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 ~One is never sure how things will end; one sometimes doesn't even know when they begun. But somewhere in the long and windy passage of time, my story began, and now it is coming to its final conclusion.~


Ragged gasps escaped Cassie’s trembling lips. Her limbs ached and cried out for a respite. Yet she pushed on harder, not allowing them a moments rest. She risked a quick glance over her shoulder, only to find her pursuer closing the terrifying small distance between them. His dark robes billowed out behind him, his face cast in shadow, yet his eyes pieced through the blackness and into her soul. Cassie dug deep and found within herself a reserve of energy that allowed an extra burst of speed. She stumbled on through the suffocating darkness of the ancient forest where the gnarled and twisted trees closed in around her.


Cassie was hopelessly lost, every step inching her further and further into the bleak nothingness. Hope that she would ever find safety was fast evaporating. Her mad flight seeming to only delay the inevitable. But regardless of the futility, regardless of the fatigue, Cassie battled forward through the vicious vines and branches that reached out towards her in a vile attempt to hold her captive.


Onwards she flew, driven by panic, as she tried to escape the shadow that pursued her. But the harder she pushed, the harder the forest tried to foil her. With ebbing strength and the last visage of hope dying, the forest won. Tumbling to the ground, Cassie's breath was knocked from her struggling lungs. She scrambled around to face her pursuer and fight but she never had a chance. With a flash of green light, Cassie shot straight up in her bed, her forehead laced with beads of sweat and her breath coming in short bursts.


Instinctively, she reached for her neck and realised that her most treasured pendant was missing. Momentarily disorientated, Cassie struggled to stop her heart from pounding. 'It was just a dream,' she told herself, 'just a dream'. But it hadn’t felt that way. It had seemed so real, her terror so pronounced, yet with every passing second, the finer details were fading, leaving her with nothing more than the faint recollection of running, terrified out of her mind, and the flash of green that had allowed her to escape the nightmare. It was just like the last time she'd had the dream, exactly the same, even down to the flash of deathly green light.


On trembling legs, Cassie slipped out of bed and padded over to her jewelry box. Frustrated and annoyed with her parents and the pressure they had put her under, her pendant was the last thing on her mind when she'd reached the sanctuary of her bedroom that night. It was her favourite possession, a delicate sliver snowflake, decorated with tiny diamonds that sparkled magnificently in the light, so much so that the whole necklace seemed to have its own glowing aura. It had been gifted to her shortly after birth. As a babe, it hung behind her bed; from the age of five she wore it as a necklace, but only on special occasions. Then she went to Hogwarts and she wore it everyday. Normally it was concealed beneath her robes as jewelry was forbidden while in school uniform, but she wore it always, taking it off only whilst swimming, showering or at those times when her mother demanded another necklace be worn. Cassie would always fight back and try to sway her mothers mind so she could wear her snowflake. Occasionally Cassie won those arguments, more often though, she did not.


With her necklace safely over her head and adorning the little hollow between her collar bone, Cassie stared at her reflection in her mirror. She looked pale, even in the sparse light of the moon that filtered through her curtains. Her heart was still beating faster than it should've been and Cassie couldn’t shake the feeling of panic as she'd ran for her life. She had experienced this dream several months before and the feeling upon waking up was exactly the same. Turning away from her haunted expression, Cassie fell back onto her bed and pulled the covers over her. Fearful of closing her eyes in case the dream returned, Cassie stared up at the ceiling, tracing letters in the glowing stars. It had been a long, arduous day and Cassie was exhausted yet sleep was long gone. In her wakefulness she recalled the events of that evening and her parents words, wondering how it was going to shape her coming days and months.


* * *


“Can I stop smiling now?” Cassie had asked her mother earlier that evening as the blinding light of flashing bulbs started to wear on her already frazzled patience. She wished anonymity, for invisibility, anything to spare her from the agonizing ordeal that she, the ever dutiful daughter, had to endure. Her wishes had not been answered.


“Cassandra,” her mother scolded whilst trying to maintain her smile for the cameras, “your father has not even made his acceptance speech yet. The least you can do is pretend you want to be here.”


“It’d better be a short speech,” Cassie muttered, then reformed her perfect smile that would, without a doubt, grace the front page of the Daily Prophet in the morning.


“Amuse me Cassandra,” her mother sighed in exasperation. “For one night, please just suck it up and show your father some support.”


Cassie prepared her response. She'd done nothing but support her father for the past few months, but stopped when she saw him step up to the dais. The crowd had become silent; the only sound being the clicking of camera’s that carried on relentlessly.


They’d been on a temporary stage erected in the Ground Foyer of the Ministry of Magic. The golden fountain glimmered behind them and a crowd of ministry officials, loyal supports and member of the press stood alertly in front of them. The day had seen the election for the next Minister of Magic and to many it was no surprise that Carl Hathaway, Cassie’s father, had garnered the most votes to win him the highly coveted position.


All summer, Cassie had been going around the country with her parents as they campaigned for his appointment. Her father had been working in the Ministry for years, first as a part time janitor as he trained to be auror, and then as an auror, moving himself up the ranks until he became one of the top officers within the Auror Office, below only Harry Potter himself who had been successfully running the office for many years. Her mother, Alexis, had also spent her adult life working within the Ministry. After spending a number of years as a secretary for various departmental officials, her father had finally convinced her to pursue her real dream of joining the Magical Law Enforcement Squad, and that was where she had been for the last fifteen years.


Now they were beginning a new journey together, one that took them to the top of the magical hierarchy and the closest thing to royalty that their world had. Cassie had initially been overjoyed at the prospect, but quickly discovered just how arduous campaigning was. She also quickly discovered just much she was going to be in the spotlight.


From day one, from that first moment she had stood by her father’s side on the campaign, the press had become fixated on her. She was watched just as closely as he was and every step that Cassie made was talked about, scrutinised and twisted. She read a book about Voldemort's rise and she was accused of being a supporter of the dark arts, she swatted and killed an annoying mosquito and was deemed an animal hater. It made Cassie very aware of just how careful she had to be. Someone was always watching and waiting, ready to make up lies for their own gain.


She hated the press and they constantly bombarded her with questions about her fathers’ policies, her own views and even personal questions that she refused to answer. But even as her mind cursed at the vultures that constantly circled her, Cassie put on a nice smile, gave a very straight and well rehearsed answer and then politely excused herself. This day was the culmination of all that work and public scrutiny. She wished it could all now be over and that she could go back to invisibility, but the Daily Prophet had made sure that that was never going to happen. The only benefit Cassie could see in the circus that had become her life was the extremely well toned and strong facial muscles she had from all the false smiling.


“I would like to thank you all for coming here today to welcome in a new era of leadership within the Ministry of Magic,” her farther had said. “Firstly I would like to acknowledge Liam Frost who has put up a strong campaign. I am sure you would agree that we fought a hard battle. But while we were in opposition, your opinion and the opinion of your supporters matters to me and as such, I hope that we are able to work together in the future.”


The crowd clapped rapturously as her father paused, while Cassie waited impatiently for the long diatribe of promises of what the future could be to continue. She might seem a bit harsh, but she had read his speech multiple times and listened to it many more, and had nothing bad to say about it, other than its length. She'd offered her honest opinion and put big red lines through the parts of the speech she thought he should remove, but it had been disregarded and as such, the speech ended up being about seven minutes long. That meant a total of about ten to fifteen minutes of smiling. Her facial muscles were strong, but the onslaught of false joviality taxed her. She was long over the campaign and the pageantry; sometimes it felt like it would never end.


“It is with much hope that I take on this appointment as your Minister of Magic. It has been some thirty years since the demise of Voldemort. I dream that our world will continue on as it has been, in a place of prosperity and peace. We live amongst the muggles as equals and with their knowledge of our existence as minimal as possible. We walk amongst them and interact with them, yet we have retained our secret lives of magic that they know not of. The wars of the past that have seen them killed and left them wondering at the oddities occurring around them have gone, and I will try my hardest to ensure that that does not change.”


Cassie scanned her eyes across the audience and noted that father held the rapt attention of everyone. She’d been the only one daydreaming as he rabbited on. She'd heard the speech so often she could practically recite it from memory. Everyone seemed to just be lapping it up, as if by merely saying it, the promises would come into fruition. Cassie though was tired of pretending that she actually cared and couldn't wait to get out of the public eye and back to her life.


Normally she spent the holidays with her best friend Aimee, but she hadn’t seen her at all as she’d been traveling the length and breadth of the country. She’d seen some beautiful places and visited towns she never knew existed, but the constant traveling and the unrelenting press that followed their every move had quickly wore her down and Cassie was extremely happy that the campaigning was now over.


She’d received her letter from Hogwarts with her book list a week previously but hadn’t been able to get to Diagon Alley. She was meeting up with Aimee tomorrow and she had grand plans; Weasley Wizarding Wheezers, Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour, Florish and Blotts, the choices were endless. And most importantly, she was going to be parent free.


As her fathers speech draw to a close Cassie prepared herself to take her place by his side and put on a joyous expression for the cameras. But then she spotted the only pair of eyes in the room that weren't looking at her farther. They were looking directly at her, their dark depths piercing into her. Cassie's smile faltered as an involuntary shiver swept through her. Unsettled, she tore her eyes away.


“Our world has seen so much, but look how far we’ve come. Our children are growing up in a peaceful time, our businesses are prospering and every day brings new magical discoveries. And while we live on, the muggles live on with us, enjoying their own peace and way of life. So let us continue to grow, let us squash any evil that threatens us and let us, and our magical brethren live on with peace and a fighting spirit, because for everyday, there can only be a better tomorrow.”


The crowd erupted into applause as her father finished his speech and stepped away from the dais. Forgetting the eyes in the crowd, Cassie's smile returned and she walked with her mother up to her father and in turn he gave them both a hug and a kiss on the cheek with robotic precision. He then shook the hands of his political partners and backers, false smiles plastered upon everyone’s face while lights flashed all around them. Then came the final part in the well rehearsed and contrived evening and Cassie sighed with relief as in a few minutes it would all be over. Standing to one side of her father, her mother on the other side, the family stood at the front of the stage waving and smiling for several minutes before an aide them off the stage and into the quiet and empty offices of the Ministry.


“Can I go home now?” Cassie asked grumpily as she flopped herself down into the nearest chair and removed the smile from her face.


“Can’t you for one night stop thinking about what you want and support you father and this family?” her mother asked her back with obvious disapproval.


With a sigh, Cassie swung around on the chair, folded her legs beneath her and looked out the window. It was raining outside. A good choice, Cassie thought to herself moodily as she waited for her parents to finish with all the boring chit chat. Idly, and without much else to do, Cassie started to tug the pins that held her dark brown locks in place. Her mother had insisted that she wore her hair up for the evening, Cassie had been determined to wear it down; they had compromised with half up half down. Still, her wavy hair had been covered in styling products and the end result was still and incredibly pretty up do, not the stylishly messy half pony tail that Cassie had in mind. She wished she could use her wand to wash her hair, but being underage and in front of the Minister of Magic and his associates meant that it wasn't a good idea.


She toyed with her concrete hard locks for a while before the words she was longing for finally came. “All right Cassandra, let’s go.” With no need for a second bidding, Cassie bounded up from the chair and walked out the door and towards the fire places. All she wanted to do was get out of the dress that made her look ‘pretty’, get the horrid styling product out of her hair, collapse on her bed and listen to the blissful silence. Her mother had other plans.


Once back in their living room, Cassie immediately set off for her room, already starting to untie the knot from the halter neck dress her mother had insisted on. Once again it had been a compromise, Cassie wanted black, her mother wanted a nice lilac, or peach or some other hideously pale colour, probably with frills and lace. In the end it turned out as a royal blue, full length satin gown that thankfully was devoid of all lace and frills. It was a nice dress, but even under yards of fabric, it made Cassie feel naked and exposed. Cassie had never been keen on dresses and the campaign had seen her in far too many.


“Cassandra, what has gotten into you this evening?” The soft voice of her mother made her stop and turn back and instead of heading to the shower, Cassie flopped down onto the sofa. It was only her mother that ever called her Cassandra, to everyone else she was Cassie. Her father occasionally used it, but only when she was in trouble. The use of her first name by her mother was not cause for alarm and her tone of voice said that she wasn’t mad at her, just confused at her attitude, which, Cassie had to admit, had been slightly wayward that evening.


Cassie sighed. “I’m just tired mum, of the press and the photo’s, of the smiling. I've traveled with you all summer, being the loving daughter supporting her father in his bid to be Minister of Magic. Everywhere I’ve turned there has been the press, every day basically, my face is in the paper. I have to be so careful of what I say and how I look. It was fun at first, but now it's hit me mum that while the campaigning is over, my life under scrutiny is not. This is only the beginning.”


“Oh Cassandra come here.” Alexis beckoned her daughter over and Cassie stood up and allowed her mum to pull her into a hug. They had always had a very loving and open relationship. While they did disagree, usually about Cassie’s choice of attire and styling, Cassie could tell her mum anything.


Releasing the hug, Alexis took Cassie by the shoulders and looked into her daughters sad green eyes. “You’ll be back at Hogwarts in two weeks time, then you’ll be away from the spotlight and everything that goes with it.”


“Yeah, I hope so,” Cassie said sadly, dreading what everyone would say about her very public summer. “The thing is, you and dad asked for this. You’ve been working up to this for years and I’ve always known that. But while you're ready to be the wife of the Minister of Magic, I don’t want to be the Minister of Magic’s daughter, but I don’t have a choice. I just have to accept it and deal with all this unwanted attention.”


“Things will calm down now that the election is over.” Alexis said comfortingly, “and the reporters will not be allowed into the school. I can assure you of that.”


Cassie was not convinced. If they wanted a story, they had their ways of getting it. She was sure a certain blond Slytherin was going to make sure of that. “I’m going to go to bed,” Cassie announced, not having much more to say on the current topic. She also wanted to take a shower, remove herself from the dress, get into bed and start dreaming of her first parentless day in months. “I’m going to Diagon Alley tomorrow with Aimee, remember.”


“Yes, I do remember that little discussion quite well,” her mother said with a slight rise of the eyebrows which made Cassie feel a little embarrassed. She too remembered the conversation. Her father had been against her going, her mother had thought she should leave it a few more days after the election. After storming away screaming the world wasn’t fair and slamming her bedroom door, Cassie got her way. Yes, it was slightly dramatic, and not her usual way of debate with the parentals, but in this case she was going, whether she had permission or not. She hadn't done anything on her own all summer. She longed for some time with her friends.


“I’ll see you in the morning honey, sleep well.” Cassie let her mother give her one more hug and then slipped out of her arms and retreated to her en-suite bathroom. She washed her hair twice to remove the gunk then settled into bed, only to be awoken several hours later from her nightmare. It had been a very long day and as frightened as she was, fatigue eventually won and Cassie slipped into a dreamless sleep.


* * *


The night outside was peaceful, but the air inside the mansion of Callum Lester could be cut with a blade. Callum sat in his plush leather chair at the head of his long table, eying each of his followers with a piercing glance from his dark brown eyes. Idly, he drummed his fingers against the tabletop as he contemplated his next move. While outwardly cool and collected, inside he was fuming. His plan to gain control of the Ministry had been thwarted and now he was running out of options. He could wait another five years until the next election, but he was growing impatient. It was time to go to for the more direct approach.


“We should be at the Ministry celebrating victory right now,” Callum said coldly as the people in front of him shrunk slightly before him. “While Frost did well at wooing the public, the rest of you failed him miserably, and as such we once again find ourselves in opposition to the Minister.” Unable to control his anger at his followers’ inadequacies, Callum let his rage be known. “You were meant to rig that election so we won, how hard can that possibly be?” he yelled at the men in front of him.


Callum slammed his fist onto the table, emphasising his anger at yet another defeat and making everyone jump as the sound reverberated around the room. No one answered his question; they knew that it would cost them their life.


Callum stood up and started pacing as he organised his thoughts. His plan had been perfect. Liam Frost, charming, good looking and well acquainted with his history in the Department of International Magical Co-operation, would run for Minster of Magic. He would be everything the public wanted him to be, he would play to popular opinion and get the top job. Then once in power, he would be the puppet to act out Callum’s own agenda. But Carl Hathaway, his lovely wife and pretty little daughter stood in his way and every poll had put them in the lead.


He could have had his opposition killed, but Callum did not want such a drastic action to compromise the election, or worse yet, make people aware that a threat existed to their peaceful existence. In a last ditch attempt, he had ordered his supports to put the Imperius Curse on any one going to vote so that they'd cast their vote for Frost. It was a feeble plan and it shamed Callum that after so much careful planning, he no back up plan. He had never considered that anyone would challenge Frost.


So what to do now? Waiting was not an option, he had waited long enough. It looked like the time had come to forgo the quiet methods of infiltration and instead take what he wanted by force. He was sick of being the silent threat; it was getting him nowhere. The moment had come to instill fear back into their world. Blackmail, unlawful tactics, illegal spells…these were now his weapons of choice.


Callum stopped his pacing and stood at the head of the table, letting his tall frame loom large as his loyal supporters who looked up him expectantly. A sly smile spread across his face. “I think it is time that the Ministry of Magic became aware that there is a certain fraction out there who are not too impressed with the current course we seem to be traveling.” Callum said evenly as his supporters hung on to his every word.


“What do you plan to do sir, storm the Ministry and take control by force?” Callum looked at the man who had spoken. Rubin was young, eager, and as loyal as one could ask for, but maybe just a little too keen to blow things up. He would do anything that was asked of him, but alas, he was not a thinker.


Callum retook his seat and reclined in satisfaction as he thought about how brilliant his plan was. “No,” he said with a smirk playing on his lips, “I plan to kidnap the Minister of Magic’s Daughter.”

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