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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.

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