It was still ridiculously hot and I was beginning to think that the universe was doing it on purpose. I sighed, feeling sticky and hot uncomfortable all at the same time. It wasn’t like I could wear less clothes, because I was already in the bare minimum strap top and hot pants, and I was sat in the shade, with a bowl of (Italian) ice cream and an iced cold lemonade – it wasn’t like there was much else I could do escape the heat, other than to disappear back inside the confines of our humungous air conditioned house. That wasn’t an option though, not when Dad had returned home at half three with a jumbo pack of sausages and absurd amount of beef burgers.
“Well,” Dad had said jovially as I stared at him on the doorstep, “You’ve been a bit lonely since that James boy went on holidays.” Only my father could refer to James Potter as ‘that James boy’ and only my father could somehow misconstrued my feelings towards ‘that James boy’ so dramatically. “We’re going to have a father-daughter barbeque!”
Dad was now slaving away over the far too complicated barbeque grill, which the saleswoman had spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to sell to him – she didn’t seem to realise that he really didn’t care about price. There was a large gas canister too, bright blue and ugly looking. Not that it seemed to be achieving anything.
“Do you need a hand?” I asked lightly, not that I thought I could add anything to his pathetic efforts to get it to light.
“No, no Cassie, you sit and enjoy the sun.” I stared at his back thoughtful. This was a whole new category of weird behaviour. First, returning before he was supposed to – that was enough to send my brain into a major freak out, I thought some (really) distant relative had died or something... but to then go as far as buying a barbeque to spend time together... it was like some strange old version of my father that I wasn’t used to anymore.
Plus, thanks to James, I couldn’t help regarding his actions as very suspicious.
James Potter had successfully tarnished the one decent relationship I’d had in my life. Sure, a lot of the time Dad could be gone for weeks doing something complicated for work, but then he’d return with a splash and he’d take me to amazing places, or do amazing things for me just because he could. Now all these amazing plans felt like he was compensating for something, or trying to ease his guilt, or out and out manipulating me. How could I enjoy a barbeque with my father when, at the back of my mind, I knew he must have something to do with my memories being changed? When he was lying to me?
“Yes!” Dad yelled triumphantly as a rather large flame erupted from the grill. I was pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to do that, but it soon calmed down to a normal level. “Sausage or burger first?” Dad grinned.
“Burger,” I said, slipping of my seat – mostly because my sitting position was uncomfortable and making me even hotter than necessary – and walking over to the barbeque. I was handed a pair of tongs. “Turn it over every thirty seconds.”
“Don’t you think that’s excessive?” I smiled, unable to stop myself – who could blame me? This man was my father. I’d shared my life with him.
“You’ve got to turn it over every thirty seconds if you want the perfect burger,” Dad said, reminding me of when I was seven and would have believed ever word I said. Dad had the habit of treating me as though I was younger than I really was... I almost didn’t care.
“One, two, three, four -” I began counting.
“Five, six, seven,” Dad joined in – both of us making much more noise than was necessary as if that would make up for the fact that there were only two of us. He’d put the outdoor music system on, some silly song from years ago that I knew all the words too from long car journeys when he’d insist on playing it on repeat, and the music mixed with our voices. Just like old times.
“Twenty, twenty one...” Dad continued, I stopped, instead watching the burger with mock concentration, my tongs at the ready. “Twenty seven... twenty eight...” I manoeuvred my tongs so that they just touched the surface of the grill.... “Twenty nine... FLIP!” Dad declared. I turned it over quickly, sending it a couple of centimetres to the left.
“Dad,” I said with a wry expression. “You forgot to turn yours over.”
“Bugger,” Dad swore and I couldn’t help but laugh at that.
“So what are you buttering my up for?” I asked mid burger, noticing with satisfaction that these burgers had turned out much better than the Potter’s burgers (we had to beat them somehow, didn’t we?).
“Nothing,” Dad said. “I feel like I haven’t been a very good father this summer,”
“That’s not true,” I lied – it was true this summer more than ever I’d been left alone, stuck in an empty house and cooking all of my three meals a day and then eating them on my own. Weekends were slightly better. Still, I didn’t blame him (well...not much) because there was a new product being launched, after all – one that would probably pay for my great great granddaughter’s second house.
“Yeah it is,” Dad said. “So, if you want to...” He stopped. “Well, I’ve booked a long weekend off. Now till Tuesday – I’ve turned off my work laptop, my work phone, and... I’ve booked us a hotel. If you want to go, that is,”
“Where?” I asked.
“Florida?” I threw my arms around his neck and grinned manically. Florida. Of course Leanne was supposed to be coming back tomorrow... but everything she’d said about the muggle theme parks and the sun sounded amazing. I’d been infinitely jealous, and now...
“Near Disney,” Dad shrugged. “So, you want to go?”
“You better go pack then,” Dad grinned. “The flight’s tonight. Five days worth of clothes. We leave in twenty minutes. If you forget anything we’ll buy it there.”
There were some definite advantages to being filthy rich.
I glanced over at the window, putting my feet up distractedly, and watching as London fell away behind me. I liked aeroplanes. Apparently I was one of the few people wizards who did: Dad hated them, thinking of them as an absurd waste of time and a terrifying experience. I thought they were ingenious and inspiring. It was another bonus point for Dad that we were travelling at least one direction of the journey in my style: floo and portkeys really weren’t my style.
Dad was currently asleep, his ‘social’ phone clutched in his left hand, and his neck at a strange uncomfortable angle that made me want to stretch my neck and shudder. Instead I pulled out my laptop and flicked it open (plane mode), reopening the now familiar documents.
1) No idea why mother left – makes no sense whatsoever
2) No idea why I have kept my mother’s name – makes no sense whatsoever
3) Last memory of mother has been changed and also makes no sense.
4) Always moving house.
5) Dad is scared for my safety – makes no sense whatsoever
6) My existence is a closely guarded secret - again makes no sense
7) I can sense magic – makes little sense
Strange things about my Dad:
1) No social life/romantic life
2) Never talks about Mum.
3) Must know my memories have been changed
4) Funny about all things concerning my safety
5) Refused to let me take divination (not that I wanted to)
6) Has all my friends checked by the ministry (bar the Potters – I guess he figures they’re safe)
7) Runs a multi-million galleon business – compensating for something?
8) Brought us a very large very bland house – compensating for something?
9) Everything he’s done for me could be considered as I way to ease his guilt (cynical – very cynical).
10) Appears to be keeping big secrets from me
But there were so many tiny little things that could be considered strange: the fact that he insisted I didn’t cut my hair, or the fact that despite spending most of the year as a social recluse I was always encouraged to celebrate my birthday publically and loudly (although this hadn’t happened since I was eleven, mostly because my birthday was the most awkward day of the year for celebrations – September 1st – and because I never had enough friends). It could be considered strange that I had no grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins – just a father – and that ever so often Dad would receive a postcard signed ‘M and P’ and I’d be given no explanation as to who it was from, or why they were writing to Dad detailing some exotic holiday that he apparently cared enough to stash away in his office.
The more I thought about the more my life didn’t make any sense. Why, exactly, did I have three separate bank accounts? Each given a different address, none of which was my own. Why did we sporadically move from one side of the country – always in the summer holidays – and why on earth was James Potter suddenly interested in all of this?
I glanced at my Dad who appeared to be out for the count. Scared of planes? Yeah right. He’d been snoring before takeoff. I grimaced in his direction, trying to come up with a reason that would explain away his deception and coming up with absolutely nothing that could make his (potential) actions seem reasonable. I gritted my teeth and added everything I’d just thought of to the list: my hair, my birthdays, my lack of family and the post cards.
The therapy I’d been forced to attend?
Then I shut my laptop feeling horrible discouraged and altogether rather irritable. I closed my eyes and tried to practice my exercises, feeling my way around the plane for emotions and memories and magic. Most people were just feeling sick. The mother with the wailing toddler was exhausted and embarrassed and the skinny sharp woman who was sat next was becoming increasingly more irritated. The only magic was Dad and I – not that I expected much else – and the plane appeared to be relatively new.
I pulled out my phone with the vague hope that Leanne had texted me back. I’d told her I was coming to Florida but no doubt she was too busying enjoying her last day of sunshine to bother checking her phone. I wasn’t even sure if hers worked abroad.
So I looked at the window and watched the strange formation of the clouds until my eyes grew heavy and I, too, fell asleep.
There are few occasions when I really appreciate the fact that we are very rich. I don’t really think of myself as rich most of the time – mostly because when you imagine rich people they’re respected which I am definitely not – but on holiday, in the most expensive suite in the most expensive hotel I really wondered how I ever managed to enjoy a holiday staying in a mobile home with two bedrooms and a tiny kitchen.
“Your drink,” The waiter said, mock bowing and winking at me as he presented me with whatever-it-was on a ridiculous silver tray. The staff had clocked us as the ‘very rich family’ the moment we’d checked in and now it was customary for every waiter to hit on me, and every waitress to smile sultry smiles in my father’s direction. It was hilarious. As if they thought, by paying us enough attention they would become rich by association.
They kind of did though. Every time a flirtatious word emerged from a females lips Dad would feel obliged to leave overly generous tips.
“What is it?” I asked. It was a fair question. The drink was red at the bottom but yellow at the top with a cocktail umbrella stuck out the top gaudily, but I very much doubted it was as innocent as it looked.
“I mixed it especially for you,” He smiled winningly. He was attractive, for sure – with his tan and his ridiculously white teeth – but the constant flirting was a little, well, seedy... “Try it,”
I had a straw too, as if I was old enough to be given alcohol (which no doubt this was) but not old enough to drink it straight from the glass. I took a sip: coconut and orange... some sort of lemon and, well, it wasn’t half bad.
“Too much coconut, if you ask me,” I smiled sweetly, continuing drinking it to show I was joking and not a bitchy stuck up snob. I pulled my book out of my bag and stretched out on my towel. We’d settled into an easy routine of sunbathing in the morning, going into the park after lunch and then spending the rest of the day laughing at the muggles screaming on stupid rides, and then going on the stupid rides and screaming louder than all of them (Dad was convinced they couldn’t be safe without magic, and somehow his panic had infested me too) until dinner. Then we’d sit in the hotel bar discussing which of the ridiculous character costumes would suit us best until I was so tired that I’d drop off to sleep in my rooms before even having a chance to think about anything else.
I hadn’t got very far with my book. I’d ended up pretending to read it so I could think more about my life, and about how none of it made any sense whatsoever, and about how it seemed... James Potter was the only person who could help me.
“Would you like your lunch in the sun lounge, Miss Cassie?” The waiter asked, trying to hold my attention for a little longer before I returned into my book.
“What is for lunch?”
He said something fancy which didn’t mean anything to me except the final bit which I understood to be ‘chocolate tart.’ The starter definitely had something to do with seafood.
“The sun lounge would be excellent,” I said, pointedly opening my book to a random page and pretending to be very engrossed in the love story between Felicity and Michael – a match made in heaven, I was sure. It was the normal dribble that I could usually lap up with ease: with the undeniable chemistry and then inevitable excessive meetings that were too much of a coincidence to ever be realistic, but... I had bigger things on my mind.
Bigger, memory-modification-type things.
I finished my drink off in the next ten minutes and decided to head to the pool side bar for another before someone or other brought me some other strange alcoholic concoction which would no doubt go to my head at some point. “Just going to the bar,” I muttered to Dad’s increasingly red back. I had a feeling he’d fallen asleep again. “I’ll get you a beer.”
I felt self-conscious in my bikini enough without the group of boys around the pool who thought it was appropriate to wolf whistle (again with the rich thing) and stare at me as if my now slightly tanned body was something special. I folded my arms around myself.
“Cassie,” The bartender, Rob, grinned as I approached. “I thought it might be you coming,” I flushed and rolled my eyes.
“You know, no one even likes me at home.”
“I find it hard to believe that,” Rob said, pouring me my usual coke with a grin. “Jealous?”
“They don’t know I’m rich,” I said with a smile. “That changes things,”
“I doubt it,” Rob smiled – filling my glass up with ice and busying himself with providing me with yet another straw and a lemon wedge.
“Really,” I said, “I’m nothing special there.”
“N’awh, Cassie,” Rob said. “You’ll always be special,” then I had my drink handed to me and I walked back over to my sun lounger. It was ridiculously hot. All these drinks – alcoholic or non alcoholic – where the only things that were keeping me going. And all the ice cream, of course.
Still, it was hard to think with the sun beating down on me and searing my exposed skin. “Dad,” I said, releasing that I’d forgotten his beer, “You’re burnt.”
He had been asleep, I realised with amusement as he sat up blearily and noted that yes, he was indeed burnt.
I took a large gulp of my coke and almost spat it out immediately. He’d put Bacardi in it. I rolled my eyes. It’s strange how differently everyone treats you when you’re filthy rich. It’s almost refreshing.
“I’ve been dying for a chicken burger,” I sighed as we sat in crowded cafe in the middle of one of the parks that we’d spent the last few days exploring. It was strange though, just the two of us – a sixteen year old and her father sat in a cafe crowded with small children, where everything was shaped like Mickey Mouse and everything on the menu had been processed at least three times before being served up in brown paper bags. It was times like these when it made me think how different things would be if there were three of us, or four of us – or just more of us. Would I care so much about my Dad’s potential betrayal if there was someone – a sister, or a mother – that I could talk about it to? It depended if they were in on it too, I supposed.
There was nothing I could do about it now, in any case, so I just had to stick it out until I was in a position where I could actually do something. So I pushed it out of my mind – for the time being – and concentrated on my highly processed burger and chips (which had probably never seen a potato) laden in ketchup.
Now that was real food.
“I’m fed up of swordfish,” Dad grinned, looking ridiculous drinking out of his plastic Mickey Mouse cup via a highly decorated straw.
I pulled out my phone and found three messages displayed written across the screen. I scrolled down and found one from Leanne and two from James. Interesting. Leanne: Okay, what’s going on? James Potter just SPELLBOOK MESSAGED ME asking for your number. WHATS HAPPENING IN YOUR LIFE!?! P.S. When are you back? I need to see your new house, like now.
Then from James... Why aren’t you answering the door? Cassie, I’m sorrrrrrrrry okay.... and then.... I have more information. Contact me.
I stared at the phone for a few minutes before a third message flashed up. James, again. Are you even at home? I put the phone back in my pocket and decided I could let him stew for a little bit longer. He deserved it.
It seemed my policy of not hating people had gone right out the window at the precise moment James had decided to delve into my personal life and dig up all this ‘changed memories’ business. Now I couldn’t help but feel irritated even thinking about James ruddy Potter. I turned back to my Dad feeling dissatisfied all over again – I didn’t have enough information to start thinking about why or how my memories had been changed. I needed something more to work with before I could even start properly delving into the dark mystery that was my past. No, for now all I could do was push it to the back of my mind and concentrate on the fact that in the present I was in Florida eating a burger with my Dad.
“So,” Dad said after he’d polished off his burger like he’d been starved for several weeks previously. “I’ve had a couple of people in the house,”
“Well, you’re a teenager – you shouldn’t be spending your whole summer putting up wallpaper. So, I’ve taken your plans and given them to a group of people who are basically finishing the rest of the house so you still have another two weeks of summer left to enjoy.”
I stared at him. The house was... done? Done without me finishing it. Done without me having the final say. I always had the final say. I... that was my thing. That’s the only compensation I could find for having to move house practically every year and now my own personal sense of satisfaction that came from finishing house after house was dissipated not only by James invading the whole process but my Dad getting in some strangers to finish the job for me.
“Thanks,” I said, forcing myself to smile. I suppose it was a thoughtful act, in theory, I just... I couldn’t bring myself to really appreciate it. It was just another thing for me to find irritating.
“And... I had a bit of a brainwave,”
“Well, yes, I’ve organised for you to have a crash course and to take your test the day before your birthday,”
“The day before my seventeenth birthday?” I questioned, “Isn’t that er... illegal?”
“Well,” Dad said as if he didn’t really see my issue with things being illegal and whatnot. “It’s important,”
“Dad,” I sighed, suddenly not wanting the rest of my burger – which was unusual to say the least – “Why are you doing all of this? Taking me on holiday, finishing the house and now... driving lessons?”
“I... I just, I’m just trying to be a good father Cassie,”
That was my usual queue to assure him that yes, he was a good father. But, I didn’t want to. I didn’t feel like he deserved it.... And I blamed James Potter for making me so bitter and dissatisfied and confused. I shrugged, pulled out my phone and decided he’d waited long enough: I’m in Florida. I’m back tomorrow. What do you know?
Within three seconds I had a reply.
I’ll tell you in person.
Dad had two phones: one for work and one for ‘socialising.’ The latter was only really used when he called me informing me that he was going to be late home and I’d probably have to eat dinner alone... yet, as we sat in one of the restaurants in Wizarding Departure lounge I couldn’t help but notice that he was using his phone an awful lot. First I thought he was just trying to detract attention from the fact that he had an uncanny resemblance to that famous guy – Robert Banks, but then... it seemed he was actually receiving texts and having a texting conversation with someone or other.
Although, I hated to admit it, I had also been texting. Leanne had been texting me incessantly asking me why James Potter wanted my number – my explanation of ‘neighbour’ didn’t appear to satisfy her eternal need for gossip - and James himself had texted me several times either apologising again or refusing to tell me this apparent new piece of information he had about my life. Both of these only served to make me continually angrier and angrier about the whole thing.
Plus I’d accidently given my number to Rob – it had been an honest to God mistake that had happened due to me being taken completely by surprise by the fact that he’d had the audacity to actually ask. Since then, he’d also been texting me. It was grating on my already strained patience.
It was probably a good thing that Dad and I were sitting and not really talking because if he had said something there was no doubt that I’d just have snapped at him and taken out my steadily increasing frustration about the whole thing out on him. I supposed this was almost justified given he was the one who’d gone and started messing around with my memories in the first place. Still...
“Our portkey is scheduled for about twenty minutes – we should go,” Dad said, I nodded shoving my phone into the depths of my pocket and picking up my bag silently. Our suitcases were going to be delivered separately in a couple of day’s time so everything I actually needed had been shoved hastily in my handbag. We traipsed over to the departures lounge – Dad again attempting to pretend not to be himself and to attract as little attention as he possible could. I supposed he thought in American his fame was less to the degree that he wouldn’t have to resort to polyjuice potion or any other form of disguise. He was an idiot. “And Cas? If there’s any trouble on the other side, Jenny will be there to pick you up.”
Of course there was trouble the second we arrived in England: the sound of cameras, a ridiculous amount of noise coming from the arrivals area and far too much pushing and shoving for there not to be trouble. “I’ll meet you back home,” Dad said instinctively pulling a pair of sun glasses from his bag and putting them on like some strange jaded rock star. I rolled my eyes and pulled my bag closer towards me, allowing him to move on ahead so it wouldn’t look like we were together (what a travesty).
“One for the prophet, Mr Banks sir,”
“- Robert, Robert – tell us about your new product launch -”
Oh, bloody hell.
I pushed my way through the edge of the crowd and managed to escape into the girl’s toilets where everything was much quieter. I pulled out my phone and found Dad had already text me, of course he had; marketing crisis – got to go into office immediately. I rolled my eyes and found myself more than frustrated. I was pissed off: pissed off at dad for worrying about being a bad father then abandoning me at the British Wizarding Border; pissed off at Leanne for being more interested in James Potter than me; pissed off at whoever leaked dad’s presence to the reporters and most of all I was pissed off at James Potter and the decision that I’d accidentally already made.
“Are you all right dear?” A woman asked as she fluffed up her hair in the mirror. “You look slightly... flustered.”
“I’m fine,” I said curtly, “there’s just of lot of people out there,”
“Yes, well... there would be, wouldn’t there? Robert Banks is every reporter’s dream. Mysterious private life, billionaire, so secretive.”
“Who are you?” I asked sharply, “Are you a reporter?”
“Yes,” She said, “Freelance.”
The tone of her voice made me flush and I decided against saying anything more. I shrugged, pulled my bag closer towards me, and decided to head out and find Jenny – wherever she was.
“I thought about buying you apology flowers but I decided against it,” James said with a grin. His holiday in Italy appeared to have diffused his bad mood to the point where he actually wasn’t pretending that being here, in my bedroom, was physically painful. I supposed now he was here by choice: the punishment had official ended after all.
“Good choice,” I muttered quietly, feeling my face flare up all the same. Maybe I’d been less aware of my constant blushing in Florida but it sure felt like I hadn’t been blushing to this ridiculous degree for awhile. It wasn’t surprising – I was ever so slightly over emotional and irritated at being faced with such a stupid situation.
“What was that?” James asked, wondering around my finished room and inspecting the admittedly good job the ‘people’ who’d finished it had done. It had been done by magic too. Still, I didn’t appreciate the new accents of emotions and memories that had been absorbed by the house in my absence. I didn’t understand them properly.
“Nothing.” I said, “Look, tell me this information.” James pulled out a piece of parchment from his pocket and handed it to me with a flourish. It was a long list of names, dates and lists of spells... “What is it?”
“Authorisation. If there’s any complicated magical issues you have to apply for permission for the ministry to perform certain spells and such. Most of these are memory modifications – probably from when people got too pissed to function and accidently messed something up in front of a muggle. Not quite important enough for an Obliviator, but enough that the ministry has to be notified. But, look here.”
“Cassandra Jones (W) – authorisation granted – Referred to DOM (SC) – transaction complete – confidential – confidential.” said quietly, reading across the line. “Authorisation requested by... RB. Where did you get this?” I asked turning it over in my hand and scanning down the list: Patricia Jonson (M) – authorisation granted – completed by requester – transaction complete – exposure to magic – memory modification... it also seemed ‘Mary Johnson’, a muggle, had received an emergency life saving spell from a ‘CT...’
This was a relatively confidential top secret ministry document: a record of all borderline spell use over the course of a month that happened years ago. How the hell had James gotten hold of it?
“I broke into Dad’s office... I think he’d been curious too. So... he made sure and, well, it was authorised.”
“If that’s what this is.” I said. “It could have been any spell...” I looked over it for a few more seconds. “I get that the W means I’m a witch, but... what about the DOM? And the SC?”
“Dunno,” James shrugged. “The RB’s your dad,”
“Probably,” I said with a frown. “We can’t know anything for certain.”
“We know that it’s a big enough secret that the exact details haven’t been recorded,” James added.
“Can I keep this?” I asked, running my finger over the edge of the parchment. If it had been authorised, then there must be a reason? He hadn’t broken the law. He’d been allowed to have my memories changed... this piece of paper was a key part in my father’s defence campaign which my head so desperately wanted to back.
“No, I need to put it back before Dad notices it.” James said awkwardly.
“You didn’t duplicate it?” I asked, rolling my eyes at his idiotic expression. “Here,” I said pulling my laptop and scanning it quickly via the inbuilt webcam. James dutifully tried not to look too impressed by the wonder of the technology I possessed which would have improved my mood if it hadn’t already been ruined so drastically. I was going to regret this decision: I knew it.
“So,” James said, “friends?”
I turned to him incredulously. “We are not going to be friends.”
“Come on Cassie, am I forgiven at least?”
I stared at him for a long moment before summoning up my answer from some very deep and usually ignored part of myself. “No, James, you are not forgiven. This isn’t one of those things you can just forgive. You know I try really hard not to hold things against people... but you’ve made that impossible. I mean, James, this may surprise you but... well, I actually liked who I was and now I’m not even myself anymore because you’re stupid medalling has made me doubt everything. You’ve literally changed my life and I can’t forgive that.” I don’t think James had ever heard me make such a long utterance and stared at me for a very long time, considering this. “I’m not normally angry and mistrusting. Now I don’t have a choice.”
“Look , if I’d known what I’d hear I’d never have eavesdropped! Then it was too late and I already knew and – ”
“ – And you were an idiot about it – ”
“ – it’s not like I expected to find out someone had been messing with your head!”
“-We’re not friends,” I declared interrupting him loudly (naturally this was accompanied by the usual scarlet tinge of the face), “we’re not buddies and we’re not mates. No flirting, no joking, no having any fun whatsoever. We will not be buying each other Christmas presents and what not. I will not talk to you about the emotional effect of anything we discover and you will not say anything to anyone else.”
My second extended turn in such a short period of time truly rendered James speechless for a few wonderful seconds of time which I mentally logged forever under the title ‘moments that I wished everyone had been watching for.’
“We?” James finally asked.
I nodded. “Now,” I said knowing that all that could possibly follow this was bucket loads of regret and more things I really didn’t want to know, “we’re colleagues.”
A/N - Any ideas yet? What does DOM stand for... SC...? Anyone got any theories at all - I'd love to hear them! Thanks for all the reviews so far and please keep them comming! :D