March of the Witch Hunters
Chapter 1: Wicked Through and Through
Wickedness must be punished—that seems to be the Ministry of Magic's new mantra, headlining every newspaper and billboard from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade. There doesn't exist a healthy medium of wickedness and goodness, or so many think. Those who are wicked are labeled greedy and selfish, serving only themselves; but what is love without greed? Are we not all wicked, then? They say love is unselfish and kind, but that isn't always the case. To understand wickedness you must understand human nature and motivation. Is wickedness the product of power, or unconditional love? If someone you loved was about to be hurt, or taken away from you, would you not save them? What if it required a wicked act? Would you watch them die?
Seeing them dead would hurt you. It is our nature to save ourselves from hurt, and saving them would not only prevent their hurt, but our own. Is it selfish of us to want to prevent ourselves from hurt? It is human nature, not wickedness.
And yet, I was labeled wicked. Why? I didn't want to see my family dead. Why? I loved them unconditionally. Now, I have sacrificed a promising life to save them, and the Ministry has labeled me wicked.
We must all be borderline wicked, then.
Is that the answer? That I am wicked?
So be it.
It was nearing dawn; the sky was a dark purple, with thick clouds blocking out the scowling heavens. The air smelled musty, like burnt pine, and slithered along the shadowed wheat field in the bewailing wind.
Five cloaked figures congregated in an area of the field where the wheat didn't grow very tall—it was more or less a patch of dirt. They huddled together in a circle, crouching in the mud, seemingly waiting for someone to arrive.
"This is bullshit. Yaxley has made us wait over an hour," Bellatrix Lestrange hissed, setting a leaf on fire with her wand and warming her hands over it. "I say we leave."
"And if he shows up? I doubt the Dark Lord would be impressed with you then, Bellatrix," Severus Snape calmly replied, his sunken eyes focused on another young death eater shivering beside him.
"What if he's been intercepted by an Auror?" Augustus Rookwood questioned, glowering at the group. "We'll be foolishly waiting around all night."
"I invite you and Lestrange to leave—even you, Dolohov—but Evans and I are staying," Snape said, turning his attention back to Bellatrix. "Do as you wish."
"So you and Evans can take all the glory while we get punished? I think not," Bellatrix spat, miserably lighting a cigarette.
"My point exactly," Snape remarked dryly.
"What do you think we should do, mudblood?" Bellatrix Lestrange mocked, a malicious smile on her twisted face. "Perhaps we should have some fun with you while we wait?"
"Why don't I shove your wand up your ass? That sounds fun," Lily Evans stiffly replied, her vibrant emerald eyes illuminating with ire beneath her hood. "Maybe then you'd shut the hell up."
"Why you little—!" Bellatrix started.
"Quiet!" Snape demanded of the two death eaters, putting up his hand to silence them. "I hear approaching footsteps."
The group of five death eaters paused, hearing the soft pitter patter of footsteps on the northern side of the field. Lily grasped her sides nervously, desperate for warmth.
"Ah, it's Yaxley," Snape affirmed, having stood up to peer over the long grass. "Go and meet him midway, Dolohov."
"Why don't we make Evans go?" Bellatrix protested, an evil grin overtaking her face. "After all, she's the most dispensable of us all."
"You will abide by my orders, Lestrange," Snape warned frostily. "The Dark Lord has put me in charge—would you dare disobey him?"
"I'll never know why he trusts you," Bellatrix muttered bitterly, relenting to orders and extinguishing her simmering cigarette on the ground.
It wasn't often that Lily went on missions with Snape. He was one of the Dark Lord's most prized death eaters, next to Lucius Malfoy, and she was not. Like her, he often remained in the shadows, calculating plots or brewing secret potions for Voldemort, but occasionally he was assigned to the Dark Lord's most important missions.
Severus Snape was a death eater, and despite being one, Lily hated death eaters; yet, she did not hate Snape. She often thought she wouldn't have survived the ordeal of becoming a death eater without him. Though she had not been friends with Snape during their Hogwarts days—largely due to her romance with the one man he despised most—Snape looked out for her, always giving her the least perilous task or guiding her away from danger.
Lily knew without Snape, she would be dead.
Dolohov slowly edged his way toward Yaxley—who appeared hazy and disoriented—careful to stay out of sight. The woods around him seemed oddly quiet, but he didn't notice. Snape, Bellatrix, Rookwood and Lily remained hidden in the tall wheat, trembling from the cold.
Lily saw Dolohov's head and shoulders pop out from the tall grass, mere meters away from his death eater friend. "Yaxley? What took you so—?"
"IMMOBULUS!" Gideon Prewett shouted, exploding from the coverage of the field. Dolohov went rigid and fell to the ground, motionless. "Surprise, you little fucker!"
Lily and the other death eaters swore loudly when they saw Gideon's brother, Fabian, easily take down Yaxley—who had clearly been imperiused—and many other Order members begin to filter out of the forest and onto the field.
"LOOK FOR OTHERS!" Caradoc Dearborn yelled out to his colleagues in the distance, all of whom began to scavenge the landscape. "SCAN THE FIELD!"
"We're screwed!" Rockwood hissed to the others, their faces mirroring his panic. They all crouched low to the ground, trying to formulate a way to elude their enemies.
"I can't apparate!" Bellatrix breathed, noticing the others also scrunching up their noses in concentration, attempting to apparate. "It's an ambush!"
"We've got to get to the end of the forest; that's where the apparating charm will end," Snape murmured, looking around for confirmation. "Split up and get back to headquart—"
"THEY'RE OVER HERE! INCARCEROUS!" Remus Lupin yelled, his spell flying over Snape's head and setting the grass behind him aflame, rather than binding him in rope.
Lily's blood ran cold; she hadn't seen Remus in over three years.
"INPEDIMENTA!" Snape countered, sending Remus flying backwards with a quick slash of his wand. He signaled for the death eaters to put on their masks. "Scatter!"
Bellatrix and Rookwood immediately headed in opposite directions, both dodging curses and they zigzagged through the grass. Once they were out of sight, Snape grabbed Lily's forearm, pulling her upright. Her face had drained of all colour.
"If I fall behind, get back to headquarters," Snape commanded, his eyes feverish. "Ready?"
"I can't do this," Lily whispered back, close to sobbing. "Snape, I saw Remus—"
"Don't be a fool," Snape demanded harshly. "You'll be killed. Now, run as fast as you can into the forest; I'll cover you for as long as I can."
"You can!" Snape hissed, his coal-coloured eyes on fire. "Now go!"
Lily recoiled. Pulling her hood up to obscure her face, she made a mad dash into the tall grass, subsequently signaling Order members of her presence and spawning a fury of blue and red curses to barrel towards her. Lily ran towards the forest, ducking ever so often to avoid being hit by a hex—though she knew Snape was shielding a good portion of the attacks sent her way—and, remarkably, encountered no Aurors along the way.
That is, until she reached the edge of the forest.
Lily's heart nearly failed her when she realized she was being chased by two Aurors, one male and another female. Sweat trickled down her back as she darted between trees, and she began to run short of breath.
The forest was pitch black and thick with plants that grew too closely together. Lily nearly tripped numerous times, getting caught in bur bushes and tree roots. There were cuts along her cheeks where she had blindly ran through patches of hanging thorns, and the material on her left shoulder was ripped, the flesh bleeding—but she pressed forward, gulping for air.
I've got to escape; I can't let her see me like this! I can't go back now.
Lily had looked over her shoulder and recognized the female witch: it was Marlene McKinnon, one of her best friends from Hogwarts. She silently prayed Marlene did not catch her; Lily preferred everyone to think she was dead, rather than know she was a death eater.
She'd been paying so much attention to the Order members behind her that she didn't realize she had been slowing down, helping to close the gap between the three of them. Marlene came upon Lily, taking a fist-full of her cloak and dragging her down to the ground with her. She positioned herself on top of Lily, struggling to work the wand out of Lily's hand.
The red head screamed in despair, the mask ripped off of her face.
"EXPELLIARMUS!" Lily shrieked, jabbed her wand into Marlene's stomach before she could get a good look at her face. Marlene's eyes widened in shock as she was roughly thrown backwards into a tree, where she unconsciously fell to the ground.
Tears stung Lily's eyes as she staggered to her feet, her mask and black cloak gone. In plain clothes and with a bleeding shoulder and elbows, Lily tore off into the forest again, hoping the male Auror would stop to aid Marlene and give her ample time to escape.
The ground began to slope downwards and was slick with mud as Lily continued toward the edge of the forest. It was a quiet, stagnant place, the only noise being her labored breathing and silent whimpers. She was lost, running around in circles, desperately trying to find her way out.
"STOP AND SURRENDER!"
Lily choked out a sob, her heart racing fearfully as she heard a male voice sound in the distance. She felt helpless, overtired and caked in mud, but she continued down the slope, her limbs aching for oxygen.
He was getting closer; she could practically feel his breath on the back of her neck.
Lily felt the man's hand grab her arm, and instinctively jerked forward, attempting to escape. She tumbled to the ground with the Auror still clutching her, causing them both to plummet down the slick slope.
There was no escaping him now.
"Drop your wand!" the Order member on top of her demanded, scrambling to his feet and pointing his wand down at her broken figure, though he was clearly having trouble seeing behind the muddy curtain of dark hair that fell in his face. "Do it, now."
The sky angrily split down the middle, rain plunging down from the murky clouds. Lily obediently dropped her wand, her eyes firmly shut due to all the mud and water seeping in at the corners. She quaked uncontrollably—not because she was freezing cold, but because of her devastation. She was going to spill her guts any minute, the turmoil upsetting her body and causing her to weep while she curled up in a fetal position, eyes closed.
"DO YOU HAVE HER, JAMES?" Marlene McKinnon yelled from atop the hill, gradually limping closer to him, having recovered from her attack.
When James Potter kneeled closer to the devastated death eater to pick up her wand, he caught a small glimpse of emerald green. Beneath the mud that coated her features, he realized her hair was a vivid red and her pallid skin a soft porcelain. His heart dropped to his stomach.
"Lily?" James managed hoarsely, water dripping from the tips of his hair. "Is…is it really you?"
Lily opened her red-rimmed eyes, feeling empty.
"Don't look at me," she pleaded, matching his ethereal stare for only a moment before going unconscious.
James pulled Lily up into his arms, regarding her like a beautiful ghost. When he heard Marlene coming closer, he impulsively apparated out from the forest, his fiancée drawn close to his chest.
It had taken Marlene a few minutes to make her way down the muddy slide, but the place where James and the captured death eater had once resided was sparse. She stood perplexed and worried in the pouring rain; she hoped events had not taken a turn for the worst.
But they had.