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Chapter 7 : A Stand.
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The room glowed with orange light from a single flickering candle which stood on a dark mahogany table. The almost-darkness dulled the crimson and purple drapes which hung around the rooms – each patterned with thin gold lines of swirls and flowers – and added a quality of mystery to the room. There were two arm chairs – one laden with cushions, drapes and embellishments where as the other was straight backed mahogany and cushionless.
On one sat a child. On the other sat her mother.
“Well,” Her mother said with an excited smile. She turned on the mahogany chair and lit a fire under a large black cauldron. The flames matched that of the candle and the expressions of the two came into view. The mother seemed to relish in her surroundings and the chid watched her with wide eyed interest and a degree of scepticism. Her mother busied herself around the cauldron, seeming to act instinctively as she chopped, stewed and threw things into the simmering cauldron.
“What are you doing?” The child asked, stretching to see inside the cauldron.
“Have a look,” The mother urged. She stood, stepping over the mismatch of objects that lay on the floor and looking deep into the cauldron. The liquid was blood red and the child seemed to drink it in with her eyes and her whole body...
“What was it?” Harry asked.
“I don’t remember.” I told him honestly, staring as the younger me gripped hold of both sides of the cauldron and leaned towards it. “But it was strong – very magical.”
“Cassie!” Mum exclaimed. “Don’t do that!” The child – Cassie – straightened up looking startled. “You’ll fall in, love.”
“What would happen if I did fall in?”
“I’m not sure, but I don’t think it would be very pretty.”
“What if I just... touched it?” The child asked.
“You’d probably lose your finger.” A voice said from the doorway. I chunk of light was cast into the room and a figure stood there - a man.
“Robert,” The mother complained. “You’re ruining the vibe,”
“The vibe?” He questioned. “You mean you’d just about conned Cassie into buying into this rubbish... and then I opened the door?”
“No,” She laughed.
“Don’t mind your Mum, Cas, she actually believes all this fortune telling nonsense.”
“Well,” She said, “I saw that I was going to marry you, didn’t I?”
“I think it was more persistence than fortune telling,”
“Does it not work then?” Cassie asked. “What Mum does?”
“Well,” The younger Robert Banks began. “That really depends on who you ask,”
“I’m asking you.” Cassie said.
“Well I say no,”
“Well I say yes,”
“No,” Robert said.
“Well then, predict this.” He said suddenly moving towards her and kissing her.
“I already did.” She said serenely, stepping aside. “Now, if you’ll excuse us, Cassie and I are practicing the art of divination. Aren’t we?”
“Well, I’ll leave you too it then.” Robert said, “But Cassie, if your Mum scares you, just tell her to be quiet.” She nodded again.
“All right Cassie.” Her mum said. She took a spoonful of potion and placed it above the candle.
“Why are you doing that?” Cassie asked
“The fumes.” Her mum said. “Are you sure you want to do this Cassie?”
“Yes,” She said defiantly. “I want to know if it’s a load of rubbish or not.”
Her mum laughed. “Okay,” She said. “Now, don’t mind me. I’m just going to sit here and breath in the flames – maybe something will happen, maybe something wont but if it does, don’t get scared, yeah?”
“Nothing’s going to happen Mum.” Cassie told her.
“We’ll see,” She said. Then the room seemed to fill with a thick dense smoke. Cassie and her mother seemed not to notice nor react to it. “Cassandra...” The walls of the room seemed to smudge and bend... “Never look into your future.” The Mum’s voice said, harsher and distorted...
“What’s happening?” Harry asked from where he stood next to me. “Is that the potion?”
“No,” I told him. “That’s just how my memory of it is – fuzzy. I just can’t remember any more than that.”
“Are... are you sure?” He asked. “You’re not hiding anything?” He asked, nervously glancing around the memory as it seemed to dissolve away; it had almost entirely evaporated when suddenly everything became solid again, but this time in brighter block colours.
Cassie was screaming. Her eyes were wide with terror; she gripped the arms of the chair, and out of her throat came a terrified scream.
The door flew open and her Dad stood there in the doorway. He flicked the light switch and ran over to Cassie’s side. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” He was asking urgently. Cassie’s mouth slammed shut and she shook.
“Honey! I’m so sorry!” Her mum declared, also at her side. “I didn’t mean to scare you! Oh, honey!”
“Everything’s going to be all right Cassie; everything’s going to be all right.” Her Dad assured her. They clutched on to her tightly and rocked her. She sniffed and a single tear dripped down her face. “There,” Her mum said wiping it away.
“It was nothing Cassie, nothing.”
“Nothing at all.”
Then I suddenly found myself back in Harry Potter’s study, miles and miles away from my old home and from my mother. I blinked and found, to my surprise, that my eyes had welled up. I bit back the tears and faced Harry uneasily.
“What happened?” He asked. He looked just as uncomfortable as I felt. “Why did you scream?”
“I don’t remember,” I shrugged.
“Well, what happened afterwards?” He asked.
“All I know is, she left the next day.” I told him.
“Well...” He said. “Why don’t we leave it there today,” Harry said. I could sense his doubt and a strange sympathy which I didn’t understand. He was confused, intrigued, and guilty. “We’ll carry on as normal tomorrow.” He assured me before practically kicking me out the door.
I bit my lip for a second before flattening myself against the wall and trying my very best to hear what was being said. I could sense that he was in the kitchen with Ginny, and that what he was saying was worrying her but...
“What are you doing?” James Potter asked.
I jumped about ten foot in the air and nearly had a heart attack.
“Oh my god!” I hissed. “Don’t do that to people!” I whirled around to face him as he advanced towards the door with a strange expression on his face.
“What are you doing?” He asked again.
“Nothing,” I said, wrapping my arms around myself. I was edging on being genuinely upset. The memory had shaken me and I didn’t want to have to deal with James Potter right now. I wanted to go back home, crawl into my bed and sleep.
“You were eavesdropping – why?”
“Oh, piss off James!” I hissed. I could feel the tears welling up in my sockets again and was vaguely aware that I wasn’t acting how I normally did. Wasn’t I normally immune to his annoying tendencies? Did I not deal with him impassively? Why? What was the point in hiding the fact that I thought he was an arrogant git.
“Aren’t you supposed to be with my Dad?” He asked taking another step forwards so that he was level with the door. I pushed myself off the wall and took a step backwards.
“We finished early.”
“Why?” He asked again, choosing to face me rather than the door that normally would have been a lot more interesting to him.
“You know what? Why don’t you keep your nose out of my business?” I asked taking a few steps backwards. I was still facing him and he had a strange unreadable expression on his face, but what did that matter when I could sense his emotions. He was interested. Now, he was interested – because I was upset. “And don’t come back tomorrow!” I yelled before hurrying out of sight and allowing the moisture that had built up in my eyes to fall in three or four drops. I’d wrongly thought that memories of my mother were something that no longer bothered me but...
I guess everyone can mistakes. Like I did, when I thought that my parents were happy. Like dad did, thinking everything was all right before, one day, she just disappeared. Vanished. Gone.
I quickly wiped my face, wrapped my arms around me and hurried back down the path towards home. James had been right, then.
I definitely had been crazy, not to expect her to go.
I’d crawled into a ball on the sofa and apparently fallen asleep, because now I was blinking open my scrunched up eyes. The light made me groan and I pulled the pillow that had been under my head over my eyes and kept my mouth shut tight.
If I’d slept all night on the sofa then it was likely that Dad hadn’t come home at all – not that that was unusual. Or that he’d just woken me up by arriving in the middle of the night. Or that he just hadn’t thought to move me from my sleeping position.
“Cassie?” A voice questioned. James sodding Potter. I instantly stopped my stretching out legs, and froze. Even thinking about what I’d said yesterday made my face flame up to a spectacular scarlet colour. He’d almost definitely called the mental hospital now. He was probably just waiting for a reply saying they’d saved me a padded room. “Erm... I got you a coke?” He said poking me in the side.
Why was James Potter in my house? How did he get in? If he’d just walked in then I was not going to be best please – you just don’t do that. There was no other way...
“Its common courtesy to wait until someone lets you in.” I muttered quietly pulling myself up off the sofa with the realisation that I was still in yesterdays clothes. My head pounded. I ached everywhere. I felt hungover.
I stood up and walked straight out of the door, heading for the brighter pastures of showers/fresh clothes. Sod James Potter. Sod my father. Sod my mother.
The shower thankfully brought back the return of my piece of mind and instead of screaming and swearing in James Potter’s general direction I took up a vow of silence. I pulled on one of my dad’s long checked shirts for comfort – the smell of his cologne always made me feel protected– and some shorts and decided that was decent enough for the height of the British summer. I walked down the stairs with enough confidence I could get from my limited reverse and chose to walk straight past the sitting room and headed for the painting room before...
It was already done. I’d assumed that after I’d told James to go work somewhere else, he’d just decided to mess around with Dad’s stuff or abuse my laptop or something... but it seemed he’d actually continued, and must have carried on for quite a long time. I followed the corridor, glancing into each of these rooms as my surprise mounted. He’d done loads. The whole downstairs was practically done! Done well too – these paint jobs were practically professional, and he’d taken the time to neaten up the edges of the wallpaper. it looked good.
“Cassie?” James asked walking out into the corridor. When he saw that I was looking at his handiwork his entire aura took on a slightly embarrassed, slightly proud and slightly humble tone that impressed me. I’d expected flat out arrogance. “It’s good, isn’t it?” James asked clapping a hand on my shoulder – inducing a scarlet blush – and flourishing his other hand about abstractly; nodding appreciatively like his room was a gigantic work of art.
Why was he acting so arrogant, if he wasn’t arrogant? And he called me crazy.
“It’s lovely.” I said dryly, before walking back into the temporary store to check the plan – which was now enlarged and pinned on the wall, to see what needed doing next. “The corridor.” I said after a few seconds of consideration. Then I sorted through the roles and roles to find the correct ones...
I hated this house, I decided as I picked up designated roles and examined it. It was a rich beige colour with brown flower pattern that, apparently, actually grew and moved when it was on the walls. James had talked me into keeping the floorboards and just staining them to a darker brown. Then, James had suggested, buy some red seats and what not to line the hallways... as if we needed more furniture. Still, it was a good idea and I was surprised James appeared to have a sense of style...
But honestly, all the magic in the world couldn’t make this place nice to reside in. It needed good memories, and it sure as hell seemed like there wouldn’t be any good memories here. If you factored in the fact that Dad was never at home, and that James Potter was being a complete prick the more time I spent in it, the more the walls seemed to absorb the bitterness.
And then I dragged out the rolls of wallpaper into the corridor, and treated James with my best and only weapon – the silence he so detested.
“No, I don’t want her there,” James voice rang out from the other end of the corridor. He seemed to be at least trying to keep his voice slightly quieter than normal – which meant there was a slight chance he’d picked up some manners in the past sixteen years of his life – but hearing the one thing moving in an entirely empty house is far too easy. “No, Mum, she’s not coming – I won’t invite her. No, he wouldn’t come anyway – he’s been working, hasn’t been here for like three days,” There was a slight pause as the other person; presumably James’s mum said something, “No!” He protested. “All the others will think... Mum you don’t know what she’s is like at school, she’s crazy... I don’t care what Dad says! She just is, Mum – I don’t think you... Fine.”
I decided the he could break the silence, and instead concentrated on getting this little section of wallpaper just right.
He was silent for a few moments before I felt him approaching from behind me, “Cassie?” He questioned.
“Don’t lean on the wallpaper.” I instructed him. “You’ll crease it,”
“Cassie, I’m behind you, you can’t know what I’m doing.”
“Well,” I said turning around and looking pointedly at where he was leaning on the wall. He raised his eyebrows slightly but did move off the wall, where thankfully it hadn’t creased. “You’ve been invited to dinner.”
“Oh really?” I asked in my best bored and uninterested voice.
“By my family.” He continued.
“Well that really is very considerate.”
“You’re declining right?”
“Oh, well, Potter – why would I ever do that?” Potter stared at me incredulously. I was in a vindictive mood, possibly due to the lack of sleep and the bringing up of old memories, but if I had to be miserable it could only be a good thing to make James miserable too.
Well, sort of.
“So you’re coming with us?” James asked.
“Of course I am,” I replied sweetly, before turning my back on him and wallpapering. His annoyance flared up behind, but I ignored it and decided to carry on wallpapering as if there was no one else in the house.
“Well,” James answered stiffly. “You’ll have to dress up – it’s a proper posh place, you probably don’t have anything suitable. Get me a coke will you?”
His revenge attempt was pitiful; it seemed that James Potter had lost his touch.
The dress was certainly quite posh – the sort of thing I’d wear if I was to accompany Dad to one of his ‘social’ functions which were really all about the business and nothing about socialising, if I wasn’t – in the eyes of the media –totally non-existent. Instead I had in my closet, with the label still attached and... Well, why not wear it?
It was given this whole event would make me feel incredibly self conscious, which was something I hadn’t considered when agreeing to this dinner (which I was now fully regretting) yet... it would be nice to get of the house.
Well, I decided – it will do.
Then I made my way down the stairs and left, locking the door behind me. James had left twenty minutes ago so he could get ready too, and I had another ten minutes before I had to be there. I could make the walk in five.
I couldn’t decide if I was looking forward to the meal or not and considered it during the walk over. I couldn’t really imagine the Potters in a very formal setting if I was honest – and would the extended family be there? Most probably...
Lily answered the door, and her eyes widened slightly as she saw my dress. She was just wearing jeans and a t-shirt, she was probably just going to get changed in a minute – I imagined the Potters existed in a permanent state of lateness and chaos. She awkwardly led me into the kitchen and...
They were all dressed casually.
And it wasn’t just the Potters – there was at least one set of Wesley’s assembled. Hermione and Ron, then Rose and Hugo – and Fred was here too, although where his parents were I wasn’t sure – and they were all staring at me.
Oh god, I was actually going to kill James Potter. My face flushed red hot, immediately, and I bit my lip. What could I do? It was so tempting to turn around and run back out the house before anyone could possibly see me.
There were a few seconds of silence, as everyone looked slightly taken aback by my state of formal dress and I found myself too embarrassed to speak, if their actually was anything to say.
Then James himself threw open the door and grinned.
“Told you,” He said to Albus who entered a millisecond behind him. “That is a level one blush.” My face grew even hotter, if that was physically possible. I wasn’t angry though, every little part of me was being used up in this embarrassment and there were none spare for things like anger.
“James did you...” Ginny began, seemingly in a state of disbelief. James was still bathing in his pleasure at inducing such a fantastically scarlet blush. He smirked at me and winked.
The anger that rightfully should have been there since the beginning sparked up and began to churn away in my stomach, but I couldn’t do anything. The embarrassment still had me frozen.
“James – outside.” Ginny said grabbing hold of his arm and pulling him back out into the corridor. “What did you tell her?”
“What? Mum? I didn’t do anything.”
“I swear to Merlin, James Potter, if you don’t tell me the truth right now you’re going to wish you’d never been born.” Harry and Ron visibly winced at this, and the horrible feel of the atmosphere began to assault my senses. It was a horrible angry sense of anticipation, mixed with defiance and glee – although there was too much within the air for me to pinpoint who found the whole thing so gleeful.
“Right,” Hermione said in a falsely bright voice. “Do you fancy a drink Cassie?” I couldn’t speak even if I tried, and instead I shook my head, feeling my face burn up into ever more impressive shades of red.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN!?” Ginny’s yell rang out from the other side of the door. “GROUNDED? YOU’LL BE LUCKY IF I LET YOU GO BACK TO SCHOOL AT THIS RATE!”
“Does anyone else want a drink?” She asked, her voice rising in volume and pitch slightly. The atmosphere got thicker, and I instead tried to concentrate on the slightly more pleasant atmosphere inside the room.
“Yes please,” Lily said.
“I’ll have a fire whiskey please,” Fred said confidently.
“Me too,” Albus said quickly.
“Like hell you will,” Harry countered.
“Dad lets me all the time,” Fred said.
“Really?” Ron asked. “It’s funny, I strictly remember your mum saying that you’d never had a drop of alcohol in your life.”
“You let James,” Albus protested.
“No I don’t,” Harry countered, glancing to the door where Ginny’s voice was still yelling, only slightly drowned out by the overly loud conversation.
“He doesn’t let him do anything, he just does it,” Ron said with a grin. Harry sent him a dirty look. Hermione repeated the offer of drinks to everyone, just as Ginny went silent on the other end of the door.
Everyone stopped suddenly, and both Lily and Albus leant towards the door. “She’s building up to something,” Rose told me in a hushed voice. “The bit after the silence is always the best.”
And then I had no choice but to focus on the emotions outside the room.
“Let me get this straight,” Ginny said in a would-be-calm voice that even I had to admit was terrifying. “You told her that we were going to a posh restaurant, because she was polite enough to agree to come to dinner with us?”
“Oh,” Fred said. “I get it now.”
“Only three hours after everyone else,” Lily hissed. “Merlin, I have bits of parchment that are quicker on the uptake than you are.”
“Don’t you mean teddy bears?” Fred returned with a grin.
“I do not have teddy bears.” Lily said to me.
“You do,” Albus added.
“I do not! I’m thirteen! I don’t have teddy bears!”
“Oh give it a rest,” Harry said.
“You’re just trying to listen,” Lily countered, hands on her hips. “Tad hypocritical, no?”
“She’s got you there,” Ron said in an undertone to Harry.
“Shush!” Hugo exclaimed. “She’s about to -”
“I DON’T CARE IF YOU DON’T LIKE HER! I DOUBT SHE THINKS MUCH OF YOU EITHER!” All the eyes in the room turned towards me. “I DID NOT BRING YOU UP TO BE A -”
“We’re going to be so late,” Ron said with a grin. “And I just can’t wait to explain to Mum why...”
“Grow up Ronald,” Hermione said. “Should we?”
“JAMES POTTER IF YOU DARE TOO -”
“She’s your wife, mate.” Ron said, pushing Harry towards the door. He grimaced. The kids moved away from the door. He opened it, and the words ‘APPOLOGISE RIGHT –’ rang out especially loudly before the door shut on the other side.
“This should be good,” Ron said leaning towards the door...
“Ginny, can’t this wait until after the meal, because we’re all ready twenty minutes late, and I’m sure James won’t do anything else whilst we’re there...”
“He’s not coming.” Ginny snapped back viscously. I could feel the anger radiating from through the wall. It was going to take at least a week before it faded.
“What?” James demanded. “You can’t stop me! I need to get out the house Mum!”
“You’re not going out.”
“It’s a violation of human rights!”
“I’m not even sure if you are human!” Ginny snapped back. “He’s not going Harry, I’m not having it.”
The door was thrown open. “Thanks a lot Cassie.” James spat in my direction. “Thanks to you I –”
“Actually,” I said coolly, suddenly finding my voice for the first time. It was louder and stronger than I’d expected, and I think everyone in the room was slightly taken back. The room fell silent again. “I think this is your fault.” And then I stood up, half in a daze, and walked out of the Potter household. I closed the door softly behind me and breathed in the free-from anger atmosphere with relief.
So I can stand up for myself.
A/N - Please Review, as always :)
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