Chapter 4: Back to...Normal?
Harry remembered the one time Fate and Nanoha had sparred at Hogwarts. At the time it had seemed incredible, but over the year everyone realized that the Japanese girls used bright, shining magical spells for even simple tasks. It was a lot less scary to think about their fighting being flashy than destructive, so without realizing it he, as well as most of Hogwarts, had adjusted their expectations where the girls' native spells were concerned.
The sparring room turned out to be a fairly well equipped gym with a large open space dominating the center. It reminded Harry a bit of what a muggle gym would look like with all kinds of equipment scattered in a ring around the room, except the ceiling, floor, and walls all had magic circles engraved in them. There were a handful of people on the weight machines in one corner and Nanoha was in the middle of a stretching routine in another. Several of the mages looked nervous when Fate walked in.
Fate smiled and faved at Nanoha. "Nanoha! What are you doing here?"
"Just some light exercise," Nanoha said. "Hey, Harry."
Fate smiled innocently. "Harry was looking bored so,"
"Oh Sankt Kaiser," one mage murmured.
"I thought a spar might cheer him up a bit," Fate finished innocently.
"Run, kid," another mage advised, only half joking.
Harry suddenly realized the three children had commanded the attention of the handful of adults in the room. He had, naturally, assumed they were all far superior to Nanoha and Fate in power and knowledge. Years of constant bullying had taught him signs, though. They looked at the girls with the same kind of respect Dudley's gang looked at him with, but they didn't have fear edging those gazes. Or, not the same kind of fear. Harry didn't have anything to compare their wariness to and floundered for a bit, trying to figure out what he was seeing. One thing was clear though, Nanoha and Fate were the baddest witches on the ship.
And Fate had just invited him to duel.
Yeah, running. Running sounded like a good idea. Long hours of Harry Hunting had taught him the value of knowing when to run and those instincts...were completely at peace. Wait. Harry's brain stumbled again and silently raged at whatever vile force had flipped up for left and down for backwards again.
Suddenly Harry realized Nanoha was talking. "...Quirrel taught you a few jinxes, right?"
Harry nodded hesitantly. "I kinda learned more from Ron," he admitted. "And Hermione. Ron's were more interesting, though. Hermione just studied everything out of Standard Book of Spells. Ron got his from his brothers."
"Then you probably have a bigger bunch of wand spells than we do," Nanoha said happily. "This'll be a good spar."
Harry saw Nanoha's wand in her hand and realized with growing alarm that at some point in his distraction he had been put into the center of the room and his own wand was in hand. Nanoha was wearing that weird combat getup and he was in something that might have been a dueling stance. This was a bad time to be distracted! "Uh, uh, are you sure this is a good idea? I mean, uh, your spells tend to go...wrong," he said lamely.
Nanoha pouted. "That's why sparring is so important! It's a chance to figure out what I'm doing wrong."
"Yeah but it's not really safe is it?" Harry argued. He glanced around and saw the adult wizards looking at him with...oh bollix. That's the look the little kids gave him when Dudley wailed on him in the park! 'We're sorry you're about to have your arse fed to you, but better you than us, mate.' That's what their eyes were saying.
Nanoha sighed and took her necklace in her off hand. "Raising Heart, please," she said.
"Wand emulation, enhanced," the mechanical voice announced. "Stand by, ready." Pink light flared around Nanoha and formed lines of power that spun rapidly. This was not the semifamiliar circle and square diagram Harry had seen but a chaotic and ugly mess of magical power that hovered and wrapped itself around Nanoha like some kind of squid, the thickest tendrils wrapping solidly around her wand hand and the white and pink shaft of wood she held.
"What's that?" Harry asked.
"It's a crutch," Nanoha said glumly. "Mari worked it out a couple weeks ago." The original version was nearly a year old now, but that was a complete mess of code and magical power that just didn't work well. Mari knew lots more about wands now, she was still chatting with Mr. Ollivander and all, and had decided that getting a device to interface with a wand would work way better than doing it all on its own. There were still a lot of bugs to work out, though. "It keeps me from getting my spells wrong."
Harry blinked. "That's kinda neat. So you won't blast me now?"
Nanoha hesitated just a bit too long. "Yes."
Harry didn't buy it. "Uh, really?"
"Well, not anything you can't handle."
Harry swallowed loudly. "But...wait, we're underage! We can't use magic anyway!"
"We're not in England," Fate pointed out. "Not even on Earth. We don't need to play by their rules here."
Harry shot her a betrayed look and turned back to Nanoha, hope dying in his chest. "Any way I can get out of this?"
"Tarantallegra." Apparently the answer was 'no.'
Harry jumped away from the green spell and searched his brain for a suitable reply. "Rictusempra," he fired back on a silver bolt, and the duel was on.
As wizard duels go, it was fairly tame, although the sheer power behind the witch's spells was odd from one so young... as was her demented joy at the experience. For a spar with Nanoha Takamachi, it was downright boring. Harry lasted a good twenty seconds before Nanoha landed a sticking hex on Harry's feet. Unable to move, Harry gave up three spells later, lying on the floor feeling completely exhausted.
"That was interesting," one of the mages said. Harry glanced over and saw money, candy, and bits of stuff trading hands.
"You bet on us?" he asked.
"We always bet on the White Devil's spars," one mage said casually.
"The white what?" Harry asked, getting annoyed. Privet Drive, Hogwarts, now a magic spaceship. He had a foot in three worlds, how was he supposed to keep up with that?
Nanoha walked over and gave Harry a hand up. "I told you not to call me that," she complained.
Harry's irritation vanished in a wave of comprehension. Nanoha's outfit, white, and she was certainly scary enough... "Who was brave enough to call you that?" he asked before his brain-mouth filter could stop him.
Nanoha scowled and Fate giggled, making Nanoha scowl harder. "I think it was Vita, that time we saw Hayate at the hospital."
"What I want to know is how anyone heard about that," Nanoha muttered.
"Story like that gets passed around a lot, ma'am," one of the adults drawled.
"Could I hear the story?" Harry asked.
The man laughed. "Sure, kid. This happened Christmas before last..."
Harry settled down into his cabin and looked around, wondering exactly how many trucks were going to run over him. It had been a week since his rescue from the Dursleys and things hadn't gotten back to normal. In fact, Harry was pretty sure he had to completely redefine 'normal' because what used to be normal apparently wasn't. Or something.
After his duel with Nanoha he had been given a few clothes to wear on ship. They were cut similar to the day uniforms of the mages on ship, but where they had blue and white Harry's were red and gold, Gryffindor colors. He didn't know what to think of it at first, but later the same day they had teleported down to London. That was when the first truck hit Harry. That first outfit was just what they could put together for him on short notice, so he'd have something presentable to wear when properly shopping for an entire new wardrobe.
"But I need that money for school stuff," Harry had protested.
Lindy gave him a sharp look that Harry recognized from Mrs. Weasley. It was a "be quiet and do what I tell you, young man" look that all mothers had. Well, except Aunt Petunia. Hers was more "make yourself useful, freak." She then calmly explained that it was not Harry's job to pay for basic necessities. That was the duty of his guardian, her duty at the moment. "And if you think I'm not going to do my job properly, you have another thing coming!" she finished with smile.
It didn't end there. That first day Harry got a full wardrobe of muggle and wizarding clothes. The next day, they went toy shopping. Harry had never owned a toy that was his, just his, and Lindy took Fate, Nanoha, and himself on a tour through Diagon Alley's most frivolous stores. Harry had been afraid to buy anything but Lindy had given him what she called an allowance. She said it was 'normal' for children to be given small amounts of money to spend on fun things however they wanted, and she didn't want Harry coming back to the ship with so much as a knut unspent.
The day after that they went to a movie. Harry was so glad he didn't have to buy anything and happily munched on his snacks as the somewhat cartoony film glazed his eyes over. He wasn't sure why Lindy looked so smug though. Maybe she had really wanted to see the movie?
The next day they went to Gringotts. That had been a trip all by itself...
Lindy and the goblin, Harry thought his name was Grahag, talked about a lot of boring-sounding things about Harry's vault. Lindy said she was trying to find out how much money Harry had, how much he could take at once, and what rights anyone else had on his money.
That made sense to Harry. Lindy was a lot nicer than the Dursleys ever were, but they were always complaining about how much he cost them. And Lindy had already spent loads more on Harry than Uncle Vernon ever had. Harry just hoped she'd leave enough to get him through Hogwarts and get a job.
That was when the goblin turned to Harry. "Mr. Potter," he said in the tones of someone who was repeating himself, "how much pocket money did your relatives give you?"
Harry blinked at the question. "Pocket money?" he asked.
"Like an allowance," Lindy explained. The goblin shot her a warning look and she quickly closed her mouth.
Harry shook his head. "I don't understand," he said. "They never gave me anything like that."
"I see," the goblin muttered, writing something down. Harry wondered what was going on and asked as much. "Mr. Potter, your parents arranged a trust vault for you so that you would always have money for reasonable needs growing up. When they died, their personal vaults were willed into that trust as well..." Grahag realized he was going above the child's understanding. "The Dursleys have been getting monthly payments out of your vault for the past ten years," he simplified. "They promised to spend that money on you. They didn't, so they have to give the money back."
"All of it?" Harry asked.
"Plus interest," the goblin said evilly.
"How much?" Harry asked. The goblin said a number and Harry turned to Lindy. "Is that a lot?" he asked.
Truthfully it wasn't that much for the care and feeding of a child for ten years, let alone in comparison to its value after the Potters' assets were willed to Harry. The trust had clearly fallen behind inflation and was never intended to provide for all of Harry's expenses, just help ease the burden on a family budget. Even so, "Yes," Lindy said. "That's a lot of money."
Harry looked at Grahag. "So what happens to this trust thing now?"
The goblin blinked. "When you have a new guardian, payments will resume."
"So, you'll start paying Admiral Lindy?" Harry asked.
Lindy blinked. "Harry," she said firmly, "I don't need your money."
"You actually don't have much of a choice," Grahag said. "The trust itself is not under your control, or Mr. Potter's. You will get the first payment by owl on the first of the month, unless you would prefer other arrangements."
Harry smiled broadly. She had to accept his help now! Lindy looked like she was going to argue the point but something about his grin stopped her. "Okay then," she said slowly. She scratched down account and routing numbers on a scrap of paper. "If you could send the funds to this account, I believe you already have set up transfers with it under the name Fate Harlaown."
Grahag waved his hands oddly for a moment. "A year ahead of her age in Hogwarts," he said a moment later. "No family resemblance. Your adopted daughter, I presume."
Lindy nodded. "I'm already pulling the school budget through that account."
The goblin shrugged. "Money is fungible. As long as Mr. Potter is cared for appropriately, the trust is satisfied."
Harry pulled himself out of the memory. It didn't make a lot of sense, looking back. He always got so confused when money came up. He just knew that he didn't want to be a charity case, but he was afraid someone would take what little he had. But he actually had a lot? It was easier not to think like this. Not thinking was something Harry was becoming pretty good at. He had toys and games and all sorts of stuff now. No wonder Dudley was such an idiot. One toy in particular was looking fairly shiny...
Harry shook his head. He didn't want to become an idiot like Dudley, that was why he was thinking so hard! "Where was I?" he muttered under his breath. Oh, yeah. Gringotts.
When they had got back to the ship it was obvious Hedwig was going a bit nuts. Harry was slowly getting comfortable on the space ship (and the moments of remembering that he was seriously in space were not getting old any time soon) but Hedwig almost seemed more agitated being out of her cage but still in doors. And she was a lot less appreciative of the window view than Harry was.
Weirdly, no one noticed how she shuffled her feathers and shifted around but Harry. But when he went to Gringotts, Hedwig went mental. She had been hooting and flapping around and generally making a ruckus until Harry came back. Nanoha and Fate figured she needed some proper exercise, but for some reason that suggestion just made her panic worse. (This was also the incident that convinced the crew that Hedwig was actually smart and not just well-trained.)
That led to yesterday. They all went down to a park, Harry didn't have a clue where, and played around outdoors for a few hours. Harry chose a trail at random and started walking, shouting promises to keep his phone on and with him at all times. Hedwig had nipped Harry's ear and flew off into the trees. He saw her flitting around from time to time or circling high in the sky. He had grinned, this was good for her. At one point he lost sight of her, but an hour later she was in the sky again. He raised an arm deliberately and Hedwig landed on his shoulder, a letter on one foot.
It was from Ron, and his parents, inviting him to the Burrow for a few days. "Mum is going a bit mental after hearing everything those muggles did to you. I haven't seen her cook so much since George came down with a flu."
Harry had never been invited to a friend's house before (he'd never had a friend before!) and was really eager to go. He was surprised that Lindy seemed to think it was a good idea, too. Even Fate and Nanoha were helping him figure out what to take with him.
That led to Harry, sitting in his room, with bags half packed of brand new clothes and a barely touched toy broomstick (Dudley would have had a tantrum at only taking one toy with him, but Lindy was certain that wasn't normal behavior and even seemed a bit put off by Harry's stories) trying to process just how different life was. He had things. Valuable things. Fun things. And not just heirlooms...although the invisibility cloak hidden in the toy bag was still more important to him than the rest of it, but it was an heirloom. That was Dad's cloak. The toys and clothes were Harry's. That was important, somehow.
There was a light knock at the door and Harry looked up. "Hello?"
The door opened slightly and Lindy peeked in. "Can I come in?"
Harry blinked a few times and then nodded once. "Uh, sure."
Lindy opened the door fully and walked in. "Thanks. Almost ready?"
Harry nodded and looked around. "I'm not sure I've ever had this much stuff before," he confessed. "I hope I can carry it all."
Lindy frowned. "I'm not sending you off on your own, Harry," she said sternly. "I'll be with you until you're settled at the Weasley's."
Harry blinked. "You are?"
"Of course," Lindy said with a hint of pompousness. "I, unlike your aunt, am a proper guardian, remember? There is an order to things, and that order says you carry your toy bag and let a grown up," she gestured to herself with a melodramatic flourish, "worry about the boring stuff."
Harry smiled shyly at the over the top tone Lindy had ended with. "Um, in that case I think I'm ready."
"Good," Lindy said. "I'll take your bag then?" Harry thought that over a moment and nodded once. Lindy walked over and picked up the bag. "Come along, Harry. Ensign Joanes wants off teleporter duty before lunch."
Harry hefted his much smaller toy bag easily and nodded. "I'm ready!"
When the bright lights of teleportation vanished, Harry found himself standing in front of the strangest house he had ever seen. He couldn't decide how many floors it had, and neither could the architect because parts were clearly taller than others. Even his untrained eye saw at least four different styles in the building, most of which clashed. It was, he decided, the kind of house Aunt Petunia would insist needed to be demolished to make way for decent folk in a normal house identical to, but obviously not as good as, her own.
Harry loved it.
"Hey, it's Harry!" Harry looked up at the half-familiar voice. One of the twins was overhead, riding a broom with a quaffle under one arm. The other twin was swooping in from a makeshift quidditch pitch. Harry didn't even bother to try and figure out which was whom.
"Bit early for quidditch isn't it?" he called up.
The twins shrugged. "After Wood's training, who could tell?" Harry recalled Oliver Wood's insane scheduling and nodded in glum agreement.
Lindy looked up with a pleasant smile. "Could you tell your mother that we've arrived?" she asked politely.
"Sure," the closer twin said, coming in to land. His brother followed and they opened the door. "MUM!" one hollared inside, no sense of propriety at all.
"Harry's here!" the other added.
"With a woman!"
"Probably not his mum."
"Since, you know,"
"FRED!" a matronly voice bellowed from inside. "If you so much as consider finishing that thought you will not sit on a broom for two weeks!"
George turned to grin at the nonplussed Lindy. "She'll be out in a moment."
Harry had known many intimidating women in his life. Aunt Petunia could throw a pan halfway across a room at a moment's notice. Professor McGonagall could freeze a student in place with only one eye. Admiral Lindy could reign in the White Devil. Nanoha, for all that she was a girl, was the bloody White Devil.
Somehow the red-headed apron-wearing panther of a woman that was Molly Weasley was more frightening than any of them. She stormed out of the house with a face so exasperated Harry could not imagine what she was used to dealing with. "Going out on brooms at the crack of dawn! You could have fallen! You could have died! You could have been seen! I swear you two are such irresponsible, immature, ooohhhh...get yourselves inside and get yourselves cleaned up this instant! Hello, Harry dear." If Harry didn't know what to make of Mrs. Weasley when she was mad, this sudden change was even less comprehensible.
"Hello, Mrs. Weasley," Harry said politely.
"Oh, aren't you precious," Mrs. Weasley cooed. Harry wondered if he was in for a round of fawning like Dudley got, but Mrs. Weasley's attention had drifted to Lindy. Harry looked over the house again and saw Ron run out of the house.
"Harry!" Ron yelled happily. "About time you made it! The papers have been going barmy ever since you got taken from the muggles."
Harry grinned. "I bet. I was there, remember? But, it's still going on?"
"Still?" Ron guffawed. "It's just getting worse! It's like every family there is has written to the editor about what's best for you."
"Wow," Harry muttered. That was...weird. "There's gotta be better news though, right? I mean I'm just a kid."
"Well there's some noise about a book signing this week in Diagon Alley." Ron rolled his eyes. "Gilderoy Lockhart. Mum thinks it's a crime you've bumped him down to page 3."
"Ronald!" Mrs. Weasley snapped. "That is not what I said! I said it was shameful that such an accomplished wizard's articles are being overlooked in favor of mindless gossip."
"Because Lockhart's articles aren't gossip at all," Fred added.
"They are informative and useful," George said seriously. The twins' solemn delivery seemed even more sarcastic for the lack of any sarcasm in their tone.
Ron grabbed Harry's hand and pulled him towards the house. "Come on," he hissed. "Mum's going to lay into them for that!"
Harry looked the Weasley matriarch over and decided he didn't need to be within range when her patience ran out. "Lead on, then," he agreed.
Inside the house, or "Burrow" as Ron called it, Harry had to stop and stare. He'd thought he was used to amazing sights. Hogwarts was filled with magic, while the Arthra had dulled him to a very different kind of magic and technology. But the Burrow was the first time he saw magic in a real home, and he found himself completely unprepared for flying needles knitting a sweater, magic books scattered about bookshelves, more than a few redheaded photographs waving cheerily, and a lot of the same toys Harry now owned (and a lot more besides!) scattered over almost any surface. Even the clocks were different, one which pointed to times like "TIME TO EAT" and another with every member of the family pointing to places like "HOME" or "SCHOOL" or "WORK."
Harry turned slowly, nearly tripping over his own feet, and looked at Ron. His friend was biting his lip and looked very nervous. "This is the best house I've ever been in," Harry said honestly.
Ron's ears went pink.
Nanoha rubbed her face furiously.
"Tired?" Momoko asked sympathetically.
"Yeah. I haven't gotten a lot of sleep lately."
"With all the time you've been spending on the Arthra, I'm not surprised."
Nanoha winced at her mother's tone. She had been away all year and was going to be heading back to England again soon and now she was spending even more time away from family. "It's not like that," she protested. "Harry needed some familiar faces."
"You're a sweet girl, Nanoha," Momoko said more gently. "And a dear friend, too. But you can't keep running yourself ragged like this."
"I know," Nanoha said with no conviction at all. "And it's over for now. Harry's visiting Ron this week. I probably won't see him again until we all go shopping for school stuff."
"You're all going together?" Momoko asked.
Nanoha grinned slightly. "Yeah...it's kinda a conspiracy to keep Harry safe."
"Keep him safe? Safe from what?"
"Well that terrorist guy is still out there, and now Harry doesn't have those wards protecting him. The Weasleys' house is practically a fortress with what Dumbledore called generational wards, and Hogwarts is even safer unless Voldemort posesses another teacher. Diagon Alley,they figure it's best that Harry has some extra protection."
"And you volunteered?"
"Well I'd want to go anyway," Nanoha protested.
Momoko sighed. "I guess I should just be proud you're getting into the family business."
OMAKE: This line came to me about a month ago but there wasn't any good place to stick it in. I FEEL NO SHAME.
"So what do you do on that ship, Harry?" Ron asked.
Harry thought about all the amazing things on a space ship but knew that Ron just didn't know enough about muggle technology to understand the analogies Harry could use to explain what he saw. Instead, he told Ron about muggle entertainment. The Dursleys never let him near a TV, but Lindy had given him access to a computer and a few lessons in finding interesting things. The Arthra had an easier time patching into the internet than television broadcasts – Harry hadn't followed why but they had done it before so it was easy. Harry spent a few minutes regaling Ron with a story of a bloke that dressed up in a green speckled suit and found his similarly dressed parents only for them to explode while an American dressed as a bear laughed at him.
"Muggles are barmy," Ron declared at the end. Harry didn't disagree.