Chapter Image by SwissMiss@TDA
One month later
14th March 2023
“I’m never going to be able to do it.” Cassie moaned, massaging her shoulder. She was lying flat on the grass, her legs bent at a funny angle from the fall and her whole side covered in clumps of wet mud.
“That was better.” Albus stooped to pick up her broomstick then stood above her, holding it out. Funny how she was already thinking of it as ‘her broomstick’. It was actually Albus’ most recent castoff, a great deal duller and less flashy than his newest model but Cassie had fallen in love with it. “Come on.”
“Was not.” Cassie griped, not moving. She looked beyond Albus’ amused face and windswept, birds-nest of hair to the golden hoops beyond. They stood out vividly against the dreary white sky, and seemed to be sneering at Cassie.
“Yes it was. You’ve got the dive part just right, you just can’t…”
“Stop myself hitting the floor.” Cassie finished, stifling a groan as she pulled herself into a sitting position. “I think I’ve dislocated my shoulder.”
“Bullshit.” Albus dropped the broom in her lap carelessly. She had to admit he was a good teacher, lack of sympathy aside. “I dislocated my shoulder in fifth year – cried like a baby all the way to the hospital wing.”
?” Cassie sniggered.
“Hurts like a bitch.”
“That’s embarrassing for you.”
“I got over it. When you win the game by two hundred points people tend to forgive and forget.” He grinned proudly.
“Bloody show off.”
.” He folded his arms impatiently.
Cassie sighed noisily and climbed to her feet, snatching up the broomstick. “I’m starting to regret this project.” She complained.
“Don’t lie, it brightens up your day,” Albus’ never-ceasing optimism irritated her to no end but she couldn’t help rolling her eyes with a smile. “Go on, to the hoops. And this time don’t think
about it so much. Don’t try and work out the angles and the distance and whatever else is going through your head. You’ll feel it when you need to pull up. Use your instincts.”
“I’m starting to think I don’t have
“Hey, if you can climb the side of a tower, you can make a dive.”
“Is not. Hoops. Now.”
Cassie threw her leg over the broomstick and kicked off sharply. There was little wind that day but the speed at which she cut through the damp air threw her hair back off her face and a rush of cold air consumed her. As she twirled to a flamboyant stop at the top of the golden hoops, she could imagine Albus shaking his head.
He wasn’t a fan of her showy moves, which she thought was a little hypocritical, since he was the biggest showman in the air. He told her he was allowed, as he’d long since mastered the basics. He considered it impertinent that she mimicked his effects when she couldn’t properly pull off the simple moves he was trying to teach her.
It was hard to believe it had only been a month or so since Albus had decided that Cassie needed to learn to fly. They’d been in detention for the Banister Sliding Incident and he’d decided that he needed another project. Cassie had refused, thinking he was being patronising, but his relentlessness and her curiosity had beaten her.
She wouldn’t admit that it was the most fun she’d had in a very long time. It even beat climbing and gymnastics. Everything was better when you had someone to share it with, after all.
“Ready?!” Cassie yelled into the cool, moist breeze. She’d been saying it more to herself but she saw the tiny stick-figure of Albus on the ground wave a sweater-clad arm in the air in confirmation.
, she thought to herself, aim for the arrogant git in the red. Be streamlined. Don’t hit the ground. Don’t think. How hard can it be?
Before she could psyche herself out any more, Cassie threw herself flat against the broom handle. In an instant the broom tilted, angling her towards the floor. Her arms strained as she fought to keep the broom steady; stopping it overturning, shaking or veering off-course. Everything became harder as she picked up speed, the shaking becoming more violent, the wind becoming stronger and the ground becoming very noticeably nearer. Adrenaline coursed through her veins as tears streamed down her face and she let out a scream of exhilaration. Above the roar of the wind in her ears as she shot through the air, she heard a delighted, incredulous laugh from Albus, telling her that she was nearly there, so close
She squinted through her tears and without thinking again, without judging anything, she felt an urge to pull up. Hauling her body away from the handle she dragged the broom upright until it was parallel with the floor. As if in slow motion she watched as the angle of the dive became shallower, shallower… she was doing it, she was going to make the dive, she was…
Albus’ laugh quickly turned into a yell of a warning. She was too close to the ground. Cassie’s foot caught on a tuft of grass and the sudden change in weight distribution jerked the broom forward, planting its nose firmly in the mud and throwing her head over heels in front of it.
With a dozen sickening thumps and crunches, she bounced for several meters until she came to a halt in a puddle of muddy water at least twenty meters from her broomstick.
Rolling onto her back she tested her limbs for mobility. Nothing seemed broken, except her dignity. And that had been long gone really. Wiping a strand of soggy hair from her face Cassie took in a tender lungful of air and laughed loudly.
Albus’ face appeared above her, concerned at first but then twisting into that now-familiar, crooked smile. That made Cassie laugh harder, and she relished in the light feeling it gave her, despite her sore body. Laughter felt natural to her again. It hadn’t felt this way in three years, and in just a month one boy had managed to turn that around.
“You still scare the shit out of me when you scream like that,” Albus scolded amiably.
“You scare too easily.” Cassie caught her breath.
“You crash too easily.” He retorted.
“I really do.” Cassie chuckled then screwed up her face as her head throbbed, “Ow.”
“I just dived fifty foot and forgot to break, what do you think?”
“Ready to do it again?”
Cassie grinned, “Totally.”
“That’s what I thought. You really did nearly have it that time.”
“Well, yeah -”
“Uh-huh, but -”
“Remind me, was that the fortieth or fiftieth time?”
“It was the last time.” Albus grinned, again showing his ridiculous optimism.
“Whatever you say, Captain.” Cassie pulled herself painfully to a sitting position once more. “Ow. I need a break.”
“Oh, give it a rest for one minute, slave-driver. It bet you weren’t made to dive a hundred times in a row when you learnt to fly.”
“That’s because I managed it in under a hundred attempts.” He smirked.
“Alright, Mr I’ve-Been-Flying-Since-Before-I-Could-Walk. We’re not all flashy pure-bloods with toy brooms when we were a year old.”
“Ok, first – you’re a pureblood too. And second – I learnt to fly when I was eleven, just the same as you did. Only difference was that I didn’t give up.”
“Whatever. It’s still in your blood.” Cassie wasn’t going to admit defeat. And besides, everyone knew that Albus’ mother, father, brother, grandfather and uncles had all been gifted fliers.
“Well, yeah, that’s true. I guess. But… want to hear a secret?” Albus dropped into a crouch next to Cassie.
“Go on then, enlighten me,” Cassie pulled a dramatic face and Albus seated himself cross-legged opposite her.
“Alright. Well just to let you know, blood isn’t everything.” His face was serious and for a moment Cassie thought that that was it.
“That’s your big secret? Hate to break it to you, dear, but I did gather that -”
“Do you remember my brother James?”
All of a sudden Cassie felt the atmosphere become more serious. After just a month’s friendship she was already closer to Albus than she was to Freya, Juliet and Nina, but in that month neither of them had brought up the others family or their own.
She nodded without saying anything. From the grey clouds above their heads a light splattering of rain began to fall.
“He was Quidditch Captain before me. Youngest Captain in about a century, they said. He was only in his forth year.”
Cassie vaguely remembered Albus telling her that he’d been made Captain in his fourth year too. But that was when he’d gotten that odd look on his face. And, if she thought about it, that was the year that the Potter family had vanished. Evidently Albus had been awarded with the title in his brothers’ absence.
“But when he was in his first year, James dropped out of flying lessons after the first day.”
“What? Why?” Cassie didn’t remember ever being told this about the Great James Potter.
Albus shrugged. “Who knows. He bit my head off whenever I asked him about it, but I got told that he just got scared. Got a bit too high, threw up all over the grass and wouldn’t get back up there.”
Cassie recognised that story all too well. Apart from she hadn’t been sick, she’d just taken one look at the ground, screamed and fallen. That was why she’d never gotten back on a broom. She was ok with heights when it came to climbing – she had the control there, the responsibility was on her. But when it came to relying on a broom… well, she would never have managed it without Albus’ help.
“So how did he become the youngest Captain in a whatever?” Cassie asked.
“When it came to the summer after his second year, so after my first year, I was nagging Dad to buy me a broom so I could get on the team, then I got him to train with me all summer, I was so determined to get onto the team. I remember James watching out of the kitchen window and his face… It was the first thing I’d ever been better than him at, I guess. And for the first time I was getting all the attention from Dad. He didn’t like it. Then one morning I got up and I saw him outside with Dad. On my broom. He was getting Dad to teach him. And he was absolute shit. Seriously. Took him longer to get it than anyone I’ve ever seen -”
“Longer than me?” Cassie asked, incredulously.
“Cooper, you’ve grasped it a hundred times quicker than him. Hell, you’ve got it quicker than me. You’re about as good as I was in fourth year and you’ve only been flying for a month.”
“Really?” Cassie’s aching body didn’t agree.
“I think you’re lying. But carry on with the story.”
“I’m not lying. But ok. Well, that’s it really. James was a shit flyer – it took him all summer, training about five times as much as me, to get into enough shape to get on the team. And even then he trained throughout the year on his own, every single day, to get good enough to be made Captain the next year.”
Cassie pictured the poor guy – she couldn’t remember what he looked like, just vaguely similar to Albus but with lighter red-brown hair – dragging himself out of bed every morning just to get that little bit better.
“Wow.” She said. “That’s commitment.”
“Uh-huh. James is the most committed guy I know. And the most competitive – I mean the only reason he even started flying was because of me. Couldn’t let me be the best at something.” His words were bitter but the tone in which he said them and his face just seemed wistful as he talked about his brother. The brother, Cassie, supposed, that he hadn’t seen in three years.
“So anyway,” Just as before, Albus snapped out of his pensive trance in an instant, “Like I said – blood isn’t everything. If blood was everything, James wouldn’t have had to kill himself training for years to achieve something that I got by pissing around in practices, getting yelled at for not trying hard enough and slacking off for. Right?”
“Suppose.” Cassie imagined how hard it must have been for competitive, older brother James when his younger brother was so naturally gifted at something that he wanted. She imagined Albus coming home yapping about his flying lessons and how great he’d been at it – how annoying that must have been…
Suddenly the image changed. It wasn’t a small black-haired kid chatting on to his older brother, it was a scrawny blond grabbing at his older sisters arm as she ignored his rambling stories of success.
Cassie’s stomach seemed to drop. The ten or so dives she’d completed today hadn’t given her this nausea in her abdomen, but this one memory had. She blinked, startled by the tears forming in her eyes.
“…Are you ok?” Albus was asking, looking unexpectedly uneasy. Whether it was because he recognised the bright shining in her eyes as a telltale to the tears threatening to spill over, or whether he was suddenly uncomfortable with the family anecdote he’d just shared, Cassie didn’t know.
“Uh-huh.” Cassie nodded and ducked her hair, she hoped that the rain on her face would disguise the tears. “I just… my brother was good at flying. I think… I think he would have been good. Really good.”
The words tumbled from her mouth before her brain had time to filter them. She was talking about Ryan. Of her own accord. And not just defending herself when someone implied that she was grieving over him. She was talking about him freely.
Albus looked as though he didn’t know what to say. But his green eyes, although troubled, showed no surprise, so Cassie assumed that she had been right in thinking that he knew something of the story around her family.
“If he was anything like you then, yeah. He would have been bloody brilliant.” Albus said, in a more quiet voice than before, but with the same grin. “How old was he…?” He trailed off but Cassie heard the rest of the unspoken question. How old was he disappeared
.. .And for that she was thankful. He wasn’t asking about Ryan as if he were dead. He was the first person to talk to her like that.
“He was first year when…” Cassie wasn’t sure how to finish the sentence. When he disappeared? When it happened? When everything changed?
“He was first year. I remember him going on and on about his flying lessons to me. But I… I didn’t really listen.”
“And now you wish you did?” Albus said, his voice even lower.
Cassie nodded, not trusting herself to speak. She was overwhelmed with how much Albus seemed to understand, and with how much she was willingly disclosing to him. She didn’t know why, except for maybe that he was going through the same thing, in a way.
“I know what you mean. The amount of times I’ve wished I’d just had the patience to listen to James brag about his latest girlfriend, to Lily chattering on about blibbering humdingers and blubbering whatever’s…”
Cassie felt a confused smile spread across her face.
“Don’t ask.” Albus grinned back at her.
“I wish I could.” Cassie said. “I wish you could ask James and Lily about that and I wish I could talk to Ryan about… about just, everything.”
“Maybe we can.” Albus spoke so quietly that Cassie was sure she’d misheard him.
“I just said… nothing.”
“No, you said ‘maybe we can’.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Just… you know. Someday. Someday I hope I can talk to them, face-to-face, and tell them I’m sorry for shutting them out when I didn’t want to listen, and sorry for the stuff I said when we were arguing, and just… that I’ve missed them.”
Cassie pulled her hand up from the mud with a loud squelch to put it over Albus’. With her hand on top of his the mud oozed out from in between.
“Eew. Gross. I’m sorry,” Cassie laughed and pulled her hand up. “That was meant to be more heartfelt and less…”
“Revolting?” Albus inspected the clods of mud over both sides of his hand with a disgusted look on his face, but his eyes were sparkling.
“Definitely.” Cassie watched the mud drip from her hand as the rain fell more heavily.
“Right.” All traces of nostalgia were gone from his face, and Cassie recognised the slightly crazed look of optimism that told her that she was going to go through a lot of pain in a short amount of time. “Twelfth time lucky?” He grinned, holding out her broom.
“It’s only been twelve?” Cassie griped, taking the broom and clambering to her feet.
“Twelve today.” Albus didn’t seem fazed. “To the hoops, Cooper.”
“Alright, but it’s getting dark. I agreed to risk my life with you teaching me to fly, Potter, but I never agreed to do in the dark.”
“Shit, it is
dark.” Albus seemed to surprised to see it as he glanced around him at the grey, darkening pitch. “Quickly then, one more. I think one of the teams has got the pitch book for half eight… Bollocks. Too late.”
Cassie followed his eye line to the changing rooms, where she could just make out a small group of people emerging.
“Oh. Guess we better go.” She took a few steps and winced as she put weight onto her left foot.
“Are you ok? What’s wrong?” Albus took the broomstick from her in a flash and held her elbow.
“I’m alright,” Cassie said, testing her weight again. “Just my stupid left foot. From where I… uh… kicked the floor. I didn’t realise.”
“’Stupid’ left foot, huh?” He grinned.
“Well it was the left one every time,” Cassie argued, “The right one was fine, didn’t put a toe out of place.”
“Ok, ok. Blame it all on the foot.” Albus said, soothingly as he helped her across the pitch. Cassie didn’t like feeling like a little kid.
“Shut up. Just because you’re jealous that I’m as good in a month as you were in four years -”
“Hey, I told you that as a compliment. You can’t then use it against me!”
“I just did, buddy.”
“After all I’ve done for you…” Albus muttered, teasingly.
Cassie was just about to make another snide comment regarding her superior flying skills when a voice from the doorway to the changing rooms cut in.
Cassie squinted at the figure silhouetted in the rectangle of light. She recognised the outline of the cropped, bristly fair hair. “Allen?”
“What are you… Can I talk to you for a moment?” He asked, sounding a little uncertain.
Cassie was suddenly very aware of the warm pressure on her elbow as Albus took some of her weight without complaint. She knew who she’d much rather go back up to the castle with – the boy that had brought laughter back into her life, who’d made her feel like she wasn’t crazy, she wasn’t alone. The one prepared to half carry her back.
But Allen just wanted to talk to her. She owed him that much.
“Ok.” She glanced sideways at Albus.
He didn’t look remotely affected. “You want me to wait? Or…”
“No, no, it’s alright.” The rain was beginning to fall heavily and Cassie didn’t want him waiting out in the cold any longer than necessary. He’d already been out here with her for hours. “I’ll just meet you…”
“Tomorrow. Third period. Right?” By now that had their shared free periods memorised. There weren’t really enough of them to make an exhaustive list.
“I’ll meet you from Secrecy.” Albus pulled a face, knowing how much the both of them dreaded the hour a week of Importance of Secrecy – possibly the most boring subject of the lot, including History of Magic. Cassie groaned even at the thought of it, but wondered how he remembered which class she had before. She had no clue where he would be coming from.
The warm pressure on her elbow was removed and Cassie was left feeling strangely alone, even though she was face-to-face with her ex-boyfriend and a room full of Quidditch players and house mates.
She met Allen’s eyes with difficulty, dredging up the memories that didn’t make her feel exactly proud. She’d never been all that good to Allen.
“So what’s up?” She asked in an attempt to remain upbeat.
Allen regarded her curiously. “You seem… different.”
Whatever Cassie had been expecting, this wasn’t it. “In what way?”
“I don’t know.” He seemed as though he were properly considering every word. “Better, I suppose.”
Cassie narrowed her eyes. “What do you mean, ‘better’?”
He laughed, although a little nervously. “Only you would be offended by that, Cassie.”
“Well, by saying I seem better you’re implying that I must at some point have seemed bad. I don’t think I was ever ‘bad’.” Cassie said, defensively. She was only partly telling the truth. Really, it depended on what you meant by ‘bad’. She could freely admit that she hadn’t treated Allen well – he’d been victim to her volatile mood-swings from aggressive and demanding to distant and withdrawn. He’d never stood a chance. He’d been… well, an experiment really, heartless as it sounded.
They’d been together for a brief period last year when Cassie had become suddenly afraid of how numb she was feeling. She’d known all along that when Ryan had gone he’d taken a piece of her with him, but it had hit her in fifth year just how much that affected her. She’d forgotten what it was like to feel. Allen had been her attempt at getting that back. It hadn’t worked. She’d stuck to risking her life instead.
“I don’t mean it like that.” Allen protested, “I just mean… I just mean you seem happier. Which is good.”
“Oh.” Cassie wasn’t sure what was the appropriate response to that. Thank you? “I am. I suppose.” That was what this feeling was. Happiness. A small, small shadow of the deep happiness she’d had before, true. But happiness nonetheless.
“Good. That’s good.” Allen shifted uncomfortably.
“So was that all you wanted to say? Because, seriously, I would have gotten Albus to wait. Now I’ve got to walk back on my own -”
“Cassie, what are you doing with Albus Potter?” The words left Allen’s mouth rapidly. He didn’t sound remotely jealous – he needn’t be. There had never truly been anything between them and she was sure there was nothing like that between she and Albus. The unsettling thing was that Cassie couldn’t tell what the tone of his voice was.
“He’s teaching me to fly.” Cassie said, truthfully.
“Why not?” She countered.
“After all these years you decide to learn to fly?” Allen had been in Cassie’s flying class. Unlike her, he had excelled immediately and was called up, in his second year, onto the team. It wasn’t a surprise. Even by second year it was apparent that Allen was one of the people that excelled at everything, and he proved it by coming top in most classes, saving his team time and time again with his keeping skills in matches, and becoming the Ravenclaw prefect last year.
“Why not?” Cassie repeated.
“Ok.” He wasn’t stupid. He could tell that he wasn’t getting anywhere. Behind him his Captain yelled at him to hurry up and get onto the pitch some time before midnight.
“Is that all?” Cassie asked, not giving any thought to manners. She’d behaved worse than this towards him before. He was a remarkably patient person to still make the effort to speak civilly to her.
“Just be careful.” For a moment Cassie thought he was talking about her injuries and was ready with a wisecrack to respond with, but he wasn’t finished. “Albus Potter is trouble.”
Cassie snorted. “Did you really just say that?” The words had been almost chilling, especially with the bleak setting, but she couldn’t take them seriously.
Allen smiled reluctantly. “Alright, I didn’t mean to sound so…”
“Melodramatic.” Cassie supplied.
“Right. But I meant it. He’s trouble.”
“In what way?” Cassie humoured him, ready to disregard anything he said.
“He just doesn’t care. About anything.” Again the words were a little chilling. Cassie was reminded of Freya; “He doesn’t care about anything, only Quidditch.”
But he does
, Cassie thought. She’d seen that today. He cared, truly cared, about his family. And she was starting to think that he cared about her too, as a friend.
“I’ll bear that in mind.” She replied, slightly frostily.
“Do. You don’t want to be hanging around with him.”
“What would you know?” Cassie was irritated with his vague warnings. Who did he think he was?
“Promise me you’ll be careful?”
Why do you care?
She wanted to know. She knew he didn’t still have feelings for her, which meant that he must either genuinely believe that Albus was trouble or it was all some stupid Quidditch rivalry or something equally ridiculous.
“I’ll be careful.” She assured him, and watched as his expression didn’t change from that unreadable one, even as he walked away.
Cassie made her way back up to the castle alone, slower now without Albus’ helping hand.
It was absurd, she thought, how very little people really understood.
“Albus Potter is trouble.”
“He doesn’t care about anything.”
“You don’t want to be hanging around him.”
“Promise me you’ll be careful.”
Cassie thought of the sincere expression of longing on his face as he spoke of his family.
“He doesn’t care about anything.”
They didn’t understand at all.
A.N. A big thank you to anyone that had read and even bigger to those that have reviewed! I'm not getting a big response, but at the moment this story is pouring out of my head so I'll carry on anyway, but when the time comes that it gets more of a struggle I'll see how it goes!
I'd love to hear what you think, please leave a review.