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In My Time of Dying by Stag Night
Chapter 17 : The Dark Mark
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7


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In My Time of Dying
Disclaimer:
The story title is a song originally recorded (under that title) by Bob Dylan. The world, characters and canon events belong to J. K. Rowling. Everything else belongs to me. It is illegal to publish and distribute fanfiction without J.K. Rowling's permission. You may not copy, post elsewhere, change or edit any part of this story. You may not claim it as your own.



C H A P T E R . S E V E N T E E N
The Dark Mark




Three familiar faces crowded around James's in the mirror in Remus's hand. His heart warmed at the site - he hadn't seen them in what seemed like so long, and he didn't quite realise how terribly he'd missed them until that moment.


"Moony," said James in greeting, sounding strained.


The smile slipped from Remus's face, for it didn't sound like James was happy to hear from him at all. They were all together, obviously, and were probably having plenty of fun without him. Perhaps, he thought gloomily, he'd interrupted something, and now they were annoyed with him.


"Hullo," he replied, trying not to let his jealousy shine through his voice. Though he held the mirror to his face so they could see him, he found himself diverting his eyes farther downwards when he spoke, trying to hide.


"Oh, Remus, how are you?" asked Lily then, her voice full of concern.


"Oh, I'm all right," he reassured her. "I'm living with the werewolves. They've started trusting me enough to let me out of the cave now. I'm supposed to be hunting for food at the moment." He tried to sound pleasant, but he couldn't help adding at the end, "I've missed you all."


In the mirror, his friends exchanged glances. Remus felt a surge of shame, and wished he'd have kept his mouth shut. Clearly, the feeling wasn't mutual.


"All right," he sighed. "I'd better get back, before I get caught."


"Moony, wait," the mirror barked, and it was Sirius's voice this time. "There's something terrible that happened."


Remus's heart sank, sank so far that he felt instantly ill. He could feel the blood hammering through his veins, nervous and scared to death. When somebody said that something terrible had happened in these days, it was always something big, something awful, unthinkable. Something that would affect them all, probably for the rest of their lives.


"Okay," he said, waiting, and feeling dreadful at the news that was coming.


"Remus, your father..." Sirius started, and then he hesitated and looked at James.


And that was when Remus's heart stopped.


"What?" he demanded. "What about my father! James!"


This time it was James who kept his eyes down, determinedly avoiding looking into the mirror. Remus saw tears in Lily's eyes, and she looked at him in sorrow. And Sirius had covered his eyes with his hands. Peter had abruptly disappeared, as if too weak to face Remus at all.


"He was killed, Moony," said James softly.


"No," was Remus's instant reply, the one that had been forming in his head since the moment his father had been mentioned. He'd known in that moment that his father was either dead or barely alive, and before it had even been confirmed by James he was ready to not believe it.


James shook his head and said nothing. Clearly, he wasn't going to argue over whether the man was dead or not.


Remus sat and clenched his jaw as he felt his eyes prickle with tears. He glared harshly at the trees around them, and even rocked back and forth for a moment where he sat. Finally, after a few moments, he wiped his eyes and looked back into the mirror.


"How?" was all he demanded.


"He was killed doing a job," said James. "He was under orders to exterminate a vampire. He wasn't prepared for the vampire's mate... She ripped through his entire camp, Remus, we found the tent in ruins..."


Remus lowered the mirror and covered his eyes with his hands. Silence passed between him and the mirror. Though the thick forest surrounding him was calm and peaceful, inside of Remus a war was suddenly raging. His father was dead, and he was out in the middle of the wild, surrounded by werewolves on a stupid mission from Dumbledore. He should have been there, back in London. He should be with his mother right now. He should have been the one to bury his father.


"Do you need a moment, Remus?" asked Lily from the mirror. "We can talk later," she offered, as if that would help.


Remus lifted the mirror to his face again, exposing his red-rimmed eyes to his friends. But it didn't matter - nothing did, and they'd seen him cry and bleed and hurt many times before. He shook his head roughly. "I'm going home," he said hoarsely. "Tell Dumbledore. I'll be at my mother's."


James exchanged glances with their friends once more. "Moony," he said in a warning tone.


Remus knew what he was going to say and headed him off. "Prongs," he countered, furiously swiping his arm across his nose. "I don't care. I don't care about this stupid mission, I don't care if it's ruined so that I can never come back. I don't care."


A hundred thoughts were swarming through his head. He knew - they all did - about the sacrifices that needed to be made to fight back against Voldemort. He knew about the difficult decisions, the horrific jobs. He knew that they had more or less signed their lives away by joining.


But perhaps he wasn't ready yet. His parents had done so much for him growing up. Possibly more than even James's parents had done - of course the circumstances were drastically different, but Remus didn't think any parent had ever done so much for their child, given so much, dealt with it all, as his parents had.


He had to be there. He had to go home.


And so he yanked out his dusty briefcase, opened it and placed the mirror back inside, on top of the invisibility cloak, beside his wand. He felt the briefest moment of joy at the thought of returning home. But he pushed it aside angrily - how could he possibly feel joy when his father was lying dead underground.


He glanced around at the trees, unsure of if he'd be back, and not really caring.


(He hoped, in the back of his mind, that Ulfric wouldn't be in trouble.)


And then he turned and disappeared, leaving the clearing as silent and serene and unmoving as it had been when he'd first arrived so many long, countless days before.






II.

Grace Lupin didn't know how she was going to go on. She'd been married to John for twenty years, and now, in just an instant, he was gone forever. In the past week she'd been spending a lot of time looking through her old photo albums, alternating between fond smiles and tortured tears at what she had, and now what she'd lost.


She remembered the dreadful feeling when Dumbledore had shown up at her door unannounced. At the time, she'd thought there was something wrong with Remus. Remus had told her he was working for Dumbledore, after all. The thought never crossed her mind that it could be her John.


She'd always hated his job, had always found it to be a dangerous profession. She'd spent many, many sleepless nights over the years, wondering if he was all right out in the wild. She'd almost left him when Remus was attacked by that werewolf. But she loved him, and she stayed. And over the years, he'd proved again and again that he was a capable wizard, that he knew what he was doing, he loved his job, and he'd always come home.


He'd proved again and again that he'd do anything for his family, and had sacrificed everything to try and help Remus. He was one of the best men she knew.


She had nearly collapsed when Dumbledore told her that John was dead. Dead. She hated the word - it was so final. It was a word she'd never given much thought to, until it affected her. It was a word she now found to be the most terrifying in the English language. So short, so sudden.


She had screamed and cried out, why, why? as Dumbledore stood by, trying to calm her. She'd bruised her hand, pounded her fist into the countertops with each sobbed 'why?' that escaped her. And Dumbledore still stood by.


Dumbledore had done a lot for her family - especially for Remus, arranging for him to attend school, and helping him have steady work even now, afterwards. But he couldn't do anything for John, and part of her had hated him for it.


She'd had to spend that night in St. Mungo's. Despite fearing John's line of work, she'd never fully thought that she'd be a widow. She was only sixty, which is quite young for a witch. Only sixty, and all alone.


Now, as she sat on her threadbare old couch (they'd never had new furniture, or new anything for that matter, since Remus had been bit) holding a tissue to her nose, she didn't hear the door open. She didn't hear the intruder step across the old pine wood floor. She didn't hear the sad sigh.


But, when the hand fell on her shoulder, she knew who it was instantly.


"Remus," she whispered, turning to face the young man. "You've come home."






III.

The two story house in Cradley Heath smelled like heaven, or at least James Potter thought it did. All of the windows glowed merrily as fresh snow fell soundlessly outside. Muggle Christmas songs provided the background noise from an old radio, complete with static. And the kitchen was crowded and warm from the stove.


It was tradition in the Evans household to make Christmas biscuits in December. Lily's mother had invited her and James over for the evening to carry on the tradition. And Lily was only too happy to oblige, too happy to get away from some of the issues she and her friends were currently dealing with.


(James hadn't been as keen on baking, but in the end, had been convinced by Lily to go and be sociable with her family to remain on their good side. And besides, he loved biscuits.)


And so James sat at the small table in the kitchen, for Mrs Evans didn't want to make a mess in her dining room. He was armed with curiously shaped biscuit cutters, and was hacking away at the sweet dough that Lily spread out for him.


(They wouldn't let him assist in the actual baking or mixing of ingredients, for James had assured them that he was a nightmare in the kitchen.)


James had abandoned all shapes but the reindeer one. Lily tried to stifle a giggle, for her mother certainly wouldn't understand.


"James, honey," said Mrs Evans when she turned around and saw what he was doing. "Why don't you make some of the bells or candy canes, too?"


Agreeably, James picked up a cutter shaped like a holly leaf, but when Lily's mother turned her back once more, he made another deer shape and grinned. Lily rolled her eyes at him, and then rolled out some more dough.


Though the two women kept up a steady stream of chatter and gossip (most of which James didn't understand, for Mrs Evans would bring up a Muggle friend that Lily had known her whole life but that James had never heard of), he could tell that they were hiding disappointment. Lily's sister, Petunia, was upstairs in her bedroom with the door locked. She refused to come down and join in the festivities, not when James especially was there. She still seemed to accept Lily a tiny bit, but even that seemed to be waning as they got older and grew apart with their own lives.


Petunia had ruined the tradition that the family had had for eighteen years.


After they were done baking cookies, it would be time to decorate the Christmas tree. Even as they were in the kitchen in that moment, Brian Evans was in the family room setting up the tree he'd cut down that very morning.


When the entire house was filled with the warmth from the old electric stove and the smells of gingerbread and cinnamon were inescapable, and hundreds of reindeer-shaped biscuits were cooling on the countertops (including a tin each for James and Lily to take home - Lily to her roommate and James to his parents), they threw in their aprons and joined Lily's father, who was stringing lights haphazardly around the tree.


If any of them wondered what Petunia was doing upstairs to keep herself entertained, they didn't have to wonder for long, for she came downstairs with her hands full of small envelopes.


"Mummy," she said, holding the envelopes up for all to see as she walked towards the dining room. "Everyone except the Fullers, Gregorys and Admyers have accepted!" Her face was smug and she eyed Lily, hesitating before she entered the other room, as if daring her to say something.


Lily took the bait.


"Everyone accepted what?" she asked her mother.


"My wedding invitations," said Petunia snidely, shuffling the envelopes in her hand.


"What? Tuney! You never told me Vernon proposed, or that you accepted!" Lily got to her feet and stepped towards Petunia as if to give her a celebratory embrace. But Petunia quickly backed away, a look of disgust on her face.


"That's because Vernon and I agreed that we don't want to have any freaks there to possibly ruin it for us!"


Lily stopped and her face fell. "What?" she asked incredulously. Her parents seemed just as dumbstruck, for they gaped at their eldest daughter with their mouths open, clearly never expecting her to leave her own sister out of her wedding.


James felt awkward and uncomfortable. He tried to distract himself with fixing the lone light bulb on the string that was burnt out, the lone bulb that was ruining everything and not allowing anything beyond it to light either. But of course, as he had never dealt with anything but fairy-lit trees, he had no idea what he was doing. He ended up breaking a bulb, though he didn't notice, for he found himself casting Petunia a dangerous glare.


"Don't act innocent! I remember the first summer you came back from that horrible school! Frogs hopping all over our bedroom! And that bloody broomstick you carried with you everywhere! When we went to grand mumís, you locked me in the closet with your mind, and they had to cut the lock off to get me out! And everyone was afraid to go near you after that! Afraid of all of us! You're not invited!"


Petunia turned and huffily stalked into the dining room to sort out the responses to her invitations.


Lily, who was horrified to be spoken to like that in front of everyone, turned to James, who was equally horrified to see how watery her eyes were. "It was an accident," she said defensively, but her voice was barely a whisper and the first tear spilled over just as she dissolved herself into his waiting arms. "The night I locked her in the closet. She was calling me names, and then went in there to pout, and it just happened!"


"I know," James soothed, running his fingers through her hair, though he really had no clue what she was speaking of. His own magic had never slipped as a child - perhaps because he'd never felt threatened. But he knew Sirius's had when his cousin was picking on him once. And he knew Peter's had when his father had died.


"I'm going to go talk to her," said Lily's mother determinedly. And as she marched out of the room, she could be heard muttering, "Unacceptable."


As for Lily's father, who had seemed on the fence on whether or not he found James good enough or his youngest daughter, the man now looked upon James in a new light as the messy haired boy tilted his head to whisper something reassuring into Lily's ear. Any qualms he may have had seemed unimportant compared to watching this boy comfort his little girl.


Brian Evans sighed and tried not to stare.


During such a time - when a family was in the middle of tearing apart - nobody expects any news from the outside world to be able to come in and touch them. But, to ease the silence and awkward moment, Brian got up and switched on the old black and white television. He turned the knob through every channel, but they were all playing the same thing - a breaking news story. Grumbling, he sat back on the couch.


Petunia and Mrs Evans could be arguing in the background, behind a closed door. They tried to ignore it.


"Hundreds of hooded people are parading the streets, setting houses to fire..." the man droned in the background, as James kissed Lily's tears away. But something clicked in his brain and he looked up at the glowing screen.


"Oh, fuck," he said, causing Lily to temporarily forget her heartache and look up at the television as well.


As if perfectly timed, a ghostly white and glowing figure suddenly appeared in the room, though nobody guessed where it had come from. James figured it must have slipped through the fireplace, for all the windows and doors were locked.


It was a grizzly bear, its lumbering form taking up the entire room. It spoke to them in the low, rough and demanding voice of Alastor Moody. "You are urgently needed at Order headquarters," it growled, as Lily's father crammed himself against the couch, trying to stay as far from the ghostly beast as possible. The man looked petrified, his eyes wild and his mouth open as if in a silent scream.


"It's all right, Daddy!" cried Lily in dismay, seeing the look on the man's face. She couldn't bear to have another family member alienate her because of magic, and her father certainly looked petrified. "It's just a messenger!"


The bear ignored them all and focused its gaze on James. "Alert your friends. Pass the message on." And then it evaporated into thin air.


James wordlessly pulled out his own wand, and an ethereal stag erupted from it and bolted quickly to the fireplace, disappearing up the chimney in a mighty leap. He turned to Lily's father, who looked pale and disbelieving - the man would never get used to seeing real magic.


"Thank you for having me, for allowing me to join in your family's holiday traditions. I was honoured," he said quickly, pulling his cloak on, never taking his hand off his wand, and glancing back and forth from Lily to her father. He'd been taught by his own father to always be thankful and polite, and he hoped he didn't sound careless as he recited his thanks. "Something big has come up, and I've got to go. I'm so sorry," he rushed his words, striding quickly for the front door.


"I'm going with you," said Lily instantly, wiping her tears roughly away and pulling her cloak on as well. "I'm in the Order, too," she said defiantly, when she saw James hesitate and open his mouth to object.


"Lily," said James distractedly, trying not to let her sense his fear for her safety. "You really should stay... your family tradition... the Holidays..."


She was too smart for that, and she shrugged his suggestion off. She wouldn't be left behind - it was her war to fight as well, perhaps more hers than anyone's. She was a Muggleborn.


"It's not Christmas for weeks, James, and I'd say this tradition is already ruined this year. I'm sorry, Daddy," she apologised, turning to her father. The man looked too dumbstruck to respond or care. "Tell Mum, please, I'll see you at Christmas."






IV.

When the couple arrived at the Hog's Head Inn and rushed down to the cellar, it was to find the majority of the Order already there. Sudden footsteps coming down the stairs behind them and matching James's stride told them Sirius had arrived - he'd gotten James's Patronus in just minutes.


"Prongs," he said breathlessly. James wordlessly gripped his shoulder as they walked into the room, pounding it with his fist nervously. Sirius didn't mind, for he was suddenly afraid too, especially upon seeing the looks on everyone's faces. Peter was already there, and they quickly made their way over to him.


"You look ill," said Sirius pointedly to the shorter boy.


Peter shook his head and said nothing. They all hoped that Remus would join them - Sirius had sent his Patronus on after receiving James's, but their friend never showed up. None of them really expected him to, as he was dealing with the death of his father and helping his mother.


(Though they felt selfish for thinking it, they were slightly disappointed, for all of them felt they'd have better success with the help of their most logical friend.)


"Dumbledore is elsewhere tonight," Moody's rough voice rose above everyone else's. "There's not a lot of time to be lost. If you haven't already heard, there's a riot going on. The purebloods have gathered to show their support for Voldemort."


Several people shuddered at the name. James clenched his jaw.


"They're terrorizing an entire town. They did it before two years ago, and caused a lot of problems."


"I remember that," said Sirius bitterly, under his breath. It had been just before he'd moved in with James, and one of the final straws that had broken him and made him come out and openly fight the Dark side and beliefs within his own home. It had been printed in all the newspapers, and that night Bellatrix had come over, dripping in diamonds and sipping their finest wine. Acting like royalty as she chatted with his parents - how proud they all were of themselves for what they'd done.


"It was one of the events that caused Albus to form this Order," said Moody, who obviously had heard Sirius. "The Ministry seemed unable to get the crowd under control on it's own. Devastation."


"What are we waiting for, then?" asked Gideon Prewett loudly.


"Let's end it," agreed Fabian, pulling out his wand.


Moody held up an empty butterbeer bottle, the sticker torn from the side. "I have a Portkey," he said. "It will activate in less than two minutes. That is what we are waiting on," he said gruffly, glaring at the red heads. Clearly, he didn't appreciate being talked to in such a manner, nor made to appear as though he were wasting time.


Gideon shrugged and Fabian looked grim.


Moody's piercing gaze fell on Sirius. "Stay together," he barked suddenly. "Let's not be rash and start shooting spells from our wands until we are sure we aren't hitting our own team."


People mumbled and nodded their agreement.


"All right," said Moody, stepping up to the middle of the crowd. "Thirty seconds." He held up the bottle and said nothing more. Everyone obligingly crowded around and touched it. "We will land in a small wood just outside of the village."


And then the room dissolved before them, and the trees came into view, and they felt their feet hit the ground. The sound of a crowd could already be heard in the distance. The night time sky was practically orange from fires blazing out of control. Chanting could be heard, as well as tortured screams.


Immediately, many of the Order members slunk away. They knew what they were doing - they were confident, they had dealt with these things - and some things even worse - multiple times over the two years since the Order had been founded. James, Lily, Sirius and Peter were left standing alone in the dark.


"Stay together," said James, and he cautiously started to move towards the noise and terrible lights. It was only seconds before the flames could be seen between the trees. An entire row of houses was on fire. Hurried footsteps approached them, and girls screamed, but they ran past the place where the four were hidden in the trees. Muggles, trying to get away without being seen.


Many shouts suddenly sounded. "Stupefy!" echoed into the night. The other Order members had made their move. Several of the people in the crowd stumbled and fell. The rest of the crowd reacted and sent spells into the trees where Order members hid. A strangled shout came from the trees, and they knew one of their own had been hit.


"Oh my God," Lily whispered, covering her mouth with her hand as she watched the nightmare unfold. "I don't know what we're supposed to do!"


"Don't panic," said Sirius softly, inching forward with his wand held out. He never took his eyes off the crowd, never blinked and never faltered. Peter was breathing heavily behind him, sweating slightly despite the chill air. He looked wild eyed from the crowd to his friends, though he looked at Lily the most (simply because she was the only one who appeared as frightened as he felt).


"Wish we had the cloak," muttered James. "And a broomstick."


The situation looked hopeless. There were hundreds of wizards in the mob. There were only about twenty Order members. And after the crowd had fired into the woods, who knew if any of the Order had been hit. They hoped their comrades were still alive and well.


Sirius crept forward. He left the cover of the trees and crossed the narrow street, crouching behind a Muggle vehicle. He stepped on a body - he hadn't seen it in the dark, in the gutter. He felt sick. His friends followed him and crouched behind the car as well. Lily was breathing as heavily as Peter now, trying not to cry as she looked at the dead man's face.


James pointed his wand at another car a parked few feet away. "Inanimatus Conjurus," he whispered, giving the wand a flick. The engine of the car suddenly started and roared to life. The car revved the engine up, seemingly of its own accord, and turned on it's blinding headlights.


"What are you doing," Peter whispered, looking horrified at the first sign of them joining the battle.


"I don't know," replied James in a strained voice. "Anything. Me and Pads used a car to stop them one time in an alley..."


He flicked his wand again, and the car began to move towards the crowd, still revving its engine, still making noise, and now blinding the wizards in it's high beam headlights.


"Go!" shouted James suddenly, standing up from behind their cover and throwing his wand arm forward. The car took off without warning, tires squealing, for the mob.


And it was enough. Perhaps, being wizards and better than Muggles as they saw themselves, they never expected a Muggle invention to pose any sort of threat to them. Or perhaps the sudden noise and bright light had caught them unaware and rendered them temporarily stunned. Many didn't think to try to stop the car - it was coming so fast, the first thought that ran through any wizard's mind was to get out of the way. Most jumped to the side. Some suddenly Disapparated.


"Incendia!" shouted Sirius, rising from behind the car and standing beside James. He aimed his wand at the car as it hurtled away, and a jet of fire shot from his wand. The car was immediately ablaze, causing the wizards to move even further away.


"Stupefy!" the shouts came again from the Order, comrades who had spotted their chance to catch the supporters vulnerable, and several more people dropped to the ground, stunned and unable to move.


Many wizards raised their wands to fire back into the woods.


"Levicorpus!" whispered Peter. He didn't stand and show his face as James and Sirius had. He remained crouched behind the vehicle, out of sight, and shot his spell over the hood of the car.


One man was caught by the spell, perhaps not the man Peter had aimed at, but it was effective nonetheless. The man had just thrown back his wand arm to fire a spell into the trees and back at the Order. Instead his aim was thrown off as he was heaved into the air, and he set another man's cloak on fire.


Peter actually laughed.


"There you go, Wormtail," grinned Sirius, trying to be encouraging. "This is just like hexing the Slytherins in school. It's not a big deal." He did not say that he was scared out of his mind, and he didn't dare look at the dead man lying beside them. It wasn't the time to be weak or afraid, and he patted Peter on the shoulder as if proud.


Chaos ensued, as the man on fire struggled to get his cloak off, and accidentally set a woman on fire when he knocked into her. They both screamed and shot water from their wands to put it out. Those around the two were distracted as they tried to give distance to the fire.


It only took a few seconds of burning before the car suddenly exploded. Hooded wizards ran from the sudden surge of fire. One or two didn't get away fast enough, and their screams ripped through the night.


"Guess it was full on petrol..." murmured Sirius, now moving from behind their hiding place, slipping carefully towards the crowd with his wand held protectively out in front of him. James and Lily slunk behind him.


"Stupefy!" cried many voices once more, and spells from the Order shot out from the woods, halting several people in the midst of the disarray.


"Petrificus Totalus!" Lily shouted, casting her own spell from behind Sirius. A woman - she had been casting cooling charms on her screaming, burning associates, and trying to put out the car fire - suddenly stiffened and tipped over like a falling tree.


"That's my girl," smiled James, letting his guard down slightly to grab her hand as they and Sirius crouched behind a bush. Peter joined them, breathing heavily.


At Peter's less-than-graceful crawl from the car to where they now sat behind the bush, somebody finally spotted them and fired a hex, a harsh slashing movement with his wand. What looked like purple flame soared towards them at an alarming speed; James and Lily, who were exchanging grins even through their sweat and the smell of burning flesh in the distance, didn't seem to notice. But Sirius saw, and he knew that the wand movement alone had looked deadly, and for a moment his heart stopped beating.


He swiftly sat up straighter and flung his wand arm forward, over the hedge, so quickly that the wand nearly flew out of his hand.


"Impedimenta!" he snapped, not wasting another second. The instant the spell left his wand, he ducked behind the bush once more in case he missed. The purple spell zipping toward them hit Sirius's stopping curse and ruptured in the air, the light quickly disappearing as several purple sparks floated harmlessly to the ground.


It was a close call. Sirius was breathing heavily from how hard his heart was hammering in his chest. He smiled weakly at James, who looked grim at their close call. Sirius placed a hand on his chest to calm his heart as he gasped, "Vigilance." He shifted, sinking closer to the ground, leaning back into the bush once more to catch his breath, and allowed his eyes to close and block out the burning, nightmarish street.


The small battle continued in that manner. The Order, though outnumbered, had places to hide. They hid behind cars, behind trees in the small woods, behind bushes and people's landscaping. Those in the rally had nowhere to go or hide, for they had lit nearly the entire street on fire and were surrounded. They had no shelter, and the Order could pick them off, one by one.


The Ministry Aurors arrived on the scene moments after James had sent the blazing car towards the crowd, and things moved very quickly from then on.


It wasn't forgotten that Bartemius Crouch allowed the Aurors to use Unforgivable Curses, and the Order members retreated, not wanting to be hit in crossfire, or worse, mistaken as participants in the gruesome party.


Wizards were captured and taken into custody. At that point, the majority of the crowd suddenly Disapparated from the Muggle street. A few witches and wizards lay dead among the Muggles. Most were simply purebloods, out for a night of fun and to show their support for Voldemort. Many weren't Death Eaters at all, and didn't intend to kill or do much harm other than vandalism of Muggle property.


Thus, Pureblood families were the first to leave the crowd, not wanting to be arrested just for being there to show support.


"Bet my parents were in that crowd," Sirius later mumbled, and he was right, for they were there, though it was never confirmed. Things like this seemed to be a family adventure. Even Regulus had gone to the last rally two years earlier, and they'd tried to force Sirius to show his support as well. Sirius had been sickened and disgusted, had refused and slammed his bedroom door.


Now everything calmed down very quickly; the fires were extinguished. A few people bent over bodies on the ground to see if any were still breathing. A few others had taken scared Muggles away to Obliviate them.


Within the woods, the four were able to locate the other Order members. Most of them were crouched over a still form. Several more paced around them, nervous, afraid, or possibly anxious.


It was Caradoc Dearborn, and James could now match the muffled shout they'd heard earlier to his voice. He'd been hit with a spell.


"He's all right," said Moody gruffly. "We'll get him in to see the Healers."


Caradoc was lying quite still and breathing heavily. Blood seeped through his robes. His eyes darted about wildly, afraid, and he seemed unable to speak. Dorcas Meadows brushed her fingers through his hair reassuringly, and Marlene McKinnon held his hand. James knelt down beside Moody and patted Caradoc's knee as they listened to the sounds on the street.


The Aurors cornered the last man, who was trying to continue the terrorism on his own for a last few moments - he was tall and thin, though they couldn't identify him for the hood over his head. "The Dark Lord will prevail! He reigns, he reigns!" the man screamed maniacally at them. "Morsmordre!"


The Aurors were distracted, for they had never heard of the spell. Shield charms went up, unsure of how to counter the spell and hoping only to block it. But the spell wasn't aimed at any of them. A green light soared into the air like a firecracker, and it exploded in the sky.


"Bloody hell," said Peter, looking upwards through the trees where they still hid, crouched over Caradoc.


A bright green skull was drawn in the sky from the spell. A snake protruded from a laughing mouth, and cast an eerie light upon the burning, bloody street. The man who cast the spell had gone, laughing as he disappeared with a loud crack.


"Those sodding fools," Moody gave a guttural growl towards the Aurors. "They let him get away."


But nobody heard him, nobody even cared - everyone was busy staring upwards in fear.


It was the first time any had seen the mark. But not the last.







V.

The Daily Prophet was packed full of the news of the night. Sirius read it as he wolfed down eggs in the morning. James, Lily and Peter had spent the night, all too exhausted to go home. All too afraid to part with each other after their very first battle. Too afraid to be alone.


The worst part was when James pointed out that it was a small victory. It was only a rally of Purebloods, and though some Death Eaters had clearly been there as well, not all of them had. It was merely a night meant to show their support, to show that - though the Dark Lord may have been quiet recently - they were still there, and they still supported the cause.


It wasn't really a war. It was only a night that had gotten out of hand. It could and would get much worse, much more difficult and a lot more frightening.


But they were still there, still alive, and though it may have been small, it was still their victory. It didn't matter that the Ministry took credit, so long as their own underground group wasn't known of.


"Look at this," Peter, who had been reading over Sirius's shoulder at the breakfast table, suddenly blurted. He pointed to a paragraph on the front page, a little further down than where Sirius had been reading silently to himself.


"One of the bodies recovered at the scene was identified as suspected Death Eater Vincent Aedhrik," Sirius read aloud the passage that Peter had pointed out. "While trying to make an identification of the body, the staff at St. Mungo's noticed a marking on Mr Aedhrik's forearm."


"The mark was that of a skull and a serpent," breathed James, now reading over Sirius's shoulder as well. "The very same mark that floated above the destroyed Muggle street. It is believed to be the mark of You-Know-Who."


They exchanged worried glances.


"Should anyone come across this mark in the sky, the Ministry asks to be notified immediately," Sirius read on. "Anyone finding this mark is urged not to enter any buildings, and wait for the assistance of a certified Ministry Auror."


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In My Time of Dying: The Dark Mark

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