Disclaimer: All rights go to JK Rowling. Anything you don't recognize is mine.
Welcome and welcome back! Here is the sequel to The Clockwork Locket. If you're just now stumbling upon this story, great! I'll do my best to summarize in these first few chapters, but I do highly recommend reading The Clockwork Locket before diving into this story. And if you're traveling here after reading Clockwork, it's good to have you back on board! I hope you enjoy this story as much as the last one.
And to all readers, please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments. I love reading reviews and interacting with my readers!
So without further ado, let's get started. Enjoy!
The Storm Gathers
The Dark Lord sat in his hall of stone and waited.
The braziers lining the walls did nothing to keep the darkness at bay. Shadows gathered in all the places the light did not reach, spectating, watching. They scented blood, and they growled in anticipation of the kill to come.
Long, pale fingers rolled the yew wand in his hands. It was time. The Dark Lord spoke. "Enter."
The thick wooden doors at the opposite end of the hall swung open. They shuddered as they collided with the stone walls, and that was the only sound as a man and a woman walked in, flanking another witch between them.
"Lieutenant." The Dark Lord nodded to the man. He was a powerfully built wizard – tall, broad-shouldered, and well-muscled beneath his black robes. The Lieutenant dipped his head in acknowledgement. The light from the brazier flames danced across his brutal features and closely-shorn hair, throwing his face into shadow and turning his black hair gold.
The Dark Lord shifted his gaze to the witch on the far left. She was darkness and chaos incarnate, nearly quivering with anticipation, her black eyes shimmering with a madness and wildness he had always found intriguing. He inclined his head to her. "Lieutenant."
The witch's eyes went wide. She dropped to her knees so quickly he could hear the crack of her bones against the floor.
"My Lord…" she gasped. "You do me such a great honor…I will never fail you…Ask, and it will be done…I am yours to command…"
He flicked a hand. "Stand, Bellatrix. We have business to attend to."
As Bellatrix clambered to her feet, the Dark Lord focused his attention on the witch in the middle. Between the dark forms of his lieutenants, she stood out like a diamond with her platinum hair and iron eyes. She stood silently, head bowed, but he could see the small tremor in her hands and taste the tang of fear in the air.
Good. She should be afraid.
He flicked his hand again, and his lieutenants melted back into the shadows, leaving the white witch alone before him. He cocked his head. "Look at me, Claudia."
Claudia Carlisle lifted her eyes to him. She tried to conceal a shudder at the red irises, but he saw it anyway. It amused him.
"Well?" he said. "What do you have to say for yourself?"
He kept his voice silky soft, but she flinched like he had shouted. "My Lord…You know I live to serve…I had the object you desired in the palm of my hand—"
"But you did not." Carlisle shied away from the coldness in his voice. "Instead you let a weak little girl and her foolish friends obtain the object before you and destroy it. Tell me, Claudia, how does that not count as failure on your part?"
Carlisle's hands curled at her sides, and her lips pulled back in a snarl as she said, "Yes, I did fail you, My Lord. I do not deny that. But Cassie Alderfair had help from her traitorous whelp of a brother—"
"William Alderfair is no longer my concern. He is locked away in Azkaban for the time being, until I decide I want to use him again. What is my concern is why my former Third was beaten and humiliated by a sixteen-year-old girl."
He waved his wand, and Carlisle gasped as her face began to drip like hot wax. The Transfiguration she had applied disappeared as he undid her spell-work, revealing the ugly burns and angry red marks she had tried so hard to conceal. One side of her face was so burned that patches of her white-blonde hair were still missing, singed away from the blast that had wrecked her face.
"Five Stunning Spells all at once, performed by a meager student." He smiled coldly at Carlisle, who was desperately trying to hide her face behind her hands. "You make a mockery of yourself, Claudia."
"My Lord," she gasped. "Let me have my revenge on Cassie Alderfair. Let me kill her for you, to prove my worth once again—"
"You had your chance to kill the girl. And my patience is at an end, Claudia."
Carlisle threw herself to her knees. "My Lord, please – I will do anything – anything – to prove my loyalty – please—"
He frowned down at the prostrated witch. "Oh, Claudia. You know how much I hate beggars."
He jerked his wand again, and Carlisle's pleas morphed into screams. The Dark Lord watched, unmoved, as the witch's body convulsed and twitched on the stones, her screams echoing around the large hall.
Pitiful creature, he thought in disgust. It must be put down.
With one more wave of his wand, there was a flash of green light, and Carlisle's screams faded. Her body splayed on the stones, broken and still, and her lifeless grey eyes bored into him.
He felt nothing but satisfaction.
"Bellatrix." He flicked a careless hand. "Dispose of her."
His lieutenant rushed forward at once, waving her wand so Carlisle's limp body floated behind her as she left the hall. When the doors had shut again, the Dark Lord turned to his Second. "Is the prisoner secured?"
He nodded. "William Alderfair was transported to Azkaban two days ago, My Lord. The Wizengamot gave him a life sentence."
"Oh, I fear it won't be that long," the Dark Lord mused. "Just enough to remember his place." His lips curled in a serpentine smile. "You did good work, Bloodbane. Your service will be rewarded."
Bloodbane bowed his head. "My service is my reward, My Lord."
"Of course it is." The Dark Lord examined his yew wand again. "Is that all, Lieutenant?"
"I do have one more question, My Lord." The Dark Lord gestured for him to speak. "What is to be done about Alderfair's sister?"
"She poses no threat. Yet." He studied his lieutenant. "But if what you told me about her bloodline is true…"
The Dark Lord shrugged. "Then we will keep an eye on her. But if her seventeenth birthday comes and the magic lying dormant in her blood awakens…" He fixed his lieutenant with a serpent's stare. "You know what to do."
"Of course, My Lord." Bloodbane nodded and dismissed himself, leaving the Dark Lord alone.
Yes, he pondered as he rolled his wand between his fingers, Cassie Alderfair could potentially become his greatest enemy – or his greatest ally. If he could break William Alderfair, she could be broken, as well. And to see the look on Dumbledore's face if he stole one of his most valuable pawns…
Lord Voldemort smiled at the thought.
Cassie Alderfair was not normal.
The neighbors might have thought she was as they stood outside, watering their meticulous lawns and trimming their perfect hedges, waving as she jogged past on her morning runs. To them, she was only an average sixteen-year-old girl, enjoying a summer holiday at her aunt's house on Freesia Lane before she went back to her fancy French boarding school in September. To them, there was no speculation at all that she might be unusual.
If only they knew.
What the neighbors didn't see was the birch wand stuffed down her shirt when she went on her runs, or the way her eyes roved over the hedges and yards, alert for any sign that that day would finally be the day the Death Eaters came for her. What the neighbors didn't know was that Cassie Alderfair was a witch, and her aunt, Olivia Hastings, was one also, living in their midst like they, too, were ordinary Muggles. And what the neighbors could never guess was that Cassie Alderfair's brother was a murderer, and she was a hunted prize for the greatest Dark wizard of their time.
But to them, ignorance was bliss.
Cassie jogged down the sidewalk, keeping her pace quick and her breath even. The morning sun was already hot on the back of her neck, and she could feel sweat slicking her skin and sliding between her shoulder blades, but she kept running.
She couldn't remember the last time she had willingly run before this summer. Her body couldn't remember, either, which was why she had gone only three blocks a month ago before hurling her guts into Mrs. Brown's prize-winning peonies. But Cassie kept running, every morning, pushing herself more and more, until she could now go eight kilometers without stopping.
She'd needed something to do to keep herself occupied over the holiday, as her aunt had been so kind to remind her the week after her parents' funeral as she ripped the covers off Cassie and dragged her to the shower.
"I'm not letting you wallow in your misery, Cassie," Liv had said over the hiss of the showerhead. The water had been scalding, but it was the most Cassie had felt in over a week. "I know how hard it is, but wasting your life away in bed isn't going to improve anything."
Cassie had been so angry with her aunt that she'd laced up her trainers and gone outside for some fresh air, but that was all it took. When she ran, she didn't have to focus on her dead parents, or her lying traitor of a brother, or the sorry mess her life had become. She could just breathe, and run, and forget about the demons haunting her steps, if only for a little while. It became routine; it became peace.
Today was different though.
With every smack of her shoe against the pavement, Liv's voice rang through her head like a bell: "A letter came from the Ministry. Will was sentenced to Azkaban two days ago. For life."
Cassie grit her teeth and ran faster. Her knees groaned in protest, but she ignored them. Will was in Azkaban. Not just for murdering their parents because Lord Voldemort had forced him to, but because he wanted to go. To find someone. To find Erebus Kane.
Cassie hadn't told anyone about her brother's plans. She didn't want to, not until she found out who this Erebus Kane was, and why Will was willing to risk going mad in Azkaban to get to him.
Her legs pumped harder. When had her brother become such a suicidal idiot? Joining the Death Eaters had been one thing, but to go to Azkaban…
"I hope you rot in Azkaban."
Those had been her last words to him. And it seemed she'd finally gotten her wish. Her brother was gone. He'd succumbed to the Darkness festering inside him, and this had been the end result. She wished she could feel remorseful over Will's fate, but she couldn't. He'd chosen his path and left her all alone. And now he would be alone.
But the anger thrumming inside her would not go away.
Liar. With every step, she pictured Will's face beneath her feet. Traitor. She'd been stupid, stupid and blind to think that her brother had ever been good, that he'd ever choose her over his delusions of power and grandeur. Coward. And she was angry at herself for still thinking he could be saved despite it all.
Cassie reached the end of the quaint suburban neighborhood and stopped. The sprawl of Surrey lay beyond, vastly different from Alderfair Manor and the North York Moors she'd grown up with all her life. It took her a few moments to realize that tears had mingled with the sweat on her face, and she wiped them away hastily, cursing herself for crying.
She couldn't have changed anything from happening, she knew. But Godric, she wished she had.
Drying the last of her tears, she turned and went home.
The Hastings household was what Cassie could only describe as cheerful chaos.
It was something she had been shocked by when she first moved in. And though some days it was still odd to her, she was slowly getting used to it. Alderfair Manor had been her home, but it'd been cold and imposing. With only four people and a house-elf residing in such a large residence, it was common for the halls and rooms to be eerily quiet, and for Cassie to feel utterly alone. But the Hastings' house was the complete opposite.
Small but cozy, the home spoke of warmth and life. Every room was painted a bright and cheery color, and the furniture was well-worn and comfortable, like they'd seen lifetimes of use. The icebox was decorated with sloppy drawings and paintings provided by Cassie's younger cousins, and the sitting room was filled with family photos, frozen forever in their frames, but still happier than any of the portraits Cassie had been forced to sit through as a child.
Perhaps that was what unnerved her so much about her aunt's house – the love that oozed from every aspect of it. There was no walking on eggshells to please her father, no quiet discussions with her mother, their voices a whisper to keep anyone from overhearing, no secrets and lies and masks. The Hastings were everything the Alderfairs were not: authentic, genuine, and real.
Cassie entered through the front door and was greeted by a barrage of sounds. She used to flinch at all the noise before, but now she could mostly tune it out. She passed the sitting room, where her uncle, David, sat before the telly, lounging in his pajamas and watching the Saturday morning programs from the sofa. He waved as Cassie walked by, and Cassie managed a smile for him.
David was a nice man; as a professor of Muggle history, he was smart and articulate too, and Cassie was always fascinated by his stories. But she knew David was also wary of her. Her aunt had never gone into specifics, but Liv had told her that David's history with wizards and witches wasn't pleasant – which didn't surprise Cassie at all. Her grandparents had been staunch blood purists, and discovering their youngest daughter had eloped with a Muggle man… Well, Cassie could imagine the devastation left in the wake of that particular fight.
Cassie walked into the kitchen, seeing her cousins working on a puzzle together at the table while her aunt stood at the stove cooking breakfast. That had been another shock for Cassie – realizing she had cousins. She'd never even known about their existence until she'd moved in over a month ago, and the revelation had been a slap to the face. Not once had her mother ever mentioned she had more family out in the world. Cassie had to wonder what else her parents had hidden from her over the years.
"Hi, Cass," said Ben, the older of her two cousins. He was eight, with curly dark hair and the same soft, hazel eyes as his mother. He was curious too, which Cassie had learned the hard way at her first dinner with the Hastings. She had almost stabbed her eye out with a fork after the little tyke's endless stream of questions.
"Hey, Ben," she returned. "Hi, Mia. What puzzle are you doing?"
Mia, her other cousin, said with all the enthusiasm of a six-year-old, "It's the hot air balloon one! Do you want to help?"
Cassie wavered at her big brown eyes, but fortunately, Liv came to her rescue. "Maybe she can play with you later, Mia. Let her eat first."
Mia nodded, going back to the puzzle and swiftly berating Ben for trying to put down the wrong piece. Cassie grinned as she grabbed a glass of water, downing it all in a few seconds before refilling it.
Liv dumped another serving of fluffy scrambled eggs into the bowl on the island, but Cassie could feel her aunt's eyes on her. "Good run?" Liv asked casually. Too casually.
Cassie shrugged. She didn't particularly want to talk about the news Liv had shared with her that morning about Will in that moment. Preferably never, if she could help it. She traced her finger along the rim of her glass, ignoring Liv's beseeching stare and the way her heart twisted at the expression; sometimes Liv looked so much like Cassie's mother that it took her breath away. The dark hair, the natural beauty, the sparkle in their eyes – it made Cassie want to break down and cry.
"I made it all the way to Briar Oak Lane," she replied, swallowing the hot lump in her throat. "That's the furthest I've gone so far."
Liv nodded, pursing her lips. "And how are you feeling?"
Fan-freaking-tastic, she thought, but she only shrugged again. "Tired. Sweaty. Hungry."
Her aunt studied her carefully. Cassie clenched her jaw and turned away from her scrutiny.
"Another letter came for you while you were out," Liv said eventually.
Cassie snorted. "Another note from Rita Skeeter, begging to let her interview me for The Daily Prophet?"
Liv smiled. "Why don't you take a look."
She extracted the letter from the pocket of her apron and handed it to Cassie. Cassie slid her finger under the fold and broke the plain wax seal. Inside was a piece of parchment paper that she unfolded to reveal four sets of different handwriting in black ink, and she couldn't help the grin that spread across her face as she read.
GREETINGS, MISS ALDERFAIR! WE HOPE THIS LETTER FINDS YOU ALIVE AND UNHARMED!
Don't listen to James, Cassie. We know you're doing all right.
Sirius says he wants to snog you!
Sod off, Peter. But it is true…
Ugh, gross, Sirius!
Behave, Padfoot. Save your love letters for another piece of parchment.
IMPORTANT QUESTION, CASS: IS SIRIUS BLACK A GOOD SNOG?
Wouldn't you like to know, Prongs?
I DO ALREADY KNOW, PADS – I'M JUST ASKING CASSIE TO GET A SECOND OPINION.
James, stop taking up the entire parchment! Why are you writing so big anyway?
BECAUSE I'M THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE HERE.
I think Cassie would disagree.
NONSENSE. WE'RE IN LOVE, CASSIE, RIGHT?
You have some explaining to do, Princess…
Okay, moving on. How are things, Cass? Good holiday so far? All things considering. As you can tell, we're all at James's house for the rest of the summer. We've been pestering his mum to invite you – if not for the remainder of the holiday, then at least for Pete's birthday. It's coming up in August.
You better come!
That was Peter, if you couldn't tell. Owl us back with your answer!
IF YOU CAN'T COME, WE'RE GOING TO GET YOU ANYWAY! HAVE YOUR TRUNK READY, PRINCESS!
Pack something sexy too.
See that stain on the parchment, Cassie? That's where I threw up.
ANYWAY. Hope to see you soon, Cass. Take care of yourself. – Remus
Bye, Cassie! – Peter
I LOVE YOU, CASSIE. MAKE GOOD CHOICES. LOVE, YOUR SOULMATE FOREVER – JAMES FLEAMONT POTTER
I miss you, Princess. Yours, Sirius
Cassie was beaming when she reached the end of the letter. Godric, she missed those boys. Even though she'd had constant contact with the Marauders and Lily, Alice, and Marlene all summer, the letters weren't the same as physically being with her friends. Her heart ached just thinking about them.
Liv smiled when Cassie looked up at her. "I received another letter from Euphemia Potter. She's invited you to stay the rest of the summer."
"Are you all right with that?"
Liv shrugged, nibbling on a piece of bacon sitting out. "You're old enough to make your own decisions, Cassie. I may be your guardian, but I'm certainly not your keeper."
Cassie smiled right back at her aunt. "Thank you."
Liv wiped her hands on her apron, but her eyes were kind when she looked at Cassie. "Go freshen up. I'll have breakfast ready when you're done."
Cassie turned to leave, but she stopped on her way out of the kitchen. On a sudden whim, she turned and wrapped her aunt in a hug.
"Thank you," she repeated, hoping Liv would understand that Cassie's gratitude extended far beyond just allowing her to stay with the Potters. By receiving her aunt's equally tight embrace, however, Cassie knew she'd gotten her point across.
Filled with more excitement than she'd had in ages, Cassie took the stairs two at a time to her bedroom on the second floor. She crossed the threshold and sat down at the simple wooden desk she'd been provided, pulling a piece of parchment toward her and dabbing her quill in ink before scrawling out a hasty reply.
I'll be there. Love, Cassie
Osbourne, her tawny owl, blinked sleepily at her with amber eyes as she opened his cage and tied the post to his leg. "Here you go, Ozzy. Catch some mice while you're out, yeah? I know you're sick of the Muggle food."
The owl ruffled his feathers and hopped out of the cage. When Cassie opened her window, Ozzy spread his wings and took flight, heading west. She watched him disappear into the blue sky before she shut her window and sat back at her desk. For a moment, she drummed her fingers on the desktop, debating, before heaving a sigh and opening the top right drawer.
Atop a stack of extra parchment sat the clockwork locket. Its silver-and-ruby surface gleamed innocently up at her, and she could hear the metal gears on the inside clicking and whirring. Cassie hadn't worn it since the funeral, whenever it had mysteriously appeared again in her old bedroom at Alderfair Manor – after she'd broken it and chucked it into the Forbidden Forest to be lost forever. She hadn't tried to get rid of it again, as much as she wanted to. The locket unnerved her. There was a magic to it that went beyond anything she had ever read about, a power that could prove deadly in the wrong hands. She knew it in her gut. So if anyone was to have the locket, then maybe it was better if she kept it, to protect it from the people who would want to use it.
Pushing away the unease that grew in her belly from the locket, Cassie shut the drawer and headed into the bathroom for a shower.
The clockwork locket ticked on.
Please review! I'd love to know your thoughts!
This was a bit of an introductory chapter, but I hope you can forgive me for how short it was. As always, there's more to come!
Next Chapter: The Return