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Curiosity by AC_rules

Format: Novel
Chapters: 22
Word Count: 88,749
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme, Spoilers

Genres: Drama, General, Mystery
Characters: Albus, Hugo, James (II), Rose, Scorpius, OtherCanon
Pairings: James/OC, Rose/Scorpius

First Published: 04/19/2010
Last Chapter: 08/07/2013
Last Updated: 08/07/2013

Summary:
 Dobby Nominee 2012: best mystery 

It was probably my curiosity which would be the ruin of me. It was my curiosity which led to me falling into the Potter's back yard. My curiosity that led me to experiment with my ‘ability’ and it was curiosity that led me to ignore the one piece of advice my mother ever gave me - never look into your future.


Chapter 1: Traces.
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A/N - So welcome to my new story... I probably shouldn't be starting another new one but I couldn't help myself... it probably doesn't make a lot of sense now and it's quite short but... please review and tell me if you think it's worth carrying on :)




The house was new. It had probably only been built a few months ago, if that. The walls were all painted in ‘neutral’ which meant they were a bland off white which was clearly meant to make the room feel warm and spacious. They didn’t. When teamed with the modern wooden floors it just made the room seem even emptier than. Why are empty houses supposed to be more appealing? To me it just made it feel like any second the walls were going to close in on themselves. Suffocating.

It was so new and horrible. It was muggle too. I could sense the lack of magic so clearly that it made me feel fidgety and uncomfortable.  There was no soul or feeling in the brickwork. No magic. No secrets. Nothing but bricks and mortar. 

“So, what do you think Cas?” Dad asked as he led me through the empty white corridors and showed me room after room. It was bigger than the last house, admittedly, but I couldn’t help miss the grey stone of our Scottish home surrounded in magic and holding deep secrets. That house had been built by magic, I was certain of it, and I’d forgotten what it felt like to be in a soulless house. 

“It’s big.” I answered truthfully as he pulled me into another reception room which was painted in exactly the same way as all the others. It was big and I could see the eventual potential of the house but it was going to take awhile to get it to feel as homey as the last house. If we were going to move again next year then it was hardly worth the effort. 

“I think we’ll be safe here.” Dad remarked and I couldn’t help but recall his words being the same about the last place and the place before. “They’ve got brilliant security already and if we can just add our own...” He said and I nodded. I didn’t feel very magically secure. In fact it felt as though magic had never even touched the area. 

“We’re going to need more furniture to fill it.” I pointed out and Dad nodded. I hated the big houses that dwarfed the pairs of us: the bigger the house, the more it seemed to emasculate our relationship somehow, as if to serve as a reminder of how small we were. But Dad was rich and he had to spend his money somehow.

“Well that’s all right. The new line’s coming out so the bank account should be filling up.” I didn’t point out that the bank account was always full up and we could hardly spend it all between the two of us.  “You can buy me lots of new furniture.” He suggested, knowing full well that I was going to do what I always did – buy as much antique furniture as I could to fill up the empty spaces of the house until it was so full of magic and character that I could feel almost as comfortable as I did at Hogwarts. 

“Of course.” I said, laughing slightly. I looked around at the room we’d stopped in, the last and the biggest by far. It was far too big for two of us.  “It is very big.” I said again and Dad nodded. I wondered if he was also thinking how nice it would be to have more than just us two in such a big house.

“We’ll be safe here.” Dad repeated again, ruffling up my hair.

*

All the furniture we’d brought over the past ten or so years barely filled the rooms. Just as I’d suspected, this gigantic house seemed to consume us slightly. Instead of filling the rooms up, I’d placed the pieces with the strongest magical aura in rooms on their own just so the rooms didn’t feel so empty. We had four functional rooms which actually had enough furniture – a kitchen/dining room, a sitting room and a bedroom a piece. There were five bathrooms that already came fully furnished and I’d stuck a magic trinket box in one of them so I could use it without feeling uncomfortable. 

It was weird, I knew it was weird, but I just found it so hard to exist in a place without traces of magic. It was like trying to talk to a person who’d just been kissed by a dementor. It was just the way I was. 

My Dad had never quite understood my issues and he’d probably thought that they’d faded when we moved into the Scottish house last summer given that there had been so much magic in that building that I’d been able to relax almost immediately. Now they were even worse than before because this house was so new and empty: so vast and waiting for something to fill it up.

I had a strong suspicion that he’d been very worried about my habits when I was little and had consulted a child psychiatrist about my problem. I had found the letter of response which put it down to me having ‘attachment issues to buildings and places’ after what had happened with my mother. My need for old items was down too ‘the desire to cling on to her mother’ by keeping the decorations the same way they’d been when my mother lived with us. 

I couldn’t even remember my mother so I doubted any of that was true. 

I just had a gift for sensing things and I hated being anywhere when there was nothing to sense. It felt like someone had stripped away a layer of my sight so I could only see in black and white. The lack of depth made me feel uncomfortable. The fake, the superficial and the soulless. I hated it.

Magic was the easiest thing to sense. Reading people’s emotions was pretty similar but the harder thing was feeling the memory of the place. Buildings hold echoes of the things that have happened there; they absorb the emotions, the memories, the magic. Except this house is new and there is nothing to sense.

There was this one house we moved to, before Hogwarts, when I could feel this wave of anger and pain screaming out from the walls. Something so bad had happened in there. I couldn’t go in – my legs seized up and much to my father’s annoyance we had to sell the house again and buy another elsewhere. After researching into the house I found that it had been cheep because a girl had been murdered there a few years back by her own father. 

Now I’d give anything to have a house with that sort of history, just because it was better than a house that had no history whatsoever. A little depth. A little mystery. Anything, really.

“Dad?” I asked putting down my book and watching him as he typed coding into the laptop. He was one of the only Wizards I knew who could type faster than a muggle in the muggle way, although I suppose it was a given when it came to his job. He looked up, startled and glanced at me questioningly. “Can I go for a walk around the neighbourhood?” I asked and he nodded slowly.

 Although he didn’t quite understand my sensing thing (the guy has no imagination what so ever. He called his company Wizarding Communication Technology for Pete’s sake), he knew that I could stay out of trouble quite easily. Plus he usually worked in the reverse to what seemed sensible; for the first couple of weeks we lived somewhere he’d be fine with letting me go anywhere I liked. The restrictions were added at the end of the summer when he believed that his Business rivals would have found out where he lived and were likely to send someone to do me in or kidnap or something equally ridiculous. All I knew was that by the beginning of the next summer we were on the move again: uprooting, redecorating, upsizing.

I tended not to bother thinking about it and instead passed off the constant moving as him getting bored. It must be boring living on your own and forcing myself to think about it too much made my head hurt. Anyway, there weren’t any answered within my grasp, so searching for them would be pointless. He wasn’t going to tell me.

“Be back for dinner. Take your mobile, and your wand.” Dad added as I walked towards the door. Then he went back to coding something or other on his laptop. I smiled and dashed up to my room (trying to avoid looking in all the empty rooms) and grabbed my phone off the bed. My wand had already been in my pocket – I was hardly going to go out without it. My room was glowing with magic and memories and I lingered there for a few seconds feeling safe. I checked my reflection in the old cracked mirror which croaked ‘put some sensible shoes on’ which I ignored.  It was only around four and it was pretty sunny for England. I suppose we were much further south than we had been in Scotland. I’d doubted a few miles could make a difference to the weather, but it wasn’t raining for once so maybe it could.

I smiled, reassuring myself that the uncomfortable feeling the house was giving me would fade soon enough. Then I skipped down the stairs two at a time, yelled goodbye to my father and walked out the front door.

*

The houses around here were all built in the past couple of years but nothing quite as new as my house, and nothing quite as big. There were quite a few people outside as the sun was shining. A few of them held my gaze for a few seconds, but none of them seemed particularly interested in me as was to be expected. Perhaps, if they knew where I now lived things would be different – such overt declarations of wealth tended to draw attention.

 I walked along the pavement tracing the wall with my finger tips as I tried to find something that had traces of magic. If Dad had thought there was adequate protection in this place, it probably didn’t mean a good muggle police force. Dad was paranoid – immensely so – and for this village to meet his standards then there would be some traces of magic somewhere.

I sighed as I glanced at my phone and saw that it was half five already. With a half hour walk back up to the house, it was time to return to the soulless, empty place that I was now supposed to call home. I turned backwards, walking slightly quicker than I had done previously.

Then I stopped. Magic. A pull towards a side road. So well hidden, or just minute, that I hadn’t noticed it the first time. I glanced at my phone for a few seconds. It could take a long time to trace the exact pull again. It could take at least a week. And... it was so inviting.

Curiosity got the better of me and I found myself disappearing down the pathway and following the strong pull of the magic. It definitely wasn’t dark magic. I was safe. I’d only be a few minutes late back home.

I followed it up a hill to a place that I wouldn’t have really noticed if I wasn’t so fixed on following the direction it was in. This was the place. I could feel it. It was so full of magic that it was impossible to ignore – flooding through me and filling me up again. It was a house, no doubt. A magical dwelling, a family and it had been for quite some time. Magic made me stronger and more liable to do stupid things, but I felt more solid too.

Magic was the reason I was currently lifting one arm and reaching out, forwards, until I could feel the edge of the magic. Something almost solid. Impenetrable. There was a great wall surrounding the house; protection. This was, undoubtedly, what my Dad had been referring to earlier. This was the house with the tight security that soothed his incomprehensible paranoia. If I closed my eyes, I could almost see the magical wall – like an extra layer of sight that I could never shut off.

I pressed my palm against the invisible surface of the magical wall, my head racing through the possibilities.

There must be a way in. 

I marked where I started in the soil with my toe of my sandals and began following the wall around looking for any kind of hole or gap in the wall... There must be a way in. Magic was never quite what it seemed and it seemed improbable that this could really be such an unbreakable defence.

My legs caught on the thick weeds around the edge of the wall (magical houses always seemed to be surrounded by clumps of weeds and utterly wild flowers) and I wished I’d heeded the mirrors advice and donned something more sensible than sandals. I’d no doubt come out of this adventure with my legs covered in cuts and bruises. Frowning, I shifted closer to the wall so I wouldn’t notice if there was a gap


Dad wouldn’t be worried yet and I could text him in a minute. It wasn’t exactly an option at current, because how could I explain trying to break into a magical residence with lots of protection just to see if I could?

Why was I doing this?

I took a step backwards knowing that in reality I should turn around and head back home. But, the fact remained that I didn’t  much want to spend the whole evening there. This felt like a much better option, even if it was crazy and stupid and entirely not a logical decision. If a family bothered having this much protection (it was a lot better than some I’d seen) then they probably didn’t want people bursting through their defences and turning up at their door unexpectedly. 

Having a magical wall of protection around your house usually isn't an invitation for visitors. 


The decision to quench the burning sense of curiosity was almost slightly painful, but I took a step backwards anyway. My foot caught on a low branch and stumbling forwards to prevent ending up sitting in a patch of thistles, as would be my like, I ended up hurtling towards the magic wall. I braced myself for some sort of solid impact, for the spell to hit, but instead I just fell straight through.

The spell just passed straight over me. The protection my Dad had been so adamant would keep us safe from some apparent external force that I was completely ignorant of had just been broken by a sixteen year old girl. And I hadn’t used a wand. And I hadn’t really meant to.

Then I realised I was currently lying face down on someone’s lawn. And that I’d just broken into their house.

Oops.







So... what do you think? :)

06/12 edit. Hello new readers! Welcome to one of my shiny WIPS! Having recently regained my devotion and love to this story I'm very excited to welcome you here (and am revising the old slightly shabbier chapters). It's lovely to have you with me!





Chapter 2: Proposition.
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A/N - Chapter two, I rarity on any stories other than taof... but here we goo. Enjoy and please review :)

“Hello.” A voice said and I pulled myself up quickly. The voice didn’t sound particularly murderous but you could never be too sure... I stood up and, to my great surprise; I found myself standing in the Potters garden and looking on at Potter/Weasley family barbeque. 

I took a tentative step forward and saw that the three most famous people in the world (Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Weasley) were all stood up and looking at me in surprise. They all had their hands in their pockets and looked as if they were ready to draw their wands.

Oh dear.

“Erm... Hi.” I was beginning to get, understandably, nervous as they stood glaring at me as if any second an explanation to my appearance was about to present itself. I wondered if I should try to explain, it didn’t really make much sense but... I opened my mouth and stuttered out something incoherent which even I didn’t understand.

I think I had the right to feel anxious. In front of me were the three people responsible for the killing of Voldemort. I hadn’t even started NEWT’s yet.

“Oh chillax dad,” James Potter, a Gryffindor in my year, said rolling his eyes. “I hardly think she’s a risk to our personal security.”  The disdainful way he said ‘she’ made feel even more uncomfortable and I wondered if they would hex me if I turned and ran.

“If she was a death eater she wouldn’t wear a sign.”

“Yeah, constant vigilance.” James snorted as if it was some kind of ongoing joke. The adults all exchanged a look and there was something mournful in that look which made me want to blurt out ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ but that would be hard to explain and stupid.

“This isn’t funny James.”

“I think it’s hilarious. That’s Cassie you’re about to hex.” He added lazily.

“Hey Cassie!” Rose said coming out of the hall carrying a tray of drinks.

“You know her?”

“Sure, Cassie Jones.” Rose said smiling at me kindly. “She’s a Hufflepuff in James’s year.”

“Sorry, I’ve just moved in down the road.” I began tentatively.

“In the big house?” Lily Potter asked excitedly. The others all looked glanced at each other before looking back at me. Probably thinking how it was unlikely that I (Crazy-Cassie as I’m known to the delightful students of Hogwarts) would be the one to move into such a humungous house. I didn’t look rich.

There was no doubt in my mind that I had moved into the infamous ‘big house’ as that had been the one thing that had stuck me about it – it was so big.

I nodded awkwardly.

“Never knew you were loaded.” James commented eyeing me with much more interest than he had ever done before. It felt strange that a family of strangers now knew I was rich when really only a couple of close friends knew about it.

 “James!” The third woman, who I recognised as Ginny Potter, reprimanded him.

“What?” James asked. “She must be loaded. That place is a freaking mansion.”

“I don’t like it much. It’s too new...” I said hoping in some way to redeem myself for being ‘loaded’ and just carry on being ‘Crazy-Cassie’ again.

“Always knew you were crazy, but I didn’t know you were a snob too.” James commented. I wanted to backtrack and explain that it wasn’t what I’d meant at all but it was too complicated. Ginny looked scandalised at James’s rudeness and gave him a dark look which he rolled his eyes at.

“Ignore him Cassie dear. He’s trying to act cool. He hasn’t quite got the hang of flirting yet.” She said smiling. I liked her method of punishment – embarrassment. James rolled his eyes again but flushed slightly in his seat.

 “Jones?” Harry asked and I nodded (it felt weird thinking of him as ‘Harry’ in my head given that he was the saviour of the wizarding race...) “You’re not related to Hestia Jones by any chance are you?”

“I could be, I’m not really in contact with my mum’s side of the family.”  

Harry glanced at Hermione for a second and I could tell that they were wondering the same thing – why I had kept my mother’s name. They were hardly going to ask though.  Hermione then glanced at Ron who appeared to be completely unaware of this questioning and was instead turning over the meat in the barbeque (which looks sufficiently burnt).

“Oh how rude, we haven’t even offered you any food. Do help yourself.” Ginny said, before glancing at the barbeque and scrunching up her nose. “Or maybe it’s better if you don’t.”

“What’s Cassie short for? Or it just Cassie?” Hermione asked me.

“Cassandra.” I told her feeling a little like I was being interviewed. I still hardly felt exactly comfortable amongst them.

“None of this explains how she got here.” Ron pointed out and they all looked at me again. Now the interest of the whole barbeque was focused on me. I could see that at least the whole extended Weasley family wasn’t here, just the Potter’s, Hugo and Rose. It still made me feel pretty nervous.

“Sorry.” I said again, wondering how I was supposed to explain that I’d just felt like breaking through their protection for fun. “I... I can erm... sense magic and I could feel it back in the village so I just... followed the source.” I took a breath and decided that as they hadn’t killed me yet I could probably risk carrying on with my story. “Then I found the wall of your protection and I just thought that there might be a gap so I was trying to find it and...”

“Why were you trying to find it?” Ginny asked whilst the other three exchanged meaningful glances. I wondered if the others got annoyed at the constant waves of understanding and memories that were constantly being exchanged between the three of them.

“I was just... curious.” I answered hopelessly.

“There’s a hole?” Mr Potter said (I’d decided to refer to him as that in my head instead because it felt so weird to call him ‘Harry’).

“What did you call it? A wall?” Hermione asked, thinking hard. I nodded nervously and wondered what exactly they were going to do next. The others had stopped paying attention and were instead doing something which looked a lot more fun.

“Why is there a hole?” Ron “It’ll be those stupid ministry Wizards. I knew we should have just got Hermione to do it.”

“Ron, I did do it.” Hermione said, flushing slightly. “That spell anyway. None of the ministry spells would have been like a...wall.” She said using my word. “And if it’s worked for seventeen years then I hardly think that...”

“Maybe it’s getting old.” Ron said bluntly. “So it’s not working so well anymore.”

“Or I’m getting old. That’s what you’re trying to say, isn’t it?” Hermione snapped and suddenly the atmosphere, which had been remotely pleasant even when I thought they were about to hex me, felt very very awkward.

“How did the spell work?” I asked over their conversation.

“What? Oh. It stopped people from being able to get here unless they were invited, or had been here before.” Hermione answered.

“Well I suppose as it was a conditional spell they might have to have been a... physical hole in the wall.”

The adults considered this for a second.

“You’re an interesting girl Cassie.” Harry –Mr Potter – said looking at me very curiously.

“Oh sh...sugar!” I said as I felt my phone go off in my pocket. My dad. He’d be mad – I was supposed to have been back home by now. I pulled it out and pressed the accept call button and pressed it against my ear.

“She’s got the newest model!” James exclaimed. “See Mum, why can’t I have the latest model huh?” he complained and I tried to block out Ginny’s reply and listen to Dad’s voice down the phone.

Listening to people on the phone felt as strange and unnatural as being in the new house because I couldn't sense the emotions behind his voice and it made him sound so fake and unnatural.

“Dad. Dad I’m sorry.” I said before he could speak. “I just completely lost track of time. I erm... I ran into James Potter in the park and he invited me back to their house...”

“Invite him to come and eat with us. Cooking in a new kitchen is a nightmare.” Ginny said as James eyed me suspiciously.

“Erm... Mrs Potter wants to know if you’d, if we’d, like to come eat with them?”

“Invite your whole family.” Ginny added.

“She invited us?” Dad asked down the other end of the phone and I found myself nodding even though he couldn’t see me. “Are they sure? It’s awfully kind of them but...”

Ginny was nodding at me enthusiastically.

“Yeah, they’re having a barbecue. It’s...”

“Right. Give me ten minutes.” Dad said and I supposed he was glad of some company other than mine. I’d expected him to refuse. “He says he’s coming.” I said, blushing slightly because I wasn’t used to being invited into people’s houses.

“You lied.” James said, but instead of seeming annoyed he seemed even more interested than ever. “You said...”

“My Dad’s paranoid about security and I think the only reason we moved here is because yours is so good. If he found out that I’d broken through it he probably wouldn’t be too impressed...” I admitted.

“So your family’s crazy.” James asked with a raised eyebrow. He nodded towards an empty seat opposite him and I took it as my queue to sit down.

“I wouldn’t say crazy...”

“Ron.” Ginny said sighing, “I told you to stay away from the barbeque!” She complained and I turned to watch them, bemused by adults acting so... childish. “Didn’t I tell you this would happen?”

“But you’re a woman!” Ron protested. “Men do barbeques.”

“Which was why I wanted Harry to do it, not you.” Ginny said which made me smile a little more. “I don’t see how anyone could eat this.” Ginny said, poking the blackened sausage.

“Can’t we just magic up some food?” Hugo Weasley asked.

“No.” Rose answered. “You can’t just magic up food. You have to -”

“She is exactly like you Hermione.”  Harry was saying when I glanced back. “It scares me a little bit.”

“They’re just people you know.” James said and I realised he was watching the way I’d been watching his family. “There’s nothing special about them.”

“No,” I protested. “I’m just not used to so many people being around.” I explained and James didn’t seem to believe me all that much. Well I wasn’t about to elaborate considering he spent half his life calling me ‘Crazy-Cassie’ and watching me do all of  the work in potions (we’d been partners since first year). Still I felt bad, and I really didn’t want him to think I was one of those people who were completely awed by his parents. I’m sure that must be annoying. “You’re all very... loud.”

“I’m sure with a house the size of yours it must be really hard to make it loud.” James said sarcastically. As if it was my fault that my Dad owned the biggest company in the wizarding world and was therefore completely rich.

“There’s only me and my dad.” I said in retort because the way he was judging me annoyed me. James looked startled for a second and the moment became extremely awkward. I pulled out my phone from my pocket (just for something to do) and saw that it had saved all of the Potter’s/Weasley’s numbers onto my phone and was displaying the new added contacts on my home screen. James obviously saw this too and glanced at my screen in surprise.

“How do you have my number? Seriously. That’s creepy Cassie.”  I blushed.

“Oh, it’s a trial feature.” I explained hastily so he wouldn’t think I’d been stalking him or something stupid. “It picks up the signal from any other WCT phone in the area and saves their numbers automatically...” I trailed off when I saw James’s expression of amazement. He pulled the phone out of my hand and turned it over in his hands.

“This phone isn’t even for sale yet!” James exclaimed in awe. “How did you get it?”

“Oh.” I said, blushing. “My Dad... he gets me trial phones.”

“He works for WCT?” He asked and I nodded.

“Something like that.” I answered blushing again.

“Was that the doorbell?”  Ginny asked. “Someone get that will they?”

I glanced around and saw that Ron and Hugo were in the middle of a game of chess. Rose had a nose in a book and Albus was attempting to annoy her as much as possible by poking her. Hermione was hovering around Ginny and looking at me intently.

“I’ll get it.” Harry said, standing up. “And I won’t mention anything about you falling into our back garden.” He said, smiling at me.

James was still looking at my phone very carefully and it made me feel slightly uncomfortable. It wasn’t all that amazing.

I heard my Dad’s voice mingling with Harry’s at the doorway.

“That’ll be your family then Cassie?” Ginny asked from where she was stood at the barbeque and making something that looked a lot more appetising than the pieces of charcoaled meat that were now in the bin.

“Yeah.” I said and wondered what she was going to think when it was only Dad that turned up at the doorway. I looked away from her nervously.

“Hello.” My Dad’s voice said as he was led out into the backyard.

“Oh my God!” James said standing up and dropping my phone. I grabbed it quickly before my dad saw it on the floor. “He’s your Dad?” James exclaimed excitedly and I nodded. He repeated the ‘oh my god!’ again as everyone else stared blankly at him. “That’s Robert Banks! The manager of WCT!” James exclaimed excitedly and I saw a flicker of recognition appeared on everyone’s faces.

I wondered how many of them were thinking why does she have her mother’s surname, when her mother blatantly isn’t here? Believe me, I was.

The WCT or wizarding Communication Technology was founded by my half blood father who thought that the wizarding world should really try using some muggle technology. He adapted and changed most Muggle devices to make them suitable for wizards.

He’d started with phones but added in features such as them being rechargeable by wands (which became a standard feature for all WCT devices) and all sorts of other handy things that made them a lot better than Muggle stuff. Then it caught on in a big way and now every self respecting wizard has a mobile phone, laptop, music player (what did I say about him being unimaginative?) and a digital camera. It was crazy and led to him being the second richest wizard in Britain and the third most desirable male (some model being in first and Harry Potter being in second).

Still, I never quite appreciated his fame because on the rare occasion we went out together he was always in disguise to avoid it. For some reason my existence was publicized as little as possible.

“No wonder you’re loaded.” Albus commented and Dad looked a little uncomfortable. It was a little backwards. Here we were in the house of the saviour of the Wizarding world and they were obsessing over my Dad. Well, they’re kids were in any case.

“So” Ginny said over the awkwardness. “Who wants a burger?”


 


My dad was slightly drunk. It was quite embarrassing actually. I suppose that given the last event he went to socially was my eleventh birthday party (after which I stopped bothering to have them) he had a lot of steam to let off. Still, I could barely even count these people as my friends really (given that James had sat next to me for five years in potions and we’d never talked much more than me making some comment about him not doing any work, and he calling me crazy), so for them to see my Dad drunk was... strange.

“I don’t know really.” Dad said cheerfully to James’s question. That was the other strange thing. James had talked to me for approximately ten minutes before getting bored and questioning my Dad about the company as if it was the most fascinating thing in the whole world.  “It was just one of those things that came into my head like... pop!” He said doing some strange hand gesture and swaying off his seat slightly.

“He’s drunk.” Rose pointed out, giggling. I didn’t find it quite as funny but I smiled and nodded anyway. I tried to ignore the fact that I was blushing.

I knew it was irrational but I was quite annoyed at James. Given he had jibed me for being in awe of his parents he was being horrible hypocritical. Plus James had been the only one here I even sort of really knew, and I thought he understood how completely out of place I felt here which was why he was taking pity on me and actually blessing me with his conversation.

“Cassie.” Harry Potter asked, making me jump slightly. “Can I have a word?” He asked and I nodded and stood up. The adults were all stood in a little huddle conspicuously but none of the others seemed to notice or care. They were all slightly fascinated by my drunken father (which I found more than a little embarrassing).  “When you said you could sense magic, what exactly did you mean?” He asked me looking at me curiously.

“I... Well I just do.” I said lamely. He clearly wanted me to elaborate. “I can just feel it. I can just...sense it.” I said and he nodded.

“Cassie. We think you have a talent.” He said seriously. “We’ve had the best people checking our protection and making sure we’re safe – from the daily prophet mostly – and not one of them found any way to get in. You didn’t even use a wand.”

“But... All I can do is sense magic. It’s not like... it’s not useful.”

“I think it is.” He countered. “And you could probably do even more if you practiced it and experimented a little more. I’ve only ever met one man who could ever sense magic.”

“Who?” I breathed. There was something awe inspiring about the fact that Harry Potter, the Harry Potter, thought that I had a ‘talent’ which could be useful.

“Albus Dumbledore. Look, I know you probably think that doing extra work in the holidays sounds like a bit of a drag but we really want to see what you can do we this, and aren’t you curious?” He asked, smiling. He knew my weakness.

“I don’t think my Dad would like it.” I said, glancing towards him where he looked even drunker than before, where James was still questioning it. “My mum was, well... I think she was some kind of seer and she... well.” I stopped not really knowing the rest of the story.

“But would you like to?” He asked and I nodded slowly. Curiosity’s a bitch sometimes.

“Well, James is going to invite you over tomorrow evening at around seven.” Harry said and I nodded. “And the day after?”

“I’m not sure if I can do it every day. I normally sort out all the furniture and the rooms.”

“Normally?”

“We move a lot.” I said. “And Dad has to work, and I like it. This house is a lot bigger than our last though so I’ll need to buy lots of furniture...”

“Well that’s simple. You can get James and Albus to help you.” Harry said smiling as if this news was something very satisfactory.

“What?” James asked walking over to where we were standing (as my Dad’s questions weren’t very understandable answers anymore).

“You’re going to help Cassie do up the new house.” Harry told him. “It’ll stop you from being so ‘bored’”

“That sounds like an excceeelent idea.” My dad said walking over and swaying slightly. “I worry about Cassandra sometimes. She’s crazy. Bit like her mother.”

“He’s not always like this.” I said quickly. “In fact I’ve never seen him drunk before.”

“It’s just the two of you?” Harry asked me and I nodded. “That must be lonely.”

“Hmm.”

“Can I help with the house?” Rose asked, stepping into the conversation.

“Why would you want to?” James asked moodily. “It’s going to be dull.”

“We get to see if it’s as big inside?” Rose suggested. “Anyway, there’s loads of rooms and we can help Cassie decide what to do with each one.”

I tried not to feel too used that they only reason they wanted to help was to see if my house really was as big on the inside as it appeared on the outside (it looked bigger if truth be told). Still it would be good to have some help, and some company. It was lonely work.

“It’s getting dark.” I said considering it was probably best if I got my Dad home as quickly as possible and before he caused any more problems. Plus there was a small part of me that wondered how much I could find out about my mother now that he was drunk. “And we haven’t finished unpacking yet, we should go.”

“They’ll be over at eleven to help you.” Harry said and James complained loudly.

I looked at the annoyed expression on his face and decided that it was going to be a long summer.

A/N - Reviewage? :)
 


Chapter 3: Beginnings.
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A/N - Chapter three! I amaze myself! Don't worry though taof chapter 32 will be up soon but by beta's been really busy and I figured I might as well put this one up first. I haven't forgotten about it though. Thanks for all the reviews so far and keep them comming :)

It was one of those days when I really didn’t want to get up out of bed. Given I had found it so hard to get to sleep last night I had definitely lost hours of sleep despite my lie in. I buried myself further into my pillows and pulled my duvet around me. Why had I woken up again?

I was so warm and comfy... there had to be a reason why I had woken up when clearly I could have slept for a new hours...

Ding dong.

The noise seemed far away and remarkably distant and it took a minute or two to register the fact that the noise was a door bell. Ding dong. Ding dong.

Obviously whoever it was who was at the door was inpatient. Oh.

James Potter

Bugger.

I pulled myself up as quickly as I could, tumbling out of bed and feeling disorientated in my new room. I glanced around to find the door (feeling really stupid) before heading off down the corridor and sprinting down the stairs as quickly as I could in my half dead state (which wasn’t particularly fast). The front door was in a stupid place if you asked me, off the main corridor and to down another smaller one. I fumbled with the key in the lock and pushed open the door to reveal... James Potter. Exactly as expected, apart from the fact that he was alone.

“Did you get lost?” James asked stepping through the threshold without being invited. “The others slept in, but Dad dragged me out of bed and made me come.”

“I slept in too.” I said although that much was pretty obvious. I was in my pyjamas and I was sure that my hair was going to be everywhere due to my tossing and turning in the night. I sighed. If I was going to pick out a situation when I’d run into James Potter (which I probably wouldn’t) I wouldn’t have picked one where I’d just rolled out of bed.

“You should know I’m only here because Dad made me.” James said with his arms crossed in classic moody teenage style.  I’d never realised James was so moody before. I nodded and felt myself blushing slightly. I knew full well that he wouldn’t be here if he had the choice, but was it necessary to tell me that?

“You should know I’m only here because my dad’s making me.” I returned quietly but obviously he could still hear me given how quiet the house was.  I felt a little bit proud to be actually answering back to one of his comments but at the same time it made my stomach flutter nervously and it made me want to have something to ground myself with.

“That doesn’t make any sense.” James retorted moodily, leaning on one of the walls with no regard to how dirty he could be making them. Not that I cared either, but I felt he should pay a little respect considering this was my house.

“Okay.” I said unable to think of anything to come back at him with. Instead I walked down the small corridor and letting James follow me. He didn’t seem interested in the house’s high walls and vast spaces of white. Instead he stared at the floor grumpily.

“What do you mean?” He asked after he couldn’t handle the silence any longer (have I mentioned how quiet the house is? Triple glazing or something which means that the whole place is completely and utterly silent).

“I mean that if I had any say in that matter I wouldn’t be living here. I wouldn’t need help with making this place habitable and I definitely wouldn’t need help off you. So don’t think that I’m enjoying this anymore than you are, because believe me I’m not.”

James seemed slightly taken aback about the number of words I’d said in one sentence and nodded dumbly for a second as we carried on walking (I was taking him to the kitchen).

“Where would you be? If you had the option?”

“In our old house with Leanne. As it stands, she’s in Florida and I’m living here.”

“Why did you move?  Did your parents get divorced?” James asked not seeming to care if this was a sensitive topic for me in the slightest. I suppose a disregard of my feelings from James was hardly something unexpected. I’d been putting up with him for five years.

“About ten years ago, yes.” I answered. I took a moment to think about how long ago ten years ago was – absolutely ages – and wondered why exactly they had got divorced... As far as I knew they were fine until one day she just moved out and I never saw her again. “I couldn’t sleep last night, so I made a floor plan of the house.” I said pulling the sheet that I’d stuck to one of the cupboards off and handing it to James. There were three sheets in total – one for each floor. “You can show yourself around whilst I have a shower and get dressed.” I told him and before he could protest I was marching up the stairs and towards the bathroom with the locket in. I doubted very much that James was going to be any help at all.

***********

I stepped out of my room twenty minutes later feeling much much better. I no longer felt so grimy and half dead and even I had to admit that there were certain advantages in having expensive power showers rather than plumbing that dated back to the Stone Age.

Plus I was now wearing real clothes rather than my pyjamas and felt much better for it. All in all I was a much better mood and ready to face James Potter.

I liked doing up the houses – honest – it was pretty fun to have free reign to do whatever I liked. No expenses spared. I’d work out a specific purpose of each room then go out and buy a ton of furniture. James could help me move the stuff around – he was strong (he played Quidditch) and I wasn’t exactly the person with the biggest muscles in the world.

Actually, where was James?
“James?” I called loudly, realising he could be anyway on the three floors and it could take hours to find him in this place. How many rooms had I counted? Twenty five? There had been six bathrooms once I’d gone through and counted all the ensuites. Most of the rooms could have been bedrooms although I suspected we’d only keep around four – anymore more than that would be depressing.

“James?” I called out hopefully.

Then he opened the door of the biggest bedroom on the second floor (and the one my dad had claimed) and stood in the corridor. “That’s my room.” I said pointing the room opposite my dad’s. I expected him to nod and move on to the next room (which was empty apart from a magically conjured chair which reeked of magic and was usually kept in my bedroom).  Instead he pushed open the white door of my bedroom and walked right in.

The only people I’d ever really had in one of my bedrooms were Leanne and her twin brother, (swoon) Luke. Leanne had made some dry comment about me being a forty year old in disguise but we’d just laughed that off – we were used to insulting each other. Luke hadn’t really given a toss either way and hadn’t said anything at all. At the time I’d been a little self conscious but it was nothing to what I felt now.

I was well aware that my room didn’t look teenage girlish in the slightest and if I was asked to say who it belonged to I would have probable said an eighty year old spinster who was overly attached to her great grandmothers furniture and couldn’t see properly... Every piece of furniture was old, tattered and had some elaborate mismatching pattern on it (as most wizarding furniture did) it would have been grand when in its former glory but as it stood it was all faded and a little battered (not helped by moving it from house to house ever year). I loved my room. I loved the furniture and the deep magical feel of it but...

It did make me look very strange.

I watched as James’s eyes took in an old embroidered rug and my oak bed warily and wondered what was going through his head. He was probably just saying Crazy-Cassie over and over again. Surprisingly that thought didn’t make me feel any better.

He wondered through the room, stepping over my suitcase (I hadn’t quite finished unpacking) and walking towards an old rocking chair which I’d brought before I started Hogwarts.

“Careful. It’s a little broken.” I said warily as he sat down. Nothing cracked which made me breathe a sigh of relief. He leaned backwards in the seat and looked out over my room for the second time.

I glanced over it again and realised something so astronomically bad that I could have died of embarrassment right there. One of my bras – a very plain non-padded white bra – was lying on the floor fairly close to my feet. I think I’d have preferred for him to have seen my one slightly exciting bra, complete with a sparse amount of lace... at least that way he wouldn’t be sitting here thinking about how boring I was.

“All I need is a pipe.” James said reclining back in the rocking char. “Is this all your mum’s furniture then?” He asked and for the first time I thought he’d actually made an astute observation.

“It’s her style of furniture. She took all hers.” I said and James nodded as if he was thinking about something of great importance. It made me feel a little frustrated that I didn’t know what he was thinking – when it came to Leanne I could pretty much guess as we spent so much time together.  Dad was as predictable as anything but James... not so much.

“You are crazy.” He said after a few minutes of silence. I sighed in annoyance and grabbed my plans from his hands. “What’s the problem Cassie?” He asked. Maybe I’d done it a little violently.

“Has it crossed your mind that I didn’t expect to have to put up with being called crazy in the summer too?” I asked.

“I was just saying.” James shrugged carelessly. “Because you are.”

“Why,” I asked tiredly knowing that he wouldn’t stop until I asked him. “Why am I crazy?”

“I’m glad you asked that.” James said standing up importantly. “Because I spent ages trying to find your room and which room did you chose? This one.” He said gesturing around. “The one upstairs has one of those baths with water jets, a balcony and a walk in wardrobe. If you want to keep the antiques that’s fine, but you should at least take that room.”

“What’s wrong with this one?”

“It’s small, there’s no bathroom and the view is rubbish. You should have the whole floor to yourself!” James said pointing at the top floor plan. It was the smallest floor complete with balcony and the idea did sound nice, but... ridiculous.

“No thanks. This one’s good enough for me.” I said glancing at my watch. It was like... half twelve already. “We should go; I’ll cook us some dinner.”

“Haven’t you got a house elf?” James asked and I found myself blushing as I shook my head. “I would have thought with a house this size...”

“We have a cleaner.” I told him and walked to the door to try and subtlety hint at him to get out of my room.

“Ooo!” James said standing up slowly. “I’m sorry; I didn’t know you were too rich for house elves.” I ignored his remark. “Oh and Cassie?” James began. “Nice bra.” I blushed furiously. “I forgot how fun it was to embarrass you.”

“I forgot how fun it was too.” I said under my breath as James finally took the hint and swaggered out of the door.

******************

“So, what you cooking?” James asked from where he was sat on the other side of the hatch. I rolled my eyes in frustration and resisted the urge to do something stupid.

“Stir fry.” I answered through gritted teeth as I chopped up carrot into thin slices – the thinner the better just like the cook book said. My cook books hadn’t been unpacked yet but I knew the basics off by heart now and barely used them.

“Why??” James asked and I wondered if he knew he sounded like a needy five year old.

“Because we don’t really have that much food in at the minute.” I told him in annoyance.  “So there’s not much choice.”

I heard his footsteps on the kitchen floor and he walked into the main kitchen area where I was cooking.

“I’m bored.” James complained and I kept my back turned away from him and rolled my eyes.

“Put some music on.” I said pointing to the wall. As this house was ultra modern and expensive it had a built in docking station for the muggle ‘iPod’ of course this was compatible with my wizarding music player (W.M.P.).

“You won’t have any music I like.”

“Download some then!” I exclaimed. I sighed. “Watch the pan, I’ll be two seconds.” I told him before walking across to the next door sitting room (the one in use) and grabbing my laptop, W.M.P and my phone for good measure. I placed them down on the table in the centre of the kitchen. “Do whatever ever you like. Well, don’t watch porn or anything.” I clarified. “Just be quite and let me cook.”

“I can download whatever I like?” James asked excitedly. I nodded and turned back to my stir fry which was looking a little... over cooked.  I turned the heat down and grabbed a pack of straight-to-Wok noodles before emptying them in too. “You have the Singing Banshees’ new album already?” He asked and I nodded. “Wow!” He muttered and went over to plug my W.M.P. into the wall. He turned it up and the heavy beat of the Singing Banshee’s filled the kitchen. It was a welcome break from the silence.

“Just to kick it down... kick it down...” I sang along and James was staring me as if I’d just become a human (in his eyes I probably just had).

“You build me up, you build me, you build me UP!” James sang at the top of his voice (which was awful).

“Just to kick it down.” I finished not half as loudly.

“I love that song.” James gushed excitedly and I raised an eyebrow, I could have guessed that.

“Okay dinner’s up.” I said pulling out some antique-style plates and serving up the stir fry. “And that reminds me, I need to order more food. Can you pass me the laptop?” I asked and James pushed it over to my side of the table.

“Not as good as Hogwarts.” James said as he started my stir fry. I ignored him and instead started working out meals for the rest of the week and what exactly we could eat...

“Get some rice.” James suggested so I added to big packets to my basket. “And some biscuits.” James added coming to stand behind me and watching me over my shoulder. I wanted to tell him how much it annoyed me when people did that, but I knew he’d only do it more. 

“That’s enough.” I counted and proceeded to the virtual checkout. I’d added in the new shipping address last night but it still took me a few seconds to scroll down the list to find the address we were currently living at.

“Bloody hell, how many places have you lived in?” He asked and I decided it wasn’t worthy of a reply.

“It’s late and we haven’t done anything.” I said glancing at my watch. “We need to decide what we’re going to do with each room. As you’ve ruined my floor plan I’ll print off another.” I said looking at the creased up copy James had been holding.

“Where’s the printer?” James asked as I opened up the document and clicked print.

“Integrated.” I said in satisfaction as I watched his amazement as the sheets flew out the back of my laptop.

At least I could impress him with the advanced technology I had.

*************

“Was James helpful?” Harry asked as he led me into his study thing where I was going to practice using my ability.

“Yes.” I lied and he seemed to find this funny and laughed to himself.

“I’m glad there are still some teenagers who understand manners.” He said. “Take a seat.”

“Okay.” I said taking a seat. The house was so full of magic that I did actually feel relatively comfortable but at the same time I was a little nervous about practicing my whole ‘ability’ thing.

“Do you want a drink?” He asked and I shook my head. “Okay.” Harry said brushing his fingers through his hair. He was slightly nervous too. He probably had no idea what we were going to do in this little session thing and was probably regretting inviting me here. I shifted in my seat awkwardly. “Well, could you tell me a little more about your... power?” Harry suggested and I decided to talk as much as possible to eradicate the awkward nervousness.

“I’ve had it for as long as I remember but I never really thought that it was useful for anything. Magic is the easiest thing to sense, then emotions, then like... memories...” He looked a little confused. “I guess it’s almost an instinct and I just know.”

“Okay, tell me about the magic you can sense in here.” He said.

“Well your house is so full of magic it’s hard to get anything specific.” I said blinking twice. “In this room the strongest magical power is, well, you.” I said trying not to blush too much. “Then...” I closed my eyes and placed my hands on the desk to concentrate. “There’s something in the draw.” I said and Harry looked slightly surprised. He opened up the draw and emptied it onto the desk. 

There was an assortment of junk: a muggle stapler, some pieces of parchment, a broken locket, an old mug and some nail varnish. I wasn’t about to ask what any of this stuff was doing (although even Harry Potter looked a little confused about the nail varnish).

I closed my eyes again to concentrated and reached out my hand above it. I could feel traces of magic on some of the objects but nothing particularly special until I held my hand over one particular object.

A shiver of excitement and fear flooded through my veins and I felt my heart beating in my chest at twice the speed. It had been strong magic and it had been dark magic. I opened my eyes and picked up the locket before running my fingers over it.

“This.” I said as I ran my fingers over the whole in it. It looked as if it had been stabbed...

“Are you sure?” He asked worriedly.

“Yeah, dark magic.” I said again. “It’s gone now but... it’s left a tiny trace of what it was before. It used to be... bad.” Was all I could say. I turned it over in my hands and felt my heart beating quickly in my chest. Was it bad that I was more pulled to this locket, dark magic, than I was to any of the other magical objects? “It’s okay now though.” I said dropping it before I did something stupid.

Harry looked slightly amazed and took the locket of the table and ran his own fingers over it. I wondered if he could feel it too.

“That’s incredible.” Harry said slowly. He walked over to the door and started yelling “Ginny!” I bit my lip and sat at the table awkwardly. Now he was excited and a little bit amazed and I felt like I hadn’t really done anything...

“Ginny!” Harry exclaimed when she finally came into view.  Harry held the locket in her face and began whispering something to Ginny excitedly. I blushed awkwardly.

“Honestly.” Ginny said rolling her eyes. “You’re embarrassing the poor girl – I thought you would have known better. Hello Cassie, dear.” Ginny said. “I suppose he hasn’t explained the significance of finding the locket?” She asked and I shook my head. She gave him a look. “It used to belong to Voldermort.” I gaped at her in shock.

“She can sense people to.” Harry said. “I bet she could even tell us where everyone in the house is.” He said and I blushed again. This was really making me uncomfortable. “Try it.” Harry implored.

I closed my eyes and tired to ignore the magic of the walls and all the little bits and pieces they had and instead search for big balls of magic. I turned my lack of vision into a picture and turned the balls of magic into balls of light in my vision. I could feel Harry to one side of me and Ginny behind me surprisingly, to me at least, their magic seemed to be the same size. I extended my vision and looked up to the ceiling. It would make sense if the others were upstairs. I pushed it outwards again and saw several more balls of like... four more.

“James is up there.” I said pointing in the direction of where his ball was glowing. I could tell it was his because I had been in his presence all day. The other three were harder. Lily and Albus were here... but who else? I tried to think about it clearly and I vaguely remembered how close Albus was with Rose and decided that it had to be her. “Lily is there.” I said pointing at the room directly above us. “Rose and Albus are there, but I don’t know which is which.” I said opening my eyes again. I dropped my arm feeling foolish and found myself blushing again (when am I not blushing?).

“That is impressive.” Ginny admitted. “Would certainly make hide and seek easier.” She said, smiling at me.

“How did you do that?” Harry asked. “Explain exactly.”

So I did. 

A/N - Reviews would be appretiated a lot :)

Chapter 4: Issue.
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A/N - Hello there the very small numbers of you who have read this! I really need to get a banner considering I've actually managed to get to chapter four... but truth be told I've never requested one before and it seems a scary daunting thing... Meh. Hope you enjoy this chapter :)

“This is so boring.” James complained staring at my latest set of plans with a classic moody expression on his face. You would have thought after five days of trying to perfect the plans he would have gotten used to the boredom and stopped complaining. Unfortunately for me he still arrived at my house every morning assuring me he didn’t want to be there and making the house even more miserable.

“Deal with it.” I muttered under my breath as I flicked over the sheet and began counting the number of bedrooms. I felt a lot more comfortable with him now and I was able to say a comment in return without having to rehearse it before hand or blushing profusely.

“What’s wrong with these ones?” James asked. He was leaning against the sofa with his legs crossed and his eyes staring up at the ceiling. He was being very, very helpful.

“Too many bedrooms.” I said and James rolled his eyes and let out a stream of profanities. I was tempted to reprimand him but decided against it – it was hardly worth the effort and he wouldn’t listen to me anyway. In fact he’d probably start yelling them just to piss me off.

There were a few seconds of silence and I wondered just how long it would take James to start talking again. I think, having grown up in a blatantly loud household, he had an aversion to silence which I found quite funny. He could only stand a few seconds of the absolute quite that surrounded us when neither of were talking before he’d open his fat gob and start jabbering on about something else.

“Why does it matter if there are too many sodding bedrooms?!?” James exclaimed angrily still staring at the ceiling and being very, very helpful. How annoying did he have to be? Honestly?

At school he never seemed this moody although I suppose he was being forced to help me, Crazy Cassie, to redo up her mansion instead of having fun in the sun chatting up girls with big chests or whatever else he’d otherwise be doing.

“Because there are two of us living here and we’re never going to have... four friends staying over. We’ll probably only have like... one person around at once.”

“Why don’t you get some freaking friends then? Get a boyfriend? I don’t know.” James said in frustration. He folded his arms over his chest and began sighing deeply to try and get my attention or just to be plain annoying.

I rolled my eyes and pulled out another blank copy of the plan. I started labelling things that were obvious and had remained constant in the past five or six plans: Dad’s office, Dad’s bedroom, Kitchen, Living room ect...

I stopped and started chewing on the edge of my quill absent mindedly as I tried to work out what would work best as a dining room. In all honestly we didn’t really need a dining room given there were two of us and we’d probably eat in the kitchen. Still, we needed to fill some rooms up. It would be good to have the dining room near the kitchen to make sure that it wasn’t too far to carry the food...

“Oh for Merlin’s sake!” James said snatching the parchment out of my hand and creasing it. He pulled the quill of my hand and began scribbling the names of rooms onto the plan.

I rolled my eyes dramatically (because he couldn’t see) and leant back against the old sofa. I closed my eyes and tried to block out the sound of quill on parchment.

“Does your Dad have any hobbies?” He asked suddenly and I looked up at him. James, despite having me a go at me for ogling his parents, spontaneously asked questions about my father on a regular basis and started acting very... strange whenever he walked in (which he did occasionally to see how things were going) so I was fairly used to his weird behaviour. I wondered if this time he’d bothered to speak because of the silence or if the question had any significance to him in the slightest.

He probably wanted me to tell him that he was an all star chaser so that he could have something in common with him. Pfft. He’d never touched a broom stick in his life.

“He used to paint.” I said after a few seconds. It was easier to answer his questions, due to his persistence and general arrogance, than to ignore him but it felt strange thinking about it. For the past five years since WTC had hit the big time he hadn’t done anything but work and move our furniture from one side of the country to the other.“He’s too busy now.”

“Anything else?” He asked and I looked over at what he was doing curiously. I saw on the first floor of the plan he’d written ‘painting room’ and for a second I was slightly astounded at his brilliant idea. Considering James was actually quite bright if you looked at his grades it shouldn’t have surprised me quite so much but... He’d been so vastly unhelpful in this whole process that I hadn’t expected him to even try and been productive.

“Stop gaping and answer the question, Cassie.” He snapped impatiently (he was definitely in a particularly bad mood today. Maybe he’d lost his broom or something).

“He used to... read a lot. All the time.” I said trying to think back. My memories got a little fuzzy if I thought back too far but I did remember him having a great big room full of books when we lived with mum. He used to read to me...

‘Library’ and ‘Reading room’ were added to the first floor. I smiled. This was actually good.

“What about you? What do you do?” He asked. He looked up at me with his brown eyes full of a level of curiosity I was slightly surprised by, then it was gone. I blushed in embarrassment – for a second I’d thought he was actually interest. Not that I cared.

“I don’t... do anything.” I said looking away from him in embarrassment.

“Come on Cassie, you have to have some hobby.” James said impatiently. He tapped the quill on the parchment which made me want to reach out and hold his arm still. That’s probably what my quill-chewing had done to him to make him grab the plan out my hands. Oh well.

“I do up houses.”

“Very slowly,” James added. I didn’t say anything in return and for a few seconds James was completely silent before he started talking again. “You’re allowed to have more than one.”

“I used to play piano.” I said quietly. James looked up at me again before labelling a few more rooms on the top floor.

There was silence for another few seconds as I regretting telling James that important detail about my life. I found my face heating up and knew that I must be blushing very obviously but James was no longer looking and was instead bent over the plan. Maybe that was to save me further embarrassment? Or just because he hadn’t noticed so hadn’t thought to laugh at me yet?

“What about... a sauna?” James suggested and I laughed at the absurdity of the idea. There was a trace of a smile on his features now and I was taken aback by it. He’d been in my house for five (long) days straight and had yet to show any signs of enjoying himself whatsoever (other than laughing at my displeasure on various occasions).

“A Sauna?” I questioned.

“Why not?” He asked. “You’ve got all the money in the world.”

“Fine, let’s have a sauna.” I laughed. “Put it in that small room next to the bathroom.”

“Now we’re talking.” James said grinning (!) at me as he began labelling rooms with even more obscure titles.

“What the hell is a reflection room?” I asked bending over the plan and looking at the top floor. “It sounds like something you’d find in a church?”

“Stick some old sofas in there, add some girly lights or whatever and have it as a space to reflect.”

“You’re just stuck for rooms.” I accused him and he shrugged and wrote something else down.

“Now Cassie, tell me honestly. Can you swim?” James asked with a mock serious expression on his face. “Or are you too crazy for that?”

“Yes.” I answered flatly leaning back against the sofa and allowing him to do whatever he liked to me already-ruined plan. It wasn’t like we could use it anyway – a sauna of all things! And he called me crazy.

“How about themed bedrooms?” James suggested. “You could have the normal themes like black and white and them some really weird ones like... the jungle or something.”

“You could make it into a huge greenhouse with a bed suspended in the treetops.” I suggested completely sarcastically. He wrote something down anyway even though I was sure he couldn’t be dense enough to believe I was being serious. This was a house, not an overgrown fairground.

There was a whooshing sound from the fireplace and Dad stepped out dressed in his smart work clothes. James looked up startled. I watched as his face lit up in excitement as he saw my Dad.

“How’s it going?” Dad asked sounding cheerful for once. I was used to him being absolutely exhausted whenever he came home but then again, it was unusual for him to be home this early in the day. We hadn’t even had lunch yet.

“Good, Sir.” James said standing up and offering out his hand. “We’ve just been drafting out some more plans.” He said holding the stupid ones he’d just drawn up tightly in his other hand.

“I’ll get you a coffee.” I told Dad rolling my eyes behind their backs and walking off down the corridor.

I hardly got to see Dad as it was – not that we really had that much to talk about anyway – but it was frustrating to no end that James hogged all his attention. Surely he had his whole big family to give him attention and feed up his oversized ego?

I sighed.

I’ve never hated James or any of the others that insisted on calling me Crazy Cassie and poking fun at me whenever the opportunity raised its ugly head, but that didn’t stop me thinking he was and egotistical annoying prat with whom I definitely did not want to spend most of my summer. I wanted him to clear of and leave me to do it by myself. I was more than capable and would probably be half done by now if it wasn’t for his ever constant presence complaining, whining and generally sucking what little happiness there was in the room out of it.

Yeah, I understood perfectly that he wouldn’t be here if given the choice but he was and he should really get over himself and actually try being helpful.

My slippers slapped nosily against the tiled kitchen floor as I walked over to the built in coffee machine. I preferred making coffee the manual way – boiling a kettle, adding coffee ect... and it was hardly the most strenuous of tasks but of course there had to be a quicker way of doing it... a machine!  All I had to do was press and button and BAM there’s you coffee.

It’s not so great when you’re trying to kill time though.

I gave myself a few seconds of closing my eyes and trying not to become more annoyed at either my Dad or James before picking up the steaming mug and walking back into the living room.

Of course James was showing his stupid plans to Dad who was finding them immensely funny and was positively beaming at the idea of having his own painting room. Stupid James Potter who thought it was okay to walk into my house and suck up to my father when I barely saw him myself. Stupid Dad who had to be famous and rich instead of just normal and fatherly.

I took a deep breath to calm myself down. I didn’t usually get angry because I normally allowed things to wash over me without much thought but for some reason I just couldn’t let this whole thing go. Maybe it was because this was James Potter who had yet to do one nice thing for me and constantly tried to get a reaction out of me by eternally pissing me off, and Dad, my only relative in the whole world who were in my living room talking and chatting away like best buddies.

“Then I was thinking we could have themed bedrooms to make the more interesting, and so it wouldn’t feel like an empty guest room. So... have a jungle room and have real plants and a bed suspended in the air amongst the tree tops. Or one where it looks like you’re sleeping under the stars – like the Great Hall!”

“Your coffee.” I said flatly to Dad who didn’t pick up on any of the angry-Cassie vibes I was sending him.  He looked at me for a second, took the coffee out of my hands, before returning to the conversation with James.

“Then I thought that you could have two painting rooms. One where you can paint on the actual walls and this room here which looks out onto the back garden where you could set up an easel.”

“And what’s this?” Dad asked sounding amused as he pointed to something.

“A swimming pool.” James answered as if that was the most normal thing in the world.

Dad laughed. I gritted my teeth and sat down on the sofa in annoyance. Since when did Dad laugh anyway?

“Then the whole of the top floor is just going to be for Cassie.” James said and I felt pleasantly surprised that he’d remembered I also lived in this house. “There’s the balcony, her bedroom, her bathroom, a study, a library for all her books, a piano room, a reflection room...” The list went on and I shut my eyes and blocked them out.

Instead I concentrated on sensing the magic in the room like Harry had told me to practice. I sensed Dad, a pretty small ball of magic considering, and James but I pushed past them and tried to identify what each piece of furniture I could feel was. I’d nearly worked out what everything was to about the front door when I snapped out of it completely as I heard my Dad’s response to James stupid plans.

“They’re great!” He declared and my eyes snapped open as I looked over at him. “Really fantastic! A little... odd but I think that’s a good thing for a house this size.  You can start going to buy furniture for it tomorrow.”

What? What?

What?” I asked without really meaning to. The tone of my voice scared me slightly. It had lost its usual level quality and sounded more annoyed than I thought I felt. They both turned to look at me in surprise. Of course neither of them were remotely scared or challenged by my voice because I was just stupid Crazy Cassie with her crazy powers and crazy sensible plans which actually made sense.

I blushed furiously at the looks I was receiving but I could stop talking now or I would actually look crazy. “You’re telling me that we’re having a bedroom in a greenhouse?”

“But that was your idea?!” James said with the perfect mixture of surprise, hurt, and confusion in his voice for it to sound genuine. I could see quite clearly that he was smirking behind my Dad’s back. Smarmy bastard. “It’ll be fun.”

“Come on Cassie, lighten up a bit!” Dad exclaimed. “Act more like a teenager! Loads of kids would kill to be in your position.”

“You’re so lucky Cassie.” James said with the same stupid expression on his face.

“The plans might still need a little bit tweaking, but you can do that as you go along. No need to waste your whole summer on this, is there?”

I looked at my Dad’s genuine expression and found myself beginning to strongly dislike James Potter who was grinning like a cat the just broke into the cream factory. Why was he so pleased?

Oh yeah, because he likes to get a reaction out of me and he just got his biggest one yet. I almost yelled. I blushed too (when do I not blush?).

“Fine.” I said knowing I was going to regret agreeing to this when I had to live in a house which had a greenhouse – indoors.

“Right!” Dad said cheerfully. “That’s sorted then. Now, for the rest of the day do you think you could try something out for me? It’s brand new.”

I sat down on the sofa wearily – of course he had another agenda for coming here which was sure to be nothing to do with coming home to see his precious daughter. James nodded excitedly (looking like a complete tool) and watched in awe as Dad pulled a television out of his (magically enlarged) brief case.

 “I think this could be the start of a new industry!” Dad declared hastily conjuring up a table and placing the television on top of. “It has slots for DVD’s, videos and has the capacity to receive all the muggle channels because, let’s face it; there aren’t many wizarding television channels right now.”

“So it’s a muggle TV.” I supplied glancing at his latest invention feeling altogether unimpressed.

“No! As always it runs by wand power, although it can come with a plug if you have muggle neighbours who’d get suspicious, and you can also play these; WD’s!”

“Wizarding Discs?” I asked and Dad nodded excitedly.

“These ones just have Quidditch matches on but you’ll get the idea.” He put the disk in the slot told the TV to start and sat back on one of the sofas with a mug in his hand. The picture started off in the television and looked like a normal muggle television program (except that everyone was flying around on broomsticks). “I got this idea of the muggles too. Surround sound!” He instructed and suddenly it felt as if you were sitting in the stadium. “Surround picture!” He yelled and suddenly the picture came completely out of the television. Now there were fourteen ghostly players flying around our living room and behind me were all the people in the stadium cheering and yelling.

“Wow.” James breathed glancing around behind him. “Hey, I was sitting over there!” He exclaimed pointing to some seat high up in the stadium. “I can see myself! That’s so weird!” I craned my neck and tried to see if I could see James myself but I couldn’t and eventually turned back around and followed the Quidditch player’s movements. “The snitch!” James said and I saw it was hovering in front of his nose. He stupidly tried to reach out and grab it but his fingers just went through it. Then one of the players dressed in green grabbed it out of the air. James shrank backwards but the Quidditch player flew threw him as the stadium erupted into cheers.

“Off!” Dad yelled and the whole picture disappeared and we were left in the centre of our plain living room. “What do you think?” He asked excited.

“It’s amazing!” James exclaimed and for once I had to agree he had a point. “Wow!”

“It’s good.” I conceded.

“But?” Dad prompted me.

“Is the picture a standard size or does it change to fit with the room? ”

“I didn’t think of that.”

“Well, otherwise half the picture might be playing upstairs or in the next room. Also I think having it completely surrounding you might be a little... distracting. Plus, if this was a movie it would be a right pain in the arse to have the action completely surrounding you. They’d have to film every single different angle.”

“So are you thinking just have a 180 degree shot?”

“I’d say 270.”

“Great, thanks. I really think this could be big! I’ve had company’s asking to make programs all ready. Ones about the first and second Wizarding wars, some history of Hogwarts, the Life of Albus Dumbledore, some romance film...”

“How would the whole channel thing work?” I asked before Dad continued listing things that could be made movies of.

“I haven’t worked that out yet.”

“How much data can you fit on the WD? Maybe if instead of having... channels, you brought like a sports disk, a history disk, a comedy disk ect...  and then they come with programs already on. Then you could also update them with all the new programs whenever they’re made.”

“That’s brilliant!” Dad said putting his coffee cup down and standing up again.

“Also, Dad?” I said as he began packing his stuff away (leaving us with various WD’s). “Make them compatible with muggle machines.” He nodded before grabbing some floo powder from the side.

“Sorry, I’ve got to stay late at the office to night, Cass. Then I have to go meet some investors. I might not get back until the early hours of the morning.”

“Okay.” I said as he stepped into the fire and disappeared into the flames.

“On!” James declared at the Quidditch match started up again. “Cannons game.” James instructed and a list of available Cannon games dropped down. “Against the Tornadoes.” Then another game started and James lent back on the sofa and began watching the game.

I grabbed James plans from where he’d discarded them on the floor and began making a list of all the furniture we’d need to buy. There was a lot. Then he’d need to hire someone to install a swimming pool, a sauna, a... a lake? I gritted my teeth in annoyance but carried on writing out the list. If this is what Dad wanted then this is what he was going to get.

I was writing the list so furiously that I’d written four or five lines before I realised that my ink had run out. I sighed and stood up to go get some more from Dad’s temporary office when James stopped me.

“Couldn’t get me a drink could you?” He called over the deafening noise of the Quidditch match. I sighed and decided that for once I was not going to let him walk over me.

“Muggle!” I yelled and the surround sound and picture disappeared back into TV screen.  James turned to glare at me. “What drink would you like?” I asked sweetly.

“That coke stuff I had yesterday.” James said still glaring at me. I nodded and turned to the door. “Oh and Cassie? Sorry about the plans, I know it’s your house and everything but I really couldn’t care less what it ended up like. I just want to make sure that I don’t have to waste anymore of my life stuck in your crazy company.” I felt my face flushing and James smirked in satisfaction. “I’ll have ice with that coke too please.”

“Okay.” I said walking out of the living room shaking slightly.

God damn him. 

A/N - How are you enjoying Cassie? I'm quite liking her,
 she's very different to writing Mary who I've been writing for absolutely agessssss... So it's a nice change. Please review and tell me what you think guys :)


Chapter 5: Encounter.
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A/N - Hola, mis amigos! I have updated again, harrar! I'm not sure if I like this chapter but I was scaring myself with the idea that I might not ever update again... so I though I better put it up just to get myself moving again... Please read and review :)

James was late. I glanced at my watch and sat on the sofa of the main room concentrating on not being irritated by the fact that the day we actually had to go somewhere, he was late.

Today was the first day of the big shop, something which would probably take several days, and which I was actually quite looking forward to. Getting out of this dead house would be a god send; I was fed up of being stuck in an almost entirely muggle village where the only magic was in my beloved old decrepit furniture which wasn’t nearly enough to fill the enormity of this house. I needed to sense some real magic to get myself feeling right again.

I sighed loudly to make my point, even though I knew there was no one here to appreciate it.

Of course James Potter had to ruin it by arriving... fifteen minutes later than we’d arranged.

I picked up the corner of one of the magazines and saw a large picture of my dad on the front. I flicked over a few pages until I reached the article and began to read – there was nothing else to do after all and I often found their take on what my father was like relatively amusing.

Robert Banks is widely regarded as the founder of the Wizarding revolution and the significant increase in respect for muggles and their technology. It is his company, the WCT, that has taken the Wizarding world by storm and created a humungous trend which allows wizard kind to both understand muggle technology and fit in much better in the muggle world. Terry Boot – head of the muggle liaisons office – has stated that “such a unanimous change of public opinion has not been apparent since the end of the WW2” and “We should be grateful to Robert Banks for preventing such prejudices from returning and significantly reducing the ‘pureblood mania’ which has returned various times throughout the history of magic”. When we asked Robert Banks his opinion on these matters he just laughed and said that “I think it’s safe to say the end of pureblood mania and change of public opinion can only be put down to Harry Potter and those who fought in the war.”

This statement caused even further for respect for the famous Robert Banks and the rising of the debate as to who has done more for muggle-wizard relations – Harry Potter or Robert Banks. Article continued on page 16...

I flicked over to page 16, glancing at the clock as I did so, before returning to reading the stupid article. This one featured another large picture of my dad and a caption reading ‘the third most attractive man in Britain?’ I laughed at that and began reading the part entitled ‘an exclusive interview with Robert Banks.’

CC: I’m here with Robert Banks for an exclusive interview! Now, do you have any new and exciting upcoming products you would like to talk about?

RB: I’m not at liberty to say quite what my future plans are just yet, but I’d keep your eyes open for the next big thing which should be released in a couple of months. I’m very excited about it myself, and I’ve had a lot of people talking about the new potentials of this product.

CC: Any clues you could give away?

RB: I’d say, watch out for it.

CC: Now, I’m sure you’re amazed by the popularity of WTC. Did you ever expect your ideas to take off?

RB: (laughs) Not really. I don’t think I could have predicted this in a million years!

CC: When do you think it first hit you that you’d made the big time?

RB: About the time when I realised I’d made my first million. I was in shock. I was stood there staring at the letter from Gringotts for twenty minutes or so before I could move! I couldn’t think of what I could do with a million galleons!

CC: Now you’re the richest Wizard in the UK! How does that feel? Would you say it’s changed your life?

RB: (Smiles nervously) I supposed I’ve got a bigger house? I don’t really have much need to spend most of it so it just sits there. I don’t have anyone to spend it on!

CC: Ah? How’s the love life? You’ve recently been named as the third most attractive man in Britain, only just beaten by Harry Potter himself, and the rumours are that you’re still single! How could this happen?

RB: I don’t really have much time to have a love life. WTC takes up a lot of my time.

CC: Well, I must say that you’re quite the catch! Rich, clever, funny, modest, handsome... I’m surprised you haven’t been snapped up!

RB: (laughs). I’m not so sure about funny, really. My best joke starts with ‘A vampire walked into a bar’ and ends with ‘ouch!’

CC: (laughs) I’ve heard it through the grapevine that you used to be married! You’re well known for keeping your private life a secret but surely you haven’t managed to keep that hidden for all these years!

RB: It was a long time ago, before I’d even started WTC. It didn’t work out. That’s all I’m saying.

CC: Of course, you’re known for your mysterious ways, thank you for talking to us Robert, and I hope to see you again soon!

If you’ve ever read an interview where one of your parents tries to flirt with an infamous ‘CC’ printed in witch weekly then you’d probably understand how sickened I currently felt. Add in the fact that my existence was smoothed over and ignored then you get how joyous that article made me feel. As in, not very.

Who the hell even was CC?

“Having fun Cassie?” James Potter asked and I jumped suddenly which resulted in me throwing my hot chocolate all over my lap and taking in a deep breath to stop myself from swearing loudly.  Ow. I kept my breath sucked in so I didn’t start effing and blinding in James’s face. 

For a few seconds all I saw was red.

Who the hell walks into someone’s house without ringing the doorbell? Who the hell walks straight into someone else’s house and into their living room?  What. The. Hell.

I found myself stood up glaring at him before I could take control over myself again. I suppose receiving a great big burn and a heart attack can make you lose self control for a few seconds.

James was loving it.

“What’s up?” He asked looking down at the great big stain on my jeans with a raised eyebrow.

“Nothing,” I replied sending him a sweet look. I picked up the article from where I’d thrown it to the ground and noted that it was soaking wet. The hot chocolate had also gone all over the wooden floor boards but that didn’t make much difference really. If it stained, magic could fix it, but the magazine was definitely beyond repair.

“CC.” James Potter said pulling the dripping magazine out of my hands and examining it. “What does that stand for? Crazy Cassie?” He suggested and I rolled my eyes at him and pulled it back.

“I need to get changed.” I said placing the magazine back on the counter where my dad had no doubt been fawning over it and picturing the beautiful CC and his imminent wedding to her or something of that sickening and ridiculous calibre.

“Really Cassie, shouldn’t you be ready by now? We’re going to be late!” James managed to say through his smirking lips. I ignored him and walked calmly up the stairs.

I will not get angry. I will not get angry.

I dashed into my temporary bedroom and pulled on a different pair of jeans. My legs were red from the hot chocolate burn but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. I was quite good with pain when it didn’t take me by surprise. Stupid James Potter.

I will not get angry. I will not get –

“Nice pants Cassie.” James commented barging in my room and throwing himself down on my bed. Two seconds earlier he would have got an eyeful of my ass. As it stood all his saw was yesterday’s knickers which I’d been planning on adding to the washing pile before James got here, that I’d obviously forgotten about.

 I’d preferred it if he’s just seen my arse.

Rather than my dirty underwear.

I blushed furiously, picked them up off the floor, and shoved them into the washing up basket. They just had to be the pair that had faces on which gradually went from frowning, to smiling with the words ‘turn that frown upside down’ flashing on them. I’d had them for a long time. I didn’t see the point of getting rid of them given that they still fit...

“I’m ready. We can go.” I said glancing at myself very briefly in the mirror.

“I quite fancy a lie down actually,” James said stretching out his arms and closing his eyes. I rolled mine and tapped my foot impatiently which he ignored.

“Is there any reason why you’re being particularly unhelpful today?” I asked glancing around my bedroom before James Potter saw any more offending pieces of underwear or items of clothing.

“Actually, Cassie, now you ask yes. You see my whole family are going to the beach today.”

“And you’re not.”

“No, Cassie, I’m not.” He said in the most fantastically patronising voice that I was almost impressed by. Not quite though. “I’m going shopping with you.”

“Why didn’t you go with your family?” I asked in a bored voice because I knew it was exactly what he wanted me to ask.  He’d probably rehearsed this whole conversation previously (whilst looking at himself in the mirror no doubt) and now I was playing along so he could feel even more bigheaded and important. Yay.

“Do you honestly think that I would be here if I had any choice in the matter? No, Cassie, I would not.” What a shocker. Really. “However I have been grounded for most of summer, because of something that wasn’t even my fault, and after my endless complaining of how bored I was, you fell into my back garden! Of course my dad knew that I really didn’t like you, so he thought, why not punish my innocent son even further by forcing him to help the annoying girl and not go on fantastic sounding day trips to the beach?!”  I sighed and tried to stop myself from raising an eyebrow at him to show how utterly boring I found his tale of woe.

“So yes Cassie, I’m being particularly unhelpful because I, unlike you, could have been having fun today. I, unlike you, have friends and family who could come to the beach with me. I, unlike you, could be out of this stupid muggle town and somewhere else for a change. So, my crazy little Cassie, you are going to hate this day almost as much as I’m going to!”

“Wonderful!” I said without a hint of sarcasm (although I was feeling it quite a bit actually). James’s eyes narrowed and he gave me a dark look before pulling himself of my bed and stalking out of my bedroom.

Success! I had managed to get a reaction out of James Sirius Potter for the first time. Ever.

Today was going to be fun.

***********


“Shut up Cassie. You’re crazy, you don’t have an opinion.” James said walking down the furniture isle of some great big wizarding superstore. If I’d had any say in the matter we’d be in a small antique shop picking out pieces of furniture individually but apparently that’s not good enough for James Potter. In the interest of getting things done quickly he’d selected a big store where we could get lots of furniture with no character all at once.

Actually James, I do have an opinion. In my opinion you’re a selfish idiot and I don’t like you.

I stayed silent.

“Well?!” James prompted gesturing wildly to try and get a reaction. I decided to use my one weapon against him and kept my mouth shut. I didn’t look at him and instead began examining the list. He fumed, unable to stand the silence. “Cassie!” James complained following me down the table aisle muttering profanities and generally making a nuisance of himself.

He could do what he liked. I was miraculously indifferent.

After losing my temper yesterday I wasn’t going to let the same thing happen again. I’d made a fool of myself, and I didn’t need my so called reputation to be ruined anymore.  James might also figure out what had made me mad and then he’d increase his efforts tenfold. It was better to let him think that I was just PMSing or whatever than let him work out that I’d been mad because he was talking to my dad... pathetic.

“What about this for the black and white bedroom?” James suggested pointing to a giant double bed. There was a wooden black headboard and crisp white covers which looked unbelievably comfy, it was practically begging you to lie down on it and take a nap but that would be rude and... James threw himself on top of it and his dirty shoes made marks on the white covers.

“Get off!” I hissed glancing around to make sure no one had seen what had happened. 

Unfortunately there was an assistant walking towards us with an irritated expression etched on to her face. “Now!” I ordered but of course he ignored me. He closed his eyes and stretched out a little more.

“I think we should get it.”

“Excuse me,” The nasal voice of the assistant said as she walked over and saw the great big black mark on the white bedcovers. “But what are you doing?” He first was crunched up into an expression of annoyance and her voice held a high quantity of irritation.

James opened his eyes in panic and scrambled off the bed.

“Sorry,” I told her trying to smile politely. “I just wanted to make sure it was actually comfortable before I purchased it.”

“It was very comfortable.” James said catching on quickly (although he did seem to be putting on a posh accent which confused me). “Top notch!”

“Excellent!” I said writing down the reference number for the bed.

“Is there anything else I can help you with?” The woman asked glancing at me in apparent confusion. Apparently they weren’t used to teenagers buying beds. Strange, that.

“Yes actually,” I said pulling out my list of furniture and the plan of the house. “I need lots of furniture.”

“Right...” The assistant said glancing at my list. “And do you have a method of paying for this furniture or...?” She asked the annoyance (and nasalness) creeping back into her voice. I pulled out a credit card and presented her with it.

“You can check it if you like.” I suggested sweetly. She read the name ‘Robert Banks’ before nodding and handing it back to me.

“That’s not necessary. If you would like to follow me I can show you the furniture that matches this bed....”

********************

“Now, I really think we should head off. I know this really nice antique shop that I want to go to and...” I stopped suddenly when I realised that I was talking to myself and James had completely disappeared of the face of the earth. I whirled around (looking stupid) in an attempt to spot where he’d gone and saw that, for some reason, he’d ducked behind a chest of drawers and seemed to be hiding. “James? What the hell are you doing?”

“Cassie!” James hissed in complaint before standing up quickly and beginning to talk in an overly-casual overly-loud way which left me utterly baffled. “I’m sorry Cassie! Your sanity isn’t in here either!” He declared and I heard someone snigger. I turned around again (and realising how utterly stupid I must look revolving around on the spot, blushed) and suddenly it all meant sense again.

There, walking in our direction was Ryan Bradley – James’s best mate.

James was acting as though he hadn’t yet seen Ryan (although he blatantly had after the whole hiding thing) and continued insulting me in a loud carrying voice. “I don’t think you’ll be able to afford this anyway, Cassie! Not unless you plan on selling the last of your sanity for money... but even then I’m not sure if it would get this much.”

“How much is it?” I asked, playing along even though I was slightly irritated.

“Twelve galleons.” He replied, stepping back out into the main aisle and feigning surprise when he saw Ryan. “Oh, hey mate!” He declared. It suddenly struck me as strange that they probably hadn’t seen each other since the end of the summer given how close they normally were at school...

“Interesting company.” Ryan commented nodding in my direction. I blushed at the tone of his voice and hurriedly stuffed the list of furniture we still needed to buy in my pocket. He couldn’t see that.

“It’s my punishment.” James said. “Turns out Cassie is a charity case, and you know what my parents are like, do-gooders.”

“Right.”

“So given Cassie’s mums in a loony-bin I’m being forced to help her and her dad do up their hovel. It’s torture mate.”

“Right.” Ryan repeated again walking towards us and looking amused. Ryan circled me for a few seconds and stopped right in front of my face. “So, how are you enjoying James’s company?” Ryan asked me. For a few seconds I paused, wondering how to react. Then I saw James, just behind Ryan’s head mouthing the words ‘play along.’

“Oh yes,” I said smiling at him slightly vacantly. “It’s been really fun.”

“See, barking.” James said. “She doesn’t understand sarcasm.” He whispered.

“Really, now?” Ryan asked raising one of his eyebrows at me. If I’d been like most brainless girls in the world, I might have described his eyebrows as attractive but I was not. James and Ryan were partners in crime and although James had been more responsible for my mirthless teasing, Ryan was slightly meaner in my opinion.

“I’m sorry?” I asked, smiling at him as if his presence completely thrilled me. “Are you having a good summer?”

Ryan looked over my head and sent a look to James that clearly said ‘is she for real?’ which I supposed was exactly what James had wanted because he shrugged and sent me a brief nod as instructions to continue.

“So, are you having a good summer?” I prompted him. I smiled at him as if he was someone I knew very well, rather than the someone I knew by reputation only.

“It’s best just to go along with it.” James said in a stage whisper to Ryan, whilst clapping me in the shoulder.

 “It’s been all right.” Ryan said, bemused.

“That’s brilliant!” I said letting my gaze drift off to one side of his head giving the impression that I was entirely spaced out and not quite with it.

I wouldn’t be able to tell you why I was helping James out by acting crazy enough to live up to my nickname, but I couldn’t think of any other way I could have acted in the situation... it wasn’t one I’d ever thought I would be in.

You see... Once upon in first year I fell over (out of nervousness) and unfortunately fell into Ryan Bradley’s illegal broomstick (which had been ‘disguised’ under several layers of brown paper). I apparently ‘damaged it’ and then had Ryan threatening to get his brother to ‘beat the money out of me’ to pay for it... I’d then started yelling about how my father was a filthy rich business man who could kick his brother’s ass any day... and from then on I was known as crazy.

Considering that was the only incident they should have gotten bored fast and moved on to find someone slightly more pathetic to tease – I’ve always maintained that there are people who are much more bullyable than me – but by then everyone had gotten used to it, and had discovered my blushing. After then there was no stopping it. There was even a competition to see how many times someone could make me blush in an hour, or how deeply (they had their own scale for this, which I found both sad and slightly worrying) and that led to trying to induce a more exciting reaction by stealing my clothes, spilling things on my homework, ‘accidently’ tripping me up ect... when they discovered that my only reaction was blushing most people got bored (although this did take up until the beginning of third year).

Forth year led to a renewed fervour of my torment when someone realised that any word remotely related to sex also made me blush (which is something I still can’t fully control) before that got old too. Eventually the only people who bothered to torment me, or pay any attention to me at all, were James Potter and his best friend – Ryan Bradley.

 Honestly, the teasing had only bothered me for the first week or so of first year before I decided not to let it bother me any longer. Even at eleven years old I had been relatively self assured and happy in the knowledge that I was a curious shy girl who blushed a lot, could sense magic and very rarely got angry (mainly because when I was angry I tended to do stupid things... like yell about how my father was filthy rich...) so I was able to pass off their teasing as nonsense and just blushed my way though those first years.

The problem was that puberty made me much more vulnerable, with the added fact that my father was acting especially strange and the constant moving from house to house it was understandable that I had a more negative reaction to it. It began to get to me for a short period of time in third year where I became even more incredibly shy and even hated the pair of my worst tormentors to the point where I’d lie in my bed crying angry tears about how much I wanted to stand up to them...then I gave up with it. Hating something isn’t in my nature and I wasn’t acting like myself anymore so I thought, to hell with it, and continued to sit there and blush my way through it unscathed. They didn’t know anything of my own internal battles, which was definitely a good thing, and probably assumed that it either bothered me all along, or didn’t bother me at all.

Despite the fact that I now harboured no ill feelings towards them it still made me feel very out of place being solely in their company. Having James there was bad enough... but when face with both of them at once I was at a complete loss of what to do...

So I just did what James told me to – play along.

I was vaguely aware of the fact that in helping James out just this little bit, I was going to make things a lot worse for myself when Hogwarts resumed. I dwelled on it for a second before casting it aside because, really, what else could I have done?

A/N - I am very aware of the fact that this story is very low on reads/reviews but I'm not all that sure what to do about it... I know I should probably get a Banner but I just can't seem to think of a model/actress that works as Cassie... does anyone have an idea? If I could think of someone that fit then I'd request one in an instant... but I really can't. If anyone has any suggestions, please tell me. Anyone who doesn't, feel free to review anyway ;)

Thank you for reading! :)
 
 


Chapter 6: Shifts.
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A/N - Hellloo, hello, helloo... I have nothing much to say, so... please review and please enjoy... :)

“So,” James said standing in my doorway looking incredibly awkward. James Potter was never a person that I would have thought of as awkward before this moment – he was overconfident and slightly arrogant by nature and he carried himself in a laid-back manner which I had always considered unbreakable (not that I’d ever attempted to break it). So it was highly unusual to see him without his normal blasé attitude and it completely threw me for a second.

I stared at him for a few seconds on which he shuffled his feet slightly and glanced everywhere but in my general direction.

“Erm... do you want to come in?” I asked fully expecting his standard reply of ‘not really’ or ‘I don’t have a choice, actually Cassie’ or, as in the case of yesterday, him just to walk in without ringing the doorbell. The day before that the second I’d opened the door he’d barged past me – nearly knocking me over – to throw himself down on the comfiest sofa and order an ice cold can of coke.

“Sure,” James said and walked in – even taking the time to wipe his shoes on the mat before walking out into the hallway. Wow.

Suddenly I had this vision of James being polite and courteous to me forever more... holding doors open for me at Hogwarts and offering to chop up the particularly nasty things up so that I didn’t have to touch them in potions – where we would undoubtedly be partners again.  The image was so comical that I shook my head at my own madness and internally scalded myself for being stupid.

“Your insanity isn’t infectious, is it?” James asked in a half-hearted tone which sent my eyebrows shooting up my forehead to join my hairline. For once, I’d actually offered him material to use and he’d barely even registered it... sure he’d commented, but usually when I actually did something he’d highlight the point to the extent that even I was beginning to believe that I was actually completely insane.

“Erm...no.” I said unsurely. “Do you... do you want a drink?” I asked him standing awkwardly in the corridor. I found myself wishing that he was back to his normal self because the whole situation was even more uncomfortable than it had ever been before.

“Please,” James said.

“Right.” I said. I took in this weird foreign James for another second before walking towards the kitchen with the sudden urge to barricade myself in my room and hide. What was wrong with him? Why wasn’t he being a jerk? I honestly could not understand.

I supposed that I had sort of helped him out yesterday in the shop. Ryan had engaged in a fifteen-minute-long conversation which basically revolved around how crazy I was. I’d done my part – on James’s request – and had pretended to be entirely odd. Apparently that sort of thing is Ryan’s drug because he was lapping it up and kept prodding me for more things to take the piss out of before I’d eventually got fed up and said “Oh, I’m sure James would love to go for coffee with you, or something, while I try and find something affordable. This shop’s awfully expensive – don’t you think?” which had mollified Ryan given that we were in the row entitled ‘bargain city!’ and served two purposes: getting rid of Ryan and getting rid of James.

“Well then – isn’t that lovely!” I’d declared before disappearing off to pay for the furniture and visiting my favourite antique shop.  

I’d expected him to go back to his usually arsey ways without even making a comment about the great favour I was doing on his behalf, or maybe making an elusive comment which implied I was utterly mad – which I was, given I had actually helped him. Really I should have lowered the standard of my language and told James to stop being a tosser even though it would have humiliated him beyond words.

I grabbed the coke that was sat by the side of the drinks-fridge that hadn’t quite fit, and an ice cold one for James. The day before last he’d repeatedly sent me back to fetch him another coke because his wasn’t cold enough...

I shook my head and headed back into the corridor where he was milling around looking at the carpet. I cleared my throat. He seemed too engrossed in thoughts to hear it.

“Well, shall we go into the sitting room?” I asked. James, who looked up suddenly and appeared shocked that I was there, nodded. We walked into the room in single file and sat down in an odd silence which hung in the air heavily. I’d never been in such an awkward silence, and I was sure James had never been silent for so long.

“Your coke,” I said, about to pass him the can from the fridge when I suddenly changed my mind. He took the semi-cool can without complaint and had drunk almost half the can by the time anyone spoke again.

“What are we doing today?” He finally asked – just before I was about to explode and say something stupid.

“Wallpapering and painting and stuff – I ordered some the other week. I haven’t really decided about what’s going where or whatever, but it doesn’t really matter. I’ve brought carpets, and wallpapers, and curtains, and paint and...” I stopped when I realised how much I was rambling and blushed profusely. I damned my burning red cheeks and stared at the floor until I felt the cheeks leave my gaze.

“Why,” James began looking at me curiously. “Do you blush so much?”

“I don’t know, I just do.” I retorted sharply and James raised an eyebrow at me.

“It’s just a question.” He said holding a hand up as if to tell me not to react quite so much.

“And that was just my answer.”

“I only -”

“Leave it, Potter.”

“What’s up with you, Jones? PMSing?”

“I don’t like awkwardness.” I said my voice returning to its normal calm now we were no longer sat in silence.

“And why is this awkward, Cassie?” James asked, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees so he could look at me mockingly.

“Because,” I said calmly, “You were being weird.”

“I think,” James said tilting his head seriously. “It was because you gave me the wrong coke.”

Thank Merlin for the return of normality.

*************

“Cassie?” James asked from halfway up a ladder as he lined up the wallpaper to the top corner of the wall.

“Mhmm?” I asked tilting my head to make sure that the wallpaper was straight. My decorating style had been pushed out slightly by James’s love of the wallpapers with texture which James claimed gave the room ‘depth.’ This particular wall paper was a ‘fresh’ light green that was to be teemed with cream walls and green features – whatever features were – and I had to admit that James had outdone himself. It wasn’t as awful as I expected and it definitely worked as a ‘working room’.

“Do you..?” James began. The wallpaper slipped from his hand and he made a sudden lunge to catch it before it slipped.

“That’s not straight.”

“Yes it is,”

“You’re definitely crazy; this is straighter than Amy Jessops hair,”

“It’s wonkier than Albus Dumbledore.”

“You’re crazier than Gilderoy Lockhart.”

“You’re crazier than the Lovegoods.”

“You’re crazier than a happy dementour.”

“Crazier than a pleasant blast ended screwt.”

“Crazier than the fact that your Dad is Robert Banks.” James said, turning to look at me. “Although, now that I know I suppose I can see the resemblance – you have his eyes.”

I blushed furiously and glanced at the floor. Did he have to keep saying things that made me blush? Although there wasn’t much that didn’t make me blush these days.... was my blushing problem getting worse? Maybe it was the extreme presence of James that was causing all this extra blushing. It wasn’t particularly helpful.

“Why do you blush so much?”

“It’s not intentional.” I sighed as we began sticking the wallpaper to the wall.

“So it’s just one of those things? Like how Lily paraphrases everything you say and relays it back to you?”

“Erm, Sure.” I answered with a characteristic blush.

“We’ve finished the feature wall,” James said with a nod at the freshly wallpapered room. I didn’t even know what a feature wall was, not that I was going to mention that to James Potter. I nodded in a non-committal fashion and stood back to admire our handy work. It did look pretty good, I was pleasantly surprised.

“Hmm.” I agreed, pulling another roll of wallpaper from the bag.

“You know you’re... you’re super power thing?”

“Not really...?” I answered feeling thoroughly confusion.

“The whole ‘I’m so special I can sense magic’ thing?”

“Oh,” I said. “I suppose.” I picked the roller off the floor and began smothering the final wall in wallpaper paste.

“So does it... does it actually exist?”

“You think I lied?” I asked feeling completely unsurprised and underwhelmed. James has probably just added it onto the list of things which proved I was crazy, which was great. He better not start to talk about it at school that would be awful.

“Yeah,” James said confidently. “I do. I think you lied so you could meet the legends that are my parents.” I didn’t answer. “Well, aren’t you going to stand up for yourself?” He prompted.

“Why should I?” I asked.

“So it’s not true.”

“Your parents believe it,” I said with a shrug.

“Yes well, my parents believe I gave Ryan two black eyes for no reason, just because they believed Lily’s claim of me having no provocation.”

He was expecting me to question him about what he’d just said, I could tell, but that didn’t mean I wanted to too. I was so fed up of doing exactly what James wanted me to in these stupid conversations. I wanted to tell him I didn’t particularly care about his life, but no – I was Crazy Cassie. “Why did you give Ryan two black eyes?”

“You would be crazy enough not to know about it.” James sighed in a way which was almost bordering on sad. “The point is,” James began. “Lily lied because I hexed her pathetic excuse of a boyfriend, Al refused to have anything to do with it and I’ve been grounded till we go to Italy – it’s not fair.”

Life’s not fair you self-absorbed prat.

“And yesterday,” He sighed. “I mean, I do appreciate what you did Cassie, but I wished you hadn’t. I had to give Ryan another black eye, and if my parents find out I’m grounded till the end of the summer. Argh!” James complained.

Isn’t the life of James Potter so hard... grounded for mysteriously punching his best mate, grassed up by his sister, and grounded before he goes jetting off to Italy for a fabulous holiday, after which he’s probably free to do anything he likes. How utterly tragic.

“But, the point is, can you really sense magic?”

“Yes.”

“Prove it.” James implored. I rolled my eyes. “Dad said you could sense people. I’ll blindfold you, and you have to point where I am.” James said, suddenly tying a makeshift blindfold in the form of a dirty rag (nice and hygienic) over my eyes.  “Count to ten, then come and find me.” James ordered.

I rolled my eyes. There was no way I was participating in the rubbish. I had nothing to prove to James Potter. I was not going to...

“Ten,” I said out loud. “Ready or not,” I muttered. I folded my arms, sighed, and stepped into the middle of the room. No doubt James was sprinting up to the top floor right this second, and I’d have to navigate my way up the stairs somehow. I might be able to sense magic, emotion and memories... but these walls were muggle and there was nothing to stop me from walking straight into them.

I closed my eyes behind the blindfold and concentrated hard on feeling my way around the room. The wallpaper has self-cleaning and dirt-repelling charms on, which meant I was able to sense those easily enough. They gave off a pulsating hum of energy that allowed me to walk out of the room without falling over my feet and dying. I’d half expected James to tie my shoelaces together or something (not that I was wearing shoes with shoelaces, but that sort of thing).

The walls – which had been completely soulless before – had absorbed some emotion since it had been inhabited. I had to concentrate very hard, but I was just about able to steer my way through the corridor.

If I knew James, which I didn’t really, he’d have headed immediately for the stairs. I walked across the corridor feeling increasingly more comfortable as we approached two of the rooms we’d actually been inhabiting – the living room and the kitchen. I stopped at the entrance to the kitchen – there was that familiar magical pull. James was in the kitchen.

I turned, stepped towards the kitchen and felt my way about the room. The kitchen was mostly muggle because it had been fitted before we got here... but James was sitting there at the table along with something else which had a strong magical pull...

My laptop.

He better not be videoing me.

“You’re sitting at the table on my laptop.” I told him. Today there was something different about James Potter... he was just as magical as ever, but there was a strange mix of emotions that hadn’t been there yesterday – or maybe I just hadn’t being paying attention.

James Potter was sad, worried, and a little bit scared.

I ripped the blindfold off my face and found myself face to face with a smirking James Potter. He had the laptop pointing at me, the inbuilt webcam rolling and the image of myself shown back to me – covered in paint, my hair sticking out everywhere and the blindfold clutched menacingly in my hand.

The bastard. The prat. The arsehole.

“Stop, delete.” I said clearly, and the webcam stopped recording and deleted the clip instantaneously.  “Personalised voice recognition.” I told him, slamming the lid of my laptop shut and sending him a dark look.  James’s eyes widened slightly. “You, go paint the painting room. I’ll finish the working room off by myself, thanks.”

I was trembling with anger again. I grabbed myself the last ice cold coke from the drinks fridge before turning my back on him and stalking out the room.

Maybe I should have thanked my lucky stars when it was just awkward.

************************

“Cassie?” Harry Potter asked. “Where’s James?”

“He’s... just finishing off.” I told him. James hadn’t come back? James was still at my house? Well, that was a scary thought. Plus, I’d locked the door. James was locked in my house... why hadn’t I sensed his presence? I thought he’d just gone home...

“Okay,” Harry said unsurely. “Well, I was wondering...” He began. “This might be a... erm, sensitive topic but I... I really think it’s important.”

“Okay,” I said, nodding.

“Your mother.” Harry said tentatively, as if he was expecting me to fly off the handle and tell him not to talk about it. “You said you thought she was a seer...?” Harry began.

“Yeah,” I said. “I think so, at least – the only memory I really have of her seems to indicate that way.”

“What do you remember?”

“There was... a cauldron and... a crystal ball,” I said lamely. “And she was there.”

“Okay,” Harry nodded. “I’ll understand if you don’t want to do this, but... I was wondering if I could perhaps look at that memory.” I nodded. “I have a...” he gestured to the new addition to the room – a large basin that reeked of magic so strong and powerful that it made me feel strong and confident enough to agree to Harry Potter’s mad idea.

“A Pensieve.” I finished for him.

“Do you know how it works?” Harry asked. “You just lift your wand to your head and...”

I nodded.

“Are you sure this is okay Cassie? I don’t want to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable?”

“I’m quite curious about it myself, to be honest.” I told him and it was true, I was. Immensely so.

A/N - Hmmm...? Interesting....? Yes?, no...? Reviews.....? :)


Chapter 7: A Stand.
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A/N - you can thank the short queue, and my mass back log of validated chapters for this update :)

The room glowed with orange light from a single flickering candle which stood on a dark mahogany table. The almost-darkness dulled the crimson and purple drapes which hung around the rooms – each patterned with thin gold lines of swirls and flowers – and added a quality of mystery to the room. There were two arm chairs – one laden with cushions, drapes and embellishments where as the other was straight backed mahogany and cushionless.

On one sat a child. On the other sat her mother.

“Well,” Her mother said with an excited smile. She turned on the mahogany chair and lit a fire under a large black cauldron. The flames matched that of the candle and the expressions of the two came into view. The mother seemed to relish in her surroundings and the chid watched her with wide eyed interest and a degree of scepticism. Her mother busied herself around the cauldron, seeming to act instinctively as she chopped, stewed and threw things into the simmering cauldron.

“What are you doing?” The child asked, stretching to see inside the cauldron.

“Have a look,” The mother urged. She stood, stepping over the mismatch of objects that lay on the floor and looking deep into the cauldron. The liquid was blood red and the child seemed to drink it in with her eyes and her whole body...

“What was it?” Harry asked.

“I don’t remember.” I told him honestly, staring as the younger me gripped hold of both sides of the cauldron and leaned towards it. “But it was strong – very magical.”

“Cassie!” Mum exclaimed. “Don’t do that!” The child – Cassie – straightened up looking startled. “You’ll fall in, love.”

“What would happen if I did fall in?”

“I’m not sure, but I don’t think it would be very pretty.”

“What if I just... touched it?” The child asked.

“You’d probably lose your finger.” A voice said from the doorway. I chunk of light was cast into the room and a figure stood there - a man.

“Robert,” The mother complained. “You’re ruining the vibe,”

“The vibe?” He questioned. “You mean you’d just about conned Cassie into buying into this rubbish... and then I opened the door?”

“No,” She laughed.

“Don’t mind your Mum, Cas, she actually believes all this fortune telling nonsense.”

“Well,” She said, “I saw that I was going to marry you, didn’t I?”

“I think it was more persistence than fortune telling,”

“Does it not work then?” Cassie asked. “What Mum does?”

“Well,” The younger Robert Banks began. “That really depends on who you ask,”

“I’m asking you.” Cassie said.

“Well I say no,”

“Well I say yes,”

“No,” Robert said.

“Yes.”

“Well then, predict this.” He said suddenly moving towards her and kissing her.

“I already did.” She said serenely, stepping aside. “Now, if you’ll excuse us, Cassie and I are practicing the art of divination. Aren’t we?”

Cassie nodded.

“Well, I’ll leave you too it then.” Robert said, “But Cassie, if your Mum scares you, just tell her to be quiet.” She nodded again.

“All right Cassie.” Her mum said. She took a spoonful of potion and placed it above the candle.

“Why are you doing that?” Cassie asked

“The fumes.” Her mum said. “Are you sure you want to do this Cassie?”

“Yes,” She said defiantly. “I want to know if it’s a load of rubbish or not.”

Her mum laughed. “Okay,” She said. “Now, don’t mind me. I’m just going to sit here and breath in the flames – maybe something will happen, maybe something wont but if it does, don’t get scared, yeah?”

“Nothing’s going to happen Mum.” Cassie told her.

“We’ll see,” She said. Then the room seemed to fill with a thick dense smoke. Cassie and her mother seemed not to notice nor react to it. “Cassandra...” The walls of the room seemed to smudge and bend... “Never look into your future.” The Mum’s voice said, harsher and distorted...

“What’s happening?” Harry asked from where he stood next to me. “Is that the potion?”

“No,” I told him. “That’s just how my memory of it is – fuzzy. I just can’t remember any more than that.”

“Are... are you sure?” He asked. “You’re not hiding anything?” He asked, nervously glancing around the memory as it seemed to dissolve away; it had almost entirely evaporated when suddenly everything became solid again, but this time in brighter block colours.

Cassie was screaming. Her eyes were wide with terror; she gripped the arms of the chair, and out of her throat came a terrified scream.

The door flew open and her Dad stood there in the doorway. He flicked the light switch and ran over to Cassie’s side. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” He was asking urgently. Cassie’s mouth slammed shut and she shook.

“Honey! I’m so sorry!” Her mum declared, also at her side. “I didn’t mean to scare you! Oh, honey!”

“Everything’s going to be all right Cassie; everything’s going to be all right.” Her Dad assured her. They clutched on to her tightly and rocked her. She sniffed and a single tear dripped down her face. “There,” Her mum said wiping it away.

“It was nothing Cassie, nothing.”

“Nothing,”

“Nothing at all.”

Then I suddenly found myself back in Harry Potter’s study, miles and miles away from my old home and from my mother. I blinked and found, to my surprise, that my eyes had welled up. I bit back the tears and faced Harry uneasily.

“What happened?” He asked. He looked just as uncomfortable as I felt. “Why did you scream?”

“I don’t remember,” I shrugged.

“Well, what happened afterwards?” He asked.

“All I know is, she left the next day.” I told him.

“Well...” He said. “Why don’t we leave it there today,” Harry said. I could sense his doubt and a strange sympathy which I didn’t understand. He was confused, intrigued, and guilty. “We’ll carry on as normal tomorrow.” He assured me before practically kicking me out the door.

I bit my lip for a second before flattening myself against the wall and trying my very best to hear what was being said. I could sense that he was in the kitchen with Ginny, and that what he was saying was worrying her but...

“What are you doing?” James Potter asked.

I jumped about ten foot in the air and nearly had a heart attack.

“Oh my god!” I hissed. “Don’t do that to people!” I whirled around to face him as he advanced towards the door with a strange expression on his face.

“What are you doing?” He asked again.

“Nothing,” I said, wrapping my arms around myself. I was edging on being genuinely upset. The memory had shaken me and I didn’t want to have to deal with James Potter right now. I wanted to go back home, crawl into my bed and sleep.

“You were eavesdropping – why?”

“Oh, piss off James!” I hissed. I could feel the tears welling up in my sockets again and was vaguely aware that I wasn’t acting how I normally did. Wasn’t I normally immune to his annoying tendencies? Did I not deal with him impassively? Why? What was the point in hiding the fact that I thought he was an arrogant git.

“Aren’t you supposed to be with my Dad?” He asked taking another step forwards so that he was level with the door. I pushed myself off the wall and took a step backwards.

“We finished early.”

“Why?” He asked again, choosing to face me rather than the door that normally would have been a lot more interesting to him.

“You know what? Why don’t you keep your nose out of my business?” I asked taking a few steps backwards. I was still facing him and he had a strange unreadable expression on his face, but what did that matter when I could sense his emotions. He was interested. Now, he was interested – because I was upset. “And don’t come back tomorrow!” I yelled before hurrying out of sight and allowing the moisture that had built up in my eyes to fall in three or four drops. I’d wrongly thought that memories of my mother were something that no longer bothered me but...

I guess everyone can mistakes. Like I did, when I thought that my parents were happy. Like dad did, thinking everything was all right before, one day, she just disappeared. Vanished. Gone.

I quickly wiped my face, wrapped my arms around me and hurried back down the path towards home. James had been right, then.

I definitely had been crazy, not to expect her to go.

*************

I’d crawled into a ball on the sofa and apparently fallen asleep, because now I was blinking open my scrunched up eyes. The light made me groan and I pulled the pillow that had been under my head over my eyes and kept my mouth shut tight.

If I’d slept all night on the sofa then it was likely that Dad hadn’t come home at all – not that that was unusual.  Or that he’d just woken me up by arriving in the middle of the night. Or that he just hadn’t thought to move me from my sleeping position.

“Cassie?” A voice questioned. James sodding Potter. I instantly stopped my stretching out legs, and froze. Even thinking about what I’d said yesterday made my face flame up to a spectacular scarlet colour. He’d almost definitely called the mental hospital now. He was probably just waiting for a reply saying they’d saved me a padded room. “Erm... I got you a coke?” He said poking me in the side.

Why was James Potter in my house? How did he get in? If he’d just walked in then I was not going to be best please – you just don’t do that. There was no other way...

“Its common courtesy to wait until someone lets you in.” I muttered quietly pulling myself up off the sofa with the realisation that I was still in yesterdays clothes. My head pounded. I ached everywhere. I felt hungover.

I stood up and walked straight out of the door, heading for the brighter pastures of showers/fresh clothes. Sod James Potter. Sod my father. Sod my mother.

*************

The shower thankfully brought back the return of my piece of mind and instead of screaming and swearing in James Potter’s general direction I took up a vow of silence. I pulled on one of my dad’s long checked shirts for comfort – the smell of his cologne always made me feel protected– and some shorts and decided that was decent enough for the height of the British summer.  I walked down the stairs with enough confidence I could get from my limited reverse and chose to walk straight past the sitting room and headed for the painting room before...

It was already done. I’d assumed that after I’d told James to go work somewhere else, he’d just decided to mess around with Dad’s stuff or abuse my laptop or something... but it seemed he’d actually continued, and must have carried on for quite a long time. I followed the corridor, glancing into each of these rooms as my surprise mounted. He’d done loads. The whole downstairs was practically done! Done well too – these paint jobs were practically professional, and he’d taken the time to neaten up the edges of the wallpaper. it looked good.

“Cassie?” James asked walking out into the corridor. When he saw that I was looking at his handiwork his entire aura took on a slightly embarrassed, slightly proud and slightly humble tone that impressed me. I’d expected flat out arrogance. “It’s good, isn’t it?” James asked clapping a hand on my shoulder – inducing a scarlet blush – and flourishing his other hand about abstractly; nodding appreciatively like his room was a gigantic work of art.

Why was he acting so arrogant, if he wasn’t arrogant? And he called me crazy.

“It’s lovely.” I said dryly, before walking back into the temporary store to check the plan – which was now enlarged and pinned on the wall, to see what needed doing next. “The corridor.” I said after a few seconds of consideration. Then I sorted through the roles and roles to find the correct ones...

I hated this house, I decided as I picked up designated roles and examined it. It was a rich beige colour with brown flower pattern that, apparently, actually grew and moved when it was on the walls. James had talked me into keeping the floorboards and just staining them to a darker brown. Then, James had suggested, buy some red seats and what not to line the hallways... as if we needed more furniture. Still, it was a good idea and I was surprised James appeared to have a sense of style...

But honestly, all the magic in the world couldn’t make this place nice to reside in. It needed good memories, and it sure as hell seemed like there wouldn’t be any good memories here. If you factored in the fact that Dad was never at home, and that James Potter was being a complete prick the more time I spent in it, the more the walls seemed to absorb the bitterness.

And then I dragged out the rolls of wallpaper into the corridor, and treated James with my best and only weapon – the silence he so detested.

*******************

“No, I don’t want her there,” James voice rang out from the other end of the corridor. He seemed to be at least trying to keep his voice slightly quieter than normal – which meant there was a slight chance he’d picked up some manners in the past sixteen years of his life – but hearing the one thing moving in an entirely empty house is far too easy. “No, Mum, she’s not coming – I won’t invite her. No, he wouldn’t come anyway – he’s been working, hasn’t been here for like three days,” There was a slight pause as the other person; presumably James’s mum said something, “No!” He protested. “All the others will think... Mum you don’t know what she’s is like at school, she’s crazy... I don’t care what Dad says! She just is, Mum – I don’t think you... Fine.”

I decided the he could break the silence, and instead concentrated on getting this little section of wallpaper just right.

He was silent for a few moments before I felt him approaching from behind me, “Cassie?” He questioned.

“Don’t lean on the wallpaper.” I instructed him. “You’ll crease it,”

“Cassie, I’m behind you, you can’t know what I’m doing.”

“Well,” I said turning around and looking pointedly at where he was leaning on the wall. He raised his eyebrows slightly but did move off the wall, where thankfully it hadn’t creased. “You’ve been invited to dinner.”

“Oh really?” I asked in my best bored and uninterested voice.

“By my family.” He continued.

“Well that really is very considerate.”

“You’re declining right?”

“Oh, well, Potter – why would I ever do that?” Potter stared at me incredulously. I was in a vindictive mood, possibly due to the lack of sleep and the bringing up of old memories, but if I had to be miserable it could only be a good thing to make James miserable too.

Well, sort of.

“So you’re coming with us?” James asked.

“Of course I am,” I replied sweetly, before turning my back on him and wallpapering. His annoyance flared up behind, but I ignored it and decided to carry on wallpapering as if there was no one else in the house.

“Well,” James answered stiffly. “You’ll have to dress up – it’s a proper posh place, you probably don’t have anything suitable. Get me a coke will you?”

His revenge attempt was pitiful; it seemed that James Potter had lost his touch.

***********************

The dress was certainly quite posh – the sort of thing I’d wear if I was to accompany Dad to one of his ‘social’ functions which were really all about the business and nothing about socialising, if I wasn’t – in the eyes of the media –totally non-existent. Instead I had in my closet, with the label still attached and... Well, why not wear it?

It was given this whole event would make me feel incredibly self conscious, which was something I hadn’t considered when agreeing to this dinner (which I was now fully regretting) yet... it would be nice to get of the house.

Well, I decided – it will do.

Then I made my way down the stairs and left, locking the door behind me. James had left twenty minutes ago so he could get ready too, and I had another ten minutes before I had to be there. I could make the walk in five.

I couldn’t decide if I was looking forward to the meal or not and considered it during the walk over. I couldn’t really imagine the Potters in a very formal setting if I was honest – and would the extended family be there? Most probably...

Lily answered the door, and her eyes widened slightly as she saw my dress. She was just wearing jeans and a t-shirt, she was probably just going to get changed in a minute – I imagined the Potters existed in a permanent state of lateness and chaos. She awkwardly led me into the kitchen and...

They were all dressed casually.

And it wasn’t just the Potters – there was at least one set of Wesley’s assembled. Hermione and Ron, then Rose and Hugo – and Fred was here too, although where his parents were I wasn’t sure – and they were all staring at me.

Oh god, I was actually going to kill James Potter. My face flushed red hot, immediately, and I bit my lip. What could I do? It was so tempting to turn around and run back out the house before anyone could possibly see me.

There were a few seconds of silence, as everyone looked slightly taken aback by my state of formal dress and I found myself too embarrassed to speak, if their actually was anything to say.

Then James himself threw open the door and grinned.

“Told you,” He said to Albus who entered a millisecond behind him. “That is a level one blush.” My face grew even hotter, if that was physically possible. I wasn’t angry though, every little part of me was being used up in this embarrassment and there were none spare for things like anger.

“James did you...” Ginny began, seemingly in a state of disbelief. James was still bathing in his pleasure at inducing such a fantastically scarlet blush. He smirked at me and winked.

“Nice dress,”

The anger that rightfully should have been there since the beginning sparked up and began to churn away in my stomach, but I couldn’t do anything. The embarrassment still had me frozen.

“James – outside.” Ginny said grabbing hold of his arm and pulling him back out into the corridor. “What did you tell her?”

“What? Mum? I didn’t do anything.”

“I swear to Merlin, James Potter, if you don’t tell me the truth right now you’re going to wish you’d never been born.”  Harry and Ron visibly winced at this, and the horrible feel of the atmosphere began to assault my senses. It was a horrible angry sense of anticipation, mixed with defiance and glee – although there was too much within the air for me to pinpoint who found the whole thing so gleeful.

“Right,” Hermione said in a falsely bright voice. “Do you fancy a drink Cassie?” I couldn’t speak even if I tried, and instead I shook my head, feeling my face burn up into ever more impressive shades of red.

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN!?” Ginny’s yell rang out from the other side of the door. “GROUNDED? YOU’LL BE LUCKY IF I LET YOU GO BACK TO SCHOOL AT THIS RATE!”

“Does anyone else want a drink?” She asked, her voice rising in volume and pitch slightly. The atmosphere got thicker, and I instead tried to concentrate on the slightly more pleasant atmosphere inside the room.

“Yes please,” Lily said.

“I’ll have a fire whiskey please,” Fred said confidently.

“Me too,” Albus said quickly.

“Like hell you will,” Harry countered.

“Dad lets me all the time,” Fred said.

“Really?” Ron asked. “It’s funny, I strictly remember your mum saying that you’d never had a drop of alcohol in your life.”

“You let James,” Albus protested.

“No I don’t,” Harry countered, glancing to the door where Ginny’s voice was still yelling, only slightly drowned out by the overly loud conversation.

“He doesn’t let him do anything, he just does it,” Ron said with a grin. Harry sent him a dirty look. Hermione repeated the offer of drinks to everyone, just as Ginny went silent on the other end of the door.

Everyone stopped suddenly, and both Lily and Albus leant towards the door. “She’s building up to something,” Rose told me in a hushed voice. “The bit after the silence is always the best.”

And then I had no choice but to focus on the emotions outside the room.

“Let me get this straight,” Ginny said in a would-be-calm voice that even I had to admit was terrifying. “You told her that we were going to a posh restaurant, because she was polite enough to agree to come to dinner with us?”

“Oh,” Fred said. “I get it now.”

“Only three hours after everyone else,” Lily hissed. “Merlin, I have bits of parchment that are quicker on the uptake than you are.”

“Don’t you mean teddy bears?” Fred returned with a grin.

“I do not have teddy bears.” Lily said to me.

“You do,” Albus added.

“I do not! I’m thirteen! I don’t have teddy bears!”

“Oh give it a rest,” Harry said.

“You’re just trying to listen,” Lily countered, hands on her hips. “Tad hypocritical, no?”

“She’s got you there,” Ron said in an undertone to Harry.

“Shush!” Hugo exclaimed. “She’s about to -”

“I DON’T CARE IF YOU DON’T LIKE HER! I DOUBT SHE THINKS MUCH OF YOU EITHER!” All the eyes in the room turned towards me. “I DID NOT BRING YOU UP TO BE A -”

“We’re going to be so late,” Ron said with a grin. “And I just can’t wait to explain to Mum why...”

“Grow up Ronald,” Hermione said. “Should we?”

“JAMES POTTER IF YOU DARE TOO -”

“She’s your wife, mate.” Ron said, pushing Harry towards the door. He grimaced. The kids moved away from the door. He opened it, and the words ‘APPOLOGISE RIGHT –’ rang out especially loudly before the door shut on the other side.

“This should be good,” Ron said leaning towards the door...

“Ginny, can’t this wait until after the meal, because we’re all ready twenty minutes late, and I’m sure James won’t do anything else whilst we’re there...”

“He’s not coming.” Ginny snapped back viscously. I could feel the anger radiating from through the wall. It was going to take at least a week before it faded.

“What?” James demanded. “You can’t stop me! I need to get out the house Mum!”

“You’re not going out.”

“It’s a violation of human rights!”

“I’m not even sure if you are human!” Ginny snapped back. “He’s not going Harry, I’m not having it.”

The door was thrown open. “Thanks a lot Cassie.” James spat in my direction. “Thanks to you I –”

“Actually,” I said coolly, suddenly finding my voice for the first time. It was louder and stronger than I’d expected, and I think everyone in the room was slightly taken back. The room fell silent again. “I think this is your fault.” And then I stood up, half in a daze, and walked out of the Potter household. I closed the door softly behind me and breathed in the free-from anger atmosphere with relief.

So I can stand up for myself.

Occasionally.

A/N - Please Review, as always :)
 


Chapter 8: Walking pace.
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A/N - I know, I know, an update - SHOCKER! Thanks to all the love Curiosity has been experiencing, I think I'm getting back into it! Yay! So I have some of the next chapter written... so hopefully you wont be waiting as long next time! Please review :D

 

I’d known full well that James had probably been forcibly dragged to my front door the next day, but he showed up with such a sour and irritated expression (which of course I had sensed through the door) that it was so incredibly tempting just to lock the door and get on with it myself. I nearly did, actually, but some unknown power lead me to walking down the flights of steps and opening the door...

All James had to do was say ‘Cassie’ and my face turned a similar colour to the Gryffindor scarlet James Potter was so found of. I turned away from the door quickly, wordlessly showing him the direction to the kitchen.

“We have a furniture delivery today,” I told him half way down the corridor. “And the men are coming to fix up the pool.” I walked the full length of the corridor to the kitchen and sat down at the table. For once, James Potter was the silent one.

“That’s quite some spread.” James commented lightly. Sensing someone’s awkwardness due to your strange perceptive ability surprisingly makes things more awkward. I was nearly choking with the amount of awkwardness that was hanging in the air.

“Thanks,” I said dryly, sitting down at my seat. I was half way through eating my breakfast of cereal and a glass of orange juice, with my laptop open in front of me so that I could download music at the same time. I ignored James’s presence and continued in the exact same way as before, right down to my tuneless humming.

“What are you doing?” He asked, sitting down on the opposite side of the table and watching me eat my breakfast. I’m not necessarily a big fan of people watching me eat, but I was hardly going to say anything after the embarrassment I made of myself yesterday. “Downloading the new Griphook Album,”

“That’s not out for another two weeks.”

“My dad’s Robert Banks.” I countered.

“Yes, but no one knows that.” James said. “How do you know I’m not going to tell everyone?” James asked.

“Firstly, because you wouldn’t want anyone to know. Second, I’m trusting you have some ounce of decency, somewhere.” I said. I didn’t even blush –I was making serious progress with this guy.

“Thirdly?” James suggested.

“No one would believe you,” And then I returned to my cereal. “They’d probably call you crazy,” I added as an afterthought. That sentence seemed to resonate with James Potter quite a lot, because the awkwardness doubled to new extreme levels. “Dad’s going to be popping in an out because they’ve all got to sign a statue of secrecy.” James raised an eyebrow of that. 

“Why haven’t I had to sign one?” James questioned lightly.

“Maybe Dad trusts you,” I shrugged. “Or maybe he thinks we’re... friends.” I screwed my face up at that and returned to my breakfast feeling strangely confident. James seemed to  pick up on this too because he helped himself to a can of coke from the drink’s fridge, rather than insisting that I got one for him. This was progress. A definite step in the right direction.

“So do you just use that laptop for downloading music and making house-plans or...”

“Mostly,” I said, hovering my hands above the keyboard before typing in another band – a relatively unknown one that I didn’t think much of, but I had one of their songs in my head and... I wirelessly connected it up to the in-the-wall speakers and cranked the volume up to half, a good background noise.                                                           

“Have you ever tried... spellbook?”

“Spellbook?” I questioned, turning to him with a slightly confused expression.

“Okay, ever heard of... facebook?”

“Sure, muggle internet phenomena, learnt about it in muggle studies.”

“Spellbook is the wizard version. There were too many wizards on the muggle one and they were posting stupid things – checking in at Hogwarts and stuff. It was breaking too many laws. So... it became illegal to actively use a facebook account to mention anything related to the wizarding world and spellbook was born.” He’d walked over and sat himself next to me by this point, typing ‘spellbook.co.ww’ into the address bar before dramatically pressing the enter key. “In the same line of stuff as your Dad works on, I suppose. The guys loaded now, not as much as your Dad though, and hundreds of spin offs have been created. Charging a fortune for the advertising too, it’s mental. That’s where the future is though,” He said. “Developing wizarding technology, using muggle stuff as a basis then going one step further. Business. Cassie, why is your internet so slow?”

“It’s not slow,” I countered. “It’s just... the keyboard is fingertip sensitive. I’ll have to type in the security code...”

“What’s the security code?” James asked curiously.

“Like I’m going to tell you,” I counteracted, typing it in so quick that James couldn’t possibly decipher it before re-entering the link. “So is that what you want to do then?” I asked, just as curiously. “Go into the wizard technology business?”

“Not really,” James said, typing in his identity code and password into the little bar thing without asking my permission to do so. “Because it would never be James Potter’s business, would it, it would be James Potter, son of the saviour of the wizarding world’s business. I want to be successful because I’m good at something. Here it is,” He said scrolling down the home page. “Spellbook.”

“Oh,” I said. “What’s...?”

James clicked on the ‘Me’ button, and up came a picture of James Potter – definitely one taken at Hogwarts, out in the grounds – and then...

“What’s the scroll thing?” I asked staring at the screen.

“Oh, you write on that if you want to leave me a message. Look,” He said flicking down the page to show me. It seemed, in the past few weeks several people had left him messages, most of them being members of his family. “Family, here,” James said pointing towards a miniature family tree that appeared when he hovered the mouse over his ‘My family’ section. I was quite startled at how huge the thing was... gigantic compared to my family. Just me and Dad.

“Relationship status,” He said in a hurry, quickly flicking back up from the very revealing ‘single.’ Well, that was news to me. Last I’d heard he’d been dating Natalie Peasegood.

“Photos, friends... It’s all there.”

“You’re friends with Leanne?” I asked in shock, clicking on her picture and staring. “Since when has Leanne had spellbook?” James shrugged. She’d uploaded several picture of her on her hot summer holiday, and there were various comments about getting sun burnt across her scroll...

I followed a link of Leanne’s page to her twin brother (swoon) Luke’s, and found that Ryan Bradley had commented on his scroll about some party... I followed that page too to find that...

James’s best friend was now in a relationship with Natalie Peasegood? A huge picture of the pair of them with their arms round each other appeared at the top of the page and...

I quickly changed to another page out of sympathy for James (who was feeling more uncomfortable and a little bit sad by the second) but in my mind I focused on that picture. Maybe that was an explanation as to why James had been such a jerk all summer? Why he’d acted so weird when we’d run into Ryan in the furniture stall?

That his ex-girlfriend was now with his best friend?

Thankfully that was the moment when the doorbell rang.

 

 

“So there you go,” James said, pressing enter for one final time and showing me my brand new profile... I stared at it for a few moments. I wasn’t sure if I liked the idea of all my information being here for all the world to see. It had ‘Hufflepuff’ written in the top corner...  then my birthday, where I was born... my address section was left satisfyingly blank.

“Where do you want this?” One of the furniture men asked, levitating the sofa into the kitchen.

“Top floor, the room three doors down – with the white walls.” I answered, wondering whether it had been a complete waste of time for me to print off my furniture plan. It seemed each of the delivery men were intent on ignoring the huge sheets that were stuck up in the corridor, detailing where each item of furniture I’d ordered was supposed to go. What a waste of my time.

“Now you just need to add some friends...” James said taking the liberty of sending requests himself. He added himself (surely he’d be too embarrassed to have me as a cyber-friend?) and then most of his family, Leanne and my other Hufflepuff friends. Nearly everybody in my year.

“Do you have a picture?”

“A picture?” I questioned.

“Maybe Leanne has one of you,” James said, smoothly navigating himself back on to Leanne’s profile page... and finding that, yes they defiantly were pictures of me. There were pictures of me on the internet? “This one’s nice,” James continued, tagging me – whatever that meant – and then making it my profile picture.

“Where does this go?” One of the furniture men asked.

“First floor, black and white room – can’t miss it.” I said in an irritated voice, by the time I’d looked back at the computer James had taken it upon himself to set my status. “What are you...?” I asked, bending forwards to read it.

Cassie Jones is getting annoyed at the men moving the furniture.

I flushed at that and sigh loudly. “You chose that picture?” I asked, quickly clicking on it and trying to find something better. Anything better.

“Mugshot,” James grinned. I stared at him, suddenly feeling incredulous. James Potter had just smiled in my presence. Who knew that it would only take some ridiculous ‘social networking’ site to loosen up his ridiculous expression of displeasure. “Now you do what all the other girls do, commenting on the picture being like ‘delete, this is such a vile photo’ and such.”

“Oh dear,” I said finding my own lips twisting up slightly. It definitely sounded like something Leanne would do. “That one’s a bit better,” I said. “How do you -”

“Where does this go, love?” Another of the men asked, standing there with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and an expression that gave me the impression he was extremely stupid.

“Down the corridor, in the room with the big window,” I said, snapping slightly. The man rolled his eyes and then disappeared.

“There,” James said, having just changed my setting slightly. “Now you can -”

“What about this...?” One of the men asked.

“Look,” James said, standing up to his full height and turning to face him with a firm expression. “There is a clearly labelled map in the corridor, why don’t you use that?” The man closed his mouth midsentence. “If you don’t understand it, that’s fine, but I’m sure if both of your brain cells worked together you’d get there eventually.”

The man turned, levitating the bed (second bedroom, first floor) out of the kitchen without another word. There was silence for a long few moments.

“So,” James grinned, nodding back at the screen. “What do you think of Spellbook?”

 “You know,” I said, staring at the screen in bemusement. “I’m not really sure I understand what the point is. What are you supposed to do?”

James thought about that for a very long time, laughed, and then said “You know Cassie; I actually haven’t got a bloody clue.”

 

 

 

“So,” The man said, another one with an ever-present fag hanging from his lips like an extension of his body, glancing at the pool with a satisfied grin. “That right?” He questioned. The pool was actually exactly how I’d expected, square looking and entirely normal – there was a small part of me that wished I’d aimed for something a little bit more adventurous. With slides. Or a whirlpool.

“Yes thank you,” I said politely. It was huge but looked about the right size compared to the humungous house – not that that was saying much – and could probably fit fifty or so people in comfortably. Although the likelihood of us having fifty people round here at once was very low.

“So when do I get to meet Robert Banks?” He grinned, leering at me uncomfortably. I frowned. James, beside me, bristled slightly.

“He will be popping in and out with your secrecy agreement at some point,” I smiled sweetly. It better be soon though, because otherwise he was going to leave without signing and then who knew what would happen (I suspected not very much).

“Wow,” My Dad’s voice suddenly came – drifting through the back door – and then he walked out onto the newly erected patio and stared at the humungous pool. “It’s a bit big, isn’t it?” He questioned. Immediately the guy had his wand out and was shrinking it with some complicated spell. “And couldn’t it be a little less... rectangular.”

Exactly what I’d thought, ironically. Suddenly the garden was inundated with the workman rushing out to help with the pool, desperately trying to gain my Dad’s approval. I rolled my eyes and folded my arms over my chest, watching the familiar scene play out before me. Sure, everyone just loved my Dad.

“Let’s get a coke,” James suggested, turning away from the newly formed chaos and heading back towards the house. I sensed that part of him wanted to stay, too, but for some unknown and rather strange reason James Potter was attempting to do something nice for me.

How bizarre.

Maybe he felt guilty about the whole thing yesterday? In honesty it hadn’t been that much of a big deal. Embarrassing, sure, but I’d get over it. It’s not like there was anything unusual about those sorts of things happening and James knew that (because normally he was the cause of these things happening). I couldn’t sense any guilt though. Which was odd. Something different was there.... something I had sensed for a very long time.

Understanding.

I shook my head and followed him into the kitchen. He threw a coke in my direction. I caught it, just, and found my face flushing it’s usually shade of red. James looked amused by that and pulled his own can out. “So,” He began with a, dare I say it, smile. “How do you think the house is looking?”

 

 

“So they all signed then?” I asked Dad. He nodded, looking out over the pool with a slightly distracted expression on his face. It was always like this with a new product.  Normally he waited until after the summer was finished before working on the ‘next big thing’ and had a lot of time off so he could take me places. What’s the point, he reasoned, on having lots of money and not using it.

One year he took me to Australia, just for a weekend before he had to get back to work, but I got to spend two amazing days swimming in the Australian sea and being amazed by the entirely different continent. Now though, he was even more work centred than ever. I found that strangely sad.

“It looks good,” James said, rather boldly in my opinion, as he looked out over the transformed garden. It did look good. The pool was now smaller with curved edges and steps to the shallow end on the other side.

“Doesn’t it,” Dad said, then he looked at me and grinned. He nodded towards James and winked. “Yes,” He agreed, walking round the pool as if he was taking it in at a different angle. I followed his suit, stopping on the other side of James Potter and looking absent mindedly across the water. “Now, Cas!” Dad said, and then we were both pushing James towards the deep end.

He stumbled forwards with a comical strangled yelp, and then he was flying towards the water in a rush of limbs. He hit the water with an almighty crash, then came rushing back to the surface in a stream of bubbles and flailing arms.

Dad took a step forwards to make sure James was all right. I grinned, pushed him in the small of the back and watched as he, too, went flying towards the water.  I was laughing now and Dad was too. He looked so peculiar in his posh work suit, soaked to the bone.

“It’s a good job I made the phones waterproof,” He laughed, fishing his phone out of his pocket and sliding it along the side of the pool.

I glanced to find where James was, in all of this, but he was no longer in the water. I turned around and came face to face with his smirking face.

“No,” I said, taking a step backwards. “There’s no need to push me...” I said sweetly.

“Oh no, Cassie,” James grinned. “What goes around comes around,” And then I was suddenly scooped up into his (surprisingly strong and muscled) arms. Which were also soaking wet. In fact, James was generally very wet – his normally messy hair flattened to his face.

I didn’t have much time to consider this, though, because then I was thrown into the pool. I screwed and shut my eyes.

The water was gloriously warm.

Another splash, beside me, told me that James had jumped back up in again.

“I’m wet!” I exclaimed, standing up on my tip toes and laughing at him.

“Yes Cassie, its water. Or door your voodoo sense not stretch to liquid substances,” James grinned. I laughed at that too, splashing some water in his direction.  He splashed some back too. Then it was an out and out war and I had to tread water to escape the harshest blows.

I laughed, really laughed, and then I realised that I was laughing in the presence of James Potter and found my face burning. I turned away from him, pushing some of my now soaking hair out of my face and floating back in the water. I looked up at the house thoughtfully. The pool was a good idea.

With one slight smile at James I pushed off from the side and swam an experimental lap. I’d managed two when Dad grinned and took off after me – his strong arms pushing him through the water at a much faster pace. “Race you,” He smiled, a strangely childish side to him suddenly coming out in him all over again. I grinned.

“All right,” I said, pushing off from the wall before he had a chance to consider my response. I swam front crawl all the way to the end. I was out of breath by the end of the lap, and half a stroke behind Dad. I sighed and pulled myself up onto the step with a grin. I’d never come so close before, a fact that I put down to the fact that Dad was in his posh work robes and I was in a pair of shorts and a plain t-shirt. Much more swimming appropriate.

“I’m getting old,” Dad complained. I smiled at that then realised that James was still here – watching the two of us from the other end of the pool with a strange expression on his face. I was too far away to sense it.

“Race you,” I said again, throwing myself forward off the edge of the pool and back into the water. Hopefully with his robes weighing him down there wasn’t a chance he was going get anywhere near close to me, what with my head start. He was relatively close behind me though, because I saw one of his arms pushing through the water.

I pushed myself a little bit further, feeling oddly triumphant as I reached the end of the pool and pulled myself out the water. I very nearly began exclaiming how I had finally won... when I saw Dad climbing out the pool and reaching for his phone.

“Yes, yes,” He said pulling out his wand and drying himself. “Yes, I’ll be back at the office in a minute. Leaving right now. Yes... yes... oh? Really? Well, I’ll have to sort it out in a minute, Jessica, I.... I won’t be long,” He pressed the phone into his neck. “It’s going to be a long one Cassie, expect me back later,” and then he disappeared into the house still talking into the phone.

“Jessica is his PA.” I said, trying not to sound too resentful. I climbed out off the pool too. My playful and somewhat childish mood having evaporated completely. Now I just felt cold.

I glanced upwards. The sun had dipped behind one of the clouds and the previously relaxing breeze now just felt cold against my wet skin.

“I...” James was out the pool too, now, a strange sympathetic expression on his face that I really didn’t like. James Potter felt sorry for me and I hated it. I’d rather have the awkwardness, or rude and horrible James, than this subdued guilty understand James that felt sorry for me. “I’ll get you a towel,”

“No,” James said, “It would be much quicker just to get back to mine and be dried off magically,” I shrugged. I didn’t want to talk. “When will your dad be back?”

“Tomorrow. Maybe.”

“Erm, do you want to come for dinner? Mum would love it.” I raised an eyebrow at him and folded his arms. Did James Potter genuinely believe I was going to accept his offer? “It’s not formal dress, if that helps,” His lips twitched.

Oh dear Merlin. James Potter just attempted a joke that was not at my expense.

“Sure,” I said quietly, my face flushing it’s normal scarlet.

A/N - Reviews would be lurrrveely ;)
 


Chapter 9: Being comfortable.
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A/N - Again this chapter is pretty rough... but I felt you guys deserved an update. I'll edit it properly soon enough :)

 

The house was beginning to look like someone lived in it. Each room had a, albeit slightly stretched, purpose, and each room was finally full of the staple pieces of furniture. And nice ones too. The walls were no long blank and empty, but actually had some degree of character and... I was beginning to feel comfortable.

It helped that I’d been making orders from my favourite antique shop online, but it seemed that the house now had enough magic within the walls that I could feel at ease. It wasn’t the same integrated and wholesome magic that Hogwarts had, or even that out old house had... but it was enough that I didn’t feel sick. The walls were still lacking in emotions but things were getting better.

We’d had to move the main sitting room from because it made me too angry (after the unfortunate hot chocolate incident) but the pool was a particularly pleasant to be – the echoes of our laughter clinging to the tiled walls. I’d taken to doing laps in the morning and because the pool induced happy feelings, I made even more good memories pushing through the water.

 “So,” James began when I let him into the house whilst towel drying my hair. “I was thinking we could work on your floor today,” It was true that my floor – and I still couldn’t believe I’d agreed to having a whole floor myself – was slightly more empty and a little more bland than the rest of the house. It wasn’t comfortable there yet. It lacked something important, even when it was filled with all my favourite piece of furniture.

“All right,” I agreed, passing him his coke with a vague smile. “I’ve got another order coming today,” I added.

“Hmm...” James said distractedly. I knew what he was going to ask before he asked. “Any chance of breakfast?” He said craning his neck to look hopefully in the direction of the kitchen. “I slept in.”

“I have waffles if you’re interested,” I said wryly.

His whole face lit up comically. I grinned at his delighted expression and lead him through to the kitchen where ‘you charmed me with your poison’ was providing a nice background noise. I’d already got the waffles out. Ever since James had realised that I had waffles, shipped straight from Belgium, he seemed to conveniently ‘forget’ to eat breakfast.

“We’ll eat them upstairs.” James said decisively. I raised an eyebrow but pulled an old tray out of one of the cupboards and set it down on the table. I poured myself a glass of passion fruit juice and added it to the tray.

“I think the cleaners are coming today too,” I said, bending down to fetch out the sauces. “Chocolate or toffee?” I asked.

“Both.” James replied. “As if you have cleaners.”

“Well I’m not going to clean this monstrosity.” I said. “We’ve got squirty cream?”

“What’s squirty cream?”

“Wow.” I said, pulling it out from the fridges. “I thought you were into all things muggle?” I gave it to him. He weighed it up in his hands and looked confused. “You’ll see,” I said.

I put the waffles in the microwave for about ten seconds. They always tasted better warm.

“Upstairs then?” I said, carefully picking up the tray and watching as my juice sloshed around dangerously in the glass. James grabbed it off the tray and offered me a poor attempt at a smile. It seemed we had both learnt to tolerate each other’s presence.

For the past couple of day’s I hadn’t had to resort to becoming silent to the point that he couldn’t stand it (which was good, because I wasn’t a fan of silence either) and there had actually been a few occasions when I’d sensed that he was actually enjoying himself. Admittedly, these were occasions when I was feeding him/he got to use my crazy-technology... but still, it was much more peaceful to sense than this frustrated awkwardness all the time. That, in turn, meant I was a lot more comfortable... and thus it formed a nice circle of things actually getting better.

“Which room?” I asked at the top of the trek to my floor, the top floor.

“Erm... this one,” James said nodding to the room that had been designated as the ‘reflection room.’ It was small and white and not exactly the room I’d pick to reflect in, if I was honest, but... there we go. My attempts at making the place more homely were two overly soft sofas and a thick rug. It wasn’t much. I nodded, setting down the tray down on the floor and sitting down with my legs crossed.

James, for his part, was now examining the squirty cream “What do you do with it?”

“Take off the lid.” I instructed. “See that button type thing? Press it.” He stared at it confusedly for a few seconds before following my instructions. The lid fell to the ground, making a loud clunking noise against the tray. I hastily bent to pick it up. By the time I was facing him again James appeared to have mastered the engineering genius of the squirty cream... by spraying it all over his face.

He spluttered stupidly.

“This is immense.” He declared, wiping the cream off his glasses. It was very hard not to laugh at him. I just about managed it.

“It’s a good job the cleaners are coming today,” I muttered, looking at the blobs of cream that had either fallen off his face, or missed during the epic squirting (I was a little bit upset that I’d missed it to be honest). “Otherwise you’d be scrubbing the floors.”

He ignored me.

“Aw, man, I’ve got it on my jeans,” James said, now trying to rub off the cream from his trousers.

I looked away awkwardly.

“Hey, Cassie?” James asked lightly. And then I heard that dreamed squirting noise and...  I had face full of cream too. “Thought it might help with the blushing,” He grinned. I swore (blushing even more profoundly under the thick layer of cream) and wiped it off my face with my arm.

“This is not how I envisioned this going,” I muttered, attempting to remove a blob of cream from my hair in vein.  James was smirking like this was the funniest thing in the world. It was pretty funny.

“Is this stuff supposed to taste good?” James asked, now transferring cream from face, to finger, to mouth looking intrigued.

“Yes,” I informed him, reaching for my waffle still feeing decidedly amused.

“It does,” He added, squirting more on his finger (and in doing so getting it all over the sofa behind him). “It’s like one of those facemask things,”

“I’m not sure it’s quite the same.”

“Pretty much.” James said, now using the plate to make cream patterns. “I’d rather have cream on my face than mud,”

“Well, yes,” I agreed. I should have known that my agreement would lead to another face full of the stuff. “What a waste,” I laughed, scooping it off my face and flicking it at him. It landed in his hair.

“Oh it is on.” James grinned, pointing the squirty cream at me like a gun.

“Let’s be reasonable about this.” I said, edging backwards nervously.

“You creamed my hair!” He declared in mock indignation. “The hair is off limits.” Then he pulled the trigger, so to speak – and there was cream flying at me.

Well, most of it didn’t quite make the journey and instead just landed on the thick fluffy carpet in a mushy mess. I stood up and skipped backwards, behind the sofa, and ducked as James tried a new tact (squirting cream onto hand before throwing it). Unfortunately Quidditch meant that he was far too good a shot, and the cream arched over the sofa and landed on my head.

“You’ve creamed my hair now,” I said standing up with my hands in the air. “Let’s call it quits.”

Of course that led to another cream-ambush.

“James,” I complained – no longer even attempting to protect myself against the onslaught. “Look at the mess.” I stepped round the sofa, and looked in dismay at the ‘reflection room’ which had now been redecorated in cream. Mostly the floor. A little bit on the walls. I took another step forward and then... stepped on the tray/Belgium waffle and sent myself flying forward onto the floor. My passion fruit juice upturned onto my dress, I wacked my head on the chocolate sauce, and I was now well and truly covered with cream.

Let’s just say that my face was suddenly very hot.

James looked at me for a second, still armed with squirty cream, and bit his lip. Then, bizarrely, we were both laughing like lunatics (giving James the perfect opportunity to squirt the rest of the cream directly downwards on top of me. Around half of it ended up in my mouth. Then I accidently inhaled it and started chocking. At that point James seemed genuinely concerned about my health and offered me hand up).

“Bugger,” I said, glancing down at my cream covered summer dress in dismay. “How the hell are we going to clean this up?”

 

 

 

“That’ll be the cleaner,” I said as I heard the familiar ring of the doorbell. I quickly dried my hands and checked my reflection in the mirror. My face was cream-less, the big blobs in my hair had been removed (and the rest of it had basically been rubbed in), but my dress was still covered in the stuff. Still, it was improvement. “Come on,” I said, nodding towards the bathroom (more specifically, my bathroom) door.

“Are you sure about this?” James questioned.

“Yes,” I said. “She’s lovely. She’ll sort this in about a second. She is a cleaner, after all.”

“Suppose,” James shrugged. “Just... don’t you think it’s going to be a bit difficult to explain? I mean, us coming to the door, covered in cream...”

Again my face flushed scarlet.

James laughed at me.

I rolled my eyes and took the steps two at a time, half running towards the front door. The cream was sticky and uncomfortable... and it was beginning to smell. It didn’t particularly want to spend any more time smelling of sour cream. I should have just gotten changed but I felt that considering James couldn’t change... that I shouldn’t either.

“Jenny!” I declared, throwing open the door and expecting to come face to face with our cleaner. The one person we’d employed for more than a year, and the one person that could sort this creamy mess out. Alas...

It was a fifty year old smoking man at the doorway. And I was covered in cream. Sodding hell.

“Er, hi?” I suggested, feeling my face flush for the millionth time today. How to make a conversation between two strangers even more awkward? Have one of them blushing so much it looks like someone’s coloured their faces in with block red marker, then cover one of them in an indefinable white substance and add the putrid smell of going-sour-cream.

James, who had just appeared beside me, appeared to be finding this very funny.

“Hi,” The man said in return. At least he seemed not to be bothered at being addressed as Jenny.  “Delivery for a... C Banks?”

“That’s me.” I saw awkwardly.

“Right, I’ll bring it in.” He said. He pulled out his wand –a thick affair that looked like it was very old and not very well used – and waved it about clumsily. “Bugger,” He added when nothing happen. On the second attempt the sofa I’d ordered appeared.

“No,” I said suddenly, taking a step back and eyeing the sofa in alarm. I suddenly felt tense and panicked all at the same time. My eyes widened. It had such a horrible aura about it... fear and panic all mixed into this horrible presence. There was magic too, buzzing all around it in a wash, dark magic. That little thrill of pain. I bit my lip and took a tentative step forwards.

I couldn’t manage the second; it was too strong, too vivid... too painful. Still, the man was giving me a strange look and I could sense their mounting sense of confusion. I pushed myself into reaching out my hand and felt the shuddering pulse of its pain.

“What’s wrong Cassie?” James asked. Now I was definitely going to be labelled as Crazy Cassie forever. Still, I wasn’t sure how anyone could be so blind? How anyone could not feel uncomfortable in the presence of such a horrible... sofa?

“It’s... it’s not good.” I said, hoping he’d gather I was talking about more than the red-brown pattern of the silk material. I edged forward a little more forcing myself to touch the thing. I instantly felt a lot colder.

“Look, love, if you don’t want it, you shouldn’t have ordered it,”

“Well I didn’t know someone was going to have been murdered on it!” I snapped back, suddenly irritated by his lack of perception. The murder bit was a slight guess, but then again... the last time I’d sensed something like this it had been the house were the girl had been murdered by her father... it was too powerful a feeling to be anything more trivial.

“What the hell?” The guy said, dropping his fag on the floor and stamping on it in annoyance.

“Look,” I said, pushing myself even further and lifting up one of the embroidered cushions. “Blood stain.” A large one too. I cringed away from it, allowing both James and the man to lean over and take a long glance at the dark brown stain.

“How the fuck did you know that was there?” he demanded.

I took a step backwards, away from the perimeter of the sofa’s pulse, and back into the safer zone. “That doesn’t matter. You tried to sell me something that was stained.” I folded my arms.

“Look, kid, I didn’t sell you anything, I’m just a delivery boy.”

“Well deliver it back.” I demanded (blushing ever so slightly).

“Fine,” The man said, waving his wand so that the sofa disappeared. I instantly felt much better and much more embarrassed. “Sorry about the er... blood stain.”

“It’s fine.” I said, turning around and walking back up to the house. James followed and I shut the door behind us, taking a deep breath.

“What was that about?” James asked, staring at me curiously. Bloody curious again. I didn’t want to capture James Potter’s curiosity... I wanted to be left alone. And not be faced with murder scenes when I ordered furniture.

The doorbell rang again.

“What do you want?” I asked, throwing back open the door and fully expecting to be face to face with the bloody delivery guy. “Oh, hey Jenny,” I said sheepishly. Obviously this was just not my day.

 

 

 

“So, what’s it like?” James said, scooping another spoonful of ice cream out of the tub. “When you sense things?”

“It’s hard to explain,” I sighed, taking another spoonful of ice cream myself. “It’s like... there’s another colour, or another dimension, when I really think about it... but mostly it’s just there.”

“I guess I believe you,” James said lightly. “After all... you did find that blood stain.” I stayed silent and took another spoonful of ice cream; I was hardly going to explain myself to James Potter. Why should I care if he didn’t believe me?

“Is it better now Cassie?” James questioned, nodding at the ‘reflection room’.

“Yeah, Jenny cleaned it right up.”

“No, not that,” James said. “I meant about you being comfortable in here?”

I stared at him for a long moment. Was that why James had suggested Waffles upstairs? Why he had started throwing cream? It was James’s turned to feel embarrassed (which of course I sensed as clear as day). I stared at him for a long time, trying to work him out but... for once... I came up with a blank.

What. The. Hell.

A/N - Reviews please :D
 
 
 


Chapter 10: Reality check.
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James was right. The ‘reflection room’ was a much nicer place to reside now that the walls had absorbed some of the memory of our laughter... but... how had he known that? He’d treated any mention of my abilities with such distain that I found it difficult to work out how he’d gained such a sound understanding...

I frowned and dipped my paintbrush into the pot before stretching upwards and painting words across the wall of the reflection room. Reasons not to trust James Potter: I painted – in purple – then watched as some of the paint ran downwards, towards the floor. I didn’t care. This room was for reflecting, and so... I would reflect.

1)      Before very recently he called me ‘crazy Cassie,’ attempted to make my Hogwarts life as difficult as possible, and yet now he seems to have developed some form of compassion.

It took me a long time to paint, and the words were messy and barely readable. I considered them for a few minutes. Possible explanations – given he knows what it’s like to have a famous father (ff) he appreciates the difficulty (unlikely as my ff is secret). Respects me due to ff? (Again, unlikely).

“Maybe...” I began – out loud this time – mulling over the possibilities in my head for a long time. If I was a Ravenclaw the apparent solution might have been more obvious, but... alas I wasn’t and it wasn’t.

2)      James Potter is an absolute prat all of the time. Why not now?

Possible explanations – not with his friends/family and thus has no one to impress (maybe). Not actually a prat and only pretends to be (I doubted it). Has grown up? (serious doubts).

The doorbell rang. Speak of the devil. I hastily painted over all the words I had written there, leaving a strange blur of purple paint and no words, placed the paintbrush in the water jug before slowly making my way down the stairs. Why was he acting so strangely? I didn’t understand this new, strange, James Potter who did nice things and didn’t call me crazy. Who didn’t have this wall of hostility up all the time...?

When had it started? I considered as I started down the top staircase. Things had been weird since the wearing-posh-clothes incident...

There was the slight possibility that James just felt guilty about that.  That, after spending a considerable amount of time in my company he’d decided I wasn’t as crazy as all that, and had since aimed to at least act as though he had a heart in my presence. He could genuinely feel sorry for me for having an always-absent-father and a huge house with no one living in it.

 I could just be over analysing things and being much too mistrusting because I held what he’d done and said to me in the past against him. Not that there was anything wrong with that.

“Hi,” I said, opening the door.

“You look nice today Cassie,” James said.

Okaaay...

 There was definitely something going on.

 

 

“Why are you in such a good mood?” I asked warily, now secretly typing out conspiracy theories about James’s behaviour on my laptop whilst he was otherwise distracted by his waffles.  I’d already managed to type up the key strange moments (including that awkward moment when James had complimented me) and other strange things I’d picked up about James Potter. For example, the fact that he was very easily distracted from anything when presented with waffles.

It was a good job his father didn’t have such a problem. Then all Voldermort would have needed to do was throw a waffle, yell ‘got fetch’ and get him with a killing curse whist he was desperately trying to retrieve the waffle from the dirt.

“Going to Italy this weekend,” He said happily, stuffing an absurd amount of waffle into his mouth and chewing enthusiastically. I think he was irritating me more now he was being nice than he had done when he was just being his usually prat-y self.

Considering I can sense emotions it wasn’t particularly hard to work people out. Hence I’d grown used to knowing what people were feeling and doing – working people out was simple. James was mean because he didn’t like me – it was simple. Now though, when James’s emotions and feelings weren’t making any sense to me at all, especially considering he was definitely hiding something, I found myself highly annoyed by his presence.

I closed my eyes and tried to pinpoint what exactly he was feeling. Excitement – probably due to his upcoming holiday... and... Curiosity.

Bugger. What was he curious about? It wasn’t exactly obvious...

“What are you writing?” James asked, bending over to take a glimpse at my laptop screen. Maybe it was that obvious. I slammed my laptop shut quickly.

“Nothing.” His curiosity exploded. My face flushed. “Poetry,” I said, naming the first thing that came into my head. “I was writing poetry.” No doubt, when James returned to normal he was going to tell the whole school that in my spare time I liked writing poetry. I suddenly wished I’d come up with something a little less embarrassing.

“Really, wow, I’d love to read some at some point.” I stared at him incredulously. Was he serious? What the hell was he trying to pull? I flushed all the same. Maybe this was another one of James’s ridiculous schemes to make me blush? Not that it was a particularly hard job. It seemed, especially when James Potter was invading the confides of my house, blushing multiple times an hour was inevitable.

“We need to sort out light fittings today.”  I stand standing up and placing our plates in the sink.

 

 

 

 

“So... what about Hogwarts?” James asked, holding the ladder whilst I was trying to fix the lampshade onto the light with difficulty. It didn’t help that I was so distracted by James Potter’s steadily more ridiculous questions (since when did he even try to talk to me?) that ever so often I nearly fell off the ladder.  “I mean, terrible things happened at Hogwarts... how can you stand to be there?”

Especially when the ridiculous questions were actually well thought out.

I suppose that it wasn’t altogether surprising that James Potter would come out with such a question given that his parents had been central to the former mention terrible things that happened at Hogwarts. It was just because that question implicitly implied that James Potter had actually been thinking about my abilities to a greater extent than just to discard them with the rest of the bullshit. It meant that James Potter was taking the time to spare some of his precious thoughts on me.

“Hogwarts is so full of magic, and memories, and emotions that a lot of the good counteracts the bad. Some places are worse than others. I can’t go near Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. All her crying and whining has ruined the place. Plus that chamber of secrets and that stuff.”

“You know where that is?”

“Of course I do, I can sense magic.”

“Dad wouldn’t tell me – he said he thought I’d use it for my misdoings.”

“And you didn’t go looking for it?”

“Well yeah, but all the sinks look the same,”

“They don’t look the same. One of them doesn’t work and has a snake carved onto it.”

“Party in the chamber of secrets!” James grinned. I rolled my eyes at him.

“All right, this one’s done. Next room?” James manoeuvred the ladder out the door and into the corridor. I thrust my hand into the box of light fittings in an attempt to find the correct one. “So are there good spots then, too?”

“Sure,” I said. “The Quidditch pitch is crazy. Not in a good or a bad way, just in a crazy way.”

“So many emotions?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Think about it, the whole school goes out there about six times a year. But there’s always a winner and a loser. Plus... well, Cedric Diggory’s body was brought back there by your dad. That’s a lot of horror.”

“Does it get annoying then?”

“Not really,” I answered, starting up the ladder again. “I’ve always been able to do it. It’s normal for me.”

“Even before your Mum left?”

I stopped, mid rung, and turned around to stare at him. What the hell was he trying to do? What right did he have asking questions about my Mum? And how did he even remember that my Mum had left? I’d been almost a hundred percent sure he hadn’t been listening when that had come up in conversation.

“Yes,” I answered stiffly, resuming my climb up the latter. “I was born with it.” I paused for a long moment, trying to fix the bloody light without little success. I paused. “The kitchens are the best,” I said. “I don’t think anyone’s ever been unhappy in the kitchens.”

“You know where the Kitchens are?” James asked, the ladder shaking dangerously due to his unadulterated shock at my words. “You’re a Hufflepuff!”

Precisely.” I said. “Anyway, considering I can sense magic it’s not particularly hard to find secret passageways. The hard bit is working out how to get it.”

“You amaze me.” James said. I raised another eyebrow at that, privately logging it against his name in my head. I may ‘amaze you,’ but you confused me, James Potter.

 

 

“So when’s your dad back?” James asked as we ate lunch, a pizza straight from the freezer and into the oven – mostly due to my complete lack of enthusiasm for cooking. It was hard trying to find inspiring things to cook twice a day which meant by this late on in the summer my fancy dishes had regressed to freezer food and salad. I had better sense than to serve salad to James Potter. I’d probably get laughed out the place.

We were outside today. It seemed to be impossibly sunny – something that almost definitely wouldn’t last – and there was no point wasting such weather inside. Knowing England, it would probably be gone tomorrow.

“Two hours ago,” I replied, glancing at my phone to check the time. Two new messages. Meeting got delayed, be back for four – and then – make that six. “He’ll be back about eight.” I told James, continuing to eat my pizza unperturbed. It wasn’t unusual for his promise of ‘finishing early’ to be proved entirely false. There were definitely downsides to being a multi-billionaire.

“You could join us for dinner again?” James suggested. He sounded hopeful. This was all just so wrong. I put my pizza down and stared at him for a long moment, debating whether or not to speak my mind.

“What are you trying to achieve through this?” I asked suddenly. Wow. Huge step for Cassie.

“Achieve through what?”

“Through pretending to be all ‘nice’ and considerate.” Predictably, my face flushed scarlet as I spoke. I didn’t care though. This was a huge leap forward. Somehow, whether part of James’s scheming, I had become comfortable enough in his presence to be able to accuse him, and ask him questions and wait for answers.  “I don’t believe it for a second,”

“What?” James asked innocently, but I could feel his sense of disappointment at being exposed. “I just don’t want you to be eating alone.”

“Don’t even try to deny it, I can sense your feelings you know.”

“That’s creepy, Cassie, really creepy.”

“There we go, that’s the James Potter I’m used to – insulting and degrading. Now, what are you trying to do?”

“Why would I be trying to do anything?”

“That’s what I want to know.” I said irritably. “You think I’m just going to trust you? I’m not that stupid.”

“I take offence to that,” James said, apparently mulling over my words in his head.

“You’ve stuck a ‘Cassie’s crazy’ label over my head for the past five years and I highly doubt that your opinion of me has changed at all.” I was miraculously not blushing anymore. If James could sense my emotions he’d probably be surprised by the degree of excitement and pride that I was feeling right now. I was actually having a conversation with someone that was relatively embarrassing, and I was not blushing.

Which did sort of mean I was more comfortable with James Potter than my best friend. Or I was just angry. Yeah, will go with that, angry Cassie.

“You just want to think badly of me,” James returned.

“My opinion of you is irrelevant. The fact is you’ve been trying to do something... and I want to know what.”

“I was curious,” James said defensively.

“About what?”

“About you.”James said, leaning forwards and looking at me seriously. There was a strange quality to the expression in his eyes that I didn’t recognise. It wasn’t hard to work out what he was trying to do though. I jerked backwards away from him suddenly feeling mildly horrified.

“Are you trying to...?”

“You caught me. I had a master plan,” James said. “Get in the friendship zone, get a bit closer and then -”

“You were going to try and bloody seduce me?” I demanded. I couldn’t quite bring myself to feel angry, I was too freaking shocked. He made no move to contradict me. “You’re so... arrogant.” I said in disbelief. “And did you really think I was going to fall for you if you just asked me questions?”

“Well why don’t you tell me how to seduce you?”

“You’re still doing it!” I exclaimed, standing up and skipping backwards as if by getting to close I’d accidently fall in love with him or something. What bullocks. What utter trash.

“It would have worked,” James grinned stupidly. I stared at him. Incredulous. How the hell could he be so...? Such a...horrible human being?

“You’re despicable.” I said. James grinned. “That’s not a compliment.”

“Oh I think it is, I knew you’d warm up to me eventually Cassie.”

“Why?” I asked, staring at him still in my state of disbelief. “Say you did manage to seduce me, what were you going to do then?”

“I... okay, sit down Cassie.” James instructed. The pure audacity of the instruction meant I followed it without meaning too. “I eavesdropped,”

Eavesdropped?” I demanded.

“Are you going to listen to me?” He asked in frustration. “Okay, so, remember when you were eavesdropping on my parents outside my house?” I flushed this time. “You got me interested,” I remembered that.... now he mentioned it – I distinctly remembered that intrigued look in his eye. “So I pulled out a pair of extendables and... listened to what they were saying.”

“And?”

“And they were taking about you.” He took a deep breath and looked at me seriously again. There was sympathy in his eyes again, and it must have been genuine, because I could feel it seeping out towards me in a wash. “Cassie, your life doesn’t make sense.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Think about it,” James implored. “Why did your mum leave? Why do you move around so much?” I stared at him blankly. “You deleted your spellbook after two days. Why?”

“Because my dad said he didn’t want pictures of me on the internet,” I said slowly. James nodded as if this proved his point. “But he’s just big on internet security – he knows what it’s like. He got really angry, wait... did you set that up? Were you testing him?”

“Yes, but that’s not important.”

“Not important? So it’s okay to mess with my life and set things up and -”

“-Cassie.” James interrupted. “Someone changed your memories.”

I stared at him for a long moment in complete shock. His words didn’t exactly comprehend in my brain. Instead they were just sitting there, senseless and meaningless. My memories couldn’t have been changed? They were my memories.

“You’re lying.” I said quickly, remembering Mr Potter’s uneasiness about being in that memory that I’d showed him... he’d questioned me about it... and...

“No, I’m not.” James said. “I overheard Dad talking to Hermione before they left to go to the burrow. He’s seen memories like that before, but last time the person purposefully changed it... and, you didn’t lie, did you?”

“No,” I said dumbstruck. It was a bloody good job I’d sat down. Otherwise I would have fallen over due to the shock of it. “No I... but, my memories can’t have been changed, I’d know...”

“But that’s the point, isn’t it?” James asked. “You wouldn’t realise anything was different but... someone changed your memories Cassie and I want to know why.”

“Why?” I asked, suddenly snapping out of my reverie and staring at him.

“Curiosity,” James smiled. He bent forwards again. “Come on Cassie, help me, we’ll work it out together.” He seemed so determined and curious and set on the idea that I couldn’t tell if he was still trying to seduce me or not. The idea was certainly seductive: answers.

“So,” I said, standing up and desperately trying to clear my thoughts. I was too confused and too shocked to make any sort of decision right now. I hadn’t even decided if I believed what he was saying yet. There was too much to consider. “You find out that my whole life is a lie and your response is to try and seduce me.”

“I... that was stupid.” James admitted.

“You think?” I said angrily. “Not only doesn’t it completely devalue me as a person – as if you think I would just –”

“Maybe I underestimated you.”

Underestimated me? Underestimated! You decided I was crazy in first year because I said my father was famous, which I don’t know if you’ve noticed – is true – and since then you devoted your life to trying and failing to make me miserable. Now you think I’m stupid enough to be fucking seduced by you?”

“I’m sorry okay. I was a kid.”

“Not anymore, what’s your excuse now?”

“That I’m an idiot whose far too used to things going my way... and like you said, it never had any effect on you so -”

“- it used to!” I was yelling now. The last time I’d yelled was in first year.

“I can’t apologise for everything I’ve ever said.”

“You could apologise for thinking you had the right to butt into my life and manipulating me into helping you.”

“Just forget it Cassie, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up -”

“You think I can just forget it now? Your memories aren’t the ones that have been changed. Now I don’t have any choice. Now I have to find out why, you knew I would, you knew I’d be curious...”

“I’m going to leave,” James said. “I’m really sorry, I am. I didn’t think I... I’ve been really stupid. I’ll... I’ll buy you a present or something, but Cassie just think about what we –”

“I’ll show you to the door,” I said stiffly. Folding my arms and walking towards the door. My memoires had been changed, James Potter had apologised, and this was the strangest day ever.

“Cassie,” James said, his voice low and apologetic. I didn’t trust him. Even if I could feel the dank regret and his undeniable shame I was entirely sure that I would never, ever, trust James Potter again (had I ever trusted him?). “I want to help you. I can find out more from Dad and you can tell me about all the weird things and... two brains are better that one?” I very much doubted that James Potter had a brain. I stayed silent, exercising my control over him in my old way of silence.

It wasn’t quite as successful as normal given that James Potter was talking enough for both of us. “You wouldn’t even have to like me, or anything Cassie, we’d just be working together – like a school project. No! Not a school project, no, I don’t see it like that Cassie – I didn’t mean to offend you – I just mean that we wouldn’t have to be friends or anything if you don’t want to, I just figure that... you’ve got to find out now, and... I can help. It’ll be like me redeeming myself for being such a -” We’d reached the door now. I looked towards it pointedly.

“Okay, fair play,” James said. “I won’t come back, if you don’t want me to, I go to Italy at the weekend. You won’t see me again till Hogwarts if you don’t want to.”

He took another step towards the door.

“Oh, and Cassie... if I were you I wouldn’t mention this to your Dad,” And then he was gone, his final words weighing heavily in the silence.

Because he was right. If my memories had been changed, then my dad must know about it. Which meant he’d been involved. Which meant he’d lied to me.

Then, quite understandably, I burst into tears.

A/N - I'm finally back into this story! This chapter is definately the swinging point for me... even though it's a lot earlier than I intended (I believe I have it over several chapters at the end of the summer in my plan). That means I'm going to carry on updating at this relatively fast pace! Yay!

Anyway, what did you all think of my twist? Of James (as it seems he's not really being nice after all... or is he...)? Of Cassie's Dad? Of the alleged memory-change? Anyone got any explanations or it yet?  Of poor little Cassie? Tell me what you think :D
 
 
 


Chapter 11: Partnership.
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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?”

Yes.”

“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.

Abnormalities:

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,”

“Sorry?”

“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,”

“Oh?”

“Driving lessons,”

Driving lessons?”

“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
 


Chapter 12: Beginning to delve
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“So, your childhood,” James said lunging over the room and grabbing a slice of pizza distractedly. His eyes were fixed on the huge screen that had made its home in our living room within the past week and it was very obvious that he really didn’t care about whatever I had to say. Maybe he was trying to care but, not being used to it, he was failing quite badly, “tell me about it,”

James missed his mouth with his pizza, his eyes glazed and ridiculous. I rolled my eyes at his profile and found my irritation flaring up again. James Potter’s company made me decidedly uncomfortable and I still hated the idea of James being sat there in my sitting room, watching my television and eating my food.

I decided that ‘so your childhood – tell me about it’ did not merit a response and instead turned my own gaze towards the direction of the screen. Quidditch again, the muggle way this time, and apparently it was my fault he’d missed the game in the first place. Even though he’d been on holiday at the time.

After my extended period of silence James turned around vaguely and stared at me expectantly. I stared back. “So?”

“I am not discussing my childhood.” I returned flatly, picking up a slice of pizza for myself and staring at the pepperoni as if it was personally responsible for this situation. It wasn’t like I had some dark mysterious past that I didn’t want to reveal – well, I suppose that has yet to be determined – but I just did not feel comfortable talking about something so personal with someone who I genuinely did not like. I didn’t really talk about my childhood, at all; Dad didn’t like talking about it, Leanne didn’t really care about what I did when I was three years old... and who else was I going to discuss it with?

“I’ll tell you about mine?”

“That is not necessary,”

“So, we’ve lived in that house for as long as I’ve been alive,”

“James,” I said warningly.

“I’ve never moved liked you... So I don’t really know what that was like. Mostly I remember playing Quidditch with my excessive number of cousins at the burrow – that’s where my grandparents live, on my mum’s side, obviously – it was always slightly suffocating and I used to spend hours crying about it in the cupboard under the stairs. Your friendships are dictated by who’s the same age as you in that sort of circle, and we were mostly left with each other. I was always left with Dom and we pretty much hated each other until Hogwarts. Dad was always closer to Al, so I don’t know him really well which kills me inside. I’m a little bit too mischievous for their liking and they were always just yelling at me – all very tragic. I got on with Uncle George better, and Freddie – but I didn’t see him much as he’s a little younger. Being the chosen one and all that, didn’t really see Dad until I was about seven and he cut down on his work hours because he wanted to actually see his baby girl grow up and I was permanently and emotional scarred by neglect and loneliness.”

“How much of that was true?” I asked dryly.

“Hmm...” James considered, taking another piece of pizza from the plate with a grin, “not much really. We’ve never moved house... and Quidditch was encouraged. Dom and I were best friends forever,”

“Were?”

“Well,” James said pausing to bite, chew and swallow his piece of paper, “she disagrees with my attitude to girls,” I raised an eyebrow, “I dated her friend and er... didn’t end well. Anyway, your turn,”

I don’t know how exactly James had managed it, but he had somehow ensured that I was a lot more comfortable at this point.

“Well, we lived by the sea when my mum was around. She was a seer and Dad worked at the ministry doing something or other. I was pretty young at the time. Then she left and -”

“Wait, how old were you when she left?”

“Six? Seven?” I suggested trying very hard to concentrate on the memory and finding it difficult, “it’s hard to focus on it, I... I should know, but I don’t,” James nodded, “I remember that... well, that’s the memory I showed to your Dad so I guess that’s the one that’s been changed and I have no idea what actually happened. But she left all of a sudden and we were alone. We moved out of the house. Actually, we moved abroad for that year. France... I think we were going to stay there but then Dad’s business started becoming successful so we moved back. We moved house about every six months. Dad would be elsewhere most of the time but when he was back he’d always treat me: ice cream, holidays, camping trips and walks. He became rich. The houses became bigger, the absences more prolonged and the treats more extreme.”

“Your mother was a seer?” James asked, considering this. “A real seer? Or one of those frauds?”

“I don’t know,” I shrugged.

“We should break into the department of mysteries and find out,” James said with a smile that suggested he was enjoying the idea a lot more than he was letting on.  I rolled my eyes, leant back on the sofa and let myself be absorbed into Quidditch, just so I didn’t have to think about how I’d revealed much more than I was comfortable with to someone who was almost definitely going to use it as fuel for his ‘Cassie is crazy campaign’ as soon as school restarted.

*

My driving instructor gave me a weak smile before exiting the vehicle and leaving my sat in the car feeling exhausted. He’d been slightly bemused by the idea that I was to be taught how to drive in my own car – a ridiculously shiny posh car that I had inadvertently fallen in love with without meaning too – rather than in his little car with dual controls, but had went with it because Dad was paying him over three times the amount he’d intended to charge (and driving lessons weren’t exactly cheep in the first place). Dad had confunded the poor guy when he’d asked for me to prove that I was seventeen and this had done nothing to calm my nerves about the whole thing – who wanted to learn how to drive in a car that cost more than what most households owned in a year and with a driving instructor who’d recently been confunded.

Now I was several days into my crash course in driving. My legs hurt from using the clutch excessively, the car had been beyond hot due to the poor excuse for summer heat and I had managed to stall more times than I’d ever done before in a period of about ten minutes. It had not been a good lesson whatsoever.

“Good lesson?” James asked, throwing open the door and sitting himself down on the passenger seat, “I saw your parking issues,” I’d gotten used to James being incredibly rude by now, but I still managed to find some indignation to draw up from somewhere about him getting into my car uninvited and insulting my parking (yes, I had mounted the curb, but I’d only swerved to the left because there was a really big lorry driving in my direction and I was scared for my life).

“There was a lorry,”

“It was a van,” James corrected, “anyway... isn’t you learning to drive slightly illegal?”

“Mildly,” I answered, tapping my fingers on the wheel and trying to get used to my position in the front seat, “but dad wanted me to learn,”

“So he disregards the law? Interesting,” James said thoughtfully, “hey, you being able to drive could be useful for out little mission!”

“It’s not a mission,” I contradicted, “this may be just some game to you, James, but this is my life you know. It’s not some great... plotline to enrich and fuel your dramatic lifestyle. This is me having my head messed with.”

“That is both the longest and most dramatic sentence you’ve ever said,” James said making me flush furiously. I glared at the steering wheel and thought cooling thoughts to de-red my ridiculous cheeks, “and that was a beautiful blush, come on Cassie – I’m sorry if it seems like I’m not taking this seriously, but that’s just me,”

“Well that changes everything,” I muttered under my breath. James smiled at this comment, one that wouldn’t have escaped my lips at all in his presence as little as two weeks ago, and at his smile I found myself blushing all over again. There was something a little too friendly about the way he seemed to appreciate that I was becoming (inadvertently) more comfortable in his presence – mostly because his presence now had a habit of making me angry.

“This is a bloody nice car,”

“Early birthday present,”

“This car belongs to you?” James asked longingly, “can I borrow it sometimes?”

“If you pass your driving test and pay for insurance, sure thing.”

“So now you start thinking about the law,” James sighed, “what does this do?” James continued reaching forward and beginning to press buttons at random. He turned on the air conditioning, the radio and the left indicator before I decided that any second now he was going to hit the ‘stop start’ button to the left of the ignition and things were going to go terribly wrong. So I took the keys out of the ignition and let engine go dead, “I suppose you’re used to driving around in limos and what not?”

“Not exactly. Anyway, stop acting like you’re not rich too – your Dad’s Harry Potter. You’re probably the person my age in the country to have a similar amount of money,”

“But Dad doesn’t spend any of it!” James complained, “Gives it to charity and stuff,”

“Pass us your phone,” I instructed  him. He removed it from his pocket it and placed it into my hand with an eyebrow raise, “Sixth generation deluxe addition,” I said turning it over in my hands, “reinforced, extra long battery, inbuilt music system... wireless internet facilities, synching technology. Yeah, this phone costs over a hundred galleons,” I handed it back to him, “and no doubt you’ve got as many texts and minutes as you could possibly want – that’s another twenty a month. Don’t act as if you’re not spoilt too.”

“Well, it’s not as good as your phone.”

“Point proven.”

“Well you’ve got a jaguar!” James exclaimed, “With a satnav!”

“Of course I’m spoilt,” I returned pocketing my keys, “I’m the only family my Dad has – no parents, no siblings, no aunts, I’m the only thing he’s got.”

“See, that doesn’t make any sense,” James said leaning against the door on his elbow, “speaking from experience, people don’t let rich people go.  Even if your dad was disowned by his family or something, they’d all come crawling back when he becomes the richest man in Britain. His friends from Hogwarts would try to get back in touch, ex-girlfriends, distant relatives... he’d have someone trying to get in touch with him and unless he rebutted all attempts then -”

“Well, Robert Banks isn’t his real name,”

“What?” James asked in shock. I was suddenly hit by a wave of how frustrating it was that James would lick my Dad’s feet if I asked him, whilst he was more than happy to use me to fill up his empty summer with endless hours of entertainment and such.

“He changed his surname when he went into business, I think; I mean... he used to be Robert Bradshaw,”

“Bradshaw?” James questioned, “Why didn’t you mention this before? That could be really important – when about did he change his name? Before or after your mum left?”

“I don’t know, it was a long time ago,”

“That’s good!” James said eagerly, “that means your memory has been changed so you don’t remember it!”

“No it doesn’t,” I countered, “there are hundreds of things I don’t remember about when I was young,”

There was an odd silence as I sat there and began to contemplate that my whole past might have been rewritten without me even knowing. James looked for a second like he was about to speak then thought better of it – for which I could only be thankful, because suddenly my head was clouding over with the possibility of my whole life being some strange and intricate lie that I would never understand. If I couldn’t trust my own memories to be accurate then what the hell could I trust?

“What’s your earliest memory?” I asked, leaning against the steering wheel to look at him carefully.

“I remember mum bringing Lily back from the hospital just after she was born. I thought she was some sort of toy but then she started crying and I decided I didn’t like her very much. I told Uncle Bill that I wanted mum and dad to take her back and get a refund,”

“So you were?”

“About four?” James suggested, then he saw my expression, “but I only remember that because it’s the sort of story everyone likes to tell at Christmas.”

I nodded and swallowed, looking down at where my feet uselessly rested on the clutch and the brake feeling ever so slightly dismayed. When was my earliest memory? I could hardly remember – mostly the past was a confusing smudge of details half remembered, and conversations that I could hardly follow about consequences and avoiding something... I could sometimes picture what I once wore, places I visited and my mum’s old fashioned perfume prickling at the corners of my mind.

“It could be anything then,” I said, “I mean, for all I know my entire past could have been planted in my head. My dad might not be my dad, I could have been kidnapped or something – how am I supposed to know?”

“No,” James said, “your dad is your dad – you have the same nose,”

“Magic could change that,” I returned wildly, feeling strangely like I was standing onto the top of a cliff and woozily hanging over the railings to take a glimpse at the bottom: the result wasn’t the comfort I had thought it would be, there was a wide open space of nothingness to fall through before the ground would rush up and greet me, “I might not even be human, I could be some strange sort of nymph transfigured to look like the offspring of Robert Banks, nee Bradshaw.”

“Firstly, that’s silly. You’re definitely human and you’re definitely Cassie Jones-Banks-Bradshaw,”

“Comforting,” I muttered.

“Your dad wouldn’t have bothered making you look like him only to hide you from the world, that’s illogical and stupid – no, you haven’t been kidnapped and your whole childhood hasn’t been rewritten, just details,”

“Well if you think you know so much about it, what do you thinks going on?” I asked, soundly overly huffy and irritated mostly because I was trying to suppress the emotions that came with the idea that it wasn’t just the one memory that had been rearranged and altered, but a whole host of other little things that, to me, were concrete facts.

“It’s all to do with you being hidden,” James said thoughtfully, “that must be why you have your mothers surname, why your dad changed his surname, you being omitted from everything about your dad... so... someone’s trying to murder you,”

“I don’t want to criticise,” I said feeling the weight of a whole lot of tears pressing at the back of my eyeballs uncomfortably, “but it was quite a big leap from being hidden to murder, and one that I’m not entirely sure I’m comfortable with. Who’s trying to murder me?”

“Either your Dad or someone else.”

“Why the hell would my Dad want to murder me?” I demanded angrily, “You can’t just go around and insinuate that my dad wants to kill me James!”

“If I was to write a letter to you how long would it take to get to you?”

“A week or so. All my mail is searched and read before I get it,”

“Text?”

“Dad has to approve all the number’s that try and have contact with my phone before I receive everything from them,”

“And then he reads your messages?”

“Probably,” I admitted.

“How many addresses to you use?”

“Six,”

“How many do you live at?”

“None of the six used,”

“So either he’s trying to protect you or he’s trying to control and hurt you,” I stared at him suddenly feeling another wave of irritation: what right did James Potter have to sit himself in my car and then start talking about absurd possibilities that I really didn’t want to consider – not for anything. Dad was the only person I had in the world and maybe it was true that he had a couple of strange and absurd habits (some of them being downright weird) but I’d just assumed that it was standard paranoia that comes with being a billionaire, rather than anything that had any foundation.

“Dad’s all I’ve got,” I said fiercely, “and anyway, you think if he really was going to ... hurt me or something then, then, he’d probably have bugged the car or something! What if all of this is nothing – some strange blip in nature, or just a circumstance that looks bad but is actually just something stupid,”

“Your right,” James said, “we shouldn’t talk in the car. Come over to mine, the only bugs there are Lily and Al – and they’re more like incessant flies than earwigs. Besides, it’s really hot in here since you foolishly turned off the air con,” I flushed again (although I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why this time) and dutifully got out of the car.

I locked the car and pulled out the house keys in one fluid motion.

“Are you coming to mine then?”

“Aren’t you going to look pretty stupid if one of your friends comes round and you’ve got Crazy Cassie in your room? Aren’t your siblings going to embarrass you by telling the world about how we talk now?”

“I haven’t had a friend round since the summer started and having a girl in my room won’t make me look stupid, whoever the girl may be.” James contradicted folding his arms and raising his eyebrows at me challengingly. I flushed at that and folded my own arms feeling annoyed but not being able to find words to express why I was annoyed. I was the one who’d insinuated that I was somewhat of embarrassment and of course James wasn’t going to disagree with the assumption, but still I didn’t like the way his voice had formed the word ‘whoever.’

“I’d rather you invited your friends round and let me stay here and work it out on my own,”

James sighed irritably. “Look, Cassie, right now you have more friends than I do. Okay?”

“What do you mean?”

“I thought you’d worked it out,” James said frowning, “Natalie, well, you know we were going out right?”

“Sure, for like five months or something.”

“Four months, three weeks,” James corrected, running a self conscious hand through his hair and looking more than slightly pained, “She cheated on me,”

“With your best friend Ryan?” I finished, suddenly remembering seeing it on Spellbook and the strange way James had reacted when we’d ran into Ryan at the furniture stall.

“Right,” James muttered, shoving one hand into his pocket and pushing his glasses up his nose when the other, “so then she was pretty pissed off at being caught, so... well she spread some stuff and I got mad and broke Ryan’s nose on the Hogwarts express  - which he fully deserved – but that confirmed it for most people. I’d pissed off Lily by threatening to write home about the fact that I’d caught her drunk – she’s like nine for god’s sake – so she told mum and dad that I’d gotten into a fright and broken someone’s nose, which is why I was grounded.”

I could feel everything clicking into place slightly and it definitely explained both why James had been such a moody git and why he had so much time on his hands to take me on as some absurd project to discovery my history with me. If this had been a normal summer for James Potter, he’d have been out somewhere half way across the country most days, drinking at house parties and snogging girls somewhere.

“It’s been pretty shit, to be honest,” James muttered, “I haven’t had anything to do and every so often people stick loads of photos on spellbook of parties that I should rightfully have been invited too. Even Al was invited to some of them! And Lily! They both started to realise what had happened at that point, then Lily started grovelling for forgiveness and then on holiday I just decided to hell with it. So I told Lily it didn’t matter and... why am I telling you all of this? I suppose you don’t really care, right? I’m just the annoying git who spends the whole year calling you crazy and having competitions to see who can make you blush most.”

“Well, I am sorry,” I said after a long moment, but even I wasn’t sure exactly why James had gone into such great depth about the whole saga. Saying he’d fallen out with his friends would have easily done the trick, although maybe not quite as well because – annoyingly – there was this part of me that now felt slightly sorry for James Potter.

“Don’t be, there all tossers for not hearing me out, right?”

“Or just easily led,”

“Either way Cassie, as crazy as you may be, you currently have more social status than I do. Never thought I’d see the day, but here we are.” I blushed at the slight and wondered whether it was impossible for James to have a conversation with someone without making the other person feel very very small. I also wondered whether this might be his problem in the first place – that he was far too superior for his own good and that everyone was more than happy to see him knocked down a pedestal for awhile – no matter how brutally.

Then again I’d decided a long time ago that popular people had no heart or feelings whatsoever and therefore I wasn’t in the slightest bit surprised that his friends had been fickle enough not to care about James on his fall from grace, and cynical enough to suspect that within a week of returning to Hogwarts James would be talking to his friends again and ignoring me completely, which was actually exactly what I wanted.

“So having me in your room will actually improve your reputation?” I questioned (with a predictable blush), “I’ll go get my laptop,” I muttered in response to his exaggerated wink.

 ***

“So, DoM and SC” I began, “come up with anything?”

“I was thinking about asking Dom about the DoM thing,” James said with a grin, closing the door as I sat down on his bed awkwardly and flipped open my laptop, “but I decided against it. I searched the internet and it came up with a few things: the ‘DoM’ theory (dominance of magic); a very bad Quidditch team that some idiots are trying to set up ‘dragons of Manchester’ but nothing that seemed that relevant. I thought maybe we should look at the bits that are classified as confidential on the document.”

“Okay,”

“If you look at the columns above and below it,” James continued pulling out a duplicated copy of the entire document (so he’d listened to my advice after all) and flicking to the right page. I noted with a stab of satisfaction that he’d gone to the effort of highlighting the line with my name on, and had underlined the ambiguous bits we didn’t understand , “I’m pretty sure that the bits we’re not told are the reason why and the spell used – which means it wasn’t just a standard memory modification.”

My phone bleeped. I pulled it out and turned it over in my hands. Leanne: What’s going on!? I’m at your house now but your Dad says you’re at the Potter’s house. What!?!? Come back soon!

“If your Dad reads all your text messages then he’ll know that we’re investigating stuff,” James said suddenly.

“Look, I don’t know if he reads the messages – just that he can easily do if he wants to,”

“And you copied that document onto your laptop! He’ll know!”

“James, now you’re the one getting paranoid,” I said, “he’s not stalking me!”

“Cassie, we don’t know what’s going on, do we? Of course chances are he hasn’t done anything wrong – he got authorisation, after all – but he definitely doesn’t want you to know about it, otherwise he wouldn’t have got your memory wiped. So you need to delete everything on your laptop before he finds it,”

“You’re not suggested we do it all on paper?” I asked incredulously.

“No, we do it on my laptop.”

“I think I’d rather do it on paper,” I commented darkly, “oh come on, James, your laptop is rubbish,”

James muttered something about how not everyone could get free top of the range laptops with integrated printers and how I could easily score him something fabulous if I wanted to, whilst pulling his laptop off his desk and in doing so sending a pile of books crashing to the floor.

I stared at the books feeling as though I had been winded. James had apparently visited the muggle library and had retrieved every book on amnesia – included three volumes of teenage fiction – one of which he was apparently half way through if you took any notice of the battered Chudley Cannons bookmark.

I didn’t say anything but my surprise was so obvious that it was James’s turn to flush slightly and hastily retrieve all the books from the floor and shove them into some dark corner of his room where they were no longer visible, “I thought reading up on amnesia might help,” he said lamely, “I mean, if we provided the right triggers and stuff then you might start to break the spell, so it... it is a bit like amnesia really,”

James was actually taking this seriously. I mean, reading teenage books serious (and anyone but teenage girls who read those things were seriously brave and more impressive beings than myself).

I remained silent at a loss of anything else I could say. I blinked a few times and then wordlessly began copying all of the relevant files to James’s crumbly old laptop feeling very badly done to as I had to use his worn out keyboard which crunched when you pressed certain keys due to the food that had fallen between the gaps between the letters, and you couldn’t even read the ‘E’ due to overuse. The sad thing was, the laptop was only just over a year old – and he’d already managed to run the poor thing to the ground.

I sidetracked slightly by rewriting some of his software to make the whole thing faster. James didn’t question this but instead absorbed everything I was doing as though memorising it for later use, and looking rather excited when I managed to download more memory space by entering my account details into the WTC website.

Then I deleted everything off my own laptop that was related to it, tracking the files backwards to delete any history of their presence – because it would intrigue Dad a lot more if I’d half attempted to delete something and I knew full well he’d then take that as a challenge to retrieve the document. I renamed all the ghost files (an irritating fault Dad was required to leave in so Aurors could track wizarding files even after they’d been double deleted) to boring things such as ‘transfig homework’ which would hardly entice him to read them, then deleted their content leaving nothing but an empty space in their wake. It wasn’t irrecoverable but it would be a lot of effort.

“How did you do that?” James asked after I’d finished and he was pressing buttons on his laptop and delighting in the fact that I’d just made it three times faster.

“I helped design most of them,” I admitted, “I could probably get that up to four times the speed if I could be bothered,”

James pushed the laptop in my direction with a grin. I waved this off and refused to take it, instead turning over the copied ministry document in my hands curiously. “If I could hack into your Dad’s ministry account,” I began slowly, “then I might be able to find out a little more,”

“How long would that take?”

“I’m not very good at hacking so, about a week?” I suggested, “If I spent a couple of hours a day trying to break into their software... I dunno,”

“You should try it,” James said, “and teach me how to hack things,”

I turned the parchment over in my hands for the forth times and then stopped with a sigh, “James,” I said, “I think you need to improve your sleuthing skills,”

Then I pointed out the large grid on the reverse side of the parchment where each abbreviation the document used was listed in miniscule font in a long list.  ‘W’ was identified as witch/wizard which was so obvious that I wondered if there was a point listing it and ‘DoM’ apparently meant ‘Department of Mysteries.’

Obviously. Inside, I was kicking myself (and wondering exactly why that wasn’t thrown up by James’s internet search). I glanced down to search for a ‘SC’ but found nothing... which probably meant it was the name of the Unspeakable that had cast the spell.

James was looking sheepish. I glanced over at the mostly hidden pile of books on amnesia and then turned back to him smiling “I’ll give you bonus marks for effort though, if it makes you feel any better,”

It rather looked like it didn’t.

A/N - This took forever, didn't it. Sorry all. For all thoes who guessed that DoM meant Department of mysteries, nice one! Why don't you all try guess whats going on this time? Sorry again for the long wait, I really need to sit down and rewrite my plan for this story. Anyway, reviews are appreciated as always :)
Thanks for reading! 

 


Chapter 13: Hack
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“So what are you doing now?” James asked, peering over my shoulder.

“Getting slightly annoyed at your badgering?” I suggested, leaning unconsciously close to the laptop.

“That’s funny, see, because you’re the Hufflepuff here,”

“This would be so much easier if you could just guess what his password would be,” I said trying changing the URL link but finding myself still blocked by the error message (ignoring James comment completely).

“How would I know? Could be anything – Dumbledore, Hedwig, Scabbers...” James continued, still hovering over me. I could feel his presence, just far enough away so that our skin wasn’t touching (as well as sensing his stupid eagerness over the whole thing), “I mean, I can guess all you want – I’m just not very likely to get it right,”

“Two more seconds,”

“You’re just clicking buttons, surely, you can’t actually hack into the Ministry system – this is just some crazy...”

“I’m in,” I said, not believing it myself, “crap – where do we go now?”

“You are a flipping genius,” James grinned, “I bet you could do anything from here,”

“It’s not that hard – the Ministry’s only been online for like a year anyway, they haven’t got the hang of security yet,”

“You should teach me how to hack then I could be one of those contract workers employed to improve security.”

“You don’t have the patience, okay... your dad’s got a lot of emails from a Mr Ronald Weasley,” I said scrolling down the page.

“What do they say?”

“We can’t read them or it’ll mark them as unread and he’ll know someone’s been in his account. Probably not very interesting anyway,”

“My dad’s plenty interesting,”

“I speak as someone who’s read far too many of my father’s emails. Right – maybe if we make an enquiry?”

“Can’t you just sense your way to the right page?”

“James,” I muttered, rolling my eyes at the ceiling of his bedroom, “I can sense magic, emotions and memories – the internet is cold and emotionless. I can’t sense magic through a screen,”

“All right, keep your crazy on Cassie – I’m only trying to help,” James said, holding up his hands and sighing. He stuck his head in my personal space again, peering at the web page curiously, “you’d have thought it was more exciting, wouldn’t you?”

“Life’s like that,” I sighed, my mouse hovering over the ‘enquires’ section.

“Yours isn’t – you’ve got your mad drama, secret past, heart throb extraordinaire...”

“If you’re talking about yourself...” I began (blushing, naturally), “then you’re sadly lacking in observation skills,”

“It’s funny; you’re less embarrassed and blushy when you’re concentrating on something,”

“You’re no less annoying,”

“See!” James said, pointing at me triumphantly, “See! You’re all come-backy and, well, not like yourself,” I blushed scarlet, dragging myself away from the screen for a second in attempt to recover my apparently new found composure with an eyebrow raise. My eyebrows squirmed a little instead, before retreating down my face as if trying to hide my eyes and the fantastic magenta that was currently winning the battle for dominance over my face, “not that I think you should be less like yourself, or maybe you’re being more like yourself? I don’t know,” James continued, rambling on as he tilted his head and watched my skin change colour.

I’m like a flaming mood ring.

“We can talk about my questionable identity in a minute,” I said, turning back to the screen, “Oh, crud, time out. Oh, crap, it’s registered my enquiry.... bugger,” I muttered closing down the site very quickly and shutting down James’s laptop, “so I messed that up,”

“Are we going to Azkaban?” James suggested. Sad thing was, he looked sort of excited by the idea.

“No, it just means that his accounts going to be on top alert for awhile. Probably put in extra security measures,”

“But we go back to school tomorrow!” James said, “You can’t do it at Hogwarts?”

“No,” I said slowly, “well, never mind,” I passed James’s laptop over to him and picked up my own laptop bag. It seemed more logical to attempt the hacking on James’s laptop considering James had told me – much later than it was useful – that his dad sometimes borrowed his laptop.

“What are we going to do now?” James asked, blinking at me stupidly.

“Nothing,” I shrugged, shoving my hands into my pockets and finding myself a lot glummer than I could have expected, “dead end,”

“Are you for real?” James demanded, “Are you actually crazy?”

“Well, you’ve been saying it for five years Potter. It’s a bit late to ask me about it now,” I said, ignoring the fact that my face was burning (when wasn’t it?) and shifting the weight of my laptop bag on my shoulder.

“Cassie, your names been changed, your memories been changed, god knows where your mother is – do you just not care?”

“Of course I care! Did you think this was going to be a little adventure like your parents? We’re kids, James, we can’t solve mysteries! Not when there’s no clues and no leads and I can’t even remember anything. No one’s going to tell me anything! I’ll just have to wait till someone tries to stick a knife in me and then maybe it will all make sense.”

“You’re an adult tomorrow,” James said, half dropping his poor poor laptop on the floor and pulling out another battered book on amnesia. He lay back on his bed, propped himself up on his pillows and opened the book to about half way, “good luck with your driving test, I’ll be around about seven with the others,”

“Fine,” I said, feeling irrationally angry (it seemed James was good at achieving that these days).

“Let yourself out,”

Merlin, what a spoilt brat.

“Cassie,” Harry Potter said, stopping me as I made for the door, “we’re all looking forwards to later,”

“Least we could do,” I smiled politely.

“And sorry we haven’t got very far with exploring you’re, well... power – I’ve been doing some research, and maybe if you’re back over the Christmas holidays..?”

Hopefully we’d have moved house by then – a wonderful way to both avoid James and to get out of a house I really did loath. Far too sparse emotionally, but maybe by the Christmas holidays dad might have been able to provide a layer of memories thick enough to cover the newness of it all.

“Thank you, and sorry for breaking into your back garden – I should really learn not be so curious,”

“Curiosity is not a sin," he said, "but we should exercise caution with our curiosity,"

I stared at him for a long moment, sort of baffled by the moment. I knew that this was Harry Potter, who had essentially saved the world from the most notorious super villain but it was hard to associate that hero with a man that I saw as an irritating kid in my year’s father, and even harder to link those two different Harry Potter’s to the one who’d just spouted something nothing short or wise.

“That’s not erm, an original Harry,” he said awkwardly, “its Dumbledore’s – he was always saying... stuff like that,”

That was better.

“Thanks,” I said, nodding, before letting myself out of the Potter’s front door with a courteous goodbye. I’d never have thought, before this summer, that I’d be letting myself in and out of the Potter’s house whenever I saw fit.

***

“You passed you’re driving test?” Dad asked for the second time, his eyes wider than what was complimentary, “without magic and everything?”

“Yeah,” I said, walking into the kitchen and frowning around the room, “of course I didn’t really pass considering you faked papers saying I took my theory test and I’m not even old enough to hold a driving licence yet, but yeah – I passed,”

“Oh, wow,” it was quite clear that dad really thought he’d have to march down and confound the man to ensure that I’d actually, genuinely, got a driving licence, “well you can pop down to the shop then! Burgers, some wine – oh, wait, you’re not old enough to buy alcohol yet are you? Where’s your passport?”

I don’t know why I was surprised when after a few minutes of rummaging he handed me my passport with a different date of birth, one where I was actually nineteen tomorrow rather than seventeen – but it still made me stop and consider yet again how many rules my dad was okay with breaking. I had James’s voice in the back of my mind noting down these stupid little details about breaking the law.

Still, everyone did that sort of thing. Maybe they didn’t go as far as forging and changing legal documents – but then again, they probably did if they were rich enough – but people borrowed fake ID’s and things all the time. No one was getting hurt by these little violations of that law, and I wouldn’t have thought about it for a second if it wasn’t for this whole memory changing business screwing everything up.

“Get anything your friends might like,” He continued, ignorant to the torrent of thoughts running around my heads, “and anything the Potter’s might like oh and, Cassie? If there’s anything you want – get that too,”

I shook my head at him, twirled the keys around my fingers distractedly and headed back out to my car. Despite what the deluded bloke said, I was definitely not safe to drive a car. It was more than a little worrying to peel the L plates off from my cars oh-so-shiny-surface and throw them onto the back seat.

Nervously climbing in, I noted how strange it was not to have another presence in the car. At least now there’d be no one around to judge my parking, apart from other more experienced drivers who’d probably obtained a licence in a more legal fashion, and what did they know anyway?

Dad was nervous because we were throwing a house warming/barbeque/pool party. The nerves were unnecessary considering we had virtually no guests – only the Potters, Leanne and Luke. It was also probably quite unnecessary to send me to the shop to buy more food, considering the amount of food there was in the house, but I wasn’t going to object.

I pulled out my phone, out of habit more than anything; after I’d parked rather questionably in the middle of two bays (parking is hard) and found the normal message from Leanne flashing at the top of my screen. I’m coming in my bikini, be warned – I’m not wasting the last of my tan.

I glance upwards at the sky, taking in the large quantities of black cloud and decided against pointing it out to her. She almost definitely knew exactly what the weather was like, that was just Leanne for you.

Do you want anything from the shop? I texted back, wondering into the muggle supermarket and meandering up the fruit and veg aisle with little interest – I briefly considered buying strawberries but decided, although everyone likes them in theory, they’re too much effort to really be enjoyable. The supermarket had a comfortable aura of people being in a half rush, woman finding pleasure in deliberating over tomatoes and the occasional bitter overtone of stressed parent and screeching baby. It was nice though, to be around somewhere with a lot more texture – the Potters house was full of happy memories and fluffy family love (eurgh) and my house was just plain empty. The supermarket was definitely a nice change.

Muggle Pringles and coke. Leanne returned. I replied asking her to ask her brother if he wanted anything. I suspected what he wanted was not to be dragged along, not that I blamed him, but Leanne could be very forceful when she chose to be.

I gritted my teeth, in the interest of not being rude, and sent the same message to James.

He didn’t answer until I was already at the checkout.

 I want you to get a new attitude. And some strawberry laces. And Vodka.

I rolled my eyes but doubled back quickly to add two packets of strawberry laces to my shopping, ignore the mention of all things vodka related. James Potter had a lot to answer for.

***

“You passed? Are you serious? You? You can drive?” James demanded, walking through my kitchen deliberately much to the absolute shock and delight of Leanne who was probably by now planning our wedding and an elaborate plan in which she will become popular. Sometimes I think Leanne should accept that neither of us ever will be popular (nor would I want to be).

“Yes, James,” I said with an eye roll, “and here are your bloody strawberry laces,”

“What about the other things I asked for?”

“Forget it Potter,” I said lightly, flushing slightly mainly because Leanne’s hot twin was milling about look simultaneously bored, impressed and flaming gorgeous. Ah, Luke.  Of course he was a first class arse of the most distinguished degree, but that didn’t stop me from looking. Or blushing whenever he walked into the room – stupid skin.

“Well then,” James said, smirking stupidly, “let’s get this raving party on the road,”

I rolled my eyes and wondered why the hell my dad had to have insisted that we throw a bleeding party. I was partially convinced that he still suddenly wanted to be a good father after being essentially negligent (and negligible too for all the time I saw him) this summer. Still, throwing a party was a little bit too far in the other direction for me.

My dad was currently outside chatting to the Potters as he barbequed fancy sausages. I supposed that he did have slightly more in common with the Potters the day he did with most of society – given they occasionally appeared next to each other in ‘richest UK wizards’, ‘most famous UK wizards’ and, quite unfortunately, ‘hottest UK wizards.’ He wasn’t drunk this time though. Yet.

“Where’s Lily and Albus and that?” I asked awkwardly. There  was nothing to combat the awkwardness of a supposed it ‘party’ where there were only about four people in attendance, especially when you’re supposed to be the host.

“Albus and Rose went to explore,” James said, still smirking at me like an idiot – I’d forgotten how much he enjoyed making me awkward – “and Lily’s sat outside sulking and texting her boyfriend, don’t worry – they don’t know she’s here,”

I nodded. Sometimes I thought I wouldn’t care if everyone found out Robert Banks was my father. At least everyone would think I was more interesting then.

“I think this is the best house so far,” Leanne grinned, hooking her arm through mine and dragging me outside. James and Luke were left in my kitchen and it suddenly struck me that Luke was one of those people who would have been involved in the ostracising of James Potter, “imagine if you had like... a house party?” I found an unexplainable desire to save him from being left alone in a room with one of the people who’d ditched him, but then reminded myself that Potter was an idiot.

I ignored that as we stepped out into the garden, James and Luke following in silence behind us. It wasn’t exactly a warm summer’s day anymore – that ship had been and gone, but it seemed Leanne had kept to her promise of a bikini because I could see it poking out of her top. I had been pressured into putting my swimming costume on (no way was I wearing a bikini when it was this cold) but had no intention of swimming what so ever.

“Cassie, burger?” Dad called over, “Leanne, Luke, James? Who wants food?”

“What sort of question is that, Mr B?” Leanne grinned, helping herself to a plate and heading over to collect her burger.

“Look,” I hissed to James before he went and joined the  queue – not that I blamed him, the burgers smelt lush – “I’ve been researching the ministry security, and I think as long as I’m within so many feet of your Dad then I should be able to access his account without being arrested or whatever,”

“But at Hogwarts you’re not going to be within some many feet..?”

“Well no, but right now I am. At some point I’m going to sneak off and then -”

“What happened to dead end?”

“I’m too curious,” I said, before slipping past him and joining the line. I wasn’t going to say no to a lamb and mint sausage – even if my life was in an extreme state of crisis.

***

“Cassie, come on!” Leanne yelled from the pool where she was treading water to stop herself from freezing to death.  Rose, Albus and Lily were sat at one end of the pool with the feet dangling into the water as they talked about something or other, probably how they were fed up and wanted to go home. My dad wasn’t paying the slightest bit of attention to what any of us were doing as he talked parents and business to Harry and Ginny Potter, “it’s lovely!”

“You’re shivering,” Luke commented dryly, eventually taking a seat next to Rose and Lily and preceding to begin his usual flirting routine. Leanne and I had seen it so many times we could probably recite it word from word.

“Not scared are you, Cassie?” James suggested, grinning

“James?” Leanne pouted, jutting out her lip and grinning, “one of you has to join me,”

“Well, Cassie’s got her costume on,” James shrugged, “Seems like the obvious choice,”

“Not happening,” I said.

Scared, Cassie?” James asked, beginning to start a stupid routine of standing a little too close to the edge and nearly, but not quite, falling off. Leanne, looking slightly blue, was laughing which provided enough encouragement for him to continue doing it, “scaredy Cass!” James continued.

So I pushed him mid ‘oh no I’m going to fall in wobble’ sending him flying forward and belly flopping into pool with the loudest crash I’d ever heard.

The whole garden went silent for a second as everyone looked over to James, now standing up and spluttering stupidly in the pool. Rose began to clap, followed suit by Lily and Albus. Luke, too, upon realising his company was doing so started clapping looking unimpressed and even more bored than ever. Leanne was almost doubled over with laughing.

Ginny and Harry wondered over, looking at the son with amusement.

James pulled himself out the pool his wet clothes sticking to his skin and his hair plastered all over his face. I was blushing a lot at this point – partially because I’d sort of lost my temper and pushed him and partially because at this point James might as well have been topless (the white t-shirt had been a great idea on his part) and my face is controlled by a thirteen year old girl who finds this sort of thing blush-worthy.

“Was he being an idiot, Cassie?” Ginny asked, making a point of ruffling up her son’s sodden hair with a patronising smile.

“Yeah, he was,” Leanne said quickly when I didn’t answer.

“Well, I’m not drying you off then,” Ginny said, taping the pocket that her wand was sticking out of with a sassy grin.

Mum,” James complained.

“Cassie, why don’t you get James some towels?” My dad suggested.

“Mum, come ooonnn,” James whined. Ginny grinned and shook her head, “fine then,” James said, suddenly turning around and wrapping his soaking arms around her mum. She cringed away from his wet clothes for a minute, Harry and Al laughing in the background (I think Lily was still texting her boyfriend), before Ginny opted for the bear-hug-method.

When James finally released her with a grin, she just dried herself with her wand and said, “nice try,”

It was such a nice family moment that I was caught up for a moment watching it. I didn’t like when mothers were perfect like Ginny was.

“Come on then Cassie,” James said with an eye roll throwing a wet arm around my shoulders which I cringed away from and blushed stupidly. My shoulders were wet now, “towels,”

“Fine,” I said, trying not to smile as I led him up to the house. I grabbed a set of towels from one of the ground floor bathrooms and threw it in his direction before grabbing my laptop from the side and starting it up as quickly as possible. James followed me into the kitchen and watched as I went through the same motions as earlier and, after only five minutes this time, wound up inside the ministry system under his dad’s name.

“I was thinking,” James said, his voice low, “Dad might have already done the search under his account... like, he obviously researched into the whole thing so maybe... if you got access to his history or?”

“That’s... really smart,” I said slowly, staring at him for a second in disbelief before kicking back into gear and searching for his ‘enquiry history’

“Yeah well we’re not all hufflepuffs,”

“Shut up a minute,” I said staring at the screen in front of me at the results of the enquiry that were now glaring at me from the screen. James noticed my silent and leaned forwards too, both of us now so close to the screen that our noses were practically touching.

“Protection,” James said slowly, “recipient in mortal danger... Sebastian Croaker,”

“What are you two doing in here?” My dad’s voice asked from the doorway. I slammed down the lid of the laptop and both of us jerked away from the laptop and each other. He raised his eyebrows at us for a second and glanced between the two of us. I was Gryffindor red. I suspected, at the assumption my dad appeared to have made about what we were doing, James had turned a sickly yellow colour. At least we were currently showing house unity and what not, even if this wasn’t my finest sleuthing moment.

“Nothing,” I said hastily. It would be much easier if he did think he’d walked in on a moment between James and me than if he thought I’d been illegally hacking into the ministry computer system to find out that I was in mortal danger, “we’ll be outside in a sec,” I added, “just getting James a drink,”

“Okay, Cas,” Dad said, raising his eyebrows at James again before disappearing out the door and leaving us alone again.

James swore appreciatively.

“Mortal danger?” He questioned.

“I need to log out quickly,” I said, lifting up the lid of my laptop and exiting the ministry system – making a note to go through and delete my history, before filling it up again by clicking through a bunch of my favourite links until no one would really know that I’d deleted my history in the first place.

“So your dad isn’t just paranoid?”

“Evidently,” I said, grabbing James a can of coke out of the drinks fridges and handing it to him.

“Are you going to react to that at any point?” James asked, taking the coke without opening it – still staring at me as if I was about to break down and cry in a puddle on the floor.

“Couple of hours, maybe,” I said sarcastically with added blush, before biting my lip and getting myself a coke, “we should go, erm, join the party,”

“Are you okay?” James asked seriously.

“Yes,” I said pointedly, but I could feel my eyes prickling up now, “didn’t I say that we weren’t going to talk about feelings and stuff when it came to this? Colleagues, right?”

“Whatever,” James said, waving this away, “are you all right?”

“Well no, but.... well, I’m not going to die now – am I? At least there’s a reason that my brain has been messed about with. I’m not crazy for no reason,”

“You’re not crazy at all,” James said, opening his can of coke with a ‘hiss’ before wondering out of my kitchen with half the household’s towels wrapped around his dripping form. What an annoying individual.

“You won’t be saying that tomorrow,” I said with a shrug, pushing past him to go get another burger. I needed it. With extra ketchup for comfort.

“What happens tomorrow?” James called after me.

“Back to school,” I called back.

“And you turn seventeen!” My dad called, “an adult! To cassie!” He said, holding up his glass of wine woozily and holding it up to the sky, “because you can’t have birthday parties on September 1st!”

“Cheers,” James said, appearing behind me having somehow acquired a bottle of beer, “and happy birthday you mental patient,”

It’s official. I hate him.




First off, as Harry says "Curiosity is not a sin.... But we should exercise caution with our curiosity." Belongs to Dumbledore/JK Rowling and can be found in GOF, chapter 30, page 520 of the UK edition :)


An update? Wow.  Somebody I'd never talked to before on the forums asked me whether there would be an update soon and I got really excited and this chapter was born. Yup, born. The delivery took a little longer than I expected due to this wonderful thing called NANOWRIMO (I'm officially a winner now) but, anyway, here's your new chapter. Enjoy! Hopefully it won't be so long next time :(
 



Chapter 14: Journey.
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

 Because ramitaarora said that Cassie and James had chemistry, and I'm terrible at proving people wrong.
 




“Cassie?” James said, wrapping on the window of my car and watching me expectantly. I flushed slightly, as always, before frantically pressing buttons in an attempt to wind down the window in a casual way before James started laughing at me. Too late. Although he wasn’t quite laughing, he was pulling off a magnificent amused sneer.

“James,” I said, when the window finally rolled down as I’d been telling it to do for what felt like half my lifetime.

“Couldn’t you have just sensed for the right button?”

“Emotions, magic and memories, James. This car is a completely blank state.”

“Well then,” James grinned, “let’s make some memories.”

The blushing was predictable and, once again, James had engineered it.

“What is it that you wanted?” I asked simply, “apart from to mock me some more?”

“Well, my Dad told me to ask if I could catch a lift.” James shifted his position so that he was leaning more on the side of the car by his elbows. I wanted to tell him to get his dirty elbows off my car, but I was incapable of being rude. Anyway, if I stuck up for myself he’d no doubt give me a round of applause and start telling people about it – which would only be horrifically embarrassing and induce another blush-from-hell-moment.

“Really?”

“Well, sort of. Basically, Aunt Hermione is supposed to be working on this case, but she got a bit obsessed and forgot to eat for like twelve hours... so, she collapsed and the Healers aren’t letting her leave St Mungos for so many hours. Ron is giving evidence about this guy he court today, so my parents are having to take Rose and Hugo to the platform. But, you can only take five people in a car... and now there are seven of us, so he asked me to come over here and beg your dad very politely if we could catch a lift.”

“So you thought you’d ignore that and just be a... prat?”

“Yeah,” James said, “so?”

“Well, I’m driving myself.”

“I’ll pick my least favourite family member to accompany me then,” James said, “and I’ll update my last will and testament before we set off.”

“I suppose you’re going to tell your Dad how very polite you were about all of this?”

“Nah, if I said I’d polite he’d probably think I’d punched you. He has lived with me for quite a few years. I was just going to tell him that you agreed and that you’d be driving round to our house in a couple of minutes.”

“Great,” I said under my breath, sucking in some air and blinking a couple of times, “wonderful.”

“And Cassie?” James said, taking a step back from my car and grinning. “I will laugh at your atrocious parking. A lot.”

“Oh, that’s fine. I suppose you want a lift back to your house now, too?” I asked sarcastically, tapping my fingers angrily against the wheel of my painfully pretty car.

“That’d be great,” James said, pulling open the door and swinging himself into the passenger seat with a grin. “If I die – I’m glad I got to know you this summer.”

“If you die, will anyone believe I didn’t do it on purpose?”

“Look at you getting your wit on,” James grinned, “oh, and Happy Birthday Cassie!”

“Thanks.” I said, putting the car into reverse and promptly stalling. Bugger it all, it was going to be the longest journey of my life.

*

“Are you sure you’re okay with this?” Harry Potter asked, bending down to talk to me through the window with his large green eyes, “I could try and enlarge the car, if you prefer but -”

“Last time he tried, you could only fit one person on the back seat.” Lily supplied from the back, folding her arms over her chest and blinking a couple of times. Maybe James made me feel uncomfortable, but I’d become more or less immune to his presence over the past couple of weeks. But Lily? I couldn’t handle her at all. I shifted uncomfortable in my seat. Already the car felt too hot.

“No, no – it’s fine,” I said quickly, “after everything you’ve done, Mr Potter –really I don’t mind.”

“I mind.” Lily piped up from the back, “I mind a lot.”

“Well,” Harry said hopelessly, “see you at the other end!”

“Yep.” I said.

“Let’s hope we make it.” James added quietly.

I was very aware of the entire Potter family, plus a few Weasleys, watching me as I pulled out of the Potter’s driveway and onto the road that led up to their house.

“So, how come your Dad isn’t giving you a lift?” James asked.

“He’s working,” I muttered through gritted teeth, “he sprung this on me last night.”

“But, it’s your birthday?” James suggested, making himself at home by adjusting his seat and continually flicking through the endless radio stations –swapping every time there was an advert or someone had the audacity to speak, “surely, consider you’re like... practically an orphan anyway, he could have not worked on your birthday?”

I didn’t answer that. Primarily because it was the main thought that had been pulsing through my brain all morning – a continual tirade of ‘for God’s sake, I’m going back to Hogwarts today and it’s my seventeenth birthday and where the hell are you?’ – which was surely not going to have a positive impact on my first attempt at driving further than away from my house than the mile radius I’d attempted. Worse than that, I was going to have to tackle driving through the heart of London.

“So, the journeys about two and a half hours, right?” Lily asked from the back seat.

“Yep.” I muttered, my hands gripping the wheel so tightly my muscles were beginning to hurt.

“And you passed your driving test yesterday?” Lily said, I saw her lean forwards in the mirror and felt her eyes boring into the back of my neck.

“Yes.”

“Well, that’s just bad parenting,” Lily sighed, folding her arms, “and I cannot believe that Dad would let us in a car with someone who hasn’t even been able to drive for twenty-four hours.”

“Shut it, Lily,” James said, glancing at me and taking in how I was gradually becoming more and more tense, “shut your mouth or you can ride in Dad’s boot. Forget it, Cassie – I’ve had a good sixteen and a half years of life anyway; you can kill me at will.”

“Thanks.” I breathed, flexing my fingers on one hand.

“God, if you’re just going to sit at the front and flirt continually then...” Lily said sulkily, pulling out her WCT music player and plugging in her headphones.

“Show some respect, woman,” James said, “her dad invented that thing.”

“Yeah, she didn’t.”

“She was the muse.”

I laughed at that. “I’ve never been anyone’s muse in my life, James. My Dad’s muse is boredom and money.”

“You’re breaking my heart,” James said, “I just wanted to admire Robert Banks in peace, and now it turns out his a neglecting parent who may or may not -”

“Do you want to not talk about that?” I said pointedly.

“Oh, she’s not listening anymore.” James said, turning round and glancing at Lily, “she’s listening to that bloody boy band. The ones that write songs about how in love they are with ugly girls. Load of crap. Either way, she can’t hear a damn thing – special sound blocking headphones.”

“Courtesy of my father?”

“Isn’t everything?” James said, forcefully changing the radio station as the beginning of a terrible cheesy rock song polluted the atmosphere within my car.

“No.”

“Your presence here is, for a start Cassie-dear.”

“I’m not entirely grateful about my presence here.”

“I’m not that bad, am I?”

“Do you want me to answer that?”

“Awh, come on – admit it; I’m not as bad when you get to know me,” James said, now fiddling with the central heating and amusing himself by sending blasts of cold air at my feet. I glanced at him in the mirror before shaking my head in disbelief. “Cassie,” James complained, flipping down the mirror and glancing at himself before flipping it back up again, “you’ve got to talk to me, or else I’m going to get really bored during this two hour long car journey – and you really don’t want to see me when I’m bored.”

“I have,” I countered, “and I’m trying to drive here.”

“I know a song that’ll get on your nerves, get on your nerves, get on your nervvesss....” James began, tapping his fingers on the dashboard into a rhythm.

“James, you don’t have to try to be annoying – so will you just cut it out.”

“Cassie’s blushing!” James declared, pointing at my face as if there was a large crowd of people gathered around to witness this phenomenon. There wasn’t. Just Lily in the back of the car, James in the front and a lot of motorists who seemed to be getting more and more frustrated about my terrible driving.

“It’s not like it’s an unusual thing to happen.”

“Does driving make you gutsy?”

“Does my driving make you so antsy that you can’t bloody well sit still?”

“Guess I’m nervous.” James said, lying his hand flat on the dashboard and finally falling into a nice, comforting stationary position - I didn’t need to see his continual flitting moments out of the corner of my eyes for the entire journey to London.

“Why?” I asked in a tired voice, knowing that he was expecting me to ask and feeling like there should be away to avoid the humiliation of giving people exactly what they wanted.

“School, ennit.”

I didn’t respond to that, mostly because I was trying to suppress my horror over the fact that James had genuinely just used the word ‘ennit’ and I didn’t think he was even being ironic.  Fortunately, or not – depending on how you look at it –James took that as an invitation to continue talking about the boring and rather dull goings on in his day to day life.

It was ridiculous that we were talking about James’ problems when, as of yesterday, it was confirmed that the fact my memories had been changed was all seated in the fact that I was in ‘mortal danger.’

Recipient of spellwork is in mortal danger.

Recipient in mortal danger.

“... and that means that everything is going to be a bit awkward, you know? What with Ryan and that.”

“Hmm.”

“What are you thinking about, Cassie? Other than the road, I hope.”

“Do you think, if the danger had passed, they’d have changed it to the past tense?” I asked, turning to look at him before remembering that I was in control of a car and fixing my eyes on the road in front and, oh Lord, there was a roundabout coming up.

I hated roundabouts.

“So it would become... was in mortal danger?”

A glance to Lily in the back seat confirmed that she was indeed completely cut out from our conversation – too immersed in listening to songs that some boy bands wrote about fancying ugly girls. Very Shakespeare-seque, maybe.

“They probably don’t update the files very often.”

“The Ministry’s only been online for a year.”

“How do you know that?”

“They paid my dad a million galleons to set it up for them, okay?” I said, almost snapping before taking a deep breath and a sharp left turn - as dictated by the sat-nav.

“A million galleons?”

“It’s no secret we’re millionaires. Well, that he's a millionaire. Anyway, that’s how I was able to hack it so fast – but, does that mean I’m still in danger?”

“I don’t know.” James said, “but we’ll find out.”

He, too, glanced at Lily in the back. She was probably getting confused why we were continually looking at her, but then again she seemed pretty absorbed in texting on her mobile. Sometimes I thought that everything would be better in the wizarding world if my Dad hadn’t invented all this muggle-wizarding-gadget stuff.

“How?”

“I haven’t worked that out yet,” James said, stretching back in his seat and beginning to adjust the head restraint slightly – I resigned myself to his continually fidgeting and tried not to be so absorbed in watching his almost ferret-like movements. It seemed absurd that someone as laid back and cool as James would be a nervous-fidget., “but, I swear I’ll work it out for you Cassie.”

“I don’t want you to do anything for me, James,” I said, so quietly I was half convinced my words were lost under the sound of the radio (James was jabbing at the buttons to increase the volume as one of his favourite songs came on). “Do it for the sake of the curiosity.”

*

“Cassie, it’s happened,” James said lightly, “I’m bored.”

“Sorry,” I said quietly, “but it has only been fifteen minutes.”

“You’re not talking,” James complained, “you’re just sat there driving your stupid car. Why don’t we talk about the mystery?”

I glanced at the back in the mirror to ensure that Lily wasn’t going to listen about the illicit details about how James and I had hacked into the Ministry system (it was beginning to sink in exactly how illegal that was, like going-to-Azkaban-illegal, and I was definitely beginning to wonder how the hell James had managed to convince me that it was a good idea. Because it wasn’t) just in case she told her father and we both got into serious trouble. Lily had fallen asleep, her head lolling to one side.

“Sure,” I said, deciding not to point how much the term ‘mystery’ grated on my nerves when we were talking about something that meant I was, or had been, in mortal danger.

“So, what do we know? We know that you had your memories wiped in certain areas, but not which areas, and that you might have been in danger at some point.”

“Mortal danger, James. They were quite specific about that.”

“Yeah,” James said, seeming uncomfortable, “well.”

“You can continue.” I said quickly, dreading the awkward silence that ‘mortal danger’ seemed to cause.

“... we know that your Dad’s a bit weird about certain things. That he’s really paranoid about your safety, that your Mum disappeared for no reason, that your name's been changed a couple of hundred times. I maintain that you’re being hidden from someone. Or maybe more than a person – an organisation?”

“Why?” I asked quietly, “why would anyone want to kill me?”

“I don’t know,” James said, “it’s not like you’re much of a threat to national security.”

“We broke into the Ministry system.” I pointed out.

“Yeah, but... you? You’re a bit too cute to be a security threat to anything. I mean, come on, when have you ever been horrible to anyone? Unless the whole impossibly-shy routine is a brilliant way to hide the fact that you’re actually a spy.”

“I’m not impossibly shy.” I said, blushing at being referred to as ‘cute’ and being called ‘shy’ and the fact that James was finding it hard not to laugh about the idea of me being a spy.

“But you’re all reserved.”

“There’s a difference,” I said, “just because I don’t run around Hogwarts yelling about my underwear it doesn’t mean that I’m shy.”

“But the blushing?”

“That just means I have an overactive face.” I said, hitting the slip road and the accelerator with my heart sinking slightly. I’d never driven on a motorway before and despite trying to avoid it for as long as possible, it really was a bit of a necessity for getting to London. I gripped the steering wheel tightly I pushed the accelerator down a little further.

“But, like, you’re not always yourself and you don’t stick up for yourself.” James contradicted, leaning back in his seat and raising his eyebrows at me, “are you just going to ignore me?”

“Look, James, I’ve never driven on a motorway before. Can you give me five minutes to get used to it?”

“Erm, yeah, okay.” James said. It irritated me beyond usually levels that he seemed to think that he was actually doing me a favour by giving me a few seconds of peace and quiet, and not simply accepting it as common courtesy.

I shifted in my seat, trying my very best not to move my hands/swerve/ kill someone.

“You’re doing pretty well,” James said quietly after a few minutes, “you think you have it figured out now?”

“Just drive straight.” I returned, taking a deep breath, “simple.”

“So, anyway, if you’re not shy like you say then why don’t you... stick up for yourself?”

“Why should I?” I asked, “I’m not permanently too embarrassed to speak, James. It’s just that when you and Ryan are taking the mick out of me and calling me crazy, everything I could say to you would only make you find the whole thing funnier. It doesn’t matter what I do, I’ll still be crazy-Cassie – and so I don’t see any reason to justify myself when there’s nothing to justify. I don’t think it’s necessary to put you straight.”

“You’re justifying yourself right now.”

“Because you’re asking.”

“So, if I were to just... ask you?”

“Then I’d probably tell you.”

“And I’ve never asked?” James asked, a crease forming in his forehead as he watched me carefully. As always, the second I knew that he was looking my face turned its familiar red colour. I ignored it, focusing on the road and trying to ignore James as much as it was physically possible. “Okay, but what about when you’re not acting yourself?”

“We just established that you don’t know anything about me, so I’d like to know when you think I’m acting like ‘myself’.”

“When you’re driving, for a start.” James said with a grin, returning to pushing random buttons on the dashboard as if a television would immerge from one of the drink holders to entertain him from the rest of the journey.

I blushed.

“And when you were hacking into the Ministry website – you just seemed more relaxed.”

“I’m plenty relaxed when you’re not hovering around in the background.”

“Now you’re justifying yourself to me,” James pointed out, “and I didn’t even ask. Does that make me special?”

“It means you’re more annoying.”

“That’s pretty special,” James said with a grin, “so I’ll probably take it.”

*

“Are we nearly there yet?” James asked, now switching through the wide variety of London-centric radio channels in an attempt to find something that met his standards.

“Yes.” I muttered in a tired voice, watching the red light and willing it to change just so that I had something to do other than concentrate on not murdering James for his continual talk. Admittedly, I was used to the fact that he couldn’t stand silence due to the events of the summer but I had thought that with the radio on that would be enough to keep his ears pleasantly full of noise.

Apparently, it was a lack of conversation that he objected too.

Not something that Lily seemed to have a problem with.

“Oh, okay,” James said, leaving a song that had so many drums in it I could barely here the fact that there was also a guitar and a singer involved. Still, I wasn’t going to demand he changed it – no doubt he’d just laugh in my face and call me crazy for thinking I’d listen to him. It wasn’t worth the effort of attempting speech, “we’re still alive, Lily! And look, we’re nearly here!”

“Great.” Lily said blearily, opening her eyes for a moment before leaning the other way and falling back into sleep again – how anyone could sleep with the continual stopping and starting associated with London driving I didn’t know.

“Wait, what happens to your car? If we’re getting the train, then... Oh, God – you’re not just going to abandon it are you? I know you’re filthy rich, but that would be cruel. Hell, I’ll charm her and fly her to Hogwarts myself if you’re just going to dump her. "

“No,” I said with a tired voice, “this is my birthday present, remember? He’s sending the house keeper to pick it up, I think.”

“You have a house keeper," James snorted, “crazy-Cassie and her house keeper,” I should have known that the oh so witty crazy-Cassie comments would be resurfacing very soon. “Sorry, habit.” James said after a few seconds.

That really did throw me, enough that it took me a few seconds to react to the lights changing back to green and that the rude driver behind me slammed on his horn. I blushed and then rushed starting off, stalling stupidly before finally managing to move off and cross the junction.

James kindly didn’t comment and instead just smirked a lot.

“He’s a bit of a shit for making you drive to school on your own on your birthday,” James said thoughtfully, “maybe you should have stood up to him, instead of waiting for him to ask?”

*

“Nice parking,” James said with a grin, turning to raise his eyebrows at me. Already, Lily had fallen out of the car as quickly as possible and was rejoining Hugo on the other side of the car park, where the Potters had just arrived, “oh don’t worry about her,” James said distractedly, “she’s just going through a bit of teenage angst – you’d probably understand more than me. She’s sometimes quite lovely, but...”

James still hadn’t gotten out of the car. I very much felt like I couldn’t get out of the car until James did, because this was my car and I wasn’t leaving him in it alone. I stared at him pointedly.

“Well, I guess we’re here.”

“Yes.” I said, waiting for him to unstrap his seatbelt and exit.

“That wasn’t such a long journey after all.”

He could speak for himself, I decided, and began messing about with my own seatbelt. He seemed to get the hint this time and exited the car a couple of seconds before I did. I locked it, stowing the keys into the depths of my pocket and staring at my car. It was strange, I wanted very much to feel attached to it and be excited about the fact that I now owned it, but I couldn’t bring myself to even it. Still, after it had been my trusty companion on one of the most awkward journey of my life I was beginning to feel the tiniest trace of affection.

“The trunks.”James prompted, straining his necks to see whether his parents were walking over here or whether we were to talk to them. Ginny Potter beckoned him over.

I pulled the keys back out, feeling foolish, and threw the boot open.

Again, James seemed woefully distracted and fidgety about something. Even without it being inside a confined space, it was exceedingly annoying. It made me want to stamp on his feet to stop him from prancing about like a first class idiot.

I pulled the two trunks out of the boot and placed them on the floor (chivalry is, most decidedly, dead).

 “Wait,” James said, grabbing my wrist as I was about to shut the boot of the car. I froze.

Lily was now talking to Rose near the Potter’s car, where a whole variety of Potters and Weasleys and others seemed to have gathered and where now chatting away in excited voices, attracting a fair bit of attention due to the number of owls that were included in their luggage. Nobody seemed to have noticed the fact that James had done the strangest thing he’d ever done so far – reached out, caught my wrist and looked at me very seriously.

I don’t think my face had ever been so red and it didn’t even look as though he was going to laugh; instead he was stood there, lips partly slightly with every appearance of being very confused all of a sudden.

“What happens at school?”

If I was smart and witty and brave I’d have been able to be snarky: we learn, Potter, we attend lessons and we do homework. But, I was Cassie Jones (or at least, that was the name I went by – who knew what my real name was when you pealed back all the different surnames and returned to the original), and I was not smart or witty or brave.

I shrugged.

“Do you want me to talk to you? Say hello in the corridors and what not?”

“It’s up to you James.” I said, wanting to pull my wrist very far away from him and be able to avoid him for quite a long period of time.

“But what do you want?”

“You wouldn’t let yourself lose friends for me, Potter.”

“We’re friends.”

“No, we’re not – we’re colleagues.”

“You’re my friend.”

“You’re not very friendly,” I countered. “Do whatever you think is best, it doesn’t make a difference to me.”

“I’m not going to tease you and what not.”

“Okay.” I said, finally pulling my wrist out of his hold (and turning a marvellous shade of Gryffindor-scarlet in the process) and shutting my boot forcefully.

“But -”

“I don’t expect anything from you just because you know my Dad’s a millionaire and that I’m in mortal danger. It doesn’t change anything.”

“No, but I know you and you’re not crazy... and well, it turns out the reason we started calling you crazy was because you told us something that was true. So, by my calculations, I owe you. And that changes things.”

Rose and Albus were beginning to glance over now and I was painfully aware that everyone would have plenty to say about the fact that James was casually hanging around (and randomly grabbing hold of my wrists), now that he actually had the option to be elsewhere and be doing other things, he was still talking to me.

“So, as we’re ‘colleagues’ I’ll work for my forgiveness, right?”

“You’re forgiven, so whatever.”

“Ah,” James said, puffing up his overly large chest and grabbing my trunk from the floor – as if I was incapably of carrying it myself (and there was the chivalry), “but I haven’t forgiven myself!” He said, with the usual James Potter bravado that I was beginning to become very much accustomed to.

“I suppose we can figure something out.” I muttered as James began to drag both trunks over to his parents, leaving me stood alone by my car.

“No, Cassie,” James said, stopping the car park and turning around to continue talking to me, “we’re going to figure everything out.”

 




Well, this is the sort of chapter that makes me want to sing FILLEERRRR, FILLER NIGHT YOU’RE FIGHTING TO FIND THE PLOT INSIDE A THRILLER-FILLER tonniggghhtttt! (lyrics inspired and virtually written by Michael Jackson), but alas... an update is an update. PLUS, it is a sign of exciting things to come! Yes, that was exciting enough that I whacked out an exclamative sentence.

Right? Right? Please review, it really does make my day :)
 
 


Chapter 15: Hogwarts.
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Hogwarts was such an explosion of magic, emotions and memories that it always made me feel like my flesh was buzzing with it – I supposed Hogwarts, for me, was a little like a Quidditch stadium where the hum of life and anticipation seemed to run through my very veins. As Leanne and I walked up to the castle, I could feel my resolve strengthening and my mood lightening slightly – faltering, every so often, when we walked passed a particular spot where someone had been murdered or tortured in one of the battles – but compared to the bland emptiness of the mansion in my new home, the rich texture of the place filled me up and made me feel alive.

“So,” Leanne asked, “do you think James will be better this year?”

I offered her a non-committal shrug. I doubted that he would have changed very much and the only changes I could envision were largely seated around the fact that none of his friends were talking to him, rather than anything to do with me. Even if he’d somehow stumbled across the truth about why I was, or at least had been, in some mortal danger and his friends had been talking to him, I suspected his attention would only have been held for a couple of minutes.

“Didn’t think so,” Leanne said, “oh, well – Ryan and that will probably be bored by now.”

“How’s everyone else been?” I asked as we ascended the steps and entered Hogwarts. The pure character of the place felt like heat.

“Good,” Leanne said, running her hands through her hair and smiling at one of the Ravenclaws, “nothing much happened, really.”

I usually trusted Leanne to keep me up to date with the other people in our dorm and our year. It was difficult for me to socialise during the summer due to the secrecy surrounding my actual identity and due to my desire not to lie to people, I wasn’t particularly close with our other dorm mates – unlike Leanne, who had an innate desire to be liked and to know everyone’s secrets.

“I’ve got a good feeling about sixth year,” Leanne said, stretching out her hands, “I think it’s going to be better than last year.”

“Cassandra!” Ryan Bradley declared, throwing an arm around my shoulders and then pressing his fingers against my cheek as if to measure the temperature of my blushing face. “How’s crazy town?” He asked, not waiting for an answer before he was swept up in a conversation with one of the seventh year Gryffindors.

“You think?” I asked Leanne, smiling slightly at her irritated expression.

*

Hogwarts made me hungry: sometimes it was an actual physical hunger down to the energy the walls exuberated and sometimes it was the sense of adventure – the fact that, in these walls, there were so many secrets and passages and such history, that countess heroes and marauders had found their true spirit here.

Sometimes there were unpleasant layers to it, but if anything the depth of experience made everything much more: the need for adventure that Hogwarts sparked up in my stomach, the curiosity, meant that sometimes I just closed my eyes and followed the pull of the magic – just as I had that day of summer when I’d stumbled into the Potter’s garden.

Which was how, in my first year, I’d found the secret passage from our dormitory to the kitchens – fulfilling both my hunger and the hunger for adventure.

The Hufflepuff dormitory was on the same corridor as the kitchens anyways, so the passage was mostly pointless, but I was confident in the knowledge that no one had found the passage for centuries. In fact, I was nearly convinced that almost everyone was ignorant to the fact that almost all the portraits on the corridor leading to the both the kitchens and the Hufflepuff Common Room were hiding something.

James hadn’t spoken to me since this morning, with all the weird behaviour and grabbing my wrist and things like that (I blushed when thinking about it), which I decided was quite likely to be the way things continued for quite some time.

The whole summer seemed even more surreal now I was back at Hogwarts – as it usually did. At Hogwarts, the most magical place in Hogwarts, public opinion of me was so low that I could barely believe myself that my Dad was Robert Banks, millionaire and business man.

Now, with a fair proportion of the Potter/Weasley clan knowing this, it made it feel even less real. And anyway, instead of thinking of me as special in any way, it seemed the news that I was a millionaire made me less interesting – perhaps if I were dirt poor they’d have seen some sort of glamour in that, but... after a summer where they’d discovered half my parentage, the only one who seemed to care remotely was James – and that was, well, I wasn’t entirely sure why.

I sat in the gloom of the kitchens feeling slightly displaced. The world seemed to relish in not giving me some consistency – there was always a new house to move into, always more memories to feel and always some disrupting things when life fell into a rhythm.

And Hogwarts, which was usually my constant – nothing glorious really, an existence where I was continually grated on and mocked – but a constant all the same, had suddenly been tainted. James had really thrown a spanner into the works, because now I was torn between expecting him to talk to me, expecting him to ignore me and deciding whether I even wanted him to.

Two wand lights burst into the kitchens, accompanied with giggling and whispers that I couldn’t quite here. I shrank back to my corner of the Hufflepuff table and hoped that the couple wouldn’t spot me, deciding to shrink back towards the small passage if things got too awkward. I liked sitting in the kitchens though – the sense of the house elves’ giddy excitement to get everyone fed, the desire to please, the pleasure in serving others.  It was nice.

“Hey, Deb,” the male voice muttered and I looked up upon realising that I recognised the voice – Luke, Leanne’s brother and one of the fifth year Gryffindor girls, apparently midway through some sort of date, “missed me over the holidays?” He asked, before pressing his lips against her cheek.

I picked up my book and stood up, more than ready to retreat back into the shadows.

“Who’s there?” The girl, Debbie, asked squinting over in my directions.

“Sorry,” I muttered, “I was just reading, I’ll just –”

“Cassie?” Luke asked. “My sister’s best friend,” he quantified to Debbie – and of course it required quantifying. In fact, I was slightly taken aback that he’d acknowledge my existence at all, “give us a sec. You okay, Cass?” Luke asked, walking over my table and leaning over the table.

“Yeah.” I answered, my face flushing slightly. Luke had always been too good looking for his own good, but of course he was even more aware of his distinct charm than James or Ryan and his usual obnoxious flirting was enough to put you off forever, but I supposed he must like this Debbie girl to go as far as to actually act as though he cared about me.

“The James thing must be weird, huh?” Luke suggested.

There was a part of me that wanted to spit out just how weird it was just so I could watch his refined exterior crumple slightly. I was tired of playing along with everyone’s stupid games. I knew that Luke would engage in minimal conversation with me over the summer holidays and then proceed to ignore me for the rest of the school year and I was fine with that. I hated that people kept disrupting the few constants that I could rely on.

“I can deal with it,” I said coolly, tucking my book underneath my arm, “I should get to bed.”

“Night Cassie!” Luke called out after me, as though we’d just exchanged some deep quite conversation rather than me getting irritated and being the closest I was physically capable of being to confrontational.

“Night.” I said to them both in return, through gritted teeth, exiting into the corridor feeling irritated. Not only had he been an arse, his little date meant that I had to run the risk of getting caught rather than the nice trek back to my dorm where there was a guarantee that I wouldn’t get into trouble.

I felt thoroughly irritated as I walked down the corridor and for once let the irritation show on my face, given there was no one to see it anyway. Or at least, so I thought... because just as I was approaching the entrance to the Hufflepuff dormitory something grabbed my wrist and slapped a hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming.

For a second it felt like the mortal danger had caught up with me from somewhere as I desperately and silently struggled against the silent thing that had me pinned up against the wall and unable to escape. Until I felt the hand over my mouth shaking with laughter and, at that point, I stopped struggling and felt my face flushing stupidly. If I hadn’t been so focused on being irritated I would have felt his presence before he had a chance to scare me and now the identity of my mystery abductor was so obvious it was unreal.

“Sorry, Cassie,” James disembodied voice said into the corridor, “couldn’t resist.”

“Of course,” I muttered to the empty corridor, “some sort of spell?”

“Invisibility cloak, my Dads old one. Top secret.”

“So why are you telling me?” I hissed back, hand on my hip as I began to become very aware that I was still wearing my dressing gown.

“Figured you were gonna find out as we’re questing together.”

Questing?”

“Standing in the corridor in your dressing gown talking to a wall, Cassie?” Ryan Bradley asked loudly, walking down the corridor with his usual irritating superior-than-thou swagger. “I’ll add it on to the crazy list.”

“Did no one eat at the feast?” I asked irritably, stunning Ryan and myself into silence for a few long silent moments.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ryan said. “Someone already down here?”

James, under the invisibility cloak, edged closer towards me. His hands relinquished my wrist but I very much wanted to tell him that he was breathing much too loudly. In my ear. Much too close to my face.

“Luke and some girl,” I muttered, beginning to wonder why my face wasn’t a fantastic shade of red and feeling slightly proud of my one-line-defiance, “and you, I suppose.” The lack of red face changed when I felt the material of the invisibility cloak touch the side of my skin as James exhaled. A whole corridor to choose from and he had to act inconspicuous in my space, whilst breathing on me?

“No one else?”

“No,” I said, “unless you’re counting me.”

“I wasn’t,” Ryan said, looking at the entrance to the kitchens before turning away, “night, Crazy.”

“What are you doing?” I whispered to James once Ryan had disappeared out of hearing range.

“How do you know which way to talk?” James asked. “That’s my favourite part.”

“I can sense you, never mind the fact that you’re breathing on my face. Why are you here?”

“Checking to see if he was following me.”

“And you accused me of being paranoid.”

“If we’re going to work this out, Cass, it would be really great if I didn’t have my ex-best-mate following us around trying to dig up shit. It’s all for your benefit, so you should go back to your dorm and blush in a corner – I’m only thinking of you, here.”

“Well he did follow,” I said, “and he obviously knows about the cloak -”

“He thinks Lily’s still got it,” James said, “although probably not after that performance. You’re a terrible actor.”

“I’ve hidden the fact that I’m a billionaire for six years, Potter, I can’t be that bed.”

“No,” James said, “you told me about that, remember? It’s just you’re so ridiculous that no one believed a word you said. You’re too damn crazy.”

“I thought you were trying to make up for calling my crazy?” I whispered.

“I thought you’d forgiven me. I knew you hadn’t. And I bet you wouldn’t have told me that even if I’d asked which means, Cassandra Surname-not-yet-discovered, you’re full of crap.” James said triumphantly, adding a poke to the shoulder for good measure which, given I had no warning, nearly sent me toppling over.

“I’m going to bed.” I muttered, my face flushing red hot with heat.

“And I’m still talking to you!”

*

True to form, after the incident on the first night James seemed to have forgotten that I existed the second classes had began and his family had formed a mass movement to let the truth be known about Ryan, hence resulting in a shift of allegiance and a whole host of school politics that Leanne and the other door mates seemed very excited about. From what I could gather, popular opinion was now magnificently split.

“Hey Cassie.” James said as he sat down next to me in potions on the fourth day of school, hardly bothering to turn to face me as he half heartedly pulled out his books and kicked up at his feet, pulling his phone out of his pocket and beginning to concentrate very hard on not looking like he was texting someone. I was sure that I could trace most things wrong with life at Hogwarts to the fact that my dad had invented all (or more adapted, really) this new technology.

Admittedly it had been nice to be able to send my Dad an email telling him I’d gotten to school okay and hadn’t crashed the car and he’d sent me a one line response saying that the car had been picked up and was safely back home, adding that he hoped I’d had a nice birthday and that anytime I needed the car anywhere in the country I should just let him know (why he thought I’d need a car at Hogwarts, I wasn’t going to ask). Still, I didn’t think that was worth it for the fact that everyone seemed to be on spellbook and Leanne spent more time texting her twin brother than she did talking to him face to face.

James took the ticket for the abuser of all things WCT though, walking round school with his headphones hanging out the top of his robes and his second class phone permanently attached to his hand as he texted someone or other (the vindictive side of me liked to think it was always his mother). Particularly in classes where he seemed to think that looking directly into his lap didn’t make it obvious that he was texting in lesson time.

It was difficult not to be annoyed, not because I’d expected anything more from him, but more because I had hoped that he’d be able to prove me wrong. It had almost seemed like he was taking it seriously, in that James-like fashion of his which primarily focused on turning the whole thing into a bit of an over exaggerated joke – but, although I felt stupid for thinking it, for a second there I thought he was determined to be questers together. Not because he wanted to help me out – I’d accepted long ago that he had some ulterior motive I knew nothing of – but because we were colleagues and he was curious. Instead, I was resigning myself to continuing the mission alone as James continually abused the WCT phone’s inbox capacity, when I felt my phone vibrate in the pocket of my robes.

If we crack the case, can I have a free phone please?

James.

“Don’t want to talk to me in public?” I suggested, turning off my phone and returning in to my pocket. I wanted to add some snipe about wearing the invisibility cloak when he was talking of me, but I thought my face might catch fire due to the extreme nature of the subsequent blush. Of course, snide remarks and blushing still went hand in hand – and no doubt anyone who was watching was wondering what, exactly, could have happened to induce such a glorious shade of scarlet. I decided that I didn’t care. It didn’t make a difference to me, anyway, but James cared much more about his reputation and maybe some tarnishing rumour that I had a crush on him might bring him down a peg or two.

James turned his head in my direction, assessing the blush, “I thought it was supposed to be a secret.”

That made my face heat up even more.

James cracked a smile, muttering something about me being good value and shuffling through the pieces of parchment that he’d pulled out in a wad – his notes already being disorganised to the point of absurdity – and eventually retrieving a thin piece of parchment on which he had written a series of numbers and three points.

1.)    One, hypnosis to bring back forgotten memories

2.)    Break into the Ministry of Magic and find the information

3.)    Steal the sorting hat to ask about CC’s ancestry.


“What do you think?” James asked, flashing me a grin.

“Honestly?” I muttered, feeling my heart sink slightly: I had been semi-relying on James, if he hadn’t already given up for the sake of popularity and his precious reputation, to come up with something extraordinary or adventurous which might eventually lead to some results, but the only one that seemed remotely plausible was the third and I wasn’t even entirely sure why that was supposed to be helpful. “This is crap.”

“You’ve got no spirit of adventure,” James said dismissively, “we could ride to the Ministry on threastrals and then break one of their huge ornaments... or use polyjuice potions to –“

“James,” I interrupted, “I really don’t think that this is a great time to replicate your parent’s endeavours.”

“But they’re lives were so much more exciting.” James sighed, tapping his quill against the side of the desk and ignoring the continue talk of potions from the front of the classroom.

“Anyway,” I said, “we’ve practically done the modern equivalent.”

“The modern equivalent?” James questioned, running this over in his head and nodding appreciatively, “I like that. Much more hipster.”

“Bit geekier,” I interjected, “hacking a computer system.”

The conversation was brought to a halt by the glare we were receiving from the Potions Professor and both of us were silent for a few long minutes – the drone of his voice filling up my brain again. I closed my eyes and practiced sensing out the room: James, the familiar concentration of energy to my left, and the other classmates... the glow of the magically lit fires beneath our waiting, the ingredients in the store cupboard buzzing with magical energy.

“Do you have any ideas then?” James asked, leaning forwards in his chair to address me in a whisper.

“No.” I admitted, my shoulders sloping downwards with the familiar prospect of knowing that the information might be out of our grasp unless my father, or someone else, felt the need to tell me – and it didn’t look like they were going to. James might not want to give up but it didn’t seem like we had much choice.

“I say we try my ideas then,” James said, scrapping his chair back loudly – he always had to do everything in such a loud and obtuse manner that bordered, and sometimes crossed over, to rudeness – and going to collect himself so potions, “I’ll try and think of something better, but... if not, we’re going to run with it.”

There was no point arguing because there wasn’t a chance in hell that I was going to win. James, who’d probably use the ‘you’re crazy’ argument as a trump card whenever I managed to stop blushing enough to actually retort and, well, it wasn’t worth being red in the face for half the day. Hypnosis. Stealing the Sorting Hat. Hopefully, he’d drop the stuff about breaking into the Ministry of Magic because I doubted the fact that James made it impossible for me to say no would hold up in court.

Then again, I could always plead insanity. 

 

 





I guess we've all be reacquainted with the plot which is quite fun, really. Hope you guys are still enjoying this and not too annoyed about the slowness of new chapters, but I guess I'll never know unless you tell me (in a review, perhaps?). June is Curiosity month, so that's when you'll need to be checking this story for all the exciting updates and such.

Thanks for reading, guys :)

 


Chapter 16: Hypnosis.
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I’d given the whole situation over to a permanent situation of perpetual blush and stopped trying to prevent the inevitable: given James was being more of an absolute prat than normal, prancing about pretending that he actually had the power to hypnotise (he didn’t, as it turned out). Talking about a load of things he’d evidentially read in a book (where he’d god the damn book, goodness only knew) before coming much too close to my face and saying “look in to my eyes, Cassie. Look into my eyeeess.”

“You’re really lucky I’m not sensitive.” I muttered, feeling my face heat up again as James got so close to my face that I could feel how close his presence was (even with ignoring the whole sensing thing, but when you actually factored that in him being this close was way beyond comfortable levels of personal space).

“Sensitive?” James questioned, taking a step back and raising an eyebrow. “I only have to mention the word sex and your face turns into a Quaffle.”

“That’s not sensitive,” I retorted, “that’s just a weird genetic malfunction in my face.”

“As long as you admit your face is a genetic malfunction,” James said cheerfully, “right, Cassie - ready to start?”

“Start?” I questioned, sighing slightly, “James, you’ve been in my face for the past twenty minutes.”

“Yeah,” James shrugged, “I was just taking the piss, I very much doubt the secret to your locked away memories is in my eyes.”

I blushed again. Predictably.

“So, you just...?”

“Wanted to see the colour of your face,” James said, “right, I watched all these videos on the internet about it,” James continued, “Albus thought it was a bit weird, actually, but... well, he’ll get over it.”

“James,” I sighed, “look, this isn’t actually a game.”

“I didn’t realise he was going to stalk my internet history.”

“James,” I said seriously, “that’s not good enough. You want this to be some remarkable quest, well that’s fine - I could do with the help - but treat it with all the respect and decorum as you would do if you actually cared.”

“Why have I always got to be the bad guy?” I decided it was best not to answer that, instead choosing to roll my eyes and look away. James stretched out his arms and resumed his ridiculous pacing around the room. “Did you really know where the Room of Requirement is?” James asked, looking rather adorably hurt by the fact that I’d ruined his little magic trick. No doubt James was used to impressing girls with his mad ability to produce perfect rooms at the drop of the hat - but given the Room of Requirement leaked so readily of magic that it was practically painful there wasn’t really any way I could have missed it.

James had looked a little like a kicked puppy when, after letting him talk continually about how marvellous and wonderful he was for quite an extensive period of time, I'd revealed that I regularly used the Room of Requirement to phone my Dad without being overheard.

“Yes.” I said.

“Right,” James said, pulling the armchair towards the sofa and looking at me seriously, “okay, Cass, so... you need to focus on one of the memories we know have been changed.”

“The one that I showed your Dad?” I suggested, feeling a sense of encroaching doom creeping up on me. I’d sort of realised that this whole hypnosis lark would involve me talking through my memories to James and, really, James was already much too close.

Colleagues. I’d specifically said that I wanted to avoid all emotional things in this whole arrangement and...even though that had been shot to hell on quite a few occasions due to the emotional nature of the situation in question, this seemed to be taking this to new levels.

I had an aversion to people knowing too much about me. I just felt like I was continually being defined by other people - as crazy, for one - and that if someone did know anything about me, then they could really define me and I’d lose who I really was. I liked being secretive. Maybe it was because everyone else were such open books - because I could feel people’s emotions so easily and then it wasn’t too difficult to work out what they were thinking about (for the most part)... and I didn’t like the idea of anyone being that knowledgeable about me.

It was easy to hide things from my Dad due to his general view that fatherhood was a semi-part time occupation and being a multimillionaire type person was the full time occupation: not a matter of lack of priorities, just a slightly skewed ability to juggle the priorities. I reminded him of my Mother, who’d just disappeared in a blink of an eye for some unknown reason, and that made him want to have his space away from me too. But, our relationship worked for the large part. Admittedly I was mostly locked in a state of frustration at his continual absence, but his presence irked me anyway - I worked better when I was alone. I was a natural loner.

Leanne, my best friend, was partial to a fair amount of inside knowledge but had never question the reasons why it was all a secret. Well, she had, but my answer of ‘my dad’s just paranoid’ had been enough to quench her curiosity, because Leanne just wasn’t the inquisitive type.

And then there was James, who until a few weeks ago had been the bad guy and now there was an actual bad guy and he was helping me search for him. James Potter possibly knew more about me, at least on the surface, than any other person. He might be drawing with my father, but given my dad was entirely ignorant about the Cassie is crazy talk and all the stuff I put up with at Hogwarts it was doubtful (I’d never really felt it was necessary to tell him. I wouldn’t have done whilst it was bothering me, because that’s when I really clam up, but after the point when I’d just accepted it it’d seemed pointless to get my Dad riled and worried about me for no reason – because he wouldn’t believe the fact that I didn’t care in the slightest).

“You okay?” James asked and I blushed again upon realising that I’d been caught in a long, personal thought whilst James had been staring at me.

“Fine.” I said, wishing that my face didn’t display my emotions so damn readily - maybe it was to counteract the fact that I could sense everything about James’s emotions so clearly and obviously that it was practically a visual.

“Okay,” James said, “close your eyes, Cassie, I promise I won’t sexually assault you.”

I laughed at that before realising I was laughing and shutting up quickly. “Do you want me to lie down too?”

“Oh er,” James said, raising his eyebrows suggestively, “but yeah, lie down Cassie and then we’ll begin.”

It was better just to go along with what James wanted, because he was so accustomed to getting his own way I wouldn’t put it past him to physically make me lie down if I refused to. I slipped my shoes off and kicked my legs up onto the sofa. Still, following orders without looking spectacularly scarlet would have been much easier if he hadn't brought sexual assault into the equation.

“If anyone walks in right now,” James said, grinning, “it’ll look like I’m your shrink.”

“Aren’t the Cassie’s crazy jokes getting old now?” I asked.

“You do realise that you’re almost being funny, at the moment,” James said, “I don’t know why you’re so guarded all the time - you should just be normal Cassie.”

“Who are you to say who normal Cassie is?” I asked, resolutely shutting my eyes and beginning to sense out the ball of energy and emotion and memories that was James Potter. At the moment he was intrigued (of course, curiosity would be the one thing we both had in common - just bloody typical) and worse than that, sympathetic.  

I preferred it when he was a stony, cold, selfish bastard. It was better than knowing he felt sorry for me. As if he had a right to judge my life and come up with the conclusion that it sucked.

An interested party,” James said, leaning forwards, “okay, Cassandra -”

“Cassandra?” I questioned, opening my eyes again.

“Cassie,” James said, “you’re usually perfectly obliging, so why don’t you stop your crazy talk and let me hypnotise you into revealing your deepest, darkest, most forcefully repressed memories.”

“When you put it like that.” I muttered quietly, forcing my shoulder to relax as I closed to my eyes - silently resolving that this whole thing was going to tear me apart.

 *

“So, nothing?” James asked, a sort of half hearted pout on his face. “You didn’t enter a vegetative state –“

“I fell asleep, I think. Is that vegetative enough?” I said, pulling myself into a sitting position and pulling my arms around my legs. I felt vulnerable, but I doubted that had anything to do with James’s bizarre hypnosis attempt and everything to do with the fact I’d just reiterated the changed memory from the day before my Mum left all over again.

“Was it at least a good sleep?” James asked, raising a distinct eyebrow with his normal always-amused expression slipping back onto his face.

“I suppose.” I said, not looking at him as I stared at a corner of the room (a small, comfy room with a sofa, an armchair and a bookcase – probably containing most of James’s reading material). It was nice. Most rooms in Hogwarts had enough magical energy to keep me grounded, but the Room of requirement was such a sensory overload that it was half helpful and half overwhelming – currently, it was okay, because this particular form of the room had never been used before… meaning the memories associated were only ones that had been created within the last few days or so (James had been using the room to read, it seemed). Currently, none of those memories induced particularly strong feelings in either direction – slight uncomfortableness for me and eagerness from James, but memories tended to stagnate and feel stronger the more time passed… so, really, the room felt like it almost could have been empty.

“Good,” James said, “no offence, Cassie, but you look like you haven’t slept since we got back to school.”

I wanted to be sarcastic: oh, no James, why would that ever offend me? Of course, every girl wants to look like she’s exhausted. Of course, being me, the urge was suppressed and I instead opted for not reacting to James’s comment. James would likely find that more annoying anyway, due to his aversion of silence.

I doubted James would sleep particularly well if he discovered that his entire personal history was a fictitious account designed by some unknown external party. Or that his father might be involved in some dastardly conspiracy, knew your memory had been modified and had never mentioned anything for reasons yet undiscovered. That, combined with the fact that the single person who knew and at least semi-cared about the situation was the same idiot who’d sent the last six years calling me crazy didn’t really induce sleep. Insomnia, was a closer guess.

“So that’s that.” I said pointedly, hugging me knees up to my chest. I had to admit that I’d expected very little from this whole hypnosis lark (particularly with James Potter acting in the hypnotist role), but there’d been a small part of me that had still been hoping. I wanted to know what the hell was going on. I wanted to know why my memories had been changed and what, exactly, my life had actually been like. And with another failed lead, it seemed that we weren’t going to get anywhere -  bringing up the possibility that I might just have to live with being ignorant.

“You,” James said dramatically, standing up and retrieving a book from the bookshelf before falling back onto the sofa next to me, “are a defeatist. You think the great Harry Potter saved the world by giving up?”

“Technically, yes. He sacrificed himself and intended to die; ergo, he gave up.”

“Sassy Cassie,” James said with an approving nod, nudging me in the side and grinning, “sounds better than crazy Cassie – always preferred rhyme to alliteration, me.”

“Please don’t call me sassy Cassie.”

“Only when you’re being particularly brilliant,” James continued, seemingly ignoring the fact that I was speaking, “or else it won’t be so special. It’ll be what we call your alter ego.”

“I don’t have an alter ego.”

“You have hundreds.”

“Back to crazy Cassie now, are we?” I asked irritably, pulling myself off the sofa and pacing the room. “It’s... that memory has got to be important. It was right before she left. It... it was more crudely changed than the others. It feels foggy when I remember it. I thought that was just because it was a long time ago but....”

“Do you find it ironic,” James said, “that you can sense memories and yet your memories have been changed?”

“Maybe that’s it,” I said, turning towards him, “maybe... maybe if I could go back to where it happened I could sense the memory and then maybe that would mean I could remember it.”

“That would explain why you’ve always moved house!” James said, his eyes widening.

“No,” I countered, “my Dad doesn’t believe in my ability, really. He thinks it’s nonsense.”

“Your Mum then,” James said, “if she gave him instructions... that you had to move out the house or your memories would come back and your Dad just took it too far – uprooting you every year. Messing with your ability to remember.

“Mum believed me about the power,” I continued, frowning and looking away from James, “she thought of herself as a bit of seer... so she always said that of course I was a bit special. They... once,” I said, trying to focus on the memory and really pinpoint it down, “someone from the Ministry came over... my Dad was angry.... something about a gift,” I paused, turning to James, “is there a part of the Ministry – a department or something – that records unique magical abilities?”

“I should think so,” James said, “It’s.... yeah, they wanted to register Dad on it. He told them where to stuff it. Mum said... well, it’s a bit of a freak list.”

“That’s it!” I said, pressing a finger to my head and sitting down in the armchair heavily. “Mum wanted me registered and Dad told her I wasn’t... wasn’t a freak. Wasn’t crazy. The Ministry representative came round... god, this was ages ago, I must have been about five.”

“Keep talking, Cassie.” James said, leaning forwards. His excited energy was half distracted and half egging me on.

“They made me do all these tests,” Cassie said, “my Dad was so angry...”

“They put the trace on you,” James said, “I mean, the double its powers. That’s why Dad was so angry... he hated the idea of being tracked.”

“That would be why your Dad didn’t report me to the Ministry,” I said, “surely he should have done. He was helping me with the whole... power thing and he didn’t report me.”

“But, if you’ve already been reported then you’ve got the double-trace.”

“But I don’t!” I said angrily. “I mean, I’d know.”

“No, you wouldn’t,” James countered, “it's something they like for you to forget you have, so that if you mess up they can manipulate you into working for the Ministry.”

“Then your Dad would have asked about when I was registered,” I countered, “no, James, I haven’t got the trace. I’m seventeen.  I’ve got no trace.”

“You’re double-traced,” James countered, “but, that’s not important, what happened next?”

“Next?” I asked, brining a hand up to my head.

“After they made you do the tests.”

“What tests?”

“Cassie,” James said, lunging forwards and grabbing my arm, “Cassie, what you were just saying: you were five, someone from the Ministry came round to your house and tested your sensing ability. Your Dad was angry but your Mum was all for it. What happened next?”

“I don’t, I don’t know,” I muttered, closing my eyes and feeling out the emotions of the room – excitement, anticipation, giddy fear and shock and... that was from me. I was scared. I was scared because. “What’s happening?”

“You’re remembering things that you shouldn’t,” James said, slipping off the sofa, crouching next to me, “your brain’s going a bit... funky. Just, concentrate. What else do you remember?”

“She was a seer,” I said, screwing my eyes shut and trying to picture my mother and drawing up nothing but a wobbly image of a woman with pale blonde hair and crystal blue eyes – I didn’t look much like her. She’d said that, I remembered her saying that, saying unless she’d carried me in her stomach for nine months people would have asked if she was really the mother. But you’re special, Cassie, you’re like me – we can do things and see things other people can’t. You can sense magic, Cassie. You can feel it.

“I don’t think,” I continued, “she understood the sensing thing properly,” I said, opening my eyes and blinking up at James, “she thought it was just magic.”

“Anything else?” James asked.

I shook my head. I didn’t want to think anymore. My head was pounding, my brain was aching with the effort and I hadn’t even realised that I was crying until a single hot tear fell off the edge of my chin. I didn’t care about the mystery or the adventure right now, I just wanted to crawl into a ball and never think again. It hurt.

“Do you, er, want a hug?” James suggested. The light seemed to catch my eyes the wrong way and then the pain was blinding. It felt like the light was bruising my eyes, was scorching the surface of my retina and for a long few seconds I closed my eyes again and tried to remember to breathe through the pain. It was bad. It was really bad.

“No,” I choked out, regaining the ability to speak and move at the same instance, pulling myself off my seat and wiping the tears off my face, “my head hurts. I think I need to go to the hospital wing.”

“You can’t,” James said, standing up too and grabbing my arms (I was in too much pain for my body to process anything but a long stream of internal expletives, so I didn’t even blush), “you can’t, Cassie – they’ll realise that you’ve remembered something you shouldn’t and they’ll mess with your mind again.”

“But it hurts.” I countered, feeling James’s serious (wait, what?) gaze boring into my eyes as he physically held me in front of him. Given James currently couldn’t feel the god damn knife piercing my god damn brain it was fair to suggest that he shouldn’t have any say over what I did.

“Cassie, what you’ve just done is incredible. You’ve thought past a memory charm that’s held for like a decade.”

And it feels like it’s ripping a hole through my brain!”                                                     

“You need a cup of tea.”

“No, I don’t! I need you to go away and I need to go to the hospital wing and get something to make it stop hurting.” I was talking much louder than usual, because everything was much too bright and pushing inwards and hurting and aching and ohmygodmakeitstop.

James was gripping my arm much too tightly, but I could barely feel it.

“We might have pushed it too far,” James said, forcing me back into the arm chair, “but, Cassie, we’re getting somewhere.”

“I don’t care!” I muttered, my shoulders slumping inwards my head bloody pounding and the tears coming thick and fast. “I don’t care. I just want to go home.”

James was silent for a long time. I closed my eyes. Nothing felt real. Everything hurt.  I bit down on my lip and began mapping everything out. The Room of Requirement was an explosion of magic, always, so I tried to ignore that (the pain flared up again with renewed vigour at the thought of it)... instead focusing on James. He was panicking. Crap, James was panicked – although he appeared to be putting forward a rather reasonable portrayal of someone feeling exciting about the whole matter of discovery – but he was a jittery, panicked mess. And it hardly made me feel better to know that internally James was screaming OH MY GOD WHAT DO I DO. Except it almost did. At least I wasn’t the only one. And, the panic meant something else quite startling – James did actually care.

Guilt, too. Adrenaline. Cluelessness.

“Write it down,” I instructed, pulling my knees up to my forehead and pressing my skull against my kneecaps – the solidity of it all was comforting, “everything I said, just... write it down.”

James seemed somewhat relieved that he’d been given something to do. I massaged my temple and tried to let the pain ebb away slightly. If remembering had caused the pain, forgetting seemed a logical antidote: I forced my brain into thinking about the homework I’d been given, reciting lists of goblin wars and trying to focus on whether Hopkin or Graque had been first... a nice, easy, safe part of my memory that I was permitted to remember.

“Cassie,” James said quietly, after I’d internally revised the entirety of the History of Magic syllabus, “tea.” I looked up, finally opening my eyes again. The pain had retreated to a dull ache that was just about manageable. By the change in James’s emotional state, it was likely that the internal recital had taken longer than I was specifically aware of.

“The Room of Requirement doesn’t do food.”

“House elves do,” James said, sitting down opposite me, “sorry.”

“Its fine,” I said, taking the cup of tea and a tentative sip (apparently, even having some sort of psychotic break down earlier I still didn’t trust James to make me tea), “thanks.” The thought of appearing so vulnerable, of crying in front of James, of raising my voice sent a sickening jolt up my spine. Much too close.

I was blushing too. Of course. Naturally.

“Are you okay? I’ll take you to the hospital wing, if you want.”

“Wouldn’t be much of a quest,” I said, “if I didn’t remember any of it.”

“Yeah but, it’s not really a quest... it’s your life, Cass.”

Apparently the correct way to convince James Potter of the seriousness of something is to start yelling about how much pain you’re in, demand to be taken to the hospital wring and cry a lot. The fact that the thing I’d most wanted to impress upon James Potter had been achieved but doing what I’d least wanted to do (as in, let James get anywhere near close to personal).  That was... interesting. I couldn’t sort my thoughts out yet. My brain felt very mushy – as though I’d been awake for days on end, or had just spent hours cramming for a very important test.

“Yeah,” I breathed, taking another long sip of tea, “so the hypnosis worked, I suppose. Sort of. I remembered stuff,” There was a twinge of pain in my brain, “so we could try again tomorrow.”

“Let’s give it a week.” James said, and it was then that I began to note his usual everything-is-a-joke attitude seemed to have defrosted slightly. He’d been genuinely scared. Actually, more than that, he was still scared. James Potter was absolutely bloody terrified.  “We have a couple of other lines of inquiry: we need to visit your old houses, somehow, we’ve still got to break into SInistra’s office and borrow the sorting hat and then... I was thinking, Cassie, your Mum was a seer. At least, she said she was.... so, I think you should talk to Professor Trelawney.”

“I was forbidden from taking divination.”

“Precisely.”

“James,” I said, smiling slightly, “that doesn’t mean it’s relevant, that just means divination is a piss take.”

“Were you forbidden from taking Muggle Studies?” James asked. “Well then.”

“My Dad,” I said, “is the focus of an entire section of the Muggle Studies syllabus. There was no need to forbid me from taking it.”

“Could have been interesting,” James shrugged, his gaze still a little bit too intense and a little bit too shaky, “to see your Dad from an outsider’s perspective?”

“How do you think I see him?” I said, before realising that was usually the sort of thought that I’d keep locked away and not vocalised. Those little sarcastic, bitter comments were ones I’d filed as no good to anyone and should definitely be under then James doesn’t need to know side of things.

“So it does bother you,” James said, curiously, “I thought it must do.”

“Of course it does,” I said irritably, taking another sip of my tea, “I’m not emotionless.”

“But that’s the thing, Cassie. You never react. To anything. You blush and you look embarrassed, but that’s it. Not tears, no laughter, no smile, no anger.”

“If you weren’t trying to goad me,” I said, folding eyelids shut again, “then I might react.”

“But that’s why we goad you,” James said, “because, you blush and that’s a hoot, and then you’re unflappable. We just wanted a reaction.”

My grip on my ability to not speak was beginning to step back into gear, so I answered that with a small shrug and concentrated on the hot, sweet liquid. James had decided that I liked sugar in my tea. He was wrong, obviously, but I thought I might need the sugar on this occasion.

“Don’t close up on me,” James whined, “you know I hate it when you do that.”

“Yes,” I answered, “I’m aware.”

James groaned and rolled his eyes deliberately, a little of his normal air creeping back into the situation. Good. I supposed me taking my usual roll in the conversation – apparently an otherwise unflappable blusher – had prompted James to return to be the usual arrogant prat he usually was. Which was good. Arrogant prat James was much easier to deal with than a James that had depth and was genuinely scared, because that was personal and this whole business was decidedly not personal.

“So,” James said, “we need a plan.”

“We need a new laptop,” I said, “I can’t use mine, too many traces, and yours is so old. I’ve got a  couple of old WTC products that I can sell and Dad won’t notice if I withdraw a couple of hundred. I’ll say it’s for school books, or something. We need something top of the range. Memory’s not important, we just need everything written down and stored in one place.”

“I thought you were waiting for me to come up with ideas?” James said, looking a little amused.

“Yeah, well,” I said, shrugging, “I thought we were out of leads.”

“And now we’re not?”

“No,” I said, “we’re not. I am capable of remembering things, so that’s a good start. Do you think getting hold of a pensive would be difficult?”

“Probably,” James said, frowning slightly, “they’re expensive. Maybe.... this is the room of requirement?”

“How good are you at controlling your emotions?” I asked, finishing my tea and setting the cup down on the floor.

James raised an eyebrow at that “I thought we were cold and emotionless colleagues?”

“That status remains,” I said, shortly, “I’m just wondering whether Occlumency is out of the question.”

“Mind reading?” James asked, looking so surprised that I wanted to take the picture and upload it on to Spellbook (had my page not been dramatically deleted thanks to my father).

“It means the other person gets a glimpse into your memories... I mean, Occlumency... it makes your mind stronger against external forces... I’d say a whopping great memory charm is an external force?”

“So you want to learn occlumency?”

“You gave me the idea after you started talking about Hypnosis. Very muggle, James, very weird that you know about it. I borrowed Leanne’s laptop to research a bit about it. There’s not very much, obviously, as wizards still haven’t gotten the hang of the internet like the muggles have... but, it’s not a ridiculous idea, is it?”

“I think it’s brilliant,” James said, “utterly crazy, but... what does my emotional state have to do with that?”

“People who are good at legimancy are generally good at suppressing emotions and detecting other’s emotional states. I’ll need something to practice against.”

“That’s like a description of you,” James said, looking positively gleeful, “can’t we do the reverse? You read my mind.”

“I don’t want to know what goes on in your mind.”

James snorted at that and grinned. “We should delve into your memories more often,” James said, “it results in you really letting your guard down.

“Don’t make me put it back up again.” I warned, before realising the extent to which he was right: this joking around, the banter, the planning... it almost seemed like friendship. If James had to stick around to help me out and, because of that, got given a whole host of emotional things he could blackmail me with at a later date then that was bad enough...add in a friendship and you might as well skip a couple of steps and send me straight into St Mungos.

“Are you really okay with the whole mortal danger thing?” James asked, tilting his head at me slightly.

I raised my eyebrows at him before turning away and glancing at the corner of the room. My head still hurt. I’d have thought it would be difficult to deal with James like this, but the fact that we now had something to go on made our tenuous relationship seem more solid. Questers, it seemed, were closer when their quest didn’t seem like a futile mission clutching at straws. It was a difficult balance between having a good working relationship as colleagues and stepping forth into other dangerous realms.

“Sorry,” James said, “couldn’t help at least trying to abuse your mental state.”

I ignored him. Silence was, after all, my only weapon.

“So, you’re going to let me try and read your mind?”

Silence.

“That’ll be fun,” James grinned, “guess I’ll find out if you’re really crazy.”

I continued to stare at him, blank, emotionless, silent: unflappable. Worst of all, I was even enjoying it.

“I might find all sorts of stuff,” James continued, watching me just as carefully in response, “like your horribly obvious crush on Leanne’s brother.”

That of course, resulted in the blushes of all blushes and ruined everything.






Hazzah! An update! And, good news, my muse for this story has returned in style. I've planned out the rest of the story and am fully inspired to write lots and lots (just as soon as those pesky exams are out the way). So, here we have the return of the plot and a new beginning, of sorts. Also, I'm doing camp NaNo this month so I'm writing lots and lots - so if you guys have anything in particular you want updating let me know in some way and I'll see what I can do. I'm planning on getting a couple of chapters of everything written... but obviously as it's Curiosity month this is a top priority! Anyway, I'll stop chatting on now. Thanks for reading guys! I'll update soon this time, promise :)

(Reviews are nice, by the way. Just saying).


Chapter 17: Divination.
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My head still hurt. The day after James and I had attempted hypnosis I’d woken up feeling slightly hung over and feeling like I needed a hell of a lot more sleep. Unfortunately, school didn’t cater to this desire for extra sleep and instead I’d spent the whole day walking through life feeling slightly numb and fuzzy (the influx of extraneous sensory data at Hogwarts was a real negative point when I was this tired).

So, after being dragged through dinner accompanied by Leanne’s usual continual chatter about things I almost cared about, before she more or less gave up and left me to eat dinner in silence, I’d decided to take refuge elsewhere.

The Hufflepuff Common room was one of the most violently friendly places I’d ever been in the way that it was impossible to be antisocial, but was still possible to not classify anyone as your friends. Everyone talked to each other, everyone inquired after each other, everyone knew each other: normally, that suited me fine as it allowed social interaction without involving me lying about my Dad and everything that came with it, but I wanted to be away from the seventh years asking about how classes were going, or the third years asking for advice and all the rest of it.

In the end I found myself in the library, which had a nice clean air about it – there’s only so many memories the walls can absorb in a room where people go to read books.

I’d pulled out a textbook from the self at random (something about Herbology) and retrieved my laptop to give the impression of being busy, but was really just staring at the book and massaging my temples.  The pain was barely noticeable, just an echo of how it had felt yesterday, but it was a  stark reminder that this was a slightly more dangerous quest than I’d previously anticipated. It was unlikely that any of us we’re going to get physically hurt (or was it? I was supposedly in mortal danger…), but… we could get in plenty of trouble. And I could seriously damage my sanity.

Although, I was beginning to realise that had been damaged enough already. James was right. I was crazy. Because I didn’t remember my childhood, my life didn’t make sense and my memories had been changed.

Speaking of James…

The fact that I could recognise the ball of energy making its way towards me before I looked up clearly meant I’d been forced to spend far too much time with him. The only person I was able to identify purely by how they sensed was Leanne and my father.

I was half tempted to offer up my greetings before looking up, just to freak him out, but I thought that might be indicative of more friendly things than a strict colleague relationship. Anyway, James possessed this desire to appear important and impressive at all times and it was easy to let him indulge in that then do anything to prevent it.

“I have had,” James Potter said, slumping down on the chair next to me with one of his usual dramatic flourishes, “a wonderful idea.” I still didn’t look up from my book, upping my pretence of studying by scanning a few lines.

 I also decided against voicing my doubts about this.

“You’re going to take NEWT Divination.” James concluded, slamming a hand down on the table as if to express how utterly wonderful this idea truly was.

“Why would I want to do that?” I asked, still not looking up. I turned the page of the textbook and screwed up my shoulders to protect myself from James’s plea for attention. Actually, it wasn’t a plea so much as a full frontal attack on my sense – he was loud, he was in my face, and his emotions were so overtly obvious that I could practically feel them myself.

“Because,” James said, “your mother was a seer, she abandoned you when you were just a little-Cassie and you want to know more about divination as a result. At least, that’s what you’re going to tell Professor Keitch.”

“Right.”

“Cassie,” James complained, “third year Herbology text book, I know you’re not reading it. Can you please pay attention to me?” I shut the book and looked up at him, maintaining my silence as I waited for him to continue the show. “Do you want to know why it’s such a good idea?”

Because James was a show, his whole persona was a perfectly put together piece of amateur-dramatics designed to perpetuate this impressive caricature of a person and, worse than being steadily more aware that James’s emotions did not match James’s expressions and outward appearance, was actually wanting to know why. Damn curiosity.

“I suspect I’m you’re going to tell me.”

“Sassy Cassie,” James said, causing another impressive blush, “okay, well, what if... you’re a seer.”

“I’m a seer?” I asked dryly.

“Yes!” James said. “And your mother had to leave because, er, you can’t know you’re a seer... so anything that reminds you of seer-dom had to be removed. See, genius!”

“Don’t seers usually make predictions?” I asked lightly. James seemed to be aware that he wasn’t making any sense, because he seemed to decide that violating my personal space and making me blush again was an appropriate course of action to distract me.

“Cassie,” James said seriously, looming much too close to my face with an amused expression, “do you ever have dreams that come true?”

James Potter had brown eyes. I didn’t really want to know that. I didn’t want him to be close enough to my face for that to be something I actively registered. Ah, diversion tactics.

“No.”

“Damn,” James said, still grinning, “still, you could have just not had a prediction for a really long time because you’ve never opened up your inner eye.”

“You took OWL divination, didn’t you?” I asked, picking up the Herbology book (third year, apparently; so James either really knows his Herbology or memorises the syllabus and appropriate textbooks) and placing it back in the shelf where I’d retrieved it. Mostly, I just wanted to get away from James for a second. He turned around in his seat and watched my progress.

“Maybe.” James shrugged, raising his eyebrows in a so-what-if-I-did sort of way.

“I’m not allowed.”

“You’re an adult, as of like two weeks ago,” James said, pointedly, “tell Keitch that you don’t want your Dad to know because you don’t want to upset him by delving into stuff about your Mum – she’s soft, she won’t think anything of it.”

“What if there’s a humungous big note next to my name saying IS A SEER. MUST AVOID DIVINATION AT ALL COSTS.”

“Well,” James said, “she won’t think you know that, so we won’t have lost anything. Face it, Cass, I’m practically a Ravenclaw.”

“So I join NEWT Divination, despite not having studied it ever before, on my own?”

“If you wanted me to join, you should have just asked.” James grinned, slapping me on the back.

I was beginning to see where this was coming from. Ulterior motives. Well, I guess that made a great deal of sense.

“What did you get in OWL Divination?” I asked, sitting back down on my chair and flicking down the lid of my laptop. Dad had a habit of insisting I always shut them down properly, but given I’d helped out with some of the programing it was fair to say I knew full well it didn’t do any real damage.

“An E.” James said, lightly. Too casual. Could read him like a book.

“And in your other subjects?”

“A mixture.”

“Of?” I prompted, raising my eyebrows and half expecting him to bring out the Sassy Cassie nickname.

“As...”

“And?”

“I got an E in defence.”

“And the others?”

“If you’re trying to ascertain whether I failed the others, you might have just asked. I failed three. And given you’re probably going to read my mind anyway, there’s two other students who want to do NEWT Divination and the class was deemed too small, but I genuinely think it could be helpful. And if you think I’m bullshitting, by all means sense my emotions like the crazy bird you are.”

James puffed out his chest and slammed his eyes shut, as if that would help me sense what he was feeling. I rolled my eyes at him until he reopened his eyes and nodded pointedly.

“Yes, very good.” I returned.

“And,” James said, “We get to spend more time together.”

“And that’s... a positive?”

“I know I’m no Luke,” James said, grinning, “but I’m not so bad Cassie.”

I glued my jaw shut.

“Cat got your tongue? Where’s Sassy Cassie when you need her?” James asked, tapping me on the forehead. What was with all the personal contact today? It’s like James was noting down ways to get under my skin and employing them to make me feel uncomfortable when all I wanted to do was to go to sleep (that was probably the real explanation, if I was honest with myself, James was the singular person still amused by my blushing).

“Why are you in the library anyway?”

“Returning a book,” James said, “changing the subject? Oh, I forgot, you’re waiting for me to ask. So what is it about Luke?”

“Nothing.”

“So you want to date him and have his children?”

“No.”

“But you do fancy him?”

“He’s good looking, I suppose.”

“I’m good looking,” James said. I think my face just fell off from too much blushing, “and you don’t like me. In fact, most of the time you sort of detest me.”

“I didn’t until you got involved.”

“So that’s why I’m the bad guy?”

“You’re not the bad guy. You’re an irritating colleague, happy?”

“No,” James said, “given my current social situation, it’d be nice to have someone who didn’t think I was the worst person on the planet.”

“You’re not the worst person on the planet.”

“Who is?”

“I don’t know.” I said, shoving my laptop under my arm and assuming James would take the social hint that I was planning on leaving and he should stop talking right about now.

“I do, Natalie Broadman.”

“Well then, she and Ryan are made for each other.”

“She cheated on me.”

I slumped in my seat. It seemed James wanted to talk. Goodness knows what horrors I could have committed to have deserved to be exposed to an upset James but the curiosity seemed to have welded me in place. There was some part of me, apparently, that wanted to dissect James – just a little – to work out why he put on such bravado. Probably, it was just some typical male thing that I’d never really picked up on due to not spending enough time exposed to data, but it was… tantalisingly intriguing. I also knew that this whole thing was bad news, but it also didn’t look like I had much choice – if James wanted to whine to me about his love life, then there wasn’t much I could do to stop him. He’d probably silence me with a flick of the wand and stick me to my seat, if only to have a listener. My contribution to this conversation wasn’t important. He just liked to talk.

Continually. All the time.

“Yes.”

“I know four months isn’t a really long time,” James said, running a hand through his hair and staring at spot over my shoulder, “but...”

“You trusted her?”

“I need a rebound,” James said decisively. Silence, I decided, was my friend. “What’s your friend called? Luke’s brother... Leanne, isn’t it? You reckon she’d date me.”

“Probably.” I admitted, because Leanne’s taste was definitely lacking to the point where she might consider James to be a viable dating option.

“That’d probably piss you off though,” James said, “I’d be up in your grill all the time. Right, well, it’s been a pleasure Cassie – I’ll see you in divination.”

“I don’t believe in divination,” I muttered under my breath, once James had disappeared, “because no one could have predicted this.”

*

“Right,” James said, bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet as we waited outside Keitch’s office, “do you know what you’re doing?”

“Yes, James,” I replied, “I’m asking Keitch if I can take NEWT Divination because you want to study it and there’s not enough students.”

“No,” James said deliberately, grabbing hold of my shoulders and looking at my seriously, “you’re desperate to study Divination because you think it will help you learn more about your mother. You don’t want your father to know. That’s why you didn’t do it at OWL. Come on, Cassie, take this seriously.”

“Don’t patronise me, James. I am aware of the stakes.”

“Good good.”

“Will you stop fidgeting?” I hissed. “For God’s sake, you can’t keep still for one minute.”

“Driving your sense haywire?”

“Yes, actually,” I said, folding my arms, “and as I’m doing you an indirect favour which will clearly not help the cause, you could stop being so annoying. Don’t look at me like that, I’m tired and I don’t want to do this.”

“Then don’t,” James shrugged, “I’m not making you.”

I had no answer to that. I want to fume some more, but suddenly all the steam of my argument had gone flat. I looked away and felt the familiar hot burn of my skin.

“I’m getting under the cloak,” James said, grinning at my lack of movement away from Keitch’s office door, “I’ll wait until after you’ve finished. When she gets out your file… see if you can take a peak, but don’t make it look like you’re looking. We should have practiced this more.”

“Do you have a silence cloak?”

“Sassy Cassie.” James’s disembodied voice said, with the usual note of approval.

“Shut up.” I muttered under my breath, folding and refolding my arms uncomfortably till the worst of the blush had lessened slightly. Keitch had said she’d be able to meet me at seven to talk, but she was so aggressively nice that she came across as abrasive, and often ended up being late to everything because she was trying to save someone from an emotional breakdown. James was right, a sob story was perfect.

“Great comeback.” James returned, in a mock whisper.

“She’s coming now.” I said needlessly, fidgeting slightly.

Professor Keitch was impossibly tall and thin and was so genuinely lovely that the prospect of lying to her was less than inviting. Her primary way of dealing with disciplinary issues, which there weren’t very many of anyway, was her genuine belief in people: if she thought you were breaking the rules to do someone harm, her disappointment was so palpable that you couldn’t help but apologise, and if she thought you were being righteous in your rule breaking she’d break her heart over you and be so sympathetic that it felt like you were being crucified – at least, that’s what Leanne had told me.

The apology for being late bubbled from her lips as she arrived and I nodded and shrugged and blushed in response, following her into her office feeling increasingly awkward.

“So, what was it that you wanted to talk to me about?” Keitch asked, smiling gently.

“I want… I want to take Divination.”

I couldn’t quite believe this was happening. I was directly disobeying my father for the sake of studying the most ridiculous subject ever invented.

“NEWT Divination?” Keitch asked, beginning to search through a magically enhance draw and pulling out a thick file with my name scrawled across the front in her familiar handwriting. Thanks to James heightening my paranoia beyond usual levels, half of my brain was wondering whether my file was thicker than the usual or not. “You’ve never studied the subject before?”

“No,” I said, feeling the word heavily in my mouth and letting myself blush scarlet, “it… my mother was a seer. She left me and my Dad when I was young…. I guess I’m just curious.” I looked away, feeling like for the first time in my life my blushing habit was actually being helpful.

“Ah.” Keitch said, seeming to reduce her height so she could seek out my gaze.

“My Dad wouldn’t want me to but, I’m an adult now… it’s, it’s what I want. If that’s okay, I mean, I know that strictly I shouldn’t be allowed but -”

“- actually,” Keitch said, “due to lack of popularity, there’s several Sixth Years unable to take NEWT Divination this year. I’ll talk to the headmistress and I’m sure she’ll be able to make an exception…” Keitch turned over a piece of paper from my file in her hand, then paused slightly as though something had caught her attention. I tried to stretch upwards in my seat to take a glance, but given her height Keitch’s desk was bizarrely high up and I could see nothing but the edge of the parchment.

James was going to be very disappointed in my efforts.

Professor Keitch frowned for a second before glancing back at me.

“I’m sure it won’t be a problem,” she finished with one of her bright smiles, “how’s Sixth Year been so far?”

“Good.” I said, standing up quickly and nodding to her: half to see if I could get a glance at the piece of parchment and half because Keitch had a habit of engaging you in very long conversation about your welfare if you didn’t get away fast enough.

The words special circumstances and observe progress carefully were all I manage to pick out before I had to look away, dragging myself to the door as Professor Keitch asked whether I was able to keep up with my homework.

“She’s… friendly.” James said, quietly, once I’d shut the door behind me.

“Head of Hufflepuff,” I shrugged, “I think there’s something important written in my file.”

“We need to break in then.” James said, as if it were something simple and mundane that he did every day, but it wasn’t – and that seemed to be the key to James Potter. He was pretending to be an awful lot of things he wasn’t.

*

“There are a lot of stairs.” James said, unnecessarily, as we climbed towards the North Tower. I’m not sure whether Leanne or I had been more confused when James had turned up outside my Arithmancy lesson in order to walk me to Divination so I didn’t get lost: Leanne, because she had no idea that I was planning to take Divination and me because I wasn’t expecting such a charitable gesture. Now, after I’d scaled the height of the entire castle, it was beginning to dawn on me that if he hadn’t I’d never have arrived at the North Tower. “Trelawney’s mental,” James added, conversationally, “and I don’t mean crazy like I call you crazy, I mean she’s a proper nut case. It’s gotten worst with age, I think.”

“Oh.”

“She predicted that either my Dad or Voldie had to die, you know. She didn’t realise she had though. Forgot she’d ever made a prediction. So, It could be possible Cassie. You could be a seer.”

“By that definition, so could you.”

“Too right,” James said, grinning, “I predict that… you’re going love Divination almost as much as you love spending time with me.”

“Who are the other two?”

“Lorna Cartwright and Tabatha Gray,” James said, “Tabatha is a bit of a gossip, but it takes something a little more than me sitting with you in Divination to start her talking and Lorna is practically silent, so don’t worry, Cassie – no one needs to know you’ve switched your timetable to match mine.”

“I haven’t,” I countered, “I haven’t switched anything. I’ve just taken on another subject.”

“You overachiever you,” James said, nudging me pointedly with his elbow, “up the ladder!” He added cheerfully, nodding in the direction of a ladder hanging down from a trap door.

This was ridiculous. I couldn’t believe it was happening.

“Our new student,” Trelawney said, seeming to emerge from nowhere due to her bizarre get up blending in entirely with the rich crimson fabric of the curtains that hung around the room, “welcome!”

Her glasses seemed to make her eyes double the size and the fact that the air was so thick with incense that it made me dizzy didn’t help things, I felt as though I’d been drugged on something: my head was fuzzy and she didn’t seem quite real.

“Cassandra Jones.” James said, throwing himself down on a richly embroidered poof. The décor… it reminded me of a more intense version of my own bedroom, maybe that was what that was throwing me off… or, no, it was something about the smell… had Mum burnt these plants, once?  Something about the room reminded me of something I shouldn’t remember. This was a very very bad idea.

James helpfully grabbed hold of my arm and pulled me downwards so that I was sitting.

“Okay?”

“Fine.” I returned in a clipped voice, wrapping my arms around me. What was it?

“Named after my great-great-grandmother?” Trelawney suggested. “Your parents were interested in Divination, my dear?”

“Her mother was a seer.”  James said.

“Sort of,” I countered, sending James a look, “not really.”

“Well,” Trelawney said, closing her wide, startled eyes for a second, “the inner eye is rarely dictated by such close blood links, but you may well possess… the inner eye.”

“She’s never studied any Divination before.” James said. I wasn’t entirely sure when he decided to start talking for me, but I could feel my hands shaking slightly and I couldn’t think of anything to say – so I supposed that it was a good thing, even if I could feel my face flushing significantly.

Then again, in a room this dimly lit no one could see.

“Show her the tea leaves.” Professor Trelawney said, before retreating back into her shadowy corner and continuing to stare at her crystal ball.

James got up fairly cheerfully and returned with two porcelain cups and an enchanted teapot which, minutes after James had placed it on the table, began to whistle.

“What’s up?” James asked, beginning to busy himself pouring out two cups of tea.

“I think my Mum used some of this incense.” I returned stiffly, quietly, glancing at the other two occupants of the room who were sat, cross legged, around a little table with a pack of cards.

“Good,” James said, “we can use it then. I’ll find out what it is from Trelawney. Old bat, I’ll tell her I think I’m on the edge of a vision and she’ll do anything. You need to drink your tea. I think her inner eye is particularly observant today, so she probably won’t be talking much. Expect her to start making predictions, though.”

“Predictions?”

“About your life,” James said, taking a sip of his tea, “all sorts of mad stuff. You’ll be doing the dream stuff soon, that’s always fun.”

“How do the tea leaves work?”

“You, well,” James said, and a sensed a degree of… embarrassment? Shame? “The shape of your tea leaves at the bottom of your cup tells your future.”

I decided that it was best if I didn’t comment on that. I knew my mother had a degree of talent when it came to this area. She’d made a living out of it, at any rate, and it was enough that even my Dad couldn’t deny that she was a seer… but beyond natural talent, I couldn’t quite buy into the idea that my future was written in a stodgy brown mess at the bottom of my cup of tea.

“Don’t silently judge me,” James said huffily, “just drink your tea.”

“No judgements.” I said dryly, forcing the tea down even though it was a little too hot.

“Because you can’t talk. You say you can sense emotions.”

“Okay.” I agreed.

“Right,” James said, “I haven’t got my textbook… but, I remember a lot of it. Mine is… well, I’ve got the rat… so that’s betrayal. As if I haven’t had enough of that.”

“Maybe the tea’s out of date.”

“I think I preferred you when you didn’t answer back,” James said, rolling his eyes and reaching out for my cup, “well, you’re going to die,” James said, placing it back down on the table, “I’ll get peeves to write an elegy for me to read at your funeral.”

“Thank you.”

“Okay, so, I was joking, You’re not –“

“What’s this?” Trelawney asked, swooping down on the table and picking up my emptied teacup. For a second she was frozen, then Trelawney took in a great shuddering gasp, dropped the tea cup and sank back onto her chair looking horrified. “My dear!” She declared, a hand hovering over her chest as she blinked at me. “Oh, my dear! You are… you are in great danger! The vulture,” she continued, “someone, waiting, circling overhead – searching for you…”

“Huh, my prediction was right then.” James said sardonically, bending down to pick up the broken pieces of china from the floor.

“No!” Trelawney half yelled. “You mustn’t touch them!” She turned back to me, her wide eyes blinking rapidly. “It is no accident you have been brought here today,” she said, pulling her chair forwards slightly, “you were drawn here. You will agree, dear, it is better to know that a great threat lurks overhead.”

I blinked straight back at her.

It seemed she’d been waiting for me to tear my heart out of my chest, or throw my body around in wracks of woe, because my stillness jerked her out of her madness and she immediately returned to her position in the corner of the room, occasionally muttering about how I was doomed.

“Need a cup of tea?” James suggested lightly, nodding towards the teapot with a hopeful smile. “Don’t worry about that,” James said, “she’s always predicting doom and damnation. My Dad says he predicted his death and doom every other lesson, nothing to worry about.”

“Yes, James,” I countered, “and your Dad was repeatedly nearly killed by Lord Voldemort who wanted to kill him; you can hardly say it was inaccurate.”

James looked slightly uncomfortable.

“He’s still alive.”

“He did die!”

“Yeah, but,” James said, “he’s fine.”

“An official government document says I’m in mortal danger.”

“I don’t see anyone trying to kill you.”

“They’re… circling overhead!” I spat out, then I began to realise just how ridiculous the whole thing was. James raised his eyebrows at me. I smiled slightly and shook my head, taking the cup of tea he was offering me without further comment.

“We’ve got this,” James said, determinedly, “we just need to break into Keitch’s office.”

“And the Head’s office,” I added, “and acquire a new laptop, learn Occlumency and visit all my old homes.” I sighed, taking my time drinking my tea this time and silently wondering how the hell any of this had happened. 
 



Hey everyone! I wanted to really apologise for how long it’s taken me to get to this point in the story in terms of updates. Classic case of taking on too many stories at the same time (not that I regret it, because I love all my stories) but, yeah, as an apology I think this definitely classifies as a speedy update? Yeah? So this is my speedy sorry chapter combined with a I-promise-this-story-won’t-be-left-to-rot type message. Cause it won’t. I have a plan now. I’m going to get this finished, eventually. And after all this time I’ve fallen in love with again, so there we are. Thanks for all your lovely reviews! They really make my day :D


 
 


Chapter 18: Potions.
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“The incense,” James said, walking into the room of the requirement with two cups of tea and sitting down opposite me, “it’s often used by seers: divination-cynics say that it’s a mild hallucinogenic but seers and fortune tellers it opens the inner eye – I’m not entirely sure Sinistra knows that Trelawney’s burning it in her room, though.”

“Maybe that was in the potion,” I said slowly, taking the cup of tea and frowning, “that Mum was burning. She said it was dangerous to touch – blood red. We could work out what this is, couldn’t we? I’m rubbish at potions. Are you any good?”

“Not really,” James admitted “Lily’s forte, but she’s not to be trusted... I’ve been thinking, Cassie, we need... I think we need Molly.”

“Molly?” I asked, frowning slightly. “Your cousin Molly?”

None of the Weasley extended family were particularly inconspicuous, but Molly was remarkable in her own unique way: she was, in short, a near-genius and so politically minded that everyone was already half convinced she was going to end up as Minister of Magic. Despite still being in seventh year, she’d been involved in Ministry internships since before receiving the results of her OWL and I was almost convinced that they were employing her for some reason or other, whilst she was still at Hogwarts.

“Ministry insider,” James said, frowning slightly (confirmed Ministry worker, then, James was rubbish at keeping things quiet), “she wouldn’t blab, Cas.”

“It’s not that,” I frowned, “I don’t know her. Can we just... see how things go?”

“Sure,” James agreed, “so, the plan: what’s next? Breaking into the office, more hypnosis, occlumency, new laptop, potion, divination?”

“Let’s concentrate on the potion and divination,” I sighed, “Mum told me to never to look into my future and I’m in mortal danger, so she must have made a prediction. Those books you read about amnesia... sensory reminders? If we had the potion...”

“I don’t think we should push your mind too much.” James said looking almost as if he actually cared – which was strange and bizarre and complicated all at once. Damn, he shouldn’t be such an emotional being because it was immensely distracting.

“What, because you’re scared I’m going to go crazy?” I asked pointedly. “Let’s split up: you look in potions books, I’ll look in Divination books – I should probably study a bit of Divination given apparently I’m taking it as a subject now.”

“So you’re leaving?” James asked.

“Yes.” I said pointedly.

“But,” James said, making a big deal of pouting deliberately, “I made you tea and everything.”

“Last time you made me tea, a mad woman predicted my death,” I muttered, shrugging slightly as I frowned at him, “find me if you find anything important.”

*

“Found anything, Cass?” James asked loudly – why was he always so loud? – as he met me in the middle of the corridor towards the library. I shook my head: I’d covered a fair proportion of the syllabus, but it seemed a bit like bullocks to me – all I’d really found about potions was a small paragraph about potions related to Divination and the author was very opinionated and said that only the least able of seers, usually those who were merely petty fortune tellers, had to rely on potions to induce visions. I’d found myself feeling oddly protective over my mother’s career choice and had ended up rather forcefully shoving the book back into the suitcase and catching up on my charms homework.

As far as progress, I didn’t even think I’d improved on charms let alone my knowledge of potions associated with Divination.

“Only a dislike of Divination,” I said, pulling my bag further up my shoulder and blinking, “you got anything?”

 “Yes,” he said dramatically, pulling out a flask of potion from his pocket, “did you know there’s a potion for forgetfulness?”

“No,” I said taking hold of the flask of potion and feeling it in my hands, “forgetfulness potion?”

“For mild amnesia and the absent minded. It’s a seventh year potion, apparently.”

“And you brewed this?”

“No,” James said, frowning slightly as he cricked his neck, “I walked into Hogsmeade and got it from my Uncle’s shop. The shop assistance fancies me. Maybe she could be my rebound?”

“Enough about your pathetic love life, James – what does the potion do?”

“What do you think?” James deadpanned. “I told her I’d gotten really drunk and couldn’t remember whether or not I’d made out with my ex.”

“Did you?”

“Since your drinking this, I guess we’ll never find out,” James grinned, and I wasn’t entirely sure whether or not he was joking, “either way, it’s perfectly legit – they actually sell it a long side hangover cures. You just need to drink it and within the hour you’ll have better access to your memories.”

“I thought we weren’t going to mess with my mind?” I asked, frowning slightly as I turned the bottle over in my hands, “might this be dangerous?”

“Also got you some anaesthetic potion but, saying that, it’s pretty weak as it’s only designed for you to remember the night before but, well, I thought it was worth a try?”

“Okay, yeah thanks…” I said, frowning slightly, “you went all the way to Hogsmeade?”

“I had to go anyway,” James said, falling into step with me, “we’re having a bit of family party in the kitchens tonight and Freddie insisted I brought him half a litre of Fire Whiskey. Thing is, Lucy will dare him to drink it and he will and then Molly will have to clear up the mess and frankly, it’s going to be ridiculous  and Lily is going to write home about it, buzz kill, and it’s going to be utterly messy.”

“Right,” I said, frowning slightly, “sounds… messy.”

“Exactly, Cassie. Anyway, I thought I’d drop this off with you because I really have to talk to Albus about this thing later… and you can tell me tomorrow how it goes. At some point. So, Cassandra Second Name, see you later.” James said, offering me a faux-salute before heading off down the corridor.

“Wait,” I said calling after him, “what if it hurts like last time?”

“Do what you did last time!” James said, turning around and waving at me before disappearing completely.

I don’t know why it felt so wrong to have James disappearing for his next big adventure, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all. And I didn’t like the fact that I still didn’t know what the hell was going on in James’s head, because he was a huge enigma and he didn’t make sense and why the hell was he pretending?

I stopped on my way back to the common room at the toilets and downed the potion, pushed myself up onto the counter so I was sat next to the sink and pressed my hands to my forehead, preparing myself for the onslaught of the pain.

The potion tasted like cinnamon and it made me feel dizzy. Everything that had happened in the past week seemed to become more focused and obvious somehow: I could remember small insignificant moments like stopping in the corridor to tie my shoelaces, noticing the strange concoctions of emotions that surrounded James and the way Leanne had gotten all flirty and silly about Jared Carter. I was strangely aware of all the dreams I’d had, which I’d previously forgotten, but when I tried to think back to remembering those things with James – about my parents – but I couldn’t remember anything more than I had the first time.

I tried to think back further but it only seemed to work up until last week, beyond that all the memories felt the same.

“Cassie?” Someone asked and I jerked out of my thoughts to find faced with a third year Hufflepuff. “Are you okay, Cassie?”

“Yeah,” I said, jerking myself out of my thoughts and pulling myself back into reality – I felt slightly drunk. Worse, even, I felt slightly drugged. It was a bizarre sensation. It was horrible. I didn’t have control, “just… feel a bit sick.”

“I’ll walk you back to the common room,” The girl said with a bracing smile, “get an early night and tomorrow if you still feel sick go to the hospital wing.”

“Yeah, thanks.” I muttered, pushing myself off the sink and taking a deep breath. Sometimes, just sometimes, Hufflepuffs were too damn nice.

Still, something about the thought of an early night was immensely appealing.

*

Blood red potion burning. A mother, a father and a daughter. Light conversation. I’d seen this before, this memory, with the cloudy mist of having something changed and altered and messed about with.

The same conversation. The same as before. The same fog. The same distorted words.

“Cassandra…never look into your future.”

Except there was one change: my mother had used a knife to chop up some strange purple vegetable before adding it to the potion with that pungent smell the seemed to fill up the room; suffocating.

The last time I’d been in this memory the knife had disappeared.

And now it remained on the table, glistening with blood red potion.

And it was the knife that made me scream.

*

I needed to tell James about the dream before it slipped away. I could have written it down, but that prospect didn’t seem to register until I’d pulled on my robes and was slipping out of my bedroom and into the common room, the corridor and heading towards the kitchens. He’d told me that’s where he’d be tonight and I could sense the presence of a lot more people in the kitchen than was usual (it averaged out at about one person there every other day), which fit in with the story of his family reunion or whatever it was.

How typically Potter-esque.

The dream seemed to have killed my ability to feel self-conscious and even my ability to blush and it was in a trance-like state that I found myself walking towards to the Kitchens, shaking slightly, as I tickled the pear and pushed open the door.

The sea of red heads and the general assortment of Weasley’s and Potters and the like turned to face me, then there was quite a few raised eyebrows and Rose Weasley turned to James with a pointed smile. James frowned, looking suitably embarrassed by my appearance, stepped over to my direction and frowned at me.

“What do you want, Cassie? We’re sort of in the middle of something here, Fred was just about to get out the Fire Whiskey –“

“I had a dream.”

James was slightly irritated and annoyed by my appearance, which grated on me slightly: considering we’d been getting on fairly well recently it was a bit insulting just to be dropped as soon as the quest wasn’t at the forefront of his mind. Admittedly, that was exactly what I wanted but still, to be confronted with the truth about the person I’d been spending the majority of my time with this late at night (or early, depending on how you looked at it) was as unsettling as the dream itself.

“Great, Cassie. You know I don’t really care about your dreams, yeah?”

“Because of the forgetfulness potion,” I said pointedly, “it was the memory from before, but things were different –“

“ – what?” James asked, grabbing my shoulders and looking at me seriously.

“There was a knife,” I muttered, “a potions knife… it disappeared before.”

“A knife?” James asked and he appeared to understand a little of how vastly important a knife was to things. A knife changed everything. A knife that had been removed made the whole story twist. Mortal danger.

“Covered in the potion.” I said and suddenly I wanted to cry. My head was beginning to hurt all over again, I was shaken by the memory of screaming, not getting enough sleep, the fact that something horrible as lurking just beyond me grasp. I almost wanted to take James up on his previous offer of a hug. The potion had been blood red, what if -

“James Potter,” A voice rang out from the doorway, full of authority and irritation, “I am going to murder you.”

“You’re late, Molly.” Roxanne put in.

“James’s shitty ex-mate has turned us in, he fucking followed you James!” Molly looked impressive and terrifying in the doorway. She let out a single exasperated sigh and then said. “Run.”

“Time to bloody well scatter!” Fred Weasley declared, grabbing the invisibility cloak and disappearing under it with Dom and Lucy. Lily ran to the doorway and there was a sudden crush towards the portrait hall, with people spilling towards the door half of the visible and half of them invisible and Molly Weasley out front hissing instructions at them.

James swore.

“TOO LATE!” Louis yelled on the other side of the door. “SAVE YOURSLEF! LONGBOTTOM HAS COME TO ARREST ME!”

“Are all your family this bloody dramatic?” I asked, grabbing hold of James’s wrist and pulling him towards the other secret passage.

“What the hell are you doing?” James hissed, trying to pull his wrist out of my grasp. I don’t think I’d ever voluntarily touched him before.

“Trust me.”

“I don’t,” James said (although I didn’t have to sense emotions to know that was a lie: if he didn’t trust me a little bit then he should be running in the direction of the door as fast as possible), towards the little portrait so unassuming that normally no one usually noticed it was there.

I poked the pineapple and the portrait clicked open, wrenching it open before tumbling inside.

 

“God’s sake,” I muttered, “James, don’t just stand there: get in here.”

“What the hell is this?” James asked as he climbed into the small space behind the portrait and I slammed the door behind us. “Is this another secret passage? This isn’t on the map.” I decided not to answer that. “Thanks for saving my life, I suppose?” James said, ducking slightly and peering down the passage.

“You were only going to get a detention.” I said quietly, slumping down the side of the wall.

“Couldn’t you have found a bigger secret passage for us to hide in?” James asked quietly. I refused to answer that. “Where does this lead to anyway?”

“To my bedroom.” I said, blushing in the dark. It didn’t look like much like James could see in this level of darkness, though, so it wasn’t an issue.

“Excellent. Let’s go there.”

“I have dorm mates.”

“Say you’re brining me back for the night.” James grinned, nudging me slightly.

There were a long few moments of silence when I became more accustomed to the dark of the passage, meaning that James’s details came more clearly into view – not that sight made much difference, considering I could feel his presence much more acutely than I could see it.

“Sorry about earlier.”  James said.

“Forget it.” I muttered, shrugging my shoulders deliberately and closing my eyes. I opened them again quickly, because I didn’t much once to sense James’s emotions.

“No I shouldn’t have been mean.”

“Whatever.”

“I know it’s stupid, but my family are the only people who are really talking to me at the moment and I didn’t want them to think badly of me.” That stung a little; that the idea of me talking to James in front of his family was so damaging to his reputation that he would refused to do it.

It was probably best if he didn’t talk.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” James said hastily, meaning some form of reaction must have shown on my face. Considering James considered me unflappable, I really wanted it to be just a lucky guess about my emotions rather than James actually being able to read my face – maybe something about being stuck inside a much-too-small secret passage with someone suddenly mean that you were practically cellophane. I couldn’t afford to have James look right through me. “Look, Cassie,” James said, his eyes wide and much too close to my face, “I just meant I think… I don’t know, I just don’t –   ”

“You have your little persona. It’s okay, James, I get it.”

“No you don’t,” James said, frowning slightly, “why would you get it?”

“I can sense your emotions, James, you perpetuate your little image rather than say and think what you really feel. There is so much disparity between your face and feelings it’s… disconcerting.”

“So what are you saying?” James asked curiously.

“Nothing. I wasn’t saying… I was just, talking.”

“You’re much more confident in the dark, too.” James said. I blushed at that. By the way his lips tilted upwards slightly it seemed like he could see my face. “And you were saying something.”

“Fine, you’re fictional.”

“Fictional?”

“Yeah,” I said, looking away from and hearing his breathing magnified by the silence and the tiny space we inhabited, “you made yourself up: you act like an ass because that’s safer.”

“So you’ve got me all worked out?”

“Not completely.”

“Keep trying, then,” James grinned, “good to know I’m on your mind, Cassie. What am I feeling right now?”

“Tired?” I suggested, closing my eyes and leaning towards the portrait hole to sense out who was there. “He’s keeping guard, still.”

“Good,” James said, “let’s talk Cassie.” I stayed silent at that. “Because if I’m fictional then at least we have something in common,” Again, I didn’t talk, it was easier – James was slightly angry about me mentally dissecting him given I had such an advantage. “Because, Cassandra questionable surname, you don’t let anyone close to you.”

“Neither do you.” I countered, feeling my face heating up to absurd degrees as I sat there.

“Well then,” James said, “we make an excellent couple.”

I looked to the side again and let my head rest against the stone wall of the passageway, away from James. “Why are you helping me, James? I want a real reason.”

“Killing you, is it?” James grinned, nudging me with his shoulder again and nagging me for attention. “Unfinished puzzle. God, Cassie, I don’t know how you lived with your mind being a gigantic jigsaw with pieces missing for most of your life, given you can’t even resist  not knowing all my reasoning for like… a few weeks. When did you get interested?”

“James,” I said, “it doesn’t matter if you don’t want to tell me.”

“This is why you’d be a rubbish detective – no commitment to the cause. Come on, Cass. Dig it out of me. Don’t try seduction though, it just pisses people off.”

“This is a rubbish idea.”

“Well, we’re delving into your past and your memories,” James said, “it’s only fair that everything is reciprocal.”

“Colleagues.” I muttered.

“Okay,” James said, taking an exaggerated deep breath, “it’s all because of this stupid conversation with my parents. You know I was grounded for punching Ryan, the tosser, but I got a good telling off and my Dad said some stuff that really hit home.”

“You don’t have to tell me,” I said stiffly, “I don’t want to know.”

“Anyway, Dad said that I’m a lot like my granddad – James Potter the first. He says that a lot, actually. It won’t mean anything to you but he was an utter legend – him, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin were best friends: pranksters, heart throbs, Marauders. Like I said, legends, so I always thought this was a great compliment.”

“James.” I said, wanting him to shut up – this was definitely breaking all the damn rules.

“Then Dad starts telling me about how when I was about my age he had to come to terms with the fact that his Dad used to be a bit of a shit, actually. About how he always stepped over the line and bullied and humiliated people, but that then there’d been a war so he’d sobered up, grown up a bit, became Head Boy, got married to the girl he always wanted and had a kid. Course, then the whole happy families situation got utterly ruined by Voldemort killing both of them. But,” James paused for a moment and clenched his fists slightly, “Dad basically said he’s scared because there’s no war anymore and that he didn’t want to have to come to the conclusion that his own son was a bit of a shit – not in those words, obviously, but…” James trailed off and the silence suddenly felt very very loud. “He said that he knows I’ve got a good heart and that I don’t have bad intentions but that he doesn’t want it to have to get to a middle life crisis before I stop arsing around.”

“So this is your war?” I asked quietly.

“Yeah,” James said, “this is my war. Mum piped up and started talking about Dad saving the world, as if I’m not acutely aware of that: but that’s just it, Cassie, all this stuff – this teen drama and rubbish – I hate all of it. Well, no, hate’s a strong word but it’s dull and it doesn’t matter. I know that. I know Natasha wasn’t my soul mate, or anything, but in my life there is nothing to fight for and there’s no way for me to, I don’t know, prove myself.”

“You don’t have to become a quester to change public perception of you,” I said, hunching my shoulders forwards to protect myself from him, “you could just stop acting.”

“I will if you will,” James said pointedly, “I want Sassy Cassie as a permanent fixture.”

“I can’t.”

“Don’t know how?” James suggested, without the usual air of drama that hung around his words like a bad smell – he sounded a bit deflated, actually, as though something he’d really been looking forward to had failed to meet his expectations and now he was left with that hollow disappointment. “Why don’t you let anyone close to you, Cass? I’ve been talking to your best friend and she does not suit you. Entirely too sane.”

“Why should I?” I asked, scrunching up my fists and pressing them into my legs.

“Mum walked out, Dad barely talks to you, best friend hardly cares, picked on at school – okay, no, I can see your point.”

“What about you?” I asked, but the question felt slightly hollow on my lips. Wrong. I wasn’t sure why we were doing this, but it seemed like it was almost a little too late to take any of the words back. They were out there now. I knew. I was in the knowledge. I very nearly understood James Potter and, it seemed, he’d been more observant about my life than I’d cared to realise – very much not a good thing.

“Just meeting expectations.” James said.

The silence rung around the passage way for a few more long minutes, with just the sound of our breathing filling in the empty space.

“Your motives are much more savoury than I expected.” I admitted when the silence got too much (which was wrong on all levels; I revelled in silence and James crumbled, that’s the way it was supposed to be).

“Well then,” James said, “you shouldn’t have such low expectations.”

“You shouldn’t perpetuate them.”

“Sassy Cassie,” James grinned, “so, Cassie, you’ve saved me from detention and got me to talk about all my emotional baggage – right knight in shining armour, you, but I suppose… well, Cassandra,” James said deliberately, raising his eyebrows in a way which invited me to be excited and wait with anticipation for the end of his sentence, “can I be your partner in questing?”

“Sure.” I muttered with an eye roll, folding my arms over my chest and wondering how much of James’s continual need to be dramatic was real and how much was an embellishment of that persona of his.

“You’re wrong about one thing though,” James said conversationally, “you implied that I’m actually not an ass – which you of all people should know is definitely bullocks. I’m a complete prat.”

That I could entirely believe.

 




 
You know how at the end of the last chapter I was really excited about having got a plan all sorted? When throwing out all my school notes (because I have now finished school for eevverrr) my Mum took it out the notebook it was in and threw it away. I have been very very upset about this, ahha, but... you know. I'll make it through somehow. Curiosity month is over but I've definitely fallen in love with this story again so don't be afeared when it comes to updates! Also, nearly at 300 reviews! I bet you all want to be the one who leaves that 300th review? right? ;)

Thanks for reading and sticking with me here!


 
 


Chapter 19: Worries.
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“Hi Dad,” I said, hunched over in the secret passage just off the kitchens– the same one where I’d been stuck with James in a confined space for practically the whole night – “how’s it going?”

I was suddenly feeling very unsure about absolutely everything.

The longer I spent with a person the more I became used to how they sensed – their aura, I supposed – and having spent such a long time with James now I could easily pick him out of a crowd and know that he was there without looking (just concentrating a little, more so in Hogwarts where there were traces of everyone everywhere). I hadn’t ever experienced James when he was relaxed or honest, though, and given we’d been stuck in the expanse of corridor until the Prefect had stopped pacing outside the kitchen waiting for others to return or emerge from more creative hiding places, it hadn’t taken long for James to fall asleep.

It was horribly depressing that the only time James let his guard down was when he was unconscious, for one, but it was plain disturbing to be faced with the reality of all that was James Potter. People were different when they had all their barriers down, sure, but I didn’t want to know what lay below the bravado and the layers of attitude designed for public viewing. I didn’t want anyone to know about my daemons and worries and concerns; that I hated my Dad abandoning me, the overwhelming wave of insecurities based from this new knowledge that my life was a lie and that it bothered me that I was James’s pet project and he thought this would prove himself worthy of whatever it was.

I felt like I’d invaded James’s autonomy and I couldn’t even mention it to him without either blushing like an idiot or coming across as one of those crazy internet stalkers.

He had, half way through the night, dropped his head onto my shoulder.

“I’m all right, Cass,” Dad said. It was stupid that, given my Dad was the founder of the entire wizarding technological advances in the modern era he was so utterly unreliable at actually using them; our phone calls were sporadic at best and he never shook off that wizarding way of talking too loud.  The connection at Hogwarts wasn’t particularly good thanks to too many phones trying to connect and send pointless messages (and calls to home, too, I supposed), and especially worse because the place was unplottable and, more so, a secret passage... our brief moments of communication definitely didn't line up to his vision.  “How’s school?”

“Not… as dull as normal.” I said, thinking of this business about occlumency, potentially breaking into a teacher’s office and the weight of James’s head on my shoulder.

“How’s Leanne?”

“Feel like I’ve hardly seen her,” I admitted, “how’s work? How are the new TVs?”

“They’re great,” Dad said, and I could nearly hear him smiling, “one day all these ideas are going to be accredited to you properly.”

“Planning on outing your fatherhood?” I asked, feeling slightly shaken as I pressed my head against the wall behind me. “I thought that would compromise my safety.”

“You’re getting old, Cass,” Dad said, “you’re all grown up.”

I didn’t feel very grown up. I felt like I was still stuck in the same skin as I had been when I was just a kid, before my mother had suddenly disappeared leaving nothing but a strange trace of a memory and a whiff of some companionship that I was still missing.

“Oh,” Dad said, and there was a sudden rush of static, “Cas, there’s a drama going on in advertisement, I’ve got to – ”

“ – Dad, I need a new laptop,” I said, suddenly, “one of my dorm mates spilt a hair removal potion on mine, and now the keyboard’s all stuck and really I don’t – ”

“- I’ll send one.” Dad said, quickly, and then all lines of communication of me and my father were cut and I was reacquainted, once more, with the dull hum of the dial tone. I always felt flat after my Dad rushed away from conversations, as though he was trying to escape me somehow; now my mind raced to far off conclusions of guilt and malice, but the worry had always been there. The neglected feeling that reared up its ugly head ever so often.

James was worried about something. James was really worried about something concerning me which seemed to stretch beyond the scope of being colleagues, or being worried about some far off ambiguous mortal danger that neither of us were really sure of. Something had happened in the past few days that had made James really scared. There was guilt – presumably about the  Cassie’s crazy mantra that had plagued my pre-teen years – and then there was a dash of protectiveness that had taken me by surprise.

I didn’t trust James. I really didn’t want to trust James, but the more I found out about him the more it seemed his intentions were better than he let on. He wasn’t, as I would like to believe, a bad person. And the irritation that had flared up when he first stuck his nose into my business was beginning to deflate somewhat: he could have told the whole world about my Dad, he could have laughed in my face and wished me luck with dealing with my problems, he could completely ignore me at Hogwarts. 

You shouldn’t have such low expectations.

The problem with the corridor was this: it reeked of the memories from the previous night, where I’d stayed awake for hours listening to James’s breathing, his head falling onto my shoulder, sensing everything unguarded that there was to James Potter in the midst of an uncharacteristic burst of insomnia.  The longer I sat in the combined space trying to collect my thoughts about what had happened, the more I became sure of how to define the feeling that hung around the place – it might almost have been a happy memory, or one of comfort, or one of embarrassment, but I couldn’t pinpoint which it was or quite work out which emotions belonged to who.

And I really didn’t appreciate the lack of clarity.

*

“Cassie!” James said, beckoning me over as I entered the classroom in the North Tower, as if I was about to spontaneously start sitting with Tabatha and Lorna simply because we’d been stuck in a confined space together for the majority of the night. “Someone’s selling an A prototype WCT 400X!”

“Yes,” I said, sitting down on the poof next to him, “that would be me.”

“Excellent!” James said, “Can I buy it? Reduced rate since I’m your friend.”

“Colleague.”

“Staff discount, then,” James said, with two cups of tea all ready and waiting for me to arrive. I suspected that James actually really really liked divination, although why I had yet to pinpoint. Probably the love of the overdramatic and the ridiculous.

“James,” I sighed, “this is the laptop fund, I’ll sell it to the highest bidder.”

“Can I buy it?”

“Only,” I said, glancing at Tabatha nervously to check she wasn’t listening, “if you act as my go between. I can’t admit all this stuff is mine. And if you pay me a reasonable amount.”

“I’ll sell my phone,” James said, “add it to the list, don’t need to. So have you got a new laptop then?” James asked, glancing at the list. Of course James would have noticed the fact that my model of laptop had graced the list, given he was such a WCT fanatic.

“I told my Dad mine had been ruined,” I said, picking up my tea gingerly. I preferred tea from a tea bag, as opposed to leaves, for the large part – not least because there was no chance someone else would predict my death at the end of it.

“Good thinking,” James said, stretching out his legs onto one of the other poofs, “I’m glad you haven’t turned into a walking blush.” I sent him a questioning look. “Well, Cass,” James grinned, clapping a hand on my shoulder (which meant he’d voluntarily touched me at least three times, and they could all be chalked up to a desire to create dramatic effect – bloody idiot), “given how mentioning the S word  - you know, the one that starts with s and rhymes with spandex – turns you into a rather skinny and somewhat attractive tomato, I suspected that you falling asleep on me in that corridor might make you feel a bit awkward.”

I stared at him for a long few moments. He was not pinning this on me.

Although I was, of course, now blushing spectacularly.

“You fell asleep on me,” I said, as firmly as I could manage with the little concentration left after trying really hard not to blush.

“I could light a match of your face,” James grinned, “you little liar.” I frowned at him and took another sip of my tea. “So,” James said, “we’re focusing on the laptop fund?” I stayed silent. “I reckon we might have shifted the rest of this stuff by the end of the week. People will snatch it up.”

I flicked through my new Divination book whilst using my silent weapon of choice against James.

“Oh, come on Cassie,” James pouted, “talk to me.” I blinked and finished the last dregs of too strong tea. “We had a lovely conversation last night.”

I turned to glare at him.

“Fine,” James said, rolling his eyes overdramatically, “I’m sorry.  Now can I please see whether your tea leaves spell out ‘CASSIE WILL MURDER YOU’ so we can all move on from the messy business?” We both glanced at my cup of tea in unison, and I was slightly surprised to find the outline of a rather fuzzy but quite distinct skull. “Well,” James said, obviously trying not to smile, “that’s just unlucky.”

I shook my head and then we were both laughing, and it was weird and all too soon after being all too close to James all night. But we were laughing.

“We need to try the hypnosis again,” I said, once I’d recovered and shattered the skull’s head with my spoon before Trelawney could swoop down and try to convince me that a skull was a good thing to find in your tea, “and I think we should borrow some of Trelawney’s incense for it.”

“Fairly sure it’s a class C non-tradable substance,” James said, glancing over at where Trelawney was fluffing up her hair in her crystal ball.

“The great James Potter scared of breaking the rules?”

“It’s a mild hallucinogenic.”

Mild.”

“I can do without your sass, Cas,” James said, pointedly, “I will quest with you, but I will not fall into the depths of drug addiction.”

“It’s incense,” I said, “James, you said only Divination Cynics say it’s a mild hallucinogenic, and my Mum used it in front of a nine year old.”

“Your Mum also disappeared without a trace and probably agreed to your memories being changed.”

I found my face heating up, not with embarrassment, but a sticky sort of anger that rose to the back of my throat and made me want to cry. That was not okay. In fact, that was distinctly not okay to the point where I was sure it was one of the worst things that James had done.

“Look,” James said, closing his eyes for a second, “I just don’t think it’s a good idea.”

There was a flash of that worry again, but it was too mixed in with other things to pinpoint the actual source. James had a real reason against this and, as much as I would like to believe it was concern about getting into trouble… considering we were planning several school-wide break ins and had hacked into the Ministry of Magic’s computer system I really doubted it was out of fear of getting a detention.

“Professor,” I said, slipping out of my seat and taking a few steps towards her. She immediately stopped staring at her rather alarming reflection and turned to me, misty eyed and severely wrinkled, “I’m working on a…erm, project,” I said, “about dreams and your incense really helps my concentration, would you be able to tell me where to buy some?”

Trelawney began on a slightly insane and worrying rant about how she could feel the power of the inner eye radiating from my very core before shoving a handful of bright bronze leaves and an incense burner in my direction.

Behind me, James had pressed his thumb into his forehead and was staring at his tea cup with a dejected expression that seemed to imply a lot more than not getting his way.

“Sorry about saying that stuff about your Mum,” James said, when the bell went a few minutes later,  “s’laters, crazy lady.” And then he’d disappeared down the ladder without me, leaving to stuff the incense into my bag and clean up the teacups alone.

*

There was something wrong with James.

Last time I’d thought that he was acting out of character it turned out he’d been half attempting to seduce me to weed out my secrets, so I wasn’t about to ignore my instincts on this one. Particularly when my instincts were almost entirely based upon my sense – which to me were the most reliable perceptions I had about the world – and I knew a lot more about James than he probably wanted me to know.

So, James was worried about something. Thus, in the privacy of my own dormitory I was cataloguing all the different ways that James had been acting out of character throughout the past few days and weeks, trying to work out the exact incident where the worry might have stemmed from. After the hypnosis. Definitely after then.

“Cassie,” Leanne said, pulling back my curtain and glancing down at me.

Leanne had inherited more than her fair share of pretty genes – like her twin brother Luke - and was only not one of the popular crowd because she tried a little too hard and was more than a little liable to make a fool of herself. She did a lot better in foreign countries when she didn’t have the residue of the adolescence years (and me, Crazy Cassie, as a best friend) hanging over her head, and therefore usually filled up on self-confidence boosts from near strangers on exotic holidays in Florida or Barbados or the canary islands.

In fairness, that was precisely the same as what I had a tendency to do, only mine chalked up to being rich rather than being pretty.

“Why are you selling all your old stuff?”

“What?” I asked, glancing up at her and shutting my laptop with a firm click, lest she glance over at the screen and read the title ‘James Potter’s strange behaviour’ and take this as confirmed behaviour that he was in love with me, because – according to Leanne – that was the motivation for any male’s strange actions.

“The notices up in the common room. I know it’s your stuff.”

“Clear out,” I shrugged, not looking at her. I didn’t like lying to Leanne, given she was one of the few people I actually called a friend. Even then, she was a social butterfly compared to isolated little me. .We were used to each other not seeing each other all the time, just admittedly more often than we had lately.

“Could have given it to me,” Leanne sighed, lying down on her bed and glancing up at her ceiling, “are you and James dating or what?”

“No,” I returned, glancing at her.

I missed Leanne. Unlike James, Leanne was as straight as they came: uncomplicated and simple, I could read her motivations and loyalties like a book, and it was both refreshing and easy to know. The best thing about Leanne is that I could have easily seen through her even if didn’t have the ability to sense other’s emotions, because she was every bit the typical teen teenager that she might as well be a walking stereotype. “It’s just… he feels bad,” I sighed, “about the Crazy Cassie thing, given that what started it all was true.”

“And since Ryan has been trying to destroy his world.”

“Yeah,” I said, thinking of the overly vulnerable expression on James’s face as he turned to talking about his sudden lack of friendships or social relationships, “he was debating you as a potential rebound.”

“Tell him I’m open to suggestions,” Leanne said, “although I have a date with Greg Holland this weekend.”

“Really?” I asked, turning over to look at her properly feeling oddly out of the loop.

“I said this year was going to be good,” she said, smiling self-consciously, “you will tell me if anything’s up, won’t you Cass? With your Dad and that? I know James knows now, but I really don’t think you should trust him with stuff.”

“Wasn’t planning on doing so,” I said, blushing slightly, because it was true – I’d never planned for James to be involved in my life in such a way. He’d essentially walked straight into my problems by eavesdropping and deciding that I was the project that would prove him worthy of his parent’s blood. It hadn’t been a plan.

“Yeah,” Leanne said, “good.” She always did like knowing everyone’s secrets. She liked holding all the cards. I guessed it was probably something to do with a somewhat competitive relationship with her brother, but I couldn’t deduce more than that. “Just been to the library,” Leanne continued, “finishing that charms essay, but it’s –“

My brain stuck for a few minutes. As far back as I could trace it, that was the first time I’d thought James’s behaviour to be slightly off. The James that I knew would not just be in a library, and I would have understood it if he’d nodded at the map and claimed that he was stalking me, but he hadn’t; James had said that he was returning a book.

I knew it was barely even an instance of something unusual, but suddenly I was immensely curious about the whole thing. The more I thought about it the more I seemed to convince myself that those few moments before we’d met in the library were the origin of James’s sudden and unexpected genuine worry about me.

Admittedly, since then he’d pressured me into taking Divination and then forgetfulness potion, and then got stuck in a small secret passageway with me… but, it all been underpinned by an odd sort of hysteria that I was sure I wasn’t completely making up.

“-the Library?” I asked, suddenly, glancing up at Leanne feeling almost certain as if I must have seemed utterly crazy. “I need to go to the library.”

“It’s going to close in half an hour,” Leanne said, her eyebrows furrowing in confusion, “what’s going on with you, Cassie?”

“Just need to get a book.” I said, dropping my laptop onto my bed and pulling on my jacket, “and I’m fine,” I said, feeling a stab of something like worry start up in my gut. I didn’t want Leanne finding out about this, and Leanne could be every  bit as curious as James – if she was suddenly suspicious and searching for my laptops or my past library loans then, “I’d forgotten about the charms essay.”

“Right,” Leanne said, “well, you’ve been acting a bit weird this term.” Leanne said, finally, before shrugging her shoulders and offering me a distracted wave as I rushed out the dormitory.

It was probably pushing it a bit, but given how little time James spent in the library and how acutely aware of his presence and memory I was after a night with his head rested against my shoulder, I thought it might just be possible for me to trace which book he’d been returning of the library.

I closed my eyes between two shelves of History of Magic textbooks (where I thought it was least likely that anyone would see me) and tried to concentrate on James, as if to sense out the traces of here he’d been and what he’d done – he’d crossed the library to pause at my table, from… that shelf. There.

I wasn’t talented enough to pick out the exact book and was only just about sure that I knew where he’d been and wasn’t fabricating some elaborate fiction to pacify my own curiosity. It was like that first thread of magic that had pulled me towards the Potter’s home; a jolt of something familiar, pulling me forwards.

It was a section that specialised in healing, in particular spell damage, and I pulled a few books out at random and glanced down the list of last loans before shoving them back into the shelf. Magic and the Brain: Memory. I paused, running a finger up the spine before easing it out of the shelf and flipping it open. James Potter.

There. I’d been overeating or overreaching the extend of what I could do – we’d agreed to do extra research, and his collection of muggle books about memory loss and amnesia had shown that James wasn’t opposed to wider reading when it was something he was interested in. If James really was more worried than he had been previously (which I was now beginning to expect was just another figment of my imagination), it most likely predated the reading of this book.

I sighed irritably but, realising Leanne would question my sanity further if I came back without a book, and decided to check it out anyway.

Need to go to Hogsmeade to acquire new laptop on Saturday. I texted James as I was waiting in line to have my library book stamped, shoulders slumped and cheeks burning from the embarrassment of believing my sensory scope reached quite that far.

Is that a two person job? James replied, after I’d exited the library again. Only I had plans to rebound on your best friend that day.

I decided not to answer that given time had repeatedly proven silence was the best way to deal with James Potter – if only the feeling was reciprocated. 

There was nothing quite as irritating as unrequited silence. 





Thank Wisty for the update! She nagged me (and bribed me). Merry Christmas Curioisty fans, and hopefuly this semi-filler will suffice until the next chapter (which will not be a filler, trust me on that one). Reviews are lovely, but thank you very very much for reading! :D


Chapter 20: Heist.
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“Cassie,” Leanne said, turning to face me with her lipstick held adrift, “are you aware of how illogical this sounds?”

“He’s… he’s a WCT fan,” I muttered, glancing down at my nails and biting my lip, “he was helping me sell my stuff.”

On hearing that I was going to Hogsmeade with James today Leanne had halted in her look-especially-pretty for date with Greg Holland mission to grill me about mynon-date. Without explaining that we were colleagues on a quest to find out why I was in mortal danger there wasn’t much I could say to convince her, and although I wasn’t entirely opposed to telling Leanne everything I – bizarrely – felt like I had to clear it with James first.

“So it’s a pity date?” Leanne said, turning back to the mirror and continuing the business of applying her lipstick. I could feel my face flushing slightly which wasn’t actually helping my cause, but I’d long since accepted that it was inevitable.

“It’s not a date.

“Good,” Leanne said, hand on hip as she turned back towards me, “because I don’t care whether or not he’s being helpful or feels bad about calling you crazy, he’s still not exactly counteracted his sins against you yet.”

“Sorry?” I asked, reaching for the sealed box (courtesy of WWW and James – apparently if anyone but me tried to remove the money from the box it’d punch them in the face) that I’d shoved under my bed last night.

“If this was chick lit,” Leanne said, “and you were getting all mushy about someone who used to tease you I’d stop reading.”

“Leanne,” I said, dropping the box into my bag and raising my eyebrows at her, “you’re not making a great deal of sense.”

“He was horrible for years,” Leanne shrugged, “if you date him now, you’d be sending a message out to bullied girls everywhere that it’s okay if someone is a complete tosser to you, providing they have pretty eyes, nice abs and said sorry once.”

“Well, it’s not a date,” I said, my face still burning slightly, “and I really don’t think girls everywhere will be looking to me for dating advice, so it’s a moot point. Where’s my phone?”

“Oh,” Leanne said, turning around and looking vaguely sheepish as she pulled it out her pocket, “yours has better connection than mine does? Oh, look, James has text you,” Leanne said, “he says ‘hope you’re looking forward to our hot date.”

“You’re not joking, are you?” I asked feebly, my face burning. “And you probably won’t believe me when I say he’s being sarcastic, will you?”

“Not on your life, Cass,” Leanne said, handing over the phone with her eyebrows raised. Well, my life wasn’t as secure as previously thought so that probably didn’t mean all that much.

“It’s not… Leanne, just trust me on this one, will you? Look, see – text James potter, it’s not a date. Sent. Done.”

“Hmm,” Leanne said, turning back to the mirror and setting about inspecting her face to ensure that she looked acceptable. She looked nice, as per.

“Leanne,” I muttered, “I’m not even wearing makeup.”

“Oh fine,” Leanne said, waving this away, “it’s not a date, you’re barely friends, blah blah. Either way you’re about to be late, so hurry up and take your mysterious money box with you.”

“You look nice,” I said, finally, before shifting the weight of the bag on my shoulder and disappearing out of the dormitory feeling sufficiently unsettled. 

 *

“I think we should break into Professor Keitch’s office tonight,” James said, moments after emerging from the Wiz-gadget shop with the brand new laptop and an empty piggy bank, “it’s the weekend, so the teacher’s are probably at the pub... and they’re more lenient of the catch you out after curfew on the weekend.”

“Because they’re all at the pub?”

“Exactly,” James said, “we should get back and set up this laptop.”

James was near trembling with excitement over the newness of it. James’ love of technology was really the most irritating iron of the whole situation; I was almost entirely convinced that had my Dad not turned out to be his hero, James wouldn’t have cared at all. Our situations had almost reversed... his Dad was taking an interest in my ability (one that James, at the time, was convinced was fictitious) and he was taking an interest in my Dad... apparently, it was inevitable that our barely disguised jealous from both ends would make us slightly more interested in each other.

I just hadn’t expected that interest to upturn any of this.

“Cassie,” James whined, “stop thinking and start talking.”

What’s your problem with silence?”

“Did you want an answer for that?” James asked. “Or is one of those things where, if I do talk, you silently freak out? Dig and then tell me to shut up?”

I glanced over at him.

Oh God, James was bothered by how much he’d revealed when we were stuck together in that secret passageway. Admittedly, I’d been feeling shaken up and insecure ever since James had admitted that this was his war. I was his cause. Still, I hadn’t realised it had bothered the ever unflappable (except not, because he was still worried and it was still bothering me) James Potter by getting under his skin.

And he wasn’t even aware of how much of himself he’d revealed whilst casually asleep on my shoulder. It was all backwards. I didn’t want to know this much about James.

“We can set it up in a cafe,”

“Desperate to spend more time together, Cas?”

“Leanne’s been asking questions,” I said, “and it’s easier than trying to set it up in the library.”

“How much setting up is there?” James asked, “Don’t you just turn them on?”

“I’m beginning to understand why your laptop is slow,” I said, shaking my head slightly.

“Are you going to teach me things?” James asked, his excitement palpable. “Cassie, are you ever going to teach me how to hack and program and stuff?”

“I’m not teaching you how to hack.”

“Does Hogwarts keep its records online?”

“No,” I said, “Although my Dad’s negotiating a contract. He wanted to leave it until after I’d left Hogwarts, so it’s a matter of paying his legal team to keep finding holes in the contract until I’ve graduated.”

“Because of your safety?”

“I guess,” I said, “I mean, that’s what I assumed. I didn’t ask.”

“I’m sensing serious communication issues,” James said, nudging me with his arm (which was at least the forth of fifth time he’d gone for friendly physical contact – for all my talk of remaining colleagues, I didn’t think James cared as much about my boundaries as I did).

“I’m sensing its none of your business.”

“Sassy Cassie,” James grinned, “although, it sort of is. Given this is what our quest is centring around.”

“This is my life,”

“I know,” James said, “and you’re going to have to let me in either way. You might as well tell me rather than wait till I find out via hypnosis, or occlumency, or suddenly remembered repressed memory.”

“Here,” I said, turning into the cafe on our left. “No one ever comes in here.”

“Lots of lonely Hogsmeade trips?” James asked.

This was often my refuge after shopping with Leanne, or just a sudden need to get out of Hogwarts. Once, Dad’s secretary had tuned up, in his stead, to deliver me my Christmas present. It was no startling confession about motivations, but it was personal enough for his casual insults to get at me.

“You can’t jump from asking me to divulge my life and saying stuff like that,” I said, face flushing, “if you want to know maybe...”

“Maybe?” James prompted. “I’m open to suggestions.”

“Look, it doesn’t matter. We’re just... colleagues.”

“Well, in the name of our working relationship,” James said, pausing mid sentence as he glanced over at the counter, “do you want a coffee? Tea?”

“Coffee,” I said, “Cappuccino.”

“I’m seeing the rich white girl thing,” James grinned, unnecessarily brushing a hand over my head to make a point, whatever that was.

“Says you,”

“The two richest teenagers in the wizarding world walk into a coffee shop,” James said, “sounds like the beginning of a joke. I’ll go get the coffee.”

The laptop was pretty. I hadn’t managed to escape the love of technology during my childhood: Dad was always so passionate and excited about it that I threw myself into it to, which was why some of the projects became joint projects, how I ended up reviewing prototypes and giving him my opinion at every stage of every new product.... that way, it connected us together as well as driving us apart.

A love hate relationship, of course, because without the success of the phones and the music players and the laptops and the televisions, I might not have been so lonely.

“Can I take the plastic cover off?” James asked, setting down the tray so heavily the liquid sloshed over the edge of the cups. “Sorry. I’ll be careful. Please trust me with the pretty laptop, Cassandra questionable surname.”

“Yes, James,” I said, pushing the tray to one side of the table and setting the laptop between us.

“What’s your middle name?” James asked.

I stopped and looked at him.

“Meredith,” I answered, frowning slightly, “why?”

“It just makes things more dramatic,”

“Well, we certainly haven’t got enough of that,” I said, “what with my memories being fabricated, my father being a rich multimillionaire business man, yours being the saviour of the Wizarding world and us questing whilst your ex-best friend tries to ruin your life.”

“All right,” James said, grinning, “I take your point.” I blushed a shade of fuchsia that even Rita Skeeter wouldn’t have been seen wearing. “Anyway, Cas, I think it’d be beneficial to our relationship to redefine the rules.”

“Sorry?”

“I just think,” James said, reaching for his cup of tea, “that.... well, obviously this has got a lot more personal lately... and in light of that, I think we should make sure we both know that... well, Cassie, I respect you and I really would like you to trust me.”

“I don’t see that I’ve had much choice,” I said, watching him, “you’re in on this. I have to trust you or... well, I’m screwed. We hacked into the Ministry of Magic database, James, we could get arrested.

“But you don’t trust me,” James said, sounding more whiny that I’d ever heard him done previously, “I want to be able to be helpful but you... you block me out of things. And I know that’s your right but... okay. I propose a veto system.”

“A veto system?”

“You have... six vetoes.”

“Um, I’m lost.”

“Cassie, I need to know what’s going on,” James said, “I ask you questions. You have six opportunities to decline to answer.”

“I suppose this is reciprocal?”

“Of course,” James said, “although, given you can sense everything about me anyway... I doubt I’ll need to use mine.”

“James,” I said, “you’re one of the fakest people I’ve ever met.”

“In which case,” James said, “I should run out of vetoes first.”

“This isn’t a competition,” I said.

“Of course not,” James said, “but if it were, I’d win.”

“James,” I said, frowning, “I see what you’re trying to do here, and it’s not going to work.”

“Cassie,” James said, pushing my cappuccino towards me with an eyebrow raise, “I understand your questionable relationship with your father and your leftover angst from your mother’s abandonment makes it difficult for you to trust people, particularly given it turns out your whole life is a lie, but do you really want to live in the past? Okay, don’t answer that. I want to help. I can’t help if you don’t let me in on some of the facts.”

“I have lists, I’ll upload them onto the laptop.”

“That’s clinical,” James said, pouting slightly as he tapped his fingers on the keyboard. One day, James Potter was going to learn to sit still and stay silent and I genuinely wondered what it would do to him. He might implode. I might not be too bothered about that. “Cas, I know what you said... but I don’t see how that’s going to work. Just, think about it? Yeah? Personally, I’d like to redefine our relationship as friendship.”

If I were less reserved, I might have told James that I would not fabricate a friendship to make him feel better whilst we worked together, to have him leave the second the mystery was unearthed and his personal quest to prove himself was wrong. I could have said that I knew the reason he wanted a ‘friendship’ was because I knew these things about him now, and the only reason I had for not telling the world about the real James Potter was common decency and the fact that he knew all my secrets too (not that anyone believed me, because I was a well known crazy)... and that didn’t seem quite good any enough to make him feel safe.

I didn’t want to understand James. I didn’t want to be sat encrypting files on this new laptop with the idea of discovering whether or not it was my father or someone else that meant I was in mortal danger (although logic dictated it couldn’t be my father – if the Ministry knew, which they seemed to, I could be suspended in the danger permanently). I didn’t want any of this.

“Promise you’ll think about it?”

“Okay,” I answered, “the password is Dramatic for these set of files, and variations of that to access the rest of it. I’ll need to recode the laptop so I can input my memories – ”

“- input your memories?” James asked.

“Like a pensieve,” I said, “I worked on it over the last few weeks of Summer. I think with some minor adjustments I should be able to get it work... then the memory of my Mum will play back like a video. Should be able to pause it.”

“That’s amazing,” James said, for once ceasing in his tapping and turning to look at me. I felt my cheeks heat up but forced myself not to look away this time.

“So,” I said, into the blush-filled silence, “we should plan this heist.”

*

“Where’s the invisibility cloak?” I asked.

“Well,” James said, glancing up at the ceiling with his usual air of drama, “bit of a long story...”

“No,” I said, “James, please don’t tell me you haven’t got it. We’re breaking into a teacher’s office! I’m not...”

“I’ve got the map,” James said, “relax, Cass, its fine. We’re not going to get caught. Keitch’s office is one floor up from here, she’s miles away in the staff room and –”

“ – you’re nervous,” I interrupted, my skin – for once – not feeling the need to flush, “let’s leave it to another day.”

“Cassie,” James said, “stop sensing my emotions and start listening to me – ”

“ – I’d be more willing to listen if you weren’t such a fake!” I hissed back, reaching for the door handle to the Hufflepuff Common Room and readying myself for a quick escape.

“Half an hour,” James said, grabbing hold of my shoulder and calmly (except not really, because he was – in actual fact – a whole buddle of nervous energy) leading me away from the door, “welcome to the land of the rule breakers, Cassandra-Meredith, you were not expected here.”

“It’s not the time for extra drama.”

“I definitely like you better at night time,” James grinned, “you’ve got spunk. Is this was sleep deprivation does to a Cassie? If so, I might have to try keeping you up all night more often,” James took a step backwards so that the dim light from the candle brackets had a chance to reach my face, and then grinned, “that’s the best blush yet.”

“Congratulations,” I muttered, just loud enough to cause James’ grin to redouble and expand across his face. If the humour wasn’t so entirely at my expense, the expression might have been slightly more infectious – but as it was, I was tired and James had forgotten the invisibility cloak, I was about to break into a Teacher’s office in the middle of the night and didn’t much feel like having my overactive cheeks being abused for other’s amusement.

“Come on,” James said, gesturing towards the stairs and stepping into the side of the corridor that was almost entirely obscured in darkness, “trust me, Cass, I’ve got your back.”

*

“It’s locked.”

“Did you expect it to be open?” James asked, pulling his wand out and whispering, “alohamora. Right, I’ll check the map. You go find the file, read it, duplicate it, get married to it – whatever.”

“You’re definitely nervous.”

“I’m sorry I can’t control my emotions!” James hissed, “just look for the damn file.”

“I am,” I muttered back, almost silently, as I pulled open the draw of files and started riffling through them as neatly as I could. Butterworth, Cattermole... Hawkins, Jackson, Jones... “Got it.”

“Excellent,” James said, “because we have about five minutes before Longbottom heads up this corridor and we get busted,” James was suddenly right behind me, reaching out and grappling for the document as he tried to take in what it said.

Virtually nothing.

Nothing new, anyway. Nothing remotely important.

Special Circumstances. Observe progress carefully. Parental issues (mother left when child aprox 6, location of mother unknown. Father not in contact with mother).

“You’ve got a star,” James said, “that’s...” he ran a finger to the bottom of the piece of parchment, “further information available on request. Classified. Fuck.”

“This is hopeless,” I said, turning the sheets over paper over as if something new might present itself. There were other bits of information – the marks on all my end of year tests, disciplinary reports (which James seemed to be interested in)... but nothing that was remotely helpful.

“It says the Professor is in correspondence with your Dad,” James said, pointing at a single line of inked writing, “Father is continually updated on daughter’s progress. That’s nice.”

“No it’s not,” I said, feeling my eyes burning with the injustice of it all, “it means my father’s spying on me, that he’s going to find out about Divination classes and that... well, it’s a bit suspicious and...”

I stuffed the file back in the cupboard and suddenly became very aware that we were stood in my Head of House’s office with no protection whatsoever.

“Let’s get out of here,” James said, grabbing hold of my hand and pulling me towards the door (as if I needed any more persuasion to be out of the place as quickly as possible), before quickly dropping it and heading down the corridor.

“What does the map say?”

“It says... what’s a nice way of saying we’re screwed?”

“ – James...?”

“Just, move away from the office door. No time to lock it just... run.”

Two corridors away from Keitch’s office, James pulled out the map again, glanced at the ceiling and swore.

“Okay,” James said, “this will do. Cassie, pretend to kiss me.”

“What?” I was fairly sure that no actual sound came out my mouth, although I had every intention of speaking; instead, my voice mouthed the word silently and my face burned red hot.

“Just do it!”

“How?”

“Merlin’s sake,” James muttered, grabbing hold of my waist and pulling me into what was definitely not a kiss.

Our lips weren’t touching. It was probably more accurate to say that we were standing nose to nose with our eyes screwed shut as the both of us tried to remain as physically distant from each other as possible without actually stepping backwards... in terms of awkwardness, it would have been significantly better if he’d just kissed me – at least then I would have been a little distracted from the fact that I could feel him breathing and his distinct uncomfortablness was radiating through the air like a homing beacon.

It was awful.

James made a vague attempt at... pushing me against the wall, but ended up not achieving anything more than sending both of us tripping backwards, still nose-to-nose and still not kissing to the point where my elbow collided sharply with the wall behind me and I nearly swore.

Ahem.”

I don’t think anyone had ever been so glad to have been caught after hours.

“Neville,” James said, letting go of me instantly and taking a good step away, “er, hi.”

I couldn’t even sense anything above the crippling weight of my embarrassment. Damn it James.

“Detention, both of you,” Professor Longbottom said, looking distinctly amused and, if I was honest, a little like he had probably just got back from the pub, “and don’t let me catch you again, James.”

Again?!

 “Don’t tell Dad about this?” James suggested, smiling at the teacher hopefully.

“Fine,” Longbottom said, shaking his head.

That wasn’t fair. Why couldn’t my Dad be friends with the teachers?

“I’ll just walk Cassie back to her dormitory then -”

“- no,” Longbottom interjected, “you certainly won’t. I’m making sure you going to bed, Potter. And you, Miss Jones.”

I nodded, still Scarlett.

“See you at the party tomorrow then,” James said, sending me one of his usual grins (but it seemed he was still suffering due to the extreme amount of awkward, because he didn’t quite meet my eye), “I mean,” James corrected, catching Professor Longbottom’s eye, “that long study session in the erm... library which involves absolutely no alcohol.”

“The only way I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that,” Professor Longbottom said, “is if you keep it down...” and then their voices were fading down the corridor and I hadn’t yet moved.

I blinked and took a few deep breaths before forcing myself into movement.

*

James was still worried. He’d been more disappointed than I’d been when nothing had come up in my file. He’d wanted a lead more. He wanted to be friends and had initiated the most horrific fake-kiss of all time.

He was definitely up to something.

Casssiiee,” Leanne said, pulling back my curtains and smiling a little too wildly, “come to the party.”

“I didn’t sleep well last night,” I said, “sorry, Leanne, I just don’t feel like it.”

“But it’ll be fun!”

“ – and you’ve already been predrinking, so I’d be the only person sober there.”

“There’s time to drink!” Leanne said, standing up and approaching the mirror again, lipstick aloft.

“Maybe later,” I said, “I’ve got to read this,”

Magic and the Brain: Memory?” Leanne questioned. “What subject is that even for?”

“Divination,” I lied, flicking over another page, “you go. I might think about it if I finish this chapter.”

“Is James expecting you to go?”

“I have no idea,” I said, “wrong tree, Leanne.”

“Fine,” Leanne said, holding up her hands, “well, I’ll text you if it’s fun or if James looks all lost without you.”

I ignored her, blushing only slightly, and continued flicking through the book.

 I was halfway through a lengthy chapter about the qualities of memories extracted by magic, but there was very little on manipulated memories – the donator of the memory may tamper with the content of a memory, but this is exceedingly obvious to anyone who has experienced memory before.

Well, that explained Harry Potter’s reaction to viewing that memory of my mother. He probably thought I was purposefully concealing something from him.

Text Leanne: party pretty god comeeee to parrtayy withme Cass!

Leanne was drunk, then.

Apparently, memory charms were actually exceedingly difficult and very subtle magic. Very strong, too.  I turned over the page to chapter twelve, ignoring the new text messages. Chances were, it’d be increasingly difficult to understand drunken ramblings from Leanne.

One of the most dangerous things a witch or wizard could do is try to reverse memory manipulation through magical means or without appropriate supervision. Side effects include: serious headaches, crippling pain, permanent damage to ability to store memories, clinical insanity and complete loss of all memories.

Permanent damage? Insanity?

Individual can lose all grasp of who they are or regress to an earlier state. See case study, Bertha Jorkins.

James had checked out this book. James had read this book and realised that we could have caused me to forget who I was and decided that it might be better not to mention it. That horrible headache I’d had after I started to remember... James had known that was the beginning of my brain forcefully rejecting the idea of pushing past the memory charm (if that’s what it was... it seemed likely) and he had decided not to mention it.

That’s what he’d been worried. Worried and guilty. Because he thought his little chance to prove himself would land me as a vegetable in St Mungos, and our quest would actually drive me insane.

And then he wanted to be friends?

I picked up my phone feeling slightly numb. Three new messages. One from James.

Your best friend is very drunk and telling everyone about your dad. Come immediately.

Oh God.




 


I’d just like to take a moment to apologise profusely for the long update time. My excuses are a mixture of university, having a life (who knew!?), the fact that I’ve been focusing on Saving Grace/Not Just a Bystander (which are now both finished!) and my own idiocy in regards to planning. Good advice for when writing a mystery, keep track of what information the readers know and what they don’t. If you don’t do this, every time you stop writing for so much as a week at a time, you will have to reread the whole novel. Yup. Nice one, me.

This is a cliff hanger... but, I’ve had the next chapter buzzing round my head for days so that should be written and ready really soon (I mean it this time). Thank you to anyone with the patience to still be reading this! You’re great :)


Chapter 21: Compromise.
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

 I’d seen Leanne drunk on a number of occasions. She was just as susceptible as the rest of Hogwarts to the incomprehensible desire to drink a lot and inevitably make a fool of themselves, trying to prove something by drinking themselves stupid and landing themselves in some awkward drama the next day. Leanne and I had discovered the effects of alcohol in my old home in Scotland, on one of the many summer days when my Dad was busy at work and we were looking for things to do – I, for one, didn’t reckon much to not being in complete control.

Mostly because things like this happened.

“Cassie,” James said, grabbing hold of my arm the second I entered the Gryffindor Common Room and pulling me over to one corner of the room, “I silenced her as soon as I could, but I think about half the room heard her.”

“Okay,” I said, stepping forward and examining my supposed best friend.

I’d definitely never seen her this bad before.

“They might not have believed her,” James said, “I tried to silence her discreetly, because I didn’t want to add fuel to the flame… but I… I don’t know.”

She looked like a mess. Normally, she’d get drunk enough to dance a bit more readily and, occasionally, she ended up making out with someone (although, that was usually one of those we-both-like-each-other-but-we-haven’t-admitted-it-and-now-we’re-drunk) but she’d never, ever started blurting out anyone’s secrets like that.

“Okay,”

“Are you all right?” James asked, grabbing hold my arm and looking at my seriously.

“Fine,” I said, although obviously that wasn’t quite true. Currently, I was just numb to it all. It seemed like that might be the best way to deal with the situation at hand. “Has she been sick?”

“Yeah,” James said.

“I’ll take her back to the dorm,” I said, stepping forwards, “Leanne, we’re going to get you to bed. Okay?”

Leanne mouthed something, nodding her head and swaying slightly where she sat. I’d never quite gotten used to seeing someone who’d been silenced and I couldn’t help but thinking the whole effect wasn’t really subtle – either James was just being an idiot or he was a little drunk himself. I expected the latter.

I hoisted Leanne up, pulling her arm over my shoulder and made an attempt to steer her towards the door. She tripped up and swayed dangerously forward.

“Come on, Leanne,” I said, “work with me here.”

“Cassie,” James said, “you can’t… you can’t manage her on your own.”

“Well,” I said, “I’m going to have too. Come on, Leanne. Remember sobriety? Remember how that felt?”

“I’ll help you,” James said, wrapping an arm round Leanne’s other side.

I had to admit that job would be a lot easier with James onside, but I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted him to help me. Very shortly, the reality of the situation was going to hit me and I very much wanted to be alone when that happened. I did not need James to see me mid-breakdown.

And yet, I couldn’t drag her down all those flights of stairs without help.

“Okay,” I said, closing my eyes briefly. The whole room was buzzing with curiosity over the proceeding. Strangely, everyone seemed to have left Leanne and James in the corner… but, something had definitely happened. There was definitely more story here than James was letting on.

Then again, James seemed to be the king of not letting important things on.

“Let’s get out of here,” James said, guiding Leanne towards that portrait hall, and half pulling her over the threshold. “I’m waiting for you to start reacting,” James said pointedly, when we reached the first landing and paused for a second to work out how to navigate stairs, “to the fact that your best friend just spilt the beans. You know, that thing that just happened.”

“Don’t push me,” I muttered, as Leanne started grabbing hold of my wrist, shaking her head and crying.

“You’re unbelievable,” James said, “do you just not react to things?”

“James,”

“She just told everyone.

“I know, James,” I said, taking a deep breath. “What happened?”

“Ryan,” James said, glowering, “he… well, he thought he’d try start something. He was going on about you. And… Leanne tried to step in and defend you. Ryan called you crazy and… she was yelling that you were perfectly sane and that Ryan bought up the ‘don’t you remember when she tried to tell everyone her Dad was Robert Banks’ and then Leanne declared to everyone that it was true.”

“Okay,” I said, glancing at Leanne and closing my eyes for a second.

“Are you still not going to react?”

“Frankly,” I said, “maybe if you hadn’t reacted before none of this would have happened.”

“So you’d have me shake his hand and congratulate him on stealing my girlfriend?” James asked, pulling Leanne forwards.

“No,” I said, “but I wouldn’t have had you punch him in the face,”

“Why the hell not?”

“Maybe then you wouldn’t have got grounded,” I said, heatedly, “and maybe then I’d be happily not having anything to do with you, and then I wouldn’t need to be defended.

“So this is my fault?” James demanded.

“I thought you wanted a reaction,” I hissed.

“All I’ve been trying to do here is stick up for you,” James said, his voice rising, “if you could stop turning me into a villain that would be just lovely.

“Just shut up,” I said, as we reached the bottom of another flight of stairs, “unless you’d like to be caught out after curfew again, with a drunkard in our midst to boot.”

“Fine,” James said, folding his arms. The indignation was radiating from him; his emotions lit up and fired up much more than they should have been. Evidentially, James had been shaken up by the run in with Ryan much more than he’d like to let on and was subsequently looking for a fight.

Well, he wasn’t the only one.

*

“I’m sorry about Ryan,” I said as we reached my dormitory, and Leanne immediately stumbled towards the toilet and began throwing up.

I quickly cast a silencing charm in the direction of my dorm mates beds, suspecting that the two who’d chosen not to go to the part weren’t going to be mad keen on the idea of being woken up by the sound of Leanne vomiting. One girl was staying with her boyfriend tonight, as far as I was aware, and the other was at the party.

“I’m sorry about Leanne,” James said, his mouth forming the words with evident distaste, pushing open the door to the bathroom and unsilencing her, “apparently with both have bad choices in friends.”

“Cassie,” Leanne muttered, her voice thick with her tears, “Cassie… Cass, I’m sorry I….I can’t I didn’t mean to I just…”

“It’s okay,” I muttered, pulling a hair band out my trunk and clumsily tying her hair back from her face, “it doesn’t matter,” I said, “it’s okay.”

Leanne threw up again, clutching hold of the toilet bowl and grappling for the toilet paper.

“So that’s it?” James asked, incredulous expression reappearing on his face, “she tells the whole world your secret and you just forgive her?”

“James,” I said, “she’s drunk.”

“That’s a balls excuse,”

“It’s not an excuse!” I said heatedly, “but there’s not much point being mad at her right now, is there?”

“And you find that easy, do you?”

“Obviously you don’t,” I said, conjuring a glass of water and pressing it towards Leanne, “look, it’s fine. I’ve got this.”

“No, you don’t,” James said, stepping into the bathroom and passing Leanne a wad of toilet roll for her to wipe her mouth, “I don’t need some fucking mental sensing ability to work that out. I’m not leaving you alone.”

I deliberately shut my mouth, sitting down next to Leanne and pressing the glass into her hands. She drank a little more clumsily, spitting into the toilet before resting her head against the lid. James just had to get involved, when anyone could see that he was the one who didn’t want to be alone, and he was the one having the exothermic reaction to all of this.

“You just going to shut me out?” James asked, “oh sure, Cassie defence mechanism number one – ignore everyone and everything.”

“James defence mechanism number one, get angry and start trying to stir drama to distract yourself.”

“The tragic thing about this,” James said, folding his arms, “is that this is the first time we’ve ever had a conversation here you haven’t blushed.” I felt my face heat up slightly, but nothing in terms of how it would usually be. I really disliked the fact that he had a point. Not that I had a choice over when my face decided to heat up. “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” I said blankly, “we don’t even know what this means.”

“I know it’s not good,” James said, angrily, “She’s put you in danger.”

“James,” I said wearily, “what did Ryan say that got you so angry?”

“He said that apparently you now needed a certificate of insanity to sleep with me,” James said, heatedly.

Well, I suppose that made sense. The reason why James was so mad was because he didn’t want the whole of Hogwarts thinking that he would sleep with me. Lovely. Thus, he was directing his anger at me by trying to rile up a reaction – which he’d almost gotten.

To be fair to myself, I still hadn’t even begun to process what the effect of Leanne’s betrayal might mean to my life and here James was throwing comments at me and trying to provoke a reaction.

“He knows you’re not crazy,” James said, “He knows that.”

Oh.

“You’ve been saying it for years,” I said, quietly, “why should he stop saying it now?”

“And where the fuck do you get off?” James demanded, glaring at me. “Letting people treat you like that. Just accepting people calling you crazy and then letting your best friend say something like that. And your Dad – haven’t you ever told him to stop expanding his company and start acting like a father? And lying to you your whole damn life and you just sit there all calm and unflappable and just take it.

“If it bothers you so much,” I said, standing up, “why do you still do it?”

“What” James asked,” “You’re going to have to elaborate on the crazy, Cass.”

That,” I said, “and what about that stupid book you read in the library. Apparently, I’m going to end up as a vegetable and you didn’t even think to mention it.”

“How –?”

“ – you were guilty,” I said, “you were guilty and worried and I just… I got curious.”

“You stalked my behaviour with your crazy power?”

“Why the hell did you do it?” I asked. “If you felt guilty and you were that worried then why would you do it James?”

“I didn’t want to scare you,” James said, “I’ve just been… trying to steer you away from all the brain stuff since I read it.”

“You mean,” I said, drawing myself up to my full height, “that you didn’t want to tell me, have me back out and for you to lose your stupid cause?”

“No,” James said, stepping back.

“And then you have the audacity to ask to be friends and then criticise the way I run my life when, arguably, this is all your fault anyway.”

“Cassie…”

“You wanted a reaction,” I said, “there. Where do you get off, Potter? You can’t get all righteously angry on my behalf when you’re doing just the same thing. Fuck you, James.”

“Is that the first time you’ve ever sworn?” James asked, lips tilting upwards slightly. James took another step forward, refilling Leanne’s glass of water and leaning against the sink. “Cassie, the book…I thought you had enough to be dealing with.”

I squared up my shoulders and concentrated on sensing my way through James’s emotions. It was all too easy, these days, to decode every little change in how he was feeling (and I didn’t appreciate it; I didn’t need to know the intricacies of everything everyone felt) and the undercurrent of angry frustration was still bubbling away in his stomach. The worry was still there, too. Indignation, shock, misplaced righteous anger.

At some point, James Potter had started caring about me.

“Don’t do this,” James said, sighing with his usual air of drama, “Don’t block me out with your silence. I mean, yeah, I want you to stand up for yourself – but I don’t mean to me.”

That didn’t change the fact that he was still a prat with a terrible understanding of who I was.

“Do not keep things about my life hidden from me,” I said, quietly.

“Okay,” James said, “Okay, Cassandra Meredith, I will not keep things hidden from you. Okay?”

“Okay,” I said, “Leanne, are you done being sick?”

“Yes,” Leanne said, pushing away from the toilet and spinning slightly, “yes.”

“Bed?” I suggested, pulling her up – trying to avoid the vomit on her robes – and helping her stumble towards her bed. Leanne was muttering some more incomprehensible apologies, but at least seemed to have stopped crying.

I had no idea what I was going to say to her tomorrow.

I didn’t believe she’d meant to tell anyone, certainly, but the lack of malice didn’t make up for the fact that she had done it. I hardly had any friends as it was, and I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to lose her, but I wasn’t entirely sure whether I could forgive her.

Hell, I didn’t even know what the consequences were.

“I’m soooooo sorry,” Leanne said, as I helped her pull her robes off, “Cassie,” she said, reaching out and grabbing hold of my wrist, “believe me when I say that I am sooooooo sorry,”

“I know,” I said, as her head hit the pillow. I pulled the curtains around her and closed my eyes for a split second, still clueless as to how you were supposed to react to something like this.

“Cass,” James said, stepping out from the bathroom. For once, some of his overdramatic persona seemed to have slipped away and, instead, I was faced with a tired, apologetic James who’d just had an argument with his old best friend. I supposed I should try and be more sympathetic: James had lost his girlfriend and his best friend, been grounded for the trouble, then come back to school to find that the majority of Hogwarts was not on his side. Even Crazy Cassie Jones wouldn’t be his friend. “I tried to stop her,” I nodded. “And whatever happens… we’re colleagues to the end.”

“Thank you,” I said, arms folded over my chest. If I couldn’t trust Leanne, how was I supposed to trust James? It was too late to retract any of the facts now, but it was there – he could tell anyone if he wanted too.

James’ phone punctuated the moment by vibrating loudly in his pocket. James blinked before retrieving it, scanning over the message before swearing.

“What?”

“The party’s been busted,” James said, “Vector’s guarding the entrance to Gryffindor Tower giving detentions to anyone who tries to turn up.”

“I’d have thought your little party was already ruined,” I said.

“Yes Cassie,” James said, “well done. Problem is, Cass, my bedroom is in the Gryffindor Tower.

“Oh.”

“Exactly,” James said, running a hand through his hair in frustration, “shit. Well, it’s a good job I’ve got a good colleague in Hufflepuff then.”

“No,”

“Sorry, Cass, but I don’t know that you’ve got much choice.  I’m stuck here.”

“James,” I said, narrowing my eyes slightly, “no,”

“You can sleep in the Common Room if you want,” James said, rolling back his shoulders and grinning, “but I can’t. With my rep as it is, someone will turn me in. Course, I can sleep on the floor if you want all your room mates to know that we spent the night together…”

“Don’t you have any relatives in Hufflepuff?” I asked.

“None that haven’t heartlessly graduated,” James said, “so which is your bed? Do you have any embarrassing soft toys? Skimpy pyjamas?”

“James,” I said, helpless, “you can’t.

“I’m not about to hit on you,” James said, “I believe that was in the contract. No flirting, am I right?” I stared at him. “I’m on red alert,” James said, sighing, “if I get caught out of bed again I’m toast.”

“Why?”

“Insomnia,” James said, “I mean, it’s hard to sleep with… Ryan there. Nothing menacing, I assure you, I just keep being caught walking around the castle and… Longbottom said I was on my last chance… Quidditch position on shaky ground. You know how it is.”

“Why can’t you keep out of trouble?” I asked, glancing over at my bed. Considering the beds were meant for eleven year olds, they certainly couldn’t be accused of lacking space: not quite double beds, but definitely a lot bigger than the bed I had at home (and I lived in the largest house to have ever existed), which meant… there was room.

“I’m assuming that’s it,” James said, brightly, stepping over it and heading towards the bed I was looking at. James half lay down on top of the covers, stretching his arms behind his bed; the very picture of ease (he wasn’t at ease at all, he was a positive volcano of barely repressed emotions).

Well, that wasn’t so bad. If he wasn’t going to get under the covers, then…

“I bet this is the first time you’ve had a bloke in your bed,” James grinned, tracking out the resulting blush with an air of satisfaction. I ignored him, falling back into the grip of the usual silence without comment. If it wasn’t for my overactive face, then the moment would have slipped by unnoticed, but…. “Hold up,” James said, face twisting into a grin, “is that a James made a sex joke blush, or is that a yes I have had a bloke in my bed blush?”

“We are not having this conversation,”

“Who did you sleep with?” James asked, sitting up properly and staring at me, “ha! I’m right! Cassandra Meredith, you sly – ”

“– stop with the middle name,” I interjected, pressing a finger to my forehead. I had some vague, disjointed memories of my Mother using my full name, but the memory made my head hurt. Apparently, that wasn’t a good sign and could lead to me going full blown bat-shit crazy.

“Did your face not catch fire?” James said, “because you were blushing so much,”

“James,” I said, “drop it.”

“Was it Luke?”

“No.”

“So it was someone,” James said, lit up with surprise and amusement, “or someones. Was it a Hufflepuff?  I bet you’re all at it. Man, should have been a puff,”

“No,” I said, pulling on a jumper over my robes and deciding I’d have to sleep like that. I certainly wasn’t going to change into my pyjamas with James apparently sharing my bed.

“Slytherin? Claw? It can’t have been a Gryff,”

“Muggle,” I said, if only to stop him listing each individual male Hogwarts student in order to gauge my reactions and jump to conclusions on the basis of how much I blushed. Besides, it was the truth.

“Summer romance?” James asked, “foreign fancy man? Was he French?”

“No, James,”

“To which,”

“To this conversation,” I said, slipping under the covers and pulling them around me for protection.

“What, is this not beneficial to our working relationship?”

“It’s not relevant,” I said, turning my back on him and confining myself to the furthest third of bed away from him. James had insomnia, which was new and maybe not entirely surprising; I’d virtually never seen him completely still, so perhaps the idea that he’d have trouble stopping fidgeting enough to sleep wasn’t entirely surprising. Then again, he’d managed to fall asleep on my shoulder in a bloody secret passageway.

“I’m betting it was on a holiday,” James said, “some Greek waiter who broke your heart. Poor Cassie,”

I turned around to glare at him.

“Stop acting like you know me, Potter,”

“Prove that I don’t,” James said, eyes sparking, “I believe I have the right to ask some questions, anyway. Or will you be using your veto?”

“Out of the two of us,” I said, “you’re the one far more likely to get your heart broken,”

“Is that a veto?”

“Two muggles,” I said, “one in Spain so yes I was on holiday and another near my old home in Scotland, but no, neither of them broke my heart. I don’t need people like you do, James. I’m not like you,”

“I need people?”

“You need people to like you,” I said, folding my arms around myself, “You need Ryan to like you, you need Natalie to like you, you need your Dad to like you, you need the population of Hogwarts to like you. Hell, James, you even need me to like you,”

The digging and the jokes and the attempts at forging friendship were all too obvious, but that didn’t mean I liked how much I knew James.

“A little emotionally investment in other people doesn’t make me needy,” James said, “It makes you aloof and distant.”

“Stop judging me,” I said, propping myself up on my elbow to glare at him, “you think I’m messed up,”

“Oh believe me, Jones, I know you’re messed up.”

“For me to accept anyone properly in my life then I need to trust them properly,” I said, “and I’m not allowed to do that. Friendships are complicated and relationships are worse.”

“Well maybe you’re just picking the wrong damn people,”

“No,” I said, my forehead folding, “why do you think Natalie cheated on you, James?” I asked.

“Because she’s a bitch,”

“How reductionist,” I said, biting my lip, “insecurity. I’m not excusing what she did, or saying that was a good reason, but that’s how it happened. You aren’t known for being particularly good at relationships, so she’s half worried that you’re about to screw her over.  She probably convinced herself that you were cheating on her, or about to, and decided to get in their first. Ryan? Well, he was just damn tired of you being in the top position. Can’t have been easy, James, being continually over shadowed by the son of the chosen one. So then he made a mistake and now he’s scared that everyone’s about to decide they hate him, because why would they pick him over you? Now he’s continuing on all this stupid stuff because he likes you being seen as the bad guy for once. You can write them off and say that they’re both just horrible people if you like, James, but there was a reason they were once your friends. Because you liked them.”

“So this is my fault?”

“No,” I said, “that’s just how people are. Leanne likes knowing peoples secrets because it makes her feel important and unique, which gives her a one up on her twin brother… who’s that little bit more popular than her. You want everyone to like you because you think you should be liked, because of your Dad, and if people don’t like you then you feel like you must be doing something terribly wrong. You want everything to be dramatic and exciting and you want a cause because you feel like you have to prove yourself.  Teenagers screw each other over all the time, James. Relationships don’t work out. Drama is a top priority. I can sense every stupid layer of motivation of just about everyone and I don’t trust anyone because I know what makes them tick. There’s nothing messed up about that. It’s sensible.”

“You trusted Leanne,”

“Yes,” I said, turning back away from him and turning over, “and how did that work out?”

“So you’ve… never had anyone earn and keep your trust?”

James felt sorry for me, which defeated the whole point of the conversation. I didn’t feel lonely. I didn’t want to throw my lot in with a bunch of people I didn’t trust and expect them to keep me afloat. I didn’t want that and I didn’t trust in it.

“My Dad and Leanne,” I said curtly, “but apparently not. You’re lonelier than me, James,” I said, “constantly trying to prove yourself, seeking affirmation, not being yourself because you don’t think people will like you. You’re the one that’s messed up, James, not me.”

“Have I screwed you over yet?” James asked voice stripped of the usual over dramatic façade for a few split seconds, instead settling on pure curiosity. This was James without the performance and I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought about that. “I think I get it, Cassie,” James said into the dark, “and I’m sorry.”

I stayed silent.

“Not for the whole of humanity,” James said, “but, if my… if my teasing before had any contribution to your twisted sort of cynicism, then I’m sorry for proving you right. I don’t think about people like you do. It was just this big joke, Cas, but… I am sorry.”

“It’s fine,” I muttered, because the twinge of James’ guilt tainting the rest of all his emotions was going to become tiring very quickly. I didn’t need to be surrounded by that the whole time we were working on digging up my past. I didn’t need that, because it was only going to make me feel guilty which was beyond illogical.

“It’s not,” James said, “but it’s okay, because now I’m going to prove you wrong. No more keeping stuff from you, no more trust betrayals, just me being the best… colleague ever.”

“James,” I said, biting my lip for a split second, turning over so I was facing him once again. James was still on top of my covers, hands folding together and unfolding (why couldn’t he just be still for one damn minute?), staring at my yellow and black hangings with a surprisingly vulnerable expression. Apparently, he wasn’t expecting me to actually be looking at him… or maybe, given I’d just laid his soul bare he was giving up on all the pretending for a little while.

The guilt was still there, a swirling pool of it at the bottom of his stomach. And he was thinking about everything too much. It seemed I’d finally gotten through to him. James Potter was finally listening to me and taking me seriously.

“Let’s be friends,” I said, taking on James’ usual tone of drama with a hint of sarcasm.

I was going to regret this.

“Seriously?” James asked, turning to look at me with his eyebrows raised.

“Sure,” I said, as James grabbed my hand and shook it deliberately, grinning.

“You won’t regret it,” James said, before his expression slipped into a smirk, “if I’d known it was this easy, I’d have tried to get in your bed earlier.”

 I closed my eyes for a split second, head spinning; there was no way that I was going to be able to sleep with the knowledge that Leanne had ratted me out, James was both on my bed and now my legitimate friend and that, in the morning, I was going to have to face a renewed Cassie-is-crazy campaign, or worse.  Tomorrow was going to be horrible.

Especially with James’ new quest to be the best friend ever. 




So, the update was slower than I thought it was going to be... but, Cassie got mad! And they're now, wait for it, friends. Only took twenty one chapters ;)

Thanks for reading! 


Chapter 22: Friendship
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

 In my half-conscious state, I was vaguely aware of some presence that shouldn’t be in my dormitory as I began to wake up.

Since I could remember, I’d found comfort in sensing out the familiar presence of the others in the dormitory before I went to sleep and when I woke up. After Harry Potter had started to encourage me to practice using my sensing ability, it had further integrated into my routine; it was just automatic and a little sensible to feel out who was in the room when I was waking up.

The first time one of my dorm mates had her boyfriend stay the night in her room, I’d woken up disorientated and confused. So when this new presence in the dormitory didn’t worry me as much as it should do, that then started to worry me; maybe that was a stupid thing to be concerned about, but that was enough to drag me groggily to consciousness.

“James?” I muttered, sitting up and rubbing my eyes.  Then I remembered. The party, Leanne, James... “Why are you still here?”

“Ah,” James grinned, “so you’re the love ‘em and leave’ em type, nice to know… and a morning blush, too! Excellent.”

“Seriously,” I said, pulling the covers around me and squinting at him. He’d changed into his robes, which meant he’d left and come back… all the sensing ability in the world couldn’t put that together in a way that meant sense. Especially when I was still half awake.

“I’ve been doing some damage control,” James said, “thought we’d go get breakfast before Divination.”

“I’ve got Transfiguration first,” I said, still trying to massage the residue of sleep from my forehead. It had taken me a very long time to get to sleep. For a start, I’d had James sitting on the edge of my bed, who was just as fidgety as always… and then I’d started to run over the situation with Leanne in my head until I was convinced an assassin was going to try and kill me. I had no idea what Dad was going to say when I called him and I was equally clueless as to what I was going to say to Leanne.

I didn’t like dealing with drama which was one of my top reasons for ignoring everyone.

“Yeah,” James said, “two hours ago.”

I swore.

“Don’t worry,” James grinned, “I sorted it. I went and told Neville that you were sick.”

“Why….why Longbottom?”

“Merlin, Cassie,” James said, expression twisting up into a grin, “you’re not very good at this rule breaking lark, are you? Downside is, Neville now thinks we’re sleeping together but… upside, your spectacular current blush is very amusing and you haven’t got detention. Wait, technically we do. Tomorrow night we’re cleaning the trophy room because of the caught our afterhours thing… but, anyway, breakfast?”

“Did you transform into a nice person overnight?” I asked, staring at him.

“You’re just finally seeing past you’re prejudice,” James said, winking.

“It’s too early for this.”

“It’s never too early for the Potter experience.”

The fact that, last night, James and I had a conversation about my sex life was beginning to dawn on me. Not only that, but I’d been honest about how much I understood about James’ innate need to be liked. I’d never been so explicit about what I could understand about people’s characters before (because most people don’t want to know) but, worse, I’d never actually worked someone out quite as much as I now had James worked out; I could blame the two nights we’d slept in close proximity and the emotionally charged situations all I liked, but it would have been easy to put of my foot down and tell him no.

Instead, I’d granted him friendship. Yes, I’d done that because I didn’t think it would exactly change much and might permeate the layer of guilt I’d accidentally managed to produce but… well, it was definitely too early for the Potter experience.

*

“Right,” James said, the second a particularly excitable House Elf in a top hat set down two mugs of coffee and a stack of toast on our table (the downstairs version of the Gryffindor table, which I couldn’t bring myself to argue about), “I think most people will just assume Leanne was talking drunk rubbish, but I figured it was best to cover all bases.”

“So you went back in time and didn’t allow Leanne to get so drunk?” I asked. I felt hopeless and I didn’t like it. Maybe if this had happened last year, no one would believe the rumour… but this year James had dragged me back into the sphere of public awareness. Now, people were curious.

God damn curiosity.

“No,” James said, hand pausing en route to the toast, “although, we should definitely try and get a time turner into our quest somewhere,”

“Moving on,” I said, smiling slightly. Considering how much of a façade James continually put up, he was also explicitly obviously; evidentially, his parents had an adventure with a time turner at some point. “You were covering bases?”

“Yes,” James said, “I talked to Dom. She’s… well, if you ever need a rumour spreading or, unspreading as the case may be, she’s your Weasley. I’ve assured her it’s not true, so she’ll make that known. Rose’s best mate runs the school newsletter –”

“– we have a newsletter?”

“We do,” James confirmed, nodding seriously, “fine paper.  Very useful for keeping the fire alight in the common room. So, Rose says she can get it printed that it’s not true. Leanne is also denying any truth to it.”

“You spoke to Leanne?” I asked, blinking. I hadn’t spoken to Leanne and I still didn’t know what I was going to say… but it seemed James had. I wasn’t sure what to think about that. Part of me wanted to draw back and away from the situation, but just last night I’d agreed to friendship. It seemed a bit soon to retract it.

“I said all bases,” James said, “the only other problem is people are going to notice the fact that you have the sexiest pone I’ve ever seen in my life, and then they’re going to put some stock in the rumour. I think you should just tell people your Dad works for WCT; you should always try and your lies on some truth.”

“Is that how you do it?” I asked, blushing slightly (but not too much) as I took another sip of my coffee, hand unconsciously travelling to my phone.

“Why don’t you tell me?” James said, quirking up his eyebrows. “It helps that you and your Dad have different surnames… and the fact that he doesn’t look much like you. In fact, are you sure he’s actually your father?”

“Pretty sure,” I said, smiling slightly.

“That would be a plot twist.” I decided it was best not to merit that with a response. “You might still want to call your Dad and tell him what happened, though. Just in case.”

James had his eyes narrowed, watching me carefully. He wanted to know how I was going to react about the prospect of talking to my father, no doubt reading more into our current lack of trust than he perhaps should have; nothing practical had changed with the relationship with my Dad, I was just second guessing and filling away everything he said.

Besides, I didn’t think I’d be able to gleam much from the phone call. Without him actually present I couldn’t get a proper gauge on what he was thinking; it was just dry conversation stripped of the emotion behind it, like reading a book about a character you’d only just met.

“Yeah,” I agreed, pulling out my phone and setting in on the table. I had a couple of messages that I hadn’t read, mostly from Leanne. I didn’t much feel like reading them much yet… James was watching me, still. Curious, dissecting. Time for a conversation shift, then. “James, it’s only half ten. When did you get all this done?”

“Insomnia,” James said, offering me a slightly sarcastic thumbs up.

“Did you sleep at all?” I asked. I thought he had. I thought he’d fallen asleep before I had, but it was difficult to tell. When James had fallen asleep on my shoulder in the passage way, it was the first time he’s emotions had been completely honest and transparent. At the back end of our conversation last night, James had been a little similar to that… probably figuring that I could read through it anyway. It was strange to experience James without the accompanying performance and maybe I’d imagined the subtle shift into unconsciousness… maybe he’d just, for once, started to relax.

“Worried about me?” James asked, grinning. “Yeah, for a bit.”

“What… keeps you up?” I asked, glancing up at him. I couldn’t imagine having gotten less sleep than I’d managed last night and still being able to function; hell, I’d already managed to sleep through a double period of transfiguration, although I was fully blaming that on whoever thought it would be a good idea to throw a party on a Sunday night (Leanne said it was so the teacher’s didn’t ‘expect it’ which sounded like James logic, if you asked me).

Still, it was the most personal question I’d ever asked him and it was the first time I’d really wanted an answer. Usually my desire for more information was tempered exactly with a desire to not know anything else. It was probably too late to remain distant now, anyway.

“I don’t know,”

“Lie,” I said.

“Damn your freaky powers,” James said, grabbing another slice of toast, “can a man have no secrets?”

“Are you using one of your vetoes?”

“And now you’re using my system against me?” James said, bringing a hand up to his chest and glancing upwards. “You wound me, Cassandra.”

“Now I’m really curious,” I said, leaning forwards and trying to work it out. James didn’t want me to know, which was enough to stop me pushing in and aiming to decipher it properly – because that was unethical, I couldn’t help but sense people’s basic emotional state, but I didn’t need to dig further without their permission – but, for the first time, I actively wanted to. 

Sure, James was constantly moving and on edge. Even now, one foot was tapping under the table and he was tearing a toast crust into pieces. He had to be in action and he had to avoid being still, but it made me wonder what he could possibly trying to put off thinking about.

“Pick another question,”

“Okay,” I said, hand curling round my cup of coffee. This was new. He was offering me an opportunity to ask anything. There was a lot of trust involved in that. When had James Potter started to trust me, anyway?

And, damn it, I had a question.

Normally, I’d have gone down the euphemistic route; maybe bringing up the joke he’d made about this being the first time I’d had a bloke in my bed, maybe skirting even further around the question… but, on the whole, I decided it might be best to go for the plaster method. Quick and get the pain over with immediately.

“Did you sleep with Natalie?”

“Yeah,” James said, eyes digging into my skin, “you know, Cassie, you’re impressing me this morning.”

“Well,” I said, “I guess we’re friends now,”

“I guess we are,” James said, slapping the table unnecessarily to punctuate his point, “although… did I mention everyone thinks we’re dating?” I stared at him, silent. “Ah, see… Ryan and my roommates sort of noticed I never returned to the dorm… I didn’t think they would and I didn’t think they’d take note, because I’m always wandering around in the middle of the night… but, alas, they registered my absence.” My mouth was fixed into a straight line, silent and unmoving. “And Neville… see me and Neville have a bit of a deal; he lets me get away with stuff, providing he can tease me so… I mean it’s up to you, but they either think we’re dating or we’re just sleeping together… and without the romance angle, then Rose and Dom are gonna think – ”

“ – that you’re a good person?” I interjected, frowning at him, “That must be really hard for you.”

“Sassy Cassie,” James muttered, “We don’t have to do anything, you know. The rumour runs itself.”

“So we’re fake dating,” I deadpanned, “it’s definitely still too early for this,”

“I…” James looked a bit helpless and had, momentarily, stopped ripping the curst of his toast to shreds, “The whole things a mess, I just wanted to…”

“No,” I said, “thank you. This is… good, actually. Thank you.”

“It’s my apology for last night,” James said, “I didn’t… I shouldn’t have tried to rile you up. That, and I’m the best friend ever.”

“I shouldn’t have got mad either,” I conceded, looking down at my phone and blushing.

I had lost my temper and spoke my mind which were usually things I tried to avoid where possible. Surprisingly, I didn’t actually regret it. I might have spent weeks silently fuming about the discovery I’d made in the book and missed James’ actual reasoning – that he ‘thought I had enough to deal with.’ It was a rubbish reason, but he was telling the truth. With James, it might have taken me weeks of silence for me to work that out. He was right about my tendency to cast him into the role of the villain without due evidence and… he’d promised he wouldn’t keep secrets like that again.

“Am I forgiven?”

“For what?”

“For everything?” James said, hopefully.

“I said it was fine,” I said, uncomfortable as I set down my last slice of toast untouched, “it doesn’t matter.”

“You’re proposing forgetting,” James said, frowning, “I want forgiving.

“Well maybe you don’t have any right to dictate that,” I said, voice rising and face heating up, “we may be ‘friends’ now, but that doesn’t mean you get to decide how I deal with things. This is what you get. I’m sorry if that isn’t what you want.

“I know,” James said, “I just want you to be honest about it,”

“Right,” I said, “you’re asking for honesty.”

“I can’t lie to you,” James said, “apparently, you know me to well. I’m just asking you to extent the same curtsey to me.”

“I’ll try,” I said, uncomfortable. This was a little bit too close to home for me to be able to relax, but I could see his point; this evened up the playing field. Maybe I started off as the vulnerable one with the secrets, but I knew enough about James now that the tables had turned. I had the advantage of knowing my way round James’ feelings and motivations. “One more question,” I said, frowning at him, “you… your bases. This whole thing started because Ryan managed to twist him sleeping with his girlfriend into you being the bad guy… why didn’t you talk to Rose and Dom then?”

“Veto,” James said, decisively, “we should go to Divination.”

“Wait,” I said, heart hammering in my chest, “what? You can’t veto. You’ve used two vetoes already.”

“Actually,” James said, reaching out to pluck my last slice of toast off my plate, “I think you’ll find I didn’t veto the first question, I merely avoided it.”

“It amounts to the same thing,” I said.

“New rule,” James said, “you have twenty four hours to answer before it counts as a veto. Now come on, you nutter, we have a divination class to attend.”

*

“Cassie,” Dad said, answering almost immediately. I knew from the offset that it was going to be near impossible to have this conversation now, because even the way he’d formed my name sounded rushed and stand-offish, “Cassie, hi, I’m really busy at the moment would you mind – ”

“– this is important,” I said, cutting across him feeling a flash of anger flare up. I was there whenever he wanted to go through his fancy new products, or whenever he deemed it a good idea to whisk the pair of us away on holiday. Nothing ever revolved around what I needed and I’d dealt with that.

Now, when you added in the fact that he’d been lying to me my whole life and spying on the school work he was always to ‘busy’ to hear about it, I figured I was overdue getting angry at him.

 “I’m sure it is,” Dad said, his voice dropping to a gentler tone, “I’ll call you back the moment I have this disaster sorted out with the prototypes, Cas, I promise…”

“Leanne got drunk and told everyone my father is Robert Banks,” I said, pressing my knuckles into my chin and sitting down on my bed, “have you got time for that, or shall I make an appointment with your PA?”

I hung up.

I’d never hung up on Dad before, but I was tired and confused and angry. If I knew why the big secret was a big secret then I might know what to expect, but no one had ever told me that. When I was younger and still a little angsty over the constant teasing, I’d defaulted onto assuming that my Dad thought having a child would negatively impact his public image... that was just a thought borne out of teenage insecurity with virtually no merit, but sometimes it still felt like Dad liked pretending he didn’t have a daughter.

Five minutes later, Dad called me back.

“Cassie,” Dad said, “I’ve cancelled my meetings.”

“Great,” I said, furious at myself when I realised I was crying, “James… James has been doing damage control. I don’t think enough people believe it that it’ll be a problem.”

“Cassie,” Dad said, seriously, “I can call a press conference right now, if that’s what you want.”

“What?” I asked, blinking. “I thought… you said… my safety.”

“You… you’re old enough,” Dad said, “it shouldn’t matter. If you want me to, Cassie, just… say the word.”

“No,” I said, shaking my head, “no, I don’t want that.”

The idea of having everyone in school knowing was a little alarming, let alone the whole world. I wasn’t sure what would happen… I couldn’t even conceive how everyone would react. The looks I’d been receiving in the corridor all day was enough, and they were a backlash of a rumour hardly anyone believed (James’ damage control had been impressive) and a rumour that everyone believed about me and James Potter.

I really didn’t need that on top of everything.

“Dad,” I said, my voice cracking, “Why?”

Maybe this was an angle James and I should have explored. I’d never even considered just asking my Dad what was going on, but… now seemed like a perfectly good opportunity to try.

“People do stupid things when they drink too much, Cassie. Don’t be too hard on Leanne,”

“No,” I said, “why has this been a secret for years?”

“For your safety,”

“The moves,” I said, “all the addresses… Dad, don’t you think it’s a bit much?”

“Yes,” Dad said. It was difficult to get a proper read on his emotions when he was this far away, but he sounded upset, “yeah I do, Cas… which is why we’re not going to do that anymore. We’re in this house for good, okay?”

“Okay,” I said, “guess I’m stuck with James Potter as a neighbour, then.”

“Looks like it,” Dad said, “Cassie… I’m sorry. All the moves and… I know it was disruptive… I was paranoid. I wanted you safe.”

I wanted to demand what from and I wanted to ask whether this had anything to do with my Mum. I wanted to ask why, with the aid of a memory potion, I could just about remember that in the last memory of my mother, the knife was covered in blood. I wanted to ask why my memories had been changed and what he could possibly be trying to achieve with all these lies, but I was too far away to know if he was telling the truth.

“I didn’t mind,” I said, hunching my shoulders over and turning on the laptop James and I had bought, “it was kind of fun.”

“I’m not a good father, Cassie.”

“You’re just busy,” I said, biting my lip as I began to type out the conversation. “I understand.”

You’re old enough now. It shouldn’t matter. We’re in this house for good, okay?

“It’s not good enough,” Dad said, “it’s not. We’ve got a lot of things to talk about… at Christmas, maybe,”

“Sure,” I said, saving the document under ‘suspicious things about my father’ “how are the TVs coming?”

“Not bad, Cas,” Dad said, “Not bad at all.”

The door to the dormitory opened and Leanne walked in, biting her lip as she looked at me. She looked like hell. I was half pleased that her hangover was doubtlessly just as aggressive as it had promised to be last night.

“Hey Dad, I’ve got to go,” I said, “Leanne’s just come in… I need to talk to her about stuff,”

“That’s okay,” Dad said, “call me soon, okay?”

“Yeah,” I breathed, “sorry for making you cancel your meetings.”

“You’re my daughter,” Dad said, although it sounded to me like he was justifying it to himself rather than to me.

“Bye,” I said, quickly, because I didn’t want to deal with the tail end of that comment. That I was worth cancelling a couple of meeting over? Or that my crisis was worth it? What, exactly, was enough justification about my being related to him for him to put me first.

“You talked to your Dad,” Leanne said, folding her arms around herself and blinking at me, “Cassie, I’m really sorry. I’m so so sorry… I never drink that much. I was just… Henry kept pouring me drinks and I didn’t realise how much I’d drank until… Cassie, you know I’d never –”

“– I know,” I said, closing my laptop down and looking at her.

“Are you in danger?” Leanne asked, voice dropping in volume.

“Dad doesn’t think so,”

My voice sounded colder than I precisely meant it to.

“I heard you and James talking,” Leanne said, stepping towards me, “you… something’s going on, isn’t it?” I nodded. “With… all the houses and your Dad and stuff?”

“I was going to tell you about it,” I said.

Leanne shook her head, wringing her hands, “I’m glad you didn’t. What if I’d spilled my guts about that, too?”

I was glad I hadn’t, too, but it sounded a little too harsh to say something like that out loud. Leanne was – had been – my best friend, and I didn’t really want to yell at her or make her feel worse. I could tell she’d been beating herself up about it, just like I could tell that she would continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

“I hope everything… I hope you work it all out,” Leanne said, sitting down on her bed heavily, “and when you’ve worked it all out, I hope… I hope that then you’ll be able to…”

“I’m not going to write you off forever,” I said, frowning.

“No,” Leanne said, “good. I mean, I hoped so… but, you can’t trust me,” I nodded again. “And, if you’re going to be keeping all these secrets then… then that’s going to be hard on both of us so…”

“We take a time out,”

“Not properly,” Leanne said, “I don’t want you to hate me. I want to be friends, Cassie… but you shouldn’t tell me things for a while.”

“Okay,” I said.

Leanne turned away and I suspected she might be crying. She probably wanted me to cut across her and tell her everything, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t trust her.  Maybe that wouldn’t last forever, but it was definitely active right now.

“I’m going to bed,” I said, “it’s been a long day.”

“Yeah,” Leanne said, voice shaky, “I’ll say.”

*

It was beginning to get light outside and I’d been tossing and turning for at least an hour. I grimaced and reached for my phone to check the time. I grappled through the semi-darkness, frowning when  the screen read two new message.

I hadn’t had a new message at half three, the last time I’d checked the time.

James Potter.

03:48

Sometimes I get sad

04:14

That’s what keeps me up at night.

I grimaced and dropped the phone next to me. On balance, I didn’t want to know that. I didn’t want to know that James had been up till at least four am because he was sad, just as much as I now really wanted to know what he was sad about.

He could be lying. He could have waited until four am because he knew that I couldn’t sense out his emotions from this far away, but it really didn’t seem like the kind of thing he’d lie about.

I could simply text back ‘why?’ but that seemed like a terrible, terrible idea.

I turned off my phone, rolled over and went back to sleep.

It was for the best.




Next up: James may have missed a base, more friendshipy talk and the return of the actual plot (that mystery thing?)

*insert obligatory appology for late chapter here*

Does anyone remember that time when I used to be really good at updating? Hmm? Well, if it helps... most of my major projects are largely finished, which makes this story my number one HPFF priortiy! Hopefully, that will translate into actual updates. Hmm.


Well, thanks for reading and being patient with me! 



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