Welcome back to those of you who have read my work before, and welcome to those who are newcomers, I hope you will like what you see.

Here is the prologue; I decided to make it about someone other than Harry, to give the readers an idea of what state the war is in at this time. We'll pick up Harry's story next chapter.


Reckoning

By Greywind

Prolouge: Just Another Night
Remus J. Lupin stood under a small tree on Dapple Street in Thorny End, trying to look inconspicuous and well aware that he was failing miserably. The fact that he was the only person remotely visible on the street and it was the middle of the night might have had something to do with that. Nevertheless he stood silently watching the deserted street. Sighing he pushed his hands deeper into his pockets, feeling the reassuring weight of his wand in his right hand.
Thorny End had no thorn bushes, therefore throwing out any significance the name of the little English town had to the geography. The outside world believed that, for all intents and purposes, it was just a small, rural town with few visitors needed or desired from the outside world. The truth was a bit more unusual. Thorny End actually contained a large wizarding population, in fact the third largest in England, second only to Hogsmeade and London. The muggles of Thorny End were mostly small time business owners or farmers with little interest in anything outside their own affairs, which suited the magical community perfectly.
Generally no one, especially not Remus Lupin, would have been wandering the streets of a wizarding town at night. Lupin especially didn't want to be wandering Thorny End, the hazards of Voldemort's forces notwithstanding Thorny End's wizarding community was largely made up of "pureblood" families. While they were generally not fanatics like the Malfoys, they still insisted on an exclusionary attitude, a man of Remus Lupin's "special situation" was not welcome in Thorny End.
But welcome or not he was there on a dark summer night, his eyes flicked across the shadows, his enhanced senses searching for anything suspicious. No sign of movement was detectable.
Quite suddenly there was a loud crack and a rush of air from behind him as five figures disapparated on the sidewalk. Lupin spun swiftly, his wand already out and aimed. He halted abruptly when he saw who they were and what they were holding. Each figure wore dark-colored robes and carried a wand in one hand and a red phoenix feather in the other.
"Easy there Remus," said a light voice, "it's just us, the welcoming committee." The foremost figure pushed back her hood, revealing the heart- shaped face and spiky hair of Nymphadora Tonks.
Lupin lowered his wand and smiled warmly, "You really shouldn't do that, I nearly blasted you."
"Don't get so nervous then Remus," The stately Emmeline Vance replied as she too removed her hood, "keep your focus and bearing."
"Oh yes ma'am!" Sturgis Podmore threw her a mocking salute, his straw- colored hair bouncing in tangles. Emmeline simply nodded to him, as though the jibe were nonexistent.
"Well is this the place Remus?" Elphias Doge snorted, glaring around Thorny End as though the sight of the empty street was somehow offensive.
"Seems to be, but there's no activity yet. He nodded to the fifth figure, receiving only a hiss in return. "Is this the correct location Severeus?"
Severeus Snape's eyes glittered from beneath his hood. "It is I assure you. Now if you don't mind I have to leave with all speed, my cover is important."
"Of course." Lupin resisted the urge to roll his eyes and turned to Tonks. "Where's Hagrid?"
"We left him hidden, he's a little too big for stealth. We can signal him if we need him." Tonks replied.
"Well done, it makes sense." Lupin scratched his chin reflectively. "Severeus, before you go could you tell us what we can expect?"
"Nine to ten Death Eaters are involved." Snape's look was sour. "However the exact number was hidden from me."
"Ten," said a flat voice from behind the group, "or rather it was ten."
The group spun around in the direction of the speaker to behold a tall figure in black Death Eater robes and mask watching them not six paces away. Lupin's wand was halfway up when he noticed something peculiar. His arm shot out, stopping the other Order members from attacking. Out of the corner of his vision he saw Tonks' eyes widen as she too noticed it.
The Death Eater's head was lolling, as though his skull were too heavy for his neck to support. Furthermore, he was so tall because his feet were dangling limply a few inches off the ground. "What in the...?" Sturgis was squinting in bafflement.
Darius Raider came in to view as he cast the body of the Death Eater to one side and stepped forward. He nodded in a polite manner to Lupin, as though they had just met each other on a pleasant morning stroll. "Hello Remus."
The rest of the Order members were either staring at the ensouled vampire or the black-cloaked body as though they had just sprung out of the ground. Elphias Doge was wheezing and gripping his chest heavily. "You...did...that...on...purpose. Didn't you?" he choked.
Darius looked at the wizard appraisingly, apparently decided he wasn't worth an answer, and promptly ignored him. Lupin smiled warmly, "Darius! What are you doing out here? Last we heard you were headed into the Bulgarian mountains."
Darius took the proffered hand and shook it firmly, though his expression did not change. "I was I just got back to report to Dumbledore. I'll be leaving again as soon as I do, but I heard you lot would be out here and decided to see if there was any action to be had." Snape snorted venomously and apparated, Lupin did roll his eyes then.
"What about the Weasley boys?" Tonks asked quickly, the whole of the Order had rallied around Mrs. Weasley and the rest of her family in their concern for the two eldest Weasley brothers lost in Bulgaria. Any news of them was eagerly sought by all.
Darius turned his grey eyes to her and shrugged slightly, "No contact as yet, but I will find them soon. I'm close; it's just a matter of time." Tonks opened her mouth to ask another question but the ensouled vampire interrupted her. "Perhaps it would be better if we focused upon the matter at hand." He said in a tone that suggested further discussion of this topic was unwelcome.
"Yes of course," Emmeline Vance said briskly, her serious voice cutting smoothly across the conversation, "he is right. We have a task to finish, and then we may consider other matters." She nodded to Dairus, who bowed from the neck in a very old-fashioned manner and turned back to Lupin.
"I found this one about a block away," Darius indicated the fallen Death Eater, "I assume he was there as a lookout, I saw nine more." Sturgis knelt down next to the still figure and slowly pushed aside the mask. Elpias Doge coughed in surprise as the face of a handsome young man was revealed.
"Why, he's no more than twenty!" Emmeline Vance stared down at the body with a disbelieving expression. "Who on earth would...?"
"I recognize him," Tonks said sadly, her eyes wide; "his name is Brian Mulciber. He was just coming in to Hogwarts when I left. His father was a Death Eater in the last war; he died in Azkaban two years ago."
"The bastards got him young," Elphias Doge spat on the ground angrily, "too young."
Darius looked down at the young man's body; his grey eyes were as flat as rain-swept pebbles. "He made his decision...And I made mine. Only one of us walked away, that's all there is to it." He turned away quietly, his black coat swirling around him, and walked further down the road.
Sturgis, Elphias, and Tonks all stared after him with pained expressions on their faces. Lupin knew how they must be feeling; Darius' lack of emotion over killing the young man seemed...
"Cold." Muttered Sturgis, he gently pulled the black cloak over Brian Mulciber's body, mercifully shrouding the face and eyes that were as empty as Darius' own. Out of the corner of his vision, Lupin saw Emmeline Vance was also staring after the retreating vampire. However, her face was not full of sadness or shock, rather Lupin saw curiosity, even outright wonder. He shook off such thoughts, now was not the time to be considering such things.
"Let's go." Lupin said firmly. "There's still work to be done." Sturgis, Emmeline and Elphias followed after Darius.
Tonks hesitated, "What about...?"
"Leave him," Lupin pulled her to her feet, "Dumbledore always alerts a graves registration team from the Ministry, they'll handle it."
Tonks bit her lip, looking down at the body. Lupin could tell she didn't like the idea of leaving a corpse, even the corpse of an enemy, out in the street like discarded garbage. He put a comforting arm around her shoulder, although they had been involved for quite some time, they had both agreed to curtail their displays of affection during "business." However, Lupin felt they could make an exception here. He held her tightly for a moment. "It's okay Tonks. Like Darius said, he made a choice."
"I'm not sure I like what Darius said." Tonks replied quietly, but she allowed him to lead her away. The shrouded body of Brian Mulciber faded into the night.
All business again, the members of the Order of the Phoenix trotted down the street. Darius took point, leading them toward the spot he had found the lookout; he loped along with predatory grace. Lupin followed him closely, occasionally turning back to encourage his team. Tonks came after him, her face was set but her eyes still sparkled with that mirth that never seemed to fade.
Emmeline, Sturgis and Elphias followed, watching in all directions for any sign of movement, the street remained quiet. Darius led them to the end of the street and stopped behind a large hedge. Leaning against the side of the nearest building he calmly removed a silver lighter from his coat and lit up a cigarette.
Lupin jogged up beside him and peered down the next shadowed lane carefully, it appeared to be empty. "Is this it?" He whispered to Darius. The vampire nodded, blowing out a thin curl of grey smoke. Lupin looked at all the buildings, "Which one?"
"That's the interesting part," Darius pushed past Emmeline, who wrinkled her nose and glared disapprovingly at the cigarette, "take a look three buildings down on the left."
Lupin turned his gaze in the indicated direction. A large, grey stone church rose up out of the residential buildings. It was of old fashioned Norman design with a slanted roof and a tall, steeple bell tower. "I see what you mean," Lupin said quietly, "what on earth could they want in there?"
"Well we're not going to find out by standing around here." Sturgis Podmore began edging his way around the tall hedge.
"Accio Sturgis!" Tonks hissed, bringing him whizzing back to her side. "Careful!" she cut off his rebuke. "They've got another lookout in that bell tower!"
Sturgis froze instantly and everyone trained their straining eyes on the darkened slits of the bell tower windows. After a moment Lupin asked, "How can you tell?"
Tonks just shrugged, "It's what I would do."
Emmeline nodded sagely, "Very true, she makes sense Remus."
Lupin leaned back, "Well that's going to make approaching it difficult."
"Not difficult," snorted Elphias, glowering at several meters of open street beyond the hedge, "impossible."
"What about disillusionment charms?" asked Sturgis thoughtfully, "that would get us across the street at least."
Tonks shook her head, "No, Moody sprung a trap on a gang of Death Eaters in Hogsmeade a week ago using disillusionment charms, they'll be watching for it now."
Lupin stared at the church for a long moment as the others continued discussing their limited options and Darius continued smoking without speaking. Suddenly an idea clicked in his mind, excitably he spun around. "Forget it everyone! Follow me!" He hurried back up the street they had just come down. His team looked after him for a moment in bafflement and then took off after him.
"What is it Remus?" Tonks called quietly, trying to make sure he voice did not carry. She was running down the middle of the street after Lupin when he came to such an abrupt stop she nearly ran him down. Darius, who had been loping along next to her, fluidly shot out an arm and stopped her from knocking Lupin flying. "Thanks," she gasped to him, "now what's this about Remus?"
For an answer Lupin pointed downward from where he was standing. Everyone followed his hand; in the pavement was a round manhole with a steel cover.
Elphias Doge sputtered, Tonks just shook her head. "Brilliant." Darius remarked, although his voice suggested he was about as excited as a dead dog. He easily lifted the cover off and set it aside without so much as a light clinking noise. He nodded once to Lupin and leapt through the dark hole, Lupin was not surprised when he didn't hear him hit the bottom. Emmeline and Tonks both shot him dirty looks, but lowered themselves down without complaint. Elphias Doge growled and pushed himself through the hole with much creaking and groaning.
Sturgis Podmore looked at Lupin, "You've got to be kidding right?" Far an answer Lupin gave him a sharp shove in the right direction. He jumped down the hole, magically replacing the cover over the sound of Sturgis' curses.

Ten minutes and six scouring charms later they all stood in the basement of the church next to the hole in the floor Lupin had blasted from the sewer. "Now what?" Tonks shone her illuminated wand around the dusty room stacked high with crates and boxes of old prayer books and candles.
"Now we see what our friends upstairs want with this place." Lupin replied and moved towards the door. Darius' arm blocked his progress.
Lupin looked up, the vampire nodded to the door. "Me first."
Lupin considered for a moment, but Darius was faster, quieter and stronger than everyone else here. Lupin himself had his heightened senses to aid him, but since he was in charge he probably shouldn't take point. He nodded an affirmative to Darius. "All right, quick and quiet okay?" Darius nodded and slid forward like a wraith.
Lupin waved to Elphias and Sturgis, "Silencing charms." He indicated the doors and walls. Both wizards signaled their understanding. "Tonks douse the light."
"Nox." Whispered Tonks and her wand winked out. Silently the Order members filed out the door and up the stairs. The main church was a huge rectangular room and it was pitch black. Lupin slid through the door and crouched to one side of it. "Darius?" he whispered, sure they were about to be attacked at any moment. "Darius?!" There was no answer; the blackness seemed to have swallowed the vampire up.
The other four Order members came in, crouching in a semicircle facing outward. "Where is Darius?" Whispered Emmeline. "Where are the enemies?"
"We can't worry about him now," Lupin ground his teeth in frustration, "he can take care of himself. Everyone get ready. Sturgis, launch sparks on my mark." His eyes strained to pierce the darkness as he raised his wand. "They're here somewhere... Mark!"
Sturgis raised his wand and shot out several bright red sparks, they flew upward and hovered near the ceiling, lighting up the room like flares. In the sudden light Lupin beheld no fewer than seven Death Eaters about ten meters away frozen around the church's altar. For one agonizingly slow second no one moved.
Suddenly Lupin heard loud cursing and shouting from up above him. A quick glance showed Darius locked in combat with two Death Eaters on the bell tower stairs high above the floor. Lupin looked back down just as chaos erupted in the church. He barely had time to shout, "Attack!" before he had to dive under an expertly thrown crushing curse from the mass of Death Eaters now surging down the aisles at his team. The pew behind him contorted and imploded as the curse struck it.
"Impedimenta!" He shouted, blowing one assailant off his feet. As the hood and mask were swept askew Lupin caught a glimpse of the pock marked face of Augustus Rookwood.
"Well this is brilliant!" Tonks quipped as she smashed a Death Eater with a reductor curse and placed her back to Lupin's. "Any more bright ideas?!"
"Yeah! Don't get hit!" Roared Elphias Doge, seconds later a curse sent him crashing through one of the stained glass windows on the wall and out of sight.
Lupin blocked a curse and sent a stunner at his opponent. Glancing up to check on his team he saw Emmeline Vance magically hurling entire sets of pews, benches and all, at tremendous speeds across the room. Sturgis Podmore was exchanging spells with two more masked figures at the far end of the church.
Darius was leaping from walls and stairs like an acrobat as he battled high above the church proper. With an abrupt twist of his wiry frame he kicked out and sent one of the Death Eaters hurtling over the railing to strike the floor with bone-cracking force. However as he did so the Death Eater behind him slashed with his wand and a whip of crackling flames extended from the tip, lashing across the vampire's unprotected back. Darius showed no signs of pain; he simply threw himself backwards, drawing a thin stiletto from his sleeve as he did. For some reason he seemed to be ignoring his own wand entirely.
Lupin finally got a stunner past his opponent's guard, taking him out of the fight. He turned to see Sturgis hit the floor and lie motionless. "Now Emmeline!" He shouted at the top of his lungs. "Call him now!" Emmeline nodded and pulled out her phoenix feather.
The four Death Eaters who were still on their feet in the room were clustered at the far end in front of the main doors preparing for a charge. Lupin was rallying the remainder of his team to meet them when the large doors behind the Death Eaters abruptly blew in. Striding through the smoking ruins the enormous figure of Hagrid was seen. With a vengeful bellow he lifted his long wand and blasted away at the Death Eaters from behind.
Lupin, Tonks and Emmeline were preparing to charge when a crash from above distracted them. Darius Raider, disregarding his wounds and his wand, leapt forward up the stairs and slashed his only remaining assailant across the chest with the stiletto. The Death Eater's wand soared away from his hand, the whip of flames still blazing. It smashed through several of the church's rafters, setting the others alight, the fire spread with magical speed.
"Look out!" shouted Tonks, hurrying toward Sturgis' prone form, "It's coming down!"
Lupin dove forward as huge fiery beams of wood came crashing down to earth. "Remus!" roared Hagrid, as he shielded Emmeline and Tonks, who were carrying Sturgis. "Get 'em outta here! The whole ruddy place is goin' up!"
The Death Eaters apparated as one, leaving their incapacitated comrades to the tender mercies of the flames. Half the church was blazing by this time. "Raider come on!" Hagrid shouted, keeping the flames back with jets of water. Darius, still on the bell tower stairs, nodded unhurriedly and vaulted over the railing. Landing lightly on Hagrid's broad back he leapt down beside Lupin.
"I suggest we leave." He said, his voice showing fierceness for the first time that night. Swearing in a most unusual display of anger, Lupin followed the two out the ruined doors.
He reassembled his group across the street from the holocaust. The church burned fiercely in the night. Already there were sirens and shouting in the distance as Thorny End awoke to the disaster. Hagrid hurried up, carrying the limp form of Elphias Doge over his shoulder. "He's in a bad way Remus, he needs a healer."
"Take him to St. Mungo's, then report to Dumbledore." Lupin said tiredly, shaking his head. He looked around at his group; Tonks and Emmeline were helping a shaky Sturgis to his feet. Darius stood next to them, burned and bloodied he stowed the stiletto in a sleeve sheath and stared dourly at the raging flames. "Just another night." He said calmly, reaching into his pocket for his lighter.
Lupin watched as Hagrid left with the injured Elphias, just as the church roof collapsed in a shower of angry sparks. Ministry officials began arriving, immediately trying to head off the muggles and hide the disaster. "Just another night." Lupin whispered heavily, staring at the blazing ruin before him. It was then he realized that his hands were shaking.