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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.

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