Wow! Thank you for the amazing response to the prologue! You've no idea how much I smiled last week every time I saw someone left a review, marked this story as a favorite or started to follow it! You guys made me very happy indeed!
Ps: Stay safe! Best wishes to you and your family!
LET ME SHOW YOU A LITTLE BIT OF MAGIC
There was the briefest of moments in between saying the spell and seeing the actual result, in which Ingrid was able to feel how her magic – a deep and integral part of her – came alive inside of her to answer her commands. And were those short, oh so short, moments which always made her smile.
Because there was nothing like feeling her magic coming alive to hum and thrum through her whole body.
That's why, as she watched the withered forest glade revive under the power of her magic, Ingrid couldn't help but laugh, loud and free. Magic was truly a wonderful thing.
"Extraordinaire" said a familiar voice, pulling her out of her little world.
She turned around, smiling at the newcomer. "Always the tone of surprise"
"It's not my fault you keep progressing so fast" he defended himself in mock outrage, the wide smile on his face betraying his true emotions. "You only have thirteen winters and know so much magic it's incredible…. I couldn't do that at your age" He paused as a self-degrading smile painted itself in his face "I still can't and I'm two winters older than you"
The hurt in his eyes was real, she knew. After all the things his father – her uncle; the man who had raised her like she was his own along with all his children– forced him to endure almost daily, it wasn't fair that, even when Mikael wasn't around, he still felt inadequate in comparison to the rest of them. And she refused to see him suffer like that, not when she'd the power to do something about it. "You only need to practice more. I can show you if you want, Niklaus"
The smile in his face at that moment was blinding. "I would like that" he said as he sat beside her in the sod. "Tell me what to do"
She nodded as she put her hands in the soil again, feeling how the patch of lawn around her died as she took her magic back. "You need to focus on your magic, let it flow through you to the nature around us."
He frowned in concentration as he put his hands next to hers. A moment passed and then another and then he sighed, his shoulders dropping in disappointment. "I told you I'm not good enough… I'm not like you or Kol… Magic is not for me." Nothing is, he didn't say, but he might as well had with how clearly she was able to read it on his expression.
"Of course you can" she protested, ignoring property as she put her hands on top of his, feeling how warm they were. "Focus on your magic" She ordered as she closed her eyes and focused all her attention on her magic, feeling how it grew as it intertwined it with Niklaus's and they became one. And then she gently guided his – their – power to the ground and willed Mother Nature to come back to this place, for it to be alive – beautiful and brilliant – once more.
When she opened her eyes and looked around, she threw her head back and laughed aloud in amazement. The patch of lawn was not only green once more, but it was filled with flowers of all colors. It was a lovely sight.
At his words, she turned around, still smiling, and tilted her head to the side in confusion when she realized Niklaus was looking at her instead of the flower-filled-clearing around them.
Slowly, he extended his slightly shaking hand to tuck a lock of black hair behind her ear. Holding her gaze with his blue eyes, he repeated in a whisper. "Beautiful"
And in that moment, with his hand in her cheek and his clear blue-green eyes locked on her emerald green eyes, she felt something, as powerful and wonderful as magic itself, humming and thrumming through her whole body, especially on her heart.
Caught on the moment, she couldn't do anything but smile at him, and her smile only grew as he smiled back, equally entranced.
Aria jerked awake with a loud gasp, sitting up abruptly when she felt how her magic was practically dancing around her, making most objects in her vicinity float in the air in the process, in response to her dream. With a tired sigh, she closed her eyes as she focused on her magic, visualizing in the eye of her mind her entire room and forcing every object to go back to their places as her magic retreat inside of her, and when she opened her eyes that was exactly what happened.
Rubbing her eyes in weariness, she tried to remember what her dream had been about – and why it'd made her heart flutter in her chest in the same way it used to do for Cedric Diggory – but, no matter how much she focused, she couldn't quite remember what her bloody dream had been about. Which wasn't, sadly, anything new. She'd learned over the years that the more effort she put into trying to remember, the less she would actually be able to.
It wasn't fair nor logical but, then again, her life had stopped making sense when she turned eleven and a half-giant told her she was a witch.
An almost silent pop alerted her on the new presence in her room. "Good morning, Kreacher"
"Mistress is shaking again… Nasty dreams don't let mistress rest" Kreacher lamented, ignoring her greeting in favor of opening her big window's curtains with a snap of his fingers and then levitating a tray with hot chocolate and some scones to her lap. "Mistress needs lots of food to be strong. Kreacher cooked a proper breakfast for mistress, would mistress prefer to eat here or in the muggle dining room mistress is so fond of?"
Aria smiled warmly at him.
They'd had their up and downs since they met – a big understatement really – but she'd come to love the elf fiercely, viewing him as a fundamental part of her small, mismatched and very unorthodox family. And she was secretly very glad that his aging process had slowed down, almost stopping completely, as a result of being bonded to the Master of Death. It was comforting to know Kreacher would stay by her side through the long road they'd ahead of them.
The elf, she knew, loved her deeply too. It showed in the way he was always aware of her moods and needs, knowing even before her when she was in need of something like food or rest. Like the hot chocolate and the scones for example. That was a tradition Kreacher had started years before, when he'd figure it out just how badly disoriented she could be after a dream. So, every day, he would pop in her bedroom when he felt she'd woken up and give her his delicious hot chocolate – the little elf's special and secret recipe – and a little treat as a way to remind her of the here and now.
"In the dining room, please." She took a sip of the beverage and hummed appreciably "As delicious as always, Kreacher. Thank you."
After a decade of compliments, the elf didn't blush nor stammered, or froze completely, like he used to do in the beginning. Instead, he pointed her with his finger as he claimed. "Mistress has twenty-five minutes or Kreacher will be back."
Amused, Aria nodded with a grin. "I'll hurry up, I promise"
Pleased with her answer, Kreacher nodded and popped out of her room, leaving her with her thoughts once more. Knowing it was better to not go against the elf's instructions when he was in protective mode, Aria finished her small meal and hastened to get ready for her day.
Twenty minutes later, she was slowly eating her breakfast, which was big enough to fill out Ron, as she scanned the big box of letters Gringotts had sent her that morning.
Her relationship with the goblins had been rocky after the war, even after she'd publicly declared that the goblins had allowed her to break-in their bank because it'd been all part of the plan to overthrow Voldemort's reign - which had given them an awful lot of public points - and even after she'd paid them back, with interests, for all the damage caused. But, before she'd fled England, she'd been forced to come to a mutual agreement with the goblins. It'd taken long talks, in which she'd been forced to reveal her immortality to them and to agree to give back every goblin-made artifact that was on her vaults, but they'd finally reached a very complicated, detailed and ironclad agreement that was fair and profitable for both parts.
One of the most practical parts of the agreement had been the mail system they'd created.
The goblins, with some help from Hermione, Bill and her, had created a very complicated, undetectable and indestructible ward to re-direct all the mail, from wizards and muggles alike, addressed to her – or her titles, or any of her fake names, or any of her business, or The Marauder's Foundation – to the Gringotts Bank in England. There, the goblins had the mission to double-check the mail for curses, threats, enchantments, hoaxes and a number of other things. Only after that, every ten days, the globin manager of all her vaults, Ragnuk, would send her a box with her correspondence, as well as Gringotts' update of her accounts and finances, to the location she was at the moment. After the box appeared, she had five days to go over everything and write back the appropriate responses before the box would pop back to Ragnuk, who made sure every letter was delivered to the person to whom it was addressed in the next three days.
The system wasn't perfect – there were times when the size alone of the box tired her out – and it required a lot of trust on her part, even with the iron-clad confidential agreement on place, not to mention that the globin's fee was ludicrous, but it was very effective and that was all that mattered.
The box for that day wasn't the biggest one she'd seen, it wasn't even in the top twenty. But even still, she expertly ignored all the other letters and went straight to Teddy's, smiling when she noticed how the parchment seemed empty at first glance, knowing this particular enchantment was one of the very few actually allowed to pass through the system.
"I solemnly swear I am up to no good" she said, touching the letter with her index finger and watching how the familiarly uneven but kind of elegant penmanship of her son appeared on the parchment.
Hope this letter finds you super-extra-ultra-mega great.
I also hope you enjoyed a very happy valentine day! Did my present arrived on time? I tried to coordinate everything with the shop so it would be delivered on February 14th but you never know with the international owl-delivery-service.
On that note, don't you think it is crazy how much time it takes for my letters to reach you? I've to wait more than two weeks for your reply!... And I was thinking, instead of sending you my letters through the goblins, maybe you can make me a mirror like the one you use to communicate with grandma and the others? That way we can talk every day! Please mum, I miss you. I'm going nuts without talking to you. (And if you tell anyone I said that I swear I would disown you as my mother, big sister, godmother, and all-around favorite person ever!)
I know we talked about this at Christmas but… would it be really so bad if I'm homeschooled? Nothing has changed, mum. Everyone still stares at me like I'm the bloody reincarnation of Merlin or something. Even the people from Gryffindor act all weird around me and the kids from my year only know how to pester me with stupid questions about you.… I don't like it here, mum. If grandma is so bent on me having a formal education – not like it bloody matters as I'm the best in my year by a long shot and that's all because of your lessons – I can always go to Ilvermorny next year, I heard their houses are way cooler than Hogwarts! Just… think about it, okay?
Anyway, what exciting news do you have for me? Are those crazy vamps still prowling around the city? And what about those 'mostly' well behave brother-vamps? Are they still on the bunny/blood bag diet? Oh, what happened with that family of wiccans you told me about? The grandmother died, right? Did you finally took pity on the young and inexperienced new wiccan and introduce yourself to her? Tell me everything! I expect your next letter to be at least ten feet long, and it needs to include all the gory and gruesome details. It's not fair you get to live in the most supernatural muggle city ever while I'm stuck in school.
All my love,
Ps. Send my love to Kreacher! And tell him to go outside and enjoy the sunshine from time to time, it's good for his skin!
Ps 2. Uncle Nev send me a letter the other day, telling me all about how the four of you – including aunt Hermione! – used his knowledge of rare plants to prank poor unsuspecting people. Did you guys really turned your potions professor's hair all the colors of the rainbow with a rare plant from South America? I'm so going to copy that idea.
Ps. 3. Do I really have to spend the Easter holidays with grandma? I know it's because the both of you want me to start knowing the ropes of the Marauder's Foundation but she's going to end up dragging me to the Weasley's. And then all of them are going to ask about you and why don't you come back already, or why don't you marry off to a proper wizard and have a couple of kids, or other idiotic things like that. You don't want that for me, right? Remember that I'm your only son, mum!
Aria put down the letter with a heavy sigh, feeling oh so tired all of sudden.
Teddy's letter wasn't exactly a surprise, no after complaining about Hogwarts in every letter for the last months, but it was the first time, besides their conversation on Christmas break, he'd let her see the true deep of his loneliness.
She exhaled loudly, trying to contain her instincts and break the international law of magical travel by creating an illegal portkey to England. It wasn't easy. Not when it was clear how much her son needed her.
Not for the first time, she cursed the unfairness of it all.
She'd sent Teddy to Hogwarts not only because of the promise she'd made to Andromeda, but because the school was a fundamental part of the education of every young witch and wizard. Teddy, like Remus and Tonks and her before him, deserved to go to the ancient castle and make friends of his age, go on incredible adventures, learn magic under some of the best witches and wizards on the world and expand his horizons.
But she hadn't taken into account how her fame would affect him. Her son had grown up without the scrutinizing eye of the media, far away from the stares and the whispers that had shadowed her footsteps since she was eleven, and his first impression of Hogwarts had been tainted by all the people who had only seemed interested in him because he was the adopted son of the Girl-Who-Conquered. When he'd first complained about it, Aria had hoped Teddy would eventually find true friends like she'd done but, instead, he'd closed off from everyone, refusing to allow himself to connect with his classmates, spending his first months on the school utterly alone. And when Christmas break had come, he'd all but begged her to homeschooled instead.
It didn't help that, with the exception of her best friends, their kids, and Andromeda – who had faithfully visit them as often as they could – Teddy's sole company growing up had been Aria and Kreacher. During all his formative years, she'd been her son's best friend and only confidant, and he wasn't taking the separation as well as she'd hoped.
She didn't want Teddy to be dependent on her – that's why she hadn't given him a communication mirror in the first place – but it was obvious she needed to do something, because she wasn't about to allow her son to continue suffering like this. There weren't many options, not when she refused to pull Teddy out of Hogwarts due to the fact that she was sure he only needed a push in the right direction to find friends and start to truly enjoy his school days.
Really, at that moment, considering all the other options, a mirror sounded like a good compromise. Decision made, she put the letter down and made a mental list to buy an appropriate mirror in the school carnival of Mystic Falls.
"Mistress has not finish her breakfast"
The pointed remark brought her back from her thoughts and she wasted no time in relaying Teddy's message to Kreacher. She watched, fondly amused, how the elf puffed his cheeks as he replied. "Little brat has manners. Mistress taught him well."
Teddy's relationship with Kreacher was an interesting one. Teddy was the biological son of a werewolf and the half-blood daughter of the disowned blood-traitor daughter of the House of Black, and therefore, in Kreacher's eyes, a half-breed disgrace. But Teddy was also her godson and by the time he'd come under her guardianship, Kreacher had loved her enough to put aside his prejudice and help her in taking care of him. After that, the official adoption and Teddy's warm disposition towards the elf had guarantee Kreacher's reluctance acceptance of him as family, even if the elf refused to refer to him as his young master. According to the grumpy elf, Aria was, and would always be, his only mistress, period.
"Does mistress plans to stay inside the house going over her very important mail? Or is she still insisting on going out to the filthy muggle carnival filled with loathsome half-breeds, disgusting servants of nature and dirty muggles?"
"You know they're not that bad, Kreacher" The elf's expression all but said 'Yes, they are, but mistress is too kind to think otherwise', so she decided against keep fighting a losing battle. "I'm going to the school after I finish my breakfast. I promised my help to the students on the carnival committee"
The elf sighed like she was been the unreasonable one. "As mistress wishes" And then, after a pointed glance to the semi-finished breakfast, the elf promptly popped out the room
Smiling slightly and feeling in a much lighter mood, she lifted her fork and focused on her delicious breakfast once more.
"Do you think they'll need more banners?"
The familiar British voice pulled Alaric out of his chaotic thoughts – which included his not-so-dead ex-wife (did vampirism still made him a widower?) and the even bigger mess he'd made of his life since he'd arrived in Mystic Falls – and brought him back to the present.
He scanned the classroom filled with banners, balloons, hand-made gifts, and dozens of other things he didn't remember seen since he was a child. Right. He'd offered himself as a volunteer to the committee of the school carnival. And, instead of day-dreaming, he was supposed to be helping with the preparations for that night.
More importantly, he focused on the only other member of the faculty who had volunteered alongside him.
The raven-haired beauty was a couple of feet away from him, her bright and beautiful emerald green eyes focused on him as she pointed, with a mildly exasperated expression, to the small pile of banners over the table. Oh, that's right. She'd asked him about the banners. "No. I think that's enough."
"Are you sure?"
Alaric raised an eyebrow, surprised by the first hint of insecurity he'd seen in her in all the months since they'd met. Maybe it was because of that he actually took his time to check, counting mentally, the small pile of banners once more – getting impressed by how much she'd managed to do in the time they'd been there – before declaring firmly. "Completely. The kids aren't going to know what to do with so many of them."
She smiled brightly, relieved, her whole face lighting up and becoming even more impossibly beautiful, as she finally nodded. "Good. I don't want to do anything wrong."
There was something about the way she said those words…. "Your school never had a carnival?"
"Oh, no. We didn't have anything like this. The most we'd was a feast for the important dates, you know, like the welcome back feast, Halloween and things like that."
He hummed noncommittal, wondering what kind of school made a feast to celebrate Halloween. A really fancy one, he supposed. And, not for the first time, Alaric wondered what kind of secrets where hidden in the past of the mysterious British resident of Mystic Falls.
It was common knowledge why she'd decided to settle down on Mystic Falls.
Aria was the eldest daughter of a very wealthy family from England. The same family who had created The Marauder's Foundation, a very well-known and respected non-profit international organization that was focused on helping children, teenagers, and young adults, from all parts of the world. According to the rumor-mill, her parents had died when she and her little brother were very young and their guardian had died shortly before she'd turned eighteen, leaving her in charge of the family's assets and her young brother, who studied in a boarding school in Scotland for the most part of the year. After that, she'd decided to move as far away as she could, arriving in Mystic Falls when she'd been barely eighteen years old. Since then, she'd proved herself to be a mature and kind young woman, not getting into any sort of trouble and helping in all the local charitable work she could.
That was what most knew about her.
Alaric knew a little bit more thanks to her part-time job as a self-defense teacher in Mystic High.
For what he'd gathered when he'd transferred, she'd donated to the school an entirely new building, completely equipped, for the sole purpose of teaching different kinds of arts, like sculpture, dance, paint, and many others; and, in return, she'd asked if she could teach self-defense to those who wished to learn. Overwhelmed, the school principal had readily accepted. Alaric had actually stopped a couple of times to watch her classes and had to admit being impressed with her natural ability as a teacher as well as her skill as a fighter, it was crazy how she could put down people thrice her size without effort.
But for all her open disposition to help whenever she could, Aria was a very, very private person. Beyond polite interactions, the young girl didn't mingle with anyone in town. The young green eye beauty smiled and was pleasant to everyone who approached her, but there was a certain kind of aloofness in her every action that warned off people from getting emotionally close to her.
In a way, he could understand why. Aria didn't fit with any of the kids of her age, who were still in school and didn't have the ability to empathize with the kind of life she'd been through. For them, Aria was the hottest teacher in the school, strict and fair when she was giving them lessons she dominated like it was the back of her hand, and just as unreachable as a pipe dream. And he could see how trying to be friends with someone like him, who was almost fifteen years her senior, would be unappealing for someone who was, for all purposes, still a teenager.
But he could relate very well to the pain of losing a loved one and knew better than most why someone would up and leave their whole life behind, which is why he always tried to get to know her better, even if it was limited to small talk about school activities for now, because, one day, he wouldn't mind sit down and talk to someone who understood. Even if he could never tell her the whole truth about vampires and all the other supernatural crazy stuff.
"Then you should definitely go to the carnival. It would be a good experience for someone of your age"
Aria laughed out loud, obviously very amused. And, honestly, with how pretty she looked, it was no wonder the kids on the school were always tripping over themselves to get on her good side. "You make it sound like I'm a child"
He shrugged. "You're eighteen. Still very young."
Her eyes flashed with something like sadness for a moment, but it was gone so fast he thought he'd imagine it. And then she was grinning, teasingly. "And how old are you exactly? Eighty-one?"
"Hahaha. You're hilarious." He replied rolling his eyes, even if his mouth twitched a little in his effort to contain his grin. "I'll have you know that I'm thirty-four."
"Are you sure? You look like way past your forties." She mocked, green eyes dancing with mischief.
"How dare you? That's no way to talk to your elders, young lady!"
There was a pause, in which their eyes met for a second, and, in the next instant, they were both laughing at the absurdity of it all. Deep and loud laughs left his body, making him forget, for the first time in a long time, of the mess that was his life.
Of course, one of the sources of said mess chose that moment to come knocking the door.
"You two seem like you're having fun"
Elena was standing on the door frame of the classroom, her eyes curious and assessing as she appraised the scene in front of her, and Alaric could feel how his whole body tensed due to her presence. It wasn't that he disliked her. Her bizarre choice of loving a vampire aside, Elena was a kind and intelligent human girl who didn't deserve the supernatural trouble that seemed to follow her footsteps. But seeing her remind her of Isobel and he wasn't ready to confront that.
"Hello there, Elena" Aria greeted. Her smile was friendly and polite but distant, much different from how it'd been a moment before "Do you need our help with something?"
"Oh, no. Everything is under control" Elena smiled, sunny and innocent. A little bashful, she took out a small camera and asked. "Do you guys mind if I took a picture of you?"
Alaric raised an eyebrow, surprised. "I didn't know you were also part of the yearbook committee, Elena"
"Oh, no" the young girl reassured, still smiling "But Caroline wants a picture of everyone who helped with the carnival. She wants to make a scrapbook or something. And she threatened to kill me if I didn't get her at least a picture of the two of you."
"That sounds like her" concurred Aria, looking amused once more "She threatened to fire me when I misplaced for a little while some of the decorations for the Miss Mystic Falls pageant, never mind that I was volunteering"
Alaric smiled because, yeah, that sounded exactly like Caroline Forbes. "Do we've to pretend to work or do you want us to look into the camera?"
"Looking at the camera will be better" Elena assured, entering to the classroom but still keeping a good distance from them "Big smiles, please"
The pictures didn't take much time and, soon, Elena was shouting a quick goodbye as she exited the classroom, leaving them alone with a bunch of decorations that were still half done.
Aria turned towards him with a smile full of mischief. "Well, shall we continue with our arduous work, old man?"
"We shall, young lady"
Aria glanced around the colorful stands, noting absentmindedly how dark it'd gotten.
After they'd finished with the decorations, Alaric and her had toured around the carnival – the history teacher had even helpfully pointed her the different attractions he thought she must try at least once in her life – until he'd received a text message that it'd turned him very pale and then, after offering her a weak excuse, he'd hurried off towards Merlin's knows where.
Well, that wasn't exactly true. She would bet anything Alaric, the secret vampire hunter slash high school teacher, had gone to deal with whatever new vampire drama had emerged in the town. Because Mystic Falls seemed to have those like no other town she'd know.
It was all a little bonkers, honestly.
She wasn't exactly sure what was happening. She couldn't, not when she refused to get involved in a battle that wasn't her own. But, for what little she could gather, Elena Gilbert, the Salvatore brothers, and Bonnie Bennett were in the heart of everything. She still hadn't figure it out why a human girl, with no previous experience with the magical world, would voluntarily let herself fall in love with a vampire – because it was very obvious the girl knew about it – or, for that matter, why Damon Salvatore, who had shown time and time again to not care about human life, had stopped drinking directly from his victims. And she still wasn't sure where Bonnie fit in the puzzle, as the girl seemed to be using her new awaken powers as a wiccan witch – because if she was more experienced, she would be able to pick up Aria's magic right away –to try fixing every single vampire mess in the city for no other reason besides her friendship with Elena.
What she did know for sure was that a select portion of the muggles in Mystic Falls knew about the existence of vampires. It was very obvious, not only because of Alaric's hobby as a vampire hunter, but because the local authorities were constantly trying to cover up the vampire attacks to make them seem like animal attacks. And that was so very dangerous.
It'd been more than six months since she'd started discovering everything that really went down in the apparently normal, boring and muggle town, but she still couldn't decide if she should contact the magical authorities or not. What was happening was technically a violation of the International Statute of Secrecy, as vampires were considered magical creatures and therefore part of the secret; but the muggles didn't seem to have any idea about magic – their kind of magic – and so, for the time being, she was letting everything unfold without interfering.
She'd been tempted – oh so tempted – to just obliviate every human who knew about vampires and then put a compulsion charm on the Salvatore brothers so they would stop telling every bloody muggle they came across about the existence of vampires and the supernatural, but she'd refrained, just barely, when she'd realized something. The Salvatore brothers – and, more importantly, the muggles – seemed to be under the impression that vampires and wiccan witches were the extension of the supernatural world and she didn't see any reason to correct that assumption.
As long as they kept their life-threatening drama far away from her and Teddy, she didn't see any reason to intervene.
Once upon a time, she would have intervened as soon as she'd known what was going on. She would have come running trying to save the day, just because there were innocent lives in danger and someone needed to help them. But she wasn't that naïve young girl anymore. She'd fight and die for others once, she wasn't about to do it again.
Besides her loved ones, she refused to play savior for anyone.
Of course, that was when she heard – thanks to her animagus form – cries for help in the distance.
There was the briefest of moments of indecision, as her heart warred with her mind, and then her feet were moving without her permission towards the direction of the cries. In her mind, she cursed her bloody saving-people thing, it'd gotten her into trouble more times than she could count.
She wasn't expecting what she found.
The alley behind the school was dark and would have been empty if not for the human body dumped on the pavement, probably drained to the last drop, Caroline Forbes and Damon Salvatore. What was surprising? The blood covering Caroline, as well as the tears freely running through her cheeks as she begged Damon to help her, repeating over and over again that she hadn't meant to kill the human, that it'd been an accident. And what did the older vampire did? He promised to help the very obvious new vampire as he hugged her and then took out a stake from his pockets, assuring her it was the only way.
Aria saw red.
In that moment, it didn't matter her resolution to stay far away from all the vampire drama on the town, or even the little fact that she didn't know Caroline particularly well. In that moment, she only saw a young girl in over her head, who was scared and confused and was begging for help to someone who didn't value her life enough to even give her a chance.
She didn't stop to think as she pulled out the elder wand and shouted the first spell it come to her mind. "Stupefy"
The dark-haired vampire dropped to the ground, unconscious. And Caroline fell to the ground crying, her blue eyes wide as she took in the stake in the vampire's hand and the very distinctive wand on Aria's hand. "Please, Aria" Caroline begged in between cries, hugging herself as she tried to be as small as possible on the ground "I never meant to... please… don't kill me… I didn't want…"
Something inside her heart tugged. It was obvious the girl had been turned very recently, and probably against her will too if her actions were any indication. She was inexperienced, innocent and too young to be caught in the middle of someone else's fight. And, for a moment, Aria saw Caroline on the ground and saw herself when she was seventeen.
She sighed, knowing she wouldn't be able to turn her back on her. Not now. So, she put her wand back on her concealed forearm-holster and tried to smile as friendly and reassuringly as she could. "I'm not going to hurt you, Caroline" she promised with her softest voice, extending a hand to the distressed new-born vampire in a clear invitation "If you let me, I can help you"
"Why would you do that? We aren't friends." Caroline demanded warily, her watered eyes carefully tracking her movements.
"Because I wish someone who knew what they were doing had stopped to help me when I was seventeen and scared out of my mind" she replied, honestly.
With her eyes still locked on hers, Caroline slowly took her hand.
Aria smiled as she took firmly the vampire's hand. "This will be uncomfortable only for a moment, I promise" And, without giving her anymore warning, she thought of her house, specifically her living room, and apparate them both away.
The almost silent crack was the only noise in the alley for a long moment. Until Stefan and Elena came running, closely followed by Bonnie and Alaric. All of them stopped at the sight in front of them, from Damon unconscious figure to the dead body of one of the carnival workers, with no sign of Caroline nearby.
Wide-eyed and confused, they traded glances as they wondered what the hell had happened.
Caroline's expression after her first side-along apparition had been funny enough. The blond girl had stumbled over her own feet with a small shriek - and she got respect points for no going tumbling to the ground as most people did – as she tried, over and over, to stay upright on the marble floor of her living room, and then, when the vertigo had finally passed away, she'd looked around her with wide-eyes full of wonder.
But Caroline's expression after seeing Kreacher for the first time? That had been downright hilarious.
When the elf had popped into the room, she fell on the nearest love seat and stared at him without blinking, with her mouth wide open, like she couldn't believe what was in front of her. It was only the sneer Kreacher was very pointedly aiming in her direction what had brought her out of her stupor. "What is that?"
"He is Kreacher" Aria corrected, putting gently a hand on the elf's head "He's a house-elf"
"Kreacher is mistress Aria's elf" corrected Kreacher puffing his chest, sniffing disdainfully in Caroline's direction "Not like a filthy half-breed would know anything about it"
"Hey!" the blonde protested, understanding the insult he'd thrown at her.
"Kreacher, please, no more insults. Caroline is my friend now."
The look of horror on the elf's face would have been amusing in any other moment. "Mistress is collecting dirty stray half-breeds now" he lamented despairingly.
Knowing they needed to change the direction of the conversation or they would be stuck there forever, Aria hurried to ask "Can you bring me blood-bags from the hospital? Please, I need at least a couple of dozens."
The elf sighed, throwing her a long-suffering look, but a moment later his shoulders dropped like he'd given up and resign himself to accomplish something almost impossible. "As mistress wishes" And then popped out without another word.
"You're a witch"
Aria turned around to look at Caroline, who – despite being still covered in blood – managed to look quite dignify as she watched her every action with cautious eyes. With her eyes locked on the blonde's, she nodded. "I am"
In a rush, Caroline breathed out, not in disbelief but in complete surprise. "But… how? I know a witch and she… she doesn't… she is nothing like you"
"Ah, yes. Bonnie Bennett." At Caroline's alarmed expression, she was quick to reassure her "Don't fret, dear. I'd known since the very beginning about your friend. It's something easy to know with my ability to feel the magic around me…. And to answer your question, your friend is a wiccan witch, her kind is completely different from mine. I'm a wand-wielder witch."
That was a gross understatement. The vast majority of the wizarding world didn't even consider wiccan as true witches and wizards, evidenced by the fact their society wasn't protected for the International Statute of Secret. For the wizarding world, wiccans were little more than muggles with the ability to pick up the magic in the nature around them, and due to that, they should be ruled by muggle laws, not theirs. But she wasn't about to tell Caroline any of that.
The blonde in question was biting her lip as she went through everything that had happened. "And you don't… you don't think I am a monster?"
"Why the hell would I think that?" Aria demanded, frowning in confusion.
"Oh, please" the vampire snorted, hugging herself once more as she lowered her head in shame and remorse "You clearly know what I am now…. And you saw that body in the alley… You know I'm a murderer. I'm a murderous and vicious blood-sucking monster."
"I don't think you're a monster just because you killed someone. It would be very hypocritical of me if I did. After all, the first time I killed someone, I was eleven years old"
Aria wasn't sure why she was opening up to someone who was basically a complete stranger but she knew it was the right thing to do if she wanted the young vampire to understand that she wasn't, in any way or shape, a so-called monster. And, honestly, it felt good to say those words, to finally acknowledge something she'd always known but had never had the courage to say out loud.
At her words, Caroline's head snapped towards her.
"It's a long story but to cut it short… He was a dark wizard that was trying to kill me. I was being protected by an ancient magic that burned everything that touched me, so I grabbed him by his face and refused to let go until he died, no matter how much he cried for me to stop… And only when he fell to the ground did I realize what I had done, what I had become."
Caroline's lip trembled, like she was about to start crying again, but she shook her head in denial. "That was completely different! You were trying to protect yourself! It was self-defense. And what I did… What I did was murder."
It was Aria's turn to shake her head. "It's not that simple, taking a life never is. At the end of the day, we both killed someone and we both did it for the same basic instinct. Survival."
"Survival" Caroline scoffed "What does it have to do draining a person of every single drop of blood on their body with survival?"
"You're a vampire now" she reminded her, sitting next to her "You need to drink blood so your body can keep working normally"
"Oh, that's right. I am not only a murderous blood-sucking monster, but I am also dead. That's just great."
Aria huffed, mildly exasperated.
The young girl was clearly set on the idea that she was now a monster. And she couldn't entirely fault her for that, not when she'd been murdered and changed against her will, had woken up in a world where everything – from her body to her very instincts – was different; where her craving for blood surpassed every other desire and need, and where she was capable of murder without even realizing just to satiate that craving. After all, that was the nature of a vampire and there was no changing that. But that didn't automatically mean every vampire was a soulless monster, and she needed to make Caroline understand that.
A moment later, inspiration struck her. "You're not a monster, Caroline" Aria declared as she took out her wand. "Let me show you"
"What do you mean?"
Slowly, knowing she'd to be very careful with this, she put the tip of her wand over Caroline's heart and whispered a single word. "Sonorus"
The effect was instant.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
"Did you hear that?" Aria asked, staring into Caroline's teary blue eyes. "That's your heart, Caroline. And it's beating."
Thump. Thump. Thump.
"Just because you're vampire doesn't mean that you're a monster. You're still a living being, Caroline. And that means you aren't define by what you are, but for your choices and feelings. And do you know what I see right now? I see a young girl who feels scared and regretful, who made a mistake and lost control of her new nature, but who still have a good and kind heart. I don't see a monster anywhere."
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Seeing the hope and light that was slowly entering the young girl's eyes, Aria couldn't help but see again a little of herself in the blonde in front of her. Her situations weren't the same and yet, both had been changed into something different and pushed into an unknown path without their say so. With that in mind, Aria decided to tell Caroline something she wished someone would have said to her when she'd first realized she wasn't aging anymore, back when she'd been oh so very afraid of what her future hold. "You have an immortal life ahead of you, Caroline. A long life to fall in love, make mistakes, travel the whole world, make new friends and, more importantly, to live your life to its fullest. So don't get stuck on the past and what-ifs. Just keep moving forward, one step at the time... because there's a world full of endless possibilities out there just for you, Caroline."
Thump. Thump. Thump.
In between one moment and the next, the baby vampire had thrown herself to Aria, who hugged her tightly and let her cry on her shoulder, feeling her heart tug painfully in her chest as she promised to herself that she would be there for Caroline in every step of her way as she adapted to her new vampire life.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
"It's going to be okay, I promise. I'll make sure of it."
"Are you sure you want me to do this, Katherine?"
"I'm sure, Isobel" she replied without hesitation.
She was tired of running. After five hundred years, she was more than ready to have her freedom back and she wasn't willing to wait anymore. Not for anything or anyone. After all, she finally had everything she needed to make the perfect deal to bargain for her freedom with Klaus.
In front of her, Isobel pursed her lips for a moment, like there was a part of her that was unsure about the plan, but then her face smoothed out and she nodded her head, resolute.
"In that case, I'll find Klaus and pass on your offer, my friend" Isobel promised. "All the ingredients needed to break the Sun and the Moon curse in exchange for your freedom"
Katherine grinned, pleased. "Good"
"You know there's a possibility he won't want to take the deal"
"Oh, I know" she assured confidently, because that was something it'd crossed her mind more times than she cared to count and she was prepared for it. "That's why you're going to give him this."
Carefully, Katherine handed Isobel a small box full of camera memory cards and a single printed photo. It'd taken her more time than she'd anticipated to collect all the pictures and videos saved on the memory cards but she'd finally managed to finish that same day. Thank god for that stupid carnival and Elena's two goody shoes nature.
"What's this?" Isobel asked, taking out the printed photo and scanning it with a mix of curiosity and bewilderment. "Who's this, Katherine?" she demanded, turning the photo to her even if she was well aware of what she would see.
In the picture, a beautiful dark-haired girl with emerald green eyes was laughing, wide and free, as she looked straight to the camera. And even if the hairstyle and the clothes were different, there was no mistaking who she was.
"Tell Klaus the Immortal Witch has reborn and I know where to find her" Katherine said, watching how the eyes of her friend grew wide at her words. "Tell him his wife is alive."
Isobel's expression turned from amazed to fearful very quickly, and she rushed to ask. "Are you absolutely sure? Because if not…."
"I'm sure" Katherine declared.
And she was.
Ingrid's face was impossible to forget or confuse. And even if by some random coincidence someone else had born with those exact same delicate features, there was no mistaking those unforgettable emerald green eyes. In five hundred years, she'd never seen those eyes in another person.
What's more, the british girl, Aria Black, had the same mannerisms and expressions as Ingrid. Even if Katherine had only spend with them a few weeks, she could distinctly remember her laugh. And for a moment that day, as she took the pictures, she'd been throwback in time to those short weeks in the company of the Original family in the magnificent Mikaelson castle in England.
Isobel must have seen her confidence because she stopped questioning her about it, and instead took a different route in her questions. "After all these centuries, do you really think Klaus is going to put everything else aside and take the deal? Just for her?"
Katherine remembered that soft and adoring look Klaus had reserved only for his wife, how he'd always put a protective arm around her, despite how powerful she'd been on her own right, and how, in his grief for her death, he'd burned to the ground entire cities and torn apart whole countries. And she couldn't help but laugh, more sure than ever that her freedom was finally within her grasp. "Oh, I am sure"
After all, that kind of love never died.
Leave me your thoughts ;D
Ps: I'm going to start replying to all your comments from the last chapter in a couple of hours. I need at least a couple of hours of sleep or I'll cry.