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.
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