Chapter 4 – New and Old Beginnings
We never painted by the numbers baby
But we were making it count
You know the greatest loves of all time are over now
She was never supposed to fall in love with Ron Weasley in the first place.
They were pretty good friends, sure, but that was all she had ever seen him as. They both had dated other people over the years and hadn’t even considered one another as an option.
That was, until they ran into each other shopping for books at Diagon Alley last July. They’d both done a lot of growing up that summer.
Cassiah had always been pretty, of course, but there was something different about her now. She was more confident. Not to mention she’d filled out a bit in all the right places since last May.
And Ron... He was still Ron, but not a little boy anymore. He was a man, with broader shoulders, a stronger jaw replacing his chubby cheeks.
She’d immediately pulled him into her arms and squeezed tight, “I haven’t seen you in so long. You look great, Weasley!”
Ron definitely did not notice the way her breasts felt against his chest. Definitely not.
“It’s good to see you, too,” he smiled brightly when he released her, and he truly looked at her for the first time. She was beautiful. How had he never noticed this before? Could a few months really make that big of a difference, or had he been blind to it all along?
He hadn’t realized he’d been holding on to her hand. Embarrassed, he dropped it and shoved his hands into the pockets of his shorts. “I missed you, Cassie.”
She gave him a cute, closed-mouth smile and replied, “Then see me more! We can hang out sometime soon, yeah?”
Ron knew she probably wasn’t asking him out. That would have been completely out of left field. Nevertheless, he got butterflies at the idea of hanging out alone with her. That was new – they’d only hung out when Harry and Hermione were there before.
Since when did Cassie give him butterflies?
“Definitely,” he said a bit too quickly, and felt his freckled face turn pink almost immediately and his ears burn. “I, uh, have to get back to Ginny. She needs help carrying something...”
Cassiah smiled brightly, “Of course! I should be getting back to my mom, anyways.” She turned to leave, before glancing quickly over her shoulder and adding thoughtfully, “Ron. It really was nice seeing you.”
And if those weren’t the most beautiful hazel eyes he’d ever seen.
Ron wasn’t sure if Cassiah had meant it when she had said they should hang out some time, but nevertheless, he found himself owling her the next week to see if she wanted to go to a nearby festival. And she found herself saying yes.
Cassiah had no idea how to dress for this date because even an hour before Ernie was supposed to pick her up, she had no idea what they were doing. Because of this, she and Pansy and Daphne had decided to play it safe with just a casual emerald dress and some stockings that went up to her thighs. Pansy thought that the little bows just above her knees made the outfit look just the perfect amount of sexy without being too over-the-top, and Cassiah agreed.
The girls both gave her a squeeze before sending her out into the hall outside the common room to wait for Ernie, who arrived just on time.
His sandy-blonde hair was tucked slightly back behind his ears, and his eyes were smiling as he walked up to her.
“Wow,” he said, flashing a cheesy grin, “You look beautiful.”
Blushing, Cassiah had to remind herself that it wasn’t a betrayal to Ron for her to accept his compliment. Why did it make her sad to hear someone else call her beautiful? She knew she’d hear it again someday. But still, it felt strange to hear it coming from another man’s lips besides Ron’s when she’d planned on hearing it every day from him for the rest of her life.
“Thank you,” she answered, biting her lips shyly and looking up at him through her lashes. He was tall – not as tall as Ron, but still taller than she was. “So, what’s on the agenda for the evening?” she asked curiously.
Ernie grinned cheekily. “You’ll have to just wait and see,” he teased, lifting up a picnic basket and blanket. “Do you mind if I take your hand?”
“Oh-” Cassiah started, surprised that he had asked that, partly because it was very forward, and partly because it was very polite, “Yes, uh. Of course. That’d be lovely.”
He reached down and grabbed her hand, intertwining their fingers gently. His palms were rough, and his fingers calloused. Ron’s hands were always so soft and warm. Merlin, Cassiah, stop making every single thing about Ron Weasley. He doesn’t think about you, so stop thinking about him.
They talked casually as they walked, about the first week of classes, dealing with the new first years, and the upcoming Quidditch match between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. Cassiah was surprised how easy the conversation was between the two of them when they had only met briefly before in professional meetings.
Ernie stopped when they reached a door, and Cassiah furrowed her brow, “The greenhouse?”
He held up a key and gave her a playful wink, “Perks of being a prefect. Access to the more private date spots in the castle.”
Cassiah was impressed as Ernie unlocked the door and led her inside. This was really thoughtful and sweet. It was kind of romantic to be surrounded by all the rare, beautiful plant-life, and to actually be away from the chaos inside the castle. Here, no one would come up to them in the hall or on the lawn to question them or butt in on their date.
Ernie led her over to a more empty corner where only a few plants hung from the ceiling and he spread out the blanket on the ground. He opened up the picnic basket to reveal sandwiches, a salad, and a variety of fruits.
“Wow,” she gasped, her eyes widening, “Ernie, this is amazing.” And she wasn’t lying. Ron had never taken her on a date this thoughtful. Most times, they just hung out at his place or in one of the common rooms unless she herself had planned something more special.
He shook his head, blushing bashfully, “It’s nothing.”
Ernie was a perfect gentleman. He asked her questions about her life, her future plans, her family and friends, and he even offered her his jacket as the night got darker and the room got a bit colder. So why did she spend the whole date thinking about Ron? She felt so guilty. Ernie had put so much thought into this and seemed like he genuinely was interested in getting to know her, and she couldn’t give him the effort back that he deserved.
After they’d finished eating, Ernie started telling her a funny story about his father from growing up, and Cassiah couldn’t help but laugh along. He reached out across the blanket and grabbed her hand as he spoke, his thumb rubbing lazy circles over her palm, which made her pulse quicken with nerves.
“Do you mind if I come a bit closer?” he asked, and when Cassiah nodded, he scooched closer to her on the blanket so that they were only sitting a few inches apart.
“Cassiah, you’re a great girl. I’ve had such a nice evening with you. It really is a breath of fresh air to be with someone who makes such great conversation and is so smart and so... beautiful,” he said, flicking his eyes up to lock with hers. He allowed his glance to shift down to her lips and back up to her eyes, and whispered thickly, “Can I kiss you?”
Cassiah gulped and nodded before realizing it had probably grown too dark for him to see, so she whispered back, “Yes.”
He leaned forwards and his eyes fluttered closed. His eyelashes were so long.
His hand came up to gently cup the side of her face as he lips connected sweetly with hers. He didn’t rush things, simply brushed their lips together before pulling away and staring back her.
Cassiah couldn’t breathe. He had been a perfect gentleman. Not for a second did she feel like she had to do something she didn’t want to. So why did she feel like crying?
“I’ve had a great night, too,” she said finally, awkwardly brushing her hair back behind her ears from where it had fallen forward in front of her face. “I’m studying with Hermione first thing tomorrow morning, and she really likes to start early. So I should probably be getting back home to bed.”
Ernie smiled softly at her, “Yeah, of course. I can walk you back if you want.”
“Oh, it’s okay,” Cassiah said, then rushed to finish when she saw Ernie’s face fall, “No, not like that. Just because the Slytherin dormitories are so far out of the way.”
“Oh, of course,” Ernie replied, looking relieved before grabbing his picnic basket and rising to his feet. He extended his hand and helped Cassiah back to her feet. “I really did have a great time with you tonight.”
“The pleasure was all mine,” Cassiah assured him. She pulled him into a hug before bidding him goodnight and exiting the greenhouse.
The second she knew she was out of his sight, she took off running, the tears already streaming wildly down her face. She needed to get home before she was crying so hard she could no longer breathe.
The Slytherin dormitories entrance felt like it was years away, and when she finally burst into the common rooms, she was relieved to see that she was alone. She collapsed onto her knees, holding her face in her hands and hyperventilating.
She felt herself being picked up off of the ground before she saw who was doing it. She looked up to see Draco’s icy eyes full of concern as she guided her to the couch and sat her down. As she curled her knees up to her chest, she took one look at him and began crying all over again.
“Date didn’t go well?” he asked carefully from his side of the couch.
She shook her head, “It was great, actually.”
Anyone else would have pressed her, then what are you crying for? but Draco knew better.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Cassiah shook her head again, “Tomorrow.”
Normally, she wanted to talk through every thought that entered her head. It was her way of dealing with things. But not tonight. Tonight she just wanted to sit on the couch with Draco and cry until she fell asleep, knowing that when she finally did, he’d pick her up and bring her back to her room safely.
“How do you think it’s going?” Seamus asked Ron quietly. All of the Gryffindor boys were strewn across the floor of their dormitory, playing exploding snap and sipping on a particularly gross but effective concoction of Dean’s creation.
The guys jumped as one of the cards exploded into life. Ron chuckled before turning to look at Seamus and pretending like he didn’t know exactly what the Irish boy was talking about, “How do I think what is going?”
Dean and Seamus stared at each other for a moment before Dean finally spoke up, “You know, Cassiah’s date with Ernie. We heard that it was tonight.”
Ron pursed his lips. This was the last topic in the world he wanted to discuss right now. The reason he’d suggest all the guys hang out tonight in the first place was specifically to avoid thinking about this. He plastered a cavalier expression over his face and answered simply, “Oh, is that tonight?” He took a long sip of his drink, hoping that no one would question him further.
Harry scoffed, and Ron immediately turned to look at his best friend, “What’s so funny Harry?” When Harry said nothing, Ron’s temper rose and he pressed further, “If you’ve got something to say then just say it.”
All the other guys in the room stiffened, before Seamus cracked a completely unrelated joke and they dissolved into conversation, grateful to escape the tense interaction between the two best friends.
“Look,” Harry leaned over to Ron and lowered his voice, “I know I haven’t been making you talk about... things... And I don’t want to make a scene in front of everyone here. But you don’t have to act like you don’t care.”
Ron looked at Harry for a moment, considering. He thought he’d been giving a pretty phenomenal performance, but apparently even his finest acting couldn’t trick his best friend.
That didn’t mean he had to admit it out loud though.
“I’m not acting like I don’t care. I just don’t,” he shrugged. He turned to the rest of the guys and spoke up so that the group could hear, raising his cup. “Bottom’s up boys.”
His first kiss with Cassiah had been long-awaited. Even though they’d spent time alone three or four times in the weeks before, Ron still hadn’t gotten the chance to kiss her. Every single time he thought it was the perfect moment, Cassiah would shy away or suddenly have to go to the bathroom or decide it was time to invite Fred and George or Ginny to join them. But he wasn’t going to give up. He had dated a few girls, but had never connected so easily with someone before, as he’d told Harry. It was unlike anything he’d ever felt before. So he was going to keep trying.
They’d been sitting in the garden outside the Burrow, eating some snacks and discussing the Quidditch match they’d seen together a few days ago.
“Toss one of those up in the air, Cassie. I want to catch it in my mouth,” he laughed, gesturing at the grapes they’d been snacking on. “5 galleons says that I’ll get it on the first try.”
Cassiah snorted, completely doubting Ron’s coordination, “I’ll take that bet.” She grabbed a grape, snapping it off the vine, and grinned at him. “Ready? One... two.. three!” she tossed it up gently, and sure enough, Ron lunged forward and caught it in his mouth with ease. As he chewed and swallowed, he beamed at her,
“See, you think I’m uncoordinated. But what you underestimated was my unrivaled ability to get food into my mouth.”
Cassiah burst out laughing at that, proclaiming that he was a menace and smacking him on the shoulder. In some sort of burst of genius, Ron recognized this as his chance.
Swiftly but not harshly, he grabbed Cassiah’s fist from where it had collided with his body. She gasped in surprise that he caught her hand, and Ron slowly unwrapped her fingers from the already loose fist she’d formed. Both of them stared intently as he intertwined their fingers one by one and brought the back of her hand up to his mouth. As he leaned down to press a kiss to her soft skin, he finally looked up at her and locked eyes.
With a loving, innocent shimmer to his blue-green eyes, he pressed another kiss to her forearm, and then to the crux of her elbow. Her heart was beating out of her chest. Was she finally going to let him kiss her? He’d been trying the last few weeks, and she’d been dodging it, afraid of taking that final step past friendship and risking having things not work out. But she really wanted to let him. She had never had so much fun or been so comfortable with a guy, and his soft lips and intense gaze were rapidly crumbling her resolve.
Before she knew it, his face was just inches away from her, his breathing shaky and nervous and his bright eyes gazing into hers in a way she’d never seen before. So she finally let him.
His lips were gentle against hers, but only for a moment. She wasn’t sure if it was him or her who almost immediately deepened the kiss, but there they were, fully snogging in the garden. Ron exhaled a weak whine as she sucked his bottom lip into her mouth, teasing it with her tongue. His big, freckled hands grabbed her waist and tugged her forward. Understanding what he wanted without words, Cassiah crawled on top of him, wrapping her legs around his waist and grinding her hips down onto his lap. He moaned again, and she felt sparks in her core when she felt his hardness pressed against her already.
“I’ve wanted this for so long,” he heaved into her ear, and Cassiah’s mind came to a screeching halt. She pressed a hand to his chest and forced them apart.
“Bloody hell, Cassie. Why? I finally get the nerve to kiss you and now you’re not letting me again?”
She looked down at him from her straddled position on his lap, “I’m scared.”
Cassiah felt his hands running ever-so softly through her tangled brown hair, “Why? You can trust me. You’ve known me for years.”
At that, Cassiah slumped back a bit, grabbing his hands and holding them in between their bodies, “That’s exactly the problem, Ron. You’re one of my oldest friends. And even if we haven’t always been the closest, you’re one of my only friends that has stayed consistently in my life no matter what. And I think I can say the same for you. I don’t...” she sighed, cursing herself for getting emotional, “I don’t want to just date you for the hell of it, and lose you. You can’t date your friends unless you’re really serious about it. So we can either hook up for a summer, or date seriously, but I don’t know-”
“Cassie, I’m always friends with girls I date. You and I will always be friends. Always. And I don’t want to just hook up with you. If I promise that we’ll always be friends, can we just see where things go?” his eyes were full of concern.
Cassiah could barely focus due to the knowledge that he was still hard underneath her. She bit her lip, and despite every bone in her body screaming ‘no’, she nodded at him, “Yeah, of course.” She kissed him again.
Ron woke up hung over and unable to shake the feeling that his dream had left in his chest. He already spent every waking moment reliving his and Cassie’s greatest hits, and now they were haunting him in his dreams as well.
“Bloody hell,” he cursed, and shoved his pillow over his eyes so that the sun wouldn’t irritate his pounding headache and so that no one could see him cry.
Cassiah awoke to three gentle knocks from outside her door. Startled, she jumped up, clutching her duvet to her chest. “Who is it?” she asked, her voice still sleepy but urgent.
“It’s me,” sounded Draco’s voice from the other side of the door, quiet so that he didn’t wake anyone in the nearby rooms. He knew Cassiah wouldn’t want an entourage.
She fumbled around on her bedside table before she grabbed it and casting an unlocking charm on the door. “Come in!” she called quietly. Most people in the castle didn’t have the luxury of private rooms, and Cassiah always took advantage of her privacy.
Draco entered the room and closed the door carefully behind him, the old hinges creaking. He crossed over to where Cassiah was still tucked under her covers and stopped in front of her before easing into her desk chair and smoothing over his pants. With a softness in his eyes that told Cassiah he cared, he teased, “You said ‘tomorrow.’ So here I am, bright and early.”
Cassiah giggled a quiet, “Someone’s eager,” thankful that he wasn’t acting too serious. If it wasn’t too serious, maybe she wouldn’t cry. She was getting pretty sick of Malfoy seeing her cry lately. She wasn’t embarrassed of her emotions, but it was getting kind of ridiculous at this point – not to mention unfair to the blonde boy.
She sighed, finally sitting all the way up. Her braid was an absolute mess and she had rings of black eyeliner under her eyes, but she couldn’t be bothered to care. “Sorry for my dramatic entrance last night.”
Draco shook his head, his platinum hair moving with him as he leaned forward in his chair, “You don’t have to apologize. I’ve had my fair share of meltdowns in empty rooms in this castle. You just happened to have the misfortune of my hidden presence.”
“Merlin, you’re right. You’re so annoying,” Cassiah teased back, smirking, “But seriously. Thank you so much. I just didn’t think that it would upset me so much for my date to go well. I almost think I would’ve been less upset if it went badly, as insane as that sounds.”
Again, Draco shook his head, “It isn’t insane at all. I understand that. Having a good date is symbolic of a life without Weasley, and for some reason, you’re the only person in this House to ever think that life is better with him in it.” Cassiah snorted, burying her face in her hands. Draco reached out to touch her arm and continued, “Cass. It’s normal to not be ready to move on. It’s only been two bloody weeks. There’s nothing wrong with you going on a date, but there’s also nothing wrong with coming home and realizing you’re not ready for anything else to happen.”
Cassiah stared up at him as he spoke, and then dropped her eyes down. The fabric of her green comforter was suddenly very interesting. Her voice was quiet, “I’m not ready. Ernie and I kissed, and it was really sweet and nice, but then I panicked. I think I’m pushing myself to move on too fast just because I want Ron to know I’ve got other options. And I do, but it’s all happening way too quickly – I can barely keep up.”
“That makes too of us,” Draco muttered playfully, giving her arm a squeeze before dropping it, “You don’t have to go on another date with him if you don’t want to. I do think it’s a good thing you kissed him, though. It’s a kind of reset, when you kiss another person, I mean.”
Cassiah couldn’t agree more. As much as she felt guilty for her lips having touched another man’s besides Ron’s, she felt clean of his touch. He wasn’t the first person to have touched her, and now he wouldn’t be the last. Because there was life after Ron, even if she wasn’t ready for it just yet.