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Chapter 21 : In Which There Isn't That Much Hope
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The rest of the break passed quickly and in a surprising sense of calm. I sat on the swings outside with Al when he came round, our fingers linked together as we talked about anything and everything. Jason practiced Quidditch moves with me, gently encouraging as I twirled in the air, attempting Gryffindor moves that were unlike my usual flying style. He was strangely supportive, given that I was technically the competition, but he always insisted we returned to the ground as soon as Scor turned up. Letting the Slytherin captain see his moves was obviously a step too far.
As long as I didn’t think too much about my parents, I felt strangely okay. I visited my mother two more times, once with Al and once with Scor. Nothing changed. She was awake and smiling, chatting blithely about holiday plans and beauty regimes. Neither of us talked about what had happened but I’d decided that it was maybe better that way. I had other people to talk to when I needed to.
I didn’t speak to my father at all. He did turn up to Puddlemere once, banging on the door and calling my name while we ate our breakfast. I froze in my seat. Aunt Katie glanced over at me and then calmly stood up and walked quietly out of the room. We all strained our ears to hear the whispered argument going on in the corridor, and jumped as the front door slammed. Katie came back to the breakfast table without mentioning the fact she’d just kicked her younger brother out of her house, and Jason squeezed my hand under the table.
The day before we returned to Hogwarts, the doorbell rang while I was outside flying with Jason. Everyone else was out, so I lowered myself towards the ground.
“Leave it. Nobody important rings the bell,” Jason said. He flopped sideways off his broom with his legs bent over the wood so that he dangled upside down beneath it.
“That’s very obviously not true.” I rolled my eyes. “I’ll get it.”
Jason tensed and pulled his body back up to sit on the broom. He didn’t bother holding onto it properly once he was sat up, instead using his hands to mess up his hair.
“Fine. Come back and fly after?”
I dropped my broom on the ground and wandered through the house to the front door. I liked how comfortable I now felt there. It was a happy place to be.
“Ollie,” Scor said as soon as I opened the door. He lifted one arm to hug me and then looked unsure and lowered it back to his side. We were still trying to figure out our friendship. After all the horrible encounters since christmas it was hard to go straight back to the way we’d been before.
“Hi. You okay? I’m flying with Jace, if you want to join.” I smiled more widely than I needed to, trying to emphasise that he was welcome and I was happy to see him. It was strange seeing him uncomfortable around me.
“Oh. I should have realised you’d be busy. Erm, don’t worry. I’ll just see you on the train tomorrow?” He took a step back.
“Don’t be silly, Scor. Come in.”
He stayed on the doorstep.
“Scor? Seriously, come in. What’s wrong?” I wasn’t sure what to say.
He sighed. “It’s nothing, don’t worry. I just, there’s somewhere I thought I should go, before we go back to school, you know? I think I’ll regret it if i don’t go. I need to at least ask if he knows anything. I thought you might want to join. You know him better than I do. And he’s the closest link we’ve got to her, right? I don’t know. But you’re busy. Don’t worry about it.”
I took a deep breath, feeling like an idiot. Of course there was somewhere he needed to go. Somewhere we needed to go. I couldn’t believe I’d been self centered enough not to think of it myself.
“Don’t be silly, Scor. Obviously I’m coming with you. Just let me grab my coat.”
Diagon Alley was busy. It was the last day of the holidays and flustered mothers were dragging their school-age children around the shops, replenishing supplies and getting robes altered. I linked my arm through Scor’s as we zigzagged through the crowds. Neither of us spoke. It was hard to know what we’d say.
We both paused outside the flat, frowning at the shiny black door. The building felt achingly familiar but horribly difficult to enter. I jumped when Scorpius lifted a finger and pressed the bell.
Andreas’s voice came from somewhere inside, muffled but audible. “Fuck. Babe, can you get it? I can’t find my shirt.”
Scor frowned at me and I shrugged. A strange bump sounded from the other side of the door, followed by footsteps. We both took a step back as the door opened.
“Hey. Sorry. Andy will be out in a sec...Olivia?”
Martin Flint stood just inside the door. He somehow looked different from the boy I’d met at New Year. His hair was a bit longer and flopped over his forehead. He was wearing a striped shirt but hadn’t matched the buttons up when he’d put it on, so one side dangled lower than the other. A circular mark that looked like it had been made by someone’s teeth stained the side of his neck.
“Erm, hey. Can’t say I expected to see you.” He bit his lip, looking amused but maybe a little bit worried at the same time.
“Martin Flint, right?” Scor frowned. “Didn’t we meet you at New Year? You’re the creep that wouldn’t leave Ollie alone.”
Martin winced. “Not my finest moment.”
“What are you doing here?”
Martin tipped his head from one side to another, humming as he tried to think of an answer. He was saved the trouble of replying by Andreas’s voice from inside.
“Sorry about that. Who was it? Are you coming back to bed?”
“Erm, no,” Martin called. “They’re still here. You might want to come out.”
Scor’s eyebrows lifted and he looked at me with a smirk. A startled giggle escaped through my lips. I lifted a hand to my mouth, trying to conceal my laughter, but Martin’s sharp intake of breath showed that it was pointless.
“Sorry,” I muttered, managing to suppress my laughter. “Sorry. I just...you and Andreas? I didn’t see that coming.”
“Understandably,” Andreas said, stepping around Martin to see us. “Ollie. Scorp. Hi. It’s good to see you.”
He put his arms out and pulled me into a quick hug. When I stepped back, he reached out to shake Scor’s hand.
“Last day of the holidays, right?. I guess I should have expected to see you two at some point. Come in.”
We followed him through to the cramped living room, none of us speaking. A lump had materialised in my throat, making it hard to swallow. I felt like a horrible person. Andreas thought it was obvious we would have come. How had it not even occurred to me to visit Cassie’s brother? Why had I needed Scor to turn up and remind me?
“Sit down,” Andreas said, vaguely gesturing towards the sofa.
Martin hovered awkwardly in the doorway. When Andreas didn’t say anything, he looked at Scor and me. “I’ll make some tea, shall I? Or a cake, maybe? I don’t know. Something. I’ll, um, I’ll be back in a bit.”
He left the room before any of us could reply.
Andreas screwed his face up and looked at me. “So...yeah.”
“You’re with Martin? Since when?” I wanted to laugh again.
“A while,” Andreas said. “We were still figuring some stuff out at New Year. He was pretty confused and got much too drunk.”
“Yeah. Sorry about that.”
“It’s okay,” I shrugged. “Nothing bad happened.”
“No, it’s not okay.” Andreas shook his head. “It was completely inexcusable. But it came from confusion, not malice. He’s good, once you get to know him.”
“I’m sure he is.” I smiled.
Scor coughed and Andreas turned away from me to face him.
“But you didn’t come here to talk about my love life, did you?” He kept his eyes on Scor.
Scorpius didn’t say anything. I wanted to help him out but wasn’t sure how.
“I don’t know where she is,” Andreas sighed into the silence. “I’d tell you where to find her if I could. I swear I would.”
“You live with her. How can you not know where she’s gone?” Scor didn’t sound angry, just heartbroken.
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen her since New Year’s Day. She said she was going to yours.”
“And you didn’t think to check?”
“Why would he, Scor?” I cut in. “Cassie was always round at yours.”
“Exactly. It was nothing out of the ordinary. I didn’t even know to be worried until she didn’t come and pick up her stuff for the new term.” Andreas looked down at the floor. “And even then I just assumed she was being chaotic. I had no idea she was actually missing until the school got in touch.”
“That’s fair. It wasn’t really out of character. We assumed she’d just missed the train at the beginning,” I said. Scor nodded.
“And you don’t know where she really is?” Andreas’s question was directed towards Scor.
Scor flushed red. “No.”
“None at all? I thought you might have some idea. You know her better than anyone.”
“I said no,” Scor snapped.
Andreas lifted his hands into the air, recognising that he’d somehow offended his sister’s boyfriend. “I didn’t mean anything by it. Really. I’ve been telling them all along that you have nothing to do with her going missing.”
“You have?” Scor looked surprised.
“Course I have. I know you. And I know my sister. There’s no way you’d hurt her.” Andreas spoke simply, like it was obvious.
“I appreciate that.” Scor spoke quietly. I reached out and took his hand and he squeezed my fingers.
“They said they’re not interested in you as a suspect anymore, though, right?”
I looked at Scor, curious. This was a development I hadn’t known anything about.
“They didn’t put it so nicely when they spoke to me, but yeah, essentially,” Scor agreed. “Apparently they rushed to conclusions they had no evidence for.”
“You didn’t tell me that.” I raised my eyebrows.
Scor shrugged. “It didn’t occur to me to say. It’s not exactly come up in conversation.”
A rush of guilt flushed over me again and I didn’t reply. How had we not been talking about Cass?
I was aware of Scor’s eyes on me. He probably knew how I was feeling but he didn’t mention it. Instead he turned back to Andreas.
“I guess we should get going, then. I kind of knew you wouldn’t have any more information than we do. I just...I couldn’t not ask, you know?”
“Of course,” Andreas said. “Hold on for a moment. I have something for you.”
He stood up and left the room. We heard him muttering something to Martin and then listened to his footsteps down the corridor.
Scor squeezed my hand again but neither of us spoke.
It was uncomfortable. I didn’t like being there, in that room filled with memories of Cass, with no way of knowing where she was. Without even looking for reminders of her, my eyes had already been drawn to the smudge of silver by the fireplace where she’d spilt half a bottle of nail polish, and the lipstick kiss on the mirror she’d cast a permanent sticking charm on to wind up her brother. I thought I should say something to Scor to distract him from the feel of her, but if I’d noticed these things I was sure he was just as aware of her presence.
Andreas reentered the room but didn’t sit down.
“Here. The officers returned it a few weeks ago. You should have it.” He held something out to Scor.
Scor reached out and let Andreas drop the locket into his hand. I remembered him telling me they’d found it broken, covered with blood, but the necklace he was now clutching was clean and mended. Somebody must have restored it. Scor stuffed the chain into his pocket.
“It finally occurred to somebody to test when the blood was from, and it had been there since before she disappeared,” Andreas said. “I don’t know how or why, but somehow she must have bled onto the chain while she was still here, and then it ended up at King’s Cross.”
I frowned. “So when they thought someone had hurt her…”
“...They didn’t really have any evidence at all,” Andreas finished my sentence. “That’s one of the reasons they’re not looking at you with suspicion any more, Scorpius. They no longer have any real reason to think she’s been harmed.”
“How did they not realise that before they started questioning you?” I was angry, thinking of how hurt Scor had been. It wasn’t fair that they’d acted like he’d done something. And it had nearly made me lose him.
“I don’t know,” Scor shook his head. “And they’re no closer to figuring out where she is than they were back in September. The whole thing’s been a complete shambles.”
“Agreed,” Andreas said. “And now that her birthday’s passed they’ve taken some of the officers off the case. She’s not underage anymore so it’s lower on their list of priorities.”
“How can they do that?” It felt like something caught in my throat as I spoke, and I coughed to try to clear it.
“I don’t know. Look, can we not talk about it right now? I’m sorry,” Scor was starting to look distressed. “It just...it’s not like we can make a difference by talking about it.”
“Course,” Andreas agreed. “I keep letting myself get angry with them over how they’re dealing with it all, but there’s nothing we can do to get them to handle the case better.”
I nodded. It was frustrating but out of our control. And it wasn’t like we had any better idea than the MLE officers did about how to deal with Cassie’s disappearance. It was like she’d vanished.
“Do you want to stay for tea? I think Martin might have been serious when he offered to bake,” Andreas grinned.
I glanced up at Scor. I didn’t particularly want to stay but I was happy to do whatever made Scor feel better.
He shook his head. “Thanks, but I think we should probably head off. Got to pack for tomorrow and stuff. I just needed to see you, you know? Just in case.”
“Of course. Well, I’m glad you came. It’s been good to see you. Sorry I couldn’t give you what you wanted,” Andreas said.
“Stay safe, Andy,” I said, forcing a smile and then standing up on tiptoes to give him a hug.
“You too. Enjoy Hogwarts,” he smiled.
Martin managed to give us a wave from the kitchen door but still looked too embarrassed to come out and properly say goodbye as we left the flat and stepped back into Diagon Alley. We hadn’t been inside for long, but it was no longer peak shopping time and the street was emptier than it had been when we arrived.
“I thought I’d feel better,” Scor said as we started to walk. “I’ve been waiting to be able to talk to him. I thought it might help to give me some kind of closure. But it’s just reminded me how horrible this all is.”
“I know,” I said. “I know exactly what you mean.”
He stopped walking and put an arm loosely around my shoulders. I let my head rest against his shoulder and we stood like that for a moment, both thinking about Cassie.
“Thank you for coming with me. I wasn’t sure you’d want to,” he said.
“Of course I wanted to. I’m sorry I didn’t think to suggest it.”
I felt his small shrug against me. “You’ve had a lot going on. Don’t worry about it.”
“I wish she’d just come back now,” I whispered.
“I know. Me too.” He stepped back from me and reached into his pocket, pulling out the chain of the locket. “Here, you should have this.”
He passed the locked over to me. I held onto the chunky silver, rubbing my thumb over the grooves in the metal.
“Are you sure? It’s yours. You gave it to her.” I bit my lip.
“Keep it,” he said. “I want you to have it. You’ve been missing her just as much as I have.”
I nodded, still chewing my lip. Scor took the locket out of my hand and draped it around my neck. The weight of it was comforting, and I tucked it down the front of my dress, feeling the cool silver against my skin.
Scor smiled at me but it was a hollow kind of a smile and it didn’t really make me feel any better.
“Keep it safe for her, yeah? Until she comes back.”
I was at risk of crying so didn’t say anything, and instead reached out to him for another hug.
“Of course. Until she comes back,” I nodded.
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