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°~*◊*~°

I bit my lower lip as I stared at a faint but large crack on the stone wall in the Fifth Floor corridor.

Hogwarts Castle was not perfect.

Not like it used to be, anyway.

After the Battle of Hogwarts, parts of the Castle were damaged considerably and extensively. Towers were in ruins. Bridges were destroyed. Walls, floors, and ceilings were magically blasted with large, gaping holes.

There was a huge debate in the Wizarding World about how to respond.

Some thought the Castle was beyond repair—not physically but spiritually and emotionally. To them, there were too many skeletons in the closet, too many evil spirits and memories lurking around. They wanted to erase the embarrassing and evil past and build a new Castle – choose a completely different location and start with a brand new blank canvas.

Others balked at this idea.

This was around the time that Hermione Granger, now Granger-Weasley, blasted into the wizarding political world. The history books may claim that her stances on equality for elves and other magical creatures started her career in politics. But, what really started her career is how she “saved Hogwarts” after the Second Wizarding War. This group of people, led by Hermione, advocated for restoring and renovating Hogwarts. They would never hang or honor Dark Marks or other symbols of Voldemort. But, they wanted to embrace the embarrassment and the stain on the Wizarding World’s history to ensure that the actions that led to the First and Second Wizarding War never happened again.

I traced my fingers against the crack feeling a slight buzz run through my body as I did so. It was clear that pieces of the wall were fused together by strong magic. Josh had wrinkled his nose at the wall wondering why no one on the restoration team had replaced the whole wall or “covered it up or something!”

But, I liked it.

Replacing the wall would fly in the face of what Minister Granger-Weasley advocated for. To me, the faint cracks and subtle imperfections showed that the Castle had life, resilience, a pulse that refused to stop no matter what dark forces or enemies tried to take it down.

I tried not to wince at the harsh reality that my grandfather was very much one of those dark forces.

As I walked down the corridor, a musty, burnt smell assaulted my nose. I inhaled sharply and immediately started coughing.

“Are you smoking?” I asked turning in the direction of the offending smell. I was staring at the back of Chris McLaggen’s head as he strutted through the corridor as if he had better things to do and better places to be.

He huffed loudly and turned his head in my direction. With a smirk on his face, he blew cigarette smoke toward me before turning around and walking again.

I wrinkled my nose as I followed him on our patrol. “That shit will kill you,” I said unable to take the judgmental tone out of my voice.

He ignored me, continuing to walk quickly, not bothering to look in any cupboards or classrooms.

I jogged to catch up with him. “Are you mad at me or something? I’m not sure what I’ve done to you...”

“You think you’re some kind of hero, don’t you?” he asked, his voice was taunting, challenging. He slowed down so that we were walking in step with each other.

Where was this conversation going? I tried swallowing but my mouth felt too dry. “V?” I responded. “I wasn’t trying to...”

“I’m not talking about V,” he said with a snort. “I’m talking about how you ruined James’s game plan.” He said it nonchalantly, calmly before taking another drag of his cigarette.

“Freddie came to me...” I started feeling the need to defend myself.

“I know,” he said cutting me off again. “Freddie went to you because he didn’t trust his captain. The bloke that he claims is his best friend. Look at you, Spawn, you’re able to break families apart without even attacking anyone. You should teach your father.”

My mouth dropped open and my stomach felt like lead. I opened my mouth to respond but closed it not sure how to react. I had experienced open hostility about my father before but this... this was harsh.

“Freddie didn’t have to go with my suggestion,” I said finally finding my voice again. “It was just a suggestion.”

“You told him you didn’t think we could win right? Backed by some nonsense from...”

“It’s not nonsense,” I bit back interrupting him this time. “It’s based on the games I’ve seen and...”

“Did you know that Al Potter dislocated his shoulder over the summer?” McLaggen asked.

I swallowed. “What?” I answered not comprehending what he was saying.

McLaggen smirked. “Yup. His right shoulder, his dominant side.”

I thought back to the game, to the shots that Al made. “He was favoring his left,” I confirmed quietly.

“Bingo, bango! You got it, Spawn. Favoring his left. Hmm, so Bludgers on his left would have made Al useless in the game. Guess who on the team knew that?”

“It gets better,” McLaggen continued as I looked back up at him. He seemed to be enjoying this way too much. “Did you know that Scorpius has been practicing like shit lately? He’s broken up probably cause he just ended it with some Slytherin chick. Did you know that?”

He waited for me to answer with a smirk on his face as he eyed me. My conversation with Rose popped into my head. His drama with Rose and Charlie must have messed with him.

“Of course you didn’t know that,” he answered for me. “Because you haven’t been watching the Slytherin practices like our captain,” he said slowly like I was too dumb to comprehend.

“Why does this matter? You still won! Even if James’s plan would have worked you still won!” I said feeling the urge to defend myself. When I helped Freddie I felt like I was doing the right thing. I knew I was. I wasn’t going to let McLaggen spin a good deed.

McLaggen let out a harsh laugh and took a giant step toward me. “Are you actually that mental? You do realize the whole school comes to these games? You do realize family members come to these games? You do realize scouts come to these games?”

I froze not really knowing how to respond to that. I took a step back and he smirked realizing how uncomfortable he was making me.

McLaggen crushed his cigarette against a windowsill and then flicked it outside. “So tell me, Spawn, the genius that thinks she knows anything and everything about Quidditch, if a scout saw a Keeper let in 300 points on goal because his fucking Beaters weren’t helping him, what are said scouts going to think?”

I shook my head. “I’m sure they’ll be more...”

“They’re going to think this Keeper plays like shit not this Keeper is getting no help from his teammates because some Spawn got in the heads of the two fucking Beaters who are supposed to be fucking helping him!” His voice was getting louder and more agitated.

I pulled out my wand. “Stop calling me Spawn!”

He let out another laugh, apparently unfazed by my threat. “Like father, like daughter huh?” With that, McLaggen stalked toward our Common Room without glancing back at me.

I exhaled deeply realizing that I was holding my breath. Like father, like daughter. That cut me deep, my hand was shaking. McLaggen was always an arse but I couldn’t recall a time he was this vicious, this mean.

°~*◊*~°

Fabrics of varying colors and materials covered the floor to the point that it was hard to tell what the floorboards looked like. Ama had a lot of clothes too so the amount didn’t surprise me. Ama was just a lot more... organized.

The dorm room in Ravenclaw looked similar to the Gryffindor dorm room but also very different in a lot of ways. I was envious of the fact that they had floor to ceiling bay windows. The room was also positioned in a way where more sunlight broke through the windows.

Tay Finnegan quickly put her long brown locks in a bun before holding up a short multi-color sequined skirt to her waist. “What do you think?”

I took a sip of the sparkling water she had handed me and eyed the blue and bronze stripped wallpaper before answering. “It wouldn’t be my first choice,” I admitted. “But there’s no reason you couldn’t...”

“It’s a no,” Dom said with her head in her wardrobe. I hadn’t exactly been keeping up with Dom’s Ravenclaw drama but apparently her and Tay were on speaking terms.

Tay huffed and threw the skirt in the direction of a particularly large pile before turning back to her wardrobe.

I bit my lip wondering how to steer the conversation back to why I wanted to track Tay down in the first place.

“So you want to work at Sticks and Beers?” she asked as I heard her moving hangers around.

I sat up straighter happy I didn’t have to awkwardly bring it up again. “Um, yes, that would be great if they are hiring?”

Dom turned around making a face and holding up a floral dress. “Are you sure you want to work there? Game weekends are fun but Tay’s regular clientele gives me the creeps,” she said while shivering.

Tay scoffed before turning around herself. “The townies might be creepy but they give amazing tips. I like that,” she said nodding toward Dom’s outfit.

Dom gave a big smile before turning toward her shoe organizer.

“What do you mean by creepy?” I asked feeling increasingly nervous about a job I wasn’t even sure I was going to get.

Dom let out a laugh while picking up some black heels. “She means leave your feminism at the door.”

Tay looked up to roll her eyes at Dom before observing the shoes Dom was holding. “Not those,” Tay instructed. “Wear something brighter to match the dress. What do you think about this?” she asked holding up a green strappy dress that looked more appropriate for warmer weather.

“Love it, wear it,” Dom said.

Tay squealed before looking back at me. “The uniform you’d be encouraged to wear is a bit tight. Think crop top and booty shorts.”

I made an involuntary sound from the back of my throat.

“But if you’re fine with that and guys calling you pet names, you’ll make a lot of money,” Tay said with a shrug. “Ohhh, wear your nude stilettos.”

“Good call,” Dom said back before twirling her shoe rack around to find them. “Why do you want a job anyway, Cass? Is everything okay?”

“Wonderful,” I lied. “Just thought some work experience would look good on my resume.”

“You know, James, Freddie, and Al do that Junior Cannons winter and summer break camp,” Dom reported.

Tay let out a laugh. “I like how you forgot to mention Wood is also a counselor. You just want Cassie to spy on him for you.”

“Nah uh, shut up,” Dom said while throwing a shiny shirt at Tay.

Tay dodged the shirt and stuck her tongue out at Dom. “Then why are you getting so dressed up right now?”

Dom started changing into her dress in the middle of the room. “Because, because... oh, shut up. Fine, I want to look hot... for me but also so I can wrap it up, put a bow on it, and shove it in Wood’s face!”

Tay giggled while I sipped on my water pretending I wasn’t there.

“So, are you good with kids? Do you want to be a counselor?” Dom asked looking at me.

“Oh... I don’t want to bother Ja.... Freddie with this,” I said with a wonderfully awkward cough.

Tay started giggling again. Lovely.

“Uncle Ron’s part owner of the Cannons so I just have to tell the Front Office it’s a favor for him,” she said grabbing her WizPhone. “I’ll send a text to the guy that gets us tickets right now.”

“Wow, thanks, Dom,” I said feeling genuinely grateful.

“I’ll talk to my boss. Just don’t mention that you’re not 17 and you’ll be fine,” Tay said changing into her outfit.

“Thanks! Seriously, this means a lot,” I responded standing up.

“What are you doing tonight?” Tay asked.

“You should come with us, tonight!” Dom said.

I swallowed hard. “Come where?” I asked in a high-pitched voice while running a hand through my hair.

“There’s a Ravenclaw party on the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest,” Tay said with a smile on her face.

“It’s going to be really cool with all the hot guys from all the houses,” Dom said with a smirk on her face. “Usually only Claw ladies and all the hot guys are invited but you can come too. We’ll make an exception.”

“Thanks so much for inviting me but I think I’m supposed to be hanging out with Ama and Josh,” I invented quickly.

“Not a problem!” Dom said pulling out her cell. “I’ll text them. I can’t believe I didn’t tell you-all about it earlier,” she said shaking her head.

“I also don’t feel like I’m dressed appropriately,” I said looking down at my sweatshirt and worn jeans.

“You’re totally fine,” Dom countered. “We’re just getting fancy because we were the ones that started this party back in Third Year.”

“Anddd, one of us is trying to make a certain boy jelly,” Tay teased. “She could totally slip in one of our outfits with a few alterations. We are witches,” Tay added while texting someone on her WizPhone.

Dom rolled her eyes at Tay before tossing me a dress. “Wear this! You’ll turn some heads.”
°~*◊*~°

The reputation that Ravenclaws are all work and no play was a thing of the past.

Dom and Tay led me to an area in between the Forbidden Forest and the Great Lake. As we approached, it looked completely empty and soundless. It was also annoyingly chilly. The sun had gone down and stars were appearing in the purplish-blue sky, as the moon got higher. Dom had handed me a red dress with more lace than I would ever wear and a very small amount of fabric overall.

“Are you sure this party is tonight?” I asked looking for signs of a party or of people at all.

Tay smirked at me as Dom pulled out her wand. Dom performed a charm that created a ripple in the air before revealing a crowd of students dancing around and drinking. It was weird seeing a little less than a hundred of my classmates dancing around and drinking out in the open.

Large tree stumps were being used as tables, smaller ones were used as chairs, and a large clearing at the very edge of the Forest was the dance floor.

“Do you see him?” I heard Dom muttering as I followed Dom and Tay into the party.

“Over there,” Tay said nfodding her head toward a group of Quid players playing Wiz Pong with Butterbeers. Oliver Wood was standing at a table lazily holding a bottle of Butterbeer. He was in the act trying to throw a charmed ball into some cups when he saw Dom. The pained expression on his face made him looked like he’d been sucker punched in the stomach. He quickly looked away and pretended to talk to his friend.

“Okay, we need to dance,” Tay said motioning toward the dance floor. “That way he’ll know you’re here but that you’re having fun without him.”

“Right, sure,” Dom said biting her nails.

Tay signaled for us to follow her to the dance floor. I quickly shook my head. “I should go find Ama and Josh,” I said pointing in the other direction.

Dom frowned at me but Tay nodded quickly and pulled her away.

I looked around and spotted Josh quickly. He was holding court with a bunch of Ravenclaw girls. Josh was apparently saying something particularly funny because the girls looked like they were crying of laughter.

I bit my lip and looked around for Ama but I couldn’t immediately spot her.

“Hey.” I jumped as a deep, raspy voice sent a chill down my spine.

James was standing oddly close to me – in reality, it was probably a normal distance but he was still close enough that whatever minty, soapy, and James-like scent he was wearing was assaulting my nostrils.

“Hi,” I responded taking a step back and taking him in. He was wearing a form fitting red t-shirt with slim dark blue jeans.

“Hey,” he said again. I frowned and then noticed that his eyes were slightly glazed over and he seemed to have an “induced” goofy smile on his face.

“Hello,” I said in response noticing his slight sway.

He grinned a little wider and stepped closer to me while sticking his hands in his pockets, “How’s it going?”

I racked a hand through my hair and tried to take a step away from James without him noticing but ladies and gentlemen I’m... me, Cassiopeia Nott. The girl with the awkward name and the clumsy disposition.

So, because I’m me, my heel (aka Dom’s heel) got stuck in a clamp of grass. I lost my balance and started to fall... because, again, I’m me.

James’s arm muscles were there... because of course they were.

I straightened up quickly. “Sorry,” I said moving out of James’s grasp before my brain could fully comprehend that Potter was touching me.

He shrugged. “Wanna drink?” he said motioning toward the drinks table.

“Eh, I’m fine,” I said moving to a short stump so I could sit down before embarrassing myself by randomly falling again.

James gave me a weird look before across from me. His eyes narrowed like he was trying to focus on something but he was clearly having a hard time. The gold specks in his eyes seemed to twinkle a little as he tried to concentrate.

“Are you...” I started.

“Would you joi...” he started at the same time.

“Huh?”

“What?”

I shook my head and let out a laugh and that goofy smile returned to his face. “You go,” I said.

“I, um, do you – do you want – I,” he cleared his throat and closed his eyes. “Be my seeker,” he said quietly.

I gasped feeling my stomach drop. James’s mouth was moving but the Vicious Witches song blasting through the levitating speakers was the only thing I could hear.

I pinched myself. Is this real life? This can’t be real life.

I shook my head. This didn’t make sense.

“Wait, what?” I asked finally coming to.

James cleared his throat again but this time his distractingly honey eyes bore into mine. “Join my team, I mean, join the team, the Gryffindor team, if you can, I mean, if you wanna?”

James Potter is ranting? Right in front of my face. And I can’t even process it or enjoy it. Because I’m so confused.

“Seriously?” I asked.

He tilted his head. “You’re surprised?” he asked letting out a laugh that made his nose scrunch up. “You’re confusing.”

I frowned and wrapped my arms around my center. “Not intentionally,” I countered.

“Why are you surprised?” he asked putting his elbows on the stump table and leaning forward.

“I ruined your game strategy,” I reminded him before swallowing.

He made a face. “Yea, it would be nice if you didn’t do that... and we won,” he said taking a deep breath.

“Half of your team hates me.”

“That’s not true,” he quickly retorted.

I raised an eyebrow.

“It’s not half,” he said slumping his shoulders.

“It’s half of the main team,” I said biting my lip.

“It’s not half... anymore,” he corrected. “And... I’ll fix it.”

I looked down at my hands. “McLaggen really hates me.”

“I can fi...”

“No, I don’t think you fully understand how much he hat...”

“I’m the captain. I can handle this.”

“How?”

There was a pause. Potter was drumming his fingers on the stump table while staring at me intently. His hand was so close to mine that it made my pinky finger itch. He bit on his lip making my stomach twist uncomfortably.

“I got it!” he declared grabbing my hand. My stomach lurched and I felt light-headed. “A practice!”

“Hmm,” was all I could respond as he lightly tugged on my hand. His hand was rough and it dwarfed mine. I suddenly felt self-conscious about my freakin’ hand. Did I have a weirdly small hand? Did I still have chipped polish on my nails from the last time Ama painted my nails?

“Yea! A practice with you and the McLaggens! Just you three!”

“Hmmm.... wait,” I said pulling my hand way. “What?!”

He frowned before leaning toward me. “Yes,” he responded sounding sure of himself. “A practice with you and the McLaggens. It will end when you can be civil to each other.”

“I...”

“That is, if you want to be on the team,” he added looking at me closely.

“I want to be on the team,” I responded quickly without thinking.

He smiled again. “Okay, I’ll set it up then.”
“But, wait, wait,” I said stopping him from getting up. “How is a practice with a Keeper and two Seekers supposed to work?”

He smirked. “That’s not my problem,” he said getting up. “I just need you-all to be friendly enough.”

I looked up at him and huffed.

“Welcome to the team,” he said before giving me a wink and walking away toward the WizPong table.

I bit my lip thinking about the emotional and mentally taxing practice that was on the horizon but soon a smile spread across my face when it hit me that I’d actually be Seeker for Gryffindor. I’d have to figure out how to balance school, work, and being on the team but this... felt good. This was a win. And, I needed a freakin’ win this year.

“You need to explain.”

I rolled my eyes as I looked up at Josh who had taken James’s spot across from me.

“There’s nothing to explain,” I countered sticking my tongue out.

“Do I need to remind you that just the other night your tongue was down Grayson’s throat?” Josh asked giving me a look.

“Shhhhhh!” I said hitting him on his shoulder. “I regret telling you.”

Josh rolled his eyes. “What’s going on with you and Potter?”

“Nothing like that,” I said as Josh made kissy faces at me. “He’s making me Seeker,” I whispered like it was some secret. I felt like it was fleeting. Like if anyone found out it’d be gone or something.

“Holy Merlin!” Josh yelled jumping up. “That’s amazing, that’s hot, you’re so fierce, you’re so powerful, you’re so cool, you’re so...” he paused from his celebration and sat back down “... not as excited as I thought you’d be.”

“I am excited!” I countered. “I am, I totally am.”

Josh gave me a look.

“I definitely am!”

“Okay,” he said nodding slowly but looking at me like he didn’t believe me.

“Where’s Ama?” I asked changing the subject and looking around for her.

Josh gasped and leaned toward me with his eyes wide. “She’s cheating on us.”

I rolled my eyes. “Okay Dramatic Drake, what does that even mean?”

“She has new friends,” he said shaking his head.

“You have a billion friends,” I countered.

“Yes, but there’s a hierarchy.”

“Of course, there is Prince Joshua,” I answered with a posh accent.

He rolled his eyes before continuing. “I have best friends at the top, cute friends just below that, less attractive friends below them, acquaintances after that, then my enemies,” he answered with a shrug. “If I have plans with my cute friends but my best friends wanna hang, sorry cute betches, my best friends called!”

I scoffed.

“Except!” he yelled throwing a finger in the air.

“When you have a hot date?” I asked.

“Yup,” he said with a giant smile on his face.

“I hate you,” I deadpanned.

°~*◊*~°

“Cassie, wake up!”

I groaned closing my eyes tighter. Why did it seem impossible to get a full night’s sleep lately? Why does the world hate me? Why would someone be doing this to me now?

“Cass, you gotta wake up,” I heard the voice saying again.

I opened an eye. I saw Addie looking… strange. Her make-up wasn’t perfectly applied. Her hair was in a messy ponytail.

I sat up and rubbed my eyes. “Addie, what’s wrong?”

I saw her visibly swallow. She was shaking. “It’s Maman.”

°~*◊*~°

NOTT ATTACKS EX-WIFE! WAS HIS FATHER INVOLVED TOO?

She wasn’t moving.

Your actions have consequences.

She hadn’t moved for the past week.

Your actions have consequences.

I hadn’t moved for a week. I was afraid if I made any sudden movements. Any movements at all she would die. And it would be all my fault.

Your actions have consequences.

Her skin was pale and blotchy. Her hair looked dull and limp. A spell was helping her breath.

Your actions have consequences.

They could not figure out what the spell was, the spell that had hit her. They couldn’t figure it out. They could not figure out the best way to help her, the best way to heal her. They couldn’t recognize the spell.

Your actions have consequences. Your actions have consequences. Your actions have consequences.

“Cassie, you have to eat something,” Addie begged pushing food toward me. She had finally convinced me to walk to the St. Mungo’s Hospital cafeteria.

I stared at the soggy chips in front of me that I had doused in ketchup. “It’s my fault,” I whispered my voice coming out in a croak due to lack of use.

“You cannot blame yourself. Our father and grandfather are maniacs. You did not do this. One of them did this. Or both of them did this,” she replied grinding her teeth.

I nodded my head mutely. “When do we have to go back to Hogwarts?”

“Longbottom says tomorrow but he set up a direct Floo. We’ll come back every Saturday morning and stay till the afternoon or as soon as something happens, we’ll be right back here.”

“So, he never loved her, he never loved us?” I blurted out getting increasingly angry at my father.

Addie inhaled before taking a sip of tea. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “Nothing about this makes sense. I asked the Aurors to confirm the reports he did this and they gave me some non-answer.”

“Obviously, it was him,” I responded with my vision blurring with angry tears.

Addie bit on her bottom lip as if she had something on the tip of her tongue but she shook her head as if she were clearing it. “Yea, I guess so,” she said slowly.

“Who’s guarding maman today?” I asked wiping the tears away from my eyes before trying to eat again.

Addie offered me a napkin. “Some bald guy named ‘Smith’ but I doubt that’s his real name.”

I grabbed the napkin. “You’d think they’d be able to come up with something more creative,” I responded wiping my eyes. “I don’t understand why they need to be so secretive about this.”

Addie pursed her lips and stared into space. “I... I don’t know either,” she said while shrugging and finally meeting my eyes.

I eyed her for a couple of moments wondering if I should push her to tell me whatever she was hiding but I felt tired to the bone, tired to my core. I dropped the napkin and chip I was holding. “Let’s go back to maman’s room,” I said sliding my chair out and getting up.

°~*◊*~°

A/N: Two plus months! I suck, huh? Sorry everyone (if anyone is still reading this). Unfortunately, I’ve been quite sick for a number of weeks. (Go to the doctor on a regular basis, friends! It’s so very important.) Insane migraines and other pain have made it impossible to proofread clearly so I apologize for all the mistakes that are likely in this.

Friends, let me know you’re out there reading this if you still are ☺.

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