Chapter 2 : Calm After the Storm
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Acting, as he always did, as the protector of the group, he waited until the four others had passed inside, before he took a final look around and swept in after them.
The sombre atmosphere that they entered with was noticed at once by the five who were already situated in the kitchen, laughing over a joke that Sirius had just made.
"Oh, there you are," Lily beamed, scraping her chair back to stand up and greet them. Her smile faultered as she noticed the tear stains on Alice Longbottom's face and the grave expression on her husband's.
James stood up quickly, looking from one to the other for an explanation. "What happened?"
Lily glanced over the congregation and clapped her hand to her mouth. "Where's Amelia and Ed?"
No one answered, but lowered their heads slightly and Alice let out another sob. James put a hand on Lily's shoulder reassuringly, as she sank back down into her chair, feeling horribly numb. Everything had seemed to have been fine, Sirius and James had come back before the others after capturing Antonin Dolohov - a death eater whom they had all been searching for, for a long while. Now everything was turned on it's head.
The exhausted group drew up a chair to the kitchen table and sank heavily down in them. Alistor Moody ran a hand through his greying, tangled hair and coughed dryly as though he were going to say something but found that words failed him. Dedalus Diggle sat beside him, glancing from one sadened face to the next while Elphius Dodge removed his hat, picking at the stitching disinterestedly.
"They fought bravely," Dumbledore broke through the silence, with a flick of his wand a tea tray revolved in mid air and then landed gently on the table surface. "We will always remember them fighting for what they believed in."
"Who was it?" Sirius asked, clenching his hands in fists, trying to control his anger.
Peter spoke nervously. "Does it matter?" His voice was quivering slightly but this seemed more directed as fear at questioning Black.
Sirius's eyes flashed at him dangerously. "Of course it matters," he barked. "I'll find them and string them up," he tried to control his anger as James gave him a warning look, slipping his arm round Lily's shoulder he held her close. "Albus," he went on. "Who was it."
There was a slight pause and Frank Longbottom diliberately avoided Sirius's eye, he noticed this at once, flicking his gaze 'round to everyone else and meeting the same sort of reaction. He became increasingly worried. "Who? Voldemort himself?"
He saw Peter flinch slightly and, at any other time, he would have mocked this but he didn't, his gaze fixed on Dumbledore who had drawn up a chair and sat down at the head of the table.
"Er," Albus cleared his throat, taking off his glasses he cleaned them on his robes. "I'm afraid it was Regulus, Sirius."
His heart jolted and he bit his tongue to stop himself saying something that he regretted. "I'm sorry," he muttered darkly, clenching his fist again.
"It's not your job to appologise for your brother's actions, Sirius," Albus pointed out, kindly. "You said yourself you feared he'd join Voldemort's side."
Elphius sighed. "And we didn't even catch him afterwards," he shook his head in disgust. "They all disapparated at the same time, right in our grasp they were, I don't understand it."
Dumbledore glanced at their expectant faces, all waiting for his explanation and he felt guilty that he couldn't give one. "I intend to find out, I'm working on something. I'm sorry that I can't tell you more." He glanced down at his watch. "I'm afraid that I'm going to have to leave," he stood up slowly. "I've got an appointment at the Hog's Head Inn concerning the Divination teacher appointment. Apparently she's the great great grand daughter of a very gifted seer..."
"Then perhaps you can get her to tell us how this all ends," James smiled weakly, adjusting his glasses. "Whether we'll all be left standing at the end of it all."
At this Alice let out another stifled sob and Frank put his arm around her. "Sorry," he appologised to the rest of the group even though he knew that there was no need. They all knew that the Longbottoms had been closest to Amelia and Edgar Bones. "Alice, we should tell them," he whispered to her and she looked at him before slowly nodding.
"Tell us what?" Moody asked gruffly, sniffing the tea Dumbledore had produced before taking a gulp out of the cup in his hand.
"Well," Frank cleared his throat, looking around at them all, taking his wife's hand. "We thought that we'd let you know, Alice and I," he paused before taking a deep breath. "We're going to have a baby."
There was a shocked silence, they seemed to be looking around at one another for a reaction to copy but it was several seconds before anyone said anything.
"And you went out there tonight?" Lily asked, shocked.
"I know I shouldn't have and I was lucky, I know that," Alice nodded, wiping her red eyes. "But it was all so last minute and there was no one else to cover and..." she trailed off, sniffing, she took the hankerchief that Dedalus kindly offered.
Dumbledore replaced his glasses and smiled. "Well then I think congratulations are in order," he nodded to Frank and Alice. "We'll have to sort out arrangements and so forth but I think it's wonderful news."
"Thankyou," Frank beamed, extremely grateful for these kind words. He had been worried what sort of reaction they would recieve, as obviously Alice would have to take leave from the Order and now wasn't the best time to be doing so. But he and Alice were as happy as they could possibly be about the prospect of a child. They were kind, caring individuals and loved eachother dearly.
"You have all our congratulations," James agreed, trying to sound as happy as possible after the bleak information that they had been told about their friends.
But Sirius's head was in over drive. His brother had joined the death eaters, Regulus had killed two of his friends. His insides were writhing. "Excuse me," he spoke abruptly, scraping his chair back with force he left the room as a flood of emotion hit him, which he didn't want to let everyone else see.
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