The Aftermath p2
Since one of my betas is working a lot more lately and the other is just plain MIA, I've decided to release at least another small chunk that one of them signed off on before falling face-first into work. Sorry it's not more, but hopefully I'll hear back from someone soon and I can release Aftermath p3 and then start in on the Gryffindor versus Slytherin quidditch match.
As their run came to an end and most of the girls began making their way up to the school to get ready for the upcoming day, Harry lagged behind and then followed Su as she made her way over to the Black Lake. Having not met Su in his original universe until after she was well on her way to mastering the skill, Harry had often found himself wondering exactly how someone learned to manipulate water solely by channeling their magic through pure force of will. Therefore, he found her morning exercises fascinating to watch as they pulled back to veil to reveal the answer to that mystery.
It was connected to her fondness for tàijíquán, evidently. After starting out by running through a shorter form twice to warm up, Su moved into a substantially longer form that caused a tendril of water to slither up out of the lake, flowing around her body in graceful looping arcs as she progressed from movement to movement. Eventually, she finished with her tàijíquán and moved on to a series of motions that, while still remarkably graceful, were faster and more precise, sending the tendril of water slashing and stabbing out at an invisible opponent. That was followed by Su pulling the water to her to create a writhing globe of fluid from which she began firing bullet-like bursts of water.
This at least was very familiar territory for Harry; the staples of the arsenal he'd seen her unleash against Death Eaters while fighting beside him and Luna. It was both interesting to watch and useful in that it helped him gauge where she was in the development of her powers compared to the Su he'd eventually come to know in his original universe: obviously behind her seventh year self, but skilled enough that he was willing to move her from the 'needs to be babysat' category to 'able to fend for herself'. At least until she proved otherwise.
Finally, Su glided to a stop and dismissed the last of the water she'd been controlling with a flick of her wrist, returning it to the lake from whence it'd came. After standing there for a long moment with her back to him, long black hair fluttering in the breeze, she turned her head to the side and called back over her shoulder to him. "Well? What do you think? Not quite as flashy as what you can do, I know, but I'm proud to be a shuǐ dǎo gōng shī. Mostly because our family has the smallest number of shapers out of all the Hundred Families, and the ones we do have are tǔ yùn gōng shī. Which is strange if you think about it, since we've made our living from the sea for generations… fishing, shipping, trading. You'd think we'd be the types to stay on land. Although my cousin's talent is even stranger than mine; Alezae is an qì jié gōng shī." Harry stared at her blankly and Su rolled her eyes before wandering over to retrieve the top from her tracksuit. "Earth and air are opposing elements, Harry."
Yes, because he was supposed to know that sort of thing off the top of his head. Hell, Harry was having a hard time just trying to deconstruct the three similar terms he'd heard her use to figure out what she was talking about. The first - shuǐ dǎo gōng shī - was easy enough; he'd heard the original Su use it to refer to herself as well. A 'water-guiding master', give or take. Given her comment about her relatives and land, it made him fairly certain that his guess of 'earth-moving master' was close enough. And her cousin Alezae - wasn't that French? - was… perhaps an 'air-halting master'? Although… "Isn't 'master' a bit ambitious at your age? Shouldn't you be a…" He trailed off, digging for something he'd heard Su use once to describe their peers. "Shuǐ dǎo gōng xuéshēng?"
"And there's you using that language you're not supposed to know. Again." Su smirked at him as Harry cursed under his breath, wondering when he'd gone from someone capable of organizing a generation of witches and wizards to fight against evil to someone who got tripped up talking to eleven-year-old girls. "Your secrets are starting to stack up, Harry. Mandarin, you're too smart and mature… and now elemental magic, that wand of yours, and turning into a girl. We've stuck by you so far but… well, I won't speak for the others. I just know I'm going to need at least some of the answers. Soon."
Harry nodded; as undesirable a prospect as it was, he should have anticipated it. Especially given the caliber of companions he'd chosen to surround himself with. There was just one problem, or rather one beyond his own reluctance to spill his secrets. "Some of the things I'm hiding… it's not because I want to, Su. It's because it'd be dangerous for you to know them."
After staring at him for a long moment, Su shrugged and turned away before shrugging on her red velour jacket. "Well then no offense? But if us knowing the truth about you is really that dangerous to us? Then maybe we should find a less dangerous person to be friends with…"
"…I sat down and prepared this really long and informative speech that I could give you out here, including a history of the Æsir and Vanir and how their war and unification led to the discovery of a method of partial immortality… but it's chillier tonight than I thought it'd be and so the sooner we're done the better in my book. Especially for Daphne. So, long story short?" Harry drew his wand and held it up before shifting it into its axe form. "My wand isn't just a wand. It's Rensaren, the wand and weapon of Thrúd Thordotter, only daughter of Thor Odinson, supposed Norse god of thunder. All of the Norse wizards and witches who played at being deities put some of their mind, magic, and even a fragment of their very soul into one of their possessions so that it could be passed from host to host, creating the illusion of immortality when dealing with lesser magicals and muggles."
The girls - or rather all the girls save Tara - stared at him in disbelief for a long moment, and then Hermione spoke up. "…so in other words, the Norse gods were nothing more than a bunch of people who invented a very complex magical way to complicate the whole Dread Pirate Roberts thing?"
…he'd never really thought of it that way, but it seemed like an apt enough comparison and so if that was the easiest way for Hermione to wrap her mind around things… Harry nodded. Drawing on knowledge that had just up and appeared at some point - probably on Samhuinn, but he couldn't be sure - Harry continued his explanation. "Just with less voluntary retirement and more death on the battlefield. In the case of Thor and his family, they used their wands to preserve themselves. The first Thor had three children and a step-son: Magni, Módi, Thrúd, and Ullr. They achieved their 'immortality' by passing their wands to their children and their children's children, while Thor's wand Mjölnir was passed down through a number of great warriors."
"Huh. I was expecting metamorphmagus with identity issues or maybe 'I'm really a girl and take a potion to look like a boy for some odd reason, and it wore off so you saw the real me before they managed to cram more down my throat' or something… but this does make a strange sort of sense if you think about it. I mean, assuming you're telling the truth about all this, that is." Tracey tapped her fingers gently against Daphne's shoulder as she thought, her half-sister burrowed in under one arm to share body heat. "After all, you said that the point of their discovery was the 'illusion of immortality' for the Norse 'gods'. It'd be hard to step into the shoes of a dead woman and replace her as that goddess if she was a redhead who was one height, and you were blonde and six inches taller than her. So obviously there has to be some sort of appearance-altering magic built in. Although if they were passed from father to son or mother to daughter within a family, it probably would never be much of a change. But the magic would still need to be there, just to smooth things out when there are differences, and so when you take the wand that wants to recreate a redheaded Viking woman and give it to an English boy…"
Nodding, Harry stayed silent, waiting to see how the others reacted. Perhaps if he was lucky, they might take the idea that Tracey had just verbalized - the wand recreating a goddess using him - and try to use it to explain other 'off' facets of his behavior. Granted he wouldn't be able to use it with Su to explain his foreign language skills, but- "And from there, it all falls into place if you think about it. Tracey's right about the appearance magic. But there'd need to be more than that. Obviously there'd need to be a boost to magical power and skill, which we've seen ourselves. But what if the new goddess runs into someone the old goddess knew well? There'd need to be some sort of ordinary memory transfer built in to the process… personality too, probably. So then look at Harry. He's too mature, too intelligent, and too girly for an eleven-year-old boy… but not for a boy who's got the mind of a grown woman who lived for God only knows how many years rubbing off on his." Hermione looked Harry up and down before snorting and grinning. "Wanna trade your pants for my skirts? You might feel more comfortable that way."
Wow. Save for the insults directed at his masculinity, this was working out even better than he'd- "Actually, Harry's been 'effeminate' for as long as I've known him. He helped his mother cook for the family before he got the wand, and Daphne and Tracey first met him when he had me invite some friends over for tea and splits." …fuck you, Tara. Harry shot a glare at the Slytherin, carefully positioned a few steps behind the others where she could stick out her tongue in retaliation without the others spotting her. Leave it to her to keep him from having an easy time of things. "Although I don't remember him ever letting the twins put a dress on him or paint his nails or anything, so he could just be a mummy's boy."
"Speaking of his mother…"
"You like to, I've noticed. Especially in your sleep."
"…shut up, Su." Hermione blushed brightly, shooting a scowl at her dormmate as Harry cringed. He made a mental note to never say anything crude about Cissy to or around Tara. Suspecting one of your friends thought your mother was hot? Gross. Knowing it for sure? A hundred times worse. It did make Harry think back to that letter he'd gotten from the mysterious dreamer, though. Hermione was evidently going to display a pattern of interest. Maybe he could use that to find another, non-Potter redhead to throw at her before she started dating one or both of his sisters? "I take it your mother knows? I was trying to figure out why she was so willing to let you give her orders when the trolls attacked, but if she knew all about this… well, of course it'd make sense to her to let you take over. What about the rest of your family? And Lady Malfoy took orders just as easily, so I'm guessing she knew too? And…" Hermione glanced back over her shoulder at their group's sole Slytherin member. "Tara? I mean, she looks about as surprised as someone being told the sky is blue."
Tara met Harry's eyes and waited until he gave her the slightest of nods before confirming Hermione's suspicions. "Mother spent a lot of time at Potter Manor this summer because she was planning the Samhuinn festival with Harry's mother. I went along with her sometimes and… well, stuff happens. I found out back in August. Have to say, though, I'm a bit surprised at how well you're all taking this. Mother and Aunt Lily realized something was off and attacked Harry. After what you saw on Samhuinn… I'm sure you can guess how well that turned out for them."
"Why? If any of us were going to freak, it'd be Hermione because she didn't grow up around magic, and she seems to be doing fine. The rest of us… the wizarding world is full of strange and unusual things. This isn't any stranger to me than a talking painting of my dead great-uncle who likes to brag about how he escaped from a nesting Chinese Fireball on a broom after sneaking in to touch one of her eggs on a dare." Su looked from Harry to Tara and back a few times before shrugging. "Okay, maybe a little stranger, but not much. Plus I figure… well, it could have been worse. I'm sure I'm not the only one who was thinking up some bizarre and crazy theories to explain everything I'd noticed that seemed 'wrong' with Harry. Fine, so our friend is a goddess-in-training or something. At least he's not one of those creepy, sunlight-proof sparkling vampires I hear they have in America, or a grown man masquerading as an eleven-year-old for some strange reason."
The latter of Su's theories was getting a bit too close to the truth for Harry's tastes, and so he decided to retake control of the conversation while he still could. "Well, to be fair, I'm not exactly training for anything, at least voluntarily. I don't want to become the new Thrúd; I rather like being the Potter heir, not the heiress. And before someone points out the obvious, yes, I do turn into her - or rather a young version of her - once in a while but I always turn all the way back into myself, so I don't think it's gradually changing me or something. Can't really say for sure until I go through a few more changes, and even those can't be predicted. I threw around a lot of magic when I dueled Aunt Narcissa and my mother and didn't change, but I changed on Samhuinn and when I bought… my… wa-" Harry came to an abrupt stop as it hit him. "I think it has to do with using Rensaren as Rensaren."
Slipping out from under her sister's arm, Daphne spoke for the first time as she began to back away from Harry, staring intently at the axe he was holding. "One way to find out, yeah? Just… don't call down enough lightning to fry us. I'm rather attached to being alive, after all."
"You say that like I'm not."
"You did attack three trolls."
"Point." Harry turned his attention inward as the rest of the girls backed off, slowly gathering power and channeling it into Rensaren until tendrils of electricity crawled over the head. Spinning around, Harry let out a grunt as he thrust the axe forward and released his power, firing a bright blue bolt into a nearby tree stump. It detonated and, acting on instinct, he quickly conjured a shield to protect himself and the others from the fast-moving debris, watching as the translucent blue wall flared and rippled with each impact. Once it finally settled down, Harry reached up to tug at his hair and frowned. Still short. Hmm. Looking up at the cloudy night sky, he grinned before pointing the axe back at his friends and conjuring a small pile of umbrellas: three red, one blue, and one green. As they scrambled to open them, Harry thrust Rensaren skyward and went to work.