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Chapter 11
Poker Face

I wanna roll with him, a hard pair we will be
A little gambling is fun when you're with me
Russian Roulette is not the same without a gun
And baby, when it's love if it's not rough it isn't fun, fun

Poker Face-Lady Gaga


Cassie Crescent

“So...this is awkward.” James whispered as we all sat at the breakfast table Sunday morning.

I supposed that it was awkward, though I was concentrating on glaring at Remus, so it was really the farthest thing from my mind. He grinned cheerfully at me as he devoured his bacon. It was beyond me how he managed not to wither away to nothing under my steady gaze. Didn't he have any shame?

If it wasn't for him I would be chatting happily with the others and pretending to enjoy my breakfast. Why couldn't he mind his own business? Why couldn't I control my temper? Playing matchmaker was my job! Why couldn't he just understand that I couldn't get involved with anyone?

Just because he had his own furry little problem didn't mean that he understood mine. Remus became a werewolf once a month. I was a monster all the time. It was part of me. My glare dropped to my half-full plate. Even if I wanted to be with Sirius-which I didn't- it would be impossible. My other half would find a way to hurt him.

“Finally. I thought she was going to stare at you until your skull cracked open. Hey, Cassikins can I have your toast?” Sirius asked, completely unaffected by the dead silence created by my glare and Remus's cheeky grin. Some days he was worse at observing emotional climates than James.

I couldn't stop the small smile that formed as I replied, “Cassikins? Really?”

James smirked, “I think you have it backwards mate. You kiss her, then make up sickening nicknames, like snuggle-wuffy bear. “

I rolled my eyes, “I've never kissed you and I can still call you Jamsie-poo whenever I want.”

“That's different.” he defended sulkily, as a passing group of sixth years snickered at my comment. If I didn't know better I would say that Remus giggled.

“Remus never set a time limit. Besides, when are you kissing Lily?” Sirius asked with excitement, as if he were asking when an exciting fight would take place. Maybe that was what he was asking.

James paled, “I have to be delicate with this. I want to live long enough to laugh about this mess after it's over.”

“I think that you should all agree to get it done and over with by sunset tonight.” I grumbled under my breath as I tossed the last of my toast onto Sirius's plate.

They all stared at me. I blinked and realized what they must have been thinking. Almost Perfect.

“I just want this stuff to be over. I don't want to hear you guys whining the whole week. That'll be my job when I 'break an arm or whatever.' ” I mumbled, wishing that I could blush-just a little.

Yeah...anyway I reckon she's right. Let's all agree to end this by sunset and move on.” James said, taking the lead and looking regretful about doing so. They were playing right into my hands.

“Deal.” Sirius said absently, ripping his toast apart and putting it back on my plate. Well, his voice was absent but his eyes were troubled.

“Deal.” Remus said, smirking at me knowingly.

“I'd have to drag Peter out of bed by his nose hair to have him awake this early, so we'll wait till he finds us and tell him he has till sunset.” James added, filching the last of my eggs.

I smiled at my empty plate before standing fluidly, “I'm going to sit by Lily so I'll see you guys at practice. Don't go snogging anyone without me.” I had a few last minute touches to add to plan for the day. Remus would never mess with me again.

“I wouldn't dare.” Sirius said with a wink.

“Good. Bye guys.” I replied cheerily, feeling oddly buoyant as I walked up to the other side of the table where Lily sat. Maybe I was getting so good at acting that I was starting to confuse myself.

“Hey Lils. Hows life?” I asked, smiling as she jumped at my sudden proximity.

“How do you do that? Do you tiptoe everywhere?” She demanded grumpily, making me smile.

“Nope. You must be getting old. Everyone else hears me coming just fine.” I insisted playfully while thinking quickly for a subject change. Luckily, she rescued me herself.

“Why are you so cheerful? When you walked in James looked like he was going to his last meal and you looked about ready to rip off Remus's head. Now you're all smiles again.” Her voice was determinedly nonchalant.

“Uhm...we kinda have thing going on...which reminds me! James is going to do something really stupid today, but it's not his fault. So please don't kill him. Please?” I realized that I was talking very fast. Confusion washed over me. The full moon wasn't for two weeks.

“I can't make any promises.” She muttered, stabbing her sausage with slightly more force than necessary. Her nonchalance had been an act then. Was everyone scheming? Were there any people left on the face of the earth that weren't plotting for some reason?

“What's wrong with you? You're usually all kinds of excited to be awake in the morning.” I teased her gently.

She sighed, “I don't want to talk about it right now. Why is Sirius staring at you like that?”

I smiled and it widened when I realized that it was real. Too many of my smiles were forced of late, “Like I said...we have a...thing going on. It's complicated and if I tell you about it you'll be forced to act like the prefect we both know you are and then kill James.”

“Great. Just what the world needs; M-...more schemes.” She stuttered slightly and my eyes sharpened. Everyone was scheming. She knew who we were. The Marauders.

“Don't worry. It's nothing big. I have to go talk to the guys about something. I'll be around later to keep you from killing the guys.” I smiled calmly at her as she smirked at the idea of hurting James.  She was worried now.

“Alright then. Have fun.” She said with a nervous smile, eager to get rid of me and move on from her slip.

My smile turned to a grimace as I returned to the boys, who seemed to be discussing quidditch. Typical.

“We have a problem. I was talking to Lily and-” I cut off abruptly as a short little second year walked up to me with wide eyes.

“Uh...M-madam Pomfrey the n-new nurse...she um, she wants to see you. She said to c-come quickly...if-if you can that is.” The poor boy looked terrified.

“Thanks. I'll go now.” I said with a dismissing smile. He nodded with wide eyes and stared at me for a moment before tripping away.

“Am I that scary or does that kid just have speech issues?” I asked the group without turning as we stared after him. My voice shook and it had nothing to do with the boy.

“You're just very intimidating. Do you want us to come to the hospital wing with you?” Sirius asked soothingly. How did he manage to sound so calming without being annoyingly helpful?

I felt a bit childish as I nodded and they all jumped to their feet.

“I have a bad feeling about this.” I whispered as we made out way through the entrance hall as a group.

“We're here. It's probably just a check-up or something.” Remus assured me with a fake smile. More fake smiles.

Why did people insist on pretending to feel calm or happy just so others would feel the same? Half the time it didn't work and when it did, it only led the people who were trusting the pretender into a false sense of security. It was an old thought and I pushed it away.

We were quiet for the rest of the trip up to the hospital. My mind reeled. Had the potion stopped working again? Would I be taken away from Hogwarts? Was I going to lose control and live in the back of Cassandras' mind, forever regretting trying to suppress her in the first place?

No amount of deep breathing would help me as we entered the sterile looking room full of beds. They were all empty. Had they cleared it out on purpose? I hated hospitals.

“Hello Cassie. How are you feeling?” Madam Pomfrey asked sweetly. She was younger than the old nurse, but there was an air of confidence about her that even a young age couldn't diminish. She was the brisk, no-nonsense type with a temper to make Lily look like a kitten, so it was odd to see her demeanor changed.

She smiled at Sirius, James and Remus as they sat down on the bed next to mine without hesitation. I abruptly felt bad for leaving Peter out, but it couldn't be helped and we had bigger problems.

“Professor Dumbledore is coming to talk to you dear. It's nothing to worry about, there will only be a few minor changes to your everyday life. It's all under control.” She looked worried.

I bit back a groan. I had heard those words before they told me that I couldn't eat anymore.

We waited in agonized silence until the doors opened.

Albus Dumbledore was an odd man to say the least. He had a long white beard and piercing blue eyes that made me feel like he could see straight through the walls I had placed around myself. The walls that nobody else even knew were there.

He wore deep blue robes today and a tired smile. It was odd to apply the word tired to Dumbledore. He was like the hero in the stories that you listened to as a child. He was never afraid and he always knew how to fix the problems that nobody else even comprehended. It was silly to be comforted by his presence but I was. He always seemed to have an answer.

“Good morning everyone.” His sweeping glance took in our entire group. Did he know too?

There was no prelude, “Miss Crescent I'm afraid I have unfortunate news. I have just spoken with the fine Healers at St. Mungos and it seems that there is a problem with the potion you have been taking....” He wasn't looking at me any more, but out at the grounds. Maybe he knew how uncomfortable it was to have your last defenses stared through.

His voice was maddeningly calm. How could anyone be calm while they tore another persons life into shreds? He paused and stared out the window for a moment as if lost in thought. He wasn't trying to build suspense, his voice showed the strain of many thoughts, but I felt like screaming.

After a few seconds I couldn't handle it anymore, “What problem?” the words almost exploded from me and I blinked at the quavering fear that resounded in my voice. It was frightening to be so on edge. My very existence was balanced on a razors edge and control was everything. Sirius quickly moved to sit next to me and took my hand.

“Forgive me, I'm afraid that I've lost track of my thoughts. It seems that your potion has stopped working.” How could his eyes twinkle like that, when he was delivering a death sentence?

I gaped at him, but he continued as if he hadn't just told me that my life was over, “The odd thing about their news, however, is that you show no sign of losing control of yourself. Have you been having strange dreams, or hearing things?” He could have been discussing my plans for the weekend by his tone.

I could only nod. Sirius squeezed my hand.

“I had thought so. Ms. Crescent, I think that you have much to be thankful for and much to be angry about. We can only hope that you choose not to act on your anger, though it is not up to us to decide who you choose to be. I fear that, that is the first thing they lied to you about.”

“W-what do you mean?” I asked in a whisper. Cassandra cackled madly and I winced.

“I simply mean that it has never been your choice to be like the rest of us. That decision was made in great haste by your distraught caretaker and several overeager Healers who, in their eagerness to study you, forgot that they were dealing with the life of a frightened seven year old.”

“You...want me to be a vampire?” I spluttered in shock, unable to comprehend his madness. I could feel Sirius freeze as if he had been slapped. I didn't look.

“I am flattered that you would take my opinion into account, but it is not my choice that matters here. Only yours. Nobody has the right to tell a fish that it must become a bird and we do not have the right to tell you how to live. What do you want?”

I stared at him in disbelief. What do you want? It was the first time that anyone had asked me that question about my life. I had been a helpless seven year old thrust into a hospital bed, an obedient daughter taking the medicine I was given, a distraught thirteen-year old and an frightened, current me. There had never been options.

I could hear the evil hissing in the back of my head, pleading with me, ordering me, to choose it. I gulped.

“Why am I being asked now? My opinion never mattered before and it doesn't matter anyway. The potion stopped fighting her for me. I'm done. You can't honestly let me believe that you'd let me run off into the forest and start living like a savage.”

Dumbledore smiled and the twinkle in his eye seemed to dance, “Even if the fish wanted to be a bird, wouldn't it resent being told what to do? Is it not human nature to fight against any greater power, even if it's leading you where you want to go?

Also, your opinion always matters. It's the spirit behind everything you do. If you had wanted to stop them from changing you you could have done it. We both know that there's very little in the way of magic that can slow you down.

As for your potion, it may have stopped fighting, but you didn't. You have managed, through sheer willpower to do more than any potion ever could. You, Cassie will not be done until you decide that you are done. I think that whatever you decide to do with this life, you will succeed. For that you should be grateful. Don't doubt that. And not to stray from the subject, but I don't think that you would live like a savage. Not in your own eyes at least.”

My brain felt empty. I was confused, “I want to be me. I...just want to be me.” I whispered desperately, staring at him helplessly.

“That is a wise goal, in any situation. I have been anticipating this day for years and I think I may be able to help you. I can create a barrier in your mind, between yourself and...yourself. It will give you more control both physically and mentally. I would have don it before, but I wasn't allowed to learn enough about your case.” his eyes were placid.

“Why didn't they do that in the first place?” I asked, anger boiled inside me. They wanted to study me.

“That is why you have a reason to be angry. They wanted to, for lack of a better phrase, 'cure vampirism.' Separating your less pleasant personality would have mangled their test results.”

He looked me hard in the eye, asif he really could hear my thoughts and said something that I'll never forget, “Revenge is all well and good until it's over Cassie. Afterwards there is nothing left to live for. Your hate is spent and your purpose is gone. You are destined for greater things, I think.” he smiled as I nodded slightly. There was no punishment great enough for what they did, so why waste my time trying to tally up a large enough bill?

It took me a moment to realize that I was shaking. Control., “Will there be any changes?” I whispered timidly.

“Several. When you are angry your eyes will stay blue, you won't hear the voices or have the nightmares and you will have a bit more control of the...supernatural aspects. I'm afraid that this time you will have to meditate.” I couldn't stop the smile. I had known it all along.

* * * *

“ does she know or suspect?” Remus asked carefully as we walked down the deserted corridor later that afternoon.

“There's no way she could know, we've been very careful. I doubt that even I could figure it out from the clues we've left behind. It's impossible that nobody suspects though. Think about it” I replied in dulcet tones.

“No offense Cassie, but everyone probably thinks it's a group of big headed boys.” James said absently as he tapped the stone walls, listening for hollow spots. Shortcuts were marvelous devices for pranks.

“Behind every great man stands a woman rolling her eyes. Remember that.” I announced with a laugh. My spirits couldn't have been higher. I was free and even if Lily found out about the Marauders, I could keep her quiet. I would.

My footsteps were still nearly imperceptible, but I was alone in my head and I was no longer strong enough to beat any of the boys at arm wrestling unless I used her. We had checked. I didn't like using my extra strength and other senses though because it was like diving into a pool full of Cassadra, with no towels. It took hours to dry off.

“We must be the greatest men alive, because you roll your eyes a lot.”Sirius said in amusement as I came back to earth.

“I certainly hope not. If you're the best we've got then the world is doomed.” I muttered under my breath.

“I heard that, princess snarkums.” Remus informed me with a raised eyebrow.

“You, are still in trouble. You are not allowed to be funny.” My severe tone contrasted greatly with the wide smile on my face, but I didn't really care. My acting skills would improve as soon as someone sparked my temper. Or I remembered that my plan wasn't sealed yet.

Remus snickered, “That's like telling me I'm not allowed to breathe. I am the funniest person you know. Admit it.”

“Yes. You are the funniest person I know, I haven't laughed in ten years and I'm half troll. It's such a relief to get that out in the open.”

“If you're half troll your other half must be extra concentrated veela, because all you inherited was midgetism and a temper.” Sirius said with a charming smile.

I grinned at him and turned to James, “I get the temper from the veela side. Much scarier. And why can't you act like Sirius when you're around Lily? ” I asked, gesturing at the smirking boy, “It would save me so many headaches.”

“Yeah, because you plan out my every move before I wake up in the morning and then go around cleaning up all of my messes and plotting after I go to sleep.” His voice was sarcastic, but his face turned wary after a moment as if he were actually wondering if that was exactly what I did.

“You're close, but you don't make messes when I plan out your days. Trust me.” I said smugly, laughing at the looks on the boys faces. They all seemed to be struggling with a mixture of reluctant belief and chagrin. They had no idea.

By this time we were walking out the front doors toward the quidditch pitch. I looked around warily before running up to Sirius and jumping on his back. If I was going to have to act like a wimp all week then I was not going to give them the satisfaction of seeing how much I hated it.

“Piggy back ride.” I proclaimed smugly, “If I'm going to have to be pampered all week, you'd better get a jump on it.”

“Who says that I'm going to be doing the pampering?” Sirius asked absently as he hooked his arms under my knees to hold me up, “Remus is the one who's making you fake an injury.”

“I still don't understand how you're going to pretend to be injured when Madam Pomfrey can heal a broken bone without looking at it.” James said in a half questioning tone. Perfect.

“I'm going to fall from about fifty or sixty feet and hit my head. She'll make anyone who does that take it easy for a few days. Even me. Maybe especially me so she can keep my secret better. Besides, I'm closer to normal now.” I told him over Sirius's shoulder. It felt odd to be able to look him straight in the eye without craning my neck. They were all so tall.

“You scare me sometimes.” Remus whispered in half-awe.

“You're just mad because I'm not miserable and I don't have to kiss anyone.” I teased.

“That would make him a terrible friend. Besides, you have to kiss Sirius.” Peter commented, sounding tired.

“No. Sirius has to kiss me and I have to give him obstructive criticism afterwards because he can't ask other girls for tips.” I said in a stage whisper. Sirius hitched on of my legs up to toss me off and I threw my arms around in his neck in a choke hold to stay up. Well, maybe not a choke hold, but a firm grip at least.

“The term is constructive criticism.” Sirius's voice was mild, but he was only trying to make up for his furious blush. I was still the only one who could make his face turn that particular shade of red.

“I know. But my phrase applied better. You should never expect me to be helpful unless I'm too tired to be sarcastic.” I quipped, loosening my hold on his neck since the danger of falling seemed to have passed.

“I think that I'm going to make you run laps after warm ups.” he told me severely.

I grimaced. That meant that I would have to fall sooner than I had planned. I hated running in circles. It was so pointless. My eyes went to James and Peter, who were either tactful or lucky enough to be walking behind us. They winked in the most obvious and obnoxious manner that they were capable of while looking worried and I snorted. I was going to take a dive off a broom and they were worried about girls.

“What are you up to?” Remus asked quietly as I slid to the ground and walked briskly to the broom shed so I could get there before Sirius.

“No more than usual.” I replied flatly before 'accidentally' whacking him in the shins as hard as I could with my broom handle, “Sorry! Are you okay?” I made my voice reminiscent of the time that I had nearly broken James's arm.

He gave no sign of pain beyond a wince and his eyes narrowed, “No more than usual means that you have about six schemes running currently and that you are planning another seven for the near future. Spill.”

“Now Remus, why would I do that? It would ruin all the fun.” I taunted as I stepped daintily out of the broom shed and pulled my broom into the air faster than he could follow. He didn't pursue.

I flew once around the pitch and scouted the ground. The trees swayed in the breeze and there was a glint in the water that had collected at the South end of the stadium. It smelled good out here. It had rained yesterday, so there was a fair amount of mud. I smiled, this was going to be fun.

After our usual boring warm-up I glanced out toward the stands and smiled. Lily sat in the front row looking bored along with Jenny and Alicia. Perfect. Everything was going according to plan.

Sirius released the snitch and I pretended to search for it while being careful not to catch it. I did my best to look frustrated and frequently caught James' eye. He looked sick to his stomach.

I smiled as I approached the preplanned spot. It didn't look quite as soft as it had when I was on the ground. It was time. Peter, who had been lingering near me caught my smirk and groaned before suddenly coming at me from the side.

I deliberately kept my eyes anywhere but to my right and just as I started to dive straight down after a glint in the mud, Pete hit me on my right side just hard enough to knock me over.

I didn't have to force out the scream that escaped my lips as I jerked myself to the side with him and pulled my arms in to avoid grabbing for my broom. Or him. It felt like time had slowed down. I couldn't have been falling for more than a few seconds, but it felt like an immeasurable pace of time.

I hit exactly where I had planned, in the wettest, muddiest part of the field. I felt a little dazed, of course but nothing was broken. It was hard to breath. The wind must have been knocked out of me as well. Maybe I wouldn't have to fake a head injury. Maybe I was being a wimp.

I snatched James' gold watch out of the water and pretended to glare at it. Sirius reached me only a second after I fell.

“Cassie!“ he whispered, pulling me out of the mud and hugging me so tight that it was impossible to breathe at all, “You scared me. You're alright?”

I blinked, “Sirius, I planned this. Relax. I feel like I could beat you in a three mile race.” It didn't help that my voice wheezed and I couldn't stand up properly.

“I thought...Lets get you up to the castle.” He looked ready to carry me all the way up there himself.

“Cassie! Oh Merlin, I thought you cracked your skull open! What happened? You never fall!” Lily was a mess and her voice shrill as she fluttered about me checking for broken bones, no doubt.

I felt bad for doing this to her, but she was in the exact right emotional range for my plans. She wouldn't hurt James if it would upset me while I was injured.

“Cassie, what the-” James was cut off by Peter, Remus and the rest of the team who arrived at the same time.

Sirius was already carrying me toward the castle and everyone followed. I glared at James, hoping that it was effective while I was so woozy and he sighed.

“Evans, Please don't murder me.” he pleaded almost imperceptibly before coming up behind her and whirling her around.

“Potter-!” She had no chance to finish as James pulled her to him gently and gave her the quickest possible peck on the lips before backing out of her swinging range as quickly as possible.

The whole thing was adorable, especially when Lily blushed and mouthed at him silently before shaking her head.

“Your best friend just fell from fifty feet and is being rushed to the hospital wing-” It wasn't exactly rushing, seeing as we were all stopped, but whatever worked for her I guess, “and you kiss me? Do you care about her at all? What is wrong with you?” Her voice had started out as cool as a winter frost, but by the end she was practically screeching.

“She's fine Evans! Look shes trying not to laugh at me.” He gestured helplessly at me and I immediately wiped away any amusement. It wasn't really hard. I hurt everywhere. My brain felt about as fast as melted pudding. Maybe I should have thought about my newfound vulnerability a little harder.

“Are you kidding me? She looks like she was hit by a bus!” Lily seemed to be at her wits end as she gave him a look to curdle fresh milk and pulled Sirius towards the castle. I blinked dumbly.

James was giving me a look to make Lily's seem sweet, so I dropped my head onto Sirius's shoulder and pretended to pass out...or something. Anything to get away from that glare. At least everything was going according to plan.

Fifteen minutes later, I opened my eyes to find a mess.

* * * *

Lily Evans

My grip on the armrest was so tight that I was surprised to find that I could still move my fingers.

“Lily?” Alicia asked me cautiously.

“Sweetie, if you keep looking at the wall like that it's going to take offense and fall on you.” Jenny whispered in my ear.

I smiled, but as soon as I did I pushed it away. I was mad. Not happy. Infuriated and nauseated, but not happy.

“She liked it. Shes just trying to hide it behind misplaced anger.” Jen informed Alicia in a whisper that could have been heard in the dorms. The dorms. Those morons still had my books. Cassie's incident had made me forget.

I tried not to talk to Cassie about her other friends, even when they did things like they had done last night. Something told me that she would die before she went against that group. They were all like that though.

“Leave her alone Jen. She's probably plotting murder and you don't want to be on her list.”

“I'm sitting right here.” I hissed.

The common room was nearly empty because it was one of the last days of summer and everyone wanted to enjoy the weather before it became overly cold and wet.

I had followed Cassie to the hospital, but Remus and Peter of all people had kicked me out saying that they had things to talk about.

I frowned absently. Were they the Marauders? Potter was certainly capable of the meaner pranks and whether I wanted to admit it or not they were all smart. Well most of them. The odd thing was that the pranking had stopped completely. It was as if someone had hit an off switch. Maybe they were gone. Maybe not.

That led to another question that was too complex for me too puzzle over without a few hours with nothing else to do. Cassie wasn't normal. If I had red hair, Cassie was not normal. I didn't mean it in a teasing or awe filled way. There was something about her that stood out and the harder she fought to hide it, the more it showed.

I listed the facts in my head and my throat tightened at the conclusions I drew. I had never actually seen her eat or drink anything, her eyes could make a person dizzy when she wasn't composed...she was small but there was something about her that screamed toughness. She was silk covering steel. Her steps were almost soundless and she unconsciously hummed a haunting melody to herself while she walked as if to make up for it.

I sighed and fell back in my chair. Maybe the rumors were true and she was part veela. An abusive childhood could explain her amazingly hard outer shell and her reluctance to talk about her family.

My reverie was broken when the portrait hole opened and the maybe-Marauders filed in, looking like movie stars that were showing up late to a party.

Cassie glided more than she walked and I was surprised to remember that we had planned to study together. That was why I had asked Jane and Alicia to go inside instead of remaining outdoors.

“Hey Lils.” Cassies' voice reminded me of a soft singing sigh or a breeze through leafy trees. She was always so serene that sometimes I felt certain that she could walk through the eye of a hurricane without even being ruffled. Her clam demeanor seemed like a mask sometimes. Now was one of them. We all seemed to be wearing masks.

“Hey Cassie. Are you okay to study? I won't mind of you go rest. I'm actually surprised that woman let you out of the hospital wing. She's a tyrant.” My nose wrinkled at the pitch of my voice. I would never be able to imitate that cool complacency of hers.

A ghost of a smile fluttered across her face as she took her seat, “I don't recall being 'let out'...but the details don't matter.”

I realized that the group of boys had followed her and sat in the chairs surrounding hers. Sometimes they acted like her bodyguard. Maybe sometimes they were.

Sirius snickered, “You lied and told her that you had to go to the loo, then ran out the doors as soon as her back was turned.”

“Like I said, the details don't matter and I didn't run. I jogged. Actually, Lily I was wondering if you would put the study buddying off until later. I'm actually hoping to use this whole minor concussion thing to my advantage.”

I stared at her. She was up to something. Remus looked ready to run, Pettigrew looked ready to join him and Black was staring at her like she was water and he was dying of thirst yet she somehow managed to look straight past him without seeing him. Potter seemed to be the only calm one.

Then it hit me.

I jumped to my feet, “Cassandra Crescent, don't you dare try to...” I trailed off for a few reasons. First, I wanted Remus and Alicia to get together. Second, Jenny needed and wanted some more experience with boys and Pettigrew wasn't ugly. Third, it seemed that Sirius had to kiss Cassie, which amused me.

Fourthly, when I said 'Cassandra'  all five of the miscreants in front of me cringed and the boys looked at Cassie with open pity. Just as quickly though, they all cut off and went back exactly as they had been before. It was as if someone had changed the channels on my T.V at home. It was actually rather frightening how good they were at hiding their emotions. Did every one of them wear a mask?

“So we're on the same page? You caught on faster than I hoped you would.” Cassie asked me calmly. She acted like nothing had happened. They were all suddenly so relaxed that for a moment I contemplated my sanity.

“Not even remotely...but I know what you're up to...currently and I don't disapprove.” I replied shakily.

“Excellent. Rem, Pete you should go at the same time. It will surprise them more.” she could have been discussing the weather. Or shoes. No. She wasn't normal.

They both glanced at her ruefully, as if this had been somebody else's plan and she was just taking over.

“Sometimes I think all this 'Princess' nonsense goes to your head.” Remus told her in a teasing tone as he stood.

“Sometimes all the monster nonsense goes to yours.” Her voice was matter-of-fact and I knew that they were speaking in code or some other silliness. I remembered the days before I had met Cassie. I had been so innocent. I never would have comprehended the complex situation before me. I probably still didn't know the tenth of it. I didn't want to either.

Poor Jenny and Alicia just stared at us in confusion until Remus and Peter approached them. I watched in resigned amusement as Remus pulled Alicia out of her chair by her hand and hesitated before he kissed her right on the lips. Alicia didn't hesitate at all. She almost beat him to it.

I turned toward Peter when I realized that Remus had no intention of stopping any time soon. He was much shyer but he didn't even wait to pull Jenny out of her chair. He ducked down and gave her a quick peck on the lips and backed away, blushing.

I bit back a laugh as Jenny stared st him with wide eyes. Her whole face was turning a dark shade of crimson.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Remus go back to his original seat and Alicia sit down with a lazy grin. The girl had no shame.

Cassie was staring intently at the fire and Sirius was doing the same to her. It was odd. The Cassie I knew would be plopping herself down in his lap and getting the kiss over with. Sirius wouldn't have usually waited long enough for her to go that far.

I knew that they liked each other. Before I could do any prodding, Potter of all people interrupted the amused and tense silence, “I'm starved. Lets all go on down to dinner. Remus don't look at me like that. I trust her not to lie.”

So there had to be witnesses? What kind of sick game were they playing? I led my dazed friends out of the room behind the boys. A glance back into the common room showed Cassie finally looking up at Sirius with an unreadable expression.

The portrait hole closed on a scene that would change my life forever. I just didn't realize it until I was already dead.

* * * *

I sighed and stood up, looking Sirius straight in the eye, “They already think that there's something going on between us. Well, Lily does. If we take half an hour to get this done then they'll all suspect that we're falling in love or something. And to be honest my life has enough drama without adding on to the list.” I bit my tongue to make myself stop. I was rambling. Why?

He was smiling as he stood, “You've been jumpy all day. Is there something odd going on?”

Was he kidding? Was he aware that our whole group was on edge because we were each facing our biggest problems? “You must be a genius Sirius! Nobody else could have deduced that we are all a little jumpy today. Of course somethings odd! This is odd. You are acting odd and I have had quite enough-”

It was the fifth time that he had ever surprised me. His arms went around me almost roughly and he closed the space between our lips, effectively cutting me off.

At first I was shocked. But despite my plans to end this quickly I threw my arms around his neck and kissed him back. He held me tighter and deepened the kiss. I couldn't think. I didn't want to think. I couldn't even remember my own name and I didn't care.

There was no feeling of backing up but suddenly I was pressed between him and the wall. Wait. Rational thought had fled a while back but somewhere in the back of my mind I was aware that this wasn't supposed to happen. I was not supposed to feel like this. The rest of me didn't care.

He broke away for air and I found myself kissing his neck. He smelled so good. I couldn't string to thoughts together. Somehow I found his lips again and my hands twisted in his hair.

He broke away again and somehow that part of me in the back of my head clawed out and screamed reason in my ear. No.

I gasped and pulled free. He did not try to hold me there. He looked as shocked as I felt.

I shook my head. The only coherent thing I could convey was no. “No!” I turned and ran up the stairs to my rarely used dorm. I fell onto my bed and buried my face in my pillow. This was wrong. He was supposed to be like my brother. I had control of Cassandra as long as I had control of my emotions. I couldn't hurt him.

I couldn't deny it anymore either. Sirius Black was not anything like a brother to me. I liked him the wrong way. I was falling for my best friend. What had I done?

* * * *

The common room was silent for several minutes after Cassie ran away. I stared after her, feeling oddly empty.

I had, had a plan. It was supposed to be a quick kiss. Barely enough for two siblings. I couldn't have her. Last year I had been convinced that we could be together. This summer any notion that I could ever be with her had been firmly crushed by a simple realization. Voldemort.

Everyone thought they knew about this Voldemort character. They had no idea. My family had made it no secret where they stood. People thought that he was a lunatic who had gained a few followers and would be put down before he caused any real harm. Like a pack of mad dogs. I knew now beyond the shadow of a doubt that there was a fight coming. The only question was who would be left on our side when it was time to take off the masks.

He was against half-breeds and muggles, vampires, werewolves and anything, anyone else that he didn't understand. My family was with him. If I drew attention to her in the way that I so desperately wanted to, she would be compromised. We both knew why she was so good at scheming.

Purebloods were trained in intrigue from the moment they started to talk. She just had a talent. Spying and sneaking were almost customary in a world where you pretended that there were still nobles and you were fighting silently to gain power. There were no secrets in our world. Voldemort would try to use her or kill her. There were no holes deep enough to bury the past. I could not have her.

That was wrong. If I couldn't have her, then why did I have that feeling that everything was going according to some ancient scheme? Why did it feel like we were supposed to be together?

I could not comprehend how the idea that there was no fate comforted Cassie. The thought that there was a greater power that made all the big decisions for me was all that got me through the day.

Maybe that was her point though. Maybe there were some things that we had to decide for ourselves.

I smiled, though through the heartache it was probably a grimace, thinking of earlier that day when James had accused her of the same plotting that would have belonged next to the word fate in a dictionary. Planning out our every move by day and then cleaning up the mess we made at night. Judging by her shrewd smile, she never noticed.

This wasn't right. I was supposed to be happy tat we had both recognized our feelings. We should be walking down to dinner holding hands.

It was at that moment as I stared into the fire that I made my decision. Voldemort and his followers would fall. I would not rest until there was no trace of them left. They were wrong and they were hurting us all.

My eyes found their way to the girls staircase and I tilted my head to the side. Fate was real. My own destiny was sitting in Cassie Crescents' pocket.

Right next to my heart.

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