In my usual multi-tasking/procrastinating/sporadic fashion, I have started another story. Hopefully this gets farther along and at a faster rate than some of the others. No promises as to updates though. I just started first year, and engineering is not exactly the most conducive to spare time or hobbies. Or, you know, a life in general. Epsilon Delta proofs we must do!
This is a bit of a rewrite of the abandoned Concerto in Cat. May it turn out better than its poor predecessor.
As always, reviews are very much appreciated.
Guess what? Harry Potter is the property of J.K. Rowling. I bet you had no idea.
The first of September dawned bright and early, full of blue sky and pearly clouds. It was one of those glorious late summer days that came only a few times in a year when everything from the golden sunlight to the light breeze blowing through the trees was perfect. Even the usual London fog had dissipated, leaving in its wake a cacophony of screeching, hooting and chirping birds that had even the latest risers up with the sun.
There were at least two people, however, who were completely oblivious to the weather outside. In the topmost guestroom of the Leaky Cauldron, Cari Rosier was having a heated argument with her mother.
"Mum, you really don't need to come. I can make it to King's Cross by myself."
Mrs. Rosier shooed her daughter away and began to tug hard on the large trunk in the centre of the floor. It refused to budge. She pulled harder, but all that happened was that the trunk burst free of its padlock with a loud bang and sent Mrs. Rosier, along with several books and robes, flying. Cari quickly ran forward to sit on the trunk before it could cause any more damage. Her mother, slightly dazed, picked herself up slowly.
"Oh dear," she murmured, surveying the small explosion of school supplies around her. "Did I do all that?"
"It's all right," said Cari, biting back the sharp retort just before it rolled off her tongue. She waved her wand at the scattered books and robes and they folded themselves neatly back into the trunk, which she locked with another tap from her wand. Then she turned to her mother, who was sitting on the bed, trying to pile her long, black hair back into its elaborate curls.
"I think you'd better stay here," said Cari firmly. "Sleep off the...er..." There was an awkward pause as she tried to figure out how to phrase her intentions without sounding rude. "Well, you should get some sleep," she finished lamely, making a mental note to check the dictionary later. There seemed to be a missing word in there, somewhere between the bluntness of dead drunk and the fussy technicalities of inebriation.
"But this is the last time I'll be able to see you off to Hogwarts," said Mrs. Rosier, now examining her reflection in the mirror. She pursed her lips carefully. "Dear, do you think this colour is too young for me?"
Feeling the beginnings of a headache coming on, Cari gave the bridge of her nose a sharp pinch and immediately regretted it when her eyes began to water in pain. Luckily, Mrs. Rosier took it for concern over the state of her lipstick and softened.
"Are you sure you'll be alright on your own?" she asked. She waved a hand at Cari's temperamental trunk. "You won't be able to carry that on your own."
"Tom can help me take it downstairs," Cari assured her. "And then I can take a Muggle taxi to King's Cross."
"But the platform-" began Mrs. Rosier in a worried tone.
The loud ringing of the grandfather clock beside the door drowned out the rest of the sentence. Cari checked her watch. It was already nine-thirty, and the train left at eleven. If she didn't get going soon, she was going to miss it altogether.
"I'm meeting some friends at the station," she explained quickly to her mother. Not exactly true, but it wasn't a lie either. "They'll help me get my stuff on the train,"
Mrs. Rosier hesitated for a moment. "Well," she said. "If you're absolutely certain..." But before she could finish, Cari had already started dragging her trunk down the stairs and shouting loudly for Tom, whose bad ear made it difficult for him to hear anything much quieter than a Mandrake. From the bottom of the stairs, she yelled out a goodbye to her mother, who hurried to the bedroom door.
"You'll write to me, won't you?" Mrs. Rosier called from the landing. "Won't you, dear? Cari?"
When her daughter did not reply, Mrs. Rosier withdrew back into the room with a small sigh and fell to examining herself in the full-length mirror again. Within five minutes, however, she was fully absorbed in the task and, when Tom came upstairs to inform her that Cari had departed safely, she only smiled vaguely and asked him to bring up a pot of tea and some brandy.
It was half past ten by the time Cari made it to the parking lot of King's Cross station. The Muggle taxi driver dropped her off well back from the nearest entrance, dumped her trunk unceremoniously on the asphalt after her and then drove off at several miles above the speed limit, positively fuming about the state of kids these days.
Perplexed as to what exactly she had done wrong, Cari shoved the Muggle change into her sweater pocket and started to tug her trunk towards the station entrance. This was easier said than done. Besides weighing about the same as a small elephant, the trunk had a nasty habit of shrieking loudly whenever it felt that it was being pulled too hard. This inclination, troublesome at the best of times, was the last thing Cari needed in a street full of Muggles, who were already casting curious looks at her. In hind sight, it probably hadn't been the greatest idea to wear a sweater with the Falmouth Falcons emblazoned across the back.
Cari was just starting to wonder if she should have let her mother come after all when she spotted two familiar figures emerging casually from behind a large trailer-tractor. Both were lugging trunks like her, and one of them was also carrying a large cage with a disgruntled looking screech owl inside. From the oddly furtive glances they were exchanging and the shocked looks on the faces of some of the passing Muggles, she guessed that they had just done something not altogether legal. With a smirk, she cleared her throat and did her best imitation of Professor McGonagall.
"Black! Potter! What do you think you're doing?"
Both figures jumped. The taller of the two turned with a forced look of innocence on his face that immediately changed into one of mild annoyance and relief when he saw Cari waving at them.
"Are you trying to get us expelled?" he demanded.
Cari only grinned and tugged her trunk across to where they were standing.
"Don't worry, Sirius, I won't tell anyone that you Apparated into a crowd full of Muggles," she said, liberating his owl from his grasp and replacing it with her trunk. Sirius took it with many dark mutters and reluctantly dragged it into the station with his own. "But I thought James' dad was driving you?"
James, who had finally deemed it safe to turn around, grimaced. "He was, but he got called into work at the last minute and Mum's in Scotland visiting relatives. She made us swear before she left that we wouldn't touch the car."
"How did you get here?" asked Sirius, scanning the station lobby. "I don't see your Mum anywhere."
"Taxi," Cari replied with a smug smile. "Should have tried it yourselves."
"I hate those Muggles drivers!" James exclaimed with unusual vehemence. "Why won't they accept Galleons, huh?"
Sirius snorted. "You'd think four years of Muggle Studies would have taught him that much," he muttered.
"Well, he doesn't exactly pay attention in class, does he? And he only took it to impress Lily."
A sudden gleam appeared in Sirius' eyes. "Speaking of impressing Evans, wait 'til you hear the news..."
He bent down to whisper in Cari's ear. She jumped back, startled, and stared at him.
Sirius, practically bouncing on his feet with unmasked glee, patted a shell-shocked Cari on the head in mock sympathy. "Don't worry, you'll get used to it. Little Prongsie did."
James, who had figured out what they were whispering about, called Sirius something obscene that made a passing group of middle-aged women gasp. Sirius only laughed harder.
Cari shrugged off his hand. "Dumbledore made James Head Boy?" she repeated incredulously. "Is he barking? He'll be murdered in a week."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Rosier," muttered James. Both Cari and Sirius pretended not to hear.
"Who's going to dare murder the Head Boy?" asked Sirius, needlessly emphasizing the last two words. "Maybe McGonagall, but she's not going to risk our chances at the Cup by knocking off our Captain."
"Who said anything about McGonagall?" demanded Cari. She brushed her hair out of her eyes absentmindedly. She really needed to get around to cutting it – there was no way she would be able to see on the Quidditch pitch with so much hair flying around. "Lily will throw a fit when she hears this," she said.
James, who had been walking along rather glumly beside them, not paying much attention to anything, immediately looked up. "Lily?" And he proceeded to look wildly around, as if the precocious redhead might be hiding beneath Cari's robes. Two months without the love of his life seemed to have driven him over the top, which was saying something, considering his usual state of infatuation.
She snorted at him. "Get a grip on yourself." To Sirius, she said "I just heard. Guess who the new Head Girl is?"
It took a moment for the revelation to sink in, and then James was punching the air with all the excitement of winning a Quidditch game while Cari and Sirius - and the rest of King's Cross station - looked on in silent amusement and horror.
"Well," said Sirius, grinning broadly while his best friend danced around them oblivious of the crowd of people eagerly edging away from him, "I guess he won't be turning in that resignation letter anytime soon."
Cari stopped. "He was going to resign?"
"He reckons he doesn't deserve it. I don't know what he was thinking."
"What, you don't agree?" asked Cari, raising an eyebrow. James was the last person she would have pegged out for Head Boy material. Not that he wasn't smart, or popular, or serious when he needed to be. It might have been the fact that he and Sirius had probably spent more time in detention than everyone else at Hogwarts put together,
Sirius sneaked a sideways glance at James, who was still engaged in his odd victory dance. He lowered his voice. "I dunno...I think he might be okay at it. Don't tell him I said that!" he added hastily when Cari showed signs of laughter. "His head will just explode, and that would be the end of any Lily hopes he still has."
Cari placed her hand over her heart. "I solemnly swear-"
He wrenched her hand away. "I'm serious!"
"And I'm Cari. Lovely meeting you."
"Haha, very funny," deadpanned Sirius. "You're a riot."
"I know, right?" replied Cari, and she treated him to her most innocent and winning smile. But when Sirius kept an unrelenting hold on her wrist, she sobered up.
"You really think he'll make a good Head Boy? I mean, he's not exactly typical Head Boy material, is he?"
Sirius let go of her arm. "He at least deserves a chance at it," he said. "Anyway..." He rubbed his nose awkwardly. "Dumbledore must think so, or he wouldn't make him Head Boy in the first place."
"I guess so," admitted Cari, albeit rather hesitantly. She poked Sirius' shoulder and pointed at James, whose elation had finally waned, and was now shouting at them to hurry up from the barrier between platforms nine and ten. "Well, at least one person will be happy about all this. Lily, on the other hand..."
"I can't wait to see Evans' face when she finds out."
Cari grimaced. "Don't remind me. She's going to go ballistic. I won't get any sleep at all when we get back to Hogwarts."
"Are you two going stand there chatting like a bunch of old hags all day?" interrupted James. He pointed at the clock above the barrier, which read fifteen minutes until eleven. The next moment he was gone, along with his trunk, and there was only solid wall left where he had been standing.
"We'd better go together," said Sirius, looking at the two trunks and owl between they had between them. Cari nodded, seized the other end of her trunk, and they slid sideways through the barrier.
A great cloud of grey smoke and steam greeted them on the other side. When it dissipated, a scarlet train became invisible through the crowd of trunks and students, many of whom had already changed into their black Hogwarts robes. James was nowhere in sight.
"Shall we try to find a compartment?" Cari yelled, trying to make herself heard above the screech of hundreds of owls and the even louder chatter of parents squeezing in last minute threats and goodbyes.
"Shall we - Nevermind. Look, there's James."
She pointed at the distinctive mop of messy black hair barely visible above the crowd and they tugged their trunks after him towards the back of the train. When they reached James, he was lifting his trunk into the very last compartment. There was already another boy inside, who smiled and waved when Cari and Sirius slid the door open.
"Where's Peter?" Cari asked, staring at the empty seat below his trunk.
"Washroom. Ate something bad for breakfast," replied Remus, jumping up to help her heave her trunk onto the luggage rack. "How was your summer?"
"The usual," said Cari. She made a face somewhere between a patient smile and a grimace. Remus winced at the odd combination of expressions and she stuck her tongue out at him.
"Padfoot got himself a house," James announced loudly.
Cari promptly dropped her trunk on her foot at the news.
"A house?" she repeated, hopping on one foot and looking thunderstruck. "But you're broke! How did you manage to get a house?"
"His Uncle Alphard died and left Padfoot all his gold," James replied when it became obvious that all Sirius was going to do was grunt and scowl at the floor.
"Uncle Alphard died and you didn't tell me?" Cari demanded, now thoroughly indignant. "That's just plain mean."
"He's not your blood uncle. He's a Black."
"I'm sorry," interrupted Remus, "but who are we talking about?"
"Sirius' mother's brother," Cari explained. "He used to take us around London to all the Muggle places. You know, museums and stuff. Only Black who went to Andy's wedding." She sank into a seat with a sigh. "I never knew he was sick."
"He wasn't," said Sirius quietly. "The Muggle police found his body in the London Underground. It was all over their news because they couldn't find anything wrong with him."
"Other than the fact that he was dead?" said Cari with false bravado. She had gone very pale and was chewing a hole into her lower lip, running the words through her head again, just in case she'd heard something wrong. Remus sat down beside her and silently handed her a Chocolate Frog.
"How come you didn't mention all of this before?" asked James, whose grin had disappeared. "You had all summer."
"You didn't ask," Sirius replied bluntly. "Anyway, I found out back in May, and none of you were exactly talking to me back then, were you? It seemed stupid to bring it up after two months."
An uncomfortable silence fell over the compartment, the kind that would never have happened a year ago. Cari bit into her Frog for the sake of having something to do and immediately regretted it. The sound of her chewing was easily the loudest thing they could hear.
At the end of last term, Sirius and James had had a fight that lasted well over a month. She had never quite figured out what it was about, although she gathered that Remus had been involved too, as he had been just as furious with both James and Sirius. For awhile, it had looked like the end of their friendship, and Cari had waited on tenterhooks with an equally anxious Peter for some sign of relenting.
And then, just as quickly as it had started, it had fizzled out and everything had gone back to the way it had been, just in time for the start of vacation.
Except that it wasn't the same. Not really. She bit into the Frog's head.
In that brief month of stony, mutual silence, Sirius had gotten himself a girlfriend, James had developed a guilty conscience (however small and sporadic it might be) and Remus, already quiet and bookish, had withdrawn even further into his homework. As for Cari, she had discovered that being the sole confidant of three moody, seventeen-year-old boys was a kind of torture comparable to sitting through double History of Magic, and that even she could not handle so much male pigheadedness in one dormitory. Only Peter had managed to emerge through it all unscathed - but Peter would always be Peter, and Severus Snape would wash his hair before he became anything other than shy, awkward, worshipping little Peter. That, Cari supposed, was the best thing about being Peter's friend, but she doubted even his everlasting simplicity would have helped much just then.
The rest of the trip to Hogwarts was as disappointing as its first five minutes. When the whistle blew, James and Remus headed off to the Prefects' compartment and did not return. Peter showed up half an hour in, his skin a delicate shade of green, and he, Cari and Sirius had just settled in to play a game of Exploding Snap when Emily Fawcett, Sirius' new Ravenclaw girlfriend, dragged him off to Merlin knew where. He didn't return either, so Cari and Peter had to resort to playing chess and Gobstones, two games that neither of them were particularly good at. All in all, Cari was rather relieved when the Hogwarts Express finally screeched to a halt around dusk. She hurriedly pulled on her robes, switched her wand from her sweater pocket to her robes and joined everyone else in the queue for carriages, thinking that she would at least be able to have a proper conversation with her friends at the feast.
Because Cari and Peter had been in the last compartment, everyone else was already at the table when they got there. She sat down between Remus and a third year she knew nothing about, except that he was taller than her, and so, probably not a very pleasant character.
"Hope the class this year is small," James muttered, eyeing the ragged Sorting Hat sitting in front of the teachers' table with a dirty look disproportionate to its size. "I'm starving."
"Didn't they feed you in the Prefects' compartment?" asked Peter.
"It takes more than a couple of Pumpkin Pasties to deal with Evans' temper."
Remus rolled his eyes. "You should talk. I nearly had to sit on you just to stop you from hexing Snape."
"He was staring at Evans!" James protested. "Staring! Like he wanted to eat her or something!"
"Lots of boys stare at Lily," said Cari. She pointed to where Lily was sitting, several feet down the table, and sure enough, there was a group of sixth year boys close by, whispering and casting furtive glances at her. They reminded Cari of the girls who, up until last May, had always been giggling after Sirius. Emily had put an end to it with a few well-aimed hexes.
"They think she's attractive," Sirius added.
"Do you?" James demanded.
Sirius held up both hands in surrender. "Calm down, mate. I've already got a girlfriend, remember? Anyway, Evans is practically my future sister-in-law."
"What, does Reg-"
"He's talking about you, you idiot," said Cari, just as the doors of the Great Hall burst open, and Professor McGonagall and her troop of first years came marching in. "Reg's too chicken to marry a Muggle-born anyway," she added, lowering her voice to a whisper as the four house tables fell silent and the first years took their place in front of the teachers' table.
It was easiest the longest Sorting Cari had ever sat through, not because the class was particularly big, or because she herself was hungry, but because James' stomach kept making loud rumbling noises. The more she tried not to think about them, to focus on the Sorting, the more she wanted to laugh. Just when she thought it was done and Professor McGonagall had cleared away the Sorting Hat, Dumbledore rose in his chair and spread his hands out for silence.
The last of the applause for the newly sorted students died out. All four tables looked up at the Headmaster expectantly. In the silence, James' stomach was even more audible.
"Welcome," said Dumbledore, smiling, "to another year at Hogwarts. To all our first years, I hope you will allow us to fill your heads with some assorted nonsense over the next few months. To those of you who are returning, I'm sure you're itching to test out some of your newly acquired talents on our unsuspecting staff."
Here, he looked pointedly at James and Sirius, both of whom snickered loudly.
"But before you get started, while I still have your attention, there are several announcements that must be made. First of all, I would like you to join me in congratulating our new Head Boy and Girl, James Potter and Lily Evans."
There was a smattering of applause, mainly from the Gryffindors, accompanied by a much louder murmur of excited whispers travelling rapidly along the gossip chain. Cari chanced a glance down the table at Lily, and was amused to see that her face was decidedly pink.
"Second," said Dumbledore, raising his voice to be heard above the babble of chatter, "a reminder from our Quidditch Captains that tryouts for House teams will be held the first weekend of term. All interested candidates should give their names to their Heads of House. If you are interested but do not possess your own broom, please see Madam Hooch ahead of time to sign out a school broom."
"Finally, it is my great pleasure to introduce you to our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Dorcas Meadowes!"
A plump, silver-haired witch that Cari had not noticed sitting next to Professor Slughorn smiled at the polite applause and gave them a small wave.
Sirius kicked Cari's shins under the table. "Looks like one good hex would finish her off," he muttered.
"Looks like Remus' mum," she whispered back, kicking him back. Her legs just barely reached. Sirius gave her a satisfied smirk.
Remus raised an eyebrow. "You've never even met my mum," he said. "And she looks nothing like Professor Meadowes."
"Alright, she's what your mum ought to look like, happy?" conceded Cari with a face. "Although I wonder-"
But she never got to finish, for at that moment, Dumbledore clapped his hands and the previously empty plates and goblets magically filled themselves with a cascade of food. James let out an unintelligible shout of delight and immediately set about demolishing the nearest plate of chicken. Several of the first years, still getting over the shock of an entire feast appearing out of thin air, could only stare mutely as he tackled two drumsticks at once.
Sirius bestowed a patronizing pat on the head to a dark girl with glasses who Cari was nearly certain was called Kaitlin O'Neil. "Don't worry," he assured her around his own mouthful of mashed potatoes. "You'll soon get used to the great James Potter Scoffing Machine - Oops."
In his effort to get his words straight, he had inadvertently sprayed the person sitting across from him with a large dose of food and saliva. Cari pulled a half-chewed lump of potato out of her hair.
"You git," she said, and calmly tossed a bunch of grapes at him.
Sirius, with all the reflexes of a Beater, deflected the fruit neatly into Peter's goblet, splashing James, who was sitting beside him, with pumpkin juice.
"Sorry Prongs," he said to a spluttering and indignant James, but not looking at all apologetic. "Misaimed."
"James," warned Remus under his breath, but it was too late. The newly appointed Head Boy had already snatched up a fish finger and was preparing to throw it when a hand reached across the table and grabbed his arm.
"James Potter! What do you think you're doing?"
James grinned sheepishly at the redhead with a strangle-hold on his forearm. "Evans! Er...I was just demonstrating, er, the, er-"
Cari surreptitiously removed the fish finger from James' hand and shoved it into Peter's mouth to stop him from gaping. "He was just showing the first years the proper way to throw a Quaffle." She nudged Kaitlin O'Neil under the table. "Isn't that right?"
The girl jumped. "Er...of course," she mumbled to the tureen of soup at her elbow.
Lily's eyebrows practically shot off her forehead. "Really Potter?" she said without letting go of his arm.
James winced as Sirius kicked him under the table. "Ouch. What - Yeah, for sure. Just demonstrating my amazing Quaffle throwing talents."
Lily immediately released him with a snort of disgust. "Don't believe a word he says," she said to Kaitlin kindly. "He'll give you such a huge ego you won't even be able to get off the ground, let alone throw a Quaffle."
Kaitlin nodded nervously and busied herself with her plate. Cari noticed that she was extremely careful not to look up, no doubt terrified that she would called on to back up another crazy seventh year.
"Well, that went well," said James brightly, watching Lily return to her conversation with Alice Summers and Mary Macdonald. "She's definitely interested."
"If by interested you mean interested in hexing you to Mars and back," Sirius snickered.
"Give him a break," said Remus who looked mildly impressed. "That was already loads better than on the train."
"Yeah, at least she didn't threaten to curse off your-"
"Thanks Wormtail, I get the picture," said James loudly while Remus, Sirius and Cari roared with laughed at the memory of a particularly embarrassing incident in fifth year. "Seriously," he said, trying to ignore his friends' giggles, "this is it. She's going to say yes this year, I know it.'
Cari wiped a few tears of laugher from her eyes. "No offense mate, but you've been saying the same thing every September for four years now and as far as I can tell, it's just been getting worse."
"Don't be such a killjoy Cari."
"Easy for you to say," Cari muttered darkly. "You don't have to spend all night listening to Lily detail every one of James' faults."
Sirius patted James' shoulder sympathetically.
"Take it as a compliment mate. If Evans didn't give a fig about you, she wouldn't bother taking the time to complain about your problems."
This advice made James cheer up slightly, enough to help himself to a larger than usual piece of treacle tart when the first course was replaced by plates full of pudding. Cari didn't have the heart to tell him that it was probably better for Lily to think him completely invisible than an arrogant little prat.
It was, therefore, with great apprehension that she climbed the stairs to the girls' dormitory later that night. There were three other Gryffindor girls in seventh year. Mary and Alice were already there by the time Cari got upstairs and she guessed that Lily was probably still sorting out first years downstairs. That or arguing with James. She murmured a hasty greeting and made a beeline for her bed against the window.
"How was your summer?" Mary asked.
"Uneventful," Cari mumbled, pulling her robes over her head. "You?"
Mary shrugged. "Nothing spectacular."
"Lily and I went to a Wimbourne Wasps game," said Alice eagerly. She pointed unnecessarily to the new black and yellow posters pinned up next to an older picture of a grinning, bat-wielding wizard in striped robes of the same colours.
"Oh, have you progressed to stalking now?" said Cari with a sly grin. Although a Chaser herself, Alice was devoted to the Wasps' Beater, Ludo Bagman.
Alice barely blinked. "You're just bitter that the Wasps flattened the Falmouth Falcons last season. What was the final score - three hundred and twenty to sixty?"
"At least we aren't scared of getting knocked around a little," Cari retorted, and it was true. Most of the players on the poster above her own bed looked like they had been pieced together with spare bits from St. Mungo's.
Mary coughed loudly and Alice subsided. While she was perfectly pleasant, Cari could not help but believe that there was something seriously wrong with Mary Macdonald, a girl infamous for her utter apathy towards Quidditch. In Cari's mind, anyone who could not get excited for the Inter-house Quidditch Cup ought to have their head examined. Even Lily, however much she despised James, could always be seen cheering loudly at every Gryffindor match.
Deprived of the Quidditch talk, Cari climbed into bed and pulled the blankets up to her chin, grinning for no particular reason. Right then, in the warmth of the familiar four-poster, with a sky of stars just visible through the window and the sound of Alice and Mary's voices humming in the background, it was hard to worry about anything. Even the imminent raging when Lily came upstairs almost seemed laughable.