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Radueriel Benson

all the sharp small shards of shrapnel that seem to burst from me and you

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Radueriel Benson

June 3rd, 2042

Slytherin Third Year Dorm Room

 

Nearly seven months had passed since the unspeakable. Scars had healed and faded, arm bones had mended, trauma settled deep into the subconscious — all this, indeed, was true. But on the nights of the full moon, though now it was June and the wind was warm, November a forgotten ghost, though the term was nearly over, when the moon shone brightest in the clear Scottish sky, Radueriel Benson couldn’t force himself to sleep.

 

If Simon were a Slytherin, things probably would have been alright. Rad could have snuck up into his boyfriend’s dorm and curled against his tall, warm body. Were werewolves actually to break in again and attack, the gangly older boy would provide no more protection than a sheet of paper. But in the stolen moments between classes where the two boys clung to one another, Rad felt as safe as he ever did.

 

Instead, the pair was forced to spend their nights as far apart as was feasible in the sprawling castle, the tiny Slytherin condemned to the depths while Simon slept in the aerie practically miles away. They tended to use their two-way mirrors too frequently already, but on the full moon nights they kept the connection on long after they both managed to pass out, faces propped up on pillows.

 

Rad tried to keep his voice soft, but he didn’t really respect any of his roommates enough to care whether they could sleep.

 

Nearly seven months, and Rad still needed it. Nearly seven months, and his fingers still trembled a little when the glinting moon caught on the surface of the lake, sending shafts of silver light down into the slanting jade water outside the window. It was a good thing, actually, that Simon wasn’t here in the room with him; he could control what his boyfriend saw, could make sure the Ravenclaw didn’t catch on to anything worth worrying over.

 

This alone was probably why Simon had fallen asleep already, but Rad didn’t mind. He lay there, wide awake, taking in the peaceful sight of the other boy asleep. If he tore his eyes away from the cheekbones and that floppy quiff of hair, the panic would overwhelm him. It was too easy to fall backwards into the Great Hall, where hot rotten breath forever warmed his face, where the weightless moment in which the wolf flung him through the air lasted forever.

 

At long last he dozed into fitful sleep; his dreams frenzied at him as though they wished for freedom from his skull. When he woke, the room was still dark, and the gasping memory of the night terrors vanished, leaving only disorientation in their wake. Rad blinked his eyes groggily, unwilling to sit upright. In the mirror on his pillow he could see only a brambled thicket of Simon’s dark hair. He forced himself to steady his breathing.

 

He was safe. There were no werewolves here, just his awful roommates.

 

Rad shifted onto his side beneath the blankets, ready to return to sleep and dreams that hopefully were more peaceful. Before he could close his eyes he heard the sound of movement and realized with a start that bolted him upright in bed, the way electric currents shock a muscle into stiffness, that it wasn’t the nightmares after all which had woken him up. Someone else was in the room, standing at the foot of his bed. Sleep clung wretchedly to his voice as he called out into the darkness a quavering, “Hello?”

Edited by Radueriel Benson

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Dax Gordon

For the majority of the school, it had been nearly seven months since tragedy struck. For Dax Gordon, it had been nearly nine.

 

He did not count spilled blood and the lingering scent of dog as a tragedy, for it had passed over him completely, not more than a faint wind that rustled his clothing from the distant tornado that decimated the lives of his classmates. Rather, he found tragedy in the loss of his pride, the loss of his comfort, and the loss of his hair at the hands of one Radueriel Benson and had been battling that fall since its inception. That was a tragedy akin to Mount Vesuvius's complete erasure of Pompeii and even less easily recovered from.

 

But the Gordons were nothing if not tenacious in their need to rebuild and stubborn in their ego and Dax was not counted out in that; if anything, he was the worst of them all, the forgotten youngest son hell-bent on clawing out a place for himself and defending it with his life. No child with a lucky trigger finger and a whole warehouse full of exploitable trauma was going to quash that in him.

 

It just took time. Time and planning and patience and more time and more planning and more patience. Fake smiles and fake words, some light stalking and memorization: it was all about to pay off in the single greatest act of revenge that anyone in the castle had ever experienced. It would go down in history—Dax would go down in history.

 

(Rad would too, he supposed, but people never remembered the names of a murderer's victims, did they? Not that Dax was planning on going that far—he wasn't a monster!—but the sentiment remained the same.)

 

While the rest of the school went into lock-down the same way it had once a month every month since November, Dax prepared to finally shed the shame-hot chains that had his limbs blue. Everything was in place: the room, the werewolves, the magic that he'd forced himself to learn and perfect—turned out, the only thing he'd needed to become an exceptional wizard was a direction for his spite. The moon rose, his classmates began to drift off in their beds, and Dax sat quietly atop his, still dressed. Waiting.

 

He waited until Fletcher began to snore and Juan stopped rustling and Halcyon's cat stopped pattering around the dorm room. He waited until the lake stilled and the moonlight filtered, unbidden, through it. He waited until he was sure the castle housed more woke beasts than students and then, only then, did he rise from his unmade bed and shuffle out of the sixth years' room and into the third years'.

 

His wand was clutched in a deathly-even fist—Benson wouldn't catch him unaware, again—and held aloft as he flit from one bed to another, trying to differentiate between bare-faced, sleep-innocent kids. Each brief pause felt too long; Dax was on an exact schedule and this entire plan hinged on the moon's trickling path across the sky—too long trying to pick one prepubescent face out of a lineup could ruin it all.

 

The saving grace came in the form of a small mirror opening into mess of hair that completed the red string's circuit of familiarity. Dax stood at the foot of Rad's bed, wand raised and a slew of carefully-curated spells on his tongue—to silence, to blind, to bind, all in one breath—when the younger boy stirred and woke.

 

Dax started, froze under the weight of Benson's panic-alert eyes. He wasn't supposed to wake, not yet, and it was Dax's own fault that he'd not caught the boy more unaware. There was no strict contingency plan for this part; Dax was quick on his toes, though, too desperate to reach closure tonight to let it slip between his fingers so easily.

 

“I—” his voice came out too loud, too sharp, and Dax tamped it with a sigh that pushed, frustrated, out of his nose. “—need your help with something, Benson.” The darkness should have been enough to hide the glint in his eye, and the slow slide of his wand back into his shirt sleeve. “Can you come with me down to the common room?” They were friends now, weren't they? Hadn't Dax proved himself in these past months? They had repertoire that Rad would be remiss to ignore.

 

Though, even if he did, Dax would still have his way. Neither of them were staying in the dorms that night; either they could walk out together, or one of them wouldn't be walking out at all—and Dax certainly wouldn't be the one taking that hit.

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Radueriel Benson

Could you fault him for thinking, for just one second, that one of his werewolf-turned peers had gotten loose in the castle? Could you find it in your heart to pity him the panic that thrashed in his chest, the momentary wonder of whether he could have survived one attack only to be murdered in his sleep by someone as knowable and gentle as Julian Pritchard?

 

Because he did. In the moments it took for his sleep-smeared eyes to adjust to the dark, before the shape at the foot of his bed transformed from monster to boy, he truly thought that he was going to die.

 

When the dark blob did resolve itself into a more human form, Rad’s pulse slowed. It was just one of his roommates — in fact, it was more than likely that once again Lester Roach had woken up, afraid of the dark. Rad would direct the bigger boy back to his own bed, and draw the covers back over himself, stare at Simon’s head in the mirror until he fell back asleep. But like a rollercoaster strapped to a track, descending toward safety only to hurtle upward immediately again, the evening was not yet done playing with his heart.

 

No, because it was not Les or even Rysz who was standing there (though either of them waking him up at this hour would have forebode rather different sorts of misadventure and misery), but Dax Gordon. All it took was this realization for the blood to rush to the tiny Slytherin’s head.

 

Loud drumming, probably his heartbeat but he’d never heard it that loud before, was that normal or was that magic, had Dax done something to him already?, throbbed in his ears. True, the older boy had kept up a charade of kindness over the past few months, loud enough and public enough to make Rad feel a little like he was going crazy. How could he tell anyone — least of all Simon — how scared he was of someone who seemed for all intents and purposes to be a good friend?

 

Not once did Rad believe it, though. Not even a little did he suppose that Dax possessed a changed disposition toward him. There may not have been any witnesses to the long-game the two of them were playing, but that didn’t mean he was going to forget. A healthy dose of werewolf-paranoia only strengthened the small boy’s convictions. And God knew that now, this terrible moonlit hour, was not going to be the time to falter.

 

Dax was going to have to try harder than that if he wanted to persuade Radueriel to leave the relative comfort of his warm blankets. The Trojans made a mistake like this, once. The wooden horse was already inside the walls of the city (or, you know, dorm room, same difference), but he would be damned if he would actually look such a “gift” in the mouth.

 

So a stony silence settled between them. Down this deep, the usual nighttime sounds couldn’t penetrate. No sleepy birds chirped, no crickets croaked. Just that heavy sound of quiet, the sound of air trapped between hewn rocks, the sound of a town encased in magma and ash and grief.

 

A few seconds of this was more than Rad could bear. The fear was palpable, like a touchable lump pulsating in his neck. “No,” he said; his voice sounded thin and reedy, unsure of itself. So he said it again: “No, I don’t wanna.” His eyes flicked across the room to where Lester snored. Could he get the bully’s attention? Would he even use his fists for good instead of evil when the time came? “Lemme sleep.”

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Dax Gordon

It would have been easier if Rad had just stayed asleep.

 

There was a quiet, soft sort of desperation permeating the air around the boy and Dax had no choice but to act quickly. Rad was small, both in stature and in power. It was almost unkind how utterly unfavorable conditions were for the younger boy and, had Dax been a better person, he might have even felt a little guilty for catching him like this.

 

But he wasn't, and he didn't, and there was no time to waste considering a black and white morality that was more black than white; Dax could almost hear the alerting whine crawling up Rad's throat and so—he took it.

 

"Silencio;"

 

and then, his autonomy;

 

"Petrificus Totalus;"

 

and finally, his eyes;

 

"Conjunctivitis."

 

A spider to a fly, Dax collected Rad up, heaved his small, still body over his shoulder in a stiff mockery of their first encounter. He kicked the toe of his boot under the two-way and flipped it; Rad's bosom buddy wouldn't have much of a view should he awake, least of all of an empty bed. "Didn't have to do it like this," he half-grunted as he maneuvered his load out of the dorms, out of the common room, out into the open of the dungeons. "Coulda just come with me, ya know." If, frustrated by the extra work, Dax let Radueriel's head bounce into a corner or two, the younger boy didn't have anything to say about it.

 

The castle was, as Dax had predicted, mostly empty. Nobody was brave enough to risk the hallways on a wolf night, of all nights. He wasn't complaining; all of this would be rather hard to explain to a wayward prefect or professor. Not that he didn't have excuses; he'd just much rather be left to function under his own devices and his own plans and his own schedules.

 

"You know that they keep the werewolves in the Hospital Wing for the full moon, right?" He took the staircase up three steps at a time. "I don't think they expected the rest of us to go poking around. Wild, really, how loose the security is around them. You know, considering." The pompous tilt to his words was all over-confidence and faux-expertise. It was certain, and promising, and every bit as chilling as the iced light that washed the corridor he turned down silver and under-saturated.

 

Now, Dax Gordon was a lot of things: he was cold, he was cruel, he was calculating. He was not, however, the type of person who would do well in Azkaban. As much as he'd absolutely adore throwing Radueriel to the literal dogs (what a poetic sort of justice that would be), he was nearly certain that'd land him a few years at least

 

(Then again, people who ate their own sisters barely served any time at all. Imagine, a justified accidental death, all in the name of instilling vital life lessons into a youth! A tragedy, but tragedies happened in Hogwarts all the time and so rarely did anyone answer for them.)

 

So, much as Rad deserved it, he wouldn't be kibble and bits. So, much as Dax wanted, he wouldn't quite have. That wasn't something that Rad needed to be privy to, though. Blinded, bound by magic, he'd have no idea that the corridor Dax walked them down had not gone to the wolves, nor that the door he stopped them in front of led to nothing more than an empty classroom practically miles from the Hospital Wing, dark and cold and uneasy but not inherently unsafe.

 

All he would know was the stifling silence that greeted them when Dax carried him inside, punctuated by soft growls that could have come from the very space beside them, the hot bursts of air that could be felt even from across the room, the dread that Dax had meticulously created bit by bit that hung like a blanket above it all. Gently, so much more gently than Dax had ever been in handling Radueriel, he set the smaller Slytherin down on the cold stone floor, restored his eyesight with a curled lip that tasted like triumph, and backed away.

 

"It's amazing how easy it was to get in here." His wicked teeth shone white against the blackness. "D'ya think the wolves can get out as easily as I got in?"

 

It was not pain that Dax was after—not physical, at least, though that would come as ash always did in the wake of destruction—but remembrance. Eternal, unflappable; Radueriel Benson should never again have a night untouched by the distant howl of wolves and the image of Dax Gordon printed against the moonlight stamped away with the slamming of a door into complete darkness.

 

From the shadows, Dax pointed his wand at the boy who lay, prone and defenseless, in the darkness before him. "Perterreo." Even if Rad wanted to find bravery within his cowardice, he wouldn't be able to. Not now, and, when Dax was finished here, not ever.

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Radueriel Benson

A brief history of Justice:

 

In the days after the Trojan War, when the blood cooled and the husband-murdering Clytemnestra lay herself dead, the Furies— terrible things, with skin like leather and voices as beautiful as the night wind in graveyards— pursued Orestes the mother-killer. Eventually they came to Athens, where the very first trial was held. The result, exoneration.

 

Or maybe this did not happen.

 

Some time later in Babylon, they decided that an eye must be paid for with an eye, a wing for a wing, a goblet of wine for a goblet of wine, and ever since, the SAT word of the day has been lex talionis: the law of retaliation. These things, you see, were a matter of balance. If the universe lies within the scales of Libra (which was, no small coincidence, Radueriel Benson’s sign), both sides must be equal. Saha and Sivrastasa said much the same thing,

 

This, what was happening right now, this was not an eye for an eye.

 

No, the eyes in question were still scrubbed with sleep by the time that Dax had drawn his wand; the thought to reach for his own spruce one, stubbed useless on his side table, hadn’t even crossed his mind when the older boy cast the first spell. A hand scrabbled desperately at his throat, mouth opening a second too late to call for help. The next moment, he felt his joints seize up, fingers freezing by his neck and then snapping to his sides, and though his mind screamed for him to run, run, run, not even a single muscle obeyed the command. And then, insult to injury, the worst thing of all, Rad’s eyes— not taken, no, for an eye, but taken nonetheless— swelled shut. Night’s darkness became absolute. The fear that pounded through him would have made him vomit if his esophagus only would comply.

 

Justice may have been born in Hammurabi’s eighteenth century BCE court, but it died as Dax Gordon unceremoniously hauled Rad out of the Slytherin Dungeon in 2042.

 

Wherever they were going, wherever Dax was taking him, it seemed to be a long way away from the (relative) comforts of the dormitory. Rad couldn’t tell for how long they walked, only that the older boy’s grip on him was less than gentle, and that his head collided painfully with stone more than once. Silence held hands with the darkness for much of the journey, giving him ample time to think.

 

Though he was pretty well-read for a fourteen-year-old, he was still a fourteen-year-old, and so he did not think of Hammurabi or Orestes in his terror. But he did think about fairness — or, really, about how absolutely and horrifyingly unfair this was. He had ample time to ruminate about what he’d done to Dax months and months ago, an action he had taken (one should remember) because the other Slytherin had freakin’ punched him! Responding to violence with a hex like that was about the only option a tiny thing like Rad had at his disposal!

 

But sure. Beneath the glowing sheen of righteous indignation, he did feel badly about it. He had no idea how long it took for Dax to have his follicle problem redressed. So in some ways he felt like the campaign of malaise to which he’d been subjected over the course of the year was deserved. Maybe that’s why he never said anything — a secret shame not about what he did to Dax, but about how much he’d enjoyed it. He could never have told Simon what was going on without Ravenclaw curiosity tracing it all back to the genesis.

 

Simon.

 

Once his boyfriend came to mind he wouldn’t leave, and the tiny Slytherin hoped hope hoped that his boyfriend would wake soon and see Rad’s empty bed in the mirror and sound some kind of alarm. He didn’t know, not then, that Dax had taken every precaution, thought of everything with a stoic methodology. When he did find out, when he returned to the dorm and found the sliver of glass turned face down on the bed, he’d actually appreciate the care the older boy had taken in orchestrating the whole thing, in a muted sort of tone — everything would be muted, then, muted and a million miles away.

 

Despite the theft of his favorite of the five senses, everything right now was happening on an IMAX screen with the volume turned all the way up. Every jostle, every shift in weight he felt deeply in his bones. Maybe it was the fear, which clutched him and gummed up his brain, or maybe it was his inability to brace himself against any kind of impact under the effects of Dax’s spell.

 

What really gummed up his brain, however, gummed it up worse than Lester Roach did the pipes in their bathroom on the evenings when the House Elves served strawberry shortcake with dinner, was what Dax said as they began to climb the stairs. Werewolves.

 

Oh god. Oh damn. Fear was quickly solidifying into panic, but no amount of thrashing he did inside his head translated into movement. They were rising up, out of the dungeons, more stairs than would have been necessary just to reach the ground floor — they were headed up, up, up, to the Hospital Wing, to where Julian Pritchard lay mewling in the dark — and he couldn’t even nudge his body within the cold hard grip of the older boy’s fingers. A dull ache was blossoming in his side, where Dax had braced him against his shoulder, like ink dropped into a jug of water.

 

The air changed, and Rad could tell that they had gone inside a room even before he heard the door swing shut behind them. On its axis went the world, suddenly, with no warning, whirling and tilting as he was slowly (so slowly, so gently that it made his stomach shiver) lowered to the ground. Cold stone pressed through the flimsy fabric of his pyjamas.

 

No sooner had his head touched the floor than Dax undid a single of his three spells; Rad’s sight came back. The skin about his eyes receded, the inflammation gone, and he blinked his eyes furiously. One thing at least was back within his control. It took moments for his vision to adjust, from total blackness to merely the near, Dax’s lanky body tall and rigid and swimming into view above him.

 

That smile would stay with him for a long time. It cut like a crescent moon into the grimness of the room. It was a beacon, a dangling probe, and the small boy a fish powerless to its pull. Terrible jaws hid behind it like the dark side of the moon. Dax was having the time of his life. From just beyond Rad’s peripheral vision came the sound of a howl, warm and keening. Rad tried to roll his eyes into the back of his head, as though he could see the rest of the room, as though looking at the wolves that must have been just out of reach would make him feel any better. But all he could see was the door. The door and Dax.

 

Which was when the wand once again pointed in his direction. The spell that Dax cast was one Rad had seen in action before. He got accustomed to using its rosy-cheeked counterpart quite a bit when he had his dueling obsession. But the Paranoia Charm had sharper claws than the Coward Charm could ever dream of. When it squarely struck Radueriel’s motionless form, the entire cosmos veered sideways.

Edited by Radueriel Benson

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Dax Gordon

This was not about Justice.

 

Once, Dax had hidden behind the concept, used it as shiny porcelain veneers for rotting teeth and oozing gums.

 

This was not about justice.

 

There was no need for justification from the Lady Iustitia, who donned another blindfold to keep herself from seeing what had become because

 

this was not about justice.

 

Perhaps, instead of the birth of justice, we should instead examine the life of revenge.

 

In the days of the Trojan War, when the blood still ran hot enough to scorch the ground and Helen herself laid in Paris's bed, revenge was already sown into the muscles of men. Menelaus after Paris for Helen, Achilles after Agamemnon for Briseus, and, in fact, Orestes after Clytemnestra for (in another wild and unfollowable chain of events) Agamemnon.

 

In some indistinguishable period of time before, after, or during, Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivite stole the virtue of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah. Jacob used cunning to strip the Canaanite men of their flesh and his sons, Simeon and Levi, extracted it with swords.

 

It was not the pursuit of justice—for justice simply did not exist—that drove these men, but lex talionis: the law of retaliation. Not in balance, but in ten-fold. An entire kingdom for the hand of one woman, the destruction of a bloodline for the innocence of another. An eye for an eye was not good enough then, and it was not good enough now.

 

This was no act of righteous vengeance but, rather, petty revenge. In the scheme of it all, Radueriel was no Hector of Troy and the slight he caused was no death of Patroclus but Dax very much was Achilles, who, too, preferred a city dismantled for one single bloodshot eye.

 

Dax may not have been a magical savant—some of his professors would argue, even, that the only way he could get further from that title was if he became Desmond Potter—but what he lacked in technical skill, he made up for with true grit and dedication to a cause.

 

(This could be used for better things; imagine, for a moment, a world where Dax Gordon was not blackened from the inside out but golden through and through and used his power for good instead of primal vengeance but—before we get too far, remember also that a fourteen-year-old boy laid vulnerable at his feet and that that alternate universe couldn't exist no matter who wrote it.)

 

It was not with technical grace that Dax dressed his little room of horrors; at its base, it was still a room that poor students might have, once upon a time, learned about Uric the Oddball or perhaps, more aptly, the magical legend of the MacBoons and the McCliverts. It was just a plain, unassuming room with a bit too much dust in the corners and a few simple bits of spell-work that even Dax Gordon could manage: some well-timed hot air charms in conjunction with some screaming tea-pots that growled rather than screamed, a chair or two with half-transfigured clawed feet to scrabble periodically around the room, fur-lined pillows lined and primed to dart around the darker corners when the time was right, a permeating scent of wet dog that came purely from the socks he'd collected from his roommates and stewed in a forgotten cauldron for months.

 

With the lights on, Dax had to admit that it was rather comical; dark as it was, barely a sliver of moonlight leaking in through the bottom of the door, it was quite the opposite. If he didn't know better himself, he'd be near-fully convinced that they truly were one within spitting distance of the rabid puppies.

 

Somewhere in the room, one of his shoddy creations faltered and slammed into a wall. Dax thought himself a genius for locking down a contingency with that paranoia. He knew it was only a matter of time until the rest of his magic began disintegrating piece by piece but a terrified victim wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a snarling snout and a great big, stinking mistake. A terrified victim wouldn't count the glaring plot holes and suffer through them. Before it all fell apart he'd enjoy it.

 

But it wasn't quite right. It was too dark to see Rad's fear and using even a little light would ruin the atmosphere, paranoia or no; the least he could do, for just a touch of satisfaction as the minutes dragged on, was have a little input from the star himself. A flick of his wrist and another lock was undone; Radueriel had his voice back just so Dax could hear it go raw.

 

He crept closer through the darkness, perching on a discarded desk at the boy's side. “What's it like, Benson?” Curiosity was a strange creature that turned him conversational instead of mocking, more grey than black. “How's it feel?”

 

The steel toe of the same boot that blinded Rad's tie to Ravenclaw tower nudged blindly into his rigid muscles, more seeking presence than pain though there was a distinct thump of impact when leather met boy. A teapot let out a hissing howl as contact was made; Dax played into it with a wicked sort of pleasure.

 

“Which one d'ya think will get you first? You're friends with the Pritchard kid, aren't you?” His boot caught bare skin and and tugged it sharp where it stuck. “I'm not taking bets, obviously, but I'd put a galleon or nine on him gravitating toward a familiar scent.”

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