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No Solid Ground by RoxyRose
Chapter 10 : Caught Between Who You Are And Who You Want To Be
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 20


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NINE 




Hermione Weasley and Ginny Potter were not nearly as intimidating as their husbands. 


James had been sent to find Hermione. Apparently her opinion was very highly valued. Cassie wondered why she hadn’t been involved in the initial interrogation.
When the three of them arrived back at the tent, James had an apologetic look on his face. “Mum wouldn’t stay put.” He shrugged, in explanation. Then grinning as his mother cheerfully slapped him around the head. 


“Did you really think you could keep it from us?” Ginny asked, hands on hips in mock disapproval. Although she was clearly giving off a joking air, the males shifted uncomfortably. 


“No.” Harry Potter said in an attempted explanation. “Which is why we’re now telling you…” 


“Nice try, Potter.” She narrowed her eyes. “James asked for Hermione. I’m just a party crasher.” She turned her attention to Cassie. “Oh, I’m sorry. Hi, Cassie. My name’s Ginny Potter.” 


Again, Cassie felt slightly odd to be introduced to someone she most definitely already knew the name of. She was fairly certain that she had an old Holyhead Harpies poster somewhere in her dorm at Hogwarts. 


“I understand you’re friends with my son.” Ginny carried on, still smiling warmly. 


Cassie felt uncomfortable and couldn’t help but dart a glance at the other son. James. He was still watching her with narrowed eyes. She couldn’t help but feel that any friendship there was extremely unlikely. 


Ginny noticed the look. “Oh, not this oaf.” She nudged James with her hip. “Don’t mind him being a grumpy, cynical git. It’s his nature. He’d actually perked up a bit since his brother arrived but I see now he’s forgotten how to smile all over again. Don’t take it personally.” 


Cassie had to suppress a smirk at James’ disgruntled expression, but he didn’t say anything in retaliation. Cassie looked back at Ginny Potter and smiled. It was obvious that she had her husband, her son, all her family wrapped around her little finger. The affection between them all was evident, and again Cassie felt that stirring sense of doubt that the Potters could in any way be considered ‘bad’. 


“I hope they haven’t been too horrible to you,” Ginny continued. “They mean well. Right?” She glanced sharply at the men. 


There were various mumbles and again Cassie had to stifle a smile at the ‘bad guys’ being put in their places. She felt a little more at ease. 


“So, she’s here.” Hermione spoke for the first time since entering the tent. 


Yes.” Weasley Dad replied, almost defiantly. There was definitely an unspoken ‘I told you so’ in there. 


“Alright, Ronald, you’ve made your point.” She rolled her eyes. “Hello Cassie. I’m Hermione. I… well, to be honest, we weren’t really expecting you.” 


Some of us were.” Weasley Dad corrected. Ronald. He was Ron Weasley, one third of the Golden Trio. Oh God. Cassie realised she was in a tent with all three of the legendary Golden Trio, plus a good few members of their family. This was unreal. Four days ago she’d been at school. Now she was… she had no idea where she was. All she knew was that she was in a tent in a forest, with people who had the potential to be very good or very bad. 


But Ryan. She felt for his hand, still comfortingly on her shoulder. Ryan was here. That was the most unbelievable thing of all. 


He squeezed her hand and crouched down so that he was on the level of her chair. “It’s ok, Cass. No one’s going to hurt you. You’re safe here.” 


Another pluck of doubt. This was beyond strange. Ryan, and all of them really, seemed to be of the opinion that she was the one who’d been in danger. And that she’d escaped that danger. But this wasn’t right, they were meant to be the dangerous ones. 


Cassie shook her head, willing the confusion to die down. 


“What are they talking about?” She whispered to Ryan, still watching the Potters and Weasleys disagreement. It seemed to be something of an issue with the males on one side and Ginny Potter and Hermione Weasley on the other. 


“I dunno.” Ryan answered, at a normal volume. He didn’t feel the same need to whisper and not stand out as Cassie. “No one told me anything. Hey.” He raised his voice, making Cassie jump. “Does anyone want to explain? My sister’s still got not idea what’s going on here.” 


Cassie wondered if he felt the same satisfaction that she did, hearing his voice referring to her as his sister. It had been too long. 


“Ok, well. First things first.” Harry Potter turned to his wife and Hermione, “Cassie wanted a bit of an explanation as to what we’re all about.” 


Hermione Weasley fixed Cassie with her warm, wise stare. “Of course she would. But have we… what about -” 


“We’re pretty sure she ran away on her own.” Ron shrugged, “Whether Cole’s tracking her, on the other hand…” 


“Well at least we know we’re safe for the time being,” Hermione said, almost to herself, before shaking her head and smiling at Cassie, “I’m sorry, you must feel like you’re being treated like a criminal. It’s just that we have to be careful. This is our home -” 


James snorted, and his mother elbowed him in the ribs. 


“What?” He demanded, “You can’t call anywhere a home that doesn’t have flushing toilets.” 


“You’re our resident handyman,” Ginny Potter retorted, “We’re all waiting for it to happen.” 


“I don’t think Cassie wants to hear about our toilet situation - or lack thereof,” Harry Potter interrupted the light-hearted squabbling between his wife and son, with the air that this was not uncommon. 


“Wait till she’s experienced little Jimmy’s latrine’s -” Ginny smirked. 


Mum -” 


“I’m sorry,” Hermione shook her head at the scene, “Ginny’s as bad as the children…” 


Cassie saw James frown at being referred to as a child. It was true that the term didn’t suit him. He stood at least a head taller than either woman, and Cassie was sure that he’d even tower over her a considerable bit, and she’d always considered herself tall. While he didn’t reach the height of his lanky uncle or cousin, he stood as tall and straight-shouldered as his father. 


“… As I was saying, this is our home and our family we’re protecting. It’s important.” Hermione continued, looking to Cassie as if seeking confirmation that she understood. 


Cassie nodded briefly. Of course she understood that family would come before anything. Look at what she’d done for Ryan. She felt the great comfort of his weight against her legs from where he sat in front of her. Now that she’d found Ryan, everything should be ok. She shouldn’t still be worried. She shouldn’t be feeling guilty


“Why don’t you start. I understand you’ve spoken to Professor Cole on occasion. Why don’t you tell us what you already know.” Hermione suggested. 


“I don’t know. Not really.” Cassie’s thoughts went back to her time in Cole’s dingy office. It seemed a lifetime ago, yet it was only four days. “You had a disagreement. About the best way to prevent another war. You all thought we should be prepared and Cole thought we should be restrained. And he won. Everyone’s saying your dangerous. So you… so you left. And no one knows where you are. And we’re not getting taught anything good in school.” 


“Sounds about right,” Ron commented. 


“And that all happened three years ago.” Hermione nodded. “Ok. Well, you can probably work out why we left. We had to. We tried to stay as long as we could. Cole had ‘won’, as you said, but we weren’t going to give up without a fight. But then…” 


She trailed off and glanced back at her husband, Harry and Ginny. 


“But it became too much.” Harry took over the explanation. “We couldn’t lead normal lives. We couldn’t get jobs, we couldn’t provide for our kids, we were being watched twenty four seven… We couldn’t live like that.” 


“So you just left.” Cassie deduced. She thought for a second, noting a feeling that she wasn’t being told everything. 


“So we just left.” Harry nodded. 


“And now what? You just live in the woods with no loo’s?” 


“Don’t mentions the loo’s,” Harry said, wearily, obviously anticipating another outburst from his son. 


“People just need to get off my back about the bloody toilets.” James said, “I’d like to see anyone else try.” 


“No you wouldn’t,” Weasley Son said, “We all offered to help but all you let us do is run errands for you.” 


“Pipe down, Hugo.” James scowled. 


“Be nice,” His mother scolded, before turning to Cassie, “See? Grumpy git.” 


Cassie still felt like she wasn’t being told something, but pounced on a related topic, “So why don’t you use magic? That’d get you a flushing loo, easy.” 


“We can’t.” Hermione said, simply. “They’d find us. For the safety of our family we have to stay hidden, in the middle of nowhere. If the Ministry become aware of magic in places where it shouldn’t be, they’d be able to locate us in an instant. 


“So you just don’t use it at all?” Cassie couldn’t comprehend it. “But you have wands -” 


“Yeah, sorry about that,“ Ron shrugged, not sounding a bit apologetic. “Just a scare tactic. You Hogwarts kids get a wand pointed at you, you’ll be good.” 


“And it’s not entirely true that we don’t use magic at all.” Hermione interjected, “It turns out that the Ministry can only detect magic through a wand. Wandless magic, however…” 


“Like apparating.” Cassie understood, recalling the uncomfortable sensation of side-along apparition when they’d caught her. 


“Exactly. Magic doesn’t necessarily require a wand. The wand, and it’s components, merely focus the magical power, enhancing it and enabling it to be manifested with more control. It also relies largely on the trust the witch or wizard has in their own abilities. For example, you’re much more confident casting a spell with your own wand than another -” 


“Here we go. You’ve got her started on her favourite topic now.” Ron was looking at his wife with a bemused expression, “I don’t try to get my head around it -” 


“Which is why you’re not progressing with wandless magic.” Hermione informed him, sharply. 


“No one is.” Ron said, unaffected, “Even you haven’t really -” 


“Ron.” Ginny scolded her brother, “Hermione’s been amazing. If wizarding academics heard of what she’s achieved over the last three years she’s be bloody worshipped.” 


“Yes, well.” Hermione flushed, “That’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve been living out here, creating a bit of a community of our own and I’ve been getting hold of all the books I can, studying and researching…” 


“It’s like her heaven.” said Ron. 


“But you’re not just going to stay out here? Surely you have some sort of a plan?” Cassie said, dubiously. 


“Ideally, yes, we’d obviously like to rejoin civilisation. Cole has to be stopped, it’s ludicrous. It’s just… difficult.” 


“Without magic.” Cassie nodded. 


“Yes.” Hermione smiled, “You see our problem.” 


“So…” 


“Oh, we’re not just sat here on our arses all day,” Ron clarified, “A few of us are devising a few things, possibilities -” 


“All very hushed up and top secret,” Ginny rolled her eyes, “They like to think they’re frightfully important.” 


“And then Hermione’s working on her wandless bit and trying to teach the kids. Think’s their bad habits won’t be as ingrained as ours. It involves a lot of theory, hence my lack of enthusiasm. A lot of our time went into getting Albus out. But now, obviously, job done. And the rest, well, just getting by really. There’s never a moment when there’s nothing to do. Always busy, without magic.” Ron finished up with a shrug and a nod. 


Cassie noted a part of his speech, something that she and the whole of the wizarding world had been questioning for three years. “Why did you have to get Al out?” She asked, “Why did you leave him behind in the first place?” 


Before, she’d considered all sorts of negative explanations. From what she’d heard of the Potters she’d thought it couldn’t be good. All the tales about Harry Potter being deranged and not caring about his children… But now she was here, it all seemed so blatantly untrue. They loved each other a lot. All of them. 


“Cole.” Harry offered as an explanation. “He got wind of our plans to leave. We weren’t as smooth as we should have been. We had to get out quick - you probably heard that the kids all got on the Hogwarts Express as usual. It was a good plan. It should have lulled him into a false sense of security. But it didn’t. He was suspicious. Got hold of whoever he could, which turned out to be Al. The poor kid didn’t know what was going on. We didn’t tell any of them, trying to keep it on the low down.” 


“So you just went without him.” Cassie said. 


“We had to. You might not remember how bad it was at that time, you must only have been fourteen or so. We were wanted, by that point. Wizengamot, Azkaban, who knows. We had to. We just… we didn’t think it would be that hard getting him out. Not three years hard, anyway.” 


Cassie swallowed. She couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for Albus, suddenly finding out his family had disappeared. She found herself wishing she’d known him then, so that she could have been there for him. 


And maybe she could have done with having someone there for her too, that year. At Christmas, when… 


“What about Ryan?” She asked, abruptly, slightly shocked at herself that she hadn’t thought to ask earlier. She blamed it on the overwhelming overload of information. “Why did you…” She turned to her brother, “Did you? What… Why are you here?” 


“I didn’t run off,” Ryan said, “Don’t be.. don't bne stupid. I wouldn’t leave you.” 


Cassie suddenly felt as thought a great weight, that she hadn’t even been aware of, was lifted. She realised she’d been carrying around the worry that Ryan had run away - that he’d wanted to leave - for the last three years. It made a difference - the knowledge that he hadn’t meant to leave her. She felt as though she could breathe easier, somehow. 


“We… didn’t mean Ryan to get involved,” Harry said, looking a little uncomfortable. Cassie didn’t miss the way his eyes flicked to the others, “He just sort of… was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In an attempt to get Al, we ended up with Ryan. We didn’t mean it to happen, but by the time it happened we couldn’t leave him behind. Cole knew he was involved, he wouldn’t have left him alone.” 


“I was in detention.” Ryan explained, “On the last day of term. Remember? Because Artie Miller dared me to set off those dung bombs in Buchanan’s lesson. Al was meant to be in detention but he didn’t turn up. I don’t really remember what happened. Cole came bursting in before I knew what was happening and I was knocked out. Woke up here.” 


“We’re sorry, Cassie.” Hermione said, gently, “We never meant to take your brother away from you. I can only imagine what you went through.” 


Cassie’s head was spinning a little. After so long going over it, over and over again, in her head, she finally had some answers. It all seemed so simple. It could have happened to anyone. 


“I wanted to come back and get you,” Ryan said, “But we couldn’t. It was too dangerous after that first time. They wouldn’t even let me write to you when they were writing to Al. But I wanted to. Every day.” 


Cassie squeezed his shoulder, “I know.” She shut her eyes, feeling all of a sudden exhausted. And so she should. It was the middle of the night, and she’d been flying all day. Wow. Flying all day. That too seemed a long, long time ago. 


“You must be absolutely shattered,” Ginny noticed her stifling a yawn, “You’ve got a lot to take in. She needs sleep,” She turned to Hermione, “Can we make up an extra bed in the girls tent -” 


“Al.” Cassie opened her eyes, “I need to see Al. Please.” 


“He was asleep straight after dinner today,” Ginny said, “He was out in the fields all day, these tossers have been keeping him busy in case you turned up -” 


Because he’d have made it harder to interrogate her, Cassie thought. 


“Please?” She repeated. She looked from Ginny to Harry, willing them to understand that she just needed to see him after how worried she’d been. 


Ginny had a slight smile on her face, that Cassie couldn’t comprehend. “Sure. James, will you take her to your tent?” 


“He’ll have questions.” James pointed out, “He’s going to be pissed off that we kept it from him.” 


“Then use your winning charm,” Ginny’s voice was loaded with sarcasm. 


“Mum.” 


“He’ll be fine. You’re the moody git of the family. Besides, he’ll be preoccupied. He’s back with Cassie.” 


Cassie wasn’t sure she liked the knowing looks she was getting from Ginny and Hermione, while the men remained oblivious. She felt the need to protest. 


“Oh no, we’re just -” She began, but was cut off. 


“Alright,” James said, brusquely, “But if I have to hit him in self defence it’s your fault.” 


He strode to the entrance of the tent and held open the flap. It was pitch-black outside. Cassie was almost surprised how much time had gone by since she’d arrived - the sun had barely set surely. 


“I’ll come too, I’m beat.” Ryan said, climbing to his feet and glancing enquiringly at Hugo, who followed suit. 


“Good. Maybe he’ll take it out on you instead of me.” James said, sourly. 


Ryan ushered Cassie out of the tent ahead of him, “Chill out. You know he wouldn’t hit you.” He spoke over his shoulder to James. 


Cassie couldn’t help but agree. She couldn’t imagine Al ever hurting anyone, he didn’t seem the aggressive type. A complete contrast to his broody, hostile brother. They shared a lot of similarities in looks, with identical jaw lines and the sparkling eyes, and mannerisms with their self-assured tone of voice and frequent use of sarcasm. 


But where Al’s face was always on the edge of lapsing into his crooked grin, James’ came across as more intense. And where Al’s sarcasm was light-hearted and easy-going, James’ seemed more scathing. 


The brief moments she’d seen James lower his guard a bit, when bickering with his mother and father, she’d seen a hint of the qualities she’d become so fond of in Al. But she found it disconcerting how he could be so similar and yet so different to her friend. 


“We’ll get you a bed sorted,” Ginny called after her, “In the girls tent. Boys, one of you can show her where to go when she wants to go to sleep.” 


“It’s right next door to our tent,” Ryan told Cassie, “They’re pretty much like the dorms at school, except all us boys and in one and all the girls are in another. You’ll be sharing with Lily and Rose and Roxy and Dom and Lucy and -” 


“How many people are here?” Cassie asked, in surprise. 


“The Potter-Weasley family is kind of big.” James provided the answer from where he walked a little ahead of them. Cassie could just see his silhouette to keep from walking into him. “My Mum has five brothers, all their families are here. Plus a lot of Mum and Dad’s close friends and their families… A lot. Basically.” 


“But everyone’s really close,” Ryan assured her. “And they’re cool. You’ll like it here.” He said, grinning. 


You’ll like it here. It all sounded a little final. 


They drew to a halt besides a pretty small-looking beige canvas tent. If she squinted into the darkness Cassie could see another next to it, and a several more a little way off. 


“D’you want me to get him?” James asked, “I’m guessing you don’t want an audience for the big reunion.” 


Again, Cassie felt uncomfortable about the implication behind his words. Why did people doubt the platonic nature to their friendship? 


She ignored it and looked dubiously at the tent. It didn’t look as though it could hold more than a couple of people. 


“It’s fine.” She said, “I’ll come in.” 


James shrugged, held open the canvas flap and gestured for her to go inside. 


Once in, Cassie saw what he meant about the audience. The tent was obviously magically enhanced, and she felt stupid for not expecting it. It held about eight camp beds lined up on opposite sides, the majority occupied by sleeping teenagers. The air was warm from the sleeping bodies, and a slight scent of male sweat lingered. 


Cassie felt very intrusive being there, seeing the group boys in their various states of sleep - one boy had his mouth slack and wide open and another was drooling onto his pillow. 


A couple of them stirred as Cassie was followed into the tent by Ryan, Hugo and James. She was suddenly aware that, whilst she hadn’t been particularly imagining her reunion with Al, she certainly hadn’t anticipated an audience. 


Al was sprawled on his front in a bed at the other end of the tent. Cassie immediately felt as though another weight had been lifted - her worry over whether he was ok. He was here. Sleeping peacefully. He was fine


Cassie approached his bed quietly, trying not to wake the other boys but unable to suppress a relieved smile, so thankful that she’d made it to him. 


“Hey.” She crouched down and whispered. 


He shifted a little but didn’t open his eyes. 


Cassie put a hand on his bare back. His skin was hot from the stuffy tent and the sheet twisted around his legs and lower torso. 


Oi, Potter.” She said a little louder. 


His eyes flickered and opened. 


“Uhn.” He grunted, blinked and screwed up his eyes before opening them again and focusing. 


Cassie grinned at the confusion changing to comprehension on his face, “Oh, hi. Nice to see you too buddy.” She raised her eyebrows. 


“Cooper?” He blinked again and hoisted himself up onto his elbows. “You made it?” His voice was hoarse so he cleared his throat and laughed incredulously, “You’re here!” 


“I am.” Cassie rolled her eyes as she allowed herself to be hauled down into a hot hug, “Eew. You’re disgusting. By the way.” 


“’Nice to see you too’.” Al mimicked, letting go of her and pushing himself up into a sitting position. “Well shit! You took your time.” He rubbed his eyes. 


“Try following your prat of a friends obscure instructions and see where it gets you,” Cassie told him. 


He laughed, “I overestimated your intelligence. A mistake I won’t make again.” 


Cassie hit him playfully. The relief that he was ok was replaced by the comforting ease that their friendship had always brought her. Home, she realised. She’d come to associate him with a feeling of being home. 


“So… what… when? When did you get here -” Al had almost finished his sentence when he looked over Cassie’s shoulder. He stopped and she could see in his face the uncertainty as he saw Ryan, Hugo and James. He swallowed and asked again in a voice that was just that little bit too calm. “James. When did she get here?” 


“Don’t blame me, little bro.” James kicked off his shoes, pulled his sweatshirt over his head and climbed into his bed. 


“James.” 


“I didn’t know either,” Ryan spoke up from his own bed, the other side of James’. “It was a few hours ago. But they suspected she’d be coming. They just didn’t tell us because they thought we’d get in the way.” 


There was a beat of silence as Al processed it. Cassie was still crouched beside him and bit her lip as his eyebrows drew together. 


“What the hell, James.” His teeth were gritted. Cassie’s stomach clenched as, just as she’d seen a little bit of Al in James earlier, she saw a flash of the hostile elder brother in her friend. 


“I said don’t blame me.” James said, lying flat on his back. 


“I told you she’d be coming, you said she wouldn’t be able to. What, so you could go and watch out for her without me? Why would you…” Al stopped and looked down at Cassie, “Are you ok?” 


“Relax, she’s not damaged,” James stretched out his arms in front of him, laced his fingers and popped his joints before rolling over onto his side away from Al and Cassie. “We were perfect gentlemen.” 


Cassie saw Al bristle a little and put her hand on his knee, the only part of him she could reach. “Hey. It’s fine.” She said, a little anxious at this side of him. 


“Hit me if you want.” James said over his shoulder, “But I have permission to hit you back, so your choice.” 


With the taunt, Al seemed to relaxed back into himself, “Night, James.” He said, evenly, before shifting over and patting the bed besides him. “Get off the floor, moron.” He said to Cassie. 


She smiled, glad that the brief anger was gone but still a little worried. 


“You ok?” She asked, tentatively. 


“Fine.” He assured her, “They should have told me. But fine. They were… They weren’t pricks to you were they?” 


“No. Just looking out for you. And the whole family.” 


He smiled, “How amazing is this place? It’s crazy. I never would have thought…” 


“I haven’t really had the chance to see it. Just had the intro chat, you know…” 


He chuckled, “I’ll have to show you around tomorrow. It’s just… it’s just crazy. I still can’t believe I’m really here, let alone you. Youre here.” 


“I can’t believe any of it.” Cassie said, “You here, me, Ryan…” 


She looked over at Ryan, climbing into bed and immediately felt guilty for allowing her attention to be diverted for a moment. She felt like she could just watch her brother forever, just proving to herself that he was here and he was ok. 


“I know. That I really couldn’t believe.” Said Al, “It just seems too much of a coincidence, doesn’t it?” 


“But it’s real,” Cassie said, half to herself to convince herself that this wasn’t just a dream and she wasn’t just going to wake up tomorrow in her dorm with Freya, Nina and Juliet. 


Ryan looked over as he pulled his sheets up. 


“Night, buddy.” Al called. 


“I’m… uh, supposed to show Cassie her bed in the girls tent…” Ryan said. 


“I got it.” Al said, then he looked at Cassie and added, “Unless you want Ryan to show you now…” 


“No, no.” Cassie shook her head, “He looks exhausted.” 


“Yep. Been out in the fields with me. It’s been a long day.” 


Cassie got up quickly from the bed and made her way over to Ryan’s. She pulled him into a tight hug. 


“Ow.” He said, good-naturedly, before squeezing her right back. 


“I can’t believe you’re really here.” Cassie whispered, still holding him tightly. 


“I can’t believe you’re here. I’ve missed you, Cass.” He said, before sitting back.
Cassie took in his mop of sandy hair, the grey blue eyes and the same old smile. “I’ve missed you so, so much.” 


“Everything’s alright now,” He said, settling down into his bed, “You’re here. Everything’s going to be ok. And I’ll see you in the morning.” 


See you in the morning. Those simple words meant so much. 


“Night, Ryan.” She kissed his head and smiled as his eyes flickered shut. He truly was exhausted. 


“He’s a cool kid.” Al said, as she made her way back over to him. He’d forgone his efforts to sit up and was sprawled back on his stomach. Cassie lay down beside him on her back, looking up at the beige canvas ceiling. 


She smiled. She'd never have expected this, back at school. Al and Ryan, both here. It was as if she hadn't thought they could exist at the same time. And here they were. Al thought Ryan was a 'cool kid'. That phrase meant more to her than she could say. 


"I know." She said. 


For a moment they lay in silence. 


"I'm really sorry." Al was the one to break it. 


"What?" Cassie was thrown. She was unable to recall any reason he'd have to apologize; she was still caught up by the relief to be here. That he and Ryan were both here. And ok. 


"For everything at school. For ignoring you. But I couldn't... I shouldn't have gotten you involved in the first place; it was my fault. Then Buchanan... he... well, I got the impression that the longer you were associated with me, the worse it'd be for you."


It made sense. "I know." Cassie rested her cheek against his arm. "I kind of guessed it would be something like that. But not before I freaked out for eleven bloody days, you absolute git -"


"Yeah, I got that." He grinned, "You know, if looks could kill..." Then he dropped the smile. "I couldn't do it, anyway. Surprised I lasted eleven days on my own. It's harder. Once you've... you know. Had someone..." 


"Yeah." She did know. Everything had seemed so much more difficult when she'd though she'd lost him. Harder than before she'd known him. 


"And I couldn't go. Not without you." 


She didn't know what she'd have done if she'd known he'd just disappeared without her. With no way of following him. Knowing that he hadn't even tried... She couldn't imagine the loss... Except she could. When she'd had to face the possibility that Ryan had done just that. 


She couldn't have gone through that again.


They were quiet for a long time. With the warm pressure of Al's arm against her face, and the peaceful sound of bodies sleeping, Cassie fnally felt relaxed. Not just after her four days in the wild. Not just after Al's disappearance. This was the most relaxed she'd felt for a long, long time.


“I can’t believe it.” She felt like it was about the hundredth time she'd said it. 


“I know. It’s like we’re finally free, you know?” 


“Mmm.” Cassie closed her eyes, but by just that tiny movement, she felt the shift of the chain around her neck. 


No, she didn’t know. Not really. 


She felt relieved, sure. Unbelievably relieved to be here with Ryan, with Al… knowing that they were both ok. 


But free… 


Not while she still had this choice to make. 


Not while she had this chain around her neck. 












A.N. Hey! Again I'm sorry this was a pretty abrupt stop but again, it was intended to be part of a larger chapter that I had to split up because it just worked better this way... Sorry if you didn't like it!

Anyway. A little more explanation, but is she getting the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
The return of a (sleepy) Al. And a bit of Al and James brotherly interaction - was it what you expected? 
And the little issue of Cassie's choice. The chain. Should she be worried about the Potters still, or Cole now?

Anyway. This chapter isn't a fave so I don't blame you if you're not keen but it has some important stuff in it!

Please leave a review! Thank you!
Rx.


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