Disclaimer: All rights go to JK Rowling. Anything you don't recognize is mine.
As of this date, The Clockwork Locket is undergoing some "spring cleaning." No rewrites - just brushing up some grammar/technical issues so it's more polished.
Anyway - welcome and happy reading!
The Invisible Girl
Cassie Alderfair did not remember much of her past four years at Hogwarts.
It wasn't as if she'd been Obliviated, or was suddenly diagnosed with amnesia. It was simply because she kept her head down and minded her own business, and remained as inconspicuous as possible.
Her name was not on any award in the trophy room, and her grades were average at best. In fact, if one were to inquire about her to any student in the school prior to her fourth year, they would probably receive blank looks and confused frowns. The only reason why she wasn't an equivalent of a Hogwarts ghost (and even then, more people knew of Nearly Headless Nick and the Fat Friar than her) was because of her surname.
Despite her best attempts at anonymity, the name Alderfair had a certain ring in the wizarding world that was hard to shake. Perhaps it was because of her father, a prominent figure on the Wizengamot, or maybe her mother, who was editor of the famous Witch Weekly magazine. Or perhaps because the Alderfairs were one of the only pure-blood families left in Britain, and thus held certain influence because of it. All of these things would have been easy to brush off, but it wasn't until Cassie's fourth year that she was thrust to the forefront of everyone's mind when her elder brother William graduated Hogwarts and went on to become a Death Eater.
That in itself had stirred quite a controversy at the school, remarkably so as Cassie and her brother had both been Sorted into Gryffindor. It was something much more expected of a Slytherin, but as Cassie had begun to see it, people were surprising – even those dearest to you. Fortunately, the talk had petered out by the end of her fourth year, and after another boring summer holiday, she was ready to go back to her invisible self for her fifth.
The morning of September 1st dawned a clear and watery grey, and at approximately 10:13 AM, if one were to look directly at the wall separating platforms 9 and 10, they might have seen a surly teenage girl wheeling a trolley with a trunk and an owl in a cage walk right into the wall and disappear, closely followed by a woman wearing very strange and very bright clothing.
Cassie blinked and found herself back in the usual chaos of Platform 9 ¾, where students ran up and down greeting friends they had not seen over the holiday, and frazzled parents were left to deal with their children's luggage. Smoke from the Hogwarts Express drifted over their heads, adding an opaqueness to the scene, and Osbourne – Cassie's sleek-feathered brown owl – hooted at all the sudden commotion.
"Well, come on, dear," Eleanor Alderfair said. She gripped Cassie's upper arm and ushered her towards the train, heedless of the attention the dazzling woman was receiving in her fuchsia robes and the exotic-feathered quill tucked behind her right ear.
"Mum, I've done this before," Cassie said, tugging her arm out of her mother's grasp and scowling. "I'm not a child anymore."
"Of course you're not," Eleanor replied absentmindedly, returning the enthusiastic wave of a witch who must've read her magazine. Cassie resisted the urge to vomit as she walked to an empty compartment where she could load her things.
She found one more towards the back where she could avoid the thickest crowd of students clustered in the middle, and turned when she reached it.
"Well, bye, Mum," she said, and returned Eleanor's sudden embrace half-heartedly as her mother sighed.
"Goodbye, Pumpkin," she said, pulling away dramatically and giving Cassie a wide, pink-lipped smile. "Your father sends his love as well, and he hopes you have another great year."
"Tell him thanks, and I love him, too," Cassie said, if only to appease her; since starting school, the only consistent contact she had with her father were letters throughout the school year, and even those were rare. The Ministry was his first home at this point, and after their argument at the beginning of the summer… Well, she wasn't surprised that she was receiving this secondhand good-bye.
"We'll see you home for Christmas, then," Eleanor said, kissing her daughter's forehead and beaming at her. "Be safe, Pumpkin, and write us if you need anything. I have to go, the office needs me, but write, you hear me, young lady?"
"Yeah, got it," Cassie said, forcing a smile in return as Eleanor blew a last kiss before Disapparating in a swirl of fuchsia.
Cassie huffed out a sigh, more from irritation at having to load her heavy luggage alone than at her mother. Eleanor was a summer storm; there one moment and gone the next, but Cassie was used to it. She had learned to look out for herself from a very young age because of it, and her independence was something she valued greatly.
She opened the outer compartment door and first took Osbourne off the trolley. The owl tittered and flapped his wings in annoyance when she put him inside the compartment on one of the seats, and Cassie gave him a small smile.
"Stop fretting, Ozzy," she said. "I'll let you roam about in a moment."
The owl glared at her with amber eyes, and she rolled her own in return as she hopped back out of the compartment, trying to figure out the best way to get her trunk in there by herself. She lifted one of the ends experimentally and cursed when it slid and rammed into her knee, setting it throbbing.
"C'mon," she moaned, when she tried to push it next, to no avail. She was just about to pull out her wand and jinx it to get into the stupid compartment (wondering if that was even legal; after all, wasn't the Hogwarts Express technically part of school grounds?), when a voice behind her said, "Having trouble?"
Cassie spun around, her face pinching when she saw who the person was; the last time she'd seen him, he'd been hightailing it away from Filch's office on the last day of term with the rest of his juvenile friends, his face screwed up in laughter as Filch screamed about "pants" and "fire."
Sirius Black had not changed much over the summer holiday, as far as she could tell. He still had the same shaggy black hair, grey eyes, and crooked grin that oozed with arrogance and self-assuredness. The only noticeable differences were that he'd grown at least two inches, and his grin was cockier than she'd remembered it – which was a feat in itself. Sirius was in her year at Hogwarts, and in the same House, and after seeing that smirking face nearly every day, she was surprised it could even get any more smirking.
"I can manage," she said shortly, proving her point spectacularly when she attempted to lift her trunk again and promptly dropped it on her foot.
"I see that," he said, grinning and raising a brow when she swore violently. "Here, budge over, or else you'll end up in Madam Pomfrey's before the term even starts."
Cassie wanted to protest, but the pain in her foot and knee made her stand back and watch as he hoisted her trunk in both hands and loaded it into the compartment with ease. He climbed back out and gave her a wide grin that she did not return.
"Thanks," she mumbled, about to board as well when his voice stopped her.
"Hey," he said, gazing at her quizzically when she turned back. "You're a Gryffindor, right?"
Cassie nodded, already preparing herself for the recognition, but he only tilted his head, contemplating. "Are you a fourth-year?"
Cassie glared at him, wondering if he was being serious or just a prick, but he looked at her as if he genuinely didn't know who she was.
"For the record, I'm in your year," she said haughtily. "I've sat behind you in pretty much every class for the past four years."
His eyes widened at this, and finally, recognition dawned on his features as he began to say, "Cass—"
She didn't let him finish, already climbing aboard the train and shutting the compartment door in his face, her shoulders tense and her face flushing with mortification. She knew she wasn't very well-known around Hogwarts – unless her name was placed to her face, anyway – but to not be recognized by one of her own classmates? That was a new low, even for her.
She looked back to the window, her eyes raking the platform, but Sirius Black had already gone. She saw him standing with three other boys on the platform, talking to a set of older parents that had to be James Potter's – Black's best friend – as the man was the spitting image of his son, though with silver hair instead of black.
Cassie watched Potter dodge another hug from his mother, who instead turned her embrace on Black and the other two boys – Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew – before the train whistle blew a shrill warning and they jogged to their own compartment, laughing and jostling each other as the Potters waved at them from the platform.
Cassie felt strange, watching this encounter, so she instead turned her attention to the cage Osbourne was still in, unlatching the door and allowing the owl to hop out and stretch his wings.
"Oh, Ozzy," she said, scratching the owl's head as the Hogwarts Express began to trundle out of the station, the many waving hands of parents beginning to blur together as the train picked up speed. "Why do I feel like this year is going to be complicated?"
The morning passed in a haze of silence interspersed with small talk as Cassie gained the companionship of a Ravenclaw in her year she had spoken to several times on occasion, by the name of Bellamy Armstrong.
Bellamy was a quiet but observant girl, with curly brown hair and almond-shaped eyes, and she politely asked about Cassie's holiday and what she was looking forward to the most this year before retreating behind the cover of their Potions book.
Cassie spent the rest of the train ride staring out the window and watching the countryside flash by, greens and browns and greys blending together as the day wore on. She ought to go find her dormmates and only friends, but she was enjoying her solitude too much to bother. She munched on some Pumpkin Pasties she'd bought from the food trolley and watched the tiny picture of Merlin pacing back and forth in his Chocolate Frog card before she grew tired of staring and stowed it away.
Outside their quiet compartment, Cassie could hear the shouts and laughter of the other students, but she tried to block out their noise, curling up in her seat and closing her eyes for a small nap, telling Bellamy to wake her when they got close to Hogsmeade.
When next Cassie awoke, after having been shaken by a soft but insistent Bellamy, the lanterns had flickered on and the sky outside was dark. She could barely make out the shape of mountains in the distance when the conductor announced that they would be arriving in Hogsmeade in five minutes.
"We should change," Bellamy said, gesturing to Cassie's casual robes and her own Muggle dress. Cassie nodded, stifling a yawn as she pulled out her school robes from the top of her trunk and began fastening the silver clasps.
By the time the train rumbled to a stop, they were both in their black robes, though with the respective colors of their House resembled on the ties they wore underneath their collars: Bellamy's blue and bronze, and Cassie's red and gold.
They followed the rest of the students disembarking the train and came out on the small platform stationed in Hogsmeade, and Cassie rubbed her arms briskly from the chill of the early autumn air.
"Firs' years!" a voice boomed over the chattering crowd, and Cassie saw the gamekeeper, Hagrid, looming over all the students and holding a lamp as he called, "Firs' years, this way!"
Cassie saw the tiny, scared faces of the first-years as they hesitantly approached the giant man, but she knew Hagrid would do them no harm, kindly soul he was. She remembered her own first year, when she had slipped on the rocks after exiting her boat, and Hagrid had been there to pick her back up, patting her shoulder reassuringly when she had sniffled, trying to keep from crying. The memory stuck out vividly to her, but she doubted he would be able to recall it, and the thought made her small smile vanish as she was pushed along by the crowd, making their way to the carriages that awaited the rest of them.
Cassie and Bellamy climbed into one and were joined by two Hufflepuff third-years. The younger girls turned to each other and whispered, glancing Cassie's way every so often, but she grit her teeth and stared out the window until they'd arrived at the castle.
The sight of Hogwarts never failed to amaze Cassie, with its high towers and turrets and windows that gleamed like tiny stars in the inky vastness of the dark sky surrounding them. Warm golden light spilled onto the stone steps they ascended, and as they crossed the threshold of the grand front doors, a feeling quite like that of coming home spread through Cassie's chest as she joined the flock of students filing into the Great Hall.
Cassie took a seat at the Gryffindor table along the right side of the Hall after parting ways with Bellamy, where she was quickly joined by the ever-smiling and joyous presence of Alice Fortescue, one of the girls she shared her dormitory with.
"Cassie!" she cried, throwing her arms around Cassie's neck and managing to sit down at the same time. "It's so good to see you! How was your holiday?"
"Same as ever," she replied, though she couldn't help but smile back. "What about you?"
"Oh, it was just wonderful," Alice gushed. "My parents took us to Paris…"
Cassie nodded and exclaimed where she needed to, but for the most part, she let Alice do all the talking. The long journey had made her tired, and she thought longingly of the food that was about to appear before them as the first years were suddenly ushered into the hall and the Sorting Hat was brought out.
Tuning out most of the Sorting (though still cheering with the other Gryffindors when another first year joined their House), Cassie looked up and down the table absentmindedly, her gaze flicking over the familiar faces and pausing on the new additions.
She watched James Potter talking animatedly to a nervous first year that had just sat down (probably already filling his mind with terrible practical jokes and crude humor), before she moved on and met a set of grey eyes already staring back at her.
She blinked, startled to meet the gaze of Sirius Black as she took in his frown and scrunched brows, as if he were trying to place her. Cassie quickly dropped her eyes down to her lap as the Sorting finished, and the Headmaster, Professor Dumbledore, began to speak from the staff table.
"Welcome to another year at Hogwarts!" he said, and there was a round of applause at this before he continued. "Now, I don't want to keep you – or myself, for that matter – from this wonderful feast we are all waiting for, but I would like to say a few words beforehand."
Professor Dumbledore looked out at them all from behind his half-moon spectacles, his demeanor turning serious as he spoke again.
"While dark times may have fallen outside of these walls, Hogwarts will always remain a safe haven to those in need of one," he said solemnly, and Cassie shifted in her seat when she thought his sharp eyes strayed to her. "This year will be one of respect, tolerance, hard work, and above all, love and loyalty. May our spirits never dim against the shadows!"
There were a few toasts with empty goblets around the Hall, before Professor Dumbledore smiled genially once more and announced, "Dig in!"
Food suddenly appeared before them, and talk broke out again when the Headmaster sat down. Cassie loaded food onto her golden plate half-heartedly, her stomach churning after hearing the Headmaster's words. They had reminded her far too much of the argument she'd had with her father upon returning home last term, and the memory made her quite uncomfortable when she recalled it.
Squashing it down, however, she turned to engage Alice in conversation once more, unaware of the grey eyes that had returned back to her in curiosity from farther down the table.
Next Chapter: The Most Annoying Stare