April 25th, 2098

17:45:58 Huian ◙ It was a stupidly pretty day. Warm, light breeze, not a cloud in sight. It was a stupidly pretty day for this. Huian looked around at the stones, the markers depicting graves of people long and freshly dead…walking around them with a careful step. She didn’t like graveyards. Who really did? Her hand clutched her bag, and she stopped near the corner lots, next to a little duck pond that had been here longer than the graves…kneeling down next to one and patting the ground. “Cheers, Charlie.” Black hair slid over her shoulders, and she smiled at the stone, rubbing the marble fondly. “It’s nice out, you know. I would have come yesterday, but it started to rain later on, and you know how much I hate standing out in the rain. Sorry about that, really.” And she sat, sort of, tucking the hair away from her face. “I’d tell you about the concalve, but honestly, it’s like any other major gathering. People like to fight, like to eat, like to prove what magic is better than others, when that’s all very, very silly, because all the magic is the same and they just don’t know it. Applications vary. I think I told you that a long time ago.” ◙

17:56:01 Cyrus`Valen “So, you actually do come here. I hope that means you also received my letter and did what I asked of you?” He’d seemingly melted out of nowhere…of course, his arm was concealed by both bandages and a longsleeve shirt and gloves, and he’d used magic to alter his appearance somewhat. His hair slightly thicker,longer and a few shades darker…and his eyes, perhaps his most distinguishing figure, had been changed from icy blue to a darker, warmer brown. At least, the one eye not covered by a patch. And even his style of dress…he’d always been rather formal, but now, just a long sleeve knit shirt, and a pair of blue jeans. His wand was nowhere to be seen, though he HAD retrieved it from its hiding spot. Clearly he didn’t think her enough of a threat to have it out in the open, “And you’re right. All magic is the same. And it’s all beautiful.”

18:04:38 Huian ◙ Her eyes closed at the voice, before she let out a breath, standing slowly, her hand still on the marble as she turned. She wasn’t smiling. Her eyes weren’t hard, but they were scanning and picking apart everything about him, down to the arm. “Of course I did. You were not able to pay your dues to the dead, and it was obligated that I do so instead. You made certain of that, Valen.” Her tone was mild, light. She wasn’t angry, but she was careful, in a way. The way a rabbit is careful in an open field, very very still. “Why are you here, if you had planned to have me arrive in your stead? And tell me, where did you uncover the spell for that arm? Or potion, considering your strength.” ◙

18:19:27 Cyrus`Valen tilted his head slightly, a brow arching at the sharp tone. He wasn’t expecting such…well, fire from the girl. If he’d remembered correctly from his classes, she wasn’t exactly meek or weakwilled…but she hadn’t been one of the vocal rabble-rousers either, so it came to him as a surprise that she was so quick to question him, “Just came to pay my respects, just like you. It’s sheer happenstance that we’re here at the same time,” he riposted innocently, “It’s a little bit of both. Spell, and potion that is. And you pick up a few things over the years, especially when you’re being controlled by a dark, dark wizard. That, and extensive studying. That’s as close of an answer as you’re going to get to that particular question.”

18:30:40 Huian ◙ Huian was never weak willed, If she had been quiet, it was because in the classes he had her, she was still translating in her head. Also, they were planning stuff with the whole ‘Stop the Madness’ thing the scoobies had. It was all very complicated and made her head hurt, so we’re moving on. Her nose scrunched, and she blinked, before asking her next question, tone careful. “What did you give up for your arm? Magic of that caliber equals a sacrifice of equal value. What did you give up…” She wasn’t moving from the spot. She had paid his respects to Charlie, but the look on her face was easy to see. He had not a single right to pay the respects as he was now, not like that, turned into a man that was…reprehensible. ◙

18:56:01 Cyrus`Valen His head tilted slightly at the next question, and he leaned against a nearby gravestone, one of the larger, more intricate affairs, “You’re a smart girl. Either you’ve experience in this kind of magic…or heavily studied at least. But that’s a fairly loaded question that neither of us have the time for right now…to put it in the simplest terms, wherever our dear Charlie ended up…I won’t be able to join her when my time comes,” He looked upwards for a moment, allowing the sun to bathe down across his face.

19:08:43 Huian ◙ Her lips quirked into a frown, and she lifted her hand from the grave. “I should send a message and detain you for the authorities.” Her hand rose, pushing dark hair back from her face, dark eyes ever watchful. “And you should answer the question I posed, without relying on any simplicities drawn by faith. What did you sacrifice? Surely not your concepts, though I’m most disturbed by what I can assume happened between the both of you, you did seem to love her, and she had been fond of you.” Her thumb was brushing along her bottom lip. “I would say sanity, perhaps a sliver of your soul, but then, souls are difficult to quantify. But then again, if it had been, you would not be here, still.” Around and round. “You knew you were to be captured. You knew you were going to set yourself up to die, officially. Why? What made you garner that much power with that much risk, simply…you’re not going to give it up…” Huian…was very smart. Words crisp…tone light. ◙

19:29:22 Cyrus`Valen He stared at her for a moment, before performing a series of actions. First, removing the glove from the arm in question, then rolling up his sleeve and unravelling the strips of cloth binding it. Up close, she could see the arm was somewhat textured. Not scaled, but pebbly, “Touch it,” he said simply, and if she did so, it would be quite old. Cold to the touch, and as hard as stone or steel, “I take it back. You’re a VERY smart girl. You never actually believed me dead, did you? And the power does me no good if I’m locked away in Azkaban,” Still studiously avoiding the question of what his trade had been, “And no one searches as hard for a dead man…and you can always call for the authorities, but we both know I’d be long gone when they got here,” A sly insinuation that she had no chance of detaining him.

19:42:42 Huian ◙ The invitation to touch something that terrible and astounding was something she could not pass up. She did touch the arm, briefly, before her hand slid back to her side, and she moved away from the grave, patting the marble fondly. “Of course not. Any marginally intelligent person would know that you wouldn’t have allowed yourself to get captured without planning for it.” That was simply said as if saying the sky was blue to a child. She did have that demeanor, now, with the slight half smile. She probably would make an excellent teacher, with the way she was. “You know, I still dream of Valentine’s Day. Of fire and blood.” Her hand rose, and she waved it lazily, as if fanning smoke away, before reaching down, into her boot, and pulling out her wand slowly, waving it and sending a rabbit off with a message. “Please tell me what the sacrifice was. I need to know, Valen.” Even now, she was sweet and contrite, smiling at him slightly. ◙

19:57:39 Cyrus`Valen When she went for her wand, his own slid out in an instant from its hiding spot beneath his sleeve, “I gave up what’s standing right in front of you,” he stated simply, “Where did the rabbit go? To who?” he demanded. And flicked his wand at her, “Expelliarmus”, hopefully flinging her wand from her grip, “I would really rather not have to hurt you, Miss Li. I still remember that day, too. You helped drag me out of Hogsmeade, with some boy.” He was taking a step back now, wand raised in preparation should she have managed to avoid the attempt to disarm her and retaliate, eyes darting from side to side. Surprised this place wasn’t crawling with aurors already.

20:08:33 Huian ◙ No. She had cast a shield charm a split second after she saw his wrist flick, and it was enough to keep her wand in her grasp, though it jerked a bit. Her smile was still there. Faint n her lips, her eyes calculating everything. From the way the sun was shining down to the way her shoes moved in the dirt. “That rabbit went to wonderland, Valen. It had a very important date and could not be late.” Side stepping around a headstone. “Kieran Krum.” Her hand rose, and her thumb rubbed on the wooden ring on her finger. “How much do you think you can hurt me? I admit, I’m not the best duelist. I will never be the best, but I do know things you do not.” And her hand moved, wand flicking once without a sound, sending a jet of white his way. If it hit anything else, the tree, the water, the ground, nothing would happen. Though if it hit him, or that duck, it would start to be clear that they would slow down…exceptionally…for at least fifteen seconds. ◙

20:13:52 Cyrus`Valen His own shield flew up to send the spell spiraling off into a far corner of the graveyard, his eyes tightening, “I would really rather not hurt you, Miss Li. But it’s a simple matter of the fact that no matter what spells you know…I have the experience. I could have killed you three times over in the time it took you to aim that spell…Reducto!” One of his favorites, the exploding curse, aimed not at her, but at the pond, sending the poor duck also sailing into the distance, but more importantly, sending a massive spray of water and dirt skywards, and he was moving, ducking behind a head stone, “For their sake, I hope your rabbit never reaches the aurors. I have no reason not to kill now.” he called out.

20:29:15 Huian ◙ “And I’m not trying to hurt you. You could have killed me, but you didn’t, and really, I don’t think you will.” Her feet were taking her around a few more headstones, behind a tree, this doll like woman in a flowery sundress and combat boots, dueling a man that she should have cursed on the spot. Her eyes closed for a moment, before they opened, and her gaze was hard. Training with Huang. Defense in China. The War. Magic was will. She moved away from the tree then , heading for his spot, wand flicking, silent spell after silent spell. Things moved, there were flashes of light. Red, white, purple, blue. Not aiming, but flushing him out. Stone came alive, vines grew, time slowed, a brief blast of heat…she was quick and dodged well enough as well. Fencing did come in handy. “Where did you find the spell for your arm?” ◙

20:44:20 Cyrus`Valen She was definitely fighting with a bit more ferocity than he expected. The few spells that came near enough to hit, he was batting away, and then finally forced to flee from behind the headstone he’d sought refuge behind, but not before throwing up a Protego and sending out a massive cloud of smoke, much like he’d done inside of Lilliput’s. As he traversed, hopefully concealed by the smoke, he called out, “Why would I tell you something like that? Especially now” before ducking inside of a crypt, his wand poking out for a moment behind him to transfigure several headstones into groups of shrieking, divebombing bats as he attempted to conceal himself in the shadows of the tomb.

20:56:31 Huian ◙ Her eyes closed at the smoke, before coughing into her fist. It concealed him. She didn’t see him run, but she could hear it…and heard the sound of bats, waving her wand and freezing them all, having them fall to the grounds as bits of stone that they had been originally, opening her eyes. “Because. You’re not going to kill me. I’m not going to kill you. I like to know things. You like to be heard. You liked to know that your students had come away with something they didn’t know before. I was your student once. I would like to know.” There were only so many places he could hide, and she stood infront of the crypt, eyeing it, before raising her wand. “Please tell me.” ◙

21:23:38 Cyrus`Valen “Why would I tell you anything when you just called down the Aurors?” he demanded, assuming that’s where the rabbit had scampered off to, “You don’t know that I won’t kill you…and it looks like you actually paid attention in Cyrus’s class,” he called out. Had she noticed, that’d likely strike her as odd, the way he’d phrased it. Silence fell over the crypt…and then an enormous crash, and another, and his arm burst out of the backside of the crypt, black flesh tearing through it and moving, opening a hole that he ducked through before turning around, and with a wave of his wand, the ground around the crypt became thick, soggy…quicksand, trying to suck her in as he made for safer ground in a nearby cluster of trees.

21:36:17 Huian ◙ Her lips thinned into a line, but she said nothing, thinking, listening…and then she blinked. That was odd. As odd as the silence, and then the crash, which, she was smart and darted away from, in case there was a spell headed her way. Lucky she did, her boot caught the edge of the quicksand before she pulled it free, eyeing the damaged crypt and destroyed headstones. Oh, he was going to have some bad juju. She didn’t give chase. She simply sat, pulling her dress over scraped up knees and wondering in her head where the spell had come from. ◙

13:40:45 Cyrus`Valen He noted there were no more spells flying about, so, still moving cautiously, he eased back into view, eying her for a moment as she sat, looking almost like a little girl with her scraped knees and quizzical look, “I’d heal them, but I was never much good with charms. More likely to blow them off,” he commented dryly, “And if you want more answers, there’s a book. Won’t be easy to find, but it’s called ‘Forbidden Rites and other Rituals Necromantic’. Spooky, huh? Don’t bother trying to find an author either. Curious thing about the book…it’s only half completed. You have to ascertain some of the spells…and don’t think about hexing me again.” His wand was trained on her, smiling faintly. Clearly, this HAD at least temporarily awakened his former enjoyment of teaching.

13:49:52 Huian ◙ “They’re just scrapes. I’ve had worse.” Scraped knees were nothing, as she straightened and looked at him, dark eyes very clearly blue in a ray of light, before she blinked and pushed hair back from her face, sliding her wand back into her boot holster, smiling at him. “That is an odd name for a book, but not spooky. Is it bound in cloth or flesh? I would hope not skin, because it doesn’t hold ink very well. Where did you locate the book?” She was speaking fast, sweetly, trying to chime answers out, as mild and pleasant as ever, like there hadn’t been a duel. But she wasneeding those answers. She needed them for her theory, for her writing… ◙

14:31:39 Cyrus`Valen Once her wand was put away, his own found its way back up his shirtsleeve again, and he was shaking his finger slightly, “Nah uh. What’s the point of you searching if I tell you everything about it? And for the record…flesh will hold burns a lot better than it will ink. And it doesn’t matter where I found it, it matters where I left it. What kind of proper villain would I be if I just handed everything to you?” he questioned her. He was preparing to leave now, slowly inching towards the gate leading into the cemetery, “And a tip…you may not say anything, but your lips still move when you’re casting. That, and the way you let your arm rotate in the slightest bit right before you throw gives away that you’re about to hex someone.”

14:40:05 Huian ◙ Her eyes narrowed. Did that mean it was made out of flesh and skin? Such a book might have it for visual impact, but…her eyes followed him, watching him inch away, before stepping forward to follow him a bit, rubbing her thumb along her lips. “Thank you. I will fix that.” Wait…where he left it… “At least tell me if it’s on the continent or here. You could be so generous and narrow it down…if I’m to be searching for it…be a card carrying villain…and give the poor girl a bone.” She pushed hair back from her face again, eyes wide and imploring. “Please, Professor Valen.” ◙

15:03:52 Cyrus`Valen Gave her a long, hard glance, and rolled his eyes…or rather, the uncovered eye, “Are you really trying to puppy dog me, girl? That only works in those deplorable bodice-buster novels I used to catch you lot reading in my class room. And make no mistake, find the book or not, it won’t help you figure out what I’m up to, nor a way to stop me. I’m only telling you this much for my own amusement,” And then he was changing, shrinking down into his Animagus, the wolf regarding her for a moment before turning and plodding quite casually out of the graveyard.

15:17:52 Huian ◙ Her eyes slid down, and she looked at her hand, before up at him, as he spoke, as he changed, and she only spoke again as the wolf was leaving. “Wallachian or Mongolian. You would need dragon’s blood and phoenix tears for either one…” her fingers rubbed together, remembering the texture of the arm. Another look up at the wolf, before following him, a couple steps. “All require human blood. What is missing, and what…” Her hand landed on the back, trying to stop him, before kneeling. He could rip her throat out. She trusted he wouldn’t. It was an odd thing to trust, but she was calculating. “May I please?” The leg that had been replaced. If she could touch it again. ◙

15:35:55 Cyrus`Valen The wolf regarded her with a long, searching glance again, more than a little suspicious by the request. But, it relented and raised the paw. Just like his true arm, it was black and stonelike from shoulder to paw. His teeth were ready should she try anything devious, tail swishing from side to side. Whatever that rabbit had gone to do, clearly its’ message hadn’t been intended for Aurors, otherwise the graveyard would have been filled with them, and home to the duel of the century, long ago. What was the girl’s game? What was she playing at?

15:50:22 Huian ◙ Her hand held the paw, and the gears were whirring in her head you could see it on her face, lightning flashes of thought and connections, and you could see what was being ruled out as the hand slid up the leg. Her lips were moving faintly, and her brow had scrunched…before looking up, her free hand patting the ruff of his neck once, out of a habit. “Bone? Powdered…but of what. Tepes used the bone and blood of his enemies, along with his father…Genghis Khan used the bone of horses…” She was muttering, her hands falling to the sides and rising, thumb rubbing her lip. It was most vexing. All of those sorts of spells called for blood and bone, but you could determine what sort…. ◙

16:16:46 [Hippolytus] Proceeding with daily life under the pretenses of moving on from the irritating case on which he’d earned an inquiry was bad enough – but all the harder to do it while hiding murderous intent, never sure when or where he’d have to drop everything and finish a job left undone (or rather one that had been MADE undone by some yahoos in Azkaban). He and Meredith had been wearing a path between three points of interest, and between those points, there was a lot of land to cover. Hip had done more flying in the last few weeks than he’d done in probably all of his school days, but he had to touch ground at some point and today he’d done so, taking a break to triangulate and sneak a quick spot of tea at Meredith’s house. He’d hardly been home at all what with keeping tabs on Hayden Kaust and helping Meredith with the dark wizard… issue. With his wand behind his ear and a cup of tea in one hand, the Daily Prophet in the other, he stood at the filmy window. A sudden rattle at the door in influx of silver smoke jarred him from his train of thought and he took a step back while the patronus took its form and delivered its terse message for Meredith. With the rolled up paper, he gave his partner a swat on the arm and then went to grab his cloak.

16:17:58 Cyrus`Valen He listened intently as she rattled off, though she may not have realized she was thinking aloud. The paw noticeably twitched at the word “father” and his eyes narrowed faintly, tail swishing a bit faster before he yanked his paw free…and transformed again, looming over her, “You know what I did to Boulstridge,” he stated mildly, “And saw what I’m capable of. Why aren’t you afraid of me? And why aren’t you drawing your wand? Try to bring me down? Be a hero? Granted, everyone thinks I’m dead currently….though I imagine that won’t last long,” He was unaware Porthman and Hippolytus had discovered his treachery, and would be fairly amused when he discovered their decision to go renegade on this.

16:26:09 Huian ◙ Ommph. The paw was yanked from her hand, and she blinked as he suddenly loomed over her with the transformation, before standing slowly. She was not a tall woman. She was slight. But she smiled and there was fire in her eyes. A very calm, collected sort of fire. “Even if I was afraid, I would never show it. I’m not afraid, though, because you do not frighten me. You’re just a man, delved into highly risky and addictive twists of magic.” Her smile grew, and she stepped forward, her hand rising, before pressing the side of it against his chest. “And I do not need my wand to fight you. But still, lest I use magic that would get me incarcerated, I would not win a duel with you. There is no point in me fighting you, again. Our brief stint showed that, and you are already cursed. I don’t need to do anything else.” Her voice was steady, mild, she was clam as could be. It was almost unnerving. ◙

16:28:27 Porthman was actively trying not to lose his mind over an old book scribbled in Chinese. Despite his promise for lessons out of Huian, the auror was still taking it upon himself to try and transcribe characters with few promising results. He’d claimed the entirety of his table to the task at one point or another. Meredith sat on the table’s surface with his leg crossed and folded to hold a book in his lap. Others were systematically scattered on the table in an arch, one was hovering near his head - paired with a quill for writing, and another had fallen to the ground. Meredith’s attention would have risen and fallen without Hippolytus’ insistence, but the slap to his arm was an awakening as his doors rattled home filled with a charm’s smoky light. Mop didn’t bother to grab a jacket once its message was received loud and clear. His book fell as he disapparated from the table to Botts’ side. From there, he clasped a hand on his compatriot’s shoulder (his other, on the wand at his side) and did it all over again. The pair disapparated from the stone-and-mortar farmhouse to the destination posed to him by their lapine visitor.

16:43:59 Cyrus`Valen “Even smarter girl,” he allowed, and tilted his head somewhat, causing his collar to shift. The veins running up the side of his neck were black, though only on the left side. Same as his arm, “Then you won’t be needing this as much as I will. I expect when they discovered my act of subterfuge that it won’t exactly be a fair fight,” he remarked before reaching, attempting to snatch her wand from its holster and side it up the opposite sleeve of his shirt, before turning to head out of the graveyard yet again, to begin heading back into greater London.

16:50:27 Huian ◙ No. He reached, and she backed up before he could pull her wand from her boot. It was three parts because it’s where her wand was, and one part his hand would have to slide down her leg and she did not like that, though his fingers would brush the edge, and hers were pointed at him. “It’s not nice to touch a girl there, Professor. It might get you in big trouble.” She actually looked unnerved, though it was her left leg and the shift had made her scar hurt. “Now, just go, before I do something I would regret.” She had seen the veins. Seen them, and her brain narrowed a search, lips pursed together. ◙

16:56:43 [Hippolytus] It would seem that the location Meredith had in mind was very familiar to the man - their appearance was abrupt and very precise over a gravestone in a small, sunny churchyard. The atmospheric disturbance of their sudden presence was swirling gusts of wind that laid the surrounding glass flat and crackled in the air briefly as an electrical current. As soon as they had felt solid ground, Hip had pulled his wand from his robe and snapped a curse. There was no binding this time – it was a pointless stop off before their ultimate goal. He’d gone straight to a blasting curse leveled at the departing criminal. The near-peaceable scene of moments before was cracked irreparably with the Aurors’ arrival.

17:14:22 Porthman didn’t really have a plan when he apparated them on the scene, but he had plenty of scenarios on the backburner. One such scene played out upon arrival with thanks due to Botts’ itchy trigger finger and Meredith disapparated from the scene. He wasn’t gone from the earth long and reappeared a decent distance away, nigh-flanking the criminal who shouldn’t be keeping his lonely grave waiting. Of course, he didn’t do so in secrecy, the sickening sound of his apparition was a bell giving his position away. Meredith’s wand drawn and poised to follow up with a curse to match his partner-in-crime’s, the younger waited for the opportune moment. Whether after Cyrus was busy countering Botts’ assault or while he was eating it made little difference—his hitch was that he wanted to know – absolutely – Valen’s response.

18:10:30 Cyrus`Valen “I assure you, I have no interest whatsoever in what’s under that pretty little dress of yours, you dithering fool. Give me the wand.” He demanded, and his own wand was in his hand again, tip already glowering with a jet of silver light much like he’d use to draw blood from Gloriana, “Finally, the tiger emerges. Where did that rabbit go, Li?” His eyes had narrowed. He was getting angry now…it didn’t help that there was a foreboding sense of dread overcoming him. Everything he had was telling him to run right now. The crack, and he was lunging, spinning around to knock whatever malice was surely aimed his way with a Protego. Said malice? The blasting curse, sailing off to the side and destroying one of the unmarred headstones, a few fragments catching the side of his face and gouging his cheek. His wand was blazing instantly, firing off a few blasting spells of his own. And one of the ones he’d used against Huian, transforming a good portion of the graveyard where Hip had apparated into a patch of quicksand. Moving the entire time, he went for the girl, curling an elbow about her neck, dragging her before him, “Hello, boys.” he greeted. He hadn’t seen the second one yet…but he’d heard him, and knew he had to be lurking somewhere, “Didn’t expect to have to fight you so soon. Rude of you to interrupt a conversation with lovely Miss Li here. Now why don’t we put down our wands and discuss this like gentleman?” He called out. All the while, he was casting a series of shield charms around himself, and Huian. To at least slow the lull for the moment.

18:24:28 Huian ◙ “It doesn’t matter what you were after, you will not get it.” She was staring him down, staring down the wand he was pointing at her, no emotion but the sense of extreme mildness she’d hd the entire encounter. Her hand twitched, rising a bit, before the crack had her turning, before ducking as a headstone nearby exploded, protecting herself from the shards of stone and moving to her feet, to haul ass out of there. She didn’t see where she was going, there was dust, but a sound left her as her neck collided with the inside of the elbow, choking breath from her for a second as it halted her momentum forward, and stumbling back. Oh, well, this was embarrassing. She stumbled back as he moved, trying to catch her footing. (It was really annoying, being much shorter. On the plus side, he was in no position to unholster her wand, but really, the long skirt of her dress and the short thing was working against her.) Think. Think. Pay attention. Pay attention to the shield charms, to the fact that he was still aiming to leave. Her hand was raising now, gripping his elbow a bit, tugging the arm away from her throat. Calm. No panic. ◙

18:32:35 [Hippolytus] As his spell was deflected away, Hip dove into a roll to place himself opposite of where Meredith would reappear with a crack. Meanwhile, Cyrus had dodged, cast a spell, run to get an arm around Huian’s neck, offered a wordy greeting and cast a number of additional shield spells. Improbable, wasn’t he? Well, Hip wasn’t feeling particularly chatty and besides, the man didn’t seem to be waiting for answers anyway. Regardless, he WAS focused on Hip, so the young Auror didn’t waste the expectation of attention and whipped his wand at a chunk of aforementioned gravestone. A simple accio spell would bring it sailing from behind the man on a crash course with Cyrus’s skull.

18:48:17 [Porthman] Valen’s reaction time and ability to act within a small window should have been impressive to any wizard. Meredith didn’t have any time to dither and appreciate his dueling wit it from a scholastic point of view. He had a job to do and he’d do it whether or not he was armed, delayed, or put-off by the threat of human sacrifice. Mop acted as soon as Valen laid hands on Huian – and synchronized with his flanked partner. Another round of disapparating from his place would put him solidly behind Valen while he spouted off and cast his shields – but Meredith wasn’t interested in casting anything at the man and he certainly didn’t take negotiations with dangerous criminals. Take no prisoners. It took a second after the crack that put him close enough to Valen to breathe on him for the auror to whip his right hand up and grab the man solidly – unforgiving – by the back of the neck. If he was successful in his simple first step, it wouldn’t be a curse or a gravestone his quarry would have to worry about, but how Meredith’s wand-bearing hand threatened to impale the man through no simple amount of force. Porthman’s target was the fleshy center of the torso, offset to the left with the hope of puncturing something vital – kidneys if he was successful in any grade and the spleen if he managed it through. If and when he wounded the veritable wolf, Meredith’s clutch changed to an arm-bar around the man’s neck to treat him in much the same way as he was treating his hostage – if only to whisper a few words in his ear and twist the knife deeper.

19:32:08 Cyrus`Valen The rock colliding with the back of his head did nothing to fix the situation he was in, causing him to stumble and release the girl by sheer reflex. One hand was going to the back of his head automatically, though he stopped himself. It was going to be a nasty headache later…he could already feel blood trickling into his hair. When he felt himself seized from behind, he was spinning instantly to the outside of the palm grasping at his neck, snarling as the fingernails dug deep furrows into the flesh around his throat, just adding to the list of head injuries he was taking. His first instinct was to kick, hard, at the male’s midsection to thrust him out of range with the stabbing wand…and then, rather than engage in combat, he was letting off a huge cloud of his now repetitive black smoke, whilst apparating at the same time, onto a rooftop several blocks over, though there’d been a split moment that’d give Porthman a chance to grasp at him and come along…but at the same time, would they splice?

19:37:31 Huian ◙ There were a lot of things happening at once. Like, seriously. She had to pay attention to herself first, and herself was being flung as something slammed into Cryus from behind, pitching forward and landing on her hands and knees, glancing her head off a headstone. There were cracks of apparitions, and her vision swimming as her hand slid up to her forehead, stemming the blood she felt there before very staunchly not moving. No. She was not being caught up in something again. ◙

19:51:12 [Hippolytus] When the dark wizard relinquished his hold on Huian, Hip spun his wand into its holster, trusting Mop to either end the man or end the situation in some form. The shorter of the two went instead to see to the erstwhile captive. He knelt, putting a hand to her shoulder. “Huian? Look at me… here.” He flicked his wand at her forehead to heal up the cut. Er… not perfect, but it was better than flowing blood at this point. “Are you alright?” He glanced from her, up quickly when disapparations happened. He grimaced a little. “Mm. Bugger.”

19:56:20 Porthman would not about to go on an adventure with a dark wizard when he wouldn’t bloody well know where he was going to end up if he knew that was what he was in store for. Fortunately or unfortunately, Valen’s twist and attempted back-kick causes the auror to release his grip and jump back to leave the man to disapparate without hindrance. Meredith wasn’t happy about the loss, but he wasn’t about to stomp his feet in a temper-tantrum. He clenched his teeth, clicked his tongue to the roof of his mouth, and kept his wand out and ready for a possible return. Once Valen had gone and Botts was assisting Huian, Mop began to stalk in a circle around, keeping a wary eye out for any miraculous returns.

20:02:32 Cyrus`Valen In all honesty, he himself was shocked when he rolled to his feet and neither of the Aurors had joined him on the trip. His arrogant side wanted to remark that he was still a wily old fox…but there was no one around to hear it. A hand raised to the wounds across his face, throat, the back of his head, wincing at each. He had to get out of sight for now. Staggering to a doorway, he just barely managed to blast the lock off the rooftop access before tumbling forward in a violent coughing fit, down a few flights of stairs to the bottom. The harder he coughed, the more the veins on his neck darkened, and thick black ichor soon splattered the hand covering his mouth as he lay there, crumpled and convulsing before blacking out.

20:15:07 Huian ◙ Breathe. Be calm. There was blood in her eye, but that was fine. She could feel the pain, and it was sharp. She did not have a concussion. She did not feel ill. She could think, clearly. She should not be panicking at the blood in her vision. She was not to be panicking…though that didn’t stop the slight jerk she gave at the hand on her shoulder, before looking up. Oh. There was a wand in her face, and she felt the cut heal…or at least scab enough, and she wiped her face, and stared at her hands. And then promptly wiped her hands on her dress. Who cared? It was torn and dirty anyway. “Thank you.” Sliding to a stand, Huian tilted her head at Mop, and then at Hip. “I doubt he’s coming back.” She had paid attention. He didn’t want to duel. The shield charms. “He didn’t want a fight.” ◙

20:19:25 Hippolytus rocked back on his heels, then rose, offering Huian a hand up. “Oh, I know,” he said in a tone just about as flat as the expression that had entered his face. His glance flickered to snag Meredith’s for a moment, waiting for some kind of hint on Huian. Their pact was very much between the two of them, after all and he didn’t want to involve someone who shouldn’t be and probably wouldn’t WANT to be involved. “It’s not our job to fight him – it’s our job to bring him to justice.” That’s what we’re calling it. Hip offered a small smile and stepped back, putting the area back to sorts as best he could.

20:29:44 Porthman diverted his attention from his watchful rotation to Huian when she spoke. He was spitting out a reply, much to his surprise, before he could filter his vocabulary and polish his delivery. “I don’t give a fuck what he wanted.” Meredith practically shouted from behind her, louder and harsher than he’d intended to be. He had a disapproving expression and a shake of his head for Botts when his partner tried to read him. Huian shouldn’t leave here knowing everything that happened. Maybe she could be trusted with knowing the raw truth… but Meredith didn’t want her to. It was a sword: they could explain everything and hope Huian could be trusted not to tell what the pair were playing at… or they could keep quiet and she might end up babbling the wrong thing to the wrong person without knowing she could potentially unravel their whole plan. Neither path at the fork looked good—they needed to blaze a different trail.

20:40:08 Huian ◙ …breathe. Ignore the fact she flinched when Mop shouted, ignore the fact she had to look at him and noticed his expression. Justice. No. That was a silly thing to call it. Her eyes closed, and she took a deep breath, hiding her…apprehension? Fear? No, she wasn’t afraid. She was…she didn’t know. (Huian was not used to being shouted at. Swore at, yes, but not shouted. It made her heart beat erratically.) Eyes opened again, and she forced a look of placid calm there, staring between the two. “I see.” She saw something, and could put pieces together. A step back, and she turned on her heel, before walking to her fallen and near forgotten bag by Charlie’s gravestone. She had no words. Not even a look before she disappeared with a resounding crack. ◙

20:43:46 Hippolytus let his glance slip away from Meredith and back to Huian, the smile never quite fading from his face, but the true feeling behind it seeming to dwindle a bit until all that was left was the hint of an entirely ironic expression. His brows twitched a little as the witch went to pack herself up and remove herself from the situation… a little prematurely. His lips twisted off to the side in the moment he could sense she was going, but his hand didn’t quite tighten on his wand before she had disapparated. He released a breath and turned back to Meredith, one brow raised. “How long can we afford to give her?”

21:10:50 [Porthman] It was so easy to raise his wand – already poised to act – and shoot off a binding curse at an unprepared, ragged Huian. From there, Botts could take over and do what he had to do to keep their secret safe so they could have more time in their quest. Huian would be better for it – she’d be safe. She’d be protected. They’d be protected. When it came down to it, Meredith dropped his wand while Huian stood to gather her things and piped up. “I’m sorry.” He told as a sincere, soft-spoken promise. Mop had no intention of shouting at his friends and he should have censored himself. “I’m so sorry, Huian.” The promise repeated when she reclaimed her bag and before she disappeared. Once he was alone with Botts, his expression and attention shifted back to his confidante. “I…” Meredith’s eyes tore back to the spot she’d disapparated from. “I can’t say…” The confession was regrettable, but he had some silver lining: “but I think… if she talks… I know who she’d speak to first.”

21:16:09 Hippolytus sighed deeply, but nodded. He dusted off the sleeve that had hit the ground first when he’d rolled away from one of the spells cat in his direction. “Alright… but the longer we go, the more I have to … work on.” He gave Meredith a long, meaningful stare. He was good, but he wasn’t exactly top in the department – he was nowhere near old enough to even approach that title. He turned to face Meredith straight on, arms folded over his chest and a light frown hinted at on his features. “We can fix everything later if we’re heavy handed now. But if this makes it beyond one person? I can’t fix that.”

21:26:10 [Porthman] “I think it’s time we bring someone else in.” Mop suggested, addressing neither of Botts’ concerns. “If you’re not opposed, that is.” The formerly frazzled auror holstered his wand and closed some of the distance the conflict had put between them. “It’s obvious, at this point, that we’ll need the extra wand—aye?” Meredith’s blaze was extinguished and he wore a sedate mask once more.

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