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Lola Waldhar

I've been sent to torch the palace down in broad daylight

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Lola Waldhar

Lola had never learned how to Apparate, specifically because of this: the knock-kneed, putty-stomached feeling that came with being forcibly sucked through a silly-straw of space. She would rather walk from country to country and swim the oceans than Apparate—but, in this case, it couldn't well be helped.

 

They Apparated to deceptive peace. Lola dropped Maya's hand as though it had personally forced her to feel like a squeezed-out tube of toothpaste and crouched low to the ground to find her breath again. Maya had brought them to the edge of the island, away from the cottages and the bulk of what Lola had to assume was complete destruction—even out here, spells had gouged the earth and errant tufts of hair and fur clung to the tree branches. Even out here, Lola could smell magic and blood.

 

The island was quieter than she'd been expecting, considering that barely twenty-four hours ago they'd been under siege. Silence stretched beneath crashing waves and had Lola struggling to catch her breath under the weight of it.

 

Was Roseclaw still there? Had the attacking wizards taken him? Had they taken the others? Or had they simply—destroyed?

 

For the first time, Lola let herself consider that they may be walking into nothing. A trap, she could handle; it wouldn't be the first time, not even the first time in the last day, that she'd had to deal with something like that. But: nothing? Nothing meant no Wylan, no Olive, no reserve left to dismantle beneath Roseclaw's feet. Nothing terrified her.

 

Lola rose, cocked her head toward where their little civilization should be, and listened. More of nothing.

 

(They were too far away, she tried to reason, to hear either safety or distress. They were too far away to know. It was not an indicator that all had fallen, it was not.)

 

She turned to Maya after a terse moment of silence. “Where would Wylan have taken her?” A better person might show concern for the man who'd raced, undaunted, into the fray to try to save her niece in the first place. Lola was not a better person. She did not, frankly, care much about anything other than Olive's safety. Too much was riding on the assumption that he had succeeded and that Roseclaw and/or the other wizards had not; there was no room for caring for anything else.

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Maya Castelo

continued from here

 

The quiet was surprising - and disappointing; she'd have liked a face to punch, or a target on which she could test just how much humanity Roseclaw had stripped from her with his sugar water. Everywhere she looked, the ground was scored with magic, as is some creature too large to imagine had raked its terrible claw over the earth, burned it with its breath, and tumbled their pariah existence like so many cast-away stones. The air was rank with the charge of magic and it made her scrunch her rose at the stink. What was missing, were the voices - no, the wind howled and whistled, and the waves roared below them, but the voices of the others... theirs was a haunting absence.

 

She would have liked to hope the other had escaped, and perhaps Wylan and Olive were safe elsewhere, but that hope was grim. Maya forced herself to steel herself against the worse possibilities. At the end of the day, Lola and she were alive, and they will fight tooth and claw to remain so.

 

No matter what.

 

Not wishing to waste time - she can think on the move - Maya struck out across the landscape, towards the homes. "Do you have a change of clothes?" she asked instead. Maya didn't bother to keep her voice down; if any of the wizards that had attacked the place remained, they would have set a perimeter, and if some did remain and hadn't, well... Lucky Maya. She marched on with purpose. "We can't be seen like this." She meant Outside the Reserve. "I had a pack at my place, I was going to leave." She gave Lola a sidelong glance, allowing dryness or a different sort to colour her voice for the first time. "That panned out well." If Wylan had found Olive, Maya liked to think he'd have found a way to get off the Reserve in the first place, follow their original plan. She was resourceful, but Wylan had always been the cleverest of the three of them.

 

Now two, she corrected bitterly.

 

The likeliest thing was that Wylan and Olive had remained within the boundaries and were holed up somewhere.

 

"He wouldn't have gone down without a fight," she went on. Again, not the answer to Lola's question. How long would have attack have gone on for? What were the wizards after? They wouldn't have stood a chance against wolves under the power of a full-moon - not unless they, too, used the Killing Curse - so they probably wouldn't have stayed that long. Get in, get out... But what if they didn't? Maya's nose twitched on a familiar metallic smell and it turned her belly. 

 

Blood.

 

Her pulse picked up. Her pace quickened. "We stay together," she snapped. "See a wizard, put them down. Wylan and Olive would have covered his tracks - the woods are too obvious and Thaddy's office too risky, he would have jumped from house to house as they were searched. They'll be in one of those."

 

It wasn't long before they came across the first body.

 

Maya knelt, searching for a pulse, found them unconscious. Better let them play dead. Not who they were looking for, anwyay. "Wylan!" she called over the still air, standing. "Goddammit, it's me! We watch each other's backs," he whirled on Lola. "Olive! Lola's here, too! Come on!"

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Lola Waldhar

Maya was a talker.

 

Or more of a talker than Lola had expected from her, but they hadn't been best friends before all of this, exactly, for her to know. It was Lola and Olive and sometimes Ronnie and Delilah and Riley and J.J. when the moon grew full, and the other inhabitants on the island just sort of...existed. Olive was the warm one, Olive was the one who knew everybody's names and backstories and what their favorite colors were and what meals they cooked best and what time of day they felt most alive. Did Olive know that Maya talked to distract?

 

Did Olive know Gwyn's favorite color?

 

Lola let Maya talk, answered with grunted affirmatives: yes, she had extra clothes ferreted away around her cottage with handfuls of money and packets of food in case she and Olive ever needed to make a quick getaway. Yes, she recognized the sick irony that two of the most gun-shy wolves had had their shackles revealed to them before they could escape or test their contingencies.

 

“Are you suggesting that he might have gone down?” Lola's voice was as sharp as the iron in the air. She lost a step in her accusation but: if Wylan had not kept his word to her, if he had not protected Olive successfully, Lola would have no qualms finishing him the way she would Roseclaw. Any harm that came to Olive would be on Lola's shoulders first, and she would deal with herself in time, after she dealt with anyone else who allowed that harm to occur.

 

The cottages rose before them, somber as gravestones. Lola's mouth felt sour and vile as she pulled her wand and clutched it tight in a fist. “Heard.” She did not smell unfamiliar on the air—but she did not smell much over the dust that hung like a cloud over them. Surely, the wizards were long gone. Surely, they'd accomplished what they'd wanted.

 

(Fear, Lola thought. They were after fear, and they'd found plenty of it.)

 

Lola did not stop at the fallen as Maya did. She knew, immediately: Not Olive. Not Important.

 

Still, there were dangers here. Thaddeus could be around any corner, waiting. Enemies could be preparing to bring them to their knees just as they had the rest of them. Lola would not leave Maya without protection—they were in this together, now, and Lola would not see her companion fall as many of their own already had. As desperate as she was to take Maya's information and search on her own, she stood firm, back to Maya and the body but eyes sharp and searching for anything off.

 

“Olive?” Her voice was raspy and raw. “Olive, can you hear me?” Even here, in the thick of the buildings with their shorn shingles and half-escaped tenants draped over doorsteps and windowsills like drying laundry, the silence was deafening. Lola could hear her and Maya's footsteps louder than the faint groans or the shuffling of their owners. No responses to their near-desperate cries came.

 

She was not losing hope, not quite; she was not fostering it, either. Every body—unconscious or otherwise—that they came across kick-started her heart and she held it in her throat for the seconds it took to determine if any of them were Olive. When they weren't, none of them were her, it settled back in her chest with a mixture of disappointment and relief.

 

She'd snapped at Maya again to “keep moving”, as though that would get the pair to their goal any quicker when they were still on the defense, when an arm darted out of cottage whose door hung half off its hinges.

 

“Jesus—” She squinted against the darkness of the cottage; they'd passed survivors, however few they were in the open, but none had made an effort to confront them, too absorbed in trying to rebuild or heal. This one reaching out so literally had her immediately on the offensive. Her wand leveled with the figure that sharpened into view. “Wylan?”

 

He was wounded. Lola wasn't sure how, or how badly, but his face was drawn and his grip did not keep its strength as he pulled her in. “Maya.” Lola jerked her head toward the open door, beckoned her partner to follow her across its threshold to join Wylan within.

 

The question was poised on the tip of her tongue—Where is she?—but was answered for her. In that tiny living room, the furniture torn to pieces, the walls scarred with curses, was Olive.

 

Her niece laid in a puddle on the floor, curled in on herself among the debris. Lola could not tell if she was conscious, could not see if there was color in her cheeks. She could see blood—too much blood. Too much blood. More than Lola had spilled the previous night, more than she'd seen soaking into the grounds of the Reserve. Too much blood. She wasn't moving. She wasn't breathing.

 

“I tried.” Wylan's words came from the other end of a long tunnel. Lola could not respond. She stood, frozen, staring.

 

She'd come too late. She'd left when she shouldn't have. She hadn't tried hard enough to get back. She'd fought tooth and claw and it wasn't enough and Olive was the one who paid the price.

 

"Is..." Lola was ice. She took a stumbling step forward, faltered, her wand clattering to the floor as she reached trembling fingers out to hover above her niece; she couldn't find the strength to close the gap to touch, to confirm. "She's not..." Desperate, wild eyes left the motionless form on the floor, turned to Maya to find some sort of answer. As if she'd be able to provide one. "She's not?"

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Maya Castelo

At that moment, neither Wylan nor Lola seemed able to make that decisive next step and so Maya stepped in before she, too could lose her nerve. Dropping down beside Olive's still body, Maya felt along her neck with two fingers until she found that spot just under the girl's jaw. And waited.

 

And while she waited, she considered Wylan with a narrow stare. The young wolf had always been a quiet sort, spending enough time in his own head to make her almost uncomfortable - until he came up with brilliant plans and ideas that had made it all worth it. Gwyn had liked to talk, Maya strategized, and Wylan... he operated on a level all his own. Except now, he seemed hollow. Subdued, but in a way that was entirely wrong fo him. He was grimy and bloodied and draw - he looked like he'd been to Hell and back. She wanted to know more, but presently, Olive was more important. If they had another - 

 

- No, there it was, a faint flutter against her fingers. Maya adjusted her fingers and focused. Faint, but present.

 

"She's alive," she breathed, surprised at how relieved she was. Olive was a mess, but she was alive. Maya fidgeted with her wand, but couldn't immediately think of the spells that would help. She sword. Stood. Wanted to kick of hit something. 

 

"Regeneration Spell," Wylan rasped, voice reedy. "Valetudo." He barely moved to look in their direction. Maya glared.

 

"Why the Hell did you not do that earlier? Jesus, Wylan - !" she threw her hands up. She knew he didn't deserve her anger - he flinched and she immediately felt a stab of guilt - but she need a target and dear ol' @Thaddeus Roseclaw wasn't here - wasn't anywhere, the... 

 

"Sorry," Wylan stated.

 

Glowering, Maya cast the spell, the Healing strange on her tongue. She hoped it worked. No more dead wolves. She stared at Olive and then to Lola, she said, "Keep her warm. She'll be fine. Maybe some water would be good." A part of her wondered if she should have been nicer - kinder. But that was what Gwynthr was good at. Even Wylan was better than she. With a grimace, she turned to Wylan and squatted in front of him. Raised a brow at him. "Talk."

 

The wolf kept quiet for a long moment, but at last showed some of his character when he lifted a wry brow right back at her. "After you lot had disappeared - I figured you had, else you'd have joined the party - everything went downhill fairly quickly. Whoever these wizards were, they seemed more focused on laying down damage and chaos than any looking for anything specific. Or rather, if there was a method to their madness, they hid it well." He shrugged, showing what he thought of that. "I did what I said I would," he continued, looking at Lola then. "I went looking for Olive, but... they took us by surprise and then the moon..." He shook his head, falling quiet once more. Then, "You?"

 

Now it was Maya's turn to chew her words. She glanced at Lola. At Olive. At the floor.

 

"Gwyn's dead."

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Lola Waldhar

Lola didn't much believe in magic until she was fourteen years old and three years into her journey at Hogwarts. Summer was not so far away that she didn't feel the pull of it in her study-weary bones and her mother was finally convinced that it would be fine for her to miss a day or two to watch her niece be born. The Slytherin was whisked away from Hogwarts in the middle of the night (because Olive did not wait for convenience) and was at her sister's side for every minute of the ten hours it took to push out a screaming, squirming mess of her flesh and blood.

 

She got to hold her third, after her sister and her brother-in-law and before either of her parents. Olive had gone silent the moment she was placed into Lola's arms as though to say, this is the one I choose. It was the first time Lola ever really believed in magic, with five little fingers wrapped around her one thumb like it was the only solid thing in the world. She'd seen sparks conjured from nothing and had felt cold fire and knew what it meant to put a stopper in death but fragility staring up at her made her certain in the existence of true magic in the world.

 

Seeing her red—red again, red again and helpless again but quieter than she'd been coming into this world—had Lola considering the possibility that magic was a sham, after all.

 

“What happened...” Her limbs felt like radio static, floaty and over-oxygenated and wrong. Maya stepped in and Lola might have floated right through the roof and her ears were popping and—alive. That wasn't dead. That wasn't gone. Her brain was a mess but she was pretty certain that was good. “Thank you.”

 

It was unclear if she was thanking Maya for checking, for stepping in where she could not and healing Olive as well as she could, or if she was thanking Wylan for not letting the most important bit of magic in the world fizzle out despite what he might have had to have gone through to make it so.

 

Maya took her place beside Wylan, Lola took hers (finally) beside Olive.

 

Her skin was still chalk but her nose was just pink, enough fluttering of color that Lola thought it might disappear like morning mist if she breathed too closely to it. Her hands—her fingers were still red and crusted—laid on Olive's cheeks, cradling her as though her skin were splintering porcelain.

 

I'm sorry

 

Olive's chest inflated with breath and her brow screwed above her still-closed eyes and Lola felt magic in her chest again. She found her escaped wand and summoned a goblet, filled it fresh with water to tilt down Olive's throat after she arranged her, solid and broken in ways Lola could not quite catalog, into her lap. She did not wake, but she drank; that was enough for Lola, then. She was alive; that was enough for Lola, always.

 

Olive was alive, safe, thanks to Wylan and Maya and—

 

Dead. Gwyn's dead.

 

“We were sent to bloody Hogwarts.” As if it was excuse for what happened, or even an explanation. Your friend is dead, we bit some kids. Two halves of the same inexplicable whole.

 

“Roseclaw set us up.” Maybe Handley-Mills was in on it. Maybe it went back to even Benbow for all they knew. “We need to leave before he catches wind of us.” It could be too late already; they'd passed too many sharp eyes and, as far as Lola was concerned, everyone outside of that room was an enemy to them on that blasted island.

 

She paused, amended her plan with a glance to Maya that knew too much. “We need to get them out of here.” Safe—Wylan and Olive needed to be away from this, set up somewhere far away so that Maya and Lola could finish part two of two and let themselves be found by Roseclaw, if only to find him, too.

 

“We can take the emergency ferry from the docks. If someone else didn't take it already.” Olive was in no condition to Apparate, and there was no guarantee that Wylan was even able to. They'd have to escape the muggle way unless Roseclaw kept other portkeys hidden around the Reserve for an easy escape. Lola would rather not stumble down that road again. “I'd say we leave at nightfall, but I don't think we have a chance of lower suspicions at this point.” The sooner, the better, then.

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Maya Castelo

All that there was to Wylan's surprise at her words was a parting of the lips in his otherwise exhausted expression. Perhaps it was just that, that he was too damn tired and shell-shocked to react properly, but it was just as likely that that was all they would get out of him - that quiet, subtle nothing. Any other day, Maya would have taken the younger wolf's closed off expressions and man-of-few-words-ness as token Wylan, but today, when she felt like railing, when a scream sat like a hot stone in the pit of her belly, she rolled her eyes and growled, curled her hands into fists until her broken nails dug into her palms to keep from lashing out against him.

 

She didn't have the patience for Wylan

 

While Lola filled in the gaps, Maya stood again and started on walking a tread through the floor with her ragged boots. Clock. Clock. Clock. Turn. And back. She needed to move. She itched with it, like a spider that kept running across her skin and she couldn't find it to slap it away. And all the while, Wylan remained quiet. Lola might as well have been talking to a wall. 

 

Quiet, she reminded herself, but alive. Maybe he's conserving his energies for something productive, she mused, with a side-long look at him. He did that, sometimes - went quiet while he tried to puzzle something out. For the moment, he was too slow. Maya opened her mouth.

 

"Long before we showed up at Hogwarts like uninvited dinner guests, Wylan and I had planned to get off the island," she said. "Gwynthr was going to stay behind with you lot. We were nearly packed and ready to go." Here she flapped a hand as if the details of this part weren't necessary. "We were going to Apparate off - there's a spot we have in the country where we'd left a Muggle truck to get around in, so that we wouldn't have to... depend on magic so much."

 

"Our packs are gone," Wylan informed her, his voice a crinkle of paper. That meant supplies, extra clothing, non-perishables, keys.

 

"I can hot-wire it," Maya nodded. Wylan had enough energy, apparently, to raise his brows at her. "I read it in a book once," she retorted. She dropped her hands from where she'd crossed them over her chest and looked at Lola. "The sooner the better. I don't think Thaddy or those wizards expected us to come back, so we'll have to try the ferry." Her eyes drifted over to Olive's ragged form. "We'll have to clean her up and make her look presentable, otherwise we're going to attract Muggle attention, too." 

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