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In My Time of Dying by Stag Night
Chapter 19 : Riots and Death
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 9


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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 . N I N E T E E N
Riots and Death




It was easy this time, when Remus Apparated into the massive forest, to know just where to find the werewolves. This time he appeared in the clearing and strode purposefully for where he knew the pack to be living. He was smarter now, more experienced. Perhaps living among his fellows and embracing his wild side had made his senses keener; he could hear everything, and he was alert as he walked. He scarcely made a sound, he stepped so lightly through the trees and bushes.


This time, they didn't sneak up on him or catch him unaware. This time they didn't hear or smell him from a mile away (or perhaps they could still smell him, but weren't alarmed because his scent was familiar to them). This time it was he who snuck upon the collection of caves beside the river.


Remus crouched low behind the brush a safe distance away and waited.


Today was January thirteenth. Tonight was the full moon.


He had carefully chosen this date to return to the werewolves. He thought it would be best to make his return as the monster they all shared in common, rather than the boy who had walked out on them nearly two months before. They would have a hard time denying him when they were all beasts; he was one of the pack, and this way their human emotions could not stop them until he was already there.


Remus settled back against a tree and shoved his belongings deep into his pockets. This time, he wasn't going to hide the cloak or the mirror or his wand. This time he wouldn't need to gain their trust, for they already knew for certain he was one of them. They no longer doubted his lie that he had been banished, and none of them believed he owned a wand or any other magical device at all.


They wouldn't search him, he was confident. He could keep the items with him now. Remus wrapped his cloak tighter about himself and shivered - January accompanied by Dementors was the most miserable thing he'd ever encountered, almost, except for transformations. He settled back against a nearby tree to wait for the moon.


He wasn't sure how long he had sat when the first cricket chirped off to his left. It wasn't long before a few others joined it, and soon the entire dusky evening was filled with the sounds of them. Instantly, Remus was alert. The moon was coming, though through the thick trees and misty fog he couldn't see the sky.


Suddenly, he was rather glad it was January. It must have been only around four o'clock.


(Up until this point, Remus had always hated winter, simply because the days were shorter and the nights were longer. He hated when the full moon began to rise in the late afternoon, hated when it didn't go away again until mid-morning.


But just for tonight, Remus was glad. It was less time huddling in the cold in a thin, worn cloak, and more time running free, blood pumping, adrenaline rushing, covered in fur and feverish heat.)


He began to shiver uncontrollably as the blood running through his veins prepared itself for the transformation. His knees began to ache, and soon his elbows and fingers did as well. Remus shut his eyes tightly and held his breath. He couldn't let his position be known before he became the beast.


From within the caves, the first cry came. It was a child. Remus's heart ached for the children that had to endure the pain that caused even grown men to cry.


His skin prickled for the coarse hairs that were beginning to make their way to the surface. He distinctly felt his ankles break, and he brought the collar of his robes to his face to muffle his cry. His nose began to bleed as it became longer. Remus bit the fabric of his shabby robes so hard he thought his teeth might break, and strained to keep silent.


But at last, only moments after the child had begun to scream in agony, a woman's voice rang out, and then a man's. And then the icy air that chilled him to the bones was filled with howls and screams of rage and pain.


Just as another bone snapped, Remus let out a howl of his own.


Fully transformed, he staggered towards the caves to greet the pack and join the monthly hunt.






II.

They stared angrily at him as the sun began to rise. They had become aware of his presence sometime during the night, but had been unable to do anything while in their beastly forms. A few had approached, snuffled his wet nose and wagged their tails. A few others had snarled and snapped when he came near them, forcing him to roll over on the ground and show submission.


They were all breathless and bloody now as they came to within the caves. The children cried as they waited for the burning pain to subside. Remus was glad they didn't have to experience as he had as a child - locked away, with no outlet for the animalistic rage except for his own body. At least the bones that broke due to transformation healed upon returning to a human body. The bones that were broken during the night by a wild, trapped, frustrated werewolf, however, did not heal on their own.


Perhaps it was a good thing that the werewolves were banished, thought Remus. It seemed healthier for them here, almost. The transformations were a part of life here - there was no suffering for days afterwards as he had been accustomed to at home, at Hogwarts. The suffering ended with the night. The frustration didn't exist when they were in the wild where they could hunt and run freely.


The grizzled old man, Rolff, approached Remus looking deadly. Ulfric trailed behind Rolff, cracking his knuckles nervously, or perhaps to work any remaining stiffness from them. He eyed Remus, and Remus saw a look of betrayal in his yellow eyes.


"Why did you leave, Lupin?" Rolff demanded gruffly. "You have proven that the moment you were trusted and left alone, you fled. You have betrayed our trust, and you dare to come back. Ulfric was punished for leaving you and letting you escape. You belong to Greyback, and when you escaped, Greyback got his revenge on Ulfric."


Remus eyed Ulfric apologetically. Ulfric looked grim and didn't show any sort of reaction to Remus's sympathy. He acted cold and distant; Rolff shoved his shoulder, and obediently Ulfric turned around to display scars - claw marks, bite marks, some of them fresh - on his back.


"What is your excuse?" demanded Rolff, turning to look at Remus again.


Remus swallowed. "I received word that my father had passed," he muttered.


"Oh?" sneered Rolff. "And who sent word? For a wizard who was banished from living among society, I can't imagine anyone who would be contacting you."


Remus clenched his teeth. "My mother," he lied. "An owl came to me with a message while I was checking traps."


Rolff's eyes narrowed. "Ah, how could I forget," he growled. Ulfric's eyes widened slightly as he stared at the side of Rolff's head. "You are the fortunate one, who had parents caring for you and hiding you."


Not knowing how to respond to that, Remus didn't say anything. He knew, from what Ulfric had told him months before, that Rolff's parents had disowned him, cast him out the moment he was bitten, ashamed and embarrassed of what he was. He knew from the start that Rolff had resented him because his own parents were always supportive.


But what else could he have said? There was nobody else who should care for him enough to be in contact, not if he wanted them to continue believing the lie that he'd been banished. Werewolves, after all, don't have friends or associates; they aren't allowed to.


A terrifying thought came to Remus then. How would he explain how he disappeared so quickly? He'd Disapparated on the spot, but that isn't something a werewolf should be capable of doing. But all eyes were on Rolff, and nobody seemed to consider how he had escaped. Rolff himself seemed to be seething, and had only jealous and resentful thoughts about Remus's supportive parents.


"Why did you return, Lupin," demanded Rolff at last, in a harsh voice after a few tense moments passed. Behind him, most of the pack had gathered, and all of them eyed Remus.


Remus swallowed. "I am still not allowed among society," he said softly. He tried to keep his voice calm as he spoke. "I wanted to say goodbye to my father, and lay him to rest. But that deed is done. This is my family now, and I returned."


It was with horror that he realised how easily the lies came. How well he had been fitting in here, and how detached he had felt from everything during his time back in England with his friends. How easy it was to claim the pack was his family. Living in England, going to Hogwarts, attending Order meetings until well into the night, sometimes until early morning even - it seemed like an entirely different life than the one that he'd begun here. It saddened him, and he realised now that the most enjoyable event during all the time spent at home the last two months had been the last full moon. He'd been so subdued throughout everything - even Christmas had been difficult - he was with his friends, but it was the first holiday without his father.


He swallowed a sickening lump in his throat, and his despair must have shown on his face, for Rolff didn't question him any further.


"You have lost all privileges within the pack," Rolff grunted, beginning to turn away.


"Thank you, Alpha," sighed Remus. It didn't matter what he'd lost. Rolff had shown mercy, and he could return, at least. The biggest hurdle had passed. While he wasn't sure what kind of help he'd be to the Order trapped in the cave all the time, he thought that, perhaps, he'd be allowed out again with time.


"You are allowed out of your cave only to bathe," snapped the elder man over his shoulder. Remus nodded. Rolff turned to Ulfric. "As further punishment for your irresponsibility, you're back on guard duty," he glared menacingly. "You seem to be the only one around here willing to befriend this runt, anyway."


Ulfric clenched his jaw, and Remus was reminded of how James often did the same. The muscles in his cheeks worked tensely, but he kept his mouth shut, and after the Alpha was gone, he turned to Remus and gripped his arm irritably.


"Let's go," he said shortly, hauling Remus roughly to his feet. Remus winced, feeling the aches and pains of last night's transformation. Ulfric seemed to be sore as well, for after a few steps he lightened his grip and walked more slowly.


He glanced at Remus and, in spite of himself, wasn't able to stifle a grin. "Ouch," he said, looking mildly embarrassed.


Remus laughed.







III.

Tonight’s Order meeting was in full swing. Not everyone was there, however. Remus, for one, was certainly gone. Marlene McKinnon had been unable to make it tonight, claiming her young daughter was ill at home.


“You are a mother above all else, my dear woman,” Dumbledore had responded to her sincere apologies, and she had left amidst well wishes for her child.


Elphias Doge and Edgar Bones were both at the Ministry tonight, keeping an eye on things. The worst possible thing right now would be for a Death Eater to penetrate the Ministry’s securities and have access to the Minister’s office. The fall of the Minister was the fall of the Ministry, and the fall of the Ministry would be the fall of all of them.


Only one person was missing from the scene and unaccounted for, and worry was growing among the Order members.


“Benjy’s never been late before,” said Dorcas stiffly, pacing around and chewing on her thumbnail. “Do you suppose something has happened?”


Moody scratched his neck and frowned at the floor. “Give him a chance,” he said gruffly.


Dorcas resumed her pacing.


“Sit down, Dorcas, you’re making me nervous, too,” said Caradoc, smiling tightly, smiling fakely.


She glared at him for a moment and then sat with a huff.


“Patience, everyone, patience,” said Dumbledore. He alone seemed easy and unworried as he stood at the front of the room.


“We ought to go look for him,” said Fabian Prewett.


“We know where he lives,” added Gideon helpfully.


Sirius Black narrowed his eyes against the growing panic in the room. Frank and Alice were talking quietly amongst themselves, occasionally eyeing Dumbledore. Each were pale and worried looking. Hagrid looked teary-eyed in the back of the room.


His own best friends, Peter and James, were watching everyone’s reactions with frightened looks upon their faces. James’s brow had sunk low over his eyes, his face seemed torn between worry and anger, anger that something bad may have happened. Peter’s eyes were wide as he looked around, once even meeting Sirius’s eye, and his face seemed to cry out for help.


Dumbledore hummed a little tune, barely audible over the murmurs of the Order. And then, suddenly, the hurried pounding of feet were heard outside the room on the hidden staircase. “Ah,” said Dumbledore pleasantly.


Benjy Fenwick burst into the room, breathing heavily, followed by Aberforth Dumbledore, who appeared worried enough to leave his post as bartender. Benjy’s face was white, as if he had seen a ghost. “Dumbledore,” he gasped, nearly choking on his words.


At once, Dumbledore’s cheerful demeanour became quite serious. “What is it, Benjy? What has happened?”


Benjy seemed to struggle to swallow, his voice broken and hoarse as he spoke. “In my neighbourhood. Death Eaters. In my neighbourhood! I tried to stop them, and then I realized there were too many…” he slumped slightly against the door frame and touched his hand gently to a burn on the side of his face.


It was uproar in the room. Everyone sprang from their seats, their wands clutched in their hands.


Benjy Fenwick lived in Ottery St. Catchpole. It was a small village, and more than one wizarding family lived in the area. It was a surprise to no one that such a place would be targeted by the Dark side. It would be considered an insult to anyone supporting the Dark side that witches and wizards would choose to live among Muggles.


Dumbledore’s voice was loud above all the sudden noise in movement, causing everyone to stop. “Is there anyplace safe where we can Apparate to counter this attack?” he demanded of Benjy.


Benjy gasped for breath and slumped even more against the door.


Gideon looked grim. “He lives right near my sister,” he started to say.


Fabian looked at his brother very quickly, as if to try to stop him. Gideon held up a hand to silence him, even before he said a word. “She won’t mind if we Apparated on her property.”


“Are you-” growled Fabian at once.


“This is important,” snapped Gideon. “She won’t be harmed.”


“Will you send her your Patronus, please, Gideon, so that she isn’t taken by surprise at our arrival. Let her know we won’t be bothering her, and aim only to use her yard as a gathering point.”


Gideon gave a single nod and raised his wand. A monkey leapt from the tip of it with a gleeful laugh, and then it bounded out of one of the room’s tiny windows. Fabian gave an indignant huff. Gideon grinned; his Patronus always made him smile.


When it was gone, the smile immediately slipped from his face. Fabian crossed his arms unhappily.


Dumbledore turned to Hagrid then, who hastily wiped his small, wet, beetle-like black eyes.


“Hagrid, I should like for you to return to the school tonight. Please inform Professor McGonagall that something grave has come up, and that my return will be postponed for several more hours.”


Hagrid nodded and shifted his large form, struggling to stand from the tiny chair supporting his weight. He clutched his cap in his big hands, wringing it, and glanced worriedly around the room.


“All righ',” he said, squeezing between the rows of chairs. “Good luck with the attack.” He gave Dumbledore a curt nod. “Professor,” he said, and then added, “We'll all be waitin' fer news of your safe return.”


“Of course, Hagrid, of course,” agreed Dumbledore respectfully, and then Hagrid was gone.


“Right,” Gideon said, heaving a nervous sigh and hoping that he didn‘t just place his sister and his young nephews in grave danger. “Picture a small country house upon a hill. It’s on a large piece of property - it has a garden and an orchard, a shed and a pond. There’s a chicken coop. There’s a river nearby. They call it the Burrow. That should be enough to get you there.”


The Order hurried out of the room, up the hidden stairs and through the trap door in the floor. They emerged from behind the bar; some of them vaulted the counter, much to the surprise of the patrons drinking there. There was a great rush to get outside, into the alley, and the night was interrupted with popping noises as, one by one, the witches and wizards Disapparated.


Sirius glanced around when he appeared in the dark countryside. In the distance he could see a small house, it’s windows brightly lit from within. He thought he saw a face in the window, watching, but was too far away to really make anything out. He glanced around him.


Dorcas Meadows appeared some thirty feet away. A pop in the distance indicated another arrival, though they couldn’t see where in the darkness.


“Gather in front of the small cottage, if you will,” Dumbledore’s voice was magically amplified in the darkness.


“Come on, then,” said Dorcas to Sirius, and together they set off across the field.


“A bit off, weren’t we?” said Sirius, trying to sound light.


Dorcas’s face was grim. “A bit,” she agreed, though her voice held no hint of any desire to make light of the situation. “Are you all right, Black?”


Sirius glanced at her as they trudged through grass that was in desperate need of being cut. “Brilliant,” he smiled. “This is much better than sitting around being trained, isn’t it?”


At that, the corners of her mouth gave a slight twitch. Dorcas Meadows whole-heartedly agreed; there was nothing to compare with the feeling of being out there, fighting for everything you believed in and everyone you loved.


Many of the Order members were already there, gathered in front of the old house. A kindly looking woman with red hair was standing in the window, a chubby, drooling infant in her arms, and she looked rather worried as she watched them. Gideon gave her a silly wave, and the woman turned away, though for the moment, Sirius swore he saw the briefest smile on her face.


James and Lily walked up to them. Lily was soaking wet.


“What happened to you?” asked Sirius in dismay.


Lily blushed furiously. James grinned. “She Apparated into the pond.”


“Shut up, James,” said Lily, sticking her nose into the air haughtily and trying not to let the corners of her mouth twitch. She pulled her wand out and began, whilst trying to retain some level of dignity, to dry her clothes.







IV.

They moved quickly, and in the distance, they could hear the screams of tortured citizens. It didn’t take long for them to reach the outskirts of the town.


As had happened before, during the rally, everyone split up. Dorcas grabbed Sirius’s arm and yanked him along with her, and he was dismayed to be separated from James and Lily. He fought against her for a moment, but she was so determined that her grip was like iron.


“Stop it, Black, I need you with me,” she snapped as she dragged him through the trees and houses.


And James, who turned in a circle searching for his best friend, for one moment Sirius was there and then he was gone, grabbed Lily’s hand. “Come on, Lily,” he said grimly. “I don’t know where Sirius has got to, but we’ve got to watch our backs. Are you coming, Peter?”


Peter, eyes wide in terror, nodded and followed the couple through the streets.


Dorcas, meanwhile, crouched down behind a bush. Some twenty yards in front of them, in the dark, a Muggle lay on the ground screaming. Two wizards were laughing, taking their turns at torturing the woman.


Dorcas yanked Sirius down with her. “Can you cast the Disillusionment Charm?” she asked him breathlessly.


Sirius eyed her carefully, but nodded.


“Do it,” she demanded, and he obeyed without question. The sensation of the charm was cold and clammy, and he shuddered as he felt it slip down his back. It wasn’t as effective as an invisibility cloak, but here, in the dark, it did it’s job and they were hard to see.


Dorcas eyed him. “We’re going in there. When I cast the first spell, the charm will wear off. Sirius, you need to cast the second, I’ll be busy enough dealing with the first fellow, and the second will be trying to kill me instantly when he spots me. But you’ll still be hidden, you can take him by surprise. You can have him, Sirius, before he even has a chance to turn and see me. Can you do that Sirius? Are you ready for that?”


Sirius nodded, clenching his jaw determinedly. He knew why she was asking him. He knew why she doubted him, and it was because of how killing that vampire had affected him.


She would be killed if he couldn't do this.


“I’m ready,” he said darkly.


And without a word, Dorcas stood up. They moved quickly towards their prey.


Imperio!” Dorcas screamed through the night, and her spell hit one of the men just as she became visible once more. The other turned instantly, so quickly that Sirius almost didn’t have time.


Confundus!” he bellowed, interrupting the man’s spell casting.


The Death Eater looked confused, and shot a killing curse at a tree. He swore loudly and spun on the spot, searching for Dorcas. After a moment, he focused on her once more, but by then it was too late.


Avada Kedavra!” Dorcas growled, pointing her wand at the man before Sirius had a chance to do anything else. And the Death Eater dropped to the ground.


Sirius gaped at her.


Dorcas narrowed her eyes at him. She looked hard, unbothered, her expression blank as if she'd retreated elsewhere in a part of her mind. There was only a warrior there now, and Sirius swallowed, restricting his urge to say something.


“Do the charm again,” she demanded. And he did, feeling ill. Dorcas pointed at the remaining Death Eater, still under the effects of the Imperius Curse. The man was smiling stupidly at her, waiting for a command. “Him too,” she muttered, nodding in his way.


Sirius pointed his wand at the Death Eater and the man was hidden. It was a terrible feeling, knowing an unseen Death Eater was walking behind him. The fact that he was Imperiused did not matter.


They continued. Two Dark Marks shot into the air above them, and more screams riddled the night.


“That way,” said Dorcas grimly, as a Muggle woman and a young boy ran past, panting in fear.


She led the way, and the shouts became steadily louder as they approached the center of the village. There was a fire, Sirius saw. Two Muggles were tied to posts erected in the town square. Fire burned beneath them.


Sirius’s mouth fell open; here was Muggle persecuting at it’s worst. Rage boiled within him at the sight, as the Death Eaters jeered and cheered. The Muggles, a man and a woman, cried out as the fire licked at their legs.


“We have to do something,” whispered Sirius desperately. He didn’t think he could stand to watch two people suffer so horribly.


“And what, Sirius, do you think we can do?” asked Dorcas, sounding harsh, though her voice was strained. “Do you see how many of them are out there? Those aren‘t just Death Eaters, Sirius, there’s too many. There’s people there who merely support the Dark cause and have joined in.”


Sirius glanced around. He spotted Gideon and Fabian nearby, watching grimly from a roof. Benjy, Caradoc and Alastor Moody were nowhere to be seen, nor were James, Lily and Peter. And Sirius couldn't remember seeing Dumbledore at all, not since standing in front of the Weasleys' small cottage.


Above, the two Dark Marks glowed brightly, the snakes twisting from the mouths of the skulls as if watching the scene below in interest. It all felt so unreal, like a nightmare. Sirius felt hopelessness begin to take over the rage within him.


And then, out of nowhere, a fiery red creature soared into the crowd. Sirius recognized Fawkes; he’d seen the mythical bird when he sat in Dumbledore’s office in sixth year, after persuading Snape to go into the Whomping Willow.


Fawkes let out a cry, beautiful in the tortured night as he soared above the heads of the dark witches and wizards.


“Dumbledore’s here,” somebody shouted. And at once, the crowd began repeating his name amongst themselves. A few of them gave up and Disapparated then and there. Many of them remained; they still outnumbered the powerful headmaster of Hogwarts.


And then Dumbledore appeared, right in front of Sirius and Dorcas. He raised his arms, and it felt like the air exploded. There was a great boom, and it felt like a powerful wave of something rolled through the town. It knocked people off of their feet and caused the Dark side to give a strangled shout of surprise.


With another flick of his wand, it seemed a wall of fire had erupted all about the town square, preventing escape.


Spells were shot at Dumbledore, who quickly turned and disappeared with a swish of his cloak, appearing again on the other side.


“Move!” screamed Dorcas, but the spells meant for Dumbledore were too fast. One of them grazed Sirius’s shoulder, instantly ripping his Disillusionment Charm from him. Several of the Dark wizards shouted in surprise at his sudden appearance, and they advanced.


Dorcas immediately sprang into action, her wand swinging crazily. From the roof, Gideon and Fabian joined in, their attacks from above taking everyone by surprise. At first the Death Eaters couldn’t see where the spells came from. And, amidst the confusion, when the Prewett brothers were finally discovered, they simply ducked behind the roof to avoid any spells cast their way.


A few in the crowd Apparated up to the roof to engage the brothers. Muffled shouts could be heard from above as they fought for their lives. One wizard fell to his death, a look of surprise upon his face as he went.


Sirius fought as valiantly as Dorcas. Many Death Eaters fell beneath their spells, but it was a never-ending wave that advanced towards them.


“Protect us!” screamed Dorcas at her Imperiused Death Eater, and the man joined in the battle, fighting to save their lives. He was ruthless in his efforts, and none of their attackers tried to stop him, for they recognised him as a Death Eater. Nobody realised it was him striking them down instead of Dorcas or Sirius, and only then did Sirius realise how well Voldemort trained his minions, how powerful they really were, as he watched one man cause so much destruction.


Many more of the crowd began to Disapparate, for James, Lily and Peter had appeared from another corner of the square. Benjy, Moody and Caradoc flung spells down from another rooftop. A glowing silver lion pounced on the crowd, causing no damage but eliciting surprise and fright, causing distraction and announcing the arrival of Frank and Alice. Dumbledore captured people left and right, and beside him, a large group of subdued wizards sat, tied and helpless.


Sirius felt his spirits soar - their attackers were now surrounded and out in the open. Their numbers dwindled by the second, and for a fleeting moment, he felt they might actually win this small battle.


And then, from out of nowhere, Sirius saw a flash of green light. Somebody was going to die, he thought. He only realised it was him when Fawkes swooped down in front of him from the sky. The curse hit the magnificent bird full on, and then Fawkes was gone as he hit the ground in a pile of ash.


For a moment Sirius felt his chest tighten, but then a tiny chirp was heard from the pile. Quickly, Sirius reached down and scooped the newborn creature into his hand. He kissed the top of it's featherless head. "Thank you," he muttered under his breath, before slipping the baby bird into his pocket.


Sirius aimed his wand at the building beside them, to their right. “Confringo!” he roared, just as Dorcas began to look afraid, as if she didn’t think they would survive.


And the side of the building crumbled and fell, large chunks of brick and plaster tumbling onto the crowd. Perhaps some were killed instantly, and some gravely injured. Some were trapped. Wands were broken in the impact and spells were unable to be cast to save them.


Much of the crowd was cut off by the sudden barrier; the fact that it could easily be cleaned up by magic did not matter. It gave Sirius and Dorcas a chance to retreat, to escape, and they took it. The two burst through a side door of the building on the left, racing through the dark, climbing the stairs.


They leaned out of a broken window, continuing to fight the crowd that had lost track of them in the dust and rubble. More Disapparated, sensing a losing battle. More fell, stunned or dead or injured.


Eventually the Order members were able to gather. Those on the rooftops came down; those fighting from the alleys emerged. Soon they outnumbered the few Dark supporters who remained. Soon there were only a few left, fighting valiantly for what they believed in. And soon there were none at all.


The ground was littered with corpses. The walls were crowded with captured wizards lined up against them, screaming in anger, screaming support for the Dark side despite their capture.


Dumbledore flicked his wand and his Patronus shot from it. “The Ministry should be arriving shortly,” he told them. He turned to the Muggles tied to the post, and only then did Sirius realise that the two were still alive - that Dumbledore must have cast some spell to protect them from the flames during the ruckus.


“Are you all right?” he asked the couple kindly.


Their eyes were wide and disbelieving. “I think I have died,” said the man. “This can’t be real.”


Dumbledore’s blue eyes twinkled as he smiled kindly at them. “You will find yourselves soon escorted to the Ministry of Magic, where you will likely act as witnesses in the trials of these attackers. When all of the information you have to give is taken, you will be handed over to the Obliviators, and after that, you won’t remember any of this at all,” he said kindly.


The man looked unsure of how to respond to that. “Okay,” he said agreeably. The woman remained silent in her shock.


“Prior to all of that, the Ministry will call for a healer to deal with your wounds.” Dumbledore turned to the Order, surveying them all as if looking to see if any were missing.


Sirius felt he could collapse with relief at the sight of James, Lily and Peter.


“Ah, Dorcas,” said Dumbledore. “I believe we haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting your new friend, hmm?”


Dorcas scowled and turned to the Imperiused man beside her as if surprised to find him still following her. “Go stand with the other prisoners,” she snarled. The man happily obliged.


Sirius struggled to hide his frown. The man had saved their lives; he’d fought valiantly on their side, protecting them. Sirius hardly thought he deserved to be spoken to in such a way. But then he had to remind himself that it was only the work of the Imperius Curse, and if he had the chance, the man would turn on them in an instant.


“Is something wrong, Mister Pettigrew?” asked Dumbledore after a moment.


Everyone glanced at Peter, who looked as if he might collapse.


“How on earth…” he started. “There were so many!”


Frank laughed. “The art of war,” he answered. “We really only won because we were all in such small areas. That is how you win a battle, Peter. They can’t all attack us at once when we are in tight quarters, for only a few of them can fit in at a time.” Frank nodded at Dorcas and grinned, the smile a mixture of playfulness and relief. “No doubt that is how you lot survived. I thought you were goners.”


Dorcas didn't return the smile; she looked grim as she surveyed the alley in which they had stood, with it’s caved in walls and blood and lifeless people on the ground.


(Sirius noted that her face still held a bit of that detached expression she'd worn when uttering the Killing Curse.)


Dumbledore checked his watch, intricate with detail and many different hands. “The Ministry will be arriving in seconds,” he said quickly. “I should like for all of you to return to headquarters; I do not want the Ministry to know of the Order just yet.”


Without question, everyone turned and Disapparated on the spot, leaving Dumbledore standing quite alone in the middle of what looked like a war zone.







V.

In the basement of the Hog’s Head Inn, tension was high. Only now did fear reach out and take hold of the Order members. Several of them paced about, waiting for Dumbledore to return to them. Alice Longbottom looked green with illness brought on by nerves. And she wasn’t the only one; Caradoc sat with his head in his hands while Dorcas, sitting beside him, absently patted his back.


“You’re hurt,” said James, grabbing Sirius’s arm and examining his bloodied shoulder. The four of them had just dropped exhaustedly into chairs.


Sirius turned his head to glance down at the wound. “Oh,” he said. He had forgotten, in the adrenaline rush, hadn’t even felt the pain from it. It gave a sudden throb now that it had been brought to his attention. He didn't mind it, for he felt lucky to be alive at all; it was the type of night where he had to fight to keep the smile from permanently sticking to his face, so that with every twinkle of his eye, his friends wondered what, exactly, he had gotten into out there.


Peter’s face looked gaunt as he caught sight of Sirius’s blood soaked sleeve.


Sirius grinned at him, trying not to laugh, and tipped his chair back onto two legs. “It’s all right, Wormtail,” he said, and he felt gallant.


James scowled at his best friend's light-heartedness and lack of concern. He felt sick as he yanked Sirius's arm towards his girlfriend. “Lily, can you heal this?”


Lily leaned forward, trying to get a better look at the injury. “I can certainly try,” she said. “But it depends on the spell that was used.” She glanced questioningly at Sirius.


He gave an easy shrug. “I’m not certain,” he admitted.


Lily frowned and looked grimly at his shoulder. “I’ll give it a shot,” she said, and she murmured a spell as she ran her wand across the wound. Three times she did this, and it did feel marginally less sore, though it still looked like a mess.


“Well, I’ve stopped the bleeding, anyway,” she said apologetically.


“It’s all right.” Absently, Sirius reached into his pocket and stroked the baby bird's head, wondering if it was still all right in there. He hadn't heard a peep from the newborn Fawkes since he took the Curse. But Fawkes nipped his finger, possibly hungry, and he quickly pulled his hand out.


Sirius hadn't told his friends that he'd be dead right now if it wasn't for the bird. He wasn't sure why. Perhaps he didn't want to think about how close he'd come, or what would have happened if Fawkes hadn't been there. Perhaps he didn't want to think about how easily it could have happened in just a split second. Or perhaps he didn't want to scare them with those thoughts.


“Those potions I made you should work when we get home, Sirius,” Lily told him now.


Sirius nodded, wondering when his flat became considered ‘home’ for all of them. He rather liked the thought.


There was a sudden scream, causing everyone to look up in fright. Dorcas had her hand over her mouth. Sirius narrowed his eyes; nothing made Dorcas Meadows scream. Nothing could frighten the woman with nerves of steel. He quickly followed her gaze, and his grey eyes landed on a weak, silver Patronus.


It was a kangaroo; it seemed crippled, for it wasn’t entering the room in its usual loping jump. This time the ghostly creature limped and staggered, eventually collapsing to the floor as a deathly silence overtook the basement. It was a dead Patronus, and upon hitting the ground, its form evaporated into a shining mist.


The only thing that scared Dorcas Meadows was the loss of somebody that she cared about.


Marlene McKinnon’s Patronus was a kangaroo.




Author's Note:
So I know that the McKinnons died only shortly before Lily’s letter to Sirius in DH, as she mentioned their deaths specifically. However, it is stated that the McKinnons died only two weeks after the Order photo was taken. Now, considering that others who have died, such as Dorcas, the Prewett brothers, Caradoc, Benjy, Edgar Bones - were in that photo, I really find it hard to believe that all of those people died only after Harry’s first birthday, in the last few months of the war. That’s not including the Potters and the loss of the Longbottoms as well.

Add to that the fact that Moody claims he never met Aberforth - an Order member - until that picture was taken, and I find it hard to believe. All those years, and he only met Aberforth at the very end?

In this, I have deviated from canon, for I strongly feel that this is an error on JKR’s part, that she had possibly forgotten she stated the McKinnons died two weeks after the photo. For this reason, I have chosen to move the time the photo was taken to much earlier in the war, to give time for deaths to happen throughout the story.

Also, can I just say that this chapter was written BEFORE the HBP movie came out - in other words, before Harry Apparated into the pond on the Weasley property. I was rather annoyed to see that in the movie, right after I'd done it in this story.


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