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author's note: The developments in this chapter made many readers angry the first time I posted this here. Please read through to the chapter end notes which will contain the explanation. Chapter 45 “Mistress Megan,” Boxen began. “Boxen it’s Anne now remember?” Megan spoke kindly to the little old house elf as she struggled to pull on the jeans Atticus had gotten for her. They had enormous elastic panels in the front and could expand to accommodate her wide girth. “Mistress Anne,” Boxen continued. “You should not be out walking when Master Atticus is not at home. Boxen will come with you.” “Don’t be daft, I just want to walk down to the lake and look at the stars for bit.” Megan heaved herself to her feet and managed to wiggle into the slip on shoes she now had to wear. “Between Custard and Daisy, I’ll be fine.” Custard was another hybrid like Daisy. Atticus had bred her to keep the dwarfed dragon-mix company. “The Master will not be liking this!” Boxen was upset. In truth Megan was not particularly concerned with whether or not Atticus would be pleased with her midnight stroll. She had done as he suggested and agreed to an obituary under her own name. It was in order to protect her child’s and her own safety. She’d chosen the name Anne Ryan because it reminded her of home. Megan knew that Atticus worked hard within what remained of the Order but she had still felt a bit hurt that he had left the previous day and been very vague about where he was going. She was due at any time and she’d just had another returned letter from Sirius. Atticus, a man who was normally very kind had stood and announced that he had to be off. She made her way carefully down to the lake and sat down heavily on the bench, the sea serpent gliding briefly into view, staring at her in what Megan hoped was a friendly fashion and then disappeared. Custard and Daisy were snuffling about in the grass nearby. The sky above was remarkably clear and Megan liked to do come down here whenever it was. She could lean her head back and stare into the night sky at the brightest constellation, Sirius, the dog star. She sat there for hours sometimes when no one was around and felt for that brief time as if she were somehow closer to the man she loved. “Love you.” She said simply to the sky and hoped perhaps that Sirius could feel her love. “Oh…OW!” A strange pain had settled low in her abdomen and it felt as if she were being squeezed like s tube of toothpaste. Well, it wasn’t as if she had failed to be expecting this but it was still a bit of a problem. She was a fair distance from the house and even if she loved the night sky, she didn’t exactly fancy giving birth by herself with two hybrids and a sea serpent for company. “Daisy?” She called hopefully and the creature had immediately raised her head as did the smaller, baby-like Custard. “Go to the house and get Boxen for me would you? Or Ponta, or hell any of them…oh OW!” Daisy cocked her head and went trotting off to the house, returning minutes later seemingly alone. But swinging from the tiny small arm strap of her housedress Boxen was dangling. “Let Boxen go now Daisy! Bad Daisy!” Daisy deposited the disgruntled elf on the ground gently. All of the Sliverton elves had been freed by Aregus Sliverton and lived in their own small dwellings on the property. Oddly, their freedom made them all the more loyal to the remaining Sliverton, Atticus. “Daisy, I’m afraid I’m…” Megan had trouble catching her breath. “We is having a baby tonight?” Boxen’s squeaky voice sounded excited. “Boxen will help, Boxen knows what to do.” Lord, I hope so, thought Megan. ::::::::::::::::::::::::: “Hello, little rascal.” Megan cuddled the infant next to her. It had been a long lonely night and then day. Atticus had hired a mediwitch several months earlier but Megan wasn’t overly fond of the woman. It wasn’t that she was unkind but she clearly disapproved of Megan. “Well, Miss Ryan.” The mediwitch who had aided her was sitting at a desk in the room filling out the certificates to be filed at the Ministry. Megan could swear she put extra emphasis on the word “Miss”. “Whose name is it to be for the father?” Megan swallowed heavily with all her heart she wished she could put Sirius’s name down but she had discussed this with Atticus and Dumbledore, it was best for the baby if another name was used. “Atticus Sliverton.” Megan said sadly. The mediwitch huffed slightly and her quill scratched against the parchment. The mediwitch did not like being part of these proceedings. It was none of her affair if Atticus Sliverton wanted to openly declare that he had produced an illegitimate child but the entire thing seemed sordid to her. “You will watch your tone and your manners while you are in my home.” Venus Sliverton’s voice spoke from the portrait. The tall, beautiful witch who had been Atticus’s Aunt in life had retained her sense of propriety even in the painted rendition of her. Venus was drawn up to her full height and looking down imperiously. “Fine, none of my business.” The mediwitch began collecting her things. “Well, Miss Ryan, that should be all. You’re well taken care of here and you’ve come through fine. You won’t be needing my services any longer I take it?” “Lord no, I’ll be as glad to see the back of you as you will of me.” Megan’s temper was flaring. She was alone in a massive house with only portraits, Truffles and house elves for company. Plus she thought, her baby, her darling baby. :::::::::::::: It was evening again and Megan sat up in her bed, watching her baby sleep. She had never felt lonelier while still being happy. It still stung a bit that Atticus had not gotten back yet. He was her truest friend, why wasn’t he here? “Any word from Atticus?” Megan asked hopefully. If it occurred to her that she missed the man himself and not just the company it would be years before she realized it. “Not yet, but Boxen will tell you as soon as Master is home.” The kindly old elf was a bit troubled too. “Well, home I am.” Atticus spoke from the doorway. He looked windblown, his cheeks a bit raw. “Hello.” Megan greeted him rather coolly. “Megan, I’m sorry, please don’t be angry with me I had an urgent matter to attend to.” Atticus spoke kindly and entered the room. “So, hello to the newest member of the household! May I?” Megan nodded and Atticus gently picked up her son from the bed. “You certainly are a big fellow aren’t you? What’s his name to be?” “Seraphim.” Megan felt tears stinging her eyes. Atticus was acting as if it were completely natural that he had left her here on her own. “Did you get Boxen’s Raven?” Atticus was examining the baby’s brown eyes and dark hair, looking at his fingers and Megan’s heart softened when she saw how clearly delighted he was with the baby. “I didn’t Megan, it must have missed me in transit.” Attiucs gave the baby back to Megan. “I’m afraid we had a bit of a rough journey back. Poor man’s never flown by broomstick before and I had to finally stop and tie him on.” Megan looked at Atticus, completely baffled. “Tie who on?” “Give me a nice solid car any day.” Aidan Hogan said from the doorway. “I have no idea how you lot stay on those things, gave me quite the turn.” Atticus Sliverton had seen the look on Megan’s face when she had received yet another letter sent back unopened by Sirius Black, the same message written on the front. He’d left immediately for Ireland, knowing that it was best not to tell Megan his destination. There was a chance that her family would still not listen to him, Atticus had been trying for months but this time he had finally succeeded although the ride back had been pure hell. Even on a bewitched broomstick the poor man had nearly fallen off more than once. They’d had to take it slowly. “Dad!” Megan cried and tears immediately began to stream down her face. “Oh God, I’ve missed you!” “I’ve missed you too, lamb.” Aidan would not tell her that her own mother still rejected her choice but Mr. Hogan had always had a very tender heart when it came to his youngest daughter. “So, is this my new grandson?” “Yes, oh come look dad.” Megan held out her hand to her father and the older man advanced, sat on the edge of the bed, kissing Megan on the cheek and looking down at the tiny boy. “He’s a fine wee man, isn’t he?” His voice was choked with repressed tears. “That he is.” Megan noticed that Atticus was quietly taking his leave. “Atticus, Lord I owe you an apology. Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart.” Atticus smiled and nodded as he left. On the landing for the first floor he paused and leaned his head against the wall. “Son?” Aregus Sliverton spoke from his portrait. “Are you all right?” “I’m quite well, Father.” Atticus smiled as he went to his study. He had a new invention he wanted to put some work into. A modified invisibility cloak that would muffle any sound the wearer might make. Aregus Sliverton stared after his son until he was out of sight, then sighed. ::::::::::::::::::: “Two today!” Phim was shouting as he ran through the halls of the gigantic house. “Phim is two! Snuggles…Cuddles…Grrrr!” Truffles piped up. He was tucked under Seraphim’s arm. Nearly everyone called the boy Phim. On his sturdy little legs Phim Sliverton ran across the long hall towards one of the parlors. Boxen was following, her face set in determination. The youngster was hard to keep up with but Boxen was up to the task. “Two!” Phim crowed as he tumbled into the room where Megan and Atticus both sat. Megan was reading a book and Atticus as always at one of his many desks. “Yes you are my darling love!” Megan said happily. “Later there will be cake…and presents!” “Cake! Presents!” Phim was very bright for his age and had a tendency to be a bit mischievous. He plagued the life out of Daisy and Custard by pulling on their ears and tails but the two creatures were very gentle with him. “Daddy, I’m going to have cake and presents!” “Yes you are son!” Atticus said, dropping his quill and sweeping Phim up into a cuddle. Megan Hogan watched with a sense of gratitude but also unease. Atticus was wonderful to Phim but she sometimes wondered if he did realize that he was not his own son. Atticus really ought to have a wife and children of his own by now. :::::::::::::::::::::: The letter had finally arrived and Megan could barely catch her breath when she saw the handwriting on the front. It was Sirius’s handwriting, he had finally written back! Megan’s heart was pounding so fast that she could barely stand as Boxen handed her the letter. The elf had looked worried when the post came. Every week for over three years now Megan had written to Sirius telling him about his son and as always assuring him that she loved him. She always would. The letters were always returned. She was careful to write using her new name of Anne but she knew that Sirius would recognize her handwriting on the front. It would be years before she had a chance to talk to Sirius and discover that he had not read the letter he was replying to. She had been telling him about their son’s third birthday party where he had received among other things a snitch bewitched by Atticus to follow him wherever he went. As always she had assured him of her love. Her hands trembled as she broke the seal and began eagerly reading. Anne – I am only allowed one half hour a day to write so there is no way for me to take the time to put this kindly. Instead I will be truthful. I can barely remember you and honestly, I have no wish to do so any longer. What we had once was nice but has long since been over. Even if I had not ended up in here we would have eventually gone our separate ways. We had very little in common. We were thrown together through circumstances and it is foolish of you to continue acting as if a schoolgirl fancy was the defining moment in either of our lives. Please do stop bothering me with your constant letters. It costs me ink and time to return them and I have no interest in them or the developments of your life. Get on with your life and leave me out of it. Best, Sirius Megan stared at the letter, reading it over and over certain that there had to be something in there, something that had affection in it but there was not. It was cold and cutting with absolutely no warmth in it. Megan Hogan sat with her head on her knees, sobbing, the letter crumpled in one hand. The portraits around her were silent, watching her grief. There were no witnesses to Sirius’s as he too wept in Azkaban. Writing that letter had cost him dearly but it had been years now and Megan obviously was still not moving on with her life. He desperately wanted her to be happy and knew it could never be with him. She had such a loving heart, it was wrong to keep it held in as she was doing. Athena Moxfroy, Venus’s sister watched from her portrait and silently departed to the painting above Atticus’s desk in his study. The painting was of a rolling meadow with horses cantering back and forth and she had to watch her step as called down to Atticus. “Atticus, you should go to her.” Athena said gently. “She’s in the hall and I’m afraid she’s very upset.” Atticus immediately went running through the house to the stairs where he found Megan. “Meg, what it is?” Atticus and Dumbledore were the only people who had never been able to adjust to calling Megan by her new name. She raised her tear stained face to her friend and held out the letter, “Read for yourself.” Atticus scanned the letter and puffed out his cheeks as he exhaled. “Megan, please, it’s all right.” “Is it? It doesn’t feel ‘all right’.” Megan began to sob again. “Atticus, that letter sounds as if he never cared for me and never will again.” Years earlier Atticus Sliverton had been correct, he could not convince Megan that Sirius did not love her. But he had known that Sirius could, if he tried enough. The letter seemed to be enough. He sat down next to her and put an arm around her shoulders. “He did Megan, I know he did.” It cost him to say the next part. “He still does, I’m sure.” “Are you?” Megan was still crying. “It’s nice that one of us is.” “I am sure.” He leaned his head against hers and squeezed her shoulder lightly. :::::::::::::::: “Megan, please, don’t go.” Atticus Sliverton was watching her pack and his heart was very heavy. “My mind’s made up.” She’d written to her father months ago after she’d received Sirius’s letter telling him that she realized now that what she was doing was madness. It had taken all this time for her father to convince her mother to let her come home with Phim. “But you’re no trouble here.” Atticus was speaking evenly, as evenly as he could at least. “I know that, silly man. I also know that if it hadn’t been for you we’d have been beggars and I do thank you Atticus, there’s never been a truer friend.” Megan wasn’t looking at him as she packed her trunk. “But this isn’t right and you know it.” Atticus closed his eyes as he listened to the resolve in her voice. He knew Megan too well to mistake that tone. “It is right.” He said quietly. “No it isn’t. You should be having a family of your own. Not making due with a friend and her child.” Megan turned towards him and continued. “Atticus, I worry for you. I worry that you won’t have children of your own because you’re so wrapped up in Phim. I’m worried that you’ll never bother to find love yourself because you’re so intent upon protecting me.” Atticus Sliverton had always been a self contained man and very few ever knew what his heart contained. They knew that he was good and kind, generous almost to a fault but not quite because of his great wealth. They knew he was clever and brave but they had always considered him an odd man. But even an odd man knew when the time had come to speak. “I have.” Atticus said clearly. “I have found love, Megan.” Megan simply stared at her friend before speaking, “Well that’s all the more reason for me to be out of your house, you daft creature.” It was now or never, he supposed. “Megan, for someone who was once considered one of the most powerful seers who ever lived you can be rather blind when you wish to be.” Atticus’s voice was choked. “You think I’ve watched over you and Phim because of friendship? In a way, yes. I love you as dearly as I’ve ever loved any friend but I don’t love you just as a friend.” Megan looked at Atticus in surprise. “Atticus, it’s only natural that you would feel that way I suppose. Living with us day in and day out. Close quarters can fool the heart you know.” “I’m sure that they could but I’ve loved you since long before I brought you here.” Atticus’s voice was clearer now. Megan felt as if the room was beginning to spin and she sat down on the edge of the bed before speaking faintly, “When?” “Since you left the hospital.” Atticus smiled at the memory. “I’d look forward so much to your visits after that. I’d count the hours. I’d never been in love before Megan and it took me a bit to realize what it was I was feeling.” Megan’s head was pounding lightly her heart rate had increased. “When you say ‘a bit’ what do you mean Atticus, months, years?” “Weeks Megan.” Atticus answered truthfully. “But you fought so hard to help Sirius…why would you do that if you were in love with me?” Megan’s confusion was doing nothing but increasing. “I love you enough to want you to be happy, even if it wasn’t with me.” Atticus came and sat beside her. “You and Sirius loved each other so much, you made a fine pair. I didn’t want to interfere with that. To be honest, I knew that there was no way that I could have. When you lost that, I would have done anything to get it back for you.” Megan rubbed her eyes, trying to think. It wasn’t possible that anyone could be that goodhearted but then she thought back over the years and all the Atticus had done. Flying to get her father when he knew she felt alone and afraid. Protecting her, letting his own good name be soiled by publicly claiming her child and certainly enduring censure for not doing the honorable thing and marrying the woman who had allegedly given him a son. There were countless other things. “Atticus, I do care for you but…” Megan began but could not finish the sentence. She couldn’t hurt this kind man. “Please don’t leave here Megan.” Atticus eyes were bright. “It’s okay if you never love me in return, I just want to be near you. You have long since been the most important person in the world to me.” She looked at the man beside her. She didn’t love him that way. At least, her mind prompted, not yet. She’d never even considered trying to love anyone other than Sirius. She owed Atticus Sliverton nearly everything the least she could give him in return was a bit of effort. “I can try to love you.” She said slowly and honestly. He leaned down and kissed her gently, his lips warm against hers. When he drew back Megan felt her lips, she’d never been kissed by anyone other than Sirius but she had to admit it was a nice kiss. Perhaps more than nice. “Rather good at that, aren’t you?” She teased although her heart wasn’t truly in it. Instead she felt confused, a bit as if she might be betraying a man she knew no longer cared for her and then there was that oddly hopeful feeling something which she had not felt in a long time. “Had a bit of practice actually.” Although Atticus Sliverton had not kissed a woman since he realized he was in love with Megan. “I could use a bit more.” Megan nodded hestitantly and he had kissed her more, in part of her heart she wanted to feel nothing but in truth, she did feel something. Perhaps it was just a shadow of the kind of love she felt for Sirius but it was there and it was real. Maybe it was the kind of love based in gratitude or maybe had she never met Sirius she would have fallen in love with the tall, kind man in front of her. It was still too early for Megan to admit that there was more than just a shadow there. All of the times she and Atticus had stayed up together talking, laughing in the kitchen as they made midnight snacks. The happiness she felt when watched him playing with Phim. She’d never realized the true origin of the guilt she’d felt. Boxen peered in the door and saw what she had been hoping for these many years. She walked silently back to Phim’s room and began unpacking the boy’s trunk. She was a wise old thing indeed and she realized long before Megan ever did that they were two people destined to be together. When they married six months later Albus Dumbledore had smiled with relief as he raised his glass to them at the reception and delivered a toast. He felt in his heart this was what Sirius would have wanted for Megan. A good life well loved and always protected by a man she loved in return. Much later that evening, the young couple celebrated their marriage. It had been beautiful and gentle but it had also been passionate. At eighteen Megan Hogan had helped convince Lily Evans to marry James Potter despite the crushing losses that life sometimes held. It had taken her years to heed her own advice. “Megan?” Atticus held her gently. “Thank you.” “What are you thanking me for you kind soul?” Megan answered. “It’s me should be thanking you for having patience enough to put up with me.” They had both laughed and gone back to trying to achieve one of their goals together, a family. She would never forget her love for Sirius but she found that there was room enough in her heart to love Atticus almost as dearly. When loves were lost never to be reclaimed sometimes a very strong ‘almost’ was the best you could do. It wasn’t until she finally saw Sirius for herself again that she would realize that ‘almost’ in this case meant equally. Author's notes: In this story I killed off characters, scared the tar out of a lot of readers and had a really positive response to the humor contained within also....and this was always the chapter that ended with everyone shouting "HOW COULD YOU?" - Here's why: I stick closely to Rowlings canon (dinked by me of course) so Sirius will die and I set this up (and dropped a bunch of clues) so that Megan wouldn't spend her youth waiting for a man who was going to die. Eventually, we'll find out where Sirius went and I think you'll be happy with those developments. Thank you for reading.

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