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Fallen by mymischiefmanaged

Format: Novella
Chapters: 12
Word Count: 29,711
Status: COMPLETED

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

Genres: Drama, Romance, LGBTQA
Characters: Albus, James (II), Lily (II), Rose, Scorpius
Pairings: Rose/Scorpius, James/OC

First Published: 08/12/2016
Last Chapter: 02/13/2018
Last Updated: 02/13/2018

Summary:


 

I've spent seven years avoiding anything that might lead to an encounter with a member of the Potter family. But now my best friend is marrying one of them and the newspapers are full of James Potter's quidditch accident. I think it might be time for me to stop running away.
A sequel to 'Complicated', can be read as a standalone story
Banner by wilde.@tda


Chapter 1: The Invitation
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A/N: I told myself so many times that I wouldn’t write this but I couldn’t resist. This is the sequel to ‘Complicated’. ‘Fallen’ works as a standalone story but contains many many spoilers so if you haven’t read ‘Complicated’ maybe head there first. Hope you enjoy reading and as always any feedback is much appreciated! Emma xx



Chapter One: The Invitation


No matter how many glasses of red wine I drank in the evening, I still found sleeping difficult. I lay awake for hours and hours every night, hoping that my eyes would properly close before it got light, but frequently ended up with sleepless nights.

When the Daily Prophet arrived before I’d even managed to feel properly tired I always knew it was going to be a bad day.

I threw a shoe at the owl that flew through my window. It hooted reproachfully and I scowled.

“Make it shut up,” the girl next to me moaned, rolling over and pressing her pillow over her head.

I groaned and dragged myself out of the bed, swearing under my breath and pulling on a kimono from the pile of clothes on my floor.

The owl swooped down to hover in front of me, one leg held daintily out so I could drop some coins into its pouch. It then dropped the newspaper it was carrying onto the floor and flew away.

“Has it gone?” Arielle asked. “Come back to bed, ma cherie.”

I frowned at the paper. The boy on the front page was painfully recognisable. Ignoring Arielle, I stooped down to pick it up. The headline made me feel panicky and I sat down on the window sill to read.


Peril for Potter

Everyone’s favourite Quidditch superstar, James Potter, is facing further horror after his fall last month.

The twenty-five-year-old Chaser shocked Puddlemere supporters in early March when a hex from a spectator threw him off his broom.

Medical experts who witnessed the fall predicted that Potter would be out of the game for at least six months, but Potter delighted fans by returning to the field for his next match, where he singlehandedly scored twelve goals against Puddlemere’s long term rivals, the Montrose Magpies. Potter claimed Healers had promised him that with some strong painkillers, the fall would quickly be forgotten and his game would not be affected.

However, in a cruel twist, Potter was rushed back to St Mungo’s yesterday when his arm seized up during a friendly against the Holyhead Harpies. Reporters were denied access to the hospital, but one Healer, who prefers to remain anonymous, told this reporter that “Potter was foolish, ignoring his accident like that. If he’d listened to us the first time he’d be on his way to recovery by now.”

A statement later released by St Mungo’s, with permission from the Potter family, explained that the potions Potter had been taking for his pain had concealed a more serious injury in his left arm. Without feeling pain, he didn’t realise how badly he’d been hurt, and this injury has continued to increase in severity over the last five weeks. Unfortunately, by the time Potter returned to hospital, it was too late for Healers to save his arm.

Potter’s left arm has had to be amputated at the shoulder. This marks the end of his Quidditch career, and an enormous change in his life.

When approached for comment, James Potter was unavailable. His friend and housemate, Jason Wood, said “James is taking some time to deal with everything that has happened. At the moment he’s spending some quality time with his daughter and would appreciate your respect for his privacy. Now get away from my house.”

The Potter family refused to comment, but there has been speculation about how this latest development will impact Albus Potter’s upcoming wedding (for more details about next week’s nuptials, turn to p12).

Rumours that Potter has turned to alcohol in the aftermath of this trauma remain unconfirmed.

We here at the
Prophet wish James a speedy recovery and hope to see him out and about soon.



I felt sick. I didn’t usually bother reading about James. Most papers featured him every so often, usually under lists with titles like ‘hottest single fathers’ or ‘the boys we used to fancy at school: where are they now?’. I probably would have ignored this one too if it hadn’t been on the front page.

I read the article again, different phrases jumping out at me and making the lump in my throat swell uncomfortably so that it was hard to swallow: it was too late...marks the end of his Quidditch career...aftermath of his trauma.

Arielle propped herself up on the bed and looked at me sleepily. Her hair fell down in a tumbling mess around her head, strands of silvery blonde sticking to her forehead. Her lips looked swollen and red and she had a smudge of eyeliner under one eye. As usual, she looked gorgeous - I was pretty sure there was some veela somewhere in her family tree - but I hardly noticed.

“Come back to bed. I’m lonely,” she pouted. “Tu me manque.”

I ignored her.

My hands were trembling. I realised I was holding the newspaper uncomfortably tightly and loosened my grip. After skimming over the article once more, I dropped it onto my desk.

It landed next to the other piece of paper I’d been hoping to ignore. It had been sitting on my desk for the last month while I tried to pretend it didn’t exist. Reluctantly, I stood up to pick it up.

It was a wedding invitation: gold letters printed in elegant swirls requesting my presence at The Burrow next week for the marriage of Mr Albus Severus Potter to Miss Olivia Bell. Under the gold, Ollie’s familiar scribbles were squeezed into the blank space at the bottom of the invite.

Cass,

Literally no clue where you are in the world and I have strong suspicions that you’ll be putting this straight in the bin and telling yourself you never saw it...but I’ve decided it’s still worth a try.

I know things have been complicated and I know it probably doesn’t feel easy to come back, but the fact remains that you were my best friend for a long time. You’re a big part of my life and I’d really like you to be part of this with me.

It would mean a lot to me if you came to the wedding.

I hope you’re happy and not breaking too many hearts.

So much love,

Liv xx


I’d never really adjusted to the fact she called herself ‘Liv’ now. To me, she was always Ollie. But so many things in her life had changed since we shared everything. So many things in both our lives had changed.

I sighed and let the invitation (with Ollie’s note) fall from my fingers. It felt like all the things I’d been running away from were catching up on me, and I had a feeling I wouldn’t be able to hide from everything for much longer.

“Are you moping?” Arielle sat up properly this time. “Do you need some stress relief?”

She pushed the duvet away from her body, revealing smooth, creamy skin, and rolled onto her side so I could see her clearly. I managed a small smile but stayed where I was.

“If you’d like to fuck again you need to let me know quickly. I have to get home,” she said, dropping back onto her back. “I told Henri I’d be back for breakfast.”

“I forget you’re married,” I said vaguely.

“So do I,” Arielle grinned, baring her teeth.

“Clearly.”

She laughed and stretched out, lifting her arms high above her head. She had a tiny bite mark on her wrist. The sight of it made me smile.

“I’d rather stay here, to be honest,” she told me. “It’s nice shagging someone with two legs. More logistically straightforward.”

“Do you often shag people with other numbers of legs?” My head was still fumbling through thoughts about the invite and the newspaper, but it was easy to fall back into chatter with Arielle.

“Yep. You don’t know about Henri?”

“Enlighten me.”

“Oo, you’ll enjoy this.” Arielle sat up and rummaged in the clothes pile for her own clothes.

“Oh?”

“Yep.” She pulled a sweater over her head and then stopped getting dressed so she could smile a mischievous grin. “I find myself married to a bald, one-legged squib with no front teeth.”

I raised my eyebrows but Arielle didn’t take back her words.

“Well,” I said. “You’re a lucky girl.”

She laughed. “I think so. You want to meet him? You can join us for breakfast if you feel like it.”

“Maybe another time.”

“Aw, come on. He won’t bite.”

I laughed and shook my head.

“Not today. I’m actually going to be away for a few days.”

“And you didn’t see fit to inform your lover of your impending absence?” Arielle squeezed herself into skin tight jeans, wriggling on the bed to pull them over her thighs.

“Sorry.”

She rolled her eyes and stood up. She was still bare footed and started to roam the room, presumably looking for the heeled boots she’d kicked off the previous evening.

“Where are you going then?”

“England.”

She stopped her search and gave me a pointed look, one hand on her hip.

“I know,” I sighed. “But I need to go.”

“Why? You refuse to even talk about England. Why do you need to go back?”

I grimaced.

“I’ve got a wedding to go to.”


Chapter 2: The Birthday
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Chapter Two: The Birthday




I waited outside the house for an uncomfortably long time. I’d decided to go straight there instead of finding a hotel, but now I was tempted to give up and try again tomorrow. I was surprised by how difficult it felt to take the last few steps to the front door and ring the bell, but I’d been standing there for at least five minutes and couldn’t make myself move.

Every so often, a burst of laughter rang out from inside the house. I couldn’t work out who was there, but it obviously wasn’t just Ollie and Albus. I wasn’t sure I could handle seeing anyone else.

I took a deep breath, ready to turn around and give up, but was stopped by the front door swinging open.

A tall boy with messy blonde hair stumbled out through the door and I winced. I’d been struggling to pick up the courage to see Ollie. I definitely wasn’t ready to see Scorpius Malfoy. But then the boy turned to face me and I relaxed: it wasn’t Scor.

The boy’s face cracked into a delighted grin when he saw me and he staggered down the steps to stand beside me. He smelt like whiskey and didn’t seem able to stand still. He rummaged in his pocket and brought out a crumpled pack of muggle cigarettes and a lighter. I watched him in silence as he lit a cigarette and tucked it between his lips.

“Want one?” He held the pack out towards me.

I shook my head. If I was going to stand out here and smoke with Louis Weasley, I might as well head inside and brave seeing the rest of them.

“Suit yourself,” Louis said, leaning back against the garden fence. “Can’t say I expected to see you any time soon.”

“I came to visit Ollie. Is she here?”

“Yeah, she’s inside,” Louis said through a cloud of smoke. “It’s Al’s birthday.”

I winced. I hadn’t meant to turn up to a Potter birthday party. And that probably meant his whole family was in there.

“So, I heard you were fucking my cousin,” Louis said conversationally.

“That was seven years ago. I think it’s about time you got over it.”

Louis laughed, smoke spilling out through his lips with the sound. He took the cigarette out of his mouth and held it in the air so he could cough.

“Different cousin this time, love,” he grinned.

I raised an eyebrow and waited for him to keep talking.

“Arielle,” Louis explained. “She’s a Delacour. You didn’t know?”

I thought of Arielle’s glossy hair and flawless skin. Now that Louis had told me they were cousins, it seemed obvious. They had the same sulky pout and the same confident glow that came with veela heritage.

“Gave me a nice little bit of deja vu, that did,” Louis laughed. “Cassandra Selwyn having an illicit affair with one of my cousins.”

He looked delighted. I scowled at him.

“So...you’re back. You here for the wedding next week?” He yawned, blurring his words together.

“I think so.”

“Bold,” he said. “I’m impressed by your courage. Aunt Ginny might hunt you down.”

“I don’t have a lot of allies in your family.”

“With good reason,” he said, his voice suddenly colder. And then he seemed to shake it off and laughed again. “Nah, you’ll be alright. James is hiding away at the moment anyway and Ginny will be too excited about Al getting married to care much about you. As long as you can avoid Lily you might stay alive.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” I muttered. “How are you anyway?”

Louis leaned forward, frowning at me. His eyes were huge and the same shade of turquoise as Arielle’s. I took a step backwards.

“I’m alright. I had to move out of Rose’s place because she kept trying to make me get a real job. Living with Lucy now. Remember her?”

“In the wheelchair?”

“That’s the one. She’s my least judgemental cousin.”

“Still no job?”

“Nah…” Louis paused. “Look, I’m happy to keep up the smalltalk if you want, but it seems to me that you’re just putting off going inside.”

He stubbed his cigarette out on the fence behind him and then let it slip through his fingers to the floor.

“I should get back inside. Liv threatened to do the birthday cake without me if I took another smoking break. She’s trying to get me to quit.”

I laughed. “She used to smoke more than I did when we were at school.”

“Yeah but now she’s a responsible grown up and doesn’t approve.”

“How boring,” I said.

Louis snorted with laughter and shoved the rest of his cigarettes back into his pocket.

“Come on. I want to witness their reaction when they see your face.” He beamed.

“I despise you,” I told him.

“All the best people do.”

He walked up the steps ahead of me. He was wearing distractingly tight jeans and an oversized pink jumper that he’d rolled up to his elbows. He had the same kind of easy confidence as Arielle.

I hesitated when we reached the door and Louis grabbed my hand to pull me forward.

I stopped him.

“Exactly how bad is this going to be?” I pulled my hand away from him and stayed still on the top step.

Louis shrugged. “Depends how much of a coward you are.”

“I’m serious. I’m exhausted and, frankly, a little bit hungover.”

“Not too bad. James is refusing to leave his house at the moment so he won’t be there. And usually the rest of the family would come, but given that Al’s got the wedding next week they’ve kept tonight quiet. It’s just his close family and Rose and me.”

“Right.”

“Come on. The Cassie I remember was ruthless. She wouldn’t be scared of crashing a little birthday party.”

“Fine. Let’s do this.”

Soft voices greeted us in the hallway, singing ‘Happy Birthday’. Louis swore under his breath and sped up. I dawdled behind him.

I hadn’t been to Ollie and Albus’s house before, but it felt oddly familiar as I walked down the corridor. The walls were painted turquoise and covered with framed drawings from the children’s books Ollie illustrated. The ceiling was a deep blue and twinkled with glittering stars. It reminded me of Hogwarts, but where the enchanted ceiling at school had shown the real sky outside, this ceiling was thick with oil paint.

Once upon a time, Ollie and I had planned to live together. I wondered whether I would have thought to fill the house with her artwork. Albus had always been better than I was at recognising the things that made her happy.

I stopped my thoughts before they could make me feel guilty, and hurried to catch up with Louis.

The kitchen door was wide open and we stood in the doorway for a moment as the song finished. Albus was sat at the table with an enormous cake in front of him. It was iced in gold with tiny red lions padding their way across its top, and candles flickered in different colours. Ollie stood behind him, her hands on his shoulders, leaning in towards him as she sang.

Lily and Rose were sat either side of Albus, and his parents were sat opposite them with their backs to us. There was no sign of James.

The song finished and Albus leaned forwards and blew the candles. They quivered and shifted into a shade of bright green before disappearing completely.

Albus laughed. “I thought there was a lack of Slytherin colours on the cake. Should have known they’d turn up at some point.”

Ollie laughed and lifted one hand to stroke his hair back from his forehead. He caught her hand and kissed the inside of her wrist, holding it against his lips for long enough that it felt like the kind of moment they shouldn’t have an audience for. She blushed and pulled away but she was smiling.

I felt a sudden burst of love for her, so strong that it surprised me.

Albus grinned at Ollie. “Thank you so much for tonight. I didn’t really expect anything, what with the wedding so soon. But this has been great.”

He looked around the table at the rest of his family to thank them, but his eyes landed on Louis and I, still standing in the doorway and watching in silence.

“I thought you were joking when you said you’d do the cake without me,” Louis pouted.

Everyone around the table turned to look at him. When they saw me beside him their expressions shifted pretty much unanimously into dislike.

“Fuck’s sake, Louis. Take the trash back outside,” Lily said coolly.

“Honestly,” Rose said, shaking her head at Louis. “It’s Al’s birthday. What were you thinking?”

“I missed you too,” I told her.

Both Rose and Lily glared at me, and then Rose turned her glare back to Louis.

Louis rolled his eyes. “It’s not like I invited her. I just ran into her outside.”

“Well, you should have sent her away,” Lily said. “Every time she’s here she just fucks everything up for everyone.”

“Language, Lily,” Harry said, as if he’d only just noticed the conflict brewing in the room. “Be nice.”

“No, don’t be nice,” Ginny cut across him. “You don’t owe her anything.”

“That’s not a reason to be unkind,” Harry said. He looked tired. I was fairly sure he didn’t like me any more than the rest of them did, but I guess being the saviour of the wizarding world might make you feel like you have some obligation to be decent all the time.

“Do I need a reason to be unkind? I thought you loved my brutal character assassinations,” Ginny smirked.

“I love everything about you,” Harry told her earnestly.

Especially my character assassinations,” Ginny insisted.

“Well, if you’re going to assassinate someone's character, you might as well do it to the bitch that broke James’s heart,” Lily said, baring her teeth.

“Lily…” Albus said reproachfully.

I looked back at Albus, wondering why he sounded like he might come to my defence. And when I looked at him, I couldn’t help but stare at Ollie.

Ollie was biting her lower lip so hard that it looked painful. She held on to Albus’s shoulder with one hand and her fingers were obviously digging into the skin under his collarbone. He had reached up so he could hold on to her wrist and was running his thumb over the skin on the back of her hand, but it didn’t seem to be helping her relax. When she noticed me looking at her, she dropped her gaze to the floor and blinked slowly.

She looked like she was in pain and it was definitely my fault. A moment ago, when Albus had been blowing out his candles, Ollie had looked calm and happy and like she had nothing to worry about. Now she was suddenly a different person. It was like all the times I’d let her down were scrawled across her expression.

I took a step backwards. Louis frowned at me and half lifted his hand towards me. I shook my head and he dropped his arm back to his side.

Albus tilted his head up so he could look at Ollie. They looked like they were having some kind of telepathic conversation. Every so often, one of them would make a slight gesture and the other would give a tiny nod. Eventually, Albus turned back to me.

“Cassie,” he said, his voice steady and kind but not exactly warm. “Welcome back. Would you like to sit down?”

I saw Lily narrow her eyes at her brother, but nobody argued with him. Rose actually stood up to pull out the chair beside her so I had space to join them.

I stayed frozen in the doorway until Louis coughed and shoved me forwards, and then I grimaced.

“I’m sorry. I have to go.”

I ignored their calls for me to come back and pushed past Louis to flee.


Chapter 3: The Escape
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I made it to the end of the road and then stopped, unsure what to do with myself. I’d been vaguely planning to find a hotel and stay in London until after the wedding, but now that I’d seen the Potters I wasn’t sure that was such a good idea. It had been stupid of me to come back. I should have realised how difficult it would be.

There was a bus stop at the corner of the street and I sat down on the narrow plastic bench. It was sloped and uncomfortable but I pressed myself up against the glass shelter and crossed my arms tightly around myself.

The pavement glittered with puddles that darkened my boots. It must have rained earlier in the day. I kicked the water and regretted it when it seeped through the suede of my shoes and made my toes damp.

Splashing footsteps came towards me and I closed my eyes. Unless it was Ollie, I didn’t want to talk to anyone.

“Cassie?”

Albus’s voice. I sighed and opened my eyes.

He stood on the other side of the glass, watching me. His hair was tousled and he looked tired. The easy smiles I’d seen from him inside had faded.

“Go away,” I snapped.

He rolled his eyes and stepped around the glass and into the shelter, perching on the red plastic beside me.

“Get up, Cassie.”

“No.”

“You’re going to get up and come back with me,” he told me, his voice slow and patient, like he was talking to a young child.

I snorted. “Why would I do that?”

“For Liv,” he said.

I scowled at him and crossed my arms more tightly.

“Come on. I sent the others home. You can come in.”

“You don’t want me in your house,” I mumbled.

“No. I really don’t. You actually might be the person I least want to enter my house ever.”

I gaped at him. “Did you just...say something mean?”

He gave me a bemused look and shrugged.

“I am capable of occasional meanness. When necessary.”

“You amaze me,” I said, nudging him with my shoulder.

He chuckled and then yawned.

“I’m the person you least want in your house? Out of everyone in the world?”

Albus shrugged. “I reckon so. You’re in the top three, at least.”

I wrinkled my nose, considering this. It hurt a little bit.

“I never thought I’d hear Albus Potter, sunshine king, saying something so mean,” I said, forcing a laugh.

“I do feel a little bit guilty about it.”

“Thanks. That makes me feel better.”

“Good.”

We sat in comfortable silence for a few moments. The rain had started again and was pattering against the shelter above us. I unclenched my arms and held one hand out to catch the drops. I’d sort of missed the English weather.

“So why do you want me to come with you? If I’m the person you least want in your house,” I said, breaking the silence.

“Liv,” Albus said simply.

“Right.” I crossed my arms again.

“You’re not a nice person, Cassie,” he said.

“I know.”

“You’re really not. When I met Liv she was a wreck because of you. She was having the most terrible time and she needed people she loved to support her. And, for whatever reason, she wanted you to be one of those people. And you left her.”

“I know,” I whispered.

“And then you came back and I thought you were going to be able to fix it. I wanted you to be able to fix it. And the way my brother used to look at you made it all seem worth it.”

I winced. I should have known he’d mention James.

“Jesus, Cassie. I forget how bad it was until I properly think about it.”

“I…” My voice trailed away. “I didn’t…”

“You didn’t know it would destroy everybody if you walked out on my brother and your daughter and didn’t tell anyone where you were going?”

“I didn’t know how to stay,” I confessed.

“I don’t really care what your reasons were,” he said. “I seriously doubt they even begin to justify what you did. But that’s not the point right now.”

“What is the point?”

He stood up and stepped in front of me, looking at me with a serious gaze.

“The point is that you hurt them. Liv and James are my absolute favourite people. I love them so so much. And your pathological need to run away from the people who care about you has hurt them. You hurt them.”

He rubbed his eyes. He looked stressed and tired and I felt sort of guilty for causing it. It was his birthday and he was standing outside in the rain trying to show me the things I’d done wrong.

He took a deep, slow breath. “Look, Cassie. You hurt Liv and then you hurt James and I’m not going to let you do it again. Liv wanted you to be here. You’re not running away this time. Now get up and come back with me.”

I stuck my tongue out at him but stood up anyway.

“Fine.”

“Good.”

We started walking back down the road, rain drizzling down over us. I kept putting one foot in front of the other, walking in tiny pigeon steps and focussing on the straight line my toes made when the met my heels so that I didn’t need to think too much about where I was.

“You told me off,” I said.

“I did.”

“You were very convincing.”

“Thank you.”

“You sounded like a teacher. Or a dad.”

“Sure.”

“And you’re wearing slippers outside. You’re such a dad,” I laughed.

A fleeting, pained expression passed over his face. But a moment later it had gone and he was smiling again.

“Just wait until you see my dancing next week. Then you won’t call me dad.”

“We’ll see.”

I smiled at him. He smiled back. And then I followed him back into the house.

Al led me back through the kitchen and over to a sofa next to the window. Ollie was sat at the edge of the sofa. She sat up very straight and kept tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

“I didn’t think you’d come back,” she said shakily.

“Your fiance is very persuasive.”

I sat down at the other end of the sofa, leaving the space next to her free for Albus. I didn’t feel like I could sit too close to her.

Albus mumbled something about making tea and left us, heading back into the kitchen area.

“So…” I chewed on my lip, waiting for Ollie to start the conversation properly.

Ollie didn’t say anything. Her eyes kept flickering over to Albus, who was leaning against the kitchen counter and waiting for the kettle to boil. He was far away enough to give us space but still very much in the room. I watched him smile at Ollie and saw how she visibly relaxed when she met his gaze.

“I didn’t really expect you to come,” she admitted.

I frowned. “I didn’t really expect to come either.”

“But you did.”

“Yeah.”

“Because of James, right?” She was still watching Albus, not looking at me.

“What?”

“You weren’t going to come,” she said. “And then James had his accident and you came back.”

I bit a hangnail away from my little finger and then chewed on the nail itself while I contemplated my answer.

“I’m not angry, Cass. I’m just trying to understand you. I hate not being able to understand you.”

“I’m here for you,” I told her. “You’re right. I came back because I heard about James’s accident. It made me feel like I couldn’t keep ignoring my life here. But I want to be here for you.”

“Right.”

“I mean it. You’re getting married. That’s huge. I want to be there with you.”

Ollie’s eyes were shiny and she brushed them with her fingers, wiping the tears on her jumper. But then she gave me a tired sort of smile and shrugged.

Albus carried a tray over to us and passed each of us a cup of tea. He put a plate of jaffa cakes on the cushion between the two of us and then sat down in a separate armchair, dragging it closer to Ollie so he could rest a hand on her shoulder and use his thumb to rub small circles on her forearm. She tilted her head to kiss the back of his hand.

“You’re staying for the wedding then?” He said.

“If that’s okay.”

“I’ll tell Lily to behave herself,” he smirked.

I shuddered. “I forgot about her.”

Ollie shook her head and laughed. “She’s just being protective. James is her favourite big brother.”

Albus prodded her shoulder and she turned and kissed his nose.

“If you’re sticking around…” Ollie said tentatively. “You know you’ll have to see him at some point.”

“James?”

She nodded. “He’s hiding away, but there’s no chance Ginny will let him avoid coming to the wedding. You’ll see him. Will you be okay with that?”

“Will he be okay with that?”

I bit the inside of my cheek, waiting as Ollie and Albus looked at each other, having some kind of silent conversation that I wasn’t a part of.

“I don’t know,” Albus said eventually. “What you did to him...wasn’t good. And now he’s having to cope with losing Quidditch. I’ll warn him you’re here but it might not be a very pretty reunion.”

I took a deep breath, nodding slowly. I’d expected that. I couldn’t ask James to be okay with me coming back like this.

“Will you manage being here?” Ollie asked, looking at me with careful, narrowed eyes. “You won’t run off again before the wedding?”

“Sure.”

“I mean it.” She looked stern. “If you’re going to run away then you should go now. I don’t want you to tell me you’ll be here and then leave again. I can’t...I just can’t deal with that.”

“Ollie, I’m here.”

“And you won’t run away?”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

She gave me a watery smile and then stood up. I stood as well and she pulled me into a hug that reminded me of being fifteen and being inseparable. She smelt like apple and honey and her hair tickled my cheek and I didn’t want to let go.

When she pulled away, she was smiling properly.

“That’s that sorted, then,” she said. “And if you’re here you can help me with the final preparations. Ginny’s been doing lots of it with me and Rose is my maid of honour, but I could use your eye for detail.”

“I’d love to help.”

“Fab. I’ve got my final dress fitting tomorrow. You should come with.”

She yawned and Albus stepped up behind her and let her lean back into him.

“I’m shattered,” Ollie said. “Think I need to go to bed or I’m not going to make it through the week.”

I took the hint and backed away.

“Of course. I should get going. I need to find a hotel room.”

“Don’t be silly,” Ollie said, shaking her head.

“We have a guest room,” Albus told me. “You can stay with us.”

I waited for one of them to take back the offer. I’d already spoilt Albus’s birthday. I didn’t think they could possibly want me to actually stay with him. But they were both smiling and I couldn’t detect any hesitation in Albus’s offer.

“Are you sure?” My voice wavered. I hated it.

“Come.” Ollie smiled and reached out her hand.

I took her hand and let her lead me down the corridor to a bright yellow door painted with splashing red poppies.

“Let us know if you need anything,” Albus said. “We’re just upstairs.”

I waited for them to leave before opening the door. I still felt like I was imposing, but now that they’d gone to bed I couldn’t really leave without being rude. I stepped into the room.

Like the rest of the house, the space so obviously belonged to Ollie that it filled me with warmth. The walls were striped white and pale blue until they neared the top and blurred into a cloudy sky that stretched across the ceiling. Unlike the corridor, this sky was still and unchanging. Carefully drawn birds were scattered among the clouds and a single large, flying pink elephant danced in the very center of the room. The images were childish and colourful and I couldn’t hold back my smile.

I lay down on the bed in the middle of the room and stared up at the ceiling, not bothering to get changed or turn out the lights. Ollie was so talented. I wasn’t sure I’d realised quite how impressive she was when we were still at school. Now that she’d made a career from her artwork I felt silly for not paying more attention to it when I still had the chance.

The quilt on my bed was embroidered with tiny blue and white fairies that danced and twirled across the fabric. I ran my fingers over the thread and let sleep make my body heavy.

I knew that the next week wasn’t going to be easy, but it felt good to be home.


Chapter 4: Dress Fitting
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She looked a little bit like an angel and it made me want to cry. Ollie had made the dress herself, stitching together swathes of creamy gold lace into a tight bodice that descended into floating skirts of chiffon, embroidered with tiny vines and roses. She scrunched her hair up in her hands and gave a little twirl to show us the way the back of the dress dropped down towards her waist, leaving a deep curve of skin visible that was quickly obscured again when she let her curls drop back down over her shoulder blades.

“It’s perfect,” Rose told her, beaming.

The rest of us nodded. I’d gone along with Ollie to her dress fitting because she’d said that she’d like to have me there, but I felt a little bit self-conscious surrounded by her bridesmaids. Lily was shooting me venomous glares whenever I stepped too close, and Rose was friendly but seeing how close her and Ollie was felt difficult.

I knew that Ollie wanted my company, or at least had claimed that she wanted my company, but it felt odd to be the only one in the room not part of the bridal party.

I found myself constantly shuffling away from them and standing with Divya, Ollie’s editor and final bridesmaid, just because she hadn’t been around the last time I’d been in England. If she found it strange that I was there, she hadn’t mentioned it, and she at least didn’t seem to know my history with the Potter family.

Madam Malkin gestured for Ollie to turn around again, and then gave an approving nod.

“Good. We just needed to take it in that extra centimetre,” she said.

“Thank you,” Ollie said earnestly. “I’ve always been rubbish at making adjustments. I would have just worn it not fitting properly. You’ve made such a massive difference.”

Madam Malkin smiled and waved away the compliment before stepping back into the main shop to greet a customer.

Lily stepped closer to Ollie, eyeing her up and down.

“Oh dear,” she said. “My brother’s going to be sickening when he sees you in this dress.”

Ollie grinned. “That’s the plan.”

Lily gave her a playful shove and rolled her eyes.

Ollie laughed. “Now I just have to be extra careful not to gain or lose any weight between now and next week. I need you all to be my dieticians.”

“I’ve got it covered,” Rose told her. “I’ve been learning some charms to reverse last minute weight change. It was in one of my bridal books.”

“Rose takes her role very seriously,” Ollie told me, eyes shining with amusement. “As soon as I asked her to be my maid of honour she made a list of all the relevant reading material. She’s super prepared for all possible eventualities.”

“Well, I like to be on top of things,” Rose said. “I left the Hen to Lils, though. She’s better at that kind of thing.”

“Should I be scared?” Ollie turned to Lily.

Lily gave an evil grin and crossed her arms across her chest. “A magician never reveals her secrets.”

“Ominous,” Rose frowned.

“Yep. As Maid of Honour you have to taste everything and try everything before I do to make sure it’s safe,” Ollie said, and then turned to me. “Cass, you should come. It’s tomorrow night.”

“Oh...erm…”

I could feel Lily’s eyes drilling into me, willing me to come up with a reason why I wouldn’t want to join. But Ollie’s eyes had widened. She looked hopeful.

“Okay. Sure. If that’s alright.”

“Fab,” Ollie smiled. “Some of the other Hogwarts girls will be there. Clara and Esther both said they’d come, and Amethyst. They’ll all be pleased to see you.”

I found that unlikely. Clara Zabini had hated me pretty much since the moment she met me, and I’d been fairly horrid to Amethyst Twine throughout school. Esther would probably pretend it was nice to have me there. She was good at being nice.

“Great. Looking forward to it,” I managed to say.

“Good. Someone help me get this dress off? I’m scared of ripping it.”

Rose and Lily followed Ollie back into the changing cubicle, leaving me hovering awkwardly outside with Divya .

Divya slouched back and flopped onto a bench in the waiting area.

“I love Liv but I’ve just about had it with all this wedding stuff,” she confessed, rubbing a hand back over her shaved head.

Her voice was deep and throaty. It sounded a little like she might need to cough, but she showed no sign of discomfort.

“Not enjoying being a bridesmaid?” I joined her on the bench.

She shrugged. “Not a big fan of pretty dresses. I’m sure it’ll be fun on the day.”

“Yeah.”

She reached down the front of her shirt and pulled out a small purple hip flask embossed with a silver owl. She took a swig and then offered the flask to me.

It was only midday but I couldn’t see any reason to turn down the drink, so took a sip myself. I coughed. I wasn’t sure what it was but the burn it left down my throat made it clear that it was stronger than firewhiskey.

“So you’re the infamous Cassie Selwyn,” Divya smirked, reaching out to take the flask back from me. “I’ve been wondering if I’ll get to meet you.”

“I’m not infamous.”

“No? How should I describe you?” Divya’s eyes were sparkling. “Notorious?”

“Shut up.” I snatched the flask back from her and took a deep gulp, wincing as the liquid scorched my throat and chest.

“Okay, okay. We don’t need to talk about the notoriety. So what’s Albus like?” Divya asked. “I’ve only met him like twice.”

I shrugged. “He’s nice.”

Divya rolled her eyes and nudged me with her shoulder.

“You’ve got to give me more than that. Liv’s one of my best friends and she’s getting married to someone I hardly know.”

“He’s lovely,” I admitted. “Really nice. So nice that it confuses me a little bit.”

“Nice confuses you?”

“Yeah,” I shrugged. “I’m not very good at nice.”

Divya laughed. “So he’s good for Liv?”

I looked at her. She looked genuinely interested. I felt like a bit of a fraud talking about Al and Ollie, given that I’d hardly seen them over the last few years, but I felt like the nature of their relationship was pretty obvious.

“She just seems...calm when she’s with him,” I said. “He recognises what she needs to be happy. And I think she probably does the same for him.”

Divya nodded slowly. “She seems happy.”

“I think she is.”

“Good.” Divya nodded and had another drink.

Rose gave Divya a disapproving glance when she stepped out of changing room. Divya wiggled her fingers at her and tucked the hip flask away again before Ollie and Lily came out.

Ollie was back in jeans and a jumper, but still smiling like she had been when wearing her wedding dress.

“Thanks everyone,” she grinned. “I’m glad you were all here to make sure it was okay.”

Rose laughed and hugged her. “I’ve been desperate to see your dress. You couldn’t have stopped me from coming. But I should probably get back to St Mungo’s now. My next client’s due soon.”

“Me too,” Divya sighed. “I’m on my lunch hour.”

Rose frowned at her. “And you’re drinking?”

Divya shrugged. “I’m the boss. Nobody can complain.”

Lily looked like she found Divya funny but she didn’t say anything. Maybe she was scared of offending Rose.

“I should go too, Liv,” Lily said through a yawn. “People keep complaining about how often I close the shop.”

Ollie hugged them all and they filtered out through the door.

She turned to me. “Well done. You didn’t have a battle with Lily.”

“She didn’t have a battle with me.”

“Proud of you,” Ollie laughed.

She linked her arm through mine and we walked out of the shop and into Diagon Alley. It was cloudy and grey, but not cold. The paving stones were still slick with water from the downpour the previous night.

“I’m getting lunch with Scor,” Ollie said.

“Oh?”

“Yeah. His office is just round the corner. We try to meet up a couple of times a week and catch up.”

“How is he?” I looked down at the floor.

“He’s really good. You know he’s been seeing Rose?”

I swallowed. “No. I didn’t know that.”

“She makes him really happy, I think. They’ve been together for a couple of years now.”

“Oh.”

I could feel Ollie looking at me, trying to work out my reaction to this piece of information. To be honest I wasn’t sure how it made me feel. I had no right to care about Scor’s love life any more. The end of our relationship at school was completely and undeniably my own fault. But it felt a bit strange to know that he loved someone else now, to know that someone else was now the most important person in his life.

“You should come with me. For lunch,” Ollie said. “Scor would like to see you.”

“I find that very unlikely.”

She sighed. “He really would like it. He’ll want to know how you are.”

“He hates me.”

“He did,” she conceded. “For a long time. You hurt him. But that was years ago. He’s moved on. I thought you had too.”

“Maybe.”

“Just come for lunch. You don’t have to stay for long if you feel uncomfortable.”

I walked down the street with her, trying to find an excuse not to see Scor but knowing that I’d probably do whatever Ollie wanted me to.

We stopped outside a little cafe with green awning. I could see the back of Scor’s head through the window, bent down over a menu. He was wearing a suit and his shoulders were broader than the last time I’d seen him.

“I’m going to head back to your place,” I told Ollie.

“Really? I thought I’d managed to get you here.” Ollie pouted.

“I know. I’m sorry. I just feel like it would be too much today.”

“Okay. I’ll see you later on.”

“Yeah.” I reached out to hug her. “See you later.”

I crossed the road as Ollie went inside, and then looked back to see Scor pull her into a hug and kiss the top of her head. They still shared such an easy affection it looked like nothing had changed between them since we were kids. But of course to me everything looked different, because we used to be inseparable as a three, and now they were happy without me.

It was starting to drizzle. I kicked through the puddles and started to walk back in the other direction. Ollie and Albus’s house was just around the corner from Diagon Alley, and even though it was raining I felt like I needed the walk.

When I reached their street, for some reason my feet kept moving. I’d been meaning to go straight back and lie down and try to sort through my feelings from the day, but I found myself walking past their front door and continuing down the street.

I suppose I knew where I was going, but I didn’t let myself think it through because I knew if I gave it too much thought I wouldn’t go through with it.

I trudged through muggle London until I reached the house I’d been looking for. It didn’t look like much from the outside, squeezed in between two much larger houses built up beside it, but if you looked carefully you could see hints of the magic that made it extraordinary inside: the flowers that grew just a bit taller than the ones in the gardens next door; the windows that somehow didn’t reveal anything inside, no matter how closely you looked; the huge gold doorknocker that didn’t quite fit with the modern style of the rest of the house.

I took a deep breath and forced myself to step up to the front door. I wasn’t sure if anybody would even be in, and definitely wasn’t sure what I’d do if they were, but I’d come this far and was determined to keep going.

The doorknocker was heavy and I let it thump down onto the door several times before stepping back slightly and waiting for the door to open.

Footsteps sounded on the other side of the door and I crossed my arms tightly around my chest and chewed on my lip, nervous.

The door swung open and I stared at the boy behind it.

He looked different but somehow exactly the same. His hair was a bit longer than it had been when I’d known him, curling a little over his ears, but it suited him. He had a thin scar grazing his jawline from some quidditch accident that had happened in the years since I’d last seen him. But his eyes were the same, his lips were the same, his tense stance was the same. And suddenly I didn’t feel nervous anymore.

“Cassie,” he breathed.

I looked at him, my eyes flickering down to his left arm, now ending just below his shoulder. The sleeve of his jumper dangled, empty and shapeless, over the space where his flesh used to be. I pulled my gaze away and looked back up at his face.

“Hi, James,” I murmured.

He slammed the door shut in my face.









Chapter 5: Confrontations
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I kept knocking on the door. A large part of me wanted to give up and walk away, but I thought if I left now I might never pick up the courage to come back. So I kept knocking. Nobody came to let me in.

Sighing, I took out my wand. Charms had never been my best subject, but I managed a repetition charm to get the knocker falling without me lifting it. Satisfied that the knocking would continue, I took a seat on the front steps and leant my back against the wood of the door.

I don’t know how long I sat there: it was long enough for the knocking sound to start driving me crazy. It was giving me a headache, but the tight, throbbing sensation in my temples brought me some satisfaction. If it was annoying me this much it would be annoying him too. He should just let me in.

Eventually, the door swung open from behind me and I had to drop my hands down onto the floor to stop myself falling backwards with it.

I looked up at the man who’d opened the door. Not James.

“Oh.” I picked myself up off the floor. “I forgot about you.”

Jason Wood was Ollie’s moronic older cousin. Well, he used to be Ollie’s moronic older cousin. From what I’d gathered, she didn’t call him a moron so much anymore. He was also James’s best friend and housemate. When I’d vaguely formed this plan to turn up at James’s, it hadn’t occurred to me that Jason might be there too. I’d stupidly assumed that James would be alone.

“You have to go,” Jason said coldly. He rested his hands on the doorframe either side of him, as if worried I’d try to push past and get into the house.

“I just want to talk to him.”

“Well, you can’t.”

“Please. I heard about what happened. I came back from France…”

“I don’t care,” Jason cut across me. “I don’t care how far you came. Funnily enough, this isn’t actually about you.”

I winced. A long time ago, when we were still at school, people didn’t call me self-absorbed. We all had fun and we loved each other and I suppose it didn’t matter that I was selfish because we forgave each other for our flaws. Now, things were different. I’d done things that nobody was going to forgive, and it meant they were quick to call me out on my rubbish.

“I might be able to help,” I muttered. “I know you don’t like me, but I just need to see him.”

Jason sighed and stepped out of the house, pulling the front door closed behind him.

“You’re right: I don’t like you,” he told me.

I nodded. This wasn’t new information. None of them liked me, except Ollie, and maybe Louis. Even Albus, generally understood to be one of the nicest people on the planet, had felt able to openly express his dislike.

“I’ve never really liked you,” Jason continued. “But that’s not what this is about. This is James’s decision. And he asked me to make you leave.”

“But…”

“No, Cassie. You don’t get to try to negotiate around this. He’s going through the hardest thing that’s ever happened to him, and you can’t just turn up and try to get involved. He’s hardly up to seeing anyone at the moment. Especially not you.”

I felt my determination dissolve. I shouldn’t have tried to disagree with Jason about this. James was hurting.

“How is he?” I said quietly.

Jason shook his head. I suddenly realised how tired he looked. At school I’m not sure I ever saw him without a smile on his face. He was full of enthusiasm and laughter, even when he was arguing with Ollie. Right now, he just looked exhausted. I wondered what it was like to live with James when he’d just lost his arm and his career. I didn’t envy Jason.

“Is there anything I can do?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “I think it’s going to be rough for a while. Well, for a long while. He’s just so unhappy.”

I didn’t say anything. There wasn’t anything to say. I just let him keep talking.

“He’s lost his arm. I don’t think I can even imagine what that’s like for him. So many things that should be easy are suddenly impossible. He’s having to relearn things he’s done without thinking for the last two decades. Yesterday I found him crying at the kitchen table because he couldn’t open the jam jar.”

Jason had tears in his eyes. I wondered whether I should give him a hug, or try to acknowledge the sadness in some other way, but I wasn’t sure he’d welcome that from me.

“And that’s not even thinking about the Quidditch,” Jason carried on. “The whole time I’ve known him we’ve talked about flying. Quidditch is everything. And that’s something I can understand. I don’t know how I’d live without it. He was being tipped to play for England, and suddenly that’s just...over.”

He shook his head again and rubbed his eyes.

“I don’t know. I’m not sure why I’m telling you all of this. I guess I just...I’ve been trying so hard to help him with this, and it’s difficult. And I want you to understand that. You can’t just swan in and try to get involved because it’s not that simple.”

Not for the first time, I was struck by how intense their friendship was. I remember watching them at school, before I really knew James. They were always together. Until Lily came along with her clique of Slytherin mean girls, the other Potters and Weasleys had all surrounded themselves with their cousins as their best friends. Albus had Louis and Rose constantly at his side. But James was different. James found a new family. He was close with Dominique Weasley, but Jason was the one he was never seen without.

Watching and listening to Jason now, I felt a little bit jealous of their relationship. It was what I could have had with Ollie, I think, if I’d managed to hold on to the way we used to be. Jason cared about James so much that the thought of him in pain brought tears to his eyes. I wasn’t sure anyone felt like that about me.

“You’re doing well,” I told him. “He’s lucky to have you.”

Jason nodded slowly, looking grateful.

“Um...I’m sorry for disturbing you,” I muttered. “I suppose I just...wasn’t really thinking.”

Jason nodded again. He didn’t tell me it was okay, though. It wasn’t okay, really. Most of the things I did weren’t okay.

“Look after yourself, Cassie,” he said.

I nodded and walked away.

When I got back to Ollie’s house, I threw myself into helping her with seating plans and didn’t say where I’d been. She was smiley after her lunch with Scorpius and seemed grateful for the help.

Albus was out at work but came home early, bringing mountains of Chinese takeaway with him.

“I didn’t know what you liked, Cassie,” he said. “So I bought a bit of everything.”

“Because you weren’t sure what Cassie liked?” Ollie looked amused. “Don’t listen to him, Cass. He buys this much every time.”

Albus muttered something about liking food and Ollie laughed.

“Scor wants to see you,” she told Albus, kissing his nose. “He says he needs to make some threats before the wedding.”

“He’s terrible at threatening me. He’s been trying it since sixth year.” Albus rolled his eyes.

“Really?”

“Yeah, he’s always letting me know what will happen if I hurt you. But then we have a few drinks and he tells me he loves me, so it’s not very convincing.”

Ollie laughed and, to my surprise, a giggle escaped through my lips as well. I could imagine Scorpius trying to take his role as Ollie’s best friend seriously. I couldn’t really imagine him saying he loved Albus Potter, but people change.

Albus started to empty plastic boxes of noodles and rice onto plates, pushing them to the centre of the table.

“Your cousin is somewhat more intimidating,” Albus said. “Because he’s bigger than me.”

“Jason’s a teddy bear,” Ollie laughed, poking Albus’s stomach.

“He’s a professional athlete. I’m a lawyer. I work in an office. He could definitely take me down.”

“I saw him today,” I murmured.

They both turned to face me, matching curious expressions plastered over their faces.

“I tried to see James,” I explained.

Ollie glanced at Albus and then reached out to squeeze my hand. “How did it go?”

I shook my head. “He didn’t want to see me. I talked to Jason though. He seems...nice. I can see why you like him.”

She shrugged. “He’s my family. I adore him.”

She said it like it was obvious. I kind of wanted to remind her of the horrible words she used to exchange with Jason, but her smile was radiant and I didn’t want to spoil it.

“Are your parents coming? To the wedding, I mean?”

Her smile disappeared.

“No. They are very much not invited.”

Albus squeezed her shoulder and my cheeks heated up. I felt guilty for asking. She’d cut off all contact with her parents after graduation. I should have remembered that.

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be,” she said with another shrug. “I’ve got enough nice people to love me. I don’t need people that are unkind to me.”

I knew she was speaking about her parents, but I couldn’t ignore how applicable her words were to me. I suddenly felt hugely uncomfortable.

Ollie looked like she might have realised how her words could be interpreted, because she looked away from me and turned her face into Al’s chest for a moment.

The doorbell rang and Ollie jumped up to answer it.

“Where is she?”

James’s voice was slurred but impossible not to recognise. I leapt to my feet and then took a step away from the table, unsure what to do.

Albus stepped forward to meet his brother when he entered the room. James didn’t acknowledge him, striding straight to my side.

“How dare you turn up at my house?” He spat the words out. They were poisonous.

Albus and Ollie edged back, out of the room, leaving us to have this conversation in private.

“I wanted to see you,” I mumbled.

“You...no. No. You haven’t wanted to see me for the last six years. You left me and you left Cadence with no warning and no explanation and you’ve ignored my messages every single bloody time I’ve tried to talk to you about it. And now you say you want to see me?”

He was close enough that I could smell the gin on his breath.

I looked down at my feet. I knew he would be angry with me, but that didn’t make it any easier to listen to.

“How dare you turn up at my house?” He was shouting now. “How dare you turn up at my house, where my daughter is? How can you possibly think that’s acceptable?”

Our daughter. I wanted to correct him. Cadence is our daughter.

James pushed a hand back through his hair, tangling his fingers and pulling in a way that must have been painful. I wanted to pull his hand away but I knew he wouldn’t want me to touch him.

“You left us,” he said, quieter now. “You left us. You left me. I was so nice to you. And you left. You’re a real fucking piece of work.”

It made me angry. His criticism and his swearing brought a stab of fury up through my throat, and before I could think it through I’d already snapped at him.

“You were suffocating. I couldn’t be around you anymore.”

He laughed, a cruel, bitter laugh, and took a step backwards, away from me.

“God, you’re a bitch.”

This time I didn’t respond.

“Just...just stay away from the house. Stay away from me.”

He walked out without saying anything else and without anything to Albus and Ollie. I heard the front door slam behind him.

I leaned back against the kitchen counter, feeling shaky. I suppose I’d never really expected James to speak to me like that.

Ollie was leaning against the doorframe, a thoughtful frown furrowing her brow.

“You okay?” Her voice was soft.

I managed a nod.

“Good.”

I took another deep breath to calm myself down, unsure what I should say to Ollie. She didn’t seem particularly worried about James’s anger. In fact, she looked peaceful, maybe even pleased.

“Cass,” she breathed. “I know that probably wasn’t easy. But I think you should know...none of us have managed to get James outside in weeks.”

I looked at her. I wasn’t sure why she was saying this.

“That’s the first time since his accident that he’s left the house.”












Chapter 6: The Hen Party
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I didn’t think much of Lily Potter but I couldn’t deny that she knew how to throw a good party. We gathered in the little Knockturn Alley flat she shared with Hugo. It was artsy and edgy: all exposed brickwork and battered leather armchairs, with soft amber light from antique lamps and scattered fairy lights.

Lily owned the apothecary downstairs and served us all cocktails out of large, battered copper cauldrons. She laughed when Rose asked her if she’d cleaned the cauldrons properly. Rose looked apprehensive. I swallowed my drink without questioning it.

“Okay, okay. We’re going to go out soon,” Lily said, after several hours and too many drinks to count. “But one more game first.”

“If she tries to make me participate in another game then I’m leaving,” Divya said darkly, downing the drink she was holding and leaning towards me to speak.

I laughed. “Not enjoying yourself?”

Divya shrugged. “I’m not loving the hen party humour.”

She waved a hand at the inappropriately shaped ice cubes floating around my drink. I laughed and scooped one up onto my tongue. It was cold and I spat it back out.

“Charming,” Divya said.

I stuck my tongue out at her and turned back to the rest of the room. All of the female Weasley cousins were there, as well as lots of the girls from our year at Hogwarts. I hadn’t properly spoken to any of them. Esther Montague had given me a hug when she arrived, and Amethyst Twine managed a small nod, but I’d spent most of the night by Divya’s side. Her bitter humour made her easy company in a room full of people that despised me.

“We asked Al some questions about you,” Lily said, her voice loud and commanding enough that people stopped having their own separate conversations so that they could listen. “We’re going to see how many of them he was right about.”

Ollie looked delighted. “He’ll be right about absolutely all of the questions.”

“Yeah?” Lily sounded amused.

Ollie staggered over to her and swung an arm around her shoulders.

“Yes. Because he’s extraordinarily lovely. He knows all of the things.”

“Shall we listen to his answers?” Lily was obviously helping Ollie stay standing upright.

“Mmm.”

Ollie abruptly sat down on the floor, suddenly looking distraught.

“What’s wrong?” Lily put down the drink she’d just picked up and crouched down next to Ollie.

“I miss him,” Ollie pouted.

“What? My brother?” Lily wrinkled her nose.

Ollie nodded, wide-eyed and earnest.

“Take me to find him,” she instructed, punching one hand up into the air.

“You are drunk, my love,” Lily laughed.

“All the more reason to follow all of my instructions and deliver me to Albus Severus Potter,” Ollie said.

Rose, who had been sitting awkwardly on the edge of the circle during Lily’s games, now got up to kneel beside Ollie. Ollie leaned into her and Rose put an arm around her.

“Shall I take you home?” She murmured.

Ollie shook her head violently. “Not home. Take me to Albus. He’s my favourite.”

Rose frowned and exchanged a glance with Lily. Lily shrugged.

“The boys are out somewhere on Diagon,” Lily said. “We could go and find them?”

“Yes,” Ollie said, immediately cheering up. “This is a marvellous idea. Let’s go and find them.”

Rose rolled her eyes. “I think they’re at Pumpkin Carriage. Scor walked me here on his way there.”

Lily and Rose stood either side of Ollie and helped her up, each linking an arm through hers to hold her upright. The rest of us filtered out through the door behind them.

Divya lit a cigarette as soon as we left the building. She offered one to me. I shook my head.

“Well, Liv’s lucky they decided to have the Hen a few days before the wedding. I don’t think she’d manage too well if this was the night before.” Divya chuckled.

I grinned, watching Ollie trying to force Rose to dance with her as they walked ahead of us.

“That would be a complete disaster. Lily definitely made the right call with the date.”

“She knows what she’s doing, Lily does. I mean, she’s a crazy bitch, but she adores Liv,” Divya said through a ring of smoke. “You alright with going to meet the boys?”

I shrugged. “I guess.”

Divya narrowed her eyes. “Because from what I’ve heard, your history with some of them isn’t ideal. I could imagine you might find this difficult.”

“Maybe. But I told Ollie I’d be here.”

“Yeah. You’re a good friend.”

I bit my lip. I’m not a good friend. But maybe Divya didn’t know that.

We walked past my brother’s flat on the way to Pumpkin Carriage and my breath caught in my throat. The light was on in the upstairs window and I could see Martin, Andreas’s boyfriend, back turned to the window while he cooked. Not so long ago, it was my home too. Andy would probably welcome me back if I asked to come in. He was the only person I’d actually warned before running away. But going to see him would still involve answering a lot of questions about my life choices, and I didn’t think I could face it.

I looked away from the window, hoping Martin wouldn’t look down and see me. Divya didn’t seem to notice that I was uncomfortable.

There was a long queue outside Pumpkin Carriage, but Lily swanned over the Bouncer, kissed his cheek and said something that made him laugh, and then beckoned us all through the front doors.

Ollie waited for me and clung to my arm when I reached her, laughing manically and bouncing up on her toes.

“We used to come out here. Remember? At school.” She sounded delighted. “We must dance later. We’re so good at it.”

“Sure.” I smiled. Knowing she was pleased to have me there felt nice.

“Look!” Ollie pointed. “It’s Scorpius!”

She waved, jumping up and down, and Scorpius looked over from the bar. A flash of something unfriendly crossed over his face when he looked at me, but then his mouth rearranged itself into an exasperated smile and he pushed through the crowds to reach us.

“You’re here! What a fabulous coincidence,” Ollie said, letting go of me to fling herself into Scor’s arms.

“It’s not a coincidence. You knew we were here. That’s why you came,” Scor said, rolling his eyes. “Hello, Cassie.”

He didn’t look at me when he said my name, but his voice wasn’t unkind.

“Hi,” I said, looking down at my toes.

“Shall we dance, Ollie?” Scor laughed.

I looked back up and grinned. Ollie was hand jiving and looking over at the dancefloor. She seemed to have forgotten how desperately she’d just been missing Albus, and was instead just enjoying being there.

“Yes. Yes, we must dance. Come on.”

She dragged him out towards the dance floor. Scor looked back at me and gave me a small nod. I smiled back.

I was surprised by the lack of feeling my encounter with Scor had generated. I’d expected it to feel difficult. We had a long, complicated history and I’d caused him a lot of pain. I’d sort of assumed that we’d still have the same bitter, painful chemistry. But maybe we’d finally grown up.

I watched Scor spin Ollie round, keeping one hand at her waist so she didn’t fall over, and laughed to myself.

“You alright?” Divya came up behind me.

“Yeah. Let’s get drinks?”

I took her hand and pulled her over towards the bar. When we got close, Divya shook her head and dragged me round the corner towards the toilets instead.

“I brought stuff with me,” she shouted over the music. “Never worth spending the money.”

She pulled me onto a bench outside the men’s loos, and took her hip flask out of her bra.

“You are a crazy genius,” I told her.

She smirked and offered me the flask.

It was the same smoky, burning liquid we’d shared at the dress shop. We passed the flask back and forth, sitting cross legged on the bench and facing each other. When it was nearly empty, we both edged a little closer.

My head was feeling foggy but in a good way. The music was loud, pumping into my head and my heart, and the wooden bench was vibrating beneath us.

“I’m glad I met you,” Divya said. “You’re fun.”

I’m not sure who moved first, but the next moment we’d closed the gap between us and her tongue had slipped into my mouth.

She brought one hand up to my cheek, fingers cool against my skin, and I rested my hand on her knee so I could lean further into her. Her lips were soft and she tasted like rum and sugar. We stayed there for a minute, both lost in the kiss, and then I remembered where we were and pulled away.

We were no longer alone in the corridor.

James stood about three feet away from us, his good arm still holding the door to the toilets open. His face was stony and he stared straight at me.

I opened my mouth, trying to find the right thing to say to him, but he turned away and walked back into the main club.

I didn’t apologise to Divya, just jumped straight to my feet and followed him.

It wasn’t hard to see where he was. Crowds parted for James Potter, and by the time I reached the dancefloor he was nearly at the exit. I started to push through the pulsating bodies and shrieking dancers, but found my way blocked by another familiar face.

“What did you do to him?”

I’d thought that Jason had been unfriendly the previous day, when he’d sent me away from his house. But that was nothing compared to the way he was speaking to me now.

“I didn’t realised he’d be here. Why isn’t he home with Cadence?” I was surprised by how panicked my voice sounded.

“It’s his brother’s stag do. Of course he’s here,” Jason spat, then sighed. “Cadence is with Ginny and Harry.”

“Oh.”

“What did you to him?” Jason repeated, this time more calm.

“Nothing.”

“Well, that’s just not true. Something happened to make him storm out with you following him like an anxious child.”

“Why do you care so much?”

“Because I love him.” Jason looked furious. “I love him. And you don’t get to keep messing him up. If you’ve hurt him again you need to go and talk to him right now and make it better.”

I think it was the desperation in his voice that made me unable to say no, because as soon as he finished speaking I pushed past him and followed James out of the door.

The cold outside was shocking after the heat of the club, and I was shivering immediately. Sweat still clung to my skin, but now the tiny beads of water were cold against my forehead and in my hair. I pulled my jacket, wrapping it tightly around my chest, and started to look for James.

It didn’t take me long to find him. He was standing at the street corner looking lost.

“James?” I walked slowly towards him, thinking if I moved too quickly he might just run away.

He turned to look at me. He had tears in his eyes. It made me feel like a terrible human.

I stopped a few paces away from him and watched him. He looked like he was waiting for me to speak. I wasn’t sure what to say.

“I know that I owe you an apology,” I said quietly. “A lot of apologies. But I just don’t even know how to start.”

He kept listening, looking down at me. His shirt was stuck to his chest with sweat from dancing. It made me want to move closer to him, but I kept my feet firmly on the ground.

“I am sorry,” I said. “I wish I knew how to explain myself. And tonight...I don’t know. She’s fun. I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t know what I’m doing here and I don’t know how to be around you and I know I’m getting everything wrong.”

Now the words were tumbling over each other in their rush to get out.

“I’m making all the wrong choices and I thought I was doing the right thing by coming back but I didn’t mean to make any of this harder for you. I didn’t want to hurt you again. I just...I read the newspaper article about your accident and I couldn’t stop thinking about you and I had to come back. I had to see you. I…”

He gave me a strange look that made me stop talking. I wasn’t sure whether he was even listening to me.

And then he stepped forward, put his arm around me, and crushed his lips into mine.

It was the kind of kiss that made it impossible to imagine ever moving away. He ran his hand up my back and into my hair, tangling his fingers through my hair and twisting it away from my neck. He smelt like citrus and smoke and I wrapped myself up in him. I rested one hand on his chest, feeling his heartbeat thud through my palm, and lifted the hem of his shirt with my other hand, resting my fingers on the smooth strip of warm skin above his waistband.

The longer we kissed, the more tightly we held onto each other, and the more we lost ourselves in each other. It was like so many kisses we’d shared before, but still different, somehow, more desperate, more urgent.

It felt like the rest of the world had disappeared.






Chapter 7: Pancakes
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I woke up early and sat still and rigid at the edge of the bed. James was still fast asleep. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t want to leave him, but I was scared of still being there when he woke up.

While he slept, he had a small, easy smile curling through his lips. He looked younger, softer. His hair was fluffy and he had his arm crossed over himself to rest his head on his hand. I’d woken up leaning on what was left of his shoulder, but had quickly moved away.

I pulled the sheets around my bare shoulders to cover myself and then sat and watched James sleep, unsure what to do with myself.

Eventually, when the sun was high enough in the sky to blare through the thin scarlet curtains, James rolled over.

He opened one eye and looked at me.

I waited for him to get angry with me for still being there. The previous night had been a rush of kissing and warmth and collapsing into each other without taking the time to talk about what we were doing, and by the time we curled together and closed our eyes we were too exhausted to think about what it all meant. Now, I was sure he would be furious.

James blinked.

I bit my lip.

He opened both eyes and yawned: a sleepy, content sound that didn’t exactly fit in with the idea I had of him being full of rage and regret.

“Hi,” I murmured.

“Hi,” he grinned sleepily.

I tentatively reached out and stroked a finger through his hair. He didn’t flinch. I rested my hand on his cheek.

“My head hurts,” he told me.

He lifted his hand and held onto my wrist before linking his fingers through mine. His skin was warm.

“What will make you happy?” I leaned a little closer.

He looked thoughtful, pressing short, fluttery kisses onto my knuckles while he pondered my words.

“Pancakes,” he decided.

“Yeah?”

“Yes. We should go out for breakfast.”

I smiled at him. The idea of getting up and going out together to eat was hugely appealing. But he showed no sign of being ready to move.

“I’ll make you pancakes,” I said, squeezing his hand. “Breakfast in bed?”

“Even better,” he agreed, releasing my hand and closing his eyes again.

I kissed his temple and smoothed his hair back before dropping the sheet from my shoulders and standing up.

My party clothes were strewn across the floor where I’d flung them the previous night. I didn’t really want to put a sequinned dress back on, so I picked up James’s discarded shirt and boxers instead, tucking my wand into his shirt sleeve. The clothes smelt like him, smoky and sharp, and the weight of the fabric was comforting and familiar.

I opened the bedroom door and found my way to the kitchen downstairs.

It took me a while to find everything I needed. It was a large, modern kitchen, all shiny granite surfaces and invisible cupboards. James was surprisingly well equipped with food and baking equipment, but it was all hidden away and I had to conduct a pretty thorough search to find everything.

I felt strangely domestic, dressed in James’s clothes and rummaging around his kitchen. I would have thought it would make me uncomfortable, but I was actually kind of enjoying it.

Once I was prepared and had started to crack eggs into a bowl, I was joined by Jason. I suppressed a groan. I had managed, once again, to completely forget that James didn’t live alone. And his roommate didn’t look particularly pleased to discover me half naked in his kitchen.

Jason’s eyes were bloodshot and watery and he looked like he hadn’t slept. He didn’t speak to me as he took a large red mug out of a cupboard I hadn’t even seen and shoved it under the coffee machine.

“Are you okay?” I frowned at him.

He shrugged and took a large gulp of coffee, wincing at the heat. I watched him finish the whole cup and then refill it, taking this second cup over to the table with him. He put it down on the smooth wood and then rested his head in his hands, groaning.

“Can I get you anything?” I tried to keep my voice chirpy, channeling Albus-Potter-level friendliness and enthusiasm, but it didn’t seem to work.

“I’m just hungover,” Jason muttered.

I frowned. He didn’t look like he was just hungover. He looked devastated. And he hadn’t even seemed like he was drunk when I’d run into him last night. But I didn’t think I’d be the person he’d choose to talk to if something was really wrong, so I turned back to the pancakes, expecting him to disappear off in a minute.

He didn’t leave. I kept my back to him, horribly aware that he was sitting and probably glaring at my back. Every so often I heard his breath catch. He sounded like he might even be crying. I resisted all temptation to peer round at him and ask what was really going on. I was trying to be a better person, and that included leaving Jason Wood alone unless he chose to speak to me.

“James know you’re still here?” Jason asked after a long silence, voice snide and sharp.

I nodded. “Mmhmm.”

“And he’s okay with that?”

I turned back to look at him. He looked incredulous and angry. I didn’t like him at all. It didn’t feel fair that he could judge me so freely without really knowing me. And James had seemed happy to wake up with me beside him.

“Mmhmm,” I said again.

“He’s an idiot,” Jason muttered, lifting his coffee cup again.

“Charming.”

“Fuck off.”

I scowled at him. Everyone else had at least tried to get along with me once it became obvious I was sticking around for the wedding. Jason seemed not to have got the memo.

I sighed and started to decant pancake mixture into the pan. Ollie was always a big believer in bribing people to be happy with food. Maybe the same would work for me.

I heard the door click open but didn’t really stop to consider it. I guess I thought James was awake, or maybe that the sound was coming from next door. I didn’t realise we had company until Jason stood up.

“You’re back earlier than I thought.” His voice was immediately cheerful again, completely different from the spiteful, bitter tone he’d used with me. He was suddenly full of affection and care.

I turned around, knowing who I was going to see but still hoping I might be wrong.

Ginny Weasley stood in the doorway, frozen with her hand still holding the open door. She looked sleek and composed, in dark jeans and a floaty kimono jacket, but her face was pale and worried. She reached out one arm to rest a hand on the shoulder of the child beside her.

I stared at the girl. She didn’t look the way I’d pictured her. She had my wide blue eyes but no golden curls. Her hair was short and black and tufty. She had freckles grazing her cheekbones, and the kind of angular, childish bambi legs that I’d had until I started Hogwarts. She was wearing a Puddlemere United jumper over a pink tutu and knitted yellow tights.

I wanted to look away from her but I couldn’t make myself turn and instead stood still, drinking her in. James had sent me the odd photograph over the years but I’d always thrown them away without taking them out of the envelope, wanting to distance myself as much as possible from the life I’d left behind.

I suddenly felt like it had all been a terrible mistake. Cadence looked at me with wide, thoughtful eyes, and I was filled with a complete certainty that my daughter was an astonishing child.

It felt like I’d been staring at her for ages, but it can only have been a few seconds because Jason stood up as if nothing was unusual. He beamed at Cadence and lifted his arms.

Cadence squealed and leapt up into Jason’s arms, laughing as he spun her round in the air. Glitter shook off her tutu and coated his forearms, but he didn’t seem to mind. He dropped her back to the floor by his side and ruffled her hair.

“Alright, kid?” His expression was pure love.

I didn’t like seeing the way Jason was with Cadence. It was odd to think how much closer she was to him than to me. She’d lived with him since she was a year old, and they looked relaxed beside each other, like they were family.

In contrast, I edged closer to the kitchen counter and rested one hand on the cool granite, pressing my fingertips into the stone in an attempt to ground myself.

“Granny let me make cookies,” Cadence told Jason.

“Did you save me any?” He pantomimed searching around her, looking for snacks.

Cadence giggled. “We ate them all before we even put them in the oven.”

“You didn’t!” Jason pressed one hand to his heart and gave a mock sob.

Cadence giggled harder. “We did! Granny said we had to eat them all before you and James came near them.”

It was funny to hear Ginny referred to as ‘Granny’. She was still young and beautiful and vibrant. But she was obviously used to the name.

Ginny nodded solemnly. “I’ve learnt from my mistakes of the past. Cadence and I worked too hard to let you boys consume our efforts.”

Cadence laughed again and then peered around Jason, wrapping an arm around his stomach while she looked at me, as if using him for extra security.

“Jason?” She asked in a stage whisper.

“Mm?”

Cadence reached up, waiting for Jason to lift her again so she could talk into her ear. She presumably thought that her words should be told in secret, but her whispers were so loud that I couldn’t help but here them.

“Who’s the pretty lady in Daddy’s shirt?”

I could feel my face warm up. I pulled down the ends of James’s shirt, trying to cover my legs, feeling horribly exposed.

Ginny turned her gaze to me. I knew she’d seen me when she’d first entered the room, but she must have been too preoccupied listening to Jason and Cadence to really care about my presence. Now, I was confronted with the full force of her icy frown.

Jason looked uncomfortable and put Cadence back down, keeping a hand on her shoulder.

I chewed on my lip, wondering whether I should say something.

To make matters worse, James appeared at the kitchen door, still rumpled and sleepy. None of the others seemed to see him there, and he didn’t say anything to alert them to his presence. He watched me, waiting to see what I’d say. It felt like a test I didn’t have the answers to.

“I’m, um, I’m just an old friend of your dad’s,” I eventually said. “We knew each other a bit at school.”

I let my eyes flicker over to James. He looked like I’d hexed him.

“I was just leaving,” I said quietly.

I put down the spatula I was holding and lifted my head high as I walked across the kitchen.

Jason looked like he might be disappointed in me. His grip tightened on Cadence’s arm as I passed them, and he didn’t make eye contact with me. Cadence still looked curious.

Ginny moved to one side to let me through the door, face completely expressionless.

I didn’t let myself look back at James again.

I walked out into the rain, ignoring the fact that it was freezing and wet and I was completely inappropriately dressed in James’s shirt and underwear. I wasn’t sure where to go. It was midday on a Friday. Albus and Ollie would be wanting to spend time together, and everyone else I knew would presumably be at work by now.

I slid my wand out of shirtsleeve, holding it in shaking fingers, and disapparated.

I nearly fell over when I reappeared in South London. I landed in a huge puddle and shivered at the icy water on my bare skin. The building behind me was tall and grey. I hoped I had the right address. I’d never been there before.

I looked at the buzzer and pressed the silver button next to the name ‘Weasley’.

Louis looked mildly amused when he came to the door, dressed in tartan tracksuit bottoms and a grey wifebeater, a line of hickeys down his throat.

“Weasley,” I said. “Fancy getting drunk?”







Chapter 8: Louis
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The floor around us was littered with empty bottles. I sat, leaning back against the fireplace, with my head falling against Louis’s shoulder. He had one hand resting on my thigh. His skin was warm.

“You’re the best Weasley I think,” I told him.

“I know,” he said seriously. “S’what I’ve been telling everyone all these years.”

His head flopped down on top of mine. His hair tickled my forehead. I swatted him away and he sat up straight again.

I craned my neck to look up at the clock hanging above us.

“Want to know something funny?” I said, turning to look at Louis.

He yawned and gave me a glazed smile. “Do tell.”

“It’s three in the afternoon,” I slurred. “It’s not even dinnertime yet and we’ve had two and a half bottles of whiskey between us.”

Louis wrinkled his face and then shrugged.

“Most people are at work right now,” I said.

“Silly people.” He shook his head. “Jobs are overrated. I am very anti-jobs. I am pro-sitting-and-drinking-in-the-afternoon. And anti-jobs.”

“Me too. People are so silly with their jobs and their weddings and their adulting.”

“Exactly. Silly silly silly people. They should be like us. All you need to be happy is whiskey and foods covered with melted cheese,” Louis said, looking pleased with himself.

“And sex,” I added.

“And sex,” he agreed.

I reached for the half-empty bottle beside me and took a long swig, then passed it to Louis. His hand brushed against mine as he took it.

“Do you ever think maybe they’re the ones that have got it right?” He asked, suddenly more somber.

“What?” I tipped my head up at him, pulling a face.

He shrugged. The motion of his shoulder jolted my head, pushing my face closer to his.

“I don’t know. Maybe we’re the fuckups, you know?”

I laughed. “Maybe?”

“You’re right,” he said sadly. “We’re the ones sitting here drinking at three in the afternoon on a weekday. We’re definitely the fuckups.”

“Do us a favour and shut up,” I said lifting a hand to stroke his cheek. “I like afternoon drinking. And I don’t mind your company.”

He frowned, looking thoughtful, and then dropped his face down, pausing with his lips hovering above mine.

I shrugged and closed the gap between us.

Kissing Louis was different to kissing James. It was sloppy and silly, and we kept moving in different directions and having to hold onto each other to rearrange ourselves, but his lips were soft and his hands were warm and I sort of liked being joined to him.

I ran my tongue over his upper lip and Louis groaned. I lifted one arm to wrap around his neck, but he pulled away, his back suddenly rigid.

“No,” he said firmly.

I rolled my eyes and shoved my hands into my hair, pulling it up into a ponytail and holding it there with my fingers.

No?”

“No,” he repeated. “This isn’t what I want.”

“Ssh.” I dropped my hair and reached one hand back to his face.

Louis shuffled backwards, away from my outstretched fingers.

“This is fucked up, Cassie. What are we doing?”

I gave a one-shouldered shrug and a hopeful smile. “Something fun?”

Louis shook his head. “You’re completely insane. Do you just enjoy interfering with other people’s lives?”

I felt a little bit hurt. Any desire to kiss him had rapidly left me.

“You started it,” I said sulkily.

“Did I?” He sounded wounded. “Maybe I did. God, I’m awful.”

“Or maybe I started it. I don’t know. No need to beat yourself up about it, anyway.”

He laughed drily.

“You’re the mother of James’s kid. James. My cousin James. And by the looks of your outfit you were with him last night.”

I looked down at the shirt and boxers I was wearing. I’d forgotten that I wasn’t in my own clothes.

“I can’t do it, Cassie. It’s wrong,” Louis said, sounding resigned.

He ran a hand back through his hair. He suddenly looked attractive again.

“We could just not tell anyone?” I said hopefully.

Louis shuffled backwards, looking anguished and grey.

“I’m such a shitty person,” he moaned.

I spun round to face him, crossing my legs on the floor. I felt more sober, suddenly, somehow, and alert.

“Louis.”

“I am,” he said. “Really, truly shitty. I can’t believe I’ve done this again.”

“Again? We’ve never done this before.”

“I have. My cousins are my best friends. And family. I don’t want to start fucking the girls that matter to them.”

“James and I haven’t been together for years.”

Louis raised an eyebrow. “You’re the mother of his child, Cassie.”

I pulled James’s shirt tighter around my waist, feeling strangely small. I wanted to fold myself up and hide away.

“You’re right,” I mumbled. “We’re awful. Especially me.”

Louis nodded. I guess I sort of thought he’d try to argue that he was worse out of the two of us, but we both knew that wasn’t true. He hurt people out of idiocy. I hurt people out of carelessness: I didn’t care enough. And that was cruel.

“James is so sad,” I whispered. “I just wanted to spend some time with somebody who doesn’t make me hate myself.”

“And I don’t make you hate yourself?”

“You didn’t until now.”

He blew out a long, slow breath and then slung his arm back around me. I curled into a ball and tucked my head against his chest. We sat like that for a while. I had tears in my eyes that I didn’t want him to see.

“Why don’t you just go back to him?” Louis eventually broke the silence.

I shrugged against him. A tear rolled down my cheek. I felt useless.

“He really cares about you,” Louis said. “And you could be a family.”

“I don’t think I’d be very good at being in a family,” I confessed.

“You used to be good at being with James.”

“Sometimes. Sometimes we were good,” I agreed. “Sometimes less good.”

Louis kissed the top of my head. The idea that a few minutes ago we’d been kissing seemed ridiculous. Now he just felt like somebody comforting that I’d known for a long time. I could imagine us being close, if things had been different. We could have been good friends at school.

“Why are you never in a relationship?” I said. “I don’t think I remember you ever having a girlfriend.”

“I don’t know,” Louis sighed. “I’ve never felt any need to be, you know? It doesn’t appeal much.”

“You’re not jealous of Al getting married?”

“Nah. It makes sense for him. He loves to love people, and him and Liv are adorable. But I can’t imagine it for me.”

“Never?”

“Maybe not. Lucy thinks I’m aromantic.”

“Do you think you’re aromantic?”

“Dunno. Don’t see much point trying to put labels on it. But yeah, I guess I’m...not very romantic. At all. I can’t imagine having what Al and Liv have. Or even what you and James have.”

I shook my head. “I don’t think James and I have much of anything any more. And he’s so unhappy now. I wish I could fix it for him.”

Louis’s arm tightened around me. He was thinner than James, but the weight was still comforting.

“It’s such a huge thing for him to get used to,” Louis said. “He’s learning to live with one arm. It’ll take time.”

“I feel like....I so badly want to make it better for him. I want to help. I’ve never felt like this.”

“That’s because you’re selfish,” Louis laughed.

I wanted to tell him off for being rude, but we were interrupted by the lift doors opening across the room.

“Come help, Louis,” a girl called out. “It’s pouring outside. My wheels are all slippery.”

Louis jumped to his feet and rushed over to the lift. He suddenly looked almost sober. The lift doors finished opening and revealed Lucy Weasley in her wheelchair on the other side. Her hair and clothes were soaked through and she looked exhausted but she was smiling.

Louis wheeled Lucy out of the lift but then left the chair by the doors and scooped his cousin up into his arms. He gently carried her across the room and carefully set her down on the sofa opposite where I was still sat.

Lucy leaned back into the cushions, wincing a little as she used her hands to move her legs up onto the sofa. Louis supported her until she looked comfortable. She looked so fragile. I didn’t know why she couldn’t walk. I’d never wanted to ask. But it never seemed to stop her smiling.

“Lucy, you remember Cassie?” Louis sounded a little bit nervous.

Lucy nodded and smiled at me, but I noticed her anxious glance at Louis. She was obviously trying to figure out exactly what she’d interrupted.

“Cass was just saying she wishes she could help James deal with everything,” Louis said.

“I think we all wish we could help him,” Lucy said. Her voice was much softer than any of her cousins. “Have you seen him much since you’ve been home, Cassie?”

She asked the question without any hint of judgement. She sounded like she was genuinely interested, rather than trying to collect gossip.

“A little bit,” I said, feeling my face flush.

“He’ll be alright, you know,” Lucy said reassuringly. “I heard he even went to Al’s stag.”

“He was miserable the whole night,” Louis said.

“Of course he was,” Lucy said. “But he’s got a lot of people around him to support him. And he’ll learn how to cope.”

“He’s lost Quidditch though,” I said. “I can’t really imagine James without Quidditch.”

Lucy sighed. “That’s true. And it’s really hard on him. But eventually he’ll find other things that make him happy. When I was little I used to be completely heartbroken when I couldn’t join in with the things my cousins all enjoyed, but I found things that worked for me. I loved being a prefect at school, and the squibs I work with now value me just as much as they would if I could stand up. And I’m proud of myself.”

“I’m proud too,” Louis said, grinning at her.

“Yes. Well, I’m blessed with a huge nosy family that try to take credit for all my achievements,” Lucy laughed. “And James has that too. Once everyone’s got over the shock of it, they’ll be good for him.”

I managed a smile. “That’s good to hear.”

Lucy smiled. “Okay, Lou, I hate to make you move me again when you’ve just carried me over here, but I think I’m going to love you and leave you. I need a nap. Someone came back at three in the morning and crashed around the flat for half an hour so I didn’t get much sleep.”

Louis had been standing and listening to Lucy, a thoughtful expression across his face, but he shook himself and helped her back into her chair, drying the wheels with his wand, and Lucy gave me a little wave.

“Nice to see you, Cassie. I’m glad you’re thinking of James. Maybe you’ll be able to help him find something new.”

I watched her wheel herself away, feeling a little bit shocked by the encounter. I’d never known Lucy very well, and assumed she shared her family’s dislike of me. But she was nice. And she’d just assumed that I was kind and would be trying to help James. I wasn’t used to people assuming good things about me.

“Do you think she’s right?” I asked Louis. “Do you think James will find something else that makes him as happy as Quidditch?”

“Lucy’s not very often wrong,” Louis said, yawning. “Tell you what, we’ve managed to sober up pretty quickly.”

“Speak for yourself. You seem completely sober. The whole world rocks from side to side every time I turn my head.”

He laughed. “Well, you’re hiding it well.”

“Practice makes perfect.”

“I hope you don’t feel too ill. We’re about to go on a trip. International portkeys and alcohol don’t mix all that well.”

I thought he was joking. “Oh, sure, where are you taking me? Can I request somewhere sunny?”

“France,” Louis said, straight-faced. “There’s someone we should speak to. About helping James.”

I stopped smiling. “You’re serious? You want to go to France?”

“Yeah.”

“Today?”

“Now.”

“Right now?”

“No time like the present.” Louis smirked.

“But…”

“What, have you got other plans tonight? I was under the impression you didn’t see a lot of friendly faces in London.”

“We can’t just...go to France. International portkeys take time to set up.”

“Ah, but luckily I have an unnecessarily enormous family.”

“How’s that relevant?”

“Connections, my friend. Friends in high places. Cousins in high places.”

I rolled my eyes. “I take back the comment about you seeming completely sober.”

Louis chuckled. “My cousin Roxy works in the Department of Magical Transportation. She’ll sort us out.”

I looked at him, narrowing my eyes in suspicion. I wasn’t quite sure where this plan had come from. The day had passed in a bit of a blur and now I was being swept into some crazy drunk Louis idea that may or may not have a reason behind it.

“Come on.” Louis held out a hand. “Let me take you to France, ma cherie.”

I glared at his outstretched hand.

“I’ll even buy you dinner in Paris before we come back,” Louis added.

I took his hand and let him pull me to my feet.

Forty five minutes later, we were standing outside an unfamiliar black door in a familiar French town. I was wearing a cream lace dress, hastily borrowed from a drowsy Lucy Weasley, and kept self-consciously picking at the sleeve. Louis reached out and took my hand, stopping me fiddling.

“Calm down, Cass. It’s going to be fine.”

I stuck my tongue out at him. “I just want to remind you that this is your plan. And that however badly it goes you still promised to buy me dinner.”

He looked amused. “You know what, I think I quite like you.”

“Cheers.”

“I mean it. I know you’re the one who must not be named and you have no soul and eat baby kittens for breakfast and so on, but I’ve quite enjoyed today.”

“Me too, I guess,” I said reluctantly.

“Let’s be friends,” Louis beamed.

I stuck my tongue out again and let go of his hand.

I refused to knock at the door, so Louis rapped his knuckles against the wood, giving me an exasperated grimace when I took a step backwards and placing a gentle hand on my lower back to stop me from running away.

The door swung open and Arielle Delacour greeted us, beautiful face frozen in a look of stark surprise.

“Hello, cousin dearest,” Louis said, leaning against the doorframe. “We wondered if you might let us have a quick word with your husband.”


Chapter 9: Memories
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Ollie’s bedroom door was open when I got back, light spilling out into the corridor. I hadn’t expected her to be awake. After visiting Arielle, Louis and I had spent the night eating and dancing in Paris. My head was full of champagne bubbles and I’d struggled to tiptoe up the front steps without falling over.

I stumbled along the corridor to peer into the bedroom, wanting to see Ollie but not wanting to intrude on her moments with Albus.

She was alone, curled into a ball at the edge of the bed. Her face looked strangely blank.

“Ollie?” I opened the door wider and stepped into the room.

She didn’t respond, but just pulled her knees up more tightly to her chest.

I stared. “What’s happened?”

I couldn’t remember her looking like this since school, when her parents occasionally made her feel so bad that she collapsed in on herself, or when Al’s Quidditch accident had left him unconscious and Ollie feeling lost. She wasn’t supposed to feel like this anymore. She was happy and generous and had everything she deserved.

I crossed the room and climbed into bed behind her, wrapping my arms around her.

Ollie turned her face towards me, keeping her body rigid, and a tear slid onto my neck.

I squeezed her more tightly.

“I’m here,” I told her. “Whatever’s going on, I’ll be here.”

I wasn’t sure my words would be very reassuring. I wasn’t really known for being there for people. But I meant it, this time. Seeing her like this made the whole world feel wobbly.

“What can I do to help? Shall I get Al?”

She shook her head in a sharp, jagged movement. I looked down at her face and swallowed. Her expression was desperate.

“You don’t want Al?”

She shook her head again. I bit my lip. I had no idea how to help her feel better. It had been a long time since I’d been her person to go to when she was sad, and even then I was never very good at it.

“What happened? Did he do something?”

Tears continued to trickle down Ollie’s cheeks but she didn’t answer.

“Has he hurt you?” My voice was rising. I tried to keep calm but wasn’t sure how to.

She pulled away from me and curled back into a ball, her back curving against my hip.

I wanted to help fix it but knew with absolute certainty that I was the wrong person to do it.

“I’ll be right back,” I told Ollie.

She didn’t give any acknowledgement that she’d heard me.

I disapparated.

I reappeared by the gates to Malfoy Manor. In the dark they were fierce and imposing, and the sight of the mansion through the twisting iron made my heart speed up. I didn’t belong here. Not any more.

I lifted a hand to the gate and paused. A long time ago, in another life, I had access to this building. As Scorpius’s girlfriend, I was free to come and go as I pleased, and the Malfoys had adapted their security charms to accept my presence. I wasn’t sure if that was still the case.

I pushed the cool metal and sighed with relief when it bent at my touch, the bars weaving around each other and then parting to let me through and into the grounds.

The gardens were exactly as I remembered them: dark grass and tall, eerie sculptures that shone silver in the moonlight. I shivered and ran to the doors.

The silver door knocker was shaped like a serpent, twisting around itself and glaring at me with emerald eyes. I glared back at it and lifted it to knock.

Nobody answered.

I knocked again, starting to panic. Ollie was relying on me and it this didn’t work I had no idea what would. Tears were burning the back of my eyes and I crossed my arms around myself to keep warm.

I was about to give up and turn around when the door swung open.

Draco Malfoy stood in the doorway, wearing a loose black dressing gown. He looked like he was half asleep. I shrank back on the doorstep. Of all the people who wouldn’t be thrilled to see me return to England, Scorpius’s parents must have been top of the list.

“Cassandra! I can’t say I expected to see you here,” he said, looking faintly bemused.

I frowned. “I….I sort of thought if you were the one to answer the door you’d slam it back in my face.”

He shook his head. “Why would I do that?”

“Well…” I spread my arms out. He didn’t need me to remind him of the way I’d treated his son.

“It was a long time ago,” he said kindly. “And what you did wasn’t right. But I’d be a hypocrite if I continued to judge you based on your actions when you were at school. Your mistakes caused a lot of pain but I know quite a few people who’ve done worse.”

His smile vanished for a moment, and then he straightened his face again. “Anyway, I’m sure you haven’t turned up here in the middle of the night just to compare the unwise decisions of our pasts?”

“Right.” I felt stupid. I was supposed to be here for Ollie, not to talk about myself. “Could I see Scorpius?”

Draco looked surprised. “He doesn’t live here anymore.”

It was like my whole body wilted. Stupid stupid stupid. Why hadn’t it occurred to me that Scorpius wouldn’t still live in the same place? He graduated six years ago. I should have realised he’d probably moved out.

“Oh...um. Right. I’ll just...I’ll get going, then,” I stammered, backing away, trying not to cry.

“Here,” Draco said, reaching for something on the shelf behind him. “This is his card. It’s got his address on it.”

I grabbed it, thanking him in a rushed, garbled flurry of words as I drank in the address. Before he’d even closed the door, I was rushing back to the gates.

As soon as I was through the metal and out of the protected zone of Malfoy Manor, I span and disapparated.

I stumbled when I landed, falling down on the floor in the middle of a small kitchen. The floor was tiled with green and turquoise, and the cupboards were painted with cheerful animals that were definitely created by Ollie’s hand. It was brighter than I would have imagined Scorpius’s home to be. But then I didn’t really know him anymore.

My head hurt.

I groaned and looked around, wondering if I’d somehow made a mistake. Maybe in my panic I hadn’t focussed enough and had ended up in the wrong place.

“Did nobody ever tell you it’s rude to apparate straight into someone’s kitchen?” An amused voice sounded from behind me.

I turned my head, wishing I was anywhere else.

Scorpius was in the doorway, face pleasant but body tense. He was wearing a green knitted jumper that looked soft and comforting, over dark jeans and bare feet. His wand was in his hand. He noticed me looking at it and tucked it away in his jeans.

I felt uncomfortable. It struck me that this was probably the first time we’d been alone together since we were sixteen and in love. The thought made me sad.

“Sorry,” he muttered. “You hear someone apparating into your house and you get your wand out.”

“Doesn’t matter.” I pulled myself to my feet, feeling unbalanced. “We need to go.”

“Oh?” He raised an eyebrow.

“It’s Ollie. She’s by herself in her house. Something’s wrong.”

He didn’t wait for me to explain further, just disappeared with a loud crack, leaving me alone in his flat.

I shrugged and apparated after him.

I rushed back to Ollie’s bedroom and then stood awkwardly in the doorway, watching Scorpius go to her.

“Hey,” he murmured. “Hey, it’s okay. I’m here. I’ve got you.”

He pulled off his jumper and lifted Ollie into a seated position, carefully pulling the jumper down over her head to stop her shivering. Then he sat down behind her, leaning against the headboard, and pulled her back to sit by his side, leaning against his chest. She swung her legs over his so she was turned into him, and he wrapped both hands tightly around her and kissed the top of her head.

“It’s alright. I’m here. I love you,” he told her, stroking her hair.

She nodded against him and his grip visibly tightened around her.

He didn’t ask what was wrong, but she seemed so much more comfortable than she had when I’d tried to comfort her.

They were having a soft, whispered conversation that I couldn’t hear. Scorpius was gently coaxing words out of Ollie, pausing to stroke her hair and kiss her forehead when she shook with sobs.

After a few minutes, he looked back up at me.

“Go and get Al,” he instructed.

“But Ollie said…”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “She’s just trying not to cause problems. She wants him here.”

“I don’t know where he is,” I said.

Scorpius groaned. “He’s at James’s. That’s why Ollie didn’t ask you to get him in the first place. But he should be here.”

“Couldn’t you…”

“No,” Scorpius snapped. “I need to stay here with Ollie. If you really want to stick around here being her friend, you can cope with going to James’s to tell her fiance that she needs him.”

In his arms, Ollie looked tiny and fragile. I took a deep breath and then nodded, resigned to disapparating again.

This time, I managed not to burst into someone’s house uninvited.

I landed on the doorstep outside James and Jason’s house and banged on the door, not stopping until Jason opened it.

“Don’t shut the door on me,” I said, jamming my foot into the door before he could close it. “I need Al. Please.”

He didn’t look like he wanted to let me in, but I suppose something in my face or voice was desperate enough that he didn’t want to argue. He stepped back and let me in. Part of me was horribly aware that it was less than 24 hours since I’d run away from this place, but I didn’t let myself think about it.

The corridor was gold and scarlet and covered with colourful moving photographs, but I hardly registered my surroundings. Jason nodded towards an open door and I hurried through it.

I found myself in a small sitting room that looked the way I’d always imagined Gryffindor Common Room to be. Three red squashy armchairs were arranged around a fireplace. James was sat in one of them, holding a glass of whiskey in his remaining hand. His eyes were red. Albus was kneeling next to the chair, one hand on his brother’s arm.

They both looked up as I walked in.

“Get out,” James said, sounding tired.

“I’m not here for you,” I told him bluntly. “Albus, you have to come. It’s Ollie.”

Albus jumped up, looking frantic, and then hesitated. He glanced back at James, who had slumped back in the chair.

“Jus’ go,” James said, waving his hand lazily, whiskey slopping over the sides of the glass. “M’okay. I’ve got Jace.”

Albus nodded and reached for my arm. His hand tightened around my elbow and, with a whoosh, the air around us squeezed and sucked us in, throwing us around until the colours blended together, and then spitting us out back in Ollie and Albus’s bedroom.

Scorpius and Ollie were exactly where I’d left them. Scorpius looked relieved that we’d arrived.

Albus crouched down beside the bed and took Ollie’s hands in his. He looked terrified and in love.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here,” he said. “I love you so much. We’ll get through this.”

Scorpius slowly extricated himself from Ollie’s tangled limbs and let Albus move to take his place.

Ollie folded herself into Albus and draped her arms around his neck.

“I know it feels frightening,” Al said. “But it’s felt like this before, remember? We’ll get through it. It’ll feel better. And I’ll be here.”

I felt a little bit overwhelmed watching his tenderness. I knew that he was right for Ollie. I’d have to be an idiot not to notice the way they both lit up when they were together. But this was new and different. He knew her so much better than I could hope to. I couldn’t suppress a small twinge of jealousy: there was no way I could have been so confident that she’d feel better. But, not for the first time, I felt glad that she had someone like him.

Scorpius moved away from the bed and put a hand on my back to steer me out of the room, closing the door behind us.

Without talking, we scurried down the corridor and into the kitchen.

Scorpius reached up on top of the kitchen shelves and pulled down a bottle of scotch. I recognised it as the one his father always drank. Ollie must keep it on his behalf.

He tilted the bottle in my direction in an unspoken question. I nodded, and he poured two glasses, pushing one across the table towards me and then sitting down.

I sat opposite him and took a gulp.

“Thanks for coming to get me,” he said eventually.

“She told me not to get Al. I wasn’t sure what else to do,” I muttered. “I didn’t know how to help.”

It felt like I was confessing something. I was showing him that I no longer had any real claim over Ollie.

He nodded slowly. “There’s not much you could have done. You did the right thing getting help.”

I wanted to ask what had happened, but I thought he’d disapprove. It might sound like I was trying to gossip, or something, and I knew how protective he was of his oldest friend.

“This happens sometimes,” he said quietly.

“It’s happened before?” I was glad he’d given me the opening to ask.

He finished the rest of his drink and refilled the glass.

“Something bad happened. A few years ago. And Ollie, she got hurt.” He rubbed his eyes.

I put down my drink. I hadn’t expected this.

“It’s PTSD, I guess, although nobody’s ever actually diagnosed anything. But she panics sometimes when she’s at home by herself,” he said. “It hasn’t happened for a while now, I kind of thought maybe she was better. But...anyway, I’m glad you were here.”

“She was hurt?” I was whispering now, worried, perhaps, that Ollie would somehow hear me talking about her.

“Yeah,” Scorpius said, taking another swig of his drink. “She, um, well, it’s all over now. But being involved with a Potter kind of opens you up as a bit of a target for...some people.”

“What did they do?”

He groaned. “It doesn’t matter anymore. They got caught and now they’re in prison. But I guess that doesn’t really help her when she starts having flashbacks.”

“Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to pry.”

“No, it’s fine,” he said. “I just find it hard to talk about. It was awful. I wanted to keep her safe...and I’ve never felt so powerless.”

I lifted my glass again and let my wrist dangle, swirling in loose circles so I could watch the smoky liquid ripple and shift. Scorpius obviously needed to talk, and I knew I wouldn’t be his first choice person to listen, but I was the one that was there.

“She was pregnant,” he said, looking directly at me. “Did she tell you that?”

“No,” I whispered. “No, she didn’t.”

“I thought she might have written to you. It was an accident, I think. She was nervous. But she was planning to keep it.”

I downed the rest of my drink. I thought back to the various letters I’d left unopened over the years, when I was too carefree and happy and buried in denial to face the words of the people I’d left behind. Had one of them been about this? Maybe she’d wanted to talk to me. It might actually have been something I could have understood.

“Didn’t end up mattering though,” Scorpius continued, sounding bitter. “Bastards didn’t care about it. She was eight months pregnant - they definitely would have noticed. But it didn’t change anything. She lost the kid when they attacked her.”

My eyes were welling up but I didn’t wipe the tears away. I thought back to my conversation with Albus, the night I’d arrived. I’d laughed at him for being a dad and had thought he looked hurt by the comment. I shouldn’t have forgotten it so quickly.

“Poor Ollie,” I moaned.

Scorpius shrugged. “It’s over now. And most of the time she says she’s okay. It’s just, every so often I think it all comes rushing back to her and if happens to be a night when she’s alone, it...well, you saw.”

I nodded.

“She’s lucky to have you,” I told him. “You’re good to her.”

“She’s my best friend,” he said simply. “And she’s surrounded by people that love her now. It’s different from school, when she just had us. She’s built up this massive family of people she adores. And she’s got Al. I think she’ll be okay.”

“Yeah.”

We sat in silence for a while, both finishing our drinks. I was surprised by how easy it had been to talk to him. It was a difficult conversation but it hadn’t felt hard to sit with him. We’d both changed so much since school. I had such vivid memories of loving him, but none of those feelings applied to the boy I was sitting with now.

“Scorpius,” I said after a while.

“Mm?” He was looking up at the painted ceiling, looking thoughtful.

“I...I’m not sure I ever properly apologised to you.”

He looked surprised. I was surprised. No part of me had expected to have this discussion with him any time soon. But it somehow felt appropriate. And now that I’d started I might as well finish.

“I’m sorry. Really, really sorry,” I said.

Scorpius smirked. “No worries. I reckon I’m just about over it.”

“No. What I did to you wasn’t okay,” I said. “And I know it was a long time ago now but that doesn’t excuse it, not really. You were only over lovely to me. And I took advantage of you and then treated you like you didn’t matter.”

“Yeah.” He looked a little bit uncomfortable now.

“I suppose I just want you to know that I was wrong. You did matter. And I know I made it look like I didn’t care, but at the time I did. I was just an idiot. And I always had questionable morals.”

He let out a short laugh. “You had no morals. And in my foolish teenage mind that made you sexy.”

This time, I laughed.

He smiled at me. “Do you ever wonder what would have happened if you hadn’t done it?”

“Hadn’t been with James? Or hadn’t had the baby?”

“Any of it,” he said, shrugging. “If we’d ended up staying together.”

I thought about it. When I’d first run away, I’d spent huge amounts of time imagining how my life could have been different if I’d held on to what I had with Scorpius instead of throwing it all away for James Potter. But now it didn’t seem to matter so much.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I think we both had a lot of growing up to do.”

“Speak for yourself,” he snorted.

I stuck my tongue out and passed him my empty glass to refill.

“I actually think I probably would have just found some other way to mess it up,” I said. “I was confused and self-centred and attention-seeking. I never really stopped to think about what I was losing until it was too late.”

He nodded. “Yeah, I don’t know how much longer we could have made it work. I worshipped you. And that’s not...very me. It didn’t occur to me until later that I was losing bits of myself so I could be with you.”

I laughed and had another drink. “That’s very profound of you.”

“Well, I’m dating Rose Weasley now. I think the brains rub off,” he grinned.

“I heard about that. I’m happy for you.”

I was surprised to find that I actually meant it. I really did feel happy for him.

“Thank you,” he said.

I smiled.

“No, really,” he said. “Thank you.”

“For being happy for you?”

“And for saying sorry.”

He lifted his glass up to me and I clinked mine against it.

“Who would have thought we’d be able to get back to this point?” He said with a grin.

I shook my head. “Not me.”

“Me neither. I used to spend hours planning all the horrible things I’d say to you if I had the chance.”

“I would have deserved it.”

“Yeah,” he grinned. “But this is better, I think.”

He finished his drink and stood up.

“Okay, I’m going to head home. I have to be up early to do some work before this wedding brunch thing.”

“I forgot about that,” I groaned. I hadn’t expected to have to see James and Jason again so soon.

He laughed. “It’ll all be over soon. I don’t want to interrupt Al and Ollie, and I’m sure they’re fine now, but you know where I am if she needs me?”

“I’ll come and get you.”

“Thanks.”

We looked at each other for a moment, both not quite sure how to say goodbye. In the end, he stepped forwards and gave me a quick hug. His arms felt strangely unfamiliar but before I had time to really think about it he pulled away and disapparated.

I finished my drink and headed into the spare room. I felt strange going to sleep without checking Ollie was okay but, like Scorpius, I thought she’d probably be better off just with Al.

I curled up in bed, letting the events of the day wash over me. Only this morning, I’d woken up in James Potter’s bed. Since then, so much had changed. I had a new friendship with Louis, and thought I’d found a way to help make James feel better. I’d fixed things with Scorpius, at least as much as they were ever going to be fixed.

I wanted to feel good about it all, but I kept picturing Ollie’s expressionless face when I’d found her. The story Scorpius had told had left me feeling tense and sad. I wished I’d been here to help Ollie through it all. I hated that I was only hearing about it years later.

Sleep took a long time to arrive, and when it did it was turbulent and stressful.

At some point in the early hours of the morning, the door slid open and Ollie padded into the room. I watched her drowsily, unsure what was going on. She didn’t say anything and just climbed up into bed beside me, like we used to do at sleepovers when we were fourteen.

“Thank you, Cass,” she whispered, reaching out to take my hand. “Sorry if I scared you.”

I shook my head even though she wouldn’t be able to see it in the dark.

“Sorry for being such a shitty friend,” I murmured.

“No,” she said, and I could feel her own head shake. “You’re here now. That’s what counts.”

I wasn’t sure that was right, but I was glad she didn’t hate me. I squeezed her hand.

“Love you, Cass,” she whispered sleepily.

“Love you too.”











Chapter 10: Brunch
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Ollie had a cappuccino ready for me when I made it into the kitchen. Her eyes were bright and her hair was shiny. If I hadn’t seen it, I would have had no idea that twelve hours ago she’d been curled up into a devastated ball.

Albus was drinking his own coffee, sitting at the breakfast table and trying to persuade Ollie to make pancakes. Ollie was perched on one of the kitchen counters eating a bowl of fruit.

I took a seat opposite Albus and sipped my coffee.

“Cook your own pancakes,” Ollie said, flicking a grape at Albus’s head.

He turned his head and caught the grape between his teeth.

“But you’re so much better at them than I am,” he said once he’d swallowed the grape.

“We’ve got brunch in half an hour,” Ollie said, rolling her eyes. “We’re not having pancakes.”

Albus looked at me and sniffed. “I’m marrying a cruel woman, Cassie. Cruel.”

I laughed and took another sip of my cappuccino. It was nice to see them relaxed together.

“Nice lie in?” Ollie asked me. “Waking up in your bed made me feel like we were at school again.”

I smiled. “Yeah, I felt like that too.”

“And then your snoring reminded me that I’m better off sharing a bed with him.” She nodded towards Albus. “He whines about pancakes a lot but he’s a very quiet sleeper.”

“I don’t snore,” I insisted.

Albus laughed. “You absolutely do. I can hear you from our room.”

Ollie passed me a grape and I threw it at his forehead. This time he didn’t manage to catch it.

“I should go and get dressed,” Ollie said. “We have a wedding brunch to get to.”

Albus rolled his eyes. “Remind me why we’re doing this brunch? I prefer breakfast here with you.”

“You were too scared to tell your grandmother we didn’t want one,” Ollie reminded him.

“Hmm. Yeah, that sounds plausible,” he said. “I regret my cowardliness.”

Ollie jumped down from the countertop and kissed his forehead.

“Go and get dressed,” she said. “Cass, help me? Everyone’s going to be looking at me and trying to work out whether I’m good enough to marry into the family.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Albus said. “They love you more than they love me.”

I helped Ollie get dressed and then apparated with her and Albus to the Burrow, where Molly Weasley Senior had constructed possibly the most extravagant brunch I’d ever seen.

“There she is!”

Louis rushed over to me, picked me up and spun me around, then planted a sloppy kiss on my cheek.

“You’re sitting with me today,” he told me, taking my hand and pulling me towards the long table running down the marquee in the garden.

Ollie raised her eyebrows at me and I shrugged.

Louis saw her expression and laughed.

“Cassie’s my new best friend,” he said. “I’m kidnapping her from you.”

“You’re welcome to her. She snores at an unreasonable volume,” she smiled.

Louis showed me to where he was sitting and I took a seat beside him. James was a few places down on the other side of the table with Cadence by his side. He looked away when I tried to catch his eye.

Louis leaned in towards me and lowered his voice.

“Mission commenced.”

I elbowed him. “Nice subtlety.”

“Subtlety is not my area of expertise,” Louis laughed. “But they’re on their way. And I told Nana Weasley so she won’t kill us when we have to leave the table in the middle of brunch.”

I glanced down the table to look at his grandma. It hadn’t occurred to me to think she might be annoyed with us, but I was pretty sure she wasn’t any kind of fan of me.

“Chill,” Louis instructed. “Have some champagne.”

He forced his own glass into my hand and reached out to pour another one. Several of his relatives were giving him odd looks, presumably judging him for being nice to a known enemy of the Potter/Weasley clan, but he didn’t even seem to notice. I suppose he’s had enough time to get used to being the occasional black sheep of the family.


“Thanks,” I murmured. “For looking after me.”

“Any time,” he beamed. “This way you owe me. And I reckon you’re good at getting people out of sticky situations.”

I rolled my eyes, then sat back as Louis was drawn into a conversation about wizarding bars with his cousin Freddie.

I listened to them talk, watching Freddie with interest. He’d been in my brother’s year at school and had been his main Quidditch rival. Andi had recently confessed that this had been accompanied with regular adult-content excursions into broom cupboards. But Freddie didn’t look at me, and presumably this wasn’t on his mind.

I was so preoccupied with contemplating Freddie and his love life that I nearly missed the figure waving to me from the gate.

Arielle was wearing a floaty pink tea dress and had her hair pulled into a high ponytail. She looked completely unlike the Arielle I was used to seeing (generally in various states of undress and inebriation and draped over my bed) but I don’t think I’d ever been more pleased to see them.

I stood up and tiptoed down the table to James’s seat.

He must have known I was there, but he determinedly continued his conversation with Dominique and didn’t acknowledge me. Cadence, sitting beside him, watched me with a curious expression. Jason, on her other side, put an arm around her and drew her into a conversation about some muggle kids TV show.

“James,” I said, repeating it when he continued to ignore me. “James, can you come with me for a sec? I need to talk to you about something.”

Albus was sitting across the table, listening and frowning. I saw Louis making obscure gestures at him but didn’t see how Al could possibly understand what he was saying. I knew they’d been best friends their entire lives, but Louis was a little bit drunk and even though I knew the entire plan I couldn’t see how his clumsy sign language represented it at all.

But Al seemed to understand whatever Louis was trying to say, because he leaned forwards to James.

“Go on,” he said. “I’m the groom so you have to do what I say. Go see what she wants.”

James scowled at him, looking so furious that I thought he might just ignore the request, but he pushed his chair back and stood up. He paused for a moment, leaning forwards to kiss Cadence with a tenderness I hadn’t seen in him before, but when he followed me away from the table he was glaring again.

“What do you want?” He snapped, once we were out of earshot of the table.

“There’s someone I want you to meet,” I said, not looking back at him. There didn’t seem to be any point trying to have a conversation. This wasn’t about me.

We reached the gate and Arielle stepped forwards, kissing my cheek and giving James and dazzling smile.

“I remember you,” James said, still scowling. “Arielle Delacour. What are you doing here?”

She was unphased by his rudeness. “I’d like you both to meet my husband, Henri.”

Henri stepped forwards and held out a hand for James to shake. He was tall and thin, with tanned skin and thick brown curly hair. When he smiled it revealed his four gold front teeth. He had nothing close to Arielle’s beauty, but there was something charming about him.

James didn’t seem particularly eager to shake this stranger’s hand, but his good upbringing outdid his bad mood and he held out his own hand.

“Cassie thought you and Henri could have a chat,” Arielle said. “About some things you have in common.”

Henri nodded to James’s amputated arm. “I heard about your accident. I’m sorry.”

James’ scowl darkened and he glared at me, plainly unimpressed by the meeting and blaming me. I tried not to let my own smile falter.

“Thanks,” he spat out. “But I’m not sure there’s much you can say to help me. You seem to still have both arms.”

Henri smiled pleasantly and lifted up his left trouser leg, revealing the prosthetic leg beneath it.

James raised his eyebrows. “Oh.”

“I heard you’re a Quidditch player?” Henri asked. “I’m a squib, so the loss of Quidditch after my accident didn’t exactly have a big impact on me. But I’ve always played a ton of football and not being able to run properly hit me pretty hard for a while back there.”

Arielle leaned into him and kissed his jaw. Henri wrapped an arm around her waist. I shuffled awkwardly from one foot to the other but stayed to listen to him.

“It was really rough,” Henri continued. “Really, really bad. And it was before I met Arielle, so I was dealing with a lot of it by myself. But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about. I guess I want you to know that I understand how hard it is. I do. But also that there are ways to make it better. The muggle prosthetic lets me run and I’ve been able to create new things I care about through it. I coach primary school sports and the kids don’t care that it’s not my real leg. And I spend a lot of time with kids that can’t use their legs, helping them throw and catch.”

James was still scowling. I wanted to put a hand on his arm to show him I was there and caring, but I thought he’d probably shake me off.

“Henri’s got to a point where he’s really happy,” Arielle explained. “He’s doing exactly what he wants to be doing, and his leg doesn’t hold him back.”

“Exactly,” Henri agreed. “And I mean...well, it would be stupid to say I’m glad it happened. Obviously I’d rather still have my leg. But I do think the things I’m doing now are much more fulfilling than whatever I might have done without the accident. I can’t imagine life any other way.”

James sighed. “Look, I appreciate you coming here. I know what you’re trying to do. And I’m glad it all worked out for you. But it’s different.”

Henri raised his eyebrows. “How so?”

“I lost my arm,” James blurted out. “I’m a Chaser without a throwing arm. There’s not any prosthetic that can give it back to me.”

He had tears in his eyes and turned away from Henri, towards me. I hesitated for a moment, but stepped forwards and placed my hands on his shoulders.

“James,” I said softly. “We know it’s different. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be something that can make it better for you too. It doesn’t have to be the same as Henri’s situation, but there will be a life you can live that makes you happy.”

James shook his head. “It’s all ruined.”

I sighed. “Look, I know you can’t play. And I know how much Quidditch means to you, so of course it’s horrid. But there are lots of people who aren’t able to fly. Loads of people have conditions that stop them playing. Imagine what you could do if you found a way round it.”

Louis and Lucy had quietly come up to join us. Louis had a hand resting on Lucy’s chair, but she was wheeling herself. She had tears in her eyes.

“She’s right, James,” she said. “I always felt so left out when we were kids and you lot were always flying and talking about Quidditch. I would have given anything to be able to join in.”

James looked at her and the bitterness faded from his face. His expression was all tenderness and I was reminded why I’d been so jealous of this massive, warm family when we were at school.

“I never knew that,” James said. “I always thought you enjoyed reading while we played.”

Lucy shrugged. “I didn’t want to spoil it for you. But yeah, it was really hard for me. It would have meant the world to me if there’d been some way for me to try it.”

James looked thoughtful. “There must be a way to involve people with disabilities in Quidditch. It’s not fair for so many people to be left out.”

Henri nodded. “Muggles do a much better job of it. They have paralympics - a whole competition for people with different disabilities. I got really into wheelchair basketball for a while, before they fitted the prosthetic.”

Lucy looked intrigued and started to ask Henri about the sport. He was animated as he talked about it, and started telling her about the different clubs he could recommend her to if she was interested.

James looked back at me. “Maybe I could do something with this.”

I tried to hide my excitement. “How do you mean?”

“I don’t know,” he muttered. “It’ll take some time to figure out. But maybe I could use this. I could adapt Quidditch for people like me. And people like Lucy. I could find a way to make it accessible.”

“I think that would be amazing,” I whispered.

He was smiling now and I couldn’t believe how happy it made me. I was so pleased to have been part of something positive for him. And it was possibly the first interaction we’d ever had where I wasn’t trying to get something from him.

“So, I hate to break up the party, but Nana Weasley looks like she might start breathing fire if we don’t head back to the table soon,” Louis said.

Lucy nodded. “We should get back to the others. It’s Al and Liv’s wedding brunch.”

James turned to Arielle and Henri. “Thank you. Really, thank you. You’ve made things feel...different.”

“Any time,” Henri grinned, metal teeth glittering. “Get in touch if you ever want to talk about anything. It’s not going to be easy, but I reckon you’ll find a way to make things good.”

“You want to join us for brunch?” Louis offered, grinning at Arielle.

She shook her head. “We have a date. A pretty London girl.”

We said our goodbyes and then wandered back over to the table, walking slowly so that Lucy’s chair didn’t stick in the mud.

“I think I’d quite like marriage if it was like theirs,” Louis was saying to Lucy. “They seem to fit in an awful lot of sex with other people.”

Lucy shushed him. “That’s their business. And you’re not fit for marriage with anyone.”

James and I walked behind them, the backs of our hands bumping into each other every so often as we walked.

“Thanks, Cass,” he said quietly.

I shook my head. “It was actually Louis’ idea.”

“And I’ll thank him too. But thanks for making me listen to them.”

“I just want you to be happy,” I confessed. “But I know I’m not usually very good at it.”

He gave me a faint smile. “I don’t know. We’ve had our moments.”

I returned the smile.

“Hey,” he said. “Do you want to sit with Cadence and me for brunch?”

He must have seen the panic in my eyes because he immediately went on to explain himself.

“You don’t have to tell her who you are,” he said. “But she’s amazing. I think you’d like to chat to her.”

“Um...okay. Sure.”

When I sat down next to James we received a few disapproving glances from his more terrifying relatives, but nobody said anything. Molly Weasley Senior had brought out the food and people were too preoccupied with eating to care very much what we were doing.

“This is Cassie,” James told Cadence.

“What’s your job, Cassie?” Cadence asked me, focussing her big blue eyes on my own.

I was startled by her directness. I hadn’t expected to have to speak about myself.

“Er, I don’t really have one,” I told her. “I do a bit of modelling sometimes. Mostly I just travel and do bits and pieces.”

Cadence looked like she was mulling this over and took a bite of her waffle while she was thinking.

“When I grow up I’m going to be a Quidditch player,” she told me. “And I’ll do travelling too, like you and like Daddy.”

“That’s exciting,” I said. “What team are you going to play for?”


“Puddlemere, of course,” she laughed. “Where Daddy plays.”

Then she frowned and put down her waffle. James ruffled her hair but it didn’t seem to reassure her.

“But Daddy’s not a Quidditch player anymore,” she said sadly.

“I don’t know,” James said, catching my eye and smiling. “Maybe I can be. Just in a different way.”


Chapter 11: Vows
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If anyone deserved sunshine on her wedding day, it was her, but it rained all day. It didn’t matter. The enchanted lights under the marquee sparkled over Ollie’s dress and caught in the tiara her new Weasley relatives had leant her for the day. Beside her, Albus’s smile was so bright that it made up for the lack of sunshine.

The rain beat down on the magical, transparent sides of the tent, but the string quartet had been loud enough to drown it out. And now, as Ollie and Albus said their vows, the gathering around them were so quiet that the rain didn’t matter.

I kept rubbing my eyes, trying not to cry as I watched them. I was sitting completely by myself - everyone else I knew was part of the wedding party - and I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.

“I, Albus,” Al said, eyes glittering. “Do pledge to you, Olivia, my heart, to hold on to for as long as I live. I’m yours, Liv. All of me. I promise always to listen to you and to learn from you, and to do what you tell me to because you’re almost always right.”

Ollie laughed and reached out to him. He folded his fingers through hers and continued.

“I will do everything in my power to make you happy,” he said. “I really will. Because when you’re happy the whole world feels better. And I will hold you and comfort you and care for you, and protect you the way I know you’ll always protect me. We don’t know what’s going to come next. We’ve already had our fair share of difficulty, and you can’t grow up part of my family and not see how fragile things are. But I’m not worried. I know that whatever happens next, whatever life brings us, I will love you and will always have faith in your love for me. I will adore you for all the days of my life.”

James stood next to his brother. He had tears in his eyes and patted Al’s back when he finished speaking. Everyone was silent. Al had always been good at being open and clear, but I’d never heard him speak so beautifully before.

Ollie beamed and took his other hand as well.

“Well,” she said breathily. “I don’t know that I can put my feelings as eloquently as you just did. I’m better at pictures than words, really. But ever since I met you my pictures have been a little bit brighter. You’ve filled my world with colours I never knew I could see, and you’ve helped me become somebody I didn’t know I could be.”

She turned her head to smile at Jason, who was stood near Albus, beside James. He gave her a supportive smile and bowed his head.

“You’re my family,” Ollie continued. “You’ve been my family since we were sixteen years old. I promise that I will cherish our love and that we’ll paint a beautiful life together.”

She laughed and her cheeks flushed.

“I’m sorry,” she said to the room. “I’m painfully aware that I sound like a cheesy greetings card. But I really do mean every word.”

She looked back at Al and reached up to stroke his cheek.

“I love you, Al. With my whole heart. And I always will.”

The rest of the ceremony moved quickly and before I knew it we were up out of our seats and a golden dancefloor had flowed out from the middle of the marquee. Smaller, round tables with white table cloths were spread around the edges of the dancefloor, already set for dinner.

It took me a while to find my seat. I wasn’t at the main table with Ollie, which I’d been expecting, but I instead ended up next to Lucy Weasley. She beamed when I sat down. Her eyes were red.

“My bloody cousin and his beautiful vows,” she explained, gesturing to her smudged make up. “I never realised he was capable of that kind of adorableness.”

“At least you have other cousins to lower the tone,” I consoled her.

Lucy cackled. “Yep. Louis’s already had a drink poured over him today. If the romance gets too much for me I’ll just wheel myself over to him for some comedy.”

We chatted through dinner and I was surprised by how easy it felt to talk to her. I’d hardly known Lucy until a few days ago, but I found myself enjoying her company. It felt like I’d known her much longer.

We stopped talking as Louis stood up, clinking two champagne glasses together to get our attention. The sun was setting and the sky glowed orange through the transparent marquee, bathing Louis in warm golden light as he started to speak.

“Evening all,” Louis said. “As best man it is my great honour to stand up here and try to embarrass my favourite person in the world: my beloved cousin Albus Potter.”

He waited for the nervous laughter to stop. Al was frowning at him but Ollie looked delighted.

Louis shook his head. “I’ve tried to write this speech so many times. I had this amazing vision of standing up here and telling you hundreds of stories to embarrass Al in front of everyone he knows and make Liv doubt her life choices. I have four different drafts saved in my desk at home. And my cousins can testify to the fact I’ve been traipsing around trying to collect stories for months.”

Lucy laughed. “It’s been completely stressing him out,” she whispered.

“But I just can’t do it,” Louis said. “Every time I’ve tried to write it it’s become more obvious that it wasn’t going to work. So I tried to figure out why that was. I thought that maybe it’s because Al hasn’t done enough embarrassing stuff. He’s a pretty decent bloke all round and I figured he probably didn’t have the regrettable history of the likes of some of our family members like, well, his brother. Or myself.”

He gave a self deprecating smile and I could pretty much hear the dreamy sighs of several female wedding guests.

“But then I realised that couldn’t be the problem,” Louis continued. “Because he’s been best friends with me for his whole life. And I’m what my friends’ parents have always liked to refer to as a bad influence. So, yeah, Al might have always had a pretty good moral compass, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been dragged into his share of mortification.”

“He’s good at this,” I murmured to Lucy.

“Oh, you know Louis,” she said. “Loves his moment in the spotlight.”

“But then I realised what the real issue was,” Louis admitted. “And it’s not that I couldn’t write a speech for the sole purpose of embarrassing Al. It’s that I shouldn’t. And I don’t want to. Because today is so special and trying to use my speech to get some cheap laughs wouldn’t be doing it justice.

“The things is...Al and Liv are amazing. There’s really no other word for them. I used to always joke that I’d sabotage any relationship Al had because I wanted to keep him all to myself, but the minute he met Liv it was obvious that it wouldn’t work even if I tried. They smile literally any time the other one is near, but they somehow manage not to be obnoxious about it. They make each other happier than anyone else ever could, but they’re still the best friends I could ask for. I’ve never really wanted a relationship and I don’t think I’d be very good at it, but I think I’d give it a go if I knew it would be like theirs. I know how happy they’re going to be and how successful this marriage will be, and I could not be more honoured to be best man.

“So let’s raise our glasses to two of the very finest people this world has to offer: the new Mr and Mrs Potter.”

I stood with the rest of the room and lifted my champagne glass. Louis caught my eye and gave me a wink as he took a sip of his own drink. I lifted my fingers to my eyes and found tears there again. He saw me brush them away and laughed.

Al stood up and pulled Louis into a massive hug. Louis kissed his cheek and then leant down to kiss Ollie where she sat, smothering her cheeks and forehead with kisses. She threw her arms around his shoulders and laughed into him.

I watched them, feeling left out again, but not in a way that felt upsetting. This was her story, not mine, and I’d chosen not to be part of it. I was lucky even to be witnessing it.

When everyone had sat back down again, Jason got to his feet. I watched him with interest. I hadn’t known he’d be making a speech.

He cleared his throat and nervously pushed back his hair. The stage didn’t come as naturally to him as it did to Louis.

“Well,” he said, looking anxiously around the room. “At this point in the evening it would usually fall to the father of the bride to make a speech.”

His eyes rested on Ollie. She gave him an encouraging nod and his expression eased. Suddenly he looked like he knew what he was doing.

“I had the privilege of giving Liv away and, as her father isn’t here today, I wanted to say a few words.”

Ollie smiled and leaned forwards to see Jason more clearly. James, sitting next to Jason, was looking up at his best friend listening intently.

“I thought I might feel sad giving Liv away,” Jason said. “She’s my little cousin, much as she doesn’t like it when I say that, and I thought I’d find it hard watching her grow up and get married. But it wasn’t hard at all. How could it be? She’s just married the love of her life.

“I’ve watched Liv and Al over the years and I can’t help but feel a little jealous. And I’m sure I’m not the only one here who’s felt that way. Liv has found someone who sees all the brilliance in her and enhances it. She and Al have grown up together and have grown together and they’re each so much a part of the other. Al recognises all the beautiful things in Liv - her smiles and her art and her laughter and her kindness and so much more - and I know that he’ll treasure them, and her, forever. Liv and Al are the luckiest, happiest people I know, and I hope that one day I might find a love like theirs.”

It might not have been obvious to anyone else, but I couldn’t help but see the way Jason’s gaze flickered down to James, who was still looking up at him listening. Jason’s eyes rested on his friend for a fraction longer than would have seemed natural, and when he looked back at the room his cheeks were a little flushed. I chewed my lip, skating back through my memories of Jason to check whether the conclusion I’d drawn from this action was correct.

“So,” Jason continued. “I know that fathers of the bride often cry. They give their little girls away and have to come to terms with being left behind by their daughters. To be fair the job was always going to be less heart wrenching for me because, well, when Liv was a little girl I was a little boy there with her, usually trying to push her off her toy broomstick. Her growing up doesn’t hold quite the same emotional significance for me as it could.

“But I think, no, I know, even if I was feeling nostalgic about Liv growing up and letting go of our childhood, I could never feel sad today. I love you, Liv. I’m always here for you, you know that, but I know you’re not going to need me. You’ve found the kind of love most of us can only dream of.”

Ollie stood up and embraced her cousin. She had tears in her eyes again and clung to him. I couldn’t hear her but it was easy to read her lips - I’ll always need you.

When Jason sat back down, he didn’t look at James. His cheeks were still red.

After the speeches, a band somehow materialised on a stage at the edge of the marquee. Ollie and Albus stood up together and we all sat back to watch their first dance.

I was distracted and kept finding my gaze drifting over to Jason instead of fixing on the happy couple. As the music faded and other couples started to join Ollie and Al on the dancefloor, Jason stood up and left the marquee.

I got to my feet as well and followed him out of the tent. He was heading towards the Burrow, probably just wanting to use the bathroom, but I hurried after him, intercepting him before he could enter the house.

“What do you want?” He sounded tired. His voice didn’t have its usual bite.

“You love him,” I said plainly. “You love him. How did I never know?”

“I think you’ll find, Cassandra, that there are lots of things you don’t know.”

“But it’s James. Does he know? Have you told him?”

Jason didn’t reply. He just looked heartbroken.

“How long have you been in love with him?” I couldn’t believe I’d only just noticed. Now that I’d realised it seemed so obvious.

Jason shook his head. “I don’t know. Forever? It feels like forever.”

“No wonder you hate me,” I muttered.

He sighed. “I don’t hate you, Cass. I just...you’re no good for him. You know that. Look at Al and Liv. James deserves that.”

“And he’d have that with you?”

Jason shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t know if he’d want it. But he’s never had it with you.”

“Do you think he ever could?”

“Have a relationship like Al and Liv? With you? I think he wants to,” Jason said bitterly. “Hell, he obviously wants you infinitely more than he wants me. But I don’t know. Maybe you could do it. You’re the one that keeps sabotaging your chances.”

“I know,” I whispered. “I’m sorry.”

He shrugged again. “I’m not the one you should be apologising to.”

“But you love him. Surely that changes things?”

“I don’t see why it should. I’ve always loved him. It’s never made any difference so far.”

“But maybe it should.”

Jason laughed and shook his head. All his happiness from a few moments ago had dissipated into the evening air. I felt cruel for bringing up something painful on a day that had been making him so happy.

“You really do love him,” I said again. “Don’t you?”

Jason just sighed and walked away, shoulders hunched over. I watched him enter the house. He didn’t look back at me.

When I returned to the marquee, almost everybody was dancing. Ollie was still wrapped up in Al. I waved at her but didn’t try to go to her. It wouldn’t be fair to interrupt. I weaved around the dancefloor, vaguely thinking of trying to find Louis for a dance, but I was stopped by a tap on my shoulder.

I turned, knowing who it would be, but still drew in a sharp breath when I found James looking down at me. He was handsome in his black dress robes, standing tall and looking more relaxed than I’d seen him recently. If I ignored the empty sleeve where his left arm should be, he could almost be the same man I’d run away from years before.

He held out his remaining hand and gave a little shrug. He looked endearingly self conscious.

“Cass,” he breathed. “Would you like to dance?”


Chapter 12: Exit
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James wrapped his arm around my waist and tucked me in against him, slowly turning us around on the spot. I rested one hand on his shoulder and the other on his hip. I thought it would feel strange to dance with him, now that he only had one arm to hold me with, but maybe physical contact will never feel strange with James.

He leaned forward and rested his forehead against mine.

“You look beautiful today,” he whispered.

I didn’t know what to say.

“I wasn’t sure how I’d feel, seeing you at a wedding,” he continued. “But I’m glad you’re here.”

I held onto him more tightly.

“I kept the ring, you know?” He straightened his face so he could look into my eyes. “The one I tried to give you.”

“We were kids. It wouldn’t have been right for us,” I told him.

“Maybe. I mean, yeah. I offered it then because you were seventeen and pregnant and scared. But I always thought one day I’d give it to you again. Properly.”

I chewed my lip. “You never did, though.”

He drew me still closer. “I wanted to. I was trying to pick up the courage. And then you left.”

“I don’t know how to say sorry enough.”

He shook his head. “I don’t think you can say sorry enough. But let’s just move on. We can be better from now on, so that we move past it.”

I looked over his shoulder and smiled. I could see Cadence on the other side of the dancefloor, holding hands with Teddy and Victoire’s young son. Both children were leaning back and spinning around as fast as they could. Cadence was wearing a pink dress but had black Quidditch boots on underneath it.

James saw me smiling and turned his head to follow my gaze. The expression his face melted into reminded me of everything I’d ever loved about him.

“She’s extraordinary,” I murmured.

“I know,” he agreed. “And she’s ours.”

“Yours,” I said.

He frowned and stopped turning.

“Maybe she could be ours again. We could make it work.” His voice was a harsh whisper, and I could see how hard it was for him to say this.

I let go of him and bit my lip harder.

“I don’t think so, James,” I muttered.

James’s eyes widened but he didn’t speak. Instead, he pulled me back towards him, lowering his face to mine.

When his lips were millimetres from my own, I pulled away.

“Don’t do this,” he pleaded. “I want you so much. Let me kiss you. It’ll remind you of everything.”

I shook my head. “I don't need reminding. We’ve never found this bit difficult, have we? The dancing and the kissing and the...well, everything that comes after. That’s never been hard.”

I reached out and held his hand, both of us now standing still in the middle of the dancefloor.

“I love how I feel with you, James,” I confessed. “When we’re in bed together, or holding onto each other, I never want to let go. But...that’s not the same as being good together.”

I nodded over to Ollie and Al, who were now giggling together next to their wedding cake. Ollie had taken the icing figurine of Al off the top of the cake and was licking its head, laughing and darting out of Al’s way whenever he tried to take it away. After a moment, she bit the whole head off and then squealed as Al pulled her into his arms and peppered her face with kisses.

“We don’t have what they have,” I said sadly.

“So?” James sounded broken. “We don’t need to be the same as them.”

“Maybe not. Maybe we don’t need to be the same. But look at them! They bring out the best in each other. They make each other happy and kind. We don’t do that!”

“You make me happy!” He insisted, but his voice was flat and I could tell that my words were starting to get through.

“Do I?” I frowned at him. “Do I really? When’s the last time I made you happy?”

He opened his mouth but I kept talking.

“And I mean really, genuinely happy. Because of me. Not because of something that happened while I was there, or because you were drunk and felt like we were in a good place. When have you been honest to god happy because of me?”

James looked a little bit lost and shook his head.

“Exactly,” I said bitterly. “I’m not what you need, James. I wish I was. But you need somebody who’s kind and adores you and will value and respect you, even through the rubbish bits. You need someone who will sit down and talk to you about their feelings and your feelings and who’s invested enough in the relationship to work at it instead of running away any time they have doubts. Hell, maybe you’ve already found them.”

I watched Jason, who had now found his way over to where Cadence had been dancing with Victoire’s son. While I watched, he scooped the little girl up into his arms, making her scream with laughter, and spun her around in a wide circle that came dangerously close to a tray of champagne flutes floating past them.

I looked back at James and realised he too was watching Jason.

“Think about it,” I suggested. “You two are very lucky to have each other. And Cadence.”

James looked a little bit dazed, but not entirely shocked. I wondered how many times this line of thought had occurred to him in the past. By the look on his face, this wasn’t the first time he had considered it.

“I love you, James,” I told him. “Always will. But I think this needs to be the end for us.”

He put his arm back around me and pulled me into him. I bent my head and kissed the curve where his neck met his collarbone. He raised his arm and stroked back my hair, tangling his hand up in the curls and holding me in place for a moment before releasing me.

I tilted my head and kissed his lips, holding the kiss for a few seconds. When I pulled away, his eyes were still closed and he didn’t open them as I turned around and walked away.

I made my way through the dancers and towards the wedding cake, where Ollie and Al were now clinging to each other in some vague semblance of a slow dance. Al saw me coming and released Ollie, nodding in my direction.

She rushed over to me and linked her arm through mine.

“I’m so happy you’re here today,” she told me earnestly. “It feels right, you know? I think today wouldn’t quite have made sense without you here. I know my sixteen year old self would never have forgiven me.”

I smiled. “It’s a beautiful wedding, Ollie. Thank you for having me.”

She frowned and took a step away from me, looking me up and down like she could read my soul.

“You’re not staying, are you?” She said.

I shook my head. “I don’t think I can.”

I waited for her to get angry or upset, but she didn’t. She just nodded slowly and reached out to take my hands.

“Thank you for being here,” she said. “I know it hasn’t been easy for you, but you’ve really made a difference. And, well, I don’t know if he realises it yet, but I think you’ve really helped James in his recovery. A few weeks ago I didn’t think he’d ever manage to be here today.”

“I wish I could make it all better,” I said, trying not to let my voice crack. “I’m sorry for running away again.”

She shrugged. “It’s not running away if you’ve said a proper goodbye. And it’s not really goodbye, is it? Not this time?”

“Of course not,” I told her. “You couldn’t get rid of me this time even if you tried.”

She laughed and flung her arms around me. She smelt like honeysuckle and I breathed her in. It had been hard saying goodbye to James, but Ollie was my real love. I almost didn’t want to let her go.

“Be happy, Cass,” she instructed. “And write to me.”

“Always,” I told her.

She kissed my cheek and then she let me go.

I gave myself one last chance to look back around the tent, looking first at Cadence, who was now dancing with James. She held his one hand in both of hers and he swung her forwards and backwards. I waited for him to notice me watching, but his eyes were firmly fixed on her, filled with a kind of adoration that I’d never seen in his face when he looked at me.

Jason stood nearby, holding a drink and chatting to Louis, but his eyes kept flickering back to James and Cadence. I wasn’t sure what would happen next for them, if anything at all, but I felt certain that it was right to give them this chance to see what they really meant to each other.

Louis drained the rest of his champagne and then took Jason’s glass out of his hand and finished his too. Jason laughed and smacked the side of his head. Louis stuck his tongue out and then got distracted by a beautiful brunette walking past. Jason pushed him over to her and within seconds Louis had her deep in conversation.

Lucy was sitting in her chair at the edge of the marquee with Victoire’s younger child perched on her knee. She was reading the little girl and picture book and looked completely content. Every so often, I noticed Louis turn away from his conversation to look over at his cousin and check if she needed anything. Every time they made eye contact, Lucy looked bemused and shook her head, gesturing for Louis to get back to his flirtation.

A little way away from Lucy, Rose and Scorpius were dancing together. Rose had daisies threaded through her hair and kept trying to tuck them behind Scorpius’s ear. He was laughing and half heartedly trying to remove them, but obviously didn’t want to lift his hands from her waist for long enough to properly knock them to the floor. They looked relaxed and happy and in love.

Ollie was no longer looking at me. Instead, she had found her way back into Al’s arms and was swaying on the spot with him while he murmured something in her ear.

I allowed myself a final glance back at Cadence, trying to imprint her image into my mind so that I’d always remember her in this moment, and then I turned around and left the marquee.

They were all going to be okay. And so was I.


A/N: And that's it! I know it's not the ending some of you were hoping for, but the more I thought about it the more I couldn't see Cassie's story ending any other way. I keep considering an epilogue to show where she's going and what's next for her (and have drafted a few letters for her to leave for various characters), but I think at this moment she's not actually sure what she's doing. She's found some kind of closure and has helped her friends as much as she can, and she was never going to be happy sticking around.

If you want to read more in this universe, Cassie's story started in 'Complicated', and Lily and Lucy feature heavily in my WIP 'Long Live the Queen'.

I hope you can forgive me if this isn't what you wanted for Cassie! Let me know what you think is coming next for them all xx


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