The night was unusually chilly for a warm summer’s day. It felt colder as they were sitting in the dark. Huddled together, more for comfort than for warmth, she could only hear her heart beating wildly, drowning her breathing. Sweat trickled down her father’s brow. He seemed agitated. They all were. Then there was a sound - a loud crack. Then there were footsteps, fast approaching, echoing unnaturally. Then something landing on their roof with a thud. And her father panicked.

“Run! Hide!” he whispered in a frenzy. She caught sight of a hysterical look in his eyes amidst the dark shadows. He, who had always been their pillar of support, was scared. He looked around wildly, his expression unhinged. His fear was seeping through to her.

She wanted to hug him, to stay with him. She felt herself being pulled away by her mother. She wanted to open her mouth to say something, anything. But her mother’s hands clamped across her lips she couldn’t see where they were going. She was being led up the stairs, half-walking and half-dragged. The thuds became louder. She heard something being blasted downstairs. Sound of the wood door thrown against stone walls. Her body was shaking. A brief hug, a kiss on top of the head.

“Stay here. Quiet.” Her mother’s voice was unrecognizable.

And then she was being shoved somewhere. A closet or a cupboard by the feel of it. The door banged shut on her face, engulfing her in complete darkness once again. She wanted to call out to her mother. But she knew not to make a sound. She bit her lip hard to keep from screaming out. She prayed her mother had enough time to get out of harm’s way.

A shriek tore through her ear drums. Her heart almost stopped beating. She drew her trembling fingers across her cold, raw lips. Even the sound of her own breathing unnerved her. Suddenly, there was a lot of noise. A scuffle, followed by voices. She could hear incoherent shouts of her father. Her mother’s shrieks grew louder. She clamped her hands across her ears. But the voices could not be drowned. Her bleeding lips stung as something salty came in contact with it. Tears. She didn’t know she had been crying.

Her mother’s shrieks stopped abruptly. Her father’s deranged scream was unrecognizable. Her heart went cold at the sound. She heard some more voices. Male voices. Her father’s sobs echoed through the house.

“No one turns their back on the Dark Lord,” a rough voice said with ruthlessness, drowning her father’s sobs.

Then there was the sound of someone walking around, someone heavy. She sensed there were two of them. Someone gave a loud sniff, as if smelling for something.

“I sense another presence.” This time, the voice was raspy, almost hungry. There was something maniacal about his tone. She drew her knees close to her chest, circling them with her arms, as if to stop them from shaking so much.

“Mercy! Mercy!” her father’s desperate screams rang across. The terror in his voice reverberated through the walls. Then there was laughing. A laugh that rendered her motionless with terror. A vile, savage laugh. She shivered. Her father’s sobs stopped suddenly.

“The Dark Lord shows no mercy!” The voice growled. There was a loud bang. Bright green light flashed, the remnants of which flowed through the crack between the doors of the cupboard she was hidden in.

Silence befell. Her every sense was heightened. She buried her face between her knees, hoping to drown the sound of her heartbeat. She felt a warm tingling sensation run down her spine. Tears and sweat streaked her face and ran down her neck. A floorboard creaked. That sound was much too close for comfort. Her hands were numb and fingers were cold.

The door banged open. She was blinded by sudden bright light and brought her hands to shield her eyes instinctively. She was dragged up by a rough hand. She caught a glimpse of the attacker. She saw a brutal look in cold, grey eyes. And then, there it was again. The bright green light.




"Matty!" Marlene squealed, throwing herself into her brother's arms.

It had been over forty days of agony before the McKinnon family had had any news of their firstborn. Marlene, away at Hogwarts, was unable to bear the agony of the unknown. At times she had found herself thinking that the news of his death would have been much better than the torture of not knowing. And then, one day in May, an owl had arrived from her sister. Her brother had returned home alive and safe. Since then she had been waiting to get home and see him for herself. Looking at him, seated so familiarly on his favorite seat in the living room, she dropped her bags and hugged him, choking back tears and holding on to him tightly.

"Slow down, Lenie!" he laughed, untangling her hands from around his neck. "You've grown!" he commented, grinning. She looked into his soft, blue eyes and beamed.

“I am almost thirteen now!" she said, proudly. "Where were you? Why didn’t anyone give me proper details over owl post?" she implored, a tear escaping the confines of her eyelid. It was in that joyous moment of seeing him that she allowed herself to express her vulnerability.

"Why don't you get something to eat first?" he said, patting her on the head.

“Not before you tell me everything,” she demanded, frowning at him.

He laughed fondly. “I’m not going to win this one, am I?”

She shook her head stubbornly, sitting down and crossing her legs, waiting for him to speak.

"As you know, I was in Shaftsbury. I was sleeping when the first set of Death Eaters landed. Yes, that's the name they go by these days,” he said grimly, “My bunk mate, Don and I headed out to see what the commotion was. The sight that greeted us was gruesome. I can't even begin to explain, I think it is best left unsaid. At first I thought it was another simulation, for auror training. Then there was a flash of green light, and Donny dropped dead next to me. It then struck me, it was all real. I charged forward and joined the fight. At one point I was cornered, and one of the Death Eaters was towering over me.”

Marlene gasped but Matthew held up a hand to silence her.

“I was sure I was done for,” he continued, “And then someone next to him yelled 'He's a pureblood.' He stopped advancing, and suddenly slashed his wand in the air in front of me. Everything went blank. The next thing I remember is waking up in this dark cellar. My first instinct was that I had been taken hostage. But I soon came to know that, I had been rescued by a high up Auror, Alaister Moody. He told me we had to hide out underground for a while. I wasn't able to contact you until a few things were set in order. I sent an owl the second I could."

"What reasons?" she asked curiously, "why weren't you able to send an owl?"

"That's classified ministry information," he said lightly, ruffling her hair. She felt annoyed. She hated not knowing things. But if there was one person who would tell her the truth it was Matty.

“Is it true what they’re saying?” she asked, “There’s this new Dark Lord?”

Matthew looked at her and sighed. “Yes,” he replied quietly. “I’m afraid so.”

“And they’re targeting muggles?” she asked, her eyes wide.

“Muggles and muggle-borns.” Maria McKinnon had entered the room. She was two years younger than Matthew and training to be a healer. Marlene had grown up hearing how wonderfully talented her older siblings were. “It’s a battle for power. It’s sick!” she exclaimed, “You should see some of the injuries these people have inflicted. Cursed wounds, dark magic. The effects are gruesome, and we are running out of cures faster than ever. The extent to which they’re prepared to go for power is horrible. Their ruthlessness is frightening.”

“Maria.” Her brother used a warning tone. He had probably seen how unnerved she was. He had always been sensitive to her feelings, unlike Maria.

“She’s going to find out someday,” Maria replied flippantly. Her brother glared at Maria and changed the subject abruptly. Marlene, for once, had hit upon a topic that she didn’t want to hear more about. She was perfectly content listening to her brother comment about the latest addition to the Weasley family, a boy named Charles.




Lily walked into her room, trying to make as less noise as possible. She was sharing a room with Petunia, since her father had converted her old room into his study. It had been two weeks since she had been home and they hadn't spent more than two waking moments at a time in each other's company.  Right now Petunia was sitting on her bed, knitting. Lily opened her trunk, wanting to find her homework and leave as quickly as possible.

“I got your letter,” she spoke up quietly.

Lily turned to look at her, startled. Petunia hadn’t said anything to her directly except for ‘pass the butter’ a couple of days back. “You could have replied,” she said reproachfully.

Petunia gave a tiny jerk of her head. “Why did you suddenly write?”

“What do you mean?”

“You never write,” said Petunia.

“I tried, remember? You never replied,” defended Lily. Petunia pursed her lips and went back to her knitting. Lily rummaged in her trunk for her quill, seething from Petunia’s accusatory tone.

“In your letter, you… you said something bad had happened… and it made you think of me,” Petunia spoke hesitantly, as if the words were being wrenched out of her mouth unwillingly.

Lily met Petunia’s eyes and saw in them the sister she once had loved. She sighed and sat down opposite her. “My friend’s brother was presumed dead for a while.” Petunia was looking at her attentively. “There’s this wizard… he - he makes really bad things happen. And… he’s against mugg- I mean, people like you and me.”

“Why you? You’re… you’re one of them, right?” Petunia asked, almost unwillingly.

“But our parents are not. And to him, that makes me same as you,” said Lily wryly. “This wizard, he’s evil. And I just… just wanted you to be safe.”

For a second Lily thought she saw the ghost of a friendly smile on Petunia’s face. But it was gone, and she thought she had imagined it. Petunia went back to her knitting without as much as a nod of acknowledgement. Lily collected her things and left. Severus would be waiting for her, they had planned to do their homework together.




Snape was waiting for Lily under their usual tree. It felt good being back in Cokeworth only to spend time with Lily. They hardly got to do that in school, especially since she had found her own friends. He couldn’t stand the jeering from Rosier and Avery after they had caught him talking to her, but he felt their distance was mainly Lily’s fault. His pale face broke into a smile as he saw her walking towards him, hair flying behind her wildly, parchment and books in hand. Her orange-red hair illuminated by the bright midday sun gave an illusion of her head being on fire. He couldn’t think of anyone else who could pull off that image as beautifully as she did.

“Sorry I’m late, Sev,” she said breathlessly, sinking to the ground beside him.

“Let’s do Charms first,” he said, relieving her of some of the books she had brought with her, “That’s the dullest.”

“Hey,” she said indignantly, “I happen to like charms.”

“That’s only because you’re good at it,” Snape pointed out. “What you really like is Transfiguration,” he said astutely, grinning.

“Transfiguration is more interesting, but I’m hopeless at it,” she said grudgingly. “I really like Defense too,” she said brightly.

Snape snorted. “Defense is just a lot of wand waving.”

“But you're the best at defense,” Lily pointed out incredulously.

Snape tried not to look too pleased at her praise. “Defense is just a bunch of protective hexes and blocks.”

“Isn't that the most important subject then, especially at this point?” Lily asked.

“Important?” He scoffed, “what use is a shield charm going to be when the wizard you're dueling is out to kill you? Defense isn't going to help. We need to learn some offense!”

“There are jinxes for that too, aren’t there?”

“Do you think the person you’re dueling with will only use Ministry approved hexes? The ones they teach here to defend ourselves are just basic. There’s a whole lot more out there.” His voice had attained a dreamy quality at the thought of unrestricted magic.

“Like what?” she asked curiously.

“Spells that can disable the offender instead of just deflect their hexes. The power to create your own spells, so that the other person is caught off guard. Jinxes and hexes will only take you so far. Real power lies in Advanced Curses. Nobody can beat you once you’ve mastered them. ”

Snape’s eyes had acquired a hungry look as he spoke. He looked at Lily eagerly, and saw her shiver slightly. She looked a little uncomfortable.

“Advances Curses?” she said, a crease appearing between her eyes, “That sounds a lot like…” she trailed off biting her lip. She was looking at him with trepidation. Snape regretted having said anything.

“It’s not like that,” he rushed to clarify, “I’m just saying, you need to be better prepared than with a Stinging Hex when someone is hurling a Killing Curse at you.”

“I guess…” her expression cleared a little, “I’m sure we’ll learn advanced defense at NEWTs levels,” she said, brightening up. Snape thought it wise not to say anything further and bent his head down towards his homework.

They worked at their homework for a while. Only the chirping of birds and rustle of leaves in the warm summer’s breeze were heard over the scratching of their quills.

“How’s your father?” she asked after a long lapse of silence.

“Mm...” he mumbled. He didn’t like to think about his father if he could help it. He couldn’t understand why his mother put up with him. He usually wandered around the neighborhood and spent time with Lily to avoid going home.

“Is he still… you know?” she asked softly. He knew she was referring to the time he had told her his father came home drunk and abuse him and his mother. He nodded, not lifting his head from the parchment. He gripped his quill tighter, recalling the previous night. His father was just a muggle, and he couldn’t understand why his mother didn’t lift her wand against him. When he was finally of age...

“You can come home daily if you’d like. We can hang out at the gardens,” she offered brightly, cutting into his thoughts.

“You’d do that for me?” he asked, surprised and grateful.

“Always!” she said firmly, smiling at him.




“What do you mean, you’re not coming?” asked Sirius scathingly.

“If mum finds out, it’s not going to be good,” replied Regulus.

“Are you serious?” scoffed Sirius, “Why do you have to be such a weeny always? Live a little, won’t you?” he said with an air of haughtiness that only elder siblings could possess.

“I’m not a weeny,” defended Regulus in a hurt voice, “I just don’t want-”

“Don’t want to get on the wrong side of dear mommy?” sneered Sirius.

“No,” Regulus shot back, his ears growing red, “I don’t want her treating me like she treats you!” he glared at Sirius.

Sirius’ face dripped with derision. “You care-” he snorted.

“Yes I do,” cut in Regulus.

“You’re a weak, pathetic, moron!” he spat.

Regulus looked at him coldly. “I’m the only one in this house who talks to you anymore,” he said in a low, angry voice. “Nobody can stand you. Even Kreacher. I suggest you hold your tongue and don’t push away the only person here who actually gives a damn about you.” With that, Regulus walked out of Sirius’ room.

Sirius stared after his brother, unable to believe that the little one had just stood up to him. Who cared what that effing house-elf thought about him? He was just there to serve. As for his father, he was nothing more his mother’s pawn. Meek and spineless, just like Regulus. He snorted mentally at the thought of his mother. He couldn’t believe how naive Regulus was being. Well, he, Sirius had tried to open his eyes, and give him an out. If Regulus didn’t want to take it, there was nothing he could do about it. Sirius tried to ignore the pang in his heart at the thought of losing the last of his close family. But I haven’t changed, he justified to himself as he walked down the stairs to make himself a snack. It’s them. He aimed a kick at Kreature as he walked past, remembering what Regulus had said. He didn’t care. He was going to visit Andromeda in a couple of weeks.





A tall, fair-haired man in his early twenties opened the door.

“So you’re Ted Tonks,” said Sirius accusingly, surveyed him with raised eyebrows.

“And you’re Sirius Black,” the man replied, imitating Sirius’ tone and expression.

“You’re the one my cousin abandoned her family for,” said Sirius, still not budging.

“And you’re the one who accidentally colored her hair green for making fun of your haircut,” he replied, slightly amused by the boldness of the thirteen year old standing in front of him.

Sirius broke into a wide grin and Ted Tonks opened his door wider for him to step in. His cousin had just walked into the living room.

“I like him!” commented Sirius, looking at Andromeda over Ted’s shoulder. She walked forward and engulfed him in a hug.

“I still have my doubts about him,” said Ted, with mock-seriousness.

“He’ll grow on you,” said Andromeda, laughing. To Sirius, she said, “Come and see Nymphadora.” Her eyes were shining.

“Nymph - What?” asked Sirius, bewildered.

“My daughter! I told you, didn’t I?” she asked, frowning.

“Yes, I remember that,” he said dismissively, “but what’s that word you just said?”

“Her name. Nymphadora,” said Andromeda, slightly indignant.

“All because I lost a bet with your cousin,” muttered Ted shaking his head. “You can call her Dora like I do,” he offered. Sirius snickered slightly and Andromeda looked huffily between them.

“Nymphadora is a pretty name,” she claimed haughtily, leading them into the baby’s room. Sirius walked up to the cradle and found himself being stared at by a chubby baby with unblinking beady eyes. He had never been around babies, and didn’t quite know what to do.

Andromeda was looking hopefully at him, and he felt he was expected to say something. “Er -” he began. Then right in front of his eyes, the baby’s hair which had been scantily brown, started changing colors. He almost jumped away from the cradle.

“She’s a metamorphmagus,” Andromeda laughed at Sirius’ alarm. “She started doing that the minute she was born!”

The baby was now gurgling, looking up at him with an amused glint in its beady eyes. He frowned at the little one (which now had bubblegum pink hair). He decided then that he did not like babies, especially not those that made a fool of him even before they could learn to wipe their own arses.

“I really wish Regulus had come,” Andromeda said, closing the door behind her as they walked out of the baby’s room.

“The little twerp wants to hide behind my mother’s cloak, just like my father,” said Sirius, rolling his eyes.

“Speaking of your father, he has sent some gold to buy your books. I’ll be taking you to Diagon Alley once you get your letter,” she said as Ted waved his wands over Sirius’ luggage, which neatly flew up the stairs to (presumably) land in the guest bedroom.

“He knows I’m here?” asked Sirius feeling annoyed.

“Yes, I wrote to him. I’m sorry Sirius, but he has a right to know where you really are. But your mother still thinks you’re with the Potters,” she smiled at him apologetically.

He grunted an incoherent response and followed her into the kitchen moodily. It took Andromeda enticing him with her freshly baked cookies to get him to cheer up.

“Where’s Ted?” Sirius asked, looking around the dining room.

“He’s in the garage,” she pursed her lips disapprovingly, “He got a new toy last week. This muggle object - moterbiycal - I think. Arthur Weasley talked him into it,” she said resentfully. “Merlin knows what he does with it all day.”

Sirius saw a magazine lying on the table. The images on the cover were quite still, indicating it was a muggle magazine. There was a picture of a shiny instrument with two wheels with the words “Biker Mania” across the cover.

“That’s the one,” Andromeda nodded towards the magazine, following Sirius’ gaze. “You can take a look at it if you’d like. The garage is out back,” she said pointing him towards a door that led to their backyard. Sirius picked up the Magazine, his curiosity aroused, and decided to satisfy it by heading outside




“Oye! Sirius!”

James had just spotted Sirius walking into Madam Malkin's with a tall black-haired woman. Sirius turned around, said something to the woman and walked up to James.

“I wrote you asking to visit me over summer, why didn’t you reply?” James asked as Sirius approached.

“I was visiting my cousin,” he pointed a finger to the woman he was with earlier, “One that got blasted off my family tree for marrying a muggle-born,” Sirius explained carelessly. “And guess what,” he said, his eyes gleaming excitedly, “I saw the coolest muggle invention. It’s called a-”

“Hey look there’s Evans!” interrupted James, spotting a mass of familiar orange-red hair walking down the street. Sirius looking affronted, turned around to where he was pointing.

“Is that Snivellus with her?” he asked, his surprise overshadowing his previous slight.

“Looks like it,” replied James, surprised as well. Snape had spotted them as well and hunched slightly, trying to use his books to cover his dirty smock. James and Sirius snickered as the two of them drew closer. Lily was distracted by a jewelry shop, calling out excitedly to a woman who resembled her very much, to look at the display.

“Nice dress, Snivellus,” sneered James. Snape turned red, and fumbled, dropping a couple of books. Sirius was quick to retrieve them from the ground.

“Did you wipe your nose with this?” he said, holding them up between his thumb and forefinger as if it were a nasty dishrag.

“Give it here,” growled Snape, trying to make a reach for it. Sirius, having grown a good few inches over the summer, easily lifted it out of his reach.

“Ask nicely,” James smirked. Snape turned his eyes on him, red with rage. “Go on,” he taunted. “Say ‘I am a sniveling greasebag’.” Sirius and James guffawed.

“Ouch!” Sirius dropped the books and was rubbing his wrist, face twisted in pain.

“You are a sniveling greasebag.” Lily’s voice rang loudly, looking straight at James as she handed the books to Snape.

“Where did you learn a stinging hex?” Sirius asked, grudgingly impressed, still rubbing his wrist.

“Hello there, Evans!” James nodded. She glared at him, which only amused him further.

“I don’t want to talk to you,” she said coldly, walking away from them, Snape walking on beside her.

“Hey snivellus, stay close to your guard-wizard!” James called out jeeringly. Snape turned around and spat rudely, which only made James and Sirius go into fresh peals of laughter.

“That Evans packs one tough hex!” Sirius commented ruefully as they made their way together into Madam Malkin's.

“I wonder why she spends so much time with Snivellus,” he mused.

“Yeah… well, Listen - this muggle invention I was telling you about, they call it a ‘motorcycle’...”

James hardly registered any of Sirius’s ravings about motorcycles. He kept glancing in the direction Lily and Snape had just left.


A/N:

Happy Holidays everyone! Do leave a review in the spirit of Holiday. I know you've read this chapter if you've got this far. Do tell me how you're liking the pace and the story so far. I need some review cheer before I post the next one! 

Anything you recognize is JKR's ~ Books, Pottermore, supporting books ~ You name it. Some events, incidents and of course the words belong to me. Yet nothing could have been remotely possible without JKR!

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