Cassie slammed the dorm door, dropping her head against the worn wood. She lent there for a long moment, the door probably pressing a horrible pattern into her forehead.
"I can't believe it!" Emme threw something at the wall, hitting with a thud and falling to land on the floor. "The Bitch only gave us an essay yesterday! How do you have time to sleep?"
"Don't call her that." Lily was lying on her bed, eyes closed, textbooks everywhere. "And I didn't spend my free-period hiding in the kitchen."
"I will stop calling McGonagall a bitch when she stops throwing completely stupid amounts of homework at us." She ignored the comment about food, the day Emme did more work than necessary would be the day the school fell apart.
"She does have a point." Cassie smiled. Emme, the resident drama queen. She pushed herself off the door and walked the two steps to her bed. "Am I meant to do this essay tonight? Before or after the one that she wants on her desk in the morning? Or maybe during quidditch practice? For the cup that she wants on her desk at the end of the year! It's only been three days..."
"Not so fast Yaxley!" A book shot past her ear, narrowly missing the back of Cassie's head and whacking off the bedpost. "You promised to help with Defence."
"Later Em. Please!" Cassie sat on the edge of her bed, hands running through her hair.
She wasn't in the mood. She was rarely in the mood to study these days. Sitting around reading about dark magic only made the real thing seem closer, like it was seeping into the castle when no one was looking.
"But you promised and you're annoyingly good at it... Where's Sophie?" Emme didn't stop to draw breath.
"In the common room." Cassie took a deep breath. "She doesn't want to come up."
"I don't think she likes being in here any more." Lily whispered from her bed.
The girls stopped still. The fifth bed in the Dorm hadn't been touched since they returned from the summer. It stood exactly where it always had been, covers perfectly neat, not a crease or a speck of dust marking the dark red sheets.
Sophie had barely spoken to anyone. She and never been loud but since they came back... They had all been inseparable before. Sophie and Mary had been closest though. They had even looked alike. It felt odd not seeing the two pocket-sized blondes huddled, giggling in the corner of the common room or never shutting up as the others tried to sleep.
"Do you think she'll be alright?" Emme asked.
Cassie shrugged. "Has anyone taken her aside and... I don't know, spoken to her? Asked her?"
Emme shook her head, Lily giving a sigh.
"Should we?" Cassie nudged again.
"Maybe, not everyone. We don't want to overwhelm her, but yes. That's a good idea."
Lily sat up and looked around. Her hair was a mess, the nap hadn't done her red mane any favours.
Cassie and Emme looked back, waiting.
"And I suppose it will be me." Lily rolled off her bed and stood up straight. "The two of you are useless."
"Well you always say I have no tact and Mary and Cass weren't exactly the best of friends so coming from her it might be... Insensitive?"
"I was thinking inappropriate." Cassie added on.
Lily really was the best one for the job. She was nice, a quality both Emme and Cassie lacked. People liked Lily, she hadn't developed the cold edge that Cassie had or the tendency to say whatever came into her head like Emme.
That didn't mean she didn't have nerves of steel. She smoothed her hair down and grabbed her bag, taking a quick, uncharacteristic look in the mirror.
"Don't worry Lily, he wasn't in the common room." Cassie looked at her with wide, innocent eyes.
"Oh fuck off." It sounded so unnatural coming from Lily that Cassie and Emme burst out laughing. She smiled, taking a deep breath and pulling open the door. "Wish me luck."
"Good luck, thank you for doing this Lily."
She closed the door on her way out.
"Right, you!" Emme jumped onto Cassie's bed, curtains of black hair flying everywhere. "Sit down and tell me all about Inferi." She flourished a ridiculous peacock feather quill and looked over to Cassie expectantly.
She groaned. "I'm not writing your essay for you."
"I'm not asking you to." Emme gave her a gleaming white smile.
"Come on then!"
The next morning two rolled essays landed on McGonagall's desk and Cassie took her seat near the back. Days in and she was already exhausted.
Sophie hadn't appeared in the dorm the night before. Lily came in well after one.
Cassie's curtains were pulled to the side, snapping her from sleep. She sat up straight, wand clutched in hand. Pointing straight at Lily, lighting the bags under her eyes and her hair tossed into a lopsided ponytail.
She climbed into bed beside her.
"She's not coming up."
Cassie glanced at Sophie's empty bed.
"She said she just needs time. They haven't even found Mary yet."
"She's dead Lily..." Was all Cassie could whisper.
"I know but it was in the paper today. They've got Aurors looking for her and the whole ministry is diverting people for the case."
"Lily... The Ministry can do what they like. Mary won't be found. You know that. Sophie must know..."
"How are you so sure?" Lily grabbed onto her. "I wish I could be like that."
"No you don't. I'm sure because I've see the alternative and it's worse." Cassie shook her head in the dark.
"As soon as we get out of here I'm going to fight them. I don't care if nobody else does. I'll stop them." Lily whispered so she wouldn't wake Emme up.
"You won't be the only one Lily. Nobody wants this to go on."
"You're still going to leave though, aren't you?"
Lily sat in silence for a minute then pulled the covers back and crawled from her bed.
"That doesn't mean that I-"
"I know Cass." Lily's voice was soft, comforting. "Sleep well."
She sat in Transfiguration half asleep. She hadn't been able to close her eyes after that.
Emme was nowhere to be seen, Lily was still talking to McGonagall at the front when the door swung open, four boys looking around. James caught sight of Cassie, noted the empty seats next to her and straight away took the desk in front, Remus and Peter taking the seats beside him. That left-
Sirius dumped himself onto the bench beside Cassie.
She was happy to completely ignore him. It worked for years so far, no need to change tack now. She let her hair fall like a curtain, if she tried she almost couldn't see him.
"If your going to be like that for the whole lesson, would you mind moving over?" Black put a roll of parchment and a quill down on her desk, waving to the amount of space he had.
Cassie shifted over, giving him more than enough room. She would rather not be within touching distance.
He said nothing, simply picking up his quill and starting to write.
"Conjuration." Had appeared across the board, marking the chapter and page of A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration.
Cassie smiled and flicked to the right page.
"What are you so happy about?" Black muttered, not looking around.
"Conjuring. It's a bit easy. That's all."
"Everything is easy, Yaxley."
Black was a good wizard. He was beyond magically talented. He flicked his wand, muttering something so low Cassie couldn't hear. What looked like black water poured from the end of his wand. Turning into a thin black snake as it touched the desk, wriggling free of its hold.
Cassie froze. Her eyes flicked form the snake to Sirius and back. Murderous.
She pushed herself back from the desk, as far away from the thing as possible while it started to shift slowly towards her.
He knew she hated snakes.
The light hit off its skin, flickering like it was soaking wet, tongue flickering out of its mouth, tasting the air around it. It was huge, growing as it uncoiled itself. Covering her book, her notes, slithering over the pages.
"Alright Yaxley?" Sirius sat back, cross armed with a dark smile spreading over his face.
Half the class had stopped to watch, Cassie slowly drawing her wand, eyes never leaving the thing moving across her desk.
"Shame. I always thought you would, you being right in with Lord Snakey and all..." He didn't raise his voice or change the bored tone he had been using all along but somehow the whole room went dead silent as he spoke. Every single person herd.
Cassie couldn't do anything to respond. Her body frozen.
"Sirius!" Lily yelled. The snake's head flicked around, looking at Lily instead. "Evanesco!"
The thing vanished.
"SIRIUS BLACK!" McGonagall had raised herself from her chair. Glasses perched on the very end if her nose.
Cassie took a deep breath, her her heart pounding, her face flushed a dark, staining red.
The room was still silent. McGonagall was making her way down the rows, eyes fixed on Sirius.
She could feel people looking at her while she sat. Unable to meet anyone's eye Cassie stood and with a flick of her wand, repacked her bag.
"Excuse me Professor."
She needed to get out of there. She didn't care about what Professor McGonagall thought. She didn't care what Black thought, but then had never broadcast his feelings to a whole room before.
There was a lump in her throat, something threatening to make her sick or turn into a flood of angry tears.
She pushed by Sirius, making sure not to so much as touch him with her bag on the way out.
The second the door was closed, she ran. She made it to the stairs and half way up before there were other footsteps behind her.
She ducked into a dark alcove quickly. She didn't want to see Lily, talking to Remus would just make her cry and McGonagall would make her go back.
The figure who passed her was none of them. A tall boy, slim with jet black hair ran passed her, following her up.
"You." Cassie snapped.
He stopped and slowly turned around. She had her wand leveled at him.
"What is your problem?"
"Yaxley... Calm down."
"You think I can calm down!" She shrieked. At this rate half the castle would hear her. She didn't care. Her hand was still shaking as he pointed her wand at his throat. "You just humiliated me in front of half our year. The whole school will know by tomorrow!"
"Just... Put the wand down."
"This isn't a game Sirius!" She hissed at him. "You're not hiding snakes under my bed anymore, this is real!"
His eyes never left her wand, even as his hand as it reached for his own.
"I know that. I don't think you do." He took a step towards her, so close that her wand was pressing against his neck, close enough to smell the aftershave the boys loved to throw on after quidditch.
"What did you say?"
Something snapped. He met her eyes.
"I don't think you do understand because you will never let it go! Even now they're killing people and you don't realise what that means."
His voice started to grow. He was shouting at her now, his own wand clutched tight in his hand, digging into her rib cage.
"You've never seen it, you just see the big house and the gold and your sister marrying a Lestrange. You're as bad as Bella! Actually, your worse. She admits what she is!"
Cassie closed her eyes, letting his words sink in. "Get away from me."
He didn't move.
"I said MOVE!"
She twisted her wrist and he was blasted half way across the stairs, picking himself off the floor before she could cast again.
"Stupefy!" She screamed. Red light flashed form her wand but Black moved too fast.
"So now she snaps." He laughed as he sent a hex her way.
"See! It takes fucking nothing and the temper appears. I feel sorry for you Yaxley."
Purple light exploded. Cassie deflected the spell easily and fired another back.
They whirled around each other. One then the other cursing, deflecting, dancing.
Sirius finally slashed his wand, hissing "Expelliarmus!"
Her wand was pulled from her hand, right into Black's outstretched one.
Cassie launched herself. She had him knocked against a wall. Wands ripped from his hand before he could blink.
He laughed at her, looking down with a sneer worthy of his cousin.
"You're pathetic and they will turn you into one before you even realise. You make me sick Yaxley. You all do!"
The breath left Cassie's lungs. "That's what you think of me?" Her voice was small.
Black was shaking, she could feel it where her arm pressed against his chest, holding a pair of wands to his heart.
"That's what I think of all of you."
She flicked her wrist, a silent body-bind curse circling him before he could react. He fell onto the cold stone floor, his head hitting hard off the wall.
"Don't ever talk to me again Sirius Black. Do you understand?"
She glared down at him. He knew nothing about her. Nothing.
Cassie ran off, leaving him alone on the floor for somebody else to help.
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