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Beyond Potter: The Last Battle - Last Resort
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.
User avatar
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.”
User avatar
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.”
User avatar
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
#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]
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