Hello, beautiful readers. Well, I've been horribly inconsistent as of late. If I'm honest, I've always been so. However, I present to you another idea of mine. This is only the first chapter and I do have plans on writing much, much more. Feel free to take ideas from this and incorporate them into your own stories. Take this chapter as a new story as well as a challenge. This, Tilted Axis, and Eternal Fire are my three primary focuses at the moment.
Hate my inconsistency or not, I still hope you enjoy.
Sunday, October 31, 1999
Sirius Black jolted abruptly from an uneasy night's rest, the glow of what could only be a certain round hand mirror penetrating his eyelids. Mind still in a sleep-befuddled fog his hand shot out to grab it off the bedside table. As he sat up his index finger grazed the activator rune. All vestiges of sleep fled from him like prey from predator upon seeing the red-rimmed green eyes of his beloved goddaughter. They were the first things to catch his attention after his own image had dissolved upon answering her call. Her face showed the telltale signs she'd been crying for a while, her eyes puffy, cheeks tear-streaked, and damp curls sticking to her sweaty forehead. In the background, he could see the red curtains of her four-poster bed in the Gryffindor girls' dorm. They had, no doubt, been spelled closed and silent as soon as she had retreated behind them.
"Cari?" He voiced her name questioningly, a cold hard knot falling into the pit of his stomach.
"Halloween," she croaked out, the single word dripping in bitter irony. "Always Halloween. Useless, no-good, senseless..." She trailed off, her voice breaking like brittle ice stomped on by a heavy, careless boot.
"Cari?" Sirius asked again. Despite still getting to know her, he was already well aware that she would get to the point in her own time and that rushing or prodding her would only make her clam up.
"My luck, Sirius. My stupid bloody luck! Just when I thought I could have a normal year and the attention would be somewhere else than on me for a change!" Cari burst out, verdant eyes glistening with unshed tears. It was as though Sirius had been sucker punched as he remembered what was to happen on Halloween.
"No," he breathed out, his eyes widening to resemble dinner plates and his heart thumping like a jackhammer in his chest. Tears slipped down his goddaughter's cheeks as she nodded mutely.
"My name came out, Sirius. It was the fourth and now everybody thinks I'm a damned cheat!" She yelled, her face a mask of frustration and rage. Sirius could imagine her hands clenched into white-knuckled fists as if she was restraining herself from hitting or hexing something or someone. She'd reacted in this way during their confrontation in the Shrieking Shack. Her wand had been in hand then, sparking at the tip. This made for a surprisingly intimidating sight considering her young age and petite stature.
"What the hell are they playing at?" He demanded, incensed. "You're saying they're making you participate? Isn't there any way out? Couldn't they invalidate it?"
"I asked the same questions even though we both know the answer, Padfoot," Cari said wearily.
"Magically binding?" he asked, his throat tight around the words. Cari nodded, sniffed, and burst into tears anew. Sirius's heart ached as he wished he could reach through the glass and comfort his goddaughter more tangibly than could be done over mirror-call.
"I hate this, Sirius. I never wanted this!" She sobbed, anguish written in her expressive eyes.
"Neither did I, little Snidget," he said softly, tears entering his own eyes as he cursed himself for what part he had played in her unhappiness by putting revenge over responsibility thirteen years ago.
"You know, Padfoot, when I was told I was a witch I thought that the magical world would be this beautiful, amazing place where I could fit in. I mean I knew they were ten years out of a war but it never quite hit me until later how deep the divide runs. Even now the bigotry that caused it exists without comment or protest. The more I'm around these people the more I hate their lack of common sense. Hog warts is supposed to be the safest place in the country yet I've been nearly killed every year by Voldemort and/or some other nasty. On top of that everybody seems to think I owe them something. One minute I'm their hero and the next minute I'm a deranged little girl with a thirst for attention. There's no slander or libel laws and the minister can hardly wipe his own arse without consulting the poles and taking gold from whoever has the deepest pockets. I feel... I just can't help but..." She trailed off tearfully. "You're going to think I'm off in the head."
"Never," Sirius said resolutely, seeking Cari's eyes, gray staring earnestly into green.
"I wish magic didn't exist! There, I said it! Magic ruined my life when I was a baby and it's continued the trend since I was eleven. It killed my parents. Its users are the ones who threw you in the deepest pit of Azkaban without a trial. I don't want magic anymore. I... I want out!" She was breathing hard by this point, face flushed and streaked with tears. "I'd rather not participate in their stupid bloody tournament and lose every drop of magic in me than play along with whoever's sick game this is only to get myself or somebody I care about killed. I want to live for me, Padfoot, not for them!"
Sirius had to fight to keep the astonishment off his face. Any reaction that could be perceived negatively wouldn't do his goddaughter any good. Growing up with magic his entire life, he couldn't imagine losing it. At the same time, however, he saw where Cari was coming from. Having grown up ten years without knowing it even existed she could much more easily adapt back to a life where magic played no part. This would be better, even, then before because this time he would be with her. She would be supported and loved, given so much more than those horrid relatives of hers had been willing to offer when she was younger.
He thought back to her comment on how the minister listened to whoever had the deepest coin purses. If it hadn't been for Cari's quick wand reflexes stunning Wormtale Sirius would have never been declared free. Even that, though, had been after much badgering and cajoling from not only Cari but Madam Amelia Bones, head of the DMLE. Even then it had taken much of the summer to sort everything out and to wrangle Cari's magical and Muggle guardianship away from the Ministry and the Dursleys respectively. To his and Cari's delight, however, she came home with him for good on her birthday. August had been an amazing month full of bonding and the occasional clash. They were still getting to know each other in some ways but were just grateful that they could. It was a bittersweet victory, though, as he had lost twelve and a half years of his life with his goddaughter and Wormtale had managed to escape the Ministry holding cells as the idiots hadn't put inhibiter cuffs on him to prevent him turning into his rat form.
He thought back to the dilemma facing Cari now. Participate and risk dying or moving on to live without magic. Sirius weighed both scenarios in his head. He had to do what was best for his goddaughter. August together as well as two months of mirror calls had only cemented the bond between them and strengthened his determination to follow Cari to hell and back if necessary. His pure blood side screamed at the thought of anybody willingly giving up their magic to become a Squib. In the circles he grew up in, the only thing worse than a born Squib was somebody who once had magic but lost it, particularly if they had a choice in it. Such was considered perverse, on par with house elves wanting freedom and pay for their labors. But then, Sirius decided, his goddaughter's happiness was the most important thing of all.
"Sirius? Padfoot?" A voice, timid and small, penetrated his whirling thoughts and emotions. She looked terrified of his reaction to her declaration, eyes wide and teeth nibbling her lower lip reflexively.
"I... I'm here," he said quietly. He met her eyes again. "I always will be. I love you, Carina Anthea Potter, witch or Squib. Whatever you do it's your choice. Just say the word and I'll do whatever you need me to."
"Th-thank you," Cari breathed, her face transforming to show a relieved expression with a small, tentative smile. "For everything, I mean. I love you, Padfoot."
"Love you too, little Snidget," Sirius said tenderly. "It's getting quite late now. How about you call me again tomorrow night and we can talk more about where we go from here. Does that sound good?"
"That, godfather mine, sounds brilliant," Cari said, an almost hysterical bubble of laughter underlying her words.
"Goodnight then, little Snidget," he almost whispered.
"Goodnight, Padfoot," she responded, her voice equally soft. Contrary to the puffy-eyed image that had so struck him at the beginning of their conversation the last thing Sirius saw of Cari that night was a true, genuine smile before her image dissolved and his own replaced it once again.
Friday, November 19, 1999
Once she was certain all her roommates were asleep Cari poked her head through the curtains of her bed. It had been over two weeks since that fateful conversation with Sirius where she had blurted her inner-most desire to be shot of the wizarding world for good with no chance of being sucked back in on anything but her own terms. She'd been petrified that after what she'd said Sirius would reject her or at least her wishes. He was, after all, a pure blood and she'd only started to know him over the past few months. He'd come through for her brilliantly though, taking her seriously the way few other adults had before. The only one who even came close was, unsurprisingly, Remus Lupin.
Over the last weeks Sirius had made discrete arrangements for her departure from Hogwarts. He'd set up a funnel so that, over the course of the next seven years, the funds from the Potter account would be transferred monthly into a trust account in a Muggle bank so Cari could access them. Any Potter heirlooms had already been placed in a magically extended trunk for her to look at later. Sirius had done much the same with his personal vault and the Black account which his grandfather Arcturus had surprisingly willed to him upon his death in 1991. Sirius had verbalized several times that the only reason the "old bastard" had done so was that he thought Sirius had taken to the family way after all. The only difference was that the Black heirlooms had been searched for curses and compulsions before removal and there would be a modest sum of galleons left in the vault by the end of the transfer process.
Sirius had also purchased numerous texts for Cari so she could catch back up with her normal education which had gone no further than year six. He'd already sent those texts from year seven to her and she'd been studying them discretely at the expense of her magical coursework. Fortunately, not much fuss was made as her professors simply assumed she was too busy preparing for the tournament. As long as her books had covers like Defense for Dummies or Battle Transfiguration for Beginners nobody made a fuss.
It was finally the night to put their plans into action. The first task would take place the next morning and Cari would, if all went well, be safely ensconced in their London home well beforehand. With a silent rustle of sheets, she climbed out of bed to reveal she was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt rather than pajamas. Not bothering to make the bed up she slipped on her tennis shoes. She silently faced her nightstand. On it lay her wand and the Marauders' Map. She eyed her wand with a mixture of sadness and contempt. She felt as though her life wouldn't have been half as messed up if magic hadn't existed. On the other hand, magic had given her good memories too. She shook her head, the bad outweighed the good. Cari couldn't and wouldn't second guess herself. Not now when she was so close to freedom. Scowling, she snatched the wand up and flicked it at various parts of her body, muttering silencing charms under her breath. She then jabbed it at the Map, whispering the password. As the contents inked themselves like interlocking spider webs across the parchment Cari gripped the ends of her wand tightly in her hands. With a quick jerk, she snapped it over her knee. This was the closure she wanted. It was mostly a symbolic gesture for whoever found it. She was severing her connection with magic. She was also eliminating the wand-based connection she and Voldemort shared. A fleeting smile passed over her face at the chaos the wand fragments would bring. Taking the Marauders' Map off the nightstand Cari replaced it with the jagged fragments of her wand. Nodding in satisfaction she arranged them into an X.
Slowly, she lowered herself to her knees and reached under her bed. Her hand eventually latched onto her messenger bag wrapped up in her invisibility cloak. She eased both out and unwrapped her bag. Quickly and quietly, she checked to ensure she had everything she needed. She had only packed her bag with the essentials, her Muggle books, clothes, and the photo album Hagrid had given her at the end of first year. Aside from that, her cloak, the map, and her ticket out everything magical she owned would remain in the girls' dorm.
Cari hefted her bag over her shoulder before throwing her cloak on and carefully arranging it to account for the extra bulk she carried. As she stepped into the middle of the dorm she looked around. Cari had friends she would miss, that was true. But she could always make contact later. Some would understand, most wouldn't. She'd likely at least call Hermione on the holidays. The bookish girl had been one of her truest friends. Cari would owl Neville, too. Out of those pure bloods she was friends with she thought he would understand more than anyone.
With one last long look Cari slipped out of the girls' dorm and tread downstairs to the common room. Averting her eyes, she didn't spare it a second glance as she exited the portrait hole. Eyes half on the map she crept slowly through the halls. Eventually she made it to her destination, the statue of the one-eyed, hump-backed witch on the third floor.
"Descendium," she hissed, hoping that no portraits could hear her. Luckily, that particular corridor was rather bare. Even still, Cari was cautious; she couldn't afford to be careless now.
With blessed silence, the statue slid to the side to reveal a long, dim passage. Cari breathed a sigh of relief when she realized that the silencing charm she'd cast on the old statue hours previous had held. Taking a deep breath, she entered the passage. Behind her the statue slid silently shut.
Without delay Cari took up a jogging pace. She couldn't wait to get to the end. After a few minutes, she was finally in sight of the trap door. Stopping under it and catching her breath she reached up her arms and heaved with the tips of her fingers. She simultaneously blessed the fact the tunnel wasn't any higher and cursed the fact she was so damn short. Finally, though, it opened with a grating squeal of half-rusted hinges.
Cari cursed at the sound; she'd forgotten about what kind of noise the door could make. She could only hope that the owners of Honeyduke's were sound asleep in the flat above the shop. Tensely she listened for well over a minute for any sign that somebody had heard her. She breathed a sigh of relief when she heard nothing. With greater care this time she pulled the rope attached to the fold-down ladder. Though it clattered softly Cari was relatively certain nobody could have heard it.
She rapidly scaled the ladder and, at last, she was definitely out of the reach of the Hogwarts wards. She and Sirius had speculated she would be able to exit from somewhere in the tunnel. However, neither of them were quite sure where the wards ended and it was entirely possible that triggering the anti-portkey ward would raise an alarm in the headmaster's office. As a result of their speculation, Cari and her godfather had decided better safe than sorry. She couldn't leave just yet, though. Carefully, she knelt and pulled the ladder back up into its prior folded position. Then, with painful slowness so as not to make any more noise she shut the heavy trapdoor. Breathing a sigh of relief, she brushed arrant curls out of her eyes.
Cari then reached up to grasp what had become one of her most precious possessions. It was a small, delicate snidget pendant. Yellow gold with flashing jewel eyes, green instead of its traditional red, it hung on a delicate golden chain which extended just past her collarbone. It had been, along with the hand mirror/communicator, a present from Sirius for her fourteenth birthday. On top of that, it served as an emergency port key which would always take her back home so long as the wards were under a certain strength. It was this function she used now. Squeezing the little gold bird between her thumb and index Cari spoke the activator phrase.
"Starshine," and with not so much as a flash she was gone. Carina Anthea Potter had left Hogwarts for good with no intention to return.
Saturday, November 20, 1999
Cari paced anxiously; she had been restless all morning. In a short ten minutes or so the first task of the tournament would begin. She could well imagine that losing her magic would not be a particularly pleasant process. Even so, she had outright refused to read any literature on the subject, as sparse as it was. She and Sirius were in what they affectionately called their "library" which was, in fact, just a converted bedroom on the ground floor of their London home. It had been filled with book shelves stocked with tomes on subjects Muggle and magical, fiction and fact. There was a desk as well as two chaise lounges, the perfect spot for reading and relaxing.
"Going to make a groove in the carpet, Snidget," Sirius said softly. Cari glowered at him.
"Gee, I wonder why," she said sarcastically.
"No need for sarcasm," Sirius rebuked. Cari sighed, carting her hands through her hair. Though textured much like her father's it was colored more like her mother's, though a tad darker.
"I'm sorry," she mumbled, "It's just..."
"Your dad did that a lot," Sirius said suddenly, changing the subject altogether.
"Did what, pace?"
"Mess his hair," he grinned. "Though admittedly most of the time it was to attract girls."
"That so?" Cari asked, interested despite her anxiety.
"Of course the only one that never seemed to work on was your mum," Sirius chuckled as he sprawled out on one of the lounges.
"You've mentioned that she was a bit put off by him at first," Cari said, seating herself on the other lounge. Sirius had told her plenty of stories over the summer and in their mirror chats, but even so she didn't tire of hearing them. What she appreciated about Sirius was that he did his best to honor her parents' memory without putting them on a pedestal or comparing her to either one of them overly much. It was for this reason that she enjoyed his stories so. Though she knew that Sirius had his biases, he tried to think past them to give Cari an accurate picture of her parents and other family members such as her grandparents.
"Yeah," Sirius nodded. "Lily thought him a bit of an arrogant toe rag at first. That's what she called him anyway. But round about sixth year his head started to deflate a bit and they started getting to know each other better."
"What was Mum like?" Cari queried. "Being best friends with Dad I get you know him better but..."
"I knew your mum well too, Snidget, particularly from after she and your dad started getting closer. I'm sorry if I've neglected her in my stories a bit.
"The first thing that comes to mind about Lily is willful. From the time I met her, way back in first year, she was very much unlike any other girl I'd ever met to that point. From an early age, many pureblood girls are taught to be quiet, demure, and to hide any power they have behind subtlety and charm."
"Hmph," Cari snorted. " I guess Bellatrix Lestrange missed out on that memo."
"Heh," Sirius winced. "Trixie was always loony, even by Black family standards. Anyway, your mum had no desire to ever play damsel in distress. She actually hexed your dad once after they were dating when he tried to step in and assist when some Slytherin pricks were trying to, as their type say, put her in her place. She took them down before throwing several embarrassing hexes at him whilst explaining, in no uncertain terms, she wasn't as delicate as her namesake and did not need saving all the time. She was stubborn as all hell and held grudges worthy of Hades. She lived to step on any stereotypes thrown in her path. Women are weak, Muggleborns are incompetent hacks, etc."
"Good for her," Cari grinned widely. "Mum sounds so brilliant. I wish..."
It was as if she was a marionette whose strings had been suddenly cut. From her position seated sideways on the chaise lounge Cari's eyes suddenly rolled back and she collapsed, head lolling upside-down off the other side of her seat. Cursing, Sirius got up and repositioned her so she was properly laid out on the lounge. The grandfather clock in the foyer, unnoticed, began to toll the hour.
Sunday, November 21, 1999
Cari woke up abruptly with a face full of pillow. Aside from that the first thing she noticed, and how could she not, was that her back felt like it was being slashed by a couple of longswords. The second realization was that her head, particularly in the area around her scar, pounded rhythmically as though it had been used for drum practice by a drunken frat boy. Turning her head gingerly, the first thing she saw other than her pillow was Sirius. He looked exhausted and rather unkempt.
"Thank Morgana you're awake," he croaked.
"Hmmm? How long was I out?" Cari asked, eyebrow raised inquisitively.
"It's Sunday evening," her godfather answered.
"Oh," Cari sighed.
"You had me worried," Sirius said solemnly. "After you fell unconscious things went... A bit unexpectedly."
"How do you mean?" Cari demanded, her gut curdling like sour milk.
"You're a bit... Different, Snidget. I can't explain it - you need to see it for yourself," he sighed. Not wasting a second, Cari swung her feet off the bed and stood up. As she did, however, she found herself oddly off balance. Stumbling, she felt something shift outwards on her back, unfurling and steadying her. As this occurred she found the stabbing pain abating gradually, though her head still ached. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a flash of red and gold. Craning her neck around she couldn't help but scream. Half running, half stumbling, she made it in record time to her attached bathroom. Fearfully, she looked into the large mirror above the sink. She was just as she remembered herself but for one major detail. Wings! Huge, half-unfurled, brilliantly colored appendages, she certainly had not had them before.
"What the hell!" She shrieked. On the last word, the mirror trembled, cracked, and shattered.
"We always joked about the Evans Echo being able to shatter glass but I never thought I'd live to see it happen," Sirius said from the doorway.
"Think this is funny?" Cari demanded. "Think it amusing that even when everything should have gone right for once it went more wrong than ever? Is life some cosmic joke to you?"
In a fit of anger, she slammed her fist on the countertop with all her strength. Whereas doing so before would have given her knuckles a bruising she found her small fist pounding a hole straight through the granite to dangle in the drawer below. Numb with shock she slowly lifted her hand to find a multitude of tiny cuts from what she had pulverized. Before Sirius could lift his wand to heal them, however, the skin knit together to leave behind nothing but flecks of blood and dust.
"Oh shit," Cari murmured. Trembling, she sank to her knees and stared, sightless, at what she had destroyed.
Wordlessly, Sirius stepped fully into the room and knelt next to his goddaughter. Mindful of her wings, he wrapped her in a gentle, reassuring embrace. The mirror, the counter, they weren't important. They could be repaired or replaced later. Cari needed him.
"The Evans Echo?" Was asked after a good five minutes of silent contemplation. Sirius barked a laugh.
"That or the Lily Lion. It was the best we could come up with,"
"Funny. I always called it the Petunia Pierce," Cari said with a small, uncertain smile. "I figured she was the only one and that I'd picked it up from too much time around her."
"Of all the differences between the Evans sisters, my dear little Snidget, that wasn't one of them. Let's alliterate yours, shall we? How about the Carina Crash?"
"Or the Cari kaboom" she let out a watery chuckle. Silence fell into place once more as godfather and goddaughter clung to each other like lifelines in a sea of chaos. So long as they had each other, though, they might just be okay after all, whatever the winds would bring.
Tuesday, November 23, 1999
"I don't know what to do, Moony," Sirius lamented two nights after Cari had woken up changed. "There's so many things I don't know about... this. I've scanned and there's nothing magical whatsoever about her abilities."
Remus Lupin scratched his chin thoughtfully as he served Sirius and himself some freshly brewed tea.
"Well," he said at length, "I've lived in the Muggle world a lot since leaving school due to my... condition. There have been whispers and reports of a subset of the human population called mutants."
"You'd better explain that remark before I get angry, Moony. Mutant sounds something like a sewer rat with two tales or men with six fingers. I don't like Cari in that bracket," Sirius said, hackles raised.
"It was not I who coined the term, Padfoot. The concept is similar, though. These people have a part of themselves that is different from other Muggles, much as we do." Remus said calmly.
"So do all these people have wings, super strength, and the lot?" Sirius asked.
"No, their abilities are infinitely more diverse, much unlike magic. There are variations in magic, sure. Some of us are better at specific fields than others. Also, there are gifts such as parceltongue and metamorphmagus that are minor mutations in magic itself. Magic and mutation share common ground in that power levels vary from person to person. However, with the X-Gene as they call it, there is no guarantee that one mutant's ability is shared by any other. Some features are more common than others but many mutants, as I understand it, are singularly unique."
"What am I going to do?" Sirius asked again. "There's no way I can help her control this... If Cari had the potential to be a mutant before, why didn't it show itself?"
"Mutations tend to make themselves apparent during adolescence for the most part. It is often brought on by stressful situations," Remus explained.
"Much as I hate thinking about it, Cari's experience enough stress for ten lifetimes. Why didn't these traits manifest before now?"
"I have some theories about that. I believe that magic and mutation are incompatible, unable to exist in the same person. Then again, I am working on pure speculation here. Mutants themselves are little more than rumors, especially outside the United States. In any case, I have never heard of a magical mutant before. All this speculation, however, does bring to mind the occasional oddities rumored to display among some Squibs." Remus said thoughtfully. Sirius looked as though he had been slapped by a wet fish.
"Marius!" He nearly shouted. His friend looked at him quizzically.
"James's uncle, my great-uncle, Marius. He was kept in the family longer than most Squibs because, despite no accidental magic, he always seemed to understand the motives and feelings of those around him. They simply pegged him as an empath with internalized magic beforehand. He ran away the summer after he turned eleven when it became apparent his Hogwarts letter would not be coming. He's kept in contact with Dorea over the years as she alone did not disown him and act as though he were scum or had simply died." Sirius explained.
"That would make him Cari's great-uncle, then," Remus said thoughtfully. "And perhaps, by what you're saying, Padfoot, this Marius is gifted as well."
"I think so," Sirius nodded. "I've only met the man a handful of times. However, it was always like he could look right into me. First, he saw that I was not like the rest of those in our family. James always said he could never pull one over on his Uncle Marius. I always just chalked it up to him being a lawyer. Mum Dorea always praised the reputation he's built up in America."
"If he is as you say, Padfoot, could he be of help?" Remus asked.
Sirius scratched his head thoughtfully, internally torn. On one hand, he hadn't talked to Marius since Charlus and Dorea's funeral which, naturally, had not been the best venue to get to know one another. What if, the animagus fretted, Marius had not heard the news of the true traitor and still thought Sirius had sold out the only remaining family that mattered to him? What if the man had grown bitter and had no desire to help Cari? His thoughts cast back to the girl upstairs who was, at that moment, in a fitful slumber. Shaking his head in a manner reminiscent of his animagus form, Sirius stood abruptly.
"Best get on that," he murmured, leaving the room, Remus, and his now cold cup of tea behind. There was no room for what-ifs when it came to the health, safety, and happiness of his little Snidget.