I'm setting fire to the life that I know
Let's start a fire everywhere that we go
We starting fires, we starting fires

-Christina Perri-


The first thing to go was her arms; he'd strapped her up by her arms, so her weight was held up by the strength of her arms. She was a seeker; she was fast, flexible and adaptable, but not strong. If she was asked to do push ups she could probably only do a dozen or so, let alone attempting to keep her entire body up with the strength of them.

She broke every bone in her forearms, twice before he put a stool beneath her feet. By then she had blacked out and awoke to him snapping her arms back into place. The adrenaline kicked in by then, she couldn't feel a single thing and her mind for the first time in her entire life was…empty. She was ready to die, but he would torture her until her body gave up for her. And that point wasn't far away. It was drawing closer and closer, but Marlene couldn't bring herself to care. She was vaguely sure she had sweat straight through her shirt and trousers, to the point where she looked hollow and too sickly to last.

He had finally done it, he had broken her, and she had given up. Her crying had been constant but it was as if her tear ducts had run out of moisture.

If there was one thing that could be said about Marlene McKinnon it was that she was practical, but never optimistic. She never waited for a white knight to come for her. She never had expected her life to have any sort of a happy ending. Her sisters used to read her those fairytales, but growing up with her mother had stripped any idealism from her. The world was a fucked up place, and she was just fighting to survive, but she'd run to the end of the tight rope and she was willing to bow out. There was nothing more for her to do, nothing more she could do, she was done.

"I should probably give you a break before another crucio," Michael breathed. "But I've never cared much for patience."

His wand raised, and Marlene closed her eyes, waiting for it to begin again. Maybe this would be the last time.

But instead she heard a body slam into the wall next to her accompanied with a groan.

She thought she imagined it, that she had wished for something to happen to him so passionately, she had begun to hallucinate. At first her vision was fading fast so it wouldn't have surprised her in the least, but she saw the outline of a blonde woman walking in and she thought for a second it was her mother. Relief filled her, and she began to cry. She was safe; someone was going to protect her. Someone was going to help her. It wasn't until she heard the woman speak that she realized it wasn't her mother at all.

"Now, where's the boy Carrow?" Ava asked curtly, kicking his wand aside.

"Why would I tell you that?" He replied, "That's my bargaining chip and you'll never find him without me."

Marlene had nothing left, she wasn't going to make it, but Sirius needed her to do this one last thing. If she didn't tell them, they might never find him. There were so many rooms in the mansion and the cellar was hidden. Sirius would be stuck until he starved to death. Her jaw trembled, and rubbed her dry lips together weakly. She gathered her strength and realized there was nothing there. Her body was so spent; she couldn't even fathom how she was still conscious. But she had to do this, she had to dig deep and figure out a way.

So she shut her eyes, and focused on him, his dumb, stupid face; his jaw, his lips, his eyes, his hair. He may have been the biggest mistake she'd ever made, but in some twisted way that's what made him her biggest strength. Because no matter how weak he was, he would say the words, no matter how close to death he was, he'd find the drive and if he could do it so could she.

"W…" She attempted, but it was barely above a whisper, her throat burned at the effort. She'd screamed for two hours straight, her voice was hoarse, but she tried again. "W…Wine cell-ar."

Ava's eyes turned to Marlene, "What did you say?

Marlene bucked back, and gasped, "Wine…cellar… under the kit-chen." She panted, her voice barely carrying the first time, but stronger and louder the second time.

"Thank you, sweetheart." Ava said kindly to Marlene, thought her gaze was still on Michael. "Did you hear that, Matthew?"

"Yes." Marlene heard her brother respond, before heavy footsteps echoed leading away from the room. "Now, you and I have some business to discuss."

There was a hitch in Michael's voice when he said, "I believe we do."

"You abused my sister, and now you have taken my baby sister." Ava said in a sickeningly sweet voice. "You can understand how that would bother me."

"I really don't see how it's any of your business. Give me my wife and you can have your sister."

Her laugh came and Marlene found that in this context it was quite terrifying. "You think you are bargaining? I have your wand. My brother is an Auror, so any traps you have laid on the way to get the Black boy will be easily detected. My husband and my eldest brother are here. See, I'm merely waiting for them."

"Why?"

"Because I'd rather not have your blood on my hands, but the longer they take the less likely that is to occur." She responded bluntly, her cool blue eyes resembling daggers. "You see, Evan may be the oldest but I'm the head of this family and you thought you could just do whatever you wished with my family and walk away. My little, baby sister, who weighs roughly the amount of a pre-teen put you in coma. She hasn't even finished her education. Can you imagine what I can do to you?"

Marlene couldn't see him, but a cracked smile grew on her face at his silence.

"So if I were you, I wouldn't provoke me. You've done everything you can to hurt what is mine and I'm not remotely above sending you to Azkaban without legs."

A rattling laugh passed through Marlene's parched lips.

"You know," Ava said after a few minutes, "Actually, I have some time. Why not a limb per sibling?"

Dean's voice was gruff, but amused as he entered the room. "Ava."

"I don't want to just send him to the Dementors. I have to rough him up a little bit. You take, Marlene. I'll stay here with him and wait for Evan to find me. I'm sure he will follow the screaming."

Michael's pupils dilated. "You can't-"

"Word of advice, don't ever tell a woman what she can and can not do." Dean told him, lifting Marlene up off the wall gingerly. She fell into his arms, her hands didn't reach up, they didn't grip onto him, and she just fell into his arms. "…Ava, she's not conscious and she's barely breathing."

Ava paled, and her eyes grew so large she didn't have to utter another syllable, Michael back himself back against the wall. "Take her back. I'll stay."

Dean locked eyes with his wife, and nodded briefly. He carried her; his arms cased around his sister in-law protectively. "Hold on, Mar. Hold on."


Sirius was barely hurt when they found him. Just busted hands, and a broken rib from trying to break through the barrier. His eyes stayed on her comatose form; his knuckles flush with his lips.

"Why isn't she waking up?" Dean asked the healer, his eyes focused on Marlene. " She should be awake by now."

"Her body is healing. She endured a severe amount of damage." The Healer noted quietly. "It's only been a day, most victims take several to recover."

"If they recover," Matt clarified.

"Marlene does everything in her own time." Ava answered, her head resting on his shoulder, her hand intertwined with Dean's.

Alice, who stood with Dirk and Sirius, crossed her arms when the Healer left. "I just wish we had a timeline to follow."

"She'll wake up." Dirk said resolutely. "She will."

"Black, Cresswell, Prewett. You have to go back," Matt said checking his watch from the doorway. "I promised I'd get you back."

The three of them stayed put.

"You will be alerted when she wakes up."

"I don't like the idea of leaving her." Alice said, guilt tugging at her lips. "What if she wakes up and we're not here."

Dean said, "Ava or I will be here. We won't leave her."

Alice hesitated for a moment, before she sighed and reached forward to grip Marlene's cold hand. "I'll see you soon." She then hung back and waited for the others, while Dirk scooted to Marlene.

He frowned before kissing her forehead. Dirk then whispered into her ear, "Love you, Mar."

Sirius was the last one. His hands were in his pockets, and though his jaw was locked he didn't seem to know what to do. She wasn't his girlfriend, or his friend; there wasn't really a definition of what they were, but that meant he wasn't sure how to act.

"Move along, Black." Matt stated sharply.

He stepped forward and brushed her hair out of her face. Everyone was pretending they weren't watching but he knew they were. Regardless, he kissed her. Sirius cared for a split second what it meant kissing her in front of her family, and closest friends, but then it occurred to him that they were so beyond that that he couldn't really care. She was in a coma; everything else was irrelevant and trivial.

He barely brushed his lips against hers; it was just the slightest touch. Sirius then backed away, unable to look at any one else, before standing awkwardly behind Alice. Matt moved forward with the three of them trailing after him, Dirk and Alice walked next to one another; their voices lowered so only the two of them could hear.

"Okay, what is with her and Sirius?"

"I know the exact same information that you do," Dirk muttered back, "I knew she was seeing someone a few months ago but I never thought…"

Alice's rubbed her eyes. "I just…everything's backwards. I thought she'd be married to that prat by now and we would be banned from speaking to her."

"When she wakes up, everything will be…just what will everything be?"

"I don't know. I guess, we will just have to wait and see."

Sirius wasn't listening, his eyes were focused straight ahead, and he walked, until someone took his arm, and he was back at Hogwarts.


When her eyes opened, Marlene felt like there were weights all over her, forcing her down and her lips… tingled. It was the weirdest thing. She looked over, with some difficulty, she saw Ava fast asleep in the chair next to her bed, her blonde hair set back in a bun. She tried to move, tried to speak, but her whole body ached in a way she couldn't anticipate. Groaning she shifted and saw her forearms were black and blue, it didn't stop there; from her shoulder to her wrist it was discolored.

"Ah, fuck." She said, her voice scratchy and raspy.

Ava shifted and swiped her eyes. She yawned for a moment, before instinctively looking at her baby sister. "Mar?!"

"Don't yell," Marlene flinched, her face scrunching up. "I'm very sensitive to sounds."

"Well you have been asleep for three days. Here." Ava poured her some water, and reached over to help Marlene drink. "You'll need to hydrate."

"…Three days?" Marlene said incredulously, "Do you get Sirius out?!"

Ava leaned back in her chair with a pompous expression on her face. "Well…well well."

"Ava, you didn't answer me."

"So somebody has a fancy. You nearly died, the Healers said you might not ever wake up and the first thing out of your mouth-"

"It wasn't the first thing-!"

Ava continued as if she'd never been interrupted. "-is how your boyfriend, who was barely hurt at all and easily found because you crawled from the grips of death to give us his location, was… Who are you and what the hell have you done with my sister?"

Marlene rolled her eyes. "He showed up, I owe him a debt-"

"Yeah? Then why did he show up in the first place? Seems like a very stupid thing to do even for a Gryffindor, unless, he was…say in love with you."

Marlene's eyes shut and she rolled her head to the side. "I'm too tired for this shit."

Ava smirked as only an older sister would. "Too bad. You have to deal with it…Not to mention that kiss."

Her eyes snapped open and she turned to look at Ava. "Kiss?...What kiss?"

"He kissed you goodbye, which Matthew looked positively livid about by the way. I don't think he took to the school hussie stealing a kiss from his kid sister…" Her blue eyes twinkled amusedly.

"Ah huh, I'm sure."

"…Come on! You have to give me more than that. I've been in this room for two days, give or take a shower and a meal. I need some gossip."

"There's nothing to …tell really…" Marlene shrugged her shoulders feebly. "I don't know…"

Ava swiped Marlene's hair out of her face tenderly. "Well, you have some time to figure that out. Now that you are awake you have to figure out how use your body again."

"What do you mean?"

"You are on a lot of potions, but Carrow sufficiently damaged your nerves."

Marlene blinked, "what does that mean?"

"It means, it's a long road back, but you're going to make it."

She leaned back, her eyes filling with tears.

"Hey, don't you dare. Don't do that. Don't you give up." Ava scolded her. "You are a McKinnon-"

"Am I?" Marlene whispered. "I'm sure by now I'm well passed being disowned."

"I don't know anything about that."

"You haven't heard anything from father?"

"No, you sent him to Australia and tricked Gretchen into not letting owls come. I'm sure by the New Year they will check in. But before then I doubt he will check in."

Marlene didn't reply she just stared at the blank ceiling with a numb expression on her face.

Ava waited a beat, before she leaned forward with her hands clasped. "I'm going to tell you something…something I should have said before, but I haven't…You don't have to be what they want you to be."

"What do you mean?"

"If you want to leave, you can."

"If I leave, I can't speak to you ever again. I can't see you."

Ava shook her head. "Bullshit. It's just…" She paused, "I've been talking to Dean and it's ridiculous. I didn't talk to my little brother for years because he married a woman I didn't like. I'm not doing that anymore. There's a war coming, and I'm not losing what little family I have left over it. You fight for whatever you want to Marlene, but you always have a room at my house."

"…really?" Marlene questioned, her voice breaking. "I thought…"

"I don't want you to be Liv. I don't want you to endure that or leave the country in order to get away from the decisions someone else made for you…I lost mum, and now I don't know if I'll ever see Liv again. I'm not losing you too."

Tears sprung to her eyes, and for once she didn't fight them.

"So, here's the plan. I will get the Healer, you will rest for a few days, and do some rehab to learn how to walk properly again. Then you will be transferred to the Hogwarts hospital wing and in no time at all you will be back to normal. Okay?"

Marlene nodded.

Ava rose, tugging at her sweater, before she kissed the top of Marlene's head. "You rest and I don't ever want you to look like you are giving up again. Do you understand me?"

Again, she nodded.

"Good," Ava straightened up, "Because I'm never going to let you do that. You are Marlene McKinnon and you will do well to remember that."

"I will."

"Good, hold tight. I'll be right back."

It was like the story The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, her heart had grown three sizes, not because Marlene had woken up and realized the meaning of family, but because she realized she actually had a family to wake up to. Everyone had given her up, her 'friends,' her, 'family,' but not anyone that mattered. Not Alice, Dirk, Matt, Dean or even Ava. They were there, and they loved her no matter what.

The tears were hot down her face, but she didn't even bother wiping them away. They weren't tears of sadness, they were of happiness. Her father would return and she would never again see him or her step-mother. Olivia would probably never return and there was no way to bring back her mother. But that was the beauty of it. She had to cut of her dead arm, in order to save the rest of herself and she had done it. She had survived; battered and less than whole, but alive and capable.

Marlene gasped and took a minute to get herself together. She didn't have to live in fear anymore. She was going to be okay. Everything was going to be okay.


A week later, Marlene sat in the hospital wing at Hogwarts. She still had trouble doing some things by herself, but unless it was impossible for her to do alone she refused anyone's help. Marlene on occasion would accept it, but she was trying to learn to do it on her own so they didn't have always be there.

Dirk stood up, "Which bag do you want?"

"The small black one with my initials on it."

He handed it to her. "Why do you need this?"

"I invited the other captains here to talk about Quidditch." She said rubbing moisturizer on her face, before working to cover up all of the bruises that were nearly healed on her face.

"Why are you even doing this? You don't even know if you'll be able to fly."

"It's in a month a half."

Dirk opened his mouth.

"I will be able to do it." Marlene said flatly.

"But you need make-up to do it?"

"Listen, every friend I ever had besides you and Alice hates me because Lestrange declared that I was the one that told the Ministry about the attack over the summer. They will be looking for weaknesses, they will be looking for ways to hurt me for what I've done and I feel my strongest when I have full make-up on. I don't think that makes me any less strong or intelligent."

"Your right. It just looks like a lot of effort."

"It's really not, but you don't have to stick around." She added as finished off her mascara and began applying dark red lipstick. "I know you have a date with Mary."

Dirk smiled. "You sure? Need anything before I go?"

"Nope. I'm good. You have fun, go snog her brains out."

"While you conquer the world."

"Yes," Marlene nodded with a smile, "We all have our functions."

Dirk snorted, and shook his head before heading out the door and nearly running into James. "Hey, Potter."

"Cresswell."

James stepped in and nodded to Marlene. "McKinnon, you summoned."

"Potter, I asked you to come as Gryffindor Captain."

"Are you Ravenclaw's again?"

"Yes I am. Ah…right on time." Marlene commented as Irene Pencuff, the Hufflepuff captain, strolled in, her chin raised, her gray eyes narrowed. "Hello, Irene."

Irene frowned at the sight of James. "McKinnon, why am I here?"

"We all have a mutual goal and I thought we could discuss before Christmas break."

"Mutual goal?"

James told her, "She's Ravenclaw Captain again."

"Congratulations, what does that have to do with me?" Irene said flatly, crossing her long arms.

"Listen, there is no way Ravenclaw is getting first or even second place, but there is a chance for third. And I want us all to work together to achieve that."

"Why would we do that?" Irene questioned, her tall figure eyeing the two of them suspiciously.

"Because right now Slytherin is in the lead." Marlene said simply, "And if we work together, they can end up in last. Gryffindor is in second, so they will move up to first and Hufflepuff will move up to second, which is better than Hufflepuff has done in what, ten years I'd say?"

Irene chewed the side of her lips pensively, playing with the end of her braid. "How do you plan on doing that?"

"Don't worry about the rest. I'll take care of that, but my plan is to share trade secrets to improve our teams to get us up to the level we need to be. All of us are seventh years, this is the last chance we have, and I'm not saying we don't have to be competitive. I'm saying we all have a greater enemy that we would rather see fail."

"What do you think, Potter?" Irene questioned.

James paused before glancing sideways at Marlene. "I really want Slytherin to lose. And at least this way we all win."

Marlene looked at Irene, "Come on, Pencuff. You know that if you don't agree Ravenclaw will come back so hard that you will slink to last. Do you really want to lose to me only to see Slytherin be number one?"

Scowling, Irene sighed. "I'll talk to my team."

"Let us know after break." Marlene told her politely smiling flakily.

Irene nodded briskly before leaving. The smile dropped from Marlene's face and an bewildered look replaced it. "What is always up her ass? Does she wake up miserable?"

"I think she hates you because of the game last season where you feigned a duck so she would duck and miss the snitch that you caught."

Marlene nodded. "Touche…Touche. Thanks for backing me, Potter."

James sat in the seat beside her. "It works for me so I have no reason not to. How are you feeling?"

"Fine. Not as sore. I should be out of here tomorrow. I haven't gotten all of my reflexes back, but I just have to practice. My nerves are a little shot."

"Makes sense. Alice said the Healer's didn't think you'd make it."

"Well people always seem to count me out." Marlene commented, "But I always show up."

James smirked at that. "I can see that."

She hesitated, trying to keep her voice casual. "How is he?"

"Sirius?...He's fine. He's outside helping Remus when a snowball fight against Mary and Lily I think."

Marlene bit her lip and nodded. "Good."

Running a hand through his hair, he sighed. "You know he's not going to come here unless you ask him to."

"And you know I'm never going to ask him to." Marlene said pointedly. "We are not a we, we we're a temporary…thing, that could never last. He has to focus on his friends and…whatever it is you guys do. And I need to focus on what I'm doing after Hogwarts now."

"Must be weird going from a concrete plan to nothing."

"It is, but I'll figure it out."

"You always do."

Marlene grinned at him and said, "Thanks…James."

"Anytime, Marlene." He winked before standing up. "I'll see you around."

"See you."

James stopped in the doorway, "You know it was never just about the shagging for him."

She laughed, "How would you know?"

"Because," He turned, "He never said a word about you. Whenever he'd leave to meet you, he'd never say he was going to get laid or make up a story. He always just said, he had to see a girl."

Marlene blushed, hanging her head with a small smile. "Thanks, Potter."

"You're welcome."


Sirius yawned, and stretched at the Gryffindor table, "Mate," he said to James, "When does the train leave tomorrow?"

"10, same as every holiday." Remus replied.

"Thank you, James." Sirius scoffed, throwing a pastry at Remus's head.

James rolled his eyes. "You might want to pack mate."

"What's the point? Break is going to be a non-stop party with us being in house by ourselves."

Lily said, "Which means you'll have to get groceries and actually clean up after yourself."

Sirius waved her off. "Semantics, Evans."

"What's going on?" Lily said suddenly, her head craning to see what had caused such a stir. "Oh…McKinnon's back."

Sirius didn't look up at first. He hadn't seen her since the hospital and he hadn't heard anything other than she was awake.

"Is she... limping?" Lily muttered.

James nodded, "She said she has nerve damage." Sirius looked at James and he shrugged in return. "I saw her a few days ago."

"And yet she still looks immaculate." Alice noted with a hint of pride. "And is wearing heels."

Emmeline scoffed, "The bitch can't be killed can she?"

"Seems not." Lily said openly staring at Marlene as she approached.

He looked at her and spun around in his seat as she stopped right in front of him. A smirk popped on his face, looking at her. "McKinnon."

"Black."

"I see you are out."

"Yes, it appears so." She paused, "I just wanted to thank you." Her hand shot out to shake his.

He snorted, his smirk shifting into a wide grin. "Thank me?"

"For…everything."

Sirius looked her over, seeing the scar on her palm, to the golden color of her hair. He couldn't stop the beam that grew on his face. To see her standing there, alive and somewhat well. He reached forward and shook her hand. "You're welcome, McKinnon."

His hand caressed hers, and Marlene blushed, giving him a dirty look. She pulled her hand away and was about to strut away when he said, "You know. You look nice today, McKinnon."

She smiled, not caring that the entire hall was watching them. "Thank you, Black."

Then he watched her strut back over to the Ravenclaw table with a large smirk on his face.


Authors Note:

Thank you everyone who read and reviewed this story! I really appreciate it! This last chapter is dedicated to you!