Authors: Mrs. Hyde and MST3KguruK10
Rating: R for language and (controlled) violence
Author's Notes: This fic was written as a prequel to our OUaTiM/HP crossover fic Strange Bedfellows starring Agents Sands alongside Professor Snape, but this fic can be read as a standalone.
This was going to be more bullshit. He could feel it. Anything that involved that cocksucker Barnes was bound to be bullshit.
Sands leaned back in his chair, his arms crossed, and watched the others. The motley collection of agents-in-training that filled the room made up his "year group," or whatever—all of those in his group at the Farm. All of them—including Jerry Barnes.
Special Barnes. Sands hated him because he was a kissass little lickspittle with the spine of a jelly donut—what the hell he was doing in the Agency was beyond him. But Sands guessed Barnes must have had some tricks up his sleeve or friends in high places or something, when of all people he was singled out for some kind of special ops training during their year at the Farm—just one more reason to hate him.
Theirs had been a small bunch, that particular special ops group—different people from different departments, and they never talked about it, although Sands thought it might be some kind of ballistics or new technology shit from the weird lights that he occasionally caught flashing in the night.
Fuck that. Give him a handgun any day of the week.
But here they were, Barnes and all, one big happy family again. The whole bunch of them had been crammed into one of those nasty, little sterile rooms tucked away deep in the Clandestine Service Department where they took you for classes. They called them "Code and Regulation Briefings" and declared it classified, but that was crap—they were classes. CIA 101 for the stupid freshmen.
Assholes. A quick peek into some of the back files told him that the only reason they were required to memorize all these rules was so that they could break them.
Fredericks finally showed up. Sands had heard that he had been a ringer in his heyday, but now he was just hairy and overweight and liked to ogle the new female recruits. He was puffing a little, as he was running late, and he was burdened by a thick stack of file folders (more crap), with his ever-present donut and cup of coffee balanced on the top.
The files smacked on the table as Fuckericks dropped them with a whuff. Barnes (of course) jumped to offer to hand them out. Fredericks, who liked having sunshine blown up his ass, nodded, obviously pleased.
Sands would dearly love to pistolwhip that little pissant. Just once.
But Sands still jerked his head in thanks when the fat folder was set down in front of him, and he started paging through it. He wrinkled his forehead—on top of the thick stack were pictures and dossiers on top government officials, it looked like, from all over the world, but none of whom he recognized. He flipped back to the front, skimmed the one on top, and stopped short.
Cornelius Fudge? Minister for Magic?
What the fuck?
Sands looked up, brows knitted. Everyone else had similar expressions—everyone but Fuckericks, who looked indulgently amused, and Barnes, who was smirking.
"Well," said Fuckericks, clapping his hands together good-naturedly, "this is always a fun briefing, I have to admit."
Cultists, Sands decided. Had to be.
"Over the years," Fuckericks went on, "we've tried different ways to broach this, but we tend to find that the direct approach is the easiest: magic is real."
Silence. Fucker made his way over to the podium and fiddled with the controls; the lights dimmed and that damned overhead projector started whirring, throwing a blank blue square up onto the screen dangling at the front of the room. The blue patch resolved itself into the ubiquitous PowerPoint presentation.
Only this one talked about magic.
This had to be some kind of elaborate joke. Fredericks was talking about the Dark Ages and witch hunts, only it turned out that they really had been hunting witches, but they never got any because they were all in hiding. Real witches. And wizards too. With magic wands, no less.
And he said there still were witches and wizards around—and a lot of them, apparently. He talked about schools where these people went to learn magic, and about wizard involvement in World War II and magical terrorists in Britain during the 70s. He talked about some kind of secrecy laws and how magic people either hid or simply blended in with normal people.
He was talking about motherfucking magic.
And he was serious.
What in the name of Jesus Christ in a sidecar was this happy horseshit, anyway?
The idiotic slides finally came to an end, thank God, and Fredericks turned the lights back on and rubbed his hands together. He seemed aware that everyone was looking at him like he was completely out of his tiny mind, but he just regarded them complacently. "Now, I know this is a bit much to assimilate all at once; this was really a very brief overview on the general structure of the magical world. For the next eight weeks, you'll receive more in-depth instruction and information, practical defensive training, and of course there will be references on file for all of our clandestine agents should you need them."
He smiled at them. "I know, this really is more than a little outlandish, but we will have a member of Section 17—that's the CIA's Magical Division—in with us to train. And," he continued, with the air of one giving a special treat, "your session will be a bit different than some, since Barnes here is in your year group and will be training with you as well. Barnes has been tapped for Section 17."
Barnes grinned beatifically at them all as they stared, smugness absolutely radiating off the sorry bastard. "That was why he had additional training out at the Farm—he was working on magical combat."
"Let's see your magic wand, Barnesie!" called Wilmington, after a brief silence.
Barnes laughed too heartily and reached into the inside pocket of his jacket. He pulled out a little tapered stick of polished wood and held it proudly up for inspection.
Sands always knew he was a faggot.
"Well, show us something!" Wilmington said, half in challenge, half in jest.
Sands nearly fell out of his seat; with a sound like a gunshot, a man had just appeared out of thin air. Asher shrieked, and Sands heard a yelp from Donnelly, but the man ignored them both.
"Put that away," he said coldly. Sands was too busy gaping to be pleased by the way Barnes deflated and shrank back into his seat.
The man was tall, and his hair was completely white, but he didn't seem old at all; rather, he stood strong and straight and exuded power in waves. His eyes beneath his craggy brows were a faded blue, sharp and clear like the desert sky.
"I am Special Agent Magnus Iverson of Section 17," he said. "And I am a wizard."
Sands didn't believe it at first. It was some kind of trick, some kind of test. He didn't believe it when Iverson told them to. He didn't believe it when he started shooting sparks and butterflies out of that stupid stick of his. He didn't even believe it when he turned a table into a deer.
But he believed it when, right in the middle of Asher's gushing over the animal, Iverson blew its head off.
Then it was serious. Then it was real.
"Quiet," he ordered, his tone of voice never changing, even with Asher's hysterics and frantic wiping at the spray of blood that hit her. He raised his wand at her; she cringed, but the blood just vanished.
"Magic is real," he said. "And it is not pulling rabbits out of hats. There are no smoke and mirrors. This is real—and it can kill you."
Now he had Sands's attention. Iverson began to walk slowly about the room, arms folded, not bothering to avoid stepping in the mess from the twitching deer carcass. Fredericks seemed to shrink as he went by, and Barnes was looking studiously at his hands, his wand nowhere in sight.
"And that is why I am here," he said, stopping by the podium; he seemed to dwarf it in height and breadth. "I am here to teach you so that should you encounter it again, you might have a slim chance of survival."
He raised his wand; the class collectively seemed to draw a breath. "This is not a toy," he said, and Barnes winced. "This is a tool, like any other—and in the hands of a trained wizard, it is a weapon. Treat it as such.
"There are spells to help and heal—and there are spells to harm and kill. As far as you are concerned, there is no difference." He began to walk again, his movements deliberate, staring at each one of them in turn; few met his eyes. "You are defenseless against a direct, lethal magical assault. Avoidance is your only defense; there is no offense because there is nothing you can do to stop it. A competent wizard can destroy you with a thought and leave not a trace behind. Should you encounter such a wizard, do not engage!" he suddenly thundered, and the group jumped, even Sands, which infuriated him.
"That, if nothing else, remember," Iverson said. "I will show you ways to detect magic, and I will show you ways to avoid it, ways to work around it should the situation permit, but in the end that means nothing if you find yourself facing a wizard in deadly combat. Do. Not. Engage."
Sands felt his back stiffen—what was the sonofabitch trying to do, scare them into submission?
And then Iverson turned suddenly, and Sands met his eyes, those faded blue eyes, and for a fleeting instant, he felt those eyes, felt them looking at him, looking into him, seeing anything and everything of his innermost secrets.
Iverson looked into his eyes, and Sands flinched.
It had been three days since that first introduction into magic; watching Iverson use that wand of his, casting spells that did things to people with only a few words, still made him twitch. To see him wave that stick and suddenly fill the air with arrows or hailstones or flame, or snatch a gun right out of someone's hand from across the room, or send them all careening into a wall—and all done with hardly the slightest effort, like he didn't even feel it.
Oh, but they certainly felt it, when they were on the other end of it. That had been part of basic training too, they'd soon found out. They couldn't just learn about the spells, learn what to look and listen for, no—the turd-burglars upstairs thought they also needed to learn what they felt like. Nothing that caused permanent damage, of course, but nonetheless Iverson singled out members of the group on whom to demonstrate stunning, disarming, petrification—to essentially be subject to a myriad of standard combative spells.
It was not pleasant. Sands was fast on his way to really hating the old bastard. But what kept him from completely giving over to the impulse was that exceedingly disturbing feeling that the old man knew what he was thinking.
And it wasn't just a feeling; the second day of the course, Iverson had explained all about the magical mental arts, and he'd more than amply demonstrated that yes, he could find out exactly what they were thinking, should he so choose. And Sands could never tell if he had chosen to or not.
So he kept his head down and watched and listened. And most of all he avoided meeting Iverson's eyes.
They'd been working their way up the ladder of combative magic during this first week. They'd started with a demonstration of general spells, enchantments, potions, and transportation (and what do you know, those people really did ride on motherfucking broomsticks, thumbing for a hitch), then they'd gone on to study common hexes and jinxes, and were moving up to defensive spells and genuine curses, how to identify them, and how to avoid them.
And Sands would be lying if he said he wasn't interested in the today's course, the last one of this week before they moved on to more practical training.
Today, Iverson was going to show them black magic.
"There are three types of black magic," Iverson said. "Spells designed to control, spells designed to torture, and spells designed to kill and destroy. There are, as with all spells, different degrees of each, and the ability to cast them depends both on the power of the wizard in question and the intent behind them."
Iverson was standing up at the front of the room again, wearing his customary black suit. Today, though, he had brought a black box with him, and it was sitting up on the front table (the one that had once been a deer—the one that no one sat at anymore), and Sands occasionally thought he could hear scratching noises from it.
Iverson was still talking, and Sands was still listening. "They are ranked according to effect; Class 1 are low-grade spells, which are typically non-permanent and easy enough to avoid or dispel." His impassive face hardened even further. "Class 10 are the darkest of black magic known to wizardkind."
The class leaned forward as a body to listen; his voice had not changed, but it seemed to Sands that he could feel a difference. "There are only three Class 10 black spells in existence—the ultimate in torture, control, and destruction. Elsewhere in the world they are commonly called the 'Unforgivable' curses—casting them on another human being can result in a life sentence in Europe and Asia.
"A wizard who will use these spells is the most dangerous enemy you will ever meet!" he suddenly roared, and the class, even Sands, flinched. Sands looked away. God, how he hated him.
Iverson began his slow, deliberate pace that never failed to make everyone uncomfortable. "The Class 10 spells consist of the Cruciatus Curse, the Imperius Curse, and the Killing Curse." A small ripple went through the class at this last. Iverson stopped in front of the table and opened a slot in the top of his box. As he reached in, Sands heard a soft little scuffling inside, and when Iverson withdrew, he was holding a white mouse. He set it down on the table, where it blinked a moment, and then began to snuffle about the tabletop.
Iverson seemed to ignore it. "The Cruciatus Curse is designed to torture. Not a simple, localized torture, as with knives or needles—it is to cause complete and perfect pain." His wand came out, and his eye blazed as he whipped it at the mouse and hissed, "Crucio!"
And immediately, the rodent began to writhe. It rolled on its side, twitching as if filled with current, and squeaking as if its legs were being torn off. And it didn't stop, and neither did Iverson; its eyes rolled and its body convulsed, and the entire class's eyes were riveted.
"Stop!" Asher suddenly shrieked, her breath whistling a little. "Stop, that's horrible!"
Iverson stopped, and when he looked up at her, his eyes were cold; Sands hated him for it, because he knew that that gaze would make him look away. "It's horrible, is it?" he asked, his voice glacial.
Asher's face was white, and she was panting a little. "Yes, that's awful! We get it! You don't need to torture animals to show us!"
"You're quite right," said Iverson calmly. He raised his wand. "Crucio!"
And Asher began to scream.
Sands stared, transfixed, as Asher shrieked like a fire alarm, her body jerking and thrashing as she fell out of her chair. Those sitting next to her drew away, their eyes bulging as they watched her seize upon the floor, and she screamed and screamed and screamed.
Then Iverson stopped, lifting his wand and leaving Asher a sobbing, quivering mass on the ground. No one touched her; she curled up in a ball on the ground, sniveling and quaking helplessly.
"Get up," said Iverson coldly. Asher didn't seem to hear him. "Get up," he said again, and when she didn't move, his face betrayed only the tiniest hint of disgust as he waved his wand at her. Sands tensed, anticipating more screams, but instead her body rose in the air, her limp limbs lolling uselessly like some grotesque puppet as she was settled back into her chair, where she sobbed feebly.
"Complete and perfect pain," Iverson said again, but no one was looking at him; they were all still staring at Asher. "Know the incantation for this spell and avoid both it and any wizard who would use it at all costs. This spell is more inclusive and refined than any form of torture you'll ever learn, and is perhaps the most effective method of coercion or of retrieving information."
Only when the entire class rounded on him did Sands realize that he had been the one that had spoken. Iverson turned, and Sands was confronted by those piercing eyes again, but this time he stood his ground.
"Do you disagree, Mr. Sands?" Iverson asked, one eyebrow raised.
Sands felt his chin trying to jut, but he reeled it in. "Yes—I do," he said firmly, meeting his eyes, if only for a moment. He gestured toward Asher. "Coercion, maybe—but information? Look at her—she's useless. How's that going to work for interrogation if she can't answer your questions?"
Iverson was silent for a moment, regarding him, and Sands felt the press of those eyes, and he looked back. And before he could blink, before he could duck, Iverson sliced his wand through the air. "Crucio!"
The curse hit him with the force of a cannonball, but he was only dimly aware of himself as he hit the floor, because he was being flayed alive, his muscles were filled with burning glass, his bones were knotting like strings, his eyes were exploding in their sockets, and someone was screaming, and oh, God, make it stop—!
And then it did. Sands found himself face down on the carpet, taking great gulping gasps of air, his throat bursting, and he realized that he was the one who had been screaming.
"Well, Mr. Sands?" came a voice from above him, and Sands thought he heard a trace of bland amusement in it. "Now do you think it effective?"
Sands's fingers curled, burning against the thin, rough carpet beneath him, and with shaking arms and muscles that quivered like Jell-O, he pushed himself to his knees.
He looked up and met Iverson's eyes, and said, "No."
Iverson's eyebrow shot up, and Sands gripped the back of his chair and pulled himself to his feet. He drew himself up as high as he could manage, still shaking, and said, "I've never favored blunt instruments. Sir."
Iverson looked at him, and Sands looked back. "I see," he said at last. "Well, then, Mr. Sands, let us find a spell more to your liking."
Up came the wand, and Sands clenched his jaw for the pain, and then—everything was fine.
"Why don't you get back down on your hands and knees, Mr. Sands—it suited you."
Sands did so.
"Now, crawl up here to the front of the room, so that the class can see you." Sands did. "I think you should apologize for being rude—why don't you kiss my shoes to make it up to me?" And Sands did.
"Now, then, Mr. Sands, if I had this curse on you, would you tell me what I want to know?"
"And would you do anything I asked?"
And then Sands blinked, and found himself on his knees in front of Iverson, who was looking down at him with an expression of amused contempt. And then the horror of the situation slammed into his stomach and he reeled backwards, landing on his ass in front of the room and only barely managing to stop himself from scrabbling across the floor like a crab, all the while staring up at Iverson in shock.
He snapped back to himself when he heard someone titter, and so help him God, he was going to kill them all—
"Is this funny, Mr. Fielding?"
The smirk disappeared off Fielding's face. "Nossir," he said quickly.
"No? You laughed, Mr. Fielding. Would you like a turn, to see how funny it is?"
"No, sir," Fielding said again, obviously alarmed.
Iverson stared him down, and Fielding looked away, and then he turned that wintry gaze back to Sands, who was appalled to realize that he was still on the ground, and he scrambled to his feet.
"Do not engage, Mr. Sands," Iverson said. "You will lose."
Sands stood quietly in the back of the gym. He'd been staying quiet and in the back since last Friday.
He'd found the Killing Curse somewhat anticlimactic, although the rest of the class had been appropriately horrified when Iverson's mouse bit it so neatly. Barnes had the nerve to look smug, as if he was something special just because he could 86 someone so effortlessly; Sands would like to show him just how quickly he could do it, and without some little wooden dildo, either.
But Sands didn't want anything to do with Iverson. Not a bit. Not ever.
So he stayed in the back. He didn't talk in the mornings, even after Fredericks took over the sessions again and briefed them on the specifics of magical law, on memory modification, magical transportation, and special dispensations of magical items; nor did he talk in the afternoons when they went into the specially outfitted gym to start their practical work with magic.
Sands didn't even gloat much that first day, when Iverson showed them how wizards fought, using Barnes as his patsy. Barnes swallowed it, too, hook, line, and sinker—he strutted up to the front when he was singled out for the demo, but he sure didn't look too happy when Iverson told them they were going to watch the two of them duel. Barnes had been all business then, and when Iverson told him to start, he jumped right in and the air was soon alight with spells.
Most everyone had simply been impressed with the show, but Sands had been more interested in the fact that, while Barnes had capered and pranced like Magical Mr. Mistoffelees, whirling his stick like a baton twirler, Iverson barely seemed to move from where he stood, his wand flicking almost lazily while Barnes leaped and pirouetted and generally wore himself out with his showmanship. And so Sands had been quiet, not gasping with the rest of the students when Iverson had suddenly seemed to tire of the charade and ended it with a quick snap of his wand, sending Barnes soaring through the air, flinging him against the wall with a thud, and dropping from ten feet with a dull smack.
Barnes hadn't said much for the rest of that day either, but this morning he was back to his usual insufferable self. Despite Barnes's humiliation that first round, Iverson had since been using him as a sort of assistant, the two of them going up against the rest of the class to give them a taste of magical combat and to assess their weaknesses. Sands guessed that what with having such an advantage and magically whipping up on all his classmates, Barnes was feeling his stones again.
"Mr. Sands." Sands jumped, which pissed him off to no end. Iverson was looking straight at him; Sands looked at a point just over his shoulder. "Mr. Sands, it's your turn, I think. Get up here; let's see you go against Mr. Barnes."
Sands hove himself away from the wall, uncrossing his arms, and walked through the path the others made for him. Barnes looked utterly thrilled; he was obviously still smarting from the beatings Sands had delivered to him last year in their hand-to-hand combat sessions at the Farm.
Sands's eyes narrowed as Barnes sauntered across the floor to stand in front of him. He was twiddling his wand between his fingers like a pencil, and a hint of a smirk was playing around his mouth.
They eyed each other, Sands tense and waiting, as Iverson moved back to the side and said, "Begin."
Sands moved the instant the word left Iverson's lips; Barnes liked to strike fast and first, and so his spell sizzled over Sands's head instead of catching him in the face as he tucked into a roll. He came up in a crouch just in time to see Barnes swing his wand again from the left, so he dodged left, and the second spell went wide. The third he cast with a funny corkscrew twist, sending it to ricochet off the mirrors on the walls, and Sands threw himself to the side when the reflected spell arced back at him from behind, and the time the Barnes spent avoiding his own shot let Sands get his bearings back.
He flicked his eyes briefly to the sides; racks of equipment lined the walls. To his left was all the boxing gear—perfect.
Barnes wasn't smiling now, and his eyes were narrowed in concentration. When he cocked his arm just so, Sands knew he was about to fire off two in rapid succession. He was right; he was flanked by a brace of spells in the next heartbeat, but this one he recognized. It was the bright purple one that had made Wilmington's legs go wobbly. So he jumped, but not high, and when he landed, he stumbled deliberately as if hit and flung himself into the wall. He reached surreptitiously down and gripped the closest headgear with one hand, and in the mirror to his left, Sands saw Barnes smile and swing his wand up and wide.
And then Sands threw himself from the wall, whirling to face him, and threw the headgear with all his might.
His aim was good, and Barnes's arm was overextended to the point that he couldn't block it. Sands caught him in the shoulder, throwing off his balance and, more importantly, his aim. Sands didn't waste a moment and launched himself at Barnes.
He hit him full in the chest, and Barnes went down with a whoof that knocked the wind out of him. Sands didn't give him a chance to recover; he grappled furiously for Barnes's arm, where his fingers were still loose from the fall. He snatched the wand from Barnes's hand and threw wildly across the room, not caring where it landed, and only then did Sands grip his stunned opponent by the collar and raise his fist in order to beat the living shit out of him.
Iverson's voice carried like a whipcrack. Sands froze, his fist clenched. Barnes was glaring up at him, sweat beaded on his lip and his breath coming in short bursts from where Sands was squeezing him with his thighs.
A vice-like grip on his wrist made him look up; Iverson was standing impassively above them. He pulled, and Sands followed his arm upwards. Barnes scrambled to his feet, red-faced and angry.
Iverson let him go, and Sands cracked his neck, returning Barnes's glare with interest. "Well," said Iverson, addressing the room, "what did he do wrong?"
No one spoke; Sands felt his face prickling in indignation. He'd actually been expected to sit there and take it like a bitch? Especially when he knew he could do something about it?
Fielding finally spoke up. "He got mad and broke the rules?" It was an answer, but phrased as a question.
Sands blinked; the tiniest hint of a sneer curled Iverson's lip. "Not Mr. Sands, Mr. Fielding—what did Barnes do wrong?"
Barnes's mouth dropped open a little; no one else spoke, and Sands flicked his eyes back to Iverson. "I set no rules," Iverson said.
"But—but you said do not engage—" Jameson protested.
"I said do not engage when faced with lethal force—and I had expressly forbidden such during this exercise," said Iverson smoothly. Jameson shut up. "However, I have also made the point that a wand is a weapon, and that a wizard is only as good as his wandwork." Barnes flushed darkly and seemed to shrink under the contemptuous look that Iverson gave him. "Mr. Sands is the only one of you for whom this information seems to have penetrated."
Iverson moved to take up his familiar prowling stride across the room. "You are not to engage when you have no chance of fighting back. And yet, despite knowing that I had explicitly curbed Barnes's magic to minor hexes and jinxes only, not one of you even attempted to defend yourselves, save for Mr. Sands. You just stood there, waiting to be shot like skeet."
The others in the room visibly wilted. "Magic is a weapon. If you find yourself facing a gunman while armed only with a knife, you retreat. However, if you are facing a master swordsman but are armed with a gun, you have the upper hand and may take a more active approach to self-defense."
Iverson stopped in his tracks and pinned them all with a derisory glare. "The point of this course is not to perform parlor tricks for your entertainment, children—it is to prepare you for the unlikely event of you finding yourself facing a wizard. These past days were not an exposition for your amusement—it was a practical exercise to assess your understanding of what you are likely to encounter and to evaluate your reactions to the situation. You," he said, seeming to grow where he stood, "are all dead. As are you, Mr. Barnes," he said, rounding on the whipped puppy in question, "for your own arrogance in assuming your invulnerability in facing a non-wizard. However," he said, turning slightly in Sands's direction, "you may stand a slim chance of survival."
And Sands met his eyes and nodded.
Author's Note: Homage to The Wizard of Oz and Cats.
Author's Note: Homage to The Wizard of Oz and Cats.