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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I just want to talk to him.”

“Well, you can’t.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

“How is he?” I said quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He shook his head again and rubbed his eyes.

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

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

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

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

Jason nodded slowly, looking grateful.

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

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

“Look after yourself, Cassie,” he said.

I nodded and walked away.

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

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

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

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

Albus muttered something about liking food and Ollie laughed.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

“I saw him today,” I murmured.

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

“I tried to see James,” I explained.

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

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

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

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

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

Her smile disappeared.

“No. They are very much not invited.”

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


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

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

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

The doorbell rang and Ollie jumped up to answer it.

“Where is she?”

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

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

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

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

“I wanted to see you,” I mumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“God, you’re a bitch.”

This time I didn’t respond.

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

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

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

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

“You okay?” Her voice was soft.

I managed a nod.


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

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

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

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

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