The Beyond Potter series fanfic will be posted here each week. Please be sure to share on Tumblr as it's updated there as well! Read inside for details.
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by: Jen
#328
Working Summary:

While the Golden Trio searches for Voldemort's horcruxes, the Order of the Phoenix has made it their purpose to protect the school from Voldemort's influence.

Need to add more, refine, etc., but anyway.
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by: Jen
#329
A/N: Dialogue and some action taken from the original thread between Joe and Summer with few edits.

JOHN

A lone, lean figure sat on the rickety bench before a modest hut made of stone. Smoke rose from it, surely the only sign of life located near this cliff. Twitchy’s head rested in his lap, and John stroked his furry friend as he slept. Near the edge of the cliff, two dragons wrestled, flying high then tumbling to the ground in their play fight. Sometimes, John had to duck to avoid being hit with the tip of one of their long tails, but he didn’t mind. It was amusing at times to see the two larger creatures play, though today, it seemed little less amusing as he found his thoughts drifting to Alisa. Just a few more months and it would be two years since he’d watched her die.

A chattering noise stirred John’s attention from his thoughts. “Hey there,” he said with a sad smile. The ferret stretched then scurried off his lap. The creature sat up on his hind legs and tilted his head at John. “Alright, alright! I’ll feed you.” John reached out to lightly pet the ferret. The ground shook beneath him as he walked toward where he kept food. Seemed a dragon had landed. As John looked behind him and watched the majestic creature take off in a spin, he smiled. These creatures were still untainted. They hadn’t seen the grim evils John had.

A few moments later, John placed some raw meat on Twitchy’s dish. The ferret chattered happily as it began to feed himself. John washed his hands then fixed food for himself. Living was habit despite the loneliness which filled his waking hours. Somehow, the creatures he surrounded himself with made it worth it.

John had just finished eating when the sound of a dragon taking off drew his attention to his right. He saw nothing yet, but something must have spooked the young creature. John shrugged and went to continue working on his newest addition to his hut. Working with wood was calming yet required focus. He needed the calm distraction today.

The first hint toward what was approaching came in the sound of a rock skipping. Then, a single word confirmed suspicions. “Hello?”

John took a moment to contemplate his next move. There was more at risk here than his own life. He thought of this place as a dragon sanctuary. For him to die after its discovery left far more at risk than if it was just him and Twitchy. His wand was in his hut since he never had to worry about that here. It was a long-shot to hope to get there unnoticed, but the voice sounded far enough away. He stood a chance.

However, a string of shouted spells nixed any thought of sneaking to his hut. John ran toward the sound, and his wand flew to him. He stopped behind the dark-haired woman and pointed his wand at her head. “What do you think you’re doing?” he demanded. John was pleased the dragon ran off at his arrival. It was safer away from this, though little could truly harm the creature.

The woman stiffened at the sound of John’s voice. Her hands came up beside her, though she didn’t drop her wand. “Fighting for my life seems like a pretty good answer,” she retorted while her grip reformed around her wand.

“If you’re not a dragon poacher, then what the hell are you doing on my reserve?”

The woman seemed hesitant to respond, but she finally did. “I’m with the Order of the Phoenix. I was sent to find the owner of this reserve.”

The response made John laugh. He hadn’t heard of that group in years. He hadn’t heard of much from the outside world, really. He preferred it that way. There were enough reminders of the past without it. “The Order of the Phoenix, eh?” he repeated. “Why the hell would they send someone here to find me?” He lowered his wand from the woman’s head and stepped back.

The woman breathed a sigh of relief then turned. She lowered her arms as she did then stared. John made the connection immediately. Evie. It was Evie, yet she seemed to not quite be able to place him. “You—” she began then cleared her throat and tossed her hair back. “You’ve shown up on Lord Voldemort’s radar, and we want to help you. Place you in protection before he has a chance to get to you.”

Well, that would explain it. John leaned against the tree beside him as he spoke. “You of all people should know I’d rather kill Voldemort than join him.” He smirked as the woman looked at him, still searching. “What’s the matter, Evie? Don’t you recognize me?” He rose a brow then held out his arms as he conceded, “Well, I suppose I do look a bit different now.” Nearly two years had graced his face with noticeable scars along with maturity.

Evie continued to stare for a moment before her eyes widened in surprised recognition. Her brows knitted together in confusion. She was obviously conflicted. “John?” she said at last.

John nodded. “In the flesh,” he replied. “I bet you weren’t expecting to find me here—not that any of you cared where I was anyway.” His face became more stern. It was true. The battle had occurred, Alisa had died, and he had vanished, yet they had never looked for him.

Evie shook her head. “John, that’s not true. You know it’s not. What happened to you?” She was studying him, likely taking in the new him.

“I suppose this is just what happens when you’re forced to watch someone you care about die. And you know I’m right. You all left me for dead in that forest.” His face remained unchanged as he spoke.

Evie’s tone grew defensive. “Listen to yourself!” she exclaimed, squaring her shoulders. Her tone relaxed after a moment’s pause. “We didn’t leave you, John,” she said. “We were all attacked. We were young! We were scared! We didn’t know what to do.”

“And in the meantime, Alisa and I were in the hands of Voldemort himself,” John said, his voice holding an evenness that had come from years secluded in bitterness. “I watched her die, Evie! I should have been the one who died that night—not her!” John slammed the tree with his fist.

Evie took a step closer. John didn’t move. “John, you can’t blame yourself for her death. What happened that night… No one could have stopped it.”

John shook his head. He could have stopped it. If he’d just known the right spell, been quicker… When Alisa had needed him most, he hadn’t stepped up for her. She’d been new to everything. He’d at least had all seven years. But what did he have to show for it that night? “Maybe you’re right,” he said, his head lowering. “Maybe you’re right, but now you want me to go back to London to help the Order. There is nothing for me back there. You’re wasting your time.” John turned and began to walk back to his hut.

John thought Evie had given up until a few moments later when she suddenly caught up and moved in front of him. “You’re wrong,” she said. “You have friends in London, people that care about you.”

John kept his eyes forward. He wasn’t ready for this. He didn’t want to leave. It was safe here. Even though it was lonely, he was still safe. The dangers were self-evident and protected against. “That was all in the past. Things have changed. I have changed. Do you really think they’ll want a wreck like me there? And next thing I’m sure will be an offer to become a professor. The Order really needs some new tricks.” John took a step forward, and Evie moved out of the way.

Suddenly, Evie grabbed John’s shoulder then moved back in front of him. “When did you become a coward?” she demanded, looking him directly in the eye. “Hiding away like a hermit, thinking that will solve all your problems!” Her face grew stern. “You can’t change what happens, but you can stop it from happening again.”

Evie’s gasped as John grabbed her robes. “You think I did this for myself?” he exclaimed with a scathing laugh. “I did this for all of you! To protect you from what I have become!” John startled as he realized he was yelling at her. His eyes moved from Evie’s face as he let go and began to walk away at a faster pace. “I’m sorry,” he said as he moved past her. “It’s just better for everyone that I don’t return.”

It was a good while before Evie spoke again. He’d almost made it past the ridge. It was downhill from here. “John, look at yourself,” she plead. “How much longer can you go on living like this? How much longer do you think you can last before something like that happens again and you kill or get killed? Let us help you.”

John swallowed, and his fists balled. “No one can help me now,” he said sullenly. His hut was in full view now. “You might as well just go back and tell them I’m dead.”

“You know me better than that,” Evie protested. Yeah, he did. She clearly hadn’t learned her persistence didn’t always work. “You think I’m just going to give up on you this easily?”

“I suppose you’re right,” John said without conviction. “You were always relentless.” John paused in his step. Evie wouldn’t just leave without him. She would either stay until he gave in or keep coming back. It would place her in danger as the beasts in his sanctuary were not used to her. Perhaps he had no choice but to give in, though he had doubts it would help the way she thought.

“I suppose I’ll go,” he conceded after a few moments of silence. He imagined she was smiling now, but he didn’t look. “Just let me gather a few things.”

John was overwhelmed as he stepped foot inside the small cabin he called home. Alisa’s smiling photo sat on the fireplace. She was holding onto her dress and swinging back and forth with that shy smile she had always seemed to have around him. He missed that smile. He missed her voice. What if being around others made him forget it?

John swallowed hard and forced his mind on the task at hand. He removed the dragon-hide garment and packed it. He wouldn’t need it any longer, but it didn’t matter.

The garment he put on was much too small now, he realized. The pants went down just below his calves, and the shirt itself was ridiculous. He’d grown. He’d grown since that night in so many ways he scarcely recognized himself. John forced his eyes away from his reflection as he shrugged on his tattered Ravenclaw robe and walked to the fireplace to grab Alisa’s picture. That was all he needed. Everything else was replaceable. As he set the picture into his bag, Twitchy climbed onto the table and looked at him curiously. “Come on, buddy,” he said, extending his arm. The ferret scurried ot his shoulder and nuzzled against John’s face.

“You ready?” Evie asked as he emerged from his hut.

John looked up the hill toward the creatures in the sky and replied distantly. “As I’ll ever be.”
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by: Jen
#330
A/N: Some dialogue taken from the original thread between Joe, Summer, Layni, and me with few edits. Serena has been left out of this scene due to need to bring her in later for sake of storytelling.

EVIE

It was strange to have John around again. Not that there was anything wrong with it. It was just strange because of reasons she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Maybe the fact he’d been missing nearly two years and they’d all kind of thought he was dead. Maybe the whole “dragon-trainer” aspect she’d been contemplating since they’d arrived here at Grimmauld Place to await the others. Maybe the fact he seemed so different despite still carrying similar personality treats. Once quiet, always quiet, Evie supposed.

They’d stopped by a store at her insistence. The old Hogwarts relic was hardly appropriate. It would gain him pity, and she figured he didn’t want that since he could hardly stand the fuss she was making over what he was wearing.

Since they’d arrived, John had been sitting in that same chair. He hadn’t moved. He hadn’t said much but a word or two. That, only if she prompted him. He just seemed lost in his own world. Would it always be that way for him? If it would, he’d be better off with his dragons. But maybe he felt like he didn’t owe it to her to try right this moment. And besides, it was too soon to tell if it would work to re-integrate with society.

Evie looked away as she caught herself staring at John again. He wasn’t dense enough to think it was the polo shirt and jeans she’d bought him, Evie knew. After all, there was a ring on her left ring finger to rule out that possibility. He’d know she was worrying over him. Still, he said nothing.

Harry was the first other to appear. Ron and Hermione followed. That in and of itself was strange. They rarely made any meetings despite having abandoned schooling for their plight. Had they found something? She gave them a questioning look but merely exchanged Hullos and went back to her own thoughts. She hadn’t really interacted with them when she was in school. They were two years younger and always doing their own thing saving the school. Given her and Casey’s involvement in some goings on their last couple years, you’d think it might have been otherwise. But it hadn’t.

Evie sighed and began to examine her nails just before Lupin and Tonks entered. Again, some non-important banter. Lupin may have been her Defense teacher one year, but that was all she had in common. Lupin seemed not to push the issue beyond some basic small talk unless she seemed in a talking mood. Unlike other days, however, Lupin’s small talk was cut short as his eyes fell on John. He and Tonk took their seats, but their eyes kept going to John. Surely, Lupin recognized him.

Over the next few minutes, the others made their way in. Fred and George sat on either side of her, saying she was theirs today since Casey wasn’t here yet and, boy, wouldn’t he be jealous. Evie laughed at that. When Casey entered, he walked over to her and gave her a squeeze on her shoulder and a kiss on her cheek before finding his way to a seat. It happened to be the one across from John and next to Molly and Arthur, she noticed. John and Casey exchanged words, but Evie couldn’t hear them. Maybe she should have sat closer to John earlier, but she hadn’t wanted to bother him.

“Alright.” Moody’s abrupt voice caused Evie to jump, and her hazel eyes quickly found their way to the battered man. “One dragon trainer,” he said, his magical eye spinning to focus on John. “Check. I trust Evie’s told you why you’re here?”

“Not much,” John said, looking up from his folded hands. “I know Voldemort’s looking for me, but I don’t know why.”

Moody’s magical eye spun then snapped onto her. It surveyed her judgmentally a moment then went back to John. “That’s the bulk of it. It’s not enough that he has Dementors, giants, and others! Now it seems he wants dragons. He wants dragons, but he has no way to tame them. That’s where you come in.”

“What he means, dear,” Molly interjected with a stern look at Moody, “is that someone with your abilities and level of skill in magic would be a help to his cause.”

John snorted. “He must have a death wish.”

“Oh, I doubt he’d have come himself, but he’d have sent his most valiant crew. Doesn’t matter now as I see it. We’ve got you before he could. But everyone pulls his weight around here. We have forces at the school now. Precautionary measures. And it so happens we have a vacancy that might be up your alley.”

John opened his mouth, but Moody interrupted.

“Hagrid has left. Won’t bore you with the details of his mission, but long and short is we need someone now. You’re as good as any.”

“Dragons are hardly magical creatures!”

And that was why she hadn’t told him yet. John wasn’t ready. John was not ready to go back to the school and teach—not when he couldn’t get that night out of his head. And if he had to stay in Hagrid’s hut, he would wake up to a constant reminder.

“One of the fiercest you can find!” Moody insisted.

“I won’t do it.” John’s words seemed final.

“You will if you want our protection.”

John snorted. “I’ve been fine so far.”

“So far,” Moody repeated gruffly. “So far is not always. He has methods of persuasion.”

“And I have dragons and a desire to rip his spine out.”

“I’m afraid it’s not that simple, John,” Lupin said. “You-know-who would use an unforgivable in a heartbeat.”

Moody nodded in agreement. “Your free will would belong to him.”

“Always the optimist, I see, Moody,” John replied. “I suppose you have a point. But the real question is why you want me.”

Evie looked down to hide her smile. John was never a stupid one. He knew needing someone to teach was not going to be why.

“The same reason he does,” Moody replied.

Evie rose a brow and shook her head. “Don’t listen to him, John. We do need your help, but we can’t force you to.”

John nodded and took a moment before replying. “Well, if I wasn’t going to help, I wouldn’t be here now. Shall we continue or do you have some smartass still in you, Moody?” His tone was mocking.

Moody grunted and sat down.

“You’ll get used to him,” Evie said. Similar enough to the impostor John had known but still a lot to take in.

“Yes, I know,” John replied. “Now, is there any other reason I’m here that hasn’t been explained to me?”

“I know what he has planned,” Casey replied. “I was there when he spoke of it, and I have no doubt you’d hold your own, John, but I couldn’t let that happen to an old friend. If you weren’t placed under the Imperius or captured, you’d have to run. And that’s no way to live life.”

John nodded, taking in Casey’s words. Instead of questioning how or why Casey had overheard Voldemort’s plans, John focused where it mattered. “So, what am I supposed to do? Just sit at Hogwarts and teach until he comes and I can smash his face in?”

“I doubt you’ll have to wait long,” Casey replied. Evie realized why even if John didn’t know. He’d have to tell. “Until then, yes, you wait. You wait and you teach and protect. Just like a lot of us here. Not as exciting as dragons, I know, but it’s a life.”

“When do I start?”

“Tomorrow,” Moody replied, leaving no room for debate. “Hagrid is leaving tonight. You can get his lesson plans to help you start then settle in.”

“Sounds good to me,” John stated. “So, if we’re done here, I’d like to move into my new accommodations.”

“I’ll help,” Casey assured him. “I need to get back soon anyway. Papers to grade or a host of ravenous six years will devour me tomorrow.”

John smirked. “You know, all work and no play makes for rough relationships.”

Casey didn’t seem to know how to respond to that. “Right, then. Whenever you’re ready.”

“Born ready.”
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by: Jen
#331
CASEY

An apparition trip and a long-winded conversation with Hagrid later left Casey and John alone in the giant’s former hut. Relieved to have the friendly giant gone, Casey leaned back in the chair he was seated at with a sigh. He was silent a while before he sat up to look at John. “Good to have you back, yeah?”

John quickly looked from the fire to Casey with a tight-lipped smile and a nod. It was a stark contrast to the man who was laughing with Hagrid, but Casey didn’t let it defer him from trying to talk. John had always been a gentler sort—loyal and there when needed but definitely not without his occasional moods.

“Guess dragons are more exciting.”

“Yep,” John replied, his attention back on the waning flames. Or the ferret. Casey couldn’t quite tell from this angle.

Casey scratched his neck and sighed quietly. He looked at the cup in his hand then set it on the table next to him. “I understand why you left,” he said after a few moments had passed by in silence. John glanced at him but said nothing. “Maybe not the exact reasons, but I can’t blame you for wanting to get away from this mess. You were the smart one.”

“Was I?” John’s voice was flat, merely a bored question.

“Well, look at the rest of us—miserable, struggling, tired.”

“And you think I’m not?” There it was. There was the emotion that John had been masking. Anger flashed through John’s eyes as he turned to look at Casey. “I lost Alisa. I lost my best friend, and then none of my other friends came looking for me. Now? I’m useful or am I just so ‘helpless’ I need your protection? And suddenly there comes Evie.”

“It’s not like that.”

“Sure seems like it.”

Casey swallowed and nodded, looking at the ground. “I’m sorry we didn’t look, John.”

John rose a brow then turned with a wave of his hand. It was clear the discussion was closed.

“So, is it the commons or this for you?” Casey asked.

“This, for now.”

Casey looked down. “Alright. Need any help?”

John shook his head.

“I’ll be in the commons, then. Picture of D—” Casey began but stopped as his arm began to burn. A sense of dread filled him at the all too familiar sensation.

“Casey?”

“Dumbledore. ‘Chocolate frogs,’” Casey finished distractedly. “I have to go.” He glanced at his left forearm and took off at a jog for the commons.

~*~*~*~

The snake slithered through the room, splitting the sea of Death Eaters in its path. Some beheld the creature with a sense of awe while others only begrudgingly allowed it passage and only concealed their fear through practice. Casey himself was too far from the creature to pay it more mind than the fact it was there. It was on its way to its master as usual. The red-eyed, noseless being that stood near the weathered podium ahead welcomed it with a hissing sound that caused Casey to involuntarily shudder. No human should be able to do that. Voldemort was hardly more than humanoid, but that was of no consequence. It didn’t make it any less creepy to think of it in that light.

Casey quickly forced his body to behave, though the feeling of prickly bumps beneath his robes was hard to ignore, especially as he brought his arms up to cross them and the cloth brushed against his erect hairs.

“Nagini brings news of Potter,” the almost femininely frail voice uttered, drawing Casey’s gaze to the Dark Lord. “It would seem he and his friends are far from here still in search of items near and dear to our cause.” Noise of disapproval filled the air around him, and Casey joined in with a glance toward Snape not fifty feet away from him. The greasy-haired man was far better trained than he. His attention seemed raptly focused on the Dark Lord and what had just been said. Casey quickly followed suit before anyone could notice.

“I believe it is time for us to put a stop to this.” Roars of approval resounded, and Casey gave one of his own despite the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Goyle, bring forth the prisoner.”

All eyes turned toward the double doors that opened into the former chapel. Goyle walked proudly in, Quinton Pryde levitated and bound behind him. Casey quickly looked away, hoping Quinton didn’t see him. He knew who he was, and he was so much just a kid like himself but hardly tried and true. Casey didn’t want to provide cause for doubt to his hard-earned position.

Quinton’s body thudded against and dust clouded around the four-legged altar as Goyle carelessly ended his levitation spell. The Dark Lord’s gaze was almost gleeful at the obvious discomfort it caused Quinton. Casey had to lower his eyes, for he could not hide the anger and concern that filled them. The mask might be enough to hide his identity, but his vibrant blue eyes were still visible and easily stood out against the black make-up surrounding them.

“Winslow.”

Casey looked up at the sound of his last name, forcing himself to steel himself against what he knew would come. He and Snape had been working hard each evening either could spare time just to keep Voldemort out just enough to not give him away. Casey knew just how close he was to giving it away in this moment, so he focused extra hard.

Voldemort’s spidery finger beckoned him forward, and Casey could feel his heart rate quicken. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Hadn’t it been enough? Hadn’t taking part in the horrific hazings of muggles been enough? Now, he had to do this? Casey wanted reassurance, but he could have none. A look at Snape now would compromise them both. He would not be responsible for that.

Focusing on moving one foot in front of the other was the only way Casey was able to make it up there in any graceful fashion. His legs felt wobbly beneath him, but he squared his shoulders in hopes he would give off the confidence he wanted to exude rather than the nervousness that flowed through his veins. He would have to do this. Whatever Voldemort asked of him, he would have no choice but to obey for sake of the mission whether he liked it or not.

“My lord,” Casey said as he knelt down before the altar and lowered his torso in a bow.

“You’ve had success in the past, have you not?”

“My lord?” Casey looked up momentarily with his eyes.

“In extracting answers. The father…”

Behind the cover of his mask, Casey chewed his lip. It was the only thing he could allow himself. His normal way of putting nerves at bay would be far too telling in this circumstance. “I have… my lord.”

The Dark Lord sneered. “Then, you shall prove your talent with this boy. He is an Order member, a year older than Potter and his friends. Surely he knows more than he has told us.”

Casey nodded once then stood, withdrawing his wand from the holster that held it to his left wrist and forearm. He looked at Quinton, whose blue eyes were trained on him, wide with terror. There was no way he didn’t know who he was, not with the Dark Lord having called him by name, yet if he did know, Casey would have been fooled.

Casey said nothing as he walked toward the head of the altar and looked the boy he had known from school straight in the eye. There was nothing he could do but what he was going to do, but he would try to give the boy reprieve—reprieve that would save him pain for the moment but not in the long term. It would only be a matter of time if he spoke this once before Voldemort tried to find out more about the Order from him. “One chance. One chance is all you’ll get. Tell me the truth now or you’ll suffer. You don’t want that now, do you?”

The Dark Lord would see it as questionable behavior, a sign of weakness to offer even this small olive branch, but Casey had to do it for his own conscience. Hopefully the others would crop it up to his being green.

When Quinton answered with nothing more than a mere whimper, Casey continued. “Tell us where Potter and his friends are.” He took a few steps away, not wanting to receive anything from his own curse.

“I don’t know!”

Crucio!”

Quinton’s back arched up, and he screamed as his head twisted to the side and his fingers extended almost beyond comfort then flexed as his head twisted back again to the other side. Quinton squirmed, trying to speak but getting nothing out more than “Puh! Puh!”

Casey released the boy from his spell with a flick of his wrist, and Quinton’s body relaxed back, his legs extending back to a more natural position a moment later when he could even dare to move them. Tears covered the boy’s red face. “What’s that?” Casey asked, inclining his head as though trying to hear him better.

“P-please! Ple-ease!”

“Are you ready to tell us?”

Quinton’s lips tightened as he sealed them shut. He said nothing.

What could he do? As much as he might want the Order’s secrets to remain just that, he couldn’t stop and he couldn’t simply recycle the same old spell—not when the Dark Lord was watching. He had to appear to be trying. Casey quickly ran through a mental checklist of spells he knew, dark and otherwise. A cheering charm would be of no help, not even if mixed with a babbling curse. Petrificus Totalus would lead to no results regardless how long he was left in the body bind. He needed something that left Quinton in a fear-inducing situation yet still able to talk.

Levicorpus!” Casey said and began to approach Quinton’s body as it snapped into an upside down, levitated state. He bent down and looked the other man in the eye. He dared not tell the man he was sorry, but he tried to convey it with his eyes, the only part that Quinton could see at all. “Your blood will eventually go to your head, and you’ll pass out. Die, if I leave you here long enough.”

“Then let it kill me!” Quinton spat.

Casey chuckled softly. “You and I both know our lord will not allow that.” The threat of death was not enough, it seemed. Perhaps something further needed to be added to it. Silently, Casey cast a babbling curse. It might add the sense of desperation he needed to add. Quinton’s nerves were surely already overstimulated. Add to that the sense of needing to gasp for breath while incessantly talking, and perhaps he was onto something. “Now, tell me where Potter and his friends are.”

For a moment, Casey thought his babbling curse hadn’t worked as Quinton attempted to keep his mouth closed and not let a word slip by. However, with each passing moment, Quinton’s face grew redder and redder before, finally, he gasped for air and began prattling on. It wasn’t anything useful at all. In fact, it was rather unintelligible save for a few words.

Once the words began to become noticeably more laborious, Casey uttered, “Lebiacorpus.” Quinton fell back to the table not so gently. Silently, he removed the babbling curse. “That’s only a taste,” he said. “That’s only a taste of what we can do to you. Tell us where Potter and his friends are or you’ll leave me no choice.”

Though still fighting to gain control of his breath, Quinton glared at Casey. Casey simply maintained a calm gaze. He approached Quinton a few moments later. “One thing you need to know is that I don’t make empty threats. Which finger do you need most, hmm? Better…” Casey’s eyes drifted down toward Quinton’s feet. “A toe might keep you better…grounded.” He grimaced behind his mask as he said it. It was a pun. Casey recognized as much, and he had chosen the words for that very fact. He knew Voldemort would not want Quinton to escape anytime soon.

A quick glance to Quinton’s face, and he could tell the younger man was quivering inside, though he was making a damned good attempt not to show it externally. Still, the pallor of Quinton’s face and the perspiration forming along his brow gave his fear away. Quinton’s eyes remained on Casey, though they darted toward his feet as Casey moved to remove his shoe. Then, they looked back to Casey and again to his foot. The thick sock came off, and Quinton shivered. Casey couldn’t be more thankful than he was at that moment for the mask. He didn’t have to react as those watching sniggered around him.

“All it will take is one word,” Casey said as his fingers came to rest on Quinton’s vulnerable pinky toe. “One word to save it. Your friends will never know.”

Though there was fear in Quinton’s eyes, his lips remained in a tight line until the moment Casey’s fingers snapped his toe. The sound was quickly replaced by the loud scream. “Just kill me, dammit! Kill me!”

Casey snorted. “Where’s the fun in that?” he asked, though he hoped even for the Dark Lord this was more than a mere power rush.

“I’ll never tell you where they are,” Quinton declared through gritted teeth. He flinched but did not break his gaze as Casey’s fingers moved to his big toe.

“You will,” Casey said matter-of-factly. “You will if you—”

“His sight.” The thin, high-pitched voice caused Casey to stop mid-jerking motion to look toward the Dark Lord. He tilted his head to convey his question rather than ask it. “This has gone on long enough. End this.”

Casey nodded curtly then moved. “Is that what you value most?” he asked, though he didn’t need an answer. Quinton was visibly trembling now. He looked as though he’d take off running if his bonds allowed it. “Then, life without sight it is…unless you tell us. Which is it?”

Quinton spat then, and though it had little effect on Casey’s shielded face, Casey still flinched away. Quinton chuckled then. “Scared of me?”

Casey said nothing in response. He would not react to goading. It was petty, and it would cause a break in what mattered at the moment. He had to be successful, couldn’t show weakness or pause. He had to continue as though his life depended on it. It very well might.

Conjunctiva rosea!” Casey declared, watching as Quinton’s eyes became swollen and puffy. The other man struggled against his bonds then, surely wanting to rub them. “This is temporary. It will wear off…in time. If you don’t tell me where Potter is now, however, I can make the effects permanent. Make your choice.”

Silently, Casey conjured a knife-like object and moved it to his wand hand. He stepped closer and lanced part of Quinton’s right eyelid. The man gasped.

“The next stroke won’t be so kind.”

Quinton whimpered just loudly enough Casey could hear it. He was scared but still calling his bluff. Casey brought his left hand up to Quinton’s eye and began to part the swollen eyelid to reveal his reddened blue eyes. Then, a jab was made. Quinton screamed loudly enough Casey’s ears began to ring, but he brushed it off. The discomfort was hardly anything compared to what Quinton was feeling. “Tell me or I’ll take the other.”

“The Burrow! They’re at the Burrow!”
User avatar
by: Jen
#701
DERRIN

The night was aging as Derrin approached through the field which surrounded the Burrow. The stars shone lightly against the night sky, the constellations meaningless. Their dimness meant clouds, and that was all that mattered. It was the moon which caught his eye the longest. It was a waning crescent partly hidden by a dark cloud, something of little importance to most but beneficial to Derrin and his comrades. It gave them a better cloaked approach. The potion they had all taken before their exit from Riddle's mansion provided them with the vision needed without need for wand light. Still, he held it ready, knowing night vision alone would not protect him should an unexpected foe be standing guard.

Fortunately for him, none was present outside the Burrow's door. It was deserted, but the sounds of conversation and laughter that echoed from within told him it was quite the opposite inside. And most importantly, the Weasleys were unaware, which meant the troublesome trio expected nothing.

Derrin imagined Fred and George were showing off the newest in their line of pranks to lighten the mood. Given Harry's mission, surely it was the first laughter the trio had experienced over the past few months. Life on the run tended toward seriousness, he imagined. This laughter would be their last, however.

As Derrin shoved his wand up his right coat sleeve, its tip resting in his palm so it was ready to slide into his hand at a moments' notice, he imagined Mrs. Weasley's clock hands beginning to shift toward “mortal peril.” He wondered if any of them noticed or if they were too absorbed in their carryings on to notice. A smirk crossed his lips at the thought. It was the closest to elated as he had dared to feel over the past couple years since joining Voldemort straight out of Durmstrang. Tonight, he would prove himself. Everything was going to plan.
Perhaps he should feel differently. After all, Evie had insisted his sorry ass came along to hang out during the five summers he had between his five and a half years at Hogwarts. The Weasleys had practically been family. But Derrin felt nothing akin to remorse or apprehension. The Weasleys were purebloods, purebloods like him yet still so unlike him. They were blood traitors who supported and hid those at odds with his lord, those who were anything but pure in blood.

Derrin came to a stop before the door, and he swiftly rose his fist to the door. This was it, his shining moment. It made him feel alive in ways he hadn't felt before. Perhaps it was best to ensure his smile was friendly rather than malevolent. After all, he needed to get inside. But he felt he had a few minutes. The Order was cautious these days about whom they allowed in their homes. He likely had time before the door would open.

Derrin knocked twice in quick succession then let his hand come to rest at his side again. A few moments later, he heard footsteps followed by silence.

“Who is it?” a male voice demanded.

It took Derrin a moment to realize who it was, but as he spoke, he forced his lips into a smile and used his friendliest tone. “Arthur, it's Derrin!”

“Derrin?” the voice questioned. There was silence. “I'm afraid I can't let anyone in. Molly is terribly ill and not up for visitors.”

It was an excuse, a reason not to open the door, but Derrin had come too far to just give up. “I came to see Fred. Is he home? Maybe he can come outside.”

A pause during which Derrin heard the shuffling sound of feet, then, “I'm sorry, Derrin, but now is not a good time.”

“Then, you leave me no choice.” Derrin's voice was darker now, and his face was an unreadable emotion. He wasn't certain how to feel now. He had hoped to see the look on the Weasleys' face as he turned traitor. Now, his fun was ruined. Well then. So be it.

“Excuse me?”

“I was hoping to make this peaceful, Arthur. For your family's sake. It's not you we want, after all.” Derrin let his wand slide into his hand and he fired up two red sparks, a signal for the others to surround the building. He would have to storm the home now. There would be no confirmation first. No, there would be only violence.

Silently, Derrin counted to five then used Confringo. The door and part of the front wall blasted away. Derrin backed away coughing then stepped through the dust and debris only to find he could see no one. Arthur had moved.

Momentarily, Derrin contemplated heading upstairs but thought better of it and instead headed closer to the other lights. If the Weasleys were to go anywhere in a situation such as this, it would be below or toward the center of the house. Upstairs would only trap them and leave no option but apparating as a get-away plan. No, the Weasleys were smarter than that.

Tergeo,” Derrin heard someone say. The dust siphoned away but left no one to be seen. At least, no one in the center of them as one would expect if the clan had formed a defensive position.

Derrin looked at the others. They were wasting valuable time just standing there. “Upstairs,” he hissed, pointing to a couple of his fellow Death Eaters. Derrin walked over to another two. “Help me find a hidden entrance,” he commanded. “You two, look for any sign of them.”

He heard the muttered use of, “Homenum Revelio.” Good. At least they were listening. Derrin set his mind toward searching for a hidden exit. It was possible they had all disapparated and the blasting spell had covered their escape, but he doubted it. It would be easier for all to head toward a hidden room than to manage to group off and safely focus on apparating away.

Only, the sight of a frightened red-head drew his attention. The frown on Arthur's lips was meant to look confident to match the determination in his brown eyes, but it looked anything but as his lip quivered. Derrin smirked and began to raise his wand. “Tell me, Arthur. Where are they hiding?” He was met with silence. “Tell me, and your family will be safe.”

Arthur clamped his lips together and shook his head once in defiance.

“I figured you wouldn't tell me,” Derrin admitted. “It's a bit foolish if you ask me. You and your family could be safe in each other's arms in but a few moments. Instead, they may suffer because of you. How does that make you feel?”

“Get on with it, Derrin! I will tell you nothing. They're long gone by now!”

“No one's here,” a sultry, sweet, and altogether too high-pitched female voice said.

Derrin kept his eyes on Arthur. “Then, we get out,” Derrin managed calmly. He felt dread now, dread at how the Dark Lord would react to his failure. He had only one hope: to bring Arthur Weasley with them. He would be their bargaining chip, of far more value to the majority of the Order than the creature Winslow had tormented earlier in the evening.

“Don't fight it,” he commanded before he and Arthur vanished in a cloud of black smoke.
User avatar
by: Jen
#702
JOHN

Frankly, John was surprised to be back here so soon. He'd been walking around campus in the dark of night, trying to process the flurry of events that had formed his day so he could hopefully manage to get some sleep. However, it seemed that life had other plans. He couldn't say he liked finding himself here again, and he had contemplated ignoring the summons. John knew himself better than that, however, so here he was.

Thankfully, Evie had arrived around the same time he had, and John was surprised to find her alone but said nothing of it even as he entered and saw Casey over near the window. John sat down away from the far end of the table where Mrs. Weasley was seated sobbing with her brood around her—most of it, that was. He was here to find out what was going on. That didn't entail comforting someone he barely knew last he checked and certainly did not involve finding out why Casey looked so broody even if he did want to know what had caused him to run off so quickly earlier. That simply meant he would observe. For now.

John glanced over toward Casey again as Evie ran over to him and threw her arms around him. There was something strange about the motion. It seemed desperate, relieved even. What had they managed to get in the middle of now? Old habits died hard, perhaps? They'd always been in some sort of trouble in school. John rolled his eyes. How was it that they had had a target on their backs for two years yet still had each other while he had no one? His closest friend...Alisa. John shook the thought away. Bitterness wasn't going to help him—not if he was going to try to live amongst these old friends. He had to overcome that, adapt. He could do it, but it would take some time.

Thump-clack, thump-clack...

Moody was here. John didn't have to look to recognize the sound of a boot followed by a pegged leg. Everyone seemed to look at him—even Mrs. Weasley. Her face looked red and poofy. How long had she been sobbing like that? And where was her husband?
That was why they were here, wasn't it? Her husband. Oh boy.

Moody paused by Mrs. Weasley after a few moments more of walking to the far end of the table, and the two shared a glance before Moody walked the rest of the way to what appeared to be his spot. He cleared his throat and looked around the room, his magical eye whirring.

Probably stopping on Casey and Evie, John thought. They were still talking—rather, Evie was talking. Casey led her toward the table, regardless, and she quieted. Only then did Moody resume.

“Arthur has been taken,” Moody stated. “A group of Death Eaters stormed their home, led by a certain Derrin...”

“White,” Evie breathed. It was barely loud enough for John to hear. He wondered if it was power of suggestion. He'd seen the bloke around school.

“Derrin said he wanted to visit Fred,” Harry piped up. John had to admit he was surprised to see him there. Somehow he had missed the jet black hair in the sea of red. “Mr. Weasley didn't let him in, but they forced in.”

“They were looking for us,” Hermione interjected.

John rose a brow. Weren't those two still in school? He noticed Ron then. Well, they had always been mixed up in the he-who-must-not-be-named stuff, too. What were they up to that they were out of school and being searched for?

“And they took him,” Hermione went on to say. “He hid us all, but he couldn't get out.”

“Did you know about this?” Was that Lupin? Merlin. Had everyone who ever set foot in that castle been involved in all this in some capacity? John rubbed his temple as he looked at Casey, the person Lupin was evidently questioning.

Casey was hesitating. That said everything yet left many questions. After a few moments, he nodded slowly. “I did, but I didn't have time to warn anyone. There was a meeting. One moment, I'm...I'm interrogating Quinton. The next, Quinton's letting them know Harry's at the Burrow and Vol-Voldemort's organizing a group.”

“They have Quinton?” John didn't recognize the young man who asked this. He looked about his and Casey's age, familiar yet unknown to him.

“Yes. They must have taken him this afternoon.”

“We have to get him back.” It was the young man in the black blazer again.

“No kidding,” Casey replied. “The sooner, the better. Who knows what more he'll reveal if we don't hurry.”

“Well, you know where they're keeping him. Let's go—now!”

“Now?” Moody snorted quietly. “If we go now, we'll put the both of them at more risk than necessary and risk blowing Winslow and Snape's covers. We have to plan, and we have to rest. Do you know where he'd keep them, boy?”

Casey shook his head. “The rickety place he holds some meetings? The Malfoys? Who knows?”

“I know where he'd keep them,” Snape drawled. He paused as everyone's eyes came to rest on him. “It won't be easy to get into, though it's not... impossible.”

“Then tell us how!” Blazer boy demanded.

John thought he was a risk to have here at this moment. It seemed Moody felt the same. “Go home, Darkhart,” Moody barked. He held up a finger when blazer boy opened his mouth. “I don't want to hear any more from you. Go home. We won't be needing you for this.”

John was rather surprised Moody wasn't given any flack from the kid, who instead rushed from the room.

“And I think it's better the Weasleys and Potter leave as well,” Moody added.

Good call, John thought. Potter had always been a bit impulsive as well, and Mr. Weasley's abduction put the situation a little too close to home.

“You can stay in the rooms upstairs for your own safety. I'm sure Kreacher's kept the place up well enough. We'll send someone for what remains of your belongings later.”

Fred and George helped Mrs. Weasley from her chair while Ron gave Moody what could be described as nothing other than the stink eye. Hermione dragged him away. Shuffling his feet was the only noticeable protest Ron gave to being ushered.

Once everyone who was asked to leave had left, Moody ensured the Imperturbable Charm was securely in place. “Tell us more, Snape.”

“There are tunnels beneath muggle London,” he said. “Aside from a few rats, no one finds this location. It is not without its enchantments and curses, of course. You-know-who holds no reservations against harming people to keep his secrets safe. It's likely Quinton and Arthur are being held there. The location itself you must find on your own. I will not put my cover further at risk than this.”

Moody nodded. “We need volunteers,” he said.

John watched as Lupin spoke with the woman beside him then volunteered them both for the quest. A few others promptly joined in afterward, yet Moody did not seem contented. His magical eye snapped on John, who wished he was invisible at the moment. He may have agreed to help, but this? Risking himself for a stranger, for someone who likely would not do the same for him? Still, John was nothing if not noble.

“Make that six.”
User avatar
by: Jen
#1375
EVIE

Evie was tired, so tired. It had hit her the moment she’d walked through the door leading into her and Casey’s room at the castle. Her shoulders had sagged, and suddenly, she’d felt as though the weight of the world was upon her shoulders. Her chest felt tight, and her breathing was ragged.

Evie took a few steps forward before she had to grab the wall and lean against it. Evie sobbed.

With the sound, all the emotion she had been holding in for the past few days seemed to come flooding to the forefront, and she sank to the ground. Mr. Weasley had been taken. He’d been taken three days ago, yet to her knowledge, no one had yet searched for him. Why?

Evie could only imagine how Mrs. Weasley and everyone else were holding up. She wasn’t even blood-related. She hadn’t known Mr. Weasley from birth—only since she’d dared to defy her father and go visit the family over a summer break. Since then, they had become like her flesh-and-blood, but she doubted the pain she felt compared to what they must be experiencing. Their father taken by you-know-who. Their father held captive by merciless men and women. Would he even survive this?

Angrily, Evie wiped the tears from her face and sniffled as she allowed herself to sit with her back against her wall, her knees pulled and held firmly to her chest. She needed to go to the safe house and visit them. She needed to let them know she was here for them, but how could she do that if she could barely contain her emotion?

Evie held her breath, trying to hold back the sob threatening to break free, but it was too no avail as she gasped for air and the floodgates opened once again.

Why did this have to happen? Mr. Weasley was a determined man. He would tell them nothing, and he would encourage Quinton to do the same. But as such, he would be punished harder and with much more fervor.

Casey had said nothing the countless times she had asked if Mr. Weasley was still alive, if he had seen him. He’d tried to remain stoic, but Evie could see the fear in his eyes. He was afraid and without hope. How could he expect her to feel better if he couldn’t even at least say the words, “He’ll live”? He didn’t have to say he’d be fine or unharmed—just that he’d live. That was all Evie cared. That Mr. Weasley would live and be returned to his family, to her.

Evie brought her forehead to rest in the crook formed between her knees, but found it hard to breathe in that position and sat back up, her head resting back against the wall and eyes upward. “Please…” she begged, though she had no idea whom she was speaking to. “Please, just let him be ok!”

It felt good to speak, but it did not quell the urge to scream, to yell, to hit, to break. But she couldn’t break things. Casey would notice. Hitting something could work, if she quickly followed it up with a healing spell, but if she broke said something, wouldn’t Casey notice? Maybe Reparo could work if the item was small enough. Screaming? The thing she wanted to do most? Someone would hear her, and she would be kidding herself to think she could cast any spells with any accuracy right now to block out the sound, to repair something, to heal herself. Maybe a pillow could be enough for the screaming. She had to try. She had to try. She had to get these feelings out somehow. They were eating her up inside.

It was more than just Mr. Weasley. Evie realized this as she pushed herself up and took a moment to rest against the wall before heading to her bedroom. She wasted no time throwing herself down into the bed and scooting so her face was in a pillow. As she inhaled, she realized it was Casey’s. The smell was familiar, comforting, yet not comforting enough in this moment. She needed him. She needed his arms around her, holding her and making her feel as though she were safe and everything was right in the world.

But nothing is, she thought as she brought her arms up and held the pillow in place as she screamed. Once, twice, and again.

Evie had no idea how long she had laid here or if she had even slept when her eyes finally brought the clock on Casey’s bedside table into focus. Four a.m., and there was a blanket on her. Casey was here. Casey was home. Evie dared a small smile at that thought and reached her foot back to rub Casey’s leg, only her foot was met with cold nothingness. Her smile quickly turned to a frown. Where was he? Evie threw the blanket back and quickly stood from bed—a little too quickly according to her body, which protested with a wave of dizziness and…Oh, shit!

Evie rushed to the bathroom and fell to her knees as she pushed the lid up just in the nick of time.

Once she had finished, Evie sat back on her feet, still feeling as though she might need the toilet again. Evie stood a few minutes later then walked back into the bedroom. Casey still wasn’t there. Maybe in the living room. Maybe he was grading papers or had been reading and had fallen asleep. There had to be a reason for him not being in bed that didn’t involve ugly skull masks and dark robes.

Walking out to the living room area of her and Casey’s magically-expanded dormitory, Evie held her breath but hoped against all hope she’d see his peacefully sleeping face. Hell, she’d take even a troubled, fitfully sleeping husband at this point. Just so long as he was here with her and in one piece. But she was met with no sight of him.

A few graded papers sat in a small pile next to the much-larger pile of essays he had left in here after dinner before he’d gone out to spend some time with John. She walked over, noticing a different name on the top of the pile. So, he had come back from John’s hut. He had been here. But how long ago? And where was he now? Had there been an Order meeting she’d missed the call for? Evie reached in her pocket for the small, charmed coin. No, there was no sign of a missed meeting. That left one other choice in her mind. A meeting, another blasted Death Eater meeting where he could be taken from her for good.

It was honestly a miracle Casey had come home to her after as many meetings as he had thus far. There was no way you-know-who didn’t suspect him and his motives. The story for his turn from the Order hadn’t been that compelling, and he had only begun practicing occlumency a couple months before joining rank. There was no way he was that convincing.

Evie shook her head forcefully. She always had those thoughts, those doubts, every time she discovered he was gone, but there was little she could do about it. They came unbidden each time, and each time, she felt guilty for having so little faith in her husband. But could Casey fault her for worrying?

Evie walked from the desk to their couch and sat down noticing the book that sat on the end table: The Beginner’s Guide to Overcoming Boggarts. Next to the book sat Casey’s lesson planner and a quill. It seemed boggarts were on this week’s class agenda, and he’d been taking notes on it.

  • Keep Calm.

  • Think Happy Thoughts.

  • No matter what, do not panic.

There were a few more notes that seemed more aimed on teaching the lesson itself, but Evie set them aside and picked up the book. Evie didn’t know how many times she had tried to read the first page by the time the clock struck 5:00 a.m., but she finally gave up and set the book aside, too consumed with worry to focus.

Where is he? Is he ok? What if he’s dead? What if Voldemort finds out? Why didn’t he say goodbye? Those were only a few of the questions which had consumed her thoughts over the past hour. They had spiraled into many horrific what if? scenarios each time before she would redirect her focus to the book, but none of it had helped.

Evie brought her eyes from the clock to the book as she set it back in its place atop Casey’s lesson planner. Maybe she needed one of Mrs. Weasley’s clocks with the hands that showed those away from home and those in the house and their danger level. That would be useful right now, though she was sure Casey’s would at least be amplified from “safe.” He was never safe when he was out, and she knew it, which was why she couldn’t bring herself to fall back to sleep. What was the point? She’d only have nightmares then wake up again and find she’d slept ten minutes, if that.

Sighing, Evie put the book down beside her and brought her knees up to rest in front of her and hugged them to herself. What would it take? Evie wondered. How could she possibly convince her husband to abandon the mission? He was so stubborn! She’d tried asking him, had even tried using her womanly wiles, but nothing. He said it was too dangerous. What could possibly be more dangerous than being in Voldemort’s presence? Either way could result in death. Leaving was the only option to hope for safety. Maybe she was “stupid” to think that as Casey had so kindly put it, but she needed to hope and the only way she could hope was if she believed it.

Maybe she should go for a walk, Evie thought. It would keep her from sitting here near tears fearing for her husband’s life and it would help with the anxiety. Ha! Who was she kidding? Evie had a feeling if she were to stand, she would fall right back onto this couch. Nope. She’d stay right here and wait like a good little worrying, doting wife. She felt weak.

The sound of a loud pop just to her left caused Evie to jerk her head toward the door as she jumped off the couch and ran toward the source—her husband, dressed to the nines in his finest Death Eater garb. But Evie didn’t care even though she knew after four months of this that he would want to strip down out of those clothes immediately. In fact, he was working on the mask when she came and threw her arms around him and, unable to help herself, began sobbing.

“I’m sorry,” she wailed as she buried her head into his robes. She’d promised herself she wouldn’t cry. She’d communicate her worry more effectively than that, she’d told herself. Maybe then he’d listen to her, she had thought.

Casey was stiff for a moment after she first hugged him then relaxed as he threw the mask out of his way then wrapped his arms around her. “For what?” he asked, his voice tense.

“For this!” Evie sobbed. “For crying!”

Casey pulled her a little closer. “Don’t apologize for caring.”

“Bu-but you hate it when I cry! And I told myself I wouldn’t.”

“It’s what you do when you’re stressed, Evie. Relax. I’m here now.” Casey swayed a little with Evie in his arms, and she remained silent, her body stilling as she fell into numbness. A few moments later, Casey stepped back, gently prying her hands. “Let me go burn these then we’ll cuddle, ok?”

Evie could do nothing more than nod. Part of her was afraid he would vanish again if he disappeared into that bathroom, but she moved to the bed and laid down, softly crying to herself yet stubbornly wiping the tears away as they came.

Evie sniffled as she felt Casey get into bed next to her and scoot up behind her. She felt relieved as he wrapped his arm around her and she moved so she fit flesh against him. He kissed her neck and gave her a hug then kissed her neck again a few times. She could feel stirring against her hips. Why was it always this? Why did he always want this when she cried? Couldn’t he just hold her? Anger momentarily flared, but it softened as he laid his head down on his arm behind her and didn’t try to push. He never did, not really. It was almost as though he was saying, “I’m here, however you need me,” in his own way. Yet it still was distracting in the wrong ways to feel something poking against her.

Evie sighed and hugged her arms closer to her, causing her to push against him a little. The motion revealed tension she didn’t even know she had. She cursed her body for so easily being affected by his. Casey stilled behind her as though uncertain then relaxed as she repeated the motion more purposefully. She needed him right now. She needed him to know how worried she’d been, how much she needed him…everything. And if they discussed it, it just wasn’t going to work. They’d argue, and she just couldn’t handle that right now. No, she needed this.

Evie moved back against her husband a third time, and he moaned, burying his head in her shoulder as he bucked against her. Their motion became more fluid before Evie turned to him after a few moments. That wasn’t enough. It wasn’t intimate enough. She didn’t want a random fuck. She wanted to make love. She wanted to see him, and she wanted to make love.

As soon as Evie turned, her lips found Casey’s, crashing into his with urgent need, the previous desire for taking it slow and communicating suddenly overcome by a desire to be as close as possible as soon as possible. Tears spilled down her cheek, and she tried to subtly move her hand from his shoulder and wipe the tears away before he could feel them. She wiped her hand on her shirt then gripped Casey’s shoulder again. If he knew she was crying, he didn’t make it obvious.

Frantically, she moved her husband’s hand to her chest. Kissing wasn’t enough now, though despite his obvious need, Casey seemed content. Yet, as soon as his hand was where she wanted it, she could tell. He was waiting for her lead, and that had been all the permission he had needed.

Afterward, they lay there, legs intertwined and Casey’s arms around Evie’s body. Evie rubbed her face against his chest, feeling the exhaustion settle in. But she wouldn’t sleep—not tonight. Tonight, her mind was racing.
User avatar
by: Jen
#1376
CASEY

Wandering the castle late at night had become somewhat of a habit lately. Casey found the quiet, dark halls comforting. There were good memories in them, of all the years he had spent at Hogwarts. The good outweighed the bad here. At least, in most parts. Sure, there was the attack on the second floor corridor that had pushed him and Evie closer much faster than even he had anticipated during their sixth year. Sure, there was the attack by Lucius outside the steps of the castle. But what did it matter now? If one or both had not happened, who knew where he and Evie would be now. If they weren’t married, Casey wasn’t so convinced she would have put up with his decision to go undercover without consulting her first. So, he preferred the memories exist. It had made them stronger. Besides, turning Lucius Malfoy into a chicken was quite funny to think of these days. It somehow made dealing with him during meetings slightly more manageable.

Casey scratched his neck at the thought of meetings. Quinton, Arthur… Thankfully, Voldemort hadn’t made him become involved in the interrogations in the two weeks since he’d tortured Quinton, but it didn’t make the knowledge both were now in the Dark Lord’s hands any easier. Not being involved kept him in the dark as to their wellbeing. The fact they were alive didn’t mean they weren’t suffering. That was the missing piece of intel that would help prepare the Order beyond their sweeps of underground tunnels in London. If the two weren’t mobile, they’d need to be prepared so they could make a quick escape without the immobility of their rescuees being an unexpected twist. Granted, Casey was certain they were planning for every scenario: finding dead bodies, finding injured bodies, finding more than Arthur and Quinton down there, etc. He was probably over thinking. Again. He had a tendency for that.

Casey stopped in the foyer as he realized he’d reached it. He had three, no, four options now. He could go into the Great Hall and sit, go down to the kitchens, go outside and brave the rain, or return back to the commons. He knew for sure going out into the torrential downpour outside was not on the menu nor was going back to the commons, but he wasn’t sure where he wanted to go. He wasn’t hungry, but it would lead to more walking.

Before too much consideration could be given, Casey was distracted by the sound of a firm knock on the doors to the castle. It repeated itself more rapidly, almost desperately. Casey stared at the door, confused. Students should be in bed at this time. He certainly had never caught anyone outside this late. In the halls? Certainly. But out in the middle of a rainstorm? Casey didn’t understand it. It didn’t make sense.

Casey readied his wand as he approached the door. He gave it a wave so the door would open just enough for him to see outside. The person on the other side was not one he had expected. “S-serena?” he stammered. It seemed almost impossible that this woman was the girl he had known from school. She seemed darker somehow, definitely more mature. But beyond her stark change in appearance, there was a looming question. “How’d you get here?”

“There’ll be plenty of time for that later. Let me in.”

Casey hesitated.

“I’ll explain everything, Casey. Veritaserum, if you need, but it’s cold out here.”

Casey nodded and stepped back then opened the door enough for Serena to get in. He immediately shut it behind her. Perhaps it was against his better judgment to let Serena in when he hadn’t seen her in a few months’ time. They’d lost contact following his and Evie’s wedding, and she had certainly been much more like herself the last time he’d seen her. But still, Serena was a friend, and he wasn’t going to leave her out in the rain. He certainly wouldn’t let her go without question either, however. No, there was no need for that.

“Can I get you some food?” he offered. May as well make the interrogation amicable. No need for her to be uncomfortable.

“Anything you can offer me would be great, but a fire would be wonderful.”

Casey nodded and began to lead her toward the stairs which led from the main floor down to the dungeons then took the fork toward the Hufflepuff Common Room and the kitchen when appropriate. Serena was quiet, and Casey did nothing to break the silence. He wasn’t sure what to say. “What happened?” was something that came to mind immediately but would possibly strike a nerve with the girl who had always been fairly no-nonsense. He doubted that part had changed over the year that had passed.

Several steps and a tickled peach later and the two entered the kitchens. No house elves were in sight, but Casey imagined they were asleep. “Looks like we’re on our own,” he stated.

Serena looked at him with a slight smile as she lit the fireplace and immediately sat down before its hearth. She shivered at the contact. Casey could only imagine the floor was ice cold beneath her. No matter how thick her pants were, she would feel that.

“What would you like?” he asked, though he wasn’t sure he could provide anything more than a warm drink. Cooking was hardly his forte, but he would try for Serena. It was better than waking a house elf at this ungodly hour.

“Some tea would be nice,” Serena answered.

Casey was almost surprised at the directness. Serena had been becoming increasingly more direct over the few months before his and Evie’s wedding. She’d been a great support and seemingly had thrived on helping others and the acceptance and friendships it had gained her, but this? There was no hesitation.

Casey nodded at Serena’s request then put some water in a kettle and set it to heat upon the wood stove at the far corner of the room. There was no need to hurry it with magic. Serena had a fire to warm her until the kettle whistled, and in the meantime they could talk while she had nothing to hide behind. It was strange to be somewhat suspicious of a friend, but when someone showed up at Hogwarts’ doorstep in the middle of the night, it was worthy of being cautious.

Casey began to browse through the pantry as he began to speak, hoping to not seem confrontational. Besides, even if Serena hadn’t asked for food, he was sure some soup would be nice. Hopefully they had some. “So, long time no see.”

Serena nodded. “It has been a long time,” she agreed whilst setting her gloves beside the fire. She rubbed her hands together then breathed into them before opening them and placing them palm-down over the fire.

They were quiet for a few moments as Casey found some soup and put it on the burner next to the kettle. Casey walked over toward the fireplace and eased himself down next to Serena. Then, he turned his body so that he could comfortably look at her. It was then that he noticed how broken she looked. Yet Serena’s battered, disheveled appearance did not hide the depth of determination and fight in her eyes. The split lip, bruises, and running make-up were only signs she was in trouble. Despite wanting to offer her promises of protection, Casey still needed to know what was going on. “Not to be rude or anything, but why are you here?”

Serena shook her head. “Not rude. I’d ask the same thing, if I were you,” she assured him. She took a few moments to speak. “I saw you and Evie in the papers recently, teaching and all. I didn’t know if Skeeter was lying for material, but I had to try.”

“Try?”

“I need somewhere to hide, somewhere safe.”

“From?”

“You-know-who,” Serena whispered. She was quiet after that, and Casey didn’t prod. The kettle chose that moment of waiting to whistle.

“Hold that thought,” he told Serena. He gave her hand a squeeze before standing and walking over. He readied a tea bag in a cup and then poured hot water over it. She immediately cupped it in her hands and brought it close to her face, though she did not drink. Casey levitated the cup over to Serena then prepared a bowl of soup for her. This, he carried to her and handed to her before sitting back down.

Casey took a moment to choose his next question. He had the why, but he didn’t have the how. Simply having been friends with him and Evie during school would not have been enough to place Serena on Voldemort’s radar. “You disappeared after our wedding day, Serena. Why?”

“I needed to figure out what to do with my life,” Serena replied. “I decided to try my hand in the muggle world, but that didn’t feel right. So, I returned to the wizarding world. In April, I accidentally ran into a Death Eater meeting. They caught me, and I barely escaped. Since then, I’ve changed from town to town. No more than a month at most. They always found me if I stayed too long. At first, he sent amateurs, but then, he realized they weren’t enough. He started sending higher ranked followers after me. I didn’t know where else to go, Casey.”

Casey nodded. It was honestly a miracle Serena was alive and free rather than being held with Arthur and Quinton unbeknownst to them. “How long ago was the last attack?” he asked after a few moments. Serena’s wounds might look bad, but they had healed some. It was clear she hadn’t fled an attack tonight.

“A few days ago,” Serena replied, daring to take a sip from the tea. She winced a little, but Casey wasn’t sure if it was because she’d burned her tongue or because the liquid or its temperature had hurt her split lip. Perhaps both. “They sent trolls. I hid in a cave for a few days and then came here.”

“Why didn’t you come to us sooner?”

Serena shook her head. “Didn’t want to jeopardize anyone else. I was hesitant about coming here even now. Don’t want to draw more attention to the school. Probably be in and out in a week or two. I just need time to recover and figure out where to go next. The Ministry won’t grant protection for false harm. They’d probably send me to Mungo’s for mental investigation…” Serena took another sip of her tea before picking up the soup bowl she’d set beside her. It was gone quicker than Casey could decide what to say next.

“Do you want some more?” he offered.

Serena nodded enthusiastically. “Please.”

Casey got her some more soup then returned to his spot beside her. “Do you really think we’re going to let you go back out there after only a week or two?” he asked as Serena scarfed down some more of the chicken noodle soup. Casey smirked and shook his head at the idea. “Serena, you know what we’ve been through, Evie and me. The castle’s already in jeopardy even without you here. Don’t you think you stand a better chance with us?”

For a few moments, Casey wondered if Serena was going to acknowledge his offer at all. Her focus seemed to be on finishing the soup and then the tea. He wondered how long it had been since she had last eaten a suitable meal rather than what she could find outdoors.

“Casey, I appreciate it. I really do, but you know I can’t do that. Sitting around the school just for protection? I can’t teach, and I refuse to be the next groundskeeper.”

Casey knew what she was saying. She was saying she didn’t want to be useless. He couldn’t blame her. There was something about doing that kept your mind off stuff like this. He knew that even though he wasn’t running but rather hiding in plain sight.

“What about runes?” Casey asked after a few moments had been spent in thought. “We need a permanent placement for that class. And if not, we could use someone with your skills in the Order fighting against Voldemort” Casey knew he couldn’t force Serena to do anything she didn’t want to, but he wasn’t going to give up without trying. To do so would undermine how much he valued her. She had always been a good friend, and her presence whether here at the school or at the Order safe house would not escalate the immediate threat. It had been since April. Voldemort might want her dead on principle, but whatever plans he’d discussed at the meeting Serena had overheard had surely been changed just in case. The Dark Lord was hardly stupid. He knew keeping her on her toes and on the run would likely keep her from the Order, but he also had to know it was only a matter of time before they found her or she found them.

Serena shook her head. “Not qualified. I never took runes, and I don’t know the first thing about teaching.”

“Then what about the other option?” Casey asked. “I’m sure McGonagall would find a place for you here with us or elsewhere with someone else.”

Serena snorted lightly. “I’m useless, Casey. I don’t hunt Death Eaters, and I don’t kill unless I have to. I’m no good here or in your group.”

Ok, time for another angle. If push came to shove, Serena would run into Evie if she stayed past tonight, and Evie would set her straight. His wife was nothing if not persistent. She didn’t back down until she got what she wanted. Still, Casey wasn’t giving up yet. “Serena,” he said, a thought coming to him. “You strategized for our Quidditch team, and you did an excellent job. Perhaps you could help us with that. We could use a good strategist, and it is a strong point of yours. Please consider it?” He did his best attempt at doe eyes. Maybe he was bordering on begging at this point, but he didn’t want to see Serena killed.

Serena laughed then and actually smiled. Casey smiled back at her. With a sigh, Serena shook her head then took a sip of tea. “I’ll consider it, Winslow, but it’s not because of that face of yours. That’s enough to make young children scream in fear or laugh hysterically. I’m not quite sure which. But that still doesn’t solve what I’d do for cover here.”

“Aw, it seems I’m losing my charm,” he teased with a chuckle. He stood and decided to get himself some tea as he thought about her question as to suitable cover. “Sometimes I need some assistance in NEWT defense to demonstrate,” he mused as he dipped the bag in and out of the hot water. “It’s better than using Zeke,” he continued as he walked back and sat down, careful not to spill the tea. “You wouldn’t have to talk to the class or teach, just help demonstrate or something. You could sit back and read the rest of the time or something. That could be your cover or helping with Evie’s charms class, though you do seem skilled in defense if you’ve kept the Death Eaters off this long.”

Serena sighed. “I don’t mind talking. People don’t scare me anymore, Casey. They seem more scared of me than anything. Something about leather and spikes, I suppose. I just don’t know the first thing about teaching.”

Casey nodded. “It”s not that I mind you speaking. I just thought…well.” He sighed. “It’s a lot of work, and I wouldn’t mind help in other ways either. First and second years, third and fourth years, fifth years, then NEWT students. So many papers to grade and tests. The hardest part at first was fielding off all the questions and banning anything related to a certain dingbat of a reporter.”

Serena sighed. “You two still not boring enough for her?”

Casey shook his head. “I’m beginning to doubt we’ll ever be,” he replied. “So, what do you say? Will you help the world’s most interesting defense professor?”’

Serena gave it a moment’s thought. “I still think I’ll be more of a nuisance than a help, but ok…”

“Trust me, you’ll be fine.”

Serena smiled, and for a moment it was like looking back at a familiar friend.

Casey recovered from his momentary stare. “We should probably get some sleep,” he said. “You need somewhere to stay? There are some empty quarters in the professor’s commons.”

“Anywhere would be better than dirt.”

“I’d imagine so,” Casey replied as he stood. He offered Serena a hand, which she took. “C’mon.”[/justify]
User avatar
by: Jen
#1377
SERENA

(Much dialogue mirrored from thread written by Layni and me, though the time frame and situation was somewhat changed.)

Looking over her shoulder had become such habit for Serena over the past several months that it was hard not to jump to the defensive at the sound of sudden laughter or the approach of running footsteps behind her. She had settled into helping Casey over the past few days and had even helped in his lesson with the first years this morning, but that still hadn’t erased the reality of the past few months and the damage it had done to her psyche and her body. Make-up hadn’t been enough to shield her face from the staring of the students the past few days or the questions and rumors she had overheard being whispered by “sneaky” children in class, but she had persevered. Children were the same as ever.

It was thanks to one child’s words that Serena found herself on the way to the astronomy tower to see a certain Professor Turner. She had never met nor heard of the man before, but allegedly he had heard of her and had requested her presence. She couldn’t for the life of her figure out why a perfect stranger would want to see her, and she had a feeling it might be some strange prank.

Entering the classroom, Serena felt off kilter at first as the colors in the room shifted before her eyes, changing from the something she hadn’t quite caught to the sun. She squinted as she removed a bobby pin from her hair and transfigured it into a pair of sunglasses. There, that was better. It was clear the professor had taken the time to dim the large mass that seemed suspended in a two-dimensional form on the wall.

Scattered about the classroom were bean bags of various colors, and in one just to the right of the sun-wall sat who Serena assumed to be Professor Turner. She noted three things in the moment she set eyes on the professor. Firstly, Professor Turner was a male. Secondly, he certainly seemed unconventional dressed in nothing but a t-shirt and jeans and lounging in the bean bag. (Of course, the odd classroom set-up gave that away from the start.) And thirdly, he seemed far more relaxed than anyone else who taught in this school. In fact, it appeared he might be sleeping.

Serena didn’t allow these observations to sway her from finding out if the professor had sent for her. She cleared her throat lightly in hopes of gaining his attention before speaking. “Sorry to interrupt, but one of my students last period said you wanted to speak with me, and I came to see if that was true.”

The professor opened first one eye then the other. His expression seemed rather pleased when he set eyes on her. Why he seemed so pleased, whether it be that someone was witnessing his classroom theatrics or something else entirely, was unknown to Serena, and frankly she didn’t care. She was simply relieved as he waved his hand, and the wall image changed from the sun to Mercury. Serena pushed the transfigured sunglasses up to rest on her head.

“No problem,” Professor Turner assured Serena. “In fact, I was wondering when someone would come. Knew it was too good to be true that I’d have to schedule a class for Saturday to make up for this.” He seemed to be teasing, though Serena couldn’t be certain. Not reacting to her confusion, the professor motioned toward a bean bag across from him. “Have a seat, take your shoes off, stay for a while…”

Serena sat down on the bright yellow bean bag the professor had motioned toward and observed the room. She had to admit that, while unconventional, the classroom décor was certainly impressive. Serena did not take her shoes off as suggested. She did, however, take the bun out of her hair. She didn’t have to teach for another period, and the bun was only to appease McGonagall, who had said she needed to look more professional while teaching.

Once she was comfortable, Serena returned her attention to the professor, realizing he hadn’t answered her question. “So, was the student right or were they playing some sort of strange prank that had no humor in it whatsoever?”

Jared shrugged. “Well, I don’t ever say things come about by happenstance, so even though it was a prank, I suppose we were supposed to chat today for whatever reason.”

Serena rose a brow, allowing herself a moment to wonder why a student would pull such a stupid prank. Deciding there was no real reason, she sighed and thought about what the professor had said. “Well, I suppose that means you’re one of those big fate believers, hmm?” she replied. “Never was one myself, but to each his own. You probably have the third eye too. Either that or you’re extremely superstitious.”

“Yes, I believe in fate,” the professor answered. “And I have the third eye. I, for one, am no fraud, though Trelawny is. But, let the old bat keep her job.” He sighed and shook his head. “Superstition’s for the wanna-bes,” he said before looking at Serena. “I suppose you’re one who doesn’t believe in the third eye.”

Serena sighed. “I was one who preferred facts and research—not inklings, feelings, and predictions. Perhaps some people truly can rely on such things, but I, for one, was never one of them. Besides, I believe that things change too easily for fate and your decision can always be altered.”

“Fair enough,” the professor conceded. “But anyway, surely you’ve not come to yack my ear off on whether or not fate exists and surely you must have something in mind. If you didn’t, I don’t suppose you’d have stayed.”

Serena shook her head. She didn’t really know why she’d stayed aside from the fact the astronomy tower was so far from everything else. “Not really,” she said. “I just came to ask you about the student and see if you really did want to speak with me.”

“Alright then.”

Well, that certainly was not the best response. Serena didn’t want to sit in silence with the stranger, however. Somehow, silence no longer was comforting to her. She used to crave it, used to long for a moment to herself after a few minutes with a large group. Now, she just wanted noise. It reminded her she was no longer alone, that maybe she was safe. Serena settled on something mundane but potentially worthy of conversation. “So, how long have you been teaching?”

“This is my second year.” He changed the planet to Venus.

“Impressive,” she said. “I’ve only taught for a week or so now.” She looked at the image on the wall and smiled. “Venus… One of my favorite planets.”

“I think I can guess why.”

Serena rose a brow. “I doubt it.”

“And why’s that? Not the obvious reason?” The professor seemed to lean in slightly. Apparently she must have intrigued him.

Serena shrugged. “I just like the way it looks. I love the way the gasses swirl and create patterns. And the color…I love the color!”

The professor laughed. “The color, of course,” he replied as he looked over his shoulder at the planet for a few seconds then changed the planet to Earth for barely a few seconds. With Mars now displaying, the professor returned his gaze to Serena.

Serena shook her head. “And Mars… That always has an an angry air attached from what I remember. The god of war in Roman mythology, and when it’s in the sky, anger and fighting are prone to break out. People born under the planet are quick to anger and heated rows. Hardly a planet of my taste.”

“Very good!” The professor looked at his fingers, picking at something Serena couldn’t see. “Though, I might add, it has been my observance that the part of predicting a person’s personality is very flawed. It’s just by happenstance that one out of every hundred or so fit that stereotype.” The man shrugged.

Serena smiled and nodded. “I would assume so, but for fun, let’s see if some of the stereotypes work. Which do you think I was born under?” It would be interesting at least.

“Well, either you were born under Mercury or you have the anti-personality of one born under Venus,” the professor replied. “But if what I’ve heard of your school days, I’d have to say you were born under Saturn.”

Serena smiled. “You guessed it somewhere in there. I was born under Mercury, though I never was quite mischievous unless I felt comfortable, so I was more secluded and pensive. Saturn, if you will.” She paused then, realizing he’d mentioned her school days. “Did you research my school days?” she asked, not entirely certain what to make of that.

“Perhaps I simply listened to what your friends have said of you.” There was something about him that seemed sheepish. Had she caught him at something?

“And what have they been saying? Or you asking?”

“Oh, they’ve been saying the most awful things about you!” he said with a nod. “I mean, that you, Serena…isn’t it? were horribly shy, reclusive…”

Serena shook her head. That girl was a stranger to her now. It all seemed so long ago that she was “Obsessed with my books, uncaring of what others thought, self-absorbed, oblivious to my surroundings, utterly hopeless. Why am I not surprised?”

The professor smirked. “Yeah, yeah, they said all that too, if you read between the lines,” he said with a soft chuckle. “Sounds like you were a terrible person. How do you plead?”

“Absolutely and completely guilty!” Serena smiled. “Though I maintain that I just liked to people watch and was always willing to help those who got close to me in whatever way possible. Clearly, I wasn’t self-absorbed!”

The professor rose a brow. “Then, I shall have to sentence you to… Hmm…” He scratched his chin then held out a finger covered in something as though he’d had an idea.

Is that masking tape? Serena wondered as she squinted at his fingers.

“A day in which you have no classes helping out a teacher who hates a subject you never liked with theirs.”

Serena gave a look of mock horror. “Please! Not divination! Anything but divination—or runes! Not runes either!”

The professor rose a brow, absently picking at his fingers again. “Well, I wouldn’t be mean enough to put anyone through the torture of a divination class with Trelawny. She’s an old fraud and I wouldn’t even want to spend a class with her. Dropped it after third year. Runes…” He sighed. “Guess I shouldn’t be surprised if you really did take that.”

“I took almost every class in the school at least once. Bookworm Ravenclaw, see? But runes wasn’t one of them.”

“Yep, Ravenclaw. Only one of the reasons it took us so long to meet, perhaps.”

Serena rose a brow.

“Well, I graduated when you were a fourth year, if my math’s correct.”

Serena smirked. “Should I be scared that I’ve obtained a stalker, Professor?” she asked, only half-serious. The bloke seemed harmless enough, which was the only reason she wasn’t more concerned.

“Jared,” he said, implying his name. “I believe ‘personal stalker’ will have to remain the title of someone else. I sense you already have one anyway. But me? Nope, just an admirer of sorts, I guess you could say….”

Serena rolled her eyes. “’An admirer of sorts,’” she repeated. “Interesting title.”

“Thanks, thought it up myself.” He was picking at the masking tape, which Serena had come to notice had letters on them.

“What do your fingers say?” she asked. Serena thought the wording absolute rubbish, but what else could she ask?

“Eh?” Jared asked as he looked down at the tape then held his fingers out so Serena could see clearly that they read “LIFE.”

Serena smiled and nodded. “Do you always tape your fingers like that?”

“Yeah,” he answered with a smirk. “Kinda a habit I got into as a kid. No clue why I do it, really. White as snow beneath the tape.” He chuckled and Serena laughed. “Why do you ask?”

“Just curious, I suppose.”

“Ah, well,” he said with an air of amusement, “curiosity killed the cat.” He smirked and returned to peeling off the masking tape on his left pointer finger.

“The cat has nine lives,” Serena replied, not entirely certain how else to respond. It was strange to say to someone you’d barely met five minutes ago.

“True enough.” Jared shrugged and continued to pick at his tape. He winced as a piece detached from the front.

Serena smiled and silently cast a spell to loosen the tape off his fingers. The tape then crumbled into a ball she levitated to the trash can by the door.

“First one to actually do that…” Jared said with a smirk.

Serena wasn’t entirely certain whether he was amused or not. This one was hard to read. Still, she simply smiled and replied, “There’s a first time for everything.”

Jared nodded and seemed to drift off into thought. Serena let him be. He was fidgeting a little as though not entirely comfortable. She couldn’t imagine why, but it didn’t matter. The wall setting changing from Mars to Jupiter on its own accord took her attention. “Jupiter always made me think of a marble,” she mused.

“Huh?” Jared said.

“A marble. It’s a muggle toy that’s hard and round…?” Serena prompted, hoping she wouldn’t have to explain a marble further because, truthfully, she didn’t know much more. They’d always seemed rather pointless to her.

“Oh. No, I know what a marble is. I just didn’t hear you.” Jared glanced over at the wall. “And it does.”

Serena sighed in relief.

Jared rose a brow at her response but said nothing of it. “Anyway, I think it’s about time for a bite, don’t you?”
User avatar
by: Jen
#1378
DERRIN

There was still a sense of nostalgia that hit Derrin when he went to places such as Hogsmeade. After all, he had attended Hogwarts through his sixth year. Then, by some miracle, his father had managed to accomplish the unthinkable and have him transferred. To this day, Derrin still was uncertain what strings his father had pulled to get him into Durmstrang, but he supposed it didn’t matter even if he knew it wasn’t the prestigious school taking pity on a pureblood being stuck in the midst of all the drama that had taken Hogwarts since Potter’s arrival. He didn’t need to ponder it. Durmstrang was as much a part of his past now as Hogwarts was. The only difference was that Durmstrang had taught him magic that was actually useful. They had taken their magic beyond theoretical and ensured students had had a practical application as well. Perhaps it was his time there that had drawn the Dark Lord’s attention to him. He had certainly not seemed a stranger to the Dark Lord upon his induction.

Derrin flipped a coin into the air and caught it as he came upon The Three Broomsticks. Now there was a fun memory. He’d often find himself here on Hogsmeade trips and had been particularly fond of this establishment in the winter months. George, Fred, and Evie would claim a table, and he would venture off to Honeyduke’s for his favorite flavor of Bertie Bott’s only to come back and find they had managed to commandeer the coveted table near the fireplace at least half the time. Evie would have her chicken fingers and chips. Fred and George would eat their food, and inevitably, the trio would turn their attention to pranks. This had left him the odd man out, and he had hated it. He had hated it beyond anything else. He and Evie had had some good times together before she had become close with the twins. Then, their time together had become less and less. Derrin had hated the lack of control it had made him feel, and he’d always considered himself such a nice bloke back then.

Derrin snorted to himself and made his way into the pub. Place still smelled the same. Still had the creaky board just five steps in, too. He and Evie had had a running tally. Most times stepping on that through the years would owe each other some ridiculous prize or another at graduation. He couldn’t remember where that stood, but he supposed it didn’t matter. From what he understood, his former friend was now allied with the enemy yet married to one of his supposed allies? Merlin, that didn’t add up. And he figured there was a reason for it. Just as there was a reason the Dark Lord always tested Winslow whenever he had the chance. He was using him to accomplish small things where Winslow’s expertise would be helpful, but Derrin had no doubts he would be brutally tortured then murdered once he slipped up. Because Winslow would slip up. It was just a matter of time. Derrin wondered how Evie was handling that knowledge.

“…you? Sir?”

Derrin’s head whipped toward the source of the voice. Strange… was the only thought to come to mind. He didn’t often find himself lost in thought. Typically, he was a man of action. Perhaps that was why he had avoided coming to Broomsticks since his return from Durmstrang. Diagon Alley held far fewer memories for him. His father had never made anything special out of getting his Hogwarts books or robes, and his mother had certainly never taken him with her on her shopping trips over the summer.

“Butterbeer,” Derrin replied shortly, hoping the woman would understand that small talk was not what he was looking for here. He wasn’t entirely certain what he was hoping for, really. Nostalgia was certainly not what it was. There was no joy in it. Only cool anger and frustration at lost opportunities. Still, it felt as though there was more to his being here than simply getting something to eat after his little trip to Dervish and Banges. The object, now within his pocket, was hardly of any import on its own. No, it was the potential use such an artifact might have which made it worth obtaining.

“Your butterbeer,” the woman said.

Derrin looked up at her with a half-smile and took an appreciative drink, though he barely saw the waitress, who fluttered off quickly toward the booth in front of his where some blond-haired hooligan-looking bloke sat. Derrin lowered his eyes as the bloke started talking with the waitress about some girl he’d recently met.

Idle chatter was such a waste of time. So were relationships. Derrin could get all he needed out of a one night stand and then move on. Love was, just as the Dark Lord so insightfully taught, a weakness and, as Derrin liked to add on, an unnecessary distraction. Nothing more, nothing less. It was foolish for the rest of the world to think otherwise. How was it that humans as a species had not evolved beyond such uses of time? Oh right, human babies were unimpressive, stupid, needy little beings—unlike humanities’ animal counterparts.

Derrin sighed and took a swig of his butterbeer and then another. The sooner this was gone, the sooner he could be on his way. He didn’t want to be here any longer. He never really had, he realized. The emotions had been the only reason he’d come in. Yet further proof for his previous assertion.

“…ena. Had dinner with her a few days ago after she showed up in my classroom. I’d had a feeling someone would even though it wasn’t class time. Only reason I was there, had the feeling, the premonition, what have you.”

The man sighed, and Derrin glanced over. Would he just say the damn name again? It hadn’t been right for “Lena” or anything similar. If he could just say it again. And there it was. Well, now he had no reason to chug his drink. In fact, he might just have to order another.

“Dunno. She kind of just showed up a couple weeks ago. Mostly been helping Casey, I guess. Either way, don’t mind she’s there.”

The waitress said something Derrin couldn’t quite understand, but the conversation turned to food and drink.

As the waitress turned around to go back to the grill, Derrin flagged her over. “Could I have my bill?” he asked.

“Certainly!” the waitress replied in that fake cheery voice that drove Derrin crazy. After reaching into her apron, she produced his bill and walked off. Derrin himself downed the remaining few swallows of his butterbeer then put out the necessary money. Then, he was up and headed to the door.

This changed things. Serena was with friends, friends who had undoubtedly convinced her of her safety at Hogwarts castle with so much Order presence. She had even had dinner with the blond in Broomsticks. That meant she was starting to get a little comfortable. That or she was preparing to fight back now that she had her little army. That would mean confidence, which was just as useful a tool.

He should have spoken with the blond bloke, Derrin realized, but it was too late now. He could easily invent another reason, perhaps. He forgot something. He needed a knut to buy a piece of candy for his daughter. The bloke would probably give it to him, would probably try to chat his ear off. However, Derrin felt there was no need. If the bloke was from the castle, he would be in Hogsmeade again. All Derrin would have to do is show up on a Hogsmeade weekend. Perhaps his luck would be that Serena would be with him. He could surely be his normal self, convince the other bloke he was someone to be trusted. The next Hogsmeade trip, he would surely be shopping for a present for Serena, and he, being Serena’s former acquaintance at Hogwarts, would come to the rescue to suggest a pendant, a pendant he would place just that morning in Gladrags’ bin. Ravenclaw blue but just off enough it would really bring out Serena’s eyes. And then, to top it off, he would ensure they found the first edition of a little book he’d known Serena had wanted for ages.

Only one thing the unsuspecting bloke would find is that, strangely, Serena would begin to become paranoid. And their little budding romance would begin to wither then decay with her unfortunate death in an alley just off the high street one night this spring. Let her get comfortable. Let her start to feel safe. Then, take it all away. It was beautiful. It was perfect.
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His door opened up, and Callaway wasn't surprised […]

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Cora's voice cut the air and he was pulled from de[…]

Eager to work. Seamus was only slightly impresse[…]

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RPG-D Relashio! Black Sun Rising