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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.

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