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Delilah Gorse

Now there's no voice, choice, or any road back

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Delilah Gorse

Morning had dawned gorse-yellow through Delilah’s window, filtering sun through garden petals and turning her white sheets to watercolor.

 

It was not often that full moon mornings made her glad, but Delilah felt rather peaceful as she stretched, made tea, and sat down at the small table in her small kitchen to write a letter to one of her penpals. A second cup of tea accompanied her to the end of the task. She stretched again, dressed, and, smiling softly to herself for no conceivable reason other than the good weather and the serene morning, set off to have the envelope mailed.

 

Werewolves on the reserve participating in the SNARLL program had their letters scrutinized at the Director’s cottage: a short walk from Delilah’s both by happenstance and of great convenience, as the young woman had multiple penpals and so wrote numerous letters. She also helped the Director, with semi-frequency, with vetting other werewolves’ missives before they went out.

 

The path to the cottage was unfamiliar for only one reason: no longer did Clifford Benbow, a sweet man very dear to Delilah, run SNARLL. Thaddeus Roseclaw held that responsibility now, and while Delilah stood loyal to Taith Coch through thick and thin, mild and wild, the man was abundantly…different from Clifford.

 

But none of these thoughts crossed Delilah’s mind that morning: the sea breeze was extra salty and the wind kicking up the cliff-clinging grasses and weeds caught her hair, tousling it around like the vines and branches and boughs in her garden. Delilah smiled, closing her eyes and clutching the letter (a particulatly good one, by her standards), hearing the waves causing a ruckus against the rocks some ways off.

 

The walk was short – a constitutional, really – but Delilah savored the minutes greatly. The cottage was small and white, with a red door that had a wolf’s head knocker and a round knob, both badly tarnished by the sea air.

 

She knocked. Waited. Knocked again. And once more…

 

No answer.

 

It was not irregular for Clifford to be out: he was more often found among the pack, chatting and chortling, being of use. For Roseclaw to be absent was rather odder: in recent months Delilah had always found him at the desk in his office, poring over articles and papers. It was admirable, she supposed, scholarly…but only to a certain extent: shouldn’t the man in charge of connecting wizards with werewolves be a little more connected himself? Try to forge bonds with his charges?

 

But that was neither here nor there.

 

Delilah hesitated. She wanted the letter mailed that day, and while Clifford had always insisted she pop in whenever she felt the urge, Roseclaw had never said any such thing. He could hardly be mad, though, could he, if she entered quickly, just to leave the letter? She was something of an assistant, after all, and trust in her had surely passed down to Roseclaw from Benbow?

 

She tried the knob.

 

Unlocked.

 

Still feeling uneasy, Delilah stepped inside.

 

“Hello?”

 

Everything was lit with the same buttery yellow sunlight she woke up to in her own cottage. It was warm, and some of the windows creaked in their frames as the relentless wind battered against them.

 

“Mr Roseclaw?”

 

The office was on the right, its door ajar. The desk was covered in documents and papers; there was no clear place to leave an outgoing letter that would ensure its discovery. Sighing, the young woman stepped into the office and began delicately shifting papers to make a space. Then –

 

BANG.

 

Delilah whipped around, startled to identify the sound as magical. Very little magic was used on the island, and none of it combative. But this definitely sounded violent: a burst, an explosion. Again the sound came, and Delilah caught a flash of purple light out the window, and –

 

Screaming.

 

She froze, then thawed and let her wand slide from its place in her sleeve. Delilah disliked confrontation, but her position as Mother Hen on Bardsey Island kept her on the defensive at all times, so her next step was towards the front door –

 

– which flew open before she could reach it, two figures sprawling through it before one of them slammed it shut again.

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Gwynthr Hughes

Gwyn had been in the midst of helping Maya get her things together for her run before the moon rose when the cracks came. Less help, he'd thought, because Wylan was doing that, but Gwyn had posted himself outside his friend's door, wearing a tread of anxiety and guilt in her mat - which he'd gotten for her, he'd noted absently - and so had been in the perfect position for his sensitive hearing and nose to pick up the noise and whiff of strangers.

 

For once, Gwyn thanked the harbinger moon; he liked to think its onset allowed him to sense better than when it was in its wane. The fine hairs at the back of his neck rose like hackles and that was all the foreboding he needed to understand that Maya and Wylan were going nowhere but to hide. 

 

"What--" Wylan turned about, and catching Gwyn's look grabbed at Maya's elbow. She snarled at him and whipped about, annoyed at being interrupted, but the she froze.

 

"No," she whispered, frowning in a way that made her appear more disappointed than shocked. She sensed the wrongness in the air as well. It took mere moments for the three of them to hustle everything together and out the door. Then it was a mad dash for safety. Thaddeus had fail-safes for circumstances such as this and so the wolves rallied. The tight look on Maya's face as she ran pained Gwyn; he knew what this interruption cost her, but secretly he was glad that she and Wylan would stay a little longer.

 

The cottage was within sight when his hopeful thoughts were further cast asunder by the scent of magic on the air. Too close, he thought, stunned and cast a look over his shoulder, but didn't see anything of what he'd expected. He plowed on instead, thundering with the others through the door and wheeling with the others through its corridors until they'd gotten to the office.

 

"He'd better have a way off this damn island," Maya growled, reaching for the knob. A blast outside startled all of them and Gwyn pushed against her just as she managed to get the door open. The pair of them toppled through, Gwyn managing to catch himself before he quashed his friend. Wylan, several steps behind, stepped over them into the room looking white and shaken. 

 

Standing up, Gwyn found Delilah's wand in his face first and then the rest of her. 

"Strangers on the island," he blurted. "We didn't stop to figure out who, exactly."

"I'm going to kill them," Maya muttered under her breath, but she, too, looked rattled under her mask of anger.

 

I'll stand by the door - more of us are coming, Wylan suggested. He, like his companions, had his wand out. 

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Ryker Leigh

Ryker Leigh had but one penpal that had managed to pursue contact with him in his short time of only four months on the reserve, a responsibility thrust into his reluctant hands just a week after his and @Dorothy Harness's arrival.  He remembered the afternoon well.  He had nodded and assumed the task graciously in the presence of Thaddeus Roseclaw.  After all, who else would have offered both him and Dottie such a sprawling and mostly comfortable place to call home when they truly didn't deserve it.  What choice did he have?  But later on, when he'd slipped into the quarters he shared with Dottie, at least when the moon wasn't waging war on them, he'd let his real feelings spill out.  

 

Who would honestly want to talk to him? Especially about this?  Once, when his success on the pitch with the Arrows was shining before him he could have understood but now?  Pain, lost memories and chunks of time when the only thing he had to show for it was limbs wasted of all their energy from whatever he'd done the night before.  And guilt, so much guilt.  Living with the fact that his future was lost was something he could have handled but to drag Dorothy down too.  That night was one he would take back in an instant.  

 

The only thing he took regularly now was this blasted potion in the hopes of keeping the real torture of this disease at bay for one more night.  

 

"Shall we get this over with?" He held out a hand to Dorothy, intending to pull her to her feet from the chair she sat in with the books she still poured over daily trying, in vain, to find some other way out of this.   

 

They only made it metres down the corridor to the medical ward before the shouting hit Ryker's ears, fingers tightened their grip on hers and instead of continuing on the path they'd been treading he changed direction.  Soon, the concrete that had been under their feet was no more, traded for gravel and dirt and grass that passed quickly as his steps picked up.  He was probably dragging her faster then she could keep up, but instinct took over.  The nineteen year old had let her down once before, he wasn't going to do it again.   

 

Strange smells and sounds flooded his senses but there was one thing he focused on more.  Roseclaw's cottage was the safest place on the island, a fact he'd overhead once and never forgotten.  Brown eyes caught a flash of movement from inside as they approached.  He only dropped his grip on Dorothy’s hand when he reached the door, and that was only to beat his fist against it because the handle wouldn’t turn.  


“LET US IN!” He growled.  “It’s not safe out here!”

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Veronica Williams-Hughes

"Why don't you head back to camp with me?" J.J. asked her, the way he always did on every full moon day. And like every full moon day, Ronnie swung her trainers against the dock, ashed her cigarette on his bare feet, and said, very simply, "No."

 

She allowed the insufferable douchelord to try and persuade her for another thirty seconds, her blue eyes narrowing as she continued to watch the boats grow closer and wondering who could possibly be visiting the island, when the next Meat and Greet wasn't for another two weeks. "I still have to take my potion," she said absently, cutting him off mid-sentence.

 

"I know a potion you can take." Git.

 

"Who the bloody hell would be idiot enough to come here today?" She stood, watching as a couple of heads popped up towards the bow of the boats, and an eerie chill ran down her spine. She didn't believe in a sixth sense. Even after a decade, she hardly believed the situation on Bardsey in general. But she was certain of three things:

 

Those boats had just made it past the wards.

There were about a dozen human figures standing, watching her. Watching the Reserve.

And they all had their wands out.

 

"RUN!" she managed to scream, alerting the small handful of people nearby before a shower of sparks hit the sand not two feet from J.J.'s body, the explosion rocking them both and sending them sprawling. Within seconds the girl was back on her feet, more agile today than any other day of the month, breaking onto the grounds and shouting at anyone who would listen. "WE'RE UNDER ATTACK. SOMEONE FIND HANDLEY-MILLS AND—" Cracks echoed across the grounds, and more screaming erupted around her. "Son of a—" 

 

Chaos. Utter chaos, with people running and growling and whipping their bloody sticks out, and all Veronica would think was that she had to get out and somewhere safe where she wouldn't have to admit that her only weapons were her teeth and her fists. Delilah. Delilah would know what to do. Delilah, who had plans to go see Thaddeus today. Without a second thought, Ronnie turned and tried to make her way to the SNARRL Director's cottage, hoping beyond hope to be right, skirting to a stop in front of the door just in time to see Ryker banging his wrist against the door.

 

"For God's sake, Leigh, YOU ARE LITERALLY AN ANIMAL." She pushed the couple of pups aside and slammed herself bodily against the door, her inhuman strength channeling itself along with her adrenaline until the thing burst open. She quickly shoved Ryker and Dottie inside. "Move over, Wylan," she growled, shutting the door behind her, before whirling back around. She made eye contact with Delilah, and suddenly the words came pouring out of her. "Two boats, at least a dozen people on them, almost definitely more. All wizards, all hostile. Where's Roseclaw?" She tried to ignore the stitch in her side from running all this way. "Someone fix the bloody door!"

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Vesper Frey

She had been having a strange feeling all morning as though something was amiss and it wasn't just the fact that it was about to be full moon. There were no longer just the werewolves on the island. Presences and smells were different. Something was up. Vesper took her backpack, which to an outside observer would look like her only possession. But the backpack had an extendable charm on it and she could fit everything she needed into it, including a tent. She flicked her wand and folded up the tent that she had slept in and then looked around.

 

That was when she saw it. The sparks, others running towards her as she stood there, the screams.

 

And Vesper's only instinct then, her best instinct, was to run. She had a head start on others who had been at the beach and Vesper was light and fast and she moved through the island like it was second nature to her. She had spent a long time over the years exploring every inch of it so that she knew the routes, knew where she could turn to if she needed it.

 

She needed that right now.

 

Senses heightened, Vesper ran, her path zigzagging and occasionally doubling back so she could be sure that she was not being followed. She knew every inch of the island and knew there were only a few places that might work for a hiding spot or at least a place where she could be safe. And though she normally did not trust anyone, she felt like it was the only solution in the moment.

 

The cottage, Roseclaw's cottage. Vesper had only been there probably less than 3 times over the years. She had tried to avoid it all costs, but there were a couple of things that were just unavoidable.  Still, Vesper's ability to keep a low profile meant that she had not attracted unwarranted attention. Vesper's path moved towards there and within a matter of minutes, she was there. Once there, she saw that she was not alone. Silently cursing at the fact, she hesitated wondering if she should go somewhere else. But there was nowhere else to go. She could not go back to the beach. Even if she had managed to slip by and steal a boat, well, the chances of that were slim to none. She would never survive.

 

So when Vesper saw someone force the door open, she used the opportunity to slip in quietly inside.

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Dorothy Harness

Dorothy’s breathing was steady as she read in the squishy armchair in Ryker’s and her living quarters. It was easy when she was surrounded by books. She could pretend better this way. Pretend that none of this had ever happened and that she wasn’t trapped on this island for the rest of forever with Ryker. Ryker, who had been so amazing at Quidditch. Who had tried to protect her when they were attacked. Who would continue trying to protect her until-

 

What, exactly?

 

She shook her head and looked up at her boyfriend, without whom she would surely have already gone crazy in the previous four months at the Reserve. While she was forever grateful to Mr. Roseclaw for the safety they were offered on the island, Dottie couldn’t help but wonder if there was another way. Maybe a better version of wolfsbane had yet to be discovered, one that could stop the transformations entirely and allow the werewolves the opportunity to live a more normal life. They had called it wishful thinking when she spoke of it, but Ryker tolerated it regardless.

 

It was time to take their potion, however, and Dottie let Ryker pull her out of her spot by the window and away from the patch of sunlight she so enjoyed resting in, especially on days like this. Full moon days. She felt her worst hours before transforming, most werewolves did, and Dottie - who had always preferred cats - finally understood what it was that drew animals to warm, sunny spots.

 

Together they made their way toward the medical ward, but before they could get far there were shouts. BANGS. The scent of magic on the air, the sizzle of spells in the air… Dottie’s senses detected it all much more acutely than she ever had before. Almost immediately Ryker lead Dottie away from their original path, the change in jarring her heightened senses. Faster and faster they moved, the redhead dragging behind and panting as she tried to keep up with her much more physically fit boyfriend. “Ryker… I can’t-“

 

She needed to stop. To breathe. But that wasn’t an option as the screams and bangs continued to pursue them across the island. She had no clue where he was leading her, not until they arrived. Roseclaw’s cottage. Then there were more yells, closer and in Ryker’s voice, then she was pushed through a doorway.

 

Struggling for breath, Dottie stumbled forward and slipped out her wand. Whatever safety they had here was illusory at best. Some part of her had always known it, but it was undeniable now. “Guys, what’s going on? How are we going to get out of here?”

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Lola Waldhar

The dawn of the full moon was, in Lola's opinion, the most exhausting. Sleep did not come easy when she knew what would come later, and she'd found herself pacing the island to pass the hours every month until she could wake up Olive to begin their day. Her niece preferred to oversleep in preparation; Lola was not one to deny her that, of all things. 

 

As she walked, she worried. There was an uneasiness to the island that Lola felt in the very stones that made it up—something unfamiliar, something not quite right in the air. As the sun finally began to rise and wash the island in gold, the feeling picked at her heels. It was early, still, but she could sit with Olive until she woke. Though she couldn't place why she felt so much more harried, she knew comfort could be found in her little pack. Maybe she'd even go to Delilah for a moment, just to ease her fraying nerves. 

 

After all, it was the day of the full moon. Nothing ever felt quite right then and nothing was ever actually amiss here, she reminded herself with a scoff.

 

She forced herself to finish her routine. She nodded, amicable enough, to the residents she passed. She refused to run from something she could not see, even if she cut out a mile from her trek to return to her and Olive's quarters just a touch earlier. She could almost see the top of their cottage when the other shoe dropped.

 

It was expected that something like this was inevitable. Lola had always kept the reserve at arm's length, too wary in her well-built distrust to find home on the island, but Olive felt safe. Lola felt safe, enough. But, safety brought weakness. Lola knew this, Lola preached this, and she'd still fallen victim to it. 

 

There were screams from every direction, bangs and crashes in harmony. Lola was overwhelmed. Her eyes darted from each new noise as she tried to process what was happening. Danger, danger, danger. Either no one had reached their little area, yet, set away from the bulk of the others as it was, or whatever was happening had already been through. Danger, danger, danger.

 

Olive.

 

Lola snapped out of her desperate attempt to understand and dashed the last distance to Olive's side but—their door was hanging open and no one was inside. Heart dropped to her feet, Lola scanned through the small rooms within, screaming for Olive to emerge. Olive was not there. Olive was gone. Lola had left her and Olive was gone

 

Please remember, Lola chanted to herself, a mantra that kept her sane as she tore off for Roseclaw's office—though Lola disliked him significantly more than she'd disliked Benbow, Olive spent her free time there working on letters for her countless (human) pen-pals, and her comfort made the cottage the base of their contingency plans. Olive knew to go there first if they got separated, but she'd never been tested on it with such high-stakes.

 

There were no signs of Olive along the path, just bits of chaos and damage, wounds ripped into the island and into the residents. Her desperation grew; there were others in the office, but she couldn't smell Olive among them. The door was fractured and easy to shove through despite the crowd that had gathered within.

 

"Is she here?" Wild-eyed, Lola stalked the length of the office, ignorant of the mood and inhabitants. This was not her pack, and not her problem. "Damn it all—" She wasn't there either. The implications were too much; Lola would rather not face them. Instead, she turned on her heel and made to leave as abruptly as she came, only to find herself blocked by the bodies that were shuffling the space.

 

"Move." The moon had yet to rise, but, at that moment, Lola was every bit the wolf that resided within. 

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Gwynthr Hughes

“We’re all trapped like hens in a coop,” Maya snapped, taking stock of the office and everyone cramped inside. It might have been spacious before, but with the wolves all trooped in, the air nearly toxic with tension, and wizards on the other side of the door, the four walls of refuge and more like a very large coffin.

 

“Have a care, Maya,” Gwyn chided softly, meaningfully nodding his big blond head towards the younger wolves. Maya cast him a withering glare that he didn’t really deserve. Her plans to run before the moon had come up were botched; she would have been on her way within the hour. Now she was trapped – literally trapped – more than the broad confines of the Reserve had ever made her feel. It made her irritable. Underneath that, however, she felt the cold tingle of fear.

 

Stomping through the room, she cast about, carelessly flipping through the papers on Thaddeus’s desk. “He’s got to have defences against things like this,” she muttered, throwing the parchment aside. She didn’t even know what she was looking for, and more importantly, “Where IS our fearless leader?” Hands on hips, she whirled about, as if expecting Thaddeus Roseclaw to appear magical in their midst. “Abandoned us, did he? Bet he knew – bet he –”

 

Her contributions did not help the other wolves, Gwyn noted helplessly.

 

“Maya’s right about one thing – Thaddeus Roseclaw must have defenses and wards in place against attack,” he reasoned, sounding far more calm than he’d felt just then. Because they were under attack… and his friend’s insidious mutterings had taken root. “That we’re under attack is obvious,” he nodded—

 

“But why?” Wylan piped in, likely echoing the thoughts of most everyone in the room. He’d barely moved from his post by the door. More dire at the moment, however, was Lola’s question. Gwyn and Maya cast about, but the younger wolf’s companion was not among them. Gwyn sucked in his breath; everyone had rushed into the office with varying reports of the attack and there weren’t more wolves barreling down the corridor for sanctuary… Even Maya bit her lip against what that could possibly mean.

 

“We can’t jump to conclusions,” Gwyn said, marching over the grab Lola by the arm, but at the last moment letting his large palm hover over her shoulder. “She must be hiding somewhere and we can’t lose anyone in this room. Lola, you have to—”

 

“I’ll go,” Wylan quietly suggested.

 

Maya barked a sound of protest and Gwyn stared at the younger man, who continue before anyone could voice a proper argument and convince him otherwise.

 

“You’re right, we can lose anyone, but neither can we leave anyone behind, especially not tonight. I’ll go, Lola,” he gave her a small smile. “I’ll find her. The rest of you had better find us a way out of here.” Before anyone can stop him, Wylan slipped out the door, wand clenched tightly in his hand. Gwyn hoped this wasn’t the last time they saw him.

 

“He’ll find her,” Gwyn assured her. “He’ll—”

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Delilah Gorse

Delilah’s morning had been flayed, its skin peeled off to reveal the wet muscle and blood of reality: Bardsey Island had unscheduled visitors, and of the most unwelcome kind. To think back at the two blushing, happy hours she’d woken up to made something in Delilah’s stomach curdle. Why had she felt so the day felt so promising when really it was ominous? Had everyone else aside from her awoken with lead in their bellies?

 

Gwyn’s announcement of invaders was succinct, and Ronnie’s confirmation that they were wizards meaning harm had Delilah nodding slowly. Her mind was moving very fast, spinning top-like, garnering plans rather than panic.

 

Then Lola arrived…alone. Without Olive.

 

She felt her veins fill with fresh blood, extra hot, like freezing hands brought into warmth too quickly.

 

She opened her mouth to apologize – no, Olive was not there; Olive, who was perhaps the second-most prolific penpal on the reserve; Olive, who made Delilah smile and reminded her of her younger sisters – but before the words could flutter out, Wylan was volunteering to go out in search of her. Delilah did not try, even a little, to hold him back: she knew Lola would destroy herself to protect her niece and wanted her safe, here.

 

With Wylan out and away, Delilah spun towards the door, which was swinging brokenly on its hinges, letting in traitorous sunlight and harsh gusts of wind that blew Roseclaw’s papers in tornados around the office.

 

Drawing her wand, she chanted, lowly, “Reparo.”

 

The door reset onto its hinges, sturdy and blood red, unsplintered, and, without bothering doing the lock or the latch, the young woman began casting spells over it: protective wards, heaviness charms, triple locking spells. Fatigue set in quickly: all the cautions taken had about emptied her of magic. It was more spellwork than she usually cast in a week.

 

That done, Delilah drained, she made a suggestion: “Anyone with a wand: seal and ward the windows and the back door.” They were trapped here for the time being, holed up like mice in a cage, so they might as well make it an impenetrable cage. Unless…

 

“The fireplace,” she said, turning to Lola, hoping to divert her attention away from Olive. “Check if Roseclaw has Floo powder. Enough for all of us.”

 

Then she faced Ronnie, who was wincing for breath. “He should be here this time of day,” Delilah said slowly. “It’s when I always come by to drop letters, every week.”

 

The sky outside beckoned bright blue.

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Ryker Leigh

Air rushed out of him as another body collided with his.  It wasn't Dorothy, he would know.  Stumbling to the side and catching sight of Ronnie ramming her whole body against the door, Ryker glowered in her direction.  Red hot anger rushed through his veins provoked by the physical force used against him and Dottie mostly and the insult hurled his way.  The surge stalled him just long enough to be completely useless in being of any help in getting the door open but he struggled only briefly against the next shove that took the whole group of them inside of the cottage and into the office.   

 

He could have done that, was the thought on his mind especially after turning around to see the door swinging half off it's hinges while another resident of the reserve, Lola, burst inside in a panic.  He could smell her desperation and he stepped closer to Dorothy, linking his arm around her neck and dropping his forehead into the fiery hair at her temple.  He could block out the noise and the anxiety that lit up the room, at least for a second or two.  

 

The hair on the back of his neck rose when he heard Lola utter the word 'move' so menacing.  But beyond that he heard no sound of whoever had stepped in her path, making intention to get out of the way.  This wasn't his battle, and he wouldn't volunteer but he listened intently for the resolution and what would come next.  The door clicked shut more solidly and he heard a spell uttered after Wylan departed.  

 

It felt harder to breathe all of a sudden, the reality of how imprisoned they'd become in their own home setting in.  Of course they had to get out, but first they had to stop whoever was out there from getting in.  Drawing his wand, he stepped away from Dorothy and nodded at Delilah.  She, more than anyone, had earned that much respect out of him and the idea wasn't a bad one.  

 

Bending down, Ryker shuffled together a stack of papers that had blown off the desk and held them out towards Dorothy as he walked towards the window and lifted his wand.  His magic was well beyond rusty after months on this island without being pushed but he still thought he could remember something from defense class.  He wished he had paid more attention now but he never thought he'd have to defend himself against wizards in quite this way.   

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Dorothy Harness

It took a moment, but finally Dottie regained her ability to breathe as more werewolves joined them in the office in Roseclaw’s cottage. She was certain this was largely due to the sense of peace she felt from Ryker’s presence as he leaned against her. She put her face against his shoulder in response, but continued to pay attention to those around them. “We’re going to make it out of this,” she whispered, determination gritting her against the fight they were potentially facing. “I swear, we will find a way.”

 

Lola’s niece was missing and it was all Dottie could do not to take off looking for her. She’d seen them around in the previous few months, though she largely kept to herself since coming to the Reserve, and knew that the younger girl was Lola’s entire world. Ryker would have killed her if she’d tried to leave, though, given that he was doing all he could to protect Dottie from this latest threat to their existence, and she breathed a sigh of relief when one guy… Wayne? No, Wylan, went to try to find Olive.

 

With any luck, he’d be back very, very soon with the younger girl in tow, but in the mean time they still had a huge problem on their hands. Dorothy nodded as Ryker pulled away to help, her high ponytail bobbing along on the back of her head, as Delilah sealed up the newly repaired door and then started setting wards on it. While Dorothy was dressed rather impractically for sprinting around the reserve - 5” high heels were never the proper shoes for a cross country marathon, no matter how much practice one had running in them - this was something she could easily assist with.

 

She walked over to the back door and smoothed out her black-and-white polka dotted dress, then raised her wand. Dorothy still did a decent amount of magic since coming to the Reserve, all things considered, though it was mostly cleaning charms and the like. Dottie, ever the perfect 1950s housewife, even at the tender age of 19, kept a very clean house and she saw no reason for that to change even as a werewolf. She’d cast a couple extra wards on their living quarters, too, when they’d first arrived, but they were minor things and it had been months since she’d done it.

 

Just as she was about to cast Muffliato on the door, Ryker handed her a stack of papers. Under even semi-ordinary circumstances she would have been thrilled with the distraction. Something to read. That she could handle, since physical strength and fighting were far from being her strong points outside of wolf form. Right then, however, she was too distracted. She needed to do something with her hands rather than her brain. It was bizarre for her, given that not even twenty minutes before she’d been reading about the inventor of Wolfsbane and the process he had used to discover the potion, but she couldn’t read. Not right now.

 

Rifling through the papers before handing them off to Gwyn, a torn and worn out sheet caught her eye. She didn’t know why, but she felt compelled to keep it for after she warded the door. Slipping that one into her pocket - she’d have been crazy not to wear a dress with pockets - Dottie turned to Gwyn. “Do you want to have a look at these? I can’t focus on reading right now. Not with all that noise outside.”

 

Because it was slowly starting to get closer.

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Lola Waldhar

We can't lose anyone in this room. What made the rest of them so special? They were—all of them, Lola included—just a bunch of monsters. Olive wasn't; Olive was too kind for her own good, and innocent, and brave, and good. If they couldn't lose anyone in the room, they needed to collect those who deserved preservation and bring them in.

 

Lola was frozen beneath Gwyn's hovering hand, halfway to snapping it clean off, her panic momentarily stolen by Wylan. Wylan. The fear within her flashed hot, then burnt down, enough for her to accept the sacrifice of safety he was willing to give with a short nod and a shorter thanks. She wanted to pull him close, wanted to explain to him the weight of his choices and the expectation that would drag around both of their waists until he returned, but—for now, she accepted.

 

She did not want to think if Wylan's exit into the fray would find his demise, or if a too should follow that thought. She did not want to consider the too. Instead, she took Delilah's offer of distraction and clung to it with both trembling hands.

 

It was all an exercise of compartmentalization: first, the situation. An attack, clearly, led by magic. Roseclaw, missing from his office when he should have been here. Long-held Suspicion tutted at those implications and Lola was inclined to agree.

 

“Awfully convenient of him to be MIA when all hell breaks loose, isn't it?” The accusation felt satisfying to voice, one less edge to work off.

 

Then: the search. Lola had never, herself, been inside this office; even with Benbow, she'd preferred to keep her distance and would hover outside until Olive finished her work. Olive had given her enough, small observations like the haphazard papers that would stack up or the discolorations in the carpeting. She'd mentioned a curious bottle of gray sand that would teleport to different areas of the room each time she visited—pointless, at the time, but perhaps the clue Lola needed.

 

“It's a sodding mess in here,” she muttered. There were papers strewn about and magic burning the air and how was she supposed to find anything with all of these bodies in the way. But, there; in a nook next to the fireplace, pushed into the shadows, was a curious bottle with soot residue climbing the sides. Lola leaned low to scoop it up, held it to the light to squint at the contents. “Useless.” All that remained of the gray sand could be wiped up with the tip of her finger, not even enough to floo to a fireplace one room over.

 

Growling, she tossed the bottle at Delilah's feet. “Do you think he planned for this, or is our luck really that bad?”

 

There was an explosion outside, close enough that the windows rattled in their frames and—and, you know? Actually? Forget this.

 

Locking themselves inside wasn't going to do anything, not when it seemed as though God himself had orchestrated it so that they'd be trapped. If she was going to go down, she'd be going down out there, where there was at least a chance. (And a chance to be with her pack, whole.) (Even if it meant ignorance for a companion's sacrifice.) For all the wards that were being cast, the back door was nearly untouched and would make Lola's escape. She slipped, quiet in the chaos of shuffling papers and questions without answer, past Delilah's waning strength, past Dorothy's ridiculous shoes, to possibly her last chance at freedom.

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Veronica Williams-Hughes

Chaos ensued within seconds of her arrival, Delilah mercifully taking charge in all the practical ways while the older Scandinavian wolves did...whatever the hell they liked to do. Her heart was pounding from the adrenaline, from the mad sprint she'd just completed, from the fact that only one other member of her pack was here. Where were the others? Where were they?

 

As if on cue, Lola burst into the cottage—alone. Ronnie felt like she had swallowed a lemon, but she didn't stop her packmate from going crazy for a while. Olive, the textbook definition of too good for this world, shouldn't have been out in that mess of magic and mayhem alone. No one should.

 

Ronnie tried not to blame Lola for it.

 

She turned her attention to Delilah, but whatever words were falling from the older woman's lips were failing to hit home. "Where is he?" she growled one more time, hearing the echoes from her fellow wolves wondering the same thing as she began to prowl the shelves up against the wall, lifting books as though they would reveal a secret doorway, or a tunnel they could use to escape. And they had to escape. One look out of the window, out of habit, to ensure that the sun was still out and that they still had time to do so, before they'd be at each other's throats. Literally. This many packs in one place, without their wolfsbane sent a chill down her spine.

 

A loud BANG startled her out of her own mind, and when Ronnie whirled around she caught a glimpse of Lola slinking towards the back door. If she were in her right mind, she would have realized how moronic that was. She would have smelled the awful human creeping precious meters away from them, likely ready to kill them.

 

Veronica did not own a wand, so she used the next best thing: brute force. Again.

 

"No you don't," Ronnie growled, grabbing Lola be the wrist and drawing her back into the room. Anticipating the girl's hostility she reached for her other wrist, just as a loud banging hit against the door. "Someone's spotted us!" she shouted at the others, wrestling Lola until she managed to slam her bodily against the nearest set of shelves, books crashing down around them. "Olive will be fine," she enunciated through gritted teeth. "Look at me, Lola. Olive is fine." The lie burned a hole in her chest, but she did not dare let go, her hackles rising as she stared the girl down, willing her to calm down, wielding her dominance in their pack for the good of the woman before her. Another struggle and Ronnie cracked her back against the shelves, and another flurry of decorations rained down on their heads, a particularly striking decanter narrowly missing the girls and rolling to a stop when it hit the edge of the carpet.

 

Eight sets of wolfish eyes turned to look at the gift of contingency wolfsbane Thaddeus Roseclaw had somehow known to leave behind for them. A mercy, Ronnie thought, slightly loosening her hold on Lola and taking an involuntary step toward the potion when a shriek stopped her in her tracks.

 

"DON'T TOUCH IT."

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Dorothy Harness

BANG!

 

Dottie about jumped through the ceiling of the cottage as the echoes reverberated off the walls and trees near the cottage. The attackers seemed to have sped up their approach and before she knew it Lola was being restrained from bolting out of the office. Dottie flicked her wand at the door as Ronnie got her sort of under control. “Colloportus. Muffliato.

 

The last thing they needed was for anybody outside to hear them if they found a means of escaping.

 

The walls of the cottage began shaking as the attacking witches and wizards got close enough to try to shoot down their scant defenses and as much as Dottie wanted to curl up in a ball and scream until it was over, she couldn’t. As if being forced to transform into a wolf with the full moon wasn’t enough. As if being trapped on an island for the safety of all mankind wasn’t. enough. Now this? Any day now she’d be reaching the threshold of the maximum nope that she could handle and the only reason she was handling it now was for Ryker.

 

Dottie raced around the office and cast muffliato several more times, figuring she may as well cover their bases while everybody else dealt with the other issues. It wasn’t until after an additional struggle between Lola and Ronnie and a series of crashing noises that Dottie stopped. For a second, she figured she could look at the scrap of paper she’d rescued from the pile. One word in particular jumped out to her immediately and just on time, as she looked up at the exact same moment everybody else eyed the decanter of wolfsbane. 

 

Dottie’s hair stood on end as Ronnie moved toward it and before she knew what she was saying the redhead shrieked “DON’T TOUCH IT!”

 

Ronnie froze.

 

Everybody did. Dottie could feel eyes on her as she moved toward the decanter. The noises from outside the cabin had pretty much reached them, but for every single soul’s sake within that cabin, now was not the time to lose her focus. Tuning out the banging against the doors and the blasts against the walls and roof of the cottage, Dottie aimed her wand at the decanter, supposedly filled with wolfsbane. “Specialis revelio.”

 

Flashes of numerous ill-fated field trips from her Hogwarts years blitzed before her eyes as the decanter was revealed to be exactly what they needed. “A portkey. Guys. This is it. We can get out.”

 

BANG BANG BANG

 

Never mind where it was going. The doors wouldn’t last much longer. This was a do or die kind of moment. “We all need to touch it at the exact same time. I’ll count down from three, but hurry.”

 

BOOOOOOM

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Gwynthr Hughes

Things were falling apart at a much faster rate than Gwyn would have liked; was it really so simple for them to disintegrate without Thaddeus Roseclaw? Maybe they had grown complacent in the Reserve, just like Maya had preached. But of all times when they should have stood together... No, he thought. We aren't so bad yet. They were still together and every one of them wanted to live, more than anything. He cast  a long look at the re-made door: Wylan's will to survive had better keep him breathing. He was cleverer than almost anyone Gwyn knew...

 

"My thoughts exactly," Maya growled balefully to Lola's fearful question. "How convenient for him to be gone at a time like this! He's all but abandoned the place!" She slammed her palm against the wall to punctuate her frustration.

 

"That doesn't make sense," Gwyn frowned, absently blinking at Dorothy and the stack of papers she'd given him. He was always better with a task to put his hands to, and the papers would have ordinarily provided ample distraction, but he, like the younger wolf, found it difficult to get the words on the page to fall into the right places in his head. The noise from outside the cabin was growing - the wizards, whoever they were, were pressing the attack - and then Dorothy made her discovery. Everyone looked up at her shout. A Portkey? Maya gasped and Gwyn stared. "Something must have happened to him," he stammered, eyes drawn back to the pages - there was too much going on, "that caused him to..."

 

"To abandon us precisely when we needed him?" Maya finished for him, her tone dripping poison as she marched over to the Portkey. "Gone to get reinforcements, maybe? Such a fearless leader, he! Gwyn, you know I say this as your friend, but you have this terrible habit of believing the best in people... Let's get out of here. Gwyn? What is it?"

 

The older wolf was staring frozen at the papers in his hand, his mouth stuck in a half-formed word.

 

...declawing procedure proved a most interesting hypothesis: elements retracted in wolf form remain so once separated from the body, despite the passing phase of the moon... 

 

"What?" Gwyn murmured under his breath, immediately focusing.

 

The line Transformations of subjects with limited doses of Wolfsbane provided excellent behavioural study had a sentence written in a much smaller script to the side of it, spelling Underneath the temperance of the potion, we are all the same wild animal. The concoction had made the wolves dumb and docile, subjugating the inner and natural order of our being...

 

"He..." Gwyn flipped to the next page. On it were more notes on horrible experiments and studies, writing of wolves enduring pain and torture for apparently little cause than to sate curiosity. "He's practiced on wolves," he finally said, voice faint. "Surgery and analyses on..." Gwyn swore an oath and Maya tried to grab the papers from him. When he held on, she was forced to stand on tip-toe and read over his bicep. She snarled at what she saw. 

 

"The Reserve's a--" she started, but Gwyn overrode her. 

"Grab whatever papers you can, we need more. There has to be more. We need to get out. Now."

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Ryker Leigh

He was busy with a third window by the time he heard a palm slam viciously against a wall.  Sure, Ryker recognized the names they were all saying and the faces of the people now locked in this makeshift prison with him and Dottie but he hadn't gotten to know them.  He was only half focused on listening to the ranting and complaining about their host on the reserve and his sudden disappearance as he worked and he was in no mood to contribute, but a scream from Dorothy garnered his full attention absolutely.  

 

Don't touch what? 

 

A slam of Ronnie and Lola that he'd ignored against a shelf and the following smattering of objects off of it and onto the floor had everyone frozen and Ryker too, lowered his own wand and looked at Dorothy instead of the floor.  The guise of collecting more scattered papers across the ground was good enough at getting him closer to the faux wolfsbane on the floor, and within arms reach of Dorothy again.  But a hard crash against the door behind them tensed every muscle in his body.  If it was a portkey would it take them all to safety or just a mere few of them?  If the latter was the case he was going to make sure that they, or at the very least, she was one of the few.  

 

 

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Lola Waldhar

Escape was nigh; and then it was not.

 

Lola was shackled by rank more than she was by Ronnie's brute strength. It was by accident that she'd packed up with Ronnie and Delilah and, perhaps for the first time seriously, she was regretting allowing it to happen. (Oh, but Olive was besotted by Delilah and the rest of them came as a package deal and maybe Lola hadn't been so opposed to a makeshift family, even if she grumbled and growled.) The younger girl's words sat hollow in Lola's ears and she did not believe but dominance and denial were not the fight, not then.

 

Her body sagged in Ronnie's grip. It was a numbness that kept her from taking advantage again, when all eyes turned to the wolfsbane and craved. She should escape, she should escape, she should escape—and there was a way out, now, but not the way Lola could go.

 

A portkey could get the rest of them out. To—to wherever? To where? To what?

 

Gwyn's revelations from the scattered papers turned Lola's blood to slush. Practiced? Surgeries? Maya was seeing, Maya knew; what was Gwyn silencing her against? What was it that he saw on the papers that couldn't be shared?

 

“They call us the monsters,” Lola snorted, still managing prickling derision even with the enemy pressing in on all sides. They were scrambling again, charged atoms working towards a split. It was now, they had to get out now, they had to leave behind this office and its secrets and the encroaching attack and the palpable chill that settled in and there was too much for now. Lola had a wand but couldn't use it to freeze the seconds and what use was it then?

 

Desperate eyes scanned the room: Ryker and Dottie, whole, together; Gwyn and Maya, together, but fractured; Vesper, a ghost so secure in her solitude that she'd not even pinged on Lola's radar; and Delilah, and Ronnie, bits and pieces of a bigger picture that Lola couldn't leave behind. “I can't go.” She turned her pleading gaze to Ronnie. “I can't—” It wasn't just Olive—J.J. was out there too, and their pack had already taken a hit from Riley and—

 

Even if it was an End waiting out there, she couldn't turn away, just like that. “I can hold them back while you all get out of here. Please.”

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Gwynthr Hughes

There was no sense in inciting more panic, they were all scared enough as it was - even untouchable, prickly Maya, who usually masked her fear with copious amounts of anger and venom, had allowed for chinks of dismay to show in her countenance. She didn't demand to see the papers Gwyn still clutched, but instead started scouring the desk and floor for more, grabbing anything with handwriting on it. She traded a dark look with Lola.

 

"We have either been set up, my dear, or have been taken for fools. The sooner we leave this blighted place, the better. I don't intend to come back." 

 

Both she and Gwyn rounded on Lola at her words.

 

"You have to," Gwyn implored with a pained frown. "We can't--" he counldn't say 'lose you', but the way he'd caught himself might have been meaning enough. "We need you with us. Wylan - " It was was Maya's turn to interrupt him.

 

"Quiet, big boy, and let the women talk." She walked over to Lola and leaned to look her squarely in the eyes. "As much as I know you mean to do just as you say, no one's ever liked a martyr. Olive and the others are young and clever, and Wylan's gone out to get them. He'll guard them with his life if he needs to, so that you don't. Don't make his sacrifice for nothing by going out there as well. Who knows - maybe the ones who stay behind will get at Roseclaw before we do. What lucky pups." And with that, she gave her a viciously sharp grin.

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Delilah Gorse

An empty bottle; a full decanter. Delilah could carry neither in her exhausted arms, but their heft did not matter when their meaning alone bore so much weight.

 

“I…” The effort of barricading the cottage had her sinking, tired, unable to think. She crushed her eyes shut and clasped the edge of the desk to steady herself.

 

The respite was short-lived: a spell rocked the cottage, and then another, and one more. Painfully she envisioned hocks of stone shaving away from the cliffs outside, the terns taking flight from their nests in the hubbub, the puffins waddling off in silky panic.

 

Nothing of this day made sense, nothing added up: the very arithmetic of it was incorrect. Yet now a beaker of Wolfsbane – their saving grace – appears, doubling as an escape pod from Roseclaw’s cottage, absent of its proprietor, and being bombarded on all sides by hostility. Suddenly there was math, green check-marked and good to go, yet Delilah could not buy it.

 

“There has to be a different…” But no one was listening. All around her the building swayed: the magic she’d lost was like blood, leaving her light-headed and quiet. Everyone was panicked. They were swarming, arguing, gathering courage and fear and packets of papers, and Delilah hadn’t the energy to deny them their ruckus. Like a mother, inevitably so very tired of her brood when evening came.

 

The wizards were at the door now, their curses knocking like fists. Fleetingly, Delilah wished she’d gone to Helvellyn with Riley, at least to visit; wished she’d seen Titania one more time, her sweet friend Maisie; her sisters, her sisters

 

She pushed away from the desk, head a pool of white noise and unblood, and drifted bearer the Portkey.

 

Delilah Gorse, Alpha firm and Alpha keen, was giving in.

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Dorothy Harness

There isn’t time, Dottie thought as Gwyn instructed them to grab as many papers as they could. The yells were only a wall’s width away from them and screaming for their blood. As if they had chosen this for themselves. It was sickening to think about how society viewed her - a monster, untameable and ferocious - yet it was those same people who would demonize someone so quickly for a fate they did not choose. If it was monsters they were seeking, they needed only to look in the mirror.

 

Swallowing her growing sense of fear, both about the angry mob calling for blood and the knowledge that they were left to choose between those people outside and a portkey to an undisclosed location, Dottie looked about, eyes wide. There were a number scattered about her, so she quickly scooped up a bunch and then reached up to untie the red ribbon around her ponytail. Hurriedly she rolled the papers up together as neatly as she could manage with her shaking hands, then tied the ribbon around them and stuck them in her pocket.

 

Debris was being shaken loose from the cottage walls and ceiling and the doors were shaking violently from the spells and pounding against them. This was it. They had run out of time and options. “We have to go. NOW. We leave nobody behind.”

 

A cracking sound from the front door drew her attention for a brief second. The door wasn’t going to hold.

 

“GUYS. NOW. GET OVER HERE BECAUSE I’M COUNTING DOWN.” Dottie grabbed Ryker’s hand, knowing he’d sacrifice himself to ensure she left, and held on as tight as she could. “THREE…”

 

More cracking. The door was bowing and debris was falling more rapidly. Ornaments and books fell off the shelves.

 

“TWO…”

 

Dottie had never been so brave before in her life.

 

“ONE!”

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Vesper Frey

Chaos was swirling around her on both sides, yet Vesper remained calm as she stood in the corner surveying everything that was going on around her. She was watching everything carefully, watching the others with intrigued curiosity, but of course she was most fixated on a way that she could get out. If there was a way out. For all she knew their so-call leaders could have saved themselves and left everyone else to be the mercy of these intruders.

 

Then one of them saw it. The holiest of holy grails for her. DON’T TOUCH IT. Oh but how she wanted to touch it right then. It was calling her name, drawing her towards it. Almost reactionary, her arm started moving towards it even though at the moment, she was too far to reach it. A weird smile crossed her face as she did so, a mixture of something sinister and something that was more unreadable. Her dream, it was going to come true. She had a way out at last. A way off the island so that she could finally start moving towards her goal, the one that she had been working on for the better part of 20 years. Slowly, she started moving around the room so that she could position herself at the last possible second. She didn’t want to draw attention to herself until it was time for them to all leave. Her years at practicing her stealth tactics on the island so that this time she could finally get what she wanted were paying off. None of the others in the room had noticed her presence. She was truly invisible as she had always wanted to be.

 

Still barely breathing as she made her way slowly around Vesper suddenly froze when one of the papers that had been flying around landed at her foot. The slight sound it made as her foot pushed against it made her freeze, but then she realized that she had nothing to worry about. The chaos inside and out was what everyone in the room was paying attention to, not her.

 

And then she looked down.

 

The paper at her foot was not what she had been expecting at all. She had figured something boring, something completely ordinary. But yet, this one had a weird drawing on it. The figure was strange and Vesper felt uncomfortable. There was something about this place that was off, but she didn’t know quite what it meant. Until one of the others spoke. He’s practiced on wolves. The words sent shivers down Vesper’s spine and she knew that her feelings might be right.

 

But why? She was sick and twisted in many ways but not like this. Crouching down slowly, Vesper picked up the paper that had landed at her feet and carefully slid it into her backpack. Then she picked up a couple more as she continued to position herself.

 

As she did so though everything started coming down around them. She could feel the shaking, the cracking. The debris. And the sounds outside were only growing louder as someone closed in on them. Vesper herself was almost knocked against the wall, but she braced herself against the movement.

 

We have to go now. Vesper took a deep breath then as the adorable one started counting down and she angled her thin body as she prepared herself to reach out to the portkey.

 

Two.

 

It was time. At the last possible second, a spindly and very thin finger that belonged to one Vesper Frey reached out to touch just the very edge of the portkey at the last possible second.

 

One.

 

And then they vanished.

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