Subject: Cassandra Aubrey and the Going Down of the Sun
Posted on: 2018-11-14 21:34:00 UTC

The clock told the time, again and again and again. Tick followed tock followed tick. Cass stood in front of it and stared.

"... I thought you'd like it."

Cass stood.

"It's just, your collection... gurl, you love it. Got more clocks on the walls than books, and that's saying a lot. Like, a lot a lot."

Cass stared.

"So when I saw-"

"You did."

Em looked at her partner, eyebrows rising up a little. "Uh, yeah, I said I-"

"You mistake my meaning." The words were flat and spat and dark. "You saw, and then you did. You didn't ask. You didn't check. You didn't discuss. You. Just. Did. Just like always."

Em stepped back, eyes wide, face slowly losing colour and leaving bone white. "Cass, I'm sorry, how, how do I make this-"

Cass turned to look at Em, and the girl took another step back. "You want to make it right? Here's what you do. You go shopping."

Em couldn't think of any words that made sense. Cass just continued, her voice short and sharp as thorns. "Oh, am
I not making myself clear? Let me spell it out for you, then. You go to New Caledonia and you go shopping. You take the money I make selling trinkets as fandom props on World One's Etsy, and you go shopping. You buy yourself some clothes or shoes or makeup. You buy an expensive coffee that's mostly whipped cream and sprinkles and pumpkin spice flavouring syrup. You buy whatever gimcracks and bits of tourist tat that catches your eye and satisfies your magpie instinct-"

Tears rolled down Em's face. "Cassie, please, you're shouting."

"-because that's what gets you through the day, isn't it, Emily Perilled? Having things. Preferably things that are sparkly and gaudy and ostentatiously expensive. You're a hoarder and you justify it with some vague garbage about retail therapy because you think that if you have no things then you're nothing. Well, guess what? You are nothing. And all the knock-off designer clothing in the world won't get rid of the emptiness in whatever shrivelled, battered little shred inside you's passing for a soul. So go. Enjoy yourself on someone else's dime, you leech. Have fun."

The clock ticked and tocked and landed on the floor when it slipped from Cass's flimsy grip. Em didn't see it thud into the thick blue Axminster carpet, kept safe from breakage by the Cushioning Charms where the driver's seat would once have been.

She was already gone.


The clock ticked on.

The RC door hissed open. Feet came through, wiped themselves off on the ugly tie-dyed blanket thing pressed into service as a doormat. They were loud, and only got louder.

Cass looked up into Em's frightened face.

"Cassie, have you moved?"

The witch said nothing.

"It, it's been two days. I'm worried about you."

In the smallest voice Em had ever heard, Cass said "Why?"

Em just wrapped Cass up in her arms and didn't let go.

The clock ticked on.


"It wasn't a clock, you know."


The clock ticked on, as it had for some time. It was three in the morning and the both of them were tired. Their eyes were red and sore and their noses chapped from blowing. Crying's ugly when it means something.

"It wasn't a clock," Cass continued. "It was an old fob watch in a carriage clock mounting. The pattern was me, I did all the transfiguring myself. Took me ages to get the petals right. That's why there were all bits chipped off from the side. But the mechanism, the heart of it... the truth of the clock was a watch.

"You get one when you're seventeen. It's a wizard thing. The one in there was, well. See, that's the thing. I don't know whose it was. Found it in a junk shop in Muggle London and fell in love. It didn't work, never would again without a shedload of repairing charms, but that didn't matter. I didn't want it to work. It didn't feel right. It wasn't my watch, you see, I was just... I dunno, looking after it, I suppose. But I was going to be given one of my own, when I was seventeen, and I promised myself I'd fix it then.

"The guy in the shop told me it was old, and I could see it. There was an inscription I found in the case, and I couldn't make it out. It tore the name off, you see, but I could see a date. 1913. He wouldn't have been more than twenty-two when he died. Probably more like twenty. Off to war and home by Christmas and instead he died in a bombed-out ditch or hung up on barbed wire or stabbed in the gut. His watch stopped at eleven.

"And then came my war. My friends lying dead on the roads and stairs and grounds. People I'd grown up around killing and fighting. The, the death of it all. Lights in the sky and worlds on fire and then it all... stopped. Faded, like a bad dream. And I knew then, if I didn't get out, that I'd fade too. And it's the stupidest things you think of when you know you're going to die, because all I could think in my stupid fat head was 'Nobody's going to give me a watch'.

"So I tried to, to Apparate. Nobody taught me that either, I just knew you could do it if you tried. Everyone else was drifting away. I ran out of the grounds and into Hogsmeade as it turned greyer and greyer and I flung every bit of strength I had into this one spell to stay alive and... well, here I am. Left bits of myself behind on the trip too. Loads of hair and a couple of back teeth and my left kneecap and everyone I'd ever loved. But not this... this knackered old watch in a knackered old clock carriage covered in poppies.

"So I painted them, after I got out of the bacta tank. I painted them red at first, to honour the dead, but then I painted them white, to remember why they died. A callous and evil war prosecuted by a madman and his pet murderers. I kept the watch broken, too, even though it wouldn't even be hard to fix. It wasn't mine. It wasn't my right. I was just... looking after it, for now. You know, sometimes, when I looked at the watch face and those cheap, bent hands, I could hear the guns. They tear up the earth, you know. Pull down trees and hills and make a wasteland of everything around them. Wars, I mean. But the guns help with that."

Everything was quiet for a bit.

"They shall not grow old," Em said softly, "as we that are left grow old."

Cass looked up again. "What's that from?"

"It's from a poem. British, actually. I'm kinda surprised you don't know it."

"Hogwarts doesn't teach anything other than magic, and Muggle Studies is a bad joke anyway. Frankly, I'm amazed any of us learned how to bloody read."


The clock ticked on.

"They will not grow old, as we that are left grow old," Em said. "Age shall not wither them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them."

Cass said nothing for a while.

"Yes," she whispered, voice hoarse and crusted with salt. "We will."

The clock ticked on from its place face-up on the floor, hands turning little by little, moving forward.

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