.

::::::::::::::

“We checked the floo headmaster, but because of all the incantations on it will take some time to reveal where the last trips were made.” Minerva spoke with her usual efficiency but her heart was filled with dread. This was useless. “Plus if the destination was also cloaked, the same spells would have to be performed there also.”

“God, hurry up!” Sirius shouted at Moody and Longbottom. Sirius was now so terrified that he couldn’t think straight. Alice Longbottom, Sliverton, Flitwick, Hagrid and March had stayed behind with the children.

“Be quiet son, we’re looking.” Moody said as he prowled around the field. Elizabeth’s face was pointed towards the sky, one arm thrown out to her side. Her wand was clutched in her hand. “I don’t see any evidence of a duel here.”

“Of course there wasn’t a duel, what are the hell are you saying? You think Megan killed Elizabeth?” Sirius was losing control and he lunged towards the Auror. His face contorted with terror and fury. “What’s wrong with you?”

James and Lupin held their friend back with tremendous effort, Sirius had always been the largest and now, enraged, his strength was tremendous.

“No, she didn’t.” Longbottom spoke as he crouched beside the body of Elizabeth Fortesque the end of his wand glowing. Everyone turned to him he had ripped open Elizabeth’s robes and was staring closely at her chest where a tiny mark marred her skin. “At least not with her own wand.”

“You sure about that Longbottom?” Moody growled nearby.

“Absolutely sure. The killing curse leaves the tiniest of marks, but each one is distinctive. The mark was left by Ash, not by Rosewood, Megan’s wand is Rosewood.” He said firmly.

James remembered something about this vaguely from his training but he had nearly slept through that lecture, he hadn’t ever thought it would be important. Lord this was hopeless, there had to be at least a thousand Ash wands in England alone. Remus had one, Sliverton and Peter too. It was a very common wood for wands.

“He’s right.” Moody answered peering closely at the dead girl’s chest.

“For God’s sake, stop it!” Lily shouted, startling them all. “Stop looking at her like she’s some sort of experiment.”

Lily began to cry and James pulled her into his arms.

“Lily is right, this is getting us nowhere.” Remus said miserably. A light drizzle had begun to fall.

“I think we need to face the possibility that he’s somehow gotten hold of Megan.” Longbottom said. “Fortesque may very well have died trying to protect her. This all looks staged, there are no hex marks anywhere in this field.”

Sirius uttered a strangled moan.

“Grupp!” James suddenly shouted. Everyone assembled turned to him. “Thomas Grupp. If anyone can tell us where she might be, he would. We’d have to torture the other Death Eaters to get anything they’ve still got hidden out of them.”

“Grupp told us everything he knows, James. He wanted to help.” Lupin said.

“But we never gave him any potions to make him remember more. To see if anything was hidden in his mind.” Lily said, “He’d been through so much. He’ll do it, I’m sure he will.”

With a flash they were off.

::::::::::::::

Megan was trying to think as clearly as she could. She couldn’t acknowledge Snape in any way or he’d be dead in a second with this group.

“The little filth will tell us all.” Bellatrix was nearly singing with insane glee.

“Yes, she will. Unless she is very fond of pain.” Voldemort came down the steps and towards her. “It would be a pity to do harm to your mind Megan, but I will, trust me, I will.”

To Megan’s shock, he didn’t look as he had in Snape’s mind. In Snape’s mind he had looked like a monster. He was tall, and his face was nearly like that of skull but he was a man. His voice was completely devoid of anything good or pure and he radiated such power that it came off of him in waves. Why wasn’t he just cursing her like mad?

Suddenly she realized he needed to get any information she had out of her while her mind was still unscarred by torture. He needed something from her while her mind was still intact. Then and only then would he enslave her.

“Drink this, Mudblood.” Snape’s voice sliced through her, if she thought his voice was normally curt, this was like someone who had no heart, felt nothing ever.

“Snivellus, you’ll have to kill me first.” Megan sneered at Snape, realizing that if she didn’t speak to him at all, it would be more dangerous than if she did but she had to be as nasty as possible, she had to eliminate any feeling of friendship she had for her only ally here. Voldemort was said to be able to sense any good human emotion, and he hated them. “But then again, you maggot heap, I doubt you’ve the power to kill me. Only ever good with your potions, quite the little housewife cooking away.”

Bellatrix raised her wand in order to strike but Snape was quicker, “Wait! Don’t be a fool Lestrange, you know it will be worth more this way.”

Severus Snape grabbed her wrist painfully in his hand and bent down close to her face, “You do want to live don’t you Hogan, you still want to believe you can go crawling back to your lover someday. That’s all you care about, rutting around like a pig in filth. Drink this and there’s a chance it could happen still. Our master can be generous…particularly when you are his.”

Snape laughed horribly and Malfoy joined in. Bellatrix stood with her wand twitching, obviously anxious to inflict pain.

It was a message, Megan realized. Snape was telling her it was safe to drink the potion. He knew she could betray him…there had to be something wrong with the brew.

“I’d rather die here then serve with any of you. You all stink of death and your master will die begging for his life.” Megan had to make a good show of it she had to try to resist.

“You’re lying, Mudblood slut, and we know it.” Malfoy jeered.

Malfoy grabbed her hair, yanking her head back and pointed his wand at her throat. Snape leaned towards her with the goblet, forcing it to her lips, she struggled as much as she could and even managed to spit some of the potion back into Snape’s face.

“Swallow, you’re drowning in it as it is.” Snape said. “Swallow and you may yet continue to live as the worthless trash you are.” He released her wrist.

Concentrating as much as he dared, Severus Snape had grabbed the hold of Megan’s wrist and thought the same thing over and over, in that usually still, always muted part of his mind, ‘swallow Megan, it’s the only chance I have of saving you’.

Megan heard the repeated thought and swallowed praying that she would be able to get to Dumbledore yet.



Chapter 23: The Desperate Search
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Chapter Twenty Three:

Thomas Grupp sat alone in his small flat in London surrounded by tables piled high with dusty books. Thomas didn’t ever read them but old friends brought them nonetheless. He liked it here at least well enough not to leave. It was that or there wasn’t anywhere any longer that he cared to go. It didn’t matter much to him where he was. He had left the Ministry and would have gladly been sent to prison but Dumbledore had intervened on his behalf, testifying that he been held under an Imperius curse. It was a kind gesture on the old wizard’s part but Grupp knew that when you had lost everything that you cared about, everyone you loved, all places were essentially the same. Empty.

There was knock at the door and Grupp wondered vaguely who it might be. His location was a secret he had to be hidden from Voldemort although in truth, Grupp didn’t care whether the Dark Lord found him again. At least not for himself. Dumbledore had spoken to him and told him that he must stay hidden but Grupp had shrugged. Until the headmaster of Hogwarts had said:

“It is a terrible loss you have suffered Thomas, and I understand that you feel as if you can never care for anything again, but he might not kill you. He might use you to harm other people again, and that I know you could not bear.”

At first he’d wanted justice, but then realized there was none to be had. He ceased to feel anything but alone.

The knock came again accompanied this time by an urgent voice, “Mr. Grupp? Please? It’s Lily Potter,” Dumbledore had warned Lily that Grupp was in very bad shape. “I’ve brought some people with me and we desperately need to speak to you, may we come in?” She had gathered the potions in a satchel, running through headquarters, scattering bottles, there wasn’t much time.

The wizard flicked his wand at the door and it opened, but he did not bother to rise. Lily Potter, her husband, Remus Lupin and Sirius Black walked in. They all looked terribly distressed, but Black looked as if he were ready to crawl out of his own skin with worry. Grupp had no idea that the other members of the group from the field waited down in the lobby. Longbottom, Moody, Pettigrew and Dumbledore stood waiting, hoping for something, anything at all. They had wanted Black to remain with them but he had refused, he’d lose his mind if he just stood around waiting he had told them.

“Hello.” Again, in that vague voice.

“Mr. Grupp, we need your help.” Lily said without preamble, there was no time. “We think a friend of ours had been taken by the Death Eaters, to Voldemort. Will you take a potion of mine to help see if somewhere inside of you, you might know anything about where he could be?”

Grupp looked like he aged ten years since they last saw him. “Certainly.”

Lily worried and spoke again, “Mr. Grupp, please it’s very important to us and the problem is, you’ve got to want to help us for it to work. You’ve got to try very hard in fact.”

“Yes, of course. I’ll try.” But Lily saw in his eyes that it was beyond him.

::::::::::::

“Tell us what you see Megan.” Lucius Malfoy’s voice spoke again. “You know about the Dark Lord and how he will triumph. You must have seen it in countless people, tell us how he can achieve his victory.”

The potion was boiling through her, washing away any will she had to conceal anything, she wanted to tell them everything. There was no way to keep anything back. She pulled against the ropes that bound her desperately. Her mind felt fogged, more than anything she wanted to speak, felt compelled to speak.

“He’ll lose.” The words wrenched themselves from her mouth and she would have given anything to be able to cut her own tongue from her head because she was desperately afraid that she would tell them how, and then he could prevent it.

“You lie!” Screamed the woman and tried to raise her wand.

“In good time, Bellatrix.” The chilling voice spoke again. “You are not telling me the truth Megan, you will suffer terribly by my own hand if you do not tell me.”

“I am telling you the truth.” Just not all of it, please oh please, she thought and if her heart could have wept, it would have. “You’ll lose and when you are defeated, you will die screaming in terror because more than anything you fear death.”

Cursing her was out of the question but evidently physically striking her was not. Voldemort gestured to Malfoy who hit her with such force across the face that she thought her neck would snap.

“If this is true, how does this occur?” And it was then Megan realized there was a strange eager sound in his voice. He knows that he can be destroyed, he just isn’t sure how, she thought.

Please God, she prayed as she fought against the potion, help me. There has to be something that can help me. Strike me dead, I don’t care, just don’t let me tell him anything. Please. Help.

Her thoughts ran through her mind like a river and bubbling through like stream it came to her.

In her mind she remembered the tea at the cottage. Her confusion, why was Snape there? What in the world would she talk to him about?

“How do you do it?” She asked as she fetched the teapot.

“I doubt that truly concerns you.” Snape answered, his voice as always acidic.

“It doesn’t concern me, that’s true, but it interests me.” Megan said with sincerity and had looked the strange man in the eye as she poured the tea. His expression had changed ever so slightly, loosened perhaps.

“You want to know how I shut my mind?” He had sniffed the tea and then replaced it on the table.

“Yes, please. It must be beyond difficult, after all, can’t he pry into anyone’s mind?” Megan had sipped her own tea and couldn’t honestly blame Snape for not wishing to drink his.

“Yes, he can.” Snape looked at her coldly.

“But not yours, why? It can’t just be the potions. Anyone could take a potion even if they couldn’t brew it themselves. If it were just the potions, then we could all be safe from him. What more is there?” Megan had leaned forward, smiling. “Tell me Severus, I’m interested. I think what you’re doing is admirable.”

Snape had looked around the room and then back at Megan, something had flickered in his eyes, something akin to an emotion but it was gone almost instantly.

“I use a pensieve.” He answered.

“Yes, of course, but there has to be more. A pensieve only holds your memories, it can’t keep you from revealing what you feel. How do you keep that from him?” She’d tucked her hair behind her ears and smiled.

“He hates all human emotions that are based in anything good. He finds them abhorrent.” Snape wasn’t sure why he was telling her this but it had suddenly felt important to tell someone, to have one human soul know. “So I choose one, the strongest one I have and I bring it forth into my mind, but hold it back at the same time. It acts as a shield.”

“Bring it forth and hold it back? How can you possibly do that?” It sounded impossible.

“It is like a pocket you make in your mind, you know what is in it, but no one outside can see. Do you understand?” His eyes were cold again.

“Hmm. Not really.” She sat back looking confused, her head bent over the teapot. “But I will say this, you’re dead brave to go trying it with the likes of him. What part of you do you use?”

Snape had hesitated but again, there had been that flash in his eyes, however briefly. “Honor. He does not understand it. Pride, yes, but not honor. He understands force too, but nothing….”

Snape had stopped talking then and looked uncomfortable. “I must be going.”

“You can come again if you like. I don’t mind.” Megan said although she had been certain at the time that the young man despised her.

He’d nodded slightly and left, just in the nick of time as it turned out because Sirius had arrived within minutes of his departure, as she’d been clearing away the cups, she’d told him Dumbledore had been there.


In the catacombs she remembered.

Sirius….and Lily, James, Remus, Harry, Dumbledore. Her mother laughing as she had baked a pie that had burned, her oldest brother getting married, her sister on Christmas morning and her father, holding her hand as they walked to the train that would send her to Hogwarts for the first time. She felt love for every member of the Order too, even that old battleaxe March who spoke sharply but cared deeply.

She knew what to concentrate on, what to hold onto. How to block him out. It’s a pocket, she told herself, it’s safe in my pocket.

Love. Happiness, she had countless happy memories. Playing in the snow with Sirius, sitting by the lake with Lily and Amelia as they conjured butterflies and then made them dive bomb the boys. Her cousins chasing each other on brooms back at home, playing at Quidditch with an enchanted tennis ball of her dad’s. So many memories, all brimming with love and joy, everything that Voldemort hated. And Sirius, always Sirius.

Malfoy stared in confusion, the Mudblood was smiling. His hand held high in the air, ready to strike again and she was smiling at him. .

“Ask me anything you like, you steaming pile of dung.” She’d said to him and Voldemort had whipped around to face her, his eyes narrowing suspiciously.

“What is Albus Dumbledore’s fate?” His voice ripped through the air.

“He lives to dance on your grave.” Megan said slowly and clearly. “And it’s the best moment of his life.”

It hurt beyond belief, saying these things, it was like ripping razor blades through her throat and mouth but she was doing it. She had no idea how long she could keep it up, the pain was crushing.

Dancing with Sirius, his hand on the small of her back. Hearing that Lily and James had a son. Her first ride on a broom, her sister taking care that she not fall off.

Voldemort stared in fury and Megan could almost swear she heard the entire place tremble.

“Break her Bellatrix.” Voldemort ordered and the witch eagerly raised her wand.

“I thought you were going to break me yourself,” Megan called out, each word an agonizing effort but she forced herself to smile as she remembered more good things. “Don’t tell me I’m too much for you.”

“You are beneath me!” He screamed then and that time Megan was certain the place had shaken. “Bellatrix, do your worst.”

“Oh, let us play games together, little Mudblood.” Lestrange’s voice was like poison.

Snape tried to keep any emotion he was having as far beneath the surface as possible, luckily Voldemort was distracted, because Severus Snape was wondering how in the world he could ever get her out of there alive.

:::::::::::::

“Mr. Grupp, please, isn’t there any more you can tell us?” Lily felt as if she would cry.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t.” Grupp would have liked to help the young people but there was nothing there, nothing he could find. His heart was too dead now to find a way to care.

Lily let her head sink into her hands. There was nothing they could do.

James spoke his hazel eyes gleamed behind his glasses, “Mr. Grupp, can’t you try again? You have no idea how much this person means to us, to our fight…..”

A wild cry broke from Sirius’s lips and although Lupin was there with a steadying hand on his shoulder, he’d rushed to the older man sitting there, looking so calm. He was calm and Megan was dying, might already be dead, or worse.

“Tell us you old fool! You’ve lost everything in the damn world and I’m sorry for you, but we haven’t, I haven’t!” He was shouting and James turned to try and restrain him, begin pushing him from the room.

“You don’t know what I’ll lose, you don’t know her!” Sirius sounded nearly deranged with grief. “You’ve never seen her smile, you’ve no idea how good she is at heart, you’ve never heard her laugh….”

Laugh. Laughter ringing in the garden. Patrick and Aylissa playing exploding snap. Degnoming the garden, seeing which one of them could throw the creatures the farthest and laughing at them sailing through the air….

Thomas Grupp said quietly, “I’ll try again.”

For five anxious minutes there was silence and James thought he would have to stun Sirius to keep him from shouting again. “Graves.” The man said.

James nearly shouted in despair himself, they knew about the tiny graveyard, it was where they had lost Strong and Ferngrow, that had been a small outpost.

Grupp blinked and his voice came through as if from a long distance, “Gold…hiding Goblin gold….trolls in the halls to guard …the gold….hidden in a marble vault.”

They all stared as Grupp came to a hault. “I’m sorry, that’s all that’s there. I’ve memorized so many things in my life and for some reason, that sticks in my mind.”

Remus and James exchanged defeated looks. This was useless the man could have been talking about Gringotts vaults. Sirius sank to the floor.

“I think I really loathe Goblins.” Lily suddenly burst out. They all stared at her. Amelia Strong’s face was before her, but her hair was long and she still had glasses. “I read that chapter. Oh thank you Professor Binns!"

“What’s that?” James was staring at her.

“We’ve got to go, we’ve got to tell Dumbledore. He’s describing the Goblin headquarters from a rebellion 600 years ago. They took over catacombs buried deep in York. Far beneath the ground, outside of town, Muggle archeologists don’t even know they’re there. They teamed with particularly pernicious trolls.”

Lily was so excited she was babbling. “We have to go, now. Thank you Mr. Grupp!”

Lily bent and kissed the man’s cheek. The members of the Order pounded down the staircase and into the lobby of Grupp’s building. Lily spilling out the location as she ran towards her headmaster.

“We have to hurry.” James said and everyone agreed. James noticed Peter looking particularly unwell. “Peter, stay behind if you aren’t in fighting form.”

“No, I’ll go with you.” Peter gulped, his lips twitching.

“Someone get to the Order and grab anyone who can stand and fight, we’ve got to get a move on!” Sirius yelled as they all took out their wands.

“We may need brooms. There could be an anti-apparation spell.” Remus worried.

“We’ll have to try it.” James said, and again, Peter looked as if he was going to be sick. “Peter, honestly, if you aren’t up to it, we’ll understand.”

“I’m coming with you.” Peter said firmly.

He might have to kill Hogan himself.



Chapter 24: Resistance, Rescue and Repair
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Chapter Twenty Four:

“Sliverton we don’t have time for this! Go back inside now and stay there.” James was shouting at the pale man before him. They had all assembled together outside of the mansion so that they could apparrate to the trees Remus had found outside the entrance to the catacombs.

Peter Pettigrew had volunteered to go as the scout to the location Lily described, but it was acknowledged that Pettigrew was not as skilled at stealth as Lupin. Sirius was so upset he would likely charge in rather than report back, Moody and Longbottom were both needed to restrain Sirius. So in the end, it was Remus who initially went and came back very quickly. James was trying to get everyone organized. Assigning the teams in which they would fight.

Lupin had apparrated to the area. Crouched in the trees he had seen two figures approach what at first glance look like a disused well. They had spoken some sort of password though and the ground before them had opened, allowing them to disappear from view. Lupin hadn’t been able to overhear the exact word although he had strained to do so.

“No,” Sliverton replied, “I’m going with you and there’s no point arguing.” Fortesque was dead because he had suggested her to Dumbledore. She could have been a married woman by now. She had been a Chudley fan favorite and there were still schoolchildren who had pictures of her on the walls of their rooms. He had been part of ending her future, he owed this to her. If there was anyway at all to strike back at those who had murdered one of his closest friends since childhood, he was not going to stay behind and let others fight without him.

“Lily, please you should stay with Harry.” James’s wife insisted on gong on the mission, it wasn’t safe for both of them to go together, what if they were both killed?

“James, stop it. Minerva’s taken Harry to your mother’s already,” Lily also felt true terror in her heart. It had been the most difficult decision she had ever made but beyond Megan, there was James. She couldn’t send James off to face possibly Voldemort himself and stay behind. Harry would be safe where he was, James would almost certainly be in terrible peril.”

Alice Longbottom had evidently felt the same way because she had immediately sent her own son to her mother-in-laws and stood with them now, ready.

If this failed entirely, almost half the entire Order faced being killed. There were of course agents scattered here and there, people Lily had met and others whose names she didn’t even know. Yet they knew that if they were able to fight at all, they must go because this was the first time the Order had any chance at all of actually attacking Voldemort himself.

McGonagall was at the childhood home of James. Arthur Weasley had agreed reluctantly to stay behind, so he would possibly be able to help rebuild if they failed entirely. Hagrid was unable to duel at all so he too would remain, along with Professor Flitwick. There were others, scattered here and there. There were even still more interested in joining. The remaining members of the Order had been instructed to leave immediately for Hogwarts after the group departed, in case they failed and the Death Eaters discovered where they were.

“Dumbledore, you really shouldn’t be with us.” Moody’s voice, always a deep growl sounded like granite.

Sirius couldn’t take much more of this, “We have to go!”

Dumbledore spoke decisively, as he looked at the members. “We must stop this arguing, anyone who wishes to go should, it is their choice and theirs alone.”

He did not say what he wanted to. That he was their first true chance. Tom Riddle still feared him, he had known this for quite some time. Severus had told him that the only name Voldemort could not bear to have spoken in his presence had been his own; Albus Dumbledore. Whereas Voldemort might actually speak his name, none of his followers were allowed to.

Perhaps he should have gone after him earlier than this, perhaps he should have allowed Snape to take the potion that would have enabled him to tell Dumbledore the secret location of the Death Eaters. But he had been sure that Voldemort would elude him, as he always managed to do simply by choosing to flee and then Snape’s invaluable information would have been lost forever. The location of the catacombs had been buried so deeply in Snape’s mind that it would have taken Herculean efforts to dislodge it, and Snape’s ability to conceal himself would have been destroyed in the effort to bring it forth. Severus spent so much time and effort keeping his mind locked that any enchanted information was even harder to access than it would have been in any other person. He could remember it, but never speak it or communicate it. After the night of the raid in which two of the Order members were lost Voldemort had put even more incredibly powerful spells on all of his locations. The information for the headquarters of the Order carried similar spells. Each was intensely difficult to break and they had been designed by the two most powerful wizards in the world.

Now though, there was no choice but to go directly to the catacombs. The Order members were determined to find Megan Hogan no matter what the cost because of the secrets her mind contained and what she might be used to do. In the wrong hands Megan could be used to alter fate. If he did not accompany them, he knew there was no chance that any of them would survive.

He thought again of the passage he had been reading when he had learned of Megan’s disappearance and of the young woman’s words to him earlier, perhaps they were not meant to see into the future, at least not as clearly as Megan could.

He had made a terrible mistake, he realized now, and he had to try and repair the damage. He doubted very much that Megan could possibly still be alive, but if she was, Dumbledore had already determined what to do.

“It’s time.” The headmaster of Hogwarts said.

:::::::::::

Megan stared at the bright red blood splashing down onto the marble floor, it was something to try and focus her mind upon as the pain burned through her.

What had it been, she wondered, minutes, hours, days? The pain was so intense that it had washed away all understanding of time. She tried to find things to focus on, happy memories, objects in the room, anything. Sometimes when the curses flew towards her she would picture herself in a maze, running away, never being captured, but the pain would intrude and she would know she was being pursued.

“Crucio!” What Megan hated most of all was the laughter around her. Pain would tear through every cell in her body and try as she might, no matter what she focused on she could still hear the laughter of those in the room.

“Megan, I can make it stop.” Voldemort’s voice would ring in her ears. “Tell me what you know…tell me that you wish to follow me…Imperio!”

Severus Snape had to laugh along with the others whenever Megan had convulsed with pain but he knew that the panic he felt would soon break through his ability to conceal it. Watching Voldemort and Lestrange take turns, over and over again with some of the worst curses known in magic was bound to break the young woman before him. Her mind would soon be shattered beyond any use but still she held out somehow. She must be clinging to the threads of her mind by now though.

“Tell me what you know Megan, you know you wish to speak and then the pain can stop.” It was Voldemort again, Megan realized from the far off corner of her mind that could still think rationally. She felt as if her mind was filled with the ashes of all that had been burned from within her.

The first few spells hadn’t hurt as much as she thought they would, for a while the protection spells had held, even with the truth potion wearing them down. Whittling away at them with in her mind. She wanted the pain to stop so badly and she could feel all of the love and happiness she was trying to hide in her mind beginning to seep out and away from her.

“I…” Megan began and once again her mind tried to fight. “don’t...know…anything .”

Please let him kill me soon, Megan’s mind begged. Any of them, please her mind begged, kill me.

:::::::::::::

“The Mudblood is strong master, but we are stronger by far.” Bellatrix said confidently. “She will break soon.”

“Not if she bleeds to death.” Snape said snidely. Bellatrix had started slicing the girl with savage maiming spells in addition to everything else.

“See to her Snape. Stop the flow.” Voldemort motioned to him and Snape had stepped forward, pushing Megan’s head roughly back so that he could seal the cuts on her face and arms. He couldn’t risk being gentle towards her. She was nearly as limp as a rag doll now, and for a moment he had been convinced she was dead because her eyes stared vacantly out as her head snapped back.

Megan Hogan’s dead eyes stared into his and Snape’s dream came flooding back to him. Then she blinked. Her eyes still vacant, her soul seemingly gone. As Snape magically sealed her cuts her eyes showed no recognition of him. Perhaps she was already shattered.

“The little seer doesn’t want to die,” Bellatrix said, “she wants to talk to us, don’t you?”

That was the entire problem, she did want to talk to them, each time they hurt her part of her mind screamed to just tell them everything. She was becoming weak but she was still fighting.

“Imperio…” His wand inches from her face, even his breath was cold. “What is it that you know Megan?”

“I know that you will lose.” Megan couldn’t stop herself. “I know that you’ll be defeated.”

“More lies, seer.” Bellatrix had her wand raised but Voldemort motioned for her to wait.

“Those are lies, and you know this Megan…but tell us your lie, you will feel better then…and you will join me.”

He knows something, Megan thought again. He knows that there’s something in me. She was failing her mind was still there but barely. She pulled from it the only thing she could find and began to speak, “I never could cook.”

“Is she mad now?” Malfoy asked, he had seen it before but usually they couldn’t speak in full sentences.

Megan still continued to repeat the words of the conversation from months ago, “Always been a disaster.”

“This is nonsense, master.” Malfoy’s voice sounded bored.

Voldemort considered for a moment. The girl’s mind was like a steel trap and he knew that somewhere inside of her she was trying to shred anything she knew. It was better to kill her if he couldn’t bring her under his control she seemed lost to everything as it was.

He smiled. She could have been a great tool, but now she was just a shell.

He brought up his wand one more time, he would kill her himself, “Death it will be then.”

Severus knew there was no way to save her now. Even though he was skilled, there was no way he could fight all three of them. Regardless, his hand twitched involuntarily and it took tremendous determination to not try and strike out at Voldemort. The part Muggle in front of him was willing to die to protect whatever it was she knew. She hadn’t betrayed him even as he had been forced to aid in torturing her.

A high pitched alarm shattered the air around them and they all whirled towards the door. Someone was trying to break into the headquarters. Megan heard the sound but to her it sounded like screaming, she was so confused now she wondered if the screams were her own.

:::::::::::::::

In the woods outside the catacombs the Order had found only one Death Eater and Alice Longbottom had made short work of her. She was tied and gagged on the ground as Dumbledore and March had worked together to break through the magically protected entrance beneath the well.

When the barrier had finally shattered allowing them entrance they had poured down the stairs that seemed to stretch forever into the ground. Moody moving swiftly right in front of Dumbledore who had paused and hexed one man who had thrown himself directly into their path, his wand raised and a curse on his lips.

When they reached ground level, there were figures scattering everywhere down the main tunnel. The group assembled and looked down the corridors. They had no idea where to go from here.

“Which way?” Longbottom had said, his face tense.

“Follow them,” James suddenly shouted, “They’ll run right to him!”

They were off down the corridors following a sprinting group of Voldemort’s followers. Three tried to turn and battle them when they heard the Order pounding behind them and Moody, Sliverton and Remus were engaged in a fierce battle as the rest of the group rained hexes down upon the three in front of them. They soon lay still. Remus taking time to bind them.

Sirius had broken out in front of all of the Order and was running fast after the remaining twelve or so, James directly behind him. Lily and Remus had the foresight to keeping checking behind them and had stopped an ambush by four more that had evidently been trying to attack from the rear.

“Protego.” Lily’s spell held as one tried to hit her. March had turned also as had the Longbottoms. The air was lit with curses and spells flying back and forth.

:::::::::::

The Death Eaters rushed into the marble vault, clearly panicked.

“What is this?” Voldemort screamed and Finch had answered:

“They are here!”

“Fight them then, kill them you fool!” Voldemort screamed but Finch was not finished.

“Dumbledore is with them!”

Snape saw the look that passed across Voldemort’s face it was pure fury followed by fear.

“Kill them!” He screamed again and then turning to his three most loyal followers. “Kill the girl and follow me.”

Bellatrix Lestrange turned to do his bidding as the Order came rushing through the door.

“Imdedimenta!” Sirius shouted his eyes had immediately found Megan and saw that she was about to be cursed. His wand raised high he sent the spell flying across the room and hit the Death Eater in the back. She staggered forward and Malfoy caught her as she began to fall.

Voldemort was moving swiftly around to the base of the pedestal in which the door was concealed. The tunnel underneath led deep into the bowels of the earth and offered the only escape from the room. Malfoy dragged Bellatrix and Severus was quick behind them, sending several stunning spells over his shoulder as he did. He hadn’t looked as he ran, he’d simply let loose with curses and had no idea that one of them had struck Megan Hogan in the head with enough force to tip her chair over.

Meg had not understood what was happening, there was so much noise and she could barely see, let alone think. As the battle raged around her, Megan Hogan was blessedly, finally unconscious.

::::::::::::

“Stop them!” Sliverton tried to shout seeing the tall, pale man head towards the pedestal. His chest hurt terribly and his left arm was numb. He could barely breathe. One of the hooded figures hit him with a torture spell, causing him to fall to the ground, torn with pain.

Dumbledore was striding to the door, ready to chase Riddle when he saw her, lying tied to a chair, in a pool of her own blood. He wanted to help her, but he had to follow after the escaping Death Eaters and their leader. March was directly behind him, her enormous frame almost too large to fit through the door.

:::::::::::

“Have you completely lost your head?” James yelled at Peter. Peter had seemed to be aiming directly at Megan’s inert form.

Peter raised his wand and struck another Death Eater near Megan in the chest with a disarming spell.

The room was unnaturally bright because of all the spells flying for at least ten minutes. James had seen Lily take down one Death Eater with March’s new spell and he flopped around uncontrollably.

Nothing made sense for many minutes as the fight raged on. At one point James saw Lupin battling a massive figure but Moody had blasted his opponent all the way across the room. Both the Longbottoms were fighting like tigers.

Sirius Black was fighting more ferociously than he had thought possible, trying desperately to edge ever closer to Megan. Hit by one spell that sent him flying into the marble, he had still managed to disable his opponent and move closer to the girl.

When it was all done Sliverton was down. Remus had taken a bad hit to the leg and was unable to walk. Everyone else seemed to be in fairly good shape although Alice Longbottom was bleeding from a wound to her neck.

Lily and Sirius were cutting Megan’s bonds then Lily was trying her best to pry Megan from Sirius’s grasp.

“Please Sirius, I need to check her.” Lily had spoken with quiet urgency. Megan looked ghastly. She was bruised, bloodied and had livid, sealed wounds all over her. Her eyes were wide open but she was breathing. Sirius was trying holding her limp hand, his breath coming in ragged gasps.

Albus Dumbledore, Sylvania March and Peter Pettigrew were nowhere in sight.

“What should we do?” Remus asked, surveying the prostrate bodies of the fallen Death Eaters on the ground. “Some of them must have gotten away.”

“We’ve got to get Megan to the hospital.” Lily called out. “She’s lost a lot of blood.”

Sirius was holding her as gently as he could.

“What about them?” James said, gesturing to the bodies all around, counting those and the ones in the tunnel, there had to be at least fifteen unconscious DeathEaters.

“We’ll bind them and take them with us.” Moody said.

“All of them?” James knew it was impossible. “No, let’s bind them, leave them here and inform the Ministry. They can send out a squad to round them up.”

“What about Dumbledore?” Remus was looking weaker and weaker.

“He can take care of himself.” As could March, James thought and he prayed that Peter could also.

:::::::::::

“My Lord, they are following!” Malfoy shouted hearing the pursuit behind them.

Voldemort turned and sent a jet of bright yellow light into one of the braces in the ceiling far behind them.

Dumbledore and March were moving forward as swiftly as they dared when Peter Pettigrew rushed up to them with his wand raised. He might have struck then if the ceiling hadn’t begun to collapse over them.

“Peter, we have to move quickly…go back now.” They all began to rush through the tunnel and back up into the catacombs.

:::::::::::

The staff at St. Mungo’s had never had such a busy night before. Remus Lupin’s leg had required long attention before they were able to stop the flowing blood.

Sliverton was back in the critical ward, hovering somewhere between life and death. Alice Longbottom’s neck wound was proving particularly difficult to heal and Sirius Black had at least three broken ribs but he was refusing treatment as he stood at the bedside of the Hogan girl.

Megan Hogan had been so weak when Snape’s stunning spell had hit her that she was impossible to wake at the moment.

Nearly all of the fighters had some kind of minor wound or another.

:::::::::::

Peter had escaped the tunnels with March and Dumbledore. It was Dumbledore who had understood that all of the members would be at the hospital, from what he had seen of Megan Hogan, she would most certainly be there.

Forming a portkey from a long disused bucket in the field Dumbledore had whisked them all to St. Mungo’s. If Dumbledore had not been so close by Peter might have tried to make a break for it but as it was, he had no choice, he had nowhere to go. He could always apparate from the hospital if he had to, he reasoned. He had seen Hogan and she looked as if she might very well be dead so there was hope for him.

Once there, Dumbledore had asked after all of them, particularly Megan. Lily’s eyes streamed tears as she told him that Megan was in a coma. The mediwizards were trying to wake her but they weren’t sure it was possible.

If anyone noticed that Peter Pettigrew had heaved a sigh of relief they simply attributed it to his gratitude that everyone was at least alive. Pettigrew was terrified now, if he tried to find Voldemort, the Dark Lord might think that he had been the one to betray him. If Megan Hogan awoke with her mind intact then the very best that he could hope for was imprisonment, at worst, they would kill him.

He had nowhere to go now, the only thing he could do was wait to see if Hogan woke up.

:::::::::::

“We are trying sir.” The harassed mediwizard told Dumbledore. “She shows some signs of waking up but it’s almost as if she’s resisting the spells.”

Dumbledore had finally managed to convince Sirius to go and have his ribs treated by promising to stay with Megan every moment he was gone. The old wizard looked at the girl in the bed, beaten, bruised and whimpering now in her unconscious state.

He’d never bothered to read the personal account before, because it was a memoir and allegedly did not contain any useful information in training a tactile seer. After speaking to Megan he had gone to see Peter and then retired to his office where he drew down the dusty book.

It was the memoir of a woman named Diaphonous Klume, the sister of the last known tactile seer nearly four and a half centuries earlier. Most of the book was about Diaphonous’s rather disasterous love life, she’d evidently been prone to marrying other women’s husbands, a thing not smiled upon in any circle and certainly not in the wizarding community. It was a chapter near the end that Binns had told him about, covering the death of the actual seer, Gizelda Klume.

She had died at the age of twenty-four by her own hand. Spells performed on ones own body always took a bit longer to take full effect and Gizelda had killed herself in the center of her village, shrieking for nearly an hour. She had not been mourned. Even her own family had considered her mad for years and something of an embarrassment.

Dumbledore had trained Megan to use this sight, to develop it to its highest level and he had turned a blind eye to the effect it was having upon her. He had seen her reading the Death Eaters and watched her flinch with pain over what she had seen in their minds. He had seen her trying to make sure the members of the Order were all trustworthy and trying to hide that she saw not only who they were, but also the end of their lives. It was too much of a burden to bear and if Voldemort hadn’t broken Megan’s mind already this work certainly would someday.

There was nothing he could do to take away her gift entirely, but he could remove all knowledge of her training, all memory of the pain she had encountered. She was eighteen years old and Dumbledore had heard her many times over the summer as he walked through the fourth floor corridor screaming or crying in her sleep. He even heard Sirius trying to comfort her and knew from the sound of his voice that it was a common occurrence, Sirius’s voice had a practiced modulation to it. Albus knew he could take her back to where she had been in terms of skill, back to when she had needed to concentrate and hold a person’s hand in order to read them at all. Then the images would be primarily vague for her.

It took great skill to selectively obliviate a person’s memory and usually the object was one event. Usually the witch or wizard had to have first hand knowledge of what they were obliviating, but Albus Dumbledore felt that he had to try and help free this girl from the prison he had helped create for her.

Dumbledore asked the mediwizard to leave him alone with Megan Hogan. It took Albus Dumbledore nearly two hours, carefully speaking the incantation that would obliviate any painful memories her gift had caused over and over. He could not see the pain himself he could only sense it. He had to work very carefully so as not to remove anything else from her, just the skill he had helped her develop and the pain that had caused. And the knowledge about the fate of her friends of course, that had been the trickiest and taken the longest time. He had to picture every member of the Order, living or dead as he spoke the incantation and concentrate solely on their fate, not their essence or presence within the girl’s mind. If he had not known better he would have sworn that Megan Hogan tried to resist him as he obliviated this from her comatose mind.

When he was done, the girl had stopped whimpering and was still. Even though her face was bruised and cut, she looked peaceful.

He went to the members of the Order, gathered them together and told them what he had done and why. In closing he told them that he had been very remiss to seek to know too much about fate. Prophecies were vague for a reason, human beings were not meant to know all, they could only be given gentle hints. They all readily agreed that they would not speak to her about any of this when she awoke. Seeing her so obviously beaten on the floor of the vault had convinced them all she had been through enough.

It was very early morning when the members of the Order learned that Sliverton would pull through once again. The group slowly departed, James and Lily were anxious to get to Harry after their harrowing night.

Of course Sirius stayed and by mid afternoon the next day he was rewarded. The spells were beginning to take effect by evening time she was awake although very confused. She had immediately been administered potions also.

“Megan, sweetheart, all you all right?” Sirius asked.

Megan had looked around the room curiously, “What am I doing here?”

“Don’t you remember Megan?” He was anxious to know that she still remembered him.

“No you devil, I don’t.” She smiled weakly, “But from the way my head feels I think you must have taken to beating me like a bludger. Did I have an accident?” Her mind searched for why her body hurt so much and came up with nothing, nothing at all.

“Do you remember me?”

“Don’t be daft, of course I do.” Although Megan frowned slightly, there was a memory flitting through her mind of running through the snow with Sirius by a cottage near some woods. Why had she been there? Her mind searched but she couldn’t recall. They had had a lovely time of it though, that she remembered.

Sirius grinned and teased her gently. “Well you do remember that you agreed to marry me, don’t you?”

Megan smiled at him, “Was I concussed at the time?”

From the look of sheer panic that ran across Sirius’s face she knew she had joked about the wrong thing, “Yes, I remember silly creature.” She wasn’t sure when it had happened exactly, everything was very vague she frowned again.

“It’s funny, I feel a bit as if there’s something…” She trailed off and then smiled at him brightly through her bruises, “Did I hit my head in a fall or something?”

Sirius swallowed and lied as best he could, “Yes you’re always falling down stairs.”

“Oh, must have been one hell of a set of stairs, I feel as if I’ve been buried and dug back up again.” She smiled beautifully at him. “Do I look nearly as bad as I feel?”

“You look like a million galleons to me.”

“Better have your eyes checked Black, I think your sight is failing you.” Her smile was tired, her body ached but she felt oddly peaceful. “Oh your hands feel so lovely and cool though.”

Author's Note: In the original posting a lot of people asked me why Dumbledore chooses to obliviate Megan while she is still unconscious. There are two reasons, one is revealed much later in the story but the primary one is that he thinks that she will not be able to roused if he does not, and if she does then she will be driven mad by the memories of being tortured. Thanks for reading.

Chapter 25: The Guzzling Goblin & The Sliverton Estate
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Chapter Twenty Five:

It was on a day in early January a biting wind chilling the air around him that James Potter opened the door of the tiny pub in the magically concealed area of Manchester. It was a cramped space, but the proprietor was trustworthy even if he had chosen an odd name for the place, The Guzzling Goblin.

“James, always a pleasure my boy, always a pleasure.” Called Nemono Burtrid the jovial innkeeper. As usual Nemono, “Ono” to his friends, was busy trying to concoct a new drink behind the bar. He never seemed to tire of it, experimenting with the various liquids. Once James had heard a small explosion from behind the bar and looked up to see Ono covered in purple liquid. Today, whatever he was working on was smoking like mad. “Care to try the newest offering?”

James felt a bit leery Ono’s drinks could be a bit dodgy. Peter had once start sprouting hair from his ears at an alarming rate after imbibing something called Hecates Nectar. “Uh…what’s this one?”

“Fairy Froth!” Ono proclaimed with cheer.

“Fairy…Ono, I don’t know any man who will order a drink that contains the words ‘fairy’ and ‘froth’ in one.” James grinned.

Ono considered this for a moment, “Well, it’s got firewhisky in it, what do you then? Fire Froth?”

“Much better.” James fibbed as visions of patrons belching fire rose in his mind.

“Try it then?” Ono looked eager.

“No, it will just be a pint today please.” James held up a hand as if warding off an attack.

“Oh fine, you’ve got no sense of adventure in you Potter.” Ono filled the glass and handed it to Harry across the bar. "Expecting the others soon?”

“Just Remus and Sirius.” James sipped at his brew and waited for his friends.

The door flew open and Remus practically collapsed into the middle of the room.

“Nice entrance Moony.” James commented dryly as he surveyed his friend. Remus’s hair looked as if he’d spent hours on a broomstick, his face was red and he was panting for breath. “Fleeing for your life?”

“No!” Remus nearly shouted as he flung himself into the chair across from James. “Sophie Burns caught sight of me as I was flying and I had a hell of a time losing her.”

“Bit rude wouldn’t you say there Moony?” James was trying not to laugh, in the past two months Sophie seemed to have been dogging Remus’s footsteps. She was the newest member of the Order and whereas she seemed skilled, she also seemed to have a highly developed interest in the opposite sex. Remus both looked and felt like a hunted man. “You could just cave in and take her out you know, nice enough girl.”

Things had been quiet for the past two and a half months, ever since the discovery of the catacombs. Although everyone knew that Voldemort must be reorganizing somewhere because all of the bound Death Eaters left behind had been missing by the time the Ministry squad had arrived to arrest them. Still, it was nice to have a break in the action for a bit. They were all a bit more relaxed at the moment, although the relative peace and quiet wouldn’t last and they all were aware of this.

“I don’t want to take her out.” Remus looked away and called to Ono for a drink of his own.

James looked closely at Remus and wondered if he should say anything further, perhaps it was time to say something. Lily had been after him for ages to broach the subject. He cleared his throat and made an attempt, “Remus, Amelia would want you to try and move…”

Wrong subject. Remus, normally a very mild tempered man shot his friend a fiery glare but settled for saying, “How’s Harry doing?”

“Growing like mad and just starting to crawl.” James sighed, it was a diversionary tactic, Remus had seen Harry less than a week ago. Fine, well, it was his business and mourning had no set time period to it he supposed. “We’re going on a bit of a holiday actually.”

Remus raised his eyebrows in surprise, he didn’t know where it might be entirely safe. “That will be nice for you, where are you going to go?”

“Atticus’s place actually. Well, the one his father left to him, not his flat obviously.” James answered. “We’ll be fine there.”

“I should say so.” Remus nodded in agreement. The Sliverton Estate was practically a fortress, the Order had all been there for a weekend in the summer after they had graduated from Hogwarts. It was a sprawling mansion magically concealed in the North. It even had guard towers. House elves had scurried about seemingly happy in their work, rich tapestries hung everywhere and Remus had laughed himself silly when he had seen that the bathroom directly off of his enormous bedroom had a gold tub. “Quite posh too. Nice of Sliverton, how’s he getting on?”

James Potter came from a wealthy enough family but Sliverton’s father had been one of the wealthiest wizards in the world. He had invented spell-o-tape along with countless other things, the Sliverton’s were all notoriously clever.

“Well enough.” James said in relief. He had truly thought that the young man was going to die but he seemed to be making a slow but steady recovery. Everyone tried to make a point of getting in to see Sliverton at St. Mungo’s as often as they could. The loss of Fortesque had hit him very hard. He had been surprised when Atticus had said to him:

“Go up to my place James, take some time with that wonderful wife of yours.” Atticus had always been kind and generous but this seemed above and beyond the call of friendship.

“Oh, I couldn’t possibly, but thanks.” James had answered but Sliverton insisted.

“You’ll be well taken care of there, and you’d be perfectly safe.” The Sliverton’s had a dwarf, hybrid dragon that protected the grounds. It was as tame as a dog because it had been bred so carefully, crossing Gryffins, Hippogriffs and a Norwegian Ridgeback. Still, no one who hadn’t been invited to the estate would ever want to cross paths with it. When the order had been there they’d been surprised when they’d heard Peter shouting his head off in the woods, screaming for help. Out of the trees had trundled Daisy, the dwarfed dragon with Peter clamped firmly in her jaws.

“Put him down Daisy!” Atticus had yelled and Elizabeth had nearly fallen over laughing. “You are NOT allowed to eat any of the guests.”

The long spiked tail had wagged from side to side for a moment before Daisy had obediently deposited a spittle soaked and spitting mad Peter at her master’s feet.

“What about….” Reumus asked in the pub.

“Daisy? Atticus said that once she knows you, you’re perfectly safe around her.” James old grin flashed across his face. The same grin that had coaxed teachers into ignoring his mischief for years.

“And what about…” Remus began but James had anticipated him.

“The pack of boarhounds? As long as we steer clear of the guard towers, we’ll be fine. Besides, Atticus gave me the taming spell for them.” The huge dogs had been nearly as frightening as the Dragon-like Daisy. Sliverton probably would have allowed the Order to use the estate as their headquarters but in truth, it was so well fortified they had been somewhat concerned about the safety of the members. Alice Moore had sworn that there was something in the lake that looked like the Loch Ness Monster. James still remembered her screeching that she had just seen something that looked like an image from a Muggle postcard.

Once again the door opened and Sirius surveyed the area before taking a seat with his friends. They were the only patrons in the place.

“Take cover!” Ono shouted and they all automatically dived to the floor, used to the drill. Ono’s experiments sometimes went amok. A huge flash of fire went blasting across the area and immediately vanished. “It’s all right, it’s all right! Nothing to concern yourselves with…it’s just magical fire, won’t really burn a thing.”

“James, what is it that you like about this place again?” Sirius asked sarcastically. “It’s more dangerous than hanging about Diagon Alley with a ‘please hex me’ sign.”

James laughed and said truthfully, “I like it because almost no one has the nerve to come in here. They’re too afraid old Ono will blow them up, or turn them into Romanian Scumsuckers.”

“Ah yes, a sight we’ll never forget. Poor sod.” Sirius drawled as he recalled the portly wizard on New Year’s who had taken one sip of Ono’s Romanian Rumination Rhapsody. The drink had been meant to cause euphoria and cheer but unfortunately, it had accidentally turned the unfortunate patron into a large swamp bug. “To give Ono his credit, at least he does know his counterspells.”

They all smiled at the memory. The three friends talked for quite some time, catching up on their personal lives for once, rather than discussing how to defeat evil.

“Find a house yet Sirius?” Remus was asking.

“Yes, a nice one I think. Meg should like it.” Sirius frowned. “When they’re finally willing to release her that is.”

“Any word there?” James had one eye on Ono who he noted was reaching for some sort of silver powder. He hoped it wasn’t flammable.

“Should be in the next week or so.” But Sirius still looked troubled.

“Anything wrong there Padfoot?” James repressed the urge to throw himself under the table again when he saw the end of Ono’s wand glowing and a particularly pleased smile on his face. Whenever Ono looked happy, they were usually in for it.

“What?” Sirius seemed lost in thought. “No, not all.”

“Not having second thoughts are you? Afraid of the old ball and chain syndrome?” Remus was joking, he knew that Sirius was devoted to Megan.

“Don’t be a git.” Sirius smiled. “Nope, the wedding’s still set for next November.”

The amount of time they had to wait galled Sirius but Megan’s father was Irish and they believed in big weddings. He hadn’t seemed in the least happy about them living together but had given his permission for this when he had seen Meg’s face light up whenever Sirius was around. Watching closely, Mr. Hogan had seen how the handsome young man had teased but been incredibly gentle with his daughter also. Aidan Hogan had never been able to deny his youngest daughter anything and he was so happy to be able to see her again that he probably would have consented to them living in a tree together.

“James, I think that Sirius is attempting to conceal something from us.” Lupin had prodded his tone joking. “Come now, you can’t fool us you know. We’ve all coordinated schemes together for too long, what is it?”

“It’s not much of anything.” Sirius answered honestly. He still loved Megan so much that his heart always felt as if it would burst whenever he was near her. Sometimes he wondered if he just missed being with her physically but holding her hand in St. Mungo’s and seeing her untroubled smile was enough for the moment. She was still as clever, still as witty and just as cheerful but there was a difference.

“With my advanced powers of deduction Padfoot, I can suss out that not much of anything actually equals a bit of something, what is it?” James asked.

Sirius hesitated, he had full confidence in Dumbledore but there was something a bit odd about Megan, “She can’t remember things.”

“Well, we know that was going to happen.” Lupin said sensibly.

“No, you don’t understand, she can’t remember things that it seems like she ought to be able to.” Sirius swigged his drink thoughtfully.

“And a for instance would be…” James had always been the most skilled at getting his friends to open up.

“Just things,” Sirius hesitated he couldn’t bear to tell James that Megan could not remember the name of her own Godson, and worse still, when told, she would promptly forget after a few hours.

“That makes sense though.” Lupin looked at his friends troubled face. There had to be more.

“No, it really doesn’t.” Sirius sighed, he might as well tell them. “She sometimes forgets who has died and who’s alive for one thing.”

James glanced quickly at Lupin, “Sirius, she’s had her memory altered and we can only guess what happened to her in ...well, all I’m saying is that she’s in remarkable shape. Look at Mettrid, they only had hold of him for fifteen minutes and he’s still recovering. He couldn’t even remember how to hold a wand at first. Those torture spells….”

James silently swore the one subject you couldn’t bring up around Sirius was the fact that Megan had obviously been tortured.

“I…’ Sirius’s voice was strangled. Whenever he looked at the thin scars on Megan’s face he felt such a surge of fury that he thought he might kill someone. They were fading and the nurses in particular were very good about applying the ointment that would eventually make them vanish altogether. To his mind, Megan was still beautiful though.

“What happened to my face?” Megan had asked the first time she had seen herself. “When I fell did I fall through a window or something?”

“It was something like that.” Sirius answered gently. “I’m sorry sweetheart.”

“It’s no matter.” Megan had answered brightly. “Good lord though, aren’t I just the bull in a china shop?”

Sirius had thought he was going to cry. If it was the last thing he did, he wanted to get revenge upon the Death Eaters who had done this to her. Sometimes he would dream and see her lying on the floor of the vault, helpless to get to her.

“So, you’re taking a holiday?” Sirius changed the subject as quickly as he could.

“Thought we would, yes.” James went on to describe their plans to Sirius.

::::::::::::

“She’s healing well then?” Severus could not stop himself from asking although he had sworn he would not. He had just finished giving Dumbledore the update on Voldemort’s activities he was nearly organized enough to begin with his plans again. There was less and less that Snape could tell his old headmaster though because it seemed that everything Snape encountered was so heavily enchanted it was trapped in his mind. Still, he was able to produce some useful information.

“He knows that Grupp was the person who revealed the location?” Dumbledore asked.

“Yes he does, although I don’t know how he knows this.” Snape answered.

Dumbledore made a mental note to hide Grupp even more deeply than he currently was. He also knew that the source of the information must be the informant they had somewhere in the Order. Between the people who gathered information, the hidden agents and the fighters themselves, there were at least twenty people it could be. But Dumbledore sighed, he knew in his heart that it had to be someone who knew Megan Hogan personally, that narrowed the list considerably.

“So,” Snape cleared his throat and tried to speak in a voice devoid of emotion. “Hogan’s powers have been dulled and her memory erased?”

“That is correct, Severus.” Dumbledore was watching him with sharp eyes.

“He’s been told that too actually.” Severus’s thin lips were pressed grimly together. Snape’s own father had been the follower who had the presence of mind to hide from the Order and had freed the other bound Death Eaters. They were gaining strength once again.

“Thank you, Severus.” Their meeting was drawing to a close.

“Headmaster, I was wondering…” More than anything he did not want to ask this question but he found that he could not.

“Hogan,” He began and was appalled to hear his voice change slightly, become warmer without his permission. “She…”

Dumbledore had anticipated this question and it pained him to tell the man before him whose life was lived constantly in tremendous danger and would probably never be acknowledged for his role, “She remembers nothing about you, Severus. Outside of the fact that you were at school together.”

For a moment, it felt as if someone was twisting a knife in the pit of his stomach but he regained his composure quickly, “That is for the best.”

Dumbledore knew that Snape had done everything he could for Megan in the catacombs, stalled as much as he could, he also knew that the cold, proud man before him had some kind of feeling for the girl. It was because of this that Dumbledore had not told Snape anything about the developments in Megan’s personal life.

“I must go.” Severus said, rising from his chair as he spoke. His respect for Albus Dumbledore knew no bounds and neither did his loyalty, but it still stung slightly to know that the one other person who knew anything about his true nature now remembered nothing of him at all. She would despise him just as she had at school.

:::::::::::::

“Oh James, I’d forgotten how lovely this place is!” Lily walked into the massive front hall of the Sliverton Estate with Harry held in her arms. “This is such a treat!”

“It is indeed, and…” He pulled his wife toward him and kissed her in spite of the fact that Harry was happily grasping at his robes. “If I haven’t mentioned lately, so are you.”

Lily pulled away quickly but her eyes danced with happiness.

“Lily?” James said, his voice a bit rough.

“Hmm?” Lily was staring up in the hall, far above their heads was a chandelier made entirely from glowing globes that swirled in a light mist.

“I think we should ask that nice house elf Boxen to look after Harry for a while.” His eyes never left her face.

“Oh but James,” Lily began and then saw her husband’s expression and giggled. “All right darling, Harry’s not put off by new surroundings at least.”

In fact, Harry’s head was turning this way and that, looking towards the intricately carved hall table that had scuttled over to them and said, “May I take your cape and gloves, good lady and sir?”

Boxen, a happy little house elf that had cared for the Atticus when he was younger came trotting out as soon as they called for her.

“It is an honor, an honor sir!” She had piped out in her squeaky voice. “Boxen knows how to care for babies. Boxen loves babies!”

Her little arms reached out for Harry and to Lily’s surprise had smiled at her and reached his out chubby arms down towards the little elf.

“James, are you sure…” Lily looked back, slightly apprehensive towards the little elf who was singing to Harry already and making him crow with delight.

“I am absolutely positive.” His voice still rather husky as he took his wife’s hand and led her up the staircase that rose up, curving through the hall to other levels.

::::::::::::

It was hours later and still James’s hands were tracing her body. His lips kissing her neck then mouth for many minutes.

“James, we should go down and check on Harry again.” Lily laughed, James had already thrown on a robe and found Boxen once in order to give the elf Harry’s schedule. His son had been attended by three smiling house elves who kept bringing the baby new trinkets to explore.

“Master Harry cannot put this in his mouth.” Boxen said as she took away a silver unicorn figure. When Harry had started to fuss, she had immediately laid him down expertly on the plush rugs and handed him an enchanted teddy bear. When Harry put it down it crawled away and then directly back to him.

“Truffles says Grrr! Oh yes he does! Grrr..grr…grrr…going to get you and cuddle you! Peek-a-boo!” The bear spoke in a happy voice and Harry had giggled.

“He’s fine where he is.” James was now kissing her earlobe and Lily was have a bit of trouble concentrating.

“James, don’t you think we should get up for a bit, maybe take a walk?” Lily said but her breathing was increasing again. “We can’t just stay in bed all day.”

“We most certainly can, the elves will bring us food.” James’s hands moved to other parts of her body and Lily gasped happily. “We can take walks later.”

“But…it’s…” Heavens the man was distracting. “been twice already.”

“I’m sorry, but is a number limit being imposed?” James asked with his lips against her neck again.

“No, no, of course not. James! Where did you learn to…” Lily gasped out.

“Oddly enough, Sirius recommended some rather interesting books to me.” James grinned at her.

“Oh, my.” Lily said and lost all sense of time once more.

Luckily, house elves were well known for their discretion because the guests were certainly making some interesting sounds. Boxen wisely moved Harry into another parlor and sang to him happily about the Witch of Monfreys and her quest for the one true spell for ever lasting happiness.

On the rug in front of Harry the little teddy bear charged again and again, happy to have a child to play with once again. “Truffles will tickle you! Yes, yes he will!”

Harry Potter’s chortling made the portraits nearby smile.

The Portrait of Venus Sliverton that hung in the Potter’s bedroom had wisely decided to go and visit her sister’s portrait. They had a nice gossip and Venus never once mentioned the activities in the room where she usually was present.

:::::::::::::

Lily’s head was on James’s shoulder as they sat in the garden at the front of the house.

“It’s getting cold James.” Lily said and then laughed as she saw her husband open his mouth, “and do not say that you will warm me up because I do have some sense of propriety. There’s no way you can convince me to spread out a blanket here.”

“Worked in the greenhouse.” James smiled devilishly.

“Honestly Mr. Potter, I don’t know what’s gotten into you.” Lily loved to tease James. “You’re a married man. You should be staid and predictable.”

They were three days into their holiday and having the time of their lives together. Each day they spent time with Harry but Lily had agreed that it was fine for Boxen to watch him so that they could spend some uninterrupted time together.

“I’ll build a fire then.” James began to gather wood and piled it into a shallow pit in the ground.

Just then, twigs snapped and leaves rustled, the large, scaled covered form of Daisy approached from the woods.

“Hello Daisy.” Lily rather liked the odd looking creature. Her face had the snout of a lion, her ears however were close to her head, and the rest of her body looked like a multi-colored dragon. There was also a few tufts of feathers on her haunches.

The hybrid wagged its tail in response. It was incredibly intelligent.

“Wouldn’t mind maybe lighting this fire for use, would you?” James called. He could light it quite well with his wand but he knew that Daisy need only breathe once and there would be a roaring campfire in front of them.

Daisy looked at him and then at the wood, she let out a small burst of fire that had the wood crackling in no time.

“Oh, much better, I’m warmer already.” Lily said.

“Then…”

“Forget it Potter, I’m not…” Her voice dropped to a whisper just in case Daisy could understand every word they said. “…in front of a near dragon!”

Daisy might very well have great hearing too because she cocked her head to the side and then unceremoniously tromped back into the wood, her tail waving the entire way.

“James, don’t get any ideas!” Lily squealed and leapt to her feet.

By the light of the fire James Potter chased his wife around, both of them laughing. When he caught her he took her hand and began leading her towards the house.

“James, what about the fire?” Lily asked with concern.

But already, Ponta, another houself had come scurrying out to put out the fire.

“Ponta will attend! Ponta sees much but never says anything of what he sees!” He swept to the ground in a deep bow.

Lily laughed and followed her husband up the stairs and in through the large doors of the house.

:::::::::::

In St. Mungo’s Atticus Sliverton smiled in his sleep, as if he somehow knew that his boyhood home was helping making two people he cared so much for happy. He had had a wonderful childhood and he knew the elves would be happy to have people to care for. He was often away from months at a time, so they became a bit lonely. Daisy would be happy for the company too.

In the dream he was having he was asking his father’s portrait when he too might fall in love. His father had smile wisely and turned and left the painting.



Chapter 26: Going Home
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Chapter Twenty Six:

“They’re just getting dirtier.” Remus observed as he tried to clean the windows in the house. “I thought you said this place was ‘quite nice’.”

Sirius was scrubbing away at a kitchen counter, laughed and threw his hair back from his forehead, “Well, it’s got potential.”

“For being condemned? Quite possibly.” Remus was joking though, the house was just in need of a good clean. He pushed back some curtains that promptly fell to the floor in a cloud of dust. “Good lord, when was the last time anyone lived here?”

“Something like six years ago.” Sirius said absently, his mind was busily going over the list of things he had to do. Stock the larder, finish cleaning the house, get the furniture moved in and the make sure that Flitwick had time to come by and put the necessary charms on the place to help conceal it. Three bedrooms, two baths, all of the floors to be done. It was a lot of work to get done in two days.

“Sirius, why in the world did you leave all this to the last minute?” Remus could hear Moody upstairs, getting rid of Bogarts and Hagrid had come down from Hogwarts to tidy up the gardens.

“Because I never thought they’d actually let her go home a bit early!” Sirius wished Lily was here, she had such a knack for anything around a house “Gah, this place still looks like a disaster, it’s hopeless.”

“I would say that’s a bit of an overstatement.” The outrageously tall form of Sylvania March stood in the doorway, holding two bags of groceries. “However Mr. Black, who would have ever thought you’d take such an interest in housekeeping?”

Remus and Sirius stared at each other for a moment and then back to their former teacher. Everyone knew how devoted March was to fighting Voldemort, but none of them could have guessed how sincerely fond she was of her students or the members of the Order. She had dismissed her class for three days and told them to take the time for studying. Almost all of them had restrained from actually whooping with joy in front of her.

“Professor March,” Sirius nearly stuttered. “What a surprise.”

“The surprise will be on Megan if you bring her home from the hospital to this ramshackle mess.” March said, walked briskly into the kitchen, set down her bags and looked around. “Well, don’t stand there gawking Black, put these groceries away.”

She peered inside the larder. “Wait! I take that back, clean the larder and then put these things away.”

“I already cleaned it.” Sirius said and Remus smirked in the background.

“Oh Merlin’s Beard.” March hated any form of dirt or untidiness. “First off, Mr. Lupin whatever it is you are doing to those windows, stop immediately, you’ll soon be able to plant geraniums in all the dirt you are leaving behind.

Sylvania March pushed up her sleeves, took out her wand and said, “Boys, we have a lot of work to do here. Now listen carefully and do not interrupt.

It was on the tip of Sirius’s tongue to ask if he would lose house points if he did but he thought better of it.

:::::::::::::

“In the entirity of my life, I have never been this tired.” Lupin groaned a day later. “Is she possessed by some sort of cleaning demon? Get me a butterbeer.”

“I would but I’m not sure if I can move my legs.” Sirius answered but he had to admit that the house looked wonderful. The windows were gleaming, the grate cleaned, the kitchen would have even met Lily’s standards. Furniture had arrived and been uncrated, rugs had been rolled out, hell, March had even insisted that the sheets for the bed be ironed.

“Gads, I’m glad she’s on our side.” Said his exhausted friend as Sophie came in through the door to the living room carrying a carton of butterbeer.

“Well this is the last time I’m ever dropping by to visit you Black, who knew I’d be turned into slave labor?” Sophie blew her bangs out of her face and considered the grime on her arms for a moment. March had set her to work scrubbing the floor and even with the aid of magic it had been a dirty task. “Honestly, mother’s easier on the house elf than March was on us.”

“Thanks for helping, Sophie.” Sirius said and gratefully took the beverage she handed him. He watched carefully as Sophie dropped down next to Remus on the couch opposite from his chair. Remus looked at him desperately but was evidently too tired to try and make a hasty exit.

“You’re welcome. It’s a nice house Sirius.” Sophie wished that Lupin would stop fidgeting away from her. She’s never given him any thought in school but when she met him again in the Order he had suddenly looked different to her eye. He always looked so determined and his mild manner helped her feel less nervous. She tried to scoot a few inches closer.

“Well, that’s me off.” Lupin said, rising from his sofa. “Sirius, Sophie, goodnight. I’m going to go and sleep for at least a week.”

The two remaining young people said goodnight as Lupin left.

“Why does he do that?” Sophie asked and Sirius hoped his expression looked completely mystified. “Oh for heavens sake Black, don’t try that with me, I know you two are as thick as thieves. Why does he practically sprint away from me whenever I’m nearby?”

“It’s a bit complicated.” Sirius drank his butterbeer gratefully and tried to search his mind for another topic of conversation. “So, how’s your dueling training coming along? Moody and Longbottom can be harsh task masters.”

“Yes they can, but they are nothing compared to March.” Sophie smiled. She was a pretty girl with brown eyes and light brown hair. “But enough about that Sirius, truly, I want to know…what’s Remus’s problem? I asked him to Diagon Alley with me, thought perhaps we could grab a bite and look in some shops and you'd have thought I’d proposed that we drink poison together.”

Sirius sighed, there was no getting around this, “Well, I’d imagine that it has to do with Amelia.”

“Amelia?” Sophie looked surprised. “But they weren’t even together very long, from what I heard it wasn’t that serious and, not to be insensitive, she’s been gone for ages.”

Sirius just stared. Some people, he thought, had never been truly in love and it showed.

:::::::::::::::

“Lily, you cannot go down to the kitchen to ask for the recipe.” James looked fondly at his wife whose hair glowed brilliantly in the candlelight as they ate dinner. “You’d frighten the poor elves half to death. They’re all friendly here but going down into the kitchen? In this place? They’d faint from horror at the mere thought and have apoplectic fits.”

“Oh you’re probably right,” Lily considered the salmon in front of her. “Do you think it’s dill?”

“Dill?” James stared at the fish. “No, I think it’s salmon.”

“In the sauce, you mad fool.” Lily sampled her fish yet again, squinting her eyes as if concentrating.

Harry was asleep already and they were having a late dinner after roaming across the grounds all day. It had been a glorious day and it was to be their last night there. In the morning they would pack and head back home. As wonderful as the holiday had been Lily looked forward to getting back home to their cozy little house.

The day had been wonderful though. Lily had shrieked with laughter when the huge head of whatever the hell that was in the lake had emerged, looked at her and then disappeared from view.

“It winked at me James!” She had exclaimed.

“Well, perhaps it’s trying to flirt.” James had pulled her closer as they sat on the bank on a blanket together, sharing a picnic lunch and trying to keep Harry from crawling into the water.

“It’s out of luck then, I’m taken.” Lily said confidently.

“Too right you are.” James had kissed her smooth cheek. “You’re forever taken.”

“The same could be said about you!” Lily teased. “Your days of having infatuated girls throwing up on you in the Three Broomsticks is long in the past.”

“It was near, not ‘on’!” James laughed. “Who ratted me out, Sirius, Remus or Peter?”

“Remus.” Lily said cheekily. It was odd, Peter rarely spoke to her directly.

“Lily, speaking of taken…” James had suggestively wiggled his eyebrows.

“Oh my lord,” Lily said feigning horror. “James Potter, we could have started a family of twenty in this week alone!”

“No, you have to have them one at a time, silly girl. I’m surprised Poppy never explained that to you.” James grinned as his wife blushed.

They had ended up being rather late to dinner.

:::::::::::::

Megan Hogan sat on Atticus Sliverton’s bed and spoke animatedly to him.

“Oh I do wish he’d get here!” She was glowing with excitement. “Sorry Atticus, I’m rumpling your bedcovers.”

Sliverton smiled indulgently. “It’s fine Megan, so do you know where your house is going to be?”

“No! Sirius decided he wanted me to be surprised.” She pretended to look concerned. “I hope the surprise won’t be that it only has outdoor plumbing.”

The pale man in the hospital bed had simply smiled at her again, he thought Hogan was cheery and funny, but he was often still too weak to laugh.

“I’m sure it will be a wonderful place.” Sliverton said. “I’ll miss being able to visit with you though.”

Megan nearly said that she was sure that Elizabeth would come by often but she stopped herself. She had been studying the list of people who had died over and over again. Sirius had not been too comfortable with the concept of making out the list.

“Meg sweetheart, what if someone finds it?” Sirius asked. “Won’t it seem a bit ghoulish?”

“Hmm. I suppose it would, or else they’d think I was obsessed with obituaries.” But she hadn’t smiled as she had joked. “Sirius, this is important, I know I keep making mistakes. You should have seen Remus’s face when I asked him when Amelia would be coming by to see me. I don’t want to hurt people.”

Sirius had sighed and made out the list for her. He’d often wondered why this part of her memory had been damaged so badly.

“I’m not sure either.” Megan had answered, apparently unaware that he hadn’t spoken. “I suppose it was in the fall.” She’s smiled radiantly then, her scars nearly gone entirely. “Which of course I can’t remember either, I sometimes suspect that I was pushed.”

Sirius had forced himself to laugh at her banter but his heart had thumped unpleasantly and after leaving the hospital he had gone straight to Dumbledore and reported what had happened. The wizard had told him that Megan had been able to pick up stray thoughts from the time she was old enough to talk and it didn’t mean that any of the spells had failed.

“Well, I’ll come again, I’m not just going to leave you in this place. Not after I’ve been a fellow inmate for so long. Besides, everyone visits, don’t they.” Megan usually visited once a day with Sliverton and she would pull a chair up to Mettrid’s bed and talk to him. Sometimes he even seemed to understand her and his ability to speak was finally coming back.

“Yes, they’re all very good about coming by on a regular basis.” Atticus didn’t want to admit it but the conversation was beginning to tire him again. He knew he still faced months in the hospital. Although he could get up now and walk down the halls several times a day usually with the pretty black-haired nurse who blushed whenever he spoke to her. She was a nice girl, he hoped she found someone nice.

“Do you miss her terribly?” Megan asked suddenly.

“Who? Elizabeth?” Sliverton spoke carefully, he had been told all about Megan’s faulty memory.

“Yes.” However her memory might have been altered, it had done nothing to her heart she looked into Sliverton’s eyes and he saw nothing but kindness there.

“Yes I do.” He answered honestly. Sometimes he even thought he heard her voice in the halls but it always turned out to be some other person. “We were very close.”

“I know I’d never be able to cope if something happened to…” She stopped. She didn’t want to finish the statement, she was sometimes a bit superstitious. “I mean I’m sorry you lost someone you love so much.”

“I did love her Megan, but it was just as a friend.” Sliverton felt as if he could drift off to sleep now, he was that tired.

“Oh? I thought you were more to each other than that.” Megan was always so direct. “Still, your closest friend.”

“Yes, my dearest friend.” Atticus’s eyes were such a dark brown they were nearly black. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose someone you’re in love with, I imagine it would be crushing.”

“So,” Megan asked in her friendly tone. “Who’s your girl?”

“I don’t have one Megan. Dated loads of girls in my life but none of them really…well, until I find something like Lily and James…or you and Sirius….I’m happy on my own.”

She looked in his face and saw that it was true.

“Maybe Sophie, you never know.” She’d teased the man gently.

He did laugh then, “She’s a nice girl Megan, but you have to admit, she’s a bit…much.”

“Oh she’s a fine girl, she just hasn’t figured out what’s important in life.” Megan was thought she could hear Sirius coming up the stairs, his voice always carried.

“And you have.”

“Yes, I have.” She smiled at the young man in the hospital bed and then leapt to her feet as she heard Sirius’s voice. “I’ll come again soon Sliverton, I promise. We one time inmates need to stick together.”

Sliverton was pleased to see her going home, and he was tired. But he knew she was wrong in a way, they weren’t fellow inmates. All of them, every surviving member of the Order were veterans of the same battles. He pushed the thought of Elizabeth away so that his heart wouldn’t hurt him today and watched the girl go bounding out into the hall, calling happily to Sirius who shouted back to her with just as much love in his voice.

They made a fine couple he thought as he drifted off into another healing sleep.

::::::::::::::


“It’s lovely! Oh Sirius, did you do all this yourself?” Megan was running through their home, exclaiming with each new discovery.

“Not even close to by myself.” Sirius answered honestly. “I had a lot of help.”

“Oh that was kind of them,” Megan knew that he was talking about the Order. “We’ll have to have them all over for dinner as soon as we’re settled.”

“Certainly, but they’ll only come if they know I’m the one cooking.”

Megan had been examining a stained glass window in the kitchen, “Why do you say that?”

“Because you may be the most incredibly wonderful woman in many other areas, but you cannot cook my wild Irish lass.” Sirius loved to torment her sometimes but there was never any malice in him when he spoke to her.

“Oh that’s right, I’ve always been a disaster…” She stopped and stared at him.

“What is it Megan?” There was a strange look on her face.

“For the life of me, I can’t remember.”

:::::::::::::

“Oh James, it’s good to be home!” Lily was ecstatic to be back. She bustled about, making a pot of coffee and organizing a snack.

“Yes it is, but won’t you miss being waited on hand and foot?” James asked.

“Perhaps, a bit.” She gave him an inviting look. “But what I’ll really miss is all the time we had to be together.”

“Well, Mrs. Potter, we’ve got our whole lives for that.” James hugged her. “Now, come upstairs and I’ll show you what you won’t be missing.”

:::::::::::::

Sirius wasn’t entirely sure what to do, he craved Megan but had no idea what she did, or did not remember. Her head was on his shoulder as they sat together on the sofa, watching the fire burn.

“Megan,” He began but was cut off when she turned and kissed him longingly.

“I missed you.” She said.

“I wasn’t sure if you remembered everything.” It was all he do to keep his hands off of her.

“Ah well now you handsome man, if I’ve forgotten anything, you had better just remind me then.” Megan grinned as she lay back and held her hand out to him. “I could even make a list so as to better remember.”

Normally, he might have laughed, but in this case it was the furthest thing from his mind. It had been months since he had been able to touch her this way. He never wanted to go that long without her again.

“Oh wait, I do remember this part.” Megan’s voice was teasing but breathless. “Yes, this sort of thing is unforgettable…”

“Megan?” Sirius whispered to her. “We can make lists later, and tease each other until our eyes cross, but right now, I just want to be with you.”

“Oh, now that’s a marvelous plan you have there.”

It was beyond marvelous.



Chapter 27: A Battle at the Fortress
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Chapter Twenty Seven:

Easter was in the second week of April that year and it was then that things had begun again.

Lily looked at the picture in her hand, peering closely at the faces. It had been taken right after they had all left Hogwarts at the spacious home of her in-laws in that beautiful valley. They had just about to break into dueling pairs, Lily remembered.

So many of them in that valley that day, and so many dead or missing now. Moody had shown up with the camera and it was the first time Lily had met the rather intimidating Auror. She remembered how happy they had been, so certain that they would be able to fight and win.

“Lily, did you get all the food in Britain and decide to cook it?” Sirius asked as he walked into the kitchen and sniffed the air. One of Sliverton’s house elves let out a tiny squeal. Poor things were nearly overwhelmed by having the guests of the house trouping in and out of the areas usually reserved only for servants.

“It’s Easter, and it’s one of the few times that everyone will be here.” Lily was preoccupied by the photographs strewn across the table. She’d been surprised when Moody handed them to her. “Besides, Sliverton’s finally up and about again, so having a proper celebration was in order.

“What have you got there?” James said with interest, peering over his wife’s shoulder and pausing to kiss her cheek.

“The pictures from right before our first full training session, at your mum’s place.” Lily answered.

There had been so many of them in the valley that day, they had taken several group photographs. She stared at the first, Diggle who was upstairs right now, stared back at her, smiling. Marlene McKinnon who had been lost along with her entire family. Emmeline Vance, that odd witch who had a habit of leaping directly in the center of a room, her wand drawn. She’d startled Lily just earlier today. Benjy Fenwick was hard to look at and she remembered that was the first time she’d ever seen Megan collapse after shaking anyone’s hand. She had met him at Hogwarts and had to leave the room right afterwards, Lily had found her in the bathroom crying over and over again, “In pieces, oh God, no.” It was true, Fenwick had been blown to bits. Bones, Podmore, and Dearborn who they had long since given up hope of finding. There was Elphias too, the Longbottoms, the Prewett brothers all of them upstairs, mingling now. She was in the photo as was James, Sirius and Peter. Even Dumbledore’s odd brother was in it.

The other Hogwarts students all so recently graduated had been a bit overwhelmed by being around so many of the older members at once and had hung back but Moody had insisted that they take a separate picture of them. There was Sliverton and Fortesque smiling in the sun, they had always preferred the company of the younger members, Mettrid looking so cheerful, Moore with Ferngrow’s arm around her waist. Lupin and Amelia were holding hands and both smiling shyly. She and James were in this one too, as was Peter and of course Sirius. Sirius was never one to run from the camera, Lily thought and grinned. Then she noticed a figure in the corner, constantly trying to escape the frame as Sirius laughed and pulled her back. It was Megan.

“Sirius! Look at this, I do believe it’s the only picture I’ve ever seen of Megan!” She handed the photo to her tall friend.

“Look at that!” Sirius said happily. “Do you think I can keep it Lily? I don’t have any other photographs of her, she always bolts like a startled deer whenever anyone gets out a camera.”

“You’ll have to ask Moody.” Lily said but smiled, she was certain that underneath all the toughness and paranoia, Moody had something of a soft heart.

As she said this Moody stalked into the room, spotted a ham he thought looked suspicious and blew it to smithereens.

“Alastor!” Lily shouted. “You’ll frighten the elves to death!”

“I thought it was transfigured spy, could have sworn I saw an eye on it.” Moody said gruffly.

“Alastor, if it was a spy, it was about to be put into the oven.” Lily had to bite back a smile.

::::::::::::

The feast had been incredible and everyone had enjoyed themselves so much. They knew they were taking a risk with this, gathering nearly the entire order together at once but Atticus had volunteered his home once more and everyone had been feeling happier and more relaxed after the months of quiet. Except of course for Moody but Moody would only be relaxed if someone hit him with twenty successive cheering charms and even then, they’d probably wear off in minutes.

“What are you thinking about there, love?” James asked as he bit into a slice of turkey.

“I was just thinking that life feels nearly perfect right now.” Lily’s face glowed, as it so often did, with happiness.

Harry was upstairs with the Longbottoms’ son, Neville and Boxen the devoted house elf was in raptures having two babies to care for at once. She’d been so cute when assigned the task by her master Atticus.

“Now Boxen, if it’s too much for you to manage,” Sliverton bent his exceptionally tall frame down to speak to the elf closer to her level. Lily noted once more that he had to be within less than an inch of the six and a half foot tall March. “I’ll completely understand. We can bring in some more help for you.”

“Oh no sir! Boxen wants nothing more than to manage babies! Boxen can take care of many babies, sir! Boxen would love to take care of your babies!” The elf squealed with joy.

Sliverton had smiled and stood up, “All right Boxen then, but ask for help if you need it.” He knew the elf loved to feel useful and he felt badly for her, he was so very infrequently at home. “Now remember, I’m entrusting you with keeping these little ones safe, do you understand?”

“Boxen will! Boxen promises! It is an honor, a true honor!” She squeaked.

Lily smiled at the elf’s enthusiasm, she had grown fond of the little thing when they had spent their holiday here. They had all been standing in the nursery at the time and to Lily’s surprise, the little teddy bear named Truffles had suddenly piped in with, “Truffles is here to help! Yes he is! Grrr…Grrr…Growl…Cuddles?”

As they all walked down the stairs Lily had spoken to the owner of the home, “Atticus, what is that little teddy bear? I thought it was just an enchanted toy.”

“In a way it is,” Atticus was smiling. “but my father developed him actually. He can think for himself too.”

“Does he have feelings then?” Lily was rather shocked it seemed rather unkind to create a being with feelings and then leave it on a shelf, possibly for years and years.

“Oh yes, he does. Simple ones.” Atticus noticed Lily’s stare. “You needn’t look at me like that Lily, my father realized the possible problems with making a feeling toy for children and he never made another. Truffles was always treated as a pet, he still is. I’m quite possibly the only twenty three year old man in England who sleeps with a talking teddy bear in the room when I’m here.”

Lily laughed then, even if Sliverton’s father had been rather frighteningly brilliant, he had obviously been a good man as Lily felt sure his son was.

“You’re looking much better Atticus,” Lily commented. “Those new potions must have done wonders for you.”

“Thanks, I feel well.” Atticus said. “Thanks for taking so much time working them out. I feel like a new man.”

“You’re welcome, I’m glad you’re feeling better.” Lily smiled slyly. “Almost good enough to get married and have babies?”

“Noticed that did you?” Atticus laughed. “I think I’ve got the only house elf in the land who tries to manage my love life.” His tried to make his low voice imitate the high pitched squeak of his elf, “Boxen would love Babies! Boxen could brush Master’s wife’s hair! Boxen doesn’t think that young nurse is right for Master!”

“Things didn’t work out with Dina I take it?” Lily asked after the nurse who had taken such a shine to Sliverton.

“No, she’s a nice girl though. I introduced her to a cousin of mine.” Atticus didn’t look in the least upset. “I think they’ll actually make a nice pair.”

Lily wondered why the Sliverton never seemed to take out any girl more than once or twice, he was rich, he was good looking, he was kind and generous he practically had women falling at his feet. Then of course she remembered that he own husband had dated many but only briefly and why. She smiled sadly.

It seemed obvious to her that whatever Sliverton said he must have been in love with Elizabeth Fortesque.

:::::::::::

“Not another toast!” Sirius shouted in disbelief as he slung an arm around Megan’s shoulders.

“Yes, another, now put a turkey leg in your mouth or something to keep quiet.” James had begun.

But he never got to finish, one of the portraits of the sentries had suddenly dashed into view. There were never any figures in those portraits and it was odd to hear the murmuring of the painted soldiers, so obviously keeping watch from the towers around the property. There had been shouts and the sound of the boarhounds braying madly.

“Master Sliverton!” The painted soldier shouted. “There are interuders!”

As they all leapt to their feet and tumbled over each other trying to get to the windows Lily could see them, at least thirty DeathEaters storming across the grounds, coming out through the woods. Her only thought was of Harry and she tried to dash into the hall and up the stairs immediately but the door was suddenly blown off its hinges and something like ten figures poured in.

Immediately the air was ablaze with flying spells and Lily could just hear Moody and James shouting to some of the fighters, “Get them outside! Now! We can’t fight in the house, we’ll be trapped like rats!”

Glass shattered as the order members blew out the front windows of the house and poured out into the field in front of the house to meet the charging DeathEaters.

“James! Harry!” Lily tried to shout but her voice was lost in the din. In the heat of the battle James had quickly determined that Lily would go to Harry. It was an agonizing decision but his son and wife were best served if he were to throw himself out onto the lawn with the others. He had no idea that the entrance hall had already been breached.

Portraits screamed as the hexes flew through the area singing canvases and making Lily feel as if her blood had turned to fire.

::::::::::::

Three floors above in the nursery, Boxen sat patiently watching the sleeping babies when the commotion broke out downstairs. One of the infants awoke and immediately began to wail waking the other.

Truffles had been in a light doze in the crib with Harry, he charged forward and leapt as best he could to the railing.

“Cuddles?” His mind was very simple.

“No Truffles. Danger Truffles! We find danger here. Truffles and Boxen must hide babies!”

“Danger? Hide? Grrr….” The Little stuffed bear said and hopped to the floor, ready to aid the house elf in whatever way he could.

:::::::::::::::

Alice and Frank Longbottom had dashed into the hall now, hard on the heels of Lily. Everyone had their wands out and Lily hit one DeathEater with a spell that flipped him end over end.

“Get them! That’s the way girl!” The portrait of Aregus Sliverton, Atticus’s father yelled in encouragement.

The Longbottoms were shielding strongly and blasting DeathEaters like mad. The sound of breaking glass and cracking wood filled the air as well as the shouted spells.

“Expelimarius!” Shouted a woman’s voice next to Lily as she hit one the intruders with a disarming spell. Lily glanced up to see Sophie right beside her. “Lily, we’ve got to get upstairs to the children.”

“I know!” Lily screamed back desperately and then shrieked in horror as she saw three DeathEaters cut and run up the long staircase. They’re headed right for them, Lily thought with terror nearly crushing her heart.



Chapter 28: Victory in the North.
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Chapter Twenty Eight

“Move!” Remus Lupin shouted to James and Potter had ducked just as a spell went zinging over his shoulder.

“Towards the woods!” James yelled to all of the members near him. “Draw them away from the house.”

“Get them towards the lake too!” Sliverton was gesturing towards the water.

James didn’t stop to ask why. Atticus knew his grounds well. Four of the group peeled off and engaged with the DeathEaters nearby, fading backwards towards the water as they did. The air actually had a peculiar smell to it because of all the wands being discharged and the resulting spells. Brilliant flashes of red, blue and occasionally green could be seen.

James, Sirius, Lupin, Moody and March all ran towards the wood, pausing on their way to try and stun some of the figures sprinting through the night in hoods and robes.

“Megan for God’s sake don’t!” Sirius was screaming but she was too far away to hear him.

In the months since her memory had been wiped, Megan had reasoned that she must be a fighter. After all, she must do something in the Order and she knew she was an excellent duelist. She also had an almost preternatural speed when she was running. So, when the fighting had begun in earnest she had run swiftly into the center of the Death Eaters, firing spells and dodging curses as she ran moving deftly towards the forest. Immediately five had peeled off to chase her, and Sirius had distinctly heard a shrill voiced woman shouting to those around her that this time she wouldn’t get away.

He screamed again for Megan and began to fight his way towards her but the Death Eaters seemed to be everywhere. The enormous figure of March crashed into him as she was taken down and he fell to the ground, losing sight of Megan entirely.

He knew the voice that had screamed at Megan. It was his cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange. Megan was in terrible trouble.

::::::::::::

Down by the lake Diggle, who was almost entirely useless in a duel was firing stunning spells like mad but basically only the ground was in danger from him. The Prewett brothers were with him but Vance had been cursed as they lured the DeathEaters and was now just an unconcsious heap in the distance.

Gideon Prewett shouted to his brother Fabian and Fabian moved around to cover Diggle with some shielding spells. The Prewett’s were both hard fighters and had a great deal of skill.

“Why did we need to be down here?” Fabian yelled as he rolled out of the way of green curse that went sizzling into the water behind him.

Before Gideon could answer in any way the surface of the water broke and rearing at least thirty feet into the sky was a long necked creature sreeching so loudly that ground beneath their feet shook.

“Gadzukes! Sliverton has a sea serpent as a pet?” Gideon had been momentairly disarmed, manually engaged his opponent and landed a vicious punch to the man’s nose as he yelled. He grabbed his wand from the ground again. “What good will that….”

The air split again with the monstorous shrieks of the creature from the lake as it surveyed those beneath it, then it’s head bobbed down immediately, plucked a DeathEater from the ground, shook it and sent the man flying far off into the trees.

“That could be useful.” Gideon said as the huge head descended again, the DeathEaters were now trying to flee. They had managed to draw at least eight with them and their panicked yells were actually rather cheering to hear.

“Does it know not to eat us?” Diggle was quivering with fear.

“We can only hope.” Fabian dived to the ground as the head came bobbing down again and to his relief, he saw that the serpent did in fact seem to know what it was about.

:::::::::::::

Sliverton had gone sprinting into the woods, shouting for Daisy and within seconds the ground had shaken around him. He shouted up to the hybrid dragon, “Daisy! The people in hoods aren’t friends they’re here to kill us. GET THEM!”

Daisy was the size of a small elephant and the ground trembled as she went loping towards the house to do her master’s bidding. Sliverton looked around the wood, wondering what he should do next off to left and saw flashing spells through the trees. Someone was over there fighting, he took off at a dead run, dodging through the trees with practiced ease.

::::::::::::

“Go now! We’ve got you covered!” Frank Longbottom yelled to Lily and Sophie. Lily could see that Alice’s eyes were desperate as she shot spells madly and dodged several. In the second that their eyes met Lily understood that Alice was counting on her.

“Make a break for it!” Lily yelled and throwing her arms over her head to shield her from the flying glass Lily ran as fast as she could towards the stairs. Sophie was less than a foot behind her, in a similar position. Up the stairs they ran as quickly as humanly possible but the staircase curved and Lily could see that the DeathEaters were in fact headed for the nursery. What in the world did they want with the babies? How did they even know where the nursery was?

::::::::::::

Severus Snape walked into his new lab with a bunch of dried thornfog in his hand. He had to work on yet another potion and this time it was an itching potion. It sounded tame enough but Snape knew that Voldemort wanted a potion so potent that it would cause the person who drank it to itch so severely they would literally begin tearing their own skin off.

Rodolphus Lestrange stood in is laboratory, looking through the potions.

“What are you doing?” Snape asked icily.

“Searching your potions Snape, what does it look like?” Rodo was the husband of Bellatrix. Ever since the huge raid on the catacombs they had all worked in tiny outposts, never sure where their master was for any length of time. Snape wasn’t even sure of the names of any most of the members any longer, everything was so closely guarded. Searches were frequent too.

He’d had a close call just a month ago when Death Eaters had crashed into his lodgings and searched the place.

“Let me know if you find anything interesting.” Snape had sneered and thrown himself back into bed, secure in the knowledge that the compartment he had created behind the mirror was undetectable to the human eye and only someone highly trained in the Dark Arts would have seen the tiny hex mark that showed it’s location. It was the size of thimble because he would expand and reduce it everytime he needed in and out.

Still, they had only missed his closing the area by ten minutes and if he could have still felt any true emotion he probably would have felt fear.

In the lab Snape simply answered, “Take your time, try any of the brews.” And smiled at Rodolphus.

“Shut up Severus.” Rodo said but absently as he looked through the ingredients. He was just as devoted to Voldemort as Bellatrix was but Snape knew that he wouldn’t even known if he came across anything intersting in the lab.

“Where’s your charming wife?” He asked sarcastically.

“On the raid you fool.” Rodolphus had gotten some powder on his hands and was trying to dust it off. Snape watched with interest because it was Versilium powder, the key ingredient in truth potions. Any contact with the skin and it was possible that someone might speak only the truth.

“Raid?” He kept his voice intentionally casual.

“At Sliverton’s Estate in the North. Almost their entire group will be there.” Rodo seemed to have no idea that he was saying far, far more than he should.

“I should join them.” Snape said, “That sounds like an interesting time.”

He walked casually out of the room and then ran quickly to the trees. He apparated to in front of the Ollivander’s wandshop and speaking the password quickly walked in. Ollivander was the only person he could pass messages through, he was not part of the Order and he knew nothing of Death Eaters but he did know Dumbledore.

“Get to Hogwarts now, tell Dumbledore that there’s a raid on the Sliverton estate.” The strange wandshop owner had simply stared and nodded.

Outside, he apparated as quickly as he could to the outside of the gates of the fortress-like enclosure, he’d have to move through the woods from there.

::::::::::::::::

Lily found speed in her legs she hadn’t known she possessed, she was leaving Sophie far behind. She could see two of the Death Eaters rounding the railing up above, near the nursery and the third directly behind them. Her lungs felt as if flames were ripping through them, she was breathing that rapidly.

God no, please. Please let Harry be safe, I’ll do anything. Lily wanted to cry but dared not, it might slow her down.

::::::::::::

Boxen stood in the center of the room, her tiny little back straight as an arrow when the first two DeathEaters slammed into the room she raised one hand and shouted:

“Boxen will protect!” A massive blast hit the two men in the chest, knocking them flying over the railing and down through the air to the entrance hall below with a sickening crash of broken bones and bodies.
But Boxen was old now and the effort tired her, when the third figure appeared she raised her hand but nothing happened, her power had ebbed for the moment.

:::::::::::::

Lily saw a flash of green light just as she began sprinting down the landing to the nursery and a scream nearly wrenched itself from her throat. She sprang into the room and saw a Death Eater turning over the cribs with every ounce of energy she had in her, she screamed, “Stupefy!”

But the man ducked, turned and charged her. Without thinking Lily shouted out the first curse they had all learned in dueling and disarmed him. He barreled into her with enough force to shove her back out onto the landing. She felt the railing pressing into her back and knew that behind her there was a three story drop as the man threw his weight against her again. She was going to tip over and fall…there was nothing she could do.

“Wingardium Leviosa!” Sophie shouted desperately, completetly unsure as to whether or not the levitation spell would work on a person versus an object. A spell hit Lily just as she began to flip over the edge and she immediately floated up.

Sophie Burns discharged her next spell almost directly between the man’s eyes, “Stupefy!” She shouted as his fell to the floor, she kicked him in the leg and said, “And stay that way you piece of…”

“Sophie! Get me down, Harry and Neville!” Lily spoke desperately, now clinging to the railing so that she did not float to the ceiling. Sophie quickly grounded her and they tore into the nursery.

Boxen’s little body lay unconscious on the ground in the middle of the floor, but the babies were nowhere to be seen. Lily’s horrible distracted mind wondered if elves had immunity to the killing curses.

“Oh my god Lily, where are they?” Sophie gasped by her side.

“Shhhh…what’s that?” Lily said here a tiny little voice shouting.

“Truffles hide! Hide babies! Grrr!”

Lily flung open the door to the small cupboard in the corner of the room, and there, behind some blankets with Truffles trying to leap in her face were Neville and Harry, both magically having been lulled to sleep by Boxen. As the little bear continued to say, “Hide! Hide Babies!” Lily burst into tears and reached for her son as Alice Longbottom tore into the room.

Both women sat sobbing on the floor, rocking their sleeping babies. As Sophie stood, unsure what to do.

“Pick him up.” Lily said through her tears to Sophie.

“Who?”

“The bear, pick him up.” She was so relieved she couldn’t think straight.

“You’re kidding me?” Sophie said but dutifully scooped the little bear up and held him.

Outside they could hear the fight raging.

“Up into the attic, we’ve got to hide.” Lily said and they were off, the portraits on the walls shouting directions to them as they ran through the mansion.

:::::::::::::::

Meg was moving lithely through the trees, darting this way and that, stopping only to aim spells from time to time. She’d knocked out three of them in her mad rush but two were still after her.

She stooped and shot at the fourth but the spell glanced away and to her horror, the trees had ended and she was near a cliff that sloped down with jagged rocks protruding.

“Trapped again, little seer.” Said a woman’s voice, hardly even out of breath from the run.

Seer? Megan wondered but it was a desperate situation, there was no way to descend the cliff behind her.

“We can finish our game now.” Bellatrix laughed.

I know that laugh, Megan’s frantic mind searched for how as Bellatrix raised her wand and the man just behind her did too. Maybe it would be quick, she thought miserably as she shot out a spell the woman easily deflected.

Bellatrix motioned to her companion to keep his wand down, “The little seer and I have unfinished business.” She trilled madly.

Oh God, she’s mad, thought Megan. Her shielding spell just barely held as the woman let loose a jet of red light at her and screamed “Crucio.”

Megan was driven back several feet and she could feel the earth starting to crumble under her feet. Either way she turned, she was going to die.

“Petrificus Totalus.” Sliverton’s voice rang out as he stunned the man easily in the neck and burst out behind them.

Bellatrix wheeled on him, and began to shout “Avada….” As Megan stupified her from behind.

“Lord Atticus, you’re like the bad penny, you just keep turning up.” Megan said but she was shaking. “Thank God for that, by the way.”

“What should we do with them?” Atticus was not out of breath, Lily’s potions had helped him tremendously. “I suppose that pushing them over the cliff is out of the question?”

“Yes, I’m sure it is. Let’s bind them to a tree and get back to the house.” In the distance they could still hear the sounds of battle.

“Fine, you grab the woman, I’ll grab this lug.” Sliverton dragged the man easily over to a tree and then helped Megan as she struggled with the tall woman. They propped them both up against the trunk and Sliverton bound them. “Throw their wands over the cliff.”

But Megan was pulling the hood off the woman and staring at her strong face, with black hair hanging around it. She looked a bit like Sirius.

::::::::::::

Lupin was down and James had no idea if he was alive or dead, they were all trapped in the clearing right before the trees began. Sirius was fighting like hell to his right and Moody had managed to fight off two at once.

What the hell were they going to do? James’ mind thought quickly but they had been cut off in their dash towards the trees. They were blocked on both sides by the remaining DeathEaters who seemed to be raining spells down on them. It seemed hopeless.

An ear piercing growl rang through the night and Daisy leapt into the middle of the group blocking them from the trees. She lost no time snapping a DeathEater up into her mouth and James was both horrified and relieved to hear the sound of bones snapping like brittle twigs as the man howled. Daisy was felling them like mown wheat, her spiked tail piercing through the torso of one man as he writhed about.

“Retreat, get out of here!” Someone screamed and although James knew he should try and stop them, he followed his first impulse and began running for the house with everything he was worth.

:::::::::::::

The DeathEaters were trying to run back into the woods and Sirius took the opportunity to run in the direction he had seen Megan sprinting. Move with lightning speed Sirius followed the burnt patches on trees and the prone bodies of DeathEaters.

As he bolted up a path he slammed directly into Sliverton, knocking him down. Megan was right behind him and Sirius threw his arms around her.

“Megan, what were you thinking?” Sirius panted as he held her. Sliverton picked himself up off the forest floor and without pause, ran towards his home.

“I’m fine Sirius. I was just trying to draw their fire.” Megan was nearly smothered in her fiancee’s embrace.

Sirius groaned miserably as Megan allowed him to hold her for a moment longer. “Sirius, we’ve got to get to the house.”

“Just a moment.” Sirius was still trying to collect himself. “They’re retreating anyway.”

“But there could be people hurt.” Megan said but knew that Sirius could not bring himself to release her. “Sirius?”

“Hmm?” He thought his heart was going to explode.

“Why did that woman call me ‘seer’?” Megan asked as she remembered once more the insane laughter of the dark haired woman.

“Let’s get back to the house.” Sirius said by way of an answer.

Somewhere, in the pocket she had made in her mind, something still survived.

::::::::::::::::

The Sliverton portraits were very helpful to James as they shouted to him Lily’s location. As he flung open the attic door he was shocked to find his own wife, with her wand pointed inches from his face.

“Lily? Is everyone okay?” James was shaking all over from the fear.

“Yes, I think so. Although I think there may be some trouble with Boxen.” Lily was so relieved to see her husband that she nearly dropped on the spot.

“Oh God, thank you.” James said and gathered his family close to him. Minutes later, Frank Longbottom ran into the room and hurled himself at his wife and child with equal gratitude.

:::::::::::::

It was over, the biggest attack they had ever sustained and miraculously, no one was badly hurt. Dumbledore stood and surveyed the damage and blessed Aregus Sliverton for his many safeguards. He’d found Severus Snape outside the gates, trying to fight off a pack of boarhounds, rather the worse for wear.

Dumbledore had used a taming spell on the dogs and sent Severus back immediately. He’d been so thoroughly mauled there would be no question that he had tried to join in the fight.

“I can’t believe Boxen wasn’t killed.” Sliverton said with tremendous relief.

“Elves have very old magic within them. She was protected by that, the curse is designed for humans and therefore only stunned her badly.” Dumbledore answered as he sighed with relief.

“Well, if you’ll excuse me, I have to try and go get pieces of some DeathEater off of Daisy’s tail.” Sliverton walked out the front door to his immense pet who was waving her tail from side to side.

“You did well Daisy. Now hold still.” Sliverton grimaced as he saw his pet. “Maybe you should go and bathe in the lake Daisy.”

::::::::::::

“It isn’t uncommon.” Moody was saying to the exhausted group, now back at headquarters although many had left for home. “Many wizards trained in combat carry more than one wand, in case of emergencies.”

The DeathEaters who hadn’t been killed in the raid had once again managed to escape. As the spells wore off they had simply cut their bonds and fled through the forest and outside the fortress.

Lupin was still feeling a bit fuzzy headed from being so thoroughly stunned. “God that was a powerful hex, lucky as hell they weren’t try to kill me though.”

“Not all of them can manage the unforgivable curses you know.” Moody said as he sniffed a crumpet suspiciously and then bit into it.

“It’s a wonder you never married, Moody.” Sophie Burns said the side of her face pressed to the table. She was utterly exhausted. “You’re such a chipper conversationalist.”

Lupin laughed and smiled at Sophie and she returned the grin but romance was far from her mind. They had important things to do.

That night, Voldemort’s fury knew no bounds.


Chapter 29: Seeing in the Garden
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Chapter Twenty Nine:

Megan rolled over in bed and looked at Sirius as he slept and smiled at him. His breathing was even and deep, in his sleep his face looked incredibly boyish, his dark hair flopping onto his forehead, all the muscles of his face relaxed. She remembered so many things about him but there were still vague areas. She had some beautiful memories within her of the two of them together. She could remember laughing with him, teasing with him and even countless times they had been together. But there was still something wrong. Her mind felt as if it were struggling against something, a wall of some sort. Sometimes she could feel that she was right on the edge of a memory and then there would be that odd blankness.

She sighed and slipped out of bed, pulling on a nightdress and heading to the kitchen where she lit a candle and sat sipping pumpkin juice as she thought. The attack at Sliverton’s home had been three days earlier but she could still hear that strange, mad woman in the woods calling her ‘seer’ and saying that they had unfinished business. There was something about her laugh too, something that pulled at Megan’s mind and made her wonder why whenever she tried to think of this, it felt as if her mind slammed shut. That must have been one hell of an injury, she reasoned.

She asked Sirius about the specifics of her accident but he’d gone completely pale.

“I don’t like to talk about it Megan.” Sirius said and she’d been surprised that his eyes seemed bright with tears.

“Why pet? I’m all right now. Do you think I’m as delicate it as all that? ”She had joked and cuddled against his shoulder as they had sat together.

“Because I can’t bear the thought of you being hurt, ever, at all.” Sirius teased her frequently, but sometimes he would speak so directly, with such raw emotion that it would penetrate to the very core of her being and warm her throughout. He was like that when they made love now, always sweet and tender. She could remember him tickling her in bed until she had gasped with laughter and even wrestling with her playfully from time to time. But now he always treated being with her such gentleness. It was still just as nice, but it seemed different. Maybe he thought that her body still hurt her from time to time or perhaps it was because they were getting married and that had changed things for him.

This thought always cheered Megan and pushed away her worries. They would marry, be together, and have children. Megan wanted a baby so much sometimes it made her heart flutter. It had always been like that, even when she was a child herself but she’d never confided the wish to anyone. It seemed silly at her age, she was only nineteen after all.

She knew that Sirius hated to leave her alone now too, in fact, whenever he had to be out on patrol he insisted she stay at headquarters. He’d even been adamant that she not go out on patrols at all always saying that when she was completely better, she could go on patrol again. She hadn’t pressed because of the absolutely terrified look in his eyes although it was hard on her, knowing that she could help out there.

“Lily?” She’d asked her friend one day as she had sat in the house in Godric’s Hollow playing with Harry.

“Yes?” Lily had been bustling about in the kitchen, James talked with Remus in the living room. Sirius also always insisted that whenever she visited anyone she do it in the company of the strongest fighters.

“I didn’t fall down any stairs did I?” Megan asked carefully and saw her friend stiffen as she turned to look at her.

“What makes you ask that Megan?” Lily’s astute gaze had been upon her face.

“I was hurt in a fight, wasn’t I?”

Lily sighed, there was no way to keep this lie up and answered her friend honestly, “Yes Megan, you were hurt in a fight. I’m sorry, but I don’t really want to talk about it.”

It must have been a bad fight, Megan thought judging by the pained look on Lily’s face. She had wondered why Sirius wouldn’t tell her.

Perhaps she hadn’t done well, she thought. Perhaps someone had died because of her failure. Still, she wished someone would tell her, even if she’d somehow let them all down. After all, in a way she loved all of them and the thought of failing them was painful. She wanted a chance to do better.

Well, she loved nearly all of them but…she thought of Peter and scowled. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t seem to care about that strange man. In fact, sometimes she actively didn’t like him.

Megan sat in the kitchen in her home, with her knees pulled up to her chest and a blanket around her shoulders and waited for dawn.

:::::::::::::

“Jack! Irene! Look at you both!” Megan Hogan was laughing in the garden. “Jack, it’s entirely unfair, you’re taller than I am now. Tell me you’ve put a tallness illusion on yourself or I’ll know it’s been ages since I saw you.”

They were all in the garden together, Sirius, Remus and Megan’s niece and nephew. Her brother Sean was dropping them off as he was in town for some business. Sean was a full fifteen years older than his sister, Megan being youngest in her family.

“I’ve got to run Meg.” Sean hugged his sister as he moved towards the house. “I’ll be back for them in a couple of hours. Be good you two.” He said with a pointed looked at his children. Jack was thirteen and growing like a weed, Irene nearly eleven.

“It’s lovely to see you. I’ll be here when you get back.” Megan was grinning at him as he left. “Now you two, how long has it been since I’ve seen either of you? It’s got to be nearly three and a half years, imagine having the nerve to go and grow behind my back.”

Irene laughed and Jack had smiled, they had always liked their Aunt Megan, after all she really wasn’t much older than they were.

“Dad says you told him there’s a ghoul in your attic.” Jack asked. “Is it true?”

“Might be, stranger things have been known to happen.” Meg winked at him.

“I want to see it, please?” Jack was feeling a bit awkward. The two men with Megan seemed so serious and when he’d come out into the garden he’d heard them talking about someone named Peter who seemed to be missing at the moment. They’d looked very worried.

Sirius hesitated and Remus knew he was nervous about leaving Megan alone but he answered with a smile, “I’ll take you up, see if we can’t prod it into throwing a few things around for you.”

He took the boy upstairs with him knowing that Remus would keep an eye on Megan, with Peter missing they were all a bit nervous. James was practically glued to Lily and it was left to Moody, Atticus and the rest to search for Peter. He’d been gone for over a week now since the day before the attack at the estate and they all feared the worst.

“I like your garden Aunt Meg,” Irene was saying as Remus sat nearby with his wand out. “You’ve got fish, in a pond!”

“Yes, they’re Coy.” Megan said. “You can feed them with me if you like.” Megan too was holding her wand, just in case.

“I’m hungry too.” Irene looked like her Aunt, Remus thought. Curly dark hair, the heart shaped face and blue eyes.

“Well I’m sure I can find something to feed you.” Megan answered and stood to walk into the house. “Oh for the sake of mercy, Remus don’t look at me like that, even I can fix a simple sandwich.”

“No Meg, let me grab it.” Lupin was happy to see Megan so excited by seeing her brother and his children. “You stay and visit.” Surely he’d hear if there was any trouble. He smiled at them and went into the house. This business with Peter was very troubling, there looked as if there had been a struggle at his house when they’d checked. It was nice that Megan had visitors, it would help them all relax a bit.

“Thanks, you’re a love.” Megan said and turned to her niece. “Well, a big girl like you must have a boyfriend by now.” She loved to tease.

“Aunt Meg, boys are always getting dirty and they’re rude. I don’t know why anyone bothers with them.” She had no idea why her aunt laughed merrily.

Irene knew she wasn’t supposed to, her mother and father had both warned her but she remembered Megan well and remembered her saying ‘when you’re older’ the last time she had asked. Jack wasn’t there he wouldn’t be able to tell dad.

“Aunt Meg? Will you tell my fortune for me?” She put out her hand and Megan stared at her blankly.

“I can’t read palms you silly thing.” She smiled.

“No, that isn’t how you did it.” Irene remembered her telling Jack that someday he’d play Quidditch at Hogwarts and now he was. “You used to hold hands with someone, then you’d say you had to concentrate, then you’d tell them after a bit. Your eyes would go a funny color too.”

“Concentrate?”

“Yes, you said you had to concentrate to see. Like you had to look for something. It wasn’t a secret or anything, you did it for lots of people.”

Little seer, Megan thought. She put her wand down and reached for her niece’s hand.

:::::::::::

Remus was digging through the cupboards looking for some jam when Jack came pelting into the room.

“It’s got incredible aim!” He yelled, laughing. Remus could hear Sirius running down the stairs after the boy calling out:

“You’ve got good reflexes! You’ll go professional someday yet.” He stopped as he walked into the kitchen. The boy was looking out the window into the garden, when he turned around his face looked worried.

“Sirius,” Jack began. He didn’t want to get Irene in trouble but his father had told him over and over again that this was important. "Aunt Meg’s sitting outside holding Irene’s hand, and she’s got a funny look on her face.”

Remus dropped the plate he was holding and Sirius had bolted for the door. When they reached the garden Sirius heard Megan saying, “I think you’ll be in Gryffindor darling, no need to worry.”

When she turned to Sirius her eyes were gray and her expression was furious.

“I think I need to talk to you, or is it the other way around Sirius? Is there anything you’d like to tell me?” She’d kept herself from shouting because of the children but her voice was still strained.

“I didn’t do anything!” Irene immediately lied. Oh lord, dad’ll have my hide, she thought.

Megan put her arm around the girl, “No, of course you didn’t. But Sirius here needs to explain some things to me, so you’d better go with Remus and Jack into the house.”

:::::::::::::::

“I don’t care what you’ve promised to anyone but me Sirius, now tell me or as Merlin as my witness, I’ll not be held accountable for my actions.” She was shouting.

“Megan, please, I swear to you it isn’t important. We just wanted to protect you.” Sirius could have brained that little girl.

“Protect me? From what?” She was still yelling, she was sure they could hear her in the house but she didn’t care. “Oh but you’ll not be answering that I take it.”

Sirius was shouting now too, “Voldemort, all those things you felt. You never heard yourself screaming in your sleep Megan, I did. I can’t even think what the hell would have run through your head after…” He’d stopped himself just in time.

“How nice it must be to have memories. Clear memories, imagine the luxury!” Megan had never in her entire life been so angry. “Do you have any idea what this has been like? Studying bloody lists to memorize whose dead so that I don’t trample all over anyone’s heart. Wondering if I didn’t care enough about my own friends to remember them. Thinking sometimes that I’d lost my mind because even though there shouldn’t be anything wrong with me, I forget things that a child should be able to remember!”

“Megan,” Sirius knew there was no escape but he was doggedly hanging onto the hope that he could convince her. “When you had your accident…”

“Accident? I didn’t have any bloody accident. Do you take me for a complete fool then? I swear to you that if you mention ‘stairs’ to me, I’ll find a flight and throw you down them.” She was starting to cry now, “I don’t care what I did wrong, someone has to tell me!”

Sirius stared at her and said nothing.

“Fine then! If you won’t tell me what’s happened, then tell me who will.” Megan was so angry she was shaking. Inside the house Remus was desperately trying to think of a way to distract the kids from all the noise.

Sirius still said nothing, he’d given his word.

“Black, start talking, or I swear to God I’ll leave you and I’ll never come back.” She knew she didn’t mean that but she had to say something to get the man talking.

Sirius looked like she had stabbed him in the heart.

“Dumbledore.” He said finally. “You need to talk to him.”

“Well then we’d better find him then, hadn’t we?” She was a bit calmer. She looked at Sirius and saw his expression she managed to force herself to overcome her temper and be kind. “Oh don’t look like that, I didn’t mean it. You know I’d never leave you. It’s your misfortune to be stuck with me for life.”


Chapter 30: Truth and Traitors
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Chapter Thirty:

The corridors of Hogwarts were empty when they arrived. Sylvania March and Flitwick were walking across the grounds discussing a particularly difficult student named Howard Helfrin who had been placed in Hufflepuff but seemed to be atypical for his house. He had a strange fondness for dungebombs and mischief. It wasn’t like a Hufflepuff. He had remained behind for the Easter break and one of the suits of armor in the entrance was still oozing something that smelled remarkably like Operansum Opiate. Even Argus Filch had been overcome by a fit of the giggles against his will when he discovered it. It had been a sight to see.

“Hang him in the dungeon by his heels!” Argus Filch had brayed with laughter, collapsing several times. “Feed him to the squid in the lake…hee hee hee!”

A large shadow had fallen across the green just as they were saying that whereas the boy needed to be severely punished, it had been one of the best moments the staff had ever experienced.

“What in blue blazes is that?” Flitwick squeaked looking up.

“It gives every appearance of being a flying motorcycle.” March remarked dryly.

The thing came thudding to the ground just feet in front of them. Megan Hogan and Sirius Black both leapt away from the machine. Hogan began moving quickly towards the castle.

“Professor March, I need to speak to the headmaster.” Megan said without greeting either of them.

It wasn’t like Megan to be rude and judging by the look on her face, the girl was hard pressed not to simply rage at them. The two old professors exchanged a look.

“Yes, I imagine that you do.” March answered after a moment. “Come with me Megan.”

Sirius Black dogged their footsteps with an entirely woebegone look on his face.

What if she wants Dumbledore to train her again? He thought as he remembered when she used to shake in terror beside him at night, trapped in the world of her horrific dreams.

::::::::::::::::

“Megan, shouting may in fact make you feel better but I’m afraid it will not accomplish anything of a useful nature.” Albus Dumbledore said quietly as he sat in his office behind his desk and watched Megan.

“Useful eh? I’m not all that interested in how ‘useful’ my feelings are.” Megan would normally have been appalled by how she was speaking to Dumbledore, she respected him nearly as much as she respected her own father. “I don’t know what a ‘tactile seer’ is as you call it, I don’t know what I’ve done that was so wrong that you decided to take it upon yourself to remove chunks of my mind as if my memories were only so much rubbish.”

Dumbledore had only gotten so far as telling her what she was and that he had removed some of her memories when the girl had begun shouting again.

“I understand that, and I am more sorry than you can possibly know that you have be in still more pain Megan. I made a mistake in training you, you yourself understood that before I did and I…”

“Well I was hanging around somewhere when you were ‘training’ me I’m assuming.” Megan’s cheeks were the color of rubies as she hollered some more. “You saw fit to just carve my mind up like it was a Christmas Turkey and I want to know why! What did I do that was so wrong? Who did I hurt?”

Dumbledore sighed as he stood and walked to the shelves in his office and took down the book that he knew would help explain what he had done.

“You must understand Megan, you never failed anyone and you never did anything wrong.” The old wizard watched the girl and his eyes were sad.

“Then why? Why would you do this to me? I was in some sort of battle and….” She couldn’t keep shouting like this, she thought but for the life of her she couldn’t seem to stop herself.

“You were in fact in a battle Megan, a terrible battle from what I understand and I felt I needed to remove some of your memories because the pain you had felt in others had become your pain, the pain you felt when you had been captured …”

“Captured?” Megan didn’t shout this time.

“Yes, Megan, you were captured by a man named Tom Riddle although I confess I still do not know how.”

“Well who is Tom Riddle when he’s at home?” Megan’s Irish accent and use of their phrases tended to most prominent when she was agitated.

“He is Voldemort Megan. Although not many people realize that any longer. He was a student here at Hogwarts nearly forty years ago and he amassed such power that he has transformed himself into something that is barely human.”

“Voldemort had me?” Megan stared at him.

He began to tell her the story from the beginning, starting with when he first began meeting with her in her third year. How he had realized her potential and trained her. What she had done in the Order. He even told her that she had been forced into hiding for quite some time. On and on the story went.

“But I don’t understand headmaster, why would you remove memories like that from me when I must have been fighting in there to protect some knowledge. Didn’t you want to know what it was?” Megan was in tears.

“Megan, I had already decided what to do before you went missing, the very night you went missing in fact but after we found you and I saw what your condition was, I knew for certain that it must be done.”

“Why?” Tears were streaming down her face. “Why did you think you had any right to take away the things I was tortured to find?”

“Because Megan, you would never have been able to awake again if I had not. You had sealed yourself into your mind and had I not removed them you would have been trapped, somewhere in the dark recesses of your mind with only pain for a companion.”

“Lord, you think I’m that weak do you!” It was an incredibly hurtful thought and Megan was deeply wounded by it.

“No Megan, do you remember Mettrid?” He asked and the girl nodded, “He had only a quarter of an hour of what you took for hours and hours and he is still trying to find his way out. Your mind is exceptionally strong and it is my belief that your ability to remember things is improving already and will continue to improve.”

That didn’t make her feel much better, if any better, “But why couldn’t you have removed other things and tried to wake me. Find out what it was I was protecting!”

“Megan, I have a very good idea as to what you were protecting and if you think about it, so will you.” Dumbledore’s eyes were grave behind his glasses. “There is only one thing so important that you could have found the strength to fight as you did in the catacombs.”

She stared at him, and realization dawned on her face, “It would have to be how he wins, or how he is defeated, those are the only two things I can think of.”

“No Megan.” Dumbledore smiled kindly at her. “If it was the knowledge that he would win, I think it would have been so disheartening to you there would have been no way you could have retained anything. All of you have fought so hard, and in some instances lost so much in this battle the only thing your mind would have had been able to protect would have been the knowledge of how we would prevail. There had to be some hope in what you were protecting. If it had only been despair, he would have been able to pull it from you.”

He could not tell her that she had not been entirely alone in the vault and that he knew the very few things she had said from a firsthand account.

“We’ll win.” Megan said and her heart both hurt but felt proud. “And I knew how but you took it away.”

“Yes Megan, I do not know how and I must not know how. I fear that if we have that knowledge, we will inadvertently prevent the series of events that must happen in order for it to occur.” He spoke the entire truth this time. “That was my mistake in training you Megan, I did not fully consider that fate should not be changed.”

The girl was sobbing in front of him but when she raised her head her expression was determined.

“But you will train me again? This can’t have been for nothing.” Megan asked hopefully, if she had this within her perhaps it could still be used for good somehow.

“No Megan. I will not.”

“Why?” Her voice was anguished.

“Because Megan, the night you disappeared, I finally discovered why known and powerful tactile seers are so very rare.” He felt he owed her at least this much.

“Why is that?” Megan’s eyes were clear.

“Tactile seers have always been women, I do not know why that is.” Dumbledore reached for the book in front of him and opened it to the chapter he needed. “Fully trained, they are able to pull a bit of the life energy of another person through them, that is why they retain the feelings of another person but with that life energy comes with it the opposite energy, the end of life. They do this far more powerfully than an untrained seer would.”

“Death.” It was a flat statement and in her heart, Megan knew what he would say next.

“Yes Megan, and that is retained also. Most of us come to this earth having inherited traits from our parents, but a fully trained tactile seer cannot pass on their traits because of the energy that stays within them.” It hurt to tell the young woman this and she was staring at him with horror. “It ends any life they begin within themselves. They cannot have children.”

He handed her the book and she took it automatically, she read the account of Gizelda Klume’s death, written by her sister. She read what she had screamed over and over again in that village square as she had died.

- My own children murdered inside of me because of this curse - Over and over again- I bring nothing to this life but death and all I feel from others is death, now death is mine. -

Diaphonous Klume wrote the dying words of her sister. Diaphonous had broken wizardry law by marrying repeatedly, sometimes to other woman’s husbands but the name she had kept had been the name of the last man she married Borfin Klume, the brother of her sister’s Gizelda’s husband Horatio. Diaphonous more or less mocked her sister’s death putting it down to madness brought about by the many miscarriages suffered in four years of marriage.

Megan looked up from the book and stared at Dumbledore with such fear in her eyes that it was all he could do to keep from looking away.

“Am I …will I be able to…” She couldn’t finish the sentence.

“I do not know Megan but I fear that you have lost one child to this already. I could only remove your memories, but it is possible that enough energy remains to prevent you from having children. Possible, not proved.” The girl’s head was in her hands, her shoulders shaking. “There have only been a handful of recorded tactile seers but they were all mentored, trained it is possible that there are many more who never develop their gift. Your own grandmother could feel a person’s future with her hands but she was very guarded about this and she refused to be trained fully. I never understood why, but evidently she did.”

He had to give her some hope but unfortunately, when she looked into her eyes, he saw that she had none.

“I lost a baby?” Megan said through her tears.

And he had to tell her about that too.

She rose to leave and moved slowly towards the door.

“Megan, I do know of a way to recover some memories for you.” He spoke but she did not turn to him. “Your mind is healing, and there may still be things within it that you will yet recover over time. I feel certain your friends would be willing to help you, all they need do is submit to having their memories of you put into a pensieve and you could at least see some of the things you have lost.”

“I don’t think I want to professor.” Her back was still towards him. “At least, not now.”

“Megan, you cannot discuss what I told you about…”

“I know that. Lord you people all think I’m dim.” She did turn and face him then. She was no longer crying and her face looked resolute. “If I run around telling people that he’ll lose then they’ll come after me again. It could be locked inside me, somewhere still, waiting to come out. Who knows? I’d still rather die than be of any use to that bastard Riddle. Maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll be defeated before he can ever find me again but if he does I’ll follow in the footsteps of that miserable piece of work Klume and do myself in before I’d be of any use to him.”

:::::::::::::::

Sirius Black had been sitting with Professor March for what felt like hours and hours, feeling more and more like he was awaiting the hangman’s noose.

“You should go and take a look at that suit of armor in the entrance…” March said again, thinking that the young man beside her desperately needed cheering up somehow.

“Please stop saying that, it can fall into a heap of twisted metal for all I care.” Sirius wished she would leave him alone but March stuck with great determination by his side. She was worried for the young man.

“Hello.” Megan stood before him and she had obviously been crying.

“Megan.” Sirius stood and tried to move to hold her but she held up her hand, warning him back.

“I need to talk to you, alone.”

Sylvania March felt her heart ache for the young pair in front of her, “Miss Hogan, don’t do anything rash…”

“Pardon me professor, I don’t want to be rude, but it is none of your concern what I do. Please excuse us.” There was nothing for March to do but gently lay a hand on Black’s shoulder and leave the hall.

Under an enchanted ceiling that depicted a light shower of rain, Megan began to speak.

“I need you to listen to me because my mind’s made up.”

Sirius’s heart felt as if it had plunged through to the floor.

“But I still need to know what’s in yours.” She swallowed and looked at him. His heart jumped because she was looking at him with hope. “I don’t know that I can have children Sirius, but I’ll be damned if I let that old piece of work trying to take over the world be the reason I stop trying. Voldemort can rot in hell but I refuse to join him in this lifetime. Do you care whether we have children of our own?”

“Megan, you know about my family, to be completely frank the only chance any child of ours would have would be if they took after your side. There are orphans, we can adopt children and I’d love them with my whole heart, just as I love you.” Sirius spoke truthfully.

Megan smiled but it was an odd smile, “You handsome devil, any baby in the world would be lucky to have you for a father. Thank you Sirius, I do love you madly you know.”

He held her and kissed her for several minutes before he broke away.

“Are you going to start this again Megan?” Sirius asked knowing she would understand him.

“No, I’m bloody well not. I’ll get better with time Sirius and I’ll tell you something else,” She smiled then beautifully, “I’ll win yet, fate can be damned, I don’t care about destiny. I think we make our own if you want to know the truth. We’ll make ours together. I’m going to have a baby.”

Her eyes were bright as she continued:

“I’m going to have a baby with you. I’m tired of things being thrust upon me or taken away. I’ll have your baby Sirius, you mark my words.”

And her face looked quite determined.

:::::::::::::

“Peter, my God! Are you all right?” Sophie Burns looked down into the pit and immediately reached down to help the man out of the hole. “You look an absolute fright!”

Behind her Atticus and one of the Prewett brothers stood, almost unable to believe they had found him alive. One of Dumbledore’s friends in the South had sent an owl saying that a man matching Peter’s description had been seen wandering near some cliffs by the sea. They’d followed the information and found him in there, in the ground, moaning.

“I…I…think so.” Said Peter with practiced care. “There were three of them, I barely got away. They were holding me until…until he could come. Vold…he…was delayed…they were nervous…I still don’t know how…”

“It’s all right now Peter, you’re safe.” Sophie hugged him briefly although she did not like the man much he did look like he’d been through an ordeal. “Can you tell us where the they had you? There might be something useful there.”

“I…yes…there was a house…a house I think. It’s back that way.” His voice shook as he gestured.

“Okay, Gideon, Atticus, will you check? I’ve got to get him to St. Mungo’s.” Sophie put her arm around the small man’s waist and continued. “Just hang on Peter, we’ll get you help.”

Peter Pettigrew had in fact suffered terribly in the last week or so. When the attack on Atticus’s estate had failed the flames had flared green in his grate allowing Rodo and Crouch Jr. to step into his room. They had taken him to Voldemort whose fury had been terrifying. Only Crouch and Rodo had been there the whole time.

“I will not fail you again master!” Peter had begged for another chance even as he had been punished. Even through his pain being near Voldemort was like drinking deeply from a spring of such cold, unbelievable power. He never wanted to be away from it again. He did not know why he was unable to wrench the information Voldemort wanted so badly from within him. It was of course, protected by very old magic.

“I am not their secret keeper master, but I will find a way to deliver them to you.” He shrieked. “I will not fail.”

“No, you will not.” The cold voice had said. “We will send you back to them. I have a plan. You will return to me and bring me what I want or I will find you again Peter, and show you no mercy at all.”

And his soul had been both horrified and thrilled by the words.

Crouch and Lestrange had taken him with the another Death Eater to the house not far from the sea. They’d staged a massive struggle and then left.

Then Peter had made sure to stagger through the town and head to the sea.

He would not fail his master again, if the Dark Lord needed to know the location of the Longbottoms and the Potters, he would find a way to do it somehow.

If any part of his soul had still cared for James Potter, a man who he had once admired so greatly, it was easily washed away by the feeling of that beautiful cold, power.

Let the Dark Lord kill them all, he did not care.



Chapter 31: Pairs
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Chapter Thirty One:

“Does it hurt much?” Lily asked as she washed out a rather nasty cut over Sophie’s left eye. It was long and jagged, cutting up sideways through her eyebrow and nearly to her hairline.

“It’s not too bad actually.” Sophie answered, “but I couldn’t see a thing for at least ten minutes.”

“What happened?” Lily knew that Sophie would carry a scar on her face from that day forward unless she had it magically removed but it was nearly a miracle she hadn’t put her eye out.

“Truthfully, I tripped in the cavern.” Sophie looked disgusted with herself. “All of us fighting like mad and I had to go and pitch face first into a stalagmite…stalactite…hell whichever sticks up, not down.”

“Everyone else okay?” Lily asked anxiously.

“Yes Lily, everyone’s fine except for me, the clumsy fool.” Sophie managed to grin at her friend. “Your husband fought harder than I’ve ever seen him. Sent one of the rats over the edge and into an area so deep we never did hear him hit bottom.”

“Sounds a great deal like my husband.” Lily smiled. “You’ll have spectacular bruise Sophie, and it may itch as it heals but you’ll be okay.”

Remus walked into the room and looked at Sophie’s face, “Not to be ungallant but hell Burns, it looks like you took a bad hit.”

“I’m my own worst enemy, Lupin.” Sophie grinned at him. In the past two months they had become friends, rather close friends and Lily was hopeful it might lead to more, for both their sakes.

“Care to get a drink later?” Remus asked. It was a routine with them. Often after patrols they would fly to the Guzzling Goblin and risk being blow sky high by Ono. “We can talk about your splendid capture of yet another outpost.”

“Or the fact that I’ve evidently got the grace of a drunk Hippogriff, whichever comes to mind. Sure, we’ll leave in a few minutes, okay?” Sophie looked preoccupied though.

It had been a hard month they had lost several people. The Prewetts had both been killed fighting five Death Eaters at once. They’d always been so brave that they hadn’t had their house as well protected as they might have otherwise and they had come upon them in the night. Roused from their beds they had evidently still been able to hold them off for two hours before first Gideon and then Fabian were killed.

One of the hardest losses to take for Lily and the Order though was Sylvania March. Lily had spent many hours with Sylvania working through potions. Her knowledge of the Dark Arts had been invaluable. March had just gone into Hogsmeade for some supplies when they had attacked her in broad daylight. The terrified citizens had watched as the tall Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher had lost her life battling in the open. Shouting to the people on the street to take cover. It had only been when a small child had lost his head entirely and tried to run across the street to his parents that March had truly been in trouble. She’d moved quickly to try and cover the boy and accidentally exposed her back as she had done so. She’d been hit by two separate killing spells and was dead even before she hit the ground.

“Tell Dumbledore that he’ll be seeing us again soon.” A drawling voice, possibly that of Lucius Malfoy had hissed to a terrified witch trying to hide behind some empty barrels on the street.

They were hard losses but the Order had responded as they knew that any of these fighters would have wanted them to, they had redoubled their efforts to find the outposts. They had some losses and some victories.

It was sometimes troubling though that they seemed to be becoming immune to the death toll. It was also becoming more and more obvious that someone within the Order was leaking information.

::::::::::::::

“James?” Lily looked up from the potion she was trying to work out, yet another healing one.

“Um?” James was also busy, a map set out on the table in front of him. On it were tiny trees waving in a nonexistent wind, wee depictions of houses, farms, in some cases still more graveyards. The map of the outposts they had conquered so far. He was trying to work out where they might look next.

“I think I’ll leave off doing this and put Harry to bed.” Harry had been crawling here and there, pulling up on tables and collapsing to the floor again with a happy laugh. Lily had magically padded the floor in the living room so that her son need not fear toppling over. As usual, Harry was up very late but it was sometimes the only time that he was able to be with both his parents at once so they kept his schedule so as to make sure they could see him as much as possible. Penelope Potter watched Harry whenever she could, and Professor Flitwick was always happy to babysit now that the term had ended.

“Fine.” James mind was deeply engaged in his work.

“And I think you oughtt to leave that for the morning too.” There was something in Lily’s tone, something warm and inviting. James looked up immediately.

“Oh really? What did you have in mind?” James put down his quill and looked at his wife. How anyone could look so lovely after such a long day he did not know.

“I thought we might have a meal.” Lily grinned, “then I thought perhaps we might listen to a bit of music together, pull back the furniture in the living room and dance together.”

“Anything else?” James asked but he knew what else Lily had in mind.

“Well you’ll just have to wait and find out.” Lily smiled at him, her green eyes made wide with mock innocence.

“Lily, we’ll end up being up until dawn.” James was laughing.

“Did you have any plans for the morning?” Lily was now sitting in his lap, removing his glasses and kissing him.

None of them worked now, everyone knew that the Order was a known entity and they no longer had to conceal themselves with jobs. They just had to try and hide their locations with tricks and strategies, secrets and spells.

“Nothing that can’t wait.” James never ceased to be amazed that his wife could still make his blood race with just the smallest smile, or a flip of her brilliant hair. “You’re amazing you know.”

“You may have mentioned that before this actually.” She kissed him a bit more until he groaned with pleasure, then she got up, picked up their baby after helping him wave goodnight to his father, took him up the steep stairs to his bedroom.

::::::::::::::::

Atticus Sliverton sat with his feet propped up and sipped some coffee as he read the Daily Prophet at headquarters. Peter Pettigrew walked through the room and glanced at him. Peter had recovered from his injuries and been released from the hospital over a month ago but he still did not go out on patrols much.

“Heading out anywhere, Atticus?” Peter asked, he knew he had to keep up this pretense of friendship with the group, although they all sickened him.

“Me? No, not tonight. Thought I might sleep here actually.” Sliverton was reading an article and was barely paying attention. “You?”

“No, just home to bed. Still feel a little weak, truth be told.” Peter said his lines with ease now.

The man who had nearly been killed on two occasions still had enough decency in him to feel compassion, “I’m sorry you aren’t feeling your best Peter, take care.”

Peter considered Sliverton for a moment, he was wealthy, he was from a pureblood family. Why in the world he chose to fight with this mixed group of scum he’d never understand. He should have joined Voldemort and fought, he could have been useful.

“Someday you will have to get over Elizabeth and find someone you know.” Peter hated saying these sort of things, pretending to care about the lives of these worms.

Atticus Sliverton put down his newspaper and gave Peter a hard look, “I’m getting heartily sick of explaining this to everyone, but I was not in love with Elizabeth. We were friends, just friends Peter. As loyal to each other as could be.”

Sliverton sat back on the couch once again, unfolded the paper and said, “I’d think you’d understand that, after all, you’re as devoted as can be to James, Sirius and Remus.”

“Of course, I do understand. How true.” Peter said and stepped towards the fireplace that would take him to his new, equally small house.

After he had vanished, Atticus put down the paper and stared into space for a moment. He wished Fortesque were here now, he’d be able to talk to her. The thing that had been troubling Atticus for months rose up in his mind but he firmly pushed it back down once more.

::::::::::::::

“Megan, are you certain this is a good idea?” Sirius asked apprehensively.

“Yes, I’m absolutely sure.” Megan laughed as she realized that Sirius looked a bit frightened. “For heaven’s sake don’t look like that. Cooking can’t be that complicated. Read the recipe, follow the recipe, I’m determined that I’ll be able to figure this out.”

She stared at the ingredients on the table. A duck, a few oranges, truly what could go wrong?

“Okay, but you know we’ll be eating duck for breakfast.” They never seemed to have time to grab proper meals any longer at night.

“Yes, and we’ll be doing something else long after that. You’ll need your strength Black, so I suggest you eat heartily.” She grinned at him.

Ten minutes later when he heard the loud pop he returned to the kitchen and found Megan covered in orange pulp and bits of what used to be the duck, on the up side it smelled as if the blast had cooked it.

“How did you manage that?” Sirius was trying to keep from laughing.

“So it’s sandwiches again then.” Megan said easily, a piece of orange rind on the top of her head. “I’ll just take a quick shower after I clean this up.”

Sirius loved her ability to be undeterred by obstacles.

“I’ll clean up in here, you go and shower.” Sirius chuckled.

“Oh no Sirius I made the mess, I should clean it up.” Megan smiled.

“Or you could clean yourself up, I’ll get this and a couple of sandwiches. Then we’ll have more time to devote to other things.” He grinned at her and winked. “I’d kiss you, but I think you parts of a former water fowl stuck to your face.”

“Kiss me anyway so that I’ll know you’d love me in any condition.” Megan joked and was somewhat surprised when Sirius began chasing her through the house to do her bidding. “I was joking you maniac!”

“It’ll give us a reason to shower together.” Sirius said as he caught hold of her, wiped her face with a towel and then kissed her firmly. “After all, we’re on a mission here.”

“Too right we are, and we need to dedicate our time and effort to…Sirius put me down!” Megan was howling with laughter as he put her over his shoulder and began walking towards the bathroom.

“I’m afraid I can’t, my intended wants to make sure she waddles down the aisle to meet me.” Sirius was teasing her about her unwillingness to move up the wedding but her insistence that they try to conceive a child straight away. “I’m devoted to the cause you know.”

“Well, you devil, that helps because I’m devoted to you.” Megan said as they arrived in the bathroom and Sirius began pulling off her clothes for her. “I can undress myself you know.”

“I’m certain you can, but my way is so much more fun.”

Sometimes she would still forget things but Dumbledore had been correct, it was getting better. She shrugged off the feeling that she was neglecting her duty to whatever power had given her the ability to see. She’d seen enough and swore that she would never read anyone ever again.

But Dumbledore had been right, all those months ago when he had said she would change her mind.

::::::::::::::::

“Closed for repairs? Again?” Sophie said and eyed the front of the Guzzling Goblin. “What do you think Ono did this time?”

“Well, the windows are blown out and I’m fairly certain smoke shouldn’t be puce.” He watched the smoke seeping out from the bottom of the building. “Not to mention the fact that smoke is supposed to rise, whereas this stuff is clinging to the ground.”

“Ouch!” Sophie grabbed her ankle and began to hop backwards. “Back away Remus, the ruddy stuff seems to be able to nip!”

“Smoke cannot…holy hell, what was that?” He’d felt a tugging at his ankles as the smoke drifted around them and tiny little teeth yanking at his sock.

“Not sticking around to find out.” Sophie was laughing. “Is that it then, should we call it a night?”

Remus looked at Sophie. The wound to her face looked rather bad and it had to sting like mad, yet she seemed to be ignoring it. Women, he thought, usually would have been very upset about anything that might disfigure their face and he’d always thought before this that Sophie was a rather vain girl.

“Tell you what, hop on your broom and come back to my digs. It’s not much but I’ve got some butterbeer there.” They had been meeting for a drink regularly for quite some time, but they’d never actually gone anywhere alone together. She’d had a rough night, he should keep her company.

“Sounds like a plan.” Sophie jumped on her broomstick. “Want to race?”

“Soph, you don’t know where I live.”

“Fat lot you know, the last full moon who do you think went to feed that monster of a cat you have?” Sophie immediately kicked off the ground and was zooming through the night.

Remus smiled and chased after her on his own broom, which was older so he’d had a hard time keeping up. Usually James fed Pavalo, his large, ill tempered cat that was missing it’s left ear because of a prolonged fight it had managed to get into with marsh-wolvette two years ago.

Sailing through the air, he’d grabbed hold of the end of Sophie’s broom and tried to drag her back.

“Cut it out, in some countries that’s considered legally actionable as an offense!” She tried to shake him off.

“Where?”

“Crimea.” Sophie fibbed and they were off again.

By the time they reached his modest rooms they were both windblown and out of breath from having dodged each other.

“Entrée Senorita.” Remus joked and threw open the door. It was a small flat, sparsely furnished with clothes thrown about the place and tiny kitchen right off the living room. “Welcome to my spacious home.”

Pavolo sat atop a bookshelf, hissing and spitting.

“Good to see you too, you old curmudgeon.” Remus said to his ill-tempered feline as Sophie took a seat on the sagging sofa and Remus fetched the butterbeer. “Here you go.”

“Thanks, I’ve got nothing in my place except doxies, a mattress and a chair I think may be possessed by the previous occupant.” Sophie took a sip.

“What makes you say that?” Remus was having a nice, relaxed time.

“Well, for one thing it keeps ordering me out of its home, so either it just never learned the social graces, or the tenant before me took up permanent residence there.” Sophie’s eyes were roaming the rather depressing room, everyone knew that Remus wasn’t flush with cash but this place made her own flat look palatial.

“Why are you living there? I thought your parents were rather well off.” Remus asked. Some of the Order members had to take money from their parents to live, just as he was currently.

“Oh they are, they just don’t like what I’m doing. So at the moment, I’m disinherited.” Sophie laughed. “They think the work is too dangerous for a ‘girl’. I’m more or less poverty stricken and maimed.”

“You’re not maimed, that will heal up well, especially with the ointment Lily put on it. Does it hurt much?” Remus asked. It sometimes surprised him how much of a chum Sophie had become to him. At first she chased him around but after Easter, she’d changed, become more focused perhaps. She joked a lot more too now.

“Stings, nothing bad.” Sophie would never forget seeing those three men, hell bent on presumably killing those babies. Nor would she forget any of the members who had been seriously injured or killed in her time with the Order. She joked to keep the fear at bay. “Nice picture.”

She was indicating the picture of Amelia on the dresser. Amelia Strong was standing waving gently in the photo, in the background was Hogwarts and a student zipping back and forth on a broom. She looked over at Remus and felt again that she owed him an apology. He had never heard her words to Sirius about Amelia’s death and she felt badly about ever having said them. At the time she had not known what it was like, having someone there one moment and then snuffed out like a candle the next.

“Thanks, it’s my favorite.” Remus looked at the pretty girl in the picture wishing she could speak, he had not heard her voice in so long.

“It’s hard isn’t it?” Sophie wasn’t smiling now.

“Not as hard as it used to be, and if I’m being truthful, that bothers me.” Remus had always been a bit of a sensitive soul, he had no trouble talking about his feelings. “Makes me feel like I’m letting go of her sometimes.”

“Well tell me about her, maybe that will make you feel a bit closer to her again.” Sophie Burns had lived in the same dorm room with Amelia for seven years but she wanted to make up for her own callousness when she had told Sirius that Amelia had been gone for ages.

Remus considered the offer and then began to speak. It took him a full hour but at the end of it, he felt better. He also felt as if a sweet, tall girl was standing at the edges of the room, watching and smiling. Hoping for good things for him. Somewhere in the land invisible.

At the end of the time Sophie stood and said, “Well, I should really get back to my nasty chair. It hasn’t had an opportunity to insult me in ages.”

She gazed down at Remus for a moment, his kind face, already beginning to show some lines. She impulsively stooped to kiss his cheek and was surprised when he turned to catch her lips on his own, at first tentatively, then he was pulling her back down on the couch next to him, kissing her deeply.

He was surprised when she pulled away.

“Remus, this would definitely be one of those ‘hate yourself in the morning’ scenarios. I know you’re lonely and I’ll admit it, I am too.” Sophie was now being entirely earnest. “We see so much violence and sometimes even death. Hell, most of us are convinced one way or another that we’re going to die.”

He waited as he saw a tear trickle down her cheek but then she smiled at him.

“So, let’s not do anything foolish here. We’re friends, I like you as a friend and maybe it could even be more.” Her friendly brown eyes looked into his. “But I don’t think….well, I think that my chair could do without me for an evening, but you’re more important to me as a friend.”

“I wasn’t actually trying to…” He stopped, how in the world could he phrase this. “I’ve never…”

“I know that. I guessed Remus, after all you were with Amelia back at school and she was, well, she was a bit innocent, honestly.” Sophie’s eyes were kind. “You’re not the type to go for a pick up when you’re still mourning for her.”

If he had ever imagined this conversation with a woman, he would have died from embarrassment but it felt perfectly natural.

“Open me up another butterbeer Lupin. I can sleep here on this travesty of a sofa.” The light overhead seemed to be highlighting her injured face. “Neither of us has to spend the night alone, but we’re not going to do anything we’ll regret.”

“You can sleep in the bed, I’ll sleep on the sofa.” He smiled. As he opened two more bottles and handed one to Sophie she spoke again:

“When you do…well, I’m certain you know what I’m talking about…make sure it’s with someone you love.” It was an oddly touching thing to say.

“Is that how it was for you?” Remus asked.

“Me? No. Despite all appearances to the contrary, I’m in the same boat that you are.” She laughed. “Cheers from one aging virgin to another.”

They clinked their bottles together.

“Cheers.” He answered.



Chapter 32: A Birthday Party
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Chapter Thirty Two:

“Lily?” James came in through the door calling for his wife.

“I’m in the dining room, just wrapping up a few things.” Lily Potter had her hair pulled back in a ponytail and a pencil tucked behind her ear as she wrapped up a stuffed dragon.

James stood in the doorway and looked at her, remembering how often he had tried to sneak glances at her in the corridors of Hogwarts. “I haven’t seen you with one of those things for years.”

“What?” Then her hand went automatically to her hair. “The pencil? They’re very handy for making lists you know, you can rub out mistakes you make…”

“Lily, you’ve got a self-correcting quill for that.” James was struggling not to grin.

“Oh well, all right, I found it in a chest in the attic, it made me think of old times.” Lily answered her tone light and happy.

“Old times eh?” James put his arms around her waist. “You mean before you were with me?”

“No darling, it made me remember when things were just starting between us.” She titled up her head and kissed his chin.

“Much better then. What have you got here?” There were several wrapped parcels on the table. The giftwrap had illustrations of Quidditch players zooming back and forth.

“Harry’s gifts for the party later.” She smiled in a distracted fashion. “I’ve still got to ice the cake and put together another plate of sandwiches. Remus is bringing some ice cream and I think Sirius is bringing along all kinds of drink.”

“You do realize he’s turning one darling.” James teased. “He’s not likely to know what this is about.”

“He won’t, but we will James.” Lily’s expression was serene. He hadn’t seen her looking that untroubled for ages. “For the rest of our lives, we’ll remember our son’s first birthday. It’s important to celebrate it properly.”

“Let me guess, another tradition in the making here?” But he was pleased. He adored Lily’s attention to building traditions, it always made him think hopefully towards the future. He could imagine their household full of children growing and carrying them on to their families.

“James, sometimes you’re very silly you know. I didn’t invent the tradition of a Birthday party.” She was still in his arms.

“No, but you’ll make it more special than anyone else could.”

She kissed him and then asked, “Been to see your mother again? How is Penny?”

“She’s getting better already. Of course, she’ll still be in there for a bit.”

James sighed. His mother had had a stroke three days earlier, it was a mild one and she was expected to recover but it was hard seeing her in St. Mungo’s looking pale and drawn. She was young to have had such a problem, only 57, but then his father had died at the age of 58, two years earlier. In so many ways James was happy that he had married so young, his parents had not married until they were in their mid thirties and now, at the age of twenty, he’d already lost one of them. Marrying at eighteen must have looked like a foolish thing to do to many people, but at least he knew that his family would have him with them longer.

At least, he hoped that would be the case. He firmly put the thought from his mind, for one full day he was determined not to worry about Voldemort.

::::::::::::::::::

“What on earth do you expect him to do with that, Padfoot?” James was laughing at Sirius’ choice of gift.

“I expect him to learn to fly it of course.” Sirius grinned. He had given his Godson a brand new, full sized broom. “Eventually. Maybe not until he’s two.”

Harry was giggling and thumping away at the broomstick. Delighted by all the attention but of course, completely unaware of what it was all about. He smile was infectious though and all the adults present couldn’t help but smile back at the chubby faced infant.

“It will be time for cake soon.” Lily said as she brought in a fresh pitcher of pumpkin juice.

All those assembled were pleased to be there, relieved to have one night away from the grueling slog, but also overjoyed to be there, celebrating with their friends. It was a small party, just Remus, Sirius, Megan, James and Lily.

“I wish that Peter could be here.” James said. “He’s still not feeling well?”

“Honestly, I don’t think that’s it.” Remus answered, “I think he’s a bit afraid to go out now. He had such a close call, it would make anyone a bit nervous.”

“No, we aren’t going to talk about anything grim this evening.” Lily said decisively, “We’re only going to think about happy things, and be happy together.”

Everyone agreed and Lily pushed another present forward to Harry who began to drum on the box excitedly with his little fists.

“I think we’ll have to help him with the wrapping again, love.” James sat next to Lily on the floor his hand on her waist. It never felt odd to be affectionate with Lily in front of anyone in fact, it would have felt odd if he were not. As he watched his son with eager, loving attention.

“But it’s so much fun to watch him play with the box.” Lily was simply entranced by their child and James, in truth was also.

“That’s really the best part of any gift, the box.” Remus said and winked at Sirius who grinned right back.

“We should take a picture of all us together!” Lily said, her voice excited.

“Oh God no, I can’t stand to having my picture taken.” Megan immediately begged off. “I’ll take my turn as the official photographer again.”

“Megan I’ve never known anyone to have such a horror of photographs, why is that?” Lily asked her friend.

“Oh, it’s so I there will be no evidence of me when I begin my life as a fugitive.” She joked. “Now, everyone gather round the cake and smile.”

Lily hoisted Harry up to the table, then with Remus, Sirius and James gathered round cheering, Megan snapped the picture.

“That will be lovely altogether. What a cheerful group!” Megan kissed Harry on the head. “Here’s one lad who’ll never have to doubt how loved he is, that’s for certain.”

It was a perfect night really and those were hard to come by.



Chapter 33: Two Close Calls
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Chapter Thirty Three:

Two days later at headquarters the few assembled members were just finishing up and starting to head home.

“Do you need an escort, Burns?” Moody said in his always gruff voice. They’d taken to doing this, trying to make sure the less experienced fighters were taken home by the seasoned ones just in case of ambush. Sophie’s place didn’t have a fireplace so she always had to apparate to her flat. Lupin had been taking on the job of guarding her and Moody thought he might like a break.

“Oh…uh…no. I’m having my place exterminated right now actually.” Sophie’s cheeks were burning. “I’m staying at a friend’s place tonight.”

“What have you got that needs exterminating?” Peter asked with what seemed like interest.

“Oh, just some Doxies, I don’t have time to kill them off myself, so I hired that old loon Cecil Phenton to do it.” Sophie was still blushing.

Lily was watching this all transpire with interest, why was Sophie looking so flustered?

“Where are you staying Sophie? Are you sure it’s well protected?” Atticus asked with concern.

“Oh, yes, it is well protected. Cloaked and hidden as well as it can be.” Sophie was now frankly crimson. “Remus is going to take me there.”

The Longbottoms were pulling on cloaks and heading out now too.

Must be a new boyfriend, Atticus thought and smiled at her before returning to the book he was reading.

Peter also smiled at her rather warmly and this Sophie found to be a bit odd. Peter never was overly friendly towards her. She hadn’t been willing to tell the group that she was staying at Remus’s place and had been doing so for a couple of weeks now. They wouldn’t have understood that it wasn’t some hot and heavy romance. They both just liked having the company.

Megan and Sirius took their leave together, as did James and Lily. Remus and Sophie went off and it was Atticus who noticed that Lupin was nearly as red in the face as Sophie as he left. Suddenly understanding and with a huge grin he turned to Pettigrew to tell him what he suspected but the words stopped in his throat.

Peter Pettigrew was staring off with a hard, cold expression on his face.

“What in the world are you thinking about Peter?” Atticus asked.

“What? Oh. Him, just thinking of him.” Peter made himself grimace. “Making my friends hide like animals, no one even feels safe going home any longer. I want it to end.”

“It will, don’t worry.” Atticus was sympathetic.

Peter’s mind was racing, they were all of them protected by many charms, their homes cloaked and concealed. Peter didn’t even know where Sophie lived. But Cecil Phenton would, and since he had taken no oath there was every possibility he could reveal the location. If he had Phenton snagged tonight, Sophie ought to be home by tomorrow and then they could pounce.

He’d managed to reveal the Prewett brothers location because they had both been so foolhardy about protecting it but it would please the Dark Lord to kill another member of the Order. He very nearly got two.

:::::::::::::::

“You’re going to ruin your back you know.” Sophie said to Remus as they walked up the street toward her flat two days later. “That couch has all the earmarking of a killer.”

They were heading to her place to collect some of her clothes and to grab her shampoo because Sophie didn’t like the way his smelled.

“We should stay at my place tonight.” She said impulsively.

“You don’t have a couch, do you?” Remus also felt awkward about discussing their relationship with the others because whereas it was a friendship, it was also something more. It was just that neither of them could quite make out what that something ‘more’ entailed.

They weren’t romantically involved, or rather, they were not physically involved, his mind quickly amended. Instead, they just seemed to feel better when the other was there and that had to mean something.

“No, but I do have an enormous mattress. You can sleep on one side and I’ll sleep on the other.” Sophie tucked her hand into the crook of his arm. “Don’t worry so much Remus, it isn’t as if we’re doing anything wrong.”

They certainly hadn’t planned on doing anything but it was far more difficult than either of them had thought it would be. Remus could feel the warmth of Sophie’s body next to him. He was having trouble thinking clearly and sleep was an impossibility because of it.

“Trespasser, leave my house at once!” The chair in the living room could be heard wheezing.

Remus sighed, why in the world she didn’t get rid of that thing he’d never know.

“You’re awake too?” Sophie spoke from the dark room. Both of them were almost fully dressed in the bed having only kicked off their shoes and removed their outer robes.

“I can’t sleep. It’s more comfortable than the couch but…” Remus trailed off.

“I know, I can’t either.” Sophie said. They were two rather desperately lonely people and there was certainly affection between them. Maybe that was as good as love, Sophie thought. Who even knew if she’d live to see real love?

Remus was thinking something along the same lines. It was becoming more and more difficult to be by himself particularly when most of his closest friends were always with the women they loved. Peter had reacted to the strain they were all under by withdrawing into himself a great deal.

Amelia, please don’t be angry he thought. He’d been eighteen years old when she died and although he still loved her, facing an entire lifetime without any kind of physical comfort seemed unbearable.

He turned Sophie towards him and began to kiss her softly and soon they were both lost in each other.

He had just been about to draw Sophie’s shirt up over her head, having discarded his own when there was a brilliant flash of blue light, the door came crashing in and they could hear the Death Eaters pounding towards them.

“Wands!” Remus yelled and they were both up and on their feet in a second. Sophie wasn’t a bad fighter, even if she failed to be great. Perhaps they could get out of this yet.

There were three of them but Remus caught a lucky break and managed to stun one as he came through the door, causing the one behind him to stumble over the unconscious body. Sophie got him before he could regain his balance. The third gave them terrible trouble, she was swift and could fire off spells at an unbelievable rate but as she’d raised her wand to aim at Sophie. Remus launched himself onto her and knocked her down.

“Roll off Remus!” Sophie yelled and he’d done so quickly. Sophie stunned the woman full in the chest.

“We have to get out of here. There may be more.” Remus panted.

“We can’t apparate from inside here, it’s one of Moody’s safeguards.” Sophie answered and then looked toward the window.

They could hear more running footsteps as they leapt from the window, crashed to the earth and apparated to the front of headquarters. Speaking the password in such a rush that it wasn’t understood the first time they both managed to pile into the main living room on the second try.

Atticus was still awake and seated on the couch. He leapt to his feet, taking in the two dishelved people in front of him.

“Are you all right?” Atticus asked anxiously.

“Yes, but we’d better get some of the members here at once. We may still be able to go back and grab the ones we stunned.” Remus spoke quickly.

“Right, Moody’s upstairs asleep, I’ll get him.” Atticus said, then he couldn’t help but smile. “I think I have the loan of a shirt for you.”

It wasn’t until then that Remus realized he was half dressed.



Chapter 34: A Spy Revealed
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Chapter Thirty Four:

“I think that’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard in my life.” Megan was staring at Lily. “Whatever made you think it?”

“Listen, I hate the thought of it as much as you do but think about it Megan. We’ve got a spy in the Order, it’s beyond obvious by now.” Lily’s expression was pained. “Think of all the things that have happened, the night you were captured…well…you won’t remember that, but he was alone in the room with Elizabeth…that much we do know… the attack at the estate, almost none of us has access to the information at the same exact time…”

“It would have to be someone who was close at hand each time the information was discussed.” Lily felt sick at the thought as she continued. “Or who had first hand knowledge of what was being planned.”

“Oh but Lily,” Megan was truly confused. “That could have been any of a number of us, hell, you, James, Sirius…and you know that what James knows, Sirius knows almost immediately…the same thing goes for Remus and Peter, Moody, the Longbottoms…we’re all nearly always together here.”

“I know that, but he’s the only one who makes any kind of sense. You must admit he’s a bit odd.” Lily was trying puzzle it all out.

“Lily, I know this whole thing is driving us all to the point of barking madness, but you can’t be suggesting this in your right mind.” Her dark haired friend continued to protest. “He’s nearly been killed, twice. His best friend died the night I was taken…it just can’t possibly be Atticus.”

“Megan, I really don’t want it to be either but you know of his family, they’re almost legendary for their craftiness, I’m afraid it fits.” Lily felt absolutely dismal.

“He saved my life Lily, when that mad woman had me near the cliff it was Atticus who came out of nowhere…” Megan shook her head once again. “I’m sorry, but I’m just sure you’re mistaken.”

“Megan, those Death Eaters knew where the nursery was. They knew exactly where it was.” Lily had thought about this long and hard.

“That won’t stand up either Potter, we’re were all at his place the summer after we graduated.” The more Lily talked the less Megan believed this.

“But we weren’t prowling around in a nursery.”

“Oh for heaven’s sake Lily, you’re spinning tales in your head now. Think about it,” Megan was actually a bit angry, she had sat on the end of Atticus’ bed countless times in the hospital. They had talked about just about everything in the world. He was a rather odd man, but he was a good man. “Atticus was nearly killed, by a Death Eater.”

“I know,” Lily was looking more and more miserable as she spoke, “But Atticus was hit in the shoulder, not the chest, that’s why the spell didn’t kill him outright. That’s what the mediwizards told us.”

“This is getting ridiculous, so the person who cursed him had bad aim.” Megan was nearly fed up with this conversation.

“Megan, James says that it was Severus Snape who got Atticus.” Lily hated hurting her friend, she knew she was fond of Atticus, they had kept each other company in St. Mungo’s.

“What?” Megan was now looking frightened. “But he’s got dead aim Lily. Plus he’s a horrid piece of work.”

“I know. So does James, and we’re both concerned.”

“Well have you spoken to Dumbledore about this?” Megan’s eyes felt weary.

“Not yet, but I think I have to.” She grimaced, “It won’t be easy, he obviously trusts Atticus a great deal. The man’s almost always at headquarters.”

“You’ll have to tell him then,” Megan was firm, as horrible a thought as it was, “We’ve got to get a move on and meet James and Sirius for the patrol, but …you have to tell him after that Lily.

:::::::::::

“Where the hell are they?” James hissed to Sirius in a terrified whisper.

“I don’t know, God, how could we let this happen?” Sirius looked as frightened as James felt.

It had supposed to be a quiet patrol. That was part of the reason that James had agreed that Lily come with them. They’d received information that a small house outside of Kent had been abandoned, but had previously seen the comings and goings of several suspicious characters. They’d apparated into the woods and begun to advance on the sight slowly.

If they hadn’t heard a voice they would have been done for, all of them. But luckily, the distinctive voice of Severus Snape had carried across the wind and they’d just had time to try to flee.

There were six of them, all in robes and hoods standing outside the house, apparently getting ready to leave.

“We don’t have all night Rodo.” Snape’s voice had come to them and they had started to back away. If only Sirius hadn’t brought his weight down on that branch, which let off a sound like an explosion or so it had felt in the nearly silent trees.

“Scatter.” James hissed to all of them and they had, but to his consternation Lily and Megan had run off to the left and then mysteriously disappeared from sight.

“You four, chase the men.” Snape barked out, “We’ll go after the two girls.”

::::::::::::::

Severus Snape had thought Rodo was going to take all night gathering up the last of the hidden parchment that was tucked underneath the eaves. It was then that he had heard it, a soft rustling coming from the trees. He’d turned his head and caught the tiniest glimpse of moonlight glinting off of the head of someone with red hair.

Hell, it was Lily Potter and the fools were advancing.

“We don’t have all night Rodo.” He’d snapped, hoping that his voice would carry. Sure enough, the glint had vanished immediately and it wasn’t until that damn sound like a miniature thunderclap had sounded that the others had realized.

Dashing towards the sound he’d seen the unmistakable shape of Black and James Potter. He’d sent Rodo, Crouch and the other two buffoons after them. Potter ought to be able to handle them just fine. All four of them were thugs, but none was exactly a master dueler.

He’d grabbed Bellatrix and started after the two women.

It had just gotten worse, Lily Potter was running right after Megan Hogan. He knew what she looked like well. To his amazement they’d suddenly broken over the top of what appeared to be a small hill when they had vanished.

:::::::::::::::::

“Jesus, oh lord, Lily, can you hear me?” Megan had hold of her friend. The drop off had been steep and they had no idea it was there, before they knew what was happening they’d been tumbling rump over teacup down the hill. At the bottom, Lily appeared to be limp.

“Yes, fine, just winded for a moment. What was that?” Lily was gasping for breath.

“Some farmer must have cleared a hill down to his field, they do that sometimes for irrigation ditches.” There were Muggles all over this area. They could hear that the Death Eaters above had stopped at the edge and had started to slither down after them. “Where the hell do we go? Damn anti-apparation nonsense.”

Lily’s eyes moved quickly and spotted a path across the field, leading into the woods on the other side. “There!”

“Lily we can’t, we’ll be out in the open for too long.” But Lily was up and away already. Megan began sprinting after her and had soon easily overtaken her.

:::::::::::::::

“James, we need to get out of here.” Sirius said in a very low whisper.

“I’m aware of that.” Also so quietly it was little more than a breath. They were hiding in a tiny ditch they had found that must have been a dried up creek. James considered the situation. They’d be dead if they didn’t stay still, the ditch they were in was filled with leaves and twigs. They’d make an unholy racket if they tried to move.

His mind worked furiously, as did Sirius’s beside him. They wouldn’t be able to get to either Lily or Megan if they moved now because there were three to one side one to the other. Damn, if only they had split up in pairs. As it was, if they stood and tried to fight, they’d have to count on one of them facing three, while the other took down one and pivoted swiftly enough to catch up the slack. They were both good, but three at once for either of them were terribly steep odds. Before either had a chance to round about and help, they’d almost certainly be stunned or worse.

“Stay put.” James whispered. He prayed that Lily was all right. Sirius nodded beside him although he was clearly strained himself.

:::::::::::::::::::::

“One of them is Lily Potter!” Bellatrix’s voice was low but still madly excited as she and Severus slid to the ground. “The Dark Lord will be pleased, capture her alive Severus.”

“Did you get a look at the other?” Snape asked and his voice did not betray any apprehension.

Bellatrix could not stop herself from laughing, “It’s the Mudblood seer, Severus. Fortune smiles upon us.”

They were up and moving across the field running low to the ground. He wished that Lily would realize her hair was like a homing beacon in the moonlight and draw her hood up. As he saw Lily turn her ankle on a stone in the field, he wanted to swear. She fell sideways but tried to get up again quickly.

Severus suddenly realized it was a possible way out of this for them. He stunned Lily Potter heavily and she collapsed. He couldn’t tell if Hogan had heard or not, she ran like a deer and was far ahead.

Severus stopped by Lily’s prone body.

“What are you doing, we almost have them both.” Bellatrix snapped. He was flipping her over and binding her. Bellatrix had only stopped to berate him, she was after Hogan again in a second. Snape grabbed Lily’s wand and followed at a distance.

:::::::::::::

Megan had stopped just a several yards into the trees and hid behind a trunk, listening for Lily behind her. She hadn’t meant to outrun her. Finally she heard her approaching and swung out, relieved. Only to find herself face to face with a Death Eater.

“Expellimarus!” Bellatrix disarmed her and laughed. “Not again, filthy little seer. No one to save the Mudblood.”

Megan wanted to claw the woman’s eyes out but instead she turned to run. A silvery rope shot out from Bellatrix’s wand and again, her laughter rang through the night, jagged and cold. Megan fell to the ground.

“You don’t think to outrun me?” Lestrange’s voice woke something within Megan’s head. “We have such pretty games to play yet, the Master will not mind.”

Her wand was pointed directly at Megan’s head and she knew what was coming this time, this same horrible woman had very nearly gotten her with the torture spell on the cliffs. As Megan tried to writhe out of the way and crawl across the forest floor, something heavy fell on her legs. Kicking out with both her legs, Megan tried to get out from underneath the stunned woman.

It was then that she saw a tall, thin figure standing there in a hood and robe. He’d stunned Bellatrix.
God, did they all want a chance to torture her for themselves? She continued to kick out desperately as the man heaved Lestrange off of her.

“Hold still.” The voice was familiar to her and instantly recognizable. “I can’t cut the things if you keep kicking around like that.”

To her utter amazement, Severus Snape was standing there holding her still.

“What the in all the moon and stars is this?” Megan whispered.

“Be quiet, I don’t know where the other four are.” He raised the wand and cut the bond from her. She immediately began searching for her wand this had to be a trick.

“Would you stop making all that noise?” Snape hissed quietly. He suddenly stunned Bellatrix again. “She’ll wake soon, we need to hurry.”

“Hurry to do what?” Megan couldn’t fathom what was going on here it was then that she realized Snape was holding Lily’s wand. “What did you do to her?”

“She’s fine, hurry. We have to get to the field before we can be seen.” He grabbed Megan’s arm and began to haul her away from Lestrange, but to his shock, she kicked out at him.

“Let go of me.” Then she dropped to the ground and began scrambling for Bellatrix’s hand.

“What are you doing?” Snape would have tried to drag her but he had been strangely fascinated. He had been told Hogan didn’t do this any longer.

“Shhhhh….” She was concentrating, holding Lestange’s hand. It was possible she would know who the traitor was. A horrible, deep cold flowed from the woman’s hand into hers, and so much hatred, people screaming and that mad, mad laugh. There was pain and tremendous pleasure in it but she could get nothing clear. “Damn.”

She flung the woman’s hand away and started to stand, surprised that her legs were weak. Severus Snape grabbed her elbow, pressed her own wand into her hand and began striding with her towards the field, snapping, “You’re risking everything.”

It was then, and only then that she realized that he hadn’t called her one horrible thing. He was actually trying to help her.

“Oh my God, you’re the spy?” Megan gasped.

“We don’t have time for this, I would think that’s obvious.” He never quit moving toward the field, when they reached the edge he stopped, scouted the area with his eyes, and then pushed her forward. “Go, cut her bonds, put them in your pocket and get back here.”

Put them in your pocket. You make a pocket in your mind. ‘It’s my only chance of saving you’. She stared at Snape, what was she remembering? He pushed her again, “Go! Revive her and bring her back here.”

“Why?”

“She’ll need to stun me.”

:::::::::::::

“Lily, Lily wake up.”

Lily opened her eyes and saw the night sky above her. “Megan?”

“Yes, come with me quickly, you aren’t going to believe this.” She helped Lily to her feet and then quickly began covering their earlier footprints.

“What’s going on?”

“Lord, you’ll have to tell me.”

When they reached the woods a Death Eater came striding toward them. Lily screamed in horror and yelled, “Stun him!” Her hands were scrabbling desperately for her wand.

“Take this.” Severus said and Lily’s jaw dropped as he handed her the missing wand. “Hurry, I’ve stunned her again but she’ll come to quickly she’s nearly impossible to stun for long.”

“What the…”

“Just come Lily.” Megan remembered a feeling from long ago. She could trust Severus Snape.

When they were a few yards in Severus told Lily to stop. “I’ll go ahead a bit, and you’ve got to stun me several times. Then bind me, break my wand and get out of here.”

Lily stared. “Why were you using my wand?”

“Because he’ll be able to tell what spells I’ve recently used my wand for…now hurry, leave the pieces of my wand nearby. I’ve broken hers.” He jerked his head towards the unconscious woman.

“Severus?” Megan caught his arm, there was a chance he would know, or be able to find out, he stood staring down at her arm. “Is it possible that Atticus Sliverton is the spy from the Order?”

He stared at her and made his voice into a snarl. “That would be highly unlikely. He’s Dumbledore’s great nephew after all.”

With that, he turned, walked away and Lily stunned him three times as hard as she knew how. She shot bonds around him and looked at Megan.

“What do we do?” Megan asked.

Lily desperately wanted to go back and search for James and Sirius but knew they had better return to headquarters. “Shoot off the gold sparks to let them know we’re all right and get out let’s get out of here. We’ll try apparating from the field, those spells usually don’t stretch to clearings not for long at least.”

:::::::::::::

James and Sirius had just finished off the four Death Eaters who had finally broken into pairs.

“I wish we could do more than stun them.” James mumbled as he broke their wands and shot bonds around them. He could hear Sirius doing the same. “Don’t forget to search for an extra wand.”

“We don’t have time James.” But then they saw the gold sparks rising above in the night sky.

“Back to headquarters?” James asked.

Sirius nodded, “We just changed colors to gold last night. They’ve got to be safe.”

:::::::::::::

They all sat at the table together in the kitchen of headquarters.

“Well if it’s true, then I feel like an idiot.” James said, Lily and Megan had told them about Atticus, but not about Snape. They needed to talk to Dumbledore about that.

“What’s worse is that if it is true, he’s the least likely among us to be the spy.” Sirius said.

As they were talking, Atticus himself strolled in, his ear streaming blood.

“Lily, could you help me here? I was with Frank and Alice…we had a bit of a time of it and one those buggers caught me with a cutting curse.” Atticus as usual seemed unperturbed.

“Certainly.” Lily stood and began ministering to him. “Atticus, are you by any chance related to Dumbledore?”

Atticus gave her a strange look, “Yes, but that’s not common knowledge. When I went to Hogwarts it was never mentioned because it might have looked like favoritism when I did well. But since you ask, his sister Augusta was my grandmother.”

Atticus realized they were all staring at him. “You know, Albus, Augusta, and Dumbledore’s brother is named Aberforth.”

Still more staring and Atticus began to feel uncomfortable, “This is exactly why I never bring it up. How did you figure it out? Is it because both my father’s name and mine begin with A? It’s a family tradition you know.”

“No, you look a bit like him actually.” Lily said vaguely and realized it was true. He was tall, he was powerful and practically nothing unnerved him. Despite his coloring, Atticus even resembled Dumbledore in his personality.

Aregus Sliverton, Atticus Sliverton. Lord, we’re dim, thought James.

“That’s why your father had such a well fortified estate?” James asked, the light suddenly dawning.

“Yes. My grandmother died years ago, but my father was working with Dumbledore long after that. Voldemort had been a threat for nearly two decades. My father was always so gifted and bright, he could have made a real difference.”

Atticus stared off into space for a moment. “I suppose that’s why two of the first people he killed were my parents. They’d both left the estate together, and he caught them unaware.”

This was simply humiliating at this point, none of them had ever thought to ask what had become of Sliverton’s parents.

“How long ago?” James asked.

“Nearly twelve years ago, I was in my third year.” Atticus looked at them. “You needn’t look so miserable, it’s okay you know. I do miss them, but I know they’d approve of what I’m doing. After all, I was the first member Dumbledore recruited.”

Lily finished sealing up his ear and shot chagrined looks to her friends and husband.

“Do me a favor though and don’t mention to anyone. It’s not a secret to guard with your life, but people tend to get a bit funny about it.” Atticus grabbed an apple and started to head out, he paused in the doorway and asked:

“You are all right, aren’t you? Raid went well?”

“Quite well, thanks for asking.” Lily answered. They could hear Atticus striding up the stairs on his long legs.

“Aren’t we just a fine bunch of fools?” Megan said lightly to break the tension but no one laughed, they were back to square one.


Chapter 35: Galaxy Gold Dust
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Chapter Thirty Five:

At the Guzzling Goblin the somewhat eccentric bartender and owner, Ono was at it again. The bubbling gold brew glistened in the dim lights and for once didn’t seem to be throwing off sparks, or alarming belches.

“That’s pretty,” Said Lily, “What is it Ono?”

She was meeting Sophie Burns in just a few minutes, it was the first week of October and the full moon had just started to wane. Remus should be fine by this evening.

“It’s Galaxy Gold Dust!” Ono was pleased with this creation. In theory it would help bring prosperity to whoever consumed it. “Would you like to try some? On the house, of course.”

Lily looked at the pretty drink and felt tempted. Honestly, this looked completely harmless. “What does it taste like?”

“Persimmons!” Ono was tickled to death as he reached for a glass. Finally, a success!

“Well, promise me that you’ll transform me back if I turn into a footstool or something.” Lily had sniffed the drink it smelled just lovely. She looked towards the end of the bar, where a man and a woman sat together chatting companionably to her relief she saw that they both had goblets of the mixture in front of them and yet still gave every appearance of being fine. “Cheers!”

Sophie had entered as Lily spoke with the owner and now stood at her side. “Don’t do it, you have a child to consider.”

“I think he may really have gotten it right this time.” Lily knew that Ono was a long and trusted friend of Dumbledore’s plus she had worked out so many potions of her own that she felt an odd kinship with the barkeep. He’d never try to hurt anyone on purpose.

“Fine, but did you listen closely to it yet?” Sophie had been here many times with Remus and she knew the possible pitfalls of Ono’s concoctions.

Lily hadn’t heard anything from the drink yet, but she leaned her ear down close and as a bubble burst to the surface, she heard the tiniest little bark.

“Ono! What have you put in this?” Lily immediately pushed the drink away.

“It’s just the essence you know! I’d never hurt an animal.” Ono looked a bit flustered. “All it takes is a bit of hair from a ….”

“Niffler.” Lily finished. “Ono, no! You’ve got to throw it out now what if people take on the characteristics of one?”

Ono looked sadly at the caldron and said, “Do you think that’s possible?”

“With my own eyes I have seen you accidentally turn a ministry employee into a Pixie. Of course I think it’s possible.” Lily was having a difficult time not giggling. Ono had absolutely no malice in him, that was for certain but he was still a bit of a menace.

“Bugger could fly too. Took me half an hour to get him down long enough to change him back. So, lemonades perhaps?”

“Two please, as long as it is just lemonade.” Lily smiled at Sophie and said, “Thanks for saving me, that was a near miss.”

“He’s taken to putting allurement charms on them. You have to be really vigilant.” Sophie grinned back.

As they took a seat at a table together. “Was there anything you wanted to talk to me about?”

Sophie had asked her here because Lily had taken some work of hers into the ministry’s potions department and would be nearby.

“No, just thought it would be nice to see you. It’s always nice to have a bit of company.” Sophie’s smile was completely natural.

“With Remus gone for the moment, you mean?” Lily asked. She wasn’t sure of anything really, just that Remus and Sophie seemed both happy but somehow as if they were holding something back when they were around each other.

Sophie played with a napkin for moment, looking down at the table. “Well, yes. We do like to spend time together.”

“I see.” Lily did her best to keep from grinning.

This was marvelous news as far as she was concerned. Remus deserved to be happy and so did Sophie. She’d watched as Sophie had changed from a rather frivolous girl into a woman dedicated to what the Order was doing. She joked a great deal but when serious matters arose, she was brave, level headed and had even managed to save Moody from a tough spot just last week. The Auror had been engaged in a battle when he had found himself lightly stunned, and thinking quickly, Sophie had transformed the floor underneath the Death Eater’s feet into an oil slick, causing him to slip immediately. Then Sophie had been able to disarm and stun him. It was a nice trick and would come in handy for all of them Lily hoped.

“We haven’t done anything much Lily.” Sophie knew that Amelia Strong had been one of Lily’s best friends for years.

“That’s entirely up to you.” Lily commented seriously.

“We did nearly but you know, having Death Eaters descend upon you just as your about to lose your virginity really is enough to make a person permanently celibate.” Sophie was joking but only by half. It had been weeks and weeks since that had happened but it had served one purpose, Sophie had been staying at headquarters until she found a new place to live. Just the thought of Moody crashing in on them was enough to make anyone nearly take up a nun’s veil.

She still stayed at Remus’s sometimes and bless Atticus Sliverton’s heart, he had seemed to figure out what was what because he would always distract the others with vague announcements about Sophie being out for a bit on errand, but sure to be back soon, certainly by morning.

At least at Remus’s they had the horribly uncomfortable couch and the equally unappealing bed to help keep them apart. It had only been a few weeks ago that Amelia’s picture had been moved to a bookshelf where it wasn’t facing them. They’d had a close call since then, but that mad cat Pavolo had launched himself onto them, spitting furiously. Sophie wasn’t sure what held Remus back, but she knew what was on her mind. Now, Remus would be back tomorrow, Sophie had found a place of which even Moody approved and there didn’t seem to be anything standing in their way. Accept for one thing.

“Lily?” Sophie wanted to ask, but wasn’t quite sure how to do it. Lily’s green eyes were trained on Sophie’s face and she looked kind.

“I know what’s bothering you.” Lily said gently. “You want to know if Amelia would mind.”

“Yes.” Sophie if anyone would know, it would be Lily or Megan. Lily had seemed like the best person to ask because Meg’s memory could still be just a bit foggy about the past.

“That all depends.” Lily’s voice was kind. “Do you love him?”

“Well, it’s different than I thought love would be. I always thought love was all about…I don’t know, that it was frantic or something. That if you weren’t constantly in tears about it then it wasn’t the real thing.” Sophie’s expression was thoughtful. “This is different, it’s warm and soothing. I just want to be near him, make sure he’s never hurt again. Keep him company, talk with him….and well, honestly, other things too. Like watching him smile, and it makes me smile too. It’s so…gentle. Yet, I still desperately want to… It’s not at all what I thought it would be.”

She paused and her face suddenly seemed lit from within, “It’s different, but Lily, it’s somehow better. Less…silly than I’d ever imagined. Does that sound like love?”

“Yes, it does. The best kind actually.” Lily smiled to herself. This was even better than she imagined. Sophie was describing something she was very familiar with it was how she felt about James.

“Good, I thought so too.” Sophie grinned.

“Then I can tell you truthfully, I don’t think Amelia would mind one bit. I think she’d be very happy in fact.” Lily’s gaze never left Sophie’s. “She loved him too you know, very much. So much that she wouldn’t want him to spend his time alone. She’d want him to be loved, fully. That would make her happy, I think.”

“Oh Lord, I haven’t the foggiest why I’m crying.” Sophie tried to laugh to cover up the tears that had started.

“I think I do.” Lily said, “You’re in love, and you want to know it’s all right.”

“That about sums it up.” Sophie sniffed, looked up and then said, “Oh my….Ono! Ono get your wand out!”

Lily swiveled in her chair and looked in the same direction as Sophie. The man and woman drinking the Galaxy Gold Dust were wrestling on the floor, the woman trying to gnaw the man’s watch off while the man was nibbling the front of her robes, evidently trying to tear off a gold broach.

“I’m coming! Never fret, never fear!” Ono came out from the back his wand held high. “This is a safe establishment, no worries!”

The young women at the table couldn’t help but be reduced to helpless piles of mirth.



Chapter 36: An Ending and a Beginning
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Chapter Thirty Six:

James Potter stood besides his son’s crib and watched him sleeping. Harry’s black hair was sticking up, his cheeks were rosy and in his sleep, a small smile was on his lips. Clutched in one hand was a soft, velvet rattle. He stirred and began to fuss, opening his green eyes.

“Hello there handsome.” James picked up Harry and held him and the baby had immediately become still again, comforted by the circular pattern that James was rubbing on Harry’s small back. “There, that’s right, go back to sleep for a bit yet.”

He continued to hold his son as he began to fall asleep.

“James?” Lily came through the door of the nursery, speaking quietly and was stopped in her tracks by what was to her eyes, a beautiful sight. Not that it was a new one, but it never failed to touch her heart. Her husband was holding their baby with Harry’s head on his shoulder. Harry was fast asleep and James had his eyes closed, as he rubbed the baby’s back slowly. James looked entirely peaceful, as if there wasn’t a care in the world.

“Hello darling.” He kissed his son’s head and put him back in the crib gently. Then he embraced his wife and kissed her forehead, holding her against him. She could hear his heart beating and the sound of his breath.

“I’m sorry I was gone bit longer than I thought I would be. Did everything go all right?” Lily had left Harry with James.

“Went off just fine.” James said as he and Lily walked down the hallway to the steps. “He had his dinner. Although I must tell you he objects to broccoli quite a bit, whereas carrots seem to pass muster. Then he had a bath but don’t go into the bathroom yet, I’ll clean that up later. Splashing was the word of the day you see.”

Lily laughed. That was just like Harry, he loved his bath, laughing as he churned the water up and often all over the bathroom. She smiled at her husband as he took her hand as they descended the steep stairs and walked into the living room.

“He has added a new word to his vocabulary, in addition to ‘mama’ and ‘dada’ he now says ‘bada’ which I think was in honor of the broccoli.” James pulled Lily onto his lap as he spoke and put her head down on his shoulder. “We had a fine time of it.”

“Sounds like.” Lily nestled her face into her husband’s neck and was surprised when he asked her to sit up for a moment. “What is it?”

“We had a visitor too.” James suddenly sounded serious.

“Oh?” Lily tried not to feel worried but the sudden change in James’s tone put her on alert.

“Yes, Dumbledore was here earlier.” James sighed. “Evidently that informant of his finally managed to get a message to him again.”

“Yes?” Lily felt her heart rate increase slightly.

“Lily, Riddle’s bound and determined to get us. Dumbledore thinks we need to try a whole new bunch of protection spells, including a new secret keeper.” He said slowly.

Up until she was killed, it had actually been Sylvania March who had kept the Fidelus charm for the Potters. Then a man they had never met named Nicolas Flamel had taken on the duty, Dumbledore swearing that he was completely trustworthy but they had known he was only a temporary solution. It was best if you knew your secret keeper well. Flamel they had no doubt was as trustworthy as Dumbledore said he was, but it helped to have true affection for the person whose secret you kept. It helped strengthen the already very potent charm.

“Why does he want us so badly?” Lily asked.

“I don’t know Lily, I’m sure we’ve both been a thorn in his side for quite a long time. He’s after all the members of the Order.” James didn’t want to frighten Lily too much but Dumbledore had said that Voldemort was as dedicated to getting them as he was to ruling, according to the informant.

“Did Dumbledore tell you anything about this informant?” Lily knew that Snape had already saved her life once, she trusted that he was trying to do it again although it was well known that he hated James Potter and Sirius Black so venomously that he could barely stand to speak their names. Snape was an incredibly strange man in her estimation.

“Oddly enough, he did. He’s never mentioned anything about him before but he said he had lost contact with him for some while because Voldemort was evidently extremely angry with the man. He must be high up in there though and valuable because that monster never forgives a mistake unless there’s something in it for him.” James had wondered why Dumbldore had told him any of this. “Lily, do you suppose we know who it is? It was almost as if he felt I should know that personally.”

“I’m sure we don’t know anything about the man who’s the spy over there.” Lily said easily because it was the complete truth for her, she was certain they knew nothing about Snape, not in any real sense. She and Megan had both sworn to Dumbeldore they would not tell either James or Sirius about Snape because the animosity ran in both directions.

“I didn’t think so. Whoever it is must have ice water for blood though.” James collected his thoughts. “Listen darling, I’ve asked Remus, Peter, and Sirius to meet me at headquarters, I need to tell them about this, I thought it would be best if I got their opinion on who the best choice would be.”

“All right, I’ll be fine here with Harry.” Lily answered.

“Actually, Moody and Sliverton will be here while I’m gone. I hope you don’t mind.” James said.

“Not at all.” She fibbed. Moody was always a bit much to take though. “I’ll be sure not to poison the tea, not mind you that he’d drink it.”

“Good, they’ll be here shortly. Remus is just back so he’ll be able to meet us.” James explained.

“Oh! James, if you get a chance, try to encourage Remus.” Lily said.

“Encourage him in what way?” James asked, puzzled.

“Oh, he’ll bring it up if wants to.” Lily said easily.

“All right.” James was mystified but he trusted his wife.

“James, who are you thinking would be the best for the charm?” Lily asked.

“Dumbledore offered Lily, but he’s got so much on his plate. Sirius I think, after all the man’s like a brother to me.” James said. “Everyone knows it.”

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

The Marauders were together in the mansion’s secret room. It was enchanted so that nothing they said could be overheard anywhere else.

“Seems like ages since we’ve all been together, doesn’t it?” James said, smiling at his friends. Sirius looking tall and handsome as usual, Remus looking a bit tired but nothing worse than usual after a full moon. Peter Pettigrew looking much as he had in school, plump, always a bit nervous.

“That it does Prongs.” Sirius said heartily. “Now, I can’t help but notice that we’re in a room in a tower, what are we planning here? Are we going to enchant Moody’s underwear so that it chases him around the place?”

“I wish it were something like that, unfortunately, it’s a bit more serious than that.” James sat down at the round table in the room and his friends pulled up chairs. “It seems that bastard Voldemort has sworn out a vendetta on me or something.”

“More so than usual?” Sirius asked but his eyes were concerned.

“I’m afraid so, at least by the sounds of it.” James swallowed, “Dumbledore and I have talked about it.”

They were all nodding.

“Don’t worry there Prongs, we’ll do whatever it takes to keep you all safe.” Remus said sincerely.

“Good, because I need a secret keeper, a new one.” James looked at each of his friends in turn. “One of you is obviously the best bet, and truthfully, I was thinking of asking you Sirius.”

“It would be an honor.” Sirius said without hesitation.

“You’re certain, because I know you’ve got your own wedding coming up and you must have a lot on your mind.” James looked as if he didn’t want to impose.

“Absolutely,” Sirius rapped on his own head. “Tight as a drum in here, despite the fact that Megan’s got roughly a million relatives. We’ll be swamped at the wedding boys, I suggest sticking close to the bar.”

“Thanks Sirius.” James felt such gratitude towards all of his friends.

“He’s the best choice, James.” Remus said without any doubt at all. Years later, in the aftermath guilt would convince him that he had suspected Sirius, but in truth, that wasn’t the case.

“Completely sensible James,” Peter forced himself to say. He had to think of something to say something to do. His chance seemed to be right in front of him. “Sirius is obviously the one.”

Sirius looked up at that. It was true he was the most obvious choice for the Potter’s secret keeper. Perhaps that wasn’t best, but then, he knew he’d die a thousand times before he’d ever betray them.

“Remus, I hope you understand.” James was a bit worried that he was hurting his friend’s feelings.

“James, I think you’re making the right choice here. None of us know that much about the mind of a werewolf but it’s possible that Voldemort would.” Remus answered honestly. “There could be differences.”

“Okay well, I still want you to take a bit to think about it Sirius, after all they might come after you quite hard.” James felt concerned for that too.

“What? Harder than they do now?” Sirius laughed. “We’re all of us targets James, we’re used to this.”

Peter thought quickly and feigned anxiety, “Megan won’t mind will she? They might really press on, trying to get her again. Try to get to you through her.”

“Megan? God no. She’d want to figure out some sort of spell so that we both held the secret, make it doubly safe.” Sirius laughed but it was a disturbing thought nonetheless. “No, she’d rather we both died than betray anyone.”

“Well there won’t be any dying.” James said firmly. “We’ve had enough of that. But I’m afraid I’m going to have to go into hiding full time now. I won’t even be able to come here, or be out in the field. I’ll have to stay with Harry and Lily all the time.”

Remus and Sirius exchanged a look and it was Remus who voiced the thought, “Well, you’ll like that won’t you? Time with your family.”

“Yes.” James said simply and it was a pleasant thought, no matter what the circumstances.

They sat together for a few minutes longer, talking. The subject eventually changed to the fight, the various fighters and how they were doing.

“Well, it seems like we’re done here.” Peter said, bile nearly rising in his throat. He hated to sit and talk with them particularly about their hair-brained Order.

“Actually,” Remus began somewhat nervously, “I’d like to talk to you lot about something since we’re all here together.”

“What would that be Moony?” James asked and then thought of Lily saying to encourage Remus. “Glad to help in anyway that I can, as always.”

“It’s about, well, it’s about a woman actually.” Remus knew that it was a bit crass to bring this up, but they were his closest friends and he was a bit worried.

“Not my area of expertise at all, as I’m sure you’ve all noticed.” Peter said smiling. He wanted out of the room so badly he could have jumped through the roof. He needed time alone to think. There had to be a way. “I’ll just be going. Goodnight, mates.”

He took his leave as quickly as possible. Remus rubbed his chin and tried to think how he would begin this conversation, rather glad that Peter had left. This would be much easier talking to James and Sirius.

“Um, well, I’m half glad he left, this is awkward enough.” Remus began, feeling himself blush. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I’ve been spending a lot of time with Sophie.”

“Didn’t exactly go under the radar, mate.” Sirius answered with a smile. “Although Sliverton’s been hilarious, trying to shunt you two off together. For a bachelor the man’s quite a matchmaker.”

How the hell would he ever put this? He’d sorted through his feelings and made peace with the past. He had loved Amelia and in many ways he always would. Having been in love before, it was easy to tell that was how what his feelings were for Sophie. But something was still troubling him.

“I’ve never…uh…that is to say, whereas I’ve come close…recently…” Remus was floundering.

Suddenly James knew what he was trying to ask and tried not to laugh. He’d felt the same way with Lily on their wedding night.

“It’s not difficult you know, sort of comes naturally.” James bit the inside of his cheek so he would not laugh. Sirius was staring at Remus in an astounded manner.

“Remus, man, pull yourself together. You know where babies come from and presumably how.” Sirius said but his tone was encouraging and friendly. “Hopefully you know all about how to make sure you don’t have a baby also.”

“Oh this is hell, yes, I’ve got that covered.” Remus was starting to laugh himself but then remembered why he was asking and became rather sober. “Listen, won’t it hurt, the girl I mean?”

“Only if it’s…oh.” Sirius looked at James who looked back rather soberly. “All right, wasn’t exactly expecting that. No offense intended at all, of course.”

“I should read more books that aren’t about Dark Arts,” Remus said miserably. “Look, aren’t there ways to make sure that it’s…nice.”

The silence was only awkward for a moment when James suddenly laughed.

“In a tower room no less.” James couldn’t help but remember. “We need to help Mr. Moony here understand the delicate process of wooing.”

“Wooing?” Sirius asked and then laughed as the memory came back to him. “Ahhh…yes, wooing it is.”

“You can stop that at any time you know.” Remus said but chuckled, also remembering.

“Mr. Prongs, I call the meeting to order, the first order of business is how to not hurt the girl. Very gentlemanly of you, Mr. Moony, an admirable endeavor.” Sirius said. “The second we can get to in a moment.”

“Do you have any advice for the young man, Mr. Padfoot?” James was certain they could help with a few gentle suggestions but he knew Sirius was right to make Remus feel comfortable discussing it.

“I think we might be able to give the boy a bit nudge in the right direction.” Sirius winked.

Then they had gotten down to business, being rather tactful actually. If the walls could have blushed they would have though. The Marauders were all men now, and it showed. None of them thought it strange that Remus would ask, most men would just plow ahead. Remus had always been a sensitive soul.

:::::::::::::::::

“This is much nicer than I had thought it would be.” Remus stood in Sophie’s new apartment. It was fairly large, and well furnished. A large kitchen off a proper dining room. “What, did you rob Gringott’s?”

“Yes, barely got away from the posse at my heels.” Sophie laughed. “No, I finally broke down and went to my father. Fighting evil is terribly noble and all, but it’s a bit easier to accomplish on a full stomach.”

“How was that?” Remus asked not envying her the task.

“There was a lot of begging, groveling, and debasement on my part.” Sophie laughed. “In fact it was just fine. I told him that if wanted me to sleep in trash bins then I would but that I’d appreciate the loan of the money for a mattress. Mine had hex marks all over it.”

“So how did all this come about?” Remus looked around, it wasn’t tremendously posh but it was nice.

“Seems he missed me. Disinheriting your children is interesting as a concept, bit nasty in execution.” Sophie sat back on the couch and laughed. “You end up missing your progeny I guess, when they aren’t around to be told what to do any longer.”

“And you accepted?” Remus was now sitting at the opposite end of the sofa, a glass of water in his hand.

“Not exactly. I took it all as a loan. When this is all over, I’ll pay him back.” Sophie meant what she said. “I just couldn’t see how not having a decent place to sit was doing any good in defeating the Death Eaters.”

“Where am I?” Wheezed a voice. “Kidnappers, rotten abductors.”

Remus looked over in the corner and laughed, “Sophie, why in the world did you bring that thing with you?”

“I thought it might get lonely.” Sophie smiled wickedly. “Besides, I’m thinking of fixing it up with an ottoman I know, so there’s that too.”

For Remus’s part, he needed to talk to Sophie. It felt important to him, telling her that this wasn’t just about feeling lonely and wanting companionship. It had taken the last six weeks or so to finally dawn on him, he didn’t just feel less lonely when Sophie was there, he felt better about everything. It was as if she had woken something up in him, something that he thought would sleep forever. The ability to look forward to things once again. To not feel as if all that they were doing was for other people, but that he might get a share in the future also somehow. She made him feel hope and he hadn’t truly felt that since he was a child. He had a very brief flash of it with Amelia in the ten months they were truly together but he’d lost that. Sophie brought it back to him, and it was different, because she was different. There wasn’t a need to compare the feelings.

He loved her humor that was just in place to mask her kind heart. Or when she was feeling nervous. He loved that in a fight, she would do so much better than she would ever give herself credit for doing. She thought quickly, she acted swiftly and she was incredibly admirable.

He’d thought that she wasn’t suited to this work when she came to the Order, but he couldn’t have been proven more wrong. He’d grown to love her nature too, fast to joke, just as fast to comfort or protect others. He even loved the fact that she’d brought that ridiculous chair with her as if it were a friend.

He moved towards her on the couch and took her hand, turning her face towards his, tracing her scar gently.

“Does it bother you?” He asked.

“This thing, hell no. It’s a reminder to be careful for one thing.” She tried to laugh. “Maybe I’ll get rid of it someday but not now. Right now, I need it.”

“To be careful?” Remus’s hand was on her cheek now, her skin soft and smooth.

“Yes but also to remind me of who I am, who I need to be.” She was being serious. “I used to be a flighty thing you know Lupin. I can’t be one now, and that’s fine. But it helps me to see this each morning, helps me feel stronger. It might be hell for others to look at but it helps me.”

“Looking at you could never be hell for anyone.” Remus said and kissed her. Then he leaned his forehead against hers, he wanted to say this and say it before anything else carried them away so that she would never have to question that it was true, “I love you.”

Sophie’s heart nearly skipped a beat. She’d finally figured out why it was when she had first come to the Order that she wanted to be near him. She’d told herself it was because he calmed her, made her less nervous, but there was more to it.

“Remus, I love you too. You make me feel safe, not just for me. God, that’s not even the right way to put it,” She looked at him and tried again. “You don’t make me feel safe, you make me feel as if the world’s safe. If there are people like you in it, then the world will always be safe.”

For a few minutes they held each other closely before they began what they both wanted. It was slow, and careful and tender, just like Remus was at heart and truth be told, just as Sophie truly was inside.

Later, as they lay together, she traced the scars on his chest. “What are these from?”

“Oh, from early on, when I used to transform I would hurt myself.” Remus told her.

“Why?”

“I don’t know, I guess that in part, even in my state, I was lonely.” Remus said softly. “I have to be away from people to keep them safe but I needed company.”

“Remus?”

“What is it, sweetness?”

“You’ll never be lonely again. Honestly, as long as I’m around, you’ll never be.” She kissed him and they had begun again.

Remus Lupin would be destined to lose a great deal in his life, more than one man should have to bear but he was able to stand it because no matter what he lost, he still had her. She still had him too. They would have to spend time apart at times but it didn’t matter to them because they would always have their time together. It even pleased them that few knew of their relationship, it made it feel all the more special to them.

It took them two full days to emerge from Sophie’s apartment and go to headquarters.

“Hello you two. Nice day, isn’t it?” Atticus had greeted them, fresh in from a dawn patrol. He looked at them closely and managed not to grin.

“It’s a beautiful day.” Remus agreed and put his arms around Sophie.



Chapter 37: Partners in Secrecy
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Chapter Thirty Seven:

“Wake up sleepy head.” Sirius’s voice sounded far away. Megan tried to burrow beneath the covers and hide. She felt very tired and that was rather unusual for her.

Sirius tugged at the blankets and Megan protested, “Stop it you ghoul, I’ll catch my death.”

“Come on you little vixen, I need to get to headquarters and you’ve got two choices, stay here and I’ll see who’s available to stay here with you, or get up and come with me.” Sirius pulled relentlessly at the bedcovers, “I’m not joking, love of my life. Don’t make me jump in there and tickle you.”

Megan sat up in bed, blowing the hair from her face. “I’m coming, I’m coming. All it takes is a nice threat about having to spend the day in the company of Moody again and I’m up and about.”

Megan had to laugh though because Alastor Moody being present for a wedding gown fitting was one of the most howl inducing sights ever.

“Although, the devil in me would love to see him forced to hold a pin cushion again.” Megan started giggling at the memory. “Oh was he ever pop eyed. It was a treat to see.”

The seamstress had insisted he be useful despite his protests that he was on duty. Finally she threatened to start using him as the pin cushion if he was unwilling to help. That had finally done it, he’d sat there like the most outraged statue in the world, his hand held aloft with the purple pin cushion in it, his expression as dark as a thundercloud.

“I want to shower first though,” Megan began, “And don’t even get that look in your eye Mr. Black, if I can’t be left on my own and there’s a mad rush then we certainly don’t have time…”

It was too late. He’d already leapt into the bed beside her. “Moody will understand if I’m late. I’ll just tell him that my insatiable beloved needed attention.”

“Sirius, you’re being daft, you know that?” Megan couldn’t help but laugh.

“You wouldn’t love me any other way.” He said and began peeling off the clothes he’d just put on.

“True, you were in this condition when I fell in love with you so….oh… what was I saying?” Megan became distracted.

“You were telling me that you’d love to be a bit late.”

“So I would.” Megan said and meant it.

:::::::::::::::::::

Frank Longbottom smiled indulgently at Sirius when he appeared. He liked Sirius, it was almost impossible to not like him actually.

“We’re out with Moody today.” Longbottom greeted him. They had taken to doing day patrols through some of the villages. The Death Eaters had become so bold they sometimes would simply show up in villages during the day, terrorizing the citizens It was worrisome, they obviously weren’t as concerned with secrecy any longer. It meant they felt sure of winning.

“Where are we off to Frank?” Sirius asked as he ate a piece of toast and gulped a glass of orange juice.

“Village of Peramblee.” Frank answered and Sirius stared.

“God, that’s all the way up in Scotland, they’re really getting full of themselves aren’t they?” Sirius was rather shocked that the magical village was their destination.

“They are.” Longbottom’s face was a bit round but he still managed to be steely eyed when he said this and he looked rather imposing.

“Well, let’s see what’s what up there then.” Sirius quickly began dishing up some more food. “I’ll just be a second, really.”

“No time for breakfast?” Longbottom rarely teased but couldn’t help himself. Black had been over an hour late.

“I overslept.” Sirius said around a mouthful of eggs.

“Happens to all of us.” Frank replied smiling.

“How in the hell do you get away from the Auror’s offices so often?” Sirius was now preparing to shove a piece of bacon into his mouth.

“The Minister of Magic is working in conjunction with Dumbledore now that we’re needed during the day.” Longbottom answered, but did not add that he was grateful for this because it meant that he stood a chance of spending some time at home with his wife. During the day she frequently brought Neville to headquarters too, since she’d stopped working for the moment at Dumbledore’s recommendation.

“That’s a mercy for you then, you can be home a bit more.” Sirius brushed some crumbs from his robes. “Right, ready to go. Sorry for the delay.”

“Well, I’m sure it was for a worthy cause.” Frank couldn’t help but tease a bit. “You must have needed the sleep.”

“I did.” Sirius said and began to head out of the room, oblivious to the kind smile that had spread over the older man’s face. He hastened to catch up with Black.

::::::::::::::::

“Wow, Lily’s got competition.” Sophie Burns was digging into some food a bit later. “But you shouldn’t know how to cook like this Sliverton, you grew up with a veritable herd of house elves.”

“I’m a man of many talents.” Atticus said and expertly flipped a pancake on the stove. “Here’s Megan, come and eat while it’s still hot.”

“Atticus, how many breakfast have you cooked today?” Megan sat down gratefully in front of the heaping platters. She’d fallen asleep on the couch upstairs almost as soon as they arrived. In her dreams she was running through a maze, searching for something but it had always been just beyond her.

“Well, I did feed Hagrid earlier, so that sort of skews ones perspective.” Sliverton caught some toast deftly, buttered it in a lightning movement and had it placed on the counter by the eggs. “That should do it.”

“Do you have any idea if Sirius ate before heading out?” Megan asked as she looked at the eggs. She wasn’t particularly interested in them although she would have sworn she was ravenous a moment ago.

“Eat Meg, got to keep your strength up for the big day.” Sophie prodded. Megan was looking a bit pale actually.

“It’s McGonagall and Dumbledore who really need to eat then because they’ll have to alter the memories of all the Muggles who are coming.” Megan said. Their wedding was on the 15th of November and Flitwick had already been to the sight, he was sure he could magically conceal it. They would of course need a secret keeper for the event.

“Will James and Lily be able to come?” Sophie asked.

“Lord I hope so. Lily might go berserk otherwise. Not to mention that James is the best man, although I’m sure Remus would fill in gladly.” Megan tried a bite of scrambled eggs, she knew that Atticus cooked well but they tasted like sludge to her.

“Megan what the…” Sophie said as Megan suddenly dashed from the room.

Atticus stared after her for a moment as Sophie began to rise from her chair.

“I’ll check on her.” Atticus said. “After all, if my cooking did her in, Black will have me in irons by nightfall if not before.”

He walked swiftly to the basement level bathroom and heard the unmistakable sounds of her retching behind the door.

“Silencio.” He said and tapped the door with his wand just seconds before Sophie appeared behind him with a questioning look on her face. No sound escaped the bathroom now.

“Is she all right?” Sophie looked worried.

“Just a blinding headache I think, those can get you very quickly.” Atticus said. Then he turned down Sophie’s offer to get a potion for it. “I’ve got an excellent one in my room. I’ll grab it. Go on back to your breakfast, Soph.”

“Okay, let me know if she wants ice for her head though.”

As soon as the girl had left, Atticus raised his wand and softly called, “Accio toothpaste.” Paused and then said, “Accio new toothbrush.”

As the things came rocketing down the stairs, Peter had to duck.

After a few minutes the bathroom door opened and Atticus handed her what he had called for. “As soon as you’re ready.”

“Thanks,” Megan was blushing scarlet as she went back into the bathroom and carefully brushed her teeth so that she wouldn’t gag again.

Out in the hall, Atticus waited.

When she stepped out again, she silently handed him the toothpaste, having stowed the toothbrush in a cabinet inside. She might need it again.

“Very odd, and no reflection on the cook, my hand to…” She stopped, Atticus was gazing at her mildly. They had talked for hours in the hospital and knew each other. “Oh fine, you won’t tell anyone, will you?”

“No, of course not. That’s why I waited, just wanted to see how you’re feeling and let you know that you had a crushing headache, very suddenly.” He smiled at her kindly.

“Worked out an alibi for me, did you?” But Megan was grateful.

“Seemed best.”

“I just don’t want anyone to know until it seems…safe.” Megan smiled at him and the hope in her face was warming to behold.

“Entirely understandable.” Atticus began walking down the long hall with Megan back towards the kitchen. “I think that crackers are supposed to help, by the way. Told Sirius yet?”

“No, I thought I’d wait a bit there too. I had a bit of trouble once before.” Megan said and was grateful that Atticus did not press further on this issue. He simply nodded.

“Partners in secrecy then?” Megan joked. “You won’t tell Sirius that I’m up the spout and I’ll not tell anyone that you are ridiculously tall.”

“I’m certain they’ve never noticed, thanks for your discretion.”



Chapter 38: Brewing Betrayal
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Chapter 38

In Godric’s Hollow everyone just assumed that Lily and James Potter were living a life filled with terror. In truth, it was heavenly despite the peril. They never talked about being in danger, there was no need to do so. They both knew it and ever since they had married their lives had been so full of the Order that it almost seemed a vacation. They didn’t feel confined only being together, it was blissful.

They slept as late as Harry would allow them to and then would read, talk or sit together for most of the day. Flitwick had managed to extend the protective charms to include their back garden, so they could take Harry out to play there also.

“Look James!” Lily said as Harry toddled unsteadily towards a toy. Stumbling and falling onto his bottom twice, but always get up again, smiling. He had a streak of determination in him that was for sure.

Lily and James lay on a blanket on the grass together, on their stomachs propped up on their elbows watching their son.

“He’s really mastering the toddler phase, isn’t he?” James sounded incredibly enthusiastic.

“Don’t even start thinking about broom rides, James Potter.” Lily said with pretend severity.

“Oh Evans,” He imitated his voice from long ago, “You just don’t know how to have fun.”

They both laughed and Harry reached the toy that he promptly tried to start chewing. Lily got up and walked to him with a teething ring.

“Here you go, my smallest darling.” Harry gnawed proudly on the miniature Quidditch hoop.

Her husband had followed her and slipped his arms around her waist.

“So, what comes after this?” James asked.

“He’ll take a nap, silly.” Lily leaned back against him.

“No, I meant, what comes after all of this? Do you ever think about it Lily?” James’s voice was low in her ear.

“All the time darling, all the time.” Lily Potter felt such happiness surge through her at the thought.

“And?”

“Well, let’s see, after we move to a bigger house, with stairs that aren’t pitched to kill…” Lily began in a joking tone. “Then we’ll get a massive house somewhere, settle in. Have babies like procreating fiends and watch them grow up.”

“Anything else?” James was murmuring against her ear.

“Aside from loving each other forever, I can’t think of anything else truly important.” Lily smiled, “At least not at the moment.”

“Darling?”

“Yes love?”

“It’s getting a bit chilly, let’s go in. Put Harry down for a nap.” James was now stroking her hair. “Then we ought to take a nap ourselves, wouldn’t want us to get too tired.”

It was odd but true that somehow, despite the fear, Lily, James and even Harry Potter had found a way to be three of the happiest people in the world.

It was just as Lily had envisioned her life to be ever since she had fallen in love with James.

They were to change secret keepers in a week’s time.

:::::::::::::::::

Sirius Black had not been sleeping well for the past few days. He had far too much on his mind. It wasn’t his wedding that was preying on him in fact that was the only thing that eased his mind at the moment. It was what Peter had said in the secret room, that Sirius was the most obvious choice for the James and Lily’s secret keeper.

He shifted slightly on the couch so as to ease Megan’s head from his lap. She had fallen asleep there almost as soon as she had sat down and was now dead to the world. Her dark curls were like silk in his fingers as he lifted her head up to put a pillow under then kissed her cheek. She stirred slightly but did not wake.

He stood back looking at her. In so many ways she resembled a doll. The curly dark hair and lashes against her fair skin. A bit too fair recently actually. Megan’s color was a bit off and whereas she was always thin, he could swear she was losing a bit of weight.

“You really need to go into St. Mungo’s and get checked out, sweetheart.” Sirius had told her just that morning as he looked at her closely. She only eaten a piece of dry toast and washed it down with a gingerale; some odd Muggle drink. That’s all she seemed to have eaten in days, crackers or toast with that ridiculous drink.

“I’m fine.” Megan had said quickly, “It’s just nerves before the wedding.”

“Sweetheart, you aren’t eating properly and you haven’t been for at least a week.” Sirius had seen quickly that it was no good, her face had begun to set in that stubborn fashion of hers. It was nearly impossible to tell Megan what to do. “All right, but who would have thought the prospect of spending the rest of your life with me would put you off food?”

“Well, you’re a handsome devil so you’re easy on the eyes, just not on the stomach.” She’d replied rather absently, then she’d looked at his face, “Oh my love, I’m joking, you have to know that by now. I love you body and soul, you mad thing. But you know that my father’s turned this whole wedding into a huge production, and it’s a little wearing.”

It evidently was Sirius thought as he watched her continue to sleep and drew down a blanket from the couch to cover her with.

It wasn’t that he had any true fear about being killed, but he had to accept the possibility that he might be. Voldemort might come after him with such force that he’d finally get him. There was no question of Sirius going into hiding that would have made it all the more obvious that he was the secret keeper. If Voldemort got him though it could be disaster for James and Lily because Sirius understood a bit of how the creature’s mind worked, he’d make sure the body wasn’t found for as long as possible. Leaving Lily and James unprotected by the Fidelus charm for as long as he could while he continued his mad search.

Sirius thought for a bit longer. His first inclination was honestly Remus but it was true, there could be differences in the mind of a werewolf. It was part of the reason that it was difficult for some of the Order to trust Remus fully, and in a tiny part of his heart Sirius acknowledged that by not asking him it was a way of not trusting him. For a half a second the thought scuttled through his mind, was there any chance that Remus was the double agent in the Order?

No, that was madness. Still, there was reason for concern simply because he was a werewolf. Sirius sighed, no it would have to be Peter. Peter made the most sense anyway, he wasn’t a strong fighter, Voldemort would never guess. He went to the fireplace and hunkered down by it, putting in a pinch of dust he stuck his head only into the living room at headquarters. Sliverton, his first choice, was nowhere in sight but Moody saw him.

“Alastor, can you come and sit with Megan until I get back?” He called out to the older man.

“You need to be out somewhere?” Moody grumbled at him.

“Yes.” Sirius didn’t want to tell anyone in the Order about this, it was the best way to prevent the information leaking.

“Where you off to Black?” Moody asked as he emerged from the fireplace in Sirius and Megan’s home.

“I’ve just got something I need to do at headquarters.” Sirius evaded the question. He threw some powder into the flames and called out the name of headquarters so that Moody couldn’t overhear his destination. Moody’s mind was always so suspicious anyway.

Sirius stood and had to decide where to go first, would it be to James? They all knew that they weren’t supposed to visit the Potters much because of the danger. No, it was best to talk to Peter first. There was no one about, so he threw the powder and called out Peter’s destination.

He hadn’t seen Atticus Sliverton just coming through the doorway, a book in one hand a cup of coffee in the other. In from a hard night’s fighting, Atticus thought he might relax a bit before bed and as he entered the room, he overheard Sirius calling out Peter’s lodgings before disappearing again.

It didn’t strike him as odd at the time but he was his father’s son and he was very clever indeed.

::::::::::::::::

“We’re all right Professor,” James smiled at Dumbledore. “Not even close to bored to be truthful.”

“Sirius has agreed to be your secret keeper then?” Albus asked. “He is quite certain he wants to take on that responsibility? If he is not, you know that I will gladly do so.”

“No, actually, we’re all set. He’s due here tomorrow, ready to take on the duty.” James smiled.

Albus Dumbledore left the room and it would be years before his suspicions would be confirmed. There were visitors that night, after him.

:::::::::::::::::

“Peter, you’re certain? I feel absolutely rotten asking you but it seemed the best plan to me.” Sirius was sitting on the sofa at Peter’s.

It was all Peter could do to keep from trembling with joy. The idiot sitting there, asking him if he would be the secret keeper for the Potters. He would rule beside the Master for this he would become his most trusted servant. But he knew he must not look too eager.

“I won’t lie, it’s a bit frightening.” Peter’s face was moist with sweat. His eyes darting around the room.

“If you’d rather not…” Sirius was worried about his friend. Perhaps this hadn’t been such a good idea.

“No. I should do it. I want to do it.” He made himself smile bravely but with a quaver. “I can do it.”

Sirius looked at Peter and felt a surge of affection for him. “You’re a great friend Peter.”

“Anything for James and Lily. You know that.” He blinked rather rapidly.

“Well, I should go and talk to James about this, I’ll let you know in the morning.” Sirius noticed that Peter was shaking a bit. “Are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’m fine. I want to do this for James, for everything that he is in my life. Could you let me know tonight?”

“I can but don’t you want to think this over for a bit?” Sirius asked with concern. “It’s no small thing and you should be fully prepared.”

“I’ve been thinking about this ever since we all talked,” Peter smiled again and he looked a bit ghastly. “To tell you the truth, I was thinking of offering to switch with you. We aren’t sure if Remus could do it, and I’m fairly certain you shouldn’t. That means I need to.”

“You’re a good man, Pettigrew.” Sirius said and clapped Peter’s shoulder. “I’ll look out for you, I promise.”

Peter nearly sneered but kept his expression clear, “Let’s do it as soon as possible though. They really do need this.”

“Actually, Flamel’s removing the charm tomorrow morning. James is telling Dumbledore tonight that we’re switching tomorrow.” Sirius stepped towards the grate. “So, if James agrees, will you be ready?”

“Yes, I can do this.” Peter said and made his voice sound a little weak but resolute.

“Oh, Peter? Don’t tell anyone. No one at all.” Sirius turned back. “It’s better that way. No one in the Order must know, it’s safer for all of them.”

“I promise you, no one in the Order will know.”

:::::::::::::::::::

The dream was the same. She was running through the maze chasing something, she knew it was there. Gasping for breath, feeling like something was after her. Never finding what it was.

Hearing mad laughter behind her, she ran even more swiftly than she knew she could. She had to get to Dumbledore, she had to tell him what she knew. Some rules had to broken they had to save them.

“Wake up girl, you’re shouting.” Moody was shaking her by the shoulder.

Megan sat up unsteadily, “What was I shouting?”

“I don’t know.” Moody was in a bad temper, where the blazes was Black? “Something about ‘save them’.”

Megan stared at the Auror, yes that had been in the dream. She had to get to Dumbledore to save them, she had to break the rules. But save who?

“Oh lord, my damn memory.” Megan groaned. In the dream it felt so important, so urgent but for the life of her she could not remember what it was try though she might. Then she looked around, “Alastor, what in the devil? Why are you here? Where’s Sirius?”

“I have no bleeding idea.” Moody huffed.

::::::::::::::::

“I don’t know Sirius,” Lily sounded doubtful. “Are you sure he’s up to it?”

“I am, I’ve talked to him.” Sirius pushed his hair from his forehead but it promptly flopped back down. “I’ll protect him, I promise you.”

“But Voldemort already had him once.” James also looked apprehensive.

“That’s actually what makes him perfect for this.” Sirius said. “He wouldn’t think you’d ever entrust someone who had already been captured once.”

Lily and James looked at each other. Sirius was bouncing Harry on his knee, smiling at them.

“He does have a point, Lily. It would strike Voldemort as being foolhardy, he hates us but he knows we’re not fools.” James said slowly. It was a dangerous game though.

“James, are you quite sure you trust Peter?” Lily couldn’t help but ask.

James thought about it carefully, he had known Peter as long as all the others. He wasn’t the strongest among them that was true. He’d always been a bit weak. He answered Lily honestly:

“He’s weaker than Sirius or Remus, but Sirius is right, Voldemort would guess Sirius first, Remus second.” James hated putting his friends in so much danger. “Peter may not be the strongest, but I know he’s very loyal. I do trust him.”

Lily looked at her husband and nearly opened her mouth to speak but stopped. It wasn’t that she disliked Peter, it was just that he had been more difficult to warm towards. James knew him far better than she did and whereas she didn’t know if she could trust Peter, she did know she could trust James.

“All right darling.” Lily placed her hand in his and squeezed.

“Sirius, are you sure though about tomorrow?” James still felt a tiny bit uneasy. “He should think it over.”

“He says he has been.” Sirius smiled and hugged his Godson to him. “We can let Dumbledore know as soon as possible. Come on now, you don’t think I’d suggest this if I wasn’t sure, do you?”

“Of course not.” James thought of the many years that they had been friends and how he would have trusted Sirius to protect the lives of his wife and baby if anything had ever happened to him. Sirius would die before he would let anything happen to them, and he’d die before he’d let anything happen to Peter. “If you’re sure Padfoot, then I am too.”

“You can trust me, James.” Sirius said and had no idea that he would never be able to forgive himself for what he had just persuaded the man who was his best friend in the world to do.

Author's Note: I dink very slightly with Rowling's canon in what is to follow. Obviously we are reaching the end for James and Lily but the story continues long after that, into the present day. Thank you so much for reading.


Chapter 39: The Rat Spy
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Chapter 39

Sirius was getting dressed the next morning, trying to be careful not to wake Megan. She had been having bad dreams all night and it worried him. She would mumble things from time to time. Talking about saving people, or how it was so cold. He’d held her close and roused her just enough to quiet the dreams, but they had obviously returned, again and again. Now at least she seemed to be sleeping peacefully, it was best to let her rest.

As he left the bedroom though his shoulder brushed the open door wardrobe door, jostling the robes hanging from it and causing them to fall. It had been a soft noise but it was still enough to wake Megan.

“Sirius?” Megan sat up sleepily in bed. Heaven’s she was just bone tired.

“It’s all right, sweetheart, go back to sleep.” He walked to the bed and stooped to kiss her cheek, but as he turned away, her hand caught his.

“Where are you going?” Her voice was still heavy with sleep.

“To James and Lily’s.” He didn’t want to wake her up too much.

“You’ll be back soon?” Megan but she could feel the weighty sleep of pregnancy trying to pull her back down.

“Yes, I’ll be back this afternoon. Atticus is already downstairs darling.” He said quietly and then on impulse kissed her again. She let go of his hand as she dropped back off to sleep.

“Love you.” She mumbled.

“Love you too, sweetheart.” He turned and left the room.

Neither had any idea that it would be nearly fourteen years before they would touch each other again.

:::::::::::::::

“You’re ready?” James asked Peter.

“As I’ll ever be.” Then noticing the flicker in James’s eyes he said, “I’m ready James.”

Sirius was waiting outside. None but the intended keeper and the giver of the secret could be present during the Fidelus Charm.

“Lily, James and Harry Potter are in Godric’s Hollow.” James said clearly and Peter repeated the words. Then James had raised his wand and said, “Fidelus Infinitum.”

It was done.

:::::::::::::::::::::

“Feeling okay Peter?” Sirius asked with concern after he had been asked back in.

Peter Pettigrew was mad with a desire to leave but knew that he must bide his time, soon, very soon he would be able to go to his Master.

“Didn’t hurt a bit.” Peter smiled. “It’s locked within me now.”

“Thank God for that.” Sirius said with relief. They would be safe now, Sirius would make sure that Peter was protected and James’s family would never need to fear.

The sun was shining brightly through the windows and Harry sat playing on the living room floor, Lily just a few feet from him. The sounds from outside drifted in but they all knew that no sound could be heard from their home. Even if someone were to be walking directly through the field they wouldn’t be able to see the house. If they wandered on the ground where the actual house sat, they still would see nothing but trees, and grass.

“I have to get to headquarters, I know that Longbottom has a the day planned for me.” Sirius felt tremendous relief. “James, if you see Dumbledore before I do, make sure and let him know we’ve switched keepers.”

“I will, don’t worry.” James smiled at Sirius. “See you later then.”

“Probably not for a bit, but I’ll come again as soon as I can.” Sirius smiled back at him, then at Lily.

“Give our love to Megan!” Lily called standing holding Harry balanced on one hip.

“I will.” Sirius said then turned to Peter. “I’ll come and check on you this evening.”

Peter nodded but he knew that he would never see Black again. They would tell Dumbledore at the earliest opportunity and that could easily mess with his plans. He had to get to Voldemort straight away.

“Later then.” Peter nodded.

“Peter, can’t tell you what this means to us. You’re sticking your neck out on the line like this.” James said affectionately. He saw Peter blink several times and assumed that tears had come to his eyes.

“It’s no trouble.” Peter managed not to simply sprint from the room. “You’d do the same for me.”

“If I could Peter, I would.” James then moved forward and hugged him with a swift clap on the back.

“I’ll just get going then, if you don’t mind.” Peter said with calculated ease. “I’ve got some reading to catch up on. Better get used to being at home a great deal myself.”

James felt a pang of guilt but reminded himself that there were many in this situation and if it weren’t for people like Peter, willing to protect the secret with their own lives, they would all be doomed.

“All right.” James understood it had to be a bit overwhelming.

“Goodbye, James, Lily, Harry.” Peter said as he stepped towards the fireplace.

“Goodbye, see you soon, thank you Peter.” Lily called brightly but he was already gone.

::::::::::::::::::

At headquarters Sirius had arrived and looked high and low for Longbottom. Finally finding Sophie and Remus in the kitchen.

“Good morning, where have you been?” Sophie asked as she sipped some coffee.

“At James and Lily’s. Where’s Frank?” Sirius asked with a bit of irritation.

“He’s been delayed,” Remus answered. “His son was up all night and he’s just at home helping Alice get him settled in for the day. He popped in to tell us that he’d be back in about an hour.”

“Oh.” Sirius wanted to get this done. There was a report of Death Eaters in Pyke and he wanted to check it out and get back home to Megan. He hadn’t had a chance to tell her anything last night she’d been sleeping when he came home.

“Have some breakfast with us.” Sophie offered her smile warm. “I can whip up eggs and toast without a problem.”

Sirius was rather distracted so he barely acknowledged the offer, “No, I want to get this over with and done. I’ll head out on my own. Tell Longbottom I’ve gone to Pyke.”

Remus immediately objected, “Sirius, you can’t do that. You know it’s not safe to go out alone, not even in during the day. Wait for Longbottom, he’ll be here at noon at the latest. Or I can come with you.”

Sirius looked at his friends, they had been enjoying the late morning together when he came in it would be rude to drag Remus off with him. Besides, the report sounded fishy, he was certain he’d be in no trouble. Most likely just some teenagers running around, playing stupid pranks. Nothing of a dire nature had occurred up there.

“No, I can handle it. You stay here.” Sirius smiled, “Enjoy yourselves.”

Before Remus could protest again Sirius was out the door and moving up the long staircase.

“That was odd, Sirius isn’t usually reckless.” Sophie frowned. “Do you think you should go after him?”

Remus considered, he too had read the report. “No, I think he’ll be fine. He’s one hell of fighter for one thing and if there’s any kind of trouble he’s not foolhardy enough to just barge in by himself. He’ll come back for Longbottom.”

It was the middle of the day, what could possibly happen?

:::::::::::::::::::::

Sirius swore under his breath. He couldn’t believe he’d been such an idiot. Strolling into a water treatment plant run by Muggles, he had expected to find only some workers. Perhaps a bit confused by having a man in robes walk in on them but none the worse for wear.

What he had found were four Death Eaters and it had been a miracle that he had managed to dodge down into the sewers and hide from them for as long as he had. If he’d run into the open, they would have had him in a moment. Now he had managed to stun one and bind him but he could hear the other three moving around in the area, still pursuing him. He was in the battle of his life.

When Frank Longbottom went to Pyke, he could find no evidence that Black had been there at all. He’d even gone to the plant himself but there were no signs of any activity. Of course, he was slightly distracted as he gave a cursory search Neville’s cough was still on his mind.

::::::::::::::::::::

“What is it?” Bellatrix Lestrange asked.

“Where is the master?” Peter asked his voice high with excitement.

“You have need of speaking with him?” Bellatrix sounded suspicious. She was as devoted as a dog to Voldemort and she hated this spy from the Order. Very few knew of him and she hated that he was able to find her location so easily.

“Yes, it’s very important.” Peter was puffed up with pride like a swollen toad. “I have what he wants.”

Bellatrix’s cold black eyes flicked over his face and then she had laughed and laughed long.

“This will be a historic day!” Her hard, cold voice was still shrill to Peter’s ears. “Come with me, the rat-spy has done well.”

He’d followed her down the hallway of the long disused mansion in Pyke, guarded by no less than four outposts in town. No one liked it here and hated the town so close to so many Muggles. Besides they were not allowed to do anything in town that was in the least satisfying. The Dark Lord had forbidden it too much attention could be called to the area.

She paused, spoke the password, “Absinthenium.” In the middle of a hallway and a door had appeared. Ushered inside, he was waiting.

“You are here Peter?” Voldemort’s voice chilled Peter’s bones but he loved the feeling. “What have you brought for me?”

“Master, the Potters have made me their secret keeper.” Peter’s voice trembled with pride as he spoke.

“At last!” Voldemort hissed. “At long last!”

His laughter was like an ice storm raging through the house. They would go for them at nightfall. Peter and Lestrange by his side as he took the first step in securing his rule.


Chapter 40: At the going down of the Sun
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Author's note: I rarely do this but I wanted to step in and say that the story doesn't end here and to thank you all for reading. I hope you continue to do so.

Disclaimer: All rights belong to J.K. Rowling. This story is in no way intended for profit.

Chapter Forty

The sun had just set with Lily and James watching it. Beautiful colors streaming across the sky like a painting that knew no equal. They stood watching it becoming increasingly dark, the stars just starting to come out.

“Has the sky ever been that color?” Lily wondered, entranced by the brilliant hues.

“I’m certain it has.” James had his arm around his wife’s shoulders. Harry was upstairs asleep. She turned and kissed James lightly.

“I’ll go and wake Harry, then I’ll see to dinner.” Her eyes lingered on his face, smiling, it had really been a spectacular sight that they had just witnessed.

“All right, darling.” James couldn’t help but feel as if they need never fear anything again. What they had just seen seemed sent from God to them as a message. Purple and pink, orange and gold the sky had never looked more lovely.

Lily began to trot lightly up the stairs when it happened. James saw him outside the window, two figures by his side, heading towards the house. It was the middle figure that made his heart nearly stop. It was Voldemort, it had to be he’d heard him described by too many by now to mistake him. Tall, pale, his face almost a skull, his eyes large and menacing.

“Lily take Harry and go! It’s him” He stumbled from the room. “Go! Run! I’ll hold him off!”

The door burst open and Voldemort strode into the house. A woman, by his side, with a high pitched cackle of laughter. Lily could hear James turn and fire off a spell and the woman laughed more. She ran desperately up the stairs, tripping falling, dragging herself up again.

“Potter.” Voldemort laughed. “You can do nothing to harm me!”

James didn’t answer, instead he tried to shoot off another spell, but the words froze on his lips. There was someone behind Voldemort, someone he knew. God help him, it was Peter.

“Avada Kedavra.” The voice hissed and a bright jet of green light shot into James’s chest, stopping his heart instantly and causing him to fall to the floor, dead.

Lily could hear him coming after her. She saw the flash of green light and knew that James had been killed, her heart felt as it had been torn out but she still had to get to Harry. Dashing into the nursery she moved towards Harry’s crib.

“Get out of my way.” Said the arctic, mad voice of the man behind her.

“Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!” She screamed, desperate. She did not even have her wand with her.

“Stand aside, you silly girl…stand aside now…” His face was deathly pale and he was smiling.

“”Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead…” Lily begged flinging her body in front of the crib.

The mad laughter continued downstairs, drifting up like retched music.

“Not Harry! Please…have mercy…have mercy…” Lily sobbed as she did her best to conceal her child.

The woman had laughed, mad and shrill, shattering the night as Voldemort killed Lily effortlessly.

“Now, the littlest Potter…” Voldemort muttered as he raised his wand again and triumphantly screamed the curse pointing directly at the baby’s head. The green light went winging towards him and…

An emormous flash of light was coming back at him. Green light.

“Nooooooooo!” The curse ripped into Voldemort, tearing through him nearly extinguishing his power.

The Dark Lord had been defeated by the very force he had so much disdain for, Love.

Bellatrix screamed in terror as the house began to shake around them and fled into the night, screaming the whole way. The house exploded in a rain of flaming boards and splinters of glass, knocking her down and breathless for a moment as Peter Pettigrew fled for his life.

Far above, in the night sky, the voice of a man once known as Tom Riddle screamed on as it fled, taking with it whatever power it could hold together, desperate to stay away from the grasping hands of death.

In the wreckage below caused by the explosion of nearly all that was Voldemort a baby lay crying.

:::::::::::::::::::

Sirius had finally been forced to swim for it, diving into a large pool of Merlin alone knew what he emerged from the facility at long last, having stunned two. He walked quickly to the town, it was dark now and the cold night was miserable in his wet condition. He’d better go home, grab his motorcycle and check on Peter, he’d be frantic by now.

He apparated in jumps along the way, as it was difficult to apparate a long distance. Finally, when he reached the house, he noticed the lights were low. Perhaps Megan still wasn’t feeling well. He shouldn’t disturb her.

He walked to the garden, grabbed his flying machine and took off toward Peter Pettigrew’s house.



Chapter 41: Allies
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Chapter Forty One:

“Just try to eat some of it.” Atticus Sliverton had been trying to distract Megan for hours now. As it had grown dark Megan finally awake had become increasingly agitated about Sirius’s whereabouts. Casting about for something that might occupy her mind Atticus had taken her into the kitchen where he had spent quite a long time teaching her how to make some chicken cutlets with a mushroom sauce. The truth was he was worried himself, Sirius was ages late at this point.

“I’d honestly not be able to keep it down.” Megan looked pale and a headache was still bothering her. They’d kept the lights low ever since the sun went down to try to keep from aggravating it. Normally it might have been amusing to watch Atticus trying to cook in the gloom but she was becoming increasingly concerned with each passing hour. “Can’t we please go to headquarters and see if there’s been any word?”

“Megan, I’ve stuck my head in three different times. I’m sorry, there isn’t anyone around.” Atticus kept his voice as casual as possible. He was a bit stuck himself, he dared not leave Megan and taking her with him was out of the question. She’d nearly fainted earlier when she’d gotten upset, he knew that if they reached the mansion and there was still no sign of Sirius, she’d probably become frantic. There was no way that could possibly be good for her so it seemed best to stall. “Come on, just a taste? You’re to be married soon, you’ll need all the strength you can get.”

Just as Atticus was speaking, Minerva McGonagall emerged from the fireplace in the living room with a heavy heart and tears in her eyes. She knew that Dumbledore was already working on a plan for little Harry, and that he would need her help come morning but in the meantime he had sent her on this unenviable task. She walked stiffly into the kitchen, where she could hear young Sliverton trying his best to keep Megan’s mind on other matters.

“Professor?” Megan stood and immediately a sense of dread encompassed her. Minerva had never been to the house before. “What’s happened?”

In the next twenty-four hours the stalwart transfiguration teacher would have to undertake many emotionally difficult things but this was as difficult as any of them would be.

“Sliverton,” She began briskly but could not meet his penetrating eye, she turned to Megan and it was the raw fear there that made the teacher blanch. Her tone softened, “You’ll need to come along to headquarters now, both of you. We’ve learned several things in the last half an hour.”

Megan’s stomach lurched and although it felt as if the blood in her veins had stopped moving, she stood. Never realizing that Sliverton always so quick to gauge a situation was moving towards her, just in case she lost consciousness.

“Tell me Professor, please.” She knew that Minerva McGonagall was about to tell her something truly terrible.

McGonagall hesitated momentarily, in part of her heart she wished to leave this news for as long as possible but in another she knew that delay would only makes things worse. Swallowing heavily she began:

“We have lost both Lily and James. There was an attack at their home, and I’m sorry, but neither survived.” It sounded obscene, saying these words in such a bald fashion.

Atticus Sliverton was known for having nerves of steel, but he flinched at the news. “All of them?”

“No, Harry is alive and relatively unharmed.” In this bleak moment it was good news but tears were now falling down McGonagall’s face.

“There’s something else?” Atticus his senses always keen asked.

“Yes, Voldemort has seemingly been defeated.” Minerva said slowly and her voice quavered with emotion. It was the moment they had all been fighting for and yet, it was still one of the saddest things she ever had to say because of how it had been accomplished.

Atticus felt a bit lightheaded with the enormity of the situation himself. “Defeated? As in killed?”

“If anyone as powerful as he could die, then yes, he is dead.” Minerva wiped her eyes awkwardly.

“How?” Megan’s voice was barely a whisper. Sirius had left just that morning to become their Secret Keeper, if Voldemort had managed to kill Lily and James then she knew what had happened to Sirius. A horrible feeling of loss was pressing down on her. Lily and James were enough for a crushing blow, but it seemed certain that Sirius must be dead. He would never have divulged their secret. Voldemort must have discovered it somehow after killing him. She felt as if her knees had turned to water and she had to brace herself against the scrubbed wooden table.

“We aren’t sure how, he tried to kill Harry but somehow the spell backfired into Voldemort. Already there is panic among his followers. Several of the Death Eaters have turned themselves over to the Ministry of Magic.” Minerva felt anger flash through her. “All of them claiming the Imperius Curse, of course.”

For a brief second the horror of the moment was washed away in the awe. Over two years of active fighting and a baby had somehow killed this terrible Dark Lord?

“Professor,” Megan’s voice was weak, as if the world around her were fading. “What’s happened to Sirius?”

Minerva knew what she had to say but it took an act of will to wrench the words from her own mouth. “Megan, he’s missing and I’m afraid it is nearly certain that he has been killed…Catch her!”

Megan had stumbled away from the table and Atticus, his reflexes momentarily dulled by all this news was too slow. Both the others were certain she was going to collapse but Megan Hogan found strength she did not know she had and remained standing.

“Professor Dumbledore wants us at headquarters?” Her voice sounded strained to the point of breaking. “We’d better go then. I’ll just need my cloak.”

She tried to walk but found that her legs weren’t obeying her brain. It isn’t true, her brain whispered as it grasped at any hope. She would wake up at any moment and Voldemort would be defeated, but Lily, James and Sirius would all be all right. In her heart, she knew she was lying to herself but there was nothing else to be done. Oh lord, she thought, that poor baby.

::::::::::::::::

Remus Lupin had very nearly collapsed also when he heard the news. It was the worst moment of his life he realized. Losing Amelia had been so difficult that it had caused him to shut down for nearly two years. Losing James, Lily and almost certainly Sirius in one day seemed to pulverize him. His mind could not even touch on Harry, growing up without his parents, it was simply too much.

Sophie had shooed away the others as he had stumbled from the room at headquarters and followed him into the office Dumbledore usually used when he was there but their powerful leader was off trying to attend to some matters of great urgency.

“Remus…” Sophie began but didn’t know what to say. To say she was sorry would have been inadequate. To say that she too was horrified beyond measure would have struck her as selfish. In one horrible night they had achieved their goal but the price had been horrific. She said the only thing that might make a difference. “I love you. You aren’t alone Remus, I’m here.”

Remus felt as if the room was tilting around him. As if he might be transforming because it felt as if he was coming out of his own skin. He clutched wildly at his head saying over and over. “No…no…no.”

He loved James as dearly as one friend could love another, he also loved Lily and he did love Harry. Sirius was as close to his heart as any of them. The price of defeating Voldemort was higher than he had ever imagined it could be and he had thought that it the toll was already staggering. A mad laugh escaped his lips and Sophie was immediately there, clutching him, guiding him towards a small sofa.

“I love you, Remus.” Sophie repeated and continued to repeat the same thing as she kissed his face and neck while she held him as near to her as possible. “You aren’t alone, I swear it. You aren’t alone I’m here. I love you.”

Over and over again she said it and she felt his tense body begin to go slack in her arms. Burying his head on the small woman’s shoulder, Remus Lupin wept without any shame as she continued to speak soothingly to him.

:::::::::::::::

The Order headquarters was so full of people that the large mansion seemed stuffed to the gills. Diggle was there, so was Vance and many more members who had not seen each other since the attack were clustered together in groups, speaking in low voices as they awaited more word. The sun was up now but the day seemed bleak on this Tuesday morning. Megan read the Daily Prophet slowly, the headlines literally screaming “Harry Potter: The Boy Who Lived!” and “He Who Will Not Be Named Defeated!”

As the world of wizards rejoiced, the members waited together for Dumbledore. Surely he would be able to tell them what to do now. Small snippets of conversation reached Megan’s ears from time to time and she tried with all her might to block them out.

“Can you believe it?” Vance was whispering.

“A great and terrible day….” Alice Longbottom could be heard saying.

“By a baby…I never could have imagined it.” Moody’s gruff voice was somehow softer.

“Yes, just this morning…the Fidelus charm, yes…He must have gotten him very quickly…” The voices were all beginning to run together.

Suddenly Atticus raised his head and asked in a strong voice, “Where’s Pettigrew?”

Silence crashed down upon the room as everyone stared from one to the other. No one had noticed his absence.

“Look, has anyone seen Peter?” Atticus was rising, moving toward the fireplace. No one had. “We’d better check on him.”

“I’ll go with you.” Vance answered her voice trembling in fear.

When they swiftly arrived back to say that he was not at his home and that were signs of disarray there, clothes thrown around, furniture knocked over. It looked like a struggle as much as anything, that or it had been someone packing swiftly, believing that he was to join his horrid master.

It was worse than they thought.

:::::::::::::::

When Frank Longbottom entered the room all of the murmuring had stopped. His kind face was set in lines of rage and his eyes were blazing. He had just come from the Ministry.

“Frank, what is it?” His wife asked, holding Neville close to her heart. She alone knew her husband best and she knew that if Frank had been moved to anger then the news must be terrible indeed.

“Sirius Black has just been captured.” He spit out. “He’s slaughtered a street full of Muggles and Peter Pettigrew. He must have been in league with Voldemort for ages.” The stunned room stared at him. “Pettigrew chased him down but Black killed him and at least a dozen Muggles with one curse.”

It was utter chaos in the moments that followed. People swearing, cursing Sirius or simply exclaiming in horror. Alice Longbottom burst into tears Moody swore a blue streak. Diggle uttered something unintelligible. It was finally Megan who broke through the din as she stood shouting.

“No, there’s a mistake.” Megan was staring in horror at all those around her. “This literally isn’t possible.”

“Megan, Peter Pettigrew confirmed it just as he died.” Frank tried to soften his expression. It wasn’t the girl’s fault. “He shouted that Sirius had betrayed the Potters just before Sirius murdered him. God, there are still searching for whatever’s left of Pettigrew, Black blew him to smithereens. Then he laughed Megan, he laughed like a maniac and he was still laughing when the Ministry offices got there.”

“No, no! It’s not true, it simply is not true!” She looked around the room for support, surely they must know? Surely they must realize? Sirius could never have harmed Lily and James, nor Harry. It was not possible and they must realize this. Confused stares met her eye, some of them suspicious. She didn’t notice that Atticus was sitting forward quietly, with a strange look on his face.

“Megan, there isn’t, we all know that Sirius was here yesterday right after he had been to the Potters.” Frank didn’t want to hurt the girl, but she had to see reason. “He was their Secret Keeper. I myself went to search for him in Pyke, he was never there. He must have been…”

Megan said stubbornly and her voice carried through the protest. “I know him better than any of you, he would not do this. The charm must not have worked.”

“That’s not possible I’m afraid.” Atticus spoke in a clear voice. “The charm is as close to infallible as we can get.”

Megan swung towards him and gave him a murderous look. She would never have expected this from him. She looked at the room of people, her path to the fireplace was blocked by them. She turned and began stumbling out into the long hall towards the front door. Atticus was on his feet, after her in long strides.

“Someone has to tell Remus.” Alice Longbottom said firmly.

“He may be a spy too.” Moody said menacingly and this caused Atticus to stop. In less than a second he was standing directly before Moody inches from his face, the normally quick Auror had been out maneuvered in flash.

“Say anything like that again Alastor and you’ll answer to me.” Sliverton’s face was like steel and the conviction in his voice was strong enough to crumble mountains. Moody eyed him uneasily. “Use your head, if he were a spy, he’d never have come here today he’d be running for his life. You’ve got no idea what it feels like to lose almost everyone you care about in one day, say that to him or anyone and as God as my witness, you’ll rue the day.”

Moody nodded uneasily. Alastor was older, he was exceptionally well trained but there had been a look of terrible fury in Sliverton’s eyes before he had turned and sprinted from the room after receiving Moody’s acknowledgement. The older man realized that the resemblance between Albus and Atticus went further than their great height. Besides, Sliverton had a point, Lupin would not have come here if had anything to do with this, he would know that he would be under suspicion.

Atticus moved with haste down the hall, Megan had long since reached the front but had collapsed against it sobbing. Her head leaning against the massive door her body shaking.

“Megan…” He began but she was up in flash. Atticus was far too tall for her to slap his face easily but she was striking at him, hitting his arms and chest.

“Get away from me! If you ever come near me again, I’ll tear you to pieces.” She was sobbing raggedly. “I thought I could trust you, but you’re the worst of the lot!”

Atticus grabbed her arms in a vice-like grip, knowing that he might be hurting her but the matter was urgent and she had to listen to him.

“Megan, I’m certain that Siruis tried to kill Peter, he may have in fact killed him.” She had screamed and tried to break free but he still held on. “But I’m equally certain he never would have betrayed James and Lily.”

Megan froze in place, staring at him. Tears standing at her lashes.

“If he did kill Pettigrew, I think I know why.” Atticus’s mind was working at an astonishing rate. “It’s because Pettigrew must have betrayed them. That would drive him to murder, and only that. That or if someone had betrayed you. I’ve fought side by side with Sirius Black for over two years, we’ve both accidentally killed people but I know he is a good man. He isn’t this monster they’re describing.”

“You believe me?” Megan felt as if there might be the tiniest ray of hope in this miserable situation.

“Of course I do.” Atticus then told her of Sirius’s visit to Peter the night before the Fidelus charm. “They must have switched Megan. There’s no other explanation. There was always something odd about that Pettigrew…and there was no way anyone could be held by Death Eaters and emerged intact. Not the way Peter did. We all thought it was lucky, hell I did also, but it was just too damned convenient.”

“Switched?” Megan’s voice was trembling.

“Yes, it makes a perfect kind of sense if you consider it.” Atticus now looked stricken. “Voldemort would never have suspected Peter, he was too weak whereas everyone would expect Sirius to hold the secret.”

“Then we can help him?” Megan nearly sobbed with relief.

Atticus hated saying the next words to Megan.

“Megan, I don’t have any idea in the world how we can prove this.” Sliverton’s nerves were nearly failing him. “Our only chance is Ablus or Sirius. The Potters may have told him if there was time. From what Frank said, I think that Sirius must be deranged with grief and Megan, the investigators won’t believe him unless someone else knows. ”

Megan started to fall to the floor and Atticus gently eased her down. “Atticus, if they didn’t…you’ll help won’t you?”

Atticus Sliverton would have made his Grand Uncle proud had he been able to see him because his face was nearly a terrible thing to behold, but there was always that tremendous compassion in it also.

“I swear to you Megan, if there’s a way. We’ll find it.” Atticus said and a penetrating calm settled upon him. Something had to be salvageable here and if there were any way at all, he would find it. He knew there was no point in speaking to the members about this, they were all so confused by the tumult of their own emotions. None of them would be able to handle much more at the moment. He would however speak to Dumbledore as soon as he could.

:::::::::::::::::

When Remus entered the room a deathly silence descended. All eyes were turned to him and he knew that there must be worse news although how this could possibly get any worse, he could not imagine. It was Alice Longbottom who told him and she did so as gently as she could. If anyone in the room had thought for even a moment that Lupin had been involved somehow, his reaction convinced them otherwise.

He let out a visceral howl, and shook as if there was an earthquake within his own body. Then he turned over two tables, sending books, papers and coffee cups flying before he punched a wall with all of his might.

“For what? Why? How could he?” Lupin felt as if everything that he understood about the world was being taken apart and nothing had been put back together again. He desperately wanted to believe that Sirius was innocent, but he had been there in the tower room, he had heard him accept the responsibility…cheerfully…God, cheerfully! There was nothing left of this life he thought he had understood.

“Come away, darling. Come away.” Sophie was there, trying to guide him towards the fireplace. He had only two days before the next full moon she had to get him somewhere private. Somewhere that he might feel safe. “I’m right here Remus, look at me! I’m right here.”

Remus did look and saw the one thing in the world that remained to him out of all of this, that and Harry.

“Where is Harry now?” He asked, but no one could answer beyond saying that Dumbledore was taking care of everything. Remus nodded and felt Sophie gently pushing him towards the fireplace.

As they left, Moody agreed to wait for Dumbledore at headquarters and get word to all of them as soon as possible as to what they were to do next. After all, not all the DeathEaters would come quietly and there was more work to be done.

Dedalus Diggle went home and as soon as night fell, he began setting off spectacular sparks into the sky. He needed to do something, anything that would mark the fall of the Dark Lord, and in a way he hoped that there was a chance that James and Lily could somehow see them and know they would never be forgotten.

:::::::::::::::::::

Albus Dumbledore turned and walked away from the baby at the door of Number Four, Privet Drive. He was weary and heartsick but he was also convinced this way for the best. The wizardry world was singing the praises of Harry Potter that night but Albus knew that there were still real dangers in this world.

He sighed slightly. Penelope Potter had, as he had feared nearly died from the shock of hearing that her only child had been killed. Her condition was worsening and she lay in St. Mungo’s once again. It was said later that she died of a massive stroke that night, but in truth, it was just as likely a broken heart. Any will she had to live had been extinguished with the loss of James and although she wanted to help her grandson, her body and mind simply did not have the strength.

Dumbledore prayed that he was correct in what he was doing, and that these Muggles would find kindness and love within them. Enough to love and protect Harry until it was safer. He was right by half, Petunia Dursley found enough decency within her to agree to protect the boy, but she never stopped resenting his intrusion into her life. She agreed only because once, many years earlier, she and Lily had in fact been close. Long before all this horrid magic business had started she had loved her sister and in a tiny corner of her heart, that feeling still remained. But it was not enough to extend itself towards Lily’s child.

Lily and James’s love would be though. It would extend beyond the barriers of death and help him survive the lonely years to come. As a boy he would have no true memory of them, but in his dreams, the ones too hazy to ever remember, he would remember his glorious haired mother with her beautiful eyes, smiling at him. He would recall a father who had loved him so much, been so proud of him that he believed in his heart that Harry could do anything.

It was this love that carried Harry through radiating at a deep level, never leaving him entirely. It was a feeling in the pit of his soul and he would not understand it as he grew older, but it would be the very thing that would make him Voldemort’s greatest enemy. Power he would have in droves, but it was the love that would make the difference.



Chapter 42: The Heart's Proof
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Chapter 42

Albus Dumbledore sat back at his desk and stared at Atticus and Megan in turn.

“Your version of events is of course persuasive but there is not a shred of evidence to back your supposition.” He spoke slowly. There was also some very damning evidence against Sirius.

“I know that, Professor.” Atticus rarely called his father’s uncle by his first name, it would have struck him as disrespectful. “But you have to admit that this makes a great deal more sense than the madness we’re being asked to swallow. No matter what Pettigrew shouted, I think we all know that he would never have been brave enough to chase after Sirius.”

Dumbledore removed his spectacles and thought for a moment. What Atticus described was indeed a far more likely turn of events but there was no proof. Even if Atticus testified that he had seen Sirius Black leaving for Peter’s lodgings he would have no knowledge of what went on there. His testimony would be useless and Dumbledore had told him so. Besides, there was a problem beyond whether or not Atticus’s version of events would be believed, there was Peter Pettigrew’s remains and a street full of dead Muggles. Regardless of who had betrayed whom, Sirius would be held accountable for that.

“I have been to see Sirius and I am afraid he will not speak to me.” Dumbledore said.

The room was silent and Dumbledore cleared his throat.

“I will be compelled to give evidence that I knew Sirius was to be the Secret Keeper for the Potters.” He sighed. “No matter what any of us believe, Sirius will be held responsible for the death of all those people. No matter his motivations in killing Pettigrew.”

“I can read him,” Megan had been thinking about this carefully. “Train me again Professor, and I’ll be able to read him and testify, they may at least show leniency if they know. Those Muggles must have been an accident Professor.”

“Megan, even if I were willing to train you again, I am sorry but even the word of a tactile seer would not help in this case.” He paused. “Plus, it would almost certainly never be in time to save Sirius.”

“But I could be trained in time for an appeal!” Megan begged.

“Megan, I am so sorry but you were never able to read Sirius Black properly.” Dumbledore’s eyes were kind. Megan began to protest but Dumbledore raised a hand and cut her off. “Training would almost certainly kill the child within you Megan. You must know that.”

Megan did realize this but had been willing to take the chance. Any chance was worth it if she could save Sirius and she said as much.

“It’s worth the risk, Professor, you know it is.” Megan’s lip trembled but her face was resolute. “Things might be different this time, maybe I will be able to read him. I’ve got to try.”

“Megan, you are willing to risk that, but I am not. I am sorry but I will not do that to you, or to Sirius.” Dumbledore said quietly. “Even if you could learn to successfully read him it would be of no use in this matter. A court would never take your word because of the relationship you share.”

Ablus knew that Sirius had no idea that Megan was pregnant and she had begged him not to tell the young man. It was her greatest hope and her right to be the person who told him. No, there was no hope for it. Dumbledore, no matter what he believed in his heart must give the evidence he knew to be the truth, not the wild, hopeful theories of two desperate people even if they did appeal to him.

Sliverton sat back and ran a hand through his hair, although he appeared calm there was still something he needed to do, had to say.

“Professor, I’ve been over every report that the Ministry has and I have to tell you, there are several things that are simply odd about their evidence.” Atticus began. “For one thing, finding that one finger intact makes no sense when his body seems to have been nearly vaporized. There isn’t enough blood for Pettigrew to have, well, to have exploded.”

“The curse he used must have been very powerful.” Dumbledore said sadly.

“But that’s not all.” Atticus continued. “There’s a huge flaw in the accusation. The prosecution is saying that Black tried to deliver the Potters to his Master, but he could have done that long before this. Sirius was alone with both of them countless times. He could have heavily stunned James because Sirius could have taken him off guard since they trusted him so much. Lily would have been no match for him and all he need have done was heave them into a fireplace and take them elsewhere. Hell, he could have carried Harry directly to him.”

Dumbledore looked at his clever grand nephew and smiled slightly, these were all the things he himself had worked out also but it was good to know that Atticus had thought things through so thoroughly.

Atticus Sliverton was afraid of next to nothing and the dementors of Azkaban though a chilling thought were not going to dissuade him either.

“There’s nothing for it. I need to speak to him myself.” Atticus said.

“That is not possible, prisoners awaiting trial are rarely allowed visitors.” Dumbledore said quietly.

“They are if they have the permission of both Albus Dumbledore and the Minister of Magic. Give me your permission and I know I’ll be able to get the Minister to agree.” Sliverton’s family estate funded half to the charitable works in the magical world. He had tremendous pull politically.

Dumbledore considered for a moment, he had seen Black whereas Atticus had not. There was a chance, albeit slim that Black might confide in him. Accidental killings were treated differently maybe Black could even hope for a long house arrest.

“All right Atticus, we must try everything we can.” Dumbledore understood this young man far better than Atticus could have imagined. He never could bear injustice and he would not rest until he had answered these questions.

“Then I’m coming with you.” Megan said firmly.

“No, you are not.” Atticus said with equal firmness. “Megan, seeing a dementor in your condition could cost you the baby.”

Megan opened her mouth to protest but Sliverton cut her off as Dumbledore wrote out the letter to Atticus would need.

“Besides Megan, you have to realize, seeing you…”Atticus tried to think of a way to word this. “It can’t possibly help right now.”

“Why the devil not?” Megan snapped.

“Because he’d be happy to see you Megan and the dementors would have more impact upon him.” Atticus gazed at her levelly. “It would cloud his mind.”

“Megan, there is something I need your help with regardless.” Dumbledore said, looking up as he wrote.

Megan nodded reluctantly. She wanted this over, she wanted Sirius back with her and then they could raise Harry together, no matter what Dumbledore had said. But she could not deny any help to this man. He had earned her loyalty forever simply by willing to listen.

She knew that she and Atticus could not speak of what they suspected to anyone. No matter how driven she felt because there were still Death Eaters at large, many of them driven mad with anger. They could storm Azkaban and kill Sirius. Secrecy was of the utmost importance again in her life.

::::::::::::::::::::

Three weeks had passed since Lily and James had been killed, Voldemort defeated. Sophie Burns checked the casserole she was making for dinner and worried a bit more about Remus. He was so withdrawn that sometimes she felt as if she could not even reach him.

He had however thrown himself into the work remaining for the Order, searching out and finding the Death Eaters. Every day he was off, pursuing them and Sophie knew that his will to live was very low indeed. He had returned from his first transformation with deep gouges in his arms and chest, he obviously felt very alone despite her best efforts. He also wouldn’t make love to her, but she understood this it was hard to find passion within when your heart felt broken.

“Well, old chair, old friend of mine.” Sophie sat on the couch and addressed the shabby armchair in the corner.

“What do you want?” The chair was often morose.

“I hope you haven’t gotten too used to this place, because if my plan works, I’m sure to be disinherited again.” Sophie unclipped her hair and breathed deeply.

“No more than you deserve.” The chair wheezed.

“Well, that’s probably true.” Sophie said, but smiled. It would be all right. She did have a plan after all.

When Remus walked through the door a half an hour later he seemed distracted as he kissed Sophie’s head.

“Good day?” Sophie asked.

“Two more sent to Azkaban. Is that a good day?” Remus looked at her and realized he was being unkind. “I’m sorry Sophie, I’m still not myself.”

“I know that.” Sophie answered but she was smiling at him gently.

“Well something smells wonderful.” Remus tried to find enthusiasm within him. He loved Sophie dearly and if it had not been for her constant love and support, he never would have survived this. He tried to push away the voice inside of him that asked how long she could possibly want to stay with a known werewolf.

“Thank you. Shepherd’s Pie actually, quite possibly even fit to eat.” Her brown eyes fixed on Remus light ones. “Besides, we need to eat a quick supper and it’s always fast.”

“Are you going out?” Remus asked with frowning with concern.

“Oh, we both are.” Sophie said and decided to just push ahead. “We’ve got an engagement tonight with a very nice judge who is meeting us at the Guzzling Goblin.”

“I don’t want to go out to the pub…wait a judge?” Remus asked, startled.

“Yes, that’s right.” Sophie said brightly. “You see, I can’t seem to convince you that you’ll never be without me, so I had to take matters into my own hands. Ono’s going to stand as witness. It’s fitting you know, after all, he watched us as we fell in love.”

“Witness?” Remus was baffled.

“Yes, when you get married, you need a witness.” Sophie smiled.

“Don’t be foolish Sophie, you can’t possibly marry me. I’ve nothing to offer you and I never will have.” Remus stared at the girl in front of him. “You’ve got a job lined up with the Ministry and they’d never hire the wife of a werewolf. Don’t be silly.”

“Well, that’s part of the reason we wouldn’t really be able to tell anyone. Well, hardly anyone.” Sophie had never been less silly in her life. “But we’d know, you’d know.”

Remus moved towards her and held her. “Sweetness, it’s a kind gesture, but you aren’t fooling me. You want to give me something to hang onto, but I won’t hang onto to you if it means dragging you down.”

“Remus, you’re fooling yourself if you think that I’m doing this as some sort of gesture.” Sophie had tears in her eyes, but she was smiling. “I’ve made up my mind Remus. You’re going to make an honest woman out of me, well, partially honest. If we want to keep this place, we’ll have to lie at my job but don’t kid yourself Remus…I can take care of myself and you know full well I don’t care a thing about money.”

“Sophie,” Remus laughed despite himself. It was the first time he had laughed since losing the Potters. “I can’t do this to you, I’m sorry. But it means something that you asked. You are aware that it’s the man who asks the woman, aren’t you?”

“Ah, once again you are mistaken. Men may ask but it’s only because the woman has already decided. Takes you blokes a bit to catch up with us sometimes you know.”

It certainly was taking Remus a bit to catch up with Sophie on this. When he asked himself if he wanted this, no matter what form it took his mind answered yes, and it was true.

“I can’t do this to you.” Remus said again, hesitating.

“Oh well, that’s fine. I’m without many scruples you see. I’ve got no compunction about doing this to you.” Sophie said teasingly but Remus knew her too well by now. He could see that her joking was covering up something real and true. She wouldn’t do this lightly. “I don’t envy you though, having to be stuck with me and my crabby chair for…”

She was cut off as he kissed her, at first as if he were trying to remember how then with determination and purpose.

“Oh good, that’s a ‘yes’ I take it?” Sophie was left slightly breathless. Remus began leading her towards the bedroom and she said, “At least let me take dinner out of the oven!”

“No, I don’t think so, if we’re throwing caution and reason to the wind we may as well let the Shepherd’s Pie fend for itself.” He felt happy suddenly and this time he did not need to wonder about the permission of the dead to feel happy once again. It was no disrespect to them it was the only way of celebrating their lives and their sacrifice. It didn’t mean he would forget he could never do that. But he could have something in his life that reminded him why he was alive and still do his work.

Ono had of course cooked up a brew for the occasion as Remus Lupin married Sophie Burns in his quiet establishment late that evening. He was beaming with pride at having been asked to do this and the young couple in front of him, although somewhat weary and scarred were so right for one another.

They’d even risked it all and sampled his potion but for once they had nothing to fear. Ono had gotten it right after all and so had Sophie and Remus.

Much later as his face hovered above hers in the bedroom, his body moving gently with hers he had looked into her eyes and stopped.

“Keep going, don’t stop it’s wonderful.” She captured his lips and pulled him back into motion.

He’d only stopped because he wondered how it was that this woman managed to continue to save him from everything dark the world contained. After they were still and her head lay on his shoulder he said simply:

“Have I ever thanked you for chasing me on that broom?”

“Oh, several thousand times I think.” Sophie smiled and kissed him. “But if I haven’t said it before, thank you for finally letting me catch you.”



Chapter 43: The Price of Tripping
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Chapter 43

Sirius had been brought in laughing hysterically, putting up no resistance. Now he rarely spoke, and he never screamed as he could hear so many doing. Most of the time he would transform into a large black dog and lie on the cold floor of his cell. When he was in human form he would lie on his cot or sit staring out the barred window at the water outside. He didn’t know how it was possible, but it seemed as if the sun never penetrated this place. Creatures scurried in the dark, spiders found it a haven and something that might have been moss had there been any light grew in a furry green patch on one wall. It was his world now and it was a very cold place indeed.

He could think clearly of James, Lily and Harry because his thoughts were never bright. He had killed them, or as good as killed them, or so he thought. He could think of Peter Pettigrew because the resulting emotion was that of rage, hatred and finally of his own perceived failure. Pettigrew had escaped down a sewer and Sirius’s one true wish was that he could find him someday and exact revenge. He knew it was impossible though because he would never leave this place longer than it took to be sentenced.

He could only ever think of Megan in the most horrible moments, when Voldemort had captured her, when she had lost their baby. He could picture her crying in her sleep but he could no longer think of her laughter, her smile, her warmth. Any of those thoughts and the bitter cold would descend upon him and he would be back in the worst moments of his life particularly the moment in which he had realized that the Potters were dead.

Sirius truly believed that he was the person at fault. He had persuaded James to switch secret keepers. If only he had been able to see through Pettigrew. He cursed himself for his own blindness never realizing that Pettigrew had fooled them all and Sirius was not to blame.

He had always been a lighthearted young man, joking, teasing but at his core loyal, true and loving. In the deepest night, when he slept he would dream of beautiful things like spending Christmas at James’s parents place when he was seventeen. The kindness of Ignatius Potter and the feeling of warmth, love and security that he found there. He would dream of his friends when they were young, playing pranks and laughing all the time. In those dreams, Peter had never existed and it had just been the three of them, always together.

He would also dream of Megan laughing with delight when she had first cooked an omelet successfully or the way she kept her eyes open when he made love to her. In his dreams she would hold him and tell him it would be all right, they were all safe. He never knew that he would occasionally call out in his sleep that he was innocent because his waking mind rejected the thought.

As soon as he awoke he would lose the dreams because the dementors were able to rob you of anything happy but the dementors could not touch the emotions of dreams.

The air in Azkaban was fetid and had a damp quality to it chilling visitors while simultaneously repelling them nearly as much as the guards there did. Each cell was isolated from the others at least in terms of view but the screams of anguish and the constant weeping echoed throughout the dank, dungeon halls. Outside Sirius could hear water lapping up against the shores of this horrible, isolated hell on earth.

It was over a month now since he had been brought here and he was to stand trial soon, or so that anemic piece of work Brothersby kept telling him. Wizardry law required that Sirius be kept apprised of developments in his case and Brothersby worked for the Ministry in this capacity. The monotone Ministry trial worker would drone on and Sirius would stare at various parts of his cell while he could see them. It was rare that the torches flamed bright in these cells because the dementors were blind and needed no light.

The atmosphere seemed designed to break a man’s will as much as the dementors were. The horrible, tall guards would suck out every good feeling you had ever had and the place itself would destroy whatever else was left. The shrieks of the imprisoned, the constant drip of water from the damp stones the stench of the dementors that filled this place was more than enough to grind nearly anyone into pieces.

The torches flared brightly, always a warning to him that he had to transform back and Sirius did so wondering who would be coming to this place at night. There were footsteps ringing out against the cold stone but the stride did not fit that of Brothersby. This person was walking briskly, as if unaffected by this place.

Sirius sat on the edge of his cot and waited. It was probably a visitor for another prisoner and he knew that their confident stride would slow when they had to pass by the two dementors that always flanked the bars of his cell. He was considered one of the worst murders ever captured alive.

The footsteps did in fact slow, and then they stopped.

“Hello Sirius.” Sliverton said easily trying to ignore the smothering sadness that was trying to seep into him. “You two, off with you.”

But the dementors remained and uttering, “Damn, have it your way.” Sliverton produced his wand and said evenly, “Expecto Patronum.”

Silver mist shot from his wand in the form of a dragon and rushed towards the guards who immediately recoiled and began to float away. Sirius felt slightly better at once.

“It’s a good to see you.” Sliverton continued speaking as if Sirius had greeted him but Sirius had ceased to speak in anything other than one word answers weeks ago. There was nothing he wished to say. “I wish I could say you’re looking well, but I’m afraid that you aren’t. Is there anything I can arrange to get for you?”

Atticus paused, he had known it would be bad but he had not expected anything like this. Sirius’s hair was matted, his skin filthy and his robes hung around him in a manner that suggested he was losing weight by the day.

“Sirius, you can be as silent as you like but it won’t help anyone.” Atticus said firmly. Sirius considered the situation, Sliverton probably wouldn’t budge unless he said something.

“They’ll have you in here too if you conjure another one of those things.” His voice was a croak.

“I doubt it.” Atticus smiled in a friendly fashion. “I’ll just tell them I lost my head and conjured a Patronus, repeatedly.”

Why was he acting as if he were glad to see him? Sirius wondered.

“Sirius, I know, or at least I think I know part of what happened.” Sliverton went on to outline his theory.

For the first time in a month Sirius felt warm as he listened but the feeling began to ebb away quickly. There was no one who could corroborate his story. There was no point in telling it.

“I want to help you Sirius but you’ll need to talk to me.” Atticus Sliverton came closer to the bars. “It isn’t a trick Sirius, Dumbledore knows I’m here and so does Megan.”

Megan. He couldn’t stop himself from responding to her name a bit now that the dementors were gone.

“She hates me?” Sirius asked but his voice was toneless.

“On the contrary, she loves you very much.” Atticus said. “Expecto Patronum!”

He shouted as the dementors began to try to creep back towards the cell. This time the dragon had been large and breathing silver fire at them. They retreated again. The second they were gone Atticus took several bars of chocolate from his robes and slid them across the cell floor to Sirius.

“There, hide those, quickly. At least you’ll be able to have some peace from time to time.” Sliverton spoke hastily, the dementors were blind but not deaf. “Sirius, we need to hurry, I’ve only got fifteen minutes in here and I know I won’t be able to get back before your trial. Tell me what happened.”

Sirius stooped automatically and picked up the bars, shoving them beneath the mattress. “James and Lily are dead because of me that’s all the matters to anyone, isn’t it?”

“I don’t believe that Sirius,” Atticus said. “I think they are dead because you all trusted the wrong person too much. It’s happened to all of us.”

“But I should trust you?” Sirius said, eyeing him with suspicion. “Who are you to me Sliverton? I can answer that, you’re nobody.”

This place was taking a terrible toll on him already, Atticus realized. “It’s true, I’m not your closest friend but I am your friend Sirius, please let me help you. There’s something very odd about Pettigrew’s death, I think you can tell me what that oddity is.”

Sirius hesitated for just a moment, but he knew that regardless of what he told Sliverton it would not matter. None of them had ever been registered animagi, hell, his only hope of freedom hung on something that might very well land him for a stint in Azkaban anyway and there was no proof of what Peter had done. None.

“Go back to your father’s estate and play with your pets Atticus, I’ve got nothing to tell you.” Sirius said wearily.

“Sirius, please, don’t do this. If you can’t try for yourself, can’t you at least try for Megan?” Atticus was speaking in rush, he had hoped this would go off better than it was. “She’s frantic Sirius, she’s not even allowed to write to you until after the trial. She’s not a relative, nor an official they won’t let her visit you here, ever. Hurry up, for God’s sake man, tell me how to help you.”

Sirius stared and tried to think. He knew there was no help for him, he could send Sliverton off on wild chase after a rat but he would never find him. It was hopeless at least for him. What was the best he could do for Megan from here? The only thing he could do was to make sure she let him go.

“Is that why you’re here? Atticus and his rescuing complex trying to save the fair maiden?” Sirius forced himself to speak as horribly as possible, it was Megan’s only real chance of every having her own life. “You’re wasting your time Atticus. The best you can do for that girl is to make sure that she knows I don’t love her, I never did. Go back to wherever you’ve slithered in from and tell her that.”

Atticus was momentarily taken aback and then he realized what Sirius was doing. “Sirius, it won’t work. I know you love Megan, I watched the two of you together too many times. No man’s that good of an actor.”

There was no use it wouldn’t work. Sirius had to think of something else. Knowing that he would be stuck behind bars.

“Fine, yes, I loved her. I do love her.” Sirius rose and came towards the bars. “And because I do, you’ve got to promise me something Sliverton. I do know you. You are a man of his word so promise that you’ll protect her. Everyone knew we were to be married, she’s likely one of the most reviled people in the land because of her association with me. So I will tell you what you need.”

Atticus looked at him steadily, waiting and hoping.

“Make sure she forgets me. Do you understand? Take her far away. If you have to fill her head with whatever lies you can think of, but make sure that she stops caring.” Sirius looked angry now. “If you want to help me, do that.”

“Sirius, I promise to protect her, but I promise nothing else.” Atticus said slowly. “But I can’t make her stop loving you and I’d never be able to make her believe you didn’t love her even if I wanted to do such a thing. Damn…Expecto Patronum!”

Again the silver beast drove back the dementors.

“Hurry, Sirius, tell me what it is I’m missing! I know there has to be something I don’t know and it can make all the difference. Tell me!”

Sirius stared at Sliverton for a moment. “Nothing will make any difference Atticus. The only thing that will make any difference will be if you help her. There isn’t any help for me.”

“Sirius, please, I can’t imagine what is in your mind but you’re wrong. There has to be something that will make the difference. Tell me and I swear I’ll throw every resource I have in to helping you.”

Sirius laughed then, a bark-like sound that echoed insanely through the close walls. “Then do as I’ve asked and get out of here Sliverton.”

“You won’t even try to save yourself? My God man, you can’t live in this guilt forever.” Atticus was appalled. It was on the tip of his tongue to tell him that Megan was pregnant. “Sirius, Megan is…”

The goblin custodians were coming up the steps their many key clanking against their belts.

“One too many patronuses I expect, Atticus.” Sirius was tired. “They’ve come to heave you out into the night, if you’re lucky.”

Sliverton leaned his head against the bars. He had nearly broken his word to Megan but he believed himself to be right in doing so. “Snipe at me as much as you like Sirius but you have to know that Megan is…”

“Megan’s softhearted, Sliverton. Just as I expect you are. Ah look, the goblins are here.” Sirius felt himself shaking slightly it hurt too much to think of Megan for any length of time.

“You sir, you’ll have to come with me.” The goblin growled out at Atticus. Goblins were completely unaffected by dementors and were therefore the wardens here.

“Sirius, I’m begging you.”

But just as they were trying to drag Sliverton off with them, long fingered hands wrapping around his arm Sirius suddenly rushed to the bars.

“Remember Atticus, remember you’ve promised me. Protect her, please. Don’t let her be hurt any more.” Sirius sounded like he had in the years that Sliverton had known him. “You did promise me!”

Atticus looked back at Sirius and saw that his face looked completely different. It was no longer cold and detached but now it looked anxious and yet terribly hopeful at the same time. Even if Sirius could no longer care about himself he obviously still loved Megan.

“I do promise to protect her.” Sliverton called out and he saw the look of relief flash over Sirius’s gaunt face.

Atticus Sliverton left Azkaban having accomplished nothing that would help free Sirius but having given his word. He never gave his word lightly.

When he reported back to Dumbledore what Sirius had said, and failed to say the old wizard had looked grave.

“If he will not save himself, then there is nothing we can do to change that.” Albus felt grief rise up within him. He hoped that there might come a day when things would change but for now, the situation looked hopeless.

“Professor, you should have seen the look on his face when I told him what I suspected. That man is not guilty.” Atticus felt exhausted. Azkaban had drained him terribly and he was terribly worried about Sirius’s ability to withstand the place.

“I suspect that you are correct.” Dumbledore said in a measured tone. “But our suspicions cannot set him free, I fear.”

Atticus groaned in frustration.

But in a way, part of Sirius had been set free that day. Whether or not it could be proven, there were people who believed in his innocence. He did not blame Remus Lupin for failing to be among them, this loss would have hit him very hard.

His dreams that night were beautiful, sustaining. He had been surrounded by all of them, his friends who were all better to him than his family. Megan had been there, smiling at him from across a small pond, beckoning to him. He had waded through the water to be by her side and the water was wonderfully warm. He could not remember the dream when he awoke, but he did finally have an appetite again and he gratefully took out one of the bars of chocolate and broke off a piece.

The dreams would increase in strength and happiness. Sirius Black was never truly alone in Azkaban, he had his dreams for company and although he could not recall them, they made the difference. He began to speak more frequently and astonished many people with his ability to sound rational. It would continue this way for many years.

Until he read an article in the Daily Prophet nearly twelve years later, it was these nightly dreams of warmth, beauty and love that would carry Sirius through to his eventual escape.

::::::::::::::::::

On the same evening that Atticus Sliverton visited Azkaban Megan Hogan found herself with an unenviable task of her own. She had to visit the Snape Home, where Severus was being held under Ministry guard pending his own trial. It had only been through the intervention of Dumbledore that Severus had been removed from Azkaban and sent back to his boyhood home under guard. Dumbledore had sworn that Severus Snape had been a spy within Voldemort’s organization for years and that his time as a Death Eater in training had been the only time he had actually followed Voldemort at all.

Snape’s father had been killed in a raid months previously, crashing to the floor of a cavern and Severus was unable to mourn his loss. He did mourn for his mother though who had died not long after Snape had left Hogwarts. His mother had been a soft, kind person and she had had great hopes that Severus would take after her, and not his stern, hateful father. She had believed him to be a Death Eater until her dying day and the disappointment had crushed her.

Megan surveyed the area as she walked up the path. There were men in red robes stationed at every corner of the house and two more at the door. The house itself was like a hulking beast, large and so dark it might have been painted black. Wrought iron railings surrounded every balcony and gargoyles hissed at her from the roof. The crest of Slytherin was above the door.

In a satchel she carried with her the potions that Dumbledore had asked her to bring to Severus. It seemed he had wounds that could not heal and refused treatment for them. She had no idea why Dumbledore would send her on this errand, it wasn’t as if she and Snape had ever been friends.

Inside, Snape lay on a couch clad only in a pair of pants. He felt nothing about his situation, in many ways he wished that he had died because inside of him he felt nothing but bitter resentment. Nothing warm, or good remained in him. He had effectively killed those parts of himself through the years of drinking the potions to repress his feelings. Or so he thought. He didn’t care about his fate.

When he heard the door to the house open he sat up on the sofa ready to berate whoever walked through the door. He had found this to be the best way to keep these intrusions short.

Megan Hogan stood in the entrance to the room holding a leather satchel in her hand and a slight smile on her lips.

“Hello Severus…”She began but stopped immediately. His thin torso was covered in scars some open cuts that appeared to be oozing slightly and they were tinged green around the wound. “What happened to you?”

Severus was pulling his robe on over his head. His expression was still guarded when he turned back to her and he said simply. “Venom cuts, inflicted as punishment.”

“By whom? Did the guards…” Then Megan’s eyes became wide. “Severus, that isn’t what he did to you because of what happened in the forest is it?”

Severus answered, “I don’t actually remember. He would punish us for whatever we failed in.”

Megan had no idea what to say to this. She had never liked Snape in school, but she did know that she owed her life to him. Plus, she knew that he had somehow helped her before.

“Well then don’t be a fool, take off your robe and let me see to them.” They were all over his torso.

“If I want them tended, I’ll have them tended.” Severus made sure that his gaze was cold and his expression sneering.

“Oh don’t be an ass Severus.” Megan snapped, her temper rising to the surface. She had agreed to come her to help Dumbledore although for the life of her she had no idea what good she could possibly do. Snape was known to hate anyone he considered Muggle-born. Still, those had to hurt horribly so she softened her tone. “Please, just take off your robe and at least let me see to the ones on your back for you.”

Despite himself Snape’s heart leapt at the thought of feeling her touch even for a moment but he continued to sneer. “It’s dangerous for you to touch people, remember?”

That had stung and Severus felt contrite when he saw that tears had risen in Megan’s eyes. It had to be hard enough on her as it was, finding out that the man she loved was capable of such deceit and murder. Snape could have told her that years ago not that she would have listened to him.

“Well that’s a pretty thing to say Snape, always were wonderful with people, weren’t you?” Megan managed to find some of her spirit. “It won’t do a bloody thing to you other than heal you. Now off with your robe or I’ll throw the damn potion at you and hope the bloody stuff seeps through.”

It had been so long since Snape had been around anyone beside Dumbledore that cared enough to even try to help him that he hesitated, then peeled off his robe, revealing his thin form from the waist up.

“Do your worst then. It can’t possibly do more damage than hurling things at me.” Snape had refused treatment before because he saw nothing left for himself in this life. He had done his job, and he wanted to be finished now. Yet the thought of feeling her, even for momentarily acting as if she cared moved him to try.

Megan set out the potion bottles and took a square of clean cloth, moistened with a disinfectant and began cleaning the areas on his back. She wasn’t squeamish at all but these were difficult things to look at. She heard Snape gasp and muttered, “It may sting a bit.”

Severus Snape felt his heart pounding as Megan efficiently tended to the cuts. Then she began to blow softly on them.

“What are you doing?” Snape said through clenched teeth. His body ached everywhere but in the most pleasurable way he could have ever imagined.

“Sorry, it’s what my mother used to do to take away the sting.” Megan was distracted. Why in the world had he refused the help of professionals but allowed her to take care of him? “Is it making it worse?”

“Yes it is.” He snapped but it was untrue, the only thing it made worse was a raging desire that had sprung up in him. It was only through years of practice that Snape was able to keep himself from letting his feelings show.

“I won’t do it then.” Megan said and began to blot the green wounds with the potion Madame Pomphrey had given her. “I’ve got some ointment here, I’ll just put it on your other cuts, they aren’t healed properly either.”

He felt her fingers glide over the first cut and it was all he could do to keep from moaning. Her touch was gentle and light, careful not to hurt him too much.

“There we go, all set. You’ll be in fighting form again soon.” Megan’s mind was far off, thinking as usual of Sirius. “Will you be able to see about the front yourself?”

Even Snape had limits to control his emotions. There was no way he could look at her as she touched him. “Yes, leave it and I’ll see to it myself.” His voice sounded hateful to his own ears. He drew his robe back swiftly over his head and moved away from her on the couch.

“Like it gloomy in here, don’t you?” Megan’s eyes roamed about the dark room, the curtains pulled shut against the fading light outside.

“It suits me, yes.” Snape sniffed. “Would you like some tea?”

Megan hesitated, she truly did not but Dumbledore had said that Snape had lost his will to live and she needed to make an effort, “That would be lovely altogether, thanks. I’m hopeless at making a decent cup of tea.”

“I know.” Snape said his mind still distracted by his body’s response to her.

“How?” Megan’s mind was suddenly fully present. “How would you know that?”

“I…uh…we’ve…had tea together before.” There was no harm in telling her now, he supposed.

“We did?” Megan suddenly smiled. “Was it awful?”

“Not bad.” Snape answered the sneer beginning to leave his voice. “I’ll get some.”

He left the room for a few minutes and Megan sat, uncomfortable and alone in this oppressively dark room.
How in the world was she to convince him of anything? When he returned he poured her a cup of tea, added a bit of cream and sugar then handed it her. Megan took a sip, she was nearly in her second trimester now and the constant nausea was beginning to pause. The fatigue remained.

“Well, at least you’re quite the hand at this.” Megan smiled in as friendly as fashion as she could. “Makes sense, you do have a gift for potions, don’t you?”

“Hmm.” Was Snape’s only response.

“Listen, I’m not any good at this sort of thing. Making chit-chat when there are so many things that are so important.” She tucked her hair behind her ears. “You’ve got to know why I’m here?”

“I haven’t the first notion actually.” But he did. He knew that Dumbledore had sent her and why.

“You’ve given up from what I understand. Dumbledore will not be having that and neither should you.” Megan looked at him seriously. “You fought too hard to help, you should at least enjoy the world without him you know.”

Snape shrugged.

“Severus, don’t, please. There’s something in this world worth living for you. There has to be.” Megan was very weary. “There is for everyone. Get this matter behind you and do something, find some kind of happiness for yourself.”

“Happiness?” He was sneering again. “Pretty concepts, aren’t they?”

“Look, I don’t have time for this self-pitying. You think you’re the only person who feels changed.” Megan felt her temper rising even more. “We all do. Now get off your arse and do something with your life or you’d have been best dead long ago.”

“What is it that you propose I do?” He snarled.

“Oh for the love of…I don’t care Severus. I can’t make your mind up for you. Open a shop, work for the Ministry, teach, do something.” Megan’s eyes were blazing. “But for the love of God don’t shut yourself up in a tomb without any light and pretend that your sacrifice was more than anyone else’s. We’ve all lost things, some of us are fighting like hell to get them back.”

Snape began to snarl at her again, but found he could not, she was in tears.

“Hogan, don’t upset yourself.” His voice was still cool but it was as kindly as he was capable of speaking to someone any longer.

“I am upset and I don’t mean to shout at you.” Megan sniffed and sat back down. “I’m tired, and I don’t know how to help you other than to tell you that you need to help yourself. You can do that you know. You’ve got to be dead strong to do what you did and I won’t claim to know a bloody thing about you, but I do know what you did was dangerous. It was admirable.”

He contemplated this in silence. Megan was not speaking now. She had set her cup down and was resting her head against the side of the sofa. The darkness of the room combined with the warmth felt suddenly soothing to her. He watched fascinated as her eyelids began to droop and she slowly drifted into a light doze.

He watched her for nearly twenty minutes. His eyes never leaving her face. He had dreamt of this sort of thing and it was like being handed a cup of water in a desert. He made no move to touch her and tried not to make any sound. He knew that if he did, this would end. He also knew in a corner of his heart that this would be the only opportunity he would ever have to be this close to his dream.

It was the conversation of the guards that finally woke her, calling a goodnight to each other as they switched sentries.

“Lord, did I fall asleep?” Megan looked around the room, trying to get her bearings. “I’m sorry, that was rude. Why didn’t you wake me?”

“You looked as if you could use some rest.” Snape answered.

Megan laughed slightly but without mirth. “It’s true, I could. I spend almost every waking hour wondering how I’ll ever be able to bring Sirius back to me.”

Snape felt his spine stiffen she was still in the love with that murderer?

“I miss him so you see.” Megan’s mind was still fogged from sleep and she didn’t even give a though to the person she was addressing.

Snape’s lip curled slightly, “Yes, it must be very difficult.”

“Difficult?” Megan did laugh then. “Snape, you’ve never been in love, have you?”

She was standing and gathering her things.

“Good luck to you Severus. I doubt we’ll see each other again, but I do wish you well.” She was standing in front of him now, her expression kind. “Try to have a happy life, put some effort into it.”

She looked up at the cold man in front of her. Whatever else he was, he had tried to save her life and Lily’s, she owed him some warmth, she put out her hand, tugged at his robed slightly causing him to bend forward and kissed his cheek very lightly. The taste on her lips was bitter.

Snape could not trust himself to speak.

She still loved that murderer, that creature who had been willing to sacrifice the lives of the friends he claimed to love? She loved a monster?

The hatred he had known for Sirius Black had always been intense but in that moment it began to grow to a nearly insane level. The very woman Snape loved desired nothing more than the company of that maniac?

He watched Megan leave wordlessly, knowing he would never see her again and hating Sirius Black for owning her heart so completely.

Ever since Megan Hogan had tripped on a set of stairs years earlier and tumbled into his arms, Severus Snape had tried to fight off the feelings he had for her, but it had never been any good. He loved her, in his own, rather limited way.

But he would hate Sirius Black with a burning intensity born in a desperate desire to have revenge on closing Severus off from the one area that might have made him happy. It never occurred to him to wonder if Megan could have ever returned his love.

It would be more than a decade before he was able to exact a terrible revenge upon Sirius Black for all that he was, and all that Snape felt himself denied.

Megan would never guess that it all could have been prevented, if only she had not tripped.



Chapter 44: Sophie vs. Bellatrix
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Chapter 44

She was back at the house and Atticus was looking uncomfortable across from her.

“I am sorry Megan, but I don’t know what else we can do. There’s a piece missing from this puzzle.” He paused and hung his head. “He won’t help himself. I don’t know how we can help him.”

Atticus Sliverton was not a man accustomed to failure and in many ways, this had meant nearly as much to him as it did to Megan, though for different reasons.

Megan was crying softly, her head buried in her arms.

“Megan? I’ll make some dinner for us, shall I?” He had given his word, although Sirius Black probably did not understand that Atticus would have done this anyway. Even Megan’s family had become distant from her at least for the time being.

She was in love with a despised murder, intent upon having his child. They could neither understand her nor sympathize entirely with her. The best thing would have been to change her name, have her child and give it up for adoption.

The house belonged to Sirius and as soon as he was sentenced, she would have nowhere to go. If it had not been for Atticus who took her to the North with him and set her up in his father’s old mansion who knew what might have become of her?

She would write to Sirius but the letters were always returned to her, unopened with the same note scribbled on the front.

“Please leave me alone, get on with your life.”

Sirius Black had no idea that she was writing over and over to tell him that she was carrying his child and that she still loved him. Truthfully, it probably would have changed very little for either Sirius or Megan.

But it changed a great deal for the rest of the world, eventually.

:::::::::::::::::

Bellatrix Lestrange, her husband Rodo, Barty Crouch Jr. and Judcan Desher crept towards the bright house in front of them being careful not to make any noise. They could see figures moving inside, silhouettes against the drawn blinds.

Fools thought Bellatrix, staying here at this home far from nearly anything and almost entirely uncloaked. They thought that their time had come, that the master was vanquished and they need fear no more. But Bellatrix knew that if she searched faithfully enough for Voldemort, she would find him. The master had mentioned the name Longbottom nearly as much as the name Potter. These people would know something.

They were moving stealthily ever closer.

:::::::::::::::

“Alice, have you seen that book I was reading on the bogs of Bulgaria?” Frank Longbottom called to his wife. Evidently there were many interesting creatures in the woods and marshes of that country. Vampires, werewolves, hags, grindylows even zombies it was said. Frank did not seem the type to have such an interest in the Dark Arts but they had fascinated him ever since he was a child. Not practicing them, defeating them.

“I wasn’t even aware there were bogs in Bulgaria.” Alice was in the living room working on a crossword puzzle.

They had taken a weekend together, the first they had been able to find in what seemed like years, left Neville with Frank’s mother and came here to the lovely old house belonging to a coworker of Frank’s. They didn’t know him socially very well, in fact he was said to keep mostly to himself, engrossed in his work but Frank was certain he was trustworthy. When they had arrived they had of course put many charms on the place but they were distracted and happy. Anxious to be alone together for a full two days.

Of course they had immediately made use of the house as a man and wife should but now they were relaxing for a bit before heading upstairs to bed again. Frank walked into a parlor across from the living room and began shifting things around, looking for his lost book.

Alice and Frank had been separated by a small hallway calling across to each other when it had happened, a young fair haired man had burst in through the door and fell to his knees on the hallway rug.

“You’ve got to help me!” Barty Crouch Jr. had always possessed a very innocent face. “They’re right behind me.”

Instantly Frank and Alice were beside him, trying to help him up.

“It’s okay son, you’re all right now.” Frank put a steadying hand on the boy’s shoulder, he looked young enough to be a student. “Tell me, where are they?”

Frank’s gaze had honed in on the door and was searching the woods, Alice had moved to quickly look out the window, her wand drawn.

“Here actually.” Crouch said and stunned Frank Longbottom with a curse so powerful he had been blown off his feet.

Alice whipped around and had uttered “Expel…”

But the window behind her shattered and strong arm wrapped itself around her neck as she heard another voice say, “Ah, the Aurors. What a pleasant night we shall have.”

Alice Longbottom was stunned in the neck and slumped forward as the woman who had stunned her stood laughing beside her.

::::::::::::::::::

It was hours later and Alice felt as if she had been tied to this chair for her entire life. She had watched poor Frank being tortured with the Cruciatus Curse over and over again but he never revealed anything.
Both knew where Harry Potter was, and neither could have guessed at Voldemort’s location.

Voldemort’s follower believed he could not be touched by death, and lived on still somewhere in need of them. Alice could guess why they were looking for the Potter boy.

She cringed as she saw Frank take another spell to his chest, “Crucio!” Shouted the fair-haired young man, smiling taking pleasure in seeing Frank’s body jerk and spasm. But Frank would tell them nothing. Alice knew why she was being forced to watch this, they hoped that she would be so terrified that it would soften her up.

These people understood nothing good, or brave, or even courageous. By watching all that her husband went through if had only strengthened Alice Longbottom’s resolve. They came at her with everything they possessed, over and over.

All that Alice kept in her mind was, “Please God, keep Neville safe from people like this.” It was the same thing her husband had thought as his own mind had dwindled from a bright flame to nothing more than an amber glow somewhere far in the distance.

The Death Eaters left them in the morning. They hadn’t even had the decency to end their victims now meaningless lives but rather left them locked forever within their own bodies, not quite mindless, but very close to it.

When Frank hadn’t turned up at work on Monday morning, his coworker Barty Crouch Sr. had gone to check on them. Perhaps they had trouble getting the flue to work. When he stepped into the room he saw them, Frank slumped, a thin line of drool hanging from his mouth. Alice, still tied to a chair humming very softly, something that sounded a bit like a lullaby.

Crouch Sr. had shouted in despair, he knew how this house could have been found. Only his own family knew its location.

As much as Barty Crouch wished that his son, his own namesake might be innocent, he knew without a doubt that he was guilty. He rushed back to the Ministry and got help.

It was too late to make any real difference.

:::::::::::::::::::

Sophie Burns was sitting at her desk in the Ministry of Magic filling out the paperwork that was a never-ending task. Here in the Misuse and Mutation of Jinxes and Hexes she seemed to spend as much time filling out the forms as she did anything else. The Longbottoms had been found just two days ago and the entire Order felt their loss keenly. The poor souls left as nothing but shells of their former selves. It troubled everyone horribly as they realized that the danger was still very high for the members of the Order. She gasped in surprise when a large Raven fluttered through her open window and sat on her desk.

Only Atticus Sliverton ever used Ravens instead of owls. He said it was more fitting because Ravens were meant to be birds who delivered messages. He had returned when he’d gotten word about the Longbottoms. Before that, she hadn’t heard from Atticus in months, not ever since he had disappeared to his large estate in the North following Sirius’s sentencing.

She detached the message from the large bird’s leg and it nodded to her before flying off. Sometimes Atticus’s wide variety of almost eerily intelligent pets was just downright creepy.

She read through the message quickly, it was brief.

Sophie – Come to headquarters as soon as you can get away. Credible information about the Longbottom’s attackers received. Strike planned for tonight. – Atticus

Sophie shot a glance across the room at her supervisor, Hester Grey whose head was bent, examining a report.

“Inspector Grey?” Sophie began. “I’ll need to head off…I’ve just remembered that I think I left my…that is to say…I completely forgot that I had an appoint….Oh for heaven’s sake. Look, I have to leave. Please don’t fire me I’ll be back as soon as I can, hopefully tomorrow morning.”

“I hope it all works out, Burns.” Hester Grey said quietly. She wondered if all young people thought anyone over the age of fifty was mentally deficient? One of the Sliverton Ravens arrives in the office and Sophie goes tearing off like a bat out of hell?

It wasn’t difficult math to do. She’d seen Burns talking to Longbottom and Moody before. Surely Burns must realize that she was obviously a part of Dumbledore’s team.

Bless them all, thought Hester as she continued to read through a hex used by a witch in Hampstead that had resulted in the ears of the recipient falling off. Dreadfully tricky graft work at St. Mungo’s had been required.

::::::::::::::::

“It’s nice to meet you.” Remus Lupin said uncertainly as Moody introduced the young man with him. “Shacklebolt was it?”

“Call me Kingsley.” The black young man answered, towering above Remus by several inches.

“Kingsley, a pleasure.” And Remus had grabbed Moody’s arm and dragged him off towards the other side of the room as Sophie sprinted in and joined them. “He’s coming with us? Are you sure he can handle it?”

“Sure? Of course I’m sure, he’s a trained Auror.” Moody growled.

“How long ago did he qualify?” Remus asked.

“Three weeks ago but he’s a dead aim and he’s incredibly dedicated.” Moody looked at the young man appraisingly. “You’ll be glad he’s with us.”

Sophie was also staring at Kingsley. “Alastor, what the devil? He looks like an infant. A very tall infant! He can’t be more than 18.”

Moody chuckled slightly. He wondered what they all thought they had looked like to him when he had first met them. He’d taken Dumbledore aside and whispered, “Albus, what is this? The Children’s Crusade?”

“You’d be surprised how little difference age makes, it’s guts and heart that make the difference.” Moody turned and back towards the young Auror whose shaved head was catching the light from the windows. Only Atticus seemed unperturbed by the addition of this young unknown.

“Kingsley Shacklebolt? Was Rexton Shacklebolt your brother by any chance?” He asked.

“Yes, my older brother.” The man was barely eighteen but his voice was surprisingly low.

“Hell of a beater, broke my arm in a game one time…and we were playing on the same team.” Atticus grinned.

“Are we ready to head out?” Moody grumbled.

Suddenly, they were all very serious about the task at hand. Dedalus Diggle had joined them also. So it was to be Moody, Sliverton, Burns, Lupin, Shacklebolt and Diggle against four Death Eaters with a particularly vicious reputation.

“For Frank and Alice.” Remus said suddenly and together they trouped out, all of them looking determined.

:::::::::::::::::::::::

Desher was standing guard at the door to the private mausoleum on a property owned by Lester Crabbe, a Death Eater who had long since been in detention at Azkaban crowing about Imperius curses.

Remus and Moody exchanged a look. They were all heartily sick of fighting in what amounted to graveyards.

“In there?” Attiucs hissed so quietly that they could barely hear him.

“Yes, we’ll need someone to come up over the roof and stun him while the rest rush from the sides.” Moody somehow managed to keep his gravelly voice soft.

“I’ll do that.” Remus said, he was used to climbing things and dropping down with accuracy. Years of playing in the forbidden forest when he was at school had taught him the grace of a cat.

Moody nodded and motioned to the others, he would be on one side with Burns and Diggle, Sliverton would be on the other with Shacklebolt. Remus climbed the mausoleum stealthily from the back. They had waited for nightfall and in some ways he wished that they hadn’t the blasted building had all kinds of grotesque statuary on top of it. He hoped to God none of them were enchanted as he advanced to the roof’s edge, peered over an inch and confirmed that he was directly above Desher’s head. It was imperative to take one of the Death Eaters out immediately. These were four of the strongest fighters that Voldemort had ever had, although according to Snape Desher and Lestrange’s husband were not as dangerous, merely strong.

Remus Lupin grabbed the edge and swung down, kicking Desher dead in the chest as he did so. Before the DeathEater could finish falling Remus had him bound, gagged and stunned.

“You stay here and guard him.” Remus spoke to Diggle, who was a good man but known for not being much of a dueler. “Stun the hell out of him if he so much as flutters and eyelid.”

Diggle looked frightened but resolutely stood back and pointed his wand at the prone DeathEater.

“Once more into the breach, dear friends.” Atticus quoted and everyone stared at him blankly. “You people out to read more Muggle literature you know.”

They stormed inside and Bellatrix’s alarm sounded, a shrill whine that only the Death Eaters could hear. As usual, the Order Members found themselves having to descend farther down into the earth. A marble landing led down a set of stairs to an area where sarcophaguses stood. As soon as the alarm sounded the three remaining Death Eaters tried to scramble out of a small door in the back of the room.

Remus, Atticus and Kingsley all decided to forgo the stairs and leapt over the railing to the area below. The area was soon charged with curses flying back and forth as the Order Members and the DeathEaters had one more show down.

Kingsley was indeed young but he had taken on Crouch Jr. and was handling himself well at least at first. Crouch was aiming to kill, not to maim or stun and as a jet of green light missed Kingsley’s face by less than an inch, he’d roared with anger and launched himself forward.

The Death Eaters were outnumbered nearly two to one but the Order hadn’t counted on the enchanted floor. Just as Kingsely managed to stun Crouch Jr. and Rodo Lestrange’s unconscious body was falling to the floor, stunned by both Lupin and Sliverton something began to happen. Moody and Sophie were trying to get Bellatrix but she was incredibly fast and seemed to be able to shield everything.

“What the hell!” Remus shouted. “The floor’s got hold of me.”

The marble beneath their feet had begun to turn into some kind of sticky, tar-like substance.

“I can’t move an inch!” Moody yelled as both Kingsley and Sliverton pulled desperately at their legs.

In the split second the floor had begun to transform, Sophie Burns had leapt atop a sarcophagus as Bellatrix Lestrange’s jagged laugher rang out. The enchantment did not effect her and she was running towards the small door in the back. Leaping from one stone coffin to another Sophie followed.

“Sophie!” Remus shouted. “Don’t!”

The last time someone he loved had faced Bellatrix Lestrange they had died but Sophie merely shouted:

“She’s getting away!” And was after her.

Remus watched Sophie’s small form disappear after Lestrange with a sinking feeling. He shouted to others:

“Bind them and wake them up.” He was desperate to run to Sophie’s aid. It couldn’t end this way again. He knew Montague had killed Amelia, but he also knew that Lestrange was just as capable of it. “Tell them if they don’t remove the enchantment straight away, we’ll put out their eyes.”

Still more spells flew as the Order members desperately complied. Sophie Burns was a solid fighter, but she was no match for Bellatrix Lestrange.

::::::::::::::::::

Sophie tore through the door and found herself on another landing that led down to another flight of stairs at its very end. A jet of green light shot past her shoulder as she quickly took stock of her situation. There were several chests on the floor by the railing. Sophie dived for cover behind one of them.

Lestrange had actually stopped and was now advancing towards her, laughing.

“Another little warrior come to meet me.” Bellatrix’s voice was shrill. “So nice, so polite.”

Another spell, this time red hit the ground near Sophie and without thinking she threw open the chest. There might be something in there that would help. It was filled with weapons. Sharp knives, crude looking hatchets, even a sword or two. Sophie suddenly knew what to do. Pointing her wand into the chest she shouted:

“Wingardium Leviosa!” And at least a dozen weapons rose into the air and floated.

Bellatrix laughed still harder, “You make for me balloons, little warrior?”

“Not quite.” Sophie shouted back pointed her wand at half the weapons and screamed, “Ballistica Non Mortem!”

Lestrange gasped as half the weapons came hurtling towards her but she put up shield quickly. Not quite quickly enough though because Sophie had time to choose the other half and cause them to hurtle towards Lestrange.

Bellatrix screamed in pain as a dagger plunged into her shoulder and she stumbled backwards. Sophie was on her feet screaming:

“Expellimarus!” Lestranges wand shot into the air and Sophie ran forward to catch it.

“Thank you Professor Flitwick.” Sophie grinned but quickly had to duck as the dagger came winging back towards her. Bellatrix had wrenched it from her own shoulder and sent it flying back at Burns. Sophie inadvertently dropped Bellatrix’s wand.

Lestrange quickly scooped it up. She wasn’t laughing now her face was contorted with fury as her wand went zinging back to her own hand. Sophie didn’t even have time to think about what would happen next, it was clear as day what Lestrange would do. Sophie was out in the middle of the landing’s hallway with one of the most ferocious killers Voldemort had ever had as a follower.

As the green jet came towards her, she did the only thing she could do; she flung herself over the railing and crashed to the ground at least fifteen feet below. A sickening crunch filled the air.

::::::::::::::::

“Wake them the hell up!” Remus was shouting.

“Mine’s coming to.” Kingsley said, it was like all of them had been set in stone, engulfed up their knees in the rapidly hardening marble.

“So is mine!” Sliverton yelled as Rodo Lestrange opened his eyes and saw the tall form of Atticus Sliverton far above him. “Remove the curse Lestrange, or you’ll be whizzing out of your ear.”

::::::::::::::

Sophie stared down at her leg for just a moment, and saw that there was bone protruding, glistening with blood.

“Oh hell.” Sophie looked around there was another hallway, leading down a corridor. The underground network here must be vast. Sticking her pocket she began pulling herself towards the wall to her left, right below the staircase.

Make noise, she thought, make sure she can’t hear you moving.

“Listen, I know you people are Death Eaters.” Sophie began dragging herself as quickly as she could, gritting her teeth against the pain of her shattered leg. “But do you have to be so damned literal about it? What’s with all the tombs and graveyards? Can’t bear to be away from death?”

She could hear Lestrange’s mad laughter and her swift footsteps running down the stairs. She’d be there in at any moment.

“Just can’t stand to be away from the dead I guess.” She was nearly to the wall. “You must like the smell.”

She was there, flipping over and propping herself up, her body screaming in protest. She had one shot, she knew it and she couldn’t mess about with stunning because Moody had told them this woman was nearly impossible to stun.

To use an unforgivable curse you had to mean it and mean it with all your heart. Sophie concentrated on Alice and Frank Longbottom and all the pain they had suffered at the hands of this woman and those upstairs. She thought of Amelia Strong and the details of her death provided by Snape. She thought of Lily and James Potter, who had loved each other so dearly and were now both dead.

As Bellatrix ran from the stairs toward the spot she thought that Sophie would be lying, Sophie Burns pointed her wand at the woman’s back and screamed at the top of her lungs:

“CRUCIO!” A red jet burst from her wand and caught the insane woman square in the back.

As Sophie lost consciousness from the pain, the last thing she heard was Bellatrix’s screams of agony.

::::::::::::::::

Moody stayed with the bound Death Eaters, he had taken yet another hit to the nose as Kingsely, Atticus and Remus burst through onto the landing. The tortured screams of a woman met their ears and Remus felt as if his head would explode. All three men ran down the long landing with incredible speed and took the stairs three at a time on the way down.

When they reached the bottom, Bellatrix Lestrange was still writhing on the ground and Kingsley walked over to her with Atticus as they both began stunning her. Remus’s eyes shot around the enclosed area and finally to the left.

There, slumped against the wall was Sophie, her left leg twisted horribly, blood and bone showing.

“Sophie?” He was gently tapping her face with his hand. “Can you hear me?”

“Umm?” Sophie moaned and Remus knew that it would be all right after all.

:::::::::::::::::

As four of the worst Death Eaters who had ever followed Voldemort sat rotting in Azkaban Remus Lupin sat holding his wife’s hand in St. Mungo’s. Albus Dumbledore sat in a chair, waiting with the young man.

“She should wake at any time. We had to keep her out to set that leg.” The mediwitch had grimaced. “It was very badly broken I’m afraid, four different places. She’ll always limp after this but she’ll be fine overall.”

Sophie stirred in her drugged sleep and her eyes opened slowly, it was difficult to focus but she knew Remus’s voice.

“Hello there, dearest.” Sophie’s voice felt heavy, like an object she had to lift.

“Hello, sweetness.” Remus had never felt such relief in his life.

“Sophie, you did quite well.” Dumbledore spoke, his voice resonating majestically.

“Actually, I’m afraid I may be in a lot of trouble.” Sophie grinned sleepily. “I used an unforgivable curse.”

“Did you do it for pleasure, or for justice?” Dumbledore asked gravely.

“Justice. For all of them.” Sophie’s head was clearing. “Will there be a hearing?”

“I highly doubt that there will be one.” Dumbledore smiled and withdrew.

Remus stroked her face and kissed her. He didn’t wish to tell her what he had to.

“Sophie, your leg was badly broken.” He began.

“Guessed that.”

“I’m sorry, but you’ll have a bit of a limp from now on. Shouldn’t be anything too bad but your days of running up and down stairs may be at an end, slow and steady from now on I’m afraid.” Remus waited.

“Oh hell Remus, lead with the important information would you?” Sophies brown eyes were bright. “Just tell me, did I get that piece of dung? Are they all in Azkaban now?”

“You did, and they are.”

“Well then, a limp’s well worth that.” Sophie said truthfully.

The first war was over now for both of them.


Chapter 45: Seraphim
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author's note: The developments in this chapter made many readers angry the first time I posted this here. Please read through to the chapter end notes which will contain the explanation.

Chapter 45

“Mistress Megan,” Boxen began.

“Boxen it’s Anne now remember?” Megan spoke kindly to the little old house elf as she struggled to pull on the jeans Atticus had gotten for her. They had enormous elastic panels in the front and could expand to accommodate her wide girth.

“Mistress Anne,” Boxen continued. “You should not be out walking when Master Atticus is not at home. Boxen will come with you.”

“Don’t be daft, I just want to walk down to the lake and look at the stars for bit.” Megan heaved herself to her feet and managed to wiggle into the slip on shoes she now had to wear. “Between Custard and Daisy, I’ll be fine.”

Custard was another hybrid like Daisy. Atticus had bred her to keep the dwarfed dragon-mix company.

“The Master will not be liking this!” Boxen was upset.

In truth Megan was not particularly concerned with whether or not Atticus would be pleased with her midnight stroll. She had done as he suggested and agreed to an obituary under her own name. It was in order to protect her child’s and her own safety. She’d chosen the name Anne Ryan because it reminded her of home.

Megan knew that Atticus worked hard within what remained of the Order but she had still felt a bit hurt that he had left the previous day and been very vague about where he was going. She was due at any time and she’d just had another returned letter from Sirius. Atticus, a man who was normally very kind had stood and announced that he had to be off.

She made her way carefully down to the lake and sat down heavily on the bench, the sea serpent gliding briefly into view, staring at her in what Megan hoped was a friendly fashion and then disappeared. Custard and Daisy were snuffling about in the grass nearby.

The sky above was remarkably clear and Megan liked to do come down here whenever it was. She could lean her head back and stare into the night sky at the brightest constellation, Sirius, the dog star.

She sat there for hours sometimes when no one was around and felt for that brief time as if she were somehow closer to the man she loved.

“Love you.” She said simply to the sky and hoped perhaps that Sirius could feel her love. “Oh…OW!”

A strange pain had settled low in her abdomen and it felt as if she were being squeezed like s tube of toothpaste. Well, it wasn’t as if she had failed to be expecting this but it was still a bit of a problem. She was a fair distance from the house and even if she loved the night sky, she didn’t exactly fancy giving birth by herself with two hybrids and a sea serpent for company.

“Daisy?” She called hopefully and the creature had immediately raised her head as did the smaller, baby-like Custard. “Go to the house and get Boxen for me would you? Or Ponta, or hell any of them…oh OW!”

Daisy cocked her head and went trotting off to the house, returning minutes later seemingly alone. But swinging from the tiny small arm strap of her housedress Boxen was dangling.

“Let Boxen go now Daisy! Bad Daisy!” Daisy deposited the disgruntled elf on the ground gently. All of the Sliverton elves had been freed by Aregus Sliverton and lived in their own small dwellings on the property. Oddly, their freedom made them all the more loyal to the remaining Sliverton, Atticus.

“Daisy, I’m afraid I’m…” Megan had trouble catching her breath.

“We is having a baby tonight?” Boxen’s squeaky voice sounded excited. “Boxen will help, Boxen knows what to do.”

Lord, I hope so, thought Megan.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::

“Hello, little rascal.” Megan cuddled the infant next to her. It had been a long lonely night and then day. Atticus had hired a mediwitch several months earlier but Megan wasn’t overly fond of the woman. It wasn’t that she was unkind but she clearly disapproved of Megan.

“Well, Miss Ryan.” The mediwitch who had aided her was sitting at a desk in the room filling out the certificates to be filed at the Ministry. Megan could swear she put extra emphasis on the word “Miss”. “Whose name is it to be for the father?”

Megan swallowed heavily with all her heart she wished she could put Sirius’s name down but she had discussed this with Atticus and Dumbledore, it was best for the baby if another name was used.

“Atticus Sliverton.” Megan said sadly.

The mediwitch huffed slightly and her quill scratched against the parchment. The mediwitch did not like being part of these proceedings. It was none of her affair if Atticus Sliverton wanted to openly declare that he had produced an illegitimate child but the entire thing seemed sordid to her.

“You will watch your tone and your manners while you are in my home.” Venus Sliverton’s voice spoke from the portrait. The tall, beautiful witch who had been Atticus’s Aunt in life had retained her sense of propriety even in the painted rendition of her. Venus was drawn up to her full height and looking down imperiously.

“Fine, none of my business.” The mediwitch began collecting her things. “Well, Miss Ryan, that should be all. You’re well taken care of here and you’ve come through fine. You won’t be needing my services any longer I take it?”

“Lord no, I’ll be as glad to see the back of you as you will of me.” Megan’s temper was flaring. She was alone in a massive house with only portraits, Truffles and house elves for company. Plus she thought, her baby, her darling baby.

::::::::::::::

It was evening again and Megan sat up in her bed, watching her baby sleep. She had never felt lonelier while still being happy. It still stung a bit that Atticus had not gotten back yet. He was her truest friend, why wasn’t he here?

“Any word from Atticus?” Megan asked hopefully. If it occurred to her that she missed the man himself and not just the company it would be years before she realized it.

“Not yet, but Boxen will tell you as soon as Master is home.” The kindly old elf was a bit troubled too.

“Well, home I am.” Atticus spoke from the doorway. He looked windblown, his cheeks a bit raw.

“Hello.” Megan greeted him rather coolly.

“Megan, I’m sorry, please don’t be angry with me I had an urgent matter to attend to.” Atticus spoke kindly and entered the room. “So, hello to the newest member of the household! May I?”

Megan nodded and Atticus gently picked up her son from the bed. “You certainly are a big fellow aren’t you? What’s his name to be?”

“Seraphim.” Megan felt tears stinging her eyes. Atticus was acting as if it were completely natural that he had left her here on her own. “Did you get Boxen’s Raven?”

Atticus was examining the baby’s brown eyes and dark hair, looking at his fingers and Megan’s heart softened when she saw how clearly delighted he was with the baby.

“I didn’t Megan, it must have missed me in transit.” Attiucs gave the baby back to Megan. “I’m afraid we had a bit of a rough journey back. Poor man’s never flown by broomstick before and I had to finally stop and tie him on.”

Megan looked at Atticus, completely baffled. “Tie who on?”

“Give me a nice solid car any day.” Aidan Hogan said from the doorway. “I have no idea how you lot stay on those things, gave me quite the turn.”

Atticus Sliverton had seen the look on Megan’s face when she had received yet another letter sent back unopened by Sirius Black, the same message written on the front. He’d left immediately for Ireland, knowing that it was best not to tell Megan his destination. There was a chance that her family would still not listen to him, Atticus had been trying for months but this time he had finally succeeded although the ride back had been pure hell. Even on a bewitched broomstick the poor man had nearly fallen off more than once. They’d had to take it slowly.

“Dad!” Megan cried and tears immediately began to stream down her face. “Oh God, I’ve missed you!”

“I’ve missed you too, lamb.” Aidan would not tell her that her own mother still rejected her choice but Mr. Hogan had always had a very tender heart when it came to his youngest daughter. “So, is this my new grandson?”

“Yes, oh come look dad.” Megan held out her hand to her father and the older man advanced, sat on the edge of the bed, kissing Megan on the cheek and looking down at the tiny boy.

“He’s a fine wee man, isn’t he?” His voice was choked with repressed tears.

“That he is.” Megan noticed that Atticus was quietly taking his leave. “Atticus, Lord I owe you an apology. Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart.”

Atticus smiled and nodded as he left.

On the landing for the first floor he paused and leaned his head against the wall.

“Son?” Aregus Sliverton spoke from his portrait. “Are you all right?”

“I’m quite well, Father.” Atticus smiled as he went to his study. He had a new invention he wanted to put some work into. A modified invisibility cloak that would muffle any sound the wearer might make.

Aregus Sliverton stared after his son until he was out of sight, then sighed.

:::::::::::::::::::

“Two today!” Phim was shouting as he ran through the halls of the gigantic house.

“Phim is two! Snuggles…Cuddles…Grrrr!” Truffles piped up. He was tucked under Seraphim’s arm. Nearly everyone called the boy Phim.

On his sturdy little legs Phim Sliverton ran across the long hall towards one of the parlors. Boxen was following, her face set in determination. The youngster was hard to keep up with but Boxen was up to the task.

“Two!” Phim crowed as he tumbled into the room where Megan and Atticus both sat. Megan was reading a book and Atticus as always at one of his many desks.

“Yes you are my darling love!” Megan said happily. “Later there will be cake…and presents!”

“Cake! Presents!” Phim was very bright for his age and had a tendency to be a bit mischievous. He plagued the life out of Daisy and Custard by pulling on their ears and tails but the two creatures were very gentle with him. “Daddy, I’m going to have cake and presents!”

“Yes you are son!” Atticus said, dropping his quill and sweeping Phim up into a cuddle.

Megan Hogan watched with a sense of gratitude but also unease. Atticus was wonderful to Phim but she sometimes wondered if he did realize that he was not his own son. Atticus really ought to have a wife and children of his own by now.

::::::::::::::::::::::

The letter had finally arrived and Megan could barely catch her breath when she saw the handwriting on the front. It was Sirius’s handwriting, he had finally written back!

Megan’s heart was pounding so fast that she could barely stand as Boxen handed her the letter. The elf had looked worried when the post came. Every week for over three years now Megan had written to Sirius telling him about his son and as always assuring him that she loved him. She always would. The letters were always returned. She was careful to write using her new name of Anne but she knew that Sirius would recognize her handwriting on the front.

It would be years before she had a chance to talk to Sirius and discover that he had not read the letter he was replying to. She had been telling him about their son’s third birthday party where he had received among other things a snitch bewitched by Atticus to follow him wherever he went. As always she had assured him of her love.

Her hands trembled as she broke the seal and began eagerly reading.

Anne –

I am only allowed one half hour a day to write so there is no way for me to take the time to put this kindly. Instead I will be truthful. I can barely remember you and honestly, I have no wish to do so any longer.

What we had once was nice but has long since been over. Even if I had not ended up in here we would have eventually gone our separate ways. We had very little in common. We were thrown together through circumstances and it is foolish of you to continue acting as if a schoolgirl fancy was the defining moment in either of our lives.

Please do stop bothering me with your constant letters. It costs me ink and time to return them and I have no interest in them or the developments of your life. Get on with your life and leave me out of it.

Best,

Sirius

Megan stared at the letter, reading it over and over certain that there had to be something in there, something that had affection in it but there was not. It was cold and cutting with absolutely no warmth in it.

Megan Hogan sat with her head on her knees, sobbing, the letter crumpled in one hand. The portraits around her were silent, watching her grief. There were no witnesses to Sirius’s as he too wept in Azkaban. Writing that letter had cost him dearly but it had been years now and Megan obviously was still not moving on with her life. He desperately wanted her to be happy and knew it could never be with him. She had such a loving heart, it was wrong to keep it held in as she was doing.

Athena Moxfroy, Venus’s sister watched from her portrait and silently departed to the painting above Atticus’s desk in his study. The painting was of a rolling meadow with horses cantering back and forth and she had to watch her step as called down to Atticus.

“Atticus, you should go to her.” Athena said gently. “She’s in the hall and I’m afraid she’s very upset.”

Atticus immediately went running through the house to the stairs where he found Megan.

“Meg, what it is?” Atticus and Dumbledore were the only people who had never been able to adjust to calling Megan by her new name.

She raised her tear stained face to her friend and held out the letter, “Read for yourself.”

Atticus scanned the letter and puffed out his cheeks as he exhaled. “Megan, please, it’s all right.”

“Is it? It doesn’t feel ‘all right’.” Megan began to sob again. “Atticus, that letter sounds as if he never cared for me and never will again.”

Years earlier Atticus Sliverton had been correct, he could not convince Megan that Sirius did not love her. But he had known that Sirius could, if he tried enough. The letter seemed to be enough. He sat down next to her and put an arm around her shoulders.

“He did Megan, I know he did.” It cost him to say the next part. “He still does, I’m sure.”

“Are you?” Megan was still crying. “It’s nice that one of us is.”

“I am sure.” He leaned his head against hers and squeezed her shoulder lightly.

::::::::::::::::

“Megan, please, don’t go.” Atticus Sliverton was watching her pack and his heart was very heavy.

“My mind’s made up.” She’d written to her father months ago after she’d received Sirius’s letter telling him that she realized now that what she was doing was madness. It had taken all this time for her father to convince her mother to let her come home with Phim.

“But you’re no trouble here.” Atticus was speaking evenly, as evenly as he could at least.

“I know that, silly man. I also know that if it hadn’t been for you we’d have been beggars and I do thank you Atticus, there’s never been a truer friend.” Megan wasn’t looking at him as she packed her trunk. “But this isn’t right and you know it.”

Atticus closed his eyes as he listened to the resolve in her voice. He knew Megan too well to mistake that tone.

“It is right.” He said quietly.

“No it isn’t. You should be having a family of your own. Not making due with a friend and her child.” Megan turned towards him and continued. “Atticus, I worry for you. I worry that you won’t have children of your own because you’re so wrapped up in Phim. I’m worried that you’ll never bother to find love yourself because you’re so intent upon protecting me.”

Atticus Sliverton had always been a self contained man and very few ever knew what his heart contained. They knew that he was good and kind, generous almost to a fault but not quite because of his great wealth. They knew he was clever and brave but they had always considered him an odd man. But even an odd man knew when the time had come to speak.

“I have.” Atticus said clearly. “I have found love, Megan.”

Megan simply stared at her friend before speaking, “Well that’s all the more reason for me to be out of your house, you daft creature.”

It was now or never, he supposed.

“Megan, for someone who was once considered one of the most powerful seers who ever lived you can be rather blind when you wish to be.” Atticus’s voice was choked. “You think I’ve watched over you and Phim because of friendship? In a way, yes. I love you as dearly as I’ve ever loved any friend but I don’t love you just as a friend.”

Megan looked at Atticus in surprise. “Atticus, it’s only natural that you would feel that way I suppose. Living with us day in and day out. Close quarters can fool the heart you know.”

“I’m sure that they could but I’ve loved you since long before I brought you here.” Atticus’s voice was clearer now.

Megan felt as if the room was beginning to spin and she sat down on the edge of the bed before speaking faintly, “When?”

“Since you left the hospital.” Atticus smiled at the memory. “I’d look forward so much to your visits after that. I’d count the hours. I’d never been in love before Megan and it took me a bit to realize what it was I was feeling.”

Megan’s head was pounding lightly her heart rate had increased. “When you say ‘a bit’ what do you mean Atticus, months, years?”

“Weeks Megan.” Atticus answered truthfully.

“But you fought so hard to help Sirius…why would you do that if you were in love with me?” Megan’s confusion was doing nothing but increasing.

“I love you enough to want you to be happy, even if it wasn’t with me.” Atticus came and sat beside her. “You and Sirius loved each other so much, you made a fine pair. I didn’t want to interfere with that. To be honest, I knew that there was no way that I could have. When you lost that, I would have done anything to get it back for you.”

Megan rubbed her eyes, trying to think. It wasn’t possible that anyone could be that goodhearted but then she thought back over the years and all the Atticus had done. Flying to get her father when he knew she felt alone and afraid. Protecting her, letting his own good name be soiled by publicly claiming her child and certainly enduring censure for not doing the honorable thing and marrying the woman who had allegedly given him a son. There were countless other things.

“Atticus, I do care for you but…” Megan began but could not finish the sentence. She couldn’t hurt this kind man.

“Please don’t leave here Megan.” Atticus eyes were bright. “It’s okay if you never love me in return, I just want to be near you. You have long since been the most important person in the world to me.”

She looked at the man beside her. She didn’t love him that way. At least, her mind prompted, not yet. She’d never even considered trying to love anyone other than Sirius. She owed Atticus Sliverton nearly everything the least she could give him in return was a bit of effort.

“I can try to love you.” She said slowly and honestly.

He leaned down and kissed her gently, his lips warm against hers. When he drew back Megan felt her lips, she’d never been kissed by anyone other than Sirius but she had to admit it was a nice kiss. Perhaps more than nice.

“Rather good at that, aren’t you?” She teased although her heart wasn’t truly in it. Instead she felt confused, a bit as if she might be betraying a man she knew no longer cared for her and then there was that oddly hopeful feeling something which she had not felt in a long time.

“Had a bit of practice actually.” Although Atticus Sliverton had not kissed a woman since he realized he was in love with Megan. “I could use a bit more.”

Megan nodded hestitantly and he had kissed her more, in part of her heart she wanted to feel nothing but in truth, she did feel something. Perhaps it was just a shadow of the kind of love she felt for Sirius but it was there and it was real. Maybe it was the kind of love based in gratitude or maybe had she never met Sirius she would have fallen in love with the tall, kind man in front of her. It was still too early for Megan to admit that there was more than just a shadow there. All of the times she and Atticus had stayed up together talking, laughing in the kitchen as they made midnight snacks. The happiness she felt when watched him playing with Phim. She’d never realized the true origin of the guilt she’d felt.

Boxen peered in the door and saw what she had been hoping for these many years. She walked silently back to Phim’s room and began unpacking the boy’s trunk. She was a wise old thing indeed and she realized long before Megan ever did that they were two people destined to be together.

When they married six months later Albus Dumbledore had smiled with relief as he raised his glass to them at the reception and delivered a toast. He felt in his heart this was what Sirius would have wanted for Megan. A good life well loved and always protected by a man she loved in return.

Much later that evening, the young couple celebrated their marriage. It had been beautiful and gentle but it had also been passionate.

At eighteen Megan Hogan had helped convince Lily Evans to marry James Potter despite the crushing losses that life sometimes held. It had taken her years to heed her own advice.

“Megan?” Atticus held her gently. “Thank you.”

“What are you thanking me for you kind soul?” Megan answered. “It’s me should be thanking you for having patience enough to put up with me.”

They had both laughed and gone back to trying to achieve one of their goals together, a family.

She would never forget her love for Sirius but she found that there was room enough in her heart to love Atticus almost as dearly. When loves were lost never to be reclaimed sometimes a very strong ‘almost’ was the best you could do.

It wasn’t until she finally saw Sirius for herself again that she would realize that ‘almost’ in this case meant equally.

Author's notes: In this story I killed off characters, scared the tar out of a lot of readers and had a really positive response to the humor contained within also....and this was always the chapter that ended with everyone shouting "HOW COULD YOU?" - Here's why:

I stick closely to Rowlings canon (dinked by me of course) so Sirius will die and I set this up (and dropped a bunch of clues) so that Megan wouldn't spend her youth waiting for a man who was going to die. Eventually, we'll find out where Sirius went and I think you'll be happy with those developments. Thank you for reading.



Chapter 46: A Raven for Remus
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Chapter 46

There was a tapping at the window and it persisted even though Remus pulled a pillow over his head. Tap. Tap. Tap.

“Gah.” Remus groaned. He had come in very, very early in the morning having just arrived back from Russia, where he had worked for three weeks for a strange man named Count Gorchevsky. Count or not, at least the man had paid well enough for Remus to plug a bit of money into the bank. He did this whenever he could so that he did not have to feel as if Sophie supported their household by herself. Sophie actually didn’t care if he ever made a knut, she was just happy to be with him. Although she often wished he’d let her buy him some new robes.

Sophie tossed in her sleep and one of her golden brown locks now covered Remus’s face. She stirred as she too heard the noise.

“Coffee?” She said hopefully and then realized Remus was beside her. “Dearest, you didn’t wake me when you came in! You’re a sight for sore eyes.”

He always was to Sophie. They had been married for over ten years now and although Remus would sometimes go off for weeks at a time. Sophie always made him feel as if she had counted the days that he was gone and looked forward to his coming home more than anything in the world. It was true after all. She immediately began kissing any part of him that she could find and threw her arms around him. Remus forgot about the noise and cuddled into his wife, ready to show her just how much he had missed her.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

“Well that’s new, did the chair take up the drums?” Sophie paused.

They both looked towards the window and saw a large Raven sitting on the ledge, patiently tapping the window with his beak.

“Sliverton?” Remus said as he got out of bed and went to the window. He had seen Atticus over the years, in the Ministry and at the infrequent get-togethers for the old Order members. He was still the same, towering above everyone but Dumbledore, always pleased for everyone’s success but he said very little about himself personally. “What do you suppose this is about?”

He took the letter from the Raven and patted the bird on the head. It bowed before flying off. Remus opened the letter and read it carefully twice over, a frown of concentration on his face.

“Is everything okay?” Sophie said, sitting up in bed.

“Fine.” Remus was lost in thought.

“Well, tell me what’s in the letter. That or transfigure it into something with caffeine and let me drink it, I’m not picky.” Sophie was easing herself out of bed, putting her weight first on her good leg and then testing her bad one. Sometimes it was so stiff in the morning that it was difficult to move but today seemed to be a good day, she walked towards Remus, her limp noticeable but not too bad.

“He needs a tutor for his son. Seems he has an eleven year old boy who he isn’t interested in sending to Hogwarts when the term starts.” Remus had never met Anne Ryan, the woman Atticus had married and with whom he now had three children. It had always struck him as odd though that Atticus had not simply married her straight away when she’d had their first child.

“Well, it isn’t as if working for Atticus could be the worst fate imaginable.” Sophie put her arms around her husband and burrowed her head into his naked chest. “Let’s talk about it later, come back to bed for a bit.”

Remus grinned mischievously and tossed the letter over his shoulder onto the floor as he picked up Sophie and headed back to the bed. “So, which part of you missed me the most?”

It was their favorite game. Sophie pretended to frown and then pointed to her naked shoulder. “I do think my collarbone missed you terribly.”

She laughed with glee as he began to kiss her collarbone, tracing it lightly with the tip of his tongue. The game went on for quite some time both of them taking turns asking the question, some of the answers were rather blush worthy.

“So, which part of you missed me the most?” Sophie asked afterwards.

“My heart, sweetness.” Remus answered it was the way the game always ended. “And which part of you?”

“I’d have to say it’s a tie Mr. Lupin.” Sophie replied. “My heart and my soul.”

He held her closely, looking at her face. She had long since had the scar removed saying that her leg was enough of a reminder of who she needed to be.

“You’re so beautiful.” Remus said.

“Well I’ll be more beautiful after I’ve had some coffee.” Sophie grinned, crossed her eyes briefly at him and swinging herself from the bed, began limping towards the kitchen.

:::::::::::::::::

“Remus, did this place grow since the last time we saw it?” Sophie was standing in the largest front parlor of the Sliverton Estate holding a cup of tea brought to her by Ponta, one of the house elves.

“It’s possible I suppose,” Remus said staring at the high ceilings. Several of the portraits waved and nodded in a friendly fashion.

“Remus, Sophie! Good to see you both, thank you for coming.” Atticus Sliverton strode into the room, kissed Sophie on the cheek and shook Remus’s hand.

“No trouble.” Remus answered and smiled. “I do have to admit that I’m a bit baffled though, why would you want me as a tutor? There are other, better qualified ones, you know.”

Before Atticus could answer, the front door was heaved open and the sound of running feet accompanied by laughter echoed through the hall.

“Dad, mum says that I have to turn Daisy and Custard back.” The boy grinned wickedly. “But I think they look better purple and green.”

Remus turned to smile at the boy and felt as if he’d gone rocketing back in time. Standing in front of him, grinning just the same was Sirius Black as he had looked as a first year. Remus managed not to gape too much. He turned questioning eyes to Atticus.

“Phim,” Atticus began but he was cut off as Megan Sliverton, hot on her son’s heels came pelting into the room.

“Seraphim Sliverton, you get out there and change those animals back right now or I’ll have your hide!” She was laughing despite the threat.

“Holy Hell!” Sophie dropped her cup of tea with a clatter when she saw Megan. “Oh God, your carpet, I’m so sorry. I…I…thought I saw…a bird. Always been dreadfully afraid of birds in a house.” Well, that was the most ridiculous thing to say, thought Sophie but she couldn’t very well say that the boy’s mother was a ghost to her.

She was staring at the boy and then at Megan. Even the members of the Order had been led to believe that Megan had died years earlier.

“Meg?” Remus was equally astonished.

“That’s what my dad calls her too.” Phim looked puzzled. “Funny that, because her name’s Anne.”

“I need to sit down.” Sophie said after she had collapsed onto a chair behind her.

Atticus and Megan exchanged a look this had not happened as they had planned. It was best to send Phim back out and try to explain to their old friends.

“Phim, go do as you’re told, please.” Megan’s voice was suddenly serious and Phim knew that there was nothing for it but to pay attention. “Also, help Boxen keep an eye on your brothers.”

“Mum…” He began to protest. Aurelius was fine, he could even get up to a bit of mischief himself at the age of six but Aristotle was still in nappies.

“Phim, now.” Megan said and shrugging the boy departed with a cheery wave to the visitors.

“We’ve got a bit of explaining to do.” Atticus began.

“Does he know?” Remus interrupted. “Does he know who his father really is?”

Atticus saw that Remus looked slightly green. As far as Lupin was concerned Black was guilty and it had to have been a shock seeing the boy like that. They’d planned it differently, Megan was to take the children off for a picnic but Remus and Sophie had arrived a bit early.

“No, he doesn’t.” Megan answered for her husband. “I don’t want him to know until he’s a bit older, it could be a shock for him. Atticus is the only father he’s ever known.”

“You can see why sending him to Hogwarts is out of the question at the moment.” Atticus sighed.

“I’ll say, Severus Snape would take one look at him and know in an instant.” Sophie was still staring at the door. “Hell, anyone who’s ever seen Black would know.”

Remus stared from Megan to Atticus and back again. “What the devil is going on here?”

“Well…” Atticus began once again.

“By the way Megan, lovely to see you.” Sophie said. “And a great deal less dead than I had been led to believe.”

“I am sorry about that. Professor Dumbledore thought it best.” Megan said sincerely and Sophie smiled faintly in return. “I think I’ve seen all of a dozen people since then, mostly my family.”

The Slivertons both looked to each other once more. This, they realized, was going to be tough going. Hopefully they’d be able to convince Remus.

:::::::::::::::::

Remus had worked for Atticus Sliverton for the next year, tutoring Seraphim. At first he had been angry about the deceit but he’d been able to forgive both Megan and Atticus. Besides, Phim was a good lad even if he was always into everything. It wasn’t the boy’s fault who his father was.

He and Sophie had both understood why Megan had feigned her own death but neither could entirely forgive her for deceiving the Order also. But, she was still Megan and she had a way of winning your heart back even if you weren’t entirely inclined to give it.

There was no need to worry about Remus’s transformations any longer as a potion had been quite recently invented that made Remus safe during the full moon. If for no other reason this was why Remus and Sophie agreed to the tutoring. Atticus Sliverton was a strange man and a rather secretive one, but he had hired a team of potion specialists not long after he met Remus and they had finally succeeded in developing the brew.

Besides, Remus liked Phim. It was impossible not to despite the fact that he was rambunctious he was terrifically bright. Some times it had been difficult looking at this carbon copy of Sirius and their natures were remarkably similar but eventually Remus had managed to shed the feeling that he was sitting in a room with the young version of Sirius himself.

“Is this it, Professor?” Phim smiled as he handed over the arthimancy problem he had been working on. It was very advanced work for a boy his age. Studying the subject was usually reserved for children at least two years older than he was.

“That’s it Phim.” Remus scanned the parchment.

“Great, want to go for a swim in the lake with me?” The boy’s brown eyes were always sparkling.

“Uh…the serpent…” Remus began.

“Oh, completely tame. Dad’s even thinking of trying to breed a playmate for her.” Phim was not to be deterred. “Too cold out maybe? We could use the swimming pool.”

“That sounds like more my speed.” Remus smiled.

“Race you?”

“You’d win.”

“That’s the entire point, isn’t it?” Phim shot off down the stairs laughing.

Remus Lupin had a pleasant year teaching Megan’s son although he had refused Atticus’s initial offer of salary as being far too much. They had finally agreed on a reduced sum although Atticus would often still argue the point. Sophie would come up on the weekends and they would stay in the house. Phim’s studies had continued into the summer and it was on a day in late August that Remus received Albus Dumbledore’s owl.

He needed a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and he outlined the reasons why it was imperative that Remus take the post. Sophie had agreed immediately although it meant that they had to spend more time apart than ever before.

Sirius Black had escaped from Azkaban and reportedly was headed to Hogwarts where Harry Potter was due to start his third year.

:::::::::::::::

Megan, Sophie, Remus and Atticus sat in the room together, reading the Daily Prophet silently. Tears slid down Megan’s cheeks as she read.

“Well, he’s out I’m afraid.” Remus said and Megan managed not to say anything. Instead she stood and left the room and Sophie understood, following her.

“Thank God.” Atticus Sliverton whispered but Lupin hadn’t heard him. He was glad that Sirius was free, he’d never stopped believing that there was no reason for him to be jailed. Still, it did make him wonder what it might mean for their lives.

What if Sirius came for Megan? Atticus’s heart was afraid to answer the question.

::::::::::::::::::

After escaping on Buckbeak Sirius Black had roamed through the mountains, living in a cave that Dumbledore had suggested. It had been three long weeks since his flight and Sirius enjoyed nothing more than to wander the woods at night, looking at the stars and breathing the fresh air. He’d even managed to put on a bit of weight eating rabbits that he hunted when he was in dog form. Cooking them when he had transformed back.

He stood and drank in the sounds of the night. Breathing in the wholesome aroma of leaves, trees and even dirt. It was like being in heaven. There was a stream not far off where he could bathe too and he would heat the water with his wand before soaking in it, feeling the aches leave his tired body.

God, it had been so good to see Harry, and what a fine boy he had turned out to be. So much like James, brave but fair and kind. If it hadn’t been for him and his rather remarkable friends Sirius’s life would have ended that night at Hogwarts, one way or another. He did wish though that he could prove his innocence now so that he could give the boy a decent home.

Now he sat waiting for his old friend. They hadn’t been able to see each other since that terrible night but he’d finally managed to get a message through Dumbledore.

Remus Lupin stooped and walked into the cave.

“Well this is reasonably cheery.” Remus said and greeted his old friend with a hug.

“Beats a cell in Azkaban!” Sirius joked but realized immediately he had picked the wrong subject.

“Sirius, I’ll never be able to apologize enough. If anyone should have figured this out, it should have been me.” Remus was still guilt stricken.

“Would you forget that?” Sirius said as he tore into the food that Sophie had sent along with Remus. “God this is good. That girlfriend of yours certainly can cook.”

“Wife.” Remus answered. There were few who knew that he and Sophie were married, but he felt his old friend deserved to know. There were a lot of things Sirius deserved to know. He noted that Sirius’s long hair was now shorn.

“Wife, eh? Couldn’t have chosen better, my friend. You’re lucky she puts up with you though. Remus, quit looking so gloomy, it isn’t as if I ever tried to tell you I was innocent.” Sirius was eating a chicken leg as he spoke.

“It’s not that. Well, yes, it is that partially.” Remus didn’t know how to begin but Sirius knew him too well.

“When are you going to tell me?”

“Tell you?” But Remus knew with a sinking feeling what Sirius was going to ask.

“Yes, I’ve been mad to get Pettigrew ever since I escaped. Never had a clue when they were going to catch me and I had to, for James and Lily.” Sirius was eating all the while. Food, real food was such a treat. “But sooner or later, you had to know I’d ask. Where is she, Moony?”

Remus looked at the floor of the cave and then back up at his friend.

“I know she’s not dead, she just changed her name. So where’s Megan, or Anne Ryan or whatever she calls herself now?” Sirius had stopped eating and was staring intently at Remus.

Remus had to force the next words, “She’s called Anne Sliverton now, Sirius and she’s in the North of England with her husband, Atticus.”

Sirius dropped the chicken leg, looking startled. Then he answered:

“Looks like that letter of mine did the trick.” For a moment he struggled to maintain his bravado and then a few tears began to slip from his eyes. Remus sat watching and eventually handed his friend a handkerchief. He could not tell Sirius that he had a son, Megan Sliverton and even Atticus himself had earned that right. Neither had ever stopped believing Sirius to be innocent.

::::::::::::::::::

“An animagi.” Atticus said to his Grand Uncle Albus Dumbledore. “God, how could I have missed it?”

Dumbledore said nothing for a moment and then, “Atticus, you should fetch Megan. She deserves to know.”

The woman who had once been Megan Hogan had spent over twelve years hardly ever leaving the estate, afraid to be glimpsed, afraid that someone might see her son and try to hurt him because of who his father obviously was. She deserved to know.

“Of course.” Atticus said but he didn’t really need any prompting. As much as he feared losing Megan he could never have lied to her.

Much later, after the three had talked for many hours Megan said again.

“Lord, it explains so much. The nicknames, Padfoot, Prongs, Moony.” Part of her heart was singing. Her faith in Sirius had not been misplaced. In other parts of her heart she was fearful. Sirius had never cared that they had a child together. He’d written that cruel letter and she had every reason to believe he didn’t love her any longer.

She was of course wrong.


Chapter 47: The Distant Woods
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Chapter 47

The blank canvas to the side of Atticus’s desk was making sounds, running footsteps could be heard and in moments, the uniformed guard appeared in the portrait.

“Sir, there is a large black dog on the grounds, moving towards the house.” The sentry was panting.

“From which direction?” Atticus laid down his quill quickly.

“The south, sir.” The sentry answered.

Atticus immediately apparated to the woods south of the house and waited. It wasn’t long before the large dog came padding into sight.

Atticus truly did think of Seraphim as his son, at least his adopted son. He had been there since almost the very moment he was born. Walked the floor with him when he was teething and Megan was worn out, Boxen fast asleep. He'd fed him and changed him. He’d comforted him through nightmares along with Meg. He’d watched him grow but mostly importantly he loved Sirius’s son.

The dog froze in place when he saw Atticus. Atticus approached him slowly but evidently Sirius in his animagi form was completely aware. The large black dog did not move a muscle but a low growl was issuing from his throat.

“Sirius, I know it’s you.” Atticus spoke in a hushed tone. “It’s all right, I know all about Pettigrew.”

The dog hesitated and transformed quickly into the man Atticus knew.

“Hello Sirius.” Atticus walked up to him. “It’s good to see you

“Is it?” Sirius asked and Atticus realized that Sirius was very angry with him.

“Yes, of course.”

“Kept your promise didn’t you? You’ve protected her all right.” Sirius’s voice was beginning to rise and Atticus steeled himself. “Kept her too, I hear.”

“Sirius, for God’s sake, she’s not a possession.” Atticus spoke calmly. “I love her, I married her.”

“How nice for you.” Sirius was seething but his eyes kept returning to the grounds in front of the house, constantly searching.

“Yes, it’s been lovely.” Atticus said with a touch of sarcasm. “I love her almost desperately and now I have to wonder if I’m about to lose her.”

“Lose her?” Sirius smiled but it was without warmth. “You think I’ve come to drag her off with me, is that it Sliverton? Going to set those monsters on me to get rid of me?”

Atticus closed his eyes briefly, “No. I know you aren’t here to abduct her.”

Sirius looked the man in front of him up and down. As usual he had a friendly expression on his face but he did look strained around the eyes. Sliverton had aged incredibly well also, he looked almost exactly as he had when they were younger, just a bit of gray around the temples, a few faint lines on his forehead.

“Then what do you have to fear?” Sirius snapped. “I just want to talk to her.”

“I fear that when you do, she’ll go with you.” Atticus spoke honestly.

Atticus felt as if the kindest thing that creation could have granted him would be for his heart to stop beating now so that he would never have to see this. However, his children would need him. He tried to muster all of his strength.

Sirius was once again looking at Atticus. He remembered his visit to the jail.

“So, did you really want to get me out of Azkaban?” He asked.

“Very much.” Atticus looked Sirius dead in the eye as he said this.

“I see, hadn’t fallen in love yet then?” Sirius wanted to be angry with Sliverton, but truthfully, what had he done wrong?

“I had been in love with Megan for quite some time before that.”

Sirius digested this in silence. He understood the implication. Atticus had wanted to free him to make Megan happy or because he believed in justice, or both.

“Well then, thank you.” It was a hard thing for Sirius to force himself to say but he meant it sincerely.

They stood in silence for a few moments, neither knowing what to do.

“Look, why did you come out here?” Sirius finally asked.

“Just so that I could talk to you for a moment before, to tell you to try and put it all to her gently.” Atticus swallowed. “I didn’t come here to beg for my life with Megan. As much as I love her, if it isn’t her choice, if she wants to leave with you then I’ll understand. She loves you still, you see. I know she loves me also, but if I have one major downfall as a husband and father it would be that I’m not you.”

“Father?” Sirius’s eyes had flown wide at the word. “You have children together?”

Atticus was baffled, “Yes Sirius. Oh God, you don’t know?”

“I just found out two days ago that you were married.” Sirius coughed, his lungs were still healing from his long stint in the prison. His heart leapt slightly, Megan had been able to have children after all. It was a happy thought.

“No, Sirius, I mean you don’t know anything else?” Atticus was staring at him in surprise.

From the house the little voice of Aristotle could be heard shouting happily:

“Mummy, mummy, mummy!” As the toddler came tearing around the corner of the house and into view.

Megan ran swiftly after him, laughing. “Come back darling, let’s plant more flowers.”

“No, I want bubbles!” The child’s voice was joyful.

Megan laughed still more as she pulled out her wand and said, “Fine then!”

From the end of her wand shot bubbles in every hue of the rainbow and the little boy chased them, trying to pop them with great gusto. Aurelius tore into view, “Sorry mum! He’s fast!”

“It’s all right Aurelius, I’ll be back in a moment. We’ll finish soon.” Megan watched her youngest son playing with the bubbles and smiled before swooping him up into her arms, “You’ve got them all my brave little man, now come back and we’ll see to the garden.”

Sirius was locked in place, staring.

“She hasn’t changed, not at all.” Sirius said slowly. It was true. Megan looked almost exactly as she had the last time he had seen her. Hell, she was even wearing jeans and a T-shirt just as she had been prone to doing back then. She was still slim, still curvy. Her hair didn’t show any gray at all and as far as Sirius could see her face was still unlined. Her laughter had sounded exactly as it had.

Atticus opened his mouth to speak but found there was nothing her could say that would be less than hurtful. He didn’t dare agree that Meg was still as lovely as she’d been. He couldn’t talk about their life together without rubbing salt in the man’s wound. He did however have to tell that Megan had something to tell him.

“Sirius…”

“Is she happy? She looked happy.” Sirius’s mind was racing. If he went to her now, what could he offer her? Life in a cave with a man believed to be a murderer? Having to abandon her children and her husband? Sirius Black had his own sense of decency and he began stumbling backwards. He hadn’t expected it to be like this, he had thought the Megan would have married Atticus only for convenience. He’d never imagined it could be a real marriage. Yet what he had just seen was a happy woman, who clearly loved her children.

“I’m going.” Sirius was turning from the house. “I shouldn’t have come.”

“Sirius, wait, there are things you need to know!”

Sirius rounded on Atticus and shouted at him, “There are things you need to know too. I’m not leaving now because I don’t love her any longer. I’m leaving because I still do. If you can’t understand that, then you aren’t the man I hope to God you are.”

Atticus moved forward and tried to catch Sirius arm so that he could tell him he had to talk to Megan first.

“Sirius there is something you have to know…”

Sirius Black was a strong man. It was part of the way he had survived his life in prison but he did have a temper himself and Sliverton was sorely tempting him.

“I know enough already, I’ve seen what I came to see.” Sirius said. “You took care of her, I suppose I should thank you but I’m not really up to that right now. I’ve got to leave, I have to get away from here.”

“Listen to me, you have to talk to Megan.”

Sirius pushed Atticus Sliverton away as hard as he could, he had to get away from there it felt as if there was no air. If he didn’t leave now he’d go mad. Completely caught off guard the shove felled Atticus easily. He sat on the ground staring at the man above him.

“I’m sorry Atticus, but I can’t.” He was desperate to be away from here. “Tell her…oh hell, tell her anything you like. She’s your wife.” With that he was gone.

Atticus considered the situation for a moment, he could run after Sirius and try to haul him back but he knew it would do no good. Sirius would find out sooner or later and it really should be Megan who told him.

Atticus went back towards the house slowly. He didn’t have any choice in his mind. He had to tell Megan it wouldn’t have been right to keep it from her.

::::::::::::::::

“He wouldn’t even talk to me?” Megan asked but she knew it was the case. She knew that Sirius must feel betrayed and could not blame him entirely. Yet, she also knew he had wanted her to get on with her life. Knew further still that was why he had written as he had, in such a cold manner.

Atticus had just finished telling her all that had happened in the woods. He’d left nothing out. Sirius did love her after all and he had no idea they had a child together. A dull ache was forming at the base of her skull and she knew that she would soon have a crushing headache. It was an enormous revelation for her but her mind could not help asking the natural question. Did she wish she’d never married Atticus? They had a happy life together. She’d wanted that life with Sirius but it had been denied to her by fate, circumstance and even Sirius had pushed her away. Yet her life with Atticus was wonderful in so many ways, they had wonderful children together too.

“I’m sorry, perhaps when he has a bit more time to think, he’ll come back.”

Megan was still thinking. She needed to write letters to both Dumbledore and Remus Lupin. When Sirius Black learned he had a son, she was determined that the news come from her. All of this time and all that they had suffered together and apart had earned her this right. She had no idea what she would do about the other things and frankly, she needed time to sort them out.

“Stop looking like that Atticus, this isn’t the end of the world.” Megan noted her husband’s expression. “What, were you afraid I’d just take off into the woods with him?”

“Yes.” Atticus was not smiling.

“Well thanks, that shows a tremendous amount of faith in me.” Megan was exasperated. It was a horribly complicated situation and she knew that she did still love Sirius, perhaps even more than Atticus although it was a question she never truly liked to ask herself. There was no way that she could leave her children though and of this she was certain. She’d always considered herself a loyal person. She just wasn’t certain to whom her loyalty belonged. Yet she truly felt that there was no way she could ever leave Atticus either. Lord, it all would have been so much easier if she could only have been two people at once.

“It’s not about faith, Megan.” Atticus didn’t wrap his arms around his wife as he usually would have. “You still love him, I know you do.”

Megan strained her neck up and kissed her husband’s lips. “Well, I love you too if that counts for anything.”

Atticus still seemed a bit distant.

“Look, do you have any idea what I saw when I met you?”

“No and I might add, neither do you.”

“No, you’re right, I don’t. So I asked Dumbledore what I told him. I asked him right before we were married.” She was looking up at him, her blue eyes never leaving his dark ones. “You see, I couldn’t understand how I could have read you and not known I was to marry you. According to him what I saw was a good man but you puzzled me because I couldn’t see anything beyond that. That’s exactly what I told him.”

“I’m not seeing your point.”

“The only other person I couldn’t read entirely was Sirius Black. Have any idea why that might be?” Megan kissed him again and then he did return the gesture.

“Well?”

“Because, my large husband, I think that I couldn’t truly read anyone I was destined to be in love with." Megan looked up at him earnestly.

Atticus stared at her, his expression beginning to soften his heart quickening with hope.

“Keeping that in mind, there’s something I have to tell you.” Megan said referring to the fact that she would be able to touch him now that she knew she was in love with him. There had been something pressing on Megan’s mind for nearly two years, ever since it had become apparent that Voldemort was actively trying to rise again.

“Oh God Megan, no.” Atticus knew exactly where her mind was headed. “It was pure hell for you the last time.”

“It’s all right, it will only be for a short time.” Megan answered. “And I won’t use it the same way. I’ll not be testing people to see if they are trustworthy any longer. It didn’t work the last time anyway.”

“Then why?” Atticus asked.

“I need to read one person and then I can be done. This time I’m not following any rules though, if I can avert something terrible, it will be worth it.” Megan’s face was determined. “After that, you can obliviate the memory and the training. I’ll never do it again. If I have something to tell Dumbledore, I’ll do it.”

“Megan, Dumbledore will never agree to try and train you again.” Atticus knew in his heart what she was going to say next.

“Well it’s a good thing I’m married to one of the cleverest wizards in the land, isn’t it?” Megan answered. “Plus, I think I’ve figured out who to practice on. We’ve got enough animals on this place to stock a zoo.”

“Oh hell.” Atticus rubbed his face. He knew what the answer would be but he had to try anyway. “Megan why, there isn’t any one person who could be that important. You may not even be able to touch the children. I’m not even sure I could train you.”

But Megan would not be swayed. Her heart soared, knowing that Sirius was free although she wasn’t sure what to do about her own feelings, she did know that there might be a way to ensure that he was free forever. It still might be possible to catch Pettigrew, if she looked into the mind of the one person she suspected might have the outcome of all of this locked within him. Not just Pettigrew, but everything. Plus, she felt she owed something to her friends, all of the ones who had died fighting the first time.

“What about Sirius?” Atticus asked. His wife leapt to the floor, took his hand and began leading him upstairs. Her head ached and she was confused, but she knew that Atticus needed to feel close to her.

Megan looked at her husband. Who knew her better? Was there truly anyone?

“I’ll need to tell him he has a son, Atticus.” Of this much she was sure. “Beyond that, I do love you.”

As Atticus Sliverton prayed that would be enough, Sirius Black sat in a cave knowing that he had been wrong to go and see Megan. He’d tried to set her free and now she was. There was a certain peace in that.

He wished with all his heart that her happiness could have been with him, but it wasn’t and perhaps it had never been fated to be so.

Megan had thought to deny destiny and outwit fate. Sirius sighed and rolled over on his small pallet, it wasn’t possible to avert fate.

But, it was possible to know what is was, if you had certain gifts and the bravery to face what might come with them.



Author's note: There are three chapters remaining in this story.

There's a reason for everything in this story and although it did not prove to be particularly popular, marrying Megan to Atticus does have a reason behind it. The choice will be explained in the second to last chapter and I think you'll like the pay off.

Next time out: Sirius meets his son and sees Megan face to face.


Chapter 48: Seeing Sirius
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Chapter 48

“What did you see Meg?” Atticus asked as she withdrew her hands from the dog’s flanks. The boarhound stood waving his tail in the air and trying to lick Megan’s face.

“Well, I know what’s been happening to all the ducks.” Megan smiled at her husband. “And I know what will continue to happen to them.” She gave the dog a severe look and he tried leap up and put his paws on her shoulders.

“Anything else?”

“Yes, it’s just like with all the other animals, everything from womb to tomb, so to speak.” Megan seemed relieved. It had taken longer than she would have liked this training. Voldemort had risen again and the Death Eaters, while nowhere near as bold as they had been in the past, were flocking to their master’s side all over the country. Arthur Weasley had nearly been killed at Christmas but all reports were that he had recovered strongly.

It was hard on Atticus, not being as active in the Order as he would have liked but after they had told Dumbledore what they were doing he seemed to understand.

“I could prevent you from doing this Atticus, you know that.” Albus had said.

“I know you could, but please don’t.” Atticus answered. “She did as you asked once, now I think the time has come to do as she asks.”

Dumbledore had stood, his hands behind his back, his head inclined so that his long, crooked nose seemed to be a mile long.

“I cannot see that this will change anything, nor I am certain that it should.” But Atticus knew that he had one thing in his favor, Dumbledore cared dearly about that boy. He’d sacrificed so much and Albus, while incredibly powerful, was still very human at heart. If there was even a chance this might help save the boy from further pain it might be worth it. “But I will not stop you. All I ask is that you give your word that you do not seek to alter the future…too much at least. A gentle suggestion would not be amiss I suppose.”

So Atticus had returned to the North and begun training Megan again. It had taken months of study for him to even begin to attempt it but she was determined and Atticus Sliverton had the trait many good husbands did; he could not truly deny his wife anything.

“Do you think you’re ready then?” Atticus asked. She’d gone through a period where she couldn’t touch the children and it had confused them terribly until two weeks into it Atticus had realized what he could do. He’d set to work on the project immediately, creating a second skin for Megan in the form of a thick ointment she had to coat herself with each morning. It would instantly vanish into her skin but would act as a barrier. Megan could no longer feel touch, but at least her children could feel hers and she was an affectionate mother, always cuddling her children, or kissing their cheeks. Much to the dismay of Seraphim who was nearly fourteen now.

“Get away mum!” He’d laugh as she hugged him each night before he went off to bed. Usually before sneaking off onto the grounds and playing pranks. He’d managed to turn Custard into something that looked like a horse once and had barely managed to turn her back by sunrise. “I’m taller than you now, you don’t need to cuddle me like a baby.”

“I hug all of you, and it’s once a day. Put up with it.” She’d grinned at her son who, if it were even possible, looked more and more like Sirius as he grew.

When she was training she could not wear the ointment. Other than that late at night she would bathe thoroughly using the specially developed counter-gel. Then she could touch and feel her husband as much as she liked.

It was a strain on her partially because Aristotle was still little, not quite five and she missed feeling his little arms around her whenever he fell but it was comforting to know that he could still feel her. Still know he was loved.

The dog went scampering back to his fellows and Megan turned to her husband.

“Close to it, very close I’m thinking.” Megan grinned devilishly at her husband. “You know, Phim’s studying, so is Aurelius. Boxen’s taken Aristotle for a good old fashioned exploration in the woods with Daisy.”

“Oh?” Atticus feigned surprise. “So what did you have in mind m’lady?”

Megan walked forward, pulled her husband’s lips down to hers and said, “Umm. You. A great deal of you.”

Atticus laughed and took her hand, leading her back to the house and towards their bedroom. Long ago they had put a silencing charm on their suite so that they could never be overheard. The portrait figures knew to withdraw and go elsewhere to visit. “You’re quite scandalous at times. I rather like it.”

Atticus and Megan had made love for hours that day so lost in each other’s bodies and touch that the sun was going down before they were finished. They would rest and nap in between and whenever Megan would cling to him her body shaking with pleasure, Atticus would hold her tightly and kiss her deeply.

He knew what this marathon love making session was about. She was finally ready, she wanted to go and see Black. She was trying to prove to him that she would never leave him and perhaps she was trying to prove it to herself too.

“Atticus…” She began as she was finally pulling on her clothes.

“It’s all right, I do know.” Atticus stood high above her, towering over her by slightly more than a foot.

“I thought you might.” One thing that had always been special about the two of them was that there were no secrets and they could predict each other’s actions.

“When?” Atticus asked and although in a battle his nerves were of steel, when it came to his wife and the thought of losing her he was as vulnerable and tenderhearted as the best of men could be.

“Tonight, I think.” Megan had the photographs tied together in a packet already.

“When would you like me to follow?” He asked, trying desperately to keep his voice even and calm.

“Atticus, is an hour all right with you?” Megan looked anxiously at her husband. It was a long time to leave her alone with the man she had never quite been able to stop loving.

Atticus did not sigh, or shrug. Instead he smiled kindly at her. He knew that you could not force someone to be by your side, no matter how dearly you loved them. He knew it would break his heart should Meg choose to stay rather than return home but he’d been preparing himself for this for years now.

Atticus Sliverton had nearly had his heart stopped in a battle many years earlier and when he had just recovered, he’d come with them to rescue her and nearly lost his life again. He had a strong heart, and a good one, he was ready.

“Yes Megan, I think an hour is more than fair.” He smiled gently. “Then we’ll come along.”

::::::::::::::::::

It had been a slow process, preparing Seraphim to meet his father. They’d done it over the course of a year. First they had to tell him that Atticus was not his natural father. He’d surprised them both by taking that news well.

“Well I don’t look much like any of you.” He smiled, never telling them that he had been collecting the newspaper clippings now for two years. They had thought that all copies of the Daily Prophet had been destroyed and that Phim had never seen any of them. They had no idea he’d been slipping down to the kitchen and nicking the elves’ copies before the trash could be incinerated. He knew full well who he looked like, there had been pictures of Black as a younger man in some of the issues. “Did you find me in a cabbage patch then?”

At first it had troubled him terribly, the fact that Sirius was wanted for murder but when his mother explained to him all that had happened, he had felt an odd sense of pride. Sirius Black had to be one of the strongest men in the world to endure all that he had. He even knew that he had come here once, seen that his mother was happy and left, so he knew he was honorable also.

Life was a bit complicated for Seraphim Sliverton. He loved Atticus just as any son would love their father, perhaps more because he knew Atticus was a very good man. In a way he felt himself lucky, most people were lucky if their father was a decent bloke that didn’t knock you about for the tiniest thing. He had two fathers and they were two of the best men in the land.

So when Megan came to him and began explaining that she had to go and see Sirius he had grinned at her. He had no reason to share his adopted father’s fear that she would never return. In fact, he was excited by the prospect of finally meeting this man who lived for him only in hidden newspaper clippings. That and what his parents had told him.

“All right mum, you go, I’ll come along with dad later.”

“Don’t get into any mischief while I’m gone.” Megan had warned. The portraits in the hall were still a bit leery because Phim had managed to cause a blizzard within the paintings. Athena Moxfroy had stood in the howling wind and blowing snow yelping ‘young man, this simply will not do, we can still feel cold you know’ then she had pelted him with a magical snowball and run off laughing.

“And so can you!” The portrait yelled triumphantly as she disappeared from sight to the safety of an upstairs bedroom portrait.

“Mum, do I ever?” Phim tried to look innocent.

“The question here, my fine boy is actually, do you ever not?” Megan said but had smiled in a distracted fashion.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::

Remus Lupin was worried for his longtime friend. It sometimes seemed that Sirius had taken to dwelling in the past so entirely that his mind had become a bit fogged as if he would confuse the past and the present not realizing the difference. It even seemed that sometimes he forgot that Harry was not James.

This wasn’t true actually. Sirius understood the present fully well, he was just tremendously restless and he looked for signs of James in Harry’s every known movement simply because he missed his old friend and wanted to believe that he had not really been taken from them. He loved Harry for who he was, but he did miss James terribly. He urged the boy onto adventure because a part of his mind simply wanted for the boy a world where the worst that could happen would have been a stern punishment. He hated that this had never truly been Harry’s world. The boy had too much to bear.

Plus, there were the dreams. He could remember them now that the dementors were not present to suck away the joy he felt in them. Night after night he would visit his memories in his mind. He would see James and Lily. Talk with them even be granted their forgiveness. He would chase Pettigrew in the street and in the dreams, he would catch him. He was able to watch Harry grow up, loved and protected having defeated Voldemort but never having lost his parents in the process.

He would also dream of Megan. Sometimes the dreams were peaceful, and like the others they would contain the life he had thought he would lead with her. He would dream of touching her, kissing her, being with her in every way and those were the most wonderful in some ways for him. He was lonely only during the day and he desperately wanted to fight more actively. Voldemort had robbed him of everything he had ever wanted and loved. He had caused those Sirius loved best to pay a terrible price also.

In his waking hours he would seem pensive and sometimes surly but in truth, a part of him was always a bit anxious to return to his dreamland, where all was well.

:::::::::::::::

Megan stepped out of the fireplace and looked around the kitchen. Remus and Moody were seated at the table, talking urgently about something, cups of quickly cooling tea in front of them, completely forgotten.

Moody spotted her first and was on his feet, his wand out and his magical eye spinning madly. “What the hell is this?”

“Ah Moody, haven’t changed much have you?” Then she took in his mutilated state and realized there was even more missing from his nose. “Hit you again in that beak of yours did they?”

Her tone was affectionate though. It was good to see the crusty old Auror.

Moody was confused. It truly seemed to be Megan Hogan and none of his protective devices had been set off, the foe glass was as clear as it ever was.

“You’re the most solid ghost I’ve ever seen.” Moody’s eye spun some more and took her measure. “How did you find our location?”

“Well that would be because I’ve little in common with a ghost, what with having a pulse and all.” Megan grinned at him. “Dumbledore, Alastor, he told me.”

“Alastor, I think you know Anne Sliverton, actually.” Remus supplied. “Names change but people don’t.”

Moody glanced at the younger man and comprehension began to dawn. “Faked your own death, did you? Well good for you girly! That’s the way to fool him!”

Remus understood why Megan was finally there and he knew that she had waited a long time for this. He cut the old Auror short and said, “Come along Moody, let’s go visit with Sophie for a bit. She’ll be glad to see you.”

“Sees me at the Ministry all the time.” He huffed but Moody was not as emotionally dense as he often appeared. “Fine with me, let’s go. Maybe you’ll finally let me exorcise that chair of yours.”

“Try that and she’ll take another chunk out of your nose, Alastor.” Remus grinned. He turned to Megan. “He’s upstairs, asleep I think. Fourth bedroom on the third floor, you can’t miss it. Oh…and watch out for the portrait by the door, she’s a bit touchy. Not to mention she screams like a banshee.”

“His mother?” Megan smiled at the memory of Sirius describing his mother to her.

“The one and only. Thank God.” Remus grinned and headed towards the fireplace. “You needn’t worry about that house elf Kreacher either, he’s been busy sobbing over a thimble he picked out of the trash all afternoon.”

“I don’t think I’ll be bothering with asking about that.” Megan smiled.

“I wouldn’t if I were you.” Remus called as he and Moody left together.

Megan paused and looked around the house. Lord what a gloomy place it was. She began moving swiftly through it, looking for the stairs. Luckily for her the portrait was emitting snores as she ran lightly up the stairs and to the bedroom where Remus had directed her.

::::::::::::::

In the dream Sirius was just sitting down to Christmas dinner with Megan and their children. Lily and James were there with Harry and his siblings. The candlelight was warm and everyone was happy. He reached over to hold Megan’s hand and she smiled beautifully at him.

He jerked awake someone was holding his hand. The room was dark but he knew her scent, knew the curve of her face.

“Megan?” His voice was barely a whisper, if this was a dream it was the best he had ever had.

“Hello, I hate to wake you Sirius, but I’m long overdue for a visit.” Megan tried desperately to keep her tone light but her heart was pounding. She’d stood watching him sleep for a few minutes, her eyes stinging with tears. But time was pressing down on her and although she could have watched him forever she could not. His face was changed a bit, but it was still there, the shadow of the handsome young man she had loved for almost her entire life. She’d noticed him when she was a first year but it had taken him years to notice her in return.

“Oh God, Megan!” He’d launched himself at her, holding her tightly and she had not resisted, she returned the embrace, but when he moved to kiss her she had drawn back.

“Sirius, please don’t. I have to talk to you.” Megan was so confused she felt like weeping. She knew that despite the fact that she had never stopped loving this man, she loved her husband too. “Now, put on the lights please. I’ve got some things to tell you.”

Sirius had drawn back reluctantly. God, he wanted to touch her everywhere. He wanted to hold her and never let her go.

“Well, I can see that you still don’t wear a stitch while you’re sleeping.” Megan tried to joke. “I’ll just turn around so you can get some things on.”

He’d illuminated the lamps after quickly pulling on some clothing. In the light his eyes never left her face, she was almost exactly the same. “Meg, you could be eighteen years old, I swear.”

Megan smiled gently at him and took his hand again, “But I’m not Sirius and a great deal has happened since then.”

Sirius dropped his gaze, “Are you very angry with me? I didn’t want to hurt you. I never wanted to hurt you, ever. I had to though, the way you were acting you might as well have been in Azkaban with me.”

“I know that Sirius, and no, I’m not angry with you.” Megan raised her chin, trying to quell the emotional war within her. Part of her so wanted to reach out and touch him but part of her thought only of the tall, kind man who had given her love and understood her so well. Atticus had given her all that he had in his heart and nearly everything in her life that she considered worthwhile. Nearly. “It’s all in the past. I’m sorry for all you’ve been through though.”

Sirius didn’t know how to respond. In so many ways he felt like his old self again, just being near her. He sat on the edge of the bed feeling as if strength was flooding through him, as if he were as close to something divine as he could ever get.

“Sirius?” Megan knew that the clock was still ticking forward as much as she wanted time to halt for them. “What do you remember about our life together?”

“I remember everything. Every moment.” Sirius looked at her again. He was speaking the truth.

“And you know that I have children?” She asked gently. She had to tread lightly here.

“Yes.” For a moment bitterness tried to rise within him but it quickly vanished. He was happy for her. “I saw them, both of them. They looked like fine lads.”

“They are,” Megan answered quietly. “I’m so proud of them all that my heart could burst. All of them are wonderful in their own way. All three of them.”

Three? Sirius sighed, well Sliverton had certainly kept her occupied but he knew it was what Megan had wanted. “I’m happy for you.” He said trying to keep his tone even.

“Thank you, that’s right generous of you.” Megan’s tone was completely earnest. She meant exactly what she said. It showed what a good man Sirius was that he could actually be happy for her life without him. “Sirius, do you remember how sick I felt right before…right before you went away?”

Sirius frowned. What did this have to do with anything? Yes, of course he remembered and he nodded. She’d been tired all the time and throwing up. She’d had a bad virus or something…

Oh God. Fatigue, nausea, the constant grogginess. Why had he never thought…

“Megan,” His voice was trembling badly now. He dared not even hope that she might say the words he prayed she was going to. “How old are your sons?”

“Aristotle five, Aurelius is nine,” She paused and drew breath, “And Serpahim is very nearly fourteen, Sirius.”

Sirius had his head in his hands. He could do math as well as anyone. He knew what she was telling him. He also knew that Megan would never have been unfaithful to him.

“Sirius, he’s your son.” Megan had to speak the words. Sirius was nodding fighting tears.

He turned to Megan, gently placing his hands on her shoulders. “Megan, let me kiss you, please? I swear I won’t do anything else.”

She knew why he wanted to kiss her. It was what any man would wish to do to a woman he loved, who had borne him a child. Her eyes were misty with tears as she promised Atticus in her heart that she would never be untrue to him in any way, ever again. Then she nodded and leaned towards the man she had thought she would marry many years ago.

As Sirius’s lips found Megan’s at long last he held her face in both his hands. Kissing her gently but firmly trying to make sure that he held his passion in check and did not do anything that would truly betray Megan’s heart or the man that Sirius knew immediately had raised his son well.

He kissed her for several minutes but could take no more after that, he knew he would begin touching her. His heart acknowledged that she would not allow it and he even felt that it would be the greatest of wrongs to do anything further.

Sirius Black and Megan Hogan had finally been able to kiss each other goodbye after all.

:::::::::::::::

“God, look at him.” They were downstairs now, the pictures spread on the kitchen table. Sirius had been deeply engrossed in them for the last thirty minutes, peppering her with questions. “He flies well too?”

“Like an ace.” Megan smiled. It was bittersweet but it was all still beautiful. “And if you haven’t noticed, he bears a striking resemblance to a certain young man I used to know.”

“Resemblance? God, he’s the spitting image.” Sirius was still lost in the pictures. The boy looked happy, and Sirius had to smile as he saw that he had a rather wicked grin. “Does he get up to much mischief?”

“You’d be proud, I assure you.” Megan said and giggled. “The name Seraphim turned out to be slightly ironic, he’s the very devil at times.” But she spoke with great love.

“Glad to hear it!” Sirius hadn’t felt this happy, this purely joyful in so very long. Megan hadn’t been without him all those years, she’d had a daily reminder of him and Sirius had a son a strong fine son by the look of the pictures. “Is he bright?”

“Too bright for us sometimes.” She teased. “He outwits us all the time. Last Christmas he made the Turkey stand up and sing just as we were sitting down to dinner.”

Sirius paused then. Christmas dinners together as a family, it hurt his heart a bit. She’d already told him that he got on well with his brothers, although of course he liked to claim that he didn’t. She told him that they had they hardest time keeping him on the estate and he’d prowled beyond it’s limits more than once, sending them all on frantic searches. She did not however tell him that Remus had been his tutor. That was for Remus to tell and explain if he liked.

“I’d love to see him.” Sirius said wistfully.

“Well, you should get your wish in about five minutes. Atticus is bringing him here.” Megan had saved this information, not wanting Sirius to be distracted by nerves for too long.

“Atticus is bringing him?” Sirius’s heart was beating strongly in his chest. He needed to ask Megan. “Megan, he treats you well, doesn’t he? Atticus, I mean.”

“He treats me like a queen.” Megan answered honestly. “He’d do anything in the world for me.”

He’d even let me go without trying to stop me if he believed it was best for me, just as you did she thought.

The next was difficult to ask. “Do you care for him?”

Megan Sliverton hesitated but the truth was always easier as far as she was concerned. “I love him Sirius. I love him very much.”

Sirius Black was not a stupid man. He knew if he asked what came to his mind next that it would only hurt him or her depending on the answer. He did not ask her if she loved him as much as she had loved him. Instead, he sat waiting with his old love for their son to arrive.

:::::::::::::::::::

“Hello, it’s very nice to meet you.” Phim had thought this would be easy, but it wasn’t. Once there he found that he didn’t know what to say.

Sirius was still managing to fight back tears, “I wish it had been long before this. I wish it had been since the day you were born.”

Phim nodded and began to feel better. He looked intently at Sirius. “Uh, do you like Quidditch much?”

“Love it, always have.” Sirius had to stop himself from embracing the boy before him. He was so tall, taller than Sirius remembered being at that age. He was broad through the shoulders too. His dark eyes had a twinkle to them. “You have a favorite team?”

“Ireland, I have to or else mum would beat me until I couldn’t grow any more.” Phim grinned.

Atticus Sliverton stood with his wife by his side watching all this. He had not touched Megan since they had arrived and had trouble meeting her eye. He could tell she wanted to tell him something. He watched the poor hunted man in front of him finally meeting the son he should have known from birth. A lesser man might have felt bitter but he had always believed in justice. This was the just outcome at long last and it was long overdue. .

“You two ought to go into the living room, having yourselves a good gab.” Megan prompted. She knew that both Phim and Sirius would be feeling a bit awkward in front of her, and particularly Atticus. “Is there any butterbeer about?”

Sirius looked at her gratefully as the boy smiled. Then he looked to Sliverton, standing straight and tall, smiling at them both. Sliverton nodded, “I think that’s a wonderful idea.”

“I’ll grab some butterbeer!” Sirius grinned as he rustled in the pantry, emerging with four bottles.

Both Megan and Atticus took one as the two remarkably similar others headed out of the room, talking as they went.

“You have to be careful you know, she’ll have you knitting shamrocks if you aren’t careful.” Sirius teased the boy.

“It’s all right, I can just enchant them to sing Scotland the Brave, drives her batty.” Their voices were trailing off.

Megan turned towards her husband, whose head was down, examining his butterbeer label very carefully.

“Atticus?” Megan began fearfully, “I have to tell you something.”

It was suddenly difficult for Sliverton to breathe but he continued to read the label for a moment before looking at Megan and replying calmly. “I thought that might be the case. What is it Megan?”

Her eyes were bright with tears. She’d broken a marriage vow perhaps just in minor way, but still. She swallowed heavily, “Atticus, I kissed him.”

“Kissed him?” Atticus blinked and then began to smile. “When did you kiss him?”

“After I told him about Phim.” This was horribly difficult. “He asked to kiss me but I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t want to.”

“You wanted to kiss the father of one of your sons, after having to wait more than a decade to tell him that you two had a child?” Atticus was still smiling. “Well, did you want to keep kissing him after that?”

“No.” It was the truth. “I wanted to be with you. I do love him Atticus, but I love you just as much.”

She was terrified, nearly shaking. He had every right to be furious with her. Megan Hogan had spent much of her youth hunted, fighting or hiding. She had lost the first true love of her heart, now she was terrified that she would lose the man who had come after him. The man who had helped patiently repair her heart.

“I see.” Atticus said quietly and she seemed to have no idea that she was finally putting his heart to rest. “Well then, I have something to tell you.”

Oh Lord she thought. “What is it?”

“Do you remember Elizabeth Fortesque?”

“What?” Megan stared at her husband and realized he was grinning. She knew they had only been great friends nothing more. “What about her?”

“I kissed her.” Atticus was grinning. “Long before I met you but I know I’ve never told you before. Hardly comparable I realize, but since we’re baring our souls, I thought I should get that out in the open.”

“Did you now?” Megan was beginning to smile.

“Yes, we were practicing kissing. We were both fourth years and you know, that tongue thing was exceptionally difficult to master.” He was trying not to laugh. “Want me to show you? I think I’ve got it down now.”

Megan couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh, I’m well aware of that but perhaps you should remind me.”

As Atticus began to lean forward he suddenly stopped and teased, “Wait, should I ask you on what part of his body you kissed him?”

“Stop it you daft bugger, kiss your wife.” Megan said and Atticus did with gusto. After he pulled back he said:

“I love you, Megan.” They seldom used endearments for each other but the way he said her name was like a caress.

“I love you too, truly.” Megan answered. “Thank you for understanding Atticus.”

But he had always understood her so well.

::::::::::::::::

It was time to go and they all stood in the doorway. Sirius was looking a bit bereft already.

“I’ll come again.” Phim said eagerly. He liked this man. He was funny and clever. He didn’t seem old like so many adults did. “I mean, mum, I can come again, can’t I?”

Megan looked at Atticus who nodded easily. “Yes, of course.”

“I’ll see you soon then…uh…Phim.” It had been on the tip of Sirius’s tongue to call the boy ‘son’.

Phim had already talked to Atticus about this and knew that he was to call Sirius whatever struck him as being most natural. He looked too his surrogate father for a moment and Atticus nodded encouragingly.

“I’m so glad to have met you…dad.” The boy’s eyes were bright with tears and then he walked forward swiftly and quickly embraced his actual father. Seraphim Sliverton had his true father’s looks and his inclination for mischief but he did resemble his mother also, on the inside. He had a very affectionate heart.

Sirius felt a tear escape his eyes as he answered, “You too, son.”

Megan smiled at them both and said, “Come on Phim, let’s head home.”

They left together first both with a backward glance at Sirius who looked and felt happier than he had in years. Atticus Sliverton was moving swiftly towards the fireplace now and Sirius had to be quick to catch his arm.

“Atticus,” He began and it didn’t cost him anything to say this, “Thank you. It takes a big man to do what you’ve done. Not just with Seraphim, with Megan.”

The two men looked at each other for a moment. They could never have been great friends. Sliverton’s nature was too contained with most people to suit Sirius. Yet, in a way, Sliverton had done as much for him as he could have ever asked his greatest friend to do.

“You’re welcome, Sirius.” Atticus’s eyes were kind. “Thank you also. Besides, it’s an easy thing for me. Came quite naturally. It was also my pleasure, truly.”

::::::::::::::::::::

The next day at Hogwarts, Harry Potter was trying to concentrate on his History of Magic OWL when sleep overcame him and he had a dream before crashing to the floor of the Great Hall. It set in motion a string of events that led to one of his greatest challenges, to save his Godfather or so he thought when he began the journey.

In the end, he would lose him and mourn him so deeply that the emotion was almost savage. He had watched the closest thing had to a parent in his memory fall dead through the veil, murdered by that mad woman with the horrible laugh.

He had no way of knowing that Sirius had died as happy as he had been in years nor did he did he understand why. At least, not until a day in mid July when the heat would be so stifling that even the insects were too stultified to fly.

He also didn’t know what had awaited his Godfather on the other side of that veil.

But if Sirius could have told him, he would have.

It was everything he had ever been denied in life. It was bliss.


Next up: We travel with Sirius beyond the veil. James, Lily and nearly every other character who has died within this story appears briefly and Sirius finds all that is possible in the land invisible.


Chapter 49: Sirius in the Land Invisible
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Chapter 49

In the Ministry of Magic that night in the Department of Mysteries the Order had rushed in as soon as they had gotten word. Harry and his friends were in terrible peril and it was considered nothing short of miraculous that they had all survived as long as they had. There hadn’t been time to gather everyone but they set off as quickly as they could, arriving in the nick of time. The battle had been terrible, the Order members outnumbered as it was. Yet, they had all fought well and hard, just as they always did.

Sirius Black fought with vigor and determination. His body felt good and his mind was clear. Snape had been foolish to try and keep him from this, but he had tried with all the determination that cold man possessed. It had been no use of course. In his own way Snape cared about Harry. He was Lily’s son and he could never quite forget that it was Lily Evans who had first stirred in him feelings of compassion. Yet, he also hated Harry on one level because he looked so much like his father. He seemed so much like James too.

But he’d tried to keep Sirius from going regardless of his bitter hatred for him. It was what Dumbledore would have wanted. If Severus Snape knew in any part of his heart that he also wanted Black kept from the battle because he wished that Harry would have one person to love in this world, he could not acknowledge this. He hated Black and he hated Potter. Whatever lay beneath the surface of that was too much for Severus to dwell on long if at all.

Sirius heard her before he saw her. Bellatrix Lestrange was in so many ways his nemesis nearly as much as Voldemort or Pettigrew both were. He’d engaged her in a duel when they had charged in knowing full well that she was possibly the biggest threat to Harry’s life in that cavernous room. He had to save Harry, he loved him dearly and he had so much to tell him now. The future felt bright for Black for the first time in years.

She was still enormously powerful but he’d been doing well, dodging her curses or blocking them. Hell, he’d even laughed at her.

“Is that the best you can do?” He said as the red torture spell zinged by him, crackling in the air.

However, as strong a man and as good a fighter as Sirius Black was he had not expected what had come next. Bellatrix Lestrange was not merely insane she was vicious. She had been for nearly all her life and her increasing insanity had done nothing to tame that terrible beast within her. Her next spell had struck home, the air around them infused with a raw, red light. But what Sirius saw was red and then an enormous flash of the most dazzling white he had ever witnessed.

As Sirius Black left this life the last thing he heard was his cousin’s scream of triumph and Harry shouting desperately for him. It was over in a moment. Just a flash and everything had come to an end.

Or so it appeared to those in the room, in truth it was just the beginning.

:::::::::::::::

He opened his eyes slowly, feeling the warm breeze blowing pleasantly on his face.

Harry. He had to get to Harry! He tried to sit up but found that his body did not work properly. In fact, his body felt very strange indeed.

“Easy there.” A familiar voice spoke nearby. “Just take it easy, it takes a moment or two to adjust.”

Sirius looked up and saw the friendly hazel eyes of James Potter looking down at him. Sirius could feel grass beneath him and the sky, while vividly hued and very bright did not hurt his eyes, even after the darkness of the Ministry. Sirius frowned and struggled briefly to move again.

“Harry, he’s in trouble. I have to get to him.” Sirius still felt a sense of urgency but it was not as sharp as it would have been otherwise.

“You can’t help him now Sirius, it’s all right.” Lily’s voice spoke, she was right beside her husband. “Don’t fret Sirius, it’s always a bit of a shock at first but you’ll be fine in a few moments.”

She spoke soothingly, as if she had said these words before to others. Sirius managed to sit up and survey where he was. He was lying on some grass in a meadow, the sun was shining and he could hear voices nearby. There were sounds of birds, there were trees off to the side and in the distance he could see ponds and lakes set close together, the sun glinting off their golden waters. Everything looked real but it was heightened somehow, all of it. The colors were sharper, more vibrant than anything he had ever witnessed before in his life.

Life? Wait…

“James, is this a dream?” Sirius Black had been living his life in dreams for so long. He reasoned that he must have been knocked unconscious by Bellatrix and this was what was the resulting dream.

“No, it’s not a dream.” James was had a steadying hand on his shoulder and Sirius stared at it for a moment. He could feel his old friend’s hand, slight pressure, spreading warmth. What the devil was happening?

“Sirius,” Lily crouched down in front of him, her emerald eyes were like jewels here, flashing in the light of the multi-colored sky overhead. “Just breathe in and out for a few moments.”

Sirius stared in confusion but tried to follow her advice. He felt his lungs fill and deflate with each breath he felt stronger, larger somehow. There was no pain in his body at all. He felt his strength gathering and stood up unsteadily, whatever hallucination he was having, he had to get back. He had to get to Harry. He turned quickly from James and Lily, it was nice to be here with them but he had work to do. It was as he turned that he saw it, the edge of everything.

Swirling mist like crushed pearls floating in the air just a few feet away. He could hear things murmuring from the other side, frantic voices filled with urgency.

“What’s going on here?” This was unlike any dream he had ever had.

Lily touched his arm softly, “It’s all right Sirius, we can see to there when we concentrate, but there is no going back.”

“See to there? Where am I?” Sirius tried to grab hold of his confusion in his mind it was the only familiar sensation.

“You’re behind the veil.” James was standing beside him, his dark hair messy and his smile wide. “The afterlife. Heaven. The Land Invisible, pick your term.”

“Potter, are you trying to tell me that I’m dead?” Sirius nearly laughed. God it was good to see them, but this was a dream he was certain of it.

“In a way yes, in a way no.” Lily answered for her husband. “In many ways, you are more alive than you have ever been before.”

As much as he would have liked to talk with Lily and James in this strange dream he had work to do. Sirius began to rush away from them on slightly unsteady legs. Whatever that veil thing was, he was going through it, beyond it he felt was his real life.

Lily and James watched him and made no move to stop him. There was no rush. Here time meant nothing.

“Everyone always does that.” Alice Moore commented from not far behind Lily and James. Alice stood with Timothy Ferngrow who was whole once again, looking young and vital.

“Well you did too, we all did.” Amelia Strong said gently, a slight smile on her lips.

Sirius Black ran to the mist and found that when he rushed into it he could see something but it wasn’t what he had expected to see.

He could see pockets of life everywhere and he found his eyes focusing, searching. He could just make it out, Harry was in Dumbledore’s office and he was shouting. In another pocket he could see Megan and Atticus holding her as she wept. Nearby Seraphim looked confused.

But he couldn’t just see them he realized. He could feel them, feel their pain, feel their confusion and loss. Then the most astonishing thing happened, he smiled trying to reach out a hand to comfort them. He felt peace flood through him and he wanted to share it but his reach was not quite long enough. The world he was watching in tiny facets made clearer if he tried to focus looked harsh and gritty slightly yellowed too.

He began to back out of the mist slowly and he felt that beautifully penetrating warmth. Without thinking he raised a hand to his face and it felt young and firm to him again. Fleshed out fully, and more open to sensation somehow.

He turned and looked at Lily and James, he saw them now all of the fallen gathered in groups not far from Lily and James who stood in the forefront. The Prewetts stood off in the distance, waving and smiling. Alice, Amelia, Ferngrow, even Elizabeth Fortesque nodding in an assuring manner, a slightly amused smile on her lips.

He walked towards James and Lily. He had so many things to ask.

:::::::::::::::::::::

“If this isn’t a dream and I’m dead.” They had shown him his own death Amelia conjuring it for him in a looking glass she had created from thin air without even the use of a wand. “Then why do I have a body?”

James hugged him and Sirius could feel his strong arms. Lily stood on tiptoe and kissed him on his cheek and the feeling was amazing, it spread through every part of him. It felt so pure.

“Well, you do and you don’t mate.” James answered as he flopped down onto the grass running a hand through his hair. “You can feel things, just as you did in life but this isn’t like your physical body. This is the manifestation of your soul and since your soul can feel, so can your body.”

“But,” Lily hastened to add. “Nothing can hurt you. Not ever again.”

“And you can eat if you like.” Amelia supplied as she munched an apple, the fragrance of the fruit filling the air. “But you don’t have to if you’re not in the mood. No hunger either.”

Lily held James’s hand and they spoke together so quietly Sirius could not hear.

“He’s still trying to cope, take it slow.” Lily said.

“I know darling but you know the way it is. They all have so many questions.” James assured her. “I’ll take it slowly.”

“I don’t understand this, if this ruddy place is so wonderful then why live at all? Why shouldn’t everyone just skip life and die straightaway.” Sirius was still trying to fight.

“Because you bring things with your from life.” Lily’s voice was like music. “The more you live, the more you bring with you. The more joy you know here.”

“You have to live mate, it’s the only way to know yourself.” James said but knew that Sirius was not quite ready for the rest. “There are other reasons too.”

Some of the others had withdrawn for the moment. He saw Amelia Strong wave to him with a grin before calling out to him, “I’ll see you when you like. We can meet here whenever you want me. I’ll know!”

Then she dove into one of the lakes and disappeared from view in moments.

“Where did she go?” Sirius asked, there was no shore on the other side.

“Sirius, this is just the gathering place.” James said. “We know when someone we love is coming and we meet them here. We can also come to look at the world below on the other side. Check on those we love, or have come to love.”

Sirius’s mind was racing but it did not feel frantic, it felt as if his mind was expanding with every second. He could hear things in it, people calling to him, telling him not to worry and to relax. They kept saying the same thing over and over. “Your work is done. It’s all right.”

They felt like a part of him as if slowly they were interweaving with him but with great respect and care.

:::::::::::::::::::

“Don’t you worry about Harry?” Sirius asked.

“Oh of course, we watch him all the time.” James smiled and so did his wife. “But we’ll see him again soon.”

“Harry’s going to die?” Panic tried to rise in his mind but he felt the voices again, soothing him. It wasn’t like madness, it was more like a cool, peaceful water washing over his mind. He couldn’t distinguish one voice from the other. He did not know that soon they would stop being voices and just be pervasive feelings. The only voices he would hear in his mind soon would be those of arriving friends. Or friends here that were calling to him.

“Sirius, from the second we are born, with every step we take we are closer to dying. It’s the way it’s meant to be.” Lily’s said, her red hair tumbling about her shoulders. “We love him, we’re concerned for him. We fought like mad to get back to him when we got here. But he will be all right and we watch him. We’re proud of him and we love him.”

“Plus, we’ll see him in a moment.” James was smiling.

“He’s going to die in a moment!” Sirius yelped.

“No, no that’s not what I meant Padfoot.” James patted his arm. “I meant that it seems like we haven’t seen him in ages, at least not exactly…but at the same time it’s just been a moment and it will be until we see him again.”

“Time blends.” Lily explained. “The only significance it has is the meaning we put on it in the first life, beyond the barrier. When we die there, this is where we come.”

“He’s strong too, we know that.” James said and sighed slightly. His son had to face so much but that life was so real when you were living it, you couldn’t imagine anything else. He wished for his son to know happiness in that life.

“So, you know what’s going to happen?” Sirius asked, still at a loss.

“Yes, we can but most of us don’t look too often. We can’t change that life, all we can do is try to send love and hope.” James answered and Sirius noticed that he and Lily were sitting as they had so often in life, close to each other, touching. “It’s usually felt in dreams, that’s where the barrier is thinnest.”

“And you’re fine with that?” Sirius said incredulously.

“Have to be.” Lily said but in her face he saw the love she felt for her child. It wasn’t in her face though Sirius realized, he felt it go flooding through him, tremendous and warm.

Oh Lord, he was the reason they were here so soon. He’d convinced James to switch…

“Sirius, you need to start letting that kind of thing go.” James answered but Sirius was confused because he had not spoken his concern. “We’ve never blamed you, not for a second and you shouldn’t either. All you did was trust someone you loved as a friend and tried your best to protect those you loved. You never did anything wrong. Just let it go, let it evaporate.”

Sirius considered this but it was a burden he had borne for so long, it was part of who he was now there was no way to release that. Still, he felt it begin to ease slightly.

“Right, so we’re…wherever the hell we are.” Sirius was still clinging to the belief that this was a dream. It was a very long, very peculiar dream but he was bound to wake up again soon. “Where is everyone? It’s not like we’re the only dead people?”

“Oh, they’re here. Might be right around us.” James laughed and Sirius felt his amusement flood through him. “But we were from the same grouping. When you spend your life with people, they become part of you and you are part of them. We can visit the other groups if we try hard enough, but they are usually busy.”

“Busy doing what? Playing harps?” Sirius said sarcastically but inside of him it turned into a joke, a gentle thought filled with mirth.

“Could be, some people do like to play a lot of music.” James grinned at him. “Or they could be meeting their own loved ones just arrived.”

In the sky above a purple cloud was rolling by but it burst wide open and showered down up them, raining sliver all over. As the drops fell on Sirius he felt as if he was growing larger still, as if he were ever expanding and would soon not be able to fit anywhere.

“Don’t worry, understanding is infinite. You get used to that feeling.” Lily had her head on James’s shoulder and Sirius was surprised when they kissed each other and exchanged a look clearly born in desire for one another.

“Okay, why can’t I feel that then?” He hadn’t felt their desire, he’d only seen it. This was a very bewildering thing.

“Because it’s ours. There are still things that are private here you know. People have to give permission in what they allow to blend.” James answered. “We loved each other in life, and our souls are intertwined in a way that we can’t ever be with you. I mean, we love you, but it wasn’t the same.”

James winked and Sirius nearly laughed, “Well I’m grateful for that!”

“So, if people are all around us but somehow in different places but not seen if they don’t want to be. What the hell do you do here?”

“Whatever you like. Fly, sing, run. Create things, call out to friends who are here and they’ll meet you as soon as they can. It will only feel like a moment to you although they may take an age to come to you.” Lily knew that Sirius was struggling, felt that he believed himself to be unconscious in St. Mungo’s.

“That’s not possible.” Sirius said. “Something can’t take a moment and still an age.”

“You’re still thinking too much, the rules are different here.” James was laughing again. It was harder for magical folk he thought sometimes. Muggles when they got here adjusted more quickly. In the Muggle world you couldn’t fly without aid of a plane or turn yourself into a bird if the notion struck you. You couldn't blend with water and flow through the rivers and then come out again your body intact once more. Muggles had an easier time believing in this world because they were new to the real magic of life. It was the wizarding world that doubted, tried to rationalize too much here.

“There are rules?”

“Yes, but they are very simple ones.” James said. “You can’t hurt anyone, which is fine because we can’t feel pain. At least not for ourselves, we feel it for those still there, but it doesn’t feel the same as it did. It’s muffled a bit. Oh, and you can’t follow someone into the golden waters unless they ask you to come with them.”

Amelia had gone swimming in one of the golden lakes where had she gone? Sirius asked his friends.

“To whatever private thing she has within her. To whatever lies on the shore over there for her.” James said and smiled, but he knew what Amelia went to.

“I don’t see any shore.” Sirius strained his eyes but much like the pearly mist, the golden lakes and ponds just seemed to end.

“No, you wouldn’t yet.” James answered.

“Okay, explain.” Sirius leaned forward, brushing the hair off of his forehead. James wondered if he knew that he had chosen his twenty-year-old form.

“Not yet Sirius, you’re still trying to cling to the other life too much.” James explained. “Soon though.”

::::::::::::::::::::::

“So we can watch that life, we can see the future?” Sirius was asking.

“Yes, but we can’t change it. Only those living in the life of that world impact that existence. Well, almost only. Sirius try to let it go. It matters, I understand, there are people you love there but you will see them when they get here and you feel them calling to you when they come.” James’s face was earnest.

“Well what do I do in the meantime, hang around and turn myself into a butterfly?”

“No, well yes, if you like but that would be an odd way to spend eternity.” James grinned. “Most of us spend our time in our private world.”

“Private world, on the shores I can’t see.” Sirius asked. “What, it’s like a fantasy place?”

“No, it’s your life, your memories.” Lily answered this time. “And it’s also your future. It’s you life here, and it never ends.”

“What’s there?” Sirius was beginning to understand that this was no dream. There were too many sensations, and he’d gone back to the mist and looked. He’d seen what was to come for those he loved and cared about.

Lily and James looked at each other and silently agreed. He seemed ready.

“I’ll take him.” James said and stood. “Come with me.”

They walked to the edge of a pond, the water lapping gently at the edge. Sirius looked across the water and now he saw something. There were trees on shore just a short distance from him and someone was standing there, gesturing to him calling him forward.

“James, this isn’t possible.” Sirius said and the confusion threatened to return.

“Yes, it is Sirius.” James again put a hand on Sirius’s shoulder. It was always a shock. Things were so much vaster than any of them could have imagined.

“But she’s not dead.” Sirius stared at Megan Hogan.

“No, she isn’t.” James grinned and for a moment he looked a bit mischievous. “But that’s the part of her you brought with you and the part that has always been here.”

“I killed part of Megan?” His voice sounded distressed. It looked just like her and she was smiling but it had to be an illusion. “What do you mean she’s always been here?”

“Not at all you didn’t kill anything in her at all.” James explained. “You two loved each other in life and she never stopped loving you, you never stopped loving her. So, part of her soul is always in you, just as you are in her. It’s the same with anyone we love in whatever way we love them. You’ve been here with Lily and I ever since we got here too. We can see you whenever we like.”

“So it’s her?” Sirius felt tears spring to his eyes.

“Part of her. The part that has been with you all these years and will stay with you forever.”

“Doesn’t it hurt people to have bits of their soul ripped away?” Sirius was still staring at the shore.

“It doesn’t work like that.” James felt grateful that he was able to explain this, Sirius looked so confused. “The soul isn’t some tiny finite thing, it’s enormous and it grows even more, the more we love. She won’t miss it, she has no idea it’s here. She’s still complete. Look at it this way, when she does get here, she’ll just be catching up with a part of herself that went ahead. Part of you stayed behind with her and anyone you loved too.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive.” James smiled there were limitations though. “That’s your life and hers too. Like it shot off in another direction.”

“From what moment?” Sirius asked but knew what James would say.

“When her fate changed, Sirius, when you went to prison. One possibility for her life was that she marry you but that changed.” James felt his friend’s joy running through him. “So the girl over there is Megan and together you can explore what might have been.”

He knew what his friend would ask next. “It’s truly her?”

“Yes.” James said but he knew what he was asking. “But that’s the part of her that you can be with, were meant to be with always.”

Sirius thought about this silently.

“Then why wasn’t she there with the rest of you when I got here?” Sirius asked clearly perplexed.

“Because it would have been even harder to convince you that it wasn’t a dream.” As James spoke Sirius felt the truth of his words. “She’s even more solid than most parts of a soul because a seer walks in both lands, almost as if they are two people. That’s how they can see through to the end of a person’s life. She was here when we arrived.”

Sirius looked questioningly at his friend.

“It’s all right, you know.” James smiled. “It was her choice but that’s why Megan cannot be comforted by dreams. The part of her that might have been touched by what is here, what is to come was already here.”

Sirius wanted so badly to go to her but he still had two things to ask.

“James, is anyone else over there?”

James smiled at his friend. “Yes, anyone who loved you in life gave you part of themselves. You’ll see them when you want to.”

Sirius turned to his friend again and understood.

“Is there a God?” Sirius had heard it so many times in his life he had just not understood it until now.

Everyone asked this and everyone came to understand it in time, it was the one thing James couldn’t help Sirius define entirely.

“Not in the way we used to think. It’s not a single thing, it’s in everything.”

But Sirius was already grasping the concept.

“That’s why Voldemort hates love so much isn’t it?” He asked.

“Yes, because it doesn’t die, and as long as we know love in our life, neither do we. We just move beyond the veil.” James smiled. It was time for him to go back to his wife. The love could come from anywhere it could be the love of a spouse, or a parent. It could be love given to anyone or anything as long is it was real love.

James wanted to return to his own private shore where in a house with his wife and child, he would wait for the friends yet to come. He could listen to laughter of the children denied to him in the first life and he could touch his wife over and over. They could even travel to distant lands, all from within the boundaries of that shore.

As long as you had known love your soul awoke and it would never sleep afterwards.

:::::::::::::::::::

Sirius waded into the water and it was wonderfully warm. He paused for a moment and looked into the water, although it was golden it still reflected back at him and he saw himself, young, healthy and smiling. The water didn’t soak him at all, he was dry when he reached the shore and moved towards her.

“Megan?”

She threw her arms around him and smiled up into his face, “Ah, you handsome creature! I missed you.”

“How long have I been gone?” Sirius asked, stroking her hair, feeling her body pressed against his.

“Lord no, not another time question! You don’t have to understand it all yet Sirius, just live it.” Megan grinned and then she kissed his neck, the easiest part of him to reach. He could feel her lips, warm and soft against him. She laughed merrily and immediately began to tease him, “I think I finally figured out how to cook a…”

He stopped her with a kiss and was surprised to feel intense passion beyond anything he had ever known rising within him. His body as it was now responded, he could feel every part of her.

They went together to the house, which was not unlike the house they had shared in the other life, only it was larger and sunnier. He walked through the door and looked around. Then he began leading her towards their bedroom. She followed laughing, holding his hand, her expression bright and her eyes clear.

There was time enough to see Harry and Seraphim later and all of the others he knew he had cared enough for to have it be love. He knew he could see James and Lily whenever he liked too.

Now he had to find out if everything he hoped for was possible. If the life denied to them could be lived now. It had ceased to matter to him that she had married Atticus. He would carry a part of her with him always, and so would Sirius. Fate had not been as unkind to any of them as he had thought.

The bed was soft and warm just as her body was. He began to kiss her and it truly was her kissing him back. Laughing, teasing moving with him as they both felt young and strong. This was no shadow of Megan this was part of her. He took his time making love to her. He had waited so long for it.

But it wasn’t like it had been in life, it was so much better.


author's note: I hope you enjoyed this one and can now understand why it was fine to allow Megan to marry Atticus. One more chapter to go!

Thank you to everyone who has read this story.

Next time: Megan completes her last mission. Sees Harry and with the help of the Order gives him a gift beyond measure.


Chapter 50: Harry and the Order's Gift
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author's note: Thank you so much for taking the time to read such a long story. Here we go - The Beginning of The End.

Chapter Fifty

The stifling heat that summer was doing nothing to improve Harry Potter’s temper. It had been rather volatile for the last year but now it seemed to always be lurking less than an inch under the surface, ready to explode at the slightest provocation. He felt lost at the moment, unsure as to what his purpose was in life and fairly certain that all he would ever truly do was lose one person after another. Also, he considered Dumbledore’s words to him about the prophecy, there was simply nothing chipper in the thought of being destined to be an assassin no matter who the target might be. The alternative was that he would die while Voldemort won and that wasn’t exactly the happiest thought either. All these things combined had left Harry in a rather foul mood.

This did have one benefit because everyone at Number Four Privet Drive was giving him a wide berth, so at least he could be alone with his thoughts. Even that great oaf Dudley would try to squeeze past him silently. Petunia’s thin lips would set in a straight line whenever Harry was about but at least she remained silent. Uncle Vernon contented himself with muttering about Harry being unnatural, evil, loathsome, vile and ungrateful to boot. However, he did try to keep his voice down.

Between Harry’s history there and the fact that the members of the Order had more or less threatened Vernon with being turned into a toadstool or a puddle of slime all of the Dursleys were remarkably silent.

Nearly every day he would receive letters in the owl post from Ron and Hermione or even some of the members of the Order. Yet, they hadn’t come for him and the promises of ‘soon’ were beginning to sound empty. He was still stuck here for the moment, far from anything that gave him any happiness. Oddly, Harry was satisfied with this arrangement. His replies to the letters were always brief, just saying that he was doing well and that things at the Dursleys were fine.

Around his friends or the Order he would have felt that he had to put a good face on so that they would not worry. Far worse than that, Harry felt that they would try to cheer him up and at the moment, he didn’t care to be cheered. Here he could at least grieve in relative peace. It wasn’t as if the Dursleys ever cared if he was miserable, and he certainly wasn’t inclined to spare their feelings either.

The truth was that Harry had lost so much and cared so deeply that his pain was beginning to overtake him. He was soon to be sixteen and he had more than enough sorrow to cripple nearly anyone.

Harry Potter had no idea that a plan was being hatched even at that moment that would ease his pain.

And he didn’t even know the strength of his own heart or his ability to love. Not yet at least.

::::::::::::::::::

In the office of Albus Dumbledore nearly all the members of the Order of the Phoenix sat together and listened to Megan’s plan.

“So, what do you all think? Are you willing?” She asked.

Around her there were nods of agreement. Remus had thought the plan was a good one, Sophie agreed readily. Even Moody thought it was worth a try. The Weasleys had mentioned how brief Harry’s letters were and all of them knew that nothing was ever ‘just fine’ on Privet Drive. The boy was in trouble but this time the biggest fear was not that Voldemort would find him, but that he would never find his way back from his pain. That he’d be forever altered by it if it couldn’t be lessened in some way.

“I’m not sure what I can do in this.” Kingsley said. Now that the Ministry had finally acknowledged the return of Voldemort he could be seen openly with the group. At least as openly as they were ever seen.

“Nor I.” Said Arthur Weasley.

“I’d be dead useless too.” Tonks said her hair bright pink and tipped with black today. Her ears were elfin in appearance.

“Well, we’d need people willing to stand guard as it went on.” Megan explained. “So you’d all be of some use.”

“In broad daylight?” Moody asked, he didn’t like the thought. It went against his nature to throw caution to the wind.

“Yes, I think that is best.” Dumbledore spoke. He would not be accompanying the group. “This may indeed take quite some time and Voldemort’s followers are less likely to be active in the daylight.”

“But won’t we stick out a mile?” Sophie asked.

“Not if you are willing to dress as Muggles.” Dumbledore answered.

“That never seems to work out too well for Moody.” Kingsley smiled. The old Auror shot him a disgruntled look and mumbled something about invisibility cloaks.

“I think it’s a wonderful plan.” Said Arthur, always anxious to have an opportunity to walk amongst those fascinating people and observe them. He was also very fond of Harry and knew that something needed to be done.

Megan looked around the room and asked, “So we’re all agreed then? Tomorrow morning we meet here and then set off for Privet Drive?”

There were murmurs of agreement before Remus gently cleared his throat.

“Megan, I actually don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go at all.” None of them knew she had been trained again. They had a different mission entirely.

“Oh, just this one time I think it will all right.” Megan said. “To tell you the truth, I could use the outing. Besides, he’s my Godson.”

To Remus’s shock, Dumbledore concurred.

::::::::::::::::::::::::

The sounds from downstairs were drifting up to Harry as he lay on his bed in his small room.

It was only nine o’clock in the morning on one of the hottest July days that England had ever known. In fact the entire summer had been oppressively hot, breaking every known record. Harry had retreated to his bedroom after eating a piece of toast and no one had tried to stop him. A bottle of ink and a piece of parchment were set out on his desk. He needed to reply to Hermione’s letter but he couldn’t think of anything to say. As he tried to conjure something cheerful to tell her he heard the doorbell ring downstairs.

Vernon Dursley walked towards it grumbling.

“Indecent hour to be calling. Bloody salespeople.” He muttered his large face red and perspiring. He opened the door. Standing there, tricked out in a very smart outfit was a pretty woman with shining dark curls and bright blue eyes.

“Hello.” She said pleasantly.

“Whatever it is you’re flogging, we aren’t buying.” Vernon said and tried to shut the door.

“Oh, I’m not selling anything.” She said and smiled. “I’m afraid that my car’s broken down and I just need to ring the garage.”

Vernon hesitated as Petunia came into the hall wiping her hands on her apron. Her mousy hair clung to her head because of the humidity and her long neck appeared even more giraffe-like because of this.

“Who is it, Vernon?” Petunia asked, taking in the nice looking woman at the front door.

“Dad?” Dudley came in directly behind him. Ignoring the woman and speaking only to his father. “I’ll need the car for the club. I want to get there as soon as it opens.”

Dudley was supposed to be taking his beastly friends the swimming pool at Vernon’s club that day. In reality, Dudley simply wanted to take advantage of his new driver’s license by taking his friends round to one of their classmate’s houses and bullying the boy out of his pocket money again. The git’s parents were never around and he was an easy mark. By making rounds in the car to several of the younger children’s homes also Dudley knew that they should have enough money for beer and some cigarettes for that evening.

Dudley’s piggy little eyes took in the stranger too.

“Don’t you have a mobile?” Vernon grunted. Everyone had a mobile phone these days.

“I left it on the dresser this morning.” Megan turned and smiled at Petunia. “It’s so beastly hot that I’m afraid my car has overheated.”

She gestured behind her and the Dursleys looked outside. A long, gleaming automobile sat in the street, steam pouring out from under the hood.

Vernon stared at her with distrust but the car was massive and obviously expensive. It was probably best to let the woman in because who knew who she might be related to? Vernon was a businessman, he couldn’t risk alienating anyone so obviously well off.

“May I come in, please?” Megan had on her most winning smile. “It won’t take a moment.”

“Certainly, come in. Welcome to our home.” He said with his best smile. Megan thought that a vampire baring its teeth would be more attractive.

“Thank you,” Megan said and walked into the house. “What a lovely place you have here.”

Dudley Dursley was eyeing Megan’s rather substantial bust as she began rummaging in her large leather bag. “I’ve got it here somewhere…”

“The number for the garage?” Petunia sniffed. She had taken an immediate dislike to this woman and wished that Vernon hadn’t let her in. There was something odd about her. Her accent for one thing, it seemed forced.

“No. A very good sleep.” Megan said as she produced her wand. Before any of the Dursleys could scream she shouted “Somnambula Totalus!”

The Dursleys all collapsed to the floor with an enormous crack and Harry Potter’s astonished faced appeared over the railing above, his wand in his hand.

“It’s all right Harry,” Tonks called as she shed her invisibility cloak designed to mute any sounds she might make while wearing it. “It’s just us, back again.”

As she began to walk into the room her foot collided with the large form of Dudley, snoring like a rhino. She tripped, arms pinioning to keep her balance and went sprawling up the stairs backwards. Her face staring up at Harry’s.

“So, how’s your summer been so far?” She asked conversationally.

::::::::::::::::::::::

After everyone had emerged from their hiding places around the house or in the car, they all gathered in the backyard. Moody said that was the least comfortable trunk he had ever been in and pointed out that he spoke from experience.

“Well no one told you to get in the boot of the car.” Megan smiled at Harry reassuringly. He had no idea who she was but he smiled back vaguely. “It’s dead hard talking like that, how do you lot manage it?”

Arthur Weasley had insisted on levitating the sleeping Dursleys to the sofa so that they might rest more comfortably before the group moved to the garden.

“This won’t do. The heat’s unbearable”, said the woman with the golden brown hair. Harry didn’t know her name yet but he had seen that she stood very close to Remus Lupin. If he hadn’t known better, he could have sworn they had briefly squeezed the others hand. “What do you think Remus, is it safe to include the whole block?”

Remus smiled at the woman, “Sophie, the Muggles would be bound to notice.”

“But half of us will be on the street!”

“Fine then, but Arthur Weasley’s department will almost certainly be filing a report on you as soon as you flick your wand.” Remus spoke affectionately to the woman named Sophie and Harry knew he could not have imagined the quick kiss his father’s old friend planted on the woman’s temple.

“I’ll tell them Moody did it.” She winked and then raised her wand after carefully looking around to see if any stray Muggles were about. Kingsley and Atticus had just spent the last fifteen minutes causing everyone in the neighborhood to fall into a deep sleep. “Temperato Moderatum.”

Immediately the air around Harry felt pleasantly cool. Remus conjured a table and chairs as Moody placed them within the secrecy bubble. The dark haired woman had immediately sat down.

“Take a seat for yourself, Harry.” She spoke in a warm voice. Harry hesitated and then did so. The woman was rummaging in her bag again and was pulling out packets of photographs. Everyone from the old Order had something to give and she had an enormous box. “I’m Megan, by the way, although a lot of people call me Anne now.”

“Hello.” Harry shifted uncomfortably as the woman conjured a pitcher of iced pumpkin juice and several glasses. Megan looked at him intently, she could see that he was terribly strained. Dark circles were etched underneath his green eyes. Lily’s eyes, she thought. Lord, he looked so much like James but his eyes were exactly like his mother’s. “Look, what’s this about?”

“We’ve come to help you remember some nice things for a change.” Megan spoke easily. “Thought it might improve your summer.”

Harry sighed, he realized they meant well. “I’ve got photographs already.”

“Oh I know,” She smiled easily at him. “Those are for later.”

She pulled a pensieve from her bag.

“Sophie, would you like to go first?” Megan asked and Sophie nodded. She had known Lily Potter since they were first years together. “Harry, this might take a bit, but I think you’ll find it worth it.”

“Find what worth it?”

“Getting to know your parents, seeing parts of your life too when you were just a tiny thing.” It had been Megan’s idea so she voiced the plan. “There’s plenty for you to see.”

Harry’s eyes had opened wide with shock. One of the best things about last year had been being able to see his father in Snape’s pensieve. At first he hated what he had seen but it was one of the few things he could now remember with a smile. “Did you know them too?”

“I did.” But there was time enough for that later. Megan would have to stay with Harry inside the secrecy bubble that was cloaked from the view of anyone who might pass by. Even with the members of the Order standing guard, their wands concealed knew there was a chance she would be seen here. As far as any of the Death Eaters knew Megan Hogan had died years ago. She and Atticus had already discussed this at length and their plan was set.

They would close the Fortress for the time being and move to Italy. Atticus had a cousin there who had a large villa and it was already being cloaked and protected. Megan Hogan was ready to go into hiding once again. When they left Privet Drive she would go directly there and Atticus would follow with the children.

She had work she needed to do and the cost was worth paying.

“Ready Soph?” Remus asked and his wife nodded.

“Hi Harry, I’m Sophie Burns.” Sophie stuck out her hand and Harry reached for it out of reflex. “I knew your parents from the time we were all eleven years old, I even ended up fighting the first time.”

Sophie paused, she and Remus had already decided that it was time the boy knew, “And I’ve been married to Remus for nearly fifteen years. Just thought I’d better tell you because some of the memories will be about us a bit.” She grinned. She was leaving in the conversation with Lily at the Guzzling Goblin so that Harry could hear his own mother’s words about carrying on after the death of loved ones.

Harry gaped at Lupin. It had never occurred to him that he had anyone in his life. “But why is your last name Burns then?”

“Everyone has secrets Harry.” Sophie winked. “Now, Remus would you mind? I have to concentrate. Harry and…er…Anne, but be quiet please because I have to try and select memories.”

She also had to censor them a bit but there was a great deal she could still reveal. She raised her wand to her temple and began drawing out pearly gray thoughts, one after the other, depositing them in the pensieve.

“There you go Harry, have at.” She said and turned to leave the secrecy bubble so that she could join the others standing guard. Her limp was particularly bad today because of the humidity. As she left Megan placed another pensieve on the table.

Harry hesitated, looked at Remus and then at the pensieve.

“It’s all right Harry,” Remus urged, his lined face tired but his eyes looking happy.

Harry Potter leaned forward and plunged his face into the swirling memories.

“Firs’ year, o’er here!” He heard a familiar voice shouting as he floated down next to a skinny brown-eyed girl with light brown hair. Just a few paces behind her Lily Evans walked and Harry immediately fell into step beside her.

It felt like ages as he walked through her memories, diligently following his mother and sometimes his father. He watched them grow. He eventually was watching his father in battle too. He saw his father blast a Death Eater deep inside a cavern, his mother tending to a cut above Sophie’s eye so gently and Remus Lupin walked in and invited the girl for a drink. It went on from there.

As he did this, Remus Lupin carefully drew forth his own memories that he had selected and waited with Megan and Harry.

“How many pensieves did you bring?” Remus asked Meg.

“Six.” She said waiting to see how long it would take before Harry emerged.

Remus was speaking quietly so as not to disturb Harry, “That’s Sophie, me, Atticus, you, Moody and…”

Megan said nothing and Remus suddenly understood. “Who’s going to go fishing for those?”

“I think Atticus has worked out a way.” Megan said and smiled.

::::::::::::::::::

The sun was still shining even though it was well past seven and Harry thought they probably had at least an hour and a half of daylight left to them. Remus had forced him to stop twice to eat. Atticus and Kingsley had their hands full when the Muggles had tried to wake, but they’d managed to put them back to sleep easily. It was the sprinting from house to house that had been the tough part. Nearly all the residents of Privet Drive slept the day away and would awake with no memory of the day at all.

Harry had seen so much today that he was exhausted, but it was the best exhaustion of his life. He’d watched his parents grow. Seen his father change from an arrogant boy, to a joking young man, to a serious fighter and leader. He’d watched his mother become less and less shy, heard her laugh with friends, and wondered about the pencil tucked behind her ear.

He’d watched them fall in love and had seen for himself the joy that they felt together. He’d seen them both in battle too, even his mother fighting bravely as they had rushed into the catacombs. He knew that the woman beside him was named Megan Hogan but he didn’t understand what was supposed to be so special about her. His only experience with seers came from Trelawney.

He’d watched his parents dance together at the Yule Ball and learned that his mother was a wonderful cook. He’d spent a Christmas party in Godric’s Hollow, studiously ignoring Peter and drinking in the love in the atmosphere. In Remus’s memory he’d been to his own first birthday party.

“Well Harry, I suppose it’s my turn.” Megan said and smiled at him. It had taken them hours to coordinate all of this, who would reveal what to Harry and how much. Moody and Atticus had mostly been in charge of memories of meetings and of headquarters, as well as the few battles they had allowed Harry to witness.

“Is there anything left?” He was tired, but eager. The memory of his parents was alive in him as it had never been before.

“Two things, and I think you should go before I do.” Megan grinned. Atticus had joined them now. Remus was out keeping watch with the others. All day long they’d been switching places so that the members could fill the pensieves for Harry.

“Me?” Harry was surprised. “The only thing I remember about my parents are what I saw today and the night they…” He trailed off, the smile leaving his face.

“No Harry, not that.” Megan said easily. “I think deep within you there are other things, memories you don’t even know you have. You were alone with your parents, even if it was as a baby and you may have some things locked inside of you.”

“If I do, I can’t remember them.” Harry said and his tone was sharper now.

“Just concentrate Harry,” Atticus spoke patiently, his years as a father and his nature lent itself to this sort of thing. “Concentrate on bringing forth the happy times, there may not be much. Also, don’t think at all about Voldemort or the night he came.”

Harry stared at the dark eyed man in front of him. “There’s no way to bring memories out of me that I can’t even recall.”

“There is, at least, I think there is.” Atticus said kindly. “I just need to put a revealing charm on you first if you don’t mind, then I want you to concentrate as hard as you can and I’ll pull them from you.”

Harry nodded slowly. It was worth a try he supposed. Atticus raised his wand and tapped Harry’s forehead, muttering the revealing charm and then Harry concentrated with all his might.

There had not been much, just a scattered memory here and there. His father giving him a bath and trying to feed him broccoli then he’d had a flash of his father holding him against his chest. He’d seen his mother in a garden handing him a teething ring, smiling down proudly at him. Harry had wandered over and listened to their conversation, his cheeks flushing crimson when he had heard the end. It wasn’t much, but it was enough. He saw the way they looked at him, and each other.

He pulled back smiling. They had been so happy together, and they had loved him so much. He turned to the woman named Megan, his eyes questioning.

“Just a few things.” Megan said and she willed herself not to have her eyes fill with tears. “Everyone else has shown you your parents Harry, but I thought you might like to see a bit of Sirius.”

She’d have to be careful with these memories, many of them were not fit for the young man to see.

“My memory is a bit damaged but I do have lots of memories of Sirius, if you’d like to see them.” Her eyes were shining now with unshed tears.

Harry had concentrated so much on his parents that he hadn’t followed Sirius much, but he had picked up on the fact that this woman had once been going to marry Sirius. He’d seen them together in the background on more than one occasion, laughing or holding hands. Sometimes kissing.

“Is there anything left to see of him?” Harry asked and his heart beat quickly. He remembered again screaming for Sirius in the Ministry, watching him die.

“Yes, just a few things.” Megan fought with the tears. She pushed the pensieve towards Harry.

He watched them together, a carefully edited version of her memories. His Godfather had been so happy with her and she with him. It wasn’t helping him much to see any of this. Sirius had lost all of that because of Pettigrew and Voldemort. Then he was in Grimmauld Place and the woman was standing watching Sirius sleep, before placing her hand in his. He saw her telling Sirius that they had a son together but Megan had cut the memory off their and it switched to the kitchen, where they looked over photographs together of this boy. Harry stared at the photographs, Seraphim was so like Sirius in those pictures it was almost eerie.

Then he saw Sirius talking to the boy, his face alight with joy and the boy called Phim hugging Sirius goodbye as a tear had escaped his eyes. Harry drew back from the memory and looked at Megan.

“When?” He was crying a bit himself too.

“Just before he died Harry.” Megan said and smiled through her tears. “He died a happy man Harry, he was able to meet his son and he loved him from the moment he knew he existed.”

Harry was silent. Darkness was beginning to creep in. That was wonderful for Sirius and Harry’s mind did feel easier knowing but…

“He loved you too, you know.” Megan did nothing to indicate that she had caught his thought. “Before he ever knew about Phim, you were just as good as a son to him.”

Harry began to cry then and the woman in front of him watched silently.

“He shouldn’t be dead.” Harry finally gasped.

“Harry, you saw how brave he was, how brave they all were.” Megan said gently. “Remember, death is just a word.”

“Yeah, a word with the power to take away everything.” Harry felt the bitterness trying to creep back in.

“But Harry it’s just absence. At least, I think it is.” Megan spoke slowly. “I think we see them again when we die, and I think you believe that too. They’re waiting somewhere for us. Like they’ve left the room and are waiting just around a corner for us.”

Harry thought about the voices behind the veil murmuring and nodded. He did feel better about Sirius now knowing that he had at least been happy for a time in his life, and that he had been happy again before dying. He had seen Sirius young and vital. Happier than he had ever known he could be in the time Harry had known him.

The light was beginning to fade and Megan knew Moody would be barging in, demanding that they all collect their memories and go. They’d all been so patient. Atticus had even slipped away letting them have this moment to themselves.

“You loved him but you’re married to that man, Atticus.” Harry said.

“Yes. Sirius understood Harry, you will too if you think about it long enough.” Megan smiled. “We can love a lot of people in our lives Harry. It’s our greatest strength. It is what makes us strong. It’s what makes you strong. Think about it, what makes you strongest? I don’t think it’s just the power within you, I think it’s the power of being well loved too and loving in return.”

Harry said nothing but he did feel a bit stronger. He thought of his friends, and of the members in the Order. He thought of the Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and that wonderful house called The Burrow. He even though of the tear that had trickled down Dumbledore’s long nose.

“Now Harry, I need you to promise me something and it’s very important.” Megan had little time left. “I need to hold your hand for a moment and whatever you do, you can’t tell anyone, ever. If you do, people might try to find me, or hurt my son to try and find me.”

It was a strange request but Harry nodded hesitantly. He knew he could not even tell Ron or Hermione about this, he could see it in the woman’s face, her chin raised in determination. There had been odd things in some of those memories. There had been a time when Voldemort had wanted to capture this woman very badly and he had done so once already.

Harry Potter held out his hand and Megan took it. He watched her as she became rigidly locked in place, her eyes turning a light gray at first and then finally the color of lead.

::::::::::::::::::

God, what could she do? She’d seen it all and knew he would win and how but the life afterwards was wrong, it was peaceful and he still had the love of his remaining friends but it was lacking too much. He would blame himself so much for causing that girl’s death and it could be prevented. Her mind raced, she had almost no time.

“Harry, I need you to listen to me and you have to promise me with all your heart that you won’t tell anyone ever what I’m about to tell you. Only Dumbledore and that’s only if you absolutely have to talk to someone about it.” Her voice was urgent.

Harry stared at her she was quivering as if from pain.

“I swear.” He said uneasily but truthfully.

“Harry, when this happens, you’ll know it and you’ll know what I’m talking about.” Megan said as quickly as she could. “You’ll see two of her…two of her Harry…and you won’t know which one to strike down.”

Her heart was beating so fast. She dared not even tell him her name, he’d know when the time came. “Harry, she’ll be weak by then and the other will be pretending.” In the vision, he had chosen the wrong one first, and the stunning spell had left the girl at the mercy of the remaining Death Eaters. He’d realize his mistake later and the guilt would be crushing. Bellatrix had nearly felled him in her disguised form thank goodness he’d shielded so quickly.

This can’t alter any of the rest of it Megan thought and prayed that she was right. It had only been Bellatrix with him as he’d finally faced down Voldemort. The others had all been battling. There would be losses but those Harry would be able to bear. It was the death of the girl that would weigh on his conscience because he would feel as if he had been truly responsible.

“Listen to me, one of them is a Death Eater, she’ll have taken polyjuice. Harry remember this…for God’s sake…the real girl is on your left, I swear it to you on the lives of my children. Strike down the girl on the right, she’ll be weaker because of the potion. Do you understand me?”

Harry didn’t; not really but he could certainly remember something as simple as his left from his right.

“Strike down the girl on the right.” What could it mean?

“Harry, remember because in a few moments, I won’t be able to.” Megan’s eyes were streaming tears. “I have to have that memory taken away from me and I can never do this again, I won’t know how. It’s one of the most important thing in what’s to come.”

The guilt would cripple him otherwise. Megan had seen too much of what guilt could do a person’s heart.

Harry nodded, but he was still confused.

“Which side Harry?”

“I strike on the right.” It struck him as a bit silly but the woman before him spoke so urgently.

“Good lad.” Megan’s mind was working quickly she had to test it. “Now, give me a proper hug, I’m your Godmother after all.”

Harry stood up, feeling awkward. He was taller than this woman but he allowed her to hug him and was surprised when he felt her hand on the back of his neck as he tried to briefly hug her. But Megan didn’t let go for a long moment.

When she did, she turned quickly away so that he could not see her eyes. He assumed she was crying she seemed a bit prone to tears. In truth, she was waiting for her eyes to clear before she turned back and smiled dazzlingly.

“You’re a fine lad. Now, keep an eye on Phim for me, won’t you?” This was important too. “He’ll be starting at Hogwarts as a fifth year even though he’s a year younger than that, he’s already taken all fourth year courses. You’ve seen him, you know that he’ll be given a time of it.”

“I will, I promise.” This was easier. How much trouble could the kid be?

“Thank you.” Megan seemed lost in thought though, and the smile never left her face. As the members came in one by one to collect their memories she had a hard time not hugging them all. They had no idea the difference that they had made but Megan had seen it.

She’d seen it when she hugged him. He would remember and the future had been altered. Altered enough that when Harry won in the end, he would actually marry and have children in a peaceful, happy time.

Megan smiled still more and looked Harry in the eye. She was a pretty thing in the vision. Megan knew that Harry had hard losses to face, but he need now never fear the loss of the other girl. She was special to him, he’d saved her life once, she was the sister of one of his closest friends and he would have blamed himself for her death, that red haired girl who was Arthur Weasley’s only daughter.

But that wasn’t the only reason she was smiling. In the future that followed that, she’d seen Harry standing as best man as Ginny married. Megan Hogan had just saved the life of her own son’s future wife.

She slipped on the invisibility cloak and grinned at him, “We’ll see each other again Harry. It won’t be for a few years I’m afraid.”

Harry smiled and fought down the urge to ask why she would be gone from his life. He’d only just met her but he understood that she was some kind of seer. Harry hadn’t much faith in seers and he wouldn’t for two years until he saw two of Ginny Weasley standing before him, both screaming that they were real.

Megan Hogan had finally done what she had set out to do. She had altered fate for the better and now she could rest.

::::::::::::::::

Harry went to sleep that night feeling better than he had in as long as he could remember.

He hadn’t ever thought of them that way, his parents, or his parent’s friends. He hadn’t thought of them as soldiers in a war, or as people who loved each other dearly as friends. He grinned up into the darkness. In some instances, they had loved each other as far more than just friends.

Moody had been right, the Dursley’s remembered nothing about the day, they had awoken, groggy and a bit confused. But Harry remembered everything about it for the rest of his life.

The day his parents truly came to life for him. The day he realized that although he had burdens to bear, he wasn’t the first to do so. They had all come before him and they had fought like lions, and some of them had died like heroes. It was sustaining because it made him feel less lonely. He would have to face Voldemort again someday, but he would do it with the memories of his parents inside of him. He would do it with more love in his heart than he had known was possible.

He’d have to find that kid on the train, he decided. That boy who looked so much like his father, Sirius. Odd name though, Seraphim. Hopefully he might even be a bit like his dad, his real dad. They might even be able to have a bit of fun together.

It would be almost like seeing Sirius again, Harry realized and understood how Sirius had felt when he saw Harry.

As Harry Potter drifted off to sleep, his mind was filled with beautiful dreams and in the morning, he would feel oddly comforted by them although they were difficult to remember.

Something about his parents by a golden shore with Sirius nearby and they were all smiling at him.

THE END


Author’s notes: Well if you come this far with me on this story then you’ve taken a very long ride. Thank you so much for reading. A special thanks to the people who took the time to review for me every single one of your reviews was and is greatly appreciated.

Note regarding the sequel: There is a sequel to this story and it is on this site, under Action/Adventure. It’s called:


Harry Potter and the Quest of the Rogue Witch

Under my author name “shade” It’s a very different sort of story. Phim Sliverton is in it as are Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, just about everyone you can name from Hogwarts. It also has a new character named Nadia. Watch out though if you decide to read it. She takes a little warming up to but people who stuck with her ended up loving her almost as much as they did the OC I created in this story, Megan.

Story notes:

This is a barely altered version of the original posting. I wrote this within 29 days posting the last chapter on December 29th, 2003. The result is that I got very little sleep for a month and I produced a story I hope was enjoyable. I have two regrets about the way it turned out.

1. I wish I hadn’t taken the story down in the first place as I evidently upset quite a few readers. You have my apologies.

2. I wish to heck I hadn’t used the word “suddenly” so much.

If you have any questions regarding this story or the characters with in it please feel free to email me via my contact information on the site.

Two last things:

There was an element people didn’t understand – Megan’s eyes turn grey because she sees all the way to the veil when she reads someone.

If you’ve taken the time to read my notes, I owe you another thanks.

Okay, well that’s all from me on this one.

Peace, may we all know it within our lifetimes. – shade



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