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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.

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