Chapter Forty One: “Just try to eat some of it.” Atticus Sliverton had been trying to distract Megan for hours now. As it had grown dark Megan finally awake had become increasingly agitated about Sirius’s whereabouts. Casting about for something that might occupy her mind Atticus had taken her into the kitchen where he had spent quite a long time teaching her how to make some chicken cutlets with a mushroom sauce. The truth was he was worried himself, Sirius was ages late at this point. “I’d honestly not be able to keep it down.” Megan looked pale and a headache was still bothering her. They’d kept the lights low ever since the sun went down to try to keep from aggravating it. Normally it might have been amusing to watch Atticus trying to cook in the gloom but she was becoming increasingly concerned with each passing hour. “Can’t we please go to headquarters and see if there’s been any word?” “Megan, I’ve stuck my head in three different times. I’m sorry, there isn’t anyone around.” Atticus kept his voice as casual as possible. He was a bit stuck himself, he dared not leave Megan and taking her with him was out of the question. She’d nearly fainted earlier when she’d gotten upset, he knew that if they reached the mansion and there was still no sign of Sirius, she’d probably become frantic. There was no way that could possibly be good for her so it seemed best to stall. “Come on, just a taste? You’re to be married soon, you’ll need all the strength you can get.” Just as Atticus was speaking, Minerva McGonagall emerged from the fireplace in the living room with a heavy heart and tears in her eyes. She knew that Dumbledore was already working on a plan for little Harry, and that he would need her help come morning but in the meantime he had sent her on this unenviable task. She walked stiffly into the kitchen, where she could hear young Sliverton trying his best to keep Megan’s mind on other matters. “Professor?” Megan stood and immediately a sense of dread encompassed her. Minerva had never been to the house before. “What’s happened?” In the next twenty-four hours the stalwart transfiguration teacher would have to undertake many emotionally difficult things but this was as difficult as any of them would be. “Sliverton,” She began briskly but could not meet his penetrating eye, she turned to Megan and it was the raw fear there that made the teacher blanch. Her tone softened, “You’ll need to come along to headquarters now, both of you. We’ve learned several things in the last half an hour.” Megan’s stomach lurched and although it felt as if the blood in her veins had stopped moving, she stood. Never realizing that Sliverton always so quick to gauge a situation was moving towards her, just in case she lost consciousness. “Tell me Professor, please.” She knew that Minerva McGonagall was about to tell her something truly terrible. McGonagall hesitated momentarily, in part of her heart she wished to leave this news for as long as possible but in another she knew that delay would only makes things worse. Swallowing heavily she began: “We have lost both Lily and James. There was an attack at their home, and I’m sorry, but neither survived.” It sounded obscene, saying these words in such a bald fashion. Atticus Sliverton was known for having nerves of steel, but he flinched at the news. “All of them?” “No, Harry is alive and relatively unharmed.” In this bleak moment it was good news but tears were now falling down McGonagall’s face. “There’s something else?” Atticus his senses always keen asked. “Yes, Voldemort has seemingly been defeated.” Minerva said slowly and her voice quavered with emotion. It was the moment they had all been fighting for and yet, it was still one of the saddest things she ever had to say because of how it had been accomplished. Atticus felt a bit lightheaded with the enormity of the situation himself. “Defeated? As in killed?” “If anyone as powerful as he could die, then yes, he is dead.” Minerva wiped her eyes awkwardly. “How?” Megan’s voice was barely a whisper. Sirius had left just that morning to become their Secret Keeper, if Voldemort had managed to kill Lily and James then she knew what had happened to Sirius. A horrible feeling of loss was pressing down on her. Lily and James were enough for a crushing blow, but it seemed certain that Sirius must be dead. He would never have divulged their secret. Voldemort must have discovered it somehow after killing him. She felt as if her knees had turned to water and she had to brace herself against the scrubbed wooden table. “We aren’t sure how, he tried to kill Harry but somehow the spell backfired into Voldemort. Already there is panic among his followers. Several of the Death Eaters have turned themselves over to the Ministry of Magic.” Minerva felt anger flash through her. “All of them claiming the Imperius Curse, of course.” For a brief second the horror of the moment was washed away in the awe. Over two years of active fighting and a baby had somehow killed this terrible Dark Lord? “Professor,” Megan’s voice was weak, as if the world around her were fading. “What’s happened to Sirius?” Minerva knew what she had to say but it took an act of will to wrench the words from her own mouth. “Megan, he’s missing and I’m afraid it is nearly certain that he has been killed…Catch her!” Megan had stumbled away from the table and Atticus, his reflexes momentarily dulled by all this news was too slow. Both the others were certain she was going to collapse but Megan Hogan found strength she did not know she had and remained standing. “Professor Dumbledore wants us at headquarters?” Her voice sounded strained to the point of breaking. “We’d better go then. I’ll just need my cloak.” She tried to walk but found that her legs weren’t obeying her brain. It isn’t true, her brain whispered as it grasped at any hope. She would wake up at any moment and Voldemort would be defeated, but Lily, James and Sirius would all be all right. In her heart, she knew she was lying to herself but there was nothing else to be done. Oh lord, she thought, that poor baby. :::::::::::::::: Remus Lupin had very nearly collapsed also when he heard the news. It was the worst moment of his life he realized. Losing Amelia had been so difficult that it had caused him to shut down for nearly two years. Losing James, Lily and almost certainly Sirius in one day seemed to pulverize him. His mind could not even touch on Harry, growing up without his parents, it was simply too much. Sophie had shooed away the others as he had stumbled from the room at headquarters and followed him into the office Dumbledore usually used when he was there but their powerful leader was off trying to attend to some matters of great urgency. “Remus…” Sophie began but didn’t know what to say. To say she was sorry would have been inadequate. To say that she too was horrified beyond measure would have struck her as selfish. In one horrible night they had achieved their goal but the price had been horrific. She said the only thing that might make a difference. “I love you. You aren’t alone Remus, I’m here.” Remus felt as if the room was tilting around him. As if he might be transforming because it felt as if he was coming out of his own skin. He clutched wildly at his head saying over and over. “No…no…no.” He loved James as dearly as one friend could love another, he also loved Lily and he did love Harry. Sirius was as close to his heart as any of them. The price of defeating Voldemort was higher than he had ever imagined it could be and he had thought that it the toll was already staggering. A mad laugh escaped his lips and Sophie was immediately there, clutching him, guiding him towards a small sofa. “I love you, Remus.” Sophie repeated and continued to repeat the same thing as she kissed his face and neck while she held him as near to her as possible. “You aren’t alone, I swear it. You aren’t alone I’m here. I love you.” Over and over again she said it and she felt his tense body begin to go slack in her arms. Burying his head on the small woman’s shoulder, Remus Lupin wept without any shame as she continued to speak soothingly to him. ::::::::::::::: The Order headquarters was so full of people that the large mansion seemed stuffed to the gills. Diggle was there, so was Vance and many more members who had not seen each other since the attack were clustered together in groups, speaking in low voices as they awaited more word. The sun was up now but the day seemed bleak on this Tuesday morning. Megan read the Daily Prophet slowly, the headlines literally screaming “Harry Potter: The Boy Who Lived!” and “He Who Will Not Be Named Defeated!” As the world of wizards rejoiced, the members waited together for Dumbledore. Surely he would be able to tell them what to do now. Small snippets of conversation reached Megan’s ears from time to time and she tried with all her might to block them out. “Can you believe it?” Vance was whispering. “A great and terrible day….” Alice Longbottom could be heard saying. “By a baby…I never could have imagined it.” Moody’s gruff voice was somehow softer. “Yes, just this morning…the Fidelus charm, yes…He must have gotten him very quickly…” The voices were all beginning to run together. Suddenly Atticus raised his head and asked in a strong voice, “Where’s Pettigrew?” Silence crashed down upon the room as everyone stared from one to the other. No one had noticed his absence. “Look, has anyone seen Peter?” Atticus was rising, moving toward the fireplace. No one had. “We’d better check on him.” “I’ll go with you.” Vance answered her voice trembling in fear. When they swiftly arrived back to say that he was not at his home and that were signs of disarray there, clothes thrown around, furniture knocked over. It looked like a struggle as much as anything, that or it had been someone packing swiftly, believing that he was to join his horrid master. It was worse than they thought. ::::::::::::::: When Frank Longbottom entered the room all of the murmuring had stopped. His kind face was set in lines of rage and his eyes were blazing. He had just come from the Ministry. “Frank, what is it?” His wife asked, holding Neville close to her heart. She alone knew her husband best and she knew that if Frank had been moved to anger then the news must be terrible indeed. “Sirius Black has just been captured.” He spit out. “He’s slaughtered a street full of Muggles and Peter Pettigrew. He must have been in league with Voldemort for ages.” The stunned room stared at him. “Pettigrew chased him down but Black killed him and at least a dozen Muggles with one curse.” It was utter chaos in the moments that followed. People swearing, cursing Sirius or simply exclaiming in horror. Alice Longbottom burst into tears Moody swore a blue streak. Diggle uttered something unintelligible. It was finally Megan who broke through the din as she stood shouting. “No, there’s a mistake.” Megan was staring in horror at all those around her. “This literally isn’t possible.” “Megan, Peter Pettigrew confirmed it just as he died.” Frank tried to soften his expression. It wasn’t the girl’s fault. “He shouted that Sirius had betrayed the Potters just before Sirius murdered him. God, there are still searching for whatever’s left of Pettigrew, Black blew him to smithereens. Then he laughed Megan, he laughed like a maniac and he was still laughing when the Ministry offices got there.” “No, no! It’s not true, it simply is not true!” She looked around the room for support, surely they must know? Surely they must realize? Sirius could never have harmed Lily and James, nor Harry. It was not possible and they must realize this. Confused stares met her eye, some of them suspicious. She didn’t notice that Atticus was sitting forward quietly, with a strange look on his face. “Megan, there isn’t, we all know that Sirius was here yesterday right after he had been to the Potters.” Frank didn’t want to hurt the girl, but she had to see reason. “He was their Secret Keeper. I myself went to search for him in Pyke, he was never there. He must have been…” Megan said stubbornly and her voice carried through the protest. “I know him better than any of you, he would not do this. The charm must not have worked.” “That’s not possible I’m afraid.” Atticus spoke in a clear voice. “The charm is as close to infallible as we can get.” Megan swung towards him and gave him a murderous look. She would never have expected this from him. She looked at the room of people, her path to the fireplace was blocked by them. She turned and began stumbling out into the long hall towards the front door. Atticus was on his feet, after her in long strides. “Someone has to tell Remus.” Alice Longbottom said firmly. “He may be a spy too.” Moody said menacingly and this caused Atticus to stop. In less than a second he was standing directly before Moody inches from his face, the normally quick Auror had been out maneuvered in flash. “Say anything like that again Alastor and you’ll answer to me.” Sliverton’s face was like steel and the conviction in his voice was strong enough to crumble mountains. Moody eyed him uneasily. “Use your head, if he were a spy, he’d never have come here today he’d be running for his life. You’ve got no idea what it feels like to lose almost everyone you care about in one day, say that to him or anyone and as God as my witness, you’ll rue the day.” Moody nodded uneasily. Alastor was older, he was exceptionally well trained but there had been a look of terrible fury in Sliverton’s eyes before he had turned and sprinted from the room after receiving Moody’s acknowledgement. The older man realized that the resemblance between Albus and Atticus went further than their great height. Besides, Sliverton had a point, Lupin would not have come here if had anything to do with this, he would know that he would be under suspicion. Atticus moved with haste down the hall, Megan had long since reached the front but had collapsed against it sobbing. Her head leaning against the massive door her body shaking. “Megan…” He began but she was up in flash. Atticus was far too tall for her to slap his face easily but she was striking at him, hitting his arms and chest. “Get away from me! If you ever come near me again, I’ll tear you to pieces.” She was sobbing raggedly. “I thought I could trust you, but you’re the worst of the lot!” Atticus grabbed her arms in a vice-like grip, knowing that he might be hurting her but the matter was urgent and she had to listen to him. “Megan, I’m certain that Siruis tried to kill Peter, he may have in fact killed him.” She had screamed and tried to break free but he still held on. “But I’m equally certain he never would have betrayed James and Lily.” Megan froze in place, staring at him. Tears standing at her lashes. “If he did kill Pettigrew, I think I know why.” Atticus’s mind was working at an astonishing rate. “It’s because Pettigrew must have betrayed them. That would drive him to murder, and only that. That or if someone had betrayed you. I’ve fought side by side with Sirius Black for over two years, we’ve both accidentally killed people but I know he is a good man. He isn’t this monster they’re describing.” “You believe me?” Megan felt as if there might be the tiniest ray of hope in this miserable situation. “Of course I do.” Atticus then told her of Sirius’s visit to Peter the night before the Fidelus charm. “They must have switched Megan. There’s no other explanation. There was always something odd about that Pettigrew…and there was no way anyone could be held by Death Eaters and emerged intact. Not the way Peter did. We all thought it was lucky, hell I did also, but it was just too damned convenient.” “Switched?” Megan’s voice was trembling. “Yes, it makes a perfect kind of sense if you consider it.” Atticus now looked stricken. “Voldemort would never have suspected Peter, he was too weak whereas everyone would expect Sirius to hold the secret.” “Then we can help him?” Megan nearly sobbed with relief. Atticus hated saying the next words to Megan. “Megan, I don’t have any idea in the world how we can prove this.” Sliverton’s nerves were nearly failing him. “Our only chance is Ablus or Sirius. The Potters may have told him if there was time. From what Frank said, I think that Sirius must be deranged with grief and Megan, the investigators won’t believe him unless someone else knows. ” Megan started to fall to the floor and Atticus gently eased her down. “Atticus, if they didn’t…you’ll help won’t you?” Atticus Sliverton would have made his Grand Uncle proud had he been able to see him because his face was nearly a terrible thing to behold, but there was always that tremendous compassion in it also. “I swear to you Megan, if there’s a way. We’ll find it.” Atticus said and a penetrating calm settled upon him. Something had to be salvageable here and if there were any way at all, he would find it. He knew there was no point in speaking to the members about this, they were all so confused by the tumult of their own emotions. None of them would be able to handle much more at the moment. He would however speak to Dumbledore as soon as he could. ::::::::::::::::: When Remus entered the room a deathly silence descended. All eyes were turned to him and he knew that there must be worse news although how this could possibly get any worse, he could not imagine. It was Alice Longbottom who told him and she did so as gently as she could. If anyone in the room had thought for even a moment that Lupin had been involved somehow, his reaction convinced them otherwise. He let out a visceral howl, and shook as if there was an earthquake within his own body. Then he turned over two tables, sending books, papers and coffee cups flying before he punched a wall with all of his might. “For what? Why? How could he?” Lupin felt as if everything that he understood about the world was being taken apart and nothing had been put back together again. He desperately wanted to believe that Sirius was innocent, but he had been there in the tower room, he had heard him accept the responsibility…cheerfully…God, cheerfully! There was nothing left of this life he thought he had understood. “Come away, darling. Come away.” Sophie was there, trying to guide him towards the fireplace. He had only two days before the next full moon she had to get him somewhere private. Somewhere that he might feel safe. “I’m right here Remus, look at me! I’m right here.” Remus did look and saw the one thing in the world that remained to him out of all of this, that and Harry. “Where is Harry now?” He asked, but no one could answer beyond saying that Dumbledore was taking care of everything. Remus nodded and felt Sophie gently pushing him towards the fireplace. As they left, Moody agreed to wait for Dumbledore at headquarters and get word to all of them as soon as possible as to what they were to do next. After all, not all the DeathEaters would come quietly and there was more work to be done. Dedalus Diggle went home and as soon as night fell, he began setting off spectacular sparks into the sky. He needed to do something, anything that would mark the fall of the Dark Lord, and in a way he hoped that there was a chance that James and Lily could somehow see them and know they would never be forgotten. ::::::::::::::::::: Albus Dumbledore turned and walked away from the baby at the door of Number Four, Privet Drive. He was weary and heartsick but he was also convinced this way for the best. The wizardry world was singing the praises of Harry Potter that night but Albus knew that there were still real dangers in this world. He sighed slightly. Penelope Potter had, as he had feared nearly died from the shock of hearing that her only child had been killed. Her condition was worsening and she lay in St. Mungo’s once again. It was said later that she died of a massive stroke that night, but in truth, it was just as likely a broken heart. Any will she had to live had been extinguished with the loss of James and although she wanted to help her grandson, her body and mind simply did not have the strength. Dumbledore prayed that he was correct in what he was doing, and that these Muggles would find kindness and love within them. Enough to love and protect Harry until it was safer. He was right by half, Petunia Dursley found enough decency within her to agree to protect the boy, but she never stopped resenting his intrusion into her life. She agreed only because once, many years earlier, she and Lily had in fact been close. Long before all this horrid magic business had started she had loved her sister and in a tiny corner of her heart, that feeling still remained. But it was not enough to extend itself towards Lily’s child. Lily and James’s love would be though. It would extend beyond the barriers of death and help him survive the lonely years to come. As a boy he would have no true memory of them, but in his dreams, the ones too hazy to ever remember, he would remember his glorious haired mother with her beautiful eyes, smiling at him. He would recall a father who had loved him so much, been so proud of him that he believed in his heart that Harry could do anything. It was this love that carried Harry through radiating at a deep level, never leaving him entirely. It was a feeling in the pit of his soul and he would not understand it as he grew older, but it would be the very thing that would make him Voldemort’s greatest enemy. Power he would have in droves, but it was the love that would make the difference.
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