The Aftermath p1
I suppose that this chapter is technically akin to what I did when I split the original Chapter 4 into Chapters 4 and 5 to accommodate an increase in material without making the chapter unduly long. Except… oh wait, that one got new scenes too on top of extended versions of existing scenes. So… yeah, this is pretty much another case of what I did then. Yay? At any rate, this includes some pieces from both Wand of Uru
2.0's Chapter 10 and Second Life
's Chapter 10 that were cut as I stretched out the other scenes, a few pieces of each story's Chapter 11 clipped and moved into this chapter so I can extend the quidditch scene, and some new stuff on top of all that. Oh, and I know that it's tàijíquán or tàijí quán in Hanyu Pinyin and that Harry probably would have been taught that name by the first Su or had his pronunciation corrected by the new Su… but I really don't want reviewers going "whah?!" or trying to uncorrect the real name each time I use it. So I'm sticking with 'tai chi' when I refer to it in Wand of Uru
for my sanity's sake.
It took nearly twenty minutes for even Dumbledore to defuse the two manufactured arguments occurring in his office, after which mutters about tiredness and work the following morning began to pop up. With his questioners growing increasingly impatient and sloppy, it was child's play for Harry to evade and deflect their queries - he'd trained under the undisputed master of the field, after all - until they eventually gave up. For now, at least, they were willing to accept - or rather forced to accept because they didn't have the energy to push harder in search of the truth - a story containing only the barest hints of the truth: that Rensaren was a millennia-old semi-sentient magical artifact that was willing to take things into its own hands, so to speak, to ensure the well-being of its wielder, and that it had shown him the spells needed to survive his encounter with the three trolls.
In the end, the topic he'd been least interested in discussing had gone largely overlooked; as far as Harry knew, the gender-bending was nothing more than an undesirable side effect that came with channeling great amounts of power through Rensaren. There was no need, therefore, to segregate him into a private room out of fear that boys might do something untoward to his female self, nor could he use his rather limited shifting ability for inappropriate purposes without preparations that would attract a great deal of attention.
Harry doubted that tonight would be the end of things and that Dumbledore suspected - quite rightly - that there was more to things than what Harry had said. But given that Harry was the sole expert present on all things Rensaren… well, it wasn't even his word against theirs. Just his word. So while yes, he was lying to them, how could they possibly prove it? And while they were all unhappy - or pretended to be so, in his mother and Cissy's cases - about a first year possessing an ancient magical artifact of great power, none of them were capable of touching Rensaren nor was Harry keen on surrendering it. When the clock struck midnight, Harry received permission to return to his dorm and took the wand in question with him as he left. Nobody tried to stop him.
Harry found himself whistling merrily as he wandered the corridors back to Gryffindor Tower. Oh, he was sure there would be some sort of fallout from this in the days and weeks to come, but for now… Quirrell was foiled, he'd never even had a chance to move on the Stone, and the man would think twice before making a move around a quantity as unknown as Harry. The fact that he could now mock Neville about 'bravely' running off to hide in Hogsmeade during the attack if the wanker bothered him again was only a bonus.
One of the great bonuses of having living parents around, Harry decided upon arriving at the Fat Lady, was that they could override the school's staff when it came to things such as his health. And so against Dumbledore's wishes, he wasn't spending the night in the hospital wing 'under observation'. Not that he had anything against Madam Pomfrey, but one visit with her per day was more than enough in his book. Besides, his body had reverted to normal roughly half an hour after he'd defeated the trolls. It wasn't going to spontaneously reappear no matter how long they stared at him. There was nothing to observe. And he felt great. Better than great. Well, the blast had left a slight ringing in his ears for a bit and he'd needed a few goblets of water before he felt quite right, but all the diagnostic charms had come back normal and so in his mother's mind, that meant he was fine to spend the night in his own bed. "Victory."
"I hear you had a great one this evening, young Potter. Go right in. Your friends decided to stay up waiting for you." The Fat Lady chuckled as she swung open. "I haven't seen such a tightly knit group of first years since your father and his friends back in 1981…"
Raising an eyebrow at the comparison between him and his friends and the Marauders, Harry tapped his wand against the top of his head and disillusioned himself before slipping through the portrait hole. After the long and exasperating meeting in the headmaster's office, while he was eager to see his friends, Harry really wasn't in the mood to lead his peers in the same circles for another hour or two… or be stuck dealing with a crowd of false friends who now wanted to pay attention to him only because he'd done something noteworthy. Surprisingly enough, given their known ties to him, a quintet of girls were sitting alone in one corner of the room on a trio of two-seaters that had been arranged like a triangle: Hermione, Daphne, Su, Tracey, and - much to his amusement - a Tara sporting hair the same shade as his mother's. Curiosity piqued, Harry slowly circled around the common room to see what the quietly chattering group was up to.
"…so, we're in agreement then that Harry may be smart and powerful but he's got the common sense of a cabbage, and that it's up to us to make sure he doesn't kill himself with some stupid macho stunt?" Hermione looked at each girl in turn, waiting for them to nod before moving on. There were no dissenters. "Good. And so, with that in mind, I hereby call the first meeting of Harry's Angels to order."
Harry bit his lip to keep from laughing. Well, it was better than SPEW, he supposed. Moving to stand behind Tara, he canceled the charm hiding him from view and leaned over the back of the two-seater, ruffling her hair. "Good evening, Angels."
There was a brief pause and then all five girls were up and launching themselves at him. "Harry!"
Sprawled out half atop Narcissa, Lily pressed herself against the taller woman's side as she let her fingers trace over her lover's ribs. "Not sure how I feel about your performance tonight." The older woman raised an eyebrow at that and Lily hastily amended her statement. "At Hogwarts. Not just now. Loved that. No, it's just… Harry asked me to take the opening I was being given to derail things and I did because I knew it was safe to." Sliding her leg over Narcissa's hip, Lily moved to straddle her taller paramour, staring down into Narcissa's eyes as she brought one fingertip up to trace the partially healed bruise that marred the left side of Narcissa's jaw. "We both know what Lucius is like. You didn't have to risk it. You shouldn't have."
Narcissa turned her head so she could press a kiss to the tip of Lily's finger. "Didn't have to but I did. I wanted to help Harry. Even if the end result was… unpleasant." Frowning, she worked her jaw a few times. "One of these days, he'll get everything he deserves and then some."
"What he doesn't deserve is a wife as wonderful as you. James doesn't either, for that matter." Narcissa gave her an odd look and Lily went back over her last sentence in her mind a few times before sighing and swatting Narcissa's shoulder. "Well, James wouldn't deserve you but what I actually meant was Lucius doesn't deserve you and James doesn't deserve me. And you knew that." What she'd seen tonight in the headmaster's office… it wasn't the man she'd married but it was someone she was familiar with. She should be; she'd dealt with the arrogant little bastard for the first five years of her schooling. James Potter had grown up and that's why she'd chosen to start a family with him… and now he was reverting. And she wasn't going to tolerate it. "You know, a record number of girls bought my charm for their uniforms this fall and I have a few new things I was going to sell Madam Malkin. I could probably support us and the kids until we can find jobs or we can turn a profit by selling our stock back off."
Reaching up, Narcissa slowly ran her fingers through Lily's lengthening red hair. "Which reminds me… tell me again why I had the goblins invest in fruit?"
Lily furrowed her brow. Fruit? Oh! "You mean Apple? It's a company that makes muggle electronics. I wasn't too sure about it either because they're weren't doing too well last I heard, but I forgot our source of advice isn't a normal financial adviser. He's a time traveler. Evidently between now and when he came back, the company goes huge. Some music device that takes the world by storm."
"…since asking for details will just get me a bunch of information I don't understand, I'll just leave it at that I guess. Makes a bit more sense when you put it like that, though." Narcissa looked around before waving at the crumpled red cloak thrown over the table in front of Lily's vanity. "Speaking of making sense… I can understand how it was easy for me to sneak out tonight. After his outburst, Lucius decided to have a few and then floo off to Merlin knows where. If he asks, I can say I was out getting healed by a friend so I didn't have to visit St. Mungo's and answer awkward questions. But… well, I was surprised to get your summons. Where's James? Work yet again?"
Shaking her head, Lily traced the gold pendant resting against Narcissa's breastbone: an intertwined lily and daffodil. Using the Protean Charm to link it to the identical necklace she wore, Lily had created a method for them to communicate with each other that so far neither of their husbands had noticed. "He knew he was destined for the sofa and left without a fight. I'm guessing he's at either Sirius's or the Leaky Cauldron since the wards around our cottage at Godric's Hollow never flared."
"His loss is my gain."
"And mine." Abandoning the pendant, Lily let her fingers trail along Narcissa's skin until they encountered a curly black tendril of hair. "Have I mentioned lately how much I love your hair like this? Only thing that could make it better would be pure black… or maybe black with red streaks."
Narcissa let out a chuckle at that, reaching up to twirl one of her blonde streaks around her finger. "You know why I can't go back to just black. As for red… its day may come. I just keep reminding myself that it could be worse. He wants me like this as a way of marking his territory, plain and simple, and I'll take this gladly over the fully blonde look I managed to negotiate him down from." She scrunched up her face in disgust. "I tried it for a few hours the day after we got back from our honeymoon, just to humor him. It came to an abrupt end when I ran into a portrait of Abraxas Malfoy and he mistook me for his wife." She let out a full-body shudder at that, nearly dislodging Lily from where she was perched, before abruptly perking up. "Although while we're on the subject of mistaken identity - also known as me very obviously changing the subject - I can't believe Harry didn't recognize me until you told him who I was."
Tipping forward to press her chest against Narcissa's, Lily let out a laugh of her own as she rested her cheek on her lover's collarbone. "I know! I even warned him that you were there and looked different. But nope. 'Hey, Mum! Who's your friend?' How on earth that boy managed to defeat a version of You-Know-Who, I'll never understand. Maybe his was just really pathetic compared to ours?"
"Mmm, maybe. Just out of curiosity, why are we lying here naked in your bed - with your children soundly asleep and your husband gone for the time being - discussing your son? Am I the only one who can think of a better use for this time?"
"…well you aren't anymore."
Following his rather one-sided encounter with the three trolls, Harry noticed everyone looking at him differently. It was to be expected, really; a single troll would have caused most adult wizards significant difficulty and he'd taken out three as a first year. A fact that, thankfully, kept them from remembering or talking about the part where he'd turned into a girl. The headmaster had offered an explanation that wasn't - that he had a unique wand with unique properties - and after being stonewalled by Harry for a solid week, eventually the questions had subsided. And while the treatment was more than a little annoying, Harry found himself the recipient of an unexpected bonus: despite not knowing what was going on themselves, his Angels had loyally closed ranks around him and so the six of them were getting closer with each passing day. He'd even managed to convince them to get up and go running with him every day.
Or, more accurately, they were taking their self-appointed duty to keep him alive far too seriously and refused to let him out of their sight except for trips to the bathroom and sleeping. Even if it did mean getting up at five o'clock in the morning to go for a run around the lake with him.
Personally, Harry was amused that they all came out every morning rather than delegating the responsibility to two of their number, or perhaps alternating between those two so they could take turns having to get up ridiculously early. It would have made things easier on him as well, to be honest. Hermione and Su naturally had the easiest time of it: the former was still in great shape from playing field hockey while the latter enjoyed the health benefits that came from regularly practicing tai chi. The others, though… Daphne and Tracey had a slight advantage due to the number of stairs they had to climb each day as they came and went from Gryffindor and Ravenclaw Tower respectively, but that only meant they were a tiny bit less red than Tara as they lagged behind the others.
At least they were all mostly appropriately dressed for their morning runs now. Harry snorted as he thought back to what some of the girls had worn for the first few days. Poor Daphne still had that bruise on her shin from when she'd tripped over her ankle-length skirt and fallen hard. Taking pity on them, he'd owled home with a list of measurements and color combinations… along with where he'd hidden the five satchels he'd snuck into the order at Madam Malkin's. His mother hadn't been terribly amused to find out about that little bit of unauthorized spending, but thankfully she'd been willing to help him out anyways. And on the Wednesday after Halloween, his machinations finally came to a head as the combined efforts of Silver Star, Albiona, and a borrowed Maau Tau Jing delivered five care packages for his Angels.
Sadly, Harry had been forced to sacrifice the bag intended for his own use to make sure that none of the girls were left out, which was a shame because they were one of his better ideas if he did say so himself. Each satchel had been charmed to greatly expand the capacity of the main compartment while always remaining light enough to not be a burden for its owner, and both the piping used as trim and the patch on the flap had been recipients of the same charm Madam Malkin used on students' robes and uniforms. Arriving at Hogwarts in pure black with the school's crest emblazoned on the flap, each had shifted to adopt the appropriate house patch and piping in the house's primary color when first touched by their new owner.
It was hard to tell which the girls had been happier about: the free satchels or the goodies Harry had stuffed them with prior to handing them out. After all, even if the clothes weren't quite the style some preferred, free clothes and shoes were still free. One afternoon when Dora had been free to watch the twins - and Cassie - for an hour, his mother had apparated to Truro to pick up a variety of muggle clothes for his new running companions. And despite her irritation with him for both buying stuff without her permission and expecting her to spend more money on his friends' behalf, Lily had given the project her all both when it came to shopping and the following wandwork. Each girl had received a new pair of trainers, along with two velour tracksuits charmed to match their house colors - and bearing some useful charms as well, such as being waterproof and heating or cooling the girl as the weather demanded - and a handful of tees and tank tops to wear when the weather improved. And some tube socks, because one could never have enough socks even if they weren't woolen. Even Tara's Vow-induced special needs had been accounted for: she'd received green and silver leggings and Lily had incorporated the Evans Charm into the pants of her niece's two tracksuits, allowing each to shift into a skirt that looked similar enough to the other girls' pants while being baggy enough to not impede Tara's range of motion.
Actually, the more he thought about it, he really ought to amend his earlier statement. Harry knew of at least one of them who was far fonder of her free bag than her free clothes…
"I swear to God, I'm a gold chain and a crooked cap away from being the Chavette Queen. My parents would be horrified if they saw me like this." Hermione grunted as she decided to leap up and over a good sized rock instead of detouring around it, stumbling a bit on the landing due to the unstable ground before catching herself and returning to her complaining. "I think I'm going to leave the stuff you got me behind when I go home for the holidays. Maybe sneak into the second year dorms at the end of the year and stash it under my future bed for the summer. Pretty sure Mum would disown me out of shame if she ever found something like this in my trunk…"
Harry chuckled, and then broke into outright laughter at a mental image that Hermione's words spawned. "Well, I'm sure if you asked her nicely, Madam Malkin could make you some nice Burberry tartan robes? Oh, and a matching school hat that you can wear pointing off at an angle?"
Growling, Hermione put on an extra burst of speed so she could catch up with him and punch his arm. "Shut up. I'm serious. And you're the one who's going to end up regretting it if I get caught with this stuff. Because if I do bring it home and my parents kick me out because of my chavtastic new wardrobe? I'm coming straight to your house and your parents can pay to feed and clothe and educate me. Your mum seems nice, I'm sure she'll help out the nice muggleborn girl whose life her son ruined."
The spectacular display of melodramatic hyperbole made Harry roll his eyes. "First of all, if you'd actually brought some decent running clothes from home in September, you wouldn't be stuck in the chav suit. I could have owled them to Mum for charming and you would have been set. Second of all, I offered to let you send Albiona to your parents - and Su offered you Maau Tau Jing - to fix that mistake. You said no because you said your parents were freaked out by all the owls sitting around in broad daylight when they went to Diagon Alley. And thirdly… with how you were looking at the current mistress of Potter Manor at the Samhuinn festival, I think you're just looking for an excuse to move in."
Hermione was oddly silent after that.
She was also about as red as the loudly puffing Daphne.