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The three of us are preparing to Disapparate…in fact James has already begun to spin on his heels before he realizes he doesn’t have a clue as to where we’re going. At the same moment, I recognize that I don’t even know where to begin looking for Clover. James and I decide our best option is to look at Sirius expectantly.

“She never told any of us where she had been when she came back,” I said pointedly. “What are we doing here guys? Merlin, I still can’t properly Stun someone as you very well know,” I say to James who I typically practiced on in Defense Against the Dark Arts class.

James smiles grimly, “He’s right Padfoot. He couldn’t Stun a dung beetle if he wanted to.” I had been expecting him to agree with me on the fact that maybe we shouldn’t be gallivanting off to find the Dark Lord’s lair without a care in the world, but hey, that worked too.

Sirius looks back and forth between the two of us before he sighs heavily. “I think I know where to go. You do pick up a thing or two when both your parents are Death Eaters don’t you? But I see you two aren’t so keen on the idea of saving my baby sister any more. Well that’s fine, but I’m going.”

James and I sigh simultaneously because at that moment we both knew there was no way we’d be able to talk Sirius out of this, and also, neither of us was going to let him go alone.

“Well let’s go then,” James says tiredly. He ran a hand over his face. “Where is this destination of hell?” Sirius replies with a peculiar sounding location name, one neither James nor I could picture or even repeat. We all decide a Side-Along Apparation would be our best bet.

“Stupify,” I try pitifully pointing my wand at James. A pathetic little poof of smoke issued from the tip of my wand but nothing more. James snorted. We both grabbed a hold of Sirius and without hesitation we were nothing more than a wisp of smoke in the air.

We appeared on the edge of shadows at a large weed infested graveyard. There’s very little light and so the three of us peer into the darkness, but nothing appears to us that we recognize as human shapes. “C’mon,” Sirius mutters. We crawl army style along the wet grass like insidious snakes until we reach a hefty overdone tombstone bigger than the three of us combined. I take the liberty of peeking around the huge stone and what I see before me is disheartening.

The Death Eaters stand in a half moon circle and in the center is Voldemort himself looking as ghastly as ever. There are at least thirty of them present and I can’t make out who any of them are. The worst part of the scene lays at the foot the Dark Lord and that’s because I recognized the bent hovering form of a body as Clover’s.

I believe I squeaked because one of the darkly robed witches and wizards turns my way sharply. I disappear behind the stone as quickly as possible but I’m thoroughly convinced I’ve been seen. Hopefully it was my brother Regulus. He’d be too scared out of his mind to tattle on me, and he’s no fool – I don’t think he’s ever wanted me dead.

“What is it?” Sirius mouthed at me.

I can’t bear to tell him and I’m sure how I’d even explain it so, giving up on me, Sirius takes a look himself. When he turns back to us his face is exactly the shade of a raw onion.

“I think,” he whispers so low I can barely tell he’s speaking at all, “she’s getting the mark.” My heart sinks so low in my stomach, I feel as if I’m going to be sick. I even gag a little bit. This entire time James has been curled up in a ball, back to the tombstone, staring straight ahead. Clearly, he’s not going to be much help. Looks like it’ll be 2 ½ men against 30.

Suddenly, I hear an ear-splitting scream and Sirius and I look at each other and then from behind the stone. Clover is on her knees in front of Voldemort and another Death Eater is holding her arm tightly against him while another holds her down so she can’t get away. I feel a tight ball of rage begin to form in my chest as the Death Eater’s hood that is holding Clover’s arm falls back from his face, and I see that it is Regulus. He may never have wanted me dead, but I certainly want to kill him.

The Dark Lord’s long wand is pointed directly at Clover’s forearm and appears to be digging into her flesh, most likely the cause of her cry. It seems to be true, Sirius’s assumption – Clover is receiving her Dark Mark and doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it. “What the hell is she doing?” Sirius asks anxiously. “Let’s go you guys!”

I couldn’t agree more. Sirius and I rise together and walk out from behind the tombstone like two bandits walking blindly into gunfire. Basically, we’re going to die. That’s something I hadn’t previously expected and I certainly haven’t accepted it but hey, what can you do. I feel James rise a little more hesitantly as if he’s actually thinking through his actions, but if he is, he must think this is best idea possible. That, or he’s decided to go along with it because it seems to be the popular thing to do.

“Get away from her!” Sirius shouts as authoritatively as is possible. It sounds pretty good to me - he is a Black after everything but of course it’s all to no avail. The Death Eaters and even Voldemort are temporarily stunned but the Dark Lord is the first to recover and begins to laugh as if it’s the funniest thing he’s heard in months. Which it probably is come to think of it.

I think fast. “Stupify!” I roar, aiming at nothing in particular. This time though, my voice sounds quite confident, but then I realize it’s because I’m joined by fifty other voices. The Aurors are here.

A few Death Eaters are actually hit by someone’s spell, and I’ll never know for sure if mine actually came into existence but I quickly dismiss the thought from my head. Clover has collapsed in the grass, and Sirius and I rush over to her side.

“Yes,” she groans.

“Er,” I say, “yes what?”

“I’ll go out with you,” she proclaims with as much strength as she can muster.

“Wow,” it’s my turned to be stunned, “weird timing.”

She shrugs or at least tries. I imagine it would be difficult from that position on the ground. “Well,” is all she says before she blacks out.

“I told you not to come here tonight,” Dumbledore says calmly as he approaches us from behind.

“Well,” Sirius says coolly, “we did. Would have been nice if you’d shown up sooner don’t you think?” He stares down hard at the Dark Mark on his sister’s arm. It’s glowing a cool black at the moment, but I imagine that if I reached down to touch it, I’d be severely burned.

“It might be useful,” another Auror offers up unhelpfully.

Sirius only shoots him a malice soaked glare.

James finally speaks up. “Let’s at least get her to St. Mungo’s.”

We all stand around for a few seconds before leaping into action.

“Additionally,” he continues, “that’s quite possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.”

“Stupidest or bravest,” I reply. I’ve discovered as a Marauder there certainly is a thin line between the two and it definitely gets blurred from time to time.

Now, would be a good example of that.

AN:  We're almost done guys!  A little behind schedule, but still, better finished than abandoned.  Props to you if you've stuck around this long!

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