If Cassie thought back to just a month ago, opening that clasp and setting off the tracker had been her first priority.
Strange how a month can flip things on their head.
“We have to get back.” Her heart was hammering somewhere in the region of her throat. She was finding it difficult to breath as she threw herself from the stream and jumped to her feet.
Al blocked her path. “Wait. What’s going on? What the hell has got you so -”
“There’s no time.” Cassie pushed him impatiently aside and hurtled through the forest, her voice fraught. “We have to -”
She’d barely taken ten strides before her blood ran ice cold and she stopped dead. Al, not ready for the pause, collided heavily with her back. He gripped her arm to keep her upright and she felt his nails dig into her skin as the first scream ripped through the air.
“What the… who…” Comprehension of the gravity of the situation appeared on his face as it drained in colour. “That was Roxy. Cooper what’s -”
Cassie tore her arm from his grip and took off again. She didn’t know what she planned on doing once she reached the camp - her wand had been stashed away beneath her bed for four weeks - but she had no other motive other than to follow the screams, the yells, the raised voices.
When she neared the clearing edge, Cassie could smell smoke. She couldn’t see it through the last scrubs and trees but it made her feel physically nauseous. Not only because of the potential danger of fire for the people, but for their home.
Before Cassie could throw herself past the last trees she felt a strong arm flung around her waist, dragging her forcefully to the floor. She landed heavily onto her forearms, the pine needles that littered the floor sharp against her skin.
“What are you doing -” She began to demand of Al before he clamped a hand roughly over her mouth. He gestured firmly with his free hand to his closed lips and nodded towards a thick bush. Then he slowly let go of her mouth to crawl towards it. Cassie understood and followed him in silence, even though she itched to race into camp.
It felt surreal. She couldn’t believe that this, that had haunted her nightmares, was actually happening. And it was all her fault.
“They’ve found us, haven’t they.” Al whispered as he pulled aside a few branches to peer through them. After staring for a few seconds he swore under his breath, “I can’t see anything. I can‘t see anyone. Maybe they‘ve got away, they could have apparated… but what if someone‘s still here, what if they‘re… How did they find us?”
“This is all my fault.” Tears formed, but Cassie wasn’t sure if they were from anger, guilt, stress or sadness. It still didn’t seem real.
“Don’t be stupid.” Even now Al didn’t get it. “Don’t say that… Coop we‘ve got to get out of here. Hold on to me -”
“But it is,” How could he not see it, even now? Was it that he didn’t want to? “Al, I’m so, so sorry -”
“No. You’re not… this isn’t your -”
Another piercing scream made Al stop dead in the middle of his sentence.
“My Mum.” His face was stricken. In one fluid movement he’d backed out of the bushes and was on his feet.
“Al, wait. Be careful, you -” Cassie scrambled out of the bush on her hands and knees, ignoring the scraping of twigs and pine needles on her palms, then froze.
Al too was stood stock still, his arms half raised and his palms held out flat as if to prove he had no wand. No weapon. No way out.
They were surrounded.
Cassie quickly counted at least eight wands raised and pointed in their direction, forming a half circle around them, cut off by the bushes on one side.
“Mr Potter,” The familiar, nasal voice made Cassie jump. She hadn’t recognised him. “It’s been too long.”
“Buchanan.” Al replied, easily. Cassie marvelled that he had not even a hint of nerves in his voice. “I wish I could agree but to be honest, I could’ve had longer.”
Professor Buchanan held Albus’ steady stare long enough to convey his superiority, but Al didn’t blink. Then he transferred his beady stare onto Cassie, who had to fight an instinct to shy away. No. If Al could be strong, so could she.
Cassie tried to spot an escape without moving her head. Nothing. There was no way out. Not for her, anyway. But Al… Al could apparate. He could get away. Why wasn’t he?
“Miss Cooper,” In the instant he said her name, Cassie knew that whatever he said next would bring her whole world crashing down around her. Al may have been too trusting of her thus far, but she could just feel that Buchanan was going to paint him a very clear picture. “I can’t say I fully understand the delay, but a job well done, nonetheless.”
For about five whole seconds all Cassie could hear was her pulse, deafeningly loudly in her ears. She watched in agony as understanding dawned on Al’s face, and that betrayed look she’d so dreaded formed.
“Al.” Cassie implored, “Al, listen, you know I didn’t mean to. You… I promise I never wanted to -”
“Where are my family?” Al turned away from Cassie. She thought it hurt almost physically.
Buchanan hesitated for a fraction of a second too long, causing Cassie a small relief. They’d gotten away. They must have. Except they’d heard Ginny…
Al reached the same conclusion at the same time as Cassie. Only, instead of relaxing a little in relief, he jumped into action. Dropping his defensive stance he darted towards Cassie but a quickly formed shield charm deflected him.
“No!” Cassie cried as he was thrown back, staggering like he’d been hit in the face but remaining on his feet, “Go! Al, apparate. You can -”
“Not without you -” He made another effort toward her but he stood no chance. Not without a wand to defend himself. Before he could even finish his sentence he was silenced. Stunned to the head and slumped limply to the floor.
Cassie stifled her scream with her hands. Having lived peacefully in the camp and seeing no magic and no real, malicious violence like this for so long, it shocked her to watch Al’s body hit the floor.
The surrounding wizards weren’t fazed in the slightest.
“Take him” Buchanan motioned to Al’s body with a flick of his wrist.
Cassie still had her hands clamped over her face. This was real. It had happened. They’d be caught. She’d betrayed them. Al…
He was alive, at least. But he most likely hated her.
But why did he not just apparate? He’d had the chance to just escape and he hadn’t.
Because he knew she couldn’t. Because he wouldn’t leave her. Even after she betrayed him so fully, he wouldn’t abandon her. That was what made her guilt all the more painful.
“Miss Cooper,” Professor Buchanan, “I am to take you back to the Headmasters office immediately -”
“What will they do?” Cassie had to tear her eyes away from where one of the other attackers had conjured some sort of invisible rope to hold Al up with, levitating him in front of him with his wand. “What’s going to happen to him?”
“You have nothing to worry about. Potter won‘t be harmed. And you‘re safe now, a job well done…”
Cassie didn’t react to the words.
What made her feel all the more sickened was that Buchanan assumed she was the good little traitor she was supposed to be. She assumed she was the one lying to her best friend.
Her mind was spinning and grasping at straws but she thought… she thought maybe if she went along with this, there may be some way out. She just needed her thoughts to slow down so she could make sense of them.
“Fine. Fine, of course,” She shook her head, “I’ll speak with Professor Cole immediately. I have… I have much to report to him.” She hated herself saying the words, no matter how wholeheartedly insincere they were.
Professor Buchanan held out a palm towards her, presumably for side-along-apparition. Cassie stared for a second. If she took that hand she’d be back at Hogsmeade in an instant. Back at the castle in less than ten minutes. Once she was there… no matter how much she told herself she wouldn’t tell Cole anything, she knew now that he had his own methods. An eerie, smoke figure with Albus’ vivid eyes formed in her mind, making her shiver violently.
Every single one of the memories she’d made in this month would be his to view at his leisure. She thought of Cole scanning through her memories of all the little family moments, of being reunited with Al, of Roxy’s birthday… all the private, personal little moments that weren’t his to see.
She couldn’t allow that.
Halfway through extending her arm towards Buchanan, Cassie drew it back. “Wait,” She said, plucking at her sodden, filthy jeans, “May I just change? I’ll… I’ll be quick, I promise.”
“The Headmaster is waiting,” Buchanan frowned, but eyed her jeans in distaste. For a couple of seconds he looked at her up and down, as if sizing up whether she could be trusted, “Fine. Be quick. I’ll accompany you.”
He prodded her in the back with his hand, towards the camp.
Cassie pushed through the last few bushes and trees to reach the campsite. She stopped dead at the sight of it.
Some of the outer tents had been crushed. Thankfully, as far as she could see, it was just two of the storage tents and one small one… she shivered at the thought of how, if it were any time but dinner time, there could have been people in it. The campfire looked as though it had been kicked apart, ashes and slightly glowing branches scatted across the middle of the clearing, still smoking gently. The log benches were rolled backward and overturned, plates of food abandoned around them.
Cassie could imagine the panic as hooded strangers appeared from nowhere. If she’d been there, she truly didn’t know how she’d have reacted. It appeared that everyone had had the sense to apparate away, even in their fright. She wasn’t sure that she could have done that, even if she could apparate.
And where would they have all gone? It was all very well to apparate away - to escape - but where? They’d all be scattered; alone. What about Roxy, Cassie thought. She’d heard the little girl scream, had that been in fear of the attack or of having to escape alone?
Cassie picked her way across the debris littering the camp and paused in front of the girls tent. Was Buchanan going to follow her in? She racked her brains quickly for an excuse to prevent him doing so.
“You’ll wait for me?” Cassie asked, slightly surprised at how composed her voice could sound when she was fretting so much on the inside. “I’ll need to… you’ll have to take me to the Headmaster by side-along-apparition. I can’t apparate.”
It wasn’t a lie. She wished it was.
“Of course,” Buchanan nodded. He appeared as though he was going to follow her in but Cassie pulled a sheepish face.
“I’ve got to change,” She said, apologetically, plucking at her sodden, filthy clothes.
Buchanan cleared his throat uncomfortably but impatiently, “Yes, yes. Of course. Be quick.”
Cassie ducked into the cool, darkness of the tent thankfully and immediately sank onto the nearest bed with her head in her hands.
Oh God. This was bad. She still couldn’t fully get her head around it.
The necklace. This was her fault. It was over, this freedom and safety that this family had here. Over. Because of her.
They were gone. Al was caught. Al was hurt. Her fault. If only she could apparate, they could have escaped together. Well, not together - who knows where they’d have ended up - but this whole mess might be just a little bit clearer.
Why did she have to be so pathetic? The whole family could apparate. Al could do it and he’d only been here a couple of weeks longer than her. Roxy could do it and she was eleven!
Cassie stood up. She had to try. If she’d ever had reason to do it, this was it. Right? You just picture where you want to be, Al had said. Just picture it, and sort of… I don’t know. You can just see yourself there. You just think, I can do this. And you’re there.
Cassie tried. She tried harder than she ever had before. She pictured it so clearly. The first place that popped into her head. That potato plot they’d worked on a few days previously. The one in Suffolk. She could make it there, she could see herself there...
She wanted to scream in frustration.
“Miss Cooper?” Buchanan called, impatiently. Cassie could see his outline through the fabric of the tent.
“Just a second.” Cassie called.
What could she do? What could she do but follow him? She paced back and forth across the tent. There had to be something. Anything. Maybe she could just make a run for it… she’d probably get nowhere but at least she’d have tried -
For one, ridiculous second, Cassie thought she’d accidentally done it. Apparated. Then her thoughts cleared and she could recognise that that was stupid. She hadn’t even been trying. If she couldn’t do it when she was trying then of course she could do it if she wasn’t…
She didn’t have time to make any more guesses before the tent flap was yanked aside - Buchanan had heard the sound as well - and a stream of light flooded into the tent. It was barely even a second of light. Cassie saw it hit the beds before her, the dusty, gritty floor and just a glimpse of a golden arm…
She hadn’t properly processed everything that was happening before the arm was thrown around her neck and another across her chest, gripping her upper arm tightly and all she was aware of was the pressure before -
The light, and the pressure, were gone.
A wave of dizziness made Cassie’s head swim, and her release threw her off balance. She staggered slightly before lurching too far for her legs to keep up and hit the floor with a jolt. She couldn’t tell if she’d hit her head or not… when she tried to focus she could see nothing in the darkness, she wasn’t sure if she could even hear anything through the hollow howling in her ears… she couldn’t breathe. She was coughing -
“Where’s my brother?”
Cassie wasn’t sure if the voice was in her head or not. Then it repeated itself, louder.
“Where’s my brother?”
She hadn’t yet recovered her breath enough to respond. She wasn’t thinking straight yet; still sick from the dizziness, still couldn’t see, still not even sure where she was or who she was with -
“Where is he?” Without warning, two hands came from nowhere in the darkness, gripping her arms hard enough to hurt, shaking her. “Did he get away? Did he apparate? Where is he?”
Cassie’s head still hurt. She became aware that this was James - the one that had hated her all along. This wasn’t good. But she couldn’t think entirely straight through all the shaking.
“I’m… I’m sorry…” She managed to choke out, in a voice she barely recognised as her own. Her own hands covered the ones clenching her arms in a feeble attempt to get them off and to stop the rough shaking. She struggled further to regain her breath. She realised she was crying. “I’m sorry…”
In an instant she was released. The shock of it made her hit the floor again, sitting down with a hard thud. Her hands were shaking of their own accord now.
“They got him. Didn’t they.” James’ short words weren’t phrased as a question. Cassie concentrated on stifling any stray sobs rather than answering.
For what seemed like a long time - it could have been a minute or it could have been several, it could have been an hour; Cassie had no way of knowing - they sat in silence. As time passed Cassie’s breathing became more even, though never entirely normal, and her eyes grew accustomed to the darkness. She could still barely make out any of their surroundings - it seemed like just rough rock, like some sort of a cave - but the hunched figure sitting as far away as he could from her, his hands locked tightly in his hair, became clearer by the second.
Cassie sat as still as she could, afraid that any slight shift would set him off again, but he made no movement at all. But she could hear that his breathing was as laboured as her own. She wondered if the cause of his was panic, like hers, or anger. She hoped it was panic but felt she deserved the anger.
Where was her own brother? Where was Ryan? She knew he surely must have escaped, along with the rest of the family. He and James were so close that, despite his loathing for her, the elder Potter would surely have said something if Ryan had been caught. He knew exactly how it felt to lose a brother.
She wondered where she was. It wasn’t anywhere she recognised. It scared her a little that James had the power to just take her anywhere he wanted, anywhere in his head that she never even knew existed. She wondered if he would leave her here alone. She wondered where the rest of the family were. How would they find one another? What would they do? How would they survive, let alone save Al?
It didn’t seem that James had any sort of a plan. Even an idea. Or if he did, he wasn’t putting it into motion any time soon. He just sat there, in that same hunched position in the corner, his fingers entwined so tightly in his hair that they surely must hurt. But he didn’t say a word. Didn’t move.
“Where are we?” Cassie whispered, after a long period of silence.
James shifted for the first time. He pulled his hands from his hair, ruffling it up just the way Al always did, and chewed on a thumbnail. For an instant Cassie yearned to slap his hand from his mouth, just the way she always did when Al bit his nails. But the second passed and it seemed ridiculous to have even crossed her mind. This was James. Not Al. They may share mannerisms but their hearts were nothing alike.
She thought he might not answer. Then he let out a sharp sigh, “I don’t even know if I should tell you that.”
Cassie swallowed. It sounded loud to her, in the silent cave. She wondered if he heard it. “I’m sorry,” She said, helplessly, “I never meant to… I didn’t want - I didn’t… know this was going to happen.”
“What did you do?” The low, toneless voice scared her more than it would if he hadn’t bothered to conceal his rage.
Cassie could feel her breathing wobbling again. Just the thought of her betrayal was enough to put her on the verge of tears, she couldn’t put it into words…
“What did you do?” James’ teeth were gritted. He wasn’t looking at her.
“The necklace,” Cassie whispered. When James didn’t make a sound she found that the story poured out of her, in clusters of words that probably barely made sense to him, “Cole. The… he… he took my memories. Al. The code. I couldn’t… he… I thought... He said you were bad. I thought they were hurt. Ryan. Al and Ryan. I was wrong. It was wrong. It wasn’t… I didn’t want to… It was an accident, I -”
“He was tracking you all along.” James said, in the same toneless voice. Cassie had no idea how he understood at once from her ramblings. “You just had to set it off. That’s why you were… in the Quidditch match. It was always the necklace. That’s why you wouldn’t take it off -”
“I didn’t want to.” Cassie hated hearing her broken voice, “Honestly, I didn’t want to set it off, I swear. I knew… I know now you’re not… I didn’t… I’m sorry.”
“Then why wouldn’t you say something?” An edge of frustration entered his voice.
“I tried! I was scared, I thought… I tried to tell Al but -”
“But my idiot of a brother would never hear a bad word about you.” James supplied, grimly.
“I’m sorry.” Cassie whispered once more. The words sounded futile to her own ears now.
There was another period of silence. Cassie didn’t dare break it in fear that this slightly composed James would give way to the aggressive, angry one again. It wasn’t that he was being understanding, not at all. She could practically feel the resentment and hostility emanating from him, but he believed her. She couldn’t possibly have hoped for that. He believed that she didn’t want to betray them. He believed it was an accident.
But he still hated her.
“He didn’t used to be so gullible, you know.” His sudden, low voice made her jump.
Cassie held her breath.
“Al.” James said, as if in explanation. As if he’d be talking about anyone else. He was closely studying his hands and his eyebrows met as he frowned. “I don’t know why he trusts you so completely after everything that’s happened…”
Cassie couldn’t answer that either. She had no idea what she’d done to deserve Albus Potter’s faith and friendship. He must surely have felt the same way about her as she did of him - she’d trust him with her life.
Only he deserved that trust. She didn’t.
“He’s my best friend.” Cassie said, quietly. She knew it wasn’t a good enough explanation. Best friends don’t betray one another.
James’ snort indicated that his thoughts were along the same lines. “But I was right about you all along.”
And that was why he hated her.
Cassie shifted her weight. She was feeling cramped and bruised from the stone floor.
“What are we doing?” She changed the subject.
“Waiting.” James wasn’t becoming much more chatty.
For? Cassie wanted to ask. But she didn’t think he’d answer. And from the way he was agitatedly picking at the hem of his checked shirt she thought she knew. His family. They were waiting for his family.
“How will they know where you are?” She asked.
James glanced up from the corner of his eye, the mutinous look still evident. It was clear he was calculating how much he could tell her. How much he trusted her, or even if he didn’t, how much wouldn’t matter.
“They might have trusted you,” He said, looking back down, “But we always had a back up.” When Cassie didn’t comprehend he continued, “Got about twenty of these safe spots around the country. Had to be a lot so that if they caught someone as they apparated they wouldn’t find us all. No one even knows them all. No one apart from my Dad. He goes to the first one. Rounds everyone up and brings them here. The last one.”
Cassie had never been told this ‘back up’ plan. She couldn’t help but wonder… Al…
“He was meant to be here.” James confirmed her theory.
Cassie hadn’t noticed that she’d started to feel slightly better - the guilt wasn’t making her nauseous anymore - until she felt awful all over again.
“He wouldn’t apparate,” She said, “I told him to go -”
“That’s Al,” James said, humourlessly, “Couldn’t be more like Dad if he tried. Noble little hero…”
Cassie noted the mocking tone but it didn’t sound completely scathing. Even James must recognise what a good person his brother is.
“Then what?” She asked, “We wait. Then what?”
He didn’t answer.
“Then what?” She repeated.
James looked back up for a moment, it was almost as if he were trying to figure her out, before answering with a shrug. “Then… I don’t know.” It was the most light-hearted she’d heard him sound. As if he found it funny but the desperation of the situation wouldn’t permit him to laugh.
“We have to save Al.” Cassie said, a little concerned about this new attitude.
“Yeah.” He sounded calm. A little too calm.
She should have realised. “What are we -”
Should have realised he was about to snap.
“I don’t know.” He said, hotly. His eyes seemed to glower at her through the darkness. None of their usual cool colour, just dark and searing. “I don’t know what to do. I’m not going to be the one to come up with the plan, I can’t do that. Leave that to my Dad, leave that to Al. They’re the ones with the big ideas. I’m the one that gets the practical stuff sorted along the way. I’m the one that holds it together. I’m not -” He held her gaze for a long second before dropping it, “- the one with the plan.”
Through that small explosion, Cassie had held her breath. Now she didn’t dare let it out.
She wished she knew how long it had been. Their interactions had been short and abrupt, but they were pierced with long, aching silences. She had no idea.
But still, it felt like days on end had passed by the time the air, thick with silence, was broken by a deafening CRACK.
The first one seemed the loudest. It made Cassie leap up from her seat on the rough floor, and she saw James spring to his feet in the same instant. The following sounds of apparition didn’t startle her so much, on the contrary. With each sound - the second, the fifth, the tenth, the twentieth - as the cave filled, Cassie was filled with relief.
She sank back down onto the floor, her knees simply giving way beneath her. She didn’t know whether to embrace the relief and the brief happiness that came with knowing that the family were here and well, or to stifle that gut feeling of guilt and apprehension that she was going to have to explain herself all over again.
Her head jerked up at the sound of her brothers voice. She searched through the taut, worried faces for his usual bright, wicked grin… But it wasn’t there.
He was there. The mop of sandy hair. The tan skin. The wide, childlike eyes in his strangely grown up face. But the essence of Ryan, the cheeky grin…
“Ryan.” All Cassie could say was his name as he crouched down to her level and threw his arms around her.
“You could have been dead.” His voice was severe, but muffled by her hair and damp clothes. “I didn’t know where you were, I didn’t know -”
“I know,” Cassie clung to him, “I know.”
“Something bad’s happened, Cass,” Ryan said, seriously, “They found us. I don’t know how, but -”
“I do.” Cassie pulled away from him, “Listen, Ryan, I have to -” She had to tell her brother this. He had to hear it from her. But before she could form the words a louder, more loaded voice caught her attention.
The low hum of low talking and murmuring in the cave seemed to die out. Cassie rose to her feet and felt Ryan do the same, still holding onto her hand. There was a small space around James, as if his family were suddenly… not necessarily afraid to be near him, as they were crowded around him, and hands were being reached toward him in comfort. It were more as if they wanted to reassure him but couldn’t. Cassie wondered briefly if it were the same as how she’d felt earlier, not wanting to even breathe too loudly wary of unsettling him.
“Where’s Mum?” He repeated, clearly.
Cassie saw Lily clinging onto her fathers hand, looking apprehensively between her brother and father.
Her mute father. Harry Potter appeared unable to speak - his face tense and white.
“Dad.” James’ voice was strained now. Cassie felt as if she should look away, as if she were intruding on something personal.
The look Harry Potter shared with his son conveyed the pain he was in, even without speaking.
“They got her, James.” Lily didn’t have the same trouble speaking, but her words wobbled and tears spilled from her eyes quietly. With a muscle jumping in his jaw, Harry pulled his daughter closer and let her cry into his chest, while James seemed to stare past his father at the wall beyond, his expression still furious. Cassie got the impression that it was easier for him to express this anger than the dismay he actually felt.
“Al too.” James’ said, in a low, hoarse voice. His father nodded as if it were confirmation of what he already suspected and closed his eyes for a moment.
Seeing their despair, Cassie squeezed Ryan’s hand tightly, indescribably grateful that he was ok. That she, at least, didn’t have to go through that fear twice.
But at the same time, she too was affected by the absence of both her best friend and his mother. If they were here, the atmosphere would almost certainly be brighter. Not just because it would remove the misery, but the two of them were alike in the way that they both possessed the ability to adapt easily to any situation, no matter how bleak, and put the people around them at ease. Most likely with an immature joke or dig, true, but it worked. While Al appeared to have inherited the ‘hero’ tendencies from his father; this, he got from his mother.
James recovered the ability to speak first, “Dad, we have to… you know what they’ll… we don’t have much time -”
His father blinked slowly, then cleared his throat. “I know. But we can’t… we can’t just go barrelling in there and attack or… they’ll be expecting us. We need to think this through, let’s just… Ron, Hermione -”
“No.” Cassie wasn’t aware that she was planning on interrupting, the word just seemed to leap from her mouth before she could monitor it. Everybody turned to stare at her but as she said it, she was sure she was right.
“No. You can’t…” Cassie recalled James’ words from… she didn’t even know how long it had been.
I’m not going to be the one to come up with the plan, I can’t do that. Leave that to my Dad, leave that to Al. They’re the ones with the big ideas…
“You can’t come up with something. I… I know Cole.” She could tell that they didn’t like that. Well, she hated saying it too. “At least, I think I know what he’ll do. He’ll do what he did with me. He…he took my memories. That’s how he… that’s how he knew how to manipulate me and that’s how they found us. I’m so… I’m so, so sorry. I never meant for this to happen.” Tears filled Cassie’s eyes and she was surprised she even had anything left to cry.
She braced herself for the onslaught, the accusations of betrayal, the disappointment… but when she opened her eyes she saw what she hadn’t expected. Pity. Pity and… something else.
“Cassie,” Hermione said, gently, “You should have told us. We would have understood -”
“I know.” Cassie couldn’t bear to hear it again. “I know it was wrong and stupid and I was pathetic to let myself be taken in by everything he said. And you all have the right to hate me but first please -”
“What did you mean?” Harry cut her off in her plea, the first to realise that there was something more to her confession, “What did you mean, ‘you can’t come up with something’?”
“I mean you.” Cassie was relieved that, though she couldn’t be sure of her fate after this, they were letting her have her attempt at helping. That was all she wanted. “You’re always the one with the plan,” She looked at James for confirmation. His expression was unreadable so she continued, “But Ginny… but your wife knows that. And she knows you. She knows how you’ll think and what’s you’re most likely to do,” Cassie looked in turn to the other likely adults, “And she knows you,” She looked at Ron, “And you,” She looked at Hermione, “She knows what you’d plan and they can take that from her. They can take her memories just like they did from me and they can work out what you’re going to do,”
There was a silence after her speech as if she hadn’t quite finished, though there was nothing more she could put into words after spilling all that out in a rush, “So you just… you have to be careful,” She added, lamely, into the silence, “Be careful and don’t do what you would do. If that makes any sense.”
Again there was a long period of silence, but Cassie didn’t try this time to fill it. She was determinedly just looking at Harry, she didn’t think she could take seeing anymore betrayed expressions. His strained, contemplative one was enough.
“You’re right,” He said, half to himself. Then he looked at his son, “She’s right.” He said to James. Then he snapped back to Cassie, “Cole’s using Legilimency?”
Cassie didn’t recognise the word. “Um…”
“Tell me what he did.”
“I don’t… I didn’t know. I didn’t know when he did the spell or the… I don’t know how it’s done. But then after he’d taken them he showed them back to me -” The word came to her, “- In a pensieve. He can see it all. He saw me… Al talking to me… telling me…” She couldn’t go on.
But Harry’s attention was back to the others, “So much for ‘no advanced magic’.” He said to Ron and Hermione.
“We suspected this,” Hermione said, practically, “We suspected he wouldn’t play by his own rules…”
“He won’t get anything out of Ginny.” Ron said, confidently, while the red heads of his brothers nodded in agreement, “She’s a tough little brat, she can hold her own -”
“It’s not about being tough,” Hermione reminded him, quickly, with a sideways glance at Harry.
“No, he’s right,” Harry was too absorbed in his thoughts to take offence, “She’d never let anyone see anything she didn’t want them to. She’ll be a good occlumens…”
“Al…” James supplied, half as a question.
The family exchanged glances. “I don’t… know.” It clearly caused Harry difficulty to acknowledge that he didn’t really know his own son. At least, not the man he’d grown up to be. After all, it had been three years.
It seemed Al was the perfect split between his parents. Who would he take after in this respect?
Cassie realised they were looking at her. “What?” She asked, alarmed. They wanted her help, she realised. Of course, she’d give it without question. But… they really wanted it? After all the trouble she’d caused?
“We need your help, kiddo.” Ron said, with only minimal difficulty. Cassie was surprised. It would usually be his much more gentle-natured wife assuring her. But he continued, “Alright, you’ve done wrong. We know that, you know that. But you’ve figured this much out, you’ve obviously got some sort of a brain about you. And you’re sorry. And you’ve got enough guts to stand up in front of everyone you’ve wronged and say it, and try and help out anyway. I think - ” He looked around to see if he got general approval, “- I think it’s obvious you care about my nephew, and this is what’s going to help him. We need you. And we need to know if we can trust you.”
Cassie was thrown by the whole thing. She’d fully expected to have been exiled or worse. But here she was, being… forgiven? She supposed that the desperation in the situation… and in them and in her… made things all a bit clearer.
“I want… I want to help.” Cassie said, quietly, “I want to help everybody. And I’m sorry. I’ll do… I’ll help in any way I can.”
She still hesitated to look up into their faces, worried she’d meet the sort of look she’d so often seen on James’ face in the last month. Slowly she did, and was filled with relief to see that the primary expressions were of worry for their family, and even understanding. No hostility.
She turned her gaze to James. He was looking away from her. But she couldn’t hold out any hope for any trust from him. That would have been asking a lot before. Now…
“So what do you think?” Harry’s words brought Cassie back to the immediate issue with a thumping in her gut.
“I don’t… I don’t understand.” She said, honestly, “I don’t know anything about this spell. You said… you can stop people taking your memories? Ginny can?”
“Of course,” Harry shook his head, “Of course you wouldn’t have done anything on occlumency, you’re only sixth year -”
“They don’t do it at all, anymore.” Hermione reminded him.
They did do it? When they were at school? Cassie couldn’t imagine doing anything quite so exciting in class.
“Right. Well, in a nutshell…yes. There’s something you can do if someone’s performing legilimency on you. It’s not a spell, you just sort of close your mind and stop them seeing anything you don’t want to see. Some people are good at this. Others… like me,” Harry admitted, “Haven’t got a hope in hell.”
Cassie could sort of see how that would work. She’d seen today how Harry Potter wore his heart on his sleeve - it was immediately obvious, even now when he was talking about other things, how worried he was for his wife. So Al…
Apparently Cassie, too, had her heart written all over her face.
“You think Albus is going to struggle.” Hermione looked intently at her face.
Cassie’s immediate instinct was that Al was likely to find it as hard as his father. She could always read his face so easily, his emotions were painted across it as if in black and white.
However, an image that Cassie didn’t like to see floated into her consciousness. A hard Albus. Eyes with their light extinguished and a jaw set in stone. It was from that awful time just before he’d run away. The time she thought he’d been ignoring her, that he hadn’t wanted anything to do with her. She realised now that he was just, in his stupid way, trying to protect her and keep her out of things.
“He’s got a chance.” Cassie said, feeling slightly more hopeful, “I think he might be able to stop it. If he knows what they’re doing, anyway. I didn’t… I wasn’t even aware that he’d ever even put a spell on me at all. If Al doesn’t…”
“Then he might not even put up a defence.” Ron finished, exchanging looks with his wife and Harry. “This complicates things.”
“I‘ve changed my mind.” Harry’s expression of worry was back, but a new look of determination accompanied it, “I think we have to act now.”
“Harry…” Hermione shook her head, “You said it yourself, they’ll be expecting that -”
“Will they, though? They’ll expect us to wait a bit and regroup, surely. Form a plan. Won’t they expect it more around tomorrow night? If we can get them out today -”
“You’re not thinking straight, mate.” Ron put a calming hand on his shoulder, “I know you’re scared, we all are, but -”
“Ron, you know what’s at stake here -”
The gravity of his words seemed to ring with significance around the cave. Cassie looked curiously up at the faces of the family. Of course it was natural for them to be worried but there seemed a kind of... desperation, as if there was a time urgency that Cassie wasn’t aware of…
“What?” Cassie asked, “What’s at stake?” She felt that she ought to be used to having so many of them staring at her by now but it still made her uncomfortable.
Harry and Ron exchanged looks. It was the same look that had been on James’ face earlier. The one where he’d been assessing how much he could tell her.
There was definitely something she didn’t know.
“What are they going to do to them?” Cassie heard her voice shake a little as she caught onto the fear and desperation of the family. Potter won’t be harmed, Buchanan had said. But she knew how little his word counted for.
It seemed a long few seconds before any of them reacted to her words.
Ron gave a small nod, and Harry opened his mouth.
“No.” Before Harry could speak James interrupted, his tone incredulous, “Dad, seriously? She -”
“She has a right to know.” Harry said, simply but firmly.
James didn’t protest again, but his lips were set in a thin line and his brow furrowed. Cassie had been right. There was no hoping for any amity there anymore.
“Please,” She said, unsure whether she was directing the plea at Harry or James, “I want to know…”
“Ok.” Harry drew in a breath as if stalling for time while he thought where to begin. “Cassie… It’s time you heard the truth about Hogwarts.”
A.N. Oh gosh. I hope this makes up for a months wait. I'm really sorry I just couldn't get it out any faster, had a mini block but powered through!
Bye bye camp life.
Al and Ginny caught
James saves Cassie... although quite possibly also fancies murdering her
Everyone finally knows everything...
Apart from Cassie
Excited to hear it? I'm excited to get to this bit :) though pretty scared to write it as I think it'll be difficult to get it out on paper (or screen) as I want it to in my head!
Thanks for reading, please let me know what you think!
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