Chapter 2 : Luck
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“Good morning, please state your name and business.”
“Athena Selwyn, here to see Cassian.”
“Athena!” the voice said with sudden warmth. “Honestly, he’s done nothing but mope around all day since you were last here, come in, quickly.”
The gates sprang open and Athena suppressed a smile at the thought of Cassian missing her, striding up the long driveway that lead from the gate to the front door of the grand Rutherford Manor. It was always so peaceful here; the sun shining down on the expansive lawns and neat rows of flowerbeds that lined the driveway. It was easy to forget about the war entirely; especially with the entire Avitus-Rutherford family so neutral; in her own family there was her and her Auror parents, all members of the Order of the Phoenix, but Cassian’s family seemed to regard the war as only a distant threat. She had a feeling she was Cassian’s only link to the reality of the Dark Lord’s strength.
A slim, pretty girl with long brown hair and a shining face opened the front door.
“Athena!” she squealed happily, throwing her arms around her.
“Evelina,” she returned, grinning in spite of herself at Cassian’s little sister’s enthusiasm. She’d only known her for six months, but Evelina already saw Athena as an older sister figure, an arrangement she was strangely pleased with.
“Oh, thank Merlin,” Rhiannon’s voice said from the hallway. She came into view, regal and sophisticated as ever. “Athena, do you think you could go upstairs and encourage my son to rejoin the human race? We’ve barely seen him at all these last few days.”
“That’s not like him,” Athena said with a frown.
“Dad says the Department of Magical Education says NEWT results should be out this week,” Evelina said. “Ever since he heard that he’s been pacing around the house not talking to anyone.”
“…I take it back, that is very like him. Honestly, I don’t think even I can help.”
“He said yesterday, and I quote, ‘I’m not leaving this room unless it’s for results, Athena, or food,’” Rhiannon said wryly.
“I like how I’m second to results,” Athena commented with a roll of her eyes. “I’ll go find him.”
She ascended the stairs, making her way to Cassian’s room and knocking on the door.
“Are NEWT results here?” a frantic voice responded from inside.
“No, but I am.”
“I know I’m not as exciting as a parchment of exam results,” she said wryly, “But you’ll have to make do.”
The door swung open and Cassian was standing there in a set of plain dark green robes, his long dark hair messy and his expression frazzled. Athena looked at him thoughtfully, purposely ignoring his mental state.
“I’ve never seen you with your hair out.”
“You haven’t?” he asked absently, taking her hand and bringing her into the room.
“No. God, you look worse than you did before exams.”
“At least I could do something before exams,” he said anxiously. “Like studying. There’s nothing I can do now. Nothing but wait, and try and pass the time.” He began pacing the room, until Athena seized both his hands and stopped him. She couldn’t help but feel a little irritated that he was thinking more about his results than her; although his dedication to schoolwork was one of the things that had made her fall in love with him in the first place, at this point she would rather she was the focus of his attention, as he was hers.
“They’re coming out tomorrow,” she said exasperatedly. “My dad works in the Ministry as well, OWL and NEWT results are coming out tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Cassian repeated, looking alarmed. “Shit. What if I’ve failed?”
She regarded him coolly. “Cassian Avitus-Rutherford, Dux of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry 1997, there is no way on Earth you would have failed anything, and furthermore—”
She cut herself off, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him. She lived for these moments as his arms wrapped around her and everything else in the world faded away, when she wanted nothing more than to be close to him; if she did nothing else for the rest of her life she would die happy.
“Stay here tonight,” Cassian said quietly as they broke apart.
“Stay here tonight,” he repeated.
“What for?” she asked sharply.
“Not what you’re thinking, don’t worry,” he said immediately. “But if results are coming out tomorrow, I won’t be sleeping, and if you could keep me company, that would be amazing.”
“My parents would never agree.”
“Your dad doesn’t trust me.”
“Not in the slightest,” she replied honestly.
“And how much of that mistrust is caused directly by my Sorting into Slytherin?”
“About ninety-five percent. The rest is caused by showing romantic interest in me.”
“So he trusted Fred Weasley?”
“Because he’s a Gryffindor.”
“And he would have been much happier if you had stayed with Fred Weasley and never even met me.”
“I need to talk to him.”
“Not a good idea.”
“I’ve done nothing to make him mistrust me, and I can’t stand the idea of someone having a falsely negative impression of me any more than you do.”
She inclined her head slightly. “Fair point,” she conceded, “But I still don’t think you’re going to get anywhere. I’d be better off telling him I’m staying at, I dunno, Katya’s or Lydia’s or something.”
“You would lie,” he said slowly, “To your father, for me?”
“I could die tomorrow night,” she told him sharply, before instantly regretting it.
“Forget I said anything.”
“Why could you die tomorrow night?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“You’re going on a mission for the Order, aren’t you?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“And who am I supposed to tell?” he asked pointedly. “I’m under Unbreakable Vow, or have you forgotten that?”
“I don’t need reminding,” she said quietly.
“Athena,” he began, gripping her shoulders and looking at her intently. “Six weeks ago I dragged you unconscious from a corridor full of Death Eaters and watched as you nearly died. Don’t put me through that again.”
“I won’t,” she replied, offering a small smile. “I’ve gotten much better at using my wand with my left hand.”
“How can you be so flippant about this?”
“Because if I’m not, I’ll back out. And I can’t do that,” she interrupted, cutting him off before his words had a chance to form, “Because I have a duty to the Order and I am not going to hide away in my house and sit this war out.”
“But what happens if you get hit again?” he whispered. “What happens if you’re not lucky enough this—”
“What?” He had suddenly released her, swiftly running one hand through his hair and pacing back and forth.
“Luck. Liquid luck. Felix Felicis, I can brew it up, come on!” He seized her hand, breaking into a run as he towed her out of the room and thundered down the stairs.
“I’ve never attempted it before,” he said hurriedly, “But we have the recipe for it in an old Potions book in the library, I’ve seen it, I remember seeing it when I was ten years old and thinking nobody in the world could make such a difficult potion but it can’t be that hard, not for me…” He leapt down the final few stairs, wheeling around and sprinting down the hallway, Athena close on his heels.
“Here it is!” he said triumphantly, pulling an old leatherbound book from a shelf and dropping it with a thud on a nearby table. Athena gazed around the room; it was oddly shaped, at least ten sides, all lined with gleaming wooden shelves lined with books. Piles of parchment stood stacked on a small table, and an enchanted fire in the corner gave off no heat in the warmth of summer.
“It looks like the Ravenclaw common room,” she observed.
“So it does,” Cassian agreed, leafing through the book. “Aha! Fantastic! Excellent! Brilliant!”
“The potion. It doesn’t require any standing or steeping time, it’s just straight through, from start to finish. Nine hours. Allow ten, maybe eleven because this is my first time brewing it…I could get it done overnight, easily. I have most of the ingredients but we’ll have to go to Diagon Alley for a few…Stay up with me tonight. Please.”
Both Athena’s parents were home when she called in shortly after four.
“I’m staying the night at Katya’s,” she informed them.
“Katya Prewett?” Lucinda asked.
“The very same.”
“How are you getting there?”
“Apparating, they’ve closed off their Floo.”
Carcius looked at her sternly. “Apparate as close to the gate or door as you can. Look around you in every direction before you leave the enchantments around our house or hers. Don’t go out at night, don’t go to Diagon Alley, just…don’t go anywhere. And get some sleep, you’ll need it.”
“Got it, see you guys in the morning.”
“Wait,” Lucinda said. “A word, please.” She followed Athena out into the hallway, checked to make sure Carcius wasn’t around, and said in a whisper, “You’re not going to Katya’s, are you?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Then I’m trusting you to be sensible, and I’m trusting Cassian to respect that sensibility. And I hope I’m correct in assuming there’s a better reason for you lying to your father than an all-night snogging session.”
“He’s making me Felix Felicis for tomorrow night and NEWT results come out in the morning.”
“Felix Felicis?” Lucinda looked impressed. “You’ve got a good man there, and don’t let your father tell you otherwise.”
“Oh, I know,” Athena assured her. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Integrity, Athena,” Lucinda called as she disappeared out the door.
“How did it go?” Cassian asked when she rejoined him in the potion room of Rutherford Manor.
“Good. Dad thinks I’m staying at Katya’s, Mum knows I’m here.”
“Your mum sounds fantastic.”
“She’s all right,” Athena replied. “So, what’s the time, half past four. Are we getting started now?”
“No, we’re going to Diagon Alley before the apothecary closes. Got a few things to pick up.”
They Apparated into the centre of Diagon Alley. It was deserted, as it had been for a good year or so; only a few wizards hurried this way and that, heads down and Disapparating as quickly as they could. The only colour came from the purple Ministry posters that lined the shop windows, tattered and torn by time. The displays in the Daily Prophet office proclaimed the day’s headline: OWL AND NEWT RESULTS OUT TOMORROW, and Cassian turned a delicate shade of green.
“Keep moving, nothing you didn’t know already,” Athena said impatiently, towing him behind her. “Apothecary, apothecary, apothecary. Here we go!”
The shop was small, dark and dingy, but it was open, one of very few stores in the Alley that was. Athena crossed the threshold, glancing at the array of jars, bottles and packages on the shelf, and realising she had no idea what she was looking for.
“Athena!” a familiar voice called happily, and she turned to see her best friend, Nathaniel Weasley, behind the counter of the shop.
“Nathaniel!” she returned. “I didn’t know you worked here.”
“Holiday job,” he explained. “Only started a couple of weeks ago, it’s fascinating, I’ve learned so much already—”
“All right,” she interrupted before he could get started on a Potions-related tangent. “Isn’t it a bit…I don’t know…eerie, here?”
“Oh, yeah. Hardly anyone comes in, and I’ve seen a few Death Eaters, they come in with their masks late in the evening, I’ve never had any trouble with them, they haven’t tried to attack me or anything…I mean, they steal the stock, most of them, but I was told before I started to never approach them, they might kill me otherwise, I just send an owl off to the Ministry as soon as they leave, it doesn’t help much, but it’s procedure.” He stopped to take a deep breath, and continued, “So what brings you here?”
“Ingredients,” she replied vaguely.
“Yes, but for what?”
She glanced furtively around the room. “Felix Felicis, don’t ask questions I can’t answer.”
“So I guess why you need Felix Felicis falls into that category?”
“Ever brewed it before?” Nathaniel asked, directing this question at Cassian, who was approaching the counter with an armload of ingredients.
“First time,” he replied, dumping the ingredients on the counter.
“Fiddly potion,” Nathaniel observed, adding up the price. “I haven’t tried it either, though I keep intending to. Shame I can’t use it for NEWTs thisyear.”
“Don’t mention NEWTs around him,” Athena advised.
“Career options depending on your results?” Nathaniel asked sympathetically.
“Yeah,” Cassian replied, raking a hand through his hair. “Yeah, it’s make or break, really. Results out tomorrow.”
“You’re going to be fun tonight,” Athena commented sardonically.
“Ooh, what’s happening tonight?” Nathaniel asked. “Are you spending the night with him, Athena? Scandal!”
She glared belligerently at him. “Yes, making that potion.”
“Potion making, is that what they call it these days?” The smirk on his face vanished as he eyed the wand now pointed at his chest. “Sorry, sorry. Inappropriate, I know you wouldn’t.”
“Nathaniel, mate, can I just ask you something?” Cassian asked suddenly.
He glanced at Athena. “Uh, in private? Sorry, babe. Man to man, and…stuff.”
“Don’t call me that,” she said dismissively, already walking out of the shop. Cassian and Nathaniel would normally have no cause to talk to each other, so evidently, it was about her. She resisted the urge to eavesdrop, instead wandering down the alley.
“Afternoon, miss,” a voice drawled, and she turned to see a grubby old wizard in cheap, gaudy robes following her, a distinctive leer on his face as he pushed a small trolley in front of him.
“Yes, it is. Observant of you.”
“Bit dangerous, wand’rin round the alley alone when it’s gettin’ dark.”
“As you can tell, I’m quaking in my boots.”
“Death Eaters about an’ all,” he continued, his teeth glinting as he smiled. “I got charms here, charms, amulents, shields, anythin’ you like, keep yer pretty self safe from Dark magic.”
She arched one eyebrow contemptuously. “Really. It may be a foreign concept to a withered old Squib like yourself, but I flatter myself in thinking my skill and ability in Defence Against the Dark Arts can keep my, as you say, ‘pretty self’ safe from Dark magic. If you don’t leave me in peace, perhaps I can show you the extent of that ability.” She brandished her wand, and the wizard scuttled away.
“Well,” she observed quietly to herself, “That was fun.”
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