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Chapter Image by MrsLovett @ TDA















TWO

6th February 2023 




Her hand was seizing up. The muscle down the side of her little finger was rigid and shaking and she had purple grooves in the tips of her fingers. 


To some people, writing lines could be considered a feeble detention. To Cassie Cooper it was torture. 


She’d much rather be doing something physical, something where she felt useful. Her mother had told her of detentions in the Forbidden Forest, of cleaning out bedpans in the Hospital Wing, of hours of labour mopping the halls. 


Hogwarts didn’t go for that sort of detention anymore. 


There were about twenty of them in the classroom. All sat at a separate desk, all writing pointless line after pointless line. The ticking of the clock and the scratching of quills was slowly driving Cassie insane. 


Nobody else looked bothered. They were probably all the thoughtless rebels to whom this was no change to their ordinary routine. But to someone who never got caught… 


This was infuriating. 


Professor Buchanan was drumming his fingers against the wide wooden desk as he scanned the classroom every so often, making no effort to conceal his boredom. 


Cassie dropped her quill and for a few luxurious seconds felt the blood rushing back into her fingertips. She stretched out her fingers and shifted in her chair with a sigh. She glanced up at the clock and barely stifled a moan. Another hour to go. This was agony. 


The monotony became too much for Professor Buchanan. He ineffectively cleared his throat and announced that he had to fetch something from his office before fleeing. 


A low drone of chatter developed as quills were discarded, along with the scraping of chairs as the regular detainees greeted one another and shared news and gossip. 


Cassie didn’t know anyone in the room. It occurred to her that she should at least recognise somebody, out of probability, but she didn’t. 


The only people she interacted with on a regular basis were the group of three girls she slept next to in the dorm. Freya, Juliet and Nina would all consider her one of them, one of their friends. Cassie called them her friends too, but she knew inside that there was something missing. When Ryan… left… something inside Cassie had gone with him and she just didn’t feel capable of completely being herself. 


She was just debating whether it was hugely sad for her to carry on with her lines, just for something to do, when the chair next to her was pulled out with an ear-splitting scrape. 


“Cassie Cooper. Sixth year Ravenclaw. Friend of Freya Williamson, Juliet Barnes and Nina French. Ex-girlfriend of Allen Davies. Youngest ever winner of the Barnabus Finkley Prize for Exceptional Spell-Casting in third year, but refused to enter in following years for reasons not disclosed. Considered ‘fit’ by many but unattainable by more.” 


Albus Potter leant on his elbows against the side of Cassie’s desk, his hands clasped in front of him. He seemed to be waiting for a comment. 


Cassie cocked her head and regarded him enquiringly. “Well done. Just how many people did you have to ask to find that out?” Her words were cool but she was a little unnerved that he could have found this information in just three days. Especially when the reason he’d want to in the first place was unclear. 


“Not a huge amount. You didn’t strike me as a first year so I worked my way down from the top.” 


Cassie wasn’t sure how to respond, so she settled for a subject change. “I didn’t know you were in here. I didn’t see you.” 


“Maybe you weren’t looking.” 


Again he left her having trouble finding a response. “Maybe so. So, ‘project’ complete?” She asked. 


The corner of his lip quirked. “Not really. I’m probably closer to knowing as much about you as you do about me, but it’s not really stuff that means much. Most of it, anyway.” 


He was right, she supposed. Name, year and house didn’t really mean anything. The names of her friends and – she shuddered – Allen, they didn’t mean a whole lot either. And it didn’t even mean a whole lot that she’d dropped out of the competition. Not if he didn’t know why. 


“Maybe the stuff I know about you doesn’t mean much either,” Cassie said, thinking about it. 


“Try me.” 


“Ok.” Cassie wondered for a moment what he wanted. He could have chosen to investigate anyone in the school – and probably gotten a lot more rewarding attention and found out a lot more interesting stuff. And he could have chosen to pass the time with anybody in detention. But he’d chosen her. 


But she wasn’t really going to complain. She needed to pass the time, and for some reason when she spoke to him, she almost felt like herself again. 


“Albus Potter. Seventh year Gryffindor. On the house Quidditch team -” 


Captain of the Quidditch team.” Albus corrected with his uneven smile. 


“Oh. Congratulations.” Cassie wasn’t sure if he was grinning because he was proud or because she hadn’t known something. 


“I have been since…” An odd look passed across his face. “… since fourth year.” 


Cassie noticed the look. He noticed her noticing. 


“Carry on,” The quirk of the lip was back and he leant back onto two legs of his chair. 


“Ok. Well… erm…” Cassie recalled what he’d found out about her. The names of her friends. And ex-boyfriend. She realised that she didn’t know that about him. “Son of Harry and Ginny Potter, saviours of the world and all that.” 


She stopped there, wondering if he’d think she was being disrespectful. She didn’t mean to be, she just wasn’t about to launch into all that. They’d covered it in History of Magic back in third year. But, on the contrary, he didn’t seem at all concerned. 


“Brother to James and Lily Potter.” Cassie continued, but had to stop again. This time it wasn’t initially because of her own doubt, but because of that odd look passing across Albus’ face again. Almost like pain. 


Then she hesitated. And the look passed. But he didn’t seem as comfortable as before. He dropped the chair back onto all four legs and his expression appeared closed off. 


She wasn’t sure whether she should continue. The only stuff she really knew about him was his family, even if it was just the rumours – because, let’s face it, nobody knew the real story behind their conspicuous absence. Or the reason that Albus alone had remained. But it seemed like that wouldn’t be a great topic to discuss with him. And he hadn’t brought up the family issue with her. And if he’d found out that other stuff it was quite likely that he’d found something out about her family. But he hadn’t mentioned it. And for that she was grateful. 


“Um, I guess that’s it.” Cassie said, dropping her eyes down to the desk. 


“Really?” Fortunately he snapped out of his trance. “That’s all you have?” 


“Yeah,” Cassie watched his carefully but he seemed just as relaxed and carefree as before. “Oh no wait, I also have the fact that you like to fly at night.” 


“Ah. Yeah. Good one.” 


“And speaking of which,” She frowned, “I’m not talking to you. It’s your fault I’m here.” She gestured around the classroom. 


“It’s my fault you’re in detention?” He grinned, “How's that?” 


“I got caught getting back to my dorm last night. I’ve never been caught before, and I’ve never met you before. Then both in one night. You see the logic?” 


“Nope.” 


“You distracted me.” Cassie’s frown deepened as his grin broadened. “So I wasn’t careful enough.” 


“I distracted you, huh?” 


“It’s not a good thing,” Cassie said, irritably. 


Albus shrugged, indifferently, then met her eyes again. 


“What?” Cassie asked. 


“Just figuring you out a little.” Albus said, frankly. “The way you act kind of cool for a while, then you chill out and get… snappy.” 


“Snappy?” Cassie echoed. 


“I don’t know what to call it,” Albus smirked at her expression, “Would you prefer ‘feisty’ ? -” 


“’Snappy’ is fine.” 


“I thought so. But yeah. I think that’s you when you’re more comfortable with me.” 


“I see. And what makes you think I’m comfortable around you?” It was an honest question. Cassie wasn’t sure that she was comfortable around him. She’d felt awkward enough when she brought up his family, however accidentally it was. 


“Just a theory,” Albus shrugged again, “Ok, want to know something else about me?” 


Cassie shrugged, mockingly. 


“You’re the reason I’m here too.” He lowered his voice as Professor Buchanan returned. “You weren’t the only one distracted.” 


“Mr Potter.” Buchanan said, sharply, “Back to your place, please.” 


The rest of the students were back in their places already with their quills in their hands. They must have heard the professor approaching. Cassie wondered why she and Albus hadn’t. 


Albus returned to his own chair without another word. Cassie watched him settle down at the desk at the very back in the very middle. How had she not noticed him before? Was it really, as he’d said, that she just wasn’t looking? 


“Miss Cooper. Lines. Now.” Buchanan barked. 


Albus looked up just as Cassie was turning back to the front. His face held as many questions as her own. 



** 




“Why has Albus Potter been asking about you?” 


Cassie had been lying lethargically on her bed, idly flipping a tattered photograph over in her hands. Her hangings had been half-drawn so that she could hear the rest of the girls dashing about getting ready for bed but it was clear that she wasn’t in the mood for a conversation. 


Unfortunately her friends had never been the best at following social guidelines. 


Freya bounded imprecisely onto the end of Cassie’s bed and settled cross-legged in front of her. Juliet followed her in a more restrained manner and perched on the edge of the bed, while Nina remained where she’d been seated before, with her back against Cassie’s bed as she put the finishing touches to the Charms essay they’d been checking together half an hour or so earlier. 


Cassie’s hands stopped their restless fiddling and she sat up. It struck her as odd that her hands were so restless while her body was so exhausted. 


“I don’t know.” Cassie answered, honestly. 


This answer didn’t satisfy the girls. 


“You don’t know?” Freya demanded, “Do you care?” 


“What do you mean, ‘do I care’?” 


“I mean it’s Albus Potter.” Freya made it sounded like the ghost of Albus Dumbledore had materialised and enquired about her friend, not just a teenage boy. “He doesn’t ask about anyone.” 


Cassie felt a little odd. She hadn’t registered when Albus had told her his findings that he’d have to ask people, and that these people would find it intriguing that he’d asked. 


“Maybe he does,” She pointed out, logically, “But he hasn’t asked you before.” 


“Cassie!” Freya seemed aggrieved that Cassie was so clueless, “If Albus Potter was asking about someone, you’d hear about it. He doesn’t care about anything. Only Quidditch.” 


“When did you even meet him?” Nina piped up, having discarded her Charms essay and joined the rest on Cassie’s bed. 


“The other night,” Cassie shrugged, “I just… bumped into him.” 


The other three girls exchanged knowing looks. 


“Was this on another of your midnight excursions?” Nina asked, primly disapproving. 


“Maybe.” Cassie rolled her eyes, knowing what their reactions would be. 


“Cassie.” Freya reprimanded, “That is so third year! No one does anything like that any more.” 


It was true. That was the year the law had passed. That was the year Hogwarts had lost its thrill. Even now Cassie was still unsure whether that was coincidence or whether it just seemed that way to her, because that was the year Ryan had gone. Her fingers gripped the photograph more tightly. 


“Well I do. And apparently Albus does.” She said. 


“Well there’s just no need.” Freya said, dismissively. “It takes so much effort, and you’re going to get caught eventually.” 


“I hadn’t until Tuesday.” 


“That’s because you’re the luckiest person I know.” 


Cassie didn’t count it as luck. She counted it as a display of her impressive stealth and, as Albus had put it, crazy acrobatics. Not that it was hard. Sometimes it was so easy that Cassie was sure that people were meant to sneak out at night, and meant to test the limits. 


“Honestly, Cassie,” Juliet said, seriously, “There are rules for a reason. It’s dangerous to go out at night doing Merlin only knows what.” 


“We all used to do it, Jules,” Cassie said, appreciating for a moment Juliet’s quieter manner compared to Freya’s dramatics. “Remember? Like when we snuck into the Slytherin common room and changed the hangings pink? Or the time we went swimming in the lake and got caught by Professor Longbottom?” 


“We’d never get away with any of that now,” Nina said, “We were lucky it was Longbottom that caught us and none of the other teachers. But now he’s left. And all the teachers are sods when it comes to punishment now.” 


“How do you know?” Cassie felt herself getting annoyed. Why were they all so compliant with the rules? Weren’t teenagers supposed to break the boundaries once in a while? What had happened to her fun, disobedient friends? At the same time she felt guilty. It was because she’d been so distant and just not there since Ryan had gone, that she hadn’t noticed up until now. “When was the last time you were punished?” 


“That’s the point,” Freya said, “It’s just so juvenile, all of it. The silly pranks, the punishment… there’s just no need for it any more.” 


“But don’t you feel…” Cassie struggled to put it into words. “… Don’t you feel bored?” 


The looks she received in response varied from shrewd to dismayed. 


“Honey,” Freya took her hand, “You know you’re not doing this because you’re bored.” 


“What? Yes I -” 


Nina gently tried to take the tattered photograph from Cassie’s unyielding fingers. Cassie tightened her grip on it and snatched it away. 


“You look at that photo every night.” Nina said, softly. 


“So? What’s wrong with that?” Cassie said, defensively. 


Again the three of them exchanged looks. 


“It’s been three years, Cassie,” Juliet said gently, “And you still act like he’s coming back.” 


Cassie swallowed. It hurt her throat. 


“I don’t want to upset you,” Juliet added hastily, “We just want you to talk to us. You haven’t talked to us about it once in three years. We just want to understand what you’re thinking.” 


“I’m fine.” It came out harsher than Cassie had intended. 


“Are you really, though?” Nina pressed, “You look at the photo every night, but then you pull off all these crazy stunts to take your mind off it -” 


Cassie closed her eyes. It hurt her head. They didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. But she couldn’t explain it to them. Any time she tried to explain anything like that to them they either got all superior and told her it was all ‘third year stuff’, or they got all ‘understanding’ like this. It was them that didn’t make any sense – not her. 


“You just need to accept things.” Freya was saying, in a voice at least ten times softer than usual. “He’s not coming back -” 


“He’s not dead.” Cassie said, shortly, fighting the hot prickling in her eyes. 


Freya bit her lip. It was obvious that none of them wanted to be the ones to say it. None of them wanted to be the ones to hurt her. She was grateful for that, but at the same time so irritated that none of them would even consider another option. 


“Then why hadn’t he come back?” Nina asked, quietly. 


“You don’t think I’ve asked myself that every single day?” Cassie asked, her eyes still screwed up. “I just… I just know he’s not d…” She couldn’t say the word. 


There was a long silence in which Cassie couldn’t open her eyes because she knew that if she saw one more knowing look she might just slap the face that wore it. 


“Well if you do want to talk to us…” Juliet said, quietly, “Or someone else, you know there’s the counsellor, Professor Clearwater…” 


“I don’t need a counsellor.” Cassie said, firmly. “I’m fine.” 


“Ok. Just… Cassie, don’t go out tonight. Please?” 


Cassie didn’t answer. 


There was the swishing sound of the hangings being closed amongst the hushed, samey chatter of the dorm that told her that no one else in the dorm had paid much attention to their exchange. 


She waited until the last voice died to a soft, regular breathing. Then she left. 




** 




Cassie didn’t see Albus that night, when she ran herself to the point of collapse around the Forbidden Forest. She didn’t see him the next time she went out, when she sat at the foot of Dumbledore’s tomb until the sun rose. She didn’t see him when she climbed the side of the Owlery. 


She couldn’t work out whether she wanted to or not. 


She didn’t see him until a week later, in an absurdly normal setting compared to their other meetings. 


She was on the way to Importance of Secrecy with Nina. They were so consumed in conversation about the Transfiguration essay that Cassie didn’t see him right away. 


“Are you sure I’ve done enough?” Nina asked, her eyes flipping from Cassie’s parchment to her own. “I haven’t put anything about non-verbal spells like you have -” 


“And you heard how overjoyed Professor Buchanan was the last time I mentioned them in class.” Cassie rolled her eyes, “He’s got some sort of personal vendetta against them, it’s more hassle than it’s worth to put it in.” 


“Why do you do it then?” Nina asked. 


“Because…” Cassie didn’t really know. It was just a tiny, personal little war she had going on. “Because it annoys him. And because I want to know why my parents learnt non-verbal spells in their sixth year and we don’t do them at all.” 


“Wasn’t it decided that they were too advanced?” Nina fumbled with her essay, rolling it up and putting it back in her bag, “I mean, I know you did it in third year for that competition, but they made such a big deal about it that I thought -” 


They rounded a corner and were separated in the mob of students making their way up and down he marble staircase. It wasn’t anything out of the usual – Hogwarts was so crowded nowadays that there was often a hold up on the way to class. Nina groaned but patiently waited at the back of the throng for an opening while Cassie pushed past a few people.


She was just debating whether to either barge all the way through or go a different route – both plans that hadn’t been considered by any of the other students – when one voice out of the hundreds in the corridor caught her attention. 


“Cooper.” It was a friendly greeting just by her ear that made her jump. 


“Potter.” She greeted him in return. She was actually a little thrown by the use of her surname – it was a very masculine way to address someone. Masculine or formal. Odd. It was probably all to do with Quidditch – she remembered Freya saying ‘He doesn’t care about anything. Only Quidditch’. 


“Been up to anything interesting?” He asked, stepping next to her, in front of a fourth year who sniffed disapprovingly but didn’t say anything. Cassie caught his eye and knew what he meant. 


“This and that.” She answered coolly, “You?” 


“The usual.” He answered, equally coolly. Then ruined it with a grin. “Hasn’t been as interesting as it could have been. Not as much to see.” 


Cassie remembered his words from detention and repeated them. “Maybe you weren’t looking.” 


“I was.” He said, with assurance. 


“Maybe you weren’t looking in the right places.” 


“Ah. Maybe so.” He smiled appreciatively again, as if the conundrums they were talking in amused him. Well, Cassie thought, they may amuse him but they hurt her head. 


“Hey, speaking of looking…” Cassie became aware of the curious glances they were being cast from the crowd. Again she wondered at Albus’ famousness. If it had just been Cassie Cooper talking to some random seventh year there would have been no fuss. But because it was the mysterious Albus Potter it was a different story. 


“Does it bother you?” He asked, not even turning a head to take in the amount of people staring. 


Cassie thought about it. Did she really want all the questions about why Albus Potter was talking to/asking about her? But on the other hand, what difference would it make to her usual, monotonous day. 


“Nope.” She said, with a shake of her head. She really couldn’t care less what the majority of the school thought. 


“Good.” There was a small and civil surge of movement as a space cleared and more people made their way down the staircase. For some reason this made Albus smirk, and before Cassie could work out why, he asked, “How do you feel about a bit of banister sliding?” 


Cassie glanced at the thick marble handrail next to her, then to the full crowd of people around. “No.” She said to him, but couldn’t help a smile creeping across her face. 


“No? Really?” He cocked his head, “Maybe I was wrong about you.” 


“What is that supposed to mean?” Cassie bristled at his tone. 


He grinned. “Or maybe I was right. You seem to be backing up my ‘Cool then Snappy’ theory. So maybe…” 


Cassie glanced again at the innocent crowds of people, most of them still throwing she and Albus curious looks. She thought of Freya’s ‘that is so third year’; Juliet’s ‘there are rules for a reason’’ Nina’s ‘you pull off all these crazy stunts to take your mind off it’… 


She narrowed her eyes. “Lead the way.” 


“That’s what I thought.” 


















A.N. Hi! Another confusing chapter, it seems to get worse each time even though I begin with the intention to give a few answers! I don't know if you noticed a few of the hints about what's going on at Hogwarts, maybe it's only clear to me because I know what it's all about... it's probably the sort of thing you have to read back on!

Anyway I'd love to know what you think, about the detention, Albus researching Cassie, the attitudes of her friends, all that stuff! And I promise the next few chapters give more insight into the plot!

Please leave a review!
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