James was late. I glanced at my watch and sat on the sofa of the main room concentrating on not being irritated by the fact that the day we actually had to go somewhere, he was late.
Today was the first day of the big shop, something which would probably take several days, and which I was actually quite looking forward to. Getting out of this dead house would be a god send; I was fed up of being stuck in an almost entirely muggle village where the only magic was in my beloved old decrepit furniture which wasn't nearly enough to fill the enormity of this house. I needed to sense some real magic to get myself feeling right again.
I sighed loudly to make my point, even though I knew there was no one here to appreciate it.
Of course James Potter had to ruin it by arriving... fifteen minutes later than we'd arranged.
I picked up the corner of one of the magazines and saw a large picture of my dad on the front. I flicked over a few pages until I reached the article and began to read – there was nothing else to do after all and I often found their take on what my father was like relatively amusing.
Robert Banks is widely regarded as the founder of the Wizarding revolution and the significant increase in respect for muggles and their technology. It is his company, the WCT, that has taken the Wizarding world by storm and created a humungous trend which allows wizard kind to both understand muggle technology and fit in much better in the muggle world. Terry Boot – head of the muggle liaisons office – has stated that "such a unanimous change of public opinion has not been apparent since the end of the WW2" and "We should be grateful to Robert Banks for preventing such prejudices from returning and significantly reducing the 'pureblood mania' which has returned various times throughout the history of magic". When we asked Robert Banks his opinion on these matters he just laughed and said that "I think it's safe to say the end of pureblood mania and change of public opinion can only be put down to Harry Potter and those who fought in the war."
This statement caused even further for respect for the famous Robert Banks and the rising of the debate as to who has done more for muggle-wizard relations – Harry Potter or Robert Banks. Article continued on page 16...
I flicked over to page 16, glancing at the clock as I did so, before returning to reading the stupid article. This one featured another large picture of my dad and a caption reading 'the third most attractive man in Britain?' I laughed at that and began reading the part entitled 'an exclusive interview with Robert Banks.'
CC: I'm here with Robert Banks for an exclusive interview! Now, do you have any new and exciting upcoming products you would like to talk about?
RB: I'm not at liberty to say quite what my future plans are just yet, but I'd keep your eyes open for the next big thing which should be released in a couple of months. I'm very excited about it myself, and I've had a lot of people talking about the new potentials of this product.
CC: Any clues you could give away?
RB: I'd say, watch out for it.
CC: Now, I'm sure you're amazed by the popularity of WTC. Did you ever expect your ideas to take off?
RB: (laughs) Not really. I don't think I could have predicted this in a million years!
CC: When do you think it first hit you that you'd made the big time?
RB: About the time when I realised I'd made my first million. I was in shock. I was stood there staring at the letter from Gringotts for twenty minutes or so before I could move! I couldn't think of what I could do with a million galleons!
CC: Now you're the richest Wizard in the UK! How does that feel? Would you say it's changed your life?
RB: (Smiles nervously) I supposed I've got a bigger house? I don't really have much need to spend most of it so it just sits there. I don't have anyone to spend it on!
CC: Ah? How's the love life? You've recently been named as the third most attractive man in Britain, only just beaten by Harry Potter himself, and the rumours are that you're still single! How could this happen?
RB: I don't really have much time to have a love life. WTC takes up a lot of my time.
CC: Well, I must say that you're quite the catch! Rich, clever, funny, modest, handsome... I'm surprised you haven't been snapped up!
RB: (laughs). I'm not so sure about funny, really. My best joke starts with 'A vampire walked into a bar' and ends with 'ouch!'
CC: (laughs) I've heard it through the grapevine that you used to be married! You're well known for keeping your private life a secret but surely you haven't managed to keep that hidden for all these years!
RB: It was a long time ago, before I'd even started WTC. It didn't work out. That's all I'm saying.
CC: Of course, you're known for your mysterious ways, thank you for talking to us Robert, and I hope to see you again soon!
If you've ever read an interview where one of your parents tries to flirt with an infamous 'CC' printed in witch weekly then you'd probably understand how sickened I currently felt. Add in the fact that my existence was smoothed over and ignored then you get how joyous that article made me feel. As in, not very.
Who the hell even was CC?
"Having fun Cassie?" James Potter asked and I jumped suddenly which resulted in me throwing my hot chocolate all over my lap and taking in a deep breath to stop myself from swearing loudly. Ow. I kept my breath sucked in so I didn't start effing and blinding in James's face.
For a few seconds all I saw was red.
Who the hell walks into someone's house without ringing the doorbell? Who the hell walks straight into someone else's house and into their living room? What. The. Hell.
I found myself stood up glaring at him before I could take control over myself again. I suppose receiving a great big burn and a heart attack can make you lose self control for a few seconds.
James was loving it.
"What's up?" He asked looking down at the great big stain on my jeans with a raised eyebrow.
"Nothing," I replied sending him a sweet look. I picked up the article from where I'd thrown it to the ground and noted that it was soaking wet. The hot chocolate had also gone all over the wooden floor boards but that didn't make much difference really. If it stained, magic could fix it, but the magazine was definitely beyond repair.
"CC." James Potter said pulling the dripping magazine out of my hands and examining it. "What does that stand for? Crazy Cassie?" He suggested and I rolled my eyes at him and pulled it back.
"I need to get changed." I said placing the magazine back on the counter where my dad had no doubt been fawning over it and picturing the beautiful CC and his imminent wedding to her or something of that sickening and ridiculous calibre.
"Really Cassie, shouldn't you be ready by now? We're going to be late!" James managed to say through his smirking lips. I ignored him and walked calmly up the stairs.
I will not get angry. I will not get angry.
I dashed into my temporary bedroom and pulled on a different pair of jeans. My legs were red from the hot chocolate burn but it was nothing I couldn't handle. I was quite good with pain when it didn't take me by surprise. Stupid James Potter.
I will not get angry. I will not get –
"Nice pants Cassie." James commented barging in my room and throwing himself down on my bed. Two seconds earlier he would have got an eyeful of my ass. As it stood all his saw was yesterday's knickers which I'd been planning on adding to the washing pile before James got here, that I'd obviously forgotten about.
I'd preferred it if he's just seen my arse.
Rather than my dirty underwear.
I blushed furiously, picked them up off the floor, and shoved them into the washing up basket. They just had to be the pair that had faces on which gradually went from frowning, to smiling with the words 'turn that frown upside down' flashing on them. I'd had them for a long time. I didn't see the point of getting rid of them given that they still fit...
"I'm ready. We can go." I said glancing at myself very briefly in the mirror.
"I quite fancy a lie down actually," James said stretching out his arms and closing his eyes. I rolled mine and tapped my foot impatiently which he ignored.
"Is there any reason why you're being particularly unhelpful today?" I asked glancing around my bedroom before James Potter saw any more offending pieces of underwear or items of clothing.
"Actually, Cassie, now you ask yes. You see my whole family are going to the beach today."
"And you're not."
"No, Cassie, I'm not." He said in the most fantastically patronising voice that I was almost impressed by. Not quite though. "I'm going shopping with you."
"Why didn't you go with your family?" I asked in a bored voice because I knew it was exactly what he wanted me to ask. He'd probably rehearsed this whole conversation previously (whilst looking at himself in the mirror no doubt) and now I was playing along so he could feel even more bigheaded and important. Yay.
"Do you honestly think that I would be here if I had any choice in the matter? No, Cassie, I would not." What a shocker. Really. "However I have been grounded for most of summer, because of something that wasn't even my fault, and after my endless complaining of how bored I was, you fell into my back garden! Of course my dad knew that I really didn't like you, so he thought, why not punish my innocent son even further by forcing him to help the annoying girl and not go on fantastic sounding day trips to the beach?!" I sighed and tried to stop myself from raising an eyebrow at him to show how utterly boring I found his tale of woe.
"So yes Cassie, I'm being particularly unhelpful because I, unlike you, could have been having fun today. I, unlike you, have friends and family who could come to the beach with me. I, unlike you, could be out of this stupid muggle town and somewhere else for a change. So, my crazy little Cassie, you are going to hate this day almost as much as I'm going to!"
"Wonderful!" I said without a hint of sarcasm (although I was feeling it quite a bit actually). James's eyes narrowed and he gave me a dark look before pulling himself of my bed and stalking out of my bedroom.
Success! I had managed to get a reaction out of James Sirius Potter for the first time. Ever.
Today was going to be fun.
"Shut up Cassie. You're crazy, you don't have an opinion." James said walking down the furniture isle of some great big wizarding superstore. If I'd had any say in the matter we'd be in a small antique shop picking out pieces of furniture individually but apparently that's not good enough for James Potter. In the interest of getting things done quickly he'd selected a big store where we could get lots of furniture with no character all at once.
Actually James, I do have an opinion. In my opinion you're a selfish idiot and I don't like you.
I stayed silent.
"Well?!" James prompted gesturing wildly to try and get a reaction. I decided to use my one weapon against him and kept my mouth shut. I didn't look at him and instead began examining the list. He fumed, unable to stand the silence. "Cassie!" James complained following me down the table aisle muttering profanities and generally making a nuisance of himself.
He could do what he liked. I was miraculously indifferent.
After losing my temper yesterday I wasn't going to let the same thing happen again. I'd made a fool of myself, and I didn't need my so called reputation to be ruined anymore. James might also figure out what had made me mad and then he'd increase his efforts tenfold. It was better to let him think that I was just PMSing or whatever than let him work out that I'd been mad because he was talking to my dad... pathetic.
"What about this for the black and white bedroom?" James suggested pointing to a giant double bed. There was a wooden black headboard and crisp white covers which looked unbelievably comfy, it was practically begging you to lie down on it and take a nap but that would be rude and... James threw himself on top of it and his dirty shoes made marks on the white covers.
"Get off!" I hissed glancing around to make sure no one had seen what had happened.
Unfortunately there was an assistant walking towards us with an irritated expression etched on to her face. "Now!" I ordered but of course he ignored me. He closed his eyes and stretched out a little more.
"I think we should get it."
"Excuse me," The nasal voice of the assistant said as she walked over and saw the great big black mark on the white bedcovers. "But what are you doing?" He first was crunched up into an expression of annoyance and her voice held a high quantity of irritation.
James opened his eyes in panic and scrambled off the bed.
"Sorry," I told her trying to smile politely. "I just wanted to make sure it was actually comfortable before I purchased it."
"It was very comfortable." James said catching on quickly (although he did seem to be putting on a posh accent which confused me). "Top notch!"
"Excellent!" I said writing down the reference number for the bed.
"Is there anything else I can help you with?" The woman asked glancing at me in apparent confusion. Apparently they weren't used to teenagers buying beds. Strange, that.
"Yes actually," I said pulling out my list of furniture and the plan of the house. "I need lots of furniture."
"Right..." The assistant said glancing at my list. "And do you have a method of paying for this furniture or...?" She asked the annoyance (and nasalness) creeping back into her voice. I pulled out a credit card and presented her with it.
"You can check it if you like." I suggested sweetly. She read the name 'Robert Banks' before nodding and handing it back to me.
"That's not necessary. If you would like to follow me I can show you the furniture that matches this bed..."
"Now, I really think we should head off. I know this really nice antique shop that I want to go to and..." I stopped suddenly when I realised that I was talking to myself and James had completely disappeared of the face of the earth. I whirled around (looking stupid) in an attempt to spot where he'd gone and saw that, for some reason, he'd ducked behind a chest of drawers and seemed to be hiding. "James? What the hell are you doing?"
"Cassie!" James hissed in complaint before standing up quickly and beginning to talk in an overly-casual overly-loud way which left me utterly baffled. "I'm sorry Cassie! Your sanity isn't in here either!" He declared and I heard someone snigger. I turned around again (and realising how utterly stupid I must look revolving around on the spot, blushed) and suddenly it all meant sense again.
There, walking in our direction was Ryan Bradley – James's best mate.
James was acting as though he hadn't yet seen Ryan (although he blatantly had after the whole hiding thing) and continued insulting me in a loud carrying voice. "I don't think you'll be able to afford this anyway, Cassie! Not unless you plan on selling the last of your sanity for money... but even then I'm not sure if it would get this much."
"How much is it?" I asked, playing along even though I was slightly irritated.
"Twelve galleons." He replied, stepping back out into the main aisle and feigning surprise when he saw Ryan. "Oh, hey mate!" He declared. It suddenly struck me as strange that they probably hadn't seen each other since the end of the summer given how close they normally were at school...
"Interesting company." Ryan commented nodding in my direction. I blushed at the tone of his voice and hurriedly stuffed the list of furniture we still needed to buy in my pocket. He couldn't see that.
"It's my punishment." James said. "Turns out Cassie is a charity case, and you know what my parents are like, do-gooders."
"So given Cassie's mums in a loony-bin I'm being forced to help her and her dad do up their hovel. It's torture mate."
"Right." Ryan repeated again walking towards us and looking amused. Ryan circled me for a few seconds and stopped right in front of my face. "So, how are you enjoying James's company?" Ryan asked me. For a few seconds I paused, wondering how to react. Then I saw James, just behind Ryan's head mouthing the words 'play along.'
"Oh yes," I said smiling at him slightly vacantly. "It's been really fun."
"See, barking." James said. "She doesn't understand sarcasm." He whispered.
"Really, now?" Ryan asked raising one of his eyebrows at me. If I'd been like most brainless girls in the world, I might have described his eyebrows as attractive but I was not. James and Ryan were partners in crime and although James had been more responsible for my mirthless teasing, Ryan was slightly meaner in my opinion.
"I'm sorry?" I asked, smiling at him as if his presence completely thrilled me. "Are you having a good summer?"
Ryan looked over my head and sent a look to James that clearly said 'is she for real?' which I supposed was exactly what James had wanted because he shrugged and sent me a brief nod as instructions to continue.
"So, are you having a good summer?" I prompted him. I smiled at him as if he was someone I knew very well, rather than the someone I knew by reputation only.
"It's best just to go along with it." James said in a stage whisper to Ryan, whilst clapping me in the shoulder.
"It's been all right." Ryan said, bemused.
"That's brilliant!" I said letting my gaze drift off to one side of his head giving the impression that I was entirely spaced out and not quite with it.
I wouldn't be able to tell you why I was helping James out by acting crazy enough to live up to my nickname, but I couldn't think of any other way I could have acted in the situation... it wasn't one I'd ever thought I would be in.
You see... Once upon in first year I fell over (out of nervousness) and unfortunately fell into Ryan Bradley's illegal broomstick (which had been 'disguised' under several layers of brown paper). I apparently 'damaged it' and then had Ryan threatening to get his brother to 'beat the money out of me' to pay for it... I'd then started yelling about how my father was a filthy rich business man who could kick his brother's ass any day... and from then on I was known as crazy.
Considering that was the only incident they should have gotten bored fast and moved on to find someone slightly more pathetic to tease – I've always maintained that there are people who are much more bullyable than me – but by then everyone had gotten used to it, and had discovered my blushing. After then there was no stopping it. There was even a competition to see how many times someone could make me blush in an hour, or how deeply (they had their own scale for this, which I found both sad and slightly worrying) and that led to trying to induce a more exciting reaction by stealing my clothes, spilling things on my homework, 'accidently' tripping me up ect... when they discovered that my only reaction was blushing most people got bored (although this did take up until the beginning of third year).
Forth year led to a renewed fervour of my torment when someone realised that any word remotely related to sex also made me blush (which is something I still can't fully control) before that got old too. Eventually the only people who bothered to torment me, or pay any attention to me at all, were James Potter and his best friend – Ryan Bradley.
Honestly, the teasing had only bothered me for the first week or so of first year before I decided not to let it bother me any longer. Even at eleven years old I had been relatively self assured and happy in the knowledge that I was a curious shy girl who blushed a lot, could sense magic and very rarely got angry (mainly because when I was angry I tended to do stupid things... like yell about how my father was filthy rich...) so I was able to pass off their teasing as nonsense and just blushed my way though those first years.
The problem was that puberty made me much more vulnerable, with the added fact that my father was acting especially strange and the constant moving from house to house it was understandable that I had a more negative reaction to it. It began to get to me for a short period of time in third year where I became even more incredibly shy and even hated the pair of my worst tormentors to the point where I'd lie in my bed crying angry tears about how much I wanted to stand up to them...then I gave up with it. Hating something isn't in my nature and I wasn't acting like myself anymore so I thought, to hell with it, and continued to sit there and blush my way through it unscathed. They didn't know anything of my own internal battles, which was definitely a good thing, and probably assumed that it either bothered me all along, or didn't bother me at all.
Despite the fact that I now harboured no ill feelings towards them it still made me feel very out of place being solely in their company. Having James there was bad enough... but when face with both of them at once I was at a complete loss of what to do...
So I just did what James told me to – play along.
I was vaguely aware of the fact that in helping James out just this little bit, I was going to make things a lot worse for myself when Hogwarts resumed. I dwelled on it for a second before casting it aside because, really, what else could I have done?