To make a long story exceedingly short, my sister is a graphic designer by trade. Art is how she makes her money. And right now, she's dealing with the same rough economic climate as the rest of you. She's done plenty of free art over the years for a number of my stories, but right now she could really use some help and so I was wondering, if I organized a ChipIn for a piece of Wand of Uru art, so each of you could toss a few bucks her way via PayPal, would anyone be interested? It doesn't cost me anything to set up nor does it stick you with a surcharge to participate, but it's not really worth it if none of you want to join in, is it?
Yes, I know the popular spelling is Samhain. Given Hogwarts is in Scotland, I opted to go with the Scottish Gaelic variation. So shoot me. Thanks to the reversion to Harry using Rensaren instead of his more powerful but less interesting wand in Second Life
, we're back to the longer and more fun version of the troll scene in this chapter. Yay. Originally, there was a bit here about how the Gryffindor versus Slytherin quidditch match was next chapter, but I expanded the content between Samhuinn and the quidditch game to more realistically handle the matter of reactions - especially with his expanded friend group - and so a chapter named 'The Aftermath' will come next, with 'Gryffindor vs. Slytherin' being pushed back to Chapter 12.
Time passed for Harry just as quickly as the first time around, with lessons and thrice-weekly quidditch practices to attend, and before he knew it two months had passed. As the end of October approached, though, he became aware of a major deviation in the timeline. Instead of the normal Halloween feast, complete with decorations provided by the professors, a contingent of parents led by his mother descended on the castle to organize and execute a Samhuinn festival.
It made a strange sort of sense to Harry, at least after he'd gotten over his initial surprise and put some serious thought into it. His mother was supposedly one of the brightest witches to come through Hogwarts in recent years. It stood to reason that after graduation, even if she did go on to become 'merely' a housewife who occasionally sold off a particularly interesting piece of charms work - and some that were mundane but useful - she could still produce ripple effects in the time stream. In this case, she'd gathered up the other housewives who had sent their children off to school and put them to work creating a festival at which all parents could come, visit their children, and meet the teachers responsible for the formative years of said children. Even the muggleborns' parents would be included, thanks to a special run by the Hogwarts Express.
As much as he liked the idea of seeing his family again, the whole thing presented an enormous problem for Harry. Would Quirrell unleash the troll in the dungeons again to cover his move for the Philosopher's Stone? That wouldn't make any sense; they could simply lock the school down with the residents outside enjoying the festival and he'd either be trapped outside or stuck with the rest of the professors as they tracked down the troll. But what other option was there? Release the troll on the assembled students and their families? What would that accomplish? In his original world, not being the head of a house, it had been easy for Quirrell to sneak off during the Halloween troll 'attack'. It'd be far more difficult to manage a feat like that in the middle of the festival.
Sighing, Harry did his best to push those thoughts from his mind and relax as he guided his Nimbus in slow, lazy circles over the Hogsmeade train station, watching as a crew laid out an engine and cars for the train that would be running to London and back. A pair of wizards slowly moved down the line, one hovering each piece as the other enlarged it from a small, toy-like construct into the full-grown version. Two things immediately jumped out at him about what the two were doing. Firstly, there were only four cars instead of seven… but if only the muggleborns' parents were using it - or perhaps just muggleborns' parents and a few half 'n half couples for whom King's Cross was easier to access than a floo - they wouldn't need nearly as much seating capacity. Also, the gleaming scarlet steam engine was gone, replaced with a boxy green tank engine. But then again, with fewer cars, it was probably easier to use a smaller engine. Wow, that was actually somewhat logical. Harry hadn't thought the wizarding world capable of such a thing.
A glint of metal caught his eye and Harry floated a bit further down the tracks, discovering another engine waiting separate from the rest of the train. He'd thought it odd that the green engine was resting on the tracks facing Hogwarts… maybe they were going to use two smaller engines and the crew would hop from one engine to the other after getting to London so they were always facing forward? Except… Harry drifted down the length of the engine, made a wide turn around the front and drifted back along the other side. This new engine was easily the size of the scarlet locomotive that normally pulled the Hogwarts Express, painted up in the colors of the Pride of Portree: purple with gold trim and lettering. 'MF&E 1' was painted on a stretch of metal just beyond the cab, but it was the tender that made him blink: 'MacFusty & Evans'. "What the bloody hell?"
"Language, Harry." Emerging from the cab, Lily turned her back on him long enough to descend a set of steps before dropping to the ground. Rubbing the back of her hand over her cheek and leaving a thick black streak, she waved him down. Harry obeyed, circling back around towards her as he did his best not to laugh at the blue overalls and matching hat she was wearing. "So, Harry, whatever happened to wanting to be more like me than your father?"
Still fighting to avoid laughing at her odd appearance, Harry came in for a landing next to the train tracks and hopped off his broom, swinging it up gracefully to rest on one shoulder. "What, I can't play quidditch and be at the top of every class I'm taking at the same time?"
Lily pondered that one for a moment, tapping her finger against her chin, leaving a new set of smudges. "You know, I'm pretty sure it'd violate some law of reality in the muggle world. Here… who knows?" She shrugged. "Just didn't see it coming after your sudden change in priorities this summer."
"Yeah, well, I'm doing well in all my classes. Top of everything except Potions and that's because Snape is a bastard. Even with doing my homework and helping my friends, I still have plenty of spare time and so why not quidditch? It was one of my favorite parts of Hogwarts last time around and it'll keep me busy and out of trouble until third year, when I can finally start some new classes." Harry watched as his mother shook her head in amusement before turning back to the engine she'd been working on, at which point he noticed something. Her hair wasn't in its normal simple ponytail today, but instead a thick braid that descended further down her back than he thought her hair reached. "Did you do something to your hair?"
Reaching up, Lily toyed with the braid for a moment before going back to work on something that reminded Harry of the pistons he'd seen under the hood of his uncle's car a few times. "Well, our Harry once grew his hair back overnight after I tried to save some time and money by cutting his hair myself and really messed it up… did that happen to you too?" Harry nodded; actually, Petunia had done it deliberately but they didn't need to get into the mess that was his former home life. "People seem to think 'accidental' magic goes away when you get older… but that's a horrible name for it because it's not an accident. It's merely your subconscious harnessing your innate magical power to express your inner desires."
"And this has precisely what to do with anything?"
Lily shot a narrow eyed look back over her shoulder and Harry pantomimed zipping his lips. After a second, she returned both to her work and her explanation. "Well, without Lucius around as much to berate her about what 'a proper lady of the House of Malfoy' should look like, Narcissa's hair has been growing back out to look more like she did at Hogwarts - wait till you see her tonight; I bet you won't even recognize her - and I guess that on some level I like her new look enough that my body's trying to mimic it and speeding up my own growth to match. Not as much as hers, but enough that I need a braid to keep from getting it tangled in things."
Nodding, Harry hopped back onto his broom and drifted skyward again as Lily returned to her tinkering. "Anyways, getting back to the whole quidditch and good grades thing… if you think what I'm doing is odd? My friend Hermione ranks between second and fourth in every class, is the reserve keeper, and she's a muggleborn to boot. She didn't come in with the advantage that most purebloods have from their parents and she's still kicking everyone's arse. Well, everyone else's arse."
"Language, Harry. And that's good to hear, especially after what you told me about underage magic use. I've been trying to come up with ways to help muggleborn students stay on a more even footing. You still friends with the two pureblood girls you wrote home about last month? Daphne and Su?" Harry nodded before realizing she couldn't see him and responding with an affirmative noise. "Remind me to speak with them. And Hermione, of course. Maybe they can help me see things I'm missing because I'm old."
As Lily finally finished with whatever she was adjusting and climbed back into the locomotive's cab, Harry floated down to hover beside the window. "You're not old, Mum. You're what, thirty-one years old? And Dumbledore's closing in on a century and a quarter? You've still got at least two thirds of your life left to live, more than that if you take after him." He gestured to the silent and cold engine. "Now this… this is old. And bloody odd looking. What is it?"
Lily stuck her head out the cab's window and looked up at him as she slapped her hand against the outside of the cab, right over the markings. "It belongs to the reserve on the Isle of Skye where they keep Hebridean Black dragons. I think it's called a Heisler? Not sure, to be honest; the MacFustys just call it the 'Flower of Scotland'. It's some kind of special locomotive the Americans came up with for working in the mountains for mining and logging back in the day. Two of the MacFusty boys went to Mexico and saved it from where the original muggle owners had left it rusting in a junkyard, and then shipped it over here because the reserve has some pretty rough terrain. I'm not sure if you know, but I have a bit of a thing for trains…"
"I never would have guessed from those oh so fascinating lectures you gave back in August…"
"…and so when they owled me looking for someone who was good with charms and willing to experiment with muggle machinery, I jumped at the chance. I've been working on it on a really short stretch of track out behind the house; it'll get its first real test by pulling the train a third of the way to London and then I'll shrink it and bring it back to the house. I'm hoping to have it finished by the start of summer for them and then next fall, when you're all in school and I'll have more free time, I was going to talk to the Ministry about seeing what my options were for reaching out to the muggle government and Network Rail. I'd love to get a siding off the Maritime Line straight into that empty stretch out back, and then I could open myself up to the muggle heritage railways to fix their steam engines up too. After all, I'm doing most of the Flower the muggle way already. Sure, I couldn't give muggle engines tenders that held more water and coal than they should, and I couldn't layer charms that help keep the innards clean and decrease the need for maintenance, but those are just added perks. The Flower would function without them. The whole thing wouldn't be cheap, of course, but James has more galleons than he knows what to do with. We could afford it." Lily trailed off for a moment before snapping her fingers. "Oh, and as long as we're on the subject of money? I went to Gringotts and spoke with one of the financial advisers about doing some investing in the muggle world. Are you sure putting half my life savings into this 'Apple Computer' company is worth it? Don't they make those overpriced pieces of junk that pretty much nobody buys?"
Blinking a bit at his mother's sudden and complete change of topic, Harry quickly recovered and drew his wand, conjuring a white plastic rectangle that was a bit over four inches tall, two and a half inches wide, and three-quarters of an inch thick. He held it out to Lily and waited while she examined it, knowing she wouldn't make much out of it. "Well, I'm pretty sure that turns around soon if it hasn't by now. But this is where the real money is with them. Sometime around now, they're going to make something that small that lets a muggle put a thousand songs in their pocket and walk around listening for hours. I'm not sure exactly when; Dudley didn't get it for his birthday but had one when I came back from my first year at Hogwarts. They came out with at least one new model a year, which was convenient because Dudley usually managed to destroy them that quickly. Just as I was getting ready for my last year at Hogwarts, Dudley was begging his parents to buy him the newest version when it came out. Some kind of touch screen device that let you listen to music, watch movies, it could hold and show pictures… and Apple had sold over a hundred million iPods and was going strong. Was about to put out a mobile with the same design, too. From there… well, I don't know because I got sent here but I doubt they're going to slow down."
Lily let out a low whistle before looking up at him with wide eyes and a gleeful smile. "I'm gonna be rich."
Gnawing idly on a piece of chicken, Harry tried to let his guard down and simply enjoy the evening, basking in the heat of the nearby bonfire and examining the faces glowing in the soft orange light. Daphne sat to his left, trying her damnedest to be civilized while picking away at a plate of food using her fingers, with Tracey beside her and Hermione and Su sitting off to his right. Tara had actually decided to sit behind him, leaning back against him so she could relax without falling over backwards. Lazy witch.
Amusingly enough, a few yards away Mister Granger was likewise surrounded by women, his wife sitting by his side as a loose half-circle of friendly witches chatted with them: Narcissa, Lily, Lady Greengrass, Missus Davis, and one Harry didn't recognize but who Lily and Narcissa were obviously friends with. Sitting on opposite sides of the group, James and Lucius were too busy glaring over their respective wives' heads at each other to eat, while Draco sat near his father and glared at anything and everything. Lord Greengrass, on the other hand, had opted to stake out a spot halfway between the adults and children, splitting his attention between his wives and where Harry was sitting with his daughters. Mister and Missus Li weren't present for the festivities; out of country on work business according to Su, who didn't seem all too upset about their absence.
All in all, it was the perfect evening… unless one was waiting for a random-yet-not troll attack. At this point, Harry was almost hoping for a homicidal troll to start causing a ruckus. He'd been on guard since the elves and organizing parents had hauled out the evening feast onto the lawn and the bonfires had been lit and if he'd wasted all night waiting for something to happen and it didn't, he was going to be severely pissed off.
Daphne opened her mouth, no doubt to remind him that retrieving drinks for one's female companions was the gentlemanly thing to do, when Harry was saved by the bell. Or, in this case, the possessed professor. "Troll! In the dungeons! Thought you ought to know…" And just like the first time around, Quirrell completed his performance by pretending to pass out, although onto the comparatively soft lawn instead of the stone floor of the Great Hall this time.
Like a shot, Dumbledore was up out of the throne-like chair he'd been occupying and gathering the professors to him. Tapping his wand to his throat, he magnified his voice so it echoed across the grounds. "Do not panic! If there truly is a troll inside the school, there are defenses in place that are capable of containing it until the staff and I can deal with it. Remain outside where it is safe and please try to enjoy the remainder of your evening while we handle this matter."
"Stay here, children. You too, Lily. The school's a big place and Dumbledore's going to need help searching it. I'll be back when things are dealt with." Harry opened his mouth to protest but his father just waved his hand dismissively as he passed. "Just stay out here where it's safe, okay?"
Harry wanted to debate the 'safe' part of remaining out here… tell him that Quirrell being out here made it inherently unsafe… remind him that there were only a few ways into the castle and only one big enough for a troll, meaning it had been intentionally brought in a while ago and not snuck in… but he couldn't. Not without revealing himself. So instead, Harry just scowled and remained seated on the grass as he watched his father join up with the Longbottoms and a few other auror parents before following the headmaster and professors into the school. "Don't panic." Harry scoffed. "At his age, he should know better. Of course they're going to panic now. If there wasn't something wrong, he wouldn't be yelling 'don't panic'."
"I know. Especially considering I don't have my towel with me." Suddenly, Hermione found herself the recipient of the odd looks that had previously been aimed Harry's way. "What? None of you have ever read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
? 'A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have'? No?" Five heads shook at that. "Heathens."
Ignoring the confused mutters from his friends, Harry noticed his mother and Narcissa approaching and rose to his feet, moving to meet them and causing Tara to flop back onto the grass as her support abandoned her. Lily pulled him in for a hug, but Harry knew she was after more than physical reassurance of his well-being. "What the hell is going on?"
"Hell if I know. I mean, it's not like you were around to organize this in my original timeline. Quirrell released a troll into the dungeons so that the teachers and students would be occupied and he could make a run at the Philosopher's Stone, but now? He's locked out here with the rest of us… but he had to have known that would happen, so why even bother?" Harry looked over at Quirrell, noticing the man's eyes were open and his mouth moving as a sickly green light emerged from his tightly clenched fist. Then the professor slammed his hand down against the grass, causing a flash of light that was mostly hidden by his body, and Harry swore under his breath. A warding crystal; smaller than a ward stone but far easier to activate and transport. "Well whatever his plan is, I think he's making his move."
A moment later, Harry was proven right as the ground trembled and screams broke out all around him, with the highest concentration amongst those who'd been sitting near… "Trolls! Trolls in the Forbidden Forest!" Interesting. A bit too convoluted for his tastes, but he had to admit the idea had potential. Send the capable adults on a fool's errand and then make them rush right back out to engage in the real fight, leaving them exhausted and the school ripe for the robbing. Harry flicked his wrist, wand jumping into his hand. There was just one flaw in Quirrell's plan.
He hadn't taken into account that someone might remain behind to handle the trolls.
Someone like Harry.
Watching as the trolls slowly lumbered their way across the lawn, spreading out in a way that would spread any defenders as thin as possible trying to contain them, Harry shook his head as the crowd devolved into a rampaging mob of sheep rushing for the edge of the grounds. Well, at least there'd be fewer witnesses and people in his way. His friends, on the other hand… Harry wasn't even going to waste his breath attempting to convince them to leave. Harry wasn't even going to waste his breath attempting to convince them to leave. Especially given that the Greengrasses and Missus Davis had abandoned Daphne and Tracey and Lucius had likewise taken Draco and fled to safety, leaving Narcissa and Tara to fend for themselves. His friends, like Hermione's muggle parents, would be safer where they were. As long as they stayed close, he could protect them. "Mum, protect the Grangers. Aunt Cissy, keep my friends from doing something stupid."
"Can you actually take down three full grown mountain trolls on your own, Harry?" Harry looked back at Narcissa, who seemed genuinely curious. He nodded and she drew her wand. "Very well. This ought to be interesting."
Turning away from his… well, technically she was his second cousin but calling her aunt seemed more appropriate given the age difference…Harry took off running down the hill towards the trolls, his wand shifting into its axe form as he went. A spell he'd used for Death Eater crowd control in his previous universe came to mind and Harry twirled the axe before slashing it in a wide arc in front of his body. "Knūa
The wide burst of blue magic caught all three trolls, sending them stumbling back and buying Harry precious seconds to figure out what to do next. Trolls were relatively stubborn beasts who could shrug off a number of common spells, so stunning or putting them to sleep was out. Oh, he could do it with sure brute force of magic, but it would raise too many questions. As it was, he would inevitably end up answering a lot of questions about his actions tonight. If he played his cards right, though? He could probably escape with people believing his success was due to 'divine' knowledge rather than outright power. After all, there were probably only a dozen people in the world capable of stunning a troll on their own. Harry had absolutely no desire to be added to that list, especially at age eleven.
One of the trolls roared, drawing Harry's attention back to the present as it charged and swung its massive club at him. Harry brought his axe up to block but while the magical properties of his weapon allowed him to pull off the move, he was a preteen a hair under five feet tall who was fighting a twelve-foot tall adult mountain troll, and he felt the strain vibrate through his entire body. No, he wouldn't be doing that too many times. Putting his superior speed and agility to work for him, Harry dove between two of the trolls and rolled, hopping back to his feet and whirling to face the trolls' backs. It was a calculated gamble: the trolls probably weren't smart enough to look behind them for a few seconds, seconds in which they could decide the Grangers or his friends were more interesting prey. But Harry was confident he could keep their attention. "Rīsta
The first slash of his axe sent out a crescent of red magic, creating a great tear in the center troll's flesh, while the repetition of the spell created another to form an X. Harry followed up an arrow of silver magic that shot into the exposed innards of the troll, burying itself in the troll's spine. The fingers around the troll's massive club went lax as the spinal cord was severed and the troll let out a confused whine as it tipped forward, arms and legs no longer able to respond to the brain's commands.
The two remaining trolls started grunting and then, much to Harry's surprise, actually executed something approaching strategic behavior. One turned back to face him and avenge its fallen compatriot as the other started to stalk the rest of the festival goers. Harry's eyes narrowed. Well that just wouldn't do at all. "Eldrǫr
!" Fire formed along the edge of his axe's head before an arrow erupted, striking the departing troll in the back. It didn't penetrate, splattering across the beast's flesh in tendrils of orange light, but it was enough to return the troll's attention to him and so that was good enough for Harry. For the moment, at least; he knew the longer this dragged out, the more likely someone was to get hurt. And so, mind racing, he decided upon a plan to take care of the school's troll problem in a way that was either brilliant or utterly insane. It would subject him to even more unwanted scrutiny, but… the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. "Aunt Cissy! I need a row of iron rods in front of you in case of leakage. Mum, herd everyone else back and get ready to shield against… well, everything else."
After giving the two adults a few seconds worth of head start, Harry raised his weapon high over his head and began funneling his magic into his wand-turned-axe as he fought the very order of nature to bring a thunderstorm into existence on a cloudless night. Dark, moisture-heavy clouds began to form overhead under his guidance as wind whipped across the school's lawn. Harry let the storm build, growing stronger and stronger under his guidance. It was one of the most difficult things in his repertoire to execute: calling on magic to pervert the natural order. Not only was it draining to call a storm into existence using pure magical power, but it took incredible concentration to keep it from either falling apart and dissipating or cascading out of control and turning into a monster that tore its way out of his ability to control. Lucky for him, the magic thrown around during his final duel with Voldemort had destabilized the atmosphere enough to spawn a storm naturally, allowing him to call upon its power without having to devote the effort to create or maintain it.
On the other hand, Harry knew from previous experience battling them that between their infamous skin and general hardiness, there was no such thing as 'overkill' when it came to dealing with trolls. So for them, he was willing to bring in the big guns and damn the consequences. He hadn't let Hermione get hurt in the initial timeline, and he'd be damned if he was going to let anyone get hurt this time around. Raising the axe to the sky, he concentrated on what he needed the clouds to provide… and then he struck.
The jolt he'd given Narcissa at the end of their fight was a flaring matchstick in comparison to the bonfire he was unleashing on the unlucky trolls. At the last second, Harry cast the strongest shield he knew in an attempt to protect himself as the air was superheated to nearly twenty-eight thousand degrees by the twin bolts of lightning that lanced down, each striking a troll directly. On the opposite side, as per his instructions, Lily likewise threw up a shield as the shockwave produced by the sudden superheating raced outward. Reinforced by Narcissa, her barrier shifted the blast up into the starry night sky. He, on the other hand, was thrown back as the blast slammed into his shield and blew him clear off his feet.
A sharp spike of pain slammed into Harry's head, making him momentarily worried that he'd been struck by a flying piece of troll or something, and then his body began to move of its own volition. Rather than worry Harry further, though, it was actually rather comforting; Mjölnir had done the same thing to him several times in the past and it was always the wand acting to preserve its owner. His tumble slowly stabilized as tendrils of his magic entreated the axe to respond to his needs, the head pulsing with blue energy, and then he came to a halt, floating in midair over the lawn as he stared down at the two steaming piles of troll.
After a moment, Harry looked away from his defeated opponents and noticed two things. One was the clump that was his friends and their parents, staring up at him in awe. The other was the headmaster, his professors, and the group that included his father… standing at the entrance to the school and looking at him with similar expressions.
"Bugger." One hand released Rensaren's handle, shooting to grab his throat. Or was that her throat now? Because evidently Harry had managed to turn himself into a girl again somehow. In front of the entire school. And a bunch of parents. "Double bugger."
Tucking one of her red braids back behind her ear, Hermione watched as her friend was ushered towards the front doors of the castle, his mysterious axe thrown over one shoulder as his mother and the mysterious Lady Malfoy did their best to block him from view. Or would that be 'her' from view? Because for one moment their eyes had met, and Hermione had found an undeniably female face staring back at her. Who was kinda cute, with her red hair and big blue eyes and… Hermione shook her head. She needed to focus. Mostly because she had no idea what the hell had just happened.
Well, there was the obvious. Harry had flown. Not on a broom or anything, either. He'd just… defied gravity for the hell of it. And brought down three trolls by himself, two by calling down lightning from what had been a cloudless sky. Not to mention the whole gender-changing part. She hadn't been a member of the wizarding world for long, but she was pretty sure that sort of thing wasn't normal. To say nothing of the fact that for some reason, people listened to Harry when he shouted orders. Not just her, but the rest of their friends, and even his own mother and Lady Malfoy. As he'd put it to her, he'd had a plan and she hadn't… but what kind of eleven-year-old boy could create and execute a plan to deal with a trio of mountain trolls in a matter of seconds? Especially when most everyone else was screaming and running for safety?
And what exactly were the dynamics between the Potter and Malfoy families? According to Daphne, Harry and Tara were related through his father and her mother, albeit distantly, while tonight… Lord Potter had seemed to barely tolerate the presence of his cousin, while Lady Potter and Lady Malfoy were apparently good friends. Lord Malfoy seemed to hate everyone but his wife, but that fit well enough with what she'd heard from… well, everyone. But how had two women who were so very different struck up a friendship, especially in the face of husbands who loathed each other?
A tap on her shoulder made her look back at where her father was staring at the still trolls with awe. "Is that the sort of thing that normally happens here at Hogwarts? Because if it is…" Hermione held her breath. Their second visit to the magical world and they'd been exposed to a random attack brought to an end by an insanely powerful boy-turned-girl her own age. They weren't going to pull her out, were they? "…we're definitely going to have to talk to your headmaster about making a donation. That was like something out of Lord of the Rings
. 'You shall not pass!' and all that rot. To have my daughter someday able to do the same thing… that would be amazing!" Her father chuckled and rubbed his hands together. "Too bad we're not allowed to tell people about this. Wonder what Jeff would say if I told him my daughter knew magic. His little cricket-playing ponce of a son wouldn't sound so special anymore, would he?"
God, her parents were so embarrassing sometimes…
Eyeing her robes with disgust, Daphne waved her wand and muttered a few domestic charms to remove the stains, dry, and press them before turning and doing the same for Tracey. Ugh. Thank Merlin she'd actually taken the time to learn a few things that time their house elf got food poisoning from snitching raw shrimp, or else she'd be walking around looking like a slob until she could fetch new robes from the tower.
That had been a rather… interesting… display. Daphne looked around, finally spotting her mother's blonde hair amongst the returning crowd as she and her father made their way back over towards her, 'Aunt' Claudia trailing behind them. Daphne simply narrowed her eyes at her parents; they'd pulled her upright and tried to drag her off with them, only to leave her behind to save themselves when she'd stumbled and fell.
When the trio finally reached where she and Tracey were standing, her stepmother hauled Tracey into a hug before leading her away to talk to her, leaving Daphne with her mother and a father who didn't seem to know which woman - and daughter - he was supposed to be dealing with first. Finally, after a tense moment, he let out a sigh and drooped. "I'm going to be buying you two a lot of clothes and jewelry to make up for this, aren't I?"
"Although to be fair, it's not like either of you was actually hurt…"
Daphne just glared.
After shooting furtive glances back and forth to make sure nobody was looking her way, Su took a deep breath and centered herself. While the Black Lake was too far away to be of any use to her, the storm that Harry had called into being - while dissipated - had left the air quite humid, giving her plenty of moisture to work with. It was a bit awkward to step out of her normal pattern of 'push and pull' to just pull, but after a few tries, she slipped into a comfortable rhythm and began to draw the moisture from the air, drops forming and then falling to earth around her to extinguish the smoldering grass that surrounded the two decimated troll carcasses. And by Tui and La did she wish that she was of air affinity so that she could disperse the stench that hung over the area. She'd smelled some foul things in her travels, but electrocuted troll was on a new level of disgusting.
As she worked, Su pondered the rather… interesting… display of spellcasting Harry had just put on. Oh, she'd seen plenty of elemental magic in her young life and even knew a bit of it herself, such as the technique she was using to douse fires at the moment. That wasn't the interesting part, per say. No, what interested Su greatly was that Harry apparently had the ability to bridge what - at least amongst her people - were mutually exclusive domains of magic. Gathering a storm from nothing and then calling down lightning… either a shuǐ dǎo gōng shī and a qì jié gōng shī working in close concert or an extraordinarily powerful shuǐ dǎo gōng shī could manage the former, while a select few huǒ guǎn gōng shī were capable of the latter. But to do it all, on his own, at his age? It defied everything she'd been taught about those with powers like hers. It was a mystery. Yet another mystery to add to the enigma that was Harry Potter.
And she didn't like mysteries.
Especially given she wasn't close to solving any of them.
He had a rough, albeit conversational grasp of Mandarin - and she really did need to corner him one of these days to see exactly how fluent he actually was - despite coming from a rather isolated and uninspiring part of England. He was too mature and intelligent for his age. If she didn't know better, she'd think he was repeating his first year with how easily he performed each and every assignment the teachers threw his way. But given he could use a wand - and she'd seen him both in the sunlight and in Quirrell's garlic-packed classroom - he couldn't be a vampire whose age exceeded his appearance, and if he was some sort of pretender hiding out in the form of Harry Potter, she reckoned that his parents would have figured it out by now and exposed him. And even then… she wasn't sure Dumbledore himself could have performed the magic Harry had that night and he was widely regarded as the most powerful wizard in Britain, if not all of Europe. If Harry was a more powerful adult wizard, why would he be hiding as the eleven-year-old son of an auror captain and his homemaker wife instead of installing himself as the Minister for Magic or something?
Maybe it was time to reevaluate her attitude when it came to dealing with one Harry Potter. For the last two months, she'd generally been foisted off on Hermione while he paired with Daphne or Tara. And while Su quite enjoyed the muggleborn's presence and the intellectual stimulation of a partner on the same level as her, it also meant she was missing out on a chance to get to know Harry better… and that just wouldn't do.
"Now, I think we all know why we're here…"
Harry looked around, frowning as he took in the relatively large group filling the headmaster's office. Dumbledore himself was there of course, along with the four heads of house, his parents, the Malfoys, Frank Longbottom, three strangers also wearing the red cloak of an auror, and Amelia Bones. He'd have to speak carefully, Harry realized; not only would there be a lot of people sitting there waiting to tear his lies apart, but some of them were trained to do just that for a living. As the silence dragged on without anyone making an effort to break the ice, Harry decided to open things on a light note. "I don't suppose it's to sample your candy collection. I hear you're quite the aficionado." Pausing, he grinned and gave mother a thumbs up. "Hey, you're right. That Word-a-Day calendar you bought me really does come in handy."
While there were apparently few in his audience with a sense of humor, the joke earned a snicker from his mother's direction along with an outright laugh from the headmaster. Dumbledore pulled out a tin of lemon drops, offering them first to Harry and then the others in the room before taking one for himself. "Now that niceties have been observed… I believe there are at least three different topics of great import that need to be discussed this evening, young Mister Potter. The first is the most interesting wand you wield. The second is how you came to defeat three fully-grown mountain trolls this evening. The third… is why I would have been referring to you as Miss Potter had this meeting occurred half an hour ago. In what order we discuss them is up to you."
Hmm. Was an alternate order even possible? After all, the second and third couldn't be answered without explaining the first, and the third was also directly tied to the second. So perhaps one-three-two instead of one-two-three? That didn't change that the beginning of the conversation, at a minimum, was set in stone. Ejecting his wand from its wrist, Harry held it up for a moment so everyone could get a good look before commanding it to transform into its axe form once more, eliciting gasps from his audience. "Well, according to what Ollivander told me at least? The Norse wizard who claimed to be Thor, the God of Thunder, made wands for his four children. Three of those wands were destroyed over the year. This is the fourth: Rensaren, the wand of his only daughter Thrúd. For some reason, Thrúd's son gave it to an Ollivander for safekeeping and it's been passed down through the generations, waiting for its new owner to come along and claim it. And when I went in for my wand this summer… it picked me."
Frank Longbottom's immediate reaction to Harry's statement made it very clear that Neville's apple hadn't fallen far from the tree. "That's an artifact listed on both the Bundesministerium der Zauber and Magidepartementet's Class One returns lists. And all this time it's been sitting in one of Diagon Alley's most heavily trafficked shops?" Shaking his head, he reached forward and patted Harry on the head condescendingly before reaching down to grab Rensaren. "Well, thank you for finding such an important piece of history for us, Potter. I'm sure… whoever ends up with it… will be very grateful to see it returned to its rightful owner."
"I wouldn't…" Harry tensed as he felt his magic respond to Rensaren's call, energy racing down his arms and releasing in the form of tendrils of electricity that lashed out at Longbottom's hands until the man cried out and fell backwards. "…do that if I were you. Rensaren chose me. It doesn't want to leave. Trying to separate us will make it angry. That was my wand being irritated. You wouldn't like it when it's angry." Waiting until after the glaring man had reseated himself, Harry turned his attention back to the headmaster. "Which has a bit to do with your second question. How I took care of the trolls, that is. Rensaren doesn't want to leave. That includes losing its owner to death."
Dumbledore stared at him intently for a moment and Harry felt a gentle nudge against his occlumency shields before the man sat back in his throne-like chair. "I see. Shall I take it then that you are implying that your wand acts of its own accord to protect you since it 'doesn't want to leave' you? And that your defeat of the trolls this evening was not in fact your victory, strictly speaking, but merely a case of Rensaren working through you to ensure your continued well-being?" Harry nodded, wondering whether or not the man would buy it. After all, if Dumbledore believed him - or at least didn't challenge him publicly - the others would likely follow. "A number of different woods are known for producing wands with unique, semi-sentient qualities even before the age and history of your wand are taken into account. I believe I'll write Garrick come morning, both to corroborate your story and to see if he can shed any further light on Rensaren's history and capabilities."
Hmm. The question then became whether or not Ollivander - or at least that was who Harry assumed 'Garrick' was - knew something that might contradict his story. On one hand, he and his family had been Rensaren's caretakers for generations, giving them ample time to study it. On the other hand, if it'd been dormant that entire time… how much could they have learned? Harry gave a mental shrug; he doubted Ollivander would lie to Dumbledore even if he asked, so what would be would be. Before he could restart the discussion, either to further elaborate on his answer to Dumbledore's second question or start in on the third, his father spoke for the first time since they'd arrived in the headmaster's office. "Why is this the first I'm hearing about… any of this?"
Harry shot a look his mother's way, meeting her eyes and using legilimency to slip a thought into her mind. She rolled her eyes, breaking the connection, but humored him and opted to go along with his plan. "Well maybe if you were home and awake for more than an hour or two a day, you might know something about what's going on with your children. Hell, James, even when I do try to talk to you about them, all you ever do is brush me off."
Just as Harry had hoped, things quickly went downhill from there as James was unable to keep from rising to the bait. "So hex me if I've learned to tune you out after ten years of coming home to you complaining about the latest hell 'my son' has raised. It gets a little old after a while, going off to work each day to earn the galleons that pay our bills, and then coming home to listen to you bitch about the children you're supposed to be keeping under control. Because unless I'm wrong, that's your excuse for staying out of the workforce: staying home to raise our children."
"Actually, I believe my 'excuse' was that I was tired of listening to your stupid excuses for why it was better for the kids to stay home with me instead of attending the local primary school until it was time to go to Hogwarts. Besides, you're the head of a ridiculously wealthy family, James! Why do you even need to work? The Potters from now until Harry's grandkids could live comfortably off the money sitting in your family's Gringotts vaults."
"If that's the kind of husband you want, maybe you should have married Lucius bloody Malfoy!"
"At this point, I'm starting to think that maybe I should have!"
"Like he would have let you bring home any of the muggle stuff you've junked up the manor with."
"Yes, because God forbid you ass backwards purebloods find your way into the current millennia. Oh no. We own an automobile. Good Lord, I've dragged the Noble and Most Ancient House of Potter kicking and screaming into… 1885."
"Ahem. I have absolutely no interest in Lady Potter." All attention came to rest on Lucius and he shrugged before waving dismissively at Lily. "I just thought I'd make my thoughts on the subject known."
A scowl twisted the previously placid Narcissa's countenance at that. "Yes, your tastes seem to run more towards Mediterranean these days." When Lucius looked her way in surprise, the witch jabbed him in the chest with one finger. "Don't think I haven't noticed that an increasing number of your business trips lately just so happen to be to one of the biggest remaining siren enclaves in the world…"
And then the room devolved into chaos as two loud but completely separate arguments broke out, leaving everyone else to look on in shock and confusion as Harry sat back in his chair and smirked.