Chapter 1: The First Cut is the Deepest
Chapter One – The First Cut is the deepest
“This is it.” Sirina Potter thought to herself as she finished the very last question on her very last school test ever. Coming back for her eighth year had been a hard decision for Sirina. She wanted very much to leave, to find her soulmate. Sirina had been able to speak to her soulmate ever since she could remember, although she still didn't know their name. They had been such a big part of her life, except for during the war when she was forced to Occlude to stop Voldemort from tracking them through Sirina's own mind. But she wanted the best for her family, once she and her soulmate met. And he'd assured her that one more year wouldn't make a difference when they had the rest of their lives to spend together. Some days it was only his assurances that helped Sirina get through the day and keep coming back for more the next. Now, though, she'd finished her last test and had only the future to look forward too. Sirina knew she'd gotten enough answers right on enough tests to get at least two or three NEWTS at acceptable or higher. Two 'A' level NEWTS was the minimum requirement to be able to graduate from Hogwarts and be considered a full-class Wizarding citizen. Sirina would now be able to keep her full inheritance whether or not she was in a Wizarding school. She would be able to take her place on the Wizengamot (if she wanted too). But most importantly, she no longer had to bow to a magical guardian of any sort. They could not dictate her actions. Now, Sirina would be free to go find her soulmate. Or so she thought.
As the proctor stood up from their desk at the front of the hall, Sirina got ready to stand. Most students were practically bouncing out of their seats in their hurry to leave the testing in the great hall and get outside. The proctor held up a hand to still the students as an assistant summoned the testing scrolls to a box in the front.
“Just a moment please, students.” The proctor called, and the students murmured quietly as a wave of apprehension flowed through the great hall. Many of the students, Sirina among them, looked around to see what was happening. The first thing they noticed was the aurors who had come in silently while they tested and now stood in front of every doorway, guarding it. Sirina felt a frisson of fear rip through her, and desperately she tried to contact her soulmate through her thoughts.
“My own!” she thought desperately at him, but there was no response. Instead her words bounced back at her, the sign that her soulmate had a block in place. They'd agreed before the test that he would put the wall up so neither of them would be tempted to cheat on the final tests. Sirina new her soulmate was not a wizard, but he often helped her study and had learned about the wizarding world right alongside her. So for her end of year tests, they always put the block up so she would be forced to rely on only her own knowledge. He would still feel her feelings, but she worried he would think her fear only testing nerves.
“My own! Please hear me!” She thought to him, and prayed. Once again her thoughts echoed back to her. She turned her focus outwards once more as the proctor continued.
“There is one more test you have to pass, before you can graduate. You will all be called individually to a separate room to face this final test. You may leave the quills on the desks, you will not need them for this test. You will be called up in alphabetical order, and then directed to one of the ten doors behind me. Once you have completed your final test, you will not come back to the great hall. You may talk quietly while you wait as long as names are not being called. Your name will be called only twice. If you do not respond and/or fail to present yourself in a timely manner, you will automatically fail.” The proctor announced. Then he lifted a scroll of parchment, unrolled it slightly and called the first ten names, starting with 'Abbott, Hannah'.
Once the last of the ten names were called, the anxious murmuring continued. Sirina could see Hermione, Ron, Neville, and the D.A. Members who'd returned coming to join her. Quietly she waited until all were there. Once Ron joined them, Hermione finally burst.
“What do you think the final test is? I can't think of anything we learned at Hogwarts they would need to test us for that we didn't already take tests in!” Hermione hissed anxiously.
“Maybe it's a compilation test? You know, a couple questions on all the core classes we have to take?” Sirina suggested doubtfully.
“Maybe it's a citizenship test.” Ron suggested. “Since we can't be considered full citizens until we graduate? Maybe the test is how it's decided?” Ron added.
“But they didn't teach us anything about being citizens! They don't even teach us the laws, for the most part. We have to learn that from our families or on our own.” Neville pointed out, not looking any happier than the rest of them. The group continued to muse over what the test could contain, and worry until each member was called away. Sirina sat with Ron, some of the last too be called from their group.
Though she did not mention it to the others, Sirina was thinking about the end of year feast. How it always took place at the end of year tests, and how the graduating Seventh Year students never looked as exuberant as Sirina thought she herself would feel upon graduating. Instead they seemed to be exhausted and wrung out, some wracked with fear or other unnameable emotions. Worse, though, were the seventh year students who never showed up to the end of year feast. The students who supposedly 'went home early'.
“Good luck, Ri.” Ron whispered as Sirina's name was finally called from the front.
“I don't have a good feeling about this. Be careful, Ron.” Sirina admitted to him as she stood and made her way up to the proctor.
“Potter, Sirina. Door two.” The proctor said shortly, pointing at the second door from the left behind where the staff table usually stood. Sirina nodded her thanks and drifted over to the door in a cloud of worry and fear. She kept trying to reach her soulmate, praying he would hear her. Her instincts told Sirina it was important to try reaching him, that he would feel her repeated attempts to breach his wall. But the wall didn't waiver in the slightest. She cursed loudly in her mind. Surely her soulmate should realize that she had never attempted to cheat on a test since they first talked about it when Sirina had her first First Grade test ever. The repeated attempts to get his attention, combined with her absolute-bone-chilling-fear and dread should have alerted him something was wrong. Why wasn't he answering her?!
Of course it was possible that all her fear was for nothing, that she was exaggerating the dire-ness of what she now faced. Sirina didn't think so, though. Her soulmate had once told her of the famed “Vongola Intuition,” and likened her own instinctive knowledge to that line gift. Her instincts had never yet lead her wrong. And right now they sent adrenaline surging through her body, along with a deep instinctive, primal fear. Even when she'd been facing her own death against Voldemort, she hadn't felt this afraid.
Then she was opening the door and stepping through. A small room met her on the other side. Quietly she closed the door behind her as she inspected the room. In the center of the small room was a rectangular table, the longer side facing the door she had just come through. A new proctor sat on the other side of the table, with a strange metal contraption sitting in front of them. There was no other door or window, and Sirina's already taught and frayed nerves shot up about ten levels higher. Silently Sirina slipped into the seat on her side of the table, facing the proctor. The proctor himself looked like some middle-aged mid-level bureaucrat. Everything about the man screamed average and unremarkable. Sirina had a feeling she now sat across from an unspeakable covered in glamours and charms to make him or her unrecognizable. She didn't want to know why they would need Unspeakables to administer tests to students. And she really didn't want to know why the person before her would not want them to be able to recognize who had proctored their test. Most of all, Sirina really didn't want to know why there was only one door into the room, and why when she twisted around to check, that door had vanished so there were no doors into or out of the room at all.
“The test is simple.” The maybe-man spoke. Their voice was also extremely average and normal. Forgettable, in other words. “You must willingly sever your soul bond or soul-bonds by placing your hand on the device in front of you and willing it with your magic.” The possibly-a-man informed Sirina in a monotone. A ripple of shock and horror jerked through Sirina, and she attempted to contact her soulmate one more time. This time the thought did not leave her mind. It didn't bounce back to her, either, she simply knew that she was alone in her own mind and nothing left it. A bright flash shone from the metal device. The proctor tutted.
“You will not be able to contact your soulmate or soulmates from this room. All bond abilities are nullified in this room, especially communication.” The proctor chided. “You must make this decision on your own.” He added, not unkindly but without care.
“Why?” Sirina gasped at him, feeling like she was drowning and couldn't breathe.
“For the continued existence and the good of our society. When Wizards and Witches first started formal schooling, there was a prophecy given. A student who graduated from formal wizarding training, with their soul bond intact, would be the end of the wizards and witches. The end of all magic as we know it. If you wish to become a part of wizarding society and graduate from Hogwarts, you must willingly relinquish your soulmate bond. Nothing stops you from finding your soulmate afterwards and having a proper bonding ceremony to join you together, if you wish. But the soul mate bond cannot be allowed to remain in a graduate. The prophecy is clear.” The proctor replied flatly.
“What happens if we don't?” Sirina asked shakily, thinking surely it wasn't that important to graduate Hogwarts. Nothing came before Her Own, after all. The only reason she'd even come back to graduate was so she could better provide for and protect her soulmate. He'd even told her it was unnecessary! He was strong enough to protect them both, and he had his own income with plenty of savings. Though he had urged her to complete her schooling if she wanted too, anyways.
“Then you will be stripped on any inheritances, titles, positions, and magical items you possess. Your magic will be bound, and you will be an Untouchable. Considered unclean. You will not be able to get employment in the wizarding world, nor make purchases. The goblins will not exhange money for you nor grant you access to any other source of funding. Any money you had in the bank will be given to the scholarship fund for underprivileged students, so that Hogwarts and other magical schools in our country can replace you with those worthy of holding full citizenship. You will also be denied the right of a bonding ceremony, and the use of government facilities like Saint Mungo's. Furthermore, your magic will be fully bound and you will be cast out without any sort of references or help.” The probably-a-wizard intoned in a bored 'I've-already-repeated-this-speech-a-million-times-today' voice.
For a brief moment, Sirina contemplated taking out the Wizard before her. She didn't have to graduate, true, but she wasn't going to let her magic be bound, either. It was as much a part of her as breathing. As much a part of her as her amber aspect. She could not, would not give it up. Sirina knew she was strong, regarded as one of the strongest Witches out there. She could definitely take him, she thought. And she'd get out even if she had to bombarda her way through the walls, floor, or ceiling. She was no longer a helpless little orphan stuck in a cupboard. She refused to let that be here. As though he sensed her thoughts, he spoke once more.
“If you try to fight or break your way out, you will be culled.” He informed her, and Sirina went cold. She may not be quite as smart as Hermione, but Sirina knew that 'culling' was the practice of selectively slaughtering animals. “We cannot allow someone who is not dedicated enough to the Wizarding World to insure it's survival to leave without consequences. You are either a part of the Wizarding World, a part of the Muggle World, or Culled.” The could-be-a-woman-in-disguise added flatly. “Besides which, we do not wish the … bad genes of one who cannot be bound to escape and make their way back into the Wizarding World in further generations. Selective Breeding, if you will.” Sirina nodded jerkily. She understood alright, but she hated the choice and the person now before her. It was rather obvious now why that thing in front of her wanted to hide. Reprisals would have been high and furious amongst those who loved their soulmates or the possibility of a soulmate. Silently Sirina mourned. She knew what she had to choose, though she would never forgive herself.
After coming back from Voldemort killing her, her soulmate made her promise, with her magic in an unbreakable vow with Hermione that she would never again submit willingly to death. And Sirina new with every fiber of her being that she would die without her magic. Besides which, students were taught during their very first class what happened to those who had their magic bound. Magic was such an integral part of a person that they would slowly fade away, dying a torturous and painful death as their body starved without the magic which had once sustained it.
Not only would Sirina die if she broke the oath, but Hermione and Ron would as well, as they had both sworn they would not let her submit to death again if they were near. She literally could not make that choice. She could not sacrifice all three of their lives in a selfish bid for the comfort of hearing her soulmate in her own mind. He would still be her soulmate, after all. She had only one option besides death. But still....
“And how would you stop me? You think your magic is a match for my own?” Sirina growled lowly, not able to help pushing at least a little. The other person smiled wanly.
“It is, but it does not need to be. You see, neither of our magics will work in this room, except through the device on the table. And it is heavily enchanted with binding runes that will let it serve only one purpose: the severing of a bond.” The man informed her happily. He even smiled a little bit, and Sirina really wanted to rip the smile off his face and shove it through his cheerful blue eyes. How she hated blue eyes now. How she hated the being before her. The utter scumbag. Carefully Sirina tested her magic, attempting to force it to her fingertip in a small spark, one of the first uses of her magic she'd ever done intentionally. Nothing happened. As soon as her magic met the air, it stopped. She could not use her magic. With trepidation and horror at what she was about to do, even knowing that they could have a bonding ceremony later if she wished...Sirina's hand shook as she leaned forward and placed it upon the device. She looked up at the man pleadingly, begging for him to take this choice from her. To, at the very least, activate the magic so she didn't have to be the one to sever a bond she held sacred. The man looked back unblinkingly, but no offer of help was forthcoming. Steeling herself, Sirina drew her magic to the surface once more, all her instincts for once a quiet and trembling ball in the back of her mind.
He would still be her soulmate, after all, right? And she could still find him. Somehow. She mourned once more for the loss of her beloved Hedwig. This time she didn't mourn just the owl herself, though. This time she mourned that she did not have Hedwig who had met Sirina's bonded and would have been able to deliver a message that Sirina was still alive. For the first time, Sirina regretted not getting another owl and sending a message to her soulmate. Like most types of bonds, those soulmates whose bond permitted them to speak mind-to-mind were not able to learn their partner's name until they actually met. No one knew quite why, although Wizarding theorists thought it was magics way of protecting a soulmate from a partner who might reject a soulmate, or from forcing underage soulmates to complete the bond early. Regardless of the reason why it happened, now Sirina wasn't even able to send a message to Her Own about what she now did.
Slowly, reluctantly, as though her magic felt the horror and unnaturalness of what they were doing, her magic rolled from her open palm down into the shiny metal dome beneath her hand. Softly and small at first, a pain began to build in the center of Sirina's mind and body. The pain rapidly grew and it encompassed Sirina's entire existence. The shredding and pulling against her bond made her scream and writhe as though she were under a crucio, but a million times worse. And it seemed never-ending. As though from far away, as she felt the very last vestiges of the bond begin shredding and being pulled upon, she heard that beast speak once more.
“You should know, an oath is built into the device. You will never be able to speak of this test to anyone who may someday go through it. Not a younger soulmate who will go to wizarding school, not a child of yours, not a friend, no one. If your soulmate has already severed their end of the bond, or is not magical, you may speak to them of what has occurred. But if anyone else around you fits any of the conditions, or you do not put proper precautions in place, you will be unable to speak. An Unspeakable, if you will. If only to the smallest degree.”
“I should have died. I should have died before betraying my bond.” She thought tiredly, utterly spent and numb to everything but the pain from the tearing and absence of her bond. Then the pain pulled her under and blackness consumed all.
Bullets were flying, Reborn was laughing, and as usual Skull was cursing his ‘teammates’ and life in general. Skull was also, rather more silently, grateful that his precious soulmate was taking a final test. That meant he didn’t have to will himself to concentrate, to ignore the worry in the back of his mind as the latest mission went wrong. A mission going wrong was nothing new to Skull. Even when the mission goals were fulfilled and the others found the mission successful, it was often still a disaster for Skull. He seemed to just attract danger, accidents, and trouble. Unfortunately, this seemed to be a tendency his soulmate shared, a harrowing thought for Skull. Fortunately for Skull, however, they had not done missions often since the curse was broken. He’d actually proposed doing this mission. Well, not the specific mission, but using the specific day for a mission. Yuni had seemed quite taken with the idea, so the others also agreed. Which was how Skull found himself dodging for his life on the Vicencio lands. Their goal was to take out a group of unethical scientists who’d been kidnapping unattached skies. And that was actually the least of their crimes. The choice of mission fell, also as usual, to Yuni. It was one of only two missions the group had ever unanimously accepted. The other had been to find a way to break the curse.
Skull jerked forward, feeling Colonello bounce off his helmet. With a grunt of irritation, Skull shot his pistol in the rain’s direction. He didn’t need help being hit by bullets. Finally his team broke through the fighters, and finished them off quickly. Skull entered the doors first, ready to heal himself from any bullets or explosions the met him. What actually hit him was much worse, and there was no way Skull could have prepared for it. He’d been ignoring his soulmate’s increasingly frantic projections for about ten minutes when suddenly pain filled his world. Skull collapsed, screaming in agony. The men before him looked around quizzically, trying to figure out what happened as none of them had fired. Reborn cursed and stepped over Skull to take out the security team before them as the others filled in to either side. Skull wasn’t aware of much, though. Once in a while he’d hear his teammates talking, but it was only in disjointed pieces.
“..Skull…need…get…***** Colonello cover…right………ten…” he could hear Reborn roaring. The burn of sun flames flickered at the edges of his vision while Skull’s eyes rolled in his head. That didn’t matter, though. The only thing that mattered was his bond, cut off in what used to be the middle between him and his soulmate.
“He’s……worse…finish quickly…” Fon’s usually calm voice sounded unhappy, a growl echoing just behind the words. Even when Skull didn’t catch the words, he heard the growl. Eventually the pain seemed to turn from the agony of being stabbed with thousands of knives while being shot by a machine gun, to one long monotonous and constant burn. Skull braced himself, he knew what the loss of a soulmate meant. Knew what would happen to the second soulmate when the other died first. Soulmates weren’t made to live without the other for long, after all. To his surprise, neither darkness nor death came to claim him. He moaned pitifully, but quieter than he ever had before, when a couple of his teammates picked him. Carefully they moved him into the back of a van. He was so consumed by his pain he didn’t even wonder where the van came from.
“Hang…Skull.” Someone bid him, but Skull was incapable of even replying to what little he could hear.
Reborn growled as he paced outside their cloud’s room. None of the others were doing much better, but at least most of them were seated. Even Fon looked out of sorts, a deep frown marring his countenance and eyes flaring with the sharp red color of a Storm only inches away from raging out of control. Verde had taken over one of the rooms next to Skull’s, filling it with a bunch of his science and inventing gadgets. Last time Reborn checked on the man, Verde was looking through a database of illnesses that caused one to suddenly collapse. He wanted to scoff at the man. It was obvious to Reborn what happened, even though none of the others seemed to have caught on yet. Unlike the others, he didn’t think Skull was in peril of dying. He knew Skull must be dying. He’d seen the symptoms before. At the tender age of five he’d seen his Aunt collapse just like Skull. He’d sat with his distraught mother, in a hospital much like this one, and watched his Aunt waste away. It hadn’t been slow, but it was obvious the woman was in enormous pain the entire time. There was only one thing that could save someone whose soulmate died, and none of the ex-Arcobaleno had managed to find such a thing. They were simply too strong for any known Sky.
Yuni sat in a corner of the room, hands fisted tightly in her white dress as she stared blankly ahead of her. The others were busy looking for a cause or pacing, but Yuni just felt numb. As the head of the ex-Arcobaleno, it was her job to watch out for trouble. Like her mother and grandmother before her, they used their gifts to protect the other six members of the strongest seven. But her visions had failed her. There had been no warning of anything being wrong with Skull, not even a hint of a vision with him in it. The poor little Sky didn’t realize that the reason she hadn’t seen anything is because what happened was done to someone else. Skull was only feeling the side-effects, after all.
Viper felt grateful that at least they had something they could do. The others were reduced to uselessness in the face of Skull’s collapse and pain. Even Yuni sat there helplessly, not directing them or putting the others at ease. Viper, in direct contrast, opened a Mist portal to the Varia Headquarters and stepped through. There were things they could do to help Skull.
The Mist user ignored the chaos of Squalo and Takashi fighting in the main entry hall and marched to the commander’s dinning hall. It was about lunch time, which meant the other Varia elite should be gathered around the table eating. If they weren’t on missions, of course. All that really mattered to Mammon was that the person they sought was there. A surprised silence fell when they entered the room. Mammon ignored the stares, making their way around the table to where the Varia’s Sun Commander sat.
“Trash! What are you doing back early?” Xanxus, the Varia Boss, demanded. The Mist knew most would find Xanxus’ rude words and demanding tone unwelcoming and harsh, but Mammon knew the Boss well enough to hear the worried tone.
“Yuni was forced to end the mission early. We require Lussuria’s help. One of our team is down with an unknown injury or illness.” Mammon replied flatly. In moments Luss, the Varia Sun Commander, was on his feet with medical bag in hand.
“Of course, darling! All you had to do was ask!” The cheerful sun proclaimed.
“Need anything else?” Xanxus demanded, but Mammon shook their head beneath the hood.
“Not until we know what is wrong.” Mammon replied calmly as their Mist flames formed a path between their current location and the bedroom Skull lay in. Several of Mammon’s coworkers stared at the sight of Skull moaning in anguish and twisting upon his bed. Lussuria hurriedly stepped through. Mammon followed after, holding the portal as they felt Xanxus following behind them.
As they crossed into the bedroom, Mammon watched the others perk up at the sight of the Varia’s Sun marching to Skull’s side. The Sun Commander was quickly immersed in their work. Mammon/Viper, it was always hard for them to figure out what to call themselves when in the presence of both Varia and Ex-Arcobaleno, allowed the portal to fade behind their Boss. As Lussuria worked, a frown grew on his face and deepened.
“You can’t help.” Reborn growled from where he paced by the doorway.
“You will not stop Lussuria from healing…!” Mammon/Viper started to growl. The Hitman shook his head impatiently.
“That’s not what I meant. I would let your Sun friend heal him if it were possible…” Reborn retorted, only to stop speaking when Lussuria spoke up.
“He’s right. There’s nothing I can do to help with this.” The Sun admitted, hands resting quietly (for once) on the bed in front of him.
“What’s wrong, Trash?” Xanxus demanded of his Sun Guardian.
“Looks like a broken soul bond.” Lussuria sighed. “There’s nothing wrong with the body, and he doesn’t have a Sky so…. that’s really the only thing that could have caused this.” The Sun Commander sighed softly. “Poor thing.” He added softly before turning and moving to stand next to his Sky.
“You’re certain?” Fon demanded calmly.
“He’s right.” Reborn confirmed. “I’ve seen it before.” He added when everyone else turned to look at him. Verde poked his head in the door behind Reborn. “There’s nothing we can do to help him.” Reborn growled. Verde tsked.
“He’s one of us. If there isn’t a way to help him, we’ll simply have to make a way.” The greenette reproved.
When Ri came to, she opened her eyes to find herself slumped onto the table by that machine. She wanted to jump away in horror, to curl into a ball and cry, or to lean over and vomit. Her body and soul, however, were too numb and drained to do any of this. Instead a soft whimper left her mouth and she slowly sat back into her chair.
“Good, you are awake.” The man across from her greeted briskly. “Please make your way out through the door on your right.” The man instructed, and for a mad moment Sirina wanted to leap from her seat and attack the man. She wanted to rip his head from his shoulders so he could never force this choice on anyone else ever again. Silently her magic pulsed inside, telling her it would lend her internal strength if need be, even if it couldn’t affect anything outside of her body. She stilled herself. There was no doubt in her mind that the door out would disappear if she acted against the Unspeakable.
“It’s no less than I deserve.” She thought viciously, but then the feeling of her soulmate floated in her mind. “But, at the very least, he deserves to know what happened. Deserves to know he won’t die anytime soon. I may deserve death…but it is only his right to take my life for what I’ve done.” A part of herself demanded. So, instead of trying to attack the Unspeakable, she shakily stood. Carefully she made her way to the new door. As she stood in the doorway, she paused.
“I may not be able to fight this now. But I swear on my soul: Someday I will end this.” She informed the man without looking back. A soft glow of light permeated the room, despite the no-magic barrier. Then she stepped from the room and closed the door behind her. In the next room her year-mates huddled together with those year sevens who also had gone through the test. Ri carefully made her way to her own group of friends, trying with all her might not to collapse. When she got there, she found Ron and Hermione huddled closely together, weeping. They were both gripping their chests, and Ri felt the emptiness in her own chest thud dully in empathy. Ri looked around her group, meeting the eyes of each of her closest friends.
“Is this what we fought to save?” Ginny asked bitterly. “I wish I’d died in the war. I never even got to meet my soulmate.” Ri sat next to the hunched-down figure of her female red-headed friend. Everyone else in their group knew about what types of soul-bond the others had, and the markers of that bond. Ginny was one of the ones who had a timer on her wrist, counting down the years, days, minutes, and seconds until she would meet her soulmate. Now that timer was grayed out entirely.
“Hermione.” Ri called sharply, the order cutting through the air. The others in the group straightened instinctively at the voice of their General. “Do you know a spell with a timer? Let’s get everyone in the room who has timers like Ginny or other marks that can be tracked down. All those who have…. had…identifying marks group up as well. We’re all in the same boat, now. We’re going to salvage what we can. Just because the bond is broken now…doesn’t mean it always has to be.” Ri ordered in a croak. Hermione tore herself away from Ron at her friend’s command. Sirina’s other friends also pulled themselves to their feet and began to move through the room, organizing it according to Ri’s will. As she’d spoken, Ri’s mind had spun with ideas. She may not have any idea where her own soul mate was, like many of her classmates, but she knew of a way to find them.
Within moments Ri’s group had sorted everyone into groups based on their bond-type. A group of people who shared psychic bonds, whether it be through dreams, mind-talk, or otherwise, huddled around Ri. The ravenette did her best to portray confidence and strength to those around her. When everyone had settled into their new groups, they all looked to Ri.
“We may not all know our soulmates, but we’re going to find them. Those of you with timers, Hermione will work with you on either finding or making a spell to continue the count-down. That way you’ll still know when you are supposed to meet. Those of you with symbols should copy the symbols onto parchment in case they fade….” As Ri continued speaking, the groups scrambled to follow her orders and also to come up with their own ideas. She trailed off after giving ideas to all of the groups but for her own.
“And what of us, Potter?” Blaise Zabini asked quietly. For as long as she’d known of him, Zabini had always been quiet and sort of in-the-background. But he’d also had a spark of light and mischief in his eyes before. Now that spark was dulled to almost nothing.
“I think….” She hesitated for a moment. Most of those surrounding her were proud purebloods, and they probably wouldn’t take to all of her ideas too well. “I think we should create a network. Here and in the muggle world.” A couple of the students opened their mouths to argue, but Ri held up a hand to silence them. “Please, hear me out. It’s true most of you probably don’t have a muggle soulmate, but some of us do. Also, I don’t want to just help ourselves. We’re not the only generation affected by this…travesty. I want to create a network that spans the entire world, both magical and mundane. Why should we settle for just helping ourselves? There are millions out there with the same problem.” Ri stated passionately.
“And how do you propose we go about setting up a network in the muggle world?” A Ravenclaw girl asked bitterly. “Even the muggleborn are cut-off from that world, and it’s not like they can tell their parents why they want to set up said network.” She added. Sirina didn’t hesitate.
“I know a guy.” She replied, one side of her mouth quirked into a rueful smirk.
The next morning two years’ worth of students watched numbly as Hogwarts’ House Elves packed their belongings up and transported the trunks away to the trains. Then, in groups of twos and threes, the seventh- and eighth-year students were chivvied to the train. A special compartment had been added to the very back of the train, supposedly to shelter the shell-shocked students from their more rambunctious and younger peers.
“In all reality,” Ri thought with a sneer “it’s more likely to stop them from asking questions before they get to their own ‘test’.” Despite her roiling thoughts and magic, Ri didn’t fight against the concerned form of Professor McGonagall when the woman gently shepherded herself, Ron, and Hermione along. Both of her friends bracketed her protectively on either side. They too had their bonds severed, but they were still together and planned to elope that night. It was Ri’s growing lethargy that concerned them. Especially considering her passionate efforts the evening before. All through the train-ride Ri’s friends kept a careful eye on her and the others in their group. No-one felt much up to talking, so the giant compartment was virtually silent except for the weeping students.
When the train finally pulled into the station, Ron pulled down all three trunks and the trio left the Hogwarts train for the last time.
“Where will you go?” Hermione asked timidly as they stood awkwardly on the platform. Ri made an effort to smile at her friend, but it must not have been reassuring as Hermione fretted even more upon spotting the expression.
“I need to find my soulmate. I always knew they weren’t magical.” She admitted to her friends. Ron breathed in sharply in shock.
“Then he doesn’t know…?” Hermione asked in horror, thoroughly sidetracked. Ri shook her head and Hermioned covered her mouth with one hand.
“No. And I have to be the one to tell him. He deserves to know the truth of what…. what I…did.” Ri stuttered, pain and self-hatred wracking her small frame once more.
“It’s the same as everyone else, and if you didn’t, you would have been dead.” Ron tried to reassure her. She gave him a tired smile for his efforts.
“I should have died. I should have died before I betrayed my bond. In the end, I’m no better than Pettigrew, really.” She whispered the shameful truth aloud for the first time.
“Oh no, Ri, no.” Hermione shushed, drawing her smaller raven-haired friend into a hug.
“Need us to come with you?” Ron asked worriedly. Ri shook her head despite it being pressed into Hermione’s shoulder.
“No, go and be bonded. If I had the choice…that’s what I’d be doing right now. If he’d… ...if he ever forgives me. Please don’t let me ruin your bond, too. I couldn’t stand that.” Ri ordered softly.
“Alright.” Hermione agreed hesitantly. “We’ve still got our coins. Contact us if you need anything, alright?” Hermione urged, and Ri wordlessly agreed with her friend. At last the trio split up, Ri walking out through the muggle exit and her two friends disapparating. Alone on the muggle side, Ri made her way out onto the London streets and hailed a cab. She knew where she was headed next, and she wasn’t looking forwards to it.
The tiny little London flat the cab dropped her off at was so muggle it almost hurt. Still, Ri was a woman on a mission and didn’t let the empty boringness of the place get her down. Smartly she rapped on the dark door in the small, dingy hallway.
“Coming!” A voice called from inside, and a moment later the door opened. Inside, Dudley Dursley stared at his cousin with surprise.
“Ri!” He called, surprised at first but changing to happiness the longer she stood there. “Come in, come in! Would you care for a cup of tea?” He greeted. It was a stark change from before she’d saved his life, but their relationship had been improving in leaps and bounds since then. So she wasn’t really surprised that he’d greeted her unexpected arrival with good cheer instead of chilly disdain or outright hatred as his parents would’ve done.
“Hello Dudley. Tea sounds lovely, thank you.” Sirina replied as she stepped inside and removed her coat. As Dudley bustled into the kitchen and began rustling up some tea, Sirina hung her coat on the hook next to the door and closed the door behind herself.
“Have a seat, the tea’ll be right out. You’ve caught me at a good time. I don’t have any more classes today and my flat-mates are all out at the moment.” He called cheerfully from the kitchen. Sirina took a careful seat on the brown and orange well-worn monstrosity pretending to be a couch. She’d bet her right arm Petunia had been or would be horrified when she found out about the thing. The thought cheered Ri up somewhat and she gave Dudley a tremulous smile as she accepted the tea. Seeing that look on his cousin’s face, who’d never been this distressed in his presence (save for that one time with the dementors), Dudley’s own expression took on a cast of concern.
“What’s wrong?” He demanded immediately, placing his own cup of tea on the coffee table and taking one of Ri’s hands into his own. Ri’s hands shook slightly as she contemplated what she could tell him.
“I…I can’t tell you everything. Not won’t, but can’t.” She started, and Dudley nodded solemnly to her. She’d told him of magical oaths and bindings in one of her letters. “But…my soulbond was severed, and not through death. My soulmate probably has no idea…and I do not know where or how to find him. I am also not the only one with this same problem. I want to create a network to help myself and those like me. I don’t…I know you said computers put people in touch all over the world? Is there some way to set up a group for people like me?” As she spoke, her voice trembled and Dudley’s eyes widened in horror at her admission.
“There is. I’ve even got a couple of roommates who’d be really good to help with this. Let’s get an idea for your network and how it’ll work sketched out. They should be home later, so we can ask them then. If they can’t do it, they’ll know someone who can.” Dudley assured her.
“Alright.” Ri agreed quietly, and watched as Dudley pulled out paper, pens, and pencils. They settled down together for a few hours, drawing out diagrams and ideas on how to help people find soul mates they were no longer bonded to. Little did Ri imagine how, from that one tiny idea and meeting, such a vast empire would grow.
Hi all! Sorry this chapter took so long to get out. The problem is, once I set up this world, my brain kept throwing variations of this story at me, and each idea is shouting 'pick me! pick me!' or, 'start the story over and pick me instead!'. So don't be surprised if an AU of this fic shows up in the same series. Or several AUs. Seriously. >.< '
Anyways, here's the second chapter. I'm off to work on the third. Here's hoping I get that one posted later today or tomorrow! : D
Warning: Time Skip
And grow an empire did, all based around Sirina and shattered soulmate bonds. Starting with Sirina and Dudley, then expanding upon meeting Dudley’s roommates. One of his roommates was actually a networking guru, and the other was a Doctor or medicine who dealt with studying soul bonds. Grimly Sirina chalked this good fortune up to typical ‘Potter Luck,’ and moved on. She couldn’t afford to look this gift horse in the mouth. She could, and did Lie to these two new acquaintances about how her bond being ended happened. The fact that she was far from the only person she could produce who suffered the effects of a broken or shattered bond probably helped with her credibility.
Dudley’s Doctor friend, Dr. Reagan Knight, was more than happy to study and diagnose what was going on. Under the new Doctor’s name the ‘Broken Bond Disorder’, with various causes including unknown ones, became infamous and well-known throughout the muggle and magical world. As were attempts to treat the condition, and attempts to find soulmates to those whose bond had broken.
Sirina, as the one who helped fund the research and building of the network, became known as the founder of the B.B.D. Association (or Broken-Bond-Disorder Association). To her surprise, there were also naturally-occurring broken bonds from causes other than death. It helped Sirina to assuage (slightly) the voice at the back of her head that mocked her for making BBD a pitiable condition, rather than the shame she felt it was. The (in her mind) rightful shame she felt for ending her own soul bond. To know that the organization she’d put together was helping people who hadn’t caused their own broken bonds…was relieving in a way.
On the other hand Dudley’s Networking friend, Franz Hoffman, helped Sirina to create and run the original and most popular BBD Internet site and groups. On the website a sufferer of BBD could do everything from schedule a consultation to post on the forums of others suffering similarly. All the research about what to expect from someone suffering BBD, or what they could expect if they were the person with BBD, to the signs and symptoms of being the soulmate to someone who ‘had’ BBD. Any other related research was also posted on the website, free of charge. People with muggle computers weren’t the only ones able to access the website, however. Ri hadn’t forgotten her magical kin and classmates who suffered similarly to herself. With Hermione’s help, Ri founded technomancy for the modern age.
It took all of Ri’s popularity and fans to help railroad the Magical British Government into passing laws that allowed for magical computers and magical technology to be created. Ron’s dad was one of Ri’s first students and now helped to further pioneer new magical gadgets and gizmos for the modern Witch and Wizard.
All of this took a span of five years. During which time Ri still hadn’t found her soulmate. She despaired of ever being re-connected to him, but persevered. It wasn’t until the sixth year that all her hard work bore fruit for her personal search. She didn’t find out about it right away, though. The first to know was neither Sirina nor her soulmate.
Despite being rather insular, the Mafia kept up with the rest of the world in all categories. This included in medicine. In fact the Mafia were even ahead in some ways when it came to medicine. Dr. Trident Shamal was no exception, which was why he was one of the first in Italy to attend a conference on a disorder only newly-acknowledged in Italy. When Gokudera informed the doctor that the Famiglia was sending him to a conference, Shamal had never heard of BBD before. By halfway through the conference, however, he was certain that he knew someone suffering from Reverse-BBD.
For the signs and symptoms that had been listed for a soulmate whose other half suffered from BBD listed the Ex-Arcobaleno down to the ground. Even five and half years later, the man was still suffering from pain and listlessness. Although his colleagues had managed to stabilize him to the point where he could function, the Cloud had never really recovered from the sudden breaking of his soulbond. Everyone had assumed he’d done the impossible and survived for more than a year simply because Skull was one of the strongest seven. Now Shamal thought he had the correct answer, and it lay with BBD. Or Reverse BBD, in Skull’s case. As soon as the conference ended that day, Shamal was up and talking with the man who’d lead the days instruction.
“Doctor Knight!” Shamal called as the doctor in question was about to leave out a side-door. Doctor Knight paused and then turned to face the younger man addressing him.
“Yes, Doctor…?” Reagan Knight replied politely. Shamal was too excited at having an answer to be ashamed of his exuberance.
“Doctor Shamal. Doctor Knight, you listed a website on your slideshow for sufferers of BBD, but not one for those with RBBD (Reverse-Broken-Bond-Disorder)? I know someone who fits all the signs and symptoms exactly. I would really like to get him help, and possibly see what can be done to treat…!” Shamal exclaimed.
“That is because the website is the same. We at the Broken Bond Disorder Institute treat both ends of the Disorder. However, it is more rare to come across those with RBBD as opposed to the original BBD.” As Reagan spoke, he pulled a card out of his pocket.
“I would be delighted to help you and your patient as best we can. Please give this number a call and my secretary will set up a time to go over everything with both of you. If he is willing, we are always accepting R-BBD patients into our studies. Those in the studies generally end up finding their soulmates faster. At the very least, I encourage your patient to visit the forums. They were set up with the express purpose of aiding people in finding their other half despite BBD or R-BBD.” Dr. Knight informed Shamal before biding the excitable young man a cheerful good day.
Shamal, excited to share his answers with his Famiglia, hurried back to his hotel suite. As soon as he was behind the locked door of his room, Shamal started dialing. The phone was answered after only two rings.
“Moshi-mosh!” Tsunayoshi Sawada called cheerfully as he answered on the other end.
“Sawada, I need you to get the Ex-Arcobaleno on the line as well. Especially Skull.” Shamal demanded. The Tenth Head of Vongola, whose intuition was probably screaming at him and giving the man a headache, didn’t ask questions.
“I’ll need to put you on hold while I add the others and make this a conference call.” Tsunayoshi informed the doctor before putting the man on hold. What felt like an eternity later, but was likely only ten to fifteen minutes, he heard Sawada’s voice once more.
“Alright Dr.Shamal, we’re all on.” The Don informed him.
“Everyone? Including Skull?” Shamal asked suspiciously.
“Yes, everyone’s here Shamal. Stop wasting our time and get to the point.” Reborn growled. Shamal took a deep breath.
“Right, okay. Right.” He tried to calm himself down, but a wordless growl from Reborn had Shamal blurting out without planning his words.
“It’s possible Skull’s soulmate is suffering from BBD and not really dead!” He practically yelled. Silence echoed from the other end of the line for only a moment before yells and explosions echoed.
“ENOUGH.” Tsunayoshi demanded calmly. Silence pervaded once more. “Mammon, can you transport everyone to my office, please? I have a feeling this is a conversation that needs to be had in-person.” The young Don ordered. Then, likely to pre-empt whatever the Mist was going to say: “And of course I’ll pay for everyone.” There was a grudging grumbling sound from the Mist before a portal opened up in front of Shamal. Stepping through, he saw most of the others stepping through portals of their own into the Vongola Don’s office. Excepting Reborn and Sawada, who had already been there.
Once everyone was seated in a half-circle, including Sawada behind his desk, the young Don motioned for Shamal to take the floor. Nervously Shamal stood in front of the half-circle of people. Skull was seated front and center, a protective Fon and Verde hovering over the depressed and drained man. Despite Shamal standing before them, Skull was the first to speak. All the others, who’d opened their mouths to question Shamal, fell silent to hear Skull.
“What do you mean, my soulmate might not be dead?” The Cloud demanded listlessly. His eyes said he couldn’t afford the hope Shamal was offering, and his tone dead.
“It all started when Vongola sent me to this conference today. It was for a newly-discovered disorder set called BBD and R-BBD. I had no idea what the conference was about, or what either disorder was when I went. BBD stands for Broken Bond Disorder, and a person whose soulmate was BBD will develop R-BBD at the same time. Those who suffer from R-BBD go through all the same things as a person whose soulmate has died. Except for one. The R-BBD sufferer doesn’t die like someone whose soulmate has died does.” Shamal replied calmly into the silence following Skull’s words. “They have an official website with signs and symptoms of both.” Shamal added towards Verde, who quickly pulled out a tablet and began searching.
“It was officially recognized as a Disorder a little over five years ago in Britain.” Shamal added significantly. If it was possible, the room went still.
“Five years ago?” Fon demanded, and Skull looked like hope was starting to enter his eyes.
“Yes. In Britain.” Shamal agreed, and knew he wasn’t the only one thinking of Skull’s desperate search through that country a little over five years ago, desperate to find and properly bury his deceased soulmate before he also passed away. “It’s a growing phenomenon, and has a lot of people worried. We still don’t know all the causes, but BBD usually manifests in a person around sixteen to eighteen years of age.” Shamal continued, and at the mention of age Skull seemed to tense even further. His eyes, which had been a hopeless shade of brown for so long, began to glow purple once more with his flames as he regained hope.
“How did BBD become formally recognized? I mean, soulmates have been around as long as humanity. It’s weird we’d only be finding out about this now.” Tsunayoshi commented, his own eyes and forehead lit with the HDWM Sky flames.
“Not really. Based on the studies that have been done, only about five to ten percent of the world’s population suffers from it – five percent if you only count the soulmate with BBD, or ten percent if you also count their soulmate partner with R-BBD.” Shamal disagreed. “But it was formally recognized the way most things are. Someone who had it had money, connections, or both. It this case it was both. The first in-person case-study was a young woman in Britain, an heiress to two ancient and noble families. It wasn’t explicitly stated, but reading between the lines it sounds like the area she lived in was hit harder than normal with BBD.
Apparently, many of her friends also suffer from BBD, including a pair she went to school with. The couple apparently knew they were soulmates, and were near each other when they manifested. That was when the young woman got a doctor involved. It was obvious, both of them standing next to each other, that neither was dead. That’s really all the detail they gave. I’m guessing that the head of the foundation, a Lady Sirina Potter-Black, was the first case study, however.” As Shamal continued explaining, Skull’s eyes remained fiercely locked on the Mist. His last sentence, however, made the Cloud stand abruptly.
“What did you say?!” Skull demanded. Shocked, Shamal looked at the other mystified people in the room before turning back to Skull.
“I said that the first case study was probably the Lady Sirina Potter-Black…” Shamal trailed off at the triumphant look in the Cloud’s eyes. “What….?” The Doctor asked, confused. Skull just smiled.
The longer the Doctor talked and explained, the more Skull came to believe the man was right. It was the last sentence that proved his hopes weren’t in vain, however. Skull demanded the man repeat himself a third time, and all Skull heard was:
“The first case study is believed to be the Lady ---------------”. Although the Mist’s mouth was clearly moving, it was blurry to Skull, and the sounds of the words after Lady fused together until he couldn’t understand what the man was saying.
“Lackey, what is it?!” Reborn, who hadn’t called Skull ‘Lackey’ since his collapse, demanded. Skull turned a beaming smile on his ‘senpai’.
“I can’t hear the name, Reborn!” Skull announced. “He’s obviously stated a name three times, but I can’t hear it.” At Skull’s beaming smile, Reborn unbent enough to nod seriously.
“Then there’s only one thing to do.” Reborn retorted, his own mouth shaping into a grin that wouldn’t look out of place on a shark.
“Mou, I suppose we’re heading to Britain.” Viper agreed. “I’ll let Boss know I need the jet.” The Mist sighed. Skull grinned at the Mist. Despite the put-upon tone, the Mist’s actions more than stated how relieved they were that Skull would be alright. Normally the Mist would have just vanished in a flare of flames to wherever they were headed instead of wasting time (and therefore money). Taking the time to actually tell Skull where they were going was practically a hug and kiss coming from the Mist.
Moments later the occupants of the office, plus Tsunayoshi’s very confused guardians, being dropped into the middle of a plane without warning was much more the Mist’s style. The plane having already left the runway and containing the Varia Elite was just showing off. While Tsunayoshi calmed down his upset and volatile guardians, Verde and Mammon went up front to figure out where they were headed (specifically) and inform the pilot.
Skull shortly found himself surrounded by well-wishers from Vongola’s tenth generation, but for the first time in over five years he didn’t find the attention and interactions taxing. Instead he soaked in his good fortune and happiness.
“I’m coming to find you, soul mate. Just hold on. I’m coming.” He thought determinedly.
Yay! I finished the third chapter today! Although I unfortunately forgot to hit 'post' on the last chapter until a minute ago, so they'll probably post around the same time. Oops?
This chapter sort of got away from me. I didn't mean for Ri's group to create a whole new disorder recognized by health organizations the world over. It was just supposed to be a social networking site, Ri! As always, the characters have their own ideas. I'm also not quite sure how Dudley crept into this... he's a lot nicer in this fic than I generally write him as well. I also gave up on indenting the beginning of my paragraphs...this system just doesn't like them and it takes forever to re-add them every time.
I'm hoping to squeeze one last chapter out tonight, but it's unlikely to happen. Hope to hear from you soon!
Until next time: