The Dark Mark

by Erik's Angel

Disclaimer: I am not, nor do I dare to imagine that I am JK Rowling. She created these characters and this universe. I just like to play with them. I mean no harm.

Summary: Halloween 1981 - the night Lily and James died. Told from Sirius's point of view. Beware . . . you may need tissues. Have a happy fic handy to read after this one.

Author's Note: This fic was originally one of many that I had planned for a giant collection of short stories called The Marauders. That idea fell through, and so I'm publishing the individual pieces as stand-alone fics. Thanks must go out to my fabulous beta-reader, JK, for all her helpful suggestions and friendly support.

*****

Ron, You-Know-Who and his followers sent the Dark Mark into the air whenever they killed. The terror it inspired . . . you have no idea, you're too young. Just picture coming home, and finding the Dark Mark hovering over your house, and knowing what you're about to find inside. Everyone's worst fear . . . the very worst . . .
- Arthur Weasley in Goblet of Fire


Out of the dark, black night the shadowy figure of a man arose, his cloak rustling on the fallen leaves. He seemed to blend in perfectly with his surroundings; even the light of the full moon could not quite touch him. A man with untidy black hair peered out the window of the house in front of the shadow, and his glasses-rimmed brown eyes widened in shock as he recognized the approaching figure.

"Lily, take Harry and go!" James Potter called to his wife. His panicked yell could be heard even from outside the house. "It's him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off - "

The Dark Lord destroyed the Potters' front door with a burst of white-hot light. James ran from the room and pulled out his wand. There was a cackle of high-pitched laughter and a flash of bright green light. James never even had the chance to defend himself.

Lord Voldemort ascended the stairs, moving towards his next victim. He entered the baby's room to find the child's mother shielding him.

"Not Harry!" Lily was screaming. "Not Harry! Please - I'll do anything - "

"Stand aside - stand aside, girl - "

"Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!"

"Stand aside, you silly girl . . . stand aside, now . . ."

"Not Harry please no, take me, kill me instead! Please . . . have mercy . . . have mercy . . ." She was sobbing now. Lord Voldemort laughed a high, cruel laugh. There was another burst of green light, and Lily Potter was no more.

The Dark Lord then rounded on the baby in the cradle and pointed his wand right at little Harry Potter's forehead.

"Avada Kedavra!" he shrieked into the night. There was another burst of green light, but something was wrong. Voldemort screamed in agony. Baby Harry's head had split open. The house was crumbling to the ground. The baby's shrill cries echoed into the darkness of the night . . .

Sirius Black sat straight up in bed, drenched in a cold sweat, breathing as hard as if he had just wrestled a mountain troll single-handedly. What the hell kind of a dream was that?! he thought, fumbling for his wand. His hand closed around it. "Lumos," he muttered. The light was only slightly comforting. He waved his wand around and the room was suddenly brilliant with light. The stress of this whole Fidelius Charm thing must really be getting to me for me to have a nightmare like that.

He padded down the stairs, running his fingers through his tangled black hair, trying to clear his mind. But he could not get the images and sounds of the dream out of his head. He went to the sink and splashed cold water onto his face. That dream was so real. Maybe it meant something? But nothing like that could really happen, could it? Lily and James are safe. I saw to that myself.

Sirius stared into the reflection of his scared dark blue eyes in the mirror. "You're losing it, Black," he told his mirror image. "You're going mad." He shook his head, ran his fingers through his hair again and took a deep breath.

I'm definitely not going back to sleep after that one. Might as well get dressed and check on Peter. He'd been planning to do it in the morning, but he could just as easily do it tonight, and then maybe he could get some sleep. More than anything else, I just wish I could see James right now. Oh well. Peter first, then go see James and Lily and convince yourself that they're still alive. He laughed mirthlessly at his own dark thoughts.

"Black, you're getting downright depressing," he told his reflection.

"Well, it most certainly isn't a good sign that you keep talking to yourself," replied his mirror in an annoying no-nonsense tone.

"Oh shut it, you," Sirius muttered before running upstairs to get dressed.

*****

Five minutes later, he was on his motorbike, headed for Peter's "hiding place" - a nondescript room at The Leaky Cauldron. As he rode, a strong feeling of unease began to grow in the pit of his stomach, so that by the time he landed, he was near panic.

When he landed, he ran into the pub, took the stairs two at a time, and banged on Peter's door so hard it seemed he would knock it down.

"Wormtail!" he called, oblivious to the fact that his shouting would almost certainly wake up anyone else who might be staying there. "Wormtail! It's Padfoot! Open up . . . I need to talk to you!"

There was no reply. None at all. Peter was a light sleeper . . . it just didn't make sense.

Sirius tried the door. It was unlocked. He walked in and said, much more tentatively, "Peter?" His eyes scanned the room. The bed was unmade, but that didn't mean anything unusual. Peter had never been the tidiest of people. And yet, nothing was broken; nothing seemed out of place. Sirius felt himself beginning to panic. "Peter!" he growled. "Where the hell are you?" No one answered. The room was silent. In his desperation, Sirius checked under the bed and in the closet. He was no longer looking for a man; he was hunting for a rat. Before long, Sirius was forced to realize that Peter was nowhere to be found. But there wasn't any struggle, so Voldemort didn't find him. And he wouldn't have left without telling me where he'd gone.

Something was terribly, terribly wrong.

Sirius ran out of the room and tore down the stairs, and all the while the sickening feeling still growing in his stomach. Just let them be okay, he thought desperately as he started the motorbike and took off in the direction of Godric's Hollow. Please . . . just let everyone be okay.

The ride to the Potters' seemed to take forever, but as the house came into view, Sirius saw something that made him lose what little control he still possessed.

Twinkling green lights in the form of a skull with a serpent protruding from its mouth like a tongue, shining ominously over Godric's Hollow.

The Dark Mark.

Sirius prepared to land, knowing what he was about to see. He both desperately wanted and loathed to know what was in the broken ruins of Godric's Hollow.

He landed the motorbike, staring transfixedly at the pile of rubble that had once been his best friend's house. And there, in the rubble, was Lily's body. Sirius walked toward it, cleared away the junk that partially covered her, and stared at the lifeless face of the woman he had come to know and love as dearly as any sister. He gently pulled her out of the pile and laid her delicately on the ground. He reached down and fingered the gold necklace James had given her when they were fifteen. She had never taken it off since. Sirius touched her cold cheek and began to tremble with emotion.

He turned back to the rubble, and there, his face illuminated eerily by the light of the full moon, was James. Sirius pulled him out too and placed him beside his wife. Both of their faces were frozen with horrible expressions - James's of shock, Lily's of pleading and pure terror. Their eyes were staring strangely out at him. He shuddered and gently closed their eyelids. He was beside himself, beyond sorrow, beyond tears. The only thing that he could think was: It's my fault. It's all my fault. He crouched there for a moment, staring blankly at the pair of them. Then, his brain seemed to register that he'd forgotten something . . . or someone. Harry, he thought. Where's Harry? He began to search the rubble for some sign of his godson. He felt the color drain out of his face as the reality of what had happened began to sink in. There was no way the boy could have possibly survived this.

Sirius heard movement behind him, and a familiar voice said, "Sirius?" very tentatively into the darkness.

Sirius turned slowly. "Hagrid . . . " he said weakly. "I - " He stopped when he saw what Hagrid had in his arms. "Harry!" he gasped. "Oh my - he's - he's alive? But how?" "I've no idea," said Hagrid, shrugging. "But somehow little Harry here survived, even if his parents didn'." Hagrid's beetle black eyes were unusually bright. Sirius suddenly had an idea. "Hagrid, let me take him. I'm his godfather . . . I'll look after him." He looks so much like James. It'll be like having a part of him with me every day. "Sorry, Sirius, but I've got me orders from Dumbledore. He's ter go straight ter his aunt and uncle's." Damn you, Dumbledore! Sirius immediately felt guilty for thinking that. No, I'm sorry. But how dare you deprive me of the one way I can possibly redeem myself? Harry's my only chance to recover - don't take him away from me now! He'd be just like my own son . . . he already is. Sirius's eyes started to well with tears, but he pushed them back. He fought with Hagrid over Harry but only gave feeble arguments. He knew it was useless. If Hagrid had orders from Dumbledore . . . first of all, it was unlikely that Hagrid would back down. Second . . . well, Dumbledore always had a good reason for everything. Granted, Sirius couldn't understand why living with that horrid Petunia would help anything. Maybe he'd understand in time. He finally conceded.

Sirius took a deep breath, straightened himself, and looked away from Hagrid and little Harry. He blinked for a moment, consciously averting his gaze from the horrible scene before him. His eyes fell on his motorbike. Everyone's going to think it was my fault. Not even Dumbledore knew we had switched. Not even, Sirius's breath caught in his throat at the thought, not even Remus. Even Moony from now on will think of me as some kind of traitor. I really shouldn't keep that bike around. Riding it would be like asking to be arrested.

"Take my bike, Hagrid," said Sirius glumly. "Take the bike and get Harry to wherever Dumbledore says he's to go." He took a deep breath before continuing. "I won't be needing it anymore."

Hagrid said nothing but patted Sirius on the shoulder (actually, it was more of a thump on the shoulder), got on the motorbike, and took off.

Sirius watched the bike disappear in to the night sky and sighed heavily. "Good luck, Harry," he whispered into the chill night air. "If you grow up to be even half the man your father is - was -" he corrected himself, "you'll be a fine young man, indeed." He shook his head to fight back the tears that were causing a prickling sensation behind is eyes. He ran his hands through his now tangled mane of black hair and looked back up at the sky. The full moon stared coldly down at him, and Sirius thought of Remus once more. Moony, he thought, how could I ever have suspected you? How could I do this to you? Please forgive me. He put his head in his hands. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

Then, he threw his head back and screamed with all his might, "I'm sorry!" His voice broke.

With those words, the weight of everything that had happened finally fell upon Sirius Black, who collapsed to his knees on the cold, hard ground and wept bitterly.

Sirius did not know how long he stayed there, kneeling on the ground with his back doubled over and his head in his hands, overwhelmed by his grief. But after what seemed to be a long time, he felt as though he had no more tears to cry. He felt empty.

Very slowly, Sirius began to feel red-hot anger filling the empty space, coursing through every vein in his body. Peter Pettigrew, he thought savagely. You will pay for this.

He stole a final glance at the lifeless bodies of Lily and James. Oh yes, Wormtail. You will pay. With that thought, he Disapparated, leaving the scene of destruction and sorrow that had once been Godric's Hollow far behind.

*****

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Thank you for reading,
Erik's Angel