Cassie had twenty minutes.
Twenty minutes, then they would notice she was taking too long and Merlin forbid that somebody found her there, that night of all nights.
She had to get to the kitchens, had to find food and then run back because heaven knew Cassie should not be in the dungeons after all of that.
She fidgeted with the hems of her sleeves, looking around nervously every time she a whisper of air or a creek in an ancient door.
She must have looked a picture. Her ponytail had gone limp, half her hair falling in messy strands down her back and what makeup she had worn was smudged under her eyes in dark circles. Dressed in uncomfortably conspicuous Gryffindor colours.
Even for Cassie, this was unbelievably stupid.
"Eddie? Where's Pyra?"
He appeared out of the secret passageway that lead to the common room, rushing towards her to pull her away from the door.
"What the hell do you think you are doing here?"
He grabbed her, rough around the arm and dragged her farther into the dungeons, down a tiny corridor and into a storeroom for old cauldrons and empty glass jars. Vaulted ceilings sat low over their heads, dusty debris of past potions experiments sat scattered around the walls.
He took one last look out of the door and slammed it behind them.
"Pyra's in her room because she can't come out. You've got her involved in a stupid Gryffindor problem."
"I know you're mad. Eddie you need to listen to me-"
"Mad? Cassie you broke every rule we've ever set up! You attacked Mulciber and he's gone and told everyone already."
"He started it cursing Vance and Evans. We have an agreement about exactly this."
"Vance is a brat! She needs to keep her mouth shut if she's ever going to survive what's coming and Evans is a dirty little mudblood. I've stopped anything from happening so far but that's gone now, no more lists, no more favors." He was in her face, pinning her against a wall with acidic fierceness, attempting to scare his point into her if nothing else.
"And what about me? Where does that leave me?" Cassie hissed. "I was in the middle today because your idiots attacked my friends. What kind of person would I be if I let that pass? And for the record Mulciber could have killed me. What does the Dark Lord do when he finds out one of his proteges just killed another one?"
"You put yourself in the middle!" His voice rose to a shout, echoing around the cauldrons and domed ceiling of the overgrown cupboard.
"And every day that passes I'm making my mind up."
Eddie let go, snatching his hand back in frustration. Pacing the room for a moment, pressing his fingers to the bridge of his nose with eyes fixed shut in thought.
She had hated making that point. She was threatening something she couldn't do, but if it kept her safe then...
"He won't do that again." He shook his head, warm brown hair falling into his eyes, darting around the room. He was thinking too fast. Losing his train of thought and any sense that he usually possessed."But that's it. From now on you can't start fighting them. It's worked so far, keep your temper, cast shield charms, whatever. If someone important will find out about this we're fucked and I can't lose you like that!"
He switched direction suddenly, rushing towards Cassie and taking her hands in his, drawing her towards him. Leaning into her so quickly the breath caught in her throat.
He bowed his head, barely brushing his lips against hers.
"I'll protect you but you've got to work with me here." Whispered quieter than a ghost, he brushed her cheek with his thumb and looked down with clear blue eyes, cheeks threatening to blush.
Cassie too frozen by shock to do anything. He had to do that now? Not any other time over seventeen years?
Slowly she placed a hand against him and pushed him away.
He seemed to turn to stone all at once, the hand gently brushing her hair back became a tight fist, then Eddie let her go, taking a step back.
Cassie shook her head, closing her eyes against the scream currently building in her throat.
"I can't do that." Her voice far stronger than she felt. "Tell them not to touch a Gryffindor again. Ever."
She pushed walked past him, running out of the door and away from the stinking dungeons as fast as possible.
Eddie was her Eddie. But not like that. Not like that.
Her twenty minutes were up. In fact, all of her time was up.
The common room had never been so silent. At least not when two of the boys sat side by side.
Peter and Remus were never the loud ones though. They were sprawled over the sofa, one sound asleep and the other staring, unseeing, into the fire.
The fire glowed low, lighting the room a true Gryffindor scarlet and gold, painting Cassie's hair a tarnished bronze and Lily's bloody, blazing red. Her head was heavy on Cassie's shoulder. She had fallen asleep about an hour before, Cassie not having the heart to move her.
Sleep seemed impossible.
She was still in her quidditch robes, stained with streaks of darker red. Images of James hanging like a doll in the air, screaming until his voice left him melted into Eddie and his furious warning whenever she shut her eyes. Better to keep them open.
It took her longer than it should have to notice she wasn't the only one awake, across from her Remus was sitting up like a board. He looked a sickly grey, his skin clammy and shining slightly with a layer of gleaming sweat.
"Are you alright?" She whispered.
He nodded, not looking at her.
"What is it?"
"I wasn't there." He looked so very disappointed in himself. "I'm the Gryffindor who ran away from the fight."
"You got help."
"I should have been there! I should have been able to help for myself. If I had been then Emme might be alright and nothing would have happened to James." He stopped, seeing the look that passed over Cassie's face. "Was it that bad?"
"You've never seen it?"
He shook his head, eyes wide with that curiosity unique to Remus.
"It was awful. There's nothing you can do to help. He's in so much pain and all you can do is stand a gawk. He didn't even look like himself anymore he just..."
"But you stopped it."
"By hurting Regulus." Cassie shrugged, careful not to upset Lily. "I always thought I'd be there to protect him. Not blasting him across corridors."
"I know it's difficult but-" He met her eyes, a weak, sleepy smile lighting his face for a moment.
"There's no point now. His brother will kill him when he finds out."
"Ah." Remus's face grew dark in the dying fire. "Sirius..."
There was a pause while Remus pressed his lips together, "You spoke to him about the Thestrals, didn't you?"
Cassie nodded. "Sort of."
He hesitated. "I think he's sorry."
"I don't care." She lent her head back, closing her eyes for a second.
"Yes you do...You could have told me." Remus whispered so low Cassie could barely hear. "Believe it or not, I'm good with secrets. No matter what you think, seeing Thestrals doesn't make you a monster."
"Would you have told me? If you thought it might lose you a friend?" Cassie knew the answer. She caught his gaze and held it. "You never tell me anything."
He visibly flinched, looking away and closing his mouth before he could say anything. She knew Remus kept himself to himself but really he was the last person to be telling her off for keeping secrets.
There was a clatter behind them, loud enough to wake Lily and Peter. Cassie sat up straight, the portrait hole swinging open just in time.
"Where the hell have you been?" Lily got to her feet, marching towards Sirius.
Cassie's eyes scanned him, narrowing as she caught his flush. He was smiling, leading Sophie by the hand into the room.
He fought to keep a straight face while Sophie blushed furiously. "Why?"
His eyes scanned the room, a frown setting into his face.
"Because your best friend is in the hospital wing and Emme could have died and where in the world was the supposedly great Sirius Black?"
"Lil's calm down." Cassie cautioned quietly.
Sirius bleached white, turning to Remus with a frantic, half wild look for answers.
"What happened to Pron- James?"
"There was a fight and- don't lose it! He was hit with the Cruciatus Curse."
"This evening. I tried to find you but you weren't in the castle."
"Who did it? Is he alright?" His temper was building. Once Sirius was angry it was very difficult to calm him down.
"No, he's not bloody alright! He was tortured and you weren't there." Lily snapped. "And it was Regulus who did it. For all the crap you give Cassie about her family and your little brother used an Unforgivable Curse your best friend!"
"Reg..." Sirius seriously looked like he was about to be sick. Then, almost reluctantly he turned, for the first time, to Cassie.
"I'm asking you. Was it Reg?" He snapped.
He turned for the door, Cassie moving like lightning to stop him.
"No." She put a hand out to stop him, colliding with his chest as he tried to shove past. "Not tonight."
"Why not?" He was shaking. Every inch of him practically humming with rage. She looked up, meeting his eyes.
Cassie could feel him boiling under the surface, just where she placed a strong hand on his chest. He wasn't going to be moving.
"Because he will still be there in the morning but McGonagall is bringing us news as soon as she has it. We have to be here and if you go off after Regulus then I'm going to have to follow you and I swear to Merlin, Sirius, if anything happens to Emme and I don't know because I followed you... I will Curio you myself."
He took a deep breath, calming his temper. "She's bringing news?"
Sirius let out a breath, still shaking where Cassie held a hand on him.
Voluntarily touching Sirius Black tended to be something Cassie avoided at all costs, but nothing about that day was normal.
They settled back into the sofas. Sirius leaning forwards, tapping his toes on the rug.
"You need to tell me everything."
By the time they had finished going through the night McGonagall was back, her tight bun slightly askew and Light was beginning to filter through the windows, showing up the lines in her face and highlighting in excruciating detail just how tired everyone else was.
Cassie hadn't slept. She had sat the whole night keeping watch, her wand ready.
"Mr Vance and Mr and Mrs Potter are in the hospital wing as we speak. You may- Not now Black! You may go and see them in the morning. They are recovering from what has been a nasty shock. For everyone."
A collective breath was let out, Remus slumping back into his chair and Peter closing his eyes momentarily.
Lily and Sirius were still alert like hounds on a trail.
"What are you going to do about it? Professor a student used an Unforgivable Curse."
"Miss Evans..." McGonagall gave Lily a stern look, drawing herself up to her full height.
"Unless one of you is willing to tell me who cast the curse in question then there is no way I can do anything about it. As much as I would like, we cannot check the wands of every student in the Castle now, can we?"
Lily opened her mouth to speak, a wave of words ready to spill out of her when Sirius cut across.
"Nobody saw who it was."
"Very well. I shall leave you too it. See that you attempt to get some sleep."
She left and five pairs of eyes locked onto Sirius.
He looked at the ground, no quick quips or sarcastic lines to cover up what he had just done.
"You weren't even there. I can't-"
"Lily, no." Cassie didn't realise she had spoken until Sirius looked up, his eyes fixing onto hers, a silent thanks written all over his face. "Don't blame him for his family's mistakes."
He did nothing but there was that look again. Steel grey in his eyes seemed to melt as he understood the meaning behind what she had said.
"I'm sorry." His voice was so small, Cassie hardly would have recognised it. All the pride and the overwhelming ego had vanished. Just leaving Sirius.
She nodded, turned and walked up to her dormitory, dragging Lily with her.
Emme would be fine. James would be back to being a git by the morning. Sirius would never call her a Death Eater again.
They ran up the stairs, Cassie pulling open the dorm door.
It was freezing, someone had left the window open, flooding the place with cool, October night-air.
Lily went to shut the window when she stopped, the fluttering of wings at her shoulder calling her attention.
Her tawny owl waiting patiently on the curtain rail of her bed. Artemis had returned after weeks away.
"There you are! It took you bloody long enough."
Cassie grabbed some owl treats from her trunk and threw them onto the bed. The beautiful bird swooping down to collect them.
She pulled the letter from her foot, giving her owl an affectionate stroke before she launched back out of the window.
She took a deep breath and unrolled the parchment.
"Anything interesting?" Lily asked as she climbed into bed, flicking her curtains to close around her.
"Not really. Night Lily."
We got married!!
The letter started, louping across the page in Leila's, rather over the top, handwriting. No word of greeting.
We couldn't wait until Christmas. Everyday could be the last and I don't want to risk waiting any longer. We ARE at war.
I'll send you a photo.
He was there!!! Even you have to admit what an honour that was. And that meant that everyone else was. They were dying to be in favor with the Dark Lord.
He called it ‘The first celebration of his reign, marked by a union of the purest." or something like that.
Cissy got married too. As soon as she found out I was, all of a sudden she was accepting Lucius like she hadn't been turning him down for years already.
Ours was the better day through, everyone thinks so. Even my new sister, dear Bella, thought that we provided a more entertaining celebration.
He didn't go to Cissy's. It's a sign. Our family are favoured about almost all others!
Cassie if you screw this up for me then I cannot be held accountable for what I do.
Mother is going slightly madder with each passing day. They all want me to have a baby now and I keep saying it's only a matter of time. I don't know how I'm meant to be relaxed when they're all looking at me like I'm cattle.
A Yaxley-Lestrange would be something though wouldn't it? Father will be proud of me.
You're lucky to be away from it all.
I'll write again when there's anything interesting going on.
Give Eddie my love.
P.S Make a move on Eddie or Regulus soon. If people keep dying there will be no one left for you. You can't play quidditch forever.
She crawled into bed, moving in a dreamlike state. Her curtains closed with a flick of her wand. Blocking out the world.
She blinked, crumbling into her pillow and crushing the paper in her hand. She was so very tired.
Cassie read it twice more, memorising her sisters words.
With a small twist of her wand she floated the letter into mid air, watching as it fluttered in a non-existent breeze.
"Incendio." She set the whole thing on fire, watching as the paper twisted and blackened, burning away or turning to ash and falling like snow into her lap.
Cassie waited until it was gone, then turned over and turned away from it all.
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