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The Art of Walking in Heels by 11whimsy
Chapter 3 : Friends, Spells, and Fights Mix Well
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5


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"Harry? Are you looking for Harry, love?"

 

Ech. There was a massive bout of dust lodged in my throat. My nauseous body was completely unresponsive to any feeble attempts to move. Dislocation: success.

 

There was another loud whoosh and the women's head snapped up. "Albus, dear, where have you been? And may I ask who exactly you've brought home with you?"

 

Albus glanced at me, lying on the ground and laughed. "First time using Floo powder, eh? Ha. Tough for you. Mum, this is Cassie, Cass, this is my mum. Hey mum, can she stay with us? She's transferring to Hogwarts into my year and doesn't know any magic." He lowered his voice. "Literally, mum, no magic. It's awful."

 

"Uh, well," Albus' mom stuttered. I felt bad. Albus had certainly put her on the spot. "Al, can you come talk to me about this?"

 

"Yeah… stay here Cassie," Albus said as he stepped over my limp form. “Not that you’re going anywhere or anything.” He shot me a friendly wink. Awesome.

 

The numbness in my limbs was slowly replaced by tingling, and I could hear my heartbeat in my skull. Groaning, I managed to roll over. Please don’t throw up. Not here. Not in this nice lady’s home.

 

Ah. I could breathe a little bit better from my back. They had a nice ceiling here. A lovely auburn paisley print, a tiny bit of soot in a corner and a smear of a reddish-orange liquid in another. Fun.

 

I could hear them talking in the other room. About me, of course. Well, it wasn't like Albus even knew me that well. After all, we met about three hours ago. Coming here was a bad idea. I could go back to the hotel, get my own room even. It was funny, I did like Albus. He was nice. Nicer than he had to be. I didn’t like him of course, just—he was nice.

 

It would be best if I left. Just quietly wandered out and avoided the inevitable confrontation with the kind-looking redhead. If only I could stand up!

 

I wiggled my wand out of my pocket to make sure it was fine. Phew. A quick inspection confirmed no damage had been done. "Abra pocus," I whispered enthusiastically, waving it about in a loop de loop.

 

SPARKS! OH MY GOD!

 

Green-gold sparks streamed out in a graceful arc, piling on the carpet as luke-warm embers.

 

VICTORY!

 

"CASS! You can stay!" a triumphant voice yelled.

 

Surprised, I rolled over to look at the kitchen where the two were reappearing. "Wait, really?" I said. "I mean, I was just going to leave."

 

“Were you, now?” Albus said, smiling coyly. “Do you need help standing up?”

 

"I'd love it if you could stay," Albus' mom said graciously. "You can call me Ginny. My husband, Harry, is due from work any moment now."

 

I was so excited and shocked my mind shut down. Why would she invite a total stranger? "Thanks for welcoming me into your home?"  I asked confusedly.

 

Ginny raised her eyebrows at my "question."

 

"I appreciate it," I vowed, regaining control of my dizzied stomach. Oh man. That fireplace had not been easy on me. Albus squatted down and extended a hand, which I accepted gratefully, rocking to my feet.

 

There was a terrific thundering and James bounded down the stairs. “NO WAY! CASSIE!” he yelled, seeing me. “Good work Al. I like her better than you already,” he cheered before sprinting outside. It felt so odd, the two boys treating me like old friends.

 

Why me? What had I done to deserve this random hospitality? Was this was luck feels like?

 

Ginny scowled at James then turned to me. "Honey, that was James. He's my oldest. You already know him, then?"

 

"Yes," I replied. "I ran into James and Albus at the Lea--"

 

"Waterstone Bookstore," Albus interrupted, sending me a pointed look, "where we were just doing some innocent browsing, you know, I was learning about Muggle's foreign policies-- did you know that France is becoming quite socialist-- while James was looking at comics. Just reading, that's all, like two good teenagers," Albus finished weakly, his ears turning red.

 

"Oh, good," Ginny said, hands on her hips. "So much better than say, oh, going to the Leaky Cauldron?"

 

"Sorry," Albus squeaked.

 

I tried to stifle a laugh. The attempt failed. 

 

"You two," Ginny muttered. "Lily's never going out with you boys alone."

 

 "Lily?" I interjected.

 

 "My sister, two years behind us," Albus explained. "LILY!!!!!!!!"

 

Another red-head appeared immediately. She looked remarkably like her mother with pale skin and high-set cheekbones. Her eyes looked me over appraisingly.

 

"Al? Who's this?"

 

"This, Lily, is Cassie," Albus explained, inching closer to me as if to prove I wasn’t dangerous. "She's staying with us."

 

Lily’s green eyes scanned me like I was a bomb threat. I felt incredibly exposed. Finally she smiled. “Excellent,” she proclaimed. “You know, Cassie, the boys are terrible. Why don’t you come upstairs? Rose would love to meet you, we're just playing some wizard chess.”

 

Yeah, this immediate welcoming isn't normal at all, I thought as I shot a bewildered look at Albus before being dragged by Lily up the stairs.

 

**

 

 

 

THESE STAIRS MUST FREAKING END SOON, I prayed as we continued to race up never-ending steps, passing countless crooked doors and filmy windows. How big could this house be? How was this even structurally possible?

 

"So you're from America?" Lily asked, slightly out of breath but still bounding upwards, not even waiting for my answer before continuing. "I've never been there, but someday I want to visit San Francisco. It's so beautiful in the postcards. You're going into 6th year, then? That's a shame, my class is wonderful, but we can still be friends. Be careful, Professor McGonagall is a pretty tough headmistress. She can smell trouble from a mile away. That's why she and James aren't really on the best terms. Have you met James? He's my biggest brother and the biggest arse. All my friends fall in love with him and Albus. It's so exhausting."

 

Panicking, I nodded like I understood what she was talking about. The only part I understood was the bit about the girls. So, did Albus have a girlfriend? I knew I shouldn’t ask, but it felt increasingly important. Lily and I had now reached a hot pink door with the sign JAMES I WILL KILL YOU IF YOU TAKE MY LINGERIE AGAIN stapled to the backing. Lily excitedly thrust the door open.

 

Inside was a surprisingly lovely place: baby blue walls and a big window seat in front of a giant, sunny bay window. A four poster bed with a flowery comforter sat airily in the middle while one wall was dominated by bookshelves. The wall right in front of me, however, had a large, worn poster of a incredibly eye-catching teenager with brown hair on a broomstick. I was torn. Part of me wanted to swoon and the other wanted to laugh, after all, he was riding a broom.

 

"That's Lino Kilos," Lily said matter-of-factly. "He's beautiful, isn't he? And a bloody good chaser. I'm a chaser for Ravenclaw. Man I wish I had his form. I swear-- someday, I'm marrying Lino."

 

 Part of me twitched at the mention of the word "marry," but I'm surprised at how cool-and-collected I stayed.

 

After all, how could I have thought marriage at 16 was a good idea?! I had been so blind.

 

It just scared me, thinking if I was that ignorant, what else did I miss?

 

Lily looked at me expectantly, so I threw out the first random question that came to my mouth to keep her talking.

 

"Why is he on a broom?"

 

 "Quidditch, obviously. What team do you cheer for? It's so hard to choose, of course dad and uncle Ron already are die-hard Harper fans. I just get annoyed when some people don't even care. Without a doubt it's the best wizard sport," Lily scoffed then froze. "You don't know about Quidditch, do you? Of course you don't, you're practically muggle. Oh, this is hopeless."

 

 "Hopeless?"

 

 "Sorry," Lily apologized. "Didn't mean it to sound like that. I was kind of eavesdropping on Albus and my mum. Quidditch is… to put it simply it's a sport played on flying broomsticks. It's quite fun, I can teach you sometime if you want-- oh, look, here she is, Cassie this is Rose Weasley."

 

 Lily's lightening fast talk-mode still had my head reeling as a new girl stepped in the room. She had a chiseled face and poofy light brown hair that gave her a tomboy look. She was wearing high-waisted shorts and a loose button up top. I could immediately tell she was one of those tough-girls who doesn't let anyone get in her way.

 

She smiled softly and shook my hand, muttering, "I suppose Lily will explain this later. I'm Rose, by the way."

 

 "Rose is probably best in her class," Lily babbled, "after all, her mother's Hermione Granger and so Rose knows everything. She'll be a perfect teacher."

 

"Teacher?" Rose asked confusedly. "For what?"

 

"Magic, Rose!" Lily exclaimed with complete exasperation. "Cassie's going into Hogwarts, she's an American muggle and knows nothing. It's girl code to help! We can't just leave her defenseless!"

 

"Defenseless?" I said, concerned. Was there wizarding warfare or something? How dangerous was this school?

 

"Are you a family friend?" Rose asked.

 

"Nope. Just a random stranger Albus brought home with him," I said sheepishly. "Trust me, I am as bewildered as you probably are."

 

"Stuff like this happens all the time, it's normal," Lily shouted.

 

“NO NEED TO SHOUT, LIL,” Rosie yelled. “Cassie?” she asked me quietly. I nodded. "So, you're coming into my grade?"

 

Yikes. Here comes the moment of approval or denial.

 

Rose shook her head and smirked. "Damn. Well, you'll need to know some magic, we can skip all the frills and get down to the good stuff if you don't know anything. Lil's dad got this place protected so we can use magic whenever we want. The boys are going to be all over you, it's best we start with some good old hexes and charms."

 

 "All over me?" I questioned. I glanced over to Lily, who was furiously flipping through a magazine. She stopped suddenly and held up the page. I grimaced. It was me, in a photo ad for Chanel No.6. Ooh boy. I was hoping to leave that all behind.

 

"I knew it!" Lily cried triumphantly. "You're a model, aren't you? I thought I recognized you, after all, you're gorgeous and I remember pretty faces."

 

 "Lily, you sound obsessed," Rose interrupted but Lily plowed on.

 

"I would bet James has called all of his friends over to meet you already. Oh, Cassie, what if you dated Albus! You seem so much better than all of his past girlfriends!"

 

"No no no," I corrected quickly. No way was I going to even think about Albus in this household.  "I like being single.” It felt like a lie.

 

"Oh sure," Lily sighed. "It's bound to happen Cassie. I can just tell."

 

"Lily, you're terrible at predicting relationships," Rose said gently. "I recall you predicting Scorpius and I would end up dating."

 

I perked up. I knew Scorpius! Gossip I could understand!

 

"It nearly happened!" Lily insisted indignantly. "He nearly asked you to the ball! I swear! And I know he went all crazy snogging that weird Hufflepuff but you guys nearly had something beautiful!"

 

"Beautiful my arse," Rose muttered. "Just don't try to play match maker with the sixth years again. Especially with poor new Cassie. She doesn't deserve to be the victim of one of your ploys."

 

Scowling, Lily rolled her eyes.

 

"At least I know James for one would probably come knocking at your door constantly if it weren't for the fact he's completely smitten with Kendra."

 

 "Isn't she staying here too?" I shot in. "I think Al mentioned her." I was grateful James was otherwise occupied. Please let Albus have a girlfriend!

 

"She is," Lily muttered. "I dunno, she's kind of weird. She's dated a lot of boys, if you know what I mean."

 

I think Lily was trying to tell me Kendra slept around.

 

"Sure," I agreed. "Um, what about we stop talking about boys and move onto the magic?"

 

 

 

 

 

Thankfully, my change of topic was successful. Rose's face lit up. After a few mad seconds of scrambling around, she grabbed her wand out of her pocket. Lily yanked out a scuffed-but-reliable looking one that was a brown-yellow colour.

 

"What do you know?" Rose asked me eagerly.

 

"Nothing," I reminded her. "No joke."

 

"What first," Rose murmured to herself. "What about a simple lifting charm? It's the most basic thing I can think of."

 

"Sounds good." Lifting objects sounded fun to me. Magic! ACK!

 

"Oh, I have this one down," trilled Lily. "If Flitwick says 'swish and flick' one more time I'm going to hex his face off."

 

Rose laughed, all tension between them gone. "Flitwick's the charm teacher," she explained to me. "He's an eccentric fellow-- well, dwarf really-- but you can't help but love him. Hugo-- he's my younger brother, Lily's age—and Lily are in Ravenclaw and claim Flitwick spoils them constantly. Anyhow, the motion is very important- kind of sweep it to the right and lightly jerk it up."

 

"Swish and flick," Lily imitated in a squeaky voice. Rose laughed.

 

 "Lil, that's impressive. Imitation successful."

 

"I know," Lily said smugly.

 

"Is this right?" I asked, desperately trying to replicate Rose's elegant movement.

 

"Not quite," Rose said, grabbing my hand and guiding it through the movement. I watched my little wand slice through the air, dubious it could make something defy the laws of gravity. "Lil, grab a sheet of paper, would you?"

 

Lily disappeared and I practiced more. It was maddening. So many details. Hold the wand steadier. Define the flick more. Watch it-- it's uneven at the swoop!

 

Finally Rose clapped and shouted "that's it! Splendid. Now the incantation itself is 'wingardium leviosa.' Mum says it's important to pronounce."

 

“Important to pronounce. Right.”

 

Lily set down the sheet of paper and I stared at it apprehensively. "Go on, give it a try," she encouraged.

 

"Windium what?" I repeated blankly.

 

"Win-GAR-dium Le-VI-os-A," Rose said again, in crystal clear enunciation. "Don't worry, the hardest part was the movement itself."

 

Okay. Here goes. Concentrate.

 

"Wingardium leviosa," I chanted, waving my wand. To my greatest delight and surprise, the paper wobbled then floated about a foot in the air before slipping back down. "Ha! I did it!"

 

I JUST DID MAGIC!

 

"Not really," Lily said, lying on her back, eating a handful of popcorn she'd brought up. "Come on, you can do better than a measly foot."

 

"It was good for a beginner," Rose corrected, rolling her eyes at Lily. "Let's try being supportive."

 

I smiled. Normally, I don't make friends easily, but it felt like I'd known Rose and Lily for ages. Waving my wand, I gave it another shot. "Wingardium leviosa!"

 

 

***

By time Ginny called us down for dinner I could make the paper float up to the ceiling and lower it back down. I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, Rose told me it didn't work on humans.

 

There were more introductions at the dinner table. I finally met Kendra, who had beautiful glossy black hair and the smallest hands I’d ever seen.

 

I also met Teddy, a handsome lad who told me all about his girlfriend, Victoire. I have to admit I have a terrible weakness for those wonderful romances where everything goes well (perhaps spawned by my latest encounter with love) and thus Teddy made a wonderful talking companion. It brought up a painful little feeling in my throat, but sometimes I just need to comfort myself with the trust that love can work out.

 

Instinctively, I rubbed my ring finger and the pale strip where my ring had sat. Realizing what I was doing, I embarrassedly yanked my hand away. Thankfully no one noticed.

 

Finally, I met Harry, Albus' dad. Sitting on my left, he explained his job-- an Awarrior, or something like that.

 

 "Anyway, Cassie," Harry continued, "if you'd like, sometimes I can take you with me to work, that way you can take a good look at the Ministry, if you know what I mean, it's an impressive building. Got loads of history." Harry's chest suddenly puffed up. "Actually, I can show you where I crouched while Dumbledore and Voldemort battled."

 

"Dad, don't go off on that," complained Albus.

 

"Hush, Albus, it's nothing to be ashamed of," Harry snapped. "Albus is actually named after Dumbledore, one of the most brave and powerful wizards in history."

 

 "Who is Voldemort?" I asked.

 

Albus shot me a desperate look and mouthed "no! don't ask!" but it was too late.

 

"Ahh, this is going to be one long story," Harry said, loosening his tie. Albus mimed shooting himself, and I giggled. Oblivious, Harry squinted in nostalgia. "My story began on a cold winter evening. I had just turned one. I had two fantastic parents, James and Lily Potter. But at this time, we lived in fear. See, some wizards use magic for good and others for evil. And Tom Riddle had become dark. It's no doubt Tom could have rivaled Dumbledore, but the pity is how he wasted his talent. The boy was obsessed with evil."

 

Harry continued his rambling tale, which proved to be fascinating. I quickly realized that Harry Potter was something akin to a celebrity in the wizarding world. Granted, he didn't stop talking for ages. I cleaned the kitchen as he continued, then sat by the fire as he finished up.

 

"Dad, you done yet?" Lily asked, gently tugging my arm. "Cassie's coming upstairs where we're all hanging out. The boys want to see you," she hissed to me.

 

Harry glared at his daughter affectionately. "By 'we're all,' do you mean everyone but the parents?"

 

"Of course," Lily responded. Harry shook his head.

 

"Go on-- that's fine. Sorry if I bored you Cassie. I guess I got a bit carried away."

 

"No, no, Mr. Potter," I declared adamantly. "That was incredible."

 

 He smiled. "Call me Harry," he said softly.

 "Come on," Lily cried, leading me back upstairs. Ahh, my legs couldn't handle it again. This time we raced past her room (more stairs?!) and on to a room where a crooked sign read "JAMES WOULD APPRECIATE YOU NOT TO ENTER (DAD)." Lily shoved the door open where a great deal of people lay in various positions. It was your typical teenager hang out, something I hadn’t participated in in quite a while.

 

Stepping in, I tried to take in the scene. Kendra’s sullen face rested on James’ shoulder, while James was leaning back and talking excitedly with a boy who I didn't know. Considering by the way her lipstick was gone, she had James had been engaged in something recently. We made eye contact and she smiled softly.

 

Albus lay on the bed beside Scorpius, and a slight grin spread to my face when I saw the thick bandage he had wrapped around his finger. Yeah Sasha the Owl! Rose meanwhile leaned on the edge of the bed and was playing cards with Teddy. Three other boys were watching me from James' corner with mixed expressions.

 

Shit!

 

"Who's that in the corner talking to James?" I asked Lily. She blushed.

 

"That's, uh, Theo, I mean, Theodore," she whispered. I turned to face her with a triumphant smile. I could recognise that tone from anywhere.

 

 "Lily, do you have something to tell me?"

 

 She scowled. "Shit, I’m an open book. Don't be talking about it to anyone, please? It's kind of secret and James is really stupidly over-protective. When he's not snogging Kendra."

 

  "It's fine," I laughed. "Your clandestine love life is safe with me."

 

It was nice to have a little leverage over the feisty ginger.

 

"BLONDIE!" a voice rang, and I looked up to see Scorpius gesturing wildly. Wonderful. I tip-toed across the crowded room, being careful to avoid stepping on all of the limbs splayed across the floor. I was planning to sit and face the boys, but Scorpius snaked an arm around my waist and pulled me down beside him. Great.

 

I was now sandwiched between Scorpius and Albus. My heart beat kicked up a notch and I winced at the smell of male cologne. Oh fuck, I was rubbing my finger too. David, get out of my mind!

 

I closed my eyes and willed myself to live in the moment.

 

"Don't be shy, love," Scorpius chuckled. I tried to avoid looking at Albus, considering he was in such close proximity. I was concerned if I made eye contact I would either (a) be unable to stop staring; (b) shrug; or (c) smile stupidly. I really wasn't kidding about the ridiculously attractive bit.

 

Unfortunately, the pillow sunk as Scorpius twisted and my head fell sideways. AHH MISSION ABORT CLOSE YOUR EYES.

 

Well that was unsuccessful. I was now five inches from Albus Potter. Why wouldn’t Scorpius let go of me!

 

 Trying pathetically to wipe the awkward smile off my face, I desperately searched my mind for a good conversation starter while simultaneously trying to engage my neck to twist back to a neutral position. Scorp beat me to it.

 

"Cass, I find you very attractive," he began. I tried (unsuccessfully) not to blush. But seriously-- who starts a talk with that? It must be a British thing.

 

"But," Scorp continued, "I think we would be splendid friends. Are you heartbroken, love? I'm sorry, I would be delighted to date you, you look like a good kisser," ok, where did THAT come from? "but I want us to put this relationship on hold."

 

What an excellent distraction. I couldn't help it and laughed loudly. Scorp was the only boy that could make the egotistic teenager outlook funny, not to mention he had a brilliant sense of sarcasm. Even so, I hoped he was serious: having a couple good friends would definitely help me adapt to a new school. And I certainly wasn't ready to date again. (Cue ring-rubbing.)

 

Albus looked annoyed (dammit, I looked at him again) and frowned at Scorpius. "Scorp, you bugger, leave her alone," he said. Scorpius smiled sweetly.

 

Despite his "chat," Scorpius still had his arm around me. After a brief silence, Albus sighed pensively, then glanced at me. "Learn any magic today?"

 

Ah, here was a topic I could avidly discuss. "Yes," I began, "Rose taught me a levitation charm. I've actually mastered it."

 

"Go ahead then," Albus encouraged. "Let's find you something to levitate." He reached under the bed and promptly pulled out a pair of dusty boxers.

 

"Ew, James," Albus complained, wrinkling his nose. He reached under again and this time produced a book.

 

"Levitate this," he challenged. Sitting up a little bit, despite painful yelps from Scorp ("ow! my arm! wasn't my finger enough?") I pulled out my wand.

 

Focusing and determined to impress, I followed the motion. "Wingardium leviosa," I muttered. The book shivered, then rose into the air. Nobody else in the room noticed. Well good work Cassie. Quality work.

 

"Make it move," Albus ordered. Excuse me, aren't you going to be mildly impressed? I mean, this is pretty good for a first-day witch.

 

"Move where? Up?" I asked.

 

"No, around the room."

 

"I don't know how," I said, still not breaking eye contact with the book floating five feet above the bed. Shit this required concentration. My forearm prickled with invisible strain. Energy rushed through my veins.

 

The bed suddenly rustled and I stiffened as I felt a warm presence behind me. Oh sweet lord please no--

 

Suddenly, Albus was pressed to my back, and he wrapped his hand around mine. He began moving my wand, and I watched, fascinated as the book wobbled across the air. Oh hell.

 

 "That's it," Albus encouraged. I could feel his breath on my neck. Focus.

 

I smiled weakly. After all I was doing it. I breathed in deeply with success, and caught a whiff of his hair again. Citrus. Predictably, the fragrance instantly broke my concentration, and with a muffled thump the book fell.

 

Right onto the heads of James and Kendra, who were engaged in a bit of kissing.

 

Oh shit. Good work Cassie.

 

               

 

After pausing for an angry moment, James' head slowly rotated up. "Damn you bloody sixth years!" he raged, bursting to his feet. I froze in terror as the tall, broad-shouldered boy ripped out a disturbingly intimidating wand for the second time today. This time, I wasn’t close enough to grab it.

 

His hand flicked and there was a bright blue flash. Squeezing my eyes shut, I braced for impact. My hands gripped something impulsively, a quick glance confirmed it was Albus' arm. The bed shook violently. All heads in the room shot to the action. I turned and saw Scorpius covered in lumpy gray goo. I had been spared! Humiliated, I quickly released Albus' arm, hoping he hadn’t noticed.

 

"Ah, hell, why is it always me." Scorpius asked sadly, looking over his destroyed clothes. "What are you waiting for, Cass? He hurt your man. Get 'im!"

 

"You gonna hit me, Blondie?" James growled. I unexpectedly grinned. James wasn't angry, he was looking for a fight. Unfortunately, I only had one spell to work with.

 

"Wingardium Leviosa," I shouted spontaneously. I wasn't aiming at anything in particular, but the carpet suddenly jerked up a couple inches, causing James to fall over. I laughed openly. First wizarding duel-- success!

 

Until I heard James shout, "YOU'RE FUCKING DEAD."

 

"Run," Albus shouted, grabbing me by the arm and dashing out of the room. My feet raced under my breathless body and we took the stairs two or three at a time.

 

 "I'm coming!!" yelled James eagerly.

 

I hadn't been this excited in a long time, and was overcome by an adrenaline rush as Albus and I raced down the stairs at full speed. A loud thundering was right behind us and I could hear James yelling unintelligible threats. The time slowed as my legs blurred with speed.

 

Albus was laughing in anticipation and his hand was in mine. Wait-- when did that happen? It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter—

 

 We burst onto the lawn and Albus pulled me down into a bush. He was grinning widely.

 

"That was either extremely lucky or brilliant," he whispered quickly, glancing over his shoulder where James was yelling 'come out and fight me!' "Look, a basic shield spell is 'protego,' ok, it's a bit tricky but you'll have to learn quick. C'mon, this'll be fun."

 

"I SEE YOU!" James bellowed. He cackled in anticipation.

 

There was a flash purple light but Albus slashed his wand and the light exploded as if hitting a shield.

 

“Just stay there, Cass,” he yelled, jumping to his feet. "Aguamenti!" he shouted, and a thick stream of water soaked James. Wiping his wet bangs off his forehead, James charged at Albus.

 

Just as James began to raise his wand, I stumbled forward and yelled "protego!" To my amazement, the bright purple flash bounced off again. Did I do that? This was fun! This was like wrestling but 50000x better!

 

By now the rest of the household was pouring onto the lawn, laughing and cheering. "No jinxes!" yelled Ginny, sticking her head out of the window. "I don't want to fly anyone to the hospital."

 

Eager to use magic again, I watched James regain his footing. Right behind him was a flat board. Step back, I begged mentally. And then he did, taking another tiny step.

 

"Wingardium Leviosa!" I shouted happily, and the board shot up, flipping James over.

 

"GOD, stop using that spell," he growled. Of course, I should have seen what would come next-- James was a seventh year and I had known magic for all of 4 hours.

 

“ALEXANTI!” James sang, twitching his wand erratically. There was a stream of indigo and I was blown backward as if by a wrecking ball. My feet vaguely rose into the air as I realised this might hurt, a lot.

 

 I came crashing down in the dirt behind the bush. The impact knocked the wind out of me, and I lay there, gasping like a fish I tried to roll onto my side. Shit, there was a lot of pain. All I could do was look at the darkening sky. The fight continued out of sight.

 

I listened and was pleased to hear a muted thump then a cry of victory and muffled laughter.

 

"HAHA, you fool, beat by two sixth years!" jeered Albus from around the corner. "Yo Cass? Where'd she go?"

 

"I hit her with a blasting spell, I think," James said. "It was a bit too powerful. I forgot to adjust for the fact she doesn't way 250 pounds."

 

"What?" Albus' voice was suddenly filled with worry. "Cassie?"

 

I opened my mouth and a terrible, rasping sound came out.

 

The bush was thrown back. "Oh, shit," Albus cursed, carefully slinking his arm under me. Ow ow ow.

 

"She's fucking hurt!" Albus yelled to James angrily. "You okay?" he asked me as he hoisted me into the air.

 

"Yeah," I lied. There was a sticky warmth on my skin.

 

"Mum! Dad!" Albus called as he gingerly placed me on the couch. I was glad to see the other kids had gone back upstairs.

 

Harry looked at me and, frowning, determined I'd broken two ribs, not to mention received a nasty cut about my eyebrow.

 

"Stay still," he said, waving his wand. A tingling feeling spread across my body. The pain remarkably faded. "Let's wash her up," Harry suggested, bringing in a bucket of warm water. Shit. Things were not going as planned.

 

"I'm gonna kill James," Albus swore. He dabbed my forehead with a warm cloth. "Honestly. A blasting spell meant for a 16 year old male. He's so stupid.”

 

“I’m fine,” I promised. “You can go. Seriously, give me the rag, I can take care of it.”

 

“Nah,” Albus said. I frowned slightly. Life was rapidly complicating itself. What was I supposed to do?

 

He probably wasn’t even interested in me. How presumptuous for me to assume he would just immediately like me. There was no denying I had immediately liked him. How many times had someone cared enough about me to sit wiping blood off my forehead?

 

“I’m so sorry about this,” Albus said. “I hope you don’t regret coming here with me.”

 

“I don’t. I mean, at this point, you’re my only friend,” I admitted.

 

Albus smiled happily. “Don’t worry about Hogwarts. I’ll make sure no jerks try to take advantage of you. You’ll be fine.”

 

“Thanks,” I managed, trying to decipher his message. “I’m really surprised your Mom actually let me stay with you guys.”

 

“It’s a long story,” Albus sighed. “But someday it’ll make sense to you.”

 

“What excellent foreshadowing,” I laughed. “Why don’t you tell me? I don’t think I’m going anywhere.”

 

“Yeah, maybe not right now.” Albus smirked at me. “You look pretty terrible.”

 

“Haha,” I said sarcastically. “Thanks.”

 

He continued dabbing at my face. “Lily says you were a model or something?” His tone was cautious but very curious.

 

“She’s right,” I sighed. For some reason I was ashamed.

 

 Would I miss modelling? No. But it felt odd, to be normal again. Not an “elite” anymore. Just another person, wanting to be happy in the world.

 

“Really?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

There was a long silence.

 

“You can go to sleep if you want. I’m supposed to make sure you don’t have a seizure or anything.”

 

“I’ll be fine.” I yawned wearily. “You can go.”

 

Without a doubt, this had been the longest day of my life. Sleep washed over me, and I wasn’t quite sure if Albus ever left.

 

******

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