"Stay here. I'll be back with your sister."
"What about mum?"
"I'll make sure Lydia's safely to the portkey and then I'll get inside, kill the bastard, and I'll come back to you and Lydia." He put a hand on his son's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "Everything's going to work out. I promise." Julian looked up at him through teary eyes, and Casey pulled him into a hug, but he pulled away after a few moments. "I have to go or the portkey will take off without your sister. You going to be alright?" The boy nodded. "Comfort your sister. She'll be scared."
"That's my boy. I love you."
Julian watched as his father walked away before disappearing before his very eyes. The boy sat down in the snow, hugging his legs to his body. What if he never saw them again? What then? He had no idea where he was or how far he'd have to walk to reach civilization. He could be a mile from the "safe house" or all the way in Timbuktu for all he knew. If they died, did that leave him doomed to die, too? What if his sister made it back but not his mum and dad? He couldn't bear to watch her die or freeze or starve. He squinted his eyes shut tight and buried his face in his knees, beginning to rock.
The minutes that passed were nerve-wracking, the longest of his life, interrupted only by the appearance of a teddy bear a few feet before him, and that was the moment he lost all resolve. Something was terribly wrong. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he stared blankly at the bear his sister had loved so much. She hadn't slept with it like she was supposed to, and his dad hadn't got there in time, but he couldn't hold back the sadness for long, sadness that soon turned to anger, and as it coursed through his veins, he drew his wand and stood. He had to find his way back. He had to help.
His steps slowed and breathing stilled as he neared the back entrance to the safe house, a sense of dread filling him. He nearly gasped as he almost put his foot down on the dead body of his father-in-law. At first he wondered if he was merely petrified, but he noticed the wand still in Thomas' hand and knew. No self-respecting Death Eater would leave a victim with his wand unless there was no way he would ever use it. But Casey forced himself to dwell upon the "positive." It also meant this man was totally unsuspecting of the fact that he wasn't dead in bed. He had time. He leaned over and closed his father-in-law's eyes and stepped back outside. He'd simply have to improvise and go in through Lydia's window and quick. It was almost time for the portkey to take off. She couldn't miss it. It would cut out too much time, time meant to be used to save Evie.
Little time was wasted in his circle around the house. While he was light on his feet and kept his hood up, Casey still kept an eye out for other Death Eaters, but he saw none. This bloke was either as cocky as he seemed or had people inside with him, in which case the recording of Julian snoring and the fact that the body under the covers was merely a rather large, overstuffed rag doll could have been discovered and his daughter could already be dead and his wife gone. His pulse throbbed in his ears and panic set in. There was no stealth involved as he raced the rest of the way to his daughter's window, smashed out the glass, and scrambled through, cutting his hand on a shard of glass on the way through and his knee on the landing, but he forced his mind to black out the pain as he scrambled to his daughter's bed.
She was in it. Damn it! He was too late. Her chest wasn't rising and falling, and her covers covered her entire body. His face contorted in anguish as he let out a choked sob, falling to his knees beside her bed, gasping as pain shot up from his knee. He buried his face in his hands and shook his head. No, this wasn't true. This was one of Hunter's mind games. He'd found out Julian's body was fake as was his, and now was getting back at him for foiling his plan. That's all this was. His daughter, his precious, innocent baby girl wasn't dead, and he had to find her and Evie. It was like the rape stunt he pulled on Evie, all just a sick, twisted illusion, a mind game! He'd pull back the covers and find a bunch of stuffed animals with the largest one having a note pinned to it or something, not his daughter's dead body. He had to find them!
Wiping his eyes and squinting his eyes shut, he prepared himself for what he had to do. Opening them, he stared at the sheet fearfully, and trembling hands reached out for the top, pulling them back and immediately looking away, letting out a loud sob before looking back at the unmistakable body of his daughter. It was too perfect, too precise, too real to be a fake. "No," he whispered, shaking his head. "No," this time a little louder. "No! God, no!" His face twisted and he brought his hand to his forehead, squeezing and applying pressure. He didn't have time for this. Maybe it wasn't too late for Evie. Maybe she was still alive. Maybe he was raping her for real this time, torturing her. Maybe she needed him to save her again, and he would gladly do it! But fear was holding him here--fear and grief. His daughter was dead as was his wife quite possibly, and all he had left was Julian. Julian, the one whose birth was supposed to symbolize the end of the Death Eater stuff, his only son whom he had loved very much, but would it be enough?
There was no time for this! He pushed himself up and rushed his way to his and Evie's room. There was no need to hide the fact that he was coming when he already knew he was in here from the sound of crashing glass. He came to the open door and peered in. No Evie, no Trey. He rushed in, checking the bathroom and even the closet. "Evie?!" he called out frantically. "Evie! Please! Answer me, damn it! Answer me!" But there was no answer to his choked words, and it killed him inside. What he'd felt before over the past few years, despite being fueled by fear of this very thing happening, was nothing to this. The emptiness he felt inside engulfed him, suffocated him, and he fell to the floor beside the tub, curling himself into a ball and sobbing. "Why?" he demanded. "Why?! Why us? Why me?"
Funny how despite no belief in a higher power, he questioned the "powers that be" at a time like this. The irony was lost on him. All he could see was the cold, hard facts. He had failed. He had failed, and because of that, his daughter was dead and his wife was enduring Merlin only knows what kind of torture, and he hated it. He hated Trey, he hated himself, and he hated Thomas Price for not telling him sooner he was in league with his daughter's alleged rapist.
But Price... "Evelyn?!" he called out despite knowing in his heart of hearts that she was dead, too. She would have answered when he'd called out for Evie, if she was alive. His mother-in-law, father-in-law, and daughter were dead. His wife was missing. He was only thankful his family hadn't agreed to go into hiding, too. But the fact was none of them should have been in hiding in the first place. He should have let Evie adhere to the terms of Trey's letter and not threatened to go see why the Ministry wanted him for questioning if she did.
Merlin, he'd been such a pig-headed fool. He should have anticipated this! Why had he been so stupid? How could he have so terribly miscalculated? He knew Death Eaters. He'd been undercover as one for a while years back. He should have known the bastard would have found a way, but killing his family? That he couldn't have foreseen. He'd thought he'd kill him then hold the children over her head to make her do as she was told. He never would have foreseen this--whatever this was. Whatever this was was torment, agony. Nothing he'd ever felt before even began to compare, and beneath it all was anger and dread. Dread of what his son would say or do when he told him he'd let them down, anger at the man who was the cause of this.
It felt like years had passed by in mere moments. Was this how it was going to be? Just emptiness around a house? No more hearing Lydia's giggling as he chased or tickled her? No more hearing Julian and Lydia arguing? No more hearing the kids play with him or each other or Evie? No more pet name or prank wars? Just an empty void for him and his son to wander in? He didn't know how he was going to be able to handle this. He had to find her. He had to get her back. But how? The man, no, heartless monster, wouldn't parade around with her on his arm or hide her somewhere obvious. He would keep her locked away so she wouldn't run, and oh, he hoped she ran the moment she got the chance. Ran and never looked back. Yeah, he would search and search, but at least he'd know she was free from the monster who had raped her.
He wanted to hurt him, make it so a normal life and any sort of pleasure was impossible. Death was much too good for him after what he'd done. He'd killed his daughter, stole his wife, would have killed his son. He deserved torture, but Casey would settle to have his wife and leave England for good, ago somewhere off the map, enroll Julian in a new school, and go from there while mourning their youngest, but perhaps the birth of the twins would help somewhat. Doubtful. Lydia was gone and no one could or would replace her spot in his heart. It wasn't possible. His little girl was dead, and he had no one to blame but himself.
"Casey?" The sound of his cousin's voice followed by the sound of paper bags being set down caused Casey to look up and tense. "Evie?" followed a few moments later, and as he gripped his wand and stood, wiping his eyes, he contemplated going out to him and enlisting his help. Maybe he would watch Julian while he went after Evie, but in the end as he heard his cousin's exclamation, presumably at the sight of Thomas' dead body, Casey apparated out, figuring perhaps once Sam assessed the scene, he'd assume it had been the attacker escaping with Evie. Sam wouldn't have helped. He wouldn't understand; he'd have told him Evie was gone, that she'd be tortured and killed once the pig had had his fill of her. Casey refused to believe that. He wasn't giving up.
Appearing on the snowy hillside he'd left Julian on, alarm and panic took over. He spotted the bear portkey that should have brought Lydia with it, and he picked it up, but he didn't see a Julian. Where was he? Heart racing, the thirty-year-old looked around frantically before his eyes landed on footprints. Footprints...he could follow those. His legs carried him quickly in the direction the footprints headed. "Julian!" he called out and again a few moments later. After a good five minutes of running, Casey stopped out of breath, leaning over and grabbing his knees before standing straight and beginning to walk quickly with his hands and the bear atop his head.
Another ten minutes later and Casey was ready to give up and cry. Being overwhelmed wasn't helping his already honed "worst case" pattern of thinking. However, a sob of relief escaped him as he spotted Julian's body near a barren tree. He was sitting there and before Casey could even speak, Julian was up, and he was charging, and he was angry. "Where is she?!" he demanded from atop his father, glaring angrily down at him through tear-filled eyes as his wand dug into his father's neck. "Where's Lydia? You promised!"
Casey stared up at the boy, tears welling in his eyes, and Julian attempted to lift him and slam him against the ground but failed as Casey made himself heavy. "She's dead," he told him, his voice barely above a whisper and holding an air of disbelief. "I didn't get there in time. He...killed her and took your mum."
"I tried everything, Jules. I swear I did."
"I couldn't get there in time! I tried, Julian. I tried!" It was clear that that wasn't going to get his son off him. He was still glaring down at him with his hand gripping his shirt and his wand still pointed at him. "Jules, you need to get off me; Lydia and mum wouldn't wan--"
"How do you know what they'd want?! You were too self-ab--"
"Depressed, Jules. And you weren't too into visiting us either. I'd know better than you."
"What about Kara? I saw you with her."
"I was helping her."
"You should have been helping mum with Lydia."
"We all make mistakes, Julian."
"Yeah, like making us come to the stupid safe house in the first place."
"He's a Death Eater, son," Casey said as calmly as he could, but the strain from holding back tears was evident in his voice. His son's words stung and weren't helping. "He can't be trusted. Your mum and I agreed on what we thought was best for you kids. The way Thomas was recruited...it was before we even got the letter. He was planning on taking us out despite his promises in the letter. Empty, all of them. It would have ended pretty close to the same, maybe worse."
"You don't know that!"
"It's the most likely scenario given the facts provided." What a time to show off part of the reason why he'd been sorted into Ravenclaw, but he had to say something, didn't he? Something that perhaps would shut Julian up. Then, maybe he could curb the guilt because his son was unable to defeat his logic. Unlikely that it would work, considering his son was only twelve, so he'd calculate that into the equation, but oh well. Self blame seemed to be his specialty.
"Stop trying to hide behind textbook answers, dad. Merlin! It's all you ever do!"
"You know that's not true."
Julian laughed dryly. "Yeah, right. It's your way of getting your way."
Casey rose his brow and chuckled dryly despite himself. "You're just angry you can't refute it."
"No, I'm furious you let all this happen."
"It likely still would have happened, son."
"You don't know that!"
"I don't know that the events would have happened exactly the same. They could have been better; they could have been worse. But they still would have happened."
Julian rolled his eyes and let go of his dad, getting off him. He wanted to kill him, but maybe now wasn't the best time. "We have to go tell the others. They'll help us find mum."
"What good will it do, Julian?" Casey asked, standing and brushing the snow off his back as best he could. "No one knows where he lives except Evie, and that's only if he never moved after he escaped Azkaban. Your mum only briefly mentioned woods...middle of nowhere, but that could be numerous places, and it's possible he's got some sort of charm on it that even if we found it..." He paused, not really able to think of where he was going with that. "Besides, we have an advantage the others wouldn't if we tell them. We're dead. We can look all we want and have the element of surprise. They won't believe their eyes if they see either of us. We can blend into a crowd. I'll teach you techniques for that. If the others look, he'll know and just take her further away from us to a country we're not familiar with. We have to use this advantage, son. We have to stay dead."
Julian sighed, obviously either not convinced or alright with the plan, but after a few moments that felt like eternity to Casey, the boy gave his consent. "Alright. I'll trust you." It wasn't like he had a choice anyway; his dad would do it anyway and it wasn't like he could apparate away to tell them if he wanted to.
"Thank you, Jules," Casey said, sounding somewhat relieved.
It was an odd sensation watching one's self be buried. Of course, Casey knew it wasn't actually he who was being buried. No, it was far from it, but the others seemed not to have determined that like they had the rag doll version of Julian. There was, naturally, a reason for that. He'd assumed that Trey would spend very little time with the kids, and if he discovered anyone wasn't who he seemed, it would be his body because of the fact that he and Thomas had figured that Evie would be his main target. Well, they knew, actually, but that was beside the point.
Casey had returned with Julian for the sole purpose of retrieving a few things, figuring that the Order wouldn't be here, but they were. It was perhaps only a fair handful of the members who attended, but it was nice to know that he and Lydia were loved. It was as they began to lower Lydia's casket into the ground that Julian attempted to bolt out into the open, but his father caught him, using a silencing spell so that he couldn't scream out that he was there. The boy gave up the struggle fairly quickly once he realized he couldn't speak. They needed to stay "dead." It was the only way anything could work. Of course, he was at a loss where to begin to search for Evie. It wasn't as though she could have left "bread crumbs." Naturally, Trey had apparated with her.
He sighed quietly as he listened to Fred's voice begin to sound. Never had he heard him sound so somber and serious or seen his face so sad. It was difficult to hear him since he was keeping his voice low and quiet, undoubtedly to keep his voice steady. What he wouldn't give for one of the twins' extendable ears. "I never thought I'd see this day. I thought these two would outlast every one of us as stubborn as they were." There was a quiet, uncertain laugh at this. "But now it's happened, and I have no idea what to do. I thought he'd always protect her. I thought he'd always be able to stop the bastard, but no. He was dead in bed. Didn't even wake up. But no, Casey was a good man. He was good to our Evie, made her glow like no other. They had two wonderful children, but now they only have one who's God-knows-where."
He paused, and Casey could see the air leave him as his chest collapsed. "Maybe she's alive. Maybe she was able to take Jules and run, y'know? Bloody hell, this is hard." George placed a hand on his twin's shoulder, and Casey took hold of Julian, whispering for him to be careful not to make any noise as he headed off towards the house, slipping inside and making his way to his and Evie's bedroom. He let go of Julian as he went into the walk-in closet and to the unpacked boxes. He grabbed a suitcase as he doubted anyone would know how many suitcases they had and opened it, quickly going to the boxes and taking out things like their marriage license, wedding pictures, baby pictures, birthday pictures, and other such items. He also took her engagement ring. He made sure the boxes looked untouched and that it wasn't evident anything was missing before zipping closed the suitcase and grabbing his son, apparating away.