"I don't know Sirius! Maybe if you kept your mouth shut once in a while you wouldn't be driving her away!"
Voices echoed up the stairs, clattering their way through an otherwise silent Gryffindor tower.
The stone stairs were mercifully cold and comforting as Cassie lent her head against a smooth, carved wall.
She had a jumper in the dorm room, she could have stopped to put on long pajamas but she sat in shorts and an old t-shirt, letting all the warmth bleed from her body. It kept her awake, kept her alert.
She sat out of sight, not seeing those who spoke and not being seen.
"And this is my fault? Don't blame me if your best friend is going off the deep end, Evans."
"Mate, calm down. Listen to her." A new voice sounded from the room, breaking up the argument that had been going on for quite some time.
They were all there then.
"Prongs, keep out of this! If you thought with your head for once you'd see that I'm right."
"You're not. Sirius you don't see her properly. You don't want to see that we could be right."
"All I see is the first sign of trouble and she's running back to the Slytherins. Either she's doing it deliberately or she's just stupid. You really think that Avery isn't dying to be a Death Eater?"
"Yes he is, everyone knows that. Cass isn't stupid." Remus was a calm voice in the storm. He had been silent until now too.
It was mostly Sirius doing the talking. He seemed to be chairing the meeting to discuss whether or not Cassie would try to kill them all one day.
"Then why has she been camping out there for weeks?" Sophie. Sophie was on Black's side? "If she knows he's a Death Eater then why are they friends? He's all over her sometimes."
Cassie made a small noise in her throat. Half disappointment and half disgust.
"Why have you been living down here for over a month?" Emme snapped back. "Because you feel safe? I wouldn't feel safe living with a little twat like you and then fucking Mr Expert over here."
"Emme, she has a point. Why don't we just ask her?" Pettegrew finally decided to chip in, making up the full seven.
Outstanding. Cassie thought to herself. Fucking outstanding.
"I am the bloody expert. None of you knew her before she started here and put on the whole reform act. She was a monster."
"She was eleven!" Lily shrieked, silencing everyone else as they started to talk.
Cassie had had enough.
She uncrossed her legs, swinging up to her feet and walked silently down to the common room.
The seventh years sat in the armchairs. Lily and Sirius standing inches apart glaring at each other.
They all wore pajamas apart from James. James wore a sheet.
Cassie's blood was boiling just under the surface. She was shaking, raging and somehow just a little bit heartbroken.
"Evans, please just-"
"Cassie." Remus had spotted her, his eyes instantly filling with guilt. He stood up, taking a step towards her before he was stopped by Emme.
Everyone was looking at her. A mix of shock and guilt, guilt, more guilt etching into everyone's face.
Something passed over Sirius's face too fast for her to catch. Then he was stone.
"If you're all done deciding if I'm a Death Eater then I'd like to go back to sleep. If not would you mind letting me go out." She nodded to the portrait hole.
Lily looked like she was about to cry but she nodded. "We're all finished here."
She was strong. The strongest person Cassie knew but right then she looked like a scared child. Tears welling in her eyes as she looked at Cassie.
"Thank you." She turned back up the stairs. Leaving them a standing in silence below.
She didn't hear if the girls came in that night. She tossed this way and that. Finally her eyes closing before the dawn broke.
Wind rustled in the trees.
The leaves whispering with every gust, they called Cassie onwards. Shifting and yawning in the dark above her head.
She shivered, a cold feeling creeping up the back of her neck. There was rough bark under her feet, but under that soft, dark earth made of old pine needles and a mossy forest floor.
There was something else there. Something she couldn't see but she felt it, standing in the dark amongst the trees.
Stars shone above her, only the brightest shining through the canopy of leaves.
A shadow followed her as she walked.
She didn't turn to look. It was a chill at the back of her neck. Like rain dripping the wrong way up her neck. Cassie turned away from the dark and looked towards the other shapes, all around her. Wings, hooves, manes, pale white eyes and Black.
Cassie woke up tangled in her sheets. Her heartbeat pulsing in her ears.
"Sorry." Emme had dropped a book, trying to sneak form the room undetected.
Cassie shifted, pulling herself upright and detaching herself from the quilt.
Emme and Lily both stood in the dorm, fully dressed and ready to go.
"We-" Lily started. "We were just going to get breakfast. Do you want us to wait?"
Cassie shook her head. "I'll see you down there."
"Your promise?" Lily stepped forwards to hug her then thought better of it.
They nodded and left her to it.
She showered, letting the scorching hot water pour over her head before she snuck back into her dorm.
She spent longer than usual getting ready, drawing out everything to avoid the Great Hall. Running Sleekeazy's through her and letting it fall down her back, magically pressed her shirt and spending far to long sorting her robe over the top.
She was taking the piss. Her make up, never a priority, was done perfectly and notes for every subject were sorted out into neat sections of her bag.
Hurry up Yaxley, she thought to herself. She would have to go down eventually.
Finally she made it, stepping through the doors after most people had left.
She glanced across at the Slytherin table. Eddie was still there, sitting with Rossier and Snape.
He gave her a broad smile and a wave.
She turned away, headed for the Gryffindor table and the group that sat at one end.
Lily bad left a space for her, sitting between her and Remus facing Emme, Peter and James who was somehow still eating.
"Here she is! Nice hair." he said between mouthfuls.
"Thanks." Cassie grabbed some toast and a slice of bacon off his plate.
"What do you mean ‘Oi!' After yesterday you owe me more than toast Potter."
It took him a minute, watching her to assess just how serious she was before she laughed.
Lily relaxed beside her, Remus forking some more bacon onto her plate and pouring coffee into her mug.
"So where is Sirius? And Sophie?" Cassie looked around, raising an eyebrow.
"They... Ahhh." Remus couldn't find the words.
Unsurprisingly, Emme did. "They stormed out last night. Fuck them."
"He'll calm down. You know what he's like Cass. One day he'll turn round and realise he was wrong and act like that was exactly what he thought all along." Remus forced the coffee into her hand.
"Thank you." She mumbled. Not really sure to what. The coffee? What he said? Both?
She took a sip, instantly feeling better.
A group of girls passed the table, a few of them saying hi or smiling at James and Remus.
One stopped, a seventh year Ravenclaw called Alex.
"Morning guys." She smiled, blushing a little when her gaze landed on Remus.
"Hi Alex." The general welcome went around.
"Are you not going to class? I had though you lot would be the first ones there." She swung her braid over one shoulder.
"We'll get there eventually." Lily joked. "Cassie had us all running late."
"Ah." Alex gave Cassie a small, nervous, smile. "Well you don't want to be too late. Professor Bones doesn't wait and you can't miss Patronuses!"
With that, they made it to class in record time, finding all the desks had vanished and the seventh years in a huddle at the centre of the room.
"It's about time." Sirius was already there. He clasped James on the back and dragged him into a corner to talk.
"Right." Bones walked in. He was willowy, a gaunt face and sandy hair topping his head. Every inch the professor. One of the best they had and, according to James, definitely a part of Dumbledore's secret army against the Dark Lord.
He marched straight to the centre of the room, forcing his way between students to the exact spot.
"Observe." He produced a glass orb form his robes. Floating it above his palm and then tapping it once with his wand.
Cassie jumped back, wand drawn and pointing at the thing suddenly floating in the air above their heads.
Everyone else had similar reactions. Some people screaming or swearing.
The fear struck through her before she realised that whatever had happened, it had come from that glass ball.
"Excellent, however the fact that not one of you cast a single spell shows we have much work to be doing. Seven years of magical education and none of you have a clue!" Bones's voice rasped.
He glanced at the life sized dementor hanging above his head.
"In real life you will find them quite different, I assure you. Think of your very soul being chilled, frozen, happiness being dragged from your body and you're too numb to stop it. Too frozen by fear. This-" he waved his wand casually at the image suspended in the air.
"Is nothing. It may look terrifying but believe me when I say... It will be infinity worse. You will find all of this in Chapter thirteen, pages three through to eight of Advanced Defensive Magic but do not get out your books... Today we practice casting."
Lessons passed. Nobody had more than a slight whiff of silvery smoke.
Not until late in one class.
Lily stood on the floor, facing the image hanging in the air.
"Miss Evans... When you are ready."
Eighteen of them sat around the walls of the class, Cassie sat cross legged against the floor. It was exhausting. Trying and failing to cast over and over. Each time having to drag up different memories to extort for power.
"Focus on the memory. What are you thinking of? You don't have to tell us... Let it fill you." Bones was stalking the walls, observing each student in turn.
"Expecto Patronum!" Lily called. Silver shot from her wand. More and more, like glistening smoke spilling into the air. Then something else.
The class sat up, leaning forwards and stairing hungrily at the silver shape.
It shone brighter than anything Cassie had seen, cantering around the room before it came to a stop beside Lily.
She laughed, her face lit in the silvery glow.
It looked like a horse but no- too small. The glow dimmed and Cassie saw it. A doe.
Lily was ecstatic, caught in a trance looking at the silvery creature meant for her. She reached out a hand and it vanished, leaving behind a dull glow.
There was silence in the room, everyone gaping and smiling in turn.
"BRILLIANT! Fifty points to Gryffindor." Bones was shouting somewhere. Not that points mattered in comparison to that.
Cassie was on her feet, crushing Lily into a hug with Emme.
Half the room was up, patting her on the back and yelling congratulations.
"Next!" Bones shouted.
"I'll go Professor. I reckon I can follow that." The only Gryffindor, Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw not on his feet was Potter, sat with a small smile on his face.
They cleared the floor, Lily coming to sit beside Cassie.
It was light a bolt of lightning had hit the room. Even the Slytherins, sitting along the far wall were suddenly enjoying themselves.
James strolled into the floor, giving the boys a wink before he turned to the dementor.
Again, an animal leaped from James wand, antlered, huge. It pranced up and down the room, tossing its head, not entirely unlike the way James did.
Cassie laughed when she realised what it was. Lily sitting bolt upright next to her at about the same time.
"That's not fair!" She whined under her breath.
The stag vanished as James wheeled around to take a bow, earning a clap on the back from Bones.
"Show off!" Cassie shouted at him when he passed.
"On you go then Cass. Think you can do that?"
Cassie froze. She didn't want to do that.
Memories just turned to black tar every time she tried to find one to focus on.
"Come on Cassie. If bloody Potter can make on then you have got to be able to!" Emme laughed with the others.
Cassie climbed to her feet, walking into the centre of the room.
It was impossible. Hardly any wizards could produce a corporeal Patronus. There was no way that three in a row could.
She stood on the spot, looking up at the Dementor.
They were nothing like that in real life, they were never that still. It choked the will to live and sucked all happiness from you.
The chill settled into your bones and never left. She had been allowed to visit Azkaban once, when he was first taken in. Cassie pitied anyone who would end up there. She would rather die.
The island... the whole place was a nest for them. Everything was a mess of unhappiness and stinking of death.
She had been frozen for a long time. The class looking at her expectantly.
Her eyes flicked over them all, settling on a dark pair in the corner.
A memory glimmered in the back of her head.
They were on holiday a long time ago, the same dark grey eyes pleading with her. It was roasting, the sun high in the sky and the two of them looking down at the lake far below. Standing on the top of a cliff by a huge lake, sandy beaches dropping away to either side, a hundred feet down. The others were down on the beach. Cissy and Leila sunbathing. Andromeda had stalked off, Regulus running into the waves after Bella.
"Don't do it Cassie!" Sirius grabbed her arm.
"Let go. I can make it." She shook off Sirius, giving him a dark smile. "Watch me!"
She ran, dove, head first off the edge of the rocks. Her swan dive was too elegant, too polished. She jumped too far, dropped too slowly. Hardly falling, she was almost flying. Every magical fiber of her body stopping the fall. Cassie had soared.
She had time to laugh, whoop and spin before she splashed into the water. Completely unharmed.
Something burst from the wand, running then leaping into the air, spreading it's wings and soaring up into the rafters. It was there for a second, no more, before Cassie realised what it was. What her soul ahd sent to protect her. It vanished, flickering out, leaving her in shock.
"Well done Cass!" James shouted, breaking through her thoughts.
"Yes Cassie!" Emme gave her a hug as she made her way back to her spot on the wall.
"Well done Miss Yaxley." Bones gave her a smile. "Bonus point, does anyone know what it was?"
The question hung in the room. Nobody answered.
The shock still clung to her and more than that, curiosity.
"It was a Thestral, Sir." Cassie answered.
Bones nodded, his brow frowning. "Well done. Who's next?"
"Wait." A voice interrupted from the corner.
She looked at Sirius, expecting a snap or a comment about being unsurprised. The look on his face was very different to that.
"You can see Thestrals?"
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