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Marlene Mckinnon by CrazyBibliophile
Beta'd by Spadfoot Marauder

***

Marlene slammed to the floor, the taste of blood heavy in her mouth.

She dragged herself forward through the loose soil, coughing ominous red splatters onto the dark brown earth. Her breath came hard and fast and she struggled for air, wheezing and gasping.

Her eyes stung with unshed tears, but she stubbornly refused to let herself break down – it wasn’t safe to cry yet, not here.

She staggered to her feet, her breath rasping in her throat, and glanced over her shoulder. She couldn’t see them, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there. That didn’t mean she was safe.

She would never be safe.

***

“Five OWLs,” said Em proudly, holding up the flimsy piece of paper. “Five of them! Bet you can’t beat that, huh Marly?”

A slow smirk spread over Marlene’s face. “Actually,” she said smugly, “I got eleven.”

Jack burst out laughing at the horror-struck look on Emily’s face. “What did you expect, Em? Marly’s a freak.”

“B-but,” stammered Emily, “but you barely even studied! You spent all your time hanging around Dorcas Meadowes, hoping to get invited to one of her crazy illegal parties!”

“Guess I’m just smarter than you,” said Marlene wickedly. Jack sniggered.

“Now, now,” said their mother reprovingly, “don’t be mean, Marly. I’m sure you both did very well.”

Marlene shrugged. “It’s a twin thing. One of us is very smart, one of us is stupid. I’m the smart one.”

Em narrowed here eyes. “Oh, you’ll
pay for that,” she snarled, whipping out her wand. Marlene yelped and ducked under the table as Jack laughed even harder, tears of mirth streaming down his face.

“Stupid, am I?” screeched Em. “At least I know how to handle a wand!
Furnuncu –”

“Save me, Jack!” howled Marly, hiding behind him. “Hex her! Stun her! Do something!”

“Now why would I do that when it’s so funny just watching you get beaten up by a little girl?” said their older brother, adopting an innocent expression.

Emily froze. “What did you just say?” she asked coldly.

“Well, you’re tiny,” shrugged Jack. “You both are, you’re practically garden gnomes. It’s no wonder you’re both rubbish at Quidditch – you’re probably too scared of the height to fly properly…”

As one, the twins turned to face him, their enmity forgotten.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking, Em?” said Marlene sweetly.

“I think I am, Marly,” said Emily, an evil glint entering her eyes.

Jack gulped and backed up until he was trapped against the wall. “Er…you know I didn’t really
mean that…” he said nervously.

Emily glared at him. “You’re such a –”


***

Marlene shuddered, a violent spasm ripping though her body. She couldn’t think of them. It was too painful.

But still, the cruel memories played over and over in her mind, relentless…

***

“So what’s for dinner?” asked Jack cheerfully.

“Boiled toads and grass,” spat his mother, brushing sweaty hair out of her eyes. She waved her wand and summoned plates out of the cupboard, a harried expression on her face.

Jack wisely chose to stay silent, recognising the stress in his mother’s eyes. It wasn’t safe to antagonise her when she was like this – you’d only end up hanging upside down from the ceiling, and then he’d never get to eat. Better to keep his mouth shut.

Maybe it was safer just to order take-out…

Marlene sighed, and went to help her mother. “I’ll finish up,” she commanded, disarming her mother with a quick flick of her wand. “You go look after Marcus.”

“Marly,” said her mum fervently, “you’re my hero.”

Jack was consumed by a sudden fit of coughing. “Suck-up,” he managed, disguising the words with very loud and very fake coughs.

Marlene stuck her tongue out at him.


***

A single tear escaped and slid down her face. Marlene swiped it away furiously, disgusted with herself. She wouldn’t cry for them. Not yet, at least.

She ran unsteadily onwards, running and falling and getting up and running and falling and running, knowing that she had to keep moving – whatever the cost. Sooner or later she’d fall and then she wouldn’t be able to get up again. And that was unacceptable.

The thin sliver of moon in the sky shone down, casting an ethereal, silvery light on the eerily silent woods. The dappled shadows looked even darker in contrast with the ghostly glow of the crescent moon, darker even than the oppressive night sky.

Marlene stumbled on.

****

“So what’s this guy’s name?” frowned her father, placing baby Carol in her cot.

“His name’s Carson, Dad, I’ve told you a million times before,” huffed Marlene, rolling her eyes.

“But how do I know this bloke’s good enough for you?” asked her dad suspiciously. “For all I know, he’s a Death Eater.”

Marlene exploded. “My boyfriend is not a freaking Death Eater!” she shrieked.”Don’t you think I’d
notice?!”

“Well how should I know?” grumbled her father.”He could be trying to spy on the family through you.”

“And what would he spy on?” scowled Marlene, her dark brown curls frizzing out like an enraged cat. “A baby, a seven year old, two Hogwarts students, two retired Aurors, a crotchety old bat and a useless twenty year old working with Magical Maintenance?”

“You never know,” mumbled the older man, his ears turning pink at the edges. “They could be conspiring to discover your mother’s secret recipe for apple pie.”

Marlene blinked, then visualised a bunch of Death Eaters huddled around a set of blueprints to her mother’s kitchen, then collapsed into hysterics.


***

A bramble tore through her sleeve, ripping through her arm. Hot blood dripped down on to the ground, leaving an unmistakeable trail for her pursuers. Marlene didn’t stop to fix her arm or obliterate the trail. She didn’t have time.

She had to save him.

****

“Isn’t it a beauty?” said Jack, grinning like a maniac. Dad whistled in awe and stroked the side of the shiny blood red motorcycle, gazing at it reverently.

“Where’d you get it from?” the old man asked, looking as if he desperately wanted one for himself.

“Sirius Black introduced me to a car dealer in Diagon Alley,” said Jack proudly.”I got this for half the usual price.”

Marlene stared at him. What was all the fuss about? It was just a
motorbike. Who needed bikes when Apparating was so much easier?

“And the best bit,” whispered Jack conspiratorially, “is that the bike
flies.”

“It flies?!” said Marcus in disbelief, amazement shining in his innocent young face. “No way! I want one!”

Marlene and Emily sighed heavily, exchanging looks of deepest disgust.

Men. They were all the same.


***

Marlene collapsed against the garage door, jerking it aside. More blood dripped down her fingers as the sharp metal edges of the door cut into her hands, but she couldn’t care less.

The house was trashed, but she’d expected that. After all, the Death Eaters had been here, and destruction was in their very natures. She could only hope that they’d left the garage intact. Surely they wouldn’t have bothered to break in – surely not –

A strangled cry escaped from her throat as she saw the scene that awaited her. Tools were scattered over the floor, dark stains were splashed across the walls (was that blood or petrol?), and the ceiling was smashed in – but worst of all, the bright red motorcycle was lying twisted and beaten on the ground, the tyres ripped off and the metalwork dull and scratched. Jack’s pride and joy, mangled beyond repair. Her last burning hope, torn to shreds.

She’d have to go by Floo.

****

“You’re WHAT?!” yelled her father, turning purple in the face.

“I’m getting married,” repeated Marlene calmly, clasping Carson’s hand tightly in her own. She smiled determinedly up at him, a hard look in her sparkling hazel eyes. He smiled nervously back, still looking rather intimidated by her father’s violent reaction.

“But you can’t!” spluttered her father.”You’re only twenty one!”

Marlene raised an eyebrow at him. “You married Mum when you were nineteen,” she pointed out. Her father’s face darkened.

“Oh, honestly, Graham,” scolded her mother, looking exasperated. “Don’t be such a drama queen. I’m sure it will all turn out perfectly fine –”


****

Everything was far from fine.

Sure, she’d done some stupid things in the past – like letting slip to Jack that she secretly wanted to be an apprentice Healer at St Mungo’s (he’d laughed at her for weeks about that) – but never anything as dumb as this! Using the Floo network when she had Death Eaters on her tail? She’d be lucky if she survived five minutes. She’d be lucky if survived five seconds.

They’d be able to track it, of course, but hopefully she’d be able to get there before them. The only problem would be getting out again. They should be able to escape in time if they got past the anti-Apparition wards quickly enough – assuming that the wards were still up, of course. If the wards had fallen, then both she and him were doomed.

Than again, they were probably doomed anyway.

****

“Where are we going?” whined Marlene, half-annoyed, half-giggling as she was dragged up to the attic of the house.

“You’ll see,” laughed Carson, tugging her along. She followed reluctantly, wondering what he was playing at.

“Look,” whispered the tall blonde, pulling her through a door and drawing her aside.

Marlene gasped. “It’s… it’s beautiful,” she breathed.

“I know,” said Carson smugly. “That’s why I brought you.”

She whacked him on the arm distractedly, staring around her in wonder. “Shut up, you big idiot. Don’t spoil this.”

He smiled at her lovingly, watching as she ran her hands over the medical equipment, an awed look on her face. “How did you know?” she murmured.

“It’s your dream, isn’t it?” he asked, watching for her reaction. “To be a Healer. I thought you’d appreciate it.”

“Bruise balm… headache potion… hangover cure… charmed stretchers…Wolfsbane potion… antivenoms… essence of Murtlap… where did all of this
come from?!” Marlene exclaimed.

Carson looked pleased. “I’m glad you like it,” he said happily, wrapping an arm around her waist.

“You didn’t answer the question,” she observed. “This must have cost a fortune, Car.”

“Oh, a friend of a friend helped me out,” he said off-handedly. “Besides, that stunned look on your face makes it all worth it – you look like you’ve just been run over by a Hungarian Horntail.”

Marlene tried to be irritated with him, but couldn’t help but smile.


***

She very carefully avoided looking at the debris surrounding the fireplace. If she thought about the debris, she’d think about the violence that came with it, and then she’d never be able to stop herself from breaking down.

Unfortunately she couldn’t help but notice little details – like the fact that Jack’s favourite shirt was draped across the stairs, ripped into pieces and soaked with blood. Or the fact that the vase her mother had given to him as a housewarming gift was shattered across the floor, tiny pieces of heartbreak broken into vicious shards. Or the fact that the awful carpet in the living room had been entirely burnt away. Or the fact that this was Jack’s house, Jack’s house, and it was devastated beyond recognition.

She took a deep breath, and threw the pinch of glittering green powder into the flames. The fire sputtered momentarily and then shone bright emerald green.

Marlene shut her eyes, stepped into the fireplace, and yelled out the name of her destination.

*****

“Hey Mum, have you seen my keys?” asked Marlene, wandering into the kitchen. “I haven’t – Mum? What’s wrong?”

Her mother was slumped at the kitchen table, a black envelope with a Ministry seal clutched in one hand and a half-empty bottle of Firewhiskey in the other.

“Mum,” whispered Marlene, her voice cracking, “what happened? Who’s that note from?”

She knew the significance of the black Ministry envelopes, of course. Everyone did these days, what with the war and all – everyone knew someone or several someones who had been lost, or who had lost someone close to them.

Black Ministry envelopes were not a good sign.

The older woman ignored her, staring blankly into space with hollow eyes. Two glistening tears made their way down her cheeks.

“Mum, snap out of it,” Marlene said shakily, walking over and trying to see the letter for herself. “Tell me what the matter is. Tell me what’s wrong, dammit!”

Slowly, her mother looked up, meeting her daughter’s panicked gaze with dead and empty eyes. “Jack,” she said emotionlessly. “It’s Jack.”

Marlene’s legs crumpled beneath her, and she fell to the ground. “No, no,” she said. “No! No, it can’t be!” Her voice rose in pitch until she was nearly hysterical. “What’s wrong with him? Where is he? Was it Death Eaters?”

“He’s dead, Marly,” said her mother, in that same blank tone. “He’s dead.”

Dead.


Dead.

The word rang in her ears, obliterating all other sound. Dead. But it couldn’t be – not Jack – not her idiotic older brother – it couldn’t be –

The door banged open and Marlene jumped, only just realising that she was crying. She pulled her sleeve across her eyes, drying her tears, feeling strangely numb. This wasn’t happening. It was some sort of mistake – her mother had misunderstood – Jack was only twenty three, for God’s sake –

She turned to the door and saw Carson standing there, looking panicky and devastated all at once. But that couldn’t be right – Carson was at work –

Her fiancé gazed at her in sorrow, understanding and pity etched into his face. He took a tentative step towards her and reached out to hug her, looking deeply worried and concerned. “I’m – I’m so sorry Marly – I just… I just heard about it – there was too many of them, there was nothing the Aurors could do –”

Marlene jerked roughly away from his touch. She didn’t want his pity. After all, Jack wasn’t dead – it just wasn’t possible. He’d been teasing her about her new status as a Healer just yesterday. Besides, the Order wouldn’t have let this happen – Jack was a member too, after all –

“Marly?” came a quavering voice from upstairs. It was Marcus. Little Marcus, just eight years old, not even at Hogwarts yet – how could he understand what was wrong? How could he understand that Jack just couldn’t be dead? “Marly, what’s Carson doing here? I thought he was working today? Marly, what’s the matter?”

And that’s when she broke down.


***

She couldn’t afford to break down now, of course. Too much was at stake. Yes, she’d already lost almost everything, but not him. Never him. Not while Marlene was still breathing.

They would pay for what they’d done.

***

Marlene stared at the two men in black business robes, an uncomprehending look on her face. Why were they here? She’d never met anyone from this department of the Ministry before – why now? Dad would be home any minute, and she was supposed to have dinner ready so that he and her mum could go out later tonight. How long was this going to take?

The taller official gazed at her solemnly, an equally sombre look reflected on his colleague’s face. Marlene still didn’t get it. What was going on?

Ah. Now she understood. The uniforms were from that new Ministry department they’d set up – the one that dealt with letting people know about Death Eater attacks, because there had been complaints that the black letters were too impersonal. But that couldn’t be right – there’d been no attacks recently, so there was no reason for them to be at her house.

She remembered now – her neighbour Mr. Farrell worked in this department. They must have picked the wrong house.

“I’m sorry, but I think you’ve got the wrong address,” she said politely. “The McKinnons live here. You’re probably looking for the Farrells, they live next door –”

“Are you Marlene McKinnon?” asked the shorter Ministry official, the one with the large moustache. He looked rather like a Puffskein, she mused to herself. A Puffskein with orange fur.

“Yes,” she answered, frowning at him in confusion.

He bowed his head. “We regret to inform you that there has been a Death eater attack on Diagon Alley, just three hours ago…”

The words faded away, and Marlene’s eyes widened. She swayed dizzily, unable to believe it. Not again. This couldn’t be happening again…

“…during the battle, many lives were lost, and your parents were among the most seriously wounded…”

No, this was some sort of sick joke. They’d already lost one family member, they couldn’t lose more. It just wasn’t possible.

“…unfortunately passed away in St Mungo’s immediately after the attack…”

No.

No.


No.

Her eyes drifted over to the taller one, who was now wearing a sympathetic look that seemed entirely fake.

“We’re very sorry for your loss,” finished the short one, as if completing a rehearsed monologue.

“Right,” said Marlene numbly, as her insides shrivelled and her heart froze. “Thank you for coming here. Thank you… very much.”


***

It had only gone downhill from there. Attacks became more frequent, Death Eaters became bolder, people became deader. Friends. Enemies. Acquaintances. Strangers. People she’d seen once in her life and then never again. Her grandfather. Her aunt. Carson’s parents. Her best friend’s little sister. The Prewett twins. Dorcas Meadowes, who used to throw fantastic parties in her dorm at Hogwarts.

And then Emily McKinnon.

Marlene wasn’t even there when it happened. In fact, she wasn’t even there when the news went public. The Ministry was far too busy now to send representatives, or even letters. When Marlene’s twin died, she was on the opposite side of the country.

Somehow, that hurt more than if they’d died fighting side by side.

****

“Chin up, Marly,” said her grandmother determinedly, as Marlene stared off into the distance. “You’ve still got Marcus and Carol. They need their big sister to look after them – goodness knows the little brats have been through enough recently.”

“Yes,” agreed Marlene blankly. “More than enough.”

The old lady’s gaze softened, and she pulled Marlene into a warm hug. “Don’t give up hope,” she whispered into Marlene’s hair. “Never give up hope. They wouldn’t have wanted you to fade away after they left you.”

“No,” said Marlene hollowly. “No, they wouldn’t.”

She turned away, so that her grandmother wouldn’t see the traitorous tears that threatened to spill over her lashes. She’d promised herself that she wouldn’t cry any more. She was done with crying.

Crying didn’t solve anything.

****

Days, or maybe weeks later, another attack came.

And this time they couldn’t escape it.

“Do you hear that?” asked Marlene, a slight frown creasing her brow. Some sort of banging noise in the general vicinity of the front door. Maybe it was Kneazles?

“No,” said her grandmother bluntly.

Marlene smiled faintly, the first positive emotion she’d shown in months. “No, I could swear I heard something. When did Carson say he was coming over?”

“Not until tomorrow,” said the old lady, the merest hint of suspicion entering her expression. “You don’t think – the Unplottable Charm?”

Marlene shook her head.”But you’d need inside information – and the only people who know are Order members.”

The door rattled loudly. Marlene and her grandmother exchanged frightened glances, and simultaneously crept over to the window to see who was trying to break in.

Marlene’s blood ran cold.

“Death Eaters,” she said softly, as a shocked hiss of air escaped her grandma’s lips. “It’s Death Eaters!”

So. The charm had failed after all.

Her grandma turned and swiftly left the room, retrieving a small heavy bracelet from the jewellery box on the mantel. “Emergency Portkey,” she explained in a rushed whisper. “Already set to the destination. It should activate within a few seconds of saying the spell. Go see if the doors will hold – I’ll get the children.”

Marlene nodded silently and tiptoed downstairs, staying as quiet as possible. If she cast a strengthening spell the front door should hold for longer – long enough to get away, at least.

“Marly?” said Marcus, his little face pale in the dying light. It was getting late – the most vulnerable time for Death Eater attacks. “What’s the matter?”

“It’s okay, it’ll all be okay,” Marlene assured him, hoping desperately that she was telling the truth. “Some nasty people have come over. We just have to go to the Order Headquarters for a little bit, see? It’ll all be fine, just come along and touch this bracelet.”

The nine year old hesitantly came forward but stopped as another blasting spell rocked the house. “What’s going on?” he asked, his eyes wide and fearful. Their grandma began to descend the steps, little Carol snoozing lightly in her arms.

And then the back door burst open.

“Marcus!” yelled Marlene desperately. “Touch the Portkey! Grandma! Come on
, hurry!”

“Well, well, well,” came a taunting voice from behind the broken door. “If it isn’t a bunch of filthy little blood traitors, all holed up with nowhere to go…”

“Rivera,” spat Marlene, hatred suffusing her gaze.

This was the man who had killed her twin sister.

“Marly dearest,” said Rivera in a sugary voice, “can it be that you’re not pleased to see me? Why, I’m shocked.” Another Death Eater standing beside him sniggered as if it was the most intelligent thing anyone had ever said.

She’d thought the Aurors had caught him! He’d tortured her sister in front of seventeen of them – you’d think they’d have been able to get him while he was distracted! She hated to think of anyone as truly evil, but this man was worse than Voldemort. Andreas Rivera was a sadist who loved to see his victims in pain – in school he would bully the younger students just because he could get away with it, and he was never caught. Just like now.

He was tall, and handsome; this man who’d taken everything from her. He had curly black hair, and dark eyes; he was tall and well-mannered… but he had a sort of sallow look to his face, and his mouth had a cruel twist to it. She hated him more than anything. More than anyone.

“Get away from my family, you *****!” snarled Marlene, fear tainting her vision and making her dizzy. Things were getting hazy; all she could see was that her grandmother and her little siblings were far too far away.

“Travers,” said Rivera silkily to the Death Eater beside him, “this one’s
mine.

Marlene’s gaze locked with her grandmother’s, and she saw something terrible.

Determination.

Her grandma lifted her wand, and yelled the incantation to unlock the time delay on the emergency Portkey. Rivera’s face twisted in fury, sensing that he was about to be denied of his prize kill. Baby Carol woke up with a start and began to wail loudly.

Rivera’s eyes narrowed, and he pointed his wand at the old lady.

“NO!” screamed Marlene desperately, as the Portkey tugged her away and bright green light filled her vision.

She landed in the forest near Jack’s abandoned house, hitting the hard ground and curling up into a ball, harsh sobs grating through her throat and ripping her chest apart from the inside. All of them. All of them were dead now. She and Carson were the only ones left.

She’d wondered, sometimes, why she kept surviving while everyone around her was killed. Sometimes she blamed herself. Most of the time she blamed Voldemort.

They’d be coming for her soon. It was only an emergency Portkey, they didn’t have as much power. And they were traceable. For some reason her family was being targeted, probably because of their notorious pro-Muggle leanings and connections with the Order of the Phoenix, and now Carson was in danger. The Death Eaters would find her, and then they’d find Carson, and then they’d kill them both. Her because she was a blood traitor and because Rivera would find it amusing, and Carson because he was a Muggleborn.



No.

Not Carson. Not him, never him. Marlene wouldn’t allow it. She’d stop them first.

They’d kill him
over her dead body.

She slowly rose to her feet and staggered forwards, in the direction of Jack’s house. It was only a mile or two away, she recognised this section of the forest. She could find his flying motorbike and use it to get to Carson’s house, which was only another twenty or so miles further on. They wouldn’t be able to track the bike, and it was fitted with a Stealth Charm. She’d get there before the Death Eaters. She had to.

And then they’d be sorry.


****

Marlene fell out of the fireplace, wheezing and panting. She’d always hated travelling by Floo – the ash always seemed to find its way into her lungs, and she was sure that it was bad for her. Carson thought it was funny.

She stepped into the living room, looking around frantically for signs that she was too late. The house wasn’t damaged, which probably meant that Death Eaters hadn’t yet visited. Still, it was better to be safe than sorry. If she underestimated the opponent, she’d wind up dead – and worse, so would Carson. She couldn’t let that happen.

The house was strangely quiet. Carson was a heavy sleeper, sure, but shouldn’t her undignified entrance through the fireplace have woken him by now?

A nagging feeling of doubt wormed its way into her heart, but she suppressed it quickly and shook her head as if to dispel unwanted thoughts. Carson was fine. He was just snoring too loudly to hear anything else.

And yet… something was off.

It took a few moments for it to register, but when she noticed her heart almost stopped.

The photo on the wall was broken…

Carson had been so happy when she’d accepted his proposal. He’d been taking snaps of her every movement, until it became insanely annoying and she’d stolen the camera and hid it in the backyard pond. But one photo had stood out – one of Marlene and Carson, sitting on a Muggle swing and grinning at each other with lovesick expressions. Her mother had framed it and hung it on the wall in Carson’s house, and he’d been as proud of it as Jack was of his motorbike.

And now the photo was lopsided and hanging half off the wall, and the glass was smashed. Carson never would have left it like that; he would have fixed it with a charm within seconds of breaking it. Something was definitely wrong.

It was at that exact moment that Marlene noticed the trail of blood leading into the kitchen.

For one terrifying moment she stopped breathing, and the world spun dizzily around her. The house wasn’t trashed, and there was no Dark Mark hovering over the street – she’d have seen it even from Jack’s house, twenty miles away. Which could only mean one thing.

The Death Eaters were still here.

But maybe – maybe she was jumping to conclusions? Maybe it wasn’t Death Eaters at all – there was probably a perfectly reasonable explanation –

No. That was wishful thinking. But she’d hoped, she really had hoped that Carson could escape the curse on her family…

Heart in her throat, she stepped lightly towards the kitchen, following the drops of bright red blood shining against the bone-white tiles. A low gasp reached her ears and she slowed, grasping her wand tightly in her fist and casting a quick Disillusionment Charm on herself.

A cry of pain came next, followed by a quiet whimper.

A sick feeling flooded her stomach. They were torturing him! She’d come too late…

Marlene cautiously nudged the door open a fraction, making sure to keep her wand at the ready. At the moment, all she had to her advantage was the element of surprise – they probably outnumbered her, and they had Carson in a position of vulnerability. It was a blessing that she’d managed to arrive at the house undetected – the wards she and Carson had put up must have worked in her favour, since the Death Eaters didn’t seem to realise that she was there.

Tactical manoeuvres and possible escape routes whirled through her head, but as every second ticked by her sense of foreboding increased. She was beginning to doubt that she or Carson would live past this night.

A sickening crack was heard, and dark laughter echoed through the house.

Marlene was having physical difficulty in stopping herself from storming in there and cursing that evil Death Eater’s legs off, followed by his arms, ears, nose and all other extremities that could be detached with a wand. The only thing preventing her from doing just that was the knowledge that rash action would get Carson killed. Her Healer training had involved the standard self-defence course, and she was an Order member – she knew what not to do.

She peered around the edge of the door, careful not to make any sounds that would alert the Death Eaters to her presence. What she saw made her suck in a sharp intake of breath.

Carson was lying on the floor, beaten and broken, surrounded by no less than seven Death Eaters. The kitchen was splattered with blood – so much blood – did Carson even have that much blood in his body?!

Marlene’s stomach rebelled, and she had to fight down the urge to vomit – this was the man she was going to marry, lying there on the floor –

To put it simply…this was very, very bad.

And, a second later, it became even worse.

“Petrificus Totalus!”

Marlene stiffened and threw herself away from the door, hitting the wall with a thud and cursing loudly. The spell missed her by inches; a throaty laugh sounded from the corridor. Marlene cursed under her breath. This had been a terrible mistake – so caught up with the thought of saving Carson, she’d lost all thought for her own safety – how could she have been so stupid as to think they wouldn’t have sentries watching out for her?! This had to have been the first place they’d expect her to go! She should have – used the Floo to the nearest Auror office, or something –

And now she was dead.

A man in long Death Eater robes stepped forward from behind her and grabbed Marlene’s wrist, pulling her roughly into the kitchen and throwing her to the ground. She glanced up, and the blood in her veins turned to ice.

Four Death Eaters were assembled in the broken and ruined kitchen, lounging against the wall and relaxing in chairs as if they were attending the theatre. One was standing over – over –

Carson.

He was conscious, but only barely – a dark stain trickled from the corner of his mouth as he coughed weakly, raising his eyes to meet her horrified stare. His beautiful hair was wet with blood and she could only imagine the extent of the injuries that were concealed by his leather coat. His eyes fluttered open, and she saw that his pupils were heavily dilated, and his brown eyes were wild – he’d been under the Cruciatus.

She would kill the men who did this to him.

“We’ll get out of this,” she promised him softly, crawling across the blood-soaked floor so she could be that much closer to him. She was trying desperately to ignore the sniggering Death Eaters standing two feet away, but the disgust rose in her like a tidal wave – how dare they stand there and laugh at Carson’s pain?! “We’ll get out of it, I promise – we’ll live through this–”

“Marly,” he whispered brokenly, “they went after your grandmother and – and the kids. They – they said –”

“Shh,” she sobbed, “I already know, it’s okay. It’s alright, don’t worry about it, Carson, just – just don’t worry about it.”

“Run,” he said suddenly, passionately, his voice as hoarse as if he’d been swallowing sandpaper. “Get out while you still can, they haven’t cast the Binding Charms on you yet and the Apparition wards are down – Marly, get out while you still can, leave me behind, you have to live –”

“Shut up,” spat one of the Death Eaters, stalking over and delivering a vicious kick to Carson’s prone body. The blonde man didn’t even react to the violence; just closed his eyes wearily and reached out for Marlene, holding her slender fingers tightly in his warm hand.

“Well, well, Marly,” said the Death Eater, smiling wickedly, “I knew you were stupid, but I didn’t think you were this stupid. Honestly, if you had just left him to die, then you may have lived… is this your precious Gryffindor bravery?”

She snarled at him wordlessly, recognising the harsh tones of Andreas Rivera. The *****. He’d probably Apparated straight here. He’d known all along what she would do…

He laughed then, a strange sound in the chill of the moonlit cottage.

“You can’t win,” she said flatly.

Rivera stopped laughing, and looked at her in confusion; a slightly condescending look entered his expression. “But Marly dear, I’ve already won,” he informed her lightly.

“You can’t win,” she repeated slowly, ignoring him entirely, “because for you to win, I have to lose. And the Light side will never lose, Rivera, not while we have the world on our side, not while we have – not while we have Albus Dumbledore and, and Alastor Moody and James Potter! You’ll never get it, will you? You just can’t win. You never beat me in school, Rivera, and you won’t beat me now, not when –”

He slapped her across the mouth, effectively shutting her up.

She spat in his face.

Anger suffused his gaze then, but then melted away, to be replaced by something akin to amusement. He snickered at her and straightened up, twirling his wand in his hands before pointing it at Carson and muttering something under his breath. Acid green light emanated from the wand-tip and hit her fiancé; he stopped breathing instantly and his eyes took on a glassy, surprised quality.

Marlene screamed in shock and fell forwards, cradling Carson in her arms. Her mind was oddly blank, but at the same time filled with chaotic, whirling emotion – this couldn’t be happening, it was impossible, it couldn’t be happening

“No – no, Carson, baby, wake up,” she cried, rocking him back and forth. “Wake up, I love you! We’re getting married, remember, you have to wake up – I promised you I’d marry you, wake up – wake up, wake up, Carson wake up, I love you, wake up, wake up, you have to wake up…”

“This is taking too long,” came the bored tones of one of the Death Eater minions. “Just kill her already – not that it isn’t amusing to watch her weeping over the Mudblood and all, but we have a schedule to keep.”

Marlene finally tore her eyes away from the still form of her fiancé, and stared uncomprehendingly up at the cloaked figures, complete loss of hope in her expression. The words slipped out before she even realised she was speaking.

Why?”

Rivera leered down at her. “Why? Because I enjoy it, Marly, and because filth like you don’t deserve any better.” Again he laughed cruelly, enjoying the broken look in her eyes. She was perversely reminded of a comic-book villain standing over the damsel in distress, just waiting for the hero to come and save the day – but no, the hero was dead, and this was real, and painful, and no one was going to live happily ever after.

A single tear slipped down her face.

“So how about it, Marly?” smirked Rivera. “You going to do what your lover said? Run away like the cowardly little blood traitor you are?”

No. No more running.

No Carson, no Emily, no responsibilities – nothing left to live for. No point.

Nothing except… revenge.

Marlene’s expression hardened. If she was going to die, then by God, she was going to take Carson’s murderers with her. Or at least she’d do her best, and die trying.

Her gaze flicked towards Rivera, and then to the wand in his hand. So arrogant, so sure of his superiority, he hadn’t even bothered to tie her up like Carson… In a flash she snapped upwards and snatched it away from him; a blindingly green flash later and he was dead. The ice cold water trickling through her veins was replaced with blazing fire, and only one thought occupied her mind.

Revenge.

Revenge for Carson, for Marcus, for Carol; for her feisty old grandmother and her doting parents; and for her twin, the other half of her soul. Revenge for the Downe family, for the Prewett twins, for Dorcas Meadowes and for all those nameless Muggles who’d been killed without a thought.

It was funny, really; she reflected as sickly green light lit the cottage once again, how easily a life could be snuffed out, a soul snatched away. She’d never cast it before in her life, but… What was it they said about the Killing Curse? You had to mean it.

Within a matter of minutes, the only sound in the cottage was her own harsh breathing. She was a killer now, but she couldn’t find the strength within her to care.

All that mattered was Carson.

She knelt beside his body once again, pressing a gentle kiss to his cold lips and stroking his cheek. He could have been sleeping, if it weren’t for his unnatural stillness. He would never breathe again, never laugh at her odd jokes, never play with baby Carol, never catch her after work and treat her with a surprise dinner at a fancy restaurant. And there was no one to remember him.

No Carson. No family. No one left to live for. She wasn’t going to be the sole survivor again, not for anything. It was a shame, really, that she wouldn’t get to see the end of the war – but her part was done. She’d taken her revenge, there was nothing left for her here. It was wrong, what she was about to do – hugely wrong – but she couldn’t find the strength to live on. Maybe, when they found the bodies, they’d bury her with Carson.

For the sixth and last time, aiming the wand at her heart, she whispered lovingly –

Avada Kedavra.”

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