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Chapter Twenty Seven: Easter was in the second week of April that year and it was then that things had begun again. Lily looked at the picture in her hand, peering closely at the faces. It had been taken right after they had all left Hogwarts at the spacious home of her in-laws in that beautiful valley. They had just about to break into dueling pairs, Lily remembered. So many of them in that valley that day, and so many dead or missing now. Moody had shown up with the camera and it was the first time Lily had met the rather intimidating Auror. She remembered how happy they had been, so certain that they would be able to fight and win. “Lily, did you get all the food in Britain and decide to cook it?” Sirius asked as he walked into the kitchen and sniffed the air. One of Sliverton’s house elves let out a tiny squeal. Poor things were nearly overwhelmed by having the guests of the house trouping in and out of the areas usually reserved only for servants. “It’s Easter, and it’s one of the few times that everyone will be here.” Lily was preoccupied by the photographs strewn across the table. She’d been surprised when Moody handed them to her. “Besides, Sliverton’s finally up and about again, so having a proper celebration was in order. “What have you got there?” James said with interest, peering over his wife’s shoulder and pausing to kiss her cheek. “The pictures from right before our first full training session, at your mum’s place.” Lily answered. There had been so many of them in the valley that day, they had taken several group photographs. She stared at the first, Diggle who was upstairs right now, stared back at her, smiling. Marlene McKinnon who had been lost along with her entire family. Emmeline Vance, that odd witch who had a habit of leaping directly in the center of a room, her wand drawn. She’d startled Lily just earlier today. Benjy Fenwick was hard to look at and she remembered that was the first time she’d ever seen Megan collapse after shaking anyone’s hand. She had met him at Hogwarts and had to leave the room right afterwards, Lily had found her in the bathroom crying over and over again, “In pieces, oh God, no.” It was true, Fenwick had been blown to bits. Bones, Podmore, and Dearborn who they had long since given up hope of finding. There was Elphias too, the Longbottoms, the Prewett brothers all of them upstairs, mingling now. She was in the photo as was James, Sirius and Peter. Even Dumbledore’s odd brother was in it. The other Hogwarts students all so recently graduated had been a bit overwhelmed by being around so many of the older members at once and had hung back but Moody had insisted that they take a separate picture of them. There was Sliverton and Fortesque smiling in the sun, they had always preferred the company of the younger members, Mettrid looking so cheerful, Moore with Ferngrow’s arm around her waist. Lupin and Amelia were holding hands and both smiling shyly. She and James were in this one too, as was Peter and of course Sirius. Sirius was never one to run from the camera, Lily thought and grinned. Then she noticed a figure in the corner, constantly trying to escape the frame as Sirius laughed and pulled her back. It was Megan. “Sirius! Look at this, I do believe it’s the only picture I’ve ever seen of Megan!” She handed the photo to her tall friend. “Look at that!” Sirius said happily. “Do you think I can keep it Lily? I don’t have any other photographs of her, she always bolts like a startled deer whenever anyone gets out a camera.” “You’ll have to ask Moody.” Lily said but smiled, she was certain that underneath all the toughness and paranoia, Moody had something of a soft heart. As she said this Moody stalked into the room, spotted a ham he thought looked suspicious and blew it to smithereens. “Alastor!” Lily shouted. “You’ll frighten the elves to death!” “I thought it was transfigured spy, could have sworn I saw an eye on it.” Moody said gruffly. “Alastor, if it was a spy, it was about to be put into the oven.” Lily had to bite back a smile. :::::::::::: The feast had been incredible and everyone had enjoyed themselves so much. They knew they were taking a risk with this, gathering nearly the entire order together at once but Atticus had volunteered his home once more and everyone had been feeling happier and more relaxed after the months of quiet. Except of course for Moody but Moody would only be relaxed if someone hit him with twenty successive cheering charms and even then, they’d probably wear off in minutes. “What are you thinking about there, love?” James asked as he bit into a slice of turkey. “I was just thinking that life feels nearly perfect right now.” Lily’s face glowed, as it so often did, with happiness. Harry was upstairs with the Longbottoms’ son, Neville and Boxen the devoted house elf was in raptures having two babies to care for at once. She’d been so cute when assigned the task by her master Atticus. “Now Boxen, if it’s too much for you to manage,” Sliverton bent his exceptionally tall frame down to speak to the elf closer to her level. Lily noted once more that he had to be within less than an inch of the six and a half foot tall March. “I’ll completely understand. We can bring in some more help for you.” “Oh no sir! Boxen wants nothing more than to manage babies! Boxen can take care of many babies, sir! Boxen would love to take care of your babies!” The elf squealed with joy. Sliverton had smiled and stood up, “All right Boxen then, but ask for help if you need it.” He knew the elf loved to feel useful and he felt badly for her, he was so very infrequently at home. “Now remember, I’m entrusting you with keeping these little ones safe, do you understand?” “Boxen will! Boxen promises! It is an honor, a true honor!” She squeaked. Lily smiled at the elf’s enthusiasm, she had grown fond of the little thing when they had spent their holiday here. They had all been standing in the nursery at the time and to Lily’s surprise, the little teddy bear named Truffles had suddenly piped in with, “Truffles is here to help! Yes he is! Grrr…Grrr…Growl…Cuddles?” As they all walked down the stairs Lily had spoken to the owner of the home, “Atticus, what is that little teddy bear? I thought it was just an enchanted toy.” “In a way it is,” Atticus was smiling. “but my father developed him actually. He can think for himself too.” “Does he have feelings then?” Lily was rather shocked it seemed rather unkind to create a being with feelings and then leave it on a shelf, possibly for years and years. “Oh yes, he does. Simple ones.” Atticus noticed Lily’s stare. “You needn’t look at me like that Lily, my father realized the possible problems with making a feeling toy for children and he never made another. Truffles was always treated as a pet, he still is. I’m quite possibly the only twenty three year old man in England who sleeps with a talking teddy bear in the room when I’m here.” Lily laughed then, even if Sliverton’s father had been rather frighteningly brilliant, he had obviously been a good man as Lily felt sure his son was. “You’re looking much better Atticus,” Lily commented. “Those new potions must have done wonders for you.” “Thanks, I feel well.” Atticus said. “Thanks for taking so much time working them out. I feel like a new man.” “You’re welcome, I’m glad you’re feeling better.” Lily smiled slyly. “Almost good enough to get married and have babies?” “Noticed that did you?” Atticus laughed. “I think I’ve got the only house elf in the land who tries to manage my love life.” His tried to make his low voice imitate the high pitched squeak of his elf, “Boxen would love Babies! Boxen could brush Master’s wife’s hair! Boxen doesn’t think that young nurse is right for Master!” “Things didn’t work out with Dina I take it?” Lily asked after the nurse who had taken such a shine to Sliverton. “No, she’s a nice girl though. I introduced her to a cousin of mine.” Atticus didn’t look in the least upset. “I think they’ll actually make a nice pair.” Lily wondered why the Sliverton never seemed to take out any girl more than once or twice, he was rich, he was good looking, he was kind and generous he practically had women falling at his feet. Then of course she remembered that he own husband had dated many but only briefly and why. She smiled sadly. It seemed obvious to her that whatever Sliverton said he must have been in love with Elizabeth Fortesque. ::::::::::: “Not another toast!” Sirius shouted in disbelief as he slung an arm around Megan’s shoulders. “Yes, another, now put a turkey leg in your mouth or something to keep quiet.” James had begun. But he never got to finish, one of the portraits of the sentries had suddenly dashed into view. There were never any figures in those portraits and it was odd to hear the murmuring of the painted soldiers, so obviously keeping watch from the towers around the property. There had been shouts and the sound of the boarhounds braying madly. “Master Sliverton!” The painted soldier shouted. “There are interuders!” As they all leapt to their feet and tumbled over each other trying to get to the windows Lily could see them, at least thirty DeathEaters storming across the grounds, coming out through the woods. Her only thought was of Harry and she tried to dash into the hall and up the stairs immediately but the door was suddenly blown off its hinges and something like ten figures poured in. Immediately the air was ablaze with flying spells and Lily could just hear Moody and James shouting to some of the fighters, “Get them outside! Now! We can’t fight in the house, we’ll be trapped like rats!” Glass shattered as the order members blew out the front windows of the house and poured out into the field in front of the house to meet the charging DeathEaters. “James! Harry!” Lily tried to shout but her voice was lost in the din. In the heat of the battle James had quickly determined that Lily would go to Harry. It was an agonizing decision but his son and wife were best served if he were to throw himself out onto the lawn with the others. He had no idea that the entrance hall had already been breached. Portraits screamed as the hexes flew through the area singing canvases and making Lily feel as if her blood had turned to fire. :::::::::::: Three floors above in the nursery, Boxen sat patiently watching the sleeping babies when the commotion broke out downstairs. One of the infants awoke and immediately began to wail waking the other. Truffles had been in a light doze in the crib with Harry, he charged forward and leapt as best he could to the railing. “Cuddles?” His mind was very simple. “No Truffles. Danger Truffles! We find danger here. Truffles and Boxen must hide babies!” “Danger? Hide? Grrr….” The Little stuffed bear said and hopped to the floor, ready to aid the house elf in whatever way he could. ::::::::::::::: Alice and Frank Longbottom had dashed into the hall now, hard on the heels of Lily. Everyone had their wands out and Lily hit one DeathEater with a spell that flipped him end over end. “Get them! That’s the way girl!” The portrait of Aregus Sliverton, Atticus’s father yelled in encouragement. The Longbottoms were shielding strongly and blasting DeathEaters like mad. The sound of breaking glass and cracking wood filled the air as well as the shouted spells. “Expelimarius!” Shouted a woman’s voice next to Lily as she hit one the intruders with a disarming spell. Lily glanced up to see Sophie right beside her. “Lily, we’ve got to get upstairs to the children.” “I know!” Lily screamed back desperately and then shrieked in horror as she saw three DeathEaters cut and run up the long staircase. They’re headed right for them, Lily thought with terror nearly crushing her heart.

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