Well, approximately three months ago I posted the first chapter of this story and now today, I post the last one. It seems unbelievable that it has been that long. You have all been fantastic readers, I have enjoyed your reviews, and despite the occasional complaint about Ginny, I think you have all enjoyed the story. I hate for it to end, I really do. It has been such a major part of my life for so very long. I actually started writing the story in July so its been over six months that I have been working on it in one way or another.
The good news is that I have started a sequel to this story called "Return to the Wizarding World." I think it is a cute story and it is told completely from Cassie's point of view. It is set about five months after the events in Among the Muggles . . . Again. I won't tell you more because I don't want to give anything away, but I hope that you readers who have loved Cassie so desperately will be willing to come back and read this story. I think you will like it. I will post the first chapter on Sunday morning and will post, again, every 2-3 days, at least for a while.
Anyway, without further delay, then, the concluding chapter:
Among the Muggles . . . . Again
Ginny, Ron, and Hermione were waiting in the corridor, standing by the gargoyle and looking relaxed. Harry envied them. He was extremely nervous about what was going to be happening in the next few minutes. "How's Charlie doing?" Cassie asked as soon as she saw them.
"He's doing great. Pomfrey says he can probably go back to the Burrow tomorrow to finish recuperating."
"That's fantastic." Harry was very relieved. "I'll go up and visit him this afternoon and apologize again. But right now, let's get up there. Canary creams." The gargoyle hopped aside and all five of them stepped onto the magical staircase.
"Hey, didn't your brothers Fred and George invent those canary cream things?"
"Yeah," Ron laughed. "They did. Apparently Dumbledore likes them. I think he only uses names of candies that he likes as his password."
"You mean that all of his passwords are candies?"
"All that I've heard," Harry said. "And I've been coming up here since second year." Cassie shook her head.
"He seems like a really interesting person, uh, wizard, uh, . . ." And then they were there and she didn't say anything else. They all went into the office. There were more chairs now then there had been before. Cassie looked over at Fawkes' perch and gasped "What happened to Fawkes?"
"He died and then was reborn." Harry didn't blame her for being shocked. The beautiful bird she had seen yesterday was gone and instead there was an ugly little gray fuzzball.
"But how did he die? I mean he looked great when I saw him yesterday!"
"He died for me, Miss Robinson. He has a rather nasty habit of doing that. I am grateful, though, for his timely intervention." The headmaster had come in when she asked her question and answered it.
"But . . ."
"He caught the curse that Malfoy threw at him, Cassie. The killing curse. So he died." Harry tried to sound matter-of-fact, like this was not that big of a deal. Inside, though, he was wishing that they could get onto a more pleasant subject. After all, he was hoping that she would want to remember her time here and her time with him and if she was thinking about how horrible the wizarding world was and about killing curses and everything, then he wouldn't blame her if she wanted to forget it all. Cassie looked like she was going to ask another question but the door opened and two more people entered Professor Dumbledore's office. Harry wasn't surprised to see Remus, as he had been invited. But he was surprised to see Arthur Weasley. Apparently, so were Ginny and Ron.
"Dad? Is something wrong?" Ginny was instantly concerned.
"No, no. I've been invited to this meeting. Apparently Professor Dumbledore wanted my opinion on the question of what to do with a Muggle girl. . . ." Arthur scanned the small group quickly and his eyes latched onto Cassie. "You must be she. I'm Arthur Weasley." He approached her, holding out his hand and looking very much like he was sure Father Christmas had arrived early this year and she was his present.
"I'm Cassie Robinson. It's nice to meet you." Mr. Weasley smiled broadly as they shook hands but before he could say anything else, Dumbledore spoke again.
"So good of you all to come. If you would all have a seat, we can get on with the business of this meeting." Everybody sat down and looked expectantly at the headmaster. Much to Harry's relief, the story of how Cassie actually got to Hogwarts was not discussed. He imagined that Mr. Weasley must have been filled in by Remus or something, but he was just happy he didn't have to tell the whole thing again. "Miss Robinson will be returning back to London at the conclusion of this meeting. Remus and Arthur will be taking her back." Harry saw a look of puzzlement on Cassie's face. He should have told her that there was no way he was going to be allowed off the grounds. Not now, anyway. Too dangerous. Dumbledore continued without pausing. "The question that we must address is what to do with her memory."
Now Cassie looked panicked and there were some surprised mutterings from Hermione and Ron also. Ginny didn't say anything that Harry could hear. "Excuse me, sir, but what do you mean?" Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers together, smiling kindly at her over his fingers. Harry, however, was not fooled. Dumbledore was being very thoughtful to her and polite, but Harry knew that her presence here was a serious problem. The headmaster was very concerned. Harry's stomach was in the process of doing some new acrobatic maneuvers and he consciously tried to relax. He had said he would let her decide. Harry needed to have some faith in her, too.
"Considering what you know about the wizarding world now, Miss Robinson, how do you think we manage to stay hidden from Muggles such as yourself?" Harry wondered why he was asking Cassie this question. He should just tell her the two options and let her decide. That way at least she would know. Harry fingered the photographs in his pocket.
"Um, gee. I don't know. I guess that you stay away from us, pretty much, in secret places like this castle." Dumbledore nodded.
"That can work to a certain point, but it would not be adequate if that was our only means of defense. There are hundreds of thousands of us worldwide and we live lives to a great degree among you." Harry caught his breath. Defense? It sounded almost like wizards needed to be protected from the Muggles. Personally, Harry thought it was quite the opposite. One fifth-year wizard still in school at Hogwarts could probably wipe out half the population of London if he was so inclined.
Cassie's eyes got wider at Dumbledore's statement. "Oh, well. I don't know, then. Um, do you use magic to hide or something?"
"We have several methods, but magic does definitely play a role in it." No one else seemed distressed by the way this conversation was going and Harry tried to force his breathing into a more relaxed rhythm before everyone noticed that he was practically hyperventilating. "We have rules about what sort of magic wizards can do in front of Muggles which have very strict consequences if they are disobeyed." Harry grimaced. That was true as he knew firsthand. "Also, we have a lot of charms and wards and barriers that allow us to move around without being seen when necessary. And then, truthfully, Muggles have this tendency to ignore anything that does not fit into their world view, so some things are overlooked by Muggles just because they are 'impossible.'" Cassie was nodding in agreement. "Unfortunately, once in a while, these methods fail for one reason or another and a Muggle actually sees magic being performed or a magic place or a creature that should not exist or something. This is rare, but it does happen occasionally."
"Oh. What do you then? Tell them about magic and everything?"
"No." He looked at her again and Harry knew that if he had been on the end of that gaze, he would have been squirming in his seat. He had, actually, many times. But Cassie met Dumbledore's gaze squarely and he admired her courage. "We have an ability to modify memory - to make the Muggle forget that he ever saw anything unusual at all."
"Oh." Her voice this time was very small. "Is that what you want to do to me?"
"Well. It is certainly what I had planned. It is the only way that I can see to deal with the fact that you are, honestly, a threat to us." There was that word again. Harry wanted to interrupt, to argue the logic. If anything, she was threatened by them, not the other way around. "However, Harry has argued strongly against this. He wants you to be able to remember him and Hogwarts and he has made a fairly strong point. I have decided to leave the choice to you."
"Oh." That was the third time she had said that. But Harry guessed all of this was a lot to try to absorb. Maybe that was why Dumbledore had told her about why they did that. Maybe it would make more sense that way. "Does it hurt? What does it do to me? What would I remember?" Harry could see that she was considering it. He wanted to stand up and argue with her, but Dumbledore's blue eyes passed over him and he stayed in his seat.
"It does not hurt. You would be confused, slightly, a little disoriented, perhaps for as long as a few days, kind of feeling a little dazed. We would erase the memory of your ever meeting Harry at all from your mind. Remus would take you home and then perform the charm and then you would simply go back to your life."
Cassie's eyes flew up and met Harry's. She was obviously very nervous. She was chewing on her bottom lip in the way she did when she was thinking hard. "If I didn't want you to do that to me, what is my other choice? Would you kill me or something?" Ron laughed out loud but no one else did and Harry saw out of the corner of his eye that Hermione shot him a scowl. Harry felt stricken. Did she really think they would ever do that to her? But it was obvious that she did. She was very pale and now looked terrified.
"No, no. Nothing like that. We would just insist that you promise that you will tell no one of . . . our existence."
"That's it?" She was incredulous. "I promise and then I go home and . . ."
"There's a little more to it than that." She looked deflated and Harry felt that way, too. He had thought that was the other choice. Memory modification or nothing. "I want you to think very carefully. If you choose to remember Harry, then you will also remember last night and all the things leading up to it. And I think it was quite disturbing to you."
"Oh, yeah. So I would forget all the bad things, too, wouldn't I?"
"Yes. Plus, you wouldn't feel like you knew a big secret that you could never tell anyone. It is not that easy to keep such things from those we love. From what Harry has told me about your experience together, he had a very hard time avoiding telling you himself and that was only for a little more than three weeks." Harry had never thought of that. It would be difficult for her not to ever mention anything about all the things she had seen and done. Maybe he was asking too much of her.
"But if I ever told anyone, they would just think I was nutters and ignore me completely." She sounded confident about this.
"You may be unpleasantly surprised to find that this is not true, Miss Robinson. For sometime, somewhere, you would meet someone who knew you were telling the truth and then things can get very complicated. Miss Granger, could you explain your experiences with this, please?"
Hermione cleared her throat and Harry wondered what she was going to say. "Yes, well. It was the summer after second year. I was at a camp-out with my second cousins. And I kind of messed up, really badly. I'm actually lucky I didn't get expelled." She blushed as Harry and Ron looked at her in shock. Harry knew he had never had any idea anything had happened that summer. Ginny didn't look even vaguely surprised so Harry thought she must have already heard the story. "You know my family are Muggles, completely, as far back as you can go, I think. But, at least my parents know I'm magic and they don't mind. So I can talk to them about things, but I have to be very careful about talking to anybody else. You wouldn't even have that, Cassie, I think . . . .Oh, sorry. Back to the story. It was late and the little kids wanted to hear a horror story. For some reason, they all think I know a lot of scary stories, so they always have me tell them." Harry thought to himself that they must have good instincts. She could probably have told them stories that would have curled all the kids' hair just from that year alone. But he didn't say anything.
"Anyway, so I was trying to think of something original, and I started talking about a girl with an enchanted diary and how the diary started controlling her, and . . . well, you don't need to hear all the details. I basically told the story about Ginny and the basilisk. They were plenty scared, all right, but they all loved the story and I figured I was safe because none of them would ever connect that story to a dark wizard. Why would they?" She took a deep breath and started twisting her hands together in a way that reminded Harry of Cassie the night before they had come to Hogwarts. "Well, I had one cousin who went home and told what he could remember of the story to his friends and one of them has a sister who had just gotten her Hogwarts letter and so they had heard a little about what had happened -- not everything but some. It turns out that the whole family is full of wizards. Even this little friend is a wizard, I guess, although of course, he was too young to go to school or anything." She took another deep breath and continued. "So, the friend told my cousin that this wasn't a made-up story, that it was true and, of course, he embellished the whole thing. It scared my cousin to death. He told his mom and she started telling the story to all her friends as an example of what cute imaginations kids have and pretty soon the whole town where she lived was talking about the diary and then they were taking their kids to counselors to stop them having nightmares. Then a Death Eater found out about it and thought the diary was still around and went to get it and almost killed a whole Muggle family to force them to give it to him and . . . . well, it was only timely intervention by the Ministry and a lot of memory charms that saved the whole town from practically imploding." Harry heard Hermione's voice break and she wiped quickly at her eyes. "My mum was so mad at me that she almost forbid me from coming back here. Plus, I hadn't really told her the whole story about what had happened and then, of course, she knew and it scared her that I had been in such danger and not told her and that made her even more mad. It was just a mess, a huge mess."
Dumbledore didn't say anything for a long minute and neither did Cassie. Harry wanted to say something, and he opened his mouth to argue that there was a huge difference between Hermione and Cassie's situations, but then Hermione spoke again. "Anyway, Cassie. I think you should have the charm. Then you'll never have to worry. Even if you remember vague snatches once in a while, you'll just think you dreamed it and there won't be sharp details or anything." Cassie nodded and Harry's stomach sank to his toes.
"Thank you, Hermione. I value your opinion. Harry, I know what you think. Does anyone else have any ideas?" Cassie looked at Ginny, who to Harry's surprise flushed a little.
"I . . . I don't know."
Ron spoke up. "I think you shouldn't have the charm. After all, you've only been here for a few hours. You won't have that much to try to avoid talking about." Ron sometimes could be very smart, thought Harry.
"I think you should have the charm, Cassie." That was Remus and Harry felt a small stab of annoyance like his best friend was betraying him.
"Personally," said Arthur, and Harry almost stood up and cheered after he was done, "I think that Cassie should retain her memories. She seems like a reasonable girl and she will be cautious. I vote against the charm."
"So, that's three against the charm and three for the charm." Of course, Hermione would figure that out. "Ginny, I think you should put in your opinion."
She flushed again. "No. I can't. I can't be objective about it. It wouldn't be fair." Harry had no clue what Ginny was talking about. What did she mean? Cassie, however, looked like she knew what she was saying because she got a strange look on her face.
"I . . . I'm sorry, Ginny." Cassie stammered. Harry was still confused. He would have to ask Ginny later. "I guess it's up to me, then, to decide."
"It always was. We are just offering you our opinions."
"Um, this sounds kind of stupid, but can I have a piece of paper and a pen? I'd like to make a list - kind of like a pro and con list. Is that okay?" Dumbledore nodded at Cassie's request and quickly conjured up a piece of parchment and a quill and bottle of ink. Then, when he saw the look of dismay on her face, he smiled and the parchment disappeared to be replaced with a regular sheet of paper and the ink and quill pen turned into a standard ball point pen.
"Sorry, Miss Robinson. That should be easier for you to use."
Cassie immediately took the paper and pen and drew a line down the middle of it. Harry really wished he could have read what she was writing, but she was too far away. So instead, he watched her, trying to judge by her expression what she was thinking. She would write frantically for a few minutes and then re-read what she had written and then think for a little bit, gnawing on her lower lip. Then she would write more and then think. This went on for quite some time. Harry was thinking that they would still be in this office when bedtime rolled around. But eventually, she put the pen down and looked over the list for what looked to Harry like the final time. She folded it neatly and looked up into Dumbledore's face.
"I appreciate your faith in me, sir. I have decided that I prefer to remember what I have seen and learned. I don't want Mr. Lupin to do the, uh, charm on me."
"Ah. You are quite certain?"
"Yes. Positive." But her voice wavered and Harry knew that the decision was not easy for her. He supposed it wouldn't have been for him either.
"Very well, then. You know that you will always have friends here. Perhaps the day will come when you can help us again and maybe we can help you."
"Perhaps." She didn't sound too positive right now. Harry imagined she was having second thoughts, because she touched the paper again and then seemed to steel herself and walked away from the desk. "I guess this is good-bye then."
"Yes, the sooner that you get back home, the better. Remus and Arthur will take you with a portkey. I think it would be best to have them take you a bit away from your house and I have prepared the portkey already." Harry looked down at the object Dumbledore held in his hand. It was the lion paperweight again.
"Sir, I . . . This is embarrassing, but I need my purse. It's up in the dorm room where I slept."
"I imagined you would want your personal items. I had a house elf bring them over earlier." He handed a small bag to Cassie. She looked in it quickly, reached inside and handed Harry back his T-shirt.
"This is yours."
"Oh, thanks." He took it, unsure if he should let her keep it. But truthfully, he wanted to remember that day and this was his only souvenir.
"I guess I'm ready." Then she walked over and hugged Hermione. "It's been so wonderful to meet you. Thanks for everything."
"I feel the same." Hermione handed her a slip of paper. "That's my parents' phone number. If you ever really need to talk to them, you can call." Cassie smiled and tucked the paper into her bag.
"Ron." She hugged him really fast and Harry laughed at the expression on Ron's face.
"Ginny." The two girls hugged for a long minute. "I . . . You're really wonderful. I'm so glad that Harry . . . ." Harry couldn't hear anymore of what she said but by the time Cassie stood in front of him, she was crying. Ginny was wiping her eyes, also.
"Harry James Potter." He pulled the pictures out of his pocket and handed them to her. She smiled, obviously thrilled at the gift. Harry half expected someone to reach out and snatch them out of her hand but no one had noticed, apparently, because no one said anything as she slipped them into her pocket. He wanted to say something profound to her but he couldn't get any words out around the lump in his throat. She spoke instead. "You take care of yourself, okay? I'm so glad I met you. Promise me you won't let anyone . . . won't get . . . Just promise me you'll keep flying." She hugged him then and he let his arms curve around her back. He closed his eyes, smelling her perfume and trying not to cry, also. It would just be too embarrassing. Then, at the last minute, he remembered what he wanted to tell her.
"I've got an owl, Cassie."
"You do?" She sounded like she was a little confused about what this had to do with her going home, but Harry persisted.
"Yeah. Her name is Hedwig and she's snow white. I can send you mail, okay? And you can send some back to me with her. I want you to write me and tell me how things are going."
"So, a white owl will . . ."
"She'll tap on your window and want to be let in. So if you ever see a white owl in the daytime, let her in, okay? She'll be from me." Cassie smiled in response although she looked a little overwhelmed at the idea and Harry felt much better.
"Come on, Cassie. We'd better go." Remus said again. Harry should be grateful that he had people as fantastic as Remus and Arthur to take her back, but he felt a little jealous that they were going to get to spend more time with her. Then Ginny was standing next to him and he slipped his arms around her. His place was here. And Cassie's wasn't.
"Yes," said Arthur. "We'd better get you back among the Muggles again." And then there was a watery smile and she was gone.
Harry stared for a long time at the spot where she had stood. Ron and Hermione headed out of the office and Harry and Ginny were about to follow when he noticed the folded piece of paper on Dumbledore's desk. He picked it up, pulling Ginny by the hand carefully over to where he stood.
"Is it okay if I look at this, sir?"
"Well, I imagine that if she felt it was confidential, she would not have left it. Feel free. I will be heading down to lunch." Harry opened the paper and saw the familiar handwriting. He read the list carefully with Ginny looking over his shoulder.
He was surprised by it because it was not what he expected, not at all.
She had made two columns. One was titled: Things I wish I could forget. The other was titled: Things I need to remember.
Harry read the "forget" list first and shook his head. She really was an amazing girl. Her list went like this:
There are really evil people in this world.
There are things all around us that we don't know anything about.
Some people get a thrill out of making other people hurt.
What someone looks like when they've been shot with a very big arrow.
What someone looks like when they've been cursed.
How it feels to be completely out of place.
Werewolves aren't liked or trusted even when they're good.
Elves are slaves.
There is such a thing as a killing curse. And it works.
Sometimes love hurts, a lot.
He almost was afraid to look at the other side of the paper, but he finally did. It had similar items on it and it went like this:
There is such a thing as magic.
Flying on a broom is better than anything.
There are things all around us that we don't know anything about.
There are things like giants and centaurs and werewolves and elves.
I tried pumpkin juice and it was good.
Sometimes love hurts, a lot. It's worth it.
There's evil in the world and there are people who are willing to die to fight it. I need to be one of them.
Harry folded the paper again and pulled his wand out. The paper turned to ash as the blue flame consumed it. He smiled at Ginny and she smiled back at him. "She was wonderful, Harry. In the short amount of time we were together, I really got to like her. But, I. . . I didn't want her to remember you. I was afraid you would love her more than you love me. I was wrong, though. I'm glad that she's going to remember us."
Harry bit his lip, thinking for a minute. Then he bent down and kissed Ginny. "I do really love you, you know. It just took being away from you for a while to realize how much. Come on, I'm starving and if we don't hurry, we're going to miss lunch."