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uncharted. by putitonpaper

Format: Novel
Chapters: 18
Word Count: 79,642
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Substance abuse

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

First Published: 09/14/2016
Last Chapter: 11/26/2017
Last Updated: 11/26/2017

Summary:


stunning banner by mockingjay@TDA!

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Sometimes, the only way to stay sane is to go... completely and absolutely bonkers.

 
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Chapter 1: one.
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Amazing CI by mockingjay@TDA!
Amazing CI by mockingjay@TDA!!

 

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In the span of 20 seconds, a single feathery white cloud turned into numerous massive grey clouds cluttering the sky.  I felt the air shift around me and I could smell the raindrops before they even started to fall.  It was obvious that an aggressive downpour was on the horizon but I made no plans to move from my spot.  I was sitting in the wooden rocking chair he built.

As a four year old, I had “helped” him build the rocking chair from scratch and paint it teal.  We had done it the muggle way because he liked doing things the muggle way.  It started as a punishment.  The Wizengamot sentenced him to five years without the use of magic but even when he could use his wand again he preferred the muggle way.  He said it gave him something to do with his hands.

I closed my eyes and started rocking back and forth.  I ran my hand against the smooth, cherry wood.  It was the only thing Maman kept of his.  Everything else, she threw out: his clothes, his shoes, his watches.  But, she kept the chair.  I think she felt bad.  She knew it was my favorite chair.  She knew I did not believe the accusations.  I could not.  It had been six years and I still could not bring myself to believe them no matter how many articles, no matter how many wanted posters, and no matter how many years away.  So, she had let me keep one memento -- the teal rocking chair that we had built.

I felt the first drop of water hit my wrist.  A chill ran down my spine as a smile spread across my face.  I loved the rain.  The second drop hit my nose and I laughed as the water ran down my lips to my chin.  My maman would always complain about my obsession with the rain.  It meant more laundry and cleaning for her.  Three heavy drops hit my legs simultaneously.  He understood.  He would always tell her to let me play for longer.  “That’s what wands are for, no?” he would ask her.  The rain started to pick up.  I felt it all over my skin.  I loved the sounds of the drops falling all around me.  I could feel my head getting heavier as my hair got soaked but I would stay out here as long as I could. 

“Cassie! Seriously?”

I sighed.  “Yes?” I asked opening my eyes to the sound of my sister’s voice.

“Maman needs to talk to us!  Come in now,” she shouted before I heard her shutting the sliding door.

I slowly got up from the rocking chair and dragged my feet toward the house.  I stepped into the kitchen and immediately started shivering. 

My maman did not even look up from sipping her tea as she performed a wandless drying spell.  

“Thanks,” I smiled as I plopped down next to my sister on a burnt orange bar stool in front of our kitchen counter.

I watched my maman carefully as she sat across from us.  She was too good at masking how she was feeling.  My smile slowly disappeared as I noticed that her light blue eyes looked more tired than normal.  Her light, silvery blonde hair was in a haphazard messy bun.  I watched as she drummed her fingers and stirred her tea repeatedly.  

I sucked in a large amount of air.

I knew what she was going to say before she pulled out the newspaper.

"I wanted to warn you before you headed to school in the morning,” she said quietly as she stared into her tea.

I knew this was going to be about him.

She pulled out a crumbled Daily Prophet.  My sister and I leaned forward to get a better view of the headline:

AVERY, GOYLE, AND NOTT STRIKE AGAIN: MINISTER’S DAUGHTER HOSPITALIZED


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The hills of green looked like they were moving as the Hogwarts Express sped toward Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  The countryside we rode through was breathtaking.  There were rolling greens, fields, and trees as far as the eye could see.  Every so often, we would travel over an intricately designed bridge.  I focused all my brain power on counting.  The hills.  The bridges.  The bricks on the bridges.  The rivers.  Anything so I did not have to think for a little bit longer.

“You can stop staring at me,” I said finally looking away from the window to face my sister.

She raised a perfectly manicured eyebrow and rolled her eyes.  “Excuse me for being concerned,” she responded.

I sighed feeling a little guilty.  Addie, my older sister, definitely had better places to be.  She was the so-called unapologetic Slytherin heartbreaker.  It helped that Ade was stunningly gorgeous.  Our eyes looked the same on most days — light blue and green looked like they were competing for dominance in our irises.  Some days Ade’s eyes looked mostly blue like Maman’s.  Whereas mine would mostly look green like his.  Addie and I both had long, golden blonde hair.  That is where our similarities stopped.  My sister was tall and willowy.  I, unfortunately was “height-challenged” and curvier than Ade.  Her hair was also straight whereas mine was curly or wavy depending on the weather.  Addie always assured me that my hair was beautiful and had “character.”

Yea, right.  Maybe after I have used ten bottles of Sleekeasy’s.

“It’s just another story, right?”  I asked Ade.  “We hear this all the time.  We should just get used to it,” I said to her, but it probably sounded like I was trying to convince myself.

“Do you ever think about changing your last name?”  Addie asked me.  She was trying to sound nonchalant about it but I noticed she was blinking and fidgeting more than normal.

I paused before answering.  The last time I told Addie what I actually felt about him I was lectured endlessly for having false hopes.

"You want to change your last name to Delacour?”  I asked slowly trying to buy some time to collect my thoughts.  It was obvious, of course.  Gabrielle Delacour was Maman’s maiden name.

Addie nodded her head slowly.  “Right, it would probably make Maman happy,” she offered.  “And maybe, make Mémé and Pépé less afraid of us,” she added with a forced laugh.

“It’s probably not the best idea to upset Grandfather Nott,” I offered.  “He sends us money every month and we need it because Maman refuses to ask for help.  And, you have to study for NEWTs.  You probably shouldn't work during Hogsmeade weekends this year.”

Addie bit her lip as she pondered what I said.  “I think I am still going to work for Cho Chang’s Designs.  I need the discount on clothes and make up.“

I rolled my eyes.  Out of all the things I said, she would focus on that.

“But, I guess you're right,” she continued. “We don't need Maman worrying about our safety or money.”

I nodded my head.  Addie suddenly got up and sauntered toward the door.

I raised an eyebrow.  “Where are you off to?”

She looked at her watch.  “In about five minutes, your friends will be here.  So, I’m going to go not hang out with nerdy 6th Years.”

I stuck my tongue out at her.  She responded by flicking her hair and making her exit.

As predicted four minutes later, my best friend in all her glory came storming into the compartment.

“Look,” she greeted me, putting her hand in front of my face and wiggling her fingers.

I pouted at Amaris Pena.  “Hello to you too.  I’m doing fine.  Thanks for asking.  How are you?”

Ama rolled her big amber eyes.  “Every time there’s a new article about your dad, you claim you are fine and then you get snippy when people ask how you are doing.  So instead of doing the same old song and dance, I have moved on to more important matters.  What do you think of my nails?”

Ama had painted her nails red.  It contrasted nicely with her naturally tan skin and curly dark hair that reached just past her shoulder blades.  She loved painting her nails.  She had an extensive muggle manicure and pedicure kit.  She claimed that the muggle manicure was so much better than using a wand.

She is mental.

“I do not get…”

Before I could finish my retort, the door banged open and our other best friend came barreling into the compartment.

“I demand hugs!” Josh shouted as he arrived.

I rolled my eyes but still got up and abided by his request.  Never one to do anything half-heartedly, Josh pulled us into tight and long bear hugs.

He sprawled out on one of the benches and had a big smile on his face.  Joshua Mountbatten-Windsor was tall, slim, and blonde with deep blue eyes.

“CASSIE!” Josh yelled.  “You have boobs!  Since when?”

I crossed my arms blocking his view.  “Nice to see you too, Joshua.”

Recognize the last name?  That’s right folks.  Josh is one of the grandsons of the freakin’ Muggle Queen of England!  He is like tenth in line to be on the throne but still, he is part of the freakin’ royal family!

“You’re so rude, Joshy!” Ama chastised while admiring her freshly painted nails.

Josh just grinned and reached a hand across the compartment to play with a strand of my curly/wavy hair. “I’m serious,” he mused. “Cass, you’re not just a cutey anymore! You’re hot stuff.”  He looked over at Ama.  “Love the red!  It really pops with your summer tan!”

"Why thank you, Joshua!” she said giving me some heavy side-eye.

“I think Dom likes Ollie,” Josh randomly declared with a sparkle in his eye.  A sparkle he only got when he was sharing juicy gossip.

Dominique Weasley is my cousin.  My maman and her maman are sisters.  While Dom was nothing but nice to me, we ran in different circles.  She ended up in Ravenclaw and she was friends with the Queen Bitch of the school, Miranda who insisted on being called Mimi.

“Did Ade give you the new WVogue?” Ama asked grabbing my bag.

I shrugged. “It should be in there, I think.”

“Dom cannot like Ollie, Joshy.  Mimi will never stand for it,” Ama responded to Josh’s comment.  Ama pulled out five Quidditch Weekly magazines from my bag.

“Oh Merlin, Cass, will you stop being tragic and just try out for the stupid team already?”  Josh asked while wrinkling his nose at the magazines.

Ama nodded her head in agreement.  I stuck my tongue out at both of them.

I know — I am extremely mature.

“I know Mimi still has that ban on anyone dating Ollie but I was in the bathroom and  I overheard Tay talking to V about how Dom and Ollie have been getting rather close,” Josh declared as if he were reporting the news.

Tay, V, and Dom made up Mimi’s minions.  They were Ravenclaw. They were beautiful.  They were popular.  They were loved and also hated etc. etc. etc.

Ama rolled her eyes.  “Of course they are close, did not’t they grow up together?  Isn’t Dom the one who set them up back in 4th Year?”

Josh nodded his head.  “She probably feels badly that crazy Mimi put a frickin’ ban on any girl dating him for months.”

As they gossiped about the intricacies of the relationship or non-relationship among Ollie, Dom, and Mimi, I picked up one of my Quidditch Weekly magazines and started leafing through it.  I paused at one of my favorite articles of the issue.  Ginny Weasley-Potter wrote an article about how the Chudley Cannons had an amazing recruiting season and might actually be a team to look out for this year or next year.

“You know, we are not done with you, Cass,” I heard Ama saying loudly.

I looked up to see Ama and Josh staring at me.

I cleared my throat.  “Not done with me regarding what?”

"We’re worried about you,” Josh stated with an uncharacteristic frown on his face.

“Rose is in the hospital and people will probably be … mean, given the reports,” Ama continued.

I swallowed.  “I’m used to people being mean,” I responded quietly.

They looked at each other, then looked back at me.  “We think you need a distraction,” Ama stated.

“What if you really went out for the Quidditch team?” Josh asked.

“Or what if our band actually played in public?”  Ama added not so subtly.

I ignored Ama’s comment about the band.  “But, we know Potter has his favorite picked out for the Seeker already,” I said biting my lip.

“She’s right,” Ama agreed looking at Josh.  “There’s also been no girl on the team for years.”

“But what if you show up and kill it?” Josh pressed. “You would at least be able to strut off the field with your head held high,” he said hopping up from his seat and demonstrating the motion.

I laughed at his antics. Before the “Sorting Debacle”, as my father’s parents called it, Grandfather Nott taught me how to play Quidditch.  Addie had no interest in playing so I was his only hope of having a granddaughter on the Slytherin team.  After I did not get sorted into his beloved house, the practices abruptly stopped.  If I actually made the Quidditch team, I am pretty sure half my house would actually be upset and my grandfather would probably faint from disgrace.

I looked up at my friends with a huge grin on my face. “A Nott trying out for the Gryffindor Quidditch team, why not?”
 

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A/N -- -- Let me know if you have any thoughts on the chapter!  (Or, just say hi to me in the review box :) ).


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Shit.

I was going to be late.

I was going to be so damn late.

And it was only the first week of school!

The halls were swarming with students from all Years weaving in and out of makeshift lanes trying to make their way to morning classes.  I nearly ran into two munchkins as I attempted to maneuver through the sea of students.
 
Why do Third Years think it’s acceptable to stand in the middle of the hallway and gossip when there is 23 seconds left before classes start?!

As I sped down a side hallway toward Professor Patil’s class, I slammed into something. 

Hard.

I started to fall backward and my books and notes went everywhere.  As I braced myself to hit the floor, a pair of arms caught and steadied me.

When I was upright again, I had to stop myself from drooling.
 
The guy before me was unapologetically hot.
 
His jet-black hair had this “I just rolled out of bed” look but in an impossibly sexy way.  He was tall. 6 foot something.  He towered over my 5’3” 1/2 inch frame.  (Yes, the 1/2 matters. Stop hating.) He also sported a stubble beard on his angular jaw.  Deputy Headmaster Longbottom made the full uniform robes optional so this guy had his arm muscles on display as his crisp oxford white shirt had its sleeves rolled up.  His eyes were what really captivated me.  They were hazel with flecks of competing colors around his pupils.

“James!” I stated a little out of breath.  “So sorry!” I yelled reaching for my books and notes and his which were scattered on the floor.
 
I heard a rough and deep chuckle from James and my skin tingled all over at the sound of it.

I grinned widely at the sound of his laugh as I got up with our things in my hands.
 
“It’s not a problem, Ca…”  he started saying but his face went blank.  He stared at me and my stomach dropped.

Did he not know me?

I tried to keep the smile on my face as I fake laughed.  “It’s Cass Nott,” I reminded him.  "We’re in the same House and I tutor your brother, sometimes,” I explained as I pulled at a strand of my hair.
 
James shook his head.  “Right… I mean… of course … I know that,” he offered feebly… and unconvincingly.
 
“Right, of course,” I repeated giving him an even wider grin to hide my disappointment.  My cheeks were starting to hurt.

He stared at me with an expression I could not read.  He was probably trying to figure out why I looked like a serial killer with a ridiculous grin on my face.

I didn't know why I was so disappointed.  It wasn't like we hung out on weekends or anything.  He is also a year above me but "the James Potter" knew everyone.

Except me, apparently.

As I stared at Potter, he fidgeted and moved his weight from foot to foot.  He stopped staring at me and was now looking anywhere but at me.  Perks of being a Nott I guess.

I was preparing to make my escape but then I remembered Rose.  “I am so sorry about what happened to Rose.  Is she okay?  I am really sorry.  I, mean, it’s probably not a good idea for me to visit her or anything but you know she was always so nice to me,” I said in one breath.
 
James’s mouth was slightly parted.  He was looking at me in shock. “Uh, she’s fine,” he stated slowly.  “She’ll be back in school in two weeks.”
 
"Great!  That’s so great.”

He nodded his agreement. 

“Okay, so I have to head to class!”  I said too loudly.  “Um, catch you later!”

He just nodded again as I ran to the class that I was definitely late for.

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“Ugh!  Professor Patil hates me again this year,” I declared plopping down on Ama’s bed.

I did not have to look at her face to know she was rolling her eyes.  “Let me guess,” you were late, again?” she asked as she painted her nails red… again?

“Are you painting your nails red... again?  And I’m not late to class on purpose.  It’s just the early classes.  They are so… early!”

Ama looked up at me with a scowl on her face.  “They are clearly different reds!”

I raised an eyebrow.  Before I could tell her how ridiculous she sounded, Josh came strutting through the door.

“Godric Gryffindor was ridiculous and a prude!” Joshua complained with a hand on his hip.  “The stairs should not turn into a slide for gay men! It's... it's discrimination!”

Ama and I rolled our eyes.  “How did you get up this time, Josh?”

"I levitated myself," he said looking extremely proud of himself.  He walked over to us.  “Oooo, I love that new red,” Josh said admiring Ama’s nails.

Ama gave me a smug look.  “Thank you, Joshua.  I’m changing from Jelly Apple red to Really Red red.”

Josh nodded his understanding while I pretended to gag.

Josh grabbed my bag.  “Did Ade give you the new WQ?” he asked.

“I’m starting to think you two are only friends with me for Addie’s magazines,” I retorted as I yawned and sat back on Ama’s bed.  “It should be in there."

"You don't have to think, it's true," Josh responded.

“What do you think?” Ama asked waving her fingers in front of me.

“Your nails always look good,” I said without looking at Ama’s nails.

Josh started looking through my bag.  “So, I was in class with Tay, today, and guess who she was talking about!”

“Who?” Ama said excitedly.  I said it too but with less enthusiasm.

“Your cousin!  Louis Weasley,” Josh yelled in my direction.

“No way!  One of Dom’s best friends is interested in her brother?” Ama asked.

Louis Weasley is also my cousin and Dom’s brother.  But, when my maman married my father her relationship with the Delacours became a little strained.  I think my maman was embarrassed to face them when my father ran into legal troubles.  We barely saw the Delacour-Weasleys but they were friendly enough to me when we did cross paths.

Josh nodded his head in response to Ama but was still focused on going through my things.  “I know, it’s just so ridiculous.  There’s no way that Mimi…” He suddenly gasped.  “Cass, are you taking 7th year Transfiguration? Ugh, you’re such an overachiever!  We are supposed to have Transfig together! You’re already taking…”

“Josh, I’m not taking 7th Year Transfig, only 7th Year Potions,” I cut him off throwing a pillow at him.

He swatted the pillow away easily before opening the book he had in his hands.  He gasped again and his eyes grew into the size of quaffle balls.  “Cass!  Why do you have James Potter’s Transfig book!?”

I could feel my face heat up as Ama stopped admiring her nails and looked up at me.  “OMG!  Are you secretly snogging James Potter?"

“What?… Guys! No…”

Josh sprung up from my bed and looked like he was ready to cry tears of joy. “I feel so conflicted!" he yelled.  "I want to be mad because you’re shagging James Potter and you didn’t tell us but I’m so happy because you’re shagging James Potter!"

“He’s shagging you?”  I heard a voice say.  Amanda, our dorm mate, had apparently woken up from her nap. Amanda was the self-proclaimed “IT” girl of the Gryffindor 6th Year girls.  She had bone straight dirty blonde long hair, icy grey blue eyes, a lean figure, and a posse of doormats to walk all over.  

“Um, of course, he wants to shag Cass, Mandy,” Josh responded before I could say anything.

“Josh,” I shout whispered. “Stop!”

“Yea! James knows Cass is hot,” Ama decided to chime in. 

I just want to take the opportunity to point out that these statements were based on nothing.  Nothing at all.

“Wait! You’re shagging, James?” another roommate of ours, Grace, asked leaning out of the bathroom with a green face mask on.  Grace was short with small delicate features.  She wore large hipster eyeglasses and her brown hair was cut into a stylish bob. We had a saying at Hogwarts:

If you want to keep a secret, don’t tell Grace.

“Stop!  No, no, no, no!” I shouted to the room.  

I grabbed the arms of Josh and Ama and led them out of the room, through the Common Room, and out of the portrait.  I found the closest empty classroom and practically pushed them in.

“Hey!  Why so rough, Fenrir!” Josh complained as I finally let go of him.

“You almost messed up my nails and you didn’t tell us about James!” Ama pouted.

I rubbed my eyes and then looked up at my friends.  “You guys cannot be serious,” I declared while slamming the door.  

They both looked at me like I was crazy. 

Me?

Crazy? 

ME?

Crazy?!?

“I’m not shagging, Potter!  When was the last time I shagged… anyone?!”

Ama frowned while Josh looked like he actually had to think about the question.  They looked at each other and shook their heads. 

“So,” Ama finally stated, "maybe we got carried away…”

Maybe!?!?!

“Maybe?  You basically just told the whole school that I’m shagging James Potter!”  I retorted.

Josh looked like he wanted to cry.  “Does this mean you are not even snogging, James?”

I snorted. “You guys are actually insane. James doesn’t even know who I am," I whined.
 
Josh rolled his eyes.  “Of course he knows who you are!”
 
“I literally ran into him this morning and he didn’t know my name,” I recounted. “Our books fell on the floor and I ran away so fast from embarrassment that I guess I stole his book in the process."

“No way, that cannot be right.  Everyone knows of the Nott in Gryffindor,” Ama stated as if I were a well known spectacle.

“Focus," I snapped.  "What are we going to do about the fact that you told Gossip Gracie that I’m shagging Potter?"
 
The geniuses that I called my best friends stared blankly at me.  I groaned and dropped my head in my hands.
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A/N: 10/28/2016 Update-- tried to fix all grammar and spelling issues but please do share if you notice more!
 


°~*◊*~°

Light from the sun shone through the hallway window. I shielded my eyes from the harsh rays as I stared outside. The leaves had not changed to fall colors yet. There was not a single cloud in the sky and the temperature was just starting to cool from the summer heat. It was a perfect day NOT to be inside but of course I was inside because life is unfair.

“Hey!” I heard Josh say as I felt him tug on my ponytail.

I turned and pouted at him in response.

He smiled back at me as we walked toward the Great Hall. “Listen, I know you’re nervous about the hundreds of judgmental teens sitting at breakfast right now and you’re probably wondering how widespread that rumor is that someone started yesterday…”

“You started,” I chimed in.

“… but I bet no one will even care. First of all, you don’t date…”

I scoffed. “Thanks.”

“…and you’re a rule-follower to the point that it’s slightly annoying…”

“I hate you,” I deadpanned.

“No one is going to take this ridiculous rumor that some rando started seriously,” he concluded looking proud of himself.

As we walked into the Great Hall, I tried to smile back at him but it probably looked more like a grimace.

I pretended not to notice the pairs of eyes on me as I walked toward my regular seat next to Ama. Josh, always taking things to the next level, made a point to whistle while he walked with pep in his step toward our seats.

“Morning, Ama,” Josh said to Ama who had her nose in the Prophet. She jumped a little at the sound of Josh’s voice.

“'The Flying Hippogriffs’ are coming to Hogsmeade in December,” she stated without looking up at us.

“Ohhh, I love them,” Josh mused. “Who are the Flying Hippogriffs?” I asked at the same time.

“They’re playing at Quidditch Sticks and Butterbeers,” Ama reported with a frown on her face.

“They play muggle music like us,” Josh explained to me. “But, unlike us they actually play in front of crowds,” he added giving me a pointed look.

My Grandma Nott insisted that I learn to play an instrument when I was six years old. I protested loudly and often for weeks. My father wanting to be done with the situation said I could pick any instrument of my choice. When I declared I wanted to play the guitar, my grandmother gave me a look I can only describe as disgusted, distraught, and disappointed. Ama and Josh can also play instruments. So, during our Second Year, they somehow roped me into forming a band with them. We have never performed for a crowd. Admittedly, it was entirely my fault.

“Does their name even make sense? Can’t all hippogriffs fly?” I pondered ignoring Josh’s comment. “So the flying hippogriffs are just… all hippogriffs?”

“Sticks and Beers is a 17 and up establishment, I better not see any of you there,” I heard Addie say in a mocking tone as she sat down next to Josh.

I raised an eyebrow at her. Addie had been sneaking in and out of bars since she was 14 years old.

“Do as I say not as I do,” Addie stated reading my face.

She winked and stole a pastry from my plate. I growled at her in response.

“Tsk, tsk, Cass, what would Grandbitch Nott, say?” she teased.

I pretended to actually think about the question. “Ade, you know she doesn’t talk to me so she’d probably just scowl, shake her head, and demand another DNA test."

“Ha, well at least you do not get letters telling you to hook up with the ‘nice young purebloods in your house,’” Ade retorted.

“She still doesn’t know about Stretton,” I asked with a huge smirk on my face already knowing the answer.

“You’re dating the Jay Stretton, the Captain of the Ravenclaw team?” Josh asked amazed with eyes wide.

“He’s Fiendfyre hot,” Ama said with a dreamy look on her face.

Ade raised an eyebrow at Ama who immediately shrunk in her seat.

“‘Dating’ is a strong word,” Ade responded to Josh with a smirk on her face. Dating definitely was a strong word for Addie.

“So what brings you to our neck of the woods?” I asked Ade wondering why she was sitting with us. Deputy Headmaster Longbottom continually commented that the House Tables were “suggested” rather than mandatory seating arrangements these days. Addie and I also got on just fine. But, she repeatedly commented on how she thought Ama was weird… sometimes, to Ama’s face. Addie also repeatedly told me that hanging out with 6th Year "nerdy Gryffindors" was “detrimental" to her non-existent “bad-ass reputation.”

Addie’s face split into a mischievous grin. “Can I be the one to tell Grandfather Nott?”

I narrowed my eyes at her expression. “Tell Grandfather, what exactly?”

Addie rolled her eyes like the answer was obvious. “About you and James Potter.”

“Oh my Merlin,” I groaned.

“Listen,” she continued. “I won’t tell him you’re shagging him because then he might…”

“Ade, seriously?” I complained.

“…actually kill him. But what if I just wrote that 'Cass is dating James Potter’? His reaction will be hilarity. You are dating him, right? He better not be liking it without putting a ring on it. I will so kill him….”

“You’re actually insane, do you know that?” I asked.

“Oi, Potter!” Ade called down to where James and his friends were sitting.

“Addie!” I shouted lunging across the table to cover her big fat mouth.

Potter and his extremely attractive crew were already looking at us before I could reach her.

Freddie Weasley was just as tall as James but with caramel skin and blue eyes. He was slightly more muscular than James because he played Beater for the Gryffindor Quidditch team. He also smiled and laughed a lot showing off his perfectly straight and blindingly white teeth. His features made for a swoon-worthy combination. Freddie had a mischievous grin on his face as he looked down toward us. It rivaled the one my sister just had on and made me nervous.

Louis Weasley, my cousin, had light blue eyes and swishy blonde hair. His skin seemed to actually glow. He wore eyeglasses sometimes but Ama claimed it made him look “sexily intelligent” rather than “nerdy.” Louis was giving us a polite smile.

Oliver Wood, Jr., the other Beater for Gryffindor, had long, curly dirty blonde hair that he was wearing in a man bun. He had sea green eyes and slightly tanned skin. He was also quite tall and muscular. Ollie was smiling and waving at us.

James looked like he was… blushing a little? The idea of hooking up with me was so embarrassing that it was making the James Potter blush?

I hate everything.

“Dee e worna tok e an of meh?” my sister mumbled into my hand while throwing daggers at me with her eyes.

“No, I don’t want to take my hand off you,” I hissed back. “Unless, you promise to stop embarrassing me.”

“Eyye woo bah e,” she responded.

I quickly removed my hand. “Don’t bite me!”

“And, you honestly think I’m the embarrassing one in this situation?” she deadpanned. “Why are Gryffindors so awkward?” she asked eyeing Potter and his crew.

I groaned.

“Someone started this baseless rumor about Cass and James,” Josh explained to my sister.

“We have no idea who,” Ama volunteered as she started scratching her hand.

I gave Ama a heavy dose of side eye. She has this weird thing where she starts itching if she lies.

I truly have insane friends.

“Oh, Potter’s headed this way,” Ade said excitedly. “Your life is such a spectacle,” she hummed as if she were watching her favorite show on the WizTele.

I looked up and sure enough Potter was walking toward us in all of his Potter glory. He was looking straight at me.

My stomach dropped. I was so not ready to explain why there were rumors about our completely non-existent relationship.

I grabbed my bag. “I really should be heading out,” I said pretending to look at my wristwatch.

Josh frowned. “We still have 15 minutes until classes start,” he observed unhelpfully.

“Well, you guys know how I like to be early to class,” I forced a laugh as Potter was quickly approaching.

“No, that’s not true at all actually…” I heard my so-called best friend, Ama, respond while I made a beeline for the door.

We really needed to work on her lying skills.

°~*◊*~°

Maybe there was something to Josh’s Ollie and Dom rumor. Ama and I were sitting on a bench outside overlooking some of the Hogwarts grounds. It will still sunny outside so I had the perfect excuse to wear sunglasses, which allowed me to openly people watch my fellow students.

Dom Weasley had a huge smile on her face as she sat next to Ollie in the grass. Her light blonde hair had a new light blue streak that matched the color of her eyes. Ollie appeared to be using this as an excuse to play with said strand of hair.

“Mimi’s definitely not going to like this,” I muttered to Ama.

Ama followed my line of sight. “Actually,” Ama whispered back, “rumor has it that Mimi is focused on bedding James Potter. She hasn’t noticed Ollie and Dom yet.”

I bit my lip. “Is that why she dyed her hair red?” Mimi had large brown eyes, her skin was always heavily powdered with bronzer, and she always wore bright red lipstick. She had recently dyed her naturally brown hair to an interesting red-orangish color.

Ama nodded her head. “Yup,” she said popping the p. “People are saying she dyed it because of Potter’s redhead fetish.”

I frowned as I turned toward Ama. “Do you think the redhead fetish thing is true?” I asked.

Ama shrugged. “James’s longest relationship was with Heather Bateson and her hair is auburn. Also, we know his dad does and his Grandfather did. Maybe it’s genetic.”

I ignored the genetic comment because that’s ridiculousness, but I nodded my head in response and thought about Heather. She was a Hufflepuff with sleek, shoulder-length dark auburn hair and a lean body with curves in all the right places.

Ama narrowed her eyes at me. “Oh, shit, do you actually like Potter?” she asked as her eyes quickly went from narrowed to comically wide.

I scoffed as I felt my stomach knotting up. “How pathetic would it be to like someone who doesn’t even know my name?”

“Nice evading,” I heard Josh yell as he walked up from behind us making me jump.

“Josh, one of these days you’re going to give me a heart attack,” Ama stated putting a hand over her heart dramatically. “Guys, act natural! He’s coming,” Ama suddenly snapped.

Josh immediately started to play with his WizPhone while Ama pulled out her compact mirror and pretended to fix her make-up.

I stared at both of them for a few moments. “Who?”

Ama scoffed. “Betrayal,” she stated abandoning her plan to look “natural.” “You’re not my best friend anymore,” she added while pouting as I rolled my eyes.

Josh smiled widely as he stood up and led the way to our classes. “I’m her best friend,” he stated proudly. "Adam Rickett just walked by. That’s Ama’s crush these days,” Josh said pointing toward a dirty blonde boy with long hair and grey eyes. “Attractiveness, high, I mean, look at that arse,” Josh commented.

Ama nodded vigorously as she continued to act “natural” and openly stare at Rickett’s arse.

"You people have no shame,” I commented.

“Athleticism — fairly high, he is the captain of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team,” Josh continued as if I hadn’t said anything. “But, the Hufflepuff days of winning Quidditch Cups graduated with Teddy Lupin.”

“Oh yea,” Ama stated not even hiding the fact that she was checking him out. I had to steer her away from running into a stone wall.

Josh continued, “Intelligence low. Off the charts, low. Oh so low.”

“I know, but everything else is perfect,” Ama said with a sigh.

Josh raised an eyebrow. “Ama, I love you deeply but this is another instance where you’ve picked a guy that would actually be terrible for you. Like dead wrong. Like no.”

“No, he’s definitely the one,” Ama insisted.

“Oh my gosh, Ama, he had to repeat 2nd year! Even Professor Hagrid…”

As he spoke, Mimi in all her newly red-orange hair glory hissed at us from across the hall. She… hissed… like a snake… at us. And then she walked away with V and Tay in tow. V had a hard look about her while Tay was mouthing “Sorry,” to us with eyes wide as she walked by.

Veronica Riberio or “V” was tall with beautiful milk chocolate skin and brown eyes. She was always styling her hair in different hairstyles but her black hair always looked silky and voluminous. Today, it was styled in sleek waves reaching the small of her back. Taylor Finnigan or Tay was extremely adorable. She was short, shorter than me. She usually wore her brown hair in big curls that also fell down her back. She had green eyes and pouty lips. She really had that girl next-door look going for her.

“What was that?” Josh asked still looking at the now empty space on the wall. He then walked to the wall and pulled a flyer off of it.

I frowned at what just happened and his actions. “I think she probably hates me. Ama says she likes Potter,” I explained.

“Oh wow, we have an enemy,” Josh stated excitedly clapping his hands like a small child. He handed me the flyer as we continued on our way to class.

“You know, if we are going to make enemies with the Queen Bitch of the school, we might as well do it during the first week of school, right?” Ama asked.

My eyebrows furrowed as I started to look down at the flyer.

“Hey Spawn!” I heard someone calling from behind me. I rolled my eyes and kept walking. “Oi! Spawn! I’m talking to you! I need a favor!” I stopped walking because I was thoroughly confused and a little curious.

I turned around and looked up into the beady eyes of Christopher McLaggen. “McLaggen, are you seriously calling me ’Spawn’, when you need a favor?” I asked slowly while Josh and Ama snickered.

McLaggen had the good sense to look down at his shoes. “I think of it now as a term of endearment?” I rolled my eyes and walked away. Chris liked to call me names like “Spawn” and “Death Eater Spawn.” He was worse than the Daily Prophet sometimes.

He caught up with me and gave me a grin. “Ummm, look… Ca-Car,” he spluttered.

Is this another person that doesn’t even know my name?!?

Josh started laughing while Ama gasped. “Holy shit,” she said incredulously. “He doesn’t even know your name?” she turned to him. “You realize this is our Sixth Year, you patrol together, you’re in the same house, and you don’t even know her name!”

McLaggen shot my friends a dirty look. Josh stopped laughing and grabbed Ama. “We’ll catch up with you later, Ca-Car,” he said with a grin before walking away.

I frowned. “How dare you leave me with this STD-infested troll!” I yelled after them.

“Hey!” McLaggen protested while my friends continued to walk away and a group of First Years looked at me with horrified expressions. “That’s rude! People love me,” McLaggen said while crossing his arms.

I stared up at him as my eyes narrowed into slits. “What’s my name?”

McLaggen smirked. “Nott,” he said confidently.

“My first name, you imbecile.”

His face dropped and he swallowed hard. “Ca-ra?”

My eyes narrowed again and I started walking away.

“Look,” he whispered as he fell into step with me. “I just need you to cover for me during Prefect Rounds on Friday.”

“Why?” I responded while raising an eyebrow.

He looked around. “I can’t tell you that but I’ll owe you one,” he replied in a low voice. I sighed. I didn’t really need anything from the likes of McLaggen but a quiet night without bickering with him sounded kinda nice.

“Fine,” I spat.

I was horrified as he started jumping up and down. “YES!” he screamed before sprinting away.

“You’re welcome, arse!” I called after him.


°~*◊*~°

I walked into Potions instantly regretting my decision to skip to NEWT-level.  

“You’re already so advanced,” Prof Sluggy told me. “It would be such an injustice for you to take 6th year Potions when you know all the Potions!”  he had declared with a hearty laugh.

Flattery will get you… everywhere.  So I answered, “why, of course Professor!” forgetting the fact that I have no friends in the year above me… unless you count my sister which would just be pathetic and lame.

I sat down in the second row and started biting my lip as I played with the slightly dusty tabletop.  Unfortunately, not even Addie could save me as the Gryffindors took this class with Ravenclaws instead of the Slytherins.  As people started filing in, I expected that Sluggy would have to force someone to sit with me. 

To my utter surprise, I heard someone plop down next to me within five minutes after I sat down. I looked over and Freddie Weasley was looking back at me with a wide grin on his face.

I raised an eyebrow. 

He smirked and nodded his head.

I raised both eyebrows.

He winked and nodded his head.

I frowned. 

He went back to grinning and then nodded his head again.

I sighed. “Did you lose a bet? I’m sorry.”

He gave me a disgusted look.  “Were you not paying attention at all? Do you even listen?”

“Listen…” I stated slowly.

He scoffed.  “We had an entire conversation with our facial expressions and apparently you weren’t even listening.”

So… Frederick Weasley is crazy.

 “Let’s pretend I do not speak facial expression.  What exactly was said?” I asked.

 Freddie rolled his eyes.  “Well, I sat down and said ‘hello’ and you were a little shocked by my beauty…” I scoffed at this while he pretended to flick a piece of hair out of his face. “…but you said ‘I’m so honored but why are you sitting next to me?’” he continued in a high pitch voice. 

“I do not sound like a cartoon character!” I replied in shock.

He ignored me. “And I said ‘because we are such good friends…’” I scoffed again. He once again ignored me and continued. “Then you were all like ‘Oh, Freddie like how I wish we were like the best of friends but like I know this isn’t true, as much as I wish it were like very like true, oh mah gawd.’”

“Do I really sound like an American valley girl to you? Why do I have two different accents?”

He grunted. “I’m not great at doing impressions, okay?! It’s something I’m working on. Can you please stop interrupting me?” he snapped at me.

I crossed my arms and nodded my head.  He continued to stare at me with his eyebrows furrowed.  “Continue,” I snapped impatiently. 

He rolled his eyes.  “Where was I… oh right.  So then I said ‘Look, my mum’s going to kill me if I don’t get a decent grade in Potions this year and you are obviously smart enough to be a Sixth Year in Seventh Year Potions so I sat next to you,’” he finally finished.

I nodded my head in understanding as I pulled out some supplies we would need. 

He stared at me. “You’re okay with this?” he asked incredulously.

I shrugged. “You need a good grade in Potions and I need to avoid the embarrassment of having no one want to be my Potions partner.  I think this works well.” 

Freddie grinned in response as Sluggy walked into the classroom.

Freddie and I did work well together.  He barely knew anything about Potions.  Seriously.  I have no idea how he made it to Seventh Year Potions.  However, he was really good at following instructions and his off-topic conversations were a good distraction and very hilarious.

“Pass the gillyweed, please,” I said while stirring the potion.

He passed me the correct ingredient while I carefully added it to the potion piece by piece.

“I don’t understand your answer,” he said with a sigh.

I shrugged. “It’s rather simple, Frederick.  I think Notorious B.I.G. had a better flow than Tupac.  They were both great rappers of course but that is what I think.”

“You listen to 90’s rap music… at Nott Manor?” he asked with a confused expression on his face.

I laughed.  “I don’t live at Nott Manor… Hand me shredded dandelion root please… Ade and I live with our maman … mum.  She doesn’t mind how much we blast music.  Sometimes, she’ll even join in,” I said with a smirk.

“Hmmm, okay,” Freddie responded. “Who’s your favorite current rapper?”

I sighed happily as the potion turned its current puke green color.  I looked up at Freddie. "Josh tells me he is not the nicest person but I like Kanye West.  His songs are very catchy.”

Freddie’s face split into a wide grin. 

In case you were not aware, Freddie Weasley has absolutely no shame.  No shame at all. In fact, I think he has negative shame.  As in, if he is not doing something embarrassing or shameful, he is ashamed.  So I am not sure why I was so shocked by what happened next…

“NOW I AIN’T SAYING SHE A GOLD DIGGER- UH, BUT SHE AIN’T MESSIN’ WIT NO BROKE BROKE…”

“MR. WEASLEY,” Sluggy roared loudly. “Explain yourself!”

Freddie had the good sense to LOOK ashamed.

Freddie then pointed at me. “Cass asked me to rap her favorite song to lighten up the mood.” 

Sluggy looked at me like I had stolen all the crystallized pineapples in the world.  “I’m surprised at you Ms. Nott.  How’s that potion coming?” he asked while crossing his arms.

This is around the time I noticed that the entire class was looking at me.  Mimi and V snickered while Louis and James looked completely unfazed and unsurprised by Freddie’s antics.  The rest of the class just looked interested in how I was going to get out of this. 

I cleared my throat. “We’re actually done, Professor.”

“Done?” Sluggy responded as he waddled his way where we were sitting.  He peered into our cauldron and “hmmm” -ed and “ha”-ed.  He leaned closer and sniffed our potion. 

He suddenly looked up and a big grin spread across his face.  “This is perfect,” Sluggy said excitedly.  He peered at me over his eyeglasses.  “You did this yourself, didn’t you?”

“No, Professor,” I responded immediately.  “Frederick helped me,” I said pointing at Freddie.  Freddie responded by grinning up at Sluggy.

Sluggy looked at us for a few moments before pulling out a vial and saying, “Very well, you may leave class early.”

I packed up my stuff while Freddie shifted in his chair like a baby that had just tasted sugar for the first time.  As soon as I put the last item in my bag, he grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the door.  

“This is so great!  We have a full hour to snog before our next class,” he yelled.

I gasped and looked around the classroom hoping, wishing, and praying that nobody had heard.  
Of course, everyone had heard. 

Potter and Louis were looking at us with raised eyebrows.  Mimi and V had disgusted looks on their faces.  Most of the class looked open-mouthed and shocked.

Before I could say, “NOOOOO” or “MERLIN NOOO” or “HELL NO” or “EW!”, Freddie had pulled me out of the classroom. 

"Frederick,” I hissed once we were in the hallway a few feet away from class.  He stopped pulling me. 

“What?”  he asked as he turned around to face me. 

I straightened out my school uniform.  “I appreciate you partnering with me in Potions…”

Freddie nodded along with a grin on his face, “I appreciate you lying to the Slug about me helping you with the Potion.”

“I did not lie.  You collected and cut the ingredients … wait, the Slug?”

“Yes, Professor Slughorn. Oh, Merlin don’t tell me you’re one of those nerds who hates calling Professors by nicknames,” he responded while giving me a judgmental look and crossing his arms. 

“No,” I replied while crossing my own arms.  “I just have a much cooler nickname.”

Freddie scoffed.  “What’s your nickname?”

“Sluggy,” I responded like it was the most ingenious name to ever exist in ever.

Freddie looked as if he were pondering the hardest Arithmancy problem in existence.  “Ehhh, I guess that is okay-ish.  Admittedly, it’s better…”

I suddenly remembered that Freddie had told our entire class that we’d be snogging.  “Why did you tell the entire class that we’d be snogging?” I snapped.

Freddie looked taken aback.  He looked at me like I was crazy.

Me. 

Crazy…..

ME?!?

CRAZY?!??

“I did not say that,” Freddie responded slowly, enunciating each word, like I could not comprehend the English language. 

“You said that we had a full hour to snog!”

“Right, I snog some girl who’s into me, fine with snogging in a broom closest, and doesn’t bother me about wanting a relationship.  And you snog… whoever you snog,” he said while shrugging his shoulders. 

I rubbed my temples.  “It sounded like you were saying that we’d be snogging each other,” I said through gritted teeth. 

He frowned.  “Are you into me, fine with snogging in a broom closet, and afterward will you not bother me about a relationship?” he asked seriously while looking me up and down.

“No,” I said exasperated.

“Then why would I snog you?” he asked squinting at me. 

“Why would you say it like that?” I snapped back with a hand on my hip.

“Doesn’t everyone snog when they have unexpected free times throughout the day?”

“What? No!”

He stared at me and tilted his head like I was creature in our Fantastic Beasts book.  

I glared back at him.  

He frowned deeply in response.

“Are we having another ‘conversation’ through facial expressions?”  I asked after a couple of seconds. 

He made a face.  “Of course, not.  I am looking at you like you are crazy because what you are saying is crazy.”

I frowned and huffed.  “See you later, Frederick,” I finally said realizing that this conversation would be a waste of the free time we had just earned.

He grinned.  “See ya, Cass!” he replied back before turning and whistling while he walked away. 

Potions class should be interesting.

°~*◊*~°

 Honey.  

That’s what came to mind when I thought about James’s eyes.  They were the color of honey with moss green on the edges.  Sometimes it looked like the colors were dancing together.

Was I hallucinating?  I could actually see those honey eyes in front of me.

I leaned in closer to get a better look.  Yup, I had officially lost my mind if I could see….

SNAP!

Suddenly, two calloused fingers were in front of my face making a snapping noise. I leapt out of my seat and toppled over. 

Madam Pince shushed me from her desk.  I rolled my eyes.  

Of course.

Kick a girl when she is literally down on the floor.

James Potter came into view holding out a blurry looking hand.  I gulped.  So this was not a hallucination. 

Wait.  

Why was everything so blurry?

Shit.  

My eyeglasses.

I was too lazy to do an eye correction charm this morning.  Ugh.  Mistakes have been made. Grave mistakes.

I started patting the floor like an idiot.

“Looking for these?”  a deep voice said.  I looked up and James’s blurry hand was holding my glasses out in front of my face.  I grabbed them lightly grazing James’s hand in the process.  Such an insignificant contact gave me goosebumps all over my arm.  I felt my face heating up.

I pretended not to see his outstretched hand as I pushed myself off the floor.  I did not need to blush anymore in front of him.

I reclaimed my seat as James dropped down in the seat across from me. 

I swallowed.  James opened his mouth to say something. 

My eyes went wide as I adjusted my glasses.  “So you’re probably wondering why there is a rumor about us hooking up.  I promise I’m not some weirdo that likes to stalk guys and make up ridiculous rumors about hooking up with guys.  I would never do that.  I swear I am not that desperate.  I mean, I look around here and having a boyfriend just seems like a lot of work in general.  Why tie yourself to that?” I declared in one breath. 

James's mouth was slightly parted and he looked like he was having a hard time following. 

So I did the most idiotic thing one could do in this situation:   

I continued.

“My friends may have accidentally started a rumor about us hooking up but I promise they are very well-meaning and a little crazy but crazy in a good way not crazy in a I will start malicious rumors about my friend and a guy I don’t even know way so it was basically completely unintentional and ridiculous and if you want I can like shout during dinner that we are not snogging or shagging or whatever,” I rambled on like an idiot.

James's eyebrows were furrowed by the time I had finally shut up.  “That won’t be necessary,” he responded slowly.  “Do you have my Transfiguration book?  Can I have it back, please?  I need it for, uh, classes.”

My stomach dropped as I could feel my face heating up to 1000 degrees.  This was obviously the reason why he needed to have any contact with me at all.  Refusing to make eye contact again, I pulled the book out of my bag.  I slid the book across the table. 

 “Thanks,” James responded while running a hand through his hair. I quickly leapt up from my chair.  I was so embarrassed and I could not sit another second across from him. 

“Oh,” James stated while raising an eyebrow.  “You don’t have to leave,” he assured me. 

I nodded my head mutely before dashing off.  

Why am I so incredibly awkward? 
°~*◊*~°


A/N:  If you've made it this far -- thank you for reading!!  Would love to know what you-all think?  Ridiculous?  Lame?  Ideas?  Let me know :)  


°~*◊*~°

My palms were sweaty. I did not know how to approach this situation. My stomach felt tight. But I felt like something needed to be said and I knew I could not depend on Addie to say anything. This was up to me, I decided.

Rose Weasley had returned to school early. She was standing at the end of the hallway I was walking down chatting with Scorpius Malfoy. The closer I got the more my stomach churned. Why did they let her out of the hospital so early? There is no way she was strong enough to be back here. How was I going to respond when she started yelling at me? What was I going to do when I came face to face with a sick, fragile looking Rose Weasley?

As I approached her, I noticed that she looked… wait… she looked amazing?

Her lightly freckled skin looked sun kissed. She had added highlights and lowlights to her hair so it now had an edgy auburn to blonde ombre look to it. The strands fell down her back in perfect sleek waves. She was leaning toward Scorpius and smiling up at him.

"Let's sneak out tonight, Score," I heard her saying as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

Scorpius Malfoy ran a pale hand through his platinum blonde hair. His piercing grey eyes looked down at Rose and he took a deep breath. "Do you really think that's a good idea? You just got back. You have injuries. And, Rose, your dad is still iffy about me. If he finds out…"

Rose waved him off. "Let's not get caught," Rose declared leaning even closer to Scorpius. She batted her eyelashes and twirled her hair around a finger.

Scorpius briefly looked down at her lips and then stared at the floor for a long period of time. "Fine, but umm, I have to invite Charlotte," he said while looking everywhere but at Rose.

Charlotte Avery, or Charlie, was Scorpius's girlfriend for two years now, and he was only in Fifth Year. The rumor was that Scorpius's mother and Charlie's mother had arranged for them to marry when they were babies.

"I mean, I know about her dad," Scorpius continued. "But, I promise she would never be involved…"

Rose narrowed her eyes for a brief moment before plastering on, what I assume was, a fake smile. "Of course. Why wouldn't you invite Avery?" she asked.

Scorpius nodded and then turned his head toward me. He jumped a little when he saw me. "Cass," he greeted me slowly while nodding his head.

Rose's head whipped around. She groaned when she spotted me and I prepared myself to be yelled at. "Ugh, Cassie, are you going to give us detention?" she moaned. "Technically, we didn't sneak out! You have no idea whether or not we are actually going to do it."

My mouth dropped a little. "I'm not going to give you detention," I stated slowly.

She grinned widely at me. "Good, I owe you," she said before she started strutting away from me and waving goodbye to Scorpius.

Scorpius walked the opposite way as I followed Rose. "You owe me?" I asked incredulously as I jogged to catch up to her. "You don't hate me?"

She looked at me like I was mental.

"Why would I hate you?" she asked looking genuinely confused.

"Well… my father… I mean… he…" I stuttered.

Rose's dark blue eyes went wide as the words spilled out of my mouth. She stopped walking. "Oh, that! Right, well, it's not your fault," she assured me while giving me a nervous laugh.

"No, but I still feel…" I started to say.

"Oi, Roxy!" Rose yelled down the hall to her cousin. "Look, I really have to go," she told me speaking a mile a minute. "I'm really feeling fine, yea. Don't blame yourself," she advised me. "Charlie, sure doesn't," she added while flicking her hair and running down the hall to where Roxanne Weasley was standing.

I frowned. What just happened?

°~*◊*~°

This may seem shocking but walking in a cold, ancient, and magical castle at night by myself was scary as shit. It was dark and eerily quiet. Every creek and phantom motion put me on edge. But of course this was much better than patrolling with McLaggen. I mean, why would I want to spend my night arguing with a conceited troll when I could take a stroll around the castle by myself?

As I made my way around the last corner of the 4th floor, I heard muted sounds coming from one of the closets. I rolled my eyes. Another couple that forgot to use Silencio.

I pulled the doorknob quickly hoping to get the awkwardness done and over with. I froze and my mouth dropped.

Ollie's green eyes were staring intently down at a girl who had her back to me. Ollie's shirt was open and I could hear him breathing hard. The only thing covering the girl's bare back was her light blonde hair. In the dark, I could make out just the slightest taint of blue strands in her hair.

Dom Weasley.

Ollie's eyes got wide when he saw me. "Oh shit!" he yelled. He moved quickly and peeled off his shirt and covered Dom.

I heard Dom gasp as she realized what was happening. She hugged Ollie's shirt around her and moved to hide behind him.

Ollie cleared his throat. "Uh, sorry, we'll leave if you give us a moment. And we get it if you have to give us detention but…"

"It's fine," I quickly responded finally finding my voice. "I'll just take 10 points off Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. Don't worry about detention just leave."

Ollie nodded back appreciatively. "Thank you."

I shut the door to the closet and kept patrolling. I don't know why I went easy on them. Usually, I gave people hooking up 2 weeks worth of detention. But, when Prefects give detentions, we have to make a record of the reason for the detention. There was something oddly private about the moment I walked in on. They weren't sloppily sticking their tongues down each other's throats. It seemed more serious than that. Like somehow more groundbreaking than a late night snog. And Dom and I were cousins. That counted for something, I guess.

"Only one more floor," I muttered to myself and shook my head to clear it. I walked down to the third floor feeling a new wave of boredom wash over me. Dom and Ollie were the 3rd couple I caught that night which actually made for a slow night. It was at least a good distraction from the creepiness of the castle. I dragged my hand against the rugged, stone walls as I patrolled the last floor for the night.

As I was yawning, I heard a loud crash and a scream.

"Let me go!" I heard a girl's voice scream. Shit. I froze for a moment. Of course, this had to happen when I'm on patrol alone. Nothing serious ever happened when you patrolled with a huge git but when you're by yourself…

I heard a deep, throaty laugh. "Watcha gonna do blood traitor?"

"Yea, there's no one here to save you!" another deep voice responded.

Shit. I knew those voices. Without thinking, I broke out into a sprint toward the sounds. I gasped, as I turned down a hallway and saw the scene. A small girl with long, straight red hair was suspended in the air while two idiots, Lance Goyle and Alex Flint, threw painful hexes at her. They were laughing as she squirmed and shrieked with each spell.

I pulled out my wand and released the girl I recognized as Lily Potter from her invisible binds and gently levitated her to the ground.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, Nott?" Flint spat showing off his crooked teeth.

I looked over at Lily who was breathing heavily. I could see the fear and anger etched across her freckled face. Her shoulders were squared as if she was preparing for a fight. I turned back to Goyle and Flint who looked ready to pounce at any second. "Lily," I said slowly not taking my eyes off of Goyle and Flint. "I need you to run and I need you to run, right now."

"But…" I heard Lily start to protest.

Flint took that as his cue to send a hex her way. I quickly threw up a shield charm to block it.

"NOW, LILY!" I yelled as I sent a stinging hex to Goyle. He quickly blocked it but it was enough of a distraction for Lily to run away.

"Now boys," I said smiling sweetly at them with my wand hand raised, "two mates against one small girl? This doesn't seem fair."

"We don't play fair with filthy blood traitors like…," Goyle started to spit at me.

Before he could finish, I was moving my wand. "STUPEFY!" Goyle's entire body immediately froze and he fell backwards with a loud thump.

Unfortunately, Flint was more prepared. "INCENDIO!" he yelled.

"PROTEGO!" His spell bounced off my shield. "PETRIFICUS TOTALUS!"

He quickly ducked and the spell just missed his arm. "BOMBARDA" he bellowed from the floor.

I dived but the spell still caused a small explosion and burnt the left side of my cheek. I momentarily bit down hard on my lower lip in an effort to ignore the pain of the burn. "EXPELLIARMUS!" I yelled from the floor ignoring the taste of blood in my mouth. His wand flew toward me and I caught it while standing up.

He looked up at me with wide eyes and cowered. I rolled my eyes. "Run away," I commanded flatly. He started crawling away quickly and then got up and sprinted toward the dungeons.

I groaned as I touched the burn on my cheek.

I dropped Flint's wand on the floor and dragged my feet toward my dorm.

°~*◊*~°

A/N: I took a stab at an (short) action scene! Anddd I introduced two of my favorite fanfiction characters – Scorpius and Rose! Let me know your thoughts.



°~*◊*~°

“What happened to your face?!” I heard a voice shouting near my ear.

I closed my eyes tighter as if I could pause time and squeeze a few more minutes of sleep from my eyelids.

“Cass!”  I heard my best friend shouting as she shook me vigorously.

I groaned, rubbed my eyes, and then opened them slowly.  Ama’s amber eyes were insanely close to my face.  “Amaris Maria Pena, the world better be ending,” I muttered while blinking.

“Your face!” she urged as I took my time adjusting to the sunlight assaulting my eyes.

“I thought I healed it,” I groaned while nudging Ama away from me.

Ama’s jaw dropped as she arched her eyebrows.  “It’s a huge red scar now.  What was it before?”

I sighed.  “Last night during patrol, I saw Lance Goyle and Alex Flint bullying Lily Potter,” I recounted quietly.

“You were patrolling by yourself last night, right?”  Ama asked while biting her lip.

I nodded my head.  “I told Lily to run but then it was two against one and Flint used the Bombarda spell... it hit my face,” I whispered.

Ama gasped loudly.  “Are you shitting me?” she yelled.

“You guys okay,” Emma Taylor, one of our roommates, asked from her bed.

“Fine,” Ama responded while scratching her nose.  “Cass was just telling me about... about... her... new crush?  Her new crush.  Her new crush!” she declared louder and louder and while scratching at her skin more vigorously.

“Who?” Emma whispered excitedly.

“Yea, who?” I asked Ama while crossing my arms.  I was too tired and amused to be mad at her for digging this hole.

Ama grimaced as if she smelled something sour and I nearly laughed at the face she was making.  “She... won’t tell me,” Ama responded while scratching her arms.

Emma smirked.  “He must be embarrassing then!  Keep trying to get the scoop,” she advised with a wink before heading into the bathroom.

I yawned and grabbed my eyeglasses sitting on the table next to my bed.  I slid them on and the world looked a bit clearer.

“I am sooo sorry,” Ama whispered frantically as she closed the curtain and crawled onto my bed.

I waved it off.  “With James and Freddie rumors circling the mill, no one will care about a mystery bloke.  And, Emma has the attention span of a fish.  She’s already forgotten,” I responded with another yawn.

“What are you going to do about Lance and Alex... and, and Lily?” Ama asked getting under the covers with me.  She casted a silencing charm so no one could hear us this time.

I scooted over to make room for her.  “Addie’s going to kill me,” I stated while frowning.

“And your grandfather?” Ama asked slowly.  I knew she was watching my face intently as the words came out of her mouth. 

My stomach dropped but I tried to keep my face even.  My relationship with my grandfather was... complicated.  When I got sorted into Gryffindor, he didn’t speak or write to me for an entire year.  When he did speak to me, one of the things he made clear was that there were certain families that Addie and I were “not to cross.”  The Goyles and Flints were two of those families.

Ama sighed after I had not said anything for a few seconds.  “Cass, it’s going to be fine.  You did the right thing.  Remember, Rose was in the hospital when she was attacked?  Something like that could have happened to Lily if you weren’t there.”

“I know,” I sighed.  “But, why does this year feel like a weird dream?  Why did it have to be Goyle and Flint on the one night I was patrolling by myself?” I asked as I closed my eyes.

“Well, if you’re going to make enemies with close friends of your family, might as well get it out of the way now, yea?”

I opened my eyes and hit Ama with a pillow.

“Hey! Rude!” she protested.

“That’s for making me sound like a slag before,” I laughed. “I’m now hooking up with three guys,” I reported with a proud face and a posh accent.

“Hmmm, I think I like Freddie the best,” she responded with a smirk. “I wasn’t responsible for that rumor and he’s the funniest.”

“I like the mystery man the best,” I quipped back.  “He’s the handsomest obviously.”

“He should be American!  Can he have a New York accent?” Ama asked with a giggle.  “What do you think of my nails?” she added.  “I painted them this grey color this morning.  It’s called Comfy in Cashmere.”

I observed Ama’s nails for a couple of seconds.  “They’re okay,” I said with a shrug.  “I’ve definitely seen better colors on you though.  And, obviously mystery man has a Southern accent, works on a farm, and can cook really well.”

Ama gasped and dramatically put her hand over her heart.  “Can I steal him from you?”

“What?  How dare you!” I retorted.

Ama shrugged.  “You do have three,” she responded in a deadpan tone.

We both laughed as I hit her with a pillow again.

“Okay, time for... real life,” I sighed.  “Can you cover this up?” I asked pointing to my face.

Ama’s face lit up.  “Make-over!”

“No, that’s not what I…” but it was too late she had already ripped open the curtain and was running toward the bathroom.

°~*◊*~°

Hide. 

That was my plan. 

My master plan was to just hide. 

That’s why I was sitting behind the stone Gunhilda of Gorsemoor statute on the third floor.  I even had a book to read with me.  This was perfect, a great plan.  The longer I stayed back here the easier it was to pretend that dust and possibly spiders didn’t surround me.  I reclined and crossed my legs as I got to chapter two of my book.  It was a Nancy Drew book I found in the back corner of the library.  I loved finding mystery muggle books especially ones with female detectives.  

“Uhh, hi,” I heard a voice say. 

I snapped my head up to see a figure with untidy black hair and emerald green eyes staring down at me.  He looked just like James Potter except for his eyes and the fact that his jaw line was slightly more rounder.  Albus Potter was hovering over me.  Behind him was James with his eyebrows furrowed. 

I jumped up quickly.  “How did you find me?” I asked looking around the corridor frantically.

“We have our ways,” James responded cryptically while tucking something into his pocket.

“Mmmm,” I managed to respond while leaning over to look behind Al.

“Are you looking for someone?” James asked me while trying to follow my line of sight.

Al crossed his arms and started smirking. “Do we make you nervous?  We have that effect on ladies sometimes.”  I rolled my eyes.  Al, a Fifth Year, liked to practice his flirting skills on me during our tutoring sessions.  It was honestly the most ridiculous thing ever.  I had no idea how or why girls fell for this nonsense.

I squinted my eyes as I stared at him. “I can’t tell if you’re joking or if you just suffer from acute brain damage,” I deadpanned.  I made it my mission to put Al in his place.

James looked momentarily shocked by my words but his mouth formed into a huge smirk of approval. 

Al rolled his eyes at me.  “You know you love me, Cass.”

“False.  I love the galleons your parents pay me when you need a tutor,” I replied easily.

Before Al could retort again, James stepped in and interrupted our “lovers’ spat” by clearing his throat.  “We just wanted to say thank you for what you did for Lily last night.”

“Oh.”  This is surprising.  “It’s no…”

“CASS!”

“Shit!” I whispered.  I ducked behind James and Al gripping onto the fabric of their pants.

“What are you doing?” James asked looking down at me like I was crazy.

“Shh!”

“Cassiopeia!  I can see you!” 

I cringed and leaned around James.  “Seriously, Addilyn, we’re going to just yell embarrassing full first names in public?” I asked.

She flinched at the mention of her full first name but then rolled her eyes.  “I’ve been looking everywhere for you!  What have you been doing?” she asked taking long strides toward Al, James, and me.

“Just… hanging out,” I said slowly.

“Then why are Goyle and Flint saying that you attacked them last night?” she asked while placing her hands on her hips and coming to a stop in front of us.

I rolled my eyes.  “Drama queens,” I muttered under my breath.  “I was on patrol and I saw them hexing someone and... then things got out of hand,” I explained quickly.

Addie looked confused.  “Why would they duel you and another prefect?  They’re not that good at DADA.”

I swallowed hard.  “I wasn’t with another prefect,” I said while cringing and cowering behind James again.

Addie threw her hands up in the air.  “Do you know how dangerous that is!?  Cass, do I need to remind you how many enemies you have at this school just for being a Nott and a Nott in Gryffindor?”

“Nope, I think I’ve got that all figured out.”

“And you realize Grandfather is going to go crazy, right?” she rambled on. “He might actually disown you this time.”

I was just about to comment that maybe that wasn’t the worse thing ever when the signal for the end of Saturday detention rang.  Mimi walked out of the Charms classroom in the corridor and froze when she saw the group of us.

“What are you doing?” she asked with a scowl on her face as she craned her head to stare me down.

I frowned wondering what I had possibly done to Mimi. “What are you talking about?”  I asked slowly.

“I’m talking about the fact that your face is near my boyfriend’s arse!”

“Mimi,” James chatised while Al loudly scoffed in response. 

Mimi either didn’t hear or pretended not to hear as she continued to stare me down. 

I looked up slowly and sure enough from my position, crouched down behind James, I was right under his arse, which is nicely toned in case you were wondering.  I jumped up and away from James as I smoothed out my clothes. 

“Are you done?” Addie drawled addressing Mimi.

Mimi looked slightly taken aback.

James sighed.  "I'll meet up with you later, Mi?"

She puckered her lips for a second.  "Fine," she said addressing James with a tight smile but then she went back to glaring at me.  “Maybe you should cake on more make-up so you could be pretty enough to be in my presence,” she said while storming away.

“Maybe you should eat make-up so you could be pretty on the inside,” I yelled after her.     

Once Mimi had turned a corner, Addie started shaking her head. “Really?  Really?”

I rolled my eyes. “I know.”

“That was a terrible comeback,” Addie commented.  I could see Al and James hiding their laughs from the corner of my eye.  Why were they still here again?

“I know,” I groaned.  “It was all I could think of with such short notice.”

“Like that was… really bad… 'maybe you should eat make-…'  Wait, why are you wearing make-up?” Addie asked while leaning toward me and squinting.

I gulped.  “Ohh, you know, just wanted to try something new.”

“Yea, I do know you and I know that’s a load of bull.  I have been trying to get you to read my magazines and wear make-up for years.  Since when do you wear anything more than gloss unless I force you?”

“You know, Ama can be super persuasive sometimes,” I tried to say as nonchalantly as possible.

Addie held out her hand in front of Al and James.  “Handkerchief.” 

I shook my head vigorously.  They seemed torn for a couple of seconds but then Addie glared at them and snapped her fingers.  “Now,” she demanded.  They each conjured up a handkerchief using a quick spell.

“Seriously?  I saved your sister from two idiots and this is how you repay me?” I cried out while staring at them.

Addie paused for a second after taking Al’s handkerchief. “You saved a Potter?” she asked me slowly while eyeing the Potter boys.  “Maybe grandfather will disown you,” she said only half jokingly.  “I don’t even understand how you get yourself in these situations,” she said while shaking her head.

I crossed my arms. “We knew the whole disowning thing was coming any… OW!”

Ade wiped the make-up off of my face revealing the scar on my cheek.  There was a collective gasp from my sister, Al, and James.

Ade’s jaw clenched. “Which one of them did this to you?” she asked in a low voice.

“Ade, don’t do anything stupid.  Grandfather is already going to disown me.  The two of us need to live off of something,” I said with a forced laugh.

“I’m much more discrete than you are.  Which one?”

I sighed.  “It’s actually not that bad,” I said quickly but then I winced as my sister lightly touched my cheek with her fingers.

“Is this a burn from a spell?” she asked slowly and still in that eerily low, creepy voice. “They burnt you!  They used fire spells on you!”

“Technically, Flint tried to use a fire spell on me but I did this really cool dive out of the way and…”  I didn’t even get to finish explaining my heroics because my sister had already stormed off toward the dungeons.

I sighed while closing my eyes and leaning my head against the wall.  As I started thinking about my failed plan not to have Addie overreact, I realized that I was being watched.  I slowly opened my eyes to see Al and James staring at me.  Al with an obvious look of concern and James with an oddly blank look on his face.  I quickly pushed myself off the wall.

“Well, this has been fun.  Hope Lily’s doing okay,” I stated before turning on my heels and walking away.

°~*◊*~°

The rest of the week went on as slowly as humanly possible.  There was not-so-quiet whispered speculation about whether or not I was being trained in the Dark Arts.  Apparently, the idea of a short, unassuming witch taking on two large blokes using regular magic was too much for the corridors of Hogwarts to handle.

“Sexism is a social disease, you know,” Josh chirped loudly making a few heads turn toward us as we pushed our way through the crowd toward Charms.  Josh had been randomly shouting feminist quotes and slogans all week. 

“You’re about as subtle as a Bludger, Joshua,” I responded while leaning on the wall outside of the classroom and taking out my notes.  “I think I’ll need your help with the Disillusionment Charm today,” I added while frowning. 

Josh was insanely brilliant when it came to Charms.  Not only was he well versed in the charms in our textbook, but he also knew how to modify spells and create new ones.  Over the summer he filed three new spell applications with the Ministry.  He still complained about the fact that he hadn’t heard back about his spell that could play Spice Girls music without the use of a radio or a WizPod.  I made the grave mistake of suggesting that maybe, just maybe Ministry employees had better things to do than approve spells regarding Muggle female musical groups.  Never again.

“It’s not that hard,” he responded with a shrug.  “You’ll get it without me.”

“Easy for you to say.  You’re much better at.... without you?” I asked looking up at Josh who was fidgeting.

“Look, so don’t hate me...”

I groaned in response.

“...but Evan Garcia asked me to partner with him today.  He gave me the nod.  The noddddd, Cassie,” he said biting his lip unable to hide his smile.

I made a face.  “Are you abandoning me in my time of need to get some arse? J’accuse, Joshua, J’accuse!”

“I absolutely am,” Josh responded immediately while nodding his head.

I tried appealing to Joshua’s sense of loyalty by pouting.

He smirked in response. 

Apparently, he didn’t have any sense of loyalty. 

“See what I want.  Slip slide to it swiftly.”

“What?”  I asked completely confused.

He sighed with a look of utter disappointment on his face as the bell rang.  “You’re hopeless.  Shoop?” he asked.  “Here I go, here I go, here I go again!  Girls, what’s my weakness?  Men!” he rapped while swinging his arms.

“Who sings that song?” I asked as we walked into the classroom.

“Salt-N-Pepa,” Josh said with a smug look on his face as he grabbed our regular table in the first row.

“Yea, let’s keep it that way,” I responded before sticking my tongue out and heading to the back of the classroom.

“Rude,” he replied unamused as his flavor of the month, Evan, sat down next to him.

“Cassie,” a gruff voice stated pausing me from my proud stroll.  I frowned whirling around.  A guy with a dirty blonde modern side quiff haircut was waving at me.  His blue eyes appeared to be looking directly at me but I looked around just to make sure.  He smirked and pointed at me.  “Cassie, sit here,” he said in a slight Australian accent.

I looked over at Josh who looked like he was about to burst as his head swiveled from me to the guy and back to me.  I slowly made my way over to the Hufflepuff that was waving me over.

“Hi,” I stated unable to mask my feeling of mistrust.

“Hey,” he responded scooting over to the chair next to him to make room for me.

“Do you know who I am?” I asked poking the seat to make sure it wasn’t charmed.

“Yes.  And I didn’t do anything to the chair,” he responded with an easy smile.

“You do realize that I...”

“...completely embarrassed my half-brother by beating him up last week?  Yes, I’m aware,” he responded with the smile still on his face.  “It sounded pretty badass.”

I opened my mouth to respond.

“Sorry I’m late, sorry I’m late,” Professor Flitwick squeaked as he scurried into the classroom.  He looked out at the students in the classroom.  “Ms. Nott, please sit,” he stated before waving his wand toward the chalkboard.

I slowly lowered myself in the seat next to Grayson Goyle.

°~*◊*~°

A/N:  So, what do you-all think of the chapter?  I’ve gotten “in trouble” for not using the word, “bloke” correctly.  Have I used it right, here?  Let me know! 

“Shoop” is a song performed by Salt-n-Pepa.  (It also makes a hilarious appearance in the movie, Deadpool.)

“J’accuse” is a nod to Emile Zola’s open letter published in 1898 to the President of France at the time, Felix Faure.  (It was also used in an episode of New Girl :).)  (It translates to “I accuse,” in case you were wondering.)


°~*◊*~°

When I walked into the Great Hall for breakfast the flimsy, off-white newsprint of the Daily Prophet didn’t even catch my eye at first.

Tired and oblivious, I sat down at the Gryffindor table and picked up a slightly burnt piece of toast and added a hefty amount of the first spread within reach.  My mouth watered a little as I eyed the full breakfast spread of meats, cheeses, fruits, and breads in front of me.  As I moved my hand to reach for some bacon, I felt someone’s eyes on me.  You’d think I’d be use to people watching me by now but I wasn’t -- it always made my skin crawl. 

I paused and looked up.  A couple of seats down from me, I saw four Second Years.  They weren’t looking at me, they were staring at their food but... not eating and not moving.  I moved my hand closer to the bacon while still eyeing them.  I noticed one kid’s eye twitching.

I adjusted my position in my seat and they all jolted as the bench creaked under me.    

“Is there a problem?”  I asked sufficiently freaked out by the half-mannequins sitting next to me.

They all gasped, looked at me, and then looked away quickly. 

“Hello?”  I said flailing my arms around.

They all gasped again, looked at me, and then looked everywhere but in my direction.

“What is going on?”  I asked edging closer to them. 

Three of them didn’t even gasp or look at me before scurrying out of the Great Hall like I was some scary troll attacking them.  One just stared at me.  Eyes wide.  Mouth wide open. 

I tried to smile at him.  “If you keep your mouth open like that, billywigs might fly in,” I joked.  He started silently shaking in response.  This was going swimmingly.

I pressed my lips together and looked at my reflection in one of the shiny goblets making sure something wasn’t on my face.  Nope.  Nothing out of the usual: tired eyes, wavy hair, and endless freckles.  

I looked around the Great Hall and immediately shrunk in my seat.  Much older and braver souls were openly nodding and pointing in my direction and gesturing toward half folded newspapers.  I felt my face heating up as I slowly put the goblet down. 

I finally peered at the paper sitting in front of me:  

GOYLE, NOTT, AND AVERY STRIKE AGAIN!

Ah, so it was going to be one of those days.  Perfect.

I took an aggressive bite of my toast and groaned before reading on:

Yesterday, Head Auror Potter announced that two Muggleborn Wizards were found with severe injuries...

The paper was removed from my line of sight and out of my grasp before I could read further.  “Marrmph,” I cried out so articulately as Josh sat across from me.  His lips, set in a thin line, told me he was ready for an argument.  

He folded the paper. “You’re not reading this,” he said as he scooped eggs and bacon onto a plate.  I dropped my piece of toast realizing that the appetite I had less than five minutes ago had disappeared. 

I huffed at Josh and ran a hand through the knots in my hair. “Why wouldn’t I read it?”  I asked grabbing a copy of the Prophet from the last frightened Second Year sitting next to me.  This seemed to snap the boy out of his trance, as his eyes got even wider before he scurried away. 

“Because,” Ama’s voice said as the news story in front of me disappeared for a second time that morning, “this one’s written by Brandon Skeeter.  You turn into a sulky mess when he implies that you and your sister are being trained to be like your father and grandfather.”

“Which he does all of the time,” Josh added while sprinkling pepper on his food.  “And then you get really sulky when he implies that your father is evil and has your mother under some mind control spell because she won’t publicly speak out against him."

“Which he writes all the time,” Ama added looking smug clearly proud of the arguments they were making.  “And Cass, let’s try not to scare any children this time,” she said in a condescending tone.

“I would if they would stop staring at me,” I said while waving frantically at a particularly brave group of First Years who weren’t even trying to disguise the fact that they were openly staring at me.

Josh grabbed my hands and placed them on the table. “Stop being weird,” he said in a faux concerned tone. 

I opened, shifted, and closed my eyes and mouth randomly making weird faces at Josh for good measure.  He ignored all of them.  Wanker.

“Did you hear about the party?” Ama asked Josh as if our entire school wasn’t still looking at me. Being at Hogwarts could feel like swimming in a fish bowl sometimes.  For a second, I wondered if Addie had it right.  When she caught wind of a particular news story, she just didn’t show up for meals in the Great Hall.  One of her flings would bring her food or she would just go to the Kitchens.

“We have to go!” Ama shouted breaking me from my thoughts.

I made a face.  There were way too many dances at Hogwarts these days.  Deputy Headmaster Longbottom gave endless speeches to the Ministry about how we weren’t in the “Dark Ages” anymore so they needed to let students have more fun.  I’m not sure if he was effective or annoying, but they gave him what he wanted.  To my dismay, there are now dances or parties all the time (on top of the unsanctioned dances and parties in the Room of Requirement and in Common Rooms).  During the spring and summer, we get to go to Hogsmeade nearly every weekend.  Last year, a study was released that showed Hogwarts grades had actually improved since the change, easily solidifying Longbottom’s position as Headmaster when (and if) McGonagall decides to retire. 

“Yes!” Josh sang responding to Ama, “I think I can convince the DJ to add karaoke! We can do some tunes together!”  He pulled out the flyer for the dance and started reading over the entertainment.

That reminded me.  I pulled out a crumpled up flyer from my pocket.  “Why did you give me this?” I asked. 

Josh and Ama looked down at the crumpled piece of paper.  James or one of his teammates had sloppily written down information about where and when he was holding Gryffindor Quidditch try-outs.

“Because we know you.  Because of all your awkwardness with Potter, you don’t want to try-out.  You need a distraction and the team needs a new Seeker,” Josh replied with a wave as if the mater was settled. 

“And you’re actually quite good,” Ama added quietly with an encouraging smile. 

You know when you feel nervous about something?  Not just mentally nervous but your stomach gets tight and your limbs get weak and numb.  You can actually feel the difference in your body temperature.  I wasn’t physically sweating but I just felt an urgent need to do something with my fingers.  I wasn’t even at try-outs yet and I already felt like I wanted to vomit.

“We all know that Potter already has a favorite picked for the team.  Try-outs are just a formality.  And, I don’t think I need another reason to embarrass myself in front of James,” I stated quietly looking down the table where James was talking to Freddie with his arm slung lazily over a girl with shiny black hair and golden highlights.  Freddie must have said something funny because James threw his head back slightly and let out a loud chuckle.  The girl was sipping on her water as she rolled her eyes at him.

“But what if you show up and kill it?” Josh pressed in a high-pitched tone turning my attention back toward him. “We know you can kill it.” 

Ama nodded her head in agreement.  “Seriously, you can do this!  Do it for all of us!”

“Who is all of us?” I asked making a face.

She shrugged.  “I don’t know.  Isn’t that a thing that people say?” she asked looking at Josh for support.

“Sure, do it for us,” he said shrugging carelessly while arching an eyebrow.  “Oh, Merlin but without me there,” he said eyeing the time on the flyer.

“Way to be supportive, Josh,” Ama chastised.  “I’ll be there to support you.”

Josh nodded his head.  “Ama will be there to support you,” he echoed.

I gnawed on my lip and drummed my fingers on the table.  “Fine.”

°~*◊*~°

The flames twirled, jumped, and danced as they consumed the wood in the fireplace.  The Common Room was warm but never too warm.  Never too cold either.  Always at the perfect temperature.  It was always cozy, the type of cozy that made your toes curl with content, the type of cozy that made you wanna curl up and take a nap.  Every time it looked like the fire was dying down, new wood magically appeared surging new life into the flames.  The flames would jump with a new intensity.  They would twirl at a slightly different speed.  They would dance to a slightly different tune.  In a perfect world, I would sit in a trance and watch the flames all evening playing a game where I tried to guess which way the flames would move next.

But, my world is anything but perfect at the moment.  I tapped my quill on the thin piece of off-white parchment a few more times.  I looked at my bitten nails picturing Ama’s disgusted look if she saw me.  I smirked imagining her muttering “RIP nail beds.”  I had been sitting in the Common Room for an hour in the same burnt red leather armchair trying to think of an explanation to send to my grandfather.  With recent technological advances in the Wizarding World, it no longer took multiple hours or sometimes days to send messages by way of owl.  We had figured out a way for certain technologies to coexist with magic.  But according to Grandfather Nott, writing a letter sent by owl was the “proper way.”  In his defense, it was still the most reliable way to make sure you message got sent—you just had to wait awhile for it to get there.

Either Addie or Lily had gone to McGonagall because Alex Flint and Lance Goyle were punished with detentions every Saturday until the end of the year.  So now the students of Slytherin had a real reason to hate me: I likely lost them the Qudditch Cup.  Flint and Goyle were both members of the team but Saturday detentions made playing in the games impossible.   

“Hi!” a high-pitched voice said cheerfully breaking me from my thoughts.  I smiled as I craned my neck to see Lily Potter taking the seat across from me.

“Hi, how are you?” 

“I’m okay,” she said slowly while looking down at the table and drawing patterns with her finger on the tabletop. “I wanted to say thank you for saving me.”

I shrugged.  “It’s not a big deal at all,” I responded quickly. 

Her eyebrows drew together.  “But I heard James and Al saying that you could be disowned and that you have a huge scar on your face.”

I sighed, I was still hiding my scar with make-up until it fully faded and I wasn’t exactly advertising the fact that dear ol’ Grandfather might actually disown me. “Your brothers talk a lot, huh?” I asked unable to hide my annoyance.

“Ummm…”

“Sorry,” I said quickly while twirling my quill. “I just hate when people talk about me but I should be used to it by now.”

Lily nodded knowingly while pulling out some books from her satchel. “Yea, people talk about me a lot just because of who my mum and dad are.”

I laughed. “Same here.”

Lily looked up at me pursing her lips.  “Is your dad or mum famous?”

“Well…” I started feeling oddly refreshed.  Finding someone who did not know that my father was accused of committing various crimes was rarer than spotting a Thunderbird.   

The moment was quickly gone though when understanding seemed to flash across Lily’s face. “Oh right, you’re a Nott.”

I nodded. "That I am. As I’m sure you can tell, it makes me extremely popular,” I said motioning around me.  Ama and Josh were in their Sixth Year Potions class so Lily and I were in an empty part of the Common Room.  Usually, the spots in front of the fireplace were extremely popular.  However, every time Skeeter published an article about my father there was a period of time when Ama and Josh were the only ones associating with me while Addie was in hiding.

Lily was silent for a second. “Well, when my dad was in his Third Year he was fighting dementors and trying to stop his wrongly accused uncle from being locked up in Azkaban.” She gave me a toothy smile. “I’m doing nothing like that in my Third Year so I bet you are doing nothing like what your father is doing too.”

I let out a genuine laugh for the first time that day.  I think I really like Lily Potter.

°~*◊*~°

“Josh! We sound awful when we try to sing country music!” Ama complained for the 1 millionth time.

I fiddled with the strings of my guitar as I wondered how long this fight would take.  I thought about playing a song to drown out their argument but it would likely only postpone the argument rather than settle anything. 

“I think we can sound cool as an English band singing country music,” Josh responded in a terrible American southern accent.

"Mum and dad are fighting again,” I said turning toward a thirteen year-old with crazy curly red hair.  The color of his hair was just like his dad’s and the texture was just like his mum’s.  There was no doubt that said kid was the son of Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.

Hugo kept an unreadable expression on his face as he sat behind his drum set playing with his WizPhone.  He barely acknowledged that I had spoken as he nodded his head ever so slightly.

So, I could say that it didn’t bother me at all that this thirteen-year-old child didn’t seem to acknowledge my presence or find me funny at all.  However, if I said that, I’d be lying through my teeth.  Hugo was a bit of a drumming legend.  So last year, Josh convinced him to join our band.  I have no idea how you convince a random teenager to waste time joining a band that never played in public but leave it to Josh.  He could probably sell beauty potions to full Veelas.  Since Hugo joined the band, I’ve been trying to talk to him about… anything... with very little luck.  Oddly, it didn’t seem like Hugo had any prejudice against me based on my last name.  It just seemed like he didn’t give a damn about my... existence at all.  It was all very... off-putting. 

“Your cousin, Freddie, is my partner in Potions,” I offered. “He’s interesting.”

Hugo pulled at his ear.

“I’m so happy that Rose is back in school.  I’m sorry about everything,” I continued.

Hugo scratched his ear.  I wondered if that was in response to me or if he actually had an itch.

Clearly, I had been “talking” through facial expressions with Freddie too much.

“We should play all sorts of music!” Josh complained loudly.

“I’m thinking about getting a new acoustic guitar,” I tried again.  “Playing music is a nice escape from things.”

Hugo wrinkled his nose this time as he continued to stare at his phone.

Ama was now speaking Spanish, which meant she could be really mad.  I stared over at my best friends wondering if I needed to intervene.  Ama’s fists weren’t bawled and she wasn’t yelling so I was safe being an awkward mess with Hugo. 

 Josh was saying, “I can’t understand what you’re saying! No comprendo! No comprendo! NO COMPRENDO!” over and over again. 

I looked down at my guitar ready to give up on connecting with a thirteen-year-old boy.

“You saved Lily the other night,” Hugo said barely above a whisper.  I turned my head quickly to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.  Hugo was staring up at me with a determined look on his face. 

“It wasn’t a big…” I started to respond automatically.

Hugo cut me off.  “Lily’s my best friend… so thanks.”

“Um, you’re welcome,” I responded lamely but Hugo was already looking at his phone again.

“Alright guys, we’ve agreed on a song!” Josh said happily as Ama rolled her eyes and continued to mutter things in Spanish. 

°~*◊*~°

Today, the grass made a satisfying crunch as my feet hit the ground in quick succession.  The lake was oddly still this evening.  There were barely any ripples disrupting the smooth, glass like surface.  It looked like a peaceful scene but for some reason it made my skin crawl.  I stopped running and bent over to inhale a large amount of air.  Instead of stretching, I sat Indian style imagining the world that was just beneath the surface of the pond.  The Giant Squid no longer inhabited the water but Professor Hagrid spoke of other creatures and things still living in the lake.

“Hey.”

I turned my head and jumped shocked by the presence of the boy that was sitting a couple of inches from me.  I stared at his profile and inhaled more air trying to catch my breath.

“Where did you come from?  Are you stalking me?” I interrogated Grayson.

He gave me the same carefree smile he sported in Charms a couple of days ago.  “I guess, Cassie Nott is the only person that can run around the Black Lake in the evening?”  he asked successfully making me feel silly.  But, I still felt uncomfortable with him there.

I stared back out at the lake trying to control my breathing as I slowly reached for my wand in my pocket.  “So, what type of revenge has your brother sent you to exact on me?”

Grayson snorted harshly and I wrapped my fingers around my wand a little tighter.  “I told you I think what you did to Lance was badass,” he said as I heard him picking at the grass.  “If I were brave enough I would have done it myself,” he muttered under his breath.

I slowly turned toward him.  He was biting on his lip while looking at the grass blades in his hands.  He looked up at me.  “Being the Nott in Gryffindor probably has it lows but imagine being the Goyle in Hufflepuff.”

I opened my mouth to respond but he was already getting up to start running around the lake again.  I watched him noticing how long his limbs seemed to be as he jogged away.  I watched his back wondering why I hadn’t really noticed him until he called me over to sit next to him in Charms.  He was apparently a freak just like me – purebloods in the "wrong" Houses.  He suddenly turned around to face me as he jogged backwards.  I made a face trying to hide the fact that there was blush creeping up on my cheeks. 

He smiled at me and jogged in place.  “Better hurry up before I beat you,” he teased before he continued running.  I didn’t even fully comprehend what I was doing before sprinting after him.   

°~*◊*~°

A/N: No incredibly awkward James/Cass scenes in this but... next chapter, I promise you... Quidditch try-outs!  (I’m actually excited for try-outs because it’s the first scene I ever pictured for this story!  I hope you-all enjoy it too!) 



°~*◊*~°

McLaggen was acting weird.

Not out of the ordinary for a conceited prat but still out of the ordinary for a decent human being.  You see, if my prefect partner had gotten into a duel by herself when I wasn’t present for patrol, I would make sure I didn’t miss another patrol.

Apparently, McLaggen didn’t see things like I did.  I had spent the first thirty minutes of our patrol leaning against a wall in the Common Room and twirling my wand.  At minute thirty-one, I had decided that I would just go by myself again, to which Josh replied, oh so eloquently, “Over my dead body!  You were fucking defaced the last time you patrolled by yourself!”

“This is kinda fun!” Josh said ten minutes later after we caught our second couple of the night. The two Fifth Years blushed brightly at Josh's words as they ducked their heads and ran off to their dormitories.
 
I made a face and watched as the Fifth Years ran down the near deserted hallway.  “What are we going to say if a professor sees you out here?” I asked as I followed Josh, who was skipping to the next cupboard.
 
“Can’t you deputize me or something?” he asked opening the next cupboard with finesse before looking visibly upset that he hadn’t caught another couple doing something untoward.
 
“That’s not really how it works,” I said pursing my lips.
 
“You’re such a worry-wart,” he complained with an eye roll. 

I shrugged my shoulders.  “Our funeral, I guess.  Actually, more accurately, my funeral.  We will both get kicked out of Hogwarts, you’ll land on your feet because being in the Muggle Royal Family does have its perks.  I’ll end up on the streets, of course, because no school will want to take a chance on someone that has a father accused of multiple criminal acts and who is currently on the run.  So, I’ll be on the streets where I’ll meet a strange, toothless hobo named Mickey.  Under the bad influence of Mickey, I’ll turn to a life of crime and drugs because of course there are drugs.  I’m really sneaky and crafty so I’ll be quite good at stealing from the rich, famous, and powerful but Mickey will demand a 90% cut, which will cause me to continue stealing because I need to survive!  I can’t get out of the game!  I can’t get out of the crime game!  I don’t have an education!  What am I going to do? Eventually, Harry Potter himself will capture me but not for stealing but because Mickey murdered someone and framed me for the crime so then I’ll have to serve out a life sentence in Azkaban!”  I declared getting increasingly louder and more manic.

Josh was looking at me with a blonde eyebrow raised and his arms folded.  “Are you done?” he drawled. 

I sighed.  “I was going to go into this elaborate tale about my harrowing life behind bars but I would have just plagiarized the plot of Azkaban Redemption."
 
“Oh!  I haven’t seen that in awhile, we should try to watch that!  Do you think the Muggle Studies Professor will let us use the WizTele?” he mused.  “Or we can watch Mean Witches,” he said perking up.

I squinted at him.  “Are you comparing a classic to Mean Witches?” I asked clearly disgusted.
 
He scoffed at me.  “Mean Witches is a classic.

“Something’s wrong with you,” I declared, shaking my head at the lost cause that I called my best friend.

His eyes went wide.  “Says the girl that rambled for 20 minutes straight about a hobo named Minnie!"

“It’s Mickey,” I said with a nose in the air.

We continued down the hall, Josh humming Adele, Britney Spears, Sia, or Backstreet Boys, I honestly couldn’t tell.

Josh stopped humming and slowed down a little as he looked up to his right.  “I think Emma Taylor likes me,” he said out of the blue.
 
My face scrunched together in confusion.  “But, Emma’s a girl,” I said slowly.
 
“Mmmhmm,” Josh hummed and nodded his agreement.
 
“Okay,” I said slowly trying to think of how to respond appropriately.  The last time we had seriously discussed Josh’s sexuality was in Third Year when he came out to Ama and me during our first trip to Hogsmeade.  He was affronted when we didn’t bat an eyelash in response, claiming that we “stole” his “thunder."

"Wow,” I said trying to sound like this was scandalizing news.  “So now you’re... I mean, are you... I don’t know how to handle this situation,” I admitted slumping my shoulders.
 
“Me neither,” Josh responded eyes wide.  “I thought everyone knew, I mean last year I took Joey Jones to the Ball.  We matched!  Matching bowties with matching slim fit grey suits from Cho Chang’s!” he said throwing his hands up in the air before opening another cupboard.

“Is matching bowties the new surefire way to tell if someone’s gay?”
 
“Is that a serious question?”
 
“Are you sure she likes you?” I asked abandoning my last question and adopting a different line of questioning.  “Maybe you’re reading this wrong or you got bad gossip,” I reasoned.

Josh scoffed at me and threw a withering glare my way.  “A, how dare you, I never repeat ‘bad gossip’ and B, she’s my partner in Herbology.  She’s very... touchy feely.”
 
You’re touchy feely,” I retorted as we turned a corner.

“She touched my knee for a long time.  Like, why would she need to touch my knee?” he asked looking absolutely scandalized.
 
“Did you ask her to stop touching your knee?” I asked tilting my head.  “To be honest, I’m not really sure what that means, no one’s ever touched my knee before... except for my maman, I guess.”
 
“Cass, you can’t just tell someone to stop touching your knee.  You’re an emotional terrorist!” he declared flailing his arms around.

I rolled my eyes.  “How dare I suggest that you ask someone to stop doing the thing that is bothering you?” I deadpanned.

And,” he continued ignoring my comment.  “You don’t have to be experienced to know that this is weird,” he said turning around, bending down, and reaching for my knee.

I eyed him after a couple of seconds.  “Why are you still touching my knee cap?  I think I get the idea.”

“Nope, hold on.  I’m demonstrating how long she touched my knee,” he replied.

We stood there for a couple of more moments.  Me, standing there.  Josh bent down in front of me touching my knee, awkwardly.  I yawned wondering if I could convince Josh to end the patrol early so I could go to bed.

We jumped and started a little as we heard a door creaking.  McLaggen was stepping out of a broom closet with a smirk on his face.  His face dropped and he pushed his body against the door when he noticed us.
 
“What are you two doing?” he asked raising his eyebrows.

Josh finally let go of my knee.  “Are you implying that it’s weird for two people in a completely platonic relationship to be touching each other’s knees for an extended period of time?"

I rubbed my temples and closed my eyes briefly.  I knew it was my fault.  Surround yourself with crazy people and you get headaches.  It’s simple really. 

“Why is he out here?” McLaggen asked ignoring Josh’s weird question.

I dug deep down in my arsenal of glares to give McLaggen one that communicated that he was an inconsiderate imbecile.  “Because,” I said stressing the word like Chris was an idiot, “someone didn’t show up to patrol.”

“So you just decided to patrol without me?” Chris said looking highly offended.

 Josh and I looked at each other mirroring expressions of disbelief.

“Yes,” I responded slowly.

 “Obviously,” Josh retorted at the same time.  “You’re the reason she was fucking defaced.”   My heart swelled a little for my best friend (who was clearly prone to the use of hyperbole, but still it was against McAss so I couldn’t be happier with his current use of hyperbole.)

Chris blanched at Josh’s words and cleared his throat.  “Well, you shouldn’t have done that,” Chris replied crossing his arms.  “I never said I wasn’t going to be there." 

I opened my mouth to give a lecture on A) the importance of showing up on time, B) the different levels of being late, i.e., 1 minute late = acceptable, 4 minutes late = still acceptable (but maybe wear a watch?), 15 minutes late = annoying and not really acceptable, 31 minutes late = fucking unacceptable!  and C) communicating with your patrol partner when you’re going to be “fucking unacceptable” late.

I know you're probably like, 'says the girl that's constantly late for Professor Patel's class'... to that I say: A) Stop harshing my vibe! B) I'm usually around "still acceptable (but maybe wear a watch?)" late. C) McLaggen is an arse and deserves it! D) Stop harshing my vibe!

Before I could launch into my lecture, Josh was opening his mouth.  “Who’s in the closet?” he asked craning his body to peer around Chris as if he could see through solid doors.

“No one!” Chris responded flattening even more against the door.  “Look, I’ll take the rest of the patrol if you guy just leave.”
 
I opened my mouth to retort.

“Please,” Chris begged looking straight at me, giving me a pleading look with his wide eyes.  I stared back at him but ultimately, I took a deep breath before dragging a very annoyed and tantrum throwing Josh to the dorms.
 
°~*◊*~°

On the day of Quidditch try-outs, I woke up tired and questioning why I let Ama and Josh talk me into this nonsense.  All night I had been staring at the ceiling too uncomfortable to actually fall asleep.  It felt like I had closed my eyes for a nanosecond before hearing the blares of my alarm.

James scheduled try-outs for six in the morning on a Saturday.  According to the flyer, “those who show up early show their dedication to the team.”  That made some sense but if James wanted players to show up earlier than six why didn’t he just put an explicit time that was earlier than six?  Men.  Amirite?
 
Also, there was the teeny, tiny fact that I absolutely detested the early morning with a burning, deep Fiendfyre passion.  I pulled on a red mesh tank top with a Gryffindor “G" on it along with black spandex shorts and trainers.  Ama woke up and barely greeted me before insisting I put a ribbon in my hair.
 
"Ama, I have never put a ribbon in my hair before,” I whined.

“You can be fierce on the pitch and look fierce too,” she insisted.

“They’re going to think I care more about my hair than playing well!”

“Listen, I just got up at 5:20 in the morning to support you. I actually want to put make-up on you too but I’m settling for the ribbon,” she said holding out said ribbon and jutting out her hip.

I sighed and turned around to let her put the stupid ribbon in my stupid hair.  We made our way down to the Kitchens to grab a small snack and then strolled to the Pitch.

“How did James react when you told him you were trying out?” Ama asked me on the way.

“Oh, I didn’t tell him.  We don’t really talk,” I answered while shrugging.
 
“Seriously?” she said with a grin on her face.  “So, you’re just going to show up and shock a team full of guys?”

“That’s the plan,” I replied more confidently than I felt.  Ama’s bark of laughter at my plan made me feel substantially less confident.

We walked into the girls’ locker room to grab my broomstick that I spent a year and a half saving for, the Nimbus 5000.  The feeling of the familiar, smooth wood turning in my hand actually calmed my nerves down some.  Ama gave me a “good luck” hug and then headed to the stands.

I took a deep breath and stood at the entrance of the Pitch.  I felt small looking out at the artificial, bright green turf and the wooden stands surrounding the field.  I glanced up at the cloudless sky noting the high visibility but feeling a buzz of nervousness travel through my body.  I squeezed my broom handle, smiling as I felt magical energy pulsing through it.

I swallowed and ignored the feeling of queasiness in my stomach while I took a shaky step onto the Pitch.  I strutted to the center of the Pitch where a crowd of guys were standing and stretching.  I stood in the back but I could still see James standing tall and holding a wooden clipboard.  The way the sun hit his hair revealed strands of dark auburn amongst the jet-black.  As he looked down at his clipboard, I noticed that his eyelashes were long, like really long.  I also noticed the light sprinkling of freckles all over him.  On his arms, his hands, his forehead, the bridge of his nose.

“Alright,” James shouted interrupting me from my stalking. “I’ll introduce the main team.  We’ve got Chris McLaggen for our Keeper, Freddie Weasley and Oliver Wood, Jr. as our Beaters, then Frank Thomas, Adam Spinnet, and myself as the three Chasers.”  The team of guys all waved or nodded once their names were called out.

“Now, the people who have signed up for tryouts.  We’ve got Evan Wood, Thomas Craig, David Sanders, Rick Carter, Derek Robins, Hank Frater, Carl McLaggen, and… Cassie Nott?”  James’s head shot up from his clipboard and he looked at me.  The entire team and candidates followed suit all looking at me as if I had a Hippogriff growing from my head.

James’s eyebrows jumped as he drank me in making my stomach squeeze tightly.  His intense, golden gaze seemed to pause at the ribbon sitting on top of my head.

I was going to Avada Ama.

I just smiled not knowing what else to do in this situation.  He quickly looked back down at his clipboard.

“Uhh, umm, okay,” James continued in a slightly shaky tone, “this should be a fairly simple try-out. We are just going to pit you guys… and girl... against each other one on one.  The winner moves on and the loser will be eliminated.  Ollie and Freddie will try to distract and hit you with Bludgers.  The team and I will deliberate before announcing the final decision.  Understood?”

The eight of us nodded our understanding.

As James collected the Snitches to be used for the try-out, he walked pass me. “Are you sure you wanna do this?” he whispered to me. My stomach churned – I told myself I was nervous about tryouts and not the fact that James was whispering to me. I nodded once and walked away. I bounced around on the balls of my feet trying to get the last minute jitters out.

James cleared his throat. “Um, okay let’s do Wood and Nott,” he said flatly.

Evan Wood was a nice Fourth Year that was short and stick thin – in this moment, his face actually looked puke green.

“Are you okay?” I asked him as we got in position in the center of the Pitch.

He looked near tears as he turned toward me. “I just hate flying,” he whispered to me. “The only reason why I’m trying out is because my dad and older brother wanted me to give it a go,” he explained eyeing Ollie who was giving him an encouraging smile.

I gave Evan a small smile of encouragement of my own. “You’ll be fine. Deep breaths.” I took a deep breath myself as James let go of the Snitch.

“Go,” he ordered with very little enthusiasm.

I pushed off and took to the air, taking a quick moment to enjoy floating above ground with a slight wind in my hair. With a nice buzz radiating from my head to my toes, I made my way to the outside of the field hugging the edges of the boundary of the Pitch as I circled around. Ollie sent a Bludger my way that wasn’t too difficult to dodge. One of Freddie’s had nearly hit Wood who was now wobbling.

I heard it before I saw it – a buzzing from my left. I turned and saw a flicker of gold near the middle of the Pitch. I made a quick dive dodging another one of Ollie’s Bludgers in the process. Evan seemed to be nowhere around me so it was fairly easy to reach out and wrap my fingers around the small sphere. I pulled my broom up from the dive and was just about ready to land when I noticed Evan – he was wobbling and jerking on his broom and heading slowly toward the ground. I stuck the Snitch in my mouth and quickly flew to him and grabbed his arm and the handle of the broom to help steady him. He held his breath as I led him toward the ground.

He exhaled as we landed. He swung his leg over the broom and took a few shaky steps before lying down on the turf and closing his eyes.

“You okay, Evan?” I asked as everyone rushed to us.

“I’m fine,” he mumbled into the grass. “Way to catch it.” I patted Evan on the back and handed a dumbfounded looking James the Snitch.

“Sorry, it’s a little wet,” I said with a shrug.

Freddie smirked at me and gave me a slight nod. It made me feel good until I heard another member of the team mutter something that sounded dangerously like “Fluke.”

I sighed. This was going to be a long day.

Next up were Carl McLaggen and Thomas Craig. That really wasn’t much of a contest. Craig was a small Second Year that got completely thrown off by one of the Bludgers. The team clapped when Carl landed with the Snitch in hand and a smirk on his face. Chris McLaggen winked at his little brother as he handed the Snitch to James.

Sanders beat Frater while Robbins beat Carter. It was down to four now. I was up against Sanders while Carl was against Robbins.

Sanders gave me a run for my money. We both ended up diving for the Snitch that was a few feet from the ground. Sanders pulled his broom up to avoid colliding with the ground while I still continued to reach for the small ball, just touching it with my fingertips a few times. I was able to pull up before hitting the ground but I still ended up skidding and falling off my broom. I had a couple of scrapes that Addie would probably yell at me for but no real harm AND, most importantly, I caught the Snitch!

James still looked surprised as I handed him my second Snitch.  No one on the team clapped for me except for Freddie.  I don’t know if he was clapping for my skills or if he was excited about the drama I was creating but this confirmed that I liked Freddie a lot.  This was the second time he saved me from looking like a complete and utter idiot.

Chris actually snarled at me when I landed.  At first I froze, but then I smirked back as I thought about sticking his broom up his arse.

When Carl went against Robbins, they seemed evenly matched to me.  They spotted the Snitch at around the same time and were diving for it side by side.  Carl got a little rough and by a little I mean... a lot.  If this were a real game, Madam Bell would totally call him for cobbing.
 
Carl finally knocked Robbins off course and grabbed the Snitch. When Carl landed, there was scattered applause this time.  Probably because he basically cheated but James bit his lip and looked over at Chris before giving Carl the win anyway. 

I rolled my eyes in response. At this point, I was fairly certain they were going to find a way to have Carl make the team but still I wanted to prove a point. I’m not exactly sure what that point was. Maybe a "girls rule, boys drool" point? Maybe an “I’m taking down the man (or men, in this case)!” point?

“Alright! Now it’s Carl and Cassie,” James announced with a nod. Carl winked at me while his brother patted him on the shoulder. I wanted to punch him in his face. I almost hated him as much as I hated his brother.

Almost.

“Go!” James barked.

Carl and I both took off and started circling around the Pitch. I dodged a couple of Bludgers from Ollie as I continued my search, narrowing my eyes. While I was making my way to one end of the Pitch, Carl flew next to me.

“What’s a pretty thing like you doing in a place like this?” Carl asked me.

Nice.

This fool is just as foolish as his older brother.

I ignored him and continued to look for the Snitch.

“Listen,” he continued, “when I make the team how about you buy me a Butterbeer?”

I tightened my grip around my broom willing myself not to punch him in the face or push him off of his broom. I don’t think my maman could handle two criminals in the family. As I was searching, I heard a buzzing coming from behind me on my right. I quickly looked over at Carl to see if he had noticed it too.

He was smirking and I felt a rush about to maneuver my broom toward the Snitch. But then I held back as he lurched forward and yelled, “the Snitch!” taking a full dive in front of us rather than behind us.

Really Carl?

I can spot a Wronski Feint from a mile away.

I smirked as I turned toward my right and sped toward where the actual Snitch was located. As my fingers wrapped around the golden ball, I heard a loud crash. I turned quickly and couldn’t help the smile spreading across my face. Apparently Carl hadn’t pulled up in time and had crashed to the ground.

I flew toward the ground and landed near Carl and handed James the Snitch trying to look cool, calm, and collected.

There was complete silence except for Carl’s groans and Freddie’s applause. I thought I could also hear Ama cheering from the stands. The looks on the rest of the team’s faces were mixes of shock and annoyance.

James finally cleared his throat. “We need to deliberate,” he said in a deep, raspy voice. I suppressed the urge to roll my eyes.

I sat next to Carl in the grass as the team huddled and deliberated.

“I think you made the team,” Carl said with a sigh after we had been sitting there for a while.

I laughed. “I did not. You did,” I assured him.

He frowned. “What makes you say that? You caught the Snitch.”

I motioned toward the guys deliberating. “If I had made the team, they would have deliberated for five minutes but they’ve been deliberating for twenty minutes. Freddie, the only person who clapped for me, looks like he’s having a baby.”

He really did. He was gesticulating wildly and his normally caramel skin looked red. It seemed like most of the team was arguing with him. James was staring into space looking uncomfortable only adding a few comments here and there. He kept glancing our way and pursing his lips. Ollie was staying completely silent as he rubbed his hands together and stared at the grass.

After ten more minutes of deliberation, the team finally walked over to Carl and me. Carl stood up but I stayed lounging on the grass trying to look as relaxed as possible.

Freddie was off to the side with his arms crossed while James stood still looking impassive and indifferent. Ollie was standing somewhere in between Freddie and the team shifting his weight from foot to foot. The rest of the team had smirks and smiles on their faces. Chris even had the audacity to nod at Carl before the “official” announcement.

“After much deliberation,” James said quickly and flatly, clearly wanting to get this whole ordeal over with. “We want to offer the team position to Carl.”

Everyone except James, Freddie, and Ollie started clapping. I hopped up from where I was lounging and I shook Carl’s hand.

“Great job, you really deserve it,” I stated with the sweetest smile I could fake. Carl shifted uncomfortably but still had a grin on his face.

“Thanks!” he shouted while winking at me.

I turned on my heels to walk back to the locker room.

“Wait!” James called. I turned back to face him. “We, uh, want to offer you a spot on the reserve team,” he said jogging to catch up with me.

I almost laughed in his face. “Hmmm, let me think… no,” I stated before continuing my walk. As I walked back, I noticed the number of groupies that came to watch the tryouts despite the fact that it was still early in the morning. Everyone in the stands were staring at me and muttering.

I thought about mooning them or doing something just as ridiculous but then I heard my name again.

“Cassie! CASSIE! Wait up!”

James grabbed my arm and turned me toward him. I closed my eyes momentarily to keep myself from rolling them and to keep myself from flicking him off.

“What’s up, Potter?” I tried to say as casually as possible opening my eyes.

I noticed that his nose was slightly flared. “What’s up? You turned down a position on the reserve team. That’s what’s up!” he hissed at me.

I actually rolled my eyes this time. “You’re mental,” I deadpanned. “Were you unconscious during the tryout or something?”

He tried to keep his expression even but I noticed that he swallowed hard and that he was looking at my eyebrows rather than directly in my eyes. “I make the final decision for the team,” he responded harshly. “If you weren’t going to respect that then you shouldn’t have tried out in the first place.”

I laughed humorlessly. “You’re right about one thing, Potter. I should not have tried out in the first place because the try-out was a joke. Why even have one if you knew you were going to pick Carl in the first place?”

Potter narrowed his eyes at me. “You think you can walk on the Pitch once and tell me how to captain a team?”

I crossed my arms. “I may not be the captain of your sausage party but I do know, Carl’s going to cost you the Cup.”

Potter rolled his eyes and pushed a hand through his hair. “Oh, please, Nott, tell me how much you know about Quidditch?” he spat.

I stepped closer to him and made sure to look him right in his eyes. “Scorpius Malfoy is faster than him. Slytherin wins. Max Davies is stronger and smarter than him so even if he pulls that cobbing nonsense, Ravenclaw wins. Adam Rickett can spot the Snitch in his sleep. Way faster than Carl’s average time anyway. Hufflepuff wins. It would be one thing if Carl were willing to work on all of these things but he’s a cocky arse that decided to flirt with me during our trial. So, I hope you figure out a way for you and your Chasers to win the game because your new Seeker isn’t going to do it for you,” I said in one big huff.

Potter looked startled as he processed everything I had just said.  He gaped at me for a few moments while I continued to stare him down.  I saw anger and frustration flash across his face. “Sorry you couldn’t fulfill some stupid fantasy you dreamed up one day but I’m the captain of a team.  You don’t just show up without knowing half my guys!”  I stepped back because he was starting to yell and his tan face was started to get an interesting red color.

“Carl might be a little shit with things to work on.  But, guess what?  He’s our little shit.  He was on the Reserve team.  He put in the work.  I’m the Captain of a team!” he continued yelling taking a large step closer to me.  I gulped.  He was on a roll and I wasn’t sure there was an end in sight.  I glanced over at the stands to see a crowd staring over the edge to observe the soap-opera level spectacle that was now occurring.
 
“I’m not going to throw away the work we’ve put in for a nobody I don’t even know, who’s going to upend years of cohesiveness that I’ve busted my arse working on!  I’m not going to throw that away for a Spa...”

He must have registered the hurt across my face because he paused and his hard facial expression relaxed and dropped.  “…Spawn of a Death Eater,” I finished for him lowering my voice. That's all I was to everyone, right? I thought to myself, glancing up at the crowd of spectators in the stands. Cassie Nott, the daughter of a Death Eater criminal on the run.

I looked back at James blinking digging deep to will myself not to cry. He gaped at me and swallowed hard.  He closed his eyes and when he opened them it looked like he was ready to say more.

So, this may seem obvious to most but it dawned on me in that moment that I didn’t have to give him the continued satisfaction of saying whatever nasty insult that was about to leave his lips.  “Yea, good luck this season, Potter,” I said, voice cracking, before turning and practically running toward the girls’ locker room.  Once I was away from everyone and safely in the locker room, I dropped onto the floor in a heap.
 
Ama soon followed me in. She sat on the floor next to me Indian style. “I’m sorry,” she muttered.

I shrugged my shoulders. “I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make the team.”

“I know but it’s not fair.”  Ama said quietly.  She then smirked at me.  “I can’t believe you just told Potter off in front of half the House.”

I groaned and dropped my head in my hands.  “I can’t believe Potter called me a nobody in front of half the House.”

Ama sighed but then I heard her chuckling a little.  “Well, if we’re going to make enemies with an entire Quidditch team full of arsehole guys, we might as well do it now.”
°~*◊*~°


A/N:

Oh, snap!

So, I need to take a moment to thank the wonderful reviewers.  Honestly.  I should probably be embarrassed by how happy the reviews make me and how much they make my day but no shame!  Ya’ll da best. 

This one was fun to write and ideas kept popping in my head (note the length – gosh!) so I should also thank my sister who said a few hours ago, “OMG!  Just post it already, you’re going to go back and annoyingly edit it anyway!”  Um, rude.

Also, despite wishing on multiple stars, I do not own the genius that is Shawshank Redemption (Columbia Pictures) and Mean Girls (Paramount Pictures).  Fun fact: the Library of Congress selected Shawshank to be in the National Film Registry! (whaaaa?)  Fun fact #2: there was a sequel to Mean Girls! (I had no idea but I heard it was bad so don’t get too excited like I did.)

But anyways, what did you-all think??  Review, pretty pleaseee?


°~*◊*~°

Rumblings of my little outburst after tryouts traveled quickly throughout the corridors of Hogwarts. Unsurprisingly, rumblings about my performance (you know, that time when I beat the guys?) had not traveled through the school. Also, Potter’s little outburst had somehow turned into him speaking to me calmly or, the most extreme and headache inducing rumor, him saving my life.

So, take your pick – I was either pegged as the bitter, unskilled girl who was crying because she could not make the team or the psycho groupie that tried out as an elaborate plot to date any and all members of the team.

I’m still trying to decide which one I like better.

Life was stellar.

A walk in the park.

A bowl of ice cream topped with everybody-hates-Cassie sunshine.

“I heard she attacked him,” Gossip Gracie fake-whispered to Mandy from across our dorm room. She was popping her gum in the most annoying way possible and the sound of her grating giggle made me want to jump out of the 7th story window.

“Really? I hear he saved her as she tumbled to the ground and she just went off on him afterward,” Mandy responded not even pretending to whisper as I felt her icy gaze on me.

“Please be ruder!” Ama, my dear (sometimes hot-headed) Latina best friend, shouted at them from her spot right next to me on my bed.

I flipped to the next page of my Quidditch Weekly magazine and smiled when I saw that Angelina Johnson-Weasley, Freddie’s mum, had written a guest column about Surviving the Quidditch World. “How apt,” I muttered under my breath.

“What?” Ama said turning her head toward me. “Did you just say ‘we should beat them up’?” she asked harshly and too loudly.

On cue, Mandy and Gracie ran out of the room muttering about cartels and drug wars while Ama smirked.

“They don’t actually believe that your family has cartel connections, do they?” I asked quirking an eyebrow and looking at Ama.

Ama shrugged flippantly. “Maybe,” she said slowly.

“That’s racist!” I said sitting up quickly and staring down the door.

“Well,” Ama started, looking way too proud of herself. “I may have dropped not-so-subtle hints about my family’s connections to ‘The Cartel,’” she said using air quotes around “The Cartel.”

I tilted my head and stared at Ama for a few moments as she admired her nails. “Ama!” I snapped.

“Hmm?” she asked looking up at me.

“Your family does not have connections to any cartel,” I said slowly, enunciating each word.

“I know,” she responded. “But look how fast they ran away,” she said motioning toward the door.

“You’re supposed to be my non-crazy friend, Ama!”

Ama made a face before frowning. “That’s boring.”

I rolled my eyes and started to read my magazine again.

“What’s going on with you?” Ama asked slowly with clear concern in her voice.

“Nothing,” I muttered flipping a glossy page.

I heard Ama gasp as I stared down at an advertisement with Oliver Wood Sr. winking and nodding at me. “You’re freaking out aren’t you? You’re actually freaking out.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m fine,” I muttered flipping to the next page while gnawing on my lip.

“You have levels of freaking out.”

“No, I don’t,” I said flipping to another page not really taking in what I was reading.

“If it’s a level one freak out, you rant and you say stupid things.”

“Thanks.”

“If it’s a level two freak out, you claim you’re fine but you get a little snippy, snappy and the insults are a little biting...”

I sighed loudly cutting her off. “You’ve put a lot of thought into this, huh?”

She paused briefly but that didn’t stop her psychoanalysis.

“If it’s level three, you get kinda quiet about what’s going on in your life and, again, you say everything’s fine...”

“I am fine.”

“And you allow annoying bitches like Gracie and Mandy to talk shit about you. Are you really worried about what happened at tryouts? I didn’t realize you were...”

I huffed cutting her off and set my magazine down. “My Grandfather hasn’t answered my letter,” I revealed my mouth suddenly feeling dry.

Ama’s face instantly softened. “Maybe he’s just trying to figure out what to say?” she suggested with a facial expression that told me she, herself, doubted what she was saying.

I gnawed on my lip and stared into space a little. “I’m worried because Addie got her allowance a couple of days ago ... and I didn’t,” I explained feeling out of breath. “Do you think he’d really cut me off?” I asked trying to keep my tone even.

Ama flared her nose as she looked at my hand. I looked down realizing I was biting my nails. I gave her a look that said – seriously, you’re judging me right now for biting my nails?

She shook her head while clearly swallowing the cheeky comment on the tip of her tongue. “Sorry,” she muttered. “No matter what happens, you know you always have me and Josh, right? For any kind of support necessary,” she said giving me a meaningful look.

I nodded my head and forced a smile ignoring a wave of queasiness that washed over me. “Thank you, Ama. I know you-all are always there for me,” I responded giving her a side hug.

She smiled back and shrugged. “That’s what friends are for. What do you think of my nails today? I’ve painted them ‘Aim to Misbehave,’” she said while pursing her lips and wiggling her nails as she observed her work.

I laughed and nodded my head in approval of Ama’s bright yellow nails.
°~*◊*~°

I adjusted my eyeglasses and continued to stare at the same sentence about the science behind the magic of transforming objects into animals. Madam Pince took pity on me (aka she got tired of the not-so-hushed whispers that followed me everywhere I went) and allowed me to study in a secluded corner of the Restricted Section.

I yawned feeling like I could nap on the oak table in an instant. Would that make me the ultimate nerd, I wondered. Sleeping in the library. Would the few people who chose to associate with me, stop talking to me? Could I live with myself if I stooped so low as to actually fall asleep in such a public...

“Hey,” I heard someone saying in a frustrated tone while the chair across from me screeched. I jumped and looked up.

Rose Weasley sighed loudly and played with a strand of her hair as she stared at me expectantly.

I arched an eyebrow as she sighed again. “Hi, Rose,” I said apprehensively. “How did you get back here?” I said looking around confirming that I was still in the Restricted Section.

“I need your help,” she said getting to the point and ignoring my question.

I looked at her confused as she fidgeted with her hair some more. “Rose, what could I possibly help you with?” I asked not trying to sound rude but genuinely curious.

“Scorpius,” she responded.

I waited for her to explain or offer any guidance whatsoever but her eyes just stared at me as if stating “Scorpius” was somehow an adequate explanation in any universe.

“What about Scorpius?” I asked slowly looking around to make sure I really wasn’t missing something obvious like Scorpius dangling from a bookshelf or stuck on a ladder or something just as odd.

Rose sighed once again and stared at the table for a couple of seconds. “Well,” she stated while swallowing hard. “We-almost-kissed-and-of-course he-freaked-out,” she whispered quickly getting it all out in one breath with an eye roll. “And-and-then he broke up with Char so-of-course-I-was-kinda-happy. I mean, poor girl-but-still-she’s kind of a bitch--but now-he won’t-talk to-me at all.”

I frowned slightly surprised that I was able to understand all the words coming out of her mouth. I mulled it over in my head for a few seconds. “What makes you think I can help with this?” I asked still confused.

She scoffed. “Well, don’t you and James have a thing?”

My mouth dropped open. It felt like I couldn’t breath for a second. “Wha--?”

“And then you and Freddie hooked up too, right?”

I gasped and looked around wondering if this was all some sick joke being played on me by Ama and Josh. Freddie too maybe?

“And then you also have that Veela thing going for you,” she said as she looked into space and counted her list off on her fingers completely oblivious to my mental and emotional breakdown. “And then there’s also you and McLaggen…”

Okay. Time to draw the line at STD-infested troll, McButt face.

“Stop,” I finally hissed. I took off my glasses and rubbed my temples. “Okay, so, no, no to all of that. No. Ugh. No. No. No. No. No. McLaggen and I are… just… no… ugh. Yuck. Gross. I didn’t even know that was a rumor! And your cousins and I have and had nothing. In fact, I’m pretty sure James hates my guts. He called me a nobody.”

She frowned looking oddly disappointed at my lack of sexual experience with her cousins. “But, what about the Veela thing? You have to know how to flirt with guys and stuff,” she urged waving her arms around.

I let out a laugh while shaking my head. “I don’t think being a Veela works for everyone. I don’t know how to flirt, I’ve never been kissed, and I’m a generally awkward Witch,” I said shrugging carelessly at the state of my love life.

Rose’s face slowly went from curious to shock to absolutely horrified. “You haven’t kissed anyone? Anyone?” she asked a little out of breath.

“No,” I muttered feeling my cheeks burn under Rose’s assaulting gaze.

“Really?” Rose asked incredulously as she squinted at me as if she were trying to figure out if something was wrong with me. “Anyone? Like no one? No one at all? Like... anyone?”

I groaned feeling way more embarrassed than I needed to about my non-existent, perfectly fine love life. PERFECTLY FINE. “Rose, why don’t you try giving Scorpius some space? You two have been close friends for a while. I’m sure he’ll approach you when he’s ready,” I advised veering from the topic of... me.

Rose puckered her lips at my words. She stared off into space for a little while. “Umm, okay. I can do that,” she agreed letting out a heavy sigh as her shoulders slumped. For the first time during our conversation, I noticed that her eyes looked slightly red and puffy. Her nails looked half-bitten and her hair looked a little matted.

I bit down on my lip not really knowing how to handle this situation. I knew a trip to the Kitchens dramatically lifted Josh’s spirits and I knew sappy love songs usually made Ama smile when she was down but I honestly didn’t know Rose that well. “I’m sorry, Rose,” I offered not really knowing how to make her feel better.

She gave me a small smile. “Thanks,” she responded before looking down at the table and drawing circles with her finger onto the wood. “It’d be nice to have my best friend back,” she stated quietly.

“You’ll have him back soon,” I assured while nodding my head hoping it was true.

She smiled back at me again but it slowly turned into a huge smirk. “Have you really kissed no one?”

Ughhhhhh.
°~*◊*~°

“So,” I said while dishing some mashed potatoes onto my plate. “I’ve given this a lot of thought and I don’t think I want to go to the school party tonight so you two should just…”

“You’re not getting out of this one,” Josh said cutting me off while Ama shook her head. They were both narrowing their eyes at me.

“How dare you try to skip out on friendship time,” Josh hissed at me.

I made a face. “Friendship time? Are we kindergarteners?”

They continued to stare me down with similar expressions of disgust.

I groaned and waved my arms around like a small child throwing a tantrum. “People are still talking about me! And, I thought you two were supposed to be supportive of my decisions.”

Ama smiled sweetly at me but not in a nice way more in an I-will-Avada-you way. “Not when they are stupid decisions,” she said in a sing-song voice.

“You need fun. You’ve been nervous about hearing from your grandfather and then of course there’s the whole tryout debacle,” Josh said shaking his head as if he wasn’t the one that encouraged me to go out for the stupid team in the first place. “I also want to get my dance on and I need both of my betches there with me.”

I frowned feeling like I lost the argument, the fight, the battle, and the war. “But I hate people. I’m not emotionally prepared to hang out with people who aren’t my very best friends,” I whined.

My said “very best friends” laughed at me.

“We also need to pick Ama out a new man,” Josh stated with a shimmy.

“I already have a man,” Ama stated confidently.

“Why does Ama need a man?” I asked waving my fork around.

Ama shrugged as if the answer were obvious. “I’m sexually frustrated and Rickett’s going to quell my fire,” she said while shimmying in an attempt to imitate Josh.

“Shouldn’t he light your fire?” Josh asked making a face.

Ama frowned while shaking her head. “No, the fire’s lit and I need it to go out, obviously,” she said while looking at Josh like he was dumb.

“That’s not how the phrase goes,” he responded while making a face at her.

“What? Are you sure?”

Josh gave Ama the most exaggerated eye roll he could muster. “Are you really challenging me on sayings? You thought ‘for all intents and purposes’ was ‘for all intensive purposes.’”

I nodded my head remembering the Great Intensive Argument of Third Year.

“You also thought ‘I could not care less’ was ‘I could care less’ which doesn’t make a lot of sense,” I mused thinking about the Careless Argument of Fourth Year.

“Remember when you thought ‘once in a blue moon’ was ‘once in a full moon,’” Josh said shaking his head fondly at Ama.

“I will kill both of you,” she bit back. “None of your stupid idioms make sense. What is a blue moon? What is that? And, I’m foreign you shouldn’t be making fun of me for these things,” she said giving us an exaggerated frown.

Josh rolled his eyes right back. “We are helping you dear?” he said while patting her on her hand as if she were some poor lost child.

“Well tonight, Rickett’s going to put out my fire,” she said sticking her tongue out at us.

I shook my head. “Josh is right about the intelligence thing, Ama, I heard Rickett talking in the corridors yesterday. He thinks Venomous Tentacula is a disease.”

Josh scoffed and wrinkled his nose. “See?”

“Herbology can be… difficult sometimes,” Ama said with a frown on her face. “What does that have to do with putting out fires?”

“What about Levi Jordan?” Josh asked. “I heard a rumor he likes you.”

“Wrelly?” I said with a mouth full of mashed potatoes

“Chew, swallow, then talk,” Josh demanded with a slightly disgusted look on his face.

I narrowed my eyes at Josh but still swallowed. “Ama, he’s so cute!” Levi had big brown eyes, short black hair, and mocha brown skin. He was tall and slightly muscular. He was also a genius. In class, it would seem like he wasn’t paying attention but then when the Professors called on him, he immediately knew the answers.

Ama bit her lip and thought for a beat. “But I like Rickett,” she whined.

“Have you spoken to him? Like actually talked to him?” Josh pressed.

“I don’t need to, we can communicate without words,” Ama stated with a smug look on her face.

“What is with people and communicating through facial expressions?!”
°~*◊*~°

“Is that honestly what you’re wearing?” Ama asked me.

I looked down at my outfit. I was wearing dark blue skinny jeans with a green flowy tank top and black booties.

“You’re lucky I’m not showing up in sweatpants,” I responded. “I think I’m old enough and comfortable enough with myself to do that,” I mused thinking about where my sweatpants were.

Ama frowned at me as her eyebrows rose with disapproval. “Where did I go wrong with you?” she muttered. Ama of course looked amazing in a little black dress that she paired with gold strappy high heels. She had painted her nails three times before finally deciding on, “ole caliente.” Red-orange in case you cared. But honestly, why would you care?

“Let's go,” Ama demanded jumping up and down.

We met up with Josh in the Common Room and then made our way down to the Entrance Hall. The ceiling had been charmed to reflect the night sky and there were floating and sparkling white globes everywhere. There were a lot of students dancing on the dance floor, which actually looked like they were just knocking into each other. Frank Thomas was at the front of the dance floor pretending to DJ. He had it set up to look like he was “spinning discs” but upon closer inspection he was playing songs using a charmed WizPod.

Josh and Ama excitedly made a beeline for the dance floor. This was the perfect opportunity for me to head to one of the bars near the walls. I failed miserably at convincing Professor Patel that I was seventeen so I had to settle for a non-alcoholic drink.

As I drank the non-alcoholic butterbeer, I was absolutely enthralled by Rose Weasley snogging in the corner with some brunette guy I did not recognize. Instead of snogging it looked like they were trying to eat each other. Devour each other. I groaned as I spotted Scorpius not too far away looking ready to Avada the guy, bring him back to life, Crucio the guy, and then Avada him again.

For the record, this was not what I meant by “space.” Not what I meant. At. All.

“Ew.”

I smiled upon hearing the signature Nott female I’m-so-disgusted-with-you tone. “Agreed, Addie, agreed.” I turned toward my sister who was nursing her own butterbeer. I eyed it wondering if she’d give me her alcoholic one.

She looked awesome in a red maxi dress with her hair in a chignon. She smirked at me. “You look cute!”

I rolled my eyes at her. “Please try not to sound so surprised,” I deadpanned.

She squeezed one of my cheeks. “Is mah wittle sistah gwowin’ up?” she asked in a baby voice.

I swatted her hand away. “Your little sister is about to tackle you if you squeeze her cheeks again.”

She arched an eyebrow at me but then looked at me seriously. “Did he respond?”

I sighed while my shoulders slumped back against the wall. “Nope.”

She bit her lower lip and looked like she wanted to say something.

“Hey!” I looked over to see Lily Potter in a light pink baby doll dress.

I smiled. “Hi, Lily! Have you met my sister, Addie?” Addie gave her a polite smile and greeting but quickly made an excuse to leave and return to her friends.

“Having fun?” Lily asked me while bobbing her head to the music.

“Not really, I’m not really a party person,” I admitted while looking around the Hall.

“Why’s that?” a much deeper voice said to my left. I turned my head to see Al Potter running a hand through his already messy hair.

“Oh, um, I hate people, meeting them, interacting with them, I hate it,” I said before taking a quick swig of my butterbeer.

Al and Lily looked at each other with odd expressions on their faces like they were communicating telepathically. They then started laughing.

“Good… one,” Lily said between her giggles.

“Yea… you’re funny,” Al added giving me a creepy wink.

“Ha, yea, funny,” I replied lamely before taking another swig of butterbeer.

“Merlin,” Lily stated with a grim expression on her face. “Are they actually together? Did they match on purpose?” I followed her gaze to her other brother, James, sucking face with Mimi. Of course, he had to look annoyingly good in a red t-shirt showing off his broad shoulders and toned arms. My stomach felt tight as I watched James give Mimi’s arse a small squeeze through the tight fabric of her red sequin dress.

“Oh please no, say it ain’t so,” Al added looking horrified. “What happened to Pia?”

“It is so,” said another voice. I looked over to see Freddie with an uncharacteristic frown on his face as he also watched Mimi and James. “And Pia and James or ‘Jia’ do what they always do,” he muttered.

“You guys don’t like Mimi?” They all snapped their heads to look at me like I had just asked a more ridiculous question than “Who is Harry Potter?”

“Right…” I said slowly taking another swing of butterbeer.

Before I could discretely ask who Pia was, Josh’s face popped up from seemingly nowhere with a mischievous and Cheshire cat like grin on his face. I tilted my head amazed at how truly horrifying my best friend could be.

“AH!” Lily jumped throwing her butterbeer in the air obviously startled by Josh’s super creepy entrance into our conversation. I quickly bent down and caught the butterbeer before it fell on the ground and offered it back to Lily.

She stared at me with her mouth open for a couple of seconds. “Whoa, how did you not make Seeker?”

Freddie shifted uncomfortably as he frowned. I shrugged my shoulders trying to lighten the mood. “Well, I only tried out to get a date with the entire team,” I joked with a harsh laugh.

Lily and Al laughed along as Freddie gave me a sad smile.

Josh started hip thrusting and then moonwalking as the beat of “Billie Jean” started blaring through the speakers. “We aren’t here to talk about how much you suck at Quidditch!” he admonished me. “She was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene,” he serenaded me sufficiently making my face heat up. I was certain my face was a lovely bright red color.

Before I could tell my best friend that I would rather spend my time in the Forbidden Forest, alone, at night, and blindfolded, James Potter had shown up with his arm draped around Mimi. Their lips were clearly swollen from kissing and James’s hair looked messier than normal. I immediately felt like vomiting.

“What is she doing hanging out with you lot?” she spat with an undeniable tone of animosity while scowling at me. James was staring straight ahead but not really looking at me, he was looking somewhere above my head. Freddie, Al, and Lily all made different disapproving facial expressions not so discreetly.

Josh, not to be distracted from Michael Jackson did an impressive spin as the “DJ” did an unimpressive and static-filled transition to “Beat It.” Josh then yelled like a hyena and grabbed his crouch in a poor man’s impression of MJ.

Freddie, being Freddie, decided to join in and started singing “BEAT IT!” at the top of his lungs in a chalkboard grinding falsetto voice. Al started playing the air guitar... poorly (in case you were wondering).

Lily looked scarred.

I hate my friends.

James’s face broke out in a heartbreaking and distracting smile as he looked at his family members.

Mimi stepped closer to me turning my attention away from James. “Why are you still here?” she asked me in a low voice.

I was about to open my mouth to tell her that I could stand wherever I damn well pleased when Josh held a hand out to me and gave me a pointed look.

“Shut up and dance with me!”

I sighed. “I guess this is happening,” I replied as I took his hand.
°~*◊*~°

“Why did you try out if you knew you weren’t going to make it?”

I was staring out at the Great Lake as the sun slowly descended. There was still a sliver of light peaking out from the sky. The last rays of the day danced on the water making parts of the surface look as if it were made of glittering small diamonds.

I dragged my hands along the blades of grass feeling for and picking up a small smooth rock. I tossed the rock into the lake hoping to see it skip across but I frowned as it plunked gracelessly into the water.

Grayson made a noise that sounded like a horse neighing. In between those grunts, he snorted loudly. I quickly looked over at Grayson trying to remember the first-aid spells in my repertoire expecting him to be severely hurt or dying.

But, he had a large open mouth smile on his face as he looked at me.

I gasped silently trying to keep my facial expression under control. Grayson was... laughing?

“That...was...a... terrible throw,” he said in between his chuckles of laughter/neighing.

I started laughing too. Much more normally by the way. I honestly couldn’t tell you if I was laughing at my terrible throw or laughing at Grayson’s ridiculous laugh. Either way, by the time I sobered up, my cheeks hurt from laughing so hard.

I exhaled blowing on my hands a little bit to warm myself up. “Maybe I was in denial and, Ama and Josh were telling me I could do it. Then I won the first trial and I got excited. Then the second trial, I was like holy Merlin I might actually make the team... but then I don’t know I guess I knew the guys would prefer... and I guess... I don’t know,” I trailed off trying to answer his question.

Grayson was smiling at me sympathetically. “It’s definitely not you,” he assured me. “I mean, a lot of times the school teams pick players from the Reserve Teams, right?” he asked trying to make me feel better.

“Right, I mean, I don’t know, I guess you know what you’re getting with a reserve player. All the professional teams do it too. It’s why Oliver Wood was on PU Reserves for 4 years, I mean Malcolm Preece was on Cannons Reserves for 6 whole years... and then...”

“Cass,” Grayson said interrupting me.

I looked down at him realizing that I had gotten up and started pacing.

Grayson looked up at me and gave me a smile. “I really don’t know the people you’re talking about,” he admitted. “I’m not a big pro-Quidditch fan,” he added while scratching his head.

I sat down next to Grayson looking at him while I pulled at the grass again. “I was right, right to yell at Potter? I mean, there are no girls on the team, which is ridiculous. And girls don’t even try out. Potter is so hypocritical,” I added nose flaring. “His mum is a freakin’ Quidditch legend, a Quidditch goddess.”

Grayson didn’t say anything for a while and looked out at the lake. I noticed that he really liked to formulate his thoughts before saying anything. I could see his mind working as his jaw clicked and his eyes narrowed and widened periodically. We had been running together almost every day this week. Usually, we would come out of the Castle around the same time, exchange pleasantries, and then run silently before going our separate ways. Tonight, Grayson sat down by the lake at the end of our run and for some reason I felt the urge to sit next to him.

“Do you think you proved your point?” he asked me after a long silence.

My eyebrows knitted together not really knowing what he was getting at. “What do you mean?”

“Well, people are saying that you tried out as an elaborate scheme to date half the team. I only know about what really happened because you told me. Was it worth it?”

I pursed my lips and thought about how happy I was to have beaten Potter’s first choice pick for the team. I also felt oddly brave and smug thinking about yelling at Potter about how his Cup aspirations would be a shitshow (even if not entirely true). “Even knowing the outcome of the tryouts now, I think I would have done it again,” I said gaining my confidence back again. “Obviously I could do without the rumors.”

Grayson looked back out at the lake and hmm-ed.

“What?” I said whirling my head around not even trying to hide my annoyance.

“I didn’t say anything,” Grayson responded quickly putting his hands up in surrender while widening his eyes.

“You hmm-ed,” I accused pointing an accusatory finger emphasizing my... accusation.

“I... what?” he asked giving me a bewildered expression.

“You hmm-ed,” I said jabbing my finger at the air in his direction. “It was one of those annoying hmm’s of disapproval Grandmother Nott gives me when I pick up the salad fork instead of the fish fork. ‘Oh, the humanity,’ she drawls with a large frown on her face. Because eating salmon with a 6-inch fork rather than a 7-inch fork is apparently some sort of crime against humanity!”

Grayson’s mouth fell open as he listened to me rant.

“I just want to point out, for the record, ‘Oh, the humanity!’ was made famous by a reporter who yelled it in reaction to an airship bursting into flames killing 36 people. So, according to my grandmother using the wrong fork is the same as a historic tragedy! It’s the same as 36 people dying!”

He stared at my finger like it was some sort of weapon that could murder him and his entire family. “I was just thinking that we are really different,” he stated slowly while still eyeing my finger with clear trepidation etched all over his face.

I dropped my finger. “Oh.”

Grayson seemed to relax now that I wasn’t threatening him with my killer finger. “I guess my motto here has always been to lie low and not make waves. Don’t upset anyone. Don’t draw attention to myself. You seem to be doing the opposite,” he said while shrugging his shoulders.

“Not on purpose,” I defended myself while brushing the grass blades off of my shorts.

Grayson just smiled and shrugged again. We sat for a couple of more minutes.

“I draw,” he suddenly said.

I looked over at him. He was looking forward with an intense expression on his face.

“You draw? That’s pretty cool,” I said nudging him.

His face softened a bit as he looked down. “So when I was younger, I drew a lot but then my father and grandfather thought I should focus my efforts on ‘important things’ like-like dueling,” he explained while I nodded my head following along.

“It’s been years, years since I’ve drawn anything,” he said picking at the grass a little. “I used to think I’d be a painter or a cartoonist. You know those moving comics on the backside of the Prophet?”

I nodded my head in response recalling some funny comics.

“Well yea, I thought about it but then never pursued it because you know, things changed and I mean, my family put the kibosh on that dream but lately I’ve just been inspired to draw again,” he said his face brightening up a little.

I smiled at him. “So, you’ve been drawing?”

“Yea, yes, I have,” he said nodding his head.

“What have you been drawing? Can I see them?”

Grayson sucked in a huge amount of air and fidgeted with his hands. “Umm...”

“Cass! CASS! CAS-SEA!”

My head jerked toward the Castle and I had to strain my eyes a little to see Freddie Weasley jogging toward us.

“Freddie?” I asked as he came closer and then stopped in front of us.

“Ca—oh hey,” Freddie said nodding toward Grayson. Freddie quirked his eyebrow and looked at me while addressing Grayson. “I’m Freddie.”

“Grayson,” Grayson said shaking Freddie’s hand.

“So, what’s going on with you two?” Freddie asked bluntly swiveling his head between Grayson and me.

Grayson started choking... on air while I rolled my eyes.

“Freddie, we were talking,” I said motioning between Grayson and me.

Freddie’s face fell and he dropped to his knees. “I need your help,” he whined.

I gave him a withering glare trying to communicate that he needed to leave but Freddie just pouted and gave me puppy dog eyes.

Grayson suddenly got up. “We’ll talk later,” he said while shrugging his shoulders but not really meeting my eyes. He jogged toward the Castle.

“So...” Freddie said in a singsong voice once Grayson was out of earshot. “Who’s that? Like, I know his name is Grayson but like who is that?” he asked giving me an exaggerated and creepy wink.

I glared at Freddie’s smug look. “I’m going to Crucio your arse!”

He went back to giving me puppy dog eyes. “I really need your help,” he said giving me an uneasy smile.

°~*◊*~°

A/N:

So, December 17th was Jane Austen’s birthday (Yes, I know I’m a nerd), and I usually like to read Pride & Prejudice (or Emma) but I was lazyyyy so instead I started watching the Lizzie Bennett Diaries. And holy crap how did I miss this vlog series four years ago?!? Honestly, if you’re a fan of modern adaptations of Jane Austen stories, I think you’ll enjoy this as much as I did. It’s wonderfully wonderful!

Anyways, ummm, you guys are awesome!!! Your reviews continue to be awesome and continue to make me feel awesome!!! Honestly, thank you for reading and making me smile!

Beat It! by Michael Jackson is owned by Epic (Sony).
Billie Jean by Michael Jackson is owned by Epic (Sony).


°~*◊*~°

“I’m sorry I ruined your date but...”

“It was not a date!”

“Pffft, that was definitely some kind of date.”

“It was not a date! I don’t date! I’ve never been on date! Stop calling it a date!”

“Wait, seriously? Not a single date? Seriously?” Freddie was looking me up and down the same way Rose had a couple of days ago.

“There is nothing wrong with me!” I shouted pointing a finger at him.

Freddie put a hand on his hip and rolled his eyes at me and scoffed at my finger. I frowned realizing that Grayson was probably the only person that would ever be scared of a 5 foot 4 (5’3” AND 1/2) person pointing a finger. “Come on,” Freddie demanded dragging me into the Castle. “This is really important.”

Freddie pulled me into an empty classroom and then closed the door. “I need your help,” he said hands on his hips staring at me pleadingly.

I sighed. “What do you need help with?” I asked sitting on top of a desk ignoring the loud (and scary) creak that it made from the pressure of my weight. I let my feet dangle and pulled off some of my cold running gear as I waited for Freddie to open his mouth.

“Quidditch.”

I blanched dropping my neon ear warmer on the ground. “No.”

“You don’t even know the details!”

“Have you heard the rumors?” I asked eyes wide. “If I help you with Quidditch, I’m helping Potter and Potter is... is... Potter,” I spat.

“We really need to work on your insults,” Freddie drawled. “You don’t even know what I was going to ask,” he said stomping his foot.

I rubbed my temples. “Fine, I’ll bite,” I declared crossing my arms. “What could I possibly help with?”

He sat down on the desk in front of me. “Can we beat Slytherin with the current team? I mean, is there something strategic...”

“No. No! No! No! No way!”

“Why not?” Freddie whined and pouted at me.

“Does James even know you’re here asking me for advice?”

Freddie had the good sense to look down. “Maybe not,” he muttered.

“I will not be responsible for dissension in the ranks!” I said waving my hands around dramatically. “And he’s a good for nothing...”

Cass,” he was still whining, pleading with those stupid puppy dog eyes, “we’re going to lose.”

I jutted out my lip signaling that I didn’t give a bowtruckle about whether or not they were going to lose.

“Look,” Freddie said taking on a serious tone. “I don’t know if you’re aware but I don’t have a lot of job options...”

I opened my mouth to protest but Freddie held up his hand.

“My dad would love me to get into the family business but I don’t know if that’s what I want. We both know I can’t do anything that involves Potions. Blood makes me squeamish so Auror or Healer seems like it’s out of the question and...”

“Okay,” I said putting my hands up ending his rant. I sighed and rubbed my eye for a second. “So you want to be a pro-Quidditch player?” I asked as I watched him fidget.

Freddie shrugged. “I don’t know but there are always scouts at these games. I just don’t want to limit even another one of my options.”

I stared at Freddie for a few moments trying to will myself to tell him the team (POTTER, specifically) could fend for themselves.

But, for some reason the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth as much as I wanted them to. For some reason, Freddie’s feeling that his options were limited spoke to me. My maman repeatedly made not-so-subtle comments about me moving out of country, to a country where people didn’t know the name Nott, to have “more options.” I wouldn’t wish the feeling of dread on my worst enemy. It was that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, which always came when I thought about graduating, leaving my friends, and moving out of the country.

Freddie wasn’t my enemy. He was my friend.

“Merlin, I’m such a sap!” I yelled suddenly.

Freddie fell off the table in reaction to my outburst.

I rolled my eyes in response. “Do you have a piece of paper?”

He quickly stood up and dusted himself off. “Yea,” he said pulling out some paper and a pen. “So you’ll help me?”

“What’s Potter’s current strategy?” I asked looking at the paper and trying to visualize everyone on the current roster for Gryffindor and Slytherin.

“Well, James was saying that their Beaters...”

“... suck because Goyle and Flint are out because of me...”

“...or because they’re arses and bullies?” Freddie said in a clipped tone.

“... so you-all will control the Bludgers,” I continued ignoring Freddie. “You and Ollie will dominate the Bludgers. That’s good, that’s really good actually.”

“Right, that’s what James said. So he wants us to direct the Bludgers at their Chaser Team.”

“King, Al Potter and Overcliff?” I asked to confirm as I drew three circles on the piece of paper trying to remember their statistics and playing styles.

“Right.”

“So, he thinks you-all can win by getting a 160 point lead,” I mused.

“Yea, I think so, in case Carl doesn’t catch the Snitch. What do you think? That’s pretty good right? Or no?” Freddie asked clearly nervous while tapping his foot on the floor.

I bit my nail and played out the strategy in my head. “It’s not quite enough,” I concluded after a few minutes.

Freddie groaned.

I hopped off the table and started pacing. “You and Ollie will hit the Bludgers at the Chasers but Al’s really good at dodging. Overcliff’s decent not great. King will be thrown off. Given how tired they’ll be and their talent, in the first hour, I think you can get a lead of about 50 points. By an hour and a half, I think you can get it up to 80 to 100 points. By the second hour, almost 120 to 150. Anything above two hours, I think you’re basically in the clear.”

“Then what’s the problem?” Freddie asked me. “With a 160-lead in two hours, we win even if Malfoy catches the Snitch.”

I walked back over to the desk and flipped the paper over. I drew an oval pitch. “Most Seekers fly high and hug the outside of the Pitch.”

Freddie nodded his head. “Of course, it gives you the most visibility, the best chances of spotting the Snitch in the fastest time.”

“Malfoy doesn’t use that tactic. He uses the Karoonda tactic...”

“The Seeker from the Australian National Team? Lucy Karoonda?”

“Right. They call her Lucky,” I said drawing a zig zag across the Pitch. She goes up and down and across the Pitch in zig zags to one, confuse the other Seeker, and...”

“...because, most times, Snitches aren’t on the outskirts of the Pitch. It’s somewhere in the middle or in some random place... she tries to get...”

“Lucky,” Freddie and I said at the same time.

“Okay, then what’s the problem?” Freddie asked confused. “Malfoy uses this odd strategy based on luck.”

“He’s fast. And he has a good eye. He actually does get ‘lucky.’ Remember Hufflepuff last year? He caught the Snitch within 30 minutes.”

Freddie scoffed. “Fluke.”

“Remember Ravenclaw?” I asked with a hand on my hip.

“Wasn’t that a normal game?” Freddie asked clearly trying to remember last year’s games.

“74 minutes, longer but still not enough time.”

Freddie stared at me for a second. “Holy Merlin, you’re kind of a freak huh?”

My jaw dropped and I felt like I had whiplash. Where was this coming from? “Excuse you?”

“How do you have all this in your head, my gosh!” he said eyeing me.

“Stop insulting me!” I said hitting him on the arm. “I’m not a freak! And, you asked me for help!”

He smirked at me. “Give me my best pitch to a pro-Quidditch team.”

I rolled my eyes. “That’s not a hard question. Your hit percentage is above 85% in games consistently. You’re also not just precise, you’re powerful with the potential to get more powerful. In the pro-league when knocking someone off their broom is allowed, you’ll...”

“You know this isn’t normal right?” Freddie asked cutting me off. “I know my best pitch but it’s odd that you know my best pitch. I also have a suspicion that you know this about every player on every team. You’re a fanatic! You should definitely be on the team! Look, what if I spoke to Potter about...”

“Hit the Bludgers toward Malfoy. It would be better if Ollie were on board. Two Bludgers constantly being hit at Malfoy is almost a 100% guarantee that he won’t catch the Snitch. He’ll be too distracted. He’d have to get really lucky. Potter’s probably going to yell at you because you’ll be going against his orders but you have to stick with it. Carl’s not horrible. With Malfoy distracted, Carl will catch the Snitch within 90 minutes, maybe a little bit less.”

Freddie nodded his head along. “Okay. But Cass, we could probably...”

I sighed loudly cutting him off. “I’m never talking to Potter again.”

Cass,” he called as I started walking out of the classroom.

“Good... oof,” I ran into something solid, I was off-balance and I closed my eyes ready to brace myself to fall until I felt someone’s arm reaching out to steady me.

“Sorry, thanks,” I said smiling and opening my eyes. My smile dropped as I looked up into the honey-colored eyes of James Potter. He was gnawing on his dry lips as he looked down at me. He let go of me quickly and ran his hand through his hair, roughly, making it messier.

“Merlin hates me,” I muttered to myself staring at a particular strand that was falling into his eye a little.

James quirked an eyebrow in response.

“What’s up, JP?” I heard Freddie asking from behind me. I was surprised by how calm he was being given that we were just planning “The Revolution!”

Yes, I know, I’m dramatic.

“What’s up with you, Fred?” James answered back.

“Nothing much... James?”

James nodded his head as he crossed his arms across his chest making the muscles in his forearms flex a little.

“Fred,” he said slowly making sure to ignore my existence and keep his eyes trained on Freddie. “What were you two up to?”

“Talking... James. Is there an issue... James?”

I rolled my eyes as it was becoming clear that Freddie was starting to enjoy this little exchange.

James nodded his head in response and craned his head a little. “So you were talking in an abandoned classroom while everyone’s at dinner, Fred?”

“Is there a question you really want to ask me, James, Jimmy, JP, Jimaroo?” Freddie asked in a tone that told me he was definitely enjoying this awkward feast of awkward way too much.

“I’m going to bed,” I announced more to myself.

“Cassie, no, please, stay,” Freddie drawled.

James narrowed his eyes at him in response.

“Nope,” I said popping in the p as I started walking away.

“See you later, Cas-sea, baby!” I heard Freddie yelling after me.

I groaned and rolled my eyes. “Avada yourself,” I yelled back to the sounds of Freddie’s chuckles.

°~*◊*~°

Hogsmeade had changed a lot since the days that my mother was in school. I don’t think I’d call it gentrification because Hogsmeade didn’t need to be revitalized or renovated but it was modernized and expanded in some aspects. It started with the McLaggen family and the Macmillan family lobbying hard for the Ministry to allow a group of investors to add new shops and streets. It made sense – there were hundreds of kids, some from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang in addition to Hogwarts, with a percentage of their parents’ disposable income in their pockets just waiting to spend money in ridiculous new and “modern” ways. I had a feeling I would have preferred the simpler days of a few shops and mostly residential streets.

When I was a First Year, the movie theater was the “new big thing.” They showed Muggle movies but with a “Magical Twist.” That basically meant all of the movies were a “4-D” experience without the funky glasses. Ama dragged us to see any movie with “action!” And every single time the moving seats, the flashing lights, and the flying pieces of metal coming toward my head before disappearing gave me a giant headache.

Josh had a panic attack when “Hogmeade’s West End” theatre came to town at the beginning of our Second Year. During our Third Year, Josh insisted that we sneak into the theatre to see Rent. He spent intermission explaining the First Act of the musical to me. (Stop judging me! I was only thirteen for Merlin’s sake!)

Vicious Witches were in town this weekend. Four girls from different backgrounds with synchronized dance moves and amazing voices that were partially (or mostly?) auto-tuned. Famous for smash hits like You’re My Patroneus, girls and guys were buzzing with excitement about the concert.

“Aren’t you happy I made us get tickets so early?” Josh said with a smug look as he led the way down to Hogsmeade. I tried not to frown. I had honestly forgotten the fact that we had purchased tickets at the end of the school year, last year. But Josh was so excited that we were able to get some of the limited number of seats in the student section.

“Stop bragging, Joshua, it’s lame,” Ama said rolling her eyes but unable to hide a smile on her face.

I tried to give him a genuine smile as I wrapped my arms around my center. The 50-galleon ticket felt like it was burning a hole in my pocket. Ama’s mum was a famous designer in the Wizarding World and her father was a workaholic banker at Gringotts. Josh, of course, was born into Muggle Royalty. I knew they wouldn’t care if I made a comment about how much the tickets were but every time the words, I think I should sell my ticket or maybe, I should save some money instead of going to the concert were on my tongue, about to escape my mouth, I just felt incredibly queasy. I didn’t want them to worry about me and I think I was still holding out hope that my allowance from my Grandfather just got lost in the mail. The biggest thing stopping me: I didn’t want them offering to pay for me.

“This is going to be great,” I said nodding my head quickly.

“I’m so pumped!” Josh said with a little kick step. “You’re my patronus, the guardian of my heart!

“Can he get more embarrassing?” Ama asked smirking as she put an arm around me.

I let out a strangled laugh that sounded anything but natural.

Ama’s smirk slowly dropped as she took in my face. Josh kept walking and started recruiting other students to sing with him. “Are you okay?” Ama asked quietly.

“Fine,” I said quickly.

Ama looked ready to respond but someone cut her off. “Can I sit with you guys?”

Ama and I looked over to see Dom Weasley’s light blue eyes staring at us. Her lips were quivering and she looked ready to burst into tears.

“At the concert? Sure,” Ama said fishing out a tissue from her pocket. “We’re all in the student section so that shouldn’t be a problem. There aren’t any assigned seats there.”

“Ladies, we need to keep moving to get good-quality seats,” Josh complained as he approached us. “Time is...” he stopped talking as he stared open mouthed at Dom.

“Did something happen?” I asked quietly while trying to signal to Joshua to stop being a creepy weirdo.

Dom took a deep, shaky breath as we continued to walk to Hogmeade, veering toward a less crowded path. “Gracie found out about... us,” she stated with her lips trembling even more.

“You and Ollie?” Josh guessed finally closing his mouth but still staring at Dom.

Dom looked surprised, as her teary eyes got wide. “You didn’t tell them you saw us?”

Ama gasped and put her hand over her heart dramatically. “You saw them?” Josh and Ama asked at the same time.

I shrugged carelessly knowing that I would be in for some intense lecturing later about how “friends tell friends about juicy gossip” or “friends don’t let friends walk around not knowing about juicy gossip.”

“Gracie told Mimi,” Dom continued to explain. “Mimi kicked me out of her crew and is basically making all the Ravenclaw girls shun me. She’s saying that she was still dating Ollie when we were hooking up but that’s just not true.”

We paused in front of the concert hall on a side street. From the outside it looked just as small and quaint as the other shops on the street. The only thing giving away the fact that teenage debauchery would be occurring inside were the harsh, flashing unseasonal Christmas lights lining the roof and windows. And I guess the fact that it said “The Warbeck!” in bright, flashing lights was also a dead giveaway.

Josh patted Dom’s back sympathetically. “We don’t have to go in now. We are an hour early,” he said laughing uneasily clearly wanting to snag good seats.

“Yea,” Ama agreed. “Maybe we can grab a snack or something,” she said looking around the street.

Dom let out a sigh. “I wish Macmillan’s Milkshakes & Smoothies was still open,” she said motioning toward an abandoned building with plywood covering the entrances and windows to the left of the Warbeck.

My stomach tightened and my fingers felt numb as Ama and Josh gave me anxious looks. Mandy Macmillan was my father’s first attack victim after joining up with Avery and Goyle. Her attack was the hardest for me to comprehend. One night, my father was kissing me goodnight and literally the next night, my maman was trying to hide news photos of Ms. Macmillan’s unconscious and bruised body from me. Apparently, no one had rented or tried to take over Ms. Macmillan’s shop since before my First Year so the abandoned building served as a constant reminder of my father’s alleged deeds.

Josh cleared his throat loudly. “Actually why don’t we just chill in the concert hall. We’ll talk quietly so no one hears us,” he offered.

“Yea, we can grab overpriced sodas or something,” Ama said strutting determinedly to the entrance of the Warbeck. The inside of the Warbeck was massive with a large circular stage with auditorium style seating with balconies, galleries, and boxes. We made our way to the lower level seating section where we’d be seating.

Josh was bouncing up and down as we let him decide where to we’d sit. After moving three different times, we finally settled in some Josh-approved seats.

“So...” Josh said quietly, not to be distracted from some juicy gossip. “What’s Ollie doing about all of this... drama?” he asked waving his hand around as he addressed Dom.

“You don’t have to tell us if you feel uncomfortable,” I said giving Josh a pointed look.

“No, no, it’s fine. I’m happy to get this all out.” Dom frowned and covered her mouth with her hand a little. “He-he broke up with me. Well, I mean, I guess not because you actually have-have to be dating someone to break up with that someone. We had an argument after the Quidditch tryouts. He told me what happened so naturally I asked him if he stood up for you, Cass.”

I wrinkled my nose and sighed feeling sorry and a little shocked that my drama was causing a... breakup?

“But somehow that argument about tryouts turned into whether I was serious about our relationship which doesn’t make sense because he was the one that said he wanted to-to-to hold off on telling everyone so we took a break – a break from our non-existent relationship.”

She sniffed loudly before continuing. “And then, when Gracie started spreading that we were hooking up, apparently James confronted him and he-he promised James that he wouldn’t hook up with me-me-me again,” Dom said trying but failing to cover up the fact that she was now full on crying.

I looked around the concert hall gnawing on my bottom lip. I noticed that Ollie was sitting a few rows behind us by himself. He was staring in our direction. He looked like he wanted to jump out of his skin as he stared at Dom. His curly hair was in its usual man bun but with hairs sticking up all over. His green eyes had large bluish bags under them and his beard looked patchy and unkempt. He quickly looked away when his gaze met mine as he realized that I was watching him watch us.

“Well, forget him,” Ama stated with confidence and a sassy snap of her fingers. “This concert will be great!” she added taking the opposite tactic of Josh, clearly trying to distract Dom.

I nodded my head in agreement. “Yea, this is the perfect concert to belt out songs about your ex. Like, Stop Twisting My Wand,” I offered.

Josh hummed his agreement. “There’s also You’re a Chamber of Secrets and Lies.”

“Oh! And what about If Breaking Hearts Were a Crime, You’d Be in Azkaban for Life.” Ama added. “We are totally going to get our dance on,” she smiled encouragingly.

Dom let out a laugh. “Thanks guys, I’m actually really excited about this now. Ollie is so worried that we’re somehow going to end up like James and Pia but if he doesn’t have faith in what we have, why waste my time?”

“That’s exactly right!” Ama said giving Dom a thumbs up.

“Who’s Pia?” I asked as more and more students started to file into the concert hall.

Ama shrugged signaling that she didn’t really know while Dom scoffed and Josh’s eyes got wide.

“She’s the daughter of Professor Patel,” Josh stated. “I love that the family took on her mother’s name. How modern and just right, right? She’s also gorgeous with great style.”

Dom let out a laugh at Josh’s description. “Pia also has a strange relationship with James. I think if it were up to him, they’d be together in a heartbeat but Pia’s been putting him through a rollercoaster ride. Everyone thinks Mimi has James’s heart but it’s really Pia, his non-girlfriend girlfriend,” Dom said with an eyebrow raise. “She always pulls back when they are about to get serious.”

Ama put her legs up and made a face. “Well, good for her. James is a sexist maggot.”

I bit my lip and looked at Dom worriedly – Ama did just call her cousin a sexist maggot.

She shrugged reading my face looking bored and nonpulsed. “The Wotter females agree.”

We all laughed and I relaxed a little.

“It’s about to start!” Josh yelled standing up as the lights started to flicker. Ama stood up too and started cheering immediately.

I was ready to stand up but Dom tugged on my arm. “Is something wrong?” I asked her.

She looked down for a second. “Thank you.”

“For what?” I asked with an eyebrow raised as flashing lights began to shine around us.

“For being so nice. None of my ‘friends’ were,” Dom explained using air quotes.

“WE ARE THE VICIOUS WITHCES!”

I shrugged in response and gave her a smile. Dom was never mean to me so I saw no reason to be nothing but nice to her. “We’re cousins, remember?”

She smiled back at me and nodded.

“WELCOME TO OUR SHOW!”

The crowd went wild as the chords of My Love is Like a Snitch started playing.

°~*◊*~°

It was oddly nice outside for it being mid-November. Most of the student body was outside doing something. Ama and Josh somehow roped Dom into playing Frisbee with them. Instead of throwing a disc, I was reading another Nancy Drew book by the Great Lake. It was fairly relaxing. I was even able to tune out the rest of the student body laughing and horsing around.

That was until Mimi started shrieking.

“V! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU WOULD DO THIS! YOU HOOKED UP WITH STAN?!”

I sighed as the tension built up in my shoulders and there was ringing my ears. Not a freakin’ moment of peace at this Merlin forsaken school. Who the hell is Stan?

As I looked up, I saw Mimi loudly berating her number one sidekick (or doormat), Veronica. As shown by the Ollie-Dom situation (or the “Dollie Debacle” as it was tragically known around school grounds), Mimi forbade any of her friends from hooking up with her flings and ex-boyfriends. Mimi had many friends. Mimi had many ex-boyfriends. My super impressive detective skills were telling me that Stan is one of Mimi’s ex-boyfriends. You can call me Cassie Nancy Nott-Drew from now on, thank you very much.

I wondered if James cared that Mimi was yelling at V about one of her exes.

I looked over at the Potter Posse. They were sitting a few yards away from me on rocks by the bank of the Great Lake. Louis, unlike me, was not to be distracted from whatever book he was reading. I envied his stick-to-itiveness. Freddie was watching the argument between V and Mimi with creepy interest. He was leaning forward and eating chips and swiveling his head between V and Mimi. Chris looked uncomfortable as he stared ahead not really looking at anything, just sitting there and staring. Potter was laughing with a girl I recognized from before, the one with shiny ebony hair and blonde streaks.

I tilted my head observing them. This seemed strange. Did Mimi and James break up? When did they break up? Who was he talking to now? Were they dating? How was her hair so shiny? Why was she touching his arm so much?

Wait. Why did I care? But seriously, why in Merlin’s long, white beard did I give a flying snitch about Potter?

I shook my head trying to not spy on James but then I noticed he had stopped talking to Mystery Girl and was now staring in my direction. His hazel gaze was trained on me as I stared back frozen, completely mortified by the fact that I had clearly been caught being a creepy person. He quirked a single eyebrow as we continued to stare at each other.

“Potter’s cute but do you want that to happen to you?” I heard Addie’s voice saying. I turned my head and Addie was sitting next to me gesturing toward Mimi who was still yelling at V.

I scoffed. “I think I’d rather be in a relationship with the Giant Squid that they got rid of last year,” I responded.

“Then why are you blushing?” she asked pointing at my cheeks with an annoying all-knowing smirk on her face.

I turned away from her and looked back at the spectacle. “HOW COULD YOU?! I LOVED STAN,” Mimi screamed as she pushed V into the Great Lake.

Addie scoffed and I could practically hear her eye roll. “How barbaric…” she started saying but I tuned my sister out. I couldn’t take my eyes off of where Veronica had fallen in the water. For some odd reason, I felt like something was off. I had this tight feeling in the pit of my stomach that she was in some sort of danger. Something just looked completely off about V's face as she was falling into the water. She looked so panicked. Extremely panicked.

I edged forward on all fours and looked around to see if anyone else was concerned. Everyone’s attention seemed to be focused on Mimi’s shrieking at James and Mystery Girl.

I looked back at the spot where V had fallen in. She still had not come up yet. How much time had she spent under the water?

“Shit Ade,” I said while standing up and pulling off my socks and shoes.

She looked up at with confusion etched all over her face as I was taking off my jumper. “What’s wrong? Why are you taking off your clothes?”

“She can’t swim!” I yelled as I ran toward the lake barefoot. Once I got to the bank, I dove in headfirst.

The water was freezing and oddly grimy but I did my best to ignore it. The Great Lake was not as scary as it used to be. At some point, a professor with an iota of common sense decided it was not a good idea to have a giant squid in a lake where school children hang around. They moved the squid and the grindylows but there were still strange some creatures in the Lake. I dodged a couple of strange looking fish and tried to swim as fast as I could toward the spot where V was pushed in.

After swimming around for what seemed like forever, I found V struggling to get loose from a piece of moving seaweed. I tried to signal for her to calm down but she continued to struggle. After dodging a few fervent kicks, I was able to get the piece of seaweed loose from her trainers but by that time her body seemed to have gone limp. I circled my arms around her waist and pulled her toward the surface of the lake. V was by no means heavy but I’m fairly short with minimum muscles so it was a feat. I thought about letting her go just for a moment to get a quick gasp of air but I refused. I couldn’t I decided. I wouldn’t forgive myself if something happened to her. I swam toward the surface feeling a new wave of determination. It felt like I was not making any progress, like I was just swimming in place but I kept telling myself that could not be true as I tried to stop myself from panicking. I was almost there...

“Over here Cassie!” I heard my sister yell as I broke through the surface with V's body. I swam toward my sister’s voice with V in tow. When we reached the bank, Addie helped me pull V out of the lake.

“We need to check her pulse,” I heard Josh saying from somewhere close. I was bent over and trying to catch my breath. Breath, I kept saying to myself. Just breath.

“I can’t feel it! Ama went to get Abbott and McGonagall but what if she’s not back in time,” Josh was now screaming frantically and waving his arms around.

I pushed Josh out of the way and kneeled on V's side. Addie bent down on her opposite side. We both pulled out our wands.

Addie looked at me with a harsh stare. “I know you’re tired but deep breath. Just like how father taught us?”

I took a deep breath, looked back at Addie, and nodded trying to calm myself. “Just like how he taught us.”

Your father didn’t find it necessary to teach you survival skills for these types of situations when you were 5 years old? You know, before he was on the run for allegedly committing various crimes? No? Lucky you. Or I guess lucky for V in this situation.

Addie pointed her wand at V's chest while murmuring something under her breath. As she lifted the wand, I pointed mine toward V's mouth reciting a spell that would blow oxygen into her lungs through her mouth. I lifted my wand after a few moments and Addie pointed it at her chest again. I then repeated my part of the spell while pointing it at her mouth again. Half way through my spell, V started spluttering and spitting out water.

“Oh, thank Merlin,” Addie muttered while rubbing her temples as her face broke out into a slight smile.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes.

I heard V coughing. “EW… NOTT… SISTERS?” she spluttered.

My eyes shot open and Addie’s face went hard instantly. “Excuse you, bitch?” Addie said while raising an eyebrow.

“Stay away from me,” V muttered while standing up quickly and walking away in all of her soaked and muddy clothes.

I was shocked for a moment but I could not help myself from screaming after her. “Oh what was that?” I yelled. “Thank you for saving your pathetic excuse of a life? YOU’RE WELCOME!” I screamed while flicking my wet and muddied hair over my shoulder.

I reclined on the grass again and noticed the massive audience we had attracted. It seemed like more than half the school was staring at us or after V with bewildered and shocked expressions on their faces.

Probably noticing the same thing, Addie got up gracefully and brushed the dirt off of her clothes. “You okay?” she asked pointing toward me.

I nodded my head still out of breath from the swimming and then the yelling.

“Good, but next time Cassie?” she started.

I just raised an eyebrow in response.

"You let that ungrateful bitch drown.”

With that, my sister pushed through the crowd as I stared after her. I noticed that Jay Stretton followed her with a look of concern on his face. I frowned. Was that still a thing? How did I, her favorite and only sister, not know that that was still a thing? Addie and I definitely needed to discuss the proper etiquette in terms of letting each other know about...

Josh cleared his throat. I looked over at him and he was offering me his grey sweatshirt.

I shook my head. “I’m not that cold,” I responded.

“You’re wearing a white t-shirt,” he replied silently. I looked down slowly. Sure enough, you could see my bright blue bra through my thin white undershirt. At least I did not wear the bright pink one with green polka dots I thought to myself.

At this point in my life, the small victories meant everything.

I sighed while grabbing Josh’s sweatshirt. “Thanks,” I muttered. I wanted to pass out in a heap on the grass but it seemed like the worse plan of action as half the school was still looking at me with collective expressions of shock and awe.

As if he were reading my mind, Josh sprung up and offered me a hand. I took it and he pulled me up. I felt wobbly and light-headed but I ignored it as I pushed through the crowd and toward the castle.

Josh put a comforting arm around me and I leaned on him for support. “Cass, I thought you and Ama were scary but your sister’s a maniac.”

°~*◊*~°

A/N:
Going back to work after a long break sucks. I’m also not feeling very well so I’m not entirely sure if I’ll still like this chapter in a week when I’m off medication and can think clearly again lol

I do have to shout out to my sister again – she told me her lifeguard war story that inspired the Great Lake scene. Her story was obviously much less dramatic but involved an accidental fist in her face, which made me laugh hysterically. (Yup. I’m a terrible sister.)

We also had an hour-long “discussion” about whether or not Cassie would actually help Freddie (and indirectly James!).

Would love to know what you-all think about this one? :)

[The song names and lyrics here are all made up.]


A/N:

1/17/2017:
Holy shit. I feel so shocked, underserving, and overwhelmed by the Dobby nominations. You-all have no idea how honored I feel that someone would think of my story/me for any nomination. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I did get some feedback that made me nervous that my story is too much like others. I'm hoping that I'm just guilty of using a lot of cliches and tropes - not that I'm taking the ideas of others. Authors/readers, let me know if this is a concern.

I won’t bother you-all with another A/N below so as always please let me know your thoughts.

°~*◊*~°
NOTT SISTERS TRY TO KILL MUGGLE-BORN WITCH?

I walked into the Great Hall and plopped down across from Josh and Ama and sat next to Dom.

“You’re not allowed to read the Prophet today,” Ama said while pointing a fork at me and using her “stern” voice.

I rolled my eyes and shrugged. “I already,” I sneezed, “…did.”

“Oh Merlin,” Josh exclaimed dramatically while spreading his arms apart. “She read the Prophet AND she’s getting sick?”

Ama put a hand over her heart. “Our lives are over!”

Dom giggled at their antics. Traitor.

I narrowed my eyes at my so-called friends. “I’m not…” I sneezed, “…getting sick.” I closed my eyes and started rubbing my temples.

“Are you bothered by what the Prophet wrote?” I heard someone asking me. I sighed. Was someone really going to tease me now? Before I even got real food in me? I slowly opened my eyes and saw Grayson Goyle with a look of concern on his face.

I shook my head. I sneezed. “No, not bothered,” I responded with a weak smile looking at my friends. Ama was staring at him with a clearly suspicious look on her face as she gaped at him. Josh looked at me making odd faces and not so subtle gestures basically trying to communicate – what the fuck is Grayson Goyle doing sitting with us?

“Hi, I’m Dom,” Dom said with a polite and normal smile on her face.

Dom is my only friend from now on.

Grayson, clearly pretending to be oblivious to my embarrassing friends, nodded a greeting to everyone.

“At least this time he put a question mark at the end,” Grayson said pointing to the paper trying to make a joke. “Usually, he just prints bullshit with no concern for the truth whatsoever. He’s taking... baby steps.”

I nodded my head in agreement and sneezed again. Grayson looked at me with his eyebrows furrowed as he pulled out a small pack of tissues and offered them to me with an easy smile. “Are you okay?” he asked rubbing my back. It actually felt really comforting.

Ama started making a weird whining sound while Josh’s lower lip hung open slack.

I gave them both swift kicks under the table.

“OW,” Ama yelled while Josh started silently weeping.

“Don’t feel sorry for her,” Ama said to Grayson giving me some heavy side-eye. “We told her to go to the Hospital Wing yesterday and she refused.”

Thankful that at least one of my best friends was acting like a normal human being, I tried to retort but sneezed instead.

Josh nodded his head in agreement. “You deserve whatever sickness you picked up from the Great Lake. Madam Abbott probably could have given you something to prevent it!”

Dom, being the angel that she is, passed me a cup of steaming tea instead of making fun of me.

Grayson frowned as he looked at me and continued to rub my back. “You should really go to the Hospital Wing.”

Dom nodded her agreement. “At least get some rest.”

Ama and Josh both scoffed like that was the most ridiculous suggestion they ever heard. “She won’t,” Josh said while sighing and shaking his head in disappointment at me.

Dom looked confused. “Why not?”

“Quidditch,” Josh and Ama muttered at the same time.

Grayson looked at me with eyebrows raised as he stopped rubbing my back. “You’re still going?”

I shrugged and sneezed.

“She’s a fanatic,” Ama explained while shaking her head. “She’s not missing Gryffindor v. Slytherin.”

I nodded my head afraid I’d somehow sneeze if I tried to talk again.

“Are you going?” I asked Dom quietly.

Dom shook her head but looked kind of hopeful for a change. “I actually met someone at the concert last week. I think I’m going to try to hang out with him,” she said with a small smile on her face.

“I’ll see you around, Cassie,” Grayson said while smiling and getting up to leave. “Nice meeting you guys,” he said nodding to my friends.

“You too,” Dom said. Josh awkwardly waved and Ama started making a humming sound.

“I have to go too. Tay wants to hang out before my date but can only do so in secret,” Dom said before rolling her eyes and muttering about “crazy, spineless friends.”

After Dom left, I sipped on my tea observing the decorations of the Great Hall. I frowned realizing that Gryffindor was currently behind Ravenclaw in terms of House Points. I looked down staring at the craftsmanship of the table...

“Seriously?” I heard Ama’s hiss.

I sighed dropping my failed plan to delay my inevitable chastising and looked up at my friends. It was odd how similar their facial expressions looked. Josh and Ama’s lips were both in thin lines. They were both staring at me with raised eyebrows.

“What?” I said swallowing.

They both just continued to stare at me.

“Well,” I said looking at my watch and standing up. “We should really get going.”

They both crossed their arms at the same time and narrowed their eyes.

I rolled my eyes and threw up my arms. “I’ll tell you on the way to the Pitch,” I said motioning toward the door.

°~*◊*~°
Since being back at school, I had been looking for an opportunity to just sit out in the rain. Usually, I had to be in class or studying or there was thunder and lightening. But today, when I’m sick and sitting next to my crazy friends, it’s raining. Because, of course it would be. The rain was not even coming down that hard but every time I sneezed Josh or Ama would demand that I wear another piece of their clothing. I ended up wearing three Gryffindor scarves, two cloaks, one sweater and two sets of gloves.

“So you’re half-dating the brother of your sworn enemy?” Josh asked looking thoughtful as he stared out into space. On the way to the Pitch I had filled them in on all the insignificant and totally normal details about my acquaintance-ship with Grayson.

“Lower your voice,” I hissed looking around at the students sitting near us. “I am not...” I sneezed. “...dating him.”

Josh grabbed a hat from on top of a First Year’s head and stuck it on mine head.

I looked back at him horrified as he shrugged at the boy who was now crying.

“You’re half-dating him,” Ama agreed nodding her head completely ignoring the fact that Josh made a child cry. “You’ve been on running dates like everyday, apparently.”

“Without telling your best friends,” Josh added giving me a look.

“Are you sure he doesn’t want something?” Ama asked as she adjusted her own hat and blew on her hands. “Isn’t it a little suspicious that he started half-dating you now?”

I shrugged my shoulders noticing that any fears I had toward Grayson had dissipated. “No, I trust him,” I said while nodding my head.

“Gosh, your life really is a spectacle,” Ama mused with a big grin on her face.

I scoffed and started shaking my head in disagreement.

“Falling in lurveeee with your enemy’s brother? It’s really like a trashy, cliché romance novel,” Josh agreed nodding his head vigorously.

“I know, right? Who would come up with this stuff?” Ama asked with a smirk on her face.

I scowled at my friends before watching Madam Bell walk out with the Quidditch case in her hands. My body went rigid and I sat up straight. My stomach was churning and my limbs were buzzing with excitement and nervousness. I really wanted to know what Freddie was going to do. A part of me hoped he trusted me enough to listen to me even though that meant going against what his captain was telling him to do. The other part of me hoped that Freddie didn’t listen because I would completely blame myself if the strategy didn’t work out. Contrary to popular belief (aka the rumor mill), I did want to see Gryffindor win. My House may not like me very much but I did have at least an ounce of pride for Gryffindor.

“Good afternoon, folks,” Adam Finnigan, a 5th year Hufflepuff announced from the commentator’s stand. “Adam Finnigan here with Levi Jordan, say hi Levi!”

“Hi Levi!” The crowd chuckled at Levi’s terrible joke while I nudged Ama and gave her a wink.

She shushed me while Josh gave me a knowing look.

“What’s up folks, Levi Jordan here!”

“Boy do we have a game for you, right Levi?”

“Oh yes, Adam, the Quidditch season is opening up on such a dramatic note with Slytherin facing off against Gryffindor!”

“Speaking of drama, we’ve got to take a quick minute to talk about the drama for both of these teams, am I right Levi?”

“Indeed, Adam, at the beginning of the year Lance Goyle and Alex Flint were kicked off the team as Beaters for Slytherin. I don’t know the whole story but I’m told the story involves Cassie Nott saving Lily Potter!”

I froze at the mention of my name. The Slytherin students in the stands across from me stomped their feet and booed.

Adam chuckled clearly enjoying the drama. “And let’s not forget the drama surrounding the Gryffindor tryouts, Levi. I heard that James Potter, captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team had quite the argument with Cassie.”

I slid low in my seat as the people around me turned to look at me. Ama snapped her fingers in front of a few faces and scowled. “Can we help you with something?”

Josh also got in on the fun. “Yea, can we help you with something?” Josh snapped. Everyone slowly turned back around.

“Thanks,” I muttered to my friends as they high-fived each other.

“You know, Adam,” Levi continued, “that Cassie Nott has been making a lot of waves this year.” I groaned feeling my face heating up. Will the torture ever stop? “I mean, yesterday I saw her dive into the lake and pull out Veronica Riberio! She saved her life! She’s a hero!”

I wondered how much of his glowing opinion of me was influenced by his crush on my best friend. Welp, either way, this guy should definitely be dating Ama. “You should definitely date this boy, Ama,” I whispered to her.

Josh nodded his head in agreement as Ama stuck her tongue out at us.

“I saw it too, Levi! And the Daily Prophet printed quite the story about…” Annnddd… the moment’s gone.

“Move on, boys,” McGonagall cut in.

I straightened up in my chair. “About time,” I muttered. Then I sneezed. This time, Ama politely asked a Fifth Year for some gloves. I thought about protesting but I just did not have the energy. I sighed and put another set of gloves over my other gloves.

“Right, right so... I guess we should announce the team players then, yes?”

“Right you are, Levi! Forrrr Slytherin we have King… Potter, Al Potter, that is… and Overcliff as Chasers!… We have Moore… and Zabini as Beaters!… Malfoy as Seeker!…and Lance Hanley as Keeper and Cap-taaaaaaaain of the team!”

I leaned forward in my seat and watched as the Slytherin team flew around the pitch as their names were called. The Slytherin students shouted, cheered, and stomped as their team was announced. I politely clapped when Al’s name was called. Ama gave me a look. I shrugged. Al could be a ridiculous flirt but he was nothing but nice to me.

“And fooooooooorrrrrr the Gryffindor team,” Levi announced, “We have Thomas… and Spinnet as Chasers!… We have Weasley… and Wood as Beaters!… Carl McLaggen as Seeker!… Chris McLaggen as Keeper!…and Jaaammmesss Pottttter as Chaser and Cap-taaaaaaaaaain of the team!”

The crowd went absolutely wild as the Gryffindor team was announced. They stood up and started jumping up and down. James, of course, looked annoyingly handsome and fit on a broom. It seemed like flying came to him as easy as walking as he zoomed and zipped around in the air.

When Madam Bell called them to the center of the Pitch, James and Hanley sneered at each other instead of shaking hands like they were supposed to.

I rolled my eyes. Men. Amirite?

The players then took their positions.

Madam Bell blew her whistle and released the balls. And the game was on…

“And Potter’s got the Quaffle!”

“Al Potter that is!”

“Right you are, Levi, Al Potter’s got the Quaffle and he passes it back to King, King passes it to Overcliff, Overcliff is heading toward the goal posts…”

“Denied, folks! Freddie Weasley hits a Bludger knocking the Quaffle out of Overcliff’s hands!”

I frowned and stretched out my fingers a little. Maybe Freddie wasn’t going with my strategy?

“James Potter with the Quaffle! He passes it to Thomas, Thomas to Spinnet, Spinnet back to Potter. Potter fakes left and shoots it right… GOOOOOOOAL! 10-0 Gryffindor!”

The Gryffindor fans went crazy and started chanting “Pot-ter! Pot-ter! Pot-ter!”

“Now King has the Quaffle! King to Overcliff, Overcliff back to King, King to Pott- Al Potter. Oh wait, but Wood’s got the Bludger... oh but it’s aimed at... Malfoy? Uhhh... Potter shoots McLaggen goes for the save and…. Al Potter scores! GOOOOOOOOOAL 10-10!”

“James Potter with the Quaffle—Oh! But, it’s stolen by his little brother before he can get the shot off!”

“Al, should watch out because Freddie has a Bludger!”

“And so does Ollie!”

I held my breath wondering what Freddie and Ollie would do.

“And Al Potter’s still heading toward the goalposts... as the Bludgers are both hit toward Scorpius?”

“AL POTTER SCORES! 20-10, folks!”

So they were doing it, they were actually doing it. My stomach felt tight as I looked up at Scorpius wobbling. He was definitely off-balance, he was clearly confused and off his game. I bit my lip and fidgeted with one of my many scarves.

The Potter boys were a well-oiled opposing scoring machine. Gryffindor would normally have an edge because Freddie and Ollie were great Beaters. This, compounded with the fact that Slytherin was using its second string Beaters, meant that Gryffindor really did control every Bludger. I started doubting myself a little, replaying James’s strategy in my head. Maybe if Ollie and Freddie each focused on different chasers, Gryffindor could have won the game. Or maybe if they both focused on Al, they would have handicapped Slytherin enough to win the game.

James was clearly mad. He wasted two timeouts just to yell at Ollie and Freddie. The fact that his teammates weren’t listening to him definitely threw him off his game. Another factor that I didn’t consider.

After seventy-five minutes, the score was 220-280 with Slytherin in the lead.

“…Al Potter scores again! 220-290, Slytherin,” I heard Levi announcing as I watched the Quaffle thrown into the left side hoop by Al’s rocket arm.

“It’s so crazy out here folks, have you ever seen a game where all the Bludgers are hit out of play?”

“That’s why we’ve got such a high scoring game, folks! Oh, and Spinnet scores this one! 230-290, Slytherin!”

I looked over at Scorpius and he was still wobbling and dodging Bludgers. He was forced to circle the outskirts of the Pitch as he dodged the constant Bludgers coming at him.

I spotted a glimmer of gold a little above the goalposts on the Slytherin side of the Pitch. The Snitch. I held my breath as I looked for Carl. This was the second time I spotted the Snitch. The first time, Carl seemed distracted and nervous. I prayed to Merlin that he was finally more comfortable, in some type of rhythm.

Carl was in the center of the Pitch. He looked a little green as he flew jerkily. My fists clenched as he turned toward the goalposts.

“…and Hanley blocks James’s shot!”

Malfoy was now looking in the direction of where I spotted the Snitch. “Come on, Carl,” I muttered under my breath. Before Malfoy could react, Freddie hit a Bludger in his direction causing Malfoy to soar in the opposite direction of the Snitch.

“James shoots… and scores! 240-290, Sly… Oh? OH! It looks like McLaggen sees the Snitch! Carl McLaggen!”

“Oh man, Levi! Malfoy’s trying to avoid another Bludger from Ollie!”

“OH man, and Ollie connects, that’s the eleventh hit that Malfoy’s taken this game! That’s going to leave a mark!”

“Will Malfoy be able to catch up to McLaggen? Al Potter just scored! 240-300, Slytherin!”

“McLaggen’s so close! Malfoy’s moving toward him but he’s trying to dodge another Bludger from Freddie Weasley. McLaggen dives and… and … and he’s caught it folks! McLaggen has caught the Snitch! Carl McLaggen has caught the Snitch!”

Everyone around me went absolutely wild. I sat still barely comprehending that Ama and Josh were getting up to rush the field with the rest of the students around me.

I let out a deep breath I didn’t know I was holding while I buried my head in my hands.

“Gryffindor wins! 390-300! James Potter must be so happy right now!”

I looked up and tried to spot James among the mass of red and gold that was rushing onto the Pitch. I spotted Freddie first. He was looking toward me, his arm was outstretched and he was pointing toward me. No. He was pointing at me.

“Well, we will see you next time for the Hufflepuff vs. Ravenclaw game folks!”

Standing next to Freddie was James Potter. He was looking in my direction with his eyebrows furrowed. He was ignoring the students jumping up and down around him and trying to talk to him. He squinted his eyes at me before turning on his heels and walking toward the locker room.

I sneezed.


°~*◊*~°

Sick.

I’m sick.

I’m so sick.

I’m so frickin’ sick.

I had been in bed for a week. After Gryffindor's win, I finally went to the Hospital Wing. Madam Abbott chastised me repeatedly for not seeing her sooner. Way to kick a girl while she was down, and coughing, and wheezing, and vomiting! But unlike Madam Pomfrey from First Year, Madam Abbott allowed some students to get rid of their sicknesses and ailments in the comfort of their own beds if possible. Luckily for my dorm mates and me, I was not contagious.

I rolled out of bed on the 7th day around noon or maybe 1 PM or possibly 3 PM? Time didn’t make sense at the moment. Everything felt like it was spinning and slightly blurry as I took careful and deliberate steps toward the bathroom. I took solace in the fact that my legs felt slightly less wobbly compared to the beginning of the week as I got my exercise for the day.

I took a quick shower, meaning I just stood under water that somehow felt both hot and cold for an unknown period of time while trying not to pass out. I then downed a vial of potion that Madam Abbott had given me to help me sleep through the worse of my sickness. She advised me to sleep immediately after taking it because the potion had “strange” side effects if I stayed awake.

No problem on that front!

I was dragging my feet to leave the bathroom when I heard voices in my dorm room. I stopped in my tracks feeling goosebumps and chills all over my arms and legs. I told Ama she did not have to eat lunch with me today and the other girls in my dorm did not really hang out here during my sickness unless absolutely necessary. I was just a tiny bit crappy when sick. (Honestly asking someone to breath quieter doesn’t seem like such an imposition to me.)

“Are you sure she’s in here?”

“Yea, I’m positive. She’s in the bathroom.”

Hold on.

Time out.

Hang up the Wizphone and re-dial.

Undo the spell then recast it.

Those voices sounded oddly deep for being in the girls’ dorm room. Would Josh try to visit me? No. Don’t think so. He wore a mask the last time he visited me because he thought I was infected with the “Plague”– “Do you know how many of my ancestors died from the Plague?” he cried before vowing never to come near me again and dashing out of the room like a huge divo.

Conclusion: The guys (or girl with a deep voice) was not Josh.

I nodded my head impressed with my deduction skills. Look at me go. Cassie Nancy Drew Nott.

My eyes went wide as I stared at the closed door. I ducked down and held my breath feeling a wave of fear wash over me.

Don’t judge me! Don’t act like you wouldn’t be ducking too!

I swear this is what everyone does in the scary movies.

This is what they should do at least.

I looked around the bathroom and spotted the vial of potion.

Ah, yes, hallucination. That’s the answer. I was just hallucinating. That must be a strange side effect.

I picked myself up from off the floor vowing that no one would ever hear about the time I hid in the bathroom from phantom monsters. I walked out of the bathroom with a smile ready to fall into my warm, fluffy, and comfortable cloud I called my bed.

I froze.

I noticed his hair first – at this angle, with this lighting, it didn’t look jet-black. It looked really dark brown. Dark brown with tints of other colors mixed in. They were subtle. Natural highlights and lowlights one would only notice if the light was hitting his hair just right. The wet strands looked more disheveled than usual begging for... someone to run their hands through it.

I swallowed hard as my eyes traveled down to his face – hazel eyes wide, with his nose flared, as he looked my body open and down. He was wearing a practice jersey covered in a light dusting of dirt.

I blinked twice trying to fully comprehend the scene. He was standing a few feet away but instead of the flat planes and harsh angles he normally was – his edges looked blurry. Behind him were Freddie Weasley and Ollie Wood, also looking blurring and disheveled yet clean. Behind them, I could make out Frank Thomas, Adam Spinnet, and Chris McLaggen.

They also seemed to be frozen. Frozen and blurry figures were standing in front of me. I could tell that their eyes were looking me up and down.

Someone made a low whistling sound.

Someone else muttered, “Looking good.”

That seemed to snap James out of whatever trance he was in as his tan cheeks started to turn a faint red color – my fingers tickled with the urge to touch his blush. He cleared his throat and looked ready to open his mouth. I stepped toward him to make sure I could hear what he was saying.

“Why are you half-naked, Nott?”

I took a step back. That was... unexpected.

Out of all of the things, I was expecting James Potter to say to me today, in this moment. That was definitely not it.

I looked down at my body.

Sure enough, I was wearing faded and shrunken pajama shorts from Fourth Year and a white sports bra.

I blinked my eyes. Things were getting even blurrier around me. My body felt so foreign to me. Like it wasn’t mine, like it didn’t belong to me.

Suddenly, it clicked again.

“I’m hallucinating!” I declared as if I were Isaac Newton when the infamous apple fell from the tree or as if I were Ama discovering a new nail polish color that she just “had” to have.

James raised an eyebrow while the rest of the team started muttering behind him. “You’re not hallucinating,” he stated slowly and with a look on his face that told me he thought I belonged in the Janus Thickey Ward at St. Mungo’s.

I smirked slowly putting things together in my head. “My hallucination would say that wouldn’t it? But why would I hallucinate about the Quidditch team that’s so odd,” I remarked while rubbing my temples wondering if my brain was broken.

Stupid medication. Making me hallucinate about the stupid Quidditch team.

“Because we’re so good-looking?” Spinnet offered from the back while crossing his arms.

I shook my head and squinted. “No, no, I could think up much better looking fantasies than this,” I said waving dismissively toward the team. “And plus, I simply detest... most of you,” I said giving Freddie a wink.

Freddie started laughing while the rest of them started protesting.

“Cass, never try to wink again,” Freddie said between chuckles leaning against a wall. “It looks like you’re having a seizure.”

I frowned at him. “I change my mind, I hate all of you,” I declared sticking my tongue out at Freddie.

Now they were all protesting.

“You don’t even know me!”

“We’re potions partners!”

“I’m a nice guy!”

“My mother thinks I’m grand!”

“Guys, shut up,” Potter snapped clearly annoyed. “Nott, you’re not hallucinating, please put something on,” he pleaded with wide eyes. “Why are you half-naked?”

I squinted at him. It clicked again as I cocked my hip. “Ahh, I know this is a hallucination because no one would have the audacity to come to my room... uninvited… and ask me… why I’m half-naked… in my own room.”

I smirked thoroughly satisfied with my logical reasoning skills. Since this was a hallucination, I decided I had a clear path to walk through Potter to get to my bed.

As I started walking toward him, Potter’s face went completely red. He gulped and took a large step back. “Nott, what are you doing?”

“For the record Potter, I hate when people call me by my last name. As a figment of my imagination, you should know that. And I’m walking to my… OW!” As I tried to walk through Potter, I bumped into his very solid frame. He steadied me and then let go quickly as if touching me had burnt him.

“Holy Fuckin’ Merlin! This is not a hallucination? This is not a hallucination! This is not a hallucination? This is not a hallucination!” I yelled motioning toward Potter and his team having a full on panic attack.

Freddie let out a loud bark of laughter leaning forward to observe my face. “Why would you actually think you were hallucinating?” he asked with an expression that was telling me he was enjoying this entirely too much.

“Because I just took some strong medicine with... with side effects. I don’t know what side effects I kinda zoned out when Madam Abbott was telling me about the side effects which is probably not good since apparently it’s a rather strong medication but I take it and I just sleep. Maybe that’s one of the side effects. I think I’m saying ‘side effects’ too much. It’s starting to sound odd to me. Side effects. Side effects. Side effects. Say that ten times in a row! Gah sleep is just so wonderful, isn’t it… WAIT! How did you even get in here?” I rambled on feeling the panic rising from the pit of my stomach, as my limbs felt heavy and numb at the same time.

Potter stepped back from me. “We flew in through the window,” he said motioning toward the open window behind him.

Things were starting to get blurry again. “Why are you here?” I asked realizing how broad James’s shoulders were and how his arm muscles seemed to ripple with every motion he made. I then looked around noticing how muscular and tall all six of the guys were. I noticed that Chris had a grimace on his face. That’s when a large, 50-foot wave of alarm, terror, and horror came crashing down on me.

“OH MAH MERLIN, YOU LOT ARE HERE TO KILL ME!”

There was a collective murmuring as I started gasping heavily but it felt like I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t get oxygen to make it to my lungs. “Ooooh-kay,” Potter stated slowly, “calm down, we aren’t going to kill you.”

I started to calm down. It felt like I could breath again. My vision was getting clearer again. But, then I looked at the Beater bats that Freddie and Ollie were holding lazily in their hands. This was like a scene from the Merlinfather.

“YOU WANT TO KIDNAP ME!” I started pacing. I needed to think. I think best when I pace. So pace. Pace. Pace! PACE AND THINK! "Shit! How do you handle a kidnapping situation? Well why do people kidnap, Cassie? For money? People kidnap for money! Oh well this is easy then.” I turned back toward the group. They all looked at me with varying levels and degrees of shock and awe.

“Look, here’s why kidnapping me is a bad idea…”

“We don’t want to kidnap you,” a blurry looking Thomas tried to assure me. “We’re here to...”

I waved him off. “That’s what all kidnappers say. I know what you-all are thinking: kidnap me and get some of the Nott fortune but let me be real with you, Grandfather Nott will not pay for me. I think my grandparents would revel in the attention. They could be all like ‘Oh my goodness, our granddaughter is gone’ with some fake tears. He might pay for Addie. Oh shit, please don’t kidnap Ade… but if you do kidnap Addie don’t tell her I gave her away like this. She’d kill me.”

“Seriously! This is who you want? And you lot agree to this? She’s mental!” Chris cried while throwing his hands up in the air.

“Damn, they do ‘want’ me,” I muttered to myself nodding my head slowly.

“Mate, she’s obviously sick and heavily medicated,” Freddie responded while rolling his eyes. “Even so, I bet she could play better than your twerp of a brother.”

“We won the stupid game, will you get over yourself!”

McLaggen was now yelling. It made me very nervous.

“Yea! No thanks to either McLaggen!” Freddie shouted back.

“We voted and made a decision so shut the fuck up, both of you,” Ollie chimed in.

I took a step back realizing that tensions were high and emotions were raw. And, it was all because of me somehow! My stomach felt tight and my palms felt sweaty. I needed a plan before my vision got blurry again.

“Hmmm, can I take six guys down by myself?” I asked myself while squinting at the lot in front of me sizing them up. They all suddenly backed away slowly. My eyes locked with James. “I could take out their leader,” I said while narrowing my eyes on James and assessing how broad his shoulders were, how big his muscles were, and how tall he actually was. My mouth felt dry though as I realized that I didn’t have a wand. I took a deep breath trying to remember all the non-magical self-defense moves I knew.

I knew... zero.

Note to self: If I make it out of here alive, LEARN NON-MAGICAL SELF-DEFENSE MOVES!

“How do I not know any non-magical self-defense moves?” I asked looking up at Potter.

He looked back at me with wide eyes on his face.

I looked him up and down trying to remember if my maman taught be anything about Muggle fighting.

"Go for the face! maman said. Or was it go for the nose? Go for the eyeballs?"

At this point, Freddie was on the floor gasping for air because he was crying of laughter. That's right, crying.

I frowned and threw my hands up. "What can I go for that would hurt the most?"

“NO!” Potter was yelling catching onto my plan before I could put it into motion... because I was talking out loud. He shifted his body away from me. “Nott… I mean Cass, Cassie… please, calm down. This was obviously a bad idea. We just wanted to talk to you but you’ve been missing from the Great Hall and classes all week and we thought you were avoiding us. We thought we could corner you here,” James explained slowly emphasizing every syllable.

I relaxed feeling my unease dissipate. “Okay, okay, okay, that makes sense I think…?” I panicked again. "But wait, any normal group of human beings would send an owl with a note. Who ‘corners’ someone in her bedroom? Murderers. Kidnappers.” I gasped, “Assault…”

“Nope, no, no, no, nope, I’m leaving,” Thomas declared.

“Seriously?” Potter responded looking at Thomas with frustration. “We haven’t even asked her yet! We need to have this conversation if the season’s going to work!”

Thomas was still mounting his broom. “Guys, she might be heavily medicated and sick but she’s got a valid point. We are six guys that flew into her bedroom window uninvited and started ogling her half naked body. I’m out of here.”

“But what are we supposed to do about the next game?” Ollie groaned. “We need her to strategize… practices… if… Cup… Nott... father... explanation...”

Everything started getting really blurry and it seemed like everyone was starting to speak a foreign language that I didn’t recognize.

“…Practice…”

“…Carl…"

"…McLaggen…”

“…could ask her to put on clothes again?”

“... not a replacement…”

“...her father...”

“...her strategy...”

“...attack...”

“Wait, Cassie, are you okay?” I heard Potter’s voice ask really close to my ear. My eyes fluttered as I felt his hot breath on my face. It smelled minty. Like gum.

“Can I have some gum?” I asked. Potter gave me a strange look in response like he didn’t understand what I was saying.

I tried to steady myself but everything just went blurry and then black and then blurry again.

"Can I have some gum?" I tried asking again as his minty breath continued to assault my senses.

I felt like I was falling, falling, falling. I expected to hit the hard floor, the ground maybe, or to fall forever but instead I felt something warm and sturdy not hard. I smelled chopped firewood with a hint of broom polish before everything went black and stayed black.

°~*◊*~°

I rubbed against something solid but pleasing and comforting at the same time. My toes curled with utter and complete delight feeling like I could stay like this forever. I heard someone’s breath hitch as my arms wrapped tighter around whatever I was holding.

I heard something that sounded oddly like Addie’s voice. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m still trying to comprehend the stupidity of you and your team. You flew into my sister’s room window to talk to her?”

I heard someone clearing his throat. “Yes,” I heard James's voice saying quietly. He sounded out of breath as the words came out raspy. I felt the thing I was laying against vibrating slightly.

“And then you saw her half-naked, sick, and heavily medicated?”

“Yes,” I heard him say again. The slight vibration returned. I rubbed up against whatever I was laying on more. This felt kinda nice. I heard someone take in a sharp breath.

“But here’s the kicker, Potter,” my sister said in her I-might-kill-you voice. “You stayed until she was so worked up that she passed out?”

I heard James clear his throat again. “I mean, we didn’t know she was going to pass out but that’s technically right.” There was a nice prolonged deep buzzing as he talked.

“And then you caught her and she held onto you with a ‘vice-like grip’?” She was mocking him now. That was a pretty good impression of Potter’s voice. I’d have to compliment her for it later.

“Yea, and she starts screaming nonsense when I try to get her off of me,” Potter explained.

This girl sounded absolutely crazy:

Half-naked.

Sick.

Heavily medicated.

Screaming…

Oh.

My.

Merlin.

No. No. No.

No.

No. No.

No.

No. No. No.

No!

I opened my eyes slowly. Sure enough, I was face to face with the dull colors of a mesh Gryffindor Quidditch practice jersey. My arms were wrapped tightly around the middle of someone’s torso. I closed my eyes hoping with every fiber in my being that I was having a strange dream but when I opened one of my eyes and looked up I saw the very defined jaw of James Potter. Apparently registering that I was moving, Potter’s hazel eyes met my green ones. From here, I could see green, blue, and gold flecks in his eyes mixing together like a mesmerizing kaleidoscope.

He coughed and that broke me from my reverie. I jumped away from him and sat up trying in vain to smooth out my hair. Addie was sitting on the edge of my bed looking ready to kill someone with her bare hands.

“Your House is full of idiots,” she said toward me seething but clearly it was directed at James.

“HEY...” James started to protest from next to me but Addie cut him off with a glare that could make grown men cry.

“What time is it?” I asked groggily trying to piece together the mess that was my life.

“It’s almost the end of dinner and I haven’t eaten yet. Are you conscious enough to handle this imbecile?” Addie asked her voice laced with disdain while motioning toward James.

I looked over at James who was still in my bed and fiddling with a thread on my comforter. How is this my life? I wondered while squinting. Where did I go wrong?

This is it. This is how my life ends. This is how the world ends.

I could see the headline now: Cassie Nott’s Embarrassing Life Causes the World to Spontaneously Combust

“Sure,” I said to Addie with a slight nod. “Go eat.”

“Do you want me to bring you anything?” she asked still clearly annoyed but switching into worried sister mode.

I shook my head. “The house-elves will deliver soup when I ask for it.”

She glared at James again for good measure before sauntering out of my room.

“Your sister is scary,” James commented finally looking at me. I nodded my head still trying to comprehend how this situation became my life. Did I wrong someone in a past life? Was I not being as helpful as I could to others? Was I not nice enough to my friends?

I made a mental note to hug Ama at some point in the near future.

He coughed and shifted uncomfortably. “You’re still not wearing a shirt by the way,” he stated. I felt my face heating up as I looked down and noted I was still wearing a sports bra.

I grabbed my wand. “Accio sweatshirt,” I muttered while waving my hand tensely.

A black and canary yellow Dueling Team sweatshirt came flying toward me from the front of my messy closet. I blinked for a second wondering why I had a Hufflepuff sweatshirt in my possession. “OYLE” was printed on the back in big black letters with a letter clearly missing. I then remembered that at the height of my sickness, Grayson visited me offering me company and one of his older sweatshirts – “The team makes fun of me anyway when I wear it so why don’t you have it?” I remembered him saying with a sheepish smile on his face. I grimaced wondering what my highly medicated and delirious response was.

Mental note: Apologize to Grayson for potentially accusing him of being a hallucination.

I noticed James shifting uncomfortably again. “You and Goyle are close, huh?” I squinted at him again. Surely, he was going to explain how he ended up in my room.

He continued talking as I caught the sweatshirt from Grayson in one hand. “He’s in your year, right? I think he’s sit with Frank in Herbology. I think Frank has mentioned he’s cool. You think so too?”

When I just blankly stared he kept going. “Not like his brother I hope?” James asked in a nonchalant tone but his eyes got a shade darker.

Okay, obviously James had been hit by one too many Bludgers. “James,” I tried to state in a clear and even tone but my voice was cracking, “why... are you... here?”

“Oh right! Well, I need to talk to you. I heard…”

The door flew open cutting off whatever he planned to say. Mandy and one of her minions, Lisa walked in chattering away.

“Who do you want to bring to the dance?” Lisa trilled to Mandy. Thank Merlin! They hadn’t seen us yet. I turned toward James motioning for him to be quiet.

“Someone cute obviously,” Mandy said while flicking her hair over her shoulder. I slowly and quietly grabbed my wand from the end table.

“Well, I think Freddie likes me. He complimented me on my elbows the other day. He’s totally going to ask me! Maybe I can get him to get James Potter to ask you!”

James scoffed loudly and both of their heads snapped toward my bed. Grayson’s sweatshirt was only half on and James was still in my frickin’ bed.

They gasped. “Merlin!” Mandy shouted as her mouth dropped in disgust and obvious disapproval. Lisa looked ready to puke as she took in the scene of Potter in my freakin’ bed!

I snapped my head toward James. “Seriously?” I spat at him trying to channel Addie as I gave him the strongest glare I could muster.

He had the good sense to look down and at least look slightly embarrassed. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, “but they were talking nonsense. Freddie hates that girl and I would never date the other one. I couldn’t control myself.”

I rolled my eyes realizing that all the men in my life lacked sense and self-control.

Lisa and Mandy were looking between James and me until Lisa finally frowned and crossed her arms. “So the rumors were true. How did you get him to sleep with the likes of you?”

“I threatened him and his family,” I deadpanned immediately while crossing my own arms. “Harry Potter was quaking in his boots.”

James let out a nice deep chuckle that made my skin tingle. He placed his arm around me. What the fuck? He put his arm around me! I looked up at him and furrowed my eyebrows but he ignored me. “Ladies, what Cassie and I do with our free time is really none of your business, eh?”

They stared back at us as there faces passed from shocked to disgusted to angry. Mandy’s face slowly changed from a scowl into a mischievous grin. “I get it,” she stated as if a light bulb had gone off. “You’re the kind of person who no one likes but then they get to know you and feel bad for you so they have pity sex with you, right?”

I felt James stiffen as his fist on my shoulder clenched. “What the heck? Why don’t you…”

“Amanda,” I said in a falsely sweet tone cutting James off and shaking his arm off of me. “You are the kind of person who, when someone first meets you, they don’t like you but when they get to know you better… they hate you.”

James chuckled while Mandy’s nose flared. “Hope you’re happy about being the new school broom,” she spat before stomping out of the room with Lisa following behind.

I waved my wand to close my bed curtains. I swallowed hard. “What’s the school broom?” I asked quietly having never heard the phrase before.

James let out a large breath. “It doesn’t mean anything.”

I quirked an eyebrow and turned my head to stare him down.

He was chewing on his lip and could barely meet my eyes. “It’s a... uh... metaphor... a lot of people... um...”

My stomach dropped and I looked up at the ceiling. “Ride? Duh,” I said feeling stupid. “Everybody gets a ride, of freakin’ course.” I sighed while closing my eyes tight praying that this was all really a dream. “School broom isn’t as bad as Death Eater Spawn or murderer or stalker, right?” I asked with my mouth dry and something growing in the pit of my stomach. I closed my eyes tighter trying with all my might to somehow turn this into a dream. “Maybe not quite as bad as being called a nobody,” I jabbed with a harsh laugh.

If I was going to be uncomfortable, why not make Potter uncomfortable too, right?

I heard James exhale loudly. “I’m sorry about...”

“Cass-seaaaa,” I heard Ama sing as I heard the door swing open. My eyes opened and went wide and my stomach wrapped itself into a giant knot as I looked at James. He looked back at me and only shrugged.

“Wow James! Way to be helpful,” I whispered.

“What do you want me to do?” he mouthed back shaking his head with wide eyes.

“Disappear,” I responded dryly.

“You love me so much because I brought you the best soup that money can’t…” Ama continued ripping open the curtain. She froze and dropped the soup when she saw us.

“Now Cassie,” she said breathlessly while I grabbed my wand and muttered a spell to clean up the soup. “I don’t want you to freak out... but... in case you weren’t aware..., you are in bed with.... James Potter,” she stated slowly as if I had actually lost my mind. Maybe I had actually lost my mind. How does one know exactly if she has lost her mind? What are the signs?

This... clusterfuck probably qualifies as a sign, right?

James gave Ama a huge grin as he stuck out his hand. “I’m James, I made Cassie here faint with my dashingly good looks.”

I shook my head. “How is this my life right now?”

“That’s a great question,” Ama stated while slowly taking and shaking James’s hand. “I’m Ama?” she said to James but it sounded more like a question.

Ama suddenly narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms. “We hate you!”

My mouth hung open as James winced a little.

Ama looked up at the ceiling for a beat and then looked at me. “We still hate him, right?”

“What time is it?” I asked Ama ignoring her question.

“It’s almost 9,” she stated while staring at James as if staring at him would explain this strange situation.

“Oh perfect, accio medication!” I practically shouted with way too much enthusiasm for taking medicine that tasted like someone’s sweat mixed with mud.

“Wait, you can’t take that yet,” James said while pouting. “We still need to talk.”

Ama furrowed her eyebrows looking even more confused and ready to explode.

“We can talk tomorrow,” I said while catching my dose of the potion.

“Or never,” Ama said continuing to stare at Potter.

Potter winced again.

Ama looked up at the ceiling again with a conflicted expression on her face. “We do still hate him, right?” she asked looking at me with wide eyes.

“No,” James volunteered as if he had a say.

“You don’t have a say,” Ama declared uncrossing her arms and putting her hands on her hips instead.

“I’m going back to sleep,” I informed my best friend.

“Is he staying here?” Ama asked now looking at James as if he were an Arithmancy problem to figure out.

“I don’t even care anymore,” I said before downing the potion and sinking down under my covers and scooting as far away from James as I could.

°~*◊*~°

A/N: Sigh. Sorry this took awhile to get out! My bf instituted a media blackout for a couple of days for our sanity and that finally got me in the mood to write again.

This wasn’t the chapter I originally planned to write but I really wanted to keep it on the lighter side.

As always, I appreciate your thoughts ☺.


Chapter 13: thirteen.
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°~*◊*~°



The water was moving slowly, the light dancing on the surface was mesmerizing, calming. For some reason, I took comfort in the fact that the water wasn't completely clear. It looked slightly murky under the sunlight. The water was dark blue with hues of brown and green.

I slipped off my shoe. It was still oddly warm-ish outside and there was no telling how long the warmth would last. I dragged my toe against the surface of the water feeling a nice chill roll through my body as my skin made contact with the cool liquid.

“Cass, you just got over the PLAGUE, you shouldn’t be putting your foot in there,” Josh chastised wrinkling his nose as he handed me a champagne flute filled with orange liquid.

“Mmmm, but apparently drinking mimosas is actually what I need,” I retorted pulling my foot out of the water.

Josh gave me a huge smile before taking a large swig of his mimosa. “Everyone knows alcohol kills the germs in the body.”

“Where do you even get this stuff?” Ama asked rocking her body back and forth to make the boat we were sitting in sway a little.

Everyone forgets about the boathouse. The large, wooden shed sitting on the bank of the Great Lake houses all of the boats that the First Years travel in at the beginning of each year. Except for the momentous and hectic occasion of the new First Years’ arrival, the boathouse remained abandoned throughout the year. When we really needed to escape (read: to run away), this is where we went.

We would open up the shed doors, sit in a boat, and look out at the lake and grounds of Hogwarts.

After dramatically downing my medicine and confidently telling my best friend that I didn’t care if a certain boy remained in my bed (while the certain boy was in my bed), I slept, woke up, and panicked.

Ama, after being frantically awoken by me, woke up Josh (spoiler alert: he wasn’t happy about it), and dragged us down to the boathouse. We had a hidden bottle of sparkling wine that Josh had "borrowed" (read: stolen) from his mother under a floor board in the boathouse. It was only meant for emergencies and... this sure felt like one.

“So,” I said straightening my spine and spinning the stem of my flute in my fingers. “What’s the plan?” I asked looking at my friends.

Ama took an exaggerated swig of her mimosa and looked away from me.

Josh made a face at me. “The plan for what?”

My shoulders relaxed. “So, you didn’t hear about...” I trailed off feeling hopeful that maybe Mandy and Lisa were kind after they had stomped out of the dorm room.

“You and James in bed together doing the hanky panky? Everyone’s heard,” he drawled.

I rolled my eyes. “Right, so I assume we are down here in this boat to make a plan to figure out how to stop this clusterfuck that is my life?”

“Nope,” Ama said popping the p. “We are down here to relax, hide out, and delay the utter shitshow that is your life,” she said being unusually blunt before taking another swig of her mimosa.

“Cheers!” Josh said raising his glass.

My mouth dropped before I frowned. “You guys...”

“RULE!” Josh yelled like a maniac making me almost fall into the water. “You are not allowed to talk about James.”

“Or Quidditch!” Ama amended.

I rolled my eyes and shrugged in response to their smirks. I sipped on my drink frowning a little when I realized it was more wine than orange juice. “I can’t believe we are drinking in the morning,” I said turning in the direction of the sun.

“It’s 2 AM somewhere,” Josh responded topping off my mimosa with more sparkling wine.

“You’re going to get her sick again,” Ama warned.

“I’m not even sure I’m not sick now,” I retorted testing whether I could breath out of my nose.

Josh made a show of leaning away from me.

I scoffed at him and stuck my tongue out. “Okay so... tell me what I missed during the week. What’s going on with your lives?”

Ama wrinkled her nose. “My dad wrote to me,” she said quietly dragging her hand across the surface of the water.

“Oh?” I said genuinely surprised. Ama’s father wasn’t exactly the loving father type and he was a major workaholic. I stayed with Ama for a week one summer and saw him for a total of 20 minutes and spoke exactly 10 words to him.

“He got a dog,” Ama muttered as she poured herself some more wine.

“Wait, seriously? A dog?” I asked as I eyed Josh. He was fidgeting with his flute and biting his lip. “I didn’t realize he was an animal person.”

“I didn’t realize either,” Ama snapped nose flaring. “He sent like 8 pictures of her! Cute dog, don’t get me wrong but I don’t hear from him for weeks, months! And when I do hear from him 80% of the letter is about his new dog that I’ve never even met,” she ranted.

“I’m sorry,” I said reaching for Ama’s hand. “That’s... hard. That sucks.”

She sipped her drink again and sighed. “I don’t know. I thought the reason... I thought he didn’t know how to show...” she trailed off and swallowed hard.

Josh put an arm around her and gave her a side hug. “We love you and I promise when I get a pet, I’ll love you more... or at least the same amount,” he declared making Ama laugh out loud.

I smiled glad that there was a smile on her face again.

And Cassie promises to never love James more than you! Right, Cass?” Josh said with a smirk on his face.

I snorted. “I thought we weren’t supposed to talk about James,” I retorted trying to imitate Josh's voice.

Ama gave a faux gasp. “That was not an answer! You want James!”

I snorted again and tried to ignore the fact that my cheeks were heating up. “I do not!” I said grabbing the sparkling wine myself to distract from wherever this convo was going.

“Apparently, James was all the medicine you needed,” Josh teased. “You climb in bed with him once and you’re cured!” he continued dramatically.

“I hate both of you,” I deadpanned.

“I’m actually warming to Potter,” Ama mused looking as if she was saying something particularly thought provoking.

I scoffed. “What happened to ‘We hate you!’” I said exaggerating Ama’s very slight Colombian accent.

“Apparently, we don’t if you’re jumping into bed with him,” Josh stated unhelpfully looking bored as he sipped his mimosa.

“Are we forgetting that this is the same guy who yelled at me in front of half of our House?” I asked.

Ama and Josh looked at each other for a second. Clearly they had spoken last night.

“What?” I asked feeling like they were being suspicious. And clearly so.

Ama sighed. “Well, I didn’t want to wait until you woke up from your medicated coma to find out the full story of how you ended up in bed together and he was kinda just sitting there for a few minutes staring at you while I stared at him, so naturally, I grilled him,” she reported while shrugging.

I snorted and adjusted my eyeglasses. “I doubt James was ‘staring’ at me while I slept.”

Ama snorted right back. “Oh, yes he was. He barely took his eyes off of you.”

“Own your hotness,” Josh advised with a shimmy. “James would be so lucky to have you in bed again.”

I rolled my eyes and combed through the knots of my hair with my fingers. “Well obviously, he wanted something, did he tell you what, Ama?”

“He didn’t tell me exactly what he wanted but he did tell me about try-outs,” she said gnawing on her bottom lip.

“We already know about try-outs... we were there,” I said slowly not following.

Ama and Josh looked at each other again.

What?” I asked feeling nervous.

“Don’t freak out,” Josh warned sternly making me freak out that he thought it was necessary to tell me not to freak out.

“You’re clearly making her freak out more!” Ama chastised hitting Josh. “Look, James didn’t want me to tell you this but obviously I’m going to.”

I nodded my head feeling my stomach knot up.

“Your father attacked the family members of three people on the team... not including Rose,” she said slowly watching my face carefully.

I felt my throat get dry as the names came to me like a bucket of ice, cold water.

Of course.

Rebecca Thomas, Frank Thomas’s mom in Second Year.

Diane Spinnet, Adam Spinnet’s aunt in Fourth Year.

Who was the third if she wasn’t talking about Rose? I thought hard feeling embarrassed that I couldn’t place it.

“So certain members on the team weren’t exactly huge fans of yours...”

I let out a humorless laugh. That had to be the understatement of the year. I didn’t even know Thomas and Spinnet so the only impression of me they had was probably from articles about my father.

“...so those three threatened to leave the team if he picked you.”

I looked down at my hands feeling queasy and frankly tired from... everything.

“At try-outs, obviously Freddie stuck up for you. And James pitched the idea of putting you on the Reserve Team and they agreed... reluctantly,” she stated rocking the boat back and forth again.

I started rubbing my eyes wanting to be anywhere but here, hearing this.

“That’s so stupid!” Josh assured me. “He still shouldn’t have yelled at you like that!”

I dropped my hands and groaned.

“Agreed,” Ama said reaching for me. “He thinks so too,” she added quickly. “I was all like ‘that gave you no right to go off on her!’ and he agreed and was apologetic... but still give him hell,” she advised.

“He also should have just kicked them off the team and replaced them all with females,” Josh said with a snap.

“Ugh, replacing half your line-up with new people is a guaranteed way to lose,” I responded feeling sick all over again.

“Well, sometimes you just need to do the right thing and take a stand. Everyone knows you’re not like your father,” Josh said dismissively.

Does everyone know that?” I asked hugging myself.

“Of course!” Josh answered immediately.

Ama chewed on her lip. Josh nudged her. She made a face. “Cass, obviously, very obviously, I know that, we know that but...”

“But, what?” Josh retorted nose flaring. It was sweet that Josh was sticking up for me but I knew exactly what Ama was saying.

“I’ve never publicly spoken out against my father,” I finished for Ama.

“That shouldn’t matter!” Josh retorted.

“If my father attacked a family member of yours and you didn’t know me and I hadn’t said anything to you, and I hadn’t said anything publicly, how would you feel about it?” I asked quietly burying my face into my hands.

There were a few seconds of silence.

“Well, I would give you the benefit of the doubt,” Josh finally said. “You saved Lily and you saved V and you shouldn’t let this bring you down.”

“Have you ever thought about speaking out?” Ama asked quietly.

I groaned. “I did apologize to Rose,” I said feeling queasy. “But when I apologize I’m admitting that he’s... I just... I keep having this stupid dream, hope, and wish that it’s not really him,” I admitted. “That somehow all the eyewitness reports are just... wrong or, or mistaken,” I said voice cracking. “I guess it’s getting easier for me to accept it but it’s a recent thing. I’m starting to give up on him,” I said looking down.

Ama carefully shifted in the boat to sit next to me and give me a hug.

“It’s not your fault,” Josh leaned toward me taking my hand.

“It’s fine, I’m glad I know now about tryouts,” I said sitting up straight and shaking them off a little.

Ama and Josh both gave me disbelievingly looks.

“No, seriously,” I said nodding. “This... this at least makes sense to me. I could see myself being uncomfortable with playing with me if I were them and they were me.”

“Don’t blame yourself,” Josh started.

“We’re breaking both of our rules right now,” I said before downing the rest of my mimosa. “Let’s talk about something else. What’s gong on with you, Josh?” I asked giving him a pointed look.

He looked at me for a couple of seconds clearly trying to figure out if he should let the topic go. His shoulders eventually slumped and I knew he was going to move on.

“Sooo, now might not be the best time to tell you-all that I have a royal trip coming up,” he winced before finishing his mimosa.

“What? Nooo,” I whined.

“This is unacceptable,” Ama complained at the same time.

Because Josh was the only representative for the Royal Family in the Wizarding World, it was his “duty” to make royal visits to the major Wizarding Schools around the world. McGonagall absolutely detested these visits because they sometimes overlapped with classes. Shockingly, not even McGonagall could take on both the Ministry and the Crown. So more times than he liked, Josh was attending a foreign school on his tour.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“Illvermorny,” he responded shrugging. “I think it’ll be fun. The states. Americans. It’s only a couple of weeks.”

“Well... this is depressing,” I pointed out.

“Yea, this was meant to be a time where we sit on the lake and be young and dumb and nostalgic,” Ama complained. “We’re supposed to be distracting ourselves from the fact that everyone is probably gossiping about Cass right now.”

“Thank you for reminding me,” I deadpanned.

“We have each other which is...” Josh started to say but I tuned him out.

At first, it was a speck in the sky. But, it gradually got bigger until I could make out the outline of an owl. It had the wingspan, the height of an adult as it flapped its wings rhythmically and harshly cutting through the air.

“Shit,” I said out loud as I watched it get closer.

“What?” Ama and Josh said clearly confused.

The grey and black owl landed gracefully, balancing on the edge of the boat. It held out its leg as it stared forward as if my mere presence offended it somehow. I swallowed as my hand reached out to untie the parchment.

°~*◊*~°



I was running, trying not to breakdown, trying not to panic. I needed to stay focused. I needed a plan. I needed everything to be fine. As I ran toward the Castle and then in the corridors, in the very back of my head, I registered that people were watching me, pointing at me, and talking about me. Likely about the James debacle... but that didn’t matter I needed to focus. To not cry.

I finally stopped in the dungeons, in front of the Slytherin Common Room. I tried to catch my breath but it was difficult. I was on the brink of tears and I was still recovering from being sick.

A small child, maybe a Second Year, was walking past me toward the Slytherin Common Room.

“Um,” I said stepping in front of him clearly scaring him a little as he looked up at me. “Can you please tell Addie Nott to come out here? Can you tell her it’s really important, please? Please?”

He looked taken aback before nodding his head quickly and rushing into his common room.

I leaned against the wall across from the Slytherin entrance, closed my eyes, and slid to the floor pulling my knees toward my chest. I covered my face, clutching the parchment in my hand, worried that I was going to be seen in the hallway crying.

I needed to pull myself together before seeing Addie or before seeing anyone for that mater.

“Cassie?”

The voice was low and raspy and becoming entirely too familiar.

Why me?

I slowly removed my hands from my face and swallowed. From my position, I could see two legs covered in dark denim.

But seriously, why?

I looked up to see James in a green sweater that brought out the green specks in his eyes. He looked worried, concerned making a face that created a crease between his eyebrows.

He tucked an old piece of parchment in his pocket before he stepped closer and kneeled next to me. My world was falling apart around me but I could not help but notice how his muscles rippled and the way he ran a hand threw his dark hair. It looked incredibly soft from this close up.

“Hi,” I said quickly trying to wipe away my tears from my cheeks. “How goes it?”

He frowned in response. “Are you crying?” he asked in a disbelievingly tone.

“No,” I responded immediately making to get up.

Instead of getting up gracefully like a normal teenage female with a modicum of self-respect, I stood up with the same amount of grace as a newborn giraffe.  That's right folks, my forehead somehow collided with, essentially slammed into, James’s nose.

“UGH AH-SHIT!”

“OW... Merlin, I am so sorry,” I said clutching my head as Potter covered his nose. “I know some spells that can...”

“Cassie?”

Of course my sister would show up at this exact moment. Me, clutching my head and wincing. Potter, kneeling before me and groaning with his hands covering his nose.

“Are you okay?” Addie asked sidestepping and completely ignoring Potter to look at me with her eyes narrowing with concern.

“I...” I started to say.

“Have you been crying? In public?” Addie continued clearly shocked with a hint of disgust.

I rolled my eyes in response. “No, you arse, my face is just wet.”

One of her eyebrows immediately shot up and she pursed her lips. “Excuse me for being concerned.”

I sighed as she finally turned and noticed Potter. “I...” I started.

“Potter,” she spat pointing in my direction. “Did you do this?”

“Huh?” he groaned still covering his nose.

“I should probably repair...” I started to say.

“I will kick your arse, break all of your bones, and kill you... the muggle way,” she said in a voice that sounded way too calm and way too collected for someone stating she was going to kill another person.

Potter quickly stood up and backed away from Addie, still covering his nose.

“He didn’t do anything,” I said annoyed before she could decide to pounce on him. “Read this,” I said thrusting the parchment in her direction.

She looked confused as she plucked the parchment from my hand. I watched as her blue eyes moved from left to right and as she visibly swallowed.

The letter was short, simple, and very blunt so I knew she was done reading. She was trying to hide her alarm as her lips set in a thin line.

“What am I going to do?” I asked while hugging myself and leaning against the wall.

Addie stuck the letter in her pocket and steadied my face between her hands. “Hey, calm down, calm down right now,” she said looking me directly in my eyes. “The question is – what are we going to do. Okay? You’re going to be okay, I’m going to be okay, Maman’s going to be okay, we are all going to be okay. Breath.”

I wondered how long it would take before the Prophet knew my grandfather had disowned me. I grabbed the letter and read it again:

Cassiopeia,

You are a disgrace and an embarrassment to the Nott name. I no longer consider you a grandchild of mine.

Your actions have consequences.

-Cantankerus Nott II


It was short yet, what else was there to say? I could tell by the harsh and angry ink strokes that he meant every single word. I was at least thankful for the fact that I wasn’t there when he wrote this or when he found out.

I started to read it again to fully comprehend what was happening.

“Cassie, you have to stop reading it,” Addie demanded while taking the letter back from me. “We can’t tell Maman.”

I nodded my head as my throat felt tight and my stomach squeezed. Obviously, I knew we couldn’t tell her. She would worry more than necessary and try to send money she didn’t have to make up for the allowance.

“What do you think he means by ‘your actions have consequences’?” I asked with my voice slightly quivering.

“I think he just means that messing with Goyle and Flint means you’re disowned. That’s it,” she assured me making a point to crush the letter in her hand before handing it back to me.

“What do I do?” I asked staring at the floor and dragging the heel of my shoe against it.

“As long as I’m not cut off, you’ll be fine,” Addie stated with an indifferent shrug.

“That’s true, I can use your hand-me-downs,” I contemplated out loud while wondering how long it would take for me to re-size the clothes she didn’t want.

“Hand-me-downs?” Addie asked while wrinkling her nose.

“You realize maman doesn’t know just how much grandfather helps us, right?” I asked trying to communicate the seriousness of the situation. “Other than the money I have saved and until I get a job at Hogsmeade, I have very little money. Do you get that?”

“Yes, you will have money,” Addie stated while folding her arms.

“How?”

“Our grandparents barely keep track of how much money I withdraw from their Gringotts account. I’ll easily get the new password.”

I gasped as my eyes went wide. “You want to steal from our grandparents?” I hissed.

“Seriously? You realize these are the same grandparents that sent you a letter disowning you, right?” she asked motioning toward the parchment in my hand to emphasize her point.

“Ade, you’re going to get in a lot of trouble if you get caught,” I muttered.

She glared at me “Do you even know me anymore?”

I rolled my eyes and pulled my hair out of its bun to put it back up in a bun again. “I’m sorry Ade, you never get caught.”

“Say that again,” she demanded.

“You never get caught,” I said in a bored tone.

“Thank you. Okay, when I go home for the holidays, I’ll visit Nott Manor and I’ll start taking enough money for your tuition, books, and supplies for this year and next year,” Addie replied.

“And then I’ll need more for maman since we both won’t be putting money in her account.” Addie was in full planning mode.

“I could just talk to McGonagall about applying for a scholarship for my…”

Addie wrinkled her nose in disgust as if she smelled the foulest scent ever known to wizard. “Ew. A scholarship? Isn’t that for poor people?” she whispered.

“Again, you realize I won’t have any money to my name, right?”

“Well… yes… but that doesn’t mean you have to be a charity case,” she whispered again.

“You… amaze me sometimes,” I replied while shaking my head. “Stealing money? Fine. Scholarship? Hand-me-downs? Ohhhh nooo,” I said while gesticulating wildly to prove my point.

“Really? I amaze you? I’m not the one dry humping the son of half the family’s sworn enemy in my sleep,” she said while motioning to Potter before sauntering away.

“LOW BLOW!” I called after her while my face heated up. Of course, Potter was still around. That’s just what my joke of a life had become. I cleared my throat and willed myself to look up at him. He looked deep in thought and he was frowning. And... his nose was swollen. “I can fix your nose,” I said while shifting under his gaze.

He shook his head. “It's...” he trailed off. “That letter,” he said pointing to the crumbled up parchment in my hand. “Are you actually nervous about the threat?”

I looked down at the crumbled parchment in my hand. “Oh, um, I...” was not prepared to answer.

“Do you want me to send it to my dad?” James asked seriously. “Maybe he can be on the lookout or something.”

I snorted feeling caught completely off guard by his offer. “I don’t want to waste his time. I mean, he is the Head Auror, I’m sure he has other...”

Before I could finish my sentence, Potter had approached me and I held my breath as he plucked the letter out of my hand.

“No problem,” he muttered before rushing away with me staring after him feeling completely and utterly exhausted.

°~*◊*~°



The days continued with awkward stares and glances, loud whispers, and obvious finger pointing in my direction. Two days after receiving my grandfather’s letter, I was wondering through the corridors looking at the directory of shops and restaurants in Hogsmeade. I needed a job and I needed one fairly quickly. At least, it really, really felt that way.

“Cassie, Cassie, bo-bassie banana fanna fo-fassie fe fi fo fassie, Cassie!”

“Frederick,” I said looking up with a forced smile on my face. He linked arms with me and led me toward the edge of the hallway away from students trying to make their way to classes.

“I saw what you did to JP’s face, Cassie! You should be one of those muggle UFC fighters,” Freddie commented with a huge smirk on his face.

“Do you know any shop that’s hiring?” I asked holding up the directory of stores ignoring the nose debacle comment.

Freddie was clearly taken aback by the abrupt change in subject but looked over the directory and hmm-ed and ha-ed for a couple of seconds. “Tay works at Sticks and Beers. I bet she can get you in the door.”

I gnawed on my lip. “I don’t really know Tay that well.”

“Tay’s a sweetheart. She’d help Voldemort if he needed it,” he said with a laugh.

I made a face at him.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” he said quickly dropping his smile. “You know what I mean.”

I nodded my head. “Okay, I should go find her,” I said making to leave.

“Cass,” Freddie said stopping me in my tracks. “Are you okay?”

I forced a laugh. “Other than being the talk of the town,” I said motioning around. “I’m truly splendid.”

He cocked his head to the side giving me a look that clearly communicated he didn’t believe me.

“Gotta go,” I said quickly before intentionally getting lost in the crowd trying to find Tay. Things felt like they were falling apart... more than usual and it just felt like it was up to me to hold it together. Show no weakness and hold it together. That was my mantra. Show no weakness and hold it together.

I spotted Taylor Finnegan right outside of the Transfiguration classroom talking to... Frank Thomas.

I swallowed hard before approaching them.

“Hi.”

Thomas looked immediately tensed while Tay gave me a warm smile.

“Hi, Cassie,” Tay said looking at me.

Thomas gave me a nod. “Taylor, why don’t we talk about the project later. I’ll see you...”

“Actually,” I interrupted feeling light-headed. “I want to apologize for what happened to your mom back in Second Year. I should have apologized sooner and then but I didn’t because it was really hard for me.” I said in one breath before swallowing hard. He was looking at me with eyebrows furrowed. “It was hard for me to accept,” I added. Tay quickly stepped out of earshot of us but I signaled for her to stay close.

“Obviously harder for you,” I added looking back at Thomas, making sure to keep eye contact, trying to communicate that I was being genuine.

Thomas was playing with his lip for a couple of seconds before opening his mouth. “Look, you don’t have to say that to get on the team. We already decided that...”

“This is not to get on the team,” I said shaking my head. “I swear. I just... realize how it looks to have the daughter of your mother’s attacker never acknowledge how terrible that was. I don’t condone...” I said breaking off and feeling tears well up in my eyes.

“She’s fine now,” Thomas said looking down rubbing the back of his neck. “At first it was scary. She was in the hospital for...”

“Months,” I finished shaking my head.

“Oh no, actually,” he said lowering his voice. “Between us, it was shorter than that. I’m not sure why it was reported that way but we, the family I mean, we were asked not to correct the record.”

I was so confused and lost. The attack was plastered all over the major newspapers. And, it was reported across all of them that his aunt was in the hospital for months.

“Wait, what are you saying?”

“I’m not supposed to share that,” he whispered. “I just wanted you to feel better. I don’t know but I, uh, appreciate the apology,” he said before backing away and taking off.

“What was that about?” Tay asked looking as confused as I felt as she approached me again.

“I’m not entirely sure,” I said slowly. “But, can I talk to you?”

She gave me a blinding smile and pulled into a windowed alcove that was a few feet away from us. The way the sun was hitting her brown hair was creating an odd halo effect. I truly hate people with tame-able, angel-like curly hair.

“So,” she said with a mischievous grin on her face. “You want to talk about you and James?”

“I... um... no?” I said completely thrown by the question.

She squealed. “I’m glad it’s you,” she admitted whispering. “Don’t tell Mimi but I think Mimi’s a little toxic in relationships and poor James so...”

“Oh, no relationship, none, no, none of that,” I reported shifting from foot to foot feeling extraordinarily uncomfortable.

Tay’s eyes got wide as she stared at me. “Oh, well, wow. I didn’t realize you were into...”

“Oh, I... what? Wait, no, not, that’s not what I was saying,” I said swallowing hard.

Tay squealed a little louder this time. “You little vixen! I love but don’t tell Mimi I said that,” she said while looking around. She skipped away quickly, “bye!”

“Wait!” I called after her feeling incredibly confused. But, of course, she was gone.

°~*◊*~°



It was the end of a mess of a week and it was raining, raining hard. The drops hit my skin feeling like refreshing needles all over my skin. I was drenched to the point that my bones felt wet but I really didn't care.

I needed to move, I needed to run, and I needed to run fast. And, I loved the rain. The drops of water felt like it was washing all the bullshit and nonsense away, even if temporarily. The sound of my sneakers squishing against the wet grass made me want to run faster, harder, with more power. The usually calm Great Lake was splashing against the banks with vigor making me feel alive as I buzz ran through my body.

“Cass!”

I stopped in my tracks slipping and sliding a little as I recognized the voice.

I was surprised to hear his voice. Grayson hadn’t been in class for the past week and I, honestly, missed his presence.

I smiled turning in the direction of his voice expecting to see him in his gear ready to run with me but he was wearing an oxford white shirt and slacks and they were completely soaked. The rain was making his hair stick to his forehead too.

“Grayson, what are you doing out here? It’s raining!” I yelled to him as if it wasn’t completely obvious.

“Cass, are you dating him?” Grayson asked moving in my direction with determined steps. I noticed that his chest was heaving up and down. His eyes looked darker and had large bags under them.

“Who? James?” I asked voice cracking suddenly feeling like Grayson had burst my bubble of ignorance. I was trying to run away from my problems and Grayson was standing there reminding me of some of them.

“Cass, please tell me you're not,” he said starting to fidget. “Because I want to do something, something that I’ve been thinking about that could be idiotic to even think about if you were dating him because it would mean that I was crossing...”

“Grayson,” I said interrupting him. “You’re not making...”

“My family doesn’t want me to talk to you,” he said standing completely still in front of me and staring directly into my eyes.

“Oh.”

“I know you’ve been disowned. They know. And they don’t want me to have any interactions with you at all. The Goyles and Notts have been friends for decades maybe centuries and you’ve been kicked out. To them, you’re worst than muggleborns and muggles and creatures...”

“I get the idea,” I said quietly surprised that my eyes were stinging. It felt like I was being broken up with even though Grayson and I were never dating.

“No. You don’t understand,” he said shaking his head making raindrops fall from the tips of his hair. “For the first time, I’m willing to defy them. To tell them to go... go pet a nundu!”

“Nundus are extremely dangerous,” I said feeling like it was important to point that out before he actually told his family to pet them.

“I want to do something,” Grayson said ignoring my comment and looking more determined than ever as he stepped closer to me. “But, I just need to know if you’re dating him,” as he said this and stepped closer to me I could actually feel his breath on my face.

“I’m no...”

Before I could get the sentence out of my mouth, Grayson’s lips were on mine. They were so soft and gentle against my lips. Almost like kissing a feather. They were warm... and soft. Did I mention soft?

And before I could fully let the shock of Grayson kissing me roll through my body and be comprehended by my brain, his lips were gone.

“Holy shitty Merlin. I just did that,” he said staring at me with wide eyes and clear shock evident on his face.

“Grayson,” I whispered but I was talking to his back. He was running quickly and determinedly away from me.

°~*◊*~°



A/N:

Thank you to everyone who voted for me and congratulations to all the winners!!! I really hope you continue to enjoy what I’m doing with this.

Thoughts?? :)


Chapter 14: fourteen.
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

°~*◊*~°

I bit my lower lip as I stared at a faint but large crack on the stone wall in the Fifth Floor corridor.

Hogwarts Castle was not perfect.

Not like it used to be, anyway.

After the Battle of Hogwarts, parts of the Castle were damaged considerably and extensively. Towers were in ruins. Bridges were destroyed. Walls, floors, and ceilings were magically blasted with large, gaping holes.

There was a huge debate in the Wizarding World about how to respond.

Some thought the Castle was beyond repair—not physically but spiritually and emotionally. To them, there were too many skeletons in the closet, too many evil spirits and memories lurking around. They wanted to erase the embarrassing and evil past and build a new Castle – choose a completely different location and start with a brand new blank canvas.

Others balked at this idea.

This was around the time that Hermione Granger, now Granger-Weasley, blasted into the wizarding political world. The history books may claim that her stances on equality for elves and other magical creatures started her career in politics. But, what really started her career is how she “saved Hogwarts” after the Second Wizarding War. This group of people, led by Hermione, advocated for restoring and renovating Hogwarts. They would never hang or honor Dark Marks or other symbols of Voldemort. But, they wanted to embrace the embarrassment and the stain on the Wizarding World’s history to ensure that the actions that led to the First and Second Wizarding War never happened again.

I traced my fingers against the crack feeling a slight buzz run through my body as I did so. It was clear that pieces of the wall were fused together by strong magic. Josh had wrinkled his nose at the wall wondering why no one on the restoration team had replaced the whole wall or “covered it up or something!”

But, I liked it.

Replacing the wall would fly in the face of what Minister Granger-Weasley advocated for. To me, the faint cracks and subtle imperfections showed that the Castle had life, resilience, a pulse that refused to stop no matter what dark forces or enemies tried to take it down.

I tried not to wince at the harsh reality that my grandfather was very much one of those dark forces.

As I walked down the corridor, a musty, burnt smell assaulted my nose. I inhaled sharply and immediately started coughing.

“Are you smoking?” I asked turning in the direction of the offending smell. I was staring at the back of Chris McLaggen’s head as he strutted through the corridor as if he had better things to do and better places to be.

He huffed loudly and turned his head in my direction. With a smirk on his face, he blew cigarette smoke toward me before turning around and walking again.

I wrinkled my nose as I followed him on our patrol. “That shit will kill you,” I said unable to take the judgmental tone out of my voice.

He ignored me, continuing to walk quickly, not bothering to look in any cupboards or classrooms.

I jogged to catch up with him. “Are you mad at me or something? I’m not sure what I’ve done to you...”

“You think you’re some kind of hero, don’t you?” he asked, his voice was taunting, challenging. He slowed down so that we were walking in step with each other.

Where was this conversation going? I tried swallowing but my mouth felt too dry. “V?” I responded. “I wasn’t trying to...”

“I’m not talking about V,” he said with a snort. “I’m talking about how you ruined James’s game plan.” He said it nonchalantly, calmly before taking another drag of his cigarette.

“Freddie came to me...” I started feeling the need to defend myself.

“I know,” he said cutting me off again. “Freddie went to you because he didn’t trust his captain. The bloke that he claims is his best friend. Look at you, Spawn, you’re able to break families apart without even attacking anyone. You should teach your father.”

My mouth dropped open and my stomach felt like lead. I opened my mouth to respond but closed it not sure how to react. I had experienced open hostility about my father before but this... this was harsh.

“Freddie didn’t have to go with my suggestion,” I said finally finding my voice again. “It was just a suggestion.”

“You told him you didn’t think we could win right? Backed by some nonsense from...”

“It’s not nonsense,” I bit back interrupting him this time. “It’s based on the games I’ve seen and...”

“Did you know that Al Potter dislocated his shoulder over the summer?” McLaggen asked.

I swallowed. “What?” I answered not comprehending what he was saying.

McLaggen smirked. “Yup. His right shoulder, his dominant side.”

I thought back to the game, to the shots that Al made. “He was favoring his left,” I confirmed quietly.

“Bingo, bango! You got it, Spawn. Favoring his left. Hmm, so Bludgers on his left would have made Al useless in the game. Guess who on the team knew that?”

“It gets better,” McLaggen continued as I looked back up at him. He seemed to be enjoying this way too much. “Did you know that Scorpius has been practicing like shit lately? He’s broken up probably cause he just ended it with some Slytherin chick. Did you know that?”

He waited for me to answer with a smirk on his face as he eyed me. My conversation with Rose popped into my head. His drama with Rose and Charlie must have messed with him.

“Of course you didn’t know that,” he answered for me. “Because you haven’t been watching the Slytherin practices like our captain,” he said slowly like I was too dumb to comprehend.

“Why does this matter? You still won! Even if James’s plan would have worked you still won!” I said feeling the urge to defend myself. When I helped Freddie I felt like I was doing the right thing. I knew I was. I wasn’t going to let McLaggen spin a good deed.

McLaggen let out a harsh laugh and took a giant step toward me. “Are you actually that mental? You do realize the whole school comes to these games? You do realize family members come to these games? You do realize scouts come to these games?”

I froze not really knowing how to respond to that. I took a step back and he smirked realizing how uncomfortable he was making me.

McLaggen crushed his cigarette against a windowsill and then flicked it outside. “So tell me, Spawn, the genius that thinks she knows anything and everything about Quidditch, if a scout saw a Keeper let in 300 points on goal because his fucking Beaters weren’t helping him, what are said scouts going to think?”

I shook my head. “I’m sure they’ll be more...”

“They’re going to think this Keeper plays like shit not this Keeper is getting no help from his teammates because some Spawn got in the heads of the two fucking Beaters who are supposed to be fucking helping him!” His voice was getting louder and more agitated.

I pulled out my wand. “Stop calling me Spawn!”

He let out another laugh, apparently unfazed by my threat. “Like father, like daughter huh?” With that, McLaggen stalked toward our Common Room without glancing back at me.

I exhaled deeply realizing that I was holding my breath. Like father, like daughter. That cut me deep, my hand was shaking. McLaggen was always an arse but I couldn’t recall a time he was this vicious, this mean.

°~*◊*~°

Fabrics of varying colors and materials covered the floor to the point that it was hard to tell what the floorboards looked like. Ama had a lot of clothes too so the amount didn’t surprise me. Ama was just a lot more... organized.

The dorm room in Ravenclaw looked similar to the Gryffindor dorm room but also very different in a lot of ways. I was envious of the fact that they had floor to ceiling bay windows. The room was also positioned in a way where more sunlight broke through the windows.

Tay Finnegan quickly put her long brown locks in a bun before holding up a short multi-color sequined skirt to her waist. “What do you think?”

I took a sip of the sparkling water she had handed me and eyed the blue and bronze stripped wallpaper before answering. “It wouldn’t be my first choice,” I admitted. “But there’s no reason you couldn’t...”

“It’s a no,” Dom said with her head in her wardrobe. I hadn’t exactly been keeping up with Dom’s Ravenclaw drama but apparently her and Tay were on speaking terms.

Tay huffed and threw the skirt in the direction of a particularly large pile before turning back to her wardrobe.

I bit my lip wondering how to steer the conversation back to why I wanted to track Tay down in the first place.

“So you want to work at Sticks and Beers?” she asked as I heard her moving hangers around.

I sat up straighter happy I didn’t have to awkwardly bring it up again. “Um, yes, that would be great if they are hiring?”

Dom turned around making a face and holding up a floral dress. “Are you sure you want to work there? Game weekends are fun but Tay’s regular clientele gives me the creeps,” she said while shivering.

Tay scoffed before turning around herself. “The townies might be creepy but they give amazing tips. I like that,” she said nodding toward Dom’s outfit.

Dom gave a big smile before turning toward her shoe organizer.

“What do you mean by creepy?” I asked feeling increasingly nervous about a job I wasn’t even sure I was going to get.

Dom let out a laugh while picking up some black heels. “She means leave your feminism at the door.”

Tay looked up to roll her eyes at Dom before observing the shoes Dom was holding. “Not those,” Tay instructed. “Wear something brighter to match the dress. What do you think about this?” she asked holding up a green strappy dress that looked more appropriate for warmer weather.

“Love it, wear it,” Dom said.

Tay squealed before looking back at me. “The uniform you’d be encouraged to wear is a bit tight. Think crop top and booty shorts.”

I made an involuntary sound from the back of my throat.

“But if you’re fine with that and guys calling you pet names, you’ll make a lot of money,” Tay said with a shrug. “Ohhh, wear your nude stilettos.”

“Good call,” Dom said back before twirling her shoe rack around to find them. “Why do you want a job anyway, Cass? Is everything okay?”

“Wonderful,” I lied. “Just thought some work experience would look good on my resume.”

“You know, James, Freddie, and Al do that Junior Cannons winter and summer break camp,” Dom reported.

Tay let out a laugh. “I like how you forgot to mention Wood is also a counselor. You just want Cassie to spy on him for you.”

“Nah uh, shut up,” Dom said while throwing a shiny shirt at Tay.

Tay dodged the shirt and stuck her tongue out at Dom. “Then why are you getting so dressed up right now?”

Dom started changing into her dress in the middle of the room. “Because, because... oh, shut up. Fine, I want to look hot... for me but also so I can wrap it up, put a bow on it, and shove it in Wood’s face!”

Tay giggled while I sipped on my water pretending I wasn’t there.

“So, are you good with kids? Do you want to be a counselor?” Dom asked looking at me.

“Oh... I don’t want to bother Ja.... Freddie with this,” I said with a wonderfully awkward cough.

Tay started giggling again. Lovely.

“Uncle Ron’s part owner of the Cannons so I just have to tell the Front Office it’s a favor for him,” she said grabbing her WizPhone. “I’ll send a text to the guy that gets us tickets right now.”

“Wow, thanks, Dom,” I said feeling genuinely grateful.

“I’ll talk to my boss. Just don’t mention that you’re not 17 and you’ll be fine,” Tay said changing into her outfit.

“Thanks! Seriously, this means a lot,” I responded standing up.

“What are you doing tonight?” Tay asked.

“You should come with us, tonight!” Dom said.

I swallowed hard. “Come where?” I asked in a high-pitched voice while running a hand through my hair.

“There’s a Ravenclaw party on the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest,” Tay said with a smile on her face.

“It’s going to be really cool with all the hot guys from all the houses,” Dom said with a smirk on her face. “Usually only Claw ladies and all the hot guys are invited but you can come too. We’ll make an exception.”

“Thanks so much for inviting me but I think I’m supposed to be hanging out with Ama and Josh,” I invented quickly.

“Not a problem!” Dom said pulling out her cell. “I’ll text them. I can’t believe I didn’t tell you-all about it earlier,” she said shaking her head.

“I also don’t feel like I’m dressed appropriately,” I said looking down at my sweatshirt and worn jeans.

“You’re totally fine,” Dom countered. “We’re just getting fancy because we were the ones that started this party back in Third Year.”

“Anddd, one of us is trying to make a certain boy jelly,” Tay teased. “She could totally slip in one of our outfits with a few alterations. We are witches,” Tay added while texting someone on her WizPhone.

Dom rolled her eyes at Tay before tossing me a dress. “Wear this! You’ll turn some heads.”
°~*◊*~°

The reputation that Ravenclaws are all work and no play was a thing of the past.

Dom and Tay led me to an area in between the Forbidden Forest and the Great Lake. As we approached, it looked completely empty and soundless. It was also annoyingly chilly. The sun had gone down and stars were appearing in the purplish-blue sky, as the moon got higher. Dom had handed me a red dress with more lace than I would ever wear and a very small amount of fabric overall.

“Are you sure this party is tonight?” I asked looking for signs of a party or of people at all.

Tay smirked at me as Dom pulled out her wand. Dom performed a charm that created a ripple in the air before revealing a crowd of students dancing around and drinking. It was weird seeing a little less than a hundred of my classmates dancing around and drinking out in the open.

Large tree stumps were being used as tables, smaller ones were used as chairs, and a large clearing at the very edge of the Forest was the dance floor.

“Do you see him?” I heard Dom muttering as I followed Dom and Tay into the party.

“Over there,” Tay said nfodding her head toward a group of Quid players playing Wiz Pong with Butterbeers. Oliver Wood was standing at a table lazily holding a bottle of Butterbeer. He was in the act trying to throw a charmed ball into some cups when he saw Dom. The pained expression on his face made him looked like he’d been sucker punched in the stomach. He quickly looked away and pretended to talk to his friend.

“Okay, we need to dance,” Tay said motioning toward the dance floor. “That way he’ll know you’re here but that you’re having fun without him.”

“Right, sure,” Dom said biting her nails.

Tay signaled for us to follow her to the dance floor. I quickly shook my head. “I should go find Ama and Josh,” I said pointing in the other direction.

Dom frowned at me but Tay nodded quickly and pulled her away.

I looked around and spotted Josh quickly. He was holding court with a bunch of Ravenclaw girls. Josh was apparently saying something particularly funny because the girls looked like they were crying of laughter.

I bit my lip and looked around for Ama but I couldn’t immediately spot her.

“Hey.” I jumped as a deep, raspy voice sent a chill down my spine.

James was standing oddly close to me – in reality, it was probably a normal distance but he was still close enough that whatever minty, soapy, and James-like scent he was wearing was assaulting my nostrils.

“Hi,” I responded taking a step back and taking him in. He was wearing a form fitting red t-shirt with slim dark blue jeans.

“Hey,” he said again. I frowned and then noticed that his eyes were slightly glazed over and he seemed to have an “induced” goofy smile on his face.

“Hello,” I said in response noticing his slight sway.

He grinned a little wider and stepped closer to me while sticking his hands in his pockets, “How’s it going?”

I racked a hand through my hair and tried to take a step away from James without him noticing but ladies and gentlemen I’m... me, Cassiopeia Nott. The girl with the awkward name and the clumsy disposition.

So, because I’m me, my heel (aka Dom’s heel) got stuck in a clamp of grass. I lost my balance and started to fall... because, again, I’m me.

James’s arm muscles were there... because of course they were.

I straightened up quickly. “Sorry,” I said moving out of James’s grasp before my brain could fully comprehend that Potter was touching me.

He shrugged. “Wanna drink?” he said motioning toward the drinks table.

“Eh, I’m fine,” I said moving to a short stump so I could sit down before embarrassing myself by randomly falling again.

James gave me a weird look before across from me. His eyes narrowed like he was trying to focus on something but he was clearly having a hard time. The gold specks in his eyes seemed to twinkle a little as he tried to concentrate.

“Are you...” I started.

“Would you joi...” he started at the same time.

“Huh?”

“What?”

I shook my head and let out a laugh and that goofy smile returned to his face. “You go,” I said.

“I, um, do you – do you want – I,” he cleared his throat and closed his eyes. “Be my seeker,” he said quietly.

I gasped feeling my stomach drop. James’s mouth was moving but the Vicious Witches song blasting through the levitating speakers was the only thing I could hear.

I pinched myself. Is this real life? This can’t be real life.

I shook my head. This didn’t make sense.

“Wait, what?” I asked finally coming to.

James cleared his throat again but this time his distractingly honey eyes bore into mine. “Join my team, I mean, join the team, the Gryffindor team, if you can, I mean, if you wanna?”

James Potter is ranting? Right in front of my face. And I can’t even process it or enjoy it. Because I’m so confused.

“Seriously?” I asked.

He tilted his head. “You’re surprised?” he asked letting out a laugh that made his nose scrunch up. “You’re confusing.”

I frowned and wrapped my arms around my center. “Not intentionally,” I countered.

“Why are you surprised?” he asked putting his elbows on the stump table and leaning forward.

“I ruined your game strategy,” I reminded him before swallowing.

He made a face. “Yea, it would be nice if you didn’t do that... and we won,” he said taking a deep breath.

“Half of your team hates me.”

“That’s not true,” he quickly retorted.

I raised an eyebrow.

“It’s not half,” he said slumping his shoulders.

“It’s half of the main team,” I said biting my lip.

“It’s not half... anymore,” he corrected. “And... I’ll fix it.”

I looked down at my hands. “McLaggen really hates me.”

“I can fi...”

“No, I don’t think you fully understand how much he hat...”

“I’m the captain. I can handle this.”

“How?”

There was a pause. Potter was drumming his fingers on the stump table while staring at me intently. His hand was so close to mine that it made my pinky finger itch. He bit on his lip making my stomach twist uncomfortably.

“I got it!” he declared grabbing my hand. My stomach lurched and I felt light-headed. “A practice!”

“Hmm,” was all I could respond as he lightly tugged on my hand. His hand was rough and it dwarfed mine. I suddenly felt self-conscious about my freakin’ hand. Did I have a weirdly small hand? Did I still have chipped polish on my nails from the last time Ama painted my nails?

“Yea! A practice with you and the McLaggens! Just you three!”

“Hmmm.... wait,” I said pulling my hand way. “What?!”

He frowned before leaning toward me. “Yes,” he responded sounding sure of himself. “A practice with you and the McLaggens. It will end when you can be civil to each other.”

“I...”

“That is, if you want to be on the team,” he added looking at me closely.

“I want to be on the team,” I responded quickly without thinking.

He smiled again. “Okay, I’ll set it up then.”
“But, wait, wait,” I said stopping him from getting up. “How is a practice with a Keeper and two Seekers supposed to work?”

He smirked. “That’s not my problem,” he said getting up. “I just need you-all to be friendly enough.”

I looked up at him and huffed.

“Welcome to the team,” he said before giving me a wink and walking away toward the WizPong table.

I bit my lip thinking about the emotional and mentally taxing practice that was on the horizon but soon a smile spread across my face when it hit me that I’d actually be Seeker for Gryffindor. I’d have to figure out how to balance school, work, and being on the team but this... felt good. This was a win. And, I needed a freakin’ win this year.

“You need to explain.”

I rolled my eyes as I looked up at Josh who had taken James’s spot across from me.

“There’s nothing to explain,” I countered sticking my tongue out.

“Do I need to remind you that just the other night your tongue was down Grayson’s throat?” Josh asked giving me a look.

“Shhhhhh!” I said hitting him on his shoulder. “I regret telling you.”

Josh rolled his eyes. “What’s going on with you and Potter?”

“Nothing like that,” I said as Josh made kissy faces at me. “He’s making me Seeker,” I whispered like it was some secret. I felt like it was fleeting. Like if anyone found out it’d be gone or something.

“Holy Merlin!” Josh yelled jumping up. “That’s amazing, that’s hot, you’re so fierce, you’re so powerful, you’re so cool, you’re so...” he paused from his celebration and sat back down “... not as excited as I thought you’d be.”

“I am excited!” I countered. “I am, I totally am.”

Josh gave me a look.

“I definitely am!”

“Okay,” he said nodding slowly but looking at me like he didn’t believe me.

“Where’s Ama?” I asked changing the subject and looking around for her.

Josh gasped and leaned toward me with his eyes wide. “She’s cheating on us.”

I rolled my eyes. “Okay Dramatic Drake, what does that even mean?”

“She has new friends,” he said shaking his head.

“You have a billion friends,” I countered.

“Yes, but there’s a hierarchy.”

“Of course, there is Prince Joshua,” I answered with a posh accent.

He rolled his eyes before continuing. “I have best friends at the top, cute friends just below that, less attractive friends below them, acquaintances after that, then my enemies,” he answered with a shrug. “If I have plans with my cute friends but my best friends wanna hang, sorry cute betches, my best friends called!”

I scoffed.

“Except!” he yelled throwing a finger in the air.

“When you have a hot date?” I asked.

“Yup,” he said with a giant smile on his face.

“I hate you,” I deadpanned.

°~*◊*~°

“Cassie, wake up!”

I groaned closing my eyes tighter. Why did it seem impossible to get a full night’s sleep lately? Why does the world hate me? Why would someone be doing this to me now?

“Cass, you gotta wake up,” I heard the voice saying again.

I opened an eye. I saw Addie looking… strange. Her make-up wasn’t perfectly applied. Her hair was in a messy ponytail.

I sat up and rubbed my eyes. “Addie, what’s wrong?”

I saw her visibly swallow. She was shaking. “It’s Maman.”

°~*◊*~°

NOTT ATTACKS EX-WIFE! WAS HIS FATHER INVOLVED TOO?

She wasn’t moving.

Your actions have consequences.

She hadn’t moved for the past week.

Your actions have consequences.

I hadn’t moved for a week. I was afraid if I made any sudden movements. Any movements at all she would die. And it would be all my fault.

Your actions have consequences.

Her skin was pale and blotchy. Her hair looked dull and limp. A spell was helping her breath.

Your actions have consequences.

They could not figure out what the spell was, the spell that had hit her. They couldn’t figure it out. They could not figure out the best way to help her, the best way to heal her. They couldn’t recognize the spell.

Your actions have consequences. Your actions have consequences. Your actions have consequences.

“Cassie, you have to eat something,” Addie begged pushing food toward me. She had finally convinced me to walk to the St. Mungo’s Hospital cafeteria.

I stared at the soggy chips in front of me that I had doused in ketchup. “It’s my fault,” I whispered my voice coming out in a croak due to lack of use.

“You cannot blame yourself. Our father and grandfather are maniacs. You did not do this. One of them did this. Or both of them did this,” she replied grinding her teeth.

I nodded my head mutely. “When do we have to go back to Hogwarts?”

“Longbottom says tomorrow but he set up a direct Floo. We’ll come back every Saturday morning and stay till the afternoon or as soon as something happens, we’ll be right back here.”

“So, he never loved her, he never loved us?” I blurted out getting increasingly angry at my father.

Addie inhaled before taking a sip of tea. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “Nothing about this makes sense. I asked the Aurors to confirm the reports he did this and they gave me some non-answer.”

“Obviously, it was him,” I responded with my vision blurring with angry tears.

Addie bit on her bottom lip as if she had something on the tip of her tongue but she shook her head as if she were clearing it. “Yea, I guess so,” she said slowly.

“Who’s guarding maman today?” I asked wiping the tears away from my eyes before trying to eat again.

Addie offered me a napkin. “Some bald guy named ‘Smith’ but I doubt that’s his real name.”

I grabbed the napkin. “You’d think they’d be able to come up with something more creative,” I responded wiping my eyes. “I don’t understand why they need to be so secretive about this.”

Addie pursed her lips and stared into space. “I... I don’t know either,” she said while shrugging and finally meeting my eyes.

I eyed her for a couple of moments wondering if I should push her to tell me whatever she was hiding but I felt tired to the bone, tired to my core. I dropped the napkin and chip I was holding. “Let’s go back to maman’s room,” I said sliding my chair out and getting up.

°~*◊*~°

A/N: Two plus months! I suck, huh? Sorry everyone (if anyone is still reading this). Unfortunately, I’ve been quite sick for a number of weeks. (Go to the doctor on a regular basis, friends! It’s so very important.) Insane migraines and other pain have made it impossible to proofread clearly so I apologize for all the mistakes that are likely in this.

Friends, let me know you’re out there reading this if you still are ☺.



°~*◊*~°


“EXPELLIARMUS!”

I bit down on the inside of my lip and stared at the wall.

“I heard that Charlie…”

“PROTEGO!”

I tapped my foot to a rhythm in my head trying to ignore the dull pain in my chest.

“…just couldn’t get over the fact that…”

“COLLOSHOO!”

My throat felt tight, like I couldn’t fully inhale no matter how much I focused, no matter how much I tried.

“…he couldn’t say it back!”

“PROTEGO! CONFUNDO!”

I stared at the floor and tried to focus on my breathing but it felt like a useless exercise. Breathing in for 5 seconds felt so difficult, impossible.

“I totally understand! Could you…”

“DIMINUENDO!”

I closed my eyes trying to forget the pain in my chest that would ebb and flow throughout the day.

“…imagine saying the L word and then not hearing it back.”

“EVERTE STATUM!”

There were loud gasps after the sound of a bang and I opened my eyes but kept them trained on the floor.

“Point to Hufflepuff,” a voice announced from the front of the room. The stands to my right erupted in boos but Slytherin fans were drowned out by the cheers and claps from the stands to my left and the people immediately surrounding me.

“Grayson looks kinda hot, huh, Cassie?” Josh asked nudging me in my right side.

“Huh?” I said tearing my eyes away from the floor. I finally looked at the main event and spotted Grayson with a smug smile on his face as he accepted congratulations and compliments from his teammates. He swiftly waved his wand over his arms and legs to remove the bulky protective gear from his body.

“Were you even watching?” Ama muttered in my ear. “I knew this was a bad idea. We shouldn’t have…”

“No,” I said quickly trying to clear my head. “I’d rather be here than…” I swallowed unable to finish the sentence without getting choked up.

Josh nodded his head and Ama squeezed my hand showing they understood. For days, I had been spending time in my room in my bed trying to will the pain to go away. Wishing and hoping that my maman would feel better. Only attending about half of my classes.

Grayson scanned the crowd as he blew a blonde strand of hair out of his eye. His blue eyes finally found me and he gave me a small wave.

I waved back trying to plaster a smile on my face.

“He’s totally your non-boyfriend boyfriend,” Josh mused.

Ama scoffed. “He’d have to talk to her first, no?”

“He wrote her a letter saying…”

“What’s the point of a letter if he can’t even have a…”

I sighed loudly and they both snapped their heads toward me. I rolled my eyes at both of them.

Last night, Grayson sent me a note asking me to attend his dueling match. I jumped at the opportunity to distract myself in some way. Hearing Ama, Josh, and Dom repeatedly tell me how sorry they were about my maman and by extension my crazy family was getting old and tired.

Distractions are my friends. Distractions are my friends. This was my ill-advised, but (hopefully) effective mantra.

So, here I was making a “public appearance” at my “non-boyfriend boyfriend’s” dueling match in the Great Hall. In a moment of weakness and temporary insanity, Josh had convinced me to wear Grayson’s “OYLE” Hufflepuff Dueling Team sweatshirt. According to Josh, I was “staking my claim," which was "totally acceptable" to do because "it was about time that white straight men got treated like property."

I feel it necessary to point out here that I don't subscribe to every Josh-ism.

Frankly, I just felt sweaty and silly as I swam in a too big sweatshirt.

“Okay,” Ama said putting her hair in a ponytail. “You might need to talk to him about the match so maybe pay attention this…”

“Eh, just give him generic praise,” Josh said with a wave. “Men love that shit,” he added wiggling his eyebrows.

"We can also just leave," Ama offered.

"She can't show up to his match wearing his clothes and not talk to him," Josh responded giving us a reproachful look.

Ama rolled her eyes. "Biscuits?” she asked holding a bag toward me.

My stomach rolled uncomfortably as I looked at the treats. “No, thanks,” I muttered.

Ama nodded and gave me a tight smile.

“Fifth and final match,” the announcer’s voice traveled through the room. “Captains step up.” Grayson stepped forward again with a hard look on his face. He waved his wand and his gear reappeared on the appropriate places on his body. Brent Zabini from Slytherin also stepped forward. He was slightly taller than Grayson and looked stronger too. Brent would probably have the advantage if this were a muggle wrestling match.

"I will talk to him," I finally decided. I needed a good distraction anyway.

“Take your marks!”

I rolled up the long sleeves on Grayson’s sweatshirt and leaned forward trying to pay attention to something… anything.

°~*◊*~°


"Great match," I offered trying to get Grayson's attention.

He spun around interrupting a conversation he was having with another Hufflepuff teammate. Grayson smiled at me before turning back to his friend. His friend looked me over with a smirk on his face before giving Grayson some type of “bro-nod.” I tried my best not to openly roll my eyes.

"Thanks for coming," Grayson said once his friend left. Grayson led me over to the stands which hadn't been cleared out yet.

He sat down and let out a big breath. I remained standing and gave him a small smile.

"So..." he said blushing a little and looking down at the floor.

He didn't immediately continue so I let the silence hang in the air a little as I eyed his facial expression. I expected him to continue but as the silence dragged on he seemed to fidget and get increasingly uncomfortable. It was a strange transition - Grayson seemed pretty confident twenty minutes ago throwing and dodging spells but now he couldn't even look at me.

"Have you been avoiding me?" I asked crossing my arms trying not to sound bothered.

His face slowly turned pink. "I'm sorry about that," he said quickly standing up. "I kissed you," he whispered as if it were a secret, "and then I just panicked and then things happened with your mother and I didn't want to overwhelm you."

I nodded my head slowly processing what he was saying.

"I am sorry about your…”

"Right, thanks," I said cutting him off seeing no reason to hear more condolences. I stared at him wondering where we went from here.

"If it's any consolation, I don't feel like running anymore," he said taking a large step into my personal space. I craned my neck to look up at him seemingly impressed by his boldness, especially compared to the Grayson who couldn’t even look at me 30 seconds ago. He smelled like sweat, spearmint, and something else I couldn’t quite figure out. “I don’t care what my family says,” he muttered looking determined.

He leaned toward me slowly giving me plenty of opportunity to turn away. I closed my eyes as his lips pressed against mine firmly. He moved his lips against mine and I squeezed my hands into fists waiting to feel something.

All I could feel was that dull pain in my chest.

I heard the sound of someone clearing his throat loudly. Grayson’s lips were gone in an instant.

I opened my eyes - he had jumped back from me and was looking down at his shoes again while rubbing the back of his neck.

“Hey, Cass.”

I turned to see Freddie standing near the door - he was staring at me and Grayson with his eyebrows furrowed.

I gave him a small wave.

“He really has awful timing,” Grayson muttered under his breath.

Freddie continued staring at me for a beat before taking a few steps toward us. “Uhh, Longbottom asked me to put the tables back,” he said holding up his wand and motioning toward the mats from the Dueling Match.

“I’ll see you later?” I heard Grayson mutter.

“Yea, sure,” I said turning toward him. He nodded grabbing his gym bag before heading toward the door.

I stared after him feeling confused. I hoped kissing Grayson would make me feel better, mask the stabbing in my chest. I knew that wasn't fair but it was true, I really wanted-needed a distraction.

“So…” Freddie had a ghost of a smirk on his face as he cleared away the mats with his wand.

I rolled my eyes and took out my wand.

“You and…”

“Let’s not talk about it,” I said with a forced laugh before performing the spell to clear the stands away.

Freddie exhaled loudly. “Okie, dokie,” he said slowly.

°~*◊*~°


I stood outside of the Transfiguration classroom pacing and shuffling my feet. The lump in my throat was too big to swallow. I was trying to will myself to step in the classroom. But, I knew I needed to swallow it down before I stepped in. The hallway was deserted and class had started twenty minutes ago.

Notts don’t show emotion.

Distractions are my friend.

Notts don’t cry in public.

Classes are distractions and distractions are my friend.

Notts don’t show weakness.

Distractions are…


“Hi!”

I jumped and put a hand over my heart.

“Sorry,” Dom said frowning. “Didn’t mean to sca…”

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” I said shaking my head.

“No, I didn’t mean to…” Dom stopped talking and raised an eyebrow. “You have a free?”

“No, no,” I said feeling my stomach drop as embarrassment washed over me. “I’m…” I looked at the classroom door and swallowed. The peculiar thing about being on the brink of losing my maman is that life went on for nearly everyone else.

It made sense practically. Mothers became sick everyday. Mothers died everyday. Tragedy struck families I didn’t know or ever have an affinity toward constantly.

So I don’t know why it surprised me or shocked me that Transfiguration still occurred on Monday and Wednesday mornings. Herbology happened on Tuesday afternoon. Potions on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So on and so forth. I knew Longbottom and the other professors were ignoring my absences for now. How long was acceptable to shirk my responsibilities?

I shook my head.

I’m a Nott and Notts don’t show weakness.

“I’m skipping,” I said with a forced shrug.

“Oh,” Dom said tilting her head to the side. She looked around. “Are you waiting for…” she trailed off.

“No,” I said quickly. “I’m just trying to figure out what to do.”

Dom nodded her head. “Do you wanna grab pie from the Kitchen?”

I shrugged feeling queasy. “Nah, I’m thinking of taking a walk actually.”

Her lips puckered for a split second before she gave me a small smile. “I’ll walk with you.”

We stepped in a random direction, walking in comfortable silence for a few minutes.

“What are you doing for the break?” she asked fidgeting with her bag.

I let out a deep sigh before frowning. “Stay here, I guess?”

She stopped and turned toward me chewing on her lip.

"What’s up, Dom?”

“Stay with us,” she blurted out.

My eyes went wide before I swallowed. “With Tante Fleur and Uncle Bill?” I asked in a high-pitched voice.

“Yea,” she said shrugging. “I mean it makes sense with every…”

“Dom, I can’t even remember the last time…” I paused realizing that what I was going to say wasn’t necessarily true. I had seen Tante Fleur at the hospital last weekend and Uncle Bill had sent a letter asking if we needed anything. I felt slightly guilty for taking those gestures for granted.

“We’ve been pretty shitty famille,” she admitted anyway.

I smirked at her exaggerated French accent. “Can you actually speak French or do you just have that cheesy accent down?”

She gasped dramatically. “I know French! Voulez-vous coucher…”

“Ewww, stop!”

“Quoi?” she asked with a smile on her face. “But, seriously, think about a Weasley-Delacour holiday break?” she asked nudging me in my side.

I played with my lip. I felt insanely thankful for the offer but I hadn’t really spent an extended amount of time with Tante Fleur or Uncle Bill. I was going to be in their space, in their home for the entire break - What if they hated me? What if I didn’t like them? What if we just didn’t get along? What if…

“I know you’re probably nervous,” Dom said breaking through my thoughts with a determined look on her face. “But, you’ll be able to go to the hospital as much as you want,” she whispered putting an arm around me. “And, if you still want that camp job…”

“You’re right.” Her logic made sense. I wanted to see my maman more and I had no idea what we were going to do for money. I nodded my head at Dom’s hopeful face. “You’re right,” I repeated. “Are you sure…”

Dom squealed drowning me out as she started jumping up and down.

“Are you sure your parents are okay with this?” I asked over her screams.

She scoffed. “Yes, of course. We are going to have so much fun! We’re going to party! There are these two muggle twins that live in town that would be…”

She trailed off when I made a face.

“What?” she pushed. “You’re Veela, remember? All you have to do is say ‘Volez-vous co…’”

“La la la la la,” I said putting my hands over my ears and sticking my tongue out.

She gave a twinkling laugh before leading us to a windowsill. I looked outside to see a thin blanket of white snow covering the Quidditch Pitch.

I let out a laugh. “How long has there been snow on the ground?” I asked.

I could see Dom shrugging in my peripheral vision as she also looked outside. “Like a week maybe?” she offered unsure.

“I didn’t even notice,” I whispered putting my hand on the glass. I expected it to be cold but it was surprisingly warm.

“You’ve been going through a…”

“No big deal,” I said cutting her off. “How are you?” I asked looking back at her faking a smile to cover my poor attempt at trying to change the subject.

She stared a me for a beat. Her Delacour light blue eyes looked just like my maman’s. It made me feel slightly ill. “Fine,” she said slumping her shoulders. “I think it’s time I move on. I feel like one of those girls I hate.”

“What do you…”

“You know,” she said waving her hand around. “The girl who’s after the guy that clearly doesn’t like her but she’s waiting around when she has other options. I just feel pathetic and…”

“Merlin, Dom. That’s false on so many levels,” I countered. “I mean, you’re stunning and…”

“Charlie Avery,” she spat and then looked at me like I was supposed to know what that mean.

I looked around making sure I wasn’t missing anything. The hallway was still mostly deserted with classes for the period still in session. “Charlie…” I repeated slowly.

“She asked him for flying lessons!” Dom squealed getting up and pacing around.

“Oh, well, maybe they are just…”

“Do you know how cute Charlie is?” she asked cutting me off. "Can someone that cute have guy friends?"

“Umm… yes?"

“Like, what even is that hair color?”

“Charlie’s hair? Brown?” I asked frowning.

She scoffed at me. “No! It’s like red-brown, like a shiny red-brown. Like, auburn and with green eyes!”

“Umm,” I said frowning at her.

“And her name! Her name!” she said kicking at the air. “It’s one of those fancy girl names that can be shortened to a cute guy name!” she added throwing her hands up. “'Call me Charlie,'” Dom said in a high-pitched voice. I think it was supposed to be an imitation of Charlie’s voice but it honestly sounded like a small creature dying.

“Mmm,” I said trying to find something to add to the conversation.

She let out a breath. “Cassie! Girl with shiny red-brown... auburn hair, green eyes, and huge knockers wants flying lessons from Ollie! First, she’ll be riding his broom! Brooms and riding lessons are just gateway drugs! Then, then, THEN! she’ll be riding… him!” she ranted pacing back and forth.

I looked at Dom with wide eyes for a beat trying to keep a straight face but then I couldn’t hold it in. I just started laughing, hard. I spit out a very attractive, “Pshhhh…” and I was shaking with laughter.

“Why are you laughing at me?” she asked in a stern tone with hands on her hips but she also had a smile on her face.

I hadn’t really cracked a genuine smile since my maman ended up in the hospital.

What Dom said really wasn’t funny at all. In reality it was a little tragic - Dom had the most attractive combination of genes in the whole frickin’ school! Yet she was stomping around jealous because the boy she wanted to be with wasn’t giving her the time of day.

But, I guess my body needed a reason to laugh because it was honestly like a dam had broken. My vision was getting blurry as tears formed in my eyes from laughing so hard.

Thankfully, Dom, being a good sport, joined in shaking her shoulders a little.

“I’m such a… troll!” I said between giggles. “Sorry for laugh…ing… at your pain. I really… really… I can’t… stop… I can’t… stop!” I gasped.

“Yes, you are. You are a troll,” she deadpanned swatting at my arm. “But, it’s good to see you laugh.”

I sobered up feeling a little tired and really hungry. “Let’s go get that pie from the Kitchen,” I said standing up. “I’ll pay,” I promised with a wink.

Dom scoffed but gave me a wide smile. “It’s the least you could do,” she said letting me lead the way.

°~*◊*~°


“What do you think Americans wear?”

“What we do…”

“This is New York, Ama, I can’t show up in my normal clothes.”

“My mother’s in the fashion industry, I think I would know!"

“Apparently not,” Josh sang.

I was looking down at the ground as we walked back from the Greenhouses. Although it was melting, there was still a thin layer of snow covering the path and grass. Today was an okay day- not amazing but not terrible either. I had gotten a decent amount of sleep and I didn’t feel too tired to get up when I heard my alarm chime. I actually made it to Potions and Herbology but I was so exhausted.

I knew I was being a bad friend by not even trying to engage but I didn’t feel emotionally equipped to consider the fact that I probably wouldn’t see Josh much during the break and then he’d be gone afterward on his stupid Royal trip. And I’d probably need him the most because my mother was in a stupid coma because my stupid fa…

“Cassie?” Ama said slowly.

I looked up from the snow to see Ama’s ambers eyes looking at me expectantly.

“Hmmm?” I asked — my voice sounded foreign to me, hoarse and strained.

“We were asking what you thought about the Ministerial election," Josh explained.

I frowned realizing I must have zoned out for longer than I thought. I also felt like I lived under a rock. "Someone's challenging Granger next year?"

"The Pure Party has been hinting at a candidate for a few weeks," Ama explained.

"Could they actually stand a chance against the MB's? There's no way. Especially if Granger runs again and Potter says he'll remain Head Auror under her," Josh argued with a dismissive wave.

The Pure Party started off as a rebranding of some former Death Eaters when Voldemort was defeated. Around that time, people dismissed them as crazy old people who were still trying to achieve blood purity. But, over the last 20 years, the party attracted more supporters by shedding extreme views and adopting more nuanced positions.

I wasn't quite as confident as Josh. "I don't know, Josh. Granger got so much backlash for proposing that Wizards help Muggles with terminal illnesses. If Pure puts up someone moderate, there might actually be a race," I noted.

Josh made a face. "Merlin forbid we use magic to help others."

"My dad leans Pure," Ama reminded us. "And we have so much 'Mudblood' in our family. He thinks it's an issue about safety — like give Muggles an inch and they'll take a mile wanting to do tests on us and stuff."

"It just seems so wrong though. Having the ability to help and not doing anything," I argued as we stepped inside the Castle and I unwrapped my scarf.

"It's not surprising though," Josh pointed out. "Wizards can't really claim any moral high ground throughout history."

"You mean with Voldemort and the Death Eaters?” Ama asked confused.

Josh shook his head. "No, I mean, we've sat out a lot when it comes to Muggle history. Like there's evidence of Wizarding politicians denouncing wars, colonialism, slavery, and segregation when it happened but we didn't do anything. We also knew how to cure certain diseases that killed thousands of Muggles but didn’t do anything.”

“But the moment Muggles had an inkling that witches existed, witches were put on trial and executed,” Ama pointed out.

Josh scoffed. “Let’s not equate twenty deaths to that of thousands or millions…”

“You’re totally dismissing the issue of safety and arguments for keeping our status a…”

“But, you're acting like we have some need for secrecy when in reality…”

“Guys!” I yelled. I knew where this was going if I didn’t interrupt them. “Do I need to remind you both that you’re supporting the same person and in the same party?”

Josh huffed. “Can I please just make one more point?”

I groaned. It was never just one.

“Ama,” he said with faux calmness. “To me, your argument about safety is a justification for inaction when others are suffering. Essentially, it’s a justification for injustice. Arguments about ‘safety’ against doing what’s right is how Voldemort came into power in the first place.”

Ama’s nose was flared and her eyes flashed. “Are you implying that my father is a would be-Voldemort sympathizer?”

“You, yourself, stated that he supports the party that was literally formed by Death Eaters. If the wand fits…”

“Oh my Merlin, seriously? That’s not fair and you know that’s not fair!”

“How?” Josh challenged jutting out his hip.

“There are only two major parties!” Ama jutted her own hip out mirroring Josh’s stance. “People are pushed to leaders like Voldemort because people like you are so inflexible and refuse to listen to any other opinion at…”

“No, it’s people like you who don’t agree but give credence to ridiculous points…”

“Cassie!”

“Thank, Merlin,” I muttered loud enough for Ama and Josh to hear. I let out a breath, ignoring the side eye my best friends were giving me, and turned around. Tay Finnegan was jogging toward us and waving at us like we weren't just a few feet away. I put my hand up and lazily wiggled my fingers in response.

“Hey all!” Tay said skidding to a stop in front of us. She let out a huge breath blowing some of her dark curls out of her face.

“Hi, Tay,” Ama said flicking some hair out of her face in Josh's direction.

“Hey,” Josh said drawing out the word and rocking on the balls of his feet.

If Tay noticed any awkwardness, she didn’t comment on it. “Can we chat for a beat?” she asked still a little out of breath from her jog.

“Yes, of course,” I practically shouted thankful for the opportunity to get away before Ama and Josh demanded that I pick a side.

Tay linked arms with me and marched us toward the stairs. “How’s it going?” she asked lightly.

I made a face not knowing if she seriously wanted to know or if she was just making conversation.

Tay continued before I could answer. “I talked to my boss,” she said pulling me into a side hug as we walked. “We’re going to be co-workers!”

“Wait, really?”

“Yes, we’re going to look so cute in our matching uniforms…”

“Thank you!”

“…and I can show you how to make all the funky cocktails with the fruity garnishes.”

“When do I start?”

“Right, after break,” she admitted with a frown. “I tried to get earlier but there’s not a lot going on so…”

“No, that’s fine, perfect,” I said nodding my head. We would definitely need money soon but at least I’d have time to get used to… the apparent new normal - my maman in the hospital.

She smiled at me. “Dom tells me your having a Weaslacour Holiday?”

I let out a laugh at the name. “Yes, I guess you could say that.”

“I hope to see you there,” she trilled. “I’m there a lot. William claims that I need to start paying rent,” she added with an eye roll.

“Does Uncle Bill go by William now?”

“Nah, I just call him William cause it’s hilarious and he hates it."

I nodded my head noting how comfortable she seemed with Dom's family.

"I love that the girls with outnumber the guys even more," she continued hugging me tighter. "I'm in the middle of an all out prank war with Louis."

I laughed but stopped when I saw Tay wasn't cracking a smile.

"This is serious, Cass. Not only must we win the war but we must win each and every battle. Only complete domination will be accepted."

"We?" I asked slowly.

"Yes, we," she demanded stomping her foot. "Louis is a maniacal genius who somehow knows where I am at all times, Cassie. All times so we need soldiers operating at one thousand percent," she continued looking around as if Louis was following us.

I stared back at her blankly.

"Ok so you plan, I'll plan, we'll chat." She continued to look around with her eyes narrowed looking increasingly flushed. “I’m going to go. We’ll catch up later? I’ll teach you how to make a muggle mojito or something? It's a weird favorite at Sticks. Okay, bye!” she shouted before dashing off.

I frowned. “Bye,” I said to her back.

°~*◊*~°

"Why does that matter?" I asked slowly tightening my grip around my broom.

His honey eyes narrowed for a few seconds. "Because," he answered calmly, voice even. "I like to know what's going on with my team."

I pursed my lips letting James's words hang in the air for a few moments. If James was uncomfortable with awkward silences he wasn't showing it at all. His stance was relaxed, his eyes were steadily trained on me, and he wasn't fidgeting.

I took a deep breath realizing James wasn't going to let me practice unless I answered his questions so I plopped down on the black bench in the locker room.

"What exactly do you want to know?"

James crossed his arms. "How are you?"

"Fine," I answered automatically and a bit too quickly to be convincing.

James titled his head making the sunlight hit his strands in a way that highlighted a few red ones among the mass of dark hair. "Fine? Is that what you really want to go with?"

There was a lump forming in my throat. I tried to steady my breath so I could swallow it down.

James crouched down so he was eye level with me. The specks of different colors in his eyes were making me dizzy.

"What makes you think I'm not fine?" I challenged after successfully swallowing the lump down.

He gave me a look but fixed his face quickly. “There’s a rule - maybe, it’s a law? I don’t know. But when the Head Auror gets hurt, no one, except for a select number of people are supposed to know until his condition is stable. If he dies or is seriously injured, they try to keep it a secret for as long as humanly possible. The Minister is supposed to appoint someone else in the position before anyone finds out if he does pass away. So, my dad could be hurt, dying right now and I just wouldn’t know.”

I gasped looking at James with wide eyes.

James gave me a deep chuckle. “It’s fine,” he said pulling out his WizPhone. “Dad just texted me asking about Muggle gifs or something,” James said shaking his head and smiling down at his phone a little. “And he’s been doing less missions himself, lately.”

I stared at James's smile suddenly feeling like I was intruding on a private moment. James was telling me things I wasn’t sure I was allowed to know.

His smile disappeared as he looked back up at me. “In the summer before Third Year, my dad got a burn across his chest from trying to capture a fugitive. I don’t remember how I found out but someone let it slip before he was healed. He was only in the hospital for 2 hours but I was a wreck.”

I chewed on my lip. I had never heard this story before. Not even from Al or in the news. I shrugged. "You were thirteen."

He let out a laugh. "It was my dad," he responded while getting up. "You'd think I'd be used to it. These missions. The whole savior thing but every time my mum, Uncle Ron, Aunt Hermione, or whoever lets it slip that he’s hurt, I freak." He was pacing now.

"Notts don't freak," I pointed out trying to lighten the mood but my voice was hoarse.

He laughed again. "Nice evading but if you're sister is the 'Nott model', you're nothing like her. She's a little scary," he said seriously.

"I'll let her know you think so," I quipped forcing out a laugh.

He stopped pacing and stared at me. "You know, you and Al have a lot in common. Al has a terrible poker face when it comes to day to day stuff but with serious shit he just shuts down, it's not..."

"Are we done?" I asked getting up not in the mood for a free therapy session.

"Cassie," he said seriously and staring down at me.

"What, James?" I asked grinding my teeth.

He took a deep breath. "Maybe you shouldn't be jumping into a relationship with all that's going on..."

"Are you serious?" I asked. "This is about me possibly dating someone? I hope the guys on your team get asked the same question."

"No," he answered calmly. "This is about you. And I know everything about my players' relationships, especially when it can affect their game. Like I said, I like to know what's going on with..."

"I'm not dating anyone. Can I do this weird practice you..."

"Weren't you kissing Grayson Goyle and in his sweatshirt after the match?” he asked quirking an eyebrow.

"How- who- why do you know that? Are you spying on me?" I asked holding on to my broom tighter.

"Everyone knows that," he said matter-of-factly.

“Freddie and his big mouth! Are we done?"

He took a deep breath. “Are you getting sleep?” he asked abandoning his previous line of questioning.

"Enough."

"Eating?" he asked in a low voice not taking his eyes off of mine.

I opened my mouth to respond.

"Be honest," he warned.

I closed my mouth and took a deep breath. I wasn’t an idiot. I knew that losing my appetite was a symptom of all the stress that was happening. I was swimming in my clothes a bit. I also noticed how Addie and all my friends were trying to discretely push food in my direction.

However, none of them addressed it as… bluntly.

“I’ve lost my appetite. Every time I see food I feel queasy," I admitted out loud for the first time since seeing my maman in the hospital.

"Then you need to go to the Hospital Wing," he said stepping toward me. His face looked grim, clearly worried. "You should talk to someone."

"I want to... I need to fly," I responded sounding more desperate than I intended. I looked down and moved my hand across my broom.

"I can't let you practice if you're not healthy," he said quietly.

"I am."

"You just admitted..."

"I'm not underweight," I cut in looking up at him again. "It's only been a couple of days and a few meals. It's not like I have a problem. I'm just figuring out how to... deal with... this. And I am eating,“ I argued. “Maybe not much but enough. It’s definitely enough.”

James looked at me clearly turning the words over in his head.

“I just need one thing to be normal. I hate people for treating me differently, I hate people for treating me the same, I hate people for feeling things. I just want to... there's no... just let me practice. I need to get along with McLaggen to be on the team right? Let me practice. Let me just do this. Please?"

He looked up and blew out a long, deep breath. "Shit.” He put his hands on his head. “Fine but you need to go..."

"I know, I will. I honestly think this will help," I said shifting my broom from hand to hand with a genuine smile on my face.
°~*◊*~°


Being a wand maker is seen as a respectable, honorable, and complex job in the Wizarding World. There was an art and science behind creating and designing wands because each had a personality of its own. Making a wand required a special kind of magic and an insane amount of attention to detail. Everyone rightfully gave wands their due respect.

But, I also felt the same way about brooms.

Every time I touched my broom I felt a surge of magic flowing up and down the handle. There was a buzzing - less intense than a stinging but still a slight, prominent vibration.

It was cold, biting outside — there was a thin layer of frost covering the ground and there were no leaves on the trees. But, I didn’t care. My broom was between my legs and I was flying, gliding, just feeling the air.

“Are you done messing around?” Chris snarled from somewhere behind me.

I rolled my eyes and let my retort die on my tongue. I steered my broom to the left to face Chris. He was sitting on his broom near the goalposts with his arms crossed.

“Calm down, bro. She’s warming up,” Carl said from somewhere on my left, surprising me.

“You do know she’s here to take your spot, right?” Chris spat at him. “The reserve is where they put people who aren’t good enough.”

Carl shrugged and shrunk back a little.

“There’s no need to be an arse,” I defended him.

“Says the Spawn taking my brother’s spot.”

I scoffed. “Find a new insult, you troll.”

“Alright, mum and dad, can we get this show on the road?” Carl chimed in.

“Ew, gross,” I responded at our apparent new nicknames.

After some more arguing and insults, we had decided that the first half of practice would be Carl and me looking for the Snitch while Chris hit Bludgers toward us. The second of half of practice would be Chris as Keeper while Carl and I tried to score on him. We all agreed to this plan and we all agreed it made sense. But, Carl and I had not been searching for the Snitch for more than five minutes before Chris started complaining and throwing a fit.

“I’m not a Beater!” Chris yelled throwing his bat to the ground after a particularly weak swing at a Bludger.

I rolled my eyes as Carl signaled for me to fly toward him.

“Sorry my brother’s being such an arse,” Carl muttered to me as we sat in the air and watched his brother stomp around before picking up the Beater bat.

I shrugged and turned toward Carl feeling a little light headed as I did. “It’s fine. By the way, congratulations on catching the Snitch!”

He let out a laugh. “Yea, after my team had to almost kill Scorpius. It’s different when you’re in a game,” he said sighing. “Everything just gets so… real.”

I nodded trying to understand. “Listen, thanks for being… kind about being moved to the Reserve team.”

He exhaled. “I figured after the practices and the game…” he said looking down at the ground.

I stared at him impressed by how mature he was being about all of this. “What if I helped you?” I offered.

He looked up at me clearly surprised. “You mean help me get be… LOOK OUT!”

I turned... CRACK

At first, it just stung. There was just a prominent, sharp stinging in my back like some type of bug stinging me. For a nanosecond, I thought I’d be okay. I could shake it off, throw some dirt on it, and get back to what I was doing.

But then, it spread. Fast.

I gasped as the sharp pain got stronger and spread across my side and back.

I wanted to yell or scream but it was like the hit or sting or whatever it was literally took my breath away. It took my strength away too. I felt so weak.

CASS!

SHIT!

In the very back of my brain, I could process that it was the McLaggen brothers calling my name and shouting but they sounded so… far. I also knew it was important for me to keep my eyes open, to stay conscious but it was so hard, too hard.

Up was down and down was up.

I was spinning was it to the left or the right?

I saw green… the grass? I saw blue… the sky? I saw white… what was white? I saw brown… I saw red… I saw green… I saw blue.

Then suddenly, without warning, it was black.

It was all black.

°~*◊*~°


A/N: You-all are amazing. The best. Seriously. Honestly. Smile and squeals abound with each review. I’m hoping to thank you all individually for the well wishes and the encouragement but if that doesn’t happen before this chapter is up… thank you, thank you, thank you!

A note about this chapter - I was trying to make it a reflection of what I went through when someone close to me got sick - just a rude awakening that the world kept spinning even though something that took all of my energy emotionally, physically, and mentally was happening. I don’t know if I captured that here but I really tried. This is all a learning experience, right? (What I tell myself when I nervous about posting a chapter!)

I'm hoping the next chapter gets posted soon. It's all in my head :) just need to put it on paper (get it, get it?? ;P)


°~*◊*~°


The stench of bleach and other chemicals hit me like a well-placed hex - the smell filled my nose making me feel like I was drowning. My mouth was sticky and I could tell my lips were chapped. I tried to swallow but my mouth felt incredibly dry, like I hadn’t drank liquid for days.

I slowly lifted my eyelids feeling as though I had to pry them open.

My stomach plunged.

I wasn’t in my room.

I was not in my room!

I WAS NOT in my room!

I closed my eyes inhaling deeply to calm my nerves but a surge of pain in my stomach hit me so aggressively and intensely that tears pulled in the corner of my eyes. I tried balling my hands into fists and grimaced at the pain in my left side. Panic rose up from my toes threatening to paralyze every inch of my body.

You’re a Nott! Get your shit together!

I held my breath afraid of causing pain again.

First, where am I? I asked myself trying to remain calm.

I opened my eyes again and took in the ceiling above me. I was staring at a large rounded stone roof with intricate cravings and designs. Relief washed over my body as I allowed myself to exhale slowly. Hogwarts. It was obviously Hogwarts.

The strong odor lingered into my nostrils again getting more intense, more pronounced as my breathing returned to normal. Clean. That was the only way to describe it. It wasn’t like when Mandy would spray air freshener around the dorm telling Ama, ”Your nail polish smells like rotten eggs and arse!” This was an industrial kind of clean. Not only could I smell bleach and other chemicals, but I also felt like I could taste and feel them too.

I was cold, the sheets covering me were flimsy and scratchy. Everything was dark except for some moonlight peaking through the windows.

I shifted my body, turning my head to the left.

“Oh.”

I don’t think I had ever been happier to see James freakin’ Potter.

He was sitting in a chair by my bed with his eyes closed - I could hear soft snores rumbling through his body. I blinked my eyes a few times to adjust my vision to the darkness. He was sitting upright, rigid and his head kept falling forward then jerking back. He was dressed in slim, dark jeans and a large bright green and yellow “Holyhead Harpies” sweatshirt. The hood was up so I could only see a few strands of his dark hair peaking through.

“James,” I croaked out, my voice sounding like someone else’s.

He shifted in his seat but didn’t respond.

“James,” I tried a little louder, feeling panic rise through my fingertips this time. Waking him seemed so important, vital - I needed answers.

His body shifted a little more but he didn’t answer.

I looked around the room trying to steady my breathing, trying to focus on something, anything. My eyes landed to the table on my right - there were cards, flowers, treats, and chocolates. I could see that there were a few empty chairs scattered around my bed too.

I made to move my left arm but I couldn’t, finally taking in the sling that my arm was in. I closed my eyes tight for a brief moment trying again not to panic. I grabbed a chocolate frog with my right hand. I tried to muster the little strength that I had and loped it toward James. I held my breath as I watched it sail through the air and… hit his right shoulder.

James started and his eyes popped open. He squinted a little looking around taking in his surroundings.

His hazel eyes met my greens ones and it seemed like time sped up while also slowing down. There was a palpable electricity surging between us making me feel light-headed but also numb, his eyes both relaxed and excited me.

“Cassie!” He jumped up scooting his chair closer to me.

“Hi,” I said awkwardly trying to adjust myself to sit up. I ignored the bandages digging into my skin. I already knew something was wrong with my arm. I couldn’t yet bring myself to consider and process the other injuries I clearly had.

“Hey,” James said watching me carefully.

I finally sat up and took a deep breathing ignoring the pain that seemed to be surging up and down the left side of my body.

“Hi,” I said again finally exhaling.

“Hello,” he responded to my awkward double-hi, smiling as if he were enjoying a private joke.

“What time is it?” I asked starting with an easy question, the basics. My brain could process that, at least.

James stared at me for a beat clearly not expecting me to ask about the time, before slowly looking down at his watch. “It’s 2:32 in the morning.”

I nodded observing the multiple beds around the room - the sheets were so white they looked like they were glowing under the moonlight. “And I’m in the Hospital Wing?” I knew the answer but saying it out loud was helping me process.

James opened his mouth but closed it quickly before nodding his head. He took a deep breath before pushing his hands through his hair causing his hood to fall back. “I should get Abbott,” he said moving to leave.

“Wait! James!” All facades of being calm fell away quickly as I reached for him frantically with my good arm.

His eyes flashed but remained on me as he started breathing uneasily. “Cassie, I promised that I’d get someone…”

“Please, stay,” I begged. Apparently all of my dignity had fallen away too. “For… for five seconds? I’m trying really hard not to…” I trailed off fidgeting and tapping my foot.

James nodded his head once and sat down in his chair. He grabbed my hand and rubbed his thumb across my knuckles. “Okay.”

I breathed out again trying to recapture my mirage of calm. “Why are you here at 2:30?” I asked.

His eyes left mine for the first time since I woke him up and I felt immediately queasy like I needed to see his honey-kaleidoscope eyes to keep sane while trying to piece together what the heck happened to me. “I didn’t think you should be alone,” he muttered. “Neither did anyone else,” he said finally looking back up at me again. I felt some tension in my body release. “But visiting hours ended a while ago.”

“How did you get here without getting caught?”

He smirked and leaned in a little and I took the opportunity to inhale…him. Broom polish. Cinnamon. Firewood.

“Well, I… Cassie, are you sniffing me?”

“Yes,” I admitted only feeling slightly embarrassed. James’s eyes were wide and his mouth was in an O but he didn’t recoil in disgust which I took as a win. “I need to replace the stench of industrial cleaner in my nose.”

James smirked at me before letting go of my hand and swiftly sliding off his sweatshirt briefly revealing a few ab muscles between his belt and his red t-shirt. “Take care of this. My mum gave it to me.”

My mouth fell open as I took in what he was giving me. “Is that a vintage Holyhead Harpies official team sweatshirt? As in the year they won the Cup with your mum as captain? As in the one only made for players and family?” I gasped out in one breath.

James played with his lips a little, clearly trying not to laugh at me. “Yes. It’s my mum’s actually. I did an enlargement spell when she gave it to me,” he said with a causal shrug that infuriated me an unacceptable amount.

“I can’t take it,” I said shaking my head. Was he mental? “I can’t believe you’re wearing that sweatshirt instead of having it framed, preserved, and hung up somewhere so that people can bow down to it in awe giving it the glory and honor that it deserves.”

“You’re a little odd, huh?” he deadpanned.

I scoffed.

“Take the sweatshirt.”

“No.”

“Take the sweatshirt.”

“No.”

“Take it.”

“No-ah.”

“Who’s that?”

“What?”

“Who’s Noah?”

“Avada yourself,” I instructed in response to his too proud smirk.

He rolled his eyes and carelessly folded the sweatshirt in his lap as if he weren’t holding a national treasure worth thousands of galleons to hardcore Harpies fans around the world. He sighed but grabbed my hand again making my shoulders relax even more.

“So, how did you sneak in here?” I asked again.

“I have my resources,” he drawled annoyingly.

“I don’t know what that means.”

“That’s the point of being evasive, isn’t it?”

I quirked an eyebrow.

“By the way, did you really throw a chocolate frog at me?”

I let out a laugh but groaned when I felt a sharp, prominent pain in my side again.

James’s nostrils flared. “I could get Abbott,” he offered. “She can give you more pain potions.”

I shook my head and held onto his hand tighter still not wanting to be alone. “It’s not that bad. So I broke my arm?” I asked lifting the sling up a little.

James swallowed. “Sprained it.”

“And my ribs?” I said feeling the bandages around my middle.

“You bruised the ones on your left side,” he reported tapping my knuckles with his thumb like he was playing an instrument.

“What else?” I asked, swallowing.

The tapping on my knuckles got faster and more erratic. “Dislocated left shoulder and superficial bruises but Abbott was able to fix that while you were unconscious.”

“How did this happen?” I asked finally getting to the question that was gnawing at me.

He stopped moving his thumb across my hand. “You don’t remember?”

I shook my head.

He blew out a breath. “It’s all my fault, Cassie…”

“Ms. Nott?”

I turned to see Madam Abbott walking out of her office wearing light yellow silk pajamas and her hair in a messy bun.

“Were you talking to someone?” she asked approaching my bed in a tone that said she was a little bewildered.

“Umm,” I said turning toward where James was sitting but he was… gone. I gasped wondering if I imagined our entire conversation.

Abbott looked at me strangely before putting the back of her hand to my forehead. “I’m going to give you more potion for the pain. We shouldn’t take any chances. How are you feeling?” she asked smiling at me but in a way that was a little “oh, you poor pathetic thing”-esque.

“I’m okay, I guess, I don’t really remember what happened.”

Abbott nodded her head while mixing the potion. It was an odd sight to see her in her pajamas and slippers mixing potions while yawning loudly. “You fell off your broom, dear,” she explained simply. “I can’t say much more because there’s an active investigation open regarding the incident.” She seemed like she was bursting at the seams ready to reveal more if pushed carefully. Abbott was known to be a bit of a gossip - more than once she was chastised by McGonagall for revealing too much about staff gossip to her patients.

I frowned as she handed me a potion that looked puke green. “An investigation?” I whispered hoping it would urge her on to tell me more.

She sighed. “I’ve already said too much but you were hit by a Bludger,” she explained.

I looked down at my injuries. “I don’t understand. I’ve been hit by a Bludger before.”

Abbott swung her arms back and forth. “The Bludger was twice as strong as a regulation one and someone had removed the safety spell on the Pitch.”

“What?” I asked feeling my stomach churn.

She shook her head. “Thankfully, that Potter boy was able to get that cushioning spell off but still there was extensive damage. Such a shame. I really thought these days of horror were over.”

“Yea,” I said breathlessly trying to process what she was saying. “Shame.”

“Well drink up, dear,” she instructed in a surprisingly cheerful tone. “I added some pomegranate flavoring to mask the taste and smell.”

“Thanks,” I muttered bringing the potion to my lips. “Eek!” The potion actually tasted like dirt. Dirt mixed with weak pomegranate flavoring which somehow made it taste even worst.

Abbott grimaced at me a little before taking the bottle from my hands when I had finally choked the potion down. “Night,” she said before walking back to her office.

I laid back on my pillow my head, arms, and legs feeling too heavy for my body.

“I can’t believe she still calls me ‘that Potter boy.’ There are three of us!"

I jumped taking in that Potter boy’s reappearance.

“Godric! I’m hallucinating!” I said reaching for his face, touching his scruffy five o’clock shadow before my arm felt too heavy to hold up.

“Why do you always accuse me of being a hallucination?” he asked grabbing my hand before it dropped and giving me a broad smile that Cruio-ed my freakin’ heart.

I gasped, my vision getting blurry and going in and out a little.

“Are you okay?” he asked coming closer, his smile faltering.

“It’s just cold,” I said shivering a little as I felt the potion cooling some of my injuries and making me tired. “And.. and.. your smile,” I said yawning loudly. “It’s like an… Avada curse to every girl’s heart… guys too I bet. You need to put that thing away.”

He let out a deep, raspy laugh from the back of his throat that made my toes tingle and my cheeks burn. “Isn’t this the pot calling the cauldron black?” he muttered.

Before I could ask him what that meant, my eyelids felt too heavy to keep open.
°~*◊*~°


“I can’t believe Potter didn’t tell me that Cassie freakin’ woke up. I’m her freakin’ sister! Her freakin’ sister!”

“Maybe he was scared of what you would do if he woke you up at 2:30 in the morning,” I heard Freddie muttering.

“I will kill you.”

I popped my eyes open taking in my surroundings. Addie was standing at the head of my bed staring Freddie down. Freddie somehow positioned his big body in the fetal position at the end of my bed. Ama was sitting in my bed next to me reading a book. Josh was sitting in a chair, reading a magazine. The sun was out, warming my cheeks and making me feel relaxed.

“Hey,” I said weakly to no one in particular.

Chaos ensued.

“She’s alive, she’s alive,” Josh yelled, throwing up his hands and tossing the magazine behind him.

Ama hugged my side, careful not to touch any bruises or injuries.

Freddie fake-sobbed. “Thank Merlin! Thank Godric! Thank Helga! Thank Rowena! Eh, I guess we can thank Salazar too,” he said eyeing Addie suspiciously.

“You’re never playing Quidditch again,” Addie stated while pacing. “I’m going to kill all the McLaggens. You’re not allowed to talk to any Wotters. They are all fucking insane. Especially this one,” she muttered pointing toward Freddie.

“How long have I been here?” I asked looking around the room.

“It’s Thursday, so four days,” Ama explained - she looked happy, content to have me back. She linked arms with my good arm and sighed. “It’s so weird hearing your voice. Weird in a good way.”

“Wow,” I said feeling strange and just… off. “Four days.”

Ama nodded her head confirming.

“You really couldn’t have timed it better,” Josh said clearly trying to perk me up. “We leave for break on Monday! You’ll be so well-rested, it’s really incredible. You’re such a lucky betch.”

I smirked at Josh’s twinkling deep blue eyes - he seemed excited, thrilled to be in the middle of some drama that didn’t actually mean I’d be seriously and permanently injured yet allowed him to gossip, speculate, and throw out crazy theories for hours… days.

I laughed at him. “Nice to know you missed me, Joshua,” I teased.

He waved me off. “I ugly sobbed when I first found out, Cass. Ugly sobbed in front of people. My reputation is garbage,” he sighed throwing his blonde strands back dramatically.

“I’m so happy you are awake,” Ama muttered squeezing my arm. “Josh is fucking mental,” she complained. “We need you.”

Josh scoffed jerking his head up.

“He wore all black the other day like you were dying,” Ama continued.

“Josh!” I said horrified.

“Rat!” he accused Ama. “What? It’s how I process things!” Josh said defending himself to me.

I gave him a small smile communicating that I wasn’t actually mad at him.

“How much work do I have to make up?”

“Nothing for Potions,” Freddie said looking incredibly proud of himself. His long, strong limbs were hanging off the sides of the bed as he was now positioned spread out horizontally across the bed. I wondered for a brief moment if the bed was strong enough to hold all three of our bodies.

I groaned ignoring the concern. “Did you ruin our perfect O?”

Freddie scoffed. “How dare you ask me that question.”

I let out a breath, relieved.

“Of course I did!”

I groaned again.

“E plus and E minus,” he said cringing a little.

“Freddie!” I said jumping a little. “That’s so good! I’m so proud of you.”

Freddie smiled at me like a child being congratulated for eating all his peas.

“How’s maman?” I asked Addie as it fully dawned on me that I didn’t know what had happened to her in the past 96 hours.

Addie shook her head. “No change,” she said quietly.

I sighed nodding my head.

Freddie suddenly jerked his head back a little and squinted at me. “Holy hairy Merlin, is that James’s favorite sweatshirt that he never lets anyone wear?”

“What? No-ahhh,” I said as I looked down to see that James’s or Ginny freakin’ Weasley’s Holyhead Harpies sweatshirt was definitely on me. “Oh.”

Josh squealed like an actual Harpy putting his elbows on my bed and resting his head in his hands. “Tell us everything. You’re such a femme fatale, wrecking havoc, and stealing sports sweatshirts and hearts as you move from jock to jock.”

Ama clicked her tongue looking down at my sweatshirt. “You should probably take that off before Grayson’s shift,” she advised.

“Shift?”

Ama shrugged her shoulders. “Abbott doesn’t allow more than a couple of people in here at a time so we take shifts.”

I frowned and eyed the flowers, cards, and treats on the table next to me. It warmed my heart a little - I didn’t realize that so many people cared.

“Why are we not talking about how we are going to murder the McLaggens?” Addie suddenly snapped stomping her foot.

“She’s so damn scary,” Freddie muttered.

“Welcome to the fam,” Josh said spreading his arms open toward Freddie.

“Why are we killing the McLaggens?” I asked.

Everyone’s heads snapped toward me with varying degrees of concern and surprise.

“You don’t remember?” Freddie asked quietly.

I shook my head. “Abbott said there was some type of investigation and that I got hit by a Bludger but I don’t remember that. I kinda remember flying but that’s it.”

“Will that affect the investigation?” Ama asked looking at Freddie in particular.

I frowned.

“It shouldn’t. James was there. His account should be enough, right?” Addie asked with a hand on her hip.

Freddie chewed on his lip. “He was watching from the locker room. He didn’t run out until he saw her falling from the sky.”

Falling from the sky? I knew from what Abbott told me I had fallen off my broom but I hadn’t considered what that looked like.

“The Auror Department should just force them down and steal their memories, get it over with,” Josh muttered crossing his arms.

“Chill, man, we only need one mental person in the crew,” Freddie said nodding toward Addie.

Addie rolled her eyes and then started pacing agin. “I’m not going to let the Aurors talk to her then. I don’t want it on record that she can’t remember,” Addie replied like I wasn’t sitting right in front of her.

“That’s a good idea,” Ama agreed. “Sometimes memories come back after…”

“You-all know it’s like you’re speaking a different language, right? About me? In front of me!” I finally interrupted.

“Wait,” Freddie warned before anyone said anything else. “Anything we say can be seen as influencing her testimony.”

I groaned, frustrated that I couldn’t recall what happened and my friends were talking about me right in front of my face. Apparently, something horrible happened to me and the events surrounding it were completely blank in my head.

“Sorry, Cass,” Josh offered with a sad smile on his face. “But, welcome back,” he said giving me a wink.

“Shit. Longbottom said we couldn’t miss anymore classes this week,” Ama said getting up and frowning at her watch. She gave me another hug before grabbing her stuff. “We will talk, after class,” she promised before heading toward the door.

“Remember everything that happens when Grayson comes. I need to live vicariously through your boy drama,” Josh said kissing both of my cheeks before following Ama.

“Hurry up and recover, I can’t keep these stellar Potion grades up for too long,” Freddie said giving me a cheeky grin before he followed them.

Addie took a deep breath and plopped down on my bed. Ama looked stressed - too stressed for a seventeen year old trying to finish her last and Seventh Year of school. She was looking at me like I’d somehow fall to pieces if she stopped watching me closely.

I squinted at her noticing that something was different. “You cut your hair?” I asked noting that her straight, golden blonde strands seemed to stop just under her shoulder blades.

She looked down at the tips of her hair and shrugged. “Jay said he liked it at this…”

“You’re still dating Stretton?”

She rolled her eyes at me like it was the dumbest question she ever heard. “Yes, he got you some chocolates,” she said as if we were discussing the weather and motioning toward the table by my bed.

I frowned at her and raised my eyebrows. “When did you become a one-man woman?”

“When did you get so many weird friends?” she deadpanned as one of her thin eyebrows quirked up.

“I’ve always been friends with Ama and Josh,” I said nudging her leg with my foot.

“Oh my Merlin, I wish it was just those two. Freddie, James, Al, Grayson, Dom, Louis, Hugo, Rose, Lily, and I swear to Salazar, I almost killed Tay,” she complained as if she went through war and back.

I scoffed. “Excuse me for being nice to people.”

“You’re not forgiven.”

°~*◊*~°

“Did you know,” Grayson asked me while chewing on a mouthful of chocolate, “that chocolate frogs now come in different chocolate flavors?”

“Yes,” I said happily. “White chocolate is my favorite and also milk chocolate with the nuts.”

“When I was little, I didn’t want to eat these…”

“…because you thought they made them from real frogs, right?”

“Exactly!”

Grayson’s “shift” came right after Dom and Tay’s. The sun was starting to go down and the room was bathed in golden sunlight. I thought I would be too tired to talk to anyone after hearing the latest celebrity gossip, clothing trends, and four days’ worth of Hogwarts gossip that they just had to catch me up on. But talking to Grayson just felt… easy. I wasn’t anxious, tense, or annoyed. I was just completely and utterly… comfortable.

“Are you excited for the break?” he asked tossing me another chocolate frog.

I shrugged looking down at the chocolate sitting in my hands. “I don’t know,” I admitted. “I don’t remember the last time I was at Shell Cottage. I just don’t want to step on any toes.”

Grayson nodded his head. “Keep me updated on how it goes?”

I smiled at him. “Sure. Any plans?” I asked.

Grayson was sitting Indian style at the end of my bed - he was wearing a dark grey cashmere sweater with the collar and cuffs of his royal blue button-downed shirt peaking out through the top and sleeves of the sweater. He started fiddling with a non-existent loose thread at the end of his sleeve.

“I’m going to America,” he stated quietly, the invisible loose thread apparently becoming even more interesting.

I stopped chewing wondering what was making Grayson uncomfortable. “Josh will be there too,” I offered trying to move the conversation forward. “In New York. Maybe you two will cross paths.”

He let out a long breath and looked up at me, not quite meeting my eyes. “We won’t be close. I’ll be in California,” he explained.

I nodded my head slowly. “Do you have family there?”

He let out a humorless laugh that shocked me a little - it didn't fit with the Grayson I knew. “Something like that,” he muttered.

“Well, we should hang out before you leave,” I offered trying to change the topic.

He nodded once. “Yes, we should. When do you get out of here?” He asked looking around. Every bed but mine was empty. An hour or two ago, there was a 2nd Year who came in with bats coming out of his nose. Otherwise, I was the only one “lucky” enough to get myself injured.

“In an hour or so,” I said excited to get out of the Hospital Wing.

“We should sit together on the train,” he said looking down again.

I looked over at the end table with all of the treats looking for another chocolate frog with nuts. “We should sit on the train together,” I agreed looking through the debris of candy wrappers. “Josh and Ama would kill mmm…”

Grayson’s lips connected with my face but because I was turned away, his lips mostly connected with the side of my lips. I giggled as he sat back on his legs red-faced, clearly embarrassed.

“Sorry,” he muttered refusing to look at me at all.

“It’s fine,” I assured him pulling him toward me with my good arm. “You just caught me by surprise.”

His blue eyes looked at me with so much earnest it made my heart squeeze. He pushed up the sleeves of his sweater before his lips fully connected with mine. My hand wrapped around his neck and I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to lose myself in the kiss. Grayson grabbed my shoulder and pulled me closer, deepening the kiss. I delighted in the dull tingling emanating from my fingertips and the warm feeling radiating from my stomach.

The sound of someone clearing her throat sent Grayson jumping far away from me. I opened my eyes and frowned at his beet red face — he was already about 10 feet away from my bed and shuffling back further.

Abbott was looking at both of us with a sour, deep frown on her face. “This is highly inappropriate behavior,” she chastised weakly before bringing me my next rounds of potion.

Grayson mumbled an apology, staring at his shoes while Abbott rolled her eyes in response.

I opened by mouth to say something but Grayson was already shuffling toward the door. “I’ll see you later… on the train… or earlier… or something,” he said before leaving and muttering to himself.

I ignored Abbott's commentary as I took my last round of Potions in the Hospital Wing. I stared at the door Grayson just rushed out through trying to focus on Grayson's kiss, ignoring and pushing down the urge to grab a bright yellow and green sweatshirt I had tucked under my pillow.
°~*◊*~°


A/N: I feel like this is kinda short but I felt like if I didn't cut it off here it would get a little ridiculous. Good news though, next chapter should be up soon - it's already half written!

Let me know what your thoughts are on the current James/Cassie/Grayson craziness?

Also, I'd love to know what people do during winter vacation. I have a few ideas for fun with the Wotters but for some reason, I'm drawing a blank on how I spent my winter breaks!

Thanks for reading :D

Chapter 17: seventeen.
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°~*◊*~°

The Express crawled its way from Hogsmeade to King’s Crossing slowly and smoothly as I sat in one of its compartments. I had snagged the seat closest to the window, trying to make myself comfortable on the slightly battered red leather seat. No matter how much I shifted my position in the seat, my stomach still churned as I made my way to spending weeks with the Delacour-Weasleys.

“DOM! Do you have a love bite?”

I was surrounded by people I didn’t really know - even my best friends seemed foreign to me, like I hadn’t really spoken to them in awhile.

“David, when’s your party?

David Dixon was the definition of tall, dark, and handsome. His skin was smooth and dark brown which contrasted nicely with his light brown, big eyes. He changed his hair constantly sometimes opting for an afro, cornrows, or a buzz cut - he looked good in all of them. David was also interesting, an enigma - the first American Muggle-born to somehow end up in Slytherin. His hobbies included playing muggle sports and spending time with ladies in different crevices and corners of Hogwarts - including a tryst with my sister in her Fifth Year.

“Tay, I so do not have a love bite!”

“Not my party, Ollie’s beach house is…” I never found the need to communicate or notice Dixon. I knew he was there, everyone knew he was there. But currently, I was staring at him, observing him openly, not even caring how rude I looked, as he sat across from me.

“You def have a love bite, babe…”

“When?”

Dixon was touching Ama.

Who exactly would I have gotten a love bite…”

Ama.

“In two weeks, I think…”

My best friend.

“…it depends on when his rents…”

The Ama I have known and have been friends with for more than half a decade.

“I don’t know! Yesterday, you didn’t come back to the dorm!”

Said Ama was touching him back, cuddled against him in their own private corner of the compartment. I couldn’t stop staring at his hand draped lazily across her leg, as if this were natural, as if, it belonged there. When the fuck did this happen? And why did Josh seem completely and utterly unfazed by this?

“I was in the LIBRARY!”

Josh was flipping the pristine pages of his new novella from the Vane Series, squealing when he got to the particularly salacious parts.

“I can confirm she was in the library…” Dixon brought friends with him - Brent Zabini was sitting across from Dom with a huge smile on his face and his eyebrows moving up and down suggestively. Zabani, a beater for Slytherin, was tall and muscular with chocolate skin. He smirked a lot, making it seem like he was always hiding something.

“Can you not imply that you were sticking your tongue down my cousin’s throat?” Al complained from his seat by the door.

“Shouldn’t you be used to it with Scorpius and Rose?” Dixon teased looking up from his private conversation with Ama.

“Are you excited for your trip?” Evan Garcia asked from the other side of Josh. Evan. I hadn’t even thought of Evan since he stole my seat in Charms.

“It’s not even like that,” Scorpius mumbled, not even looking up from his WizPhone.

Josh sighed loudly setting his book down but making sure to save his page. “Well, you know how nervous I am about gym. Can you believe they have muggle gym?” And, here Evan was sitting by my best friend asking him a question that I so clearly should have asked him. I didn’t know any of the classes Josh would be enrolled in on his trip. I even forgot that he would have to take classes.

“Have you talked to Rose?” Al pried, he was trying to speak quietly but I could hear him from across the compartment. “You know she’s the new Gryffindor Keeper? You can’t avoid her forever.” Because of the “investigation” my friends refused to discuss with me, James had apparently decided that Chris McLaggen was no longer welcome on the team. While I knew Chris and I weren’t braiding each other's hair on the weekend, it was hard for me to fathom that he’d actually try to harm me. But, according to Freddie, James was adamant and confident in his decision that Chris no longer have a position.

“Gym! Gym! You get gym?! That’s awesome!” Dixon yelled as if ten of us weren’t all crammed like sardines in a too small compartment and talking over each other already.

“Not since she made out with whoever that arse…”

“If by awesome you mean the worst thing that could ever happen to me ever, than yes that…”

“Who even was that guy?” Tay asked her doe eyes getting bigger, sparkling with excitement.

“Josh, did you decide what gift you’re giving to your fancy foreign school?” Ama asked leaning her back into Dixon. But seriously… What happened to Rickett? I swear to Merlin she liked Rickett a couple of… days ago. Weeks ago. Months ago?

“How am I supposed to know?” Scorpius’s nose was flared, his pale skin was slowly turning pink but he still refused to look up from his WizPhone.

Josh scoffed and rolled his eyes. “They can kiss my arse. My presence is a present.”

I watched as Ama and Dixon laughed at Josh’s ridiculousness. I frowned. Why did it feel like something was slipping through my fingers like water or sand that I couldn’t quite grip?

“I’m not even sure Rose knew who he was,” Dom muttered.

Scorpius immediately got up and left. The compartment fell silent as we all watched him go.

“Why are you so quiet?” Josh asked me as everyone’s eyes snapped from the doorway toward me.

I slid down in my seat as my face started burning. “Says the guy reading a book,” I retorted after clearing my throat.

“Are you reading those stupid Vane books again?” Ama asked wrinkling her nose at Josh as some of the others in the compartment started chattering about Scorpius.

I frowned again as Dixon let out a chuckle. “Here we go, again, huh?” he asked me motioning toward Josh and Ama, as if we were sharing some private laugh about my best friends after officially meeting each other thirty minutes ago when the Express left the Hogsmeade station.

“Mmm…” I trailed off in response biting down the urge to say do you even go here, bro?

“Shame on you,” Josh answered Ama. “This will be a classic.”

“Yes, classic trash.”

“What are you talking about? This is the one where Frederico slips Isabella drops of love potion everyday until she falls in love with him. By the time Fernando finds out, he can’t reverse the spell.”

“You know, that’s not how love potions work, right?” I finally found myself chiming in.

“Romilda Vane wrote it so it must be true!” Josh retorted.

“She’s pretty fit for her age. I’d listen to anything she has to say,” Dixon added unhelpfully giving Ama’s knee a squeeze.

I crossed my arms ready for Ama to lambaste him…

She… giggled. She giggled and hit him playfully.

“Exactly,” Josh commented as if David’s comment about Vane’s looks settled the matter. He continued reading his book as if nothing happened. As if, this were normal. As if, David Dixon were a piece of our carefully crafted and curated assembly of friends.

It dawned on me as I watched David whisper something in Ama’s ear that I was a shitty friend. I had no idea what was going on here. I mean, seriously though WHAT HAPPENED TO RICKETT? Here, I was so focused on my tragedy of a life that I didn’t even notice that Ama had moved on. Same with Josh - who was Evan to him these days? Why was it so natural for him to saunter into our compartment and sit next to Josh? It then dawned on me that Addie had been dating one guy for months and I hadn’t even met him. What else was I missing as I wallowed in my own problems?

“Josh, I know you’re not going to be around but, Cass, you and Grayson should double date with us…”

Josh scoffed loudly slamming his book with as much gusto as he could given it was a paperback. “Is that who you’d choose for a double date, Cassie?” Josh teased while Ama giggled.

My mouth dropped open. I knew the halls of Hogwarts were assuming things about Grayson and me but why was my best friend divulging such information in front of this guy that I literally met half an hour ago?

Dixon looked confused as he looked at all of us. “What does that mean?” he asked raising an eyebrow.

“Well…” Ama said letting out a laugh.

“Nothing,” I cut in caustically before she could expose more of my personal life.

I could tell my nose was flared and my face was red by the looks etched on Josh and Ama’s faces. Dixon looked completely unbothered by the awkwardness of the semi-staring contest we were all having. “Bring whoever,” he said with a dismissive wave. “We should all hang.”

I nodded and stood up letting out a huge breath. “I need the bathroom,” I mumbled toward no one in particular. I charged out of the compartment ignoring Ama’s calls for me to wait for her.

I swallowed as I looked down the corridor of the Express. People from all Years were crowding the passageway yelling, laughing, and chatting with one another. There was a tangible, visible buzz of excitement from the anticipation of being free from classes, professors, and essays for a couple of weeks which apparently made everyone happier, more cheerful, friendlier.

Welp.

This contrasted nicely with my feelings of bitterness and dread.

I weaved my way between the chatters and groups of gossipers, nearly getting hit in the head by a Quaffle that was being passed around.

“Sorry, Nott,” someone yelled as I waved the apology off with my good hand.

I leaned against the wall in the corridor for a brief moment and tightly shut my eyes. I needed to make it to a secluded location - to think, to consider, to ponder what was happening and what else I was missing...

“Cassie.”

My eyes popped open as I let out a breath. James stood in front of me with his hands shoved into his jean pockets. His t-shirt was forest green highlighting some of the green specks in his eyes. His hair looked more tame than usual making strands look more chestnut brown than jet-black somehow. He also managed to look slightly more tan even though it was the middle of winter.

“Are you okay?”

“Fine,” I lied immediately as he quirked an eyebrow communicating that he didn’t believe me at all.

I heard someone clearing her throat from my left and I turned to see that James wasn’t alone.

I looked back at James and we made eye contact for a brief second making a single firework erupt in my stomach. “Have you met Pia?” he asked me.

I had seen Pia from afar before but now she was up close and Dom’s description of her came crashing down on me like a tall, strong unrelenting wave - Pia has a strange relationship with James. I think if it were up to him, they’d be together in a heartbeat but Pia’s been putting him through a rollercoaster ride.

Pia had blemish-free golden brown skin and shiny black hair with golden highlights. Her lips were full and pouty with lipgloss generously applied to them. Her eye make-up was done subtly but perfectly with a brown shimmering eye shadow and mascara that accentuated her lashes just enough not to look like she was trying too hard. She had a small septum piercing with diamonds peaking from her nostrils. I was most impressed by her style - she was wearing distressed jeans with a tight burnt orange tank top paired with black stiletto boots.

I adjusted my frumpy jumper wanting to dig a hole, crawl in it, and die just a little bit.

“Hi,” she said in an interesting and husky voice with a slight accent I couldn’t quite place. “I’m Pia.”

“Nice to meet you,” I replied shaking her hand with my good arm. “Cass,” I added letting her hand go.

“How ya feeling?” she asked nodding toward my injuries.

“Oh, it’s not that bad,” I said readjusting my sling. “My ribs are nearly healed and my arm doesn’t even hurt anymore.”

She nodded her head and pursed her lips. “It looks like it really sucks. What exactly happened?"

I opened my mouth to respond but James tensed and immediately jumped in. “The investigation... she really shouldn't..."

Pia looked at James with wide eyes. "Oh," she said cutting him off and focusing back on me, her dark eyes appraising me carefully. "I didn't realize you weren't allowed to talk about it."

I shrugged making a sound that intentionally didn't sound like a yes, no, or maybe.

She nodded her head slowly looking increasingly more confused as she watched me.

"Did you hear about the new Keeper?" James asked dragging a hand through his hair. Pia puckered her lips before giving him a deep frown, probably sensing his lame attempt to change the subject.

"Yea," I said slowly. "I can't wait to see Rose play."

“We should hang out!” Pia said suddenly steering the conversation again. “I hear you’ll be at Dom’s?”

I tried to match her enthusiasm. “Yea, I am, I will be,” I nodded.

“I’m always hanging out at the Potters’ house so I’m sure we’ll cross paths,” she said giving me a genuine smile.

My eyes flickered over to James briefly as he shifted from foot to foot and ran a hand through his hair again.

“Great,” I said feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me.

Pia frowned at my expression. “You okay?” she asked looking at me then James then back at me.

“For sure,” I said, my voice sounding a little more high-pitched than normal. “I’ve gotta go,” I said lamely before moving past them quickly.

°~*◊*~°

We were in an empty compartment, deserted because the lights didn’t work and everyone was too lazy to fix it - I was straddling him and my lips were pressed against his and my eyes were shut tight. Grayson was my escape. My distraction. My retreat, my hideaway.

My maman was still in the hospital, in the same condition. They didn’t know how to help her. Every and anything they were trying wasn’t working. They couldn’t even figure out what spell was used on her to put her in this condition in the first place.

I closed my eyes tighter throwing away thoughts of my maman as Grayson made a grunt-like sound that made my lips vibrate.

Addie was going into the snakes’ den aka Nott Manor to try to steal money from my grandparents. She insisted, no matter how many times I tried to convince her to stay at the Delacour-Weasleys with me. She stubbornly refused claiming and promising to take care of everything so we didn’t have to worry about money.

I tugged Grayson closer with my good arm burying that thought deep down in the back of my brain somewhere.

My best friends were drifting away from me. I knew I was being selfish but I felt like they were moving forward, living life while I was stifled, moving through quicksand and just waiting for another shoe to drop at any moment. Josh was leaving at the worst possible time and Ama was dating Dixon, apparently?

I ran my hand over Grayson’s chest as he made a grumbling noise from the back of his throat.

There was a distinct possibility that Chris tried to harm me, tried to kill me? I didn’t understand what was going on. It felt like I was missing something, reaching for something just within my grasp in my memories. I was still a minor so Addie, my de facto guardian apparently, wouldn't allow a single Auror to speak to me in the hopes I'd randomly remember what happened and implicate Chris.

I squirmed feeling frustrated that I couldn’t focus on the task at hand - I couldn’t escape.

My father was still… my father. The runaway. The criminal.

Grayson and I were both breathing hard, tugging and fumbling, exploring and fidgeting as our lips stay connected moving forcefully.

Pia was sooo frickin’ cool and hot and nice! Like, Merlin, I’d hook up…

“Cass,” Grayson breathed pulling away from me.

“Hmm?” I asked sitting back, opening my eyes waiting for them to adjust to the pitch darkness. I blinked my eyes a couple of times, just making out the outline of his blue eyes and his blonde hair.

“Were you trying to…” he trailed off.

“What?”

“I just think you should be certain before we…”

“Oh!” I responded, understanding washing over me like an ice cold bucket of water. “I wasn’t… I didn’t…”

“Did I read that wrong?” he asked letting out a laugh. “I didn’t mean to imply anything.”

“No,” I said shaking my head and sliding off of him. “It’s fine.” I let out a laugh at myself. “I’ve just never… have you?” I asked my voice rising in pitch.

“Yes.”

“Ahh, okay, right…” I trailed off. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I asked that question but it definitely was not that.

“Yea,” he said. I couldn’t see it in the dark but I imagined he was fidgeting. “But, only while in relationships.”

I nodded by head, even though he couldn’t see me in the dark, trying to remember if I could recall anyone he previously dated. Did “relationships” mean two or like five? Did it matter either way?

“Calm down,” he chuckled apparently reading into my silence. “I’m not going to ask you to date me just to have sex.”

“Oh, Grayson, no, it’s not… I didn’t think you were…”

“No, look,” he said cutting me off. “I think we both… have a lot going on. If you ever wanted to… I mean, I’d be an idiot not to,” he said playfully nudging me.

I let out a laugh at the pure awkwardness of the situation wondering if Addie ever had conversations like this while she was moving from guy to guy.

Grayson laughed with me before grabbing my good hand sending a nice tingling feeling through my arm. “Look, why don’t we think about the relationship thing… and other things… over the Break? I’ll write to you. I can’t use electronics around my family.”

I started to nod my head in agreement but then verbalized my response since we were still sitting in the dark. “Right, okay. That works for me.”

“Alright,” he said letting go of my hand as I heard him standing up. “I’m going to say goodbye to my friends. But have a good break, yea?”

“You too,” I said also standing up, we bumped into each other as we went for a quick hug.

“See ya,” he said giving my hand a squeeze as I heard him shuffling toward the door. He opened the compartment door sending a shock of sunlight into my dark oasis. I swallowed hard realizing how much stuff I had to face before following him out.

°~*◊*~°
Potter Dating A Nott?!

I frowned as I read the headline that was flashing and changing into different fonts and sizes - real O+ journalism. Right under the headline was a picture of me and Al. I don’t even remember who took it and when but his hand was draped around my shoulders as he had a teasing grin on his face while I was rolling my eyes.

“I hope you don’t actually pay attention to that garbage,” I heard Uncle Bill’s gruff voice as he placed a pitcher of juice among the other foods spread out for breakfast. I looked up at him and shrugged while giving him a “can you really blame me?” smile. He shook his head but smiled back nonetheless.

I don’t know why I was so nervous about spending time with Uncle Bill and his family - he was honestly the coolest adult I knew. He was tall and lanky with long red hair peppered with grey strands that he mostly wore in a ponytail. He wore black clothing and stylish looking leather boots. His face had a large scar across it that made him look even more badass. The unconfirmed rumor was that he was either an Unspeakable or a Secret Hit Wizard during the years right after the War, handling the world’s most dangerous criminals - The Prophet speculated but never really confirmed. These days, he worked as a professor at a prestigious Wizarding University teaching Dark Arts Defense.

“It would be nice if they used my first name rather than calling me ‘a Nott,’” I joked trying to make light of the headline.

“VIC! It’s not that easy for me!” I heard Dom shrieking from upstairs.

“That’s because you are making things hard for yourself. You don’t actually have a hard life, you just make it incredibly hard,” I heard Vic replying back calmly but with a slight edge in her voice. Victorie had the Delacour light blue eyes and bouncy long, light blonde hair. She was small, petite but had a silent intensity and forcefulness about her. Vic and Dom argued a lot but while Dom seemed to make her points based on emotion and passion, Vic liked to assess situations logically and calmly rarely raising her voice.

“Shut up!” Louis moaned out giving me a perfect view of the chewed up eggs and toast in his mouth.

I frowned pushing my toast and jam away from me.

“Will you stop yelling?” Tante Fleur yelled stepping away from the stove where she was frying some sort of meat.

“Vic is being mean,” Dom reported stomping into the kitchen with her arms crossed. She was still wearing her satin pink and purple pajama pants with a matching top.

Vic followed close behind decked out in tight, black Auror robes and black high-heeled boots. “She asked me for advice about her boy toy problem and I simply told her to drop the boy toy,” Vic said while shrugging and heading toward the coffee pot. That was the thing about Vic and Dom - while they didn’t seem to see eye to eye on anything, Dom sought her advice a lot, clearly valuing her opinion even if she complained about it… loudly.

“Ollie is hardly a boy toy!” Dom argued back.

Vic rolled her eyes and put her hair in a neat bun. “I’m sleeping at Teddy’s tonight,” she told her parents while kissing them on their cheeks.

“Do I get a say in whether or not my daughters are allowed to have boy toys and whether or not my daughters can sleep at their no-good boyfriends’ apartments?” Uncle Bill asked raising an eyebrow and frowning deeply.

Dom laughed lightly. “That’s cute that you asked,” she responded while grabbing a piece of toast.

“And, if it were up to me I’d be living with Teddy and not with my parents because you know, I’m an adult with a job but you threatened to have a heart attack if we lived in ‘sin’ so I’m here,” Vic said in a bored tone before taking a sip of her black coffee.

Uncle Bill frowned and muttered about not being respected in his old age.

“Oh my gosh, Cass, you are romance-level famous,” Dom said pointing to the Prophet.

Vic leaned over and took in the headline. “I’m sorry,” she said frowning and shaking her head at me as if this were my funeral.

“At least you look good,” Dom commented as she nibbled on her toast. “Al looks like an arse.”

“Language,” Tante Fleur chastised putting a plate of bacon on the island.

“Where’s my galleon?” Uncle Bill said in a sing-song voice. Dom groaned as she gave up the coin. I smirked taking in and admiring another cute ritual from the Delacour-Weasleys.

“I’m sure everything’s going to be fine,” Tante Fleur assured me with a smile as she buttered a croissant. I tried to smile back at her. She looked similar to my maman but with slight differences. Tante Fleur opted for (and could afford) designer outfits - she owned a boutique in Diagon Alley with another one opening up in Wizarding Paris soon. To cook breakfast, she was wearing an oversized cashmere sweater dress. Her silvery blonde hair was always perfectly styled without a strand out of place. Like my maman, Tante Fleur, usually wore minimal make-up – just lip gloss and some mascara.

“Every so often the paps get obsessed with one of the Wotters’ dating lives,” Louis explained while still shoveling food into his mouth. “They published a story saying I'm gay, which would be fine… except I’m not gay.”

“Wow,” I responded.

“They outed my relationship with Teddy before we were ready,” Vic grimaced as if she were recalling a particularly hard memory.

“One time, they called me ‘the Worst Weasley,’” Dom shared looking down as Vic put an arm around her.

“If you lay low, eventually they’ll move on,” Louis advised.

“I’m an expert at laying low,” I muttered before taking a sip of orange juice.

“Says the girl who’s in the middle of an Auror investigation,” Vic commented while giving me a smirk and eyeing my sling.

“And the girl that saved Lily from two arseholes…” Louis chimed in.

“Galleon.” Uncle Bill commented while reading the Sports Section of the Prophet.

“And the girl that pulled V out of the water...” Dom added.

“There’s also the whole Quidditch tryout thing,” Louis added.

“It was a joke,” I said rolling my eyes at my cousins. I hopped off the stool and adjusted my Quidditch jersey. Dom had come through for me in a huge way on the job front. I was going to be a counselor at a Quidditch camp for kids - the Junior Canons. The one small, minor wrinkle was that James was going to be a counselor also - it just felt weird that according to the Prophet I was dating his brother.

I looked down at the photo of Al and me again. “Dom, you told Al and James I was going to be a counselor, right?”

Dom shrugged still nibbling on her toast. “I think so. I didn’t have to go through them. Uncle Ron’s part owner of the Cannons so I just told the Front Office it was a favor for him, remember?”

“Dom, you seriously don’t get why Cassie might not want to blindside James?” Louis asked quirking an eyebrow. My face heated up at his specific call out of James.

Dom munched on her toast for a little bit while frowning in confusion before finally declaring, “Oh! Um... I’ll just remind him,” she said pulling out her phone and sending a text message.

“If there was a law that you-all couldn’t date until 30, we wouldn’t have these problems,” Uncle Bill stated knowingly with his nose in the air a little.

Vic rolled her eyes and downed the rest of her coffee. “Cass, I’ll drop you off at the stadium,” she offered while wrapping up a croissant and sticking it in her pocket.

“But neither of you have eaten anything,” Tante Fleur said frowning at my barely touched plate of toast with jam.

“We got some for the road,” Vic responded while patting her pocket and leading me outside.

“Bye, everyone,” I said waving to everyone in the kitchen.

“Bye, dorks,” Vic said before taking my arm for side-apparition.

°~*◊*~°

Even though the Cannons had a tortured history of being the worst Quidditch team ever, they had diehard fans that paid for a state of the art stadium – Butterbeer Stadium. I felt like an ant looking out at the oval that was 500 feet long and 180 feet wide. The green turf felt springy and looked freshly cut. The hooped goal posts looked freshly painted the bright—almost neon—orange color of the Cannons’ logo and robes. Flashing across the scoreboard was the pre-1972, post-2002 motto, “We shall conquer.” While they still couldn’t boast of winning a single Quidditch Cup, the Cannons took pride in the fact that they could seat 60,000 fans comfortably- the record for any Quidditch stadium in history.

It was a shame, I didn’t really have time to take it in...

“You cannot fly,” James said with his arms crossed flexing his annoyingly perfect arm muscles through his long-sleeved compression shirt.

I crossed my legs and looked at the boys standing around me. James, Freddie, Ollie, Al, and Scorpius were all staring at my sling and me with various looks of disapproval, disbelief, or indifference.

“I will not be the water girl,” I responded flatly. “Uncle Bill wouldn’t let me come here without showing him I could fly with one arm. I’ll be fine.”

Scorpius shrugged. “I think she’s fine.”

“Yea, dudes, I’ve had worse injuries than that,” Al said leaning back against a stadium chair.

“I still don’t like this,” James said eyeing my sling and frowning.

“Me neither,” Freddie chimed in while shaking his head.

“Yea, I don’t need Fleur and Bill hating me even more if you get hurt,” Ollie said nodding his head in agreement with James and Freddie.

“Welp, it’s a good thing I don’t care what you guys like, huh?” I said pulling off the sling and hopping on my broom. I ignored their protests and flew toward the entrance of the stadium where all of the “Junior Cannons” would come in.

Shortly thereafter, a group of twenty-five to thirty, eight to eleven-year-old kids came filing into the stadium jumping, shouting, and horsing around. James landed next to me sending annoyed glances by way.

“By the way, the Prophet,” I whispered to James. “It’s not…”

James shook his head quickly and gave me a small smile. “I know it’s trash,” he said, with me letting out a relieved smile. “You and Grayson have your thing,” he continued with a shrug.

I immediately tensed up, feeling my stomach knot up.

Before I could respond, the rest of the boys landed near us.

“Ready for these little shits?” Freddie muttered to me with a fake grin on his face.

I took a deep breath ignoring what James had just said as I watched a girl pick up some mud and slam it into a boy’s face.

Chaos ensued.

Mud flew from all directions.

Shrieks traveled through the air ruining my eardrums.

When we finally got the kids to calm down and sit in a circle, we tried to introduce ourselves:

“Some of you know me from previous years, I’m Freddie but you can call me...”

“The Fredanator!” the kids yelled back.

“I’ve trained them well,” Freddie whispered to me.

I rolled my eyes and stepped forward to introduce myself next. “I’m Cassie or Cass,” I said with a wave. I was about to step back but a boy with a blonde faux hawk raised his hand before I could.

“Umm, yes?” I asked.

“Aren’t you two dating?” he said pointing to Al. Al just smirked and kept his mouth shut.

“Uh, no,” I said quickly.

“No, she’s dating the other one!” a girl with red hair said pointing to James. “I saw them talking!”

“No!” I said again. “Neither.” Don't ask me why I was explaining my love life to children. I don't have a good answer for you.

“Then how come your face is getting all red?” a girl with pigtails asked me. “I saw you two flirting!” she accused.

“My face is not red,” I replied feeling my face heating up.

“It totally is,” Freddie chimed in unhelpfully.

James leaned forward to look at my face. “They are right,” he said while shrugging. “It’s totally red.” I glared at both of them with as much animosity and hatred as I could muster. They shrunk back putting their hands up in surrender.

“Yea, my older sister totally hates you! She saw your picture in the Prophet and she said ‘Al is mine!’” a boy chimed in imitating a girl’s voice.

Al muttered something about crazy fan girls under his breath. I rolled my eyes. What a hard life... not.

“Have you guys had a date yet?” some kid asked motioning toward me and James again.

“Have you guys kissed yet?” another one asked motioning toward me and Al this time.

“Ewwww!” the kids yelled.

“Al, you wanna introduce yourself?” I asked nudging him forward.

“Not at all. This is entirely too... OW!” he yelped as I kicked him. “Fine, you abuser,” he gritted out grabbing his shin. He stepped forward and addressed the kids. “I’m Al... and I can totally confirm that those two kiss a lot,” he said motioning toward James and me.

“Ewwwwwwww,” the children chorused.

I glared at Al realizing this was going to be a long arse day.

°~*◊*~°

After three hours of running and flying around chasing after devil-children, I fell back on a stadium chair surprised by how comfortable it was. Of course, the chairs were charmed, nothing but the best for the Cannon fans. I closed my eyes wondering how insane it would be to just fall asleep here.

As I heard the creak of the seat next to me, I opened one eye expecting to see Al, James, or Freddie but was shocked to see dirty blonde hair instead. Ollie’s sea green eyes were staring at me intently. I shifted around in my seat to look at him.

“What’s up?” I asked trying to give him a friendly smile.

“Not much, great first day,” he offered. “Kids can be brutal.”

“Thanks,” I responded. “They mean well, it wasn’t as bad as...”

“How’s Dom?” he asked cutting across me and swallowing hard while turning to stare across the stadium.

I sighed and shrugged. “As good as one would expect I guess,” I responded carefully.

Ollie nodded his head but his left leg started twitching. “It’s just hard,” he said slowly looking to where Freddie, James, Al, and Scorpius were lazily passing the Quaffle around. I wasn’t invited because I’m “cripple.”

Their words.

Not mine.

“Right,” I said slowly trying to formulate the right response to Ollie.

“Ollie!” Freddie yelled. “Stop flirting with Cassie and get your arse over here!”

I rolled my eyes as Ollie shrugged at me and hopped on his broom before flying toward the guys. For a while, I watched the Quaffle move from hand to hand stretching my legs out on the sits next to me just being mesmerized by the guys - one guy if I’m being honest. James was just very skilled, a poster child for mastering the fundamentals of a sport before trying to add unnecessary flare. He followed through when throwing the Quaffle, focusing on his target rather than the ball. He used the strength of his legs when trying to fly to catch the Quaffle when it sailed out of reach. He protected the Quaffle, making sure not to commit unenforced errors when it was in his possession.

Eventually, we packed up all the Quaffles, practice Bludgers, Snitches, and brooms into their cases and bags.

“You guys want to grab a drink?” Freddie asked after kicking the last Quaffle into the bag.

“I’m game,” Al assented.

“Jay!”

We all craned our necks toward the stadium entrance. Strutting toward us in black leather knee-high boots, a form-fitting leather jacket, and a crimson scarf was Pia Patel. It was almost like there was a fan positioned right in front of her face as her silky hair blew in the wind behind hair in annoyingly perfect waves.

I internally groaned thinking about my Quidditch pull-over, sports leggings, and the headband I was wearing over my sweaty hair that I had shoved into a bun.

“Pia?” James asked eyes trained on her. “What are you doing here?”

She rolled her eyes at James before giving us all hugs, including me.

“How are ya?” she asked kindly when she got to me.

“Great,” I said nodding my head repeatedly. “Kids are crazy,” I added randomly just feeling generally uncool in Pia’s presence.

She laughed loudly. “And, the injuries?”

“The sling should be gone soon,” I said happily.

“And any updates on the investigation?”

“She’s not supposed to talk about it!” Freddie yelled like a crazy person.

Pia rolled her eyes at Freddie before turning back to James.

“Can we talk?” she asked taking a large, daring step into his personal space.

“Yea,” James said immediately putting an arm around her as he looked down into her eyes. “Everything okay?”

“Leaky?” she suggested ignoring his question.

“Sure,” he said grabbing her hand. “We’re going to go,” he said waving toward us and heading out.

“So that’s on again?” Scorpius asked motioning toward where they were just standing after we heard the stadium doors shut.

“Apparently. What do you think changed with her?” Al asked tilting his head looking after them.

Freddie and Ollie shared a look and then looked at me. I frowned back at them and Ollie looked away.

Freddie sighed and put an arm around me. “Who knows? Let’s go get a drink,” he said leading me out of the stadium.
°~*◊*~°

A/N: Let me know what you-all think, pretty please!

Much love,
Piop

Chapter 18: eighteen.
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Eighteen
°~*◊*~°

A decade ago, the Zabini family resolved to make a definitive and unwavering statement that they had no Death Eater ties - Blaise Zabini, an investor known for his shrewdness and business acumen, set out to ensure there were no more rumors about whether his family was “Death Eater friendly” or “Death Eater apologists.” Along with donating close to a million galleons to Hermione Granger-Weasley’s election campaign, the family single-handedly financed the expansion of Diagon Alley to now include Diurn Alley.

Diagon had character, with each building a different shape and size, with differing personalities and styles. It was obvious that Diagon came to be naturally, with shop owners putting up shingles and constructing their buildings in wherever open spaces were available when they thought they had supply that could fulfill a demand.

Diurn was different - the Zabinis had planned each and every detail of the expansion from the height and width of the dark, red bricks to the exact shade of white of the window panes and awnings. Shop owners were subjected to a vigorous and expensive vetting process. Every inch of the street was well-manicured and the result of thorough and meticulous planning.

Diagon Alley attracted Wizards and Witches of all income levels and backgrounds, Knockturn Alley attracted those with morally questionable backgrounds and jobs, while Diurn Alley mainly catered to Witches and Wizards with a fair amount of money to burn - you didn’t go to Diurn out of necessity, you went there for the novelty and notoriety - to be able to say “I went to that place that sells Hogwarts robes hemmed above the knee.”

I had been to Diurn Alley a few times since its opening (mostly to window shop) and it still creeped me out how each and every building looked exactly the same but for the shop names.

On Dom’s insistence, I was back here again.

"I'm sorry for storming out of the compartment," I mumbled to Ama as we made our way in step with each other down a perfectly lined brick path in Diurn covered with a thin blanket of snow with a few snowflakes twirling in the air before dropping amongst the blanket of fellow snowflakes. My toes curled delighting in the crunching noise I made as I stepped in my overused, tattered snow boots.

Ama smiled at me before lifting her hot chocolate to her lips and swallowing. "I'm sorry for bringing up your boy problem in front of Dix. I forgot you don't really know him," she admitted adjusting her bright pink wool hat.

I rolled my eyes before taking a sip of my own hot chocolate, it burnt my tongue but it was still a nice contrast from the bitter cold that nipped at my nose. "I do not have a boy problem," I proclaimed with an eye roll. "Tell me the story of Dixon," I insisted biting down the urge to tell her that I had written Grayson thrice over the break already and hadn't heard back. I really wanted to know what was going on with Ama - every conversation shouldn't be about me I reminded myself.

Ama shrugged carelessly as she stared up at a leafless tree with its branches coated in a clear, thick layer of ice and frost. "Not much to tell, we kinda just started hanging out."

"Where?" I pressed lightly.

"The Multicultural Club."

"You're in the Multicultural Club," I asked unable to mask the shock in my voice. It made sense - it was a club for African, Hispanic, and Asian students and Ama was Hispanic but… she never expressed an interest in the Multicultural Club.

"Yea," her eyes met mine for a second as if she were gauging my reaction.

I nodded quickly. "Cool, sorry I never noticed. I feel..."

"Oh my Merlin, Cass, stop," she whined with an exaggerated eye roll. "I just started going on Sundays when you're visiting your mum in the hospital. You’re not a bad friend, stop torturing yourself.“

I scoffed and stuck my tongue out at her before looking down at the path. "So, Dixon, how come?"

"What do you mean?"

I shrugged. "I don't know anything about him. Tell me why you like him."

Ama exhaled loudly. "Cass, this is so not life defining or serious. He's just funny, cute, really good at snogging, and other things," she said with a wicked grin. "Oh, there's Dom!" she said pointing ahead to the new hipster restaurant we were meant to meet Dom and Tay at after they went shopping at a few shops we weren’t interested in. She picked up the pace making her way toward two figures near a shop on the corner.

I paused frowning a little as something gnawed at me - I felt like I was missing a beat with Ama, like she was avoiding a conversation. I made a mental note to harass Josh about it later.

°~*◊*~°


"This place literally smells like dirt," Ama whispered to me as we lowered ourselves in seats across from Dom and Tay who were too engaged in an intense conversation to notice us.

"I'm aware," I answered back from the side of my mouth looking around the restaurant. Of course, Dom’s favorite restaurant couldn’t be a burger joint. I would have even appreciated a fancy French restaurant - but of course, of course Dom’s favorite restaurant was Magical Vines!

Every surface that met the eye was covered in bright green leaves, plants, or vines that almost looked neon. The vines and plants were everywhere - on the walls, floors, tables and ceilings. And, the vines could move, growing and shriveling without warning. They would wrap around the legs of the tables and chairs, they would randomly grow from the ceiling coming dangerously close to your overpriced dish. And they were just also incredibly creepy - the vines were strong and smooth but also slow and quiet. You wouldn’t even notice that they were creeping up your leg or wrapping around your finger until they gave you a harmless, but shocking squeeze. The restaurant was headache-inducing and eye-squintingly bright so the plants had enough light to grow. And, as Ama noted… it smelled like dirt.

“What’s going on?” I asked noting that Dom and Tay weren’t necessarily fighting. Dom was just clearly upset and Tay seemed to be trying to keep her together.

Dom’s shoulders immediately slumped as she looked at us. “We saw Ollie in the bookstore,” she whined.

“Don’t you see him a lot at Hogwarts? Isn’t he friends with your brother?” Ama asked shifting in her chair, clearly trying to hide her discomfort with the environment.

Dom groaned.

“We saw him talking…”

“Flirting,” Dom cut in giving Tay a look.

Tay made a face clearly choosing not to entertain Dom’s paranoia. “He was talking with a girl from Beauxbatons. It wasn’t…”

“Her tits were amazing,” Dom cut in, drumming her fingers on the table.

“Super feminist of you, Dom,” I muttered suppressing the urge to roll my eyes.

"What do you even eat here?" Ama asked frowning at the menu, written in chalk on the wall.

"I love the meatless balls with the eggplant…” Tay started with a grin on her face, leaning in.

"Girls! Focus."

"Dom," Tay breathed. "I'm sorry, honey, but it's all in your head. He didn't even show an ounce of interest in the girl."

“I’m so pathetic,” Dom said hitting her head against the table which was covered in vines.

“Should she be doing that?” I asked concerned that the vines were going to somehow retaliate.

“He wasn’t flirting but you have to know that someday he might…” Tay trailed off quietly.

Dom grunted, face still on the table.

“You don’t even need him, Dom,” I chimed in, trying to cheer her up, but not really having much to add.

“Exactly,” Tay agreed nodding her head.

“Let’s have a girls’ night,” Ama suggested, clapping her hands together a few times. “We can drink a little wine, dance, sing, gossip…”

“I love that,” Dom practically yelled raising her head from the table, which left an interesting red indent on her forehead. She pulled out her WizPhone. “I just have to figure out where. Hopefully one of my Uncles or Aunts will be out of town…”

“Dom, I don’t want to get in trouble with your parents,” I interjected not feeling comfortable rocking the boat with Uncle Bill or Tante Fleur.

She waved me off.

“We do this all the time,” Tay promised. “William could totally bust us if he wanted to,” she said rolling her eyes. “And Fleur just wants us to be safe…”

“Which we will be,” Dom promised with a wink which did more to unsettle me than to calm me.

“So there’s like no meat here, like at all?” Ama asked her voice getting high, clearly concerned.

“It’s all vegetarian,” Tay reported proudly as I saw the life drain out of Ama’s face.

“Oh,” she responded staring at the menu again as if she stared at it hard enough a steak would suddenly appear.

I opened my mouth to protest tonight’s plan but Dom cut me off before I could get a syllable out - “Nope! I need this, you need this, we are doing this!” She argued.

“Fine,” I muttered. “But I’m not getting drunk!”
°~*◊*~°

I’m so freakin’ drunk.

And the worst part is, I know I’m drunk.

Like my drunk side, was having a full blown argument, nay war with the few remnants of my brain that were still sober.

Like, currently, I am certain, positive that I am Beyonce and as Beyonce I wanted, nay needed to stand up and deliver a live show to my fans. But, the very annoying, extremely uncool voice in the very back of my brain was telling me that I was not Beyonce and that if I started dancing and singing Beyonce in front of the Wotters I’d embarrass myself. But it’s like betch, do you even know me? Like, sure I’m not technically Beyonce but like I could totally pull off Beyonce. Like seriously do you even know me?

Yes, I know you, you are me, and I am you, and we are NOT Beyonce?

You’re going to quit harshing my vibe! I am Beyonce! I will cut a…

“Cass!”

“Hmmmm?” I said looking at Freddie who was looking down at me with a goofy smile on his face. “What’s going on in that head of yours?” he asked plopping down next to me on a black leather couch in his living room. Girls’ night had turned into Girls’ Night plus Freddie, Louis, and Al somehow…

“I think I need to perform,” I said leaning back in the chair feeling supremely comfortable. “Your mother has fabulous taste in furniture by the way,” I said running my hands over the smooth, leather slice of heaven I was sitting on.

“You need to perform?” he repeated slowly.

“A song. For my fans,” I announced waving my hands toward my non-existent fans.

He smirked and handed me his WizPod. “Knock yourself out, kiddo.”

“I’m so fucking hungry! Freddie please, please tell me there are burgers in this house,” Ama begged sprawled out on the floor a few feet away from us.

I gleefully scrolled through Freddie’s WizPod looking for my opening number. The show must go on. Or the show must start in the first place.

“That’s cause you barely ate you beet salad,” Tay chastised as she tidied up the mess we were leaving in our drunken wake - that’s right folks, Tay is that type of drunk.

“Ugh!” Ama groaned back.

Louis tripped into the living room from the kitchen and wagged his finger at Tay. “Tay,” he chastised. “I thought I told you to stop cleaning, we have wands. We can magic this away.”

“Magic is not the answer to every problem, Louie!”

“But it’s the answer to this one,” Louis responded looking at her confusingly.

“I’m totally naw drunk,” Al suddenly said from his position in the corner of the room, sitting crossed legged on the shag carpet. “Like guys, I can do another round of shots and be totally and completely fine. Like I could run a marathon or something right now. Like I could fly, right now.”

“No!” Freddie screamed. “Do you remember your birthday?”

“Nope, I actually don’t,” Al responded with a shrug.

“I love you-all so much, like so much,” Dom declared for the 10th time that night skipping around the room a little.

Freddie quietly gasped. “Holy shit,” he whispered to me. “Look at these two.”

I looked up and gasped myself as Tay and Louis were standing dangerously close to each other having a conversation that none of us could hear. Tay was touching his arm lightly and Louis had his hands on her waist.

“They are going to have the cutest babies,” I predicted noting how adorable slivery blonde, tall Louis looked with short brunette, green doe-eyed Tay. “This is like I wanna curl up and watch a romantic comedy with fake rich people problems adorable!”

“Ew… speaking of ew, how’s Grayson?” Freddie asked with a smirk on his face.

I deflated a little bit. “He’s not answering any of my owls. I’m kinda worried something might be wrong,” I admitted out loud for the first time.

Freddie nodded slowly, his smirk disappearing. “It’s only been a week, Cass. I wouldn’t be too worried, yet. Pick a song,” he demanded shifting my focus back on my performance.

“Guys, we should all just like… I don’t know… quit school and live in the forest together…” Dom trailed off, her eyes glazing over as if she were somewhere else completely.

“What?” Al chimed in again with a big frown on his face. “Why would we do that?”

“Why wouldn’t we do that?” she bit back.

“Touche,” Al shrugged.

I squealed finding the perfect song, the perfect song. It was perfect! I pushed play and stood up to start dancing and singing.

“Shit, the fireplace!” Freddie said pointing at the big brick fireplace on the wall across from us. It was currently flickering from its normal red flames to green ones.

There was a collective ‘oh shit’ and we all froze… as if freezing would make it seem like we weren’t drinking alcohol, when we weren’t supposed to while playing loud music and acting like degenerates.

We all sighed as James, dressed in dark jeans and a blue sweater stepped out of the fireplace with Pia following close behind in a cute and tight red shirt and black jeans.

“Jay!”

“That’s my brother!”

“Thank Merlin, I’m too soft to go to jail,” Ama mumbled into the carpet.

“What in Merlin’s beard… what the fuck is going on here?” James asked looking around the room in horror, while Pia looked around with a amused grin on her face.

I frowned taking in James’s red face - maybe now wasn’t the best time to perform my song - but like… my favorite part was coming up…

Freddie sighed loudly. “I know you’re mad you weren’t invited but this is girls’ night, Jay,” Freddie explained reasonably. “And you’re not a girl.”

“Dude, your parents are going to Avada you…” James trailed off observing the drunken state of all of us.

“And Pia, we didn’t invite you,” Freddie continued. “Because we just don’t know with you… it’s just always changing, up and down, up and down,” Freddie expressed frustrated while moving his finger up and down to prove a point.

Al started giggling from his corner. “No offense to you two but your relationship changes more than I change my underwear.”

Pia rolled her eyes. “I’m concerned about your cleanliness then,” she shrugged sitting down on the floor near Ama’s sprawled out figure.

The words of the song were bubbling up to my mouth, wanting to be sung, needing to be sung.

“Al is giggle drunk!” James continued to freak out pointing to his brother who was still in his corner but now seemed to be laughing on mute. His shoulders were shaking and his mouth was in a big open-mouthed grin but… nothing seemed to be coming out. “Do you know how bad this…”

“RAH RAH AH AH AH ROMAH ROMAH MAH, GA GA OHH LA LA!”

Yup.

That was me.

You’re welcome.

Tay started slow clapping.

“Yas, Cassie, yas!” Dom yelled, skipping around again.

Ama’s face flopped in my direction from her spot on the floor. She looked up at me, eyes glazed over. “I’m so proud of you.”

James looked shocked, floored. “You broke Cassie!” he said looking at Freddie and pointing at me.

“I resent that,” I mumbled plopping back on the couch, looking and feeling incredibly salty. That was a great performance if I do so say myself.

“Cass, this is a shit song,” Louis said wrinkling his nose at me, separating himself from his cone of love with Tay to march over to me to grab the WizPod. I, of course, stuck my tongue out at him.

“Hello!” James yelled into the ether, waiting for a response from someone, anyone.

“JAY, sit your arse down, grab a beer, and shut your pie hole!” Freddie snapped.

“THIS IS MY SONG!” Al stood up shakily and started swaying. “You can tell everybody…”

“You cannot sing this song,” Ama said, livid.

Freddie stood up and put his arm around Al and Louis. “I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man,” they sang-yelled together incredibly and completely off key.

“LOUIS, you dick, it’s GIRLS’ NIGHT!” Dom yelled grabbing the WizPod from Louis.

“I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the…”

“GIRLS!”

“Who run the world?”

“GIRLS! GIRLS!”

“Who run this mother…”

James grabbed the WizPod from Dom and killed the music as we all groaned. “GUYS! My parents are going to be here in a half an hour to see if this is happening!”

“Shit!”

“Damn!”

“Fuck!”

“I can’t go to jail!”

“No!”

°~*◊*~°

I have absolutely no idea how James and Pia pulled off the impossible - getting us all to our respective homes and to bed without Mr. and Mrs. Potter or any other parents catching us in the act. But I was currently waking up next to Dom with the biggest headache ever to exist in ever. Like someone was hammering steel over and over again and offbeat… in my head.

Dom groaned and shifted her body. “How did we let Al convince us to take all those shots?” she asked quietly and in an awed tone.

“And who thought it would be a good idea to play a drinking game with Firewhisky,” I asked frowning as my stomach churned. “Everything just hurts.”

She gave me a weak smile and put the covers over our heads, shielding us from any sunlight that was peaking through the windows. “So…” she said shifting her body to face me.

“What’s up?” I asked shifting to face her.

“When I’m tipsy, I have these epiphanies about my friends and family,” she paused waiting for me to respond.

I nodded my head along. “Oh?”

“So like yesterday,” she said with an eye roll. “I noticed, without vomiting by the way, that Louis has a thang for Tay, and I’m fairly certain Tay likes him back.”

“They are so cute though,” I reacted to her wrinkled up nose. “You know when you put too much sugar in your tea? They are like that sweet.”

“Yuck. Woman up, stop putting sugar in your tea.”

I rolled my eyes. “Do you think they’ll ever date?”

“I don’t know,” Dom admitted playing with a strand of her hair. “Tay is actually super shy when it comes to guys liking her.”

“And Louis?”

Dom scoffed. “Huge nerd, fairly certain he’s never asked a girl out once. They’ve always asked him.”

I frowned. “Well if those two never get together, it will be tragic,” I declared closing my eyes trying to let the headache run its course.

“Cass.”

“Hmmm?”

“You like James.”

My stomach churned and dropped at the same time. I scoffed. “That’s ridiculous,” I said fighting the urge to start fidgeting with my fingers.

Dom bit her lip. “Look, you don’t have to say anything but… James… and Pia…” she trailed off.

“Dom, I know him and Pia are a thing,” I said with a shrug trying to ignore the twisting in my stomach.

She shook her head. “No, it’s not that she’s just a thing. It’s like every time he’s starting to get over her and move on she like sucks him back in," she declared with her eyebrows drawn clearly frustrated. "She has a thing against him seriously moving on. It's no coincidence she's back in the picture when he's starting to show interest in you."

I snorted. "He's not..."

Dom gave her own snort while rolling her eyes at me. "Yea, he is and I can tell you like him too."

"I'm exploring things with Grayson."

"And when's the last time you heard from him?" she bit back easily.

I groaned sliding under the covers. "What is the point of this conversation exactly? You think I like James but also want to tell me that I have no chance because of Pia?"

Dom let out a twinkling laugh. "No. I think you like James and you either need to a, get over him or b, compete," she said with a devilish smirk on her face that made my stomach start.
°~*◊*~°

At the end of every year, the English Wizarding World held a ceremony of sorts. At such time, the current Minister of Magic would deliver a speech, a summation of the year's achievements and failures, and a roadmap of where she or he thought we would be heading in the next year.

Shamefully, I never bothered to pay attention. Each year, Hermione would receive glowing reviews from most of the population, while a few haters would criticize everything from her word choice to the way she decided to wear her hair.

This year was different for two reasons.

One, the Pure Party announced in the Prophet that they would be putting up a candidate to run against Hermione - this was monumental, bonkers, insanity. No one really expected the Pure Party to actually challenge Hermione. Her approval rating was through the roof and she was Hermione Granger-Weasley, a heroine, married to a hero, the brains of the Golden Trio, and a mother of two children who seemed relatively normal. Neither of them dominated the headlines and if they did it was because the Prophet was lying or embellishing something.

Second, I was here. I was at the ceremony. I didn’t know exactly where here was. The ceremony's location was kept secret, and for good reason. You had the most powerful members of the Ministry in one room together. The speech was Wiztelevised to and transcribed for the public but it was still a closed event for safety reasons.

But, here I was. The daughter of a fugitive, the granddaughter of a Death Eater that refused to reform himself, wearing one of Vic's sheath black dresses and some of Dom's gold jewelry standing among the who’s who of the Wizarding World.

Okay, so I wasn't really standing among them but more off in the corner staring at the view. I did not know where we were exactly but the glass walls of the building we were in allowed me to see that we were atop a snow-capped mountain range. It was like a picturesque dream - there were only a few small white clouds floating in the azure blue sky and I could see where the snow and ragged rocks gradually turned into emerald grass and tall trees at the base of the mountains.

"Cassie, what are you doing in the corner?"

I shivered and closed my eyes as my body registered the deep, raspy voice. I shrugged and swallowed before opening my eyes and turning to face James... who was with Pia.

My breath caught in my throat as I took him in - instead of wearing traditional wizard robes, he wore a classic slim cut black suit. His hair looked tamed and flat, emphasizing his hazel eyes even more.

And Pia was nothing to sneeze at - she was wearing a deep v-neck chiffon red dress with a long split in the front showing off a smooth, long leg. Her hair was styled in large soft curls and her makeup accentuated her eyes and cheek bones.

"Well you two look like characters from that Muggle Bond movie," I quipped burying Dom’s words in the back of my mind.

Pia let out a rich laugh while James raised an eyebrow at me.

Pia gasped and hit him playfully. "You don't know the James Bond movies?"

"What a missed opportunity," I teased. "All of these years you could have been introducing yourself as 'Potter, James Potter,'" I joked doing an awful impression of his voice.

Pia laughed harder while James stared at me with a smile on his face that made my stomach squeeze and my skin tingle.

"But seriously, Cass," Pia said breaking me from my trance. "Why aren't you partying?" she asked moving her hips a little and motioning toward where everyone was mingling.

“I’m trying not to embarrass myself… again,” I laughed.

"You weren't that bad the other night," Pia promised giving me a wink.

James let out a laugh. "She's only saying that cause she didn't have to carry you."

My stomach dropped. "Oh my Merlin," I said dropping my head.

"James, stop teasing her," I heard Pia chastising and hitting him, clearly taking pity on my very red face.

"Sorry for being such a mess," I said biting my lip and finally looking back up at James.

"Cassie, Al literally threw up in my lap," James laughed. "And he's still mad at me for ruining his fun."

Pia let out a laugh. "See, you could totally go out there and embarrass yourself in front of all these fancy people and still be less gross than dear Albus."

I smiled back. “I almost lost my shit when Valmai Morgan introduced herself to me," I whispered jokingly. “But seriously…” I said in response to their laughs. “Almost fainted in front of all of the important people in the Wizarding World.”

"Val's actually really nice," James assured me.

"Did you just call one of the greatest female Quidditch player's ever, Val?" I asked putting a hand over my heart.

James rolled his eyes at me. "She babysat me..."

"Shut up," I breathed. "She changed your diapers? She can do anything…“

James let out a nice, rough chuckle that sent a chill down my spine. "Yes," he said slowly clearly teasing me. "Val wiped my baby bum."

"Who is Valerie Morris?" Pia asked wrinkling her nose a bit in confusion.

"You're an embarrassment," James deadpanned but gave her wink taking the edge off a little.

I bit down the queasiness I was feeling. I had Grayson, I reminded myself. Nice. Cool. Fun. Extremely cryptic. Non-responsive. Grayson.

"She's on the Holyhead Harpies," I explained. "Probably the second most impressive female player and easily in the top ten players to play modern Quidditch. She totally disproved the whole notion that women can't play as long as men. She's been playing and in her prime and with two children for..."

"Merlin," Pia said cutting me off, looking at me wide eyed. James was staring at me too with a bit of a dazed look on his face, making me feel excited and uncomfortable all at once. It was both freeing and paralyzing somehow.

"I read," I shrugged with a laugh feeling my face getting hot.

"Yea, but I read like gossip trash," Pia giggled. "And lame things from Muggle Studies like Romeen and Julia, or whatever it's called," she said with an eye roll.

James let out a laugh. "Just causally hating on one of the most popular works in muggle literature."

"I didn't like Romeo and Juliet either," I said agreeing with Pia. "The whole falling in love, getting married, and then dying within two days was just..."

"Spoiler alert!" she said covering her ears.

My eyes went wide. "Seriously? I didn't mean..."

Pia waved me off with a laugh as a few bells chimed and the lights flickered signaling the beginning of the speeches. We made our way to tables situated in the very back of the room.

As we started to take our places, standing around a small, tall table, Pia sighed as her mum, Professor Patel, waved her over to sit at a table near the front where she was. "See ya," she said to me before squeezing my hand and sauntering toward her folks.

"You don't have to stay back here with the nerds,” I joked to James, suddenly realizing how incredibly intimate this felt and appeared. The two of us standing at a small table away from everyone.

"Why would I leave?" he asked grabbing two champagne flutes with golden liquid from a floating tray that was passing us. "I'm a nerd,” he proclaimed proudly passing one of the flutes to me.

I snorted. “You will not steal nerd away from me,” I muttered before sipping on the liquid. It was clearly expensive champagne, the bitter taste along with the bubbles made me feel a bit light-headed.

“You don’t own the word nerd, Cassie,” he said in a low voice leaning in close to me, with a smirk on his face.

My eyes went wide and I opened my mouth to say anything, something… something cool… anything?

I felt myself leaning forward as I had something on the tip of my tongue and I… “Hic!”

I hiccuped.

I freakin’ hiccuped.

James sat back and let out a deep laugh in response making my face burn more. “Don’t get too crazy,” he teased me pointing to my glass that was still 90% full with liquid.

Before I could quietly mutter a meek, uncool “shut up,” the room was clapping as Minister Granger-Weasley made her way to the stage. I knew the gossip rags would be talking about how her hair was straight and pinned back. And how she decided to wear a beige robe with gold trim instead of a traditional white or black robe. But I was just so awed, so impressed by her confidence. She strutted across the semi-circle stage with a small smile on her face, she waved and pointed to a few people in the room before stepping up to the podium exuding an air of professionalism and intelligence.

“Thank you all for coming to this year’s annual speech,” she announced with the smile still on her face as people began to applaud. “We have made so much progress this year and yet we still have so much to do. I’m thrilled for the year to come and I want to definitively announce my intent to continue to be the Minister, your Minister, the people’s Minister of Magic.” This received a long and loud round of applause from the crowd. “In the spirit of unity, respect, healthy competition, and your right to make a choice — before delivering my speech, I’d like to welcome your new Pure Party candidate to the stage.” There were a few scattered claps around the room.

Hermione gave the crowd a pointed look before announcing. “Please join me in giving a warm welcome to… Cormac McLaggen.”

Everything seemed to go completely still, silent as shock registered throughout the room. Cormac McLaggen. A member of the Pure Party? It didn’t make sense.

A tall man with greying blonde curly hair walked across the stage in black, slim cut robes. I gasped as I registered who was following closely behind him. Carl McLaggen walked in step with him across the stage, his hair was heavily gelled while he wore black robes that looked a little too big for him. Chris McLaggen walked behind them as he pushed a wheelchair across the stage. I gasped again as I took in the frail woman sitting in the wheelchair - Mandy Macmillian. She was in her early 40s but she honestly looked ten years senior. Every movement she made looked stilted, careful, and painful.

“What is she doing here?” I breathed out feeling immediately sick like I could vomit but I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. I hadn’t seen her after the attack - she looked so… miserable.

I felt James’s hands enclose around mine, making my hand feel warm but the rest of me still felt chilled, sick.

“Good day,” Mr. McLaggen’s voice boomed, confidently and loudly across the room. Everyone was paying attention to him but I couldn’t take my eyes off Ms. Macmillian - she was trying to smile but it looked like her head was too heavy for her body.

“I know many of you may be surprised to see me standing before you as a representative of the Pure Party…”

“Cassie.”

“…but I’m here to tell you that the Pure Party of the past is gone. The Pure Party of the future cares about you, the people,” Mr. McLaggen continued his well-rehearsed speech as the room began to clap.

James was close because his breath was on my ear and his grip was tighter on my hand.

“I’m here to tell you that my opponent continues to be blinded by her pet projects and small causes…” This elicited murmurs from the crowd but Minister Granger-Weasley kept her expression flat, stoic as her attention remained on the speech and Cormac McLaggen.

I could feel James tugging on my hand, trying to get my attention but all of my focus was on Ms. Macmillian. I watched every twitch, every grimace closely, studying her movements. Her hair was once voluminous and blonde with artfully done lowlights and highlights. Her strands now looked limp, dull, and thin.

“Don’t confuse my criticism for apathy. Goblins deserve rights. Elves deserve rights. Giants deserve rights. But guess who else deserves rights? Wizards and Witches,” he said enunciating the last three words. “We deserve the freedom to live and exist in this world without fear.”

“Cassie, please look at me,” James was whispering. “Just let me know you’re okay.”

“Just because Voldemort is long gone, doesn’t mean evil still doesn’t exist in our world. My wife…”

My eyes snapped from Ms. Macmillian to Mr. McLaggen as my brain fully comprehended what he was saying. Wife?

“…was attacked and…”

“No, please don’t say it,” I breathed out quietly as tears started to well up in the corner of my eyes.

“…brutally tortured by Theodore Nott…”

All of the air left my body, like I had been swiftly kicked in the stomach as I felt eyes snap toward me.

“My wife,” he continued motioning toward the woman sitting in the wheelchair, who was shaking slightly as she tried to keep her posture. “She was never and will never be the same. This attack happened nearly eights years ago but…”

“Cassie, let’s go, we don’t have to be here,” James whispered, the words spilling out of his mouth quickly.

“Theodore Nott and his accomplices continue to attack, continue to torture, and continue to harm, yet this administration has failed.”

I was backing up slowly, not really thinking about it but backing away from the table.

“Failed to apprehend him.”

I shifted turning toward the door, dropping James’s hand in the process of trying to do so swiftly and silently.

“Failed to do its job.”

I tried to march toward the door as silently as possible swallowing down the urge to make a run for it.

“Failed to make him account for his actions.”

As soon as I made it to the entrance of the ballroom, I took off, down a grand staircase letting every emotion wash over me - anger at my father, sympathy for Ms. Macmillian, queasiness wondering what spell my father used to make her feel that much pain, understanding over why Chris hated me so much, and rage and irritation at myself for ever, ever believing that my father was innocent.

I don’t know how I didn’t trip or fall in these stupid high heels but through my tears I could see that I was at the base of a staircase and facing two large doors. I pushed on one and immediately felt the sting of the cold air on my face, my arms, my legs. I walked outside forcing myself to breath slowly to adjust to the thin air. I sat down on an oak bench sitting in front of the mansion as I stared at the sun slowly moving behind the peaks of mountains as I tried to think of everything and nothing at the same time.

“Cassie.”

I closed my eyes and hugged myself. “I’m fine, I just needed a moment,” I lied.

“It’s cold out here,” he said before I felt him draping something across my shoulders.

“Thanks,” I mumbled feeling exhausted as I tugged his suit jacket snug across my shoulders.

“Was that your first time seeing her?”

My stomach knotted up with embarrassment as I nodded my head.

“That’s hard,” he said as I felt his body heat next to me on the bench.

“She looks so weak, so sick, I - I can’t believe anyone - how could anyone do that? I hate him and I hate myself for ever believing in him,” I grounded out.

“No one blames you.”

I scoffed keeping my eyes shut tight. “I didn’t even know that was his mother,” I said sadly. “No wonder he hates me so much.”

“That’s stupid,” James replied immediately. “He’s stupid to blame you for what your father did. That’s du… Cassie,” he trailed off, nudging me.

My eyes popped open as the sound around us seemed to go staticky as a blue vapor-like, smoke descended around us. The tendrils of smoke slowly came together to form an animal in the shape of a fox but it looked slightly deformed, a corporeal Patronus that had been manipulated slightly.

The fox leapt around before landing in front of us and then opened its mouth, looking straight at me:

You are in grave danger. Leave now.

James stood immediately as the fox disappeared, sending smoke into the air. “We need to get you out of here. We need to dis…”

I stood up and ran toward the mansion trying to make my strides longer than normal. I threw the door open and quickly took off my heels as I stepped inside.

“Cassie! What are you doing? Did you not…”

I took the stairs two at a time as I yelled back toward James. “If I’m in danger… what about every… one else… we need to make sure…”

“Are you mental?” I heard him yelling back from behind me as I reached the doors to the ballroom. Before I could open them, James grabbed my arm and turned me around. “Cassie,” he said, his honey eyes boring into mine. “Did you not hear? Someone gave you explicit instructions to get out of here.”

“James,” I said looking back at his wide eyes. “No one except the people in that ballroom should know this location. Somehow a Patronus broke through 100 layers of shield charms casted by the greatest wizards in the world to warn me. Something is up. Your family is in there,” I reminded him before he finally let me go.

Once I was freed from his grasp, I walked into the ballroom wondering how best to warn the people in the room without causing a panic.

“If I am the Minister of Magic,” Mr. McLaggen was continuing his speech. “I promise to not only focus on crime and punishment but to also…”

I spotted the back of Vic’s long, silvery blonde hair in the middle of the room and dashed toward her as she clung to a man with dark blue hair, Teddy Lupin.

“Vic,” I whispered.

She turned toward me and gave me a sad look. “I’m so sorry about his bashing of…”

“Vic, I think everyone’s in danger,” I continued frantically.

Teddy turned his attention toward me as the sound of my words. “Why do you think that?”

“I went outside and there was a Patronus warning me, telling me to leave.”

Teddy looked at me with wide eyes. “You need to go,” he said looking around.

Vic’s face scrunched up, as she looked at me confused. “How was a Patronus able to comm…” Vic trailed off. “We need to get everyone out here, now,” she ordered Teddy going immediately into Auror mode. Teddy and Vic dashed off in opposite directions heading from table to table instructing people to head toward the fireplaces.

“What’s going on?” Two men were staring down at me intently. A tall, thin man with red hair with a grim look on his face as he looked around. Next to him was a man with jet black greying hair, round-rimmed glasses, green eyes and a faint scar on his forehead - he was watching me carefully, closely.

“I went outside and was warned by a fox Patronus that I was in danger,” I reported trying to leave out all of the unnecessary detail getting straight to the point.

Both of their eyes snapped toward me when I uttered the word fox.

“The kids,” Harry Potter said calmly turning toward Ron Weasley.

“Scan,” Mr. Weasley responded nodding his head.

“Danger with dis…” Mr. Potter started.

“Right, we can’t. Emergency Portkey…”

“…and Floo.”

I was stunned as I watched them interact, clearly not needing to speak in full sentences as they remained cool, calm, and collected in the middle of a crisis.

Mr. Potter pulled out his wand and started performing spells that I didn’t understand.

“Come with me, Ms. Nott,” Mr. Weasley urged removing a coin from his pocket. He led us toward a table where Al, Lily, Rose, Hugo, Dom, and Roxy were seated.

“What’s going on, dad? Why are people leaving…”

“Code red,” he communicated to his family.

There was a collective gasp as everyone looked at Mr. Weasley.

“We are prepared for this,” he continued calmly. “Everyone grab five people and use their coins to leave. Do not try coming back here.” He handed me the coin in his hand. “Flip it five times to transport.” With that, he moved on to help others.

I was amazed that none of the Wotters asked questions - they simply pulled out their coins and tried to find five people.

I looked around wondering if there was anything I could do, anyone else I should tell. The room was already thinning considerably with a steady, yet still calm mass of people heading toward the fireplaces we entered through.

“Cass,” Freddie was by my side looking down at me.

I opened my mouth to explain what was happening.

“James already explained and asked me to make sure you get out of here,” Freddie responded ready to grab my hand.

I held up Mr. Weasley’s coin. “It’s fine, go help other people.”

Freddie nodded and started to walk backwards. “Please don’t try to be a hero,” he urged being uncharacteristically serious.

I nodded my head ready to turn to a random table when I spotted the McLaggens on the stage.

“What is going on here?” Mr. McLaggen was demanding with a stern look on his face, clearly annoyed that his speech was interrupted.

I ran toward the stage, taking long strides again, and jumping up when I reached it.

“Sir, there’s an emergency,” I said reaching Mr. McLaggen. “I can get us out of here with…”

Mr. McLaggen recoiled as he looked at me. “Why would I believe anything you say?” he spat.

“Dad, almost everyone is gone…” Chris stepped toward us looking around the room that was now only occupied with twenty or so people. Half of them were aurors leading everyone out.

“Cormac, you and your family need to get out of here.” I turned to see Harry Potter standing behind him with his lips in a thin line.

I felt someone’s eyes on me and turned to see Mandy Macmillian looking at me with so much fear and hurt etched across her face that it made me physically sick.

“I will not be bossed around by you Potter. I run my own department at the…”

I couldn’t take my eyes off of her - she looked so unsettled and scared to be in my presence. Before I could open my mouth, Carl slid in between us blocking my view and facing his mother. “It’s okay mom, we’ll be out of here soon.”

“’Arry! That’s the last of ‘em. Let’s go!”

“You go on, Ron!” Harry called out in response. He looked at me. “You too, leave. I’ll han…”

BA-da-BOOM

Everything shook as glasses shattered and tables fell over. There was a flash of green light that shined so bright I needed to cover my eyes.

“Nott,” I heard Mr. Potter yelling. “Grab me and turn the coin!”

I opened my eyes to see Mr. Potter casting a protective charm around the stage with one arm and holding onto Mr. McLaggen with his other hand. Chris held onto his dad while Carl held onto Chris and Ms. Macmillian.

BA-ROOM

As a flash of blue emitted somewhere in the room, I turned the coin while diving for Harry Potter’s leg.
°~*◊*~°

A/N: Huge sigh. There’s a ton of reasons why this took so long ranging from my job crushing every creative feeling in my body to my parents going through a very (unnecessarily) dramatic split. While I don’t think this is the best thing I’ve ever written, it does feel so, so good to sit down in my apartment by myself on a weekday (no work, no family, no obligations) and just hammer this out.

I hope you-all enjoy and I really, really truly hope to dedicate some time to reading and writing for fun again.

Song lyrics featured in this chapter include: Poker Face by Lady Gaga, The Man by Aloe Blacc, Run the World (Girls) by Beyonce

http://www.harrypotterfanfiction.com