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No Solid Ground by RoxyRose
Chapter 9: You've Got Something, Call It Anything Thing You Want
Cassie had been hoping for an opportunity to send out the tracking signal during this hour wait. She was disappointed. She wasn’t left alone for a second. There was always two, if not three of them stood just watching her.
It was an uncomfortable in many ways. In the way that she was terrified of these people, terrified about wherever Al was, whether he was ok, she was still being treated like a criminal and then there was the impossibility of trying to sit still for an hour through these feelings so that one of the drawn wands still pointed at her didn’t do something.
She’d carried on asking where Al was every so often to begin with, just to break the silence.
But she soon gave up. These people were serious. It was an hours silent treatment before she’d get any answers.
What would happen after the hour, she wondered frequently. They’d see that she was actually herself. Then what? Although she’d superficially come to the conclusion that the Potters were, in Allen’s words, ‘trouble’, for the way they’d captured her, with every second she was doubting herself. After all, it seemed a necessary precaution, now she thought about it. Looking out for their… what had they called it? Camp?
But no, she told herself. She couldn’t go ahead and trust these people. She hadn’t seen Al. And she still had no idea whether Ryan was here at all. For some reason she didn’t dare ask that. Didn’t want to hear something bad. And if he wasn’t here, and they were trouble… well, she didn’t want to give them a reason to go looking.
Cassie couldn’t tell when the hour was close to being over. The only thing that signalled it was the return of all five men to the tent.
“Ok, hour’s up.” Harry Potter said, uncomfortably. “Er, sorry about that.”
Cassie resisted smirking smugly and said instead, “It’s alright. You had to take precautions I guess.”
“Right. Well. You have questions, we have questions. So I think -”
“I just want to know where Al is,” Cassie said again. It had been an hour of wondering and the exhaustion she‘d felt earlier in the day was setting in again. She just needed to know this now. “Please.”
“Al. Right.” Harry Potter still didn’t look entirely pleased about disclosing any information. Cassie looked around at the other faces. None of them did. They still didn’t trust her.
Well, she supposed, they were right not to.
And she couldn’t work out if she felt bad about it or not.
But, traitor or not, all she wanted at this moment was to know if Al was ok.
“Albus is here.”
Cassie felt slight relief at this, but was still edgy. What she needed to know was if he was alright, not jut that he was here.
Harry Potter seemed to notice that she wasn’t exactly over the moon about his answer and looked a little confused before understanding. “He’s alright. We haven’t… we wouldn’t… you were worried about him.” He looked a little incredulous.
“Please.” Cassie said again, “I just want to see him.”
“You don’t trust us.” The other Potter said. James.
Cassie met his narrowed, crystal blue eyes and immediately wished she hadn’t.
“You don’t trust me.” She replied.
Before anybody else could give any input about who didn’t trust who, there was a commotion outside the tent.
Cassie could hear raised voices, though not what they were saying. It was muffled through the thick, canvas walls. She heard a quick, heavy crunch of feet on gravel walking… no, running… purposefully. Getting closer.
The younger Weasley exchanged a bewildered look with his father before moving the tent flap open a little to look out.
He hadn’t had a chance to even focus on anything before someone came barging in the tent, ranting.
“I’m sick of being kept out of everything lately. Ever since Al got here there’s been something going on and no one’s telling me anything -”
He stopped abruptly.
Along with Cassie’s breathing.
It was like the floor was falling, only it wasn’t.
Her hand automatically clutched onto the seat of the wooden chair she was sat on to keep her upright.
Her stomach lurched.
The mop of sandy-golden hair. The stubborn, defiant silvery eyes. Everything.
It was him.
“Ryan.” Cassie felt as though she had to say his name. To confirm it. If not he might disappear. Instead of the joyful disbelief she was actually feeling, her voice came out in a choked whisper. “Ryan.” The second time, the elation sounded.
He blinked, this boy. Only ‘boy’ didn’t seem to fit him any more. He was a teenager. A lanky, wiry-built teenager still with traces of the sullen complain he’d originally entered with plain on his face beneath the overruling disbelief. He was old. He was… how old was he? Cassie didn’t even know. She wasn’t thinking clearly enough to know her own age. Let alone anything else.
He blinked once more, this time as if to prove himself wrong. Then the grin emerged.
He may have been tall, he may have been old, he may have had an absurdly deep voice, but he was Ryan.
She couldn’t get her head around the voice. That was the weirdest thing of all. He wasn’t a little boy any more.
“Cassie!” He laughed. A laugh of incredulity, delight and wonder.
He made a move as if to cross the tent towards her but James Potter whipped a wand out, holding it at a strange angle. Across his chest, rather than pointed at it.
Ryan walked through the barrier with just an irritated nudge but then the other guy stuck out his wand. The indescribable guy.
This time Ryan spared him a glance. “Teddy that’s my sister.”
“I know, kid.”
“What are you…” He looked down at the wand at his chest and back up. “I know you’re not going to use it. You wouldn’t risk everything.” His eyes went back to Cassie, “That’s… my sister.”
Cassie stood up now, and the wands went to her. She froze before she’d taken a step, though her whole being was yearning to hold her brother. To make sure she wasn’t imagining this.
Ryan ignored the raised weapons and closed the distance between them to embrace her. Cassie’s arms locked tightly around his waist and blinked back tears of relief, bewilderment, exhaustion and pure joy. It was familiar, warm, comforting… yet different to how she remembered. He most definitely was not supposed to be taller than her. She was supposed to be just about able to rest her cheek on his blond head, not the other way around.
But it didn’t matter.
Ryan was here.
“How did you know we were here?” Harry Potter asked, sounding a little irritated but resigned. Cassie couldn’t help but think of him as Harry Potter. Full name. He wasn’t a normal person. He belonged in the pages of textbooks and great stories of the war, not in reality.
“My fault.” James admitted, gruffly. “I misjudged when I apparated. Missed by about twenty meters and ended up near the boys bunks. He saw me.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Ryan demanded, not letting go of Cassie. She was grateful. Also grateful about the way he seemed to be able to stand his ground, because she probably couldn’t form a coherent sentence. The relief was so great. After three years, she finally felt real relief. Ryan was here. Everything was alright.
“It’s not as straight-forward as it seems, mate.”
“James, you had my sister within arms distance of me and you didn’t tell me. You didn’t even let me see her.” The reproachful look Ryan gave James made Cassie see that this was someone Ryan would normally look up to. It fit, she thought. James had lost a younger brother and Ryan had lost an older sister.
But now, apparently, both of them were back. She wondered briefly again where Al was.
“Look, we were just trying to protect you -”
“To protect me?”
“From me?” Cassie’s brain caught up with everything and she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Standing away from Ryan she became aware again of the wands still pointed at them and took an automatic step back.
Ryan looked at her in confusion, at the wands, then back again. “Oh. You don’t need to worry. They won’t use them. We don’t use magic here.”
“Don’t use magic?” Cassie repeated, incredulously. Surely she heard that wrong.
“You haven’t told her anything?” Ryan demanded of the others. “How long has she… why is she here? How did she -”
“Ok. There’s a lot to explain.” Harry Potter said, lowering his wand. The others followed suit.
“You don’t use magic?” Cassie asked again, still not comprehending. This didn’t fit with what Cole had told her. ‘The Potters are dangerous’. How dangerous could people be without magic?
“To both of you.” Harry Potter added.
“So explain.” Ryan crossed his arms across his chest.
Cassie was in wonder at the way her brother - her little brother - was so confident to say whatever he wanted. This was Harry Potter. Supposedly dangerous. And Ryan appeared not to be intimidated.
“Ok.” Harry Potter suddenly seemed tired. He rubbed the side of his nose absently. “Sit down.”
She had to admit, he didn’t seem intimidating. Or dangerous. Just… weary.
But appearances could be deceiving.
Ryan looked like he wanted to object but Cassie took the opportunity. Still exhausted and now kind of in shock, her legs were feeling more than a little weak.
Ryan just stood beside the chair, keeping a hand on Cassie’s shoulder. It seemed like he needed a reminder that she was real as much as she did of him.
“Ryan…” Harry Potter was looking a little more gently at him, “Cassie’s not just here out of the blue. She’s Al’s friend.”
Ryan didn’t move. The only thing that changed about his appearance was a crease forming between his eyebrows.
“Al never said anything about a friend.” He said, after a second.
“To us he did. And we thought it would be best to keep it quiet. For one thing, not to raise your hopes. Al hoped she’d come after him but after waiting a few days it didn’t seem likely.”
But she did. The words were unspoken amongst the group in the tent. She was fairly sure there were a wide range of feelings towards her appearance. Ranging from the elated Ryan end of the spectrum to the not so positive end.
“And the other thing?” Ryan asked.
Harry Potter hesitated and glanced briefly in Cassie’s direction.
“This is why it would have been best to conduct these little explanations separately,” Remarked the Weasley Father.
Cassie thought she already knew what he was going to say. She’d been able to tell from all the doubtful, suspicious looks she’d been the recipient of.
“Go ahead,” She said, resisting the urge to roll her eyes, “I won’t be offended. Much.”
“The other thing… the other thing was that we didn’t know if we could trust her.”
“Still don’t.” Weasley Father added.
Cassie had sensed it, but it still put her on edge to hear it. She was all too aware of the feather light weight of the chair around her neck, and was thankful that it was hidden beneath two t-shirts and a jumper.
Ryan didn’t seem to like this lack of trust either. “Does Al trust her?” He asked, probably guessing the answer and acting as if that settled it.”
“Yes but -”
“Does Al know she’s here?”
There was a short pause. “No. We -”
“Well someone should tell him.” Ryan said shortly. “It’s not nice being left in the dark.”
“Well see the trouble with that is -”
“That Al’s going to trust her just as much as me?” When had Ryan gotten so shrewd? “So why don’t you? What‘s she s‘posed to have done?”
Cassie felt awful at Ryan defending her. She still wasn’t sure what was going on here, whether it was right or wrong, good or bad. But it was pretty clear that despite his disgruntlement at not being informed, Ryan had a home here with these people. And she was here to ruin that.
“Well for one thing, she’s taken too long to get here.”
“I only left four days ago.” Cassie said, feeling slightly defensive. She hadn’t exactly been going slow…
“We know. Because four days ago you disappeared from this.” James Potter dug out a crumpled, grubby and extremely old piece of parchment from his back pocket.
Cassie eyed it with distaste. “That’s disgusting.”
“That is my Marauders Map.” He corrected.
“Who’s map, James?” Harry Potter asked idly.
“Well, when you leave things lying around…” For the first time a hint of amusement appeared on James Potters face. It lit up his features and made him look a whole lot better, in Cassie’s opinion, than the sullen, cagy expression that he’d adopted for the rest of the time.
“Kid’s got a point.” Weasley Father relented, grudgingly. “After all, it’s how Fred and George got hold of it, nicking it from a desk. It's almost rite of passage…”
“Marauder; raider; thief,” James recited, almost rehearsed.
“Where the hell did you get a dictionary from around here?” Harry Potter asked.
“The faith you have in my academia, Dad, is a little hurtful.”
“Hermione told him.” Weasley Dad clarified.
“Um.” Cassie spoke up, wondering if they remembered she was still there. Much as they didn’t trust her, they seemed at ease enough to conduct light-hearted chats between themselves. And she wasn’t comfortable with how James, in that brighter mood, reminded her so much of Al.
“Right.” The relaxation dropped from the faces, although Cassie thought they didn’t seem as uptight as before. A little humour was good for them, apparently.
James Potter carried on with his explanation. It was blunt, straight-forward and to the point. “So this is a map of Hogwarts. Shows you everything, everyone. Four days ago you were on it. Then, you’re not.”
Cassie swallowed, not wanting to believe that such a map existed. Because if it did, then they would have seen everything. Including…
“So how were those cosy chats with Cole?”
She forced herself to maintain calm. Well, not calm. She hadn’t been calm since she arrived. But she took strength from Ryan’s warm hand on her shoulder, not wavering despite the accusations, and replied easily. “Cosy chats? Have you met the man?”
They didn’t find it funny.
Harry Potter was deadly serious as he spoke. “Cassie, I understand that we don’t know what Cole wanted with you. I understand that he probably said a lot of bad stuff about all of us. I understand that he probably said some stuff about Ryan. But Cole isn’t a man who would let an opportunity like this pass him by.”
It was more unnerving when he was being nice to her.
“An opportunity like what?” Cassie asked, in a small voice.
“The opportunity to manipulate someone who has nothing more to lose.”
It hurt to breath. Her ribs seemed too stiff to move. They knew.
“So either he got you to agree to help him directly…”
“No!” Cassie protested, the lie coming automatically to her. It was like she didn’t have a choice in her mind. It was lie or… well. Who knew. Nothing good would come of it, certainly. They’d have even more reason not to trust her. Ryan wouldn’t trust her. Ryan would be disappointed in her. And Al…
“No.” Cassie shook her head, “I didn’t… I wouldn’t. I wouldn‘t help him.” That much she knew was true. What she’d done hadn’t been to help Cole. It had all been for Ryan.
For her and Ryan. And Al.
She was just trying to do the right thing.
“I just needed to find Al and Ryan. I needed to know if they were ok. He said… Cole said…”
“Like I said,” Harry Potter said, gently, “We understand that Cole probably said a lot of stuff about us. And if you still refused to help him we’re pretty sure that he would have found some other way to follow you.”
“He couldn’t follow me,” Cassie dismissed, instinctively knowing and forgetting the social grace of being modest.
“Well that’s probably true,” Harry Potter admitted, “You’re a damn good flier.”
Cassie smiled. “Al taught me.” She said softly, with a mix of affection and guilt.
A similar look of affection and pride crossed his face and there was a beat of silence.
“I’m not here for Cole.” Cassie said again, feeling the need to reinforce that point, “He called me to his office to ask me where Al was. And I didn’t know. I honestly didn’t know and I didn’t work it out until…”
“Why did you go back a second time?”
Cassie thought quickly, put on the spot. How much truth should she tell? ”He didn’t believe me. That I didn’t know anything. So I guess he was giving me time to think it over before he called me back again.”
“But you didn’t tell him anything.”
All the faces in the tent were on hers. Including Ryan. She wasn’t worried about people she didn’t know seeing through her lies or excuses. They never had at Hogwarts. But the boy that had grown up with her was another story…
“No,” She said, “I’d worked it out. By then. I knew what I had to do. But I didn’t tell him anything.”
The lie made the chain around her neck seem to tighten.
Self-preservation, she told herself. That was why she was dong it. She didn’t know what they’d do if they found out she was a liar. A traitor. She’d find out what she had to, then sort her head out. Whether they were right or wrong, good or bad. Then she’d have a decision to make about this bloody chain. She couldn’t stand this being tugged in opposite directions for much longer.
It seemed a long time that glances were thrown between the group of men and herself as they seemed to all consider her words.
“So what could it be, d’you reckon?” Weasley Father asked, “The Trace?”
Cassie’s hopes lifted. They believed her. They were more worried about Cole than her.
They believed her.
Harry Potter shook his head, slowly. “They didn’t use that on us when we were on the run.”
“But we can’t rule it out,” Weasley Dad argued, “Times have changed.”
“If he believed she didn’t know anything,” The plain-looking boy whose name Cassie couldn’t remember pointed out, “Then surely he wouldn’t have put any kind of a tracker on her.”
Cassie involuntarily stiffened at the word ‘tracker’. She prayed that Ryan didn’t feel it.
“Always one for taking precautions though, Cole, isn’t he? That’s why it’s taken us this long to get Al…” Weasley Dad said.
“So you reckon he was tracking her just in case she followed him?”
“Who knows, mate. Point is, how do we tell?”
They all seemed to come to the same conclusion at once.
Cassie’s hope seemed to shrink way back down again. Hermione Granger - now Hermione Weasley - recipient of the best OWL and, when she’d gone back to complete them, NEWTs in Hogwarts history? Cassie dreaded to think of the sort of magic this woman was capable of. Certainly detecting a magical necklace would be well within her ability. She was doomed.
It was over.
As soon as they figured the chain out it was all over. She almost shivered in dread at what they’d do, these people. These dangerous people…
She was safe.
“Is it my turn to get an explanation now?” Cassie asked, suddenly.
They looked a little startled at her sudden request.
“Well, we’re not going to work anything out right now, are we?” Weasley Dad shrugged. “Fire away, kiddo.”
“I want to know everything,” Cassie said, gaining confidence. If she was right, this Hermione wasn’t going to be able to find out anything. “Starting with why ‘we don’t use magic here’.”
A.N. Well this has been a while. I apologise. I've had this section written for a while and was intending to give it another half to the chapter but that half is troubling me, so I thought I'd give you something rather than nothing. So I'm sorry it's short, but I hope the content makes up for it?
What do you think?
Ryan - finally.
No Al yet.
The Potters - dangerous?
They trust her - right?
So much more to be explained, but I'd love to hear what you think so far!
Thanks for reading.