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Chapter Thirty One: “Does it hurt much?” Lily asked as she washed out a rather nasty cut over Sophie’s left eye. It was long and jagged, cutting up sideways through her eyebrow and nearly to her hairline. “It’s not too bad actually.” Sophie answered, “but I couldn’t see a thing for at least ten minutes.” “What happened?” Lily knew that Sophie would carry a scar on her face from that day forward unless she had it magically removed but it was nearly a miracle she hadn’t put her eye out. “Truthfully, I tripped in the cavern.” Sophie looked disgusted with herself. “All of us fighting like mad and I had to go and pitch face first into a stalagmite…stalactite…hell whichever sticks up, not down.” “Everyone else okay?” Lily asked anxiously. “Yes Lily, everyone’s fine except for me, the clumsy fool.” Sophie managed to grin at her friend. “Your husband fought harder than I’ve ever seen him. Sent one of the rats over the edge and into an area so deep we never did hear him hit bottom.” “Sounds a great deal like my husband.” Lily smiled. “You’ll have spectacular bruise Sophie, and it may itch as it heals but you’ll be okay.” Remus walked into the room and looked at Sophie’s face, “Not to be ungallant but hell Burns, it looks like you took a bad hit.” “I’m my own worst enemy, Lupin.” Sophie grinned at him. In the past two months they had become friends, rather close friends and Lily was hopeful it might lead to more, for both their sakes. “Care to get a drink later?” Remus asked. It was a routine with them. Often after patrols they would fly to the Guzzling Goblin and risk being blow sky high by Ono. “We can talk about your splendid capture of yet another outpost.” “Or the fact that I’ve evidently got the grace of a drunk Hippogriff, whichever comes to mind. Sure, we’ll leave in a few minutes, okay?” Sophie looked preoccupied though. It had been a hard month they had lost several people. The Prewetts had both been killed fighting five Death Eaters at once. They’d always been so brave that they hadn’t had their house as well protected as they might have otherwise and they had come upon them in the night. Roused from their beds they had evidently still been able to hold them off for two hours before first Gideon and then Fabian were killed. One of the hardest losses to take for Lily and the Order though was Sylvania March. Lily had spent many hours with Sylvania working through potions. Her knowledge of the Dark Arts had been invaluable. March had just gone into Hogsmeade for some supplies when they had attacked her in broad daylight. The terrified citizens had watched as the tall Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher had lost her life battling in the open. Shouting to the people on the street to take cover. It had only been when a small child had lost his head entirely and tried to run across the street to his parents that March had truly been in trouble. She’d moved quickly to try and cover the boy and accidentally exposed her back as she had done so. She’d been hit by two separate killing spells and was dead even before she hit the ground. “Tell Dumbledore that he’ll be seeing us again soon.” A drawling voice, possibly that of Lucius Malfoy had hissed to a terrified witch trying to hide behind some empty barrels on the street. They were hard losses but the Order had responded as they knew that any of these fighters would have wanted them to, they had redoubled their efforts to find the outposts. They had some losses and some victories. It was sometimes troubling though that they seemed to be becoming immune to the death toll. It was also becoming more and more obvious that someone within the Order was leaking information. :::::::::::::: “James?” Lily looked up from the potion she was trying to work out, yet another healing one. “Um?” James was also busy, a map set out on the table in front of him. On it were tiny trees waving in a nonexistent wind, wee depictions of houses, farms, in some cases still more graveyards. The map of the outposts they had conquered so far. He was trying to work out where they might look next. “I think I’ll leave off doing this and put Harry to bed.” Harry had been crawling here and there, pulling up on tables and collapsing to the floor again with a happy laugh. Lily had magically padded the floor in the living room so that her son need not fear toppling over. As usual, Harry was up very late but it was sometimes the only time that he was able to be with both his parents at once so they kept his schedule so as to make sure they could see him as much as possible. Penelope Potter watched Harry whenever she could, and Professor Flitwick was always happy to babysit now that the term had ended. “Fine.” James mind was deeply engaged in his work. “And I think you oughtt to leave that for the morning too.” There was something in Lily’s tone, something warm and inviting. James looked up immediately. “Oh really? What did you have in mind?” James put down his quill and looked at his wife. How anyone could look so lovely after such a long day he did not know. “I thought we might have a meal.” Lily grinned, “then I thought perhaps we might listen to a bit of music together, pull back the furniture in the living room and dance together.” “Anything else?” James asked but he knew what else Lily had in mind. “Well you’ll just have to wait and find out.” Lily smiled at him, her green eyes made wide with mock innocence. “Lily, we’ll end up being up until dawn.” James was laughing. “Did you have any plans for the morning?” Lily was now sitting in his lap, removing his glasses and kissing him. None of them worked now, everyone knew that the Order was a known entity and they no longer had to conceal themselves with jobs. They just had to try and hide their locations with tricks and strategies, secrets and spells. “Nothing that can’t wait.” James never ceased to be amazed that his wife could still make his blood race with just the smallest smile, or a flip of her brilliant hair. “You’re amazing you know.” “You may have mentioned that before this actually.” She kissed him a bit more until he groaned with pleasure, then she got up, picked up their baby after helping him wave goodnight to his father, took him up the steep stairs to his bedroom. :::::::::::::::: Atticus Sliverton sat with his feet propped up and sipped some coffee as he read the Daily Prophet at headquarters. Peter Pettigrew walked through the room and glanced at him. Peter had recovered from his injuries and been released from the hospital over a month ago but he still did not go out on patrols much. “Heading out anywhere, Atticus?” Peter asked, he knew he had to keep up this pretense of friendship with the group, although they all sickened him. “Me? No, not tonight. Thought I might sleep here actually.” Sliverton was reading an article and was barely paying attention. “You?” “No, just home to bed. Still feel a little weak, truth be told.” Peter said his lines with ease now. The man who had nearly been killed on two occasions still had enough decency in him to feel compassion, “I’m sorry you aren’t feeling your best Peter, take care.” Peter considered Sliverton for a moment, he was wealthy, he was from a pureblood family. Why in the world he chose to fight with this mixed group of scum he’d never understand. He should have joined Voldemort and fought, he could have been useful. “Someday you will have to get over Elizabeth and find someone you know.” Peter hated saying these sort of things, pretending to care about the lives of these worms. Atticus Sliverton put down his newspaper and gave Peter a hard look, “I’m getting heartily sick of explaining this to everyone, but I was not in love with Elizabeth. We were friends, just friends Peter. As loyal to each other as could be.” Sliverton sat back on the couch once again, unfolded the paper and said, “I’d think you’d understand that, after all, you’re as devoted as can be to James, Sirius and Remus.” “Of course, I do understand. How true.” Peter said and stepped towards the fireplace that would take him to his new, equally small house. After he had vanished, Atticus put down the paper and stared into space for a moment. He wished Fortesque were here now, he’d be able to talk to her. The thing that had been troubling Atticus for months rose up in his mind but he firmly pushed it back down once more. :::::::::::::: “Megan, are you certain this is a good idea?” Sirius asked apprehensively. “Yes, I’m absolutely sure.” Megan laughed as she realized that Sirius looked a bit frightened. “For heaven’s sake don’t look like that. Cooking can’t be that complicated. Read the recipe, follow the recipe, I’m determined that I’ll be able to figure this out.” She stared at the ingredients on the table. A duck, a few oranges, truly what could go wrong? “Okay, but you know we’ll be eating duck for breakfast.” They never seemed to have time to grab proper meals any longer at night. “Yes, and we’ll be doing something else long after that. You’ll need your strength Black, so I suggest you eat heartily.” She grinned at him. Ten minutes later when he heard the loud pop he returned to the kitchen and found Megan covered in orange pulp and bits of what used to be the duck, on the up side it smelled as if the blast had cooked it. “How did you manage that?” Sirius was trying to keep from laughing. “So it’s sandwiches again then.” Megan said easily, a piece of orange rind on the top of her head. “I’ll just take a quick shower after I clean this up.” Sirius loved her ability to be undeterred by obstacles. “I’ll clean up in here, you go and shower.” Sirius chuckled. “Oh no Sirius I made the mess, I should clean it up.” Megan smiled. “Or you could clean yourself up, I’ll get this and a couple of sandwiches. Then we’ll have more time to devote to other things.” He grinned at her and winked. “I’d kiss you, but I think you parts of a former water fowl stuck to your face.” “Kiss me anyway so that I’ll know you’d love me in any condition.” Megan joked and was somewhat surprised when Sirius began chasing her through the house to do her bidding. “I was joking you maniac!” “It’ll give us a reason to shower together.” Sirius said as he caught hold of her, wiped her face with a towel and then kissed her firmly. “After all, we’re on a mission here.” “Too right we are, and we need to dedicate our time and effort to…Sirius put me down!” Megan was howling with laughter as he put her over his shoulder and began walking towards the bathroom. “I’m afraid I can’t, my intended wants to make sure she waddles down the aisle to meet me.” Sirius was teasing her about her unwillingness to move up the wedding but her insistence that they try to conceive a child straight away. “I’m devoted to the cause you know.” “Well, you devil, that helps because I’m devoted to you.” Megan said as they arrived in the bathroom and Sirius began pulling off her clothes for her. “I can undress myself you know.” “I’m certain you can, but my way is so much more fun.” Sometimes she would still forget things but Dumbledore had been correct, it was getting better. She shrugged off the feeling that she was neglecting her duty to whatever power had given her the ability to see. She’d seen enough and swore that she would never read anyone ever again. But Dumbledore had been right, all those months ago when he had said she would change her mind. :::::::::::::::: “Closed for repairs? Again?” Sophie said and eyed the front of the Guzzling Goblin. “What do you think Ono did this time?” “Well, the windows are blown out and I’m fairly certain smoke shouldn’t be puce.” He watched the smoke seeping out from the bottom of the building. “Not to mention the fact that smoke is supposed to rise, whereas this stuff is clinging to the ground.” “Ouch!” Sophie grabbed her ankle and began to hop backwards. “Back away Remus, the ruddy stuff seems to be able to nip!” “Smoke cannot…holy hell, what was that?” He’d felt a tugging at his ankles as the smoke drifted around them and tiny little teeth yanking at his sock. “Not sticking around to find out.” Sophie was laughing. “Is that it then, should we call it a night?” Remus looked at Sophie. The wound to her face looked rather bad and it had to sting like mad, yet she seemed to be ignoring it. Women, he thought, usually would have been very upset about anything that might disfigure their face and he’d always thought before this that Sophie was a rather vain girl. “Tell you what, hop on your broom and come back to my digs. It’s not much but I’ve got some butterbeer there.” They had been meeting for a drink regularly for quite some time, but they’d never actually gone anywhere alone together. She’d had a rough night, he should keep her company. “Sounds like a plan.” Sophie jumped on her broomstick. “Want to race?” “Soph, you don’t know where I live.” “Fat lot you know, the last full moon who do you think went to feed that monster of a cat you have?” Sophie immediately kicked off the ground and was zooming through the night. Remus smiled and chased after her on his own broom, which was older so he’d had a hard time keeping up. Usually James fed Pavalo, his large, ill tempered cat that was missing it’s left ear because of a prolonged fight it had managed to get into with marsh-wolvette two years ago. Sailing through the air, he’d grabbed hold of the end of Sophie’s broom and tried to drag her back. “Cut it out, in some countries that’s considered legally actionable as an offense!” She tried to shake him off. “Where?” “Crimea.” Sophie fibbed and they were off again. By the time they reached his modest rooms they were both windblown and out of breath from having dodged each other. “Entrée Senorita.” Remus joked and threw open the door. It was a small flat, sparsely furnished with clothes thrown about the place and tiny kitchen right off the living room. “Welcome to my spacious home.” Pavolo sat atop a bookshelf, hissing and spitting. “Good to see you too, you old curmudgeon.” Remus said to his ill-tempered feline as Sophie took a seat on the sagging sofa and Remus fetched the butterbeer. “Here you go.” “Thanks, I’ve got nothing in my place except doxies, a mattress and a chair I think may be possessed by the previous occupant.” Sophie took a sip. “What makes you say that?” Remus was having a nice, relaxed time. “Well, for one thing it keeps ordering me out of its home, so either it just never learned the social graces, or the tenant before me took up permanent residence there.” Sophie’s eyes were roaming the rather depressing room, everyone knew that Remus wasn’t flush with cash but this place made her own flat look palatial. “Why are you living there? I thought your parents were rather well off.” Remus asked. Some of the Order members had to take money from their parents to live, just as he was currently. “Oh they are, they just don’t like what I’m doing. So at the moment, I’m disinherited.” Sophie laughed. “They think the work is too dangerous for a ‘girl’. I’m more or less poverty stricken and maimed.” “You’re not maimed, that will heal up well, especially with the ointment Lily put on it. Does it hurt much?” Remus asked. It sometimes surprised him how much of a chum Sophie had become to him. At first she chased him around but after Easter, she’d changed, become more focused perhaps. She joked a lot more too now. “Stings, nothing bad.” Sophie would never forget seeing those three men, hell bent on presumably killing those babies. Nor would she forget any of the members who had been seriously injured or killed in her time with the Order. She joked to keep the fear at bay. “Nice picture.” She was indicating the picture of Amelia on the dresser. Amelia Strong was standing waving gently in the photo, in the background was Hogwarts and a student zipping back and forth on a broom. She looked over at Remus and felt again that she owed him an apology. He had never heard her words to Sirius about Amelia’s death and she felt badly about ever having said them. At the time she had not known what it was like, having someone there one moment and then snuffed out like a candle the next. “Thanks, it’s my favorite.” Remus looked at the pretty girl in the picture wishing she could speak, he had not heard her voice in so long. “It’s hard isn’t it?” Sophie wasn’t smiling now. “Not as hard as it used to be, and if I’m being truthful, that bothers me.” Remus had always been a bit of a sensitive soul, he had no trouble talking about his feelings. “Makes me feel like I’m letting go of her sometimes.” “Well tell me about her, maybe that will make you feel a bit closer to her again.” Sophie Burns had lived in the same dorm room with Amelia for seven years but she wanted to make up for her own callousness when she had told Sirius that Amelia had been gone for ages. Remus considered the offer and then began to speak. It took him a full hour but at the end of it, he felt better. He also felt as if a sweet, tall girl was standing at the edges of the room, watching and smiling. Hoping for good things for him. Somewhere in the land invisible. At the end of the time Sophie stood and said, “Well, I should really get back to my nasty chair. It hasn’t had an opportunity to insult me in ages.” She gazed down at Remus for a moment, his kind face, already beginning to show some lines. She impulsively stooped to kiss his cheek and was surprised when he turned to catch her lips on his own, at first tentatively, then he was pulling her back down on the couch next to him, kissing her deeply. He was surprised when she pulled away. “Remus, this would definitely be one of those ‘hate yourself in the morning’ scenarios. I know you’re lonely and I’ll admit it, I am too.” Sophie was now being entirely earnest. “We see so much violence and sometimes even death. Hell, most of us are convinced one way or another that we’re going to die.” He waited as he saw a tear trickle down her cheek but then she smiled at him. “So, let’s not do anything foolish here. We’re friends, I like you as a friend and maybe it could even be more.” Her friendly brown eyes looked into his. “But I don’t think….well, I think that my chair could do without me for an evening, but you’re more important to me as a friend.” “I wasn’t actually trying to…” He stopped, how in the world could he phrase this. “I’ve never…” “I know that. I guessed Remus, after all you were with Amelia back at school and she was, well, she was a bit innocent, honestly.” Sophie’s eyes were kind. “You’re not the type to go for a pick up when you’re still mourning for her.” If he had ever imagined this conversation with a woman, he would have died from embarrassment but it felt perfectly natural. “Open me up another butterbeer Lupin. I can sleep here on this travesty of a sofa.” The light overhead seemed to be highlighting her injured face. “Neither of us has to spend the night alone, but we’re not going to do anything we’ll regret.” “You can sleep in the bed, I’ll sleep on the sofa.” He smiled. As he opened two more bottles and handed one to Sophie she spoke again: “When you do…well, I’m certain you know what I’m talking about…make sure it’s with someone you love.” It was an oddly touching thing to say. “Is that how it was for you?” Remus asked. “Me? No. Despite all appearances to the contrary, I’m in the same boat that you are.” She laughed. “Cheers from one aging virgin to another.” They clinked their bottles together. “Cheers.” He answered.

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