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Kay Wickham

Playin' dead I'll never do, gotta keep an eye on you

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Kay Wickham

Her search for Fran had turned up nothing but a coloured pencil—'powdered periwinkle', to be exact, which sounded less like a colour and more like a potions ingredient. Kay hoped that this meant he was long gone with his monster of a backpack instead of stuck here with the ones that bit.

 

Unfortunately, the thought itself wasn’t much comfort without confirmation. So she was back on the floor, crawling a path beneath one of the still-upright tables towards the double doors. It seemed like the best way to avoid drawing attention, and she figured that if her friend wasn’t in here, he must have made his way out there. Anything in-between was unthinkable.

 

Maybe when everything started happening he’d had a bad case of the danger poops—the gut clenches Kay had only experienced once or twice before when Rad has cast the Coward hex on her. If that was what real fear felt like, she was glad she wasn’t afraid right now, because this was an awfully long table, and her bad shoulder was making this slower goings than she'd like. Less of a crawl, more of a four-legged hobble. A crobble?

 

It had been deathly quiet in the Hall a moment ago, a funeral hush that had broken into another wave of shouting and spellcasting. Kay tried crobbling faster, but there was a new quiver in her muscles, as if the strain of the weight of guilt on her back was too much to bear.

 

Was she hiding down here? No, she argued, she was just trying to get to Fran and confirm his safety as soon as possible. But was it wrong to prioritize a friend? A real hero would be out there karate-chopping and moonsaulting off of tables to protect anyone, not just a single buoyant artiste of a boy.

 

Robin trusted her to find his cousin, though. There was only so much she could do as a level 3 character, and even some of the older kids and prefects were falling to those fangs. She had to focus on what little she could do—and just how little that was made her cheeks burn with frustration.

 

She was so focused on justifying her own stealth that she didn't notice the spill under the table until she slipped in it. Her good hand slipped out from under her, leaving a bright red streak behind it as she caught herself with her bad arm, the throb of pain punching a shudder down her spine. Kay breathed through it, brow furrowed, but jerked back when the smell of blood filled her nostrils, knocking her head on the underside of the table.

 

She wasn't sure whose it was, but the blood was on everything now—staining her hands and knees and smeared by her carelessness. It was like someone had been in a terrible accident, and for a moment Kay sat in it, staring at the way it red-lined her fingerprints and thinking that she needed to call the police and get her bent bicycle off the road cuz it was brand new--

 

Behind her, something had begun to huff and puff, and perhaps it was only a train of thought about to run her over—except then it growled, and Kay had to turn around and face another reality instead.

 

There was a werewolf under the table with her, so close that she could smell hunger on its breath. In an instant, everything Foster had ever taught her and everything she'd ever reviewed with Robin and Fran fell apart under the hammer of her heartbeat.

 

Kay dug her elbows in and dragged herself back, slow, the blood still warm where it soaked into her sleeves. Her wand was in her pocket—red oak—and that pencil was still tucked behind her ear—powdered periwinkle—and that was all the weapons she had on hand, colour-coded for no reason. Leaning back like this, there was no way she could attack with her fists quick enough—but she had legs! Two of them, by her last count. Several years of karate and kickboxing had taught her how to use them, but she'd never deployed them in an actual combat situation before.

 

Still, they were her best chance at keeping the creature at a distance while she tried to reach her wand with her good arm. So Kay lifted her knees up, trying to look as threatening as she possibly could while sprawled out like a turtle stuck on its shell.

 

She felt like she might vomit, so she couldn't scream. Screaming would probably make her sound like prey anyway. Instead, she glowered at the wolf between her knees and snarled her very best Gryffindor-caught-under-a-table-by-a-werewolf snarl.

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Delilah Gorse

It had been a stressful transformation – the cottage, the Portkey, the forest, now here, this – and Delilah’s frustration had been mounting steadily all day, and all night. Such stress was rare for her, in human form or wolf. Being half-lucid but largely brute-minded was trafficking her thoughts towards vexation, and the last few minutes in the Great Hall were proving, surely, to be her tipping point.

 

Bone-tired and bled dry, Delilah Gorse was giving up.

 

Yes, her pack was still out there making nuisances of themselves, causing unwarranted ruckus, disappointing her.

 

Yes, she felt the motherly need to intervene.

 

Yes, she was afraid.

 

Yes, though, still: she had retreated.

 

Under the table somehow felt cool, cavelike. She had expected to be alone and able to gather her thoughts, reorganize what was wolfish, plan an escape, not get caught. She had done enough (too much) harm already. Though the thoughts of the injuries she had wrought dizzied her in a predatory prideful way, they also made her innards shrink with cold regret.

 

But she was not alone.

 

There was a girl. On her back, legs bent and raised and ready to spring. Delilah grumbled – more out of annoyance than any desire to intimidate – and began to close the gap between them. She got closer and her growl got louder: she was walking the thin line between intimidation and supplication: you have to go you have to go you need to GET OUT before I do something very very bad…

 

Nice cave you’ve got here, @Kay Wickham! Delilah hasn’t made any moves yet but is bearing down on you,

breathing hard, trying to scare you away. Is she successful? Let’s find out…

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Kay Wickham

The wolf got closer, and everything beyond the table seemed too far away. Down here the two of them were poised on the edge of something terrible, a precarious balance where Kay had no idea what might tip the scales.

 

She inched back in increments, discrete pulls of her elbows that made her bite hard into her lip every time her bad shoulder took the weight. Her options were as limited as her vision right now, curled on her back, benches on both sides and the table's underside above her. Kay didn't dare glance up, but she could see someone's carved initials and a wad of chewed gum in her peripheral, neither of which were going to help her right now.

 

There was a low growl getting louder and louder, and in her desperation she almost mistook if for the sound of her dad's motorcycle arriving on the scene. A wave of relief crashed into her, but clarity followed--her dad wouldn't be here, he didn't even know this was happening. He wouldn't know anything had happened until Uncle Arsey told him, maybe, and then he would show up and snot all over her until she convinced him she was okay.

 

... If she was okay. Kay wasn't sure yet.

 

Her breath was catching now, shallow and short and not enough to give her the power she needed right now. She needed to go find Fran, she needed to make sure Robin knew she could do this, she needed to convince her dad she was okay. She needed a plan.

 

The werewolf was creeping closer, its growl almost deafening to her but not enough to breach the tunnel they were trapped in. She couldn't rely on someone noticing her here, not-hiding in such a good-bad hiding place. If she shouted, Kay knew it would upset whatever equilibrium was holding the creature at bay, and then she'd have lost the initiative on any attacks.

 

Sudden moves were off the table, too--pun not intended--unless she could somehow divert the wolf's attention first. Trying to roll out from beneath the benches would give it a clear shot at her back, and it might see any kicks to the face coming. Before she tried anything, she had to break its eye line. Not just because she needed it blind to her next move, but because its gaze had her trapped just as surely as this table did.

 

Those eyes were as full as the moon outside, and they had her tidally locked. She'd never seen a look so layered, that kind of feral intensity with an intellect buried behind it. It reminded her that on any other night, they might be having a conversation, instead of lingering here in a puddle of blood staring at each other.

 

Her good hand crept towards her hip along the floor as she wriggled further, her feet still held up between them. It was a good thing she was wearing shoes for a change, she thought, while the tips of her fingers pinched around the handle of her pocketed wand. She tugged with as subtle a motion as she could, and knew immediately that there was no way this werewolf would let her point this wand at its face.

 

So instead of tugging, Kay pushed. She leveraged the wand with her thumb, digging its sharper tip into her trouser pocket until the seam split and the very end jabbed through, watching the wolf all the while. Then she wrapped her fingers around the handle and took a breath, a slow blink, and a moment to think: 'I hope I don't die under a table with mud in my pants.'

 

Then she said, "Oblima," and cast mud down her pants.

 

A veritable torrent of muck sprayed in a dramatic halo from the hems of her trousers, around her shoes and into the face of her opponent. Taking the only opening she was likely to get, Kay followed this up with a heel kick to what was hopefully the werewolf's snout before attempting a barrel roll out of the way of any potential counter attacks.

 

All she needed was to get back on her feet--then everything would be okay. Fall down, get back up, every time.

 

One more time.

 

Kay attempts to blind and boot Delilah in the snoot.

Edited by Kay Wickham

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Delilah Gorse

The girl was wise to be slow: Delilah could sense her caution as sharply as she could smell the blood pooled on the flagstones beneath them. It reeked of youth and fear, had an almost charred quality to it. Delilah forced herself to think away from it, to not let it distract her to hunger. It was, god, was it hard, but Delilah Gorse was strong-willed in more forms than one, and the recollection that the stuff was children’s blood shut down her aching belly immediately.

 

She growled more loudly at the girl now, baring ivory teeth. Sun-clean, not a speck of blood nor sinew caught between sharp canines. Less disconcerting, or more?

She bore down on the child step by slow step, the tips of her quirked ears just skimming the underside of the table. It was dim, and darker shadows pulsed across them as students and professors and wolves darted back and forth around the Hall. She was within inches, teeth still on full show, when the girl cast some spell.

 

Foul mud filled Delilah’s mouth and gritted her eyes, slicked her chest and front legs. She sneezed and hocked but before she could expel much of the gushy brown filth from her nostrils or mouth, she felt a searing crack under her chin. Her head snapped back; she’d bitten her tongue and could taste blood and mud and the sticky sort of spit you get when breathing through your mouth too much.

 

As the child attempted to roll sideways, away, under a bench, Delilah swiped mud from her eyes with a paw then pounced, surprisingly lithe despite the lack of height she could catch.

 

This rabbit was too feisty.

 

She landed with her font paws on the girl’s thighs, dragging her back over the stone floor, back under the table, the cave that it was clear now that there was a predator living in it. Silvery claws dug into the flesh of the girl’s legs; Delilah could feel blood welling up in beads between the pads of her feet.

 

Behave, she thought, and bit.

 

It felt heavenly and hellish at once; warring within her were lupine lust and mortal inhumanity. She bit down harder, lapped more blood, relished it, but also feared herself as she feasted.

 

Shortly ­– yet too long, far too long – after, she released the child. Her teeth were obscenely red; her eyes burned with tears of pleasure or self-loathing. Graceful, graceless; harmful, harmless, covered in mud and blood and tears, Delilah Gorse fled.

 

@Kay Wickham: you've been bitten! Welcome to the Cub Club! Awooooo...

Delilah has fled. Enjoy some music to set the mood...

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Kay Wickham

'Get up and run', she told herself, pinning the mantra on a vision board across her mind’s eye and shining spotlights on it. Kay was mid-roll and fully prepared to plant her hands down and pop right up as soon as she was clear of the bench. Visualize and make it happen.

 

The sudden stabbing of needle-sharp points in the backs of her thighs sent a thousand watt volt of pain along her nerves, frying all the filaments and leaving her in the dark in an instant. She choked on a startled scream, her throat catching it as her whole body seized up. Those claws hooked in and reeled her back, and too late she reached out to dig her fingers into the floor, scrabbling for purchase in the slick bloody surface. Fighting only served to drive the creature's nails deeper into her flesh.

 

Another yank and she was back where she'd begun, but now with the wolf at her back. A warm gust of breath wafted across the back of her neck, and it reminded her of the heat vent on her bedroom floor at home. Sometimes her dad would build a tent of blankets around it and she would lie down inside reading comic books as the fort got nice and toasty, and the balmy air from the vent would brush her nape like a summer breeze until she fell asleep.

 

Kay wanted to be asleep. She wanted to be dreaming right now, curled up on the floor in her room far away from here, but her white uniform blouse was sticky, soaked in someone else's blood, and she could see her reflection in the shine of it still on the floor. Eyes too wide, face so pale that each freckle looked like a wound, and she looked nothing like the hero she was supposed to be right now--the hero who would have made that plan work.

 

She wasn't strong enough, or smart enough, and now she was going to... what? At this angle, the position she had put herself in, the werewolf could snap her neck with one bite and shake of its head. It could bite through the veins and arteries of her neck and bleed her out fast. She would pass out on her belly and never wake up, never laugh with her friends or hug her dad or meet her mom.

 

The wolf lunged and Kay spun around to face it, elbow-first, aiming to drive it into the animal's muzzle. Instead the fanged maw snapped down hard on her bicep, piercing into the meat and muscle of it and bearing down until her whole arm was pinned flat across her sternum.

 

It was a whole new kind of agony. Growing up in the muggle world, she’d had her fair share of cuts and sprains and broken bones—but never anything like this. Her torn skin was a forest on fire, razed into a flatline until the bones could be set ablaze again. Every heartbeat sent a new wave of agony back to her brain, and fresh blood sprayed from the punctures, painting the snout of her attacker and spattering across her face.

 

At this distance they were nearly nose-to-nose, and as the monster dug in and drank, she searched those yellow eyes for whatever was left buried there. Already the edges of her own vision were caving in, giving way to blackness, and Kay tasted tears at the corner of her mouthful of gritted teeth. "I'm sorry," she said, and for a moment her head swam and the point of the apology was lost. Was she sorry for letting down Robin and Fran? Sorry that her dad would be sad? Sorry she was so weak?

 

All of that and more. "M'sorry I couldn' stop you," she croaked, her jaw stiffening with the strain and her lips fighting to form any shapes but the vowels of pain. Kay winced as the wolf bit down harder, but as the next wave of anguish washed over her and retreated into a low tide of numbness, she reached up with her free hand and gave the creature a shaky scritch behind the ear.

 

"It's okay..." Kay murmured, and stroked its fur while it lapped up her blood. It was too late to stop the terrible thing that had kept them at odds a mere minute ago--they had crashed headlong, and all that was left was to deal with the damage. She rested her temple upon the floor and focused on how fuzzy the doggy's twitchy ear felt between her fingers as it fed. "I forgive you..."

 

It might have been minutes, or hours, or seconds, and she might have passed out in-between breaths, but when the werewolf pulled its teeth from her arm with a wet suction squelch and a sensation like daggers, she looked up at it through bleary eyes and let her hand fall away.

 

“It's okay,” she repeated, firmer. “You’re still good.

 

Through the fog and grayscale she could see the wolf had gone, and her breaths were coming too shallow to bring colour back. Kay, drowsy and listless at last, slid her foot over to nudge the fallen powered periwinkle pencil out from under the table. She watched it spin out into the light and dreamed of its shade of blue.

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Shay Weber-Li

If she was being completely honest with herself, Shay was looking for her daughter.

 

She was still fighting, and directing frightened students to safe zones, but the largest part of her focus was on locating Miya and Covey in the chaos. She knew that it wasn’t professional—she should be outside with Julian, battling the wolves on the lawn—but she couldn’t shake the fear that had settled in her gut the moment she’d gotten the message. She’d seen a little girl broken by a werewolf at Hogwarts before. It felt as though a new cycle had begun: they’d defeated the remnants of the Death Eaters, and enjoyed a few fleeting years of peace, only to be confronted by a new enemy.

 

She was passing the Great Hall when she heard growls and a muffled cry. She knew that she didn’t have time to change into her safer animagus form if a child was in danger, so she ran through the doorway, hoping the stoneskin spell Richard had recommended would provide enough protection against a werewolf’s teeth.

 

Diffindo!” Her spell lashed out at a blur of a retreating creature, missing the wolf’s leg and carving a deep gouge into the wood of the Hufflepuff house table instead. She tried follow, but the wolf was too fast. She had no idea which direction it had taken out of the hall, and its victim might be bleeding out; Shay could smell the blood. She tried to ignore clawing thoughts as she moved between the tables: what if it’s Miya?

 

What if it’s not?

 

What if she’s bleeding somewhere else?

 

A low murmur caught her by surprise, then a blue pencil rolled across the stones at her feet. The tang of blood was sharper now. Shay knelt down to check under the table, jaw clenched against her fear. There was a girl there, lying in a puddle of mud and blood, but it wasn’t her daughter.

 

She passed her wand over the worst of the girl's wounds, trying to stop the bleeding, not knowing whether she felt relieved or disappointed. “You’re going to be okay. Valetudo. Just stay with me.”

 

---

Regeneration Spell: @Kay Wickham, makes wounds heal more quickly, don't die on me kid.

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Professor Corelli-Rose

Permission granted to drop-in from Kay and Shay!

 

A bloodied braid caught his eye as he moved between the House tables towards the Great Hall doors, and he'd have kept going had that braid not been blonde and soaked in blood. It peeked lusterless from under a table, belonging to a motionless body revealed by a bench moved out of the way.  The glimpse brought on the heel of it one word - Kay, and this was quickly followed by the need to confirm that it wasn't.

 

He'd been so focused on Lindy and Robin and his relief at finding them roughed up and bloody but alive, that he'd shamefully forgotten to ascertain the safety of their closest friends - of the other members of their large and extended family. Kay and Francis: where were they? And why hadn't Robin been with Kay; why were they separated? Why why why?

 

And Auror was already minding to the child when Arcite hurried over and he saw her horribly bloodied arm first, dark and red - -please don't be - and then he got a look at her face. 

 

Kay. 

 

Arcite chocked; Damian's little girl. 

 

"No, no no nonono," he muttered under his breath as he came down on the other side of her, hands out and useless. "She's mine - I mean, she's a friend's of mine," he blurted to the Auror. "She's - Kay, sweetie, not you, too---" He stared at the wounds on her bicep, the dark punctures that could hardly be confused with being anything other than teeth. His stomach twisted itself into knots. I'll have to tell Damian. I will have to tell Damian. He did not look forward to the task. "Oh, Kay," he brushed her bangs back from her head. A glance back at the Auror. "Is there anything I can do?"

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Kay Wickham

Kay's head swam, breaking the surface of consciousness in waves--at times anchored to the agony of waking, and then set adrift again. As she drifted, she dreamed.

 

She dreamed that the woman who came to help her was her mother. It seemed like a thing a mother might do: make her feel better and tell her it was going to be okay. Kay's vision was hazy between her lashes, barely able to keep her eyes open at all, but through this lens the lady was lovely and real and here when she needed her.

 

"... Mum...?" she murmured, but as the wounds closed and the pain abated, she could see her mistake. Her mom was not a witch, she was a doctor, and she lived in America and was very busy saving lives there. Kay was glad that she hadn't come all this way for her, actually--she was fine, and there were kids out there that needed her help more, and how selfish would it be to want her here just for her instead?

 

Now that she had enough strength of focus to get a proper look at the woman kneeling beside her, she recognized her. "You're... Miya's mum," she said, forcing more breath into her lungs to carry her words. It was a struggle, because she'd had a hungry wolf on top of her a moment ago and despite the magic she knew was knitting her back together, her ribs still ached with a phantom weight.

 

The Gryffindor tried to lift her head, but the bloodless shadows that still pressed in around the edges of her vision kept her flat on her back. She looked up at Shay and tried to give her as helpful a status report as she could--because an Auror would want it, and a mother would need it. "Miya wasn' here..." she spoke slow, trying to enunciate around her tensed jaw and heavy tongue. "Was talkin' to... ghosts... in th' library..." About what, she wasn't certain, but that was probably not as relevant.

 

Kay swallowed, her brow furrowing as she fought her way through the bramble of memories. "Th'wolves came in through the windows... a-about six of 'em...?" Catching her breath, she frowned, then muttered, "Maybe they shouldn' be... real windows..."

 

She blinked, once, twice, and maybe passed out in between, but suddenly her dad's best friend (and her best friend's dad) was there, brushing her blood-spattered hair and asking to help. Kay could feel her eyes getting wet for no reason as his familiar comfort softened her guard--and she was not a hero, she was a child, and her dad was going to be so worried. Uncle Arsey had to tell her daddy that she was good, she was fine and nothing was wrong, so he wouldn't have to be scared.

 

Instead, all she could manage to ask when her vision found Arcite's pallid face was, "Robin...?"

Edited by Kay Wickham

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Shay Weber-Li

It was difficult to separate her emotions from the job at hand, especially when the girl looked to be so close to her own daughter’s age. Shay was sure she’d have nightmares about this in the nights to come: Miya’s terrified face on this girl’s torn and broken body, suffering in her place. But Shay’s selfish relief did not extend to treating this girl any differently than if she had been Miya. She would have gladly stepped in the path of those claws and teeth for any child at Hogwarts.

 

Even the seventh years were so much younger than they knew.

 

When the girl called her Mum, Shay’s heart stuttered. Yes, she would certainly relive this moment in her nightmares. She leaned over the girl, her composure never slipping. “I’m not your mum, but I’m going to watch over you. You’re safe now, I promise.”

 

The girl kept mumbling, clearly lost in a fog caused by pain and blood loss. She said something about Miya, making Shay’s chest constrict with the fear that still had not abated. It was difficult to understand what the girl was trying to tell her, but she understood, at least, that Miya had likely been in the library rather than the Great Hall at the time of the attack. And she understood that the hall had been besieged by six werewolves. She didn’t even want to think about the scale of damage that many werewolves could cause.

 

Before she could answer, a Hogwarts professor arrived. The man looked stricken with terror as he knelt beside them and spoke to the girl in a low voice.

 

“I’ve cast a regeneration spell, but she’ll need more medical attention when the healers arrive,” Shay said calmly, fixing the professor with a steady stare and hoping to instill him with the fortitude he’d need to be strong for an injured student he cared about. Not that she could blame him for his fear. She would be a hypocrite to blame anyone for being afraid.

 

“I need to find the wolves and stop them hurting anyone else,” she continued, looking down at the girl. “Your professor will take care of you now. I’ll come back and check on you when the school is secured, all right? You’ve been very brave, and it’s almost over.”

 

She stood, wand in hand, and headed out of the hall. Her heart was tugging her toward the library, where her daughter might be sheltering, but she could hear shouts coming from the lawn. She hesitated on the threshold for a split second, her stomach churning, angry that she had to choose at all.

 

Then she dropped into her animagus form and ran out the front door, toward the screams.

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Professor Corelli-Rose

Arcite nodded, once and curt, and caught the look in the Auror's eyes. She needed him to be calm and have the courage to steel his fear and not let any of it transfer to Kay. Easier said than done, he thought, but swallowed and nodded more carefully, and used the back of his hand to push his slipping glasses back up the bridge of his nose. "Thank you," he murmured, and turned his attention back to Kay. Whatever healing magic had been worked on her seemed to have taken effect and no fresh blood escaped the bites at her arm. Still, her pallor was alarming and Arcite shrugged his long coat off his shoulders, performed the tricky wand movement necessary to warm it, and lay it carefully over Kay. 

 

Pietro settled next to her, and Arcite wished he was a real dragon, just so that his little ember body could give her its magical warmth. He made do with what he had.

 

"Better?" he smiled, feeling his mouth tremble. "I'll stay with you until help arrives," he assured her, stroking her hair. "Then we can go see Robin together. He's okay." His mouth definitely trembled on that; it felt like a lie - Robin was okay, he was alive and not bitten, thank Merlin, but his face was... Well, it was just that, wasn't it? His was a face. Oh, Robin... He saw the horrific red of his face every time he blinked. And the tears... and his voice... Arcite felt like a hand had closed around his heart and squeezed. Robin's words will haunt him forever - and he'd left him again.

 

But he was alive and--

 

Arcite blinked, frowning at Kay's bicep. He'd registered that she'd been bitten, and Pandora, too, but it only now really hit him what that meant.

 

He pressed a hand to his mouth, eyes widening. 

 

A scratch was awful and would never heal... but a bite meant - Werewolves. They're going to be werewolves, Arcite realized with a cold dread. He couldn't imagine these kids he knew and loved to be like the wolves that attacked the Great Hall tonight, their lives were forever changed now werewolf children every month a torture--- Arcite exhaled a shaky breath. Did Kay even realize what happened? Did she understand?

 

Not the time for it, he snapped at himself with a slight shake of the head. He blinked at her and smiled softly.

 

"I'm going to call your dad now, alright?" He stood up and held up his wand. It felt awkward and strange to summon his happiest memory, when the current situation was heartbreaking and dire, but he managed the charm and his ghostly batronus fruit bat flapped into existence. "There's been a werewolf attack at Hogwarts," he spoke to it, holding it steady with his wand. He was amazed that his voice was stable enough for it. "Kay has been... bit, but she is alive and awake. She's - she's . strong kid. Come as quick as you can. Carry this to Damian Wickham, please." With a flick of his wrist, he sent it flying off.

 

Another Patronus flared into the air and Arcite fired off a message to Carson: "Werewolf attack at Hogwarts - Robin and Lindy are - " he couldn't say 'fine.' " - scared and scratched, but they're alive and with healers now. Get Evanna and come to Hogwarts immediately." This one, too, went flying into the night. That done, he returned to Kay and sat down beside her. 

 

"The healers will be here soon, you'll be okay, Kay," he smiled. It took effort. "You're very strong."

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Kay Wickham

"You’ve been very brave, and it’s almost over."

 

'Almost' had never seemed so difficult. Kay would use 'almost' as a way to keep going, to keep pushing herself until she’d reached her goal time or target reps. She would use 'almost' as a way to celebrate a risky near-miss, a word shot full of adrenaline. 'Almost' belonged to the moment before a victory, or a close-second that meant next time FOR SURE. It didn’t seem to fit here, when Kay felt wrung out and rag doll limp, without her friends and feeling the kind of pain that meant her body wasn’t going to be better for it.

 

So what was on the other side of 'almost' this time?

 

Kay tried to nod, to let Miya's mom know that she would be alright, but her body felt heavy and the movement choppy. Her uncle’s coat warmed her, and his tiny dragon golem tucked against her throat reminded her of the way Robin's face had pressed there not even an hour ago. A sudden fierce bolt of longing struck her, and it made her wish that he hadn't let go of her braids, and that she hadn't released his hand, and that when the wolves had come in packs that they'd faced them together.

 

But regrets were pointless, and her uncle stroking her hair reminded her of home. They would see her best friend again soon, and then the adults would help her find Fran, and nobody else would be in danger tonight. The Gryffindor watched Arcite's expression waver, and if she'd had the energy to put thought to it, she might have worried about the way his brow creased--but everything was soft and swollen around the edges now as the adrenaline drained away.

 

"I'm going to call your dad now, alright?" he said, and Kay murmured in understanding, though she comprehended less the way he stuttered around the word 'bit'. She wondered if her father was working right now, and she hoped this didn't cause trouble for him, because he worked so hard to take care of her by himself--she could take care of herself, too.

 

'Tell him not to rush', she wanted to say, but her mouth was too weak and her heart was much weaker, breaking beneath the thought of waking up without him there to call her silly names or make stupid dad jokes. Her breath hitched, and then her uncle was at her side again, trying to smile and telling her that she was strong.

 

Kay smiled back at him, the barest pull of lips that were even paler in comparison to the splash of blood across the bridge of her nose. "Don't worry, Uncle Arsey..." she told him, her voice thin but edged like a papercut, sharply certain of her words. "I'm good. I'm always 'kay."

 

She refused to be anything else.

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