AN: Hello, all! I'm trying my hand at a challenge fic so I thought I'd try out DZ2's 'Harry, the Twice-Blessed Half-blood' challenge. This story was already sitting in my plot-bunny file before I even found out about the challenge so I thought this would be a good chance to get it out there.
Also, I speak American English but I do try to keep the vocabulary in my stories congruent with the way the characters would speak, so if you're not familiar with English from the UK, there will be definitions at the bottom along with notes about monsters and stuff.
Warning: I'm crap at action scenes so I'll just apologize now for how unsatisfying they will be. This isn't me being modest either, I'm really bad at them.
Plot: Every Half-blood has one god parent, this we know. However, Harry is different because of one reason: through ways of the divine, he has more than one god for a parent/guardian.
Light, Grey, or Dark Harry
Harry's first god parent MUST be one of the twelve while others can be any of the Greek/Roman Mythological forces: gods, deities, divines etc.
Harry and Percy MUST have different views of right and wrong.
Either Thalia, the Di Angelos, or Clarisse must be allied with Harry — any others are up to the writer.
Whoever is Harry's first god parent MUST break the law and talk/interact/meet with Harry — they do this because of Halloween and they don't want to lose him again.
If Harry is Dark, Luke MUST see Harry as the new leading force of the New Olympus and pledge to serve him instead of Kronos.
Any pairings are welcome
Tom and Dumbledore must both feel wary about Harry when he comes into his godlike powers.
The Horcrux is destroyed — unless Harry's other god parent uses it to determine him as theirs
Even though he leaves Hogwarts for CHB or his own dwellings, Harry must keep in touch with his friends.
At least one of Harry's friends — or a redeemed friend if you want to use someone like Draco or Severus — must be a demigod.
Sirius and Remus do not abandon him.
Harry and Percy as enemies. Nope.
Immortal Harry. Maybe.
Master of Death Harry. Maybe.
The force that determines Harry is a primordial ex. Thanatos, Erebus, Nyx, Chaos, etc. Nope.
Harry saves Luke before Kronos gets to him. Accepted.
Harry's god parent — the main one — is one of the Big Three. Hmmmmm.
Lily/James were that particular god in human form. Nope.
Others of the HP universe are demigods. Accepted.
A prophecy made about Harry. What, other than the one about 'born as the seventh month dies'?
Slash. Nope, not my thing.
The PJ/HoO universe being diverted from canon due to Harry's involvement. DUH!
Kronos — somehow — is Harry's god parent, so a Titan!Harry could be allowed too. Nope.
Harry remaining the naïve, malleable wizard/demigod people wish him to be
Harry's main god parent being anything other that Olympian/Roman
Dumbledore and Tom as allies of Harry
Sirius and Remus abandoning Harry
Disclaimer: This will apply for any future chapters I might add as well. If you recognize it, it's not mine. If you don't recognize it, it's probably still not mine. Any writing of mine will be a patchwork of things I think are cool areas from other people sewn together by the threads of my personal writing style.
Chapter One: The Formative Years
Herakles Potter knew she was odd ("Freakish chit!"). It was the way she seemed to have been born already comprehending the world around her ("Stop looking at me with your damned demon eyes!), remembering things she should have been too young to remember ("Your useless parents died in a car-crash!" — "They were killed. Mum died in front of my crib."). It was the way her aunt and uncle looked at her suspiciously when unlucky things happened even though she had never been the naughty sort ("What do you have to say for yourself?!" — "Why would I even want to do that?"). It was the calm she felt in the face of things she saw other children crying about ("Excuse me, officer, I'm lost." — "When did you last see them?" — "About nine o' clock." — "That's six hours ago!"). It was the way her aunt and uncle refused to use her proper name at all — she hadn't known her name was actually Herakles and not Heri as she had always been called until she had seen Aunt Petunia write it down on her school application form.
"Why do you only ever call me Heri then?" Heri had asked then, violating the rule about not asking questions.
Aunt Petunia's usual sour expression when dealing with Heri became more pinched.
"It's a ridiculous name!" the blonde woman snapped. "What sort of decent person is named Herakles of all things? It belongs on a side-show fortune-teller! And haven't we told you that there will be no impertinence such as asking questions in this house?"
No asking questions: that was the mandate that Heri was to live by if she wanted to retain her ability to remain within the Dursley household. Not that she was really keen on sticking around, but there were little other options for a little girl outside of living on the streets until she was killed, or taking up with a paedophile. As Heri was not eager to die or be perved on, she did what she could to not get kicked out.
She couldn't help being odd though, it seemed to be some innate part of her. Even still, it was fine enough; with her oddity came a warmth that overcame her whenever she was down, a sense of otherness that made her feel as if she wasn't really alone in the world.
Discounting the mess with her parents' death, the first time something tried to kill her, Heri was four years old. Aunt Petunia had let her play in the garden that day, happy to have Heri out of the house while she watched childrens' shows with Dudley. Heri took advantage of the rare opportunity to play without Dudley fouling things up for her and poked about the backyard to her heart's content.
She was tending to the weeds around the poppies when she heard the rasping of something moving on the dirt. Soft hissing came from the direction of the mint.
§Sscent . . . plump flessshh . . . Ssssooo hungry . . .§
Heri scooted back from where she had knelt and scanned the plant-life warily. She had never heard such a voice before.
§Where, where? Musst bite . . . strike . . . kill . . .§
Heri was nothing if a child that knew danger when it was coming, working through the ebbs and flows of her aunt an uncle's tempers had taught her well. At the word 'bite' she had tensed, ready to bolt as whatever it was spoke of killing. Anyone else might had run off immediately but Heri knew that any sudden movement, forward or back, would provoke a violent response.
Quicker than a blink, something shot out of the poppies, flinging itself at her face. Heri snatched the creature out of the air with a firm grip under its head, plucking another one up as it tried to catch her off guard. She clenched her fists tightly, giving a them a sharp shake at the things writhed in her grip.
In her hands were the oddest snakes. Heri was quite certain that her relatives would deny their existence if they had ever heard of them. They were the size of regular garden snakes but they were of a blue colour she had never seen on any kind of animal, and wings the size and coloration of a pigeon's grew out of their backs. They shimmied pointlessly against her grip, wings fluttering in protest. They hissed in displeasure, spitting out threats and insults.
§What sort of snake are you that has wings and can talk?§ asked Heri, peering at them curiously.
§Morsel speaks! Clever food . . .§
§Bite! Bite! Musst eat!§
Heri shuddered at the thought of being eaten. She shook the one that was squirming the most once again, dazing it. She lifted the one that called her clever closer.
§Of course I speak, I'm a person. It's you that's strange for talking.§
§Meaty mouthful . . . false words. This one . . . without speech of humans . . . the prey hisses . . . the way of serpents.§
Heri wasn't sure how to take such a claim.
§It doesn't matter either way,§ Heri decided. §I'm going to let you go and you two will leave.§
Snakes with wings were cool in theory, but they weren't much fun in reality.
She moved to put the dazed one back on the ground, but as soon as her grip loosened it thrashed violently, baring its fangs at her. Heri caught it by its tail instinctively and whipped its head into the ground. Her foot came up and stomped down on its body with a gruesome CRUNCH.
Where once was a winged snake there was now a flattened corpse. Blood leaked from its mouth and gooey entrails discharged out from where the pressure of her foot had ruptured it.
Heri took in the sight of the creature she had killed with detached interest. She had never killed anything before, not even the spiders in her cupboard. She turned back to the remaining snake now quivering in her fist. She tightened her grip again, almost choking the animal.
§Are you going to go without any trouble?§ She asked it.§Or am I going to have to take care of you too?§
The odd snake agreed to leave peacefully and never bother her again.
Heri decided she had enough of being outside for one day and returned to the house shortly after. She didn't notice the snake she had killed disintegrating into golden dust nor the eyes that had watched.
If one were to ask someone to describe Heri Potter, they would receive different answers depending on the people they were asking. To Vernon and Petunia Dursley, she was a heathen child that was always up to no good; when she wasn't fouling up her chores she was running wild. To the residents of Privet Drive, she was like a changeling from the fairytales: odd, unpredictable, and they were certain there was something off about her even though they didn't have any concrete proof — there had to be something about her, why else would she be so frowned on? But to ask a stranger not yet polluted by the shady rumours about her, Heri was a remarkable, intimidating child.
It was not something one could put their finger on, not one trait that stood out to explain why Heri stood out in a crowd. She was intelligent, yes, but in a crafty way more than highly educated; there was a shrewdness about her. She was confident, yes, but it was a quiet self-assurance instead of the bright-eyed arrogance that was common to her age. There was no doubt she was beautiful, but it wasn't in the eye-catching way people exclaimed about. She had a face that was pleasing to look at that seemed to grow more appealing the more you looked at it; a comfortable sort of lovely.
She could sing, but it was nothing outstanding. She did well in art, but nothing inspiring. She could do sports, play instruments, take care of plants, and get along with animals, but no more than any other person that knew what they were doing. The only thing that was rather out of place was her quick temper and how fast she could run.
Of course, all that was ignoring the strange things that happened around her. Heri was as lost as anyone else when it came to instances where reality decided to go on holiday. She didn't know why that snooty substitute teacher's wig turned blue nor why she had been blamed for it despite the fact that she had been on the other side of the room when it happened. She couldn't explain the lights that shortened out, the cracked mirrors, the irregular speed her hair grew, nor the shaking furniture. If anyone had asked her, Heri would have pinned everything except her hair challenge on Dudley; wanton destruction was his hobby, not hers.
If one were to describe Heri Potter, they would be most accurate in saying that she was a curious girl that was good at many things but great at very little. Whether this was because she was that way naturally or because her family discouraged her in every way is unknown.
The first time an odd occurrence could safely be pinned on Heri was a few days before Dudley and she started primary school. It would be the first time they were away from the house without Aunt Petunia with them since Aunt Petunia was a fussy sort and didn't trust the teachers of the nursery school.
Heri was assisting her aunt in the folding of the laundry while Dudley vegged out in front of the telly. It was slow going because Aunt Petunia was very particular about how the creases sat and arranging the piles by styles and colours. Heri had just finished a stack to Aunt Petunia's exacting standards when calamity struck.
Dudley heaved himself up and bellowed for his mother.
"Mum! I want a snack!"
The sudden loudness just as the two females had slipped into a calm that tuned out the noise of the telly made both of them jolt. In Aunt Petunia's case, she simply sprang to attention to fetch her son something to eat. In Heri's case, she startled badly enough that her stack of folded clothes went tumbling to the floor.
"Oh, you clumsy girl!" Aunt Petunia scolded. "Pick those up right now and start over. I'll not have clothes strewn across this house!"
Heri hastened into action, snatching up the fallen clothing at once. She kept her eyes on the floor as her aunt bustled off to the kitchen. The sound of the refrigerator door opening was heard.
Arms filled with loose shirts, Heri glared in the direction Dudley sat. It was just like the noisy layabout to mess up her chores. This was the fifth time this week that he startled her into dropping what she was carrying!
Heri shoved the shirts back on the table and scowled at them. Then she frowned in concern; one of Uncle Vernon's shirt had a hole in it. There was a split in the seam of where the sleeve met the shoulder. She reached out and pinched it together while trying to decide what to do. Should she hide the shirt? Oh, she was going to get blamed for it either way!
As Heri worked herself into a mini-panic, she felt the hole she was pinching grow smaller. She pulled her hand back immediately in alarm. Then she gaped. There, where a split seam had just been was a perfectly stitched sleeve. It looked as good as new and showed no signs of pulling apart.
Heri rubbed her eyes and looked again. The shirt was still in pristine condition. What was . . . ? Had she just . . . ?
"Stop standing there like a lump and get back to folding!" Aunt Petunia snapped. She had a sandwich on a plate in her hands and was walking toward Dudley.
Heri immediately jumped back into folding, her hands moving automatically. She did her best to appear unbothered though her aunt wouldn't likely care either way. Even as she finished up with Uncle Vernon's button front and moved onto one of Dudley's Sunday shirt's, her mind stayed with the split seam that undid itself. Maybe her relatives were onto something when they blamed her for the oddest things.
Heri spent the next several weeks after that incident trying to fix the tears in Dudley's old clothes. When she finally managed to repair something on purpose, she decided that being able to do odd things wasn't nearly as bad as her relatives made it out to be.
The first time Heri saw what could only be described as the spirit guarding her was when she was comforting a younger child as he cried his heart out on her lap. It was during her second year of primary school. On that day, reception and first year were sharing recess, and her cousin Dudley was revelling in having children even smaller than those he already terrorised to push around. The teachers were sitting on the other side of the playground and either couldn't see what was happening because of the distance that the play equipment blocking the way or they wrote it off as children just playing rough.
Dudley's victim was a sweet-faced boy called Davy, one of the smaller five-year-olds, about as small as Heri had been at that age. Dudley and his pals pinned the younger boy down while they were 'playing Tag' and ground dirt in his face, laughing meanly as they did.
"You're IT!" hollered Piers Polkiss, Dudley's right-hand man.
The children that were part of the game shrieked and ran about.
Davy got to his feet wobbly, tears misting his eyes, and tried his best to tag someone else, but he just wasn't a very fast boy. They all ran from him, calling out taunts and making mocking faces at him. Again and again, he tried to grab hold of someone, but they all stayed out of reach.
Dudley, someone Davy didn't try to tag at all even though the large boy was just as slow as him, soon got tired of waiting for a new person to become It and pushed Davy to the ground once more when Davy came within arms reach.
"You're ruining the game!" Dudley declared, frowning heavily at the boy on the ground. "Piers, you're It again. This loser's too slow to be any good!"
The crowd of children playing Tag immediately forgot all about Davy, not giving him a second glance as Polkiss tagged another of Dudley's bullies, forcing the game back into play.
Heri had been watching from the branches of the tree that she had been chased up in when Dudley's goons once again went about making her miserable. They didn't beat up on her like they did the boys, but they liked to drag her around and pull her hair (at least, they used to before she socked one in the mouth, scaring the bejeebus out of all of them). It was very lucky that she had long discovered that none of the other children could climb as well as she could, making the trees the locations she spent most of the recesses.
She had been keeping a wary eye on the proceedings just in case Dudley got it in his head to try to get one of the other children to pull her out of her tree. It didn't happen often since Heri had proved time and time again that she was slippery as an eel when she wasn't fighting back tooth and nail, but that didn't mean Dudley wasn't stupid enough to forget on occasion. When they had started tearing into Davy, she had watched with the eyes of a hawk, ready to run for a teacher the moment they started to really hurt him.
When Dudley declared Davy too slow to be any fun, Heri was relieved. If the younger boy proved to be good entertainment, he would've become a new target, subject to torment whenever he was spotted. Really, it was to his own benefit that Davy bored them. That didn't stop Heri for sympathising with the poor boy as he was left behind though.
She covertly climbed down from her tree and seated herself at the base.
Davy got to his feet, sniffling all the while, and teetered off to the side. It just so happened that he came in Heri's direction. Their eyes met, Heri pensive, Davy wary. He looked like he was ready to bolt in the other direction — Heri was well known as the only person brave enough to stand up to Dudley, therefore scary in her own right — when she smiled hesitantly at him and patted the grass next to her. Melting under the show of understanding, Davy folded himself into the space next to her and clutched at the hem of her oversized shirt.
Davy's eyes were glassy and his bottom lip trembled. Only his pride kept him from crying as he obviously wanted to. She pulled a plaster from the pocket she always had some in and patched him up. They sat in companionable silence even as the boy held himself back.
After a minute, Davy broke the silence, choking out, "H-h-h-he's s-s-s-s-so mmme-eann. . ."
Heri patted that hand clinging to her in a comforting manner. She wavered a moment before reaching her other arm out toward him.
"Would you . . . would you like a hug?"
Davy didn't hesitate. With little finesse, he threw himself into Heri's arms, wrapping himself around her middle. She eased him into a more comfortable position as he sobbed, smoothing his hair gently as he all but crawled into her lap.
Heri wasn't familiar with hugging or giving/receiving comfort. She would have thought that holding someone as they cried would be terribly awkward for both parties involved. However, it proved to be the opposite. As she held the crying little boy, offering him understanding, she felt as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
A shimmer of form out of the corner of her eye caught her attention even as her hands continued their soothing motions and she cooed quietly in reassurance. Heri looked up to see a ghostly figure of a woman watching them with sharp but understanding eyes. Davy didn't notice as he still had his face pressed into her thigh, but the woman nodded cordially at Heri, much like the way an important dignitary would nod to those attending to them, and then vanished even as Heri was still looking at her.
She caught sight of the spirit more often after that, but it was never more than a few seconds accompanied by a sense of approval.
Heri bent over where she landed and desperately gasped for breath. Her hand shot out to catch herself as her knees buckled, landing with a painful THUNK. Her head spun. She rested her forehead against the ground to relieve the heaviness she felt.
Sounds of shouting and confusion reached her ears after a moment and she lifted her throbbing head once more to survey the area. Confusion filled her. Was she on the roof?
"Where is she?" she heard a boy bellow. "I thought you said she turned in here!"
"I saw her!" another boy cried.
"Obviously not. She's not here!"
The two going back and forth sounded like the pair of Dudley's goons she had just been running from. Heri crept over the to the edge and peered down. There, looking like the stupid apes they were, was Piers and Malcolm, Dudley's main enforcers. One would have thought that after months of not being about to lay a finger on her they would lay off by now. Obviously, she overestimated them.
She shuffled back from the edge on her rear and took a moment to settle her heart-rate. She had done something odd again. She had run into a dead end and tried to jump behind a pair of trash cans welded into place in a wooden shelter. Next thing she knew, she was on the roof.
Heri got to her feet and walked the perimeter of the roof. It was mostly bare besides the door. She tried the handle; the door was locked as well. She let out a huff of frustration. How the hell was she supposed to get down then? She wasn't about to jump, she was two floors up!
She tried the handle again, this time trying to channel the oddness that got her there in the first place. If her weirdness could fix clothes and let her teleport, it was reasonable to think that it might unlock a door for her.
Twist, twist, jiggle—click.
Heri beamed. It had worked! She opened the door and hurried down the stairs as fast as she could without falling. There was still a few minutes of recess left and she didn't want to get in trouble because the teachers couldn't find her.
As she sprinted back toward the play area outside, Heri couldn't help but wonder what else she could do with her powers.
St. Grogory's Primary School soon became a place of the strangest accidents.
By the time Heri was in third-year, she was well known among the teachers as an observer. While the other children vied for attention and couldn't be bothered to see too far beyond their own interests, Heri sat quietly and watched. Unless chosen to answer questions or demonstrate something for class, she only ever watched.
"She's always watching," said Mr. Tisdale, Heri's gym teacher, unease in his tone as he spoke with other teachers during lunch.
While some of the teachers looked at Mr. Tisdale strangely at being unhappy with a child who always paid attention, there were many that agreed with the sentiment.
Heri saw far more than others thought she did. With her quiet, unobtrusive presence, she ended up being privy to many secrets. Far more than they'd ever want her to.
She had sat out in the corridors, looking through a book before classes, and watched as a fourth-year student went down the halls, opening lockers and taking things out of them. He wore worn clothing that was as scruffy as hers were and he had a sly look about him. She had seen him do similarly twice before, but he had become extra shifty now that the school administration was cracking down about the thefts.
She had been in the lavatory and overheard a couple of the older girls talking about boys that they liked. One girl was talking about dumping the boy she was currently 'dating' since she had only been with him out of pity anyway and she had her sights on another boy whose well-off parents gave him lots of pocket-money.
Just before walking into the classroom one day, she had overheard her homeroom teacher talking excitedly on the phone with a friend about trying for a baby with her husband.
"I think we're finally ready," the woman had said. "Adam's stopped drinking so we'll have a stable environment for the baby."
She had been sent during recess to deliver a stack of worksheets to a teacher overseeing detention. Only a few students had detention that hour, not even a handful. Out of the small number, there was a sixth-form boy, Terrence Wright, known for his bad attitude belied by a pretty face. She had paused in the open doorway and waited to be acknowledged by the teacher, but he was occupied keeping a keen eye on the delinquents he was supervising. A bit too keen of an eye when his sights reached Wright. Heri saw quite clearly the gleam in the man's eyes before he noticed Heri standing there.
Heri did not try to hide that she had seen the way he had looked at Wright. Judging by the tense way he greeted her and received the worksheets, he knew very well that she was onto him.
There was little that Heri missed when people let themselves become complacent in her presence. Whether they wanted her to or not, she was always watching.
Heri was hiding beside a fruit stand. A lumbering brute was not ten feet away from her, glaring around the area in search of her. She ducked farther down when he turned in her direction and held her breath.
Heri had been dragged out grocery shopping with her aunt and cousin. She had been told to push the cart around as her aunt looked for deals and Dudley dragged packages upon packages of junk-food back to the cart. Every now and then Aunt Petunia would scold her for slouching or 'looking like a wastrel.' Dudley would make faces at her as he bumped her on his way in search of sugary trash. Heri had been bored out of her mind just before the hairs on the back of her neck rose.
She turned slowly to see what was amping up her danger senses. There, looking ridiculous hold a shopping basket between his forefinger and thumb, was a giant man with one eye. And by giant, she meant giant; his shoulders were level with the top of the shelves. He also had only one eye. As she took in the sight of him and tried to make sense of it, he caught sight of her as well. Knowing better than to stay in place while strange things were happening, Heri booked it around the aisle while her aunt wasn't looking.
An ungodly roar echoed behind her as she ran, and she couldn't help but wonder why no one was at all troubled besides her. Aunt Petunia refused to tell them about the tooth fairy, for God's sake, how was she not bothered by the clearly supernatural happening right in front of her?
Thought was abandoned in lieu of running for her life. Whatever it was was chasing after her, though it was made difficult for him because of the small aisles and his chunky hands. Boxes of cereal and seasoning were knocked off the shelves; jars of were shattered across the floor; preserves and pickled vegetables everywhere; a shelf was dented by the force of the monster running into it.
Heri had flung herself behind a pineapple display and snatched up a box-cutter left behind under the stand. Her heart was going a mile a minute and she was positively vibrating with adrenaline. The safety knife looked incredibly pathetic when compared to what she was up against, but she pushed the blade up as far as it went and held it at the ready.
The monster came barrelling out of the dairy section and had snarled at losing sight of her.
"Come out, little hero," he crooned, falsely sweet. "There's no use in hiding from me."
Heri clenched her eye shut tightly and prayed to whatever powers that be that her weapon would be good enough and that she'd make it out of this alive. So caught up in her praying, she didn't see as the box-cutter gleamed brightly and took on a yellow hue.
"Here you are!"
The creature lunged forward, ripping aside the stand, sending fruit splattering.
Heri shrieked and flung herself to the side, just out of the monster's grasp. Left — right — side — other side — Heri desperately ducked and weaved, turning the beast round and round to stay clear of its hands. Too soon, he caught her by the back of her shirt and hoisted her into the air, grinning foully.
Not knowing what else to do, Heri jabbed out with her box-cutter, blade going right to the face. The tip pierced the monster through its eye, landing almost directly in its pupil. It dropped her like a hot rock and thrashed about, howling in pain. Heri landed on its great forearm and climbed back up it to twist the knife deeper, paying no mind to the blood, determined to end the thing. It fell to the ground, convulsing.
As the monster languished in the throes of death, Heri thanked the powers that be that she'd live to see another day. She climbed off the thing and almost fell to her knees in exhaustion. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply to calm herself down. Dear God, she had killed someone! He was trying to kill her as well but still!
Heri's head snapped up at the sound of her name. Her aunt stood at the entrance of the fizzy drinks aisle, frowning.
"Heri, get over here at once!" Aunt Petunia called, gesturing impatiently. "I told you to stay by the cart! What are you doing over there?"
Heri looked at the place where the body of her kill should have been. There was nothing there. A quick look around revealed that the room was clear of anything that would indicate any kind of battle had just taken place. She looked at her hands that had just recently been dyed red with blood. They were perfectly clean.
Had it all been just some outrageous dream? Was she going crazy?
Something on the floor caught her attention. There, a few feet off from where the monster had lain, was a pocket watch. Bemused, Heri picked it up, testing the weight of it in her hand. It appeared to be a perfectly ordinary pocket watch until she opened it. Inside, on top of standard time markings, the clock showed days, weeks, months, moon cycles, and planetary movement. She gaped at the sight.
"Heri!" Aunt Petunia called again, impatience growing.
Heri tucked the watch into her pocket and trotted off toward her aunt. She wouldn't notice until later that the box-cutter followed her home.
St. Grogory's Primary School was one that specialised in Classical Studies. Every second day, they would attend art classes, attending music classes in between. This was because they wanted to promote a sense of refinement on the future generation and because parents paid more when they felt their children were getting better. Fourth-year and up even took Latin lessons, learning the language of the Romans as well as the mythology. At the end of the year, the three upper years would put on a show for the younger children about Roman culture and the gods.
Because she was known for being smart without being a teacher's pet, not a week into her third year an older student approached Heri about doing his Latin assignments for him. He was a lazy rich sort so he offered to pay her as well. Heri agreed easily enough and earned pocket money on top of getting a head start on the class she'd be taking the next year. The boy told his friends about her, and soon she was doing the homework of three other older students as well, getting ₤3 for worksheets and ₤5 for essays, more than enough that at any given time she could buy snacks and sweets to eat.
Heri spent most of her afternoon time that didn't involve doing chores reading up on the Olympians at the public library. The Latin teacher used the myths as the basis of her lessons so the stories they learned the language from were about the Greco-Roman gods shaping the world. Heri learned root words and how they came to be called such as well as marvelling at the outrageous feats the heroes accomplished.
Ceres, known to the Greeks as Demeter, was the goddess of agriculture. She was all about growing things and crops. Her name was where 'cereal' came from, cereal being a food product made of grain, a crop. She was also the reason the seasons existed; her daughter went to the underworld every six months to stay with her husband, and the plant-life began to wilt because Ceres missed her daughter quite a bit. Autumn was when Proserpina — or Persephone — left for the underworld; winter was when Ceres was consumed by her depression; spring was when Proserpina returned to her mother; summer was when Ceres was full of joy.
Heri thought such an explanation was very sweet but wouldn't it have made more sense if Ceres stopped being so sad after a while when it became obvious Proserpina would always return to her? Of course, that would mean the seasons would be drastically changed again, throwing off the process of food production, so Heri supposed everyone was better off with Ceres continuing in her moping.
Another goddess that Heri found funny was Juventas — Hebe — either a goddess or personification of youth depending on what book Heri read. Her name was where 'juvenile' came from, and despite being a goddess of a pretty important part of a person's life, she had only been a sort of serving maid for the gods before she tripped and made a fool of herself, thus getting replaced by her father's boyfriend. (The last fact about Juventas' father's boyfriend was not a part of the school-edited reading of course.) One would think that one of the only two daughters that Jupiter and Juno had together would be treated better, but she was pretty much shoved off to the side until Hercules came along and married her.
Heri was bemused that the one who could be argued as her current patron goddess was married to her namesake. She would have been miffed at being named after a boy if it wasn't for the fact that boys were often named after the Greek equivalent of the goddess Diana, Artemis.
Reading up on the Greco-Roman gods became a hobby of Heri's. Outside of being part of what she was learning in school, it was all very fascinating in its own right. She would find herself thinking how the individual gods would react to situations and what she'd do if she had their powers. It was a great distraction from the drudgery that was dealing with her relatives.
She became uneasy when she discovered stories that mentioned giants monsters with only one eye. The story of Odysseus and Polyphemus reminded her a bit of the fiasco at the supermarket. A cyclops; they had both blinded a cyclops. Of course, in Odysseus' case, he didn't kill it. She had tried to put the memory of running and fighting for her life out of her mind when it was obvious she was the only one that saw any of it, but finding written history — albeit history that was accepted as mythical — talking about the creature and its origins pooled dread in her belly.
No, no! She wasn't going to think about it! Odd things happened around her, yes, but believing that Gods and monsters existed was insane. She was going to put such thoughts completely out of her mind and focus on reality!
Still, even as she put the book away and threw herself into translating a parable about Apollo and the sun, Heri's perception of reality stretched to include things many considered impossible.
Heri loomed angrily over a bigger boy curled up on the ground at her feet, groaning in pain. He glared at her and tried to grab at her ankle, but she pulled the limb in question back and aimed a kick at the offending hand. Said hand was retracted with a shout and cradled to the boy's chest.
Keeping her snarling face pointed in his direction, Heri backed away from him. She wasn't going to let him get the jump on her again.
"I warned ya, O'Toole!" Heri growled. "I told ya that if you touched me again I'd tan yer sorry hide from 'ere to kingdom come! Did ya think I was kiddin'?"
Loosely surrounding the two who had just been fighting were students hanging out on the playground instead of going home immediately. It was after school on a Thursday and this had been the most exciting thing they had witnessed in weeks.
Heri had earned a bit of a reputation after it became blindingly obvious that Dudley couldn't do shit to intimidate her anymore. Hell, he hadn't been able to catch her once since first-year. The dimwits that thought themselves tough shit took her continued freedom from bullying as a challenge. They got it into their thick heads that successfully cowing her would make them the big boss of the school. Bunch of morons. They were in sodding primary school.
Only a few of them had gotten physical with her, the rest weren't cocky enough to actually beat on a girl. Even the few that tried physical intimidation like pushing her around and tugging on her hair had backed off when she socked them good in the gut. O'Toole was a dog-faced imbecile who was the only one that tried fighting with her.
The first time, she had twisted his wrist for trying to grab her and told a teacher on him. Heri had warned him that if he ever did such a thing again, she'd take him out proper. Obviously, he thought he was a match for her. Now he was crippled with pain from Heri knocking him off his feet and nailing him in the groin. How pathetic.
"Violent bitch!" O'Toole groaned, scowling weakly at her.
Gasps of scandalised shock followed. These were kids from good families, words filthier than 'stupid' and 'bloody' were a mortal sin to them.
Another kicked nailed him, this time in the shoulder.
"I asked if ya thought I was kiddin', not what yer mum shoulda named ya."
"Don't talk about my mum, Potter!"
"Who was talkin' about yer ruddy mum? I was talkin' about you. Or are yer ears as lousy as yer brain?"
Another kick, this time the forearm.
Heri heard titters and chattering. She sent a glare at the gawking crowd.
"Anyone else want some of this?"
The onlookers startled and bumped into one another in their haste to disperse.
From across the street, a figure had stood watching the entire confrontation.
Heri couldn't abide liars; she didn't have the patience to deal with divining the truth out of them. In her way of thinking, the world would be a far less complicated place to live if lying didn't exist. That was not to say that she didn't see the use of deception, but speaking falsehoods was a wretched habit.
Besides wanting to live in a simpler world, Heri hated liars for the fact that Dudley was the biggest liar she ever had the displeasure of knowing. He spewed lies so often, Heri would stop to double-check if he said the sky was blue. What was even worse was the fact that Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon swallowed down all of Dudley's lies without a thought, believing him for no other reason than that he was their son. Heri thought that the fact that he was their son was reason enough to not believe a word he said.
What's more, Dudley loved to tells lies about Heri. He told the lunch monitor that she stole another child's cupcake even with the frosting smeared on his cheeks. He told the teachers that she stole his homework to turn in even though the assignment in question was clearly written in her handwriting. He told his parents that she broke his toys even though she had never so much as touched of that she could live with. What she wouldn't accept was him calling her a liar when she denied his claim of her being the real reason he was sent home with a note.
A new student had still been fresh enough to the system to report to his teacher and parents that Dudley was bullying him. Dudley was only reprimanded at first, but the fact that someone told on him and received justice brought forth a slew of other children coming out of the wood-works to call Dudley out. The number of students alone, never mind the severity of what they were accusing him of, was enough to pin him down with several detentions and a note for his parents for a parent-teacher conference.
Once at home, Dudley — ever the deceptive one — gave his mother the note but immediately tacked on that the school had it all wrong and that it was actually Heri that had been bullying the other children, that Dudley had only been trying to stop her. When she refuted it he called her a liar. Such a claim had Heri's blood boiling.
"How dare you say such a thing?!" Heri shouted, her fists clenched tightly. She was filled with outrage that seemed bigger than her body. She had never been so angry before. "How dare you call me a liar when you don't even know how to make a true statement?!"
Petunia swelled in self-righteous indignity. She drew her son into her side as she snapped, "You dare call my son a liar? As if a rotten brat like you could say anything against my little angel!"
Heri was too fed up with it all to be cowed by a shouting adult.
"You'd believe him if he told you they were cancelling Mondays! I'm not surprised you'd believe even though half the things he's in trouble for I couldn't possibly have done!"
"Like what? More assignment stealing and breaking things I'm sure!"
"I certainly couldn't gather up his stupid friends and pants a boy in the boys' loo!" Heri jeered. "I certainly couldn't beat up on half the kids in our year and then threaten them to keep quiet!"
Heri glared harshly at her cousin who actually flinched under the look.
"How exactly just like a stupid boy! I have never said anything before about you blaming me for all the horrible nonsense you get up to, Dudley Dursley, but I will not be called a LIAR!"
"Keep your nasty mouth shut, girl!" Aunt Petunia shrieked.
At this time, likely the neighbours both next door and across the street heard their raised voices. Petunia Dursley was known for her shrill voice and Heri had no desire to hold herself back.
"I WILL NOT!" bellowed Heri. She stomped over to the door and threw it open.
"Go ask!" Heri gestured violently outside. "Go ask anybody — neighbours, children, teachers — and they will tell you exactly what kind of child you've raised! Open your ruddy eyes and see him for who he actually is! Look past your stupid delusions!"
"Get back in this house and close that door!" Aunt Petunia shouted.
By this time, neighbours had actually come out of their houses to see what was going on. Eyes were on them in morbid fascination as they screamed at each other.
"No, no, NO!" Heri stamped her foot in outrage. This temper tantrum had been a long time coming. She threw every bit of her pent-up anger at the injustice dealt to her. She glared at her cousin and snarled at him, "You tell the truth right now, Dudley Dursley, or I'll tell everyone your dirty little secrets! Don't think I don't know about the times you stole money from your mum's purse!"
Aunt Petunia had quite enough of making a spectacle and bodily dragged Heri back into the house. Heri went kicking and screaming.
Suffice to say that was the last time anyone tried to call Heri a liar. Her aunt and uncle were too frightened of the neighbours thinking badly of them and Dudley was too traumatised by all his deceptions coming back to haunt him to even bother her anymore.
The first time Heri spoke with the spirit that watched over her she was running around in the park, evading one of the stupid boys that tried to kiss her. It was after school on Friday and she had been told before she left for school that day that her aunt and uncle were taking Dudley to see the dentist in the afternoon, so Heri could do whatever the hell she wanted until they got back later. Her usual babysitter, Mrs. Figg, was too sick to watch her that day. She had taken the opportunity to play in the park without Dudley hogging all the good equipment.
It was four days until the end of the year pantomime that the Latin students would perform. They were put into groups to organise skits or songs about the gods and their feats as a final project, bonus points if they could speak Latin during parts of it. Ideally, they would entertain the younger students and the visiting parents as well as show how much they had learned. For the end of the show, Mrs. Frederic, the Latin teacher, had pulled fourteen students from all the participating years to portray the Twelve Olympians plus Vesta and Pluto. They would tell the audience about themselves and their relation to the others.
Heri had been selected to play Diana, and she honestly couldn't be more excited. She identified with Diana (what little girl wouldn't?) and had been over the moon (no pun intended) since she had been chosen. Part of the assignment was to create a costume as well, and she had raided Poundland* for cloth and sewing equipment and spent every extra minute she had working on it. She even fashioned herself a bow and arrow! When it came time for a dress rehearsal, Heri was a vision in her belted maiden tunic and sandals.
"Oh, my dear!" exclaimed Mrs. Frederic. "Aren't you just the cutest thing!"
Heri's outfit was the only one that wasn't store bought or just a bed-sheet tied up as a toga. The other girls looked pretty as well, but only Heri looked authentic.
That was when this nonsense with the boys started. They had gone from being too scared of her beating them up to have anything to do with her to bothering her almost constantly. It was like they collectively just realised that Heri was a girl! Granted, she never gave off a girly air, what with wearing Dudley's old clothes and getting into fights, but she didn't think she had looked like a boy.
The idiot that was chasing after her apparently thought differently.
"C'mon, Potter!" the twerp behind her called out. He was panting and looking peeved. "It's just a little peck! Think of it as practising for our roles!"
The moron trying to get a hold of her was a fifth-year student that was the bully of his year level. He had been chosen to play Apollo, god of the sun, because of his bright blond hair and loud attitude. He had been trying to prove himself by landing a kiss on her after she had whaled on him for flipping her skirt up. He was the only one that didn't give up for the day after she knocked him flat. As it was, Heri had tripped him trice, punched him four times, and led him in a merry chase around the park two times already. He'd almost pinned her once when her glasses slid down her nose and blinded her!
He was determined, she'd give him that.
"I've told ya like a billion times, Miller!" Heri called over her shoulder, jumping over a log that the boy tripped over. "Apollo and Diana are brother 'n' sister! They wouldn't be kissin' at all!'
"Jupiter and Juno are brother and sister too! They still got married!"
Damn him. For all that he was an arrogant toe-rag, the boy paid attention in class.
Heri growled, "The answer's still NO!"
It took a sharp turn at the sandbox and a convenient gaggle of geese waddling by before Heri could shake him by scaling the fence enclosing the tennis court and springing herself up onto a tree limb. By the time Miller caught up again, Heri was over two metres up a tree with no branches close enough to the ground for him to reach. She made faces at him at his displeasure.
Miller stamped his feet and fumed but eventually accepted defeat. At least for one day. Heri watched him snatch up his backpack and leave the park with great relief.
Thank the powers that be!
"That was quite a chase."
Heri jolted at the voice coming from behind her. She swivelled around on her branch and caught sight of a young woman standing under the shade of the tree. Heri sucked in a breath, her eyes widening. It was the spirit!
"H-hello?" said Heri.
The spirit regarded her calmly.
"Umm . . . Was there something I could help you with?"
"No." The answer was so resolute, Heri felt her self-confidence take a blow. "Rather, there's something I can help you with."
Heri floundered, flustered for some reason.
"Oh, erm . . . well, then ah—"
"Don't stammer," the spirit reprimanded, her lips pinching a bit in displeasure. "It's very unbecoming."
Heri's mouth snapped shut and a flush spread across her cheeks. Never had she felt so inept!
"That's better." The spirit beckoned to Heri. "Come down from there. Don't dawdle."
Heri obeyed without question; there was something about the young woman that commanded immediate compliance. She swung herself around the tree until she was hanging by her arms and then dropped to the ground, bending her knees to absorb the impact.
The strange older girl observed Heri as she straightened. Her eyes were keen, taking in every hidden detail.
"Yes," she said. "You're coming along very well considering."
Before Heri could question the statement, she held out her arm, hand reaching toward Heri's face.
"You were doing quite well until those glasses got in the way. Come here so I may remove your need of them."
The run-ins with creatures trying to kill her on top of bullies and admirers trying to coax her into their grasps made Heri wary of people that tried to touch her. She would have liked to take the being's word for it, but she was still wary.
"And how will you do that? How do I know you're not just going to kill me?"
The extended hand lowered a touch as a look of irritation mixed with approval crossed the young woman's face.
"While I commend your caution, if I wanted to kill you, you would be dead by now."
Fair enough. Considering all the time the spirit turned young lady spent watching Heri go about her business, it was believable that any harm meant would have been achieved already.
Girding up her resolve, Heri stepped within grabbing distance. She held her breath as her glasses were removed and a hand covered her eyes. She quickly exhaled and sucked in another breath with a sharp burning stabbed her eyes, shooting all the way to the back of her head. It was as if someone had shone the sun in her eyes and threw sand in her face at the same time only double! She slapped her hands over her eyes as soon as the other was withdrawn and keened at the pain of it.
"Covering them will bring you no relief," Heri heard the spirit in human form say. "Allowing them to adjust to the light would better suit your purpose."
Heri lowered her hands, doing as she was told. As the spirit had said, Heri's eyes adjusted quickly after one last sharp twinge. She blinked in the light incredulously. Everything was so clear! Not even with her glasses did she see details so sharply. It was as if the world had been dragged in closer as well as been painted more brightly.
"Is this how everyone else always sees?" Heri breathed in amazement, wondering at the beauty of the dust particles in the air.
"No," was the clipped reply. "I decided that regular human vision would be little improvement; if I was to cure you of your faulty eyes, I would ensure that there was a true improvement."
"Oh." Harry wasn't sure what to say to that. "What kind of vision do I have then?"
"That of a bird's. Birds of prey see around eight times farther away. Likely you see colours not visible to the mammalian eye."
"Only when you purposefully focus," the spirit added. "Otherwise your perception is the same as any other human. Focus on your foreground to recenter your vision."
Heri did as suggested and breathed out a sound of amazement as her vision reoriented itself to better than what she had with her glasses but not out of this world. She smiled at the figure before her.
Almost imperceptibly, the stern visage soften. There was something like a smile that played on those lips before the uncompromising expression fell back into place.
"It was less for your own benefit than my own. Watching you bumble about, barely seeing past your own nose was bothersome."
Heri's lips twisted into a self-depreciating grimace. She fluffed her hair and shrugged.
"All that same, thank you very much."
"Think no further on it."
The spirit turned and began to walk away.
"Isn't there something I could do in return?" Heri called after her.
The young woman paused.
"From now on, send your prayers and thanks to the gods of Olympus."
Without another word, she dissolved into air.
The day of the performance*, Heri shone like the sun breaking through the clouds. Her group performed the story of Minerva and Arachne, the one about the creation of the spider and the folly of letting your pride guide you into foolish situations. Heri played the part of the narrator and one of the nymphs that admired Arachne's weaving.
The scene was set up with tables, chairs, lengths of cloth, and a bed-sheet stretched between two poles to act as a curtain. Heri stood on the outside of the curtain where the audience could see her. She stood in a bed-sheet fashioned into a toga-like the other girls were wearing. Her sheet was green and she had glitter all over her visible skin to show she was a nymph.
"Long ago," said Heri. "There was a young girl, a shepherd's daughter, who started weaving at an early age."
Heri untied the sheet from the pole and stepped hurriedly to pull it aside, revealing a girl fussing over a large embroidery. The girl made large, exaggerated motions and held up the piece to admire it.
A pair of kids playing Arachne's parent entered and began to gush over the girl's work. Arachne preened under the praise and began to work harder, pulling out more and more lengths of decorated cloth from the table she had been sitting at.
"She became a great weaver. Her work was so well done, other girls from around the city came to see her at it —"
A trio of girls entered from the left, chattering about Arachne and her weaving.
"— Her work was so beautiful that even nymphs left their groves to admire her!"
From behind where Heri stood two more girls dressed like her made a show of whispering to each other, dragging Heri in as well when they reached her. The girls cooed and praised Arachne, going on and on about how lovely her weaving was.
"It's really amazing," said Heri, touching a length of cloth softly. "It's as if Minerva taught you herself!"
The other girls added their agreements.
The girl playing Arachne turned her nose up pointedly.
"As if I had to learn from anyone! I taught myself and any skill I have comes from me alone!"
The girls made cries of protest.
"Surely you have to thank Minerva!" cried an Asian girl with short hair. "She's the goddess of knowledge and skill! If she blessed you then that would be a wonderful thing!"
They went on in this vein, warning the girl to not speak so dismissively about Minerva. During this bit, a girl slipped off behind the curtain and put on a grey wig. When Arachne again said she was far better than anyone that learned from Minerva, the girl in the wig cut in.
"I think I know a lot after living so long," said the girl in a put-on elderly voice. "I suggest you don't talk such a way about the gods. It's all well and good to say you're better than any other human, but to say you're better than a power that controls the world isn't very smart!"
Once again Arachne dismissed the advice, actually getting rude as well.
"Keep your advice for those that ask for it!" Such a statement drew murmurs of admonishment from the crowd. "I'll stand by what I say; I'm not afraid! If Minerva has a problem with it, she can come here and challenge me herself!"
The challenge was met by the girl in the wig throwing off the grey hair and replacing it with luxurious brown. The crowd tittered.
The newly wigged girl straightened up importantly and said, "And here I am!"
"And so Arachne challenged Minerva again!" Heri chimed in, tripping lightly closer to the audience as she resumed her narrative. "She was extremely shocked but refused to take back what she had said!"
Minerva and Arachne glared at each other a moment before pulling out pieces of cloth and began working at them. As they 'worked' they made sounds of getting good ideas and excitement. The other girls drifted between the two, making sounds of admiration and whispering amongst themselves.
"Finished!" The two cried at the same time, holding their work in the air. They held it out to be looked over.
"Minerva made a piece about the contest she had with Neptune with the other gods watching them. Every person in the picture was lifelike and beautiful. It was perfect in every way!"
The girls oohed and ahhed over Minerva's piece, commenting on the people in it.
"Arachne, on the other hand, made a piece about the bad decisions Minerva's father, Jupiter, had made, mocking her and the gods. Everything was done up better than perfection, but it was still very rude."
The girls groaned in dismay as they looked at Arachne's work, shuffling with unease and giggling nervously.
"Minerva admitted that Arachne's work was better than hers but she wasn't about to let such disrespect go. She ripped up Arachne's canvas" — here Minerva stomped over and tore the cloth apart — "and then touched her forehead to make her feel the shame she should have felt at being so incredibly rude."
Arachne made a sound of horror and covered her face in shame, wailing. The other girls covered their ears and ran away at the noise. Then there was only Arachne, Minerva, and Heri still on the stage.
Minerva huffed and patted the other girl's back grudgingly.
"Minerva felt sorry for the girl," Heri continued. "But she wasn't about to let her off with a few minutes of well-deserved guilt. To prevent her from hurting herself and to finish her punishment, Minerva turned Arachne into a spider!"
A black bundle was tossed over from off-stage and was caught by Minerva who shook it open and threw it over Arachne. The covered Arachne dropped a spider plushie to the floor as she rushed off stage. Minerva picked it up and showed the audience.
"Since then, the descendants of Arachne have been weaving the most beautiful of webs only for them to be destroyed later as punishment for Arachne's original mistake. You should never let your pride get the better of you. Spiders are properly called Arachnids for a reason!" She finished off by throwing out plastic spiders for the first couple of rows to catch. Shrieks of shock and joy greeted the action.
The audience clapped and cheered and the girls came back on stage to bow and pose for pictures. They then vacated the stage for the next skit, taking a rest behind a blocked off section. The next group took the stage without delay.
Skit after skit past. Stories about the discovery of fire, The Judgement of Paris, the creation of horses were rolled out. Songs were sung, children danced, and the younger children were properly entertained. Harry laughed and clapped along with everyone else, not even Dudley being a part of the fun and the Dursleys sitting in the crowd took away from it.
When it came time for the final part, Heri donned her Diana costume and entered as the three youngest goddesses were introduced. The eldest six, Vesta, Ceres, Juno, Pluto, Neptune, and Jupiter had been introduced in the order that had been born in. Heri prowled in after Venus and Minerva, head held high, her bow and arrow at the ready. She wasn't anywhere near as tall as Diana was said to be, but she made up for it through force of personality.
"Ego Diana, dea venationis et lunae," said Heri, pointing her arrow at the ground. She saw the Latin teacher perk up out of the corner of her eye. Not many of the other kids had done more than stick a few Latin words in their sentences. "I am Diana, goddess of the hunt and the moon. Filia sum deus Iupiter et titana Leto. I am the daughter of the god Jupiter and the titaness Leto."
Heri went on to describe her position and background. She made sure to stay in character as well, speaking proudly of how she convinced her father to let her stay unmarried forever and the adventures she had been on. She couldn't help but radiate the self-satisfaction Diana was known for because of the smugness she felt for how well she remembered her lines.
"Cultus mea est dura. Noviter venientes probatiores sunt in pugna. My followers are harsh and test newcomers in battle. Ut fieret sacerdos excelsorum, tecum pugnare usque ad mortem pontificis in duello. To become the high priest, you must battle the current high priest to the death!"
Heri played her part well and she knew it. It was written plainly in the way her fellow wannabe actors looked grudgingly impressed and the way Mrs. Frederic beamed at her from off stage.
She completed her address by whistling sharply as if she were calling to an animal and beckoned to the boys waiting for their turn.
"Venit hic, frater. Come on, Apollo, it's your turn now!"
She received a magnificent grade for the final project of course.
Heri was dressed in new clothes Aunt Petunia had bought for her. They weren't really new as they had been picked up at a thrift store, but they were certainly better than the potato sacks she had worn before. The neighbours that had children who went to school with Dudley and Heri had commented on how much more respectable she looked in clothes that actually fit her. Aunt Petunia had taken the comments as the neighbours thinking they were too poor to afford proper clothing and had been spurred into outfitting Heri in clothes that hadn't belong to Dudley before.
Dressed in a blue pinafore dress over a grey button front and leggings, Heri could scarcely believe that the Privet Drive grapevine had actually done her a favour for one. It had increased the fervour of her admirers, true, but at least now no one thought she was a juvenile delinquent on sight.
On top of getting her new clothes, Aunt Petunia had nagged Uncle Vernon into letting her have Dudley's second bedroom since she didn't want Heri's new clothes to get ruined from staying in the cupboard under the stairs. Her relative's stinginess finally worked toward Heri's benefit.
Heri dug out her odd pocket watch and checked the time. It was ten minutes after school and she was only a third of the way back to the house. She had another twenty minutes before she absolutely needed to be back so she would have enough time to make prepare the veritable feast she was responsible for. Aunt Marge was arriving later that evening and the corpulent woman wasn't one to sit quietly if her food wasn't in front of her when she wanted it.
She muttered a prayer for the speed of Mercury or Hermes or whatever his name was (for some reason she preferred to think of them by their Greek names) and ran as fast as her legs could take her. Dodging other children and weaving through cars stopped at the traffic signs, Heri all but flew to her destination. If her legs had glowed briefly as she took her first running steps, she didn't notice.
Mrs. Figg was the only person Heri knew of that was nut-house strange while still being a perfectly average human being. Every time Heri was sent over to be babysat, she felt as if the woman was on the edge of snapping and going postal. Heri always had her best behaviour on when she was Mrs. Figg, her paranoia wouldn't allow any less of her.
Maybe it was the cats, Heri thought, dodging a white-furred menace by the name of Snowy. Mrs. Figg was the stereotypical cat-lady with a dash of crazy thrown in. There was always at least one cat in the room no matter what room Heri entered. They were like a hive of horrific bees, always wandering about, ready to sink their pointy-parts into you at the slight provocation. And they were always watching. Those bloody cats watched with eyes far too intelligent for normal animals.
If it hadn't been for the fact that neither Mrs. Figg nor the cats had ever done her any harm beyond the occasional scratch, Heri would have been brandishing her monster-slaying box-cutter at the beasts and be cutting them down before they could get a mew in.
Heri sat down gingerly on the sofa, sighing with resignation when another cat, Tibbles, leaped up and settled itself on her lap. There was no escape from them. She began to stroke its fur in the way she had seen Mrs. Figg do many times before. Apparently, she was doing it correctly since the little beast started purring. She hoped it fell asleep soon as that was the only way she'd be able to remove it from her lap without it digging its claws into her clothes and ruining them.
Heri felt a tingle in her hands and she prayed for the cat to fall asleep. The purring became deeper before it slowly tapered off, Tibbles no longer awake. She gently lifted the cat from her lap and got up, looking at the hand that had been petting the animal. Putting animals to sleep just by petting them? Hell, yes.
Heri sized up the cats still wandering the house. Wasn't this a golden opportunity to practice something new?
It was Harry's tenth birthday and she was grounded until next week. She hadn't been expecting anything considering how her relatives were, but being stuck inside without even chores to do was murder on her need to move.
Heri fiddled with her bronze box-cutter, sliding the blade in and out of its casing. She was in her room for the rest of the day for giving Aunt Marge's wretched dog a kick it well deserved. There had been a show of scolding her and ordering her to go away, but Heri was pretty certain that Aunt Petunia had sent her to her room to free her of Marge's presence, a reward for giving Ripper the sharp punt her aunt had been dreaming of giving it for years.
She was now sat on her bed, back to the wall, and staring out the window. It was such a lovely day out, shame that it was polluted with Marge's boorish presence. The blade slipped out with a schlick at the thought.
Thoughts of Uncle Vernon's repellent sister brought forth thoughts on that monster dog Heri had wasted earlier that week. The thing had been the size of an Irish Wolfhound and had two heads! The only reason she hadn't died was sheer dumb luck; the thing had landed awkwardly as it pounced on her and ended up busting its paw. At the moment it had been whining in pain, Heri had slashed it at the base where the two heads met. It had exploded in a shower of dust, leaving behind fangs the size of her fingers.
Heri lifted her hand to stroke the chain of the necklace she had made with the fangs. She didn't know what else to do with them. She figured they could stay on her person as a reminder that life was fragile.
With a sigh, Heri flung her box-cutter at the dartboard Dudley had dumped in the room years ago when he lost all the darts. The blade struck on the outer ring. Heri frowned. Her aim wasn't nearly as good as she would have liked.
A wiggle of her fingers and sharp mental command had the box-cutter return to her hand handle-first. She caught it and flung it back immediately. Hmm, better, but still in the outer ring.
As she was about to call the box-cutter to her again, a movement from beyond her window caught her eye. There, sitting on a branch in the tree on the neighbour's side of the fence was an owl. How odd, she had never seen a wild owl before. Weren't they nocturnal? Heri's eyes sharpened automatically, getting a closer look at the bird. Her brain short-circuited at the unbelievable sight.
The owl was the size of a house cat with strange reddish-brown plumage. Its beak was long and golden, and it had great amber eyes. That wasn't the odd part though. It appeared to be eating the tail of a cat and it had two sets of legs. It was also looking right at her.
The bizarre bird and Heri locked gazes for a long moment. It didn't try to attack her like all the other supernatural beasts Heri had dealt with before, it simply sat there, eating its cat.
Without any fuss, Heri turned back to her target practice. She had seen enough to know that she didn't want to ask.
The bird continued to show up at random. Heri had caught sight of it perching in trees at her school, roosting on the roof of Mrs. Figg's house, and tearing into something while she tended to the garden. She would have been more bothered by the thing following her if it wasn't for the fact that it hadn't once been aggressive toward her.
What's more, it changed species of bird whenever it showed up. It had been an owl a few times more, but it was sometimes a pigeon, sometimes a crow, occasionally duck, and once even a woodpecker. The only reason she knew it was still the same bird was because of its glowing amber eyes, golden beak, and four legs no matter what form it took.
"Is there a reason you're following me?" Heri asked it.
It had been three weeks since she first saw it and it had wandered in and out of her life like a stray cat testing out a place to stay. Until she knew what it wanted, she didn't want it deciding that it wanted to stick around.
The bird blinked and cocked its head at her. Today it was a cuckoo and it had been serenading her with "Ooh-woo" as she did her Literature homework in the park. If it had been any other cuckoo, Heri would have tuned it out automatically, but this one was perched on her table and crooning loudly at her to annoy her, she just knew it.
"Ooh-woo," it cooed again.
Heri sighed and slammed her book shut.
"Is that so?"
She'd have to do it later while it was off wherever it was when it wasn't hanging around her.
"If that's your final answer, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you go play somewhere else. This worksheet's due first thing tomorrow and you're being very distracting."
She got to her feet.
"Fine then! You stay here, I'll go finish my assignments up somewhere else. Have a good day."
She stuffed her books back into her bag and began to walk off.
Her mind might've been playing tricks on her, but Heri could have sworn that the blasted bird sounded forlorn.
She cursed her sentimentality and turned back to the bird. Sure enough, its head was tucked into its shoulders. She sighed again.
"Look, it's not that I don't like you around but I really to get my homework finished. I'm doing someone else's as well and I need the money to pay for a library book Dudley destroyed. If you want to hang out, come again some time after tomorrow."
The bird visibly perked.
"DUDLEY! MR. DURSLEY! COME AND LOOK AT THIS SNAKE! YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT IT'S DOING!"
Heri was at the zoo with the Dursley's and Piers Polkiss to celebrate Dudley's birthday. Normally she wouldn't have been brought along, but Mrs. Figg had broken her leg and wasn't in any state to watch Heri.
She had been brought along under strict orders from Uncle Vernon to behave as if she wasn't 'an unnatural aberration that blights mankind.' She had agreed only because she hadn't known her uncle knew words bigger than three syllables. She still gave him a hell of an itch in an indelicate place though.
At this point, they had already gone through the rest of the exhibits and stopped for lunch. The reptile house was the last stop before they would pack it in and call a day. Everything was winding down when Heri fell into a conversation with a boa constrictor. All chances of leaving peacefully were shot to hell with Polkiss' shout.
Dudley came waddling toward them as fast as he could.
"Out of the way, you," he said, shoving Heri aside.
Caught by surprise, Heri fell hard on the concrete floor. What came next happened so fast no one saw how it happened — one second, Piers and Dudley were leaning right up close to the glass, the next, they had leaped back with howls of horror. Heri sat up and gasped; the glass front of the boa constrictor's tank had vanished! The great snake was uncoiling itself rapidly, slithering out onto the floor. People throughout the reptile house screamed and started running for the exits.
As the snake slithered past her, Heri heard it hiss lowly, §Brazil, here I come . . . Thanksss, amiga.§
The look on her uncle's face when Piers mentioned that Heri had been talking to the snake boded nothing good. If only she hadn't thought it rude to ignore the snake when it proved it understood her; she never thought civility would be her downfall. Though she couldn't prove it, she was pretty sure someone up there was laughing at her.
Heri never received mail. Heri had never had a desire to receive mail. She didn't know anyone that would be in a position to send her anything, and even if there had been someone she wouldn't have had the patience to deal with any kind of communication that took longer than the span of a phone call. These were just some of the simple, insignificant facts of her life.
When Heri was sent to get the mail by her uncle, she didn't waste any time in bringing them to him without a second glance. No doubt they were all bills and advertisements. She returned to the maintenance of the pancakes without pause. This was probably why she had no idea why she and Dudley were rushed out of the kitchen not a minute later as if there was a bomb in the room.
In the days after, when letters came pouring and Uncle Vernon was on the edge of a mental breakdown, Heri would wonder if maybe she should have taken a peek at the mail pile before handing it over. It was strange that her lack of curiosity was now backfiring on her after all these years.
AN: Here are those definitions/notes I promised you:
1. The winged snakes were juvenile drakones, animals sacred to Demeter. Her chariot was drawn by a pair of them, and she uses them as guards and attendants.
2. Poundland is the equivalent of a dollar store. The company wasn't founded until the 1990s but for the sake of this story, let's just pretend otherwise.
5. The elementary school I went to did something similar to what I have St. Grogory's doing. We had Latin from fourth grade to sixth grade (ten years old to twelve) and put on shows at the end of the year to demonstrate what we learned. I'm not sure how uncommon that is or if it's uncommon at all but I'm certain it's not a typical part of American education.
6. The two-headed dog is called an orthrus. It's related to the cerberus in that the original Orthrus was Cerberus' brother. Incidentally, Orthrus also had a run-in with Hercules but unlike Cerberbus, Orthrus didn't survive the encounter.
7. The strange owl is called a strix or strige. It's known to eat flesh and blood. They originate from cannibals cursed by the gods (specifically Hermes under Zeus' orders) into bird form as punishment. There's not a lot of mythology about them.