Chapter 1

The Mark

Disclaimer – This is J K Rowlings – Not mine!!

A/N – Thanks to Abforth! Please Read and Review!!

The candles shed a flickering golden light on the walls, creating dancing shadows in the corners of the large room. Footsteps echoed on the flagstones as a tall figure shrouded in black moved to the centre of the floor where a second shadow waited in a carved mahogany chair.

"Well?" The voice from the chair was like a blast of Arctic wind, cold and cruel, male, yet strangely high-pitched.

"I'm sorry, master. It is true," answered the standing figure, also male.

The man in the chair hissed sharply. Clearly this was not good news.

"Well," the cold voice said again after a moment's silence "he has betrayed us. I confess myself disappointed – he was always one of my more devoted servants. But what to do about him, Lucius? He must be punished, of course, but perhaps I can persuade him to reconsider?"

"My lord!" exclaimed Lucius "Surely not"

"Severus would be a great loss to us, Lucius. Perhaps if the temptation were removed…he would see what a mistake he has made…how weak and stupid these Muggles are. He would return to us. What is the woman's name?"

"Elizabeth Glenn, my lord," replied Lucius "but it is more complicated than that…"

"Why?"

"There is a child. A girl – eighteen months old,"

"Eighteen months!" The man in the chair hissed again, standing up suddenly. His hood fell back, revealing his face - pale, almost white, with red eyes and a flat, snake-like nose. "This has been going on for longer than I thought…" He frowned.

"Perhaps it is more than an illicit love affair – perhaps he has been passing information as well…?" Lucius ventured.

"No. He wouldn't be so foolish. Kill the Muggle and the child – he will soon see sense,"

"And if he doesn't?"

"He will. And yet…" He paused, frowning again. Then he smiled "Do you know, I have had a change of heart. The child will be spared,"

"The half-breed, my lord? But why?" Lucius was shocked.

"Half-breed? You use the term rashly," This time the cold voice was soft and dangerous.

"My lord! I did not mean – I forgot that - " Lucius stuttered, panicking.

"Forgot? If only I could so easily forget my parentage. But that is not the point. I will keep the child and raise her as one of us…Just imagine, I will finally have servant totally devoted to me – untouched by conscience, or guilt, or fear…and Severus will return to us to ensure his daughter's safety. Why, it would be like having a daughter of my own!" He chuckled softly "How fitting; one half-breed raising another…"

"But - " Lucius interrupted.

"But nothing," snapped the cold voice "you will see to it. Do not fail me…go now – kill the Muggle and put the Mark on the child's arm before you bring her back."

"Yes, my lord," Lucius bowed and turned to leave. Just as he reached the door, the cold voice called to him:

"Oh, and Lucius, if you get this right, your efforts will not go unrewarded… and if you fail, you will wish you hadn't,"

Lucius swallowed nervously, bowed again, and vanished. For a moment, the candlelight illuminated the face of the man standing in the middle of the room. He smiled thoughtfully; watching the door, then sank back into the shadows of the chair. Waiting.

*          *          *

Elizabeth yawned and looked at the clock on the wall. It was five-thirty, and the sky outside the nursery window was already lightening to grey, although it was a couple of hours yet till dawn. She might still be able to get some sleep. She tiptoed to the door, trying not to wake her daughter, who was sleeping peacefully in her cot. Just as Elizabeth's hand reached for the door handle, she heard the creak of a floorboard out on the landing. She froze, listening intently. There was no other sound except her heart beating and the soft breathing of the baby in the cot. She started to relax, but then she heard another noise – the squeak of her bedroom door. Elizabeth backed away quietly, moving towards the bedside cabinet and opening the top drawer.

"Where is it?" she thought desperately as she searched the drawer. She heard a swishing noise just outside the nursery, and then the door handle began to turn. The door opened just as Elizabeth's hand closed on cool metal, and she looked up sharply to see a tall black silhouette standing silently, his face covered by the hood of his cloak.

"Severus? Elizabeth whispered, but she knew it wasn't her husband even before she said it. The figure took a step inside the room, raising his hand. In the same instant, Elizabeth jerked the gun out from behind her back and aimed it at the figure's head. But she never fired it. Before her finger could begin to pull back the trigger, the intruder had cried "Avada kedavra!" A blast of green fire issued from the wand in his hand. Elizabeth crumpled to the floor with a thud. The gun slipped from her fingers.

The murderer stepped forward towards the cot, where the baby had woken and was crying loudly. Lucius pulled back the blankets and took hold of the girl's left arm. He put the tip of his wand against the skin of the baby's forearm.

"Morsmordre!" He cried, but as he did someone dived on him from behind and his wand jerked sideways. A small burst of black power erupted from the wand and hit the baby's torso. Lucius crashed to the floor, his attacker on top of him, trying to snatch the wand from his hand. Lucius aimed a kick at his opponent's stomach, at the same time firing a Stunning spell from his wand. The spell missed and ricocheted off the ceiling, but the kick worked. Lucius crawled backwards across the floor and tried to stand, but his rival recovered quickly and lunged for him.

Lucius looked up into the face of Severus Snape, fellow Death Eater and the man whose wife he had just murdered. Snape's features were twisted in a mixture of fury and grief as he closed his hands around Lucius' throat. Lucius, choking, raised his wand to defend himself. Before he could cast a spell, however, Snape had loosened his grip, lifting one hand to pull away the hood still covering Lucius' face. Lucius seized the opportunity and pushed, at the same time directing another kick at Snape's stomach. Snape was flung across the floor; Lucius scrambled to his feet and with one last desperate glance at the baby, he Disapparated.

The screams from the cot had reached a crescendo. Snape stood up painfully and went to pick up his daughter. As he lifted her into his arms, he noticed the mark on her side, and inhaled sharply. It looked like a tattoo – a skull with a snake for a tongue, hideously black against the pink flesh. Snape knew that it could never be removed – it was burned permanently into her skin, just as the identical mark on his own arm would scar him for life.

Snape turned slowly, cradling the crying baby in his arms, and knelt on the floor beside his wife's body. Tears streamed silently down his face. After a moment a voice spoke:

"Severus,"

Snape looked up quickly. Albus Dumbledore had Apparated soundlessly and was watching him, his normally lively blue eyes filled with sorrow.

"I was too late," Snape whispered, "I couldn't save her,"

"I'm sorry," said Dumbledore "I came as soon as I could."

"It's not your fault," Snape answered hoarsely "I should have been here. She was my wife!"

"But you saved your daughter," Dumbledore replied softly.

"Because it wasn't him! You think she'd still be here if it had been him?" Snape shouted "He sent one of the others. He didn't even have the guts to come himself!"

There was a pause. Dumbledore studied Snape's face intently for a moment, and then asked,

"Did you see who it was?"

"No," Snape replied bitterly "the coward didn't show his face. He Disapparated before you got here."

"But he will come back," Dumbledore pointed out "if not tonight, then tomorrow. If he had orders to kill them both - "

"He didn't," Snape said, suddenly "he was going to take Cassie back with him. He put the Mark on her. Why would he do that? What does the Dark Lord want with my daughter?"

"Whatever reason he has, she's not safe here. We should leave – now," Dumbledore said urgently "we can take her to her godparents – they'll hide her. Unless Lord Voldemort knows about them, too…?"

Snape shook his head "He couldn't,"

"Then we'll take her there. We can figure out how to protect you afterwards,"

*          *          *

 It was some hours later when Severus Snape finally left the house of David and Emily Jones. He had said goodbye to Cassandra, not knowing when, or if, he would ever see her again.

Dumbledore was waiting outside.

"I've already done the Abrouillius spell. No magic done inside the house can be detected. From outside it will look just like any other Muggle home, and no witch or wizard will be able to enter without a direct invitation from someone living there. That includes you and me," he added.

Snape nodded silently.

"Why don't you go and get some rest," Dumbledore suggested "we've done all we can."

Snape stared fixedly at the house for a moment, and then said softly, "I'll find him you know. I'll find out who it was," His black eyes glittered for a moment, and then he turned and disappeared into the night.

Dumbledore watched him leave. He didn't know that only a few hours later, several hundred miles away, his help would be needed again, for a very similar task. Another baby, one with a lightning-bolt shaped cut on his forehead, would also have to be left with a Muggle family. It was going to be a very busy night.