After she pressed the button to disconnect herself from the holo conference feed, Aayla felt exhaustion begin to set in as the events from the past few days finally lent their weight down upon her. It had been five minutes since its conclusion, and the rutian Twi'lek still had not moved from the co-pilots seat she had used to communicate with the High Council.
She desperately wanted to doze off, or at least drown herself in the nothingness of meditation. Her incredibly long day, and one that was filled with both danger and shocks to her system had been draining on her. However, she had too much to do before she could allow herself to rest.
She had done what should've been the hardest part of her now self-imposed mission. She believed she had gotten the High Council to back off of their observation of Harry, as well as allow her to continue to follow in his…journey… path… wake… crime spree.
Truth be told, it wasn't actually easy to distinguish between them all at the moment.
But, only now, did she realize that the true hardest part lay before her. She had to convince Harry to let her stay with him and Ahsoka beyond their arrival upon the planet Kashyyyk. And she had not the slightest clue as to how to even begin that conversation.
He didn't trust her. That was a given. He presumed she was a spy, a potential assassin in the making, and/or a would-be kidnapper to Ahsoka Tano. Those are just the things he had said to her face, she wondered if there was more he hadn't said to her.
She knew she was probably premature in her conversation with the Council. She had spoken like her decision to go on this venture was a settled and foregone conclusion, as if she was sure she could follow through. Unfortunately, as of now, Aayla fully anticipated that Harry would kick her ass out the moment after they landed and tell her "Don't let the ramp hit you on its way up."
How in the name of the Whills could she convince him otherwise?
Suddenly, a stray thought hit her. Maybe it was best to start small.
"Minnie?" asked Aayla hesitantly as she keyed into the comm that she had seen was connected directly to the droid.
"Yes, Miss Secura?" responded the droid after a brief pause.
"The holocom conversation I just had, do you know if the ship kept a recording? If so, can you save it in case Harry would like to view it later?" Aayla asked. She had been amazed when she found out that Harry had his protocol droid able to flit between the odd looking mobile unit she saw, and the ship as a whole.
Harry had mentioned that it was merely for convenience sake, being able to have the droid complete various tasks that might require communication or possible real time information. The droid couldn't control any physical aspect of the ship.
"The ship automatically logs all holocom calls for a period of 72 hours, though they tend to be infrequent. So your previous holocom call was recorded and accessible for another 71 hours and 49 minutes, Miss Secura." The droid responded in her prim feminine tone.
Aayla nodded looking a bit relieved. She was glad the ship saved them because she hadn't thought about recording the session beforehand. "Do me a favor, can you save the file beyond that on a permanent basis until I ask you to delete it?"
There was a brief pause before Minnie responded forthrightly, "File saved, it will only be deleted if asked to do so by yourself, or Miss Tano or Mister Potter as they have more authority than you do."
She could prove how much she did or didn't tell the Council with that recording if necessary. Then she realized that she might need it to open the conversation and make her case in the first place.
She sighed a little bit before pushing herself to her feet. She noted that the avian animal, which had never left the cockpit was looking at her. Though Aayla couldn't really say the animal had an expression or even that the expression changed, she felt that the bird was staring at her with a bit less malevolence now. Of course that could just be her imagination overacting with a bit less guilt after deciding to save the holocom call.
She headed out of the cockpit and wandered into the depths of the ship. She moved quietly through the cargo hold. Every few meters she paused and looked around at the cots. The former slaves were all sleeping, most of them curled up in groups, but all of them sleeping quietly. Aayla could feel the sense of the Force active in the area, in a different way than it had been before but she couldn't see anything out of the ordinary, beyond the still expanded space. It was still something her mind still refused to deal with.
She moved quietly through the area, not wanting to wake any of them and headed toward the back, past the rooms that were currently being used as the brig, keeping an eye out for Harry.
She passed into the back toward the engine only to stop as she passed a compartment to the side. The door was open, and Aayla could see Harry leaning against a wall with his arms crossed.
Ahsoka was walking back and forth in the small space. Aayla could see her mouth moving and Ahsoka gesticulating wildly but couldn't hear anything. She also noticed the fact that the room was filled with shelves containing tools, datapads, and other items, all of which currently seemed to be shaking noticeably.
Aayla wondered if Harry had done the same thing to Ahsoka that he had done to her earlier. Where he had prevented her from making any sounds, another thing she was still trying to figure out. He hadn't just stopped her from speaking but had completely prevented her from making any sound, even clapping had produced nothing.
But, the rant Ahsoka seemed to be on didn't slow in the silence or indicate that she was unable to make her voice heard, so Aayla was sure something else was going on.
Harry for his part was leaning against a wall, arms crossed as he watched the girl move back and forth but didn't seem to be saying anything.
He didn't even look up to acknowledge Aayla as she appeared in the threshold of the room.
After a moment's hesitation Aayla took a breath and stepped into the room, she felt a subtle wave of the Force, and the moment she crossed the threshold there was an explosion of noise.
"-ey are just putting her in her former Master's custody… no trial, no punishment. Nothing. She nearly got me killed!" Ahsoka quite clearly was in mid rant and Aayla was startled enough to stop mid-step as the sound assaulted her ears. She also looked around and noticed that her senses weren't fooling her, things all around her were shaking though, for some reason, they weren't making any noise.
Ahsoka clearly didn't notice or care that things were shaking in the room or that Aayla was now present as she continued her rant, throwing her hands up in the air for emphasis. "She deliberately set me up to die! Some thanks I get for saving her life!"
Harry raised an eyebrow at that statement, seeming to ignore Aayla's presence as well, causing the Twi'lek Jedi to wonder if she was invisible for all the attention that was paid to her from the other two.
Ahsoka took a deep breath clearly prepared to continued her rant, but Harry held up a finger in the universal sign telling her to hold on a moment. "This girl… you saved her life?"
Ahsoka was startled at the sudden interruption of her rant, and was surprised to find herself breathing heavy. She hadn't realized quite how much she had lost control as she was venting. But Harry's interjection had focused her attention back on him and his question rather than the overwhelming sense of betrayal she was dealing with in the moment. "Yes, I saved her life."
Aayla looked around; all of the shaking shelves stopped as if on command, the instant that Harry had garnered her attention. Neither Harry nor Ahsoka so much as glanced at the shelves, leaving Aayla once more confused, a sensation she was becoming familiar with.
Harry's expression was focused on Ahsoka, his tone was calm and curious, "Tell me about the incident?"
Ahsoka tilted her head, it was phrased as a statement but it had enough of a questioning tone not to be an outright demand, but it was close. "Well… there was the time we needed to destroy a droid foundry together on Geonosis. We set off explosions while we were trapped in a tank together, and I was able to hotwire a power cell from in the tank so SkyGuy could get us out."
Harry's mouth twisted as he frowned. "Hmm. That's a bit debatable as to whether she owes you a life debt for that, since you were saving your own life too."
A puzzled expression crossed Ahsoka's face, wondering at Harry's wording. "Well, there was also the time when we had to deal with the brain worms. They were parasites that could dig into your mind and control you," She clarified seeing Harry's puzzled expression.
"Pleasant," Harry said with a grimace at the concept.
"Barriss got infected when she walked into a trap that infected troopers set. My old Master told me that the parasites were weak to cold temperatures so I ruptured the cooling system."
Ahsoka frowned as she recalled the incident. "Barriss attacked me, and even when the worm's hold weakened and she begged me to kill her I… couldn't."
Ahsoka hung her head, still conflicted about the choice she made, knowing that the parasite could have spread further because of her reluctance. "I refused and killed the worm as it came out of her mouth, leaving her alive."
"That's much more likely to have incurred a life debt," Harry said with a frown marring his features. "And, even after saving her life, she still would have stood by and let you die. And probably would have done it all again to some other padawan or Jedi had your former Master not confronted her, caught her red handed with the evidence and forced her to confess."
Ahsoka looked startled at that thought. She had never considered what Barriss would have done if she had gotten away with it. Her mind returned to the trial as she looked across the expanse of several meters separating the accused and the witness and saw… the look in Barriss Offee's eyes and the expression on her face.
It was an expression that made her friend nearly unrecognizable. Her expression was a combination of religious fervor, disgust, revulsion, and sadness. It left the impression of chaos and insanity in her former friend. Ahsoka wondered if the seeds of that insanity had always been there or if something happened to drive her to that state.
She nodded slowly as she was forced to concede that it was entirely likely that if Barriss had gotten away with it that the crazed Jedi would have done it to someone else. She sighed a little bit, slumping as bitterness once more filled her voice, "There doesn't even appear to be any consequences at all to her actions. The military doesn't want to go after her and the Jedi don't seem to want to punish her. They're just sweeping it under the rug."
Harry had a strange gleam in his eye, "After what happened at your trial they probably have no interest in getting pantsed again in front of the world. We'll look at the impacts and possible repercussions having a life debt has on a magic user together in a moment."
Harry turned to look at Aayla, "Since we have a little spy in our midst and what I was about to say would fall under 'teaching'. We wouldn't want to give her anything else to report back to her masters."
With his attention firmly focused upon her for the first time, Aayla cringed slightly at the taunting "little spy" comment. She outright blanched at the way he said 'masters'. He put so many negative connotations on it that she felt disgust.
After a moment she realized that she wouldn't be able to use the recording to strengthen her position. She would need it to get any sort of position to start. She straightened slightly and cut off whatever else he was about to say. "Minnie said the ship recorded the entire conversation I had with the Council. I think it would ultimately be better if you reviewed it yourself."
The only sign of surprise on Harry's face was a raised eyebrow. Otherwise he regarded her neutrally for several seconds, his eyes boring into hers. Aayla felt a shiver going up her spine as it felt like he was examining her very soul for the briefest of moments.
After a moment's pause he tilted his head slightly, deciding to indulge the Twi'lek and called out to the ship, "Minnie."
"Yes Mister Potter?" Came the response a few seconds later over speakers in the small room.
"Could you replay the audio for the last holonet call?" Harry inquired, his eyes flicking from Aayla to Ahsoka who slumped a little bit, her hands going to stroke her lekku as a look of resignation crossed her face.
"Of course Mister Potter." Minnie's voice floated over the loudspeaker.
There was a moment's pause and then the call that had so upset Ahsoka and irritated Aayla was replayed from start to finish.
Aayla watched both Harry and Ahsoka for reactions, though Ahsoka had already heard part of it. She still looked hurt as the replay of Barriss fate occurred. Though the hurt slowly passed as she listened with interest to the rest of the discussion she had missed when she had stormed out.
Aayla was surprised that Harry showed almost no reaction throughout the entire conversation. The only time he showed any sort of reaction was a reassuring look over to Ahsoka after the replay of Barriss fate. Otherwise he simply closed his eyes and listened. His face might have been carved from stone for as much reaction as he showed.
When it was over, Ahsoka was still fuming in the corner, though at least this time her anger was tempered by curiosity as she looked at Aayla. Harry's eyes were still closed and his look was still blank.
More than a minute went by with pure silence in the room. Aayla found herself wondering if he had actually fallen asleep. Though truthfully the closed eyes and the thoughtful repose seemed eerily reminiscent of Yoda. It was enough to cause her to glance at Ahsoka with a curious expression.
Ahsoka frowned and then snapped her fingers loudly, filling the silence of the room.
As if being summoned Harry's eyes snapped open and those distinctive eyes regarded her intensely. "Interesting."
She at first figured that it was about her vision, or her lack of information to the Council, but she was surprised when he finally spoke.
"Your Order's leadership is fracturing, there are clear sides forming," Harry said with a shake of his head.
Aayla shook her head and disagreed, "Not really. While I admit that meetings usually aren't... that contentious, that was nothing out of the realm of normal. There are disagreements and discussions all the time."
"That may be what you think, but you're fooling yourself. Which isn't that surprising, the majority of them are obviously deluding themselves," Harry replied blandly, this time it didn't seem to have any insult in his tone, rather it seemed… tired and tinged with regret more than anything.
His voice dropped as he shook his head, "I've seen it before, different sides and viewpoints, with those on the extreme ends being the loudest. It generally creates a stalemate in which very little actual progress happens while day to day tasks are carried out. Meanwhile an older, respected and probably more powerful figure tries to hold things together so it doesn't all fall to pieces. All of this is going on while an enemy works its way in and exploits those small fractures that seem so small and petty to the group as a whole, but are important to the individual, in order to bring it all down."
Aayla and Ahsoka's eyes both went wide at that statement, exchanging a glance. It didn't take much of a stretch to view that as exactly what was happening within the council. They had heard conspiracy theories and suspicions before regarding events, but nothing that had been spoken so blatantly and factually. Harry didn't seem to notice or care about the effect those words had.
"It was interesting that there were two that struck me as genuinely displeased with Aayla, and two who seemed more than a little unhappy with the Order, one who I assume was Ahsoka's former Master?" He finished questioningly as he glanced toward Ahsoka and got a nod of agreement.
"The one with the speech impediment was the only one who seemed contemplative about the whole thing. Though he also seemed to be in charge. So…" Harry trailed off with a shrug.
Ahsoka snorted and tried to cover up her laugh with a cough, while Aayla made what was curiously like a choking sound, "That's Yoda, the Grand Master of the Jedi Order."
"Whoever," Harry shrugged apathetically before he regarded Aayla once more. He raised an eyebrow at her expectantly.
A puzzled look crossed Aayla's face, "What?"
Harry tilted his head, "Was that all?"
Aayla's face fell, she had hoped that showing Harry the recording would not only get him to trust her but make her request blatantly obvious. She had pretty much spelled it out in her conversation with the Council, and had hoped he was already considering it. The Force had told her it was absolutely paramount that she join him. Those deaths she viewed, and felt weighed heavily on her. It felt like they were trying to suffocate her. But she pushed it aside for the moment.
Aayla chewed on her lip a moment before taking the plunge. "I…. want to stay with you, not just to Kashyyyk but beyond that… wherever you head next."
"Why?" Harry's implacable reply came back sounding not only entirely unsympathetic but completely apathetic.
Aayla floundered slightly. Though she didn't detect hostility in his tone, she also couldn't detect curiosity. Harry sounded completely disinterested in the idea. She opened her mouth several times before gesturing toward one of the speakers that had just played the recording for her. "You just heard!"
"Which part?" Harry shook his head, "I heard a bunch of people, most of whom had a skewed sense of priorities. All of whom were bickering, intolerant and inflexible with precious little common sense displayed among them."
Aayla really couldn't argue with that part.
"I heard almost suicidal levels of 'forgiveness' and second chances given to someone who tried to frame a fellow Jedi for her own crimes." There was particular disdain in Harry's voice as he said that.
Aayla sighed a little bit, "I don't disagree, though I would say that everyone makes mistakes and deserves a second chance."
"Where was that second chance when Ahsoka was accused?" Harry retorted. "You can't even say you don't agree, you yourself questioned the motives of the Order."
Ahsoka had an odd expression on her face. It was a combination of sadness for what happened, agreement with Harry for his stance, and an odd sort of pleasure that someone who she hadn't known very long so clearly had her back.
"What would you have them do?" Aayla countered. "Would you have them simply throw her away?"
"Isn't that what they did to me?" Ahsoka interjected, her blue eyes flashing.
Aayla shook her head, arguing with Harry in the hope of him seeing her point of view was going to be hard. With Ahsoka, who she thought might be an erstwhile ally against her as well, her job just got exponentially harder. "They didn't have a choice with you. The Chancellor and the Senate took a stand that they needed you, as their main suspect, to face a trial."
"So the Jedi Order just expelled me so that I could be put on trial?!" Ahsoka shot back, her tone heated and defiant.
"They had no choice!" Aayla responded defensively, "The Senate and Military can't put a member of the Jedi Order on trial."
"So the Jedi, with the exception of my Master, the Order just abandoned me!" Ahsoka spat.
"What were they supposed to do?" Aayla demanded. "They were trapped between transparisteel and a corusca gem."
"How so?" Harry asked smoothly, genuine curiosity filling his tone.
"They had to turn Ahsoka over for trial," Aayla said, slumping slightly as defeat entered her tone. She was having to defend actions she herself believed were almost indefensible. "The only other option was to defy the Chancellor and the Senate."
"So why didn't they?" Harry asked. "From my understanding your Senate doesn't control the Order."
"That's true." The blue Twi'lek replied, before her shoulders slumped completely, "But this war... it's changing things. There is a large sentiment out there that the Jedi are part of the reason it's gone on so long. From our relative inaction at the start, to the ongoing confrontations since then. Count Dooku as a leader of the Separatists as a former Jedi. The Jedi are also blamed for the Sith that we have made no secret of hunting for."
"The general public doesn't differentiate," Ahsoka added, surprising Aayla as she at least supported her in part. "They don't see that there are differences between the Sith and the Jedi."
"Of course not," Harry agreed easily. "To a casual observer it seems to be two sides of the same coin, that can only sometimes be told apart by the color of their swords. Otherwise to Joe Public, they're the same thing, weird powers, and a lot of rumor and speculation surrounding the mysticism. So they don't see the difference."
Aayla nodded, pleased that at least some of what she said wouldn't require convincing Harry. "The Council is in a very precarious position with public opinion. Truthfully it's only the public profile of some of the heroes, such as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker and yes, before this trial and tragedy Ahsoka was definitely a high profile war hero as well. That has kept the public mostly quiet. That could easily change." She trailed off as Harry's eyes had narrowed while she spoke.
He turned to look at Ahsoka for several long seconds. His expression unreadable before it turned speculative, "Clever bastard..." he murmured.
Ahsoka looked confused, though the focus of his expression wasn't on her, rather he seemed to be figuring something out. "What? Who is clever?"
"I'm not sure," Harry admitted. "But whoever it is seems like they might be able to school my old headmaster at the whole manipulation thing."
"Huh?" Aayla said eloquently at the sudden change in topics, her equilibrium once more thrown off.
"Well, if I were paranoid, or a betting man, I would say that was perfectly set up," Harry said. "The Jedi Order, either turns Ahsoka over, or they face a public backlash for protecting one of their own."
Aayla nodded, "That's what I just said. It falls in with our suspicions that the Dark Lord we're searching for is close to the Senate and has a number of them under his control."
"But you didn't go deep enough," Harry shook his head in reply, and chuckled. "I didn't even think about it. Whoever may be doing this was probably playing a longer game. So they banked on the Order doing what was easy instead of what was right. But even if they didn't, they got what they wanted. Ahsoka put on trial. The public loves their heroes. They love even more to see those heroes torn down."
"That's a rather cynical viewpoint," Aayla interjected
"Perhaps, but it's true. Eventually the public comes to resent heroes. Because they don't see the struggle, the pain, or the tragedy heroes have to deal with. Usually that isn't shown. Instead, sooner or later they are a constant reminder to public of someone they could have been, or someone who is better than them," Harry replied, his voice even and clinical.
"Of course, there's one thing the public loves even more than seeing a hero brought down, is to see for themselves a hero overcome the odds stacked against them and triumph. Even if the public is part of those odds against them," Harry said and twitched slightly in annoyance.
A trace of grudging admiration entered his voice. "Assuming it wasn't just one giant coincidence, whoever set that up couldn't lose. The Chancellor and Senate end up with eggs on their face. The Jedi end up with eggs on their face and the only person or persons who come out of this looking good are Anakin and Ahsoka."
"Who in the galaxy could manipulate things like that?" Ahsoka asked.
"I don't know," Harry replied with a shrug after a thoughtful pause.
Aayla's voice was quiet, though there was no mistaking the fact that she was disturbed. "If you are right, it's just more proof the Jedi have to find the Dark Lord."
"If the Jedi are smart they are looking hard at all the connections to any of the main players in that whole drama, Ahsoka, her master, the masters who pushed for expulsion, the senate members that pushed for trial, the military officers who did the same. While none of the may be this so called Dark Lord, some of them are certainly puppets. The question becomes where do the strings lay and who is pulling them?"
"If they are looking close, then you shouldn't be surprised that they are investigating you," Aayla replied.
"I'm not, I told Ahsoka you'd be coming, but I figured it was more about pride, given the fact that I publicly spanked those two Jedi, than it was part of a grander scheme." Harry shook his head, "We've gone way off track. Despite all of that, it doesn't excuse screwing over Ahsoka and then essentially pardoning the real guilty party."
"As I said, the Council was merciful and gave her a second chance under strict observation by her former Master," Aayla replied.
"Mercy to the guilty can be treason to the innocent," Harry said with finality as he gestured at Ahsoka. "The traitor had her second chance and third and fourth as Ahsoka was set up more and more for murder."
Aayla nodded a little bit, "You heard me just say that I don't entirely disagree with you."
Harry nodded in agreement and Aayla immediately jumped on that. "Then you also heard why I want to go with you!
"No, I didn't," Harry replied, his voice still even.
Aayla looked confused, she wondered if he had been listening to the same holo recording she had, "But… my vision, and everything."
Harry shook his head and clarified, "I heard why you think you have to go with me. That's different from wanting to go with me."
Aayla looked taken aback before she mustered a reply in nearly the same tone, "I want you to teach me like you are Ahsoka. I'm willing to take the same oath that you made her give."
Harry blinked in surprise before leaning back and rubbing a hand over his face. He had to remind himself that from everything he learned, the Jedi Order knew nothing of magically binding contracts or oaths. "You don't know what you're asking."
Aayla opened her mouth to reply before Harry cut her off. "No. You really don't."
Harry gestured at Ahsoka, who straightened up slightly at the sudden attention put on her. "She and I have spent the last several days talking about the training she received from your… Religion? Organization?... Cult? I'm not really sure what to call it."
"While there is some crossover at the basic level, as far as use goes. Things like levitation, and what you call 'Mind Tricks'; though your version is fairly limited. The rest is entirely different than what you've experienced."
"How so?" Aayla found herself asking, this was the first time Harry had really talked about his abilities, so she was eager to learn anything she could.
After a few moments pause, Harry began to slowly speak, though he had no intention of actually describing his training in detail, "The Jedi seemed to have focused almost purely on using what you call 'the Force' for physical means. Improving speed, hand eye coordination, strength. Things which then can be augmented further for short periods of time if you focus on channeling it. You extend that into telekinesis on occasion, and those two areas seem to be the primary focus of your cult."
"To a slightly lesser extent that comes naturally to my people. Heightened reflexes and such. Generally it's only the athletes or those who immerse themselves in magic and really make it go any farther than that," Harry said, pulling himself out of his musing.
"Truth be told after talking to Ahsoka, I'm not sure that you'd be capable of learning from me," Harry said with a lift of his shoulders in a not-quite-apology.
Aayla frowned and shot Ahsoka a betrayed look. She had been up against that sort of sentiment her entire life. She couldn't help wondering if the girl had lumped her in with the rest of the Council, even after hearing the full conversation. However, the expression on Ahsoka's face showed that she was every bit as confused by that statement as Aayla was.
"I didn't say Aayla couldn't learn from you!" Ahsoka protested.
"You didn't mention her specifically. But it was the other things you told me," Harry explained patiently. When Ahsoka still looked confused, Harry sighed a little bit. "Who would you say are the most powerful Jedi in the Jedi Order?"
Ahsoka opened her mouth to reply, but Harry shook his head quickly. "We've already talked about this Ahsoka. I want to hear Blue's opinion."
Ahsoka closed her mouth and nodded, a little bit, turning her attention to Aayla who for her part looked confused at this non-sequitur "Um. There are several that are powerful, but in terms of ability with the Force, it would be Master Yoda. He is arguably the most powerful in the Order, and he has nearly a millennium of experience."
Harry raised an eyebrow briefly at the mention of his age before shaking his head, "And after him, as he's clearly the older powerful one trying to hold it all together?"
"In terms of skill? Probably Master Windu or Master Kenobi… Though I would say Ahsoka's former Master… Anakin Skywalker, isn't far behind them in skill, and he has the potential to be much more powerful," Aayla frowned, because she didn't understand where this line of questioning was going.
Harry nodded, looking unsurprised. "That's about what Ahsoka mentioned the other day on our trip to Nar Shaddaa. Glad to see there is a bit of consensus. Now what is the general opinion of Anakin Skywalker?"
"It depends on who you ask. The public loves him. He is a war hero whose accolades are earned genuinely. The troops never seem to fail to rally around him," Aayla answered in a puzzled tone, completely confused now.
Harry sighed a little bit and shook his head. "No, I'm asking what the general opinion of his peers is. How do those in the Order feel about him?"
Aayla glanced over at Ahsoka, knowing how fiercely protective she was of her former Master. "He… is very skilled, especially for one so young. He can be impetuous and reckless and emotional and has a difficult time not forming attachments. But there are times it seems like he is in tune with the Force like no other, and his list of accomplishments speak for themselves. They don't call him the "Hero-Without-Fear" for nothing."
"The media and the public are always issuing hyphenated titles… and stupid ones to boot. It is good to see some things never change," he mumbled, but both observers heard him. He shook his head and focused once more on Aayla. "And what was the opinion of Ahsoka Tano?"
Ahsoka looked up at that question, curiosity coming to her face.
Aayla glanced her way before looking back at Harry, "I don't understand… why do you ask?"
"Humor me," Harry replied without an ounce of humor in his voice.
"Um… similar, I would say. She was considered to have incredible potential as a padawan. She has accomplished an amazing amount for someone of her rank and age. She's not quite as powerful as Skywalker, but then again, his power supposedly outstrips even Yoda's. She's very skilled none the less," Aayla said, choosing her words carefully.
Aayla saw the look of pride that crossed Ahsoka's face and winced a little bit at the effect her follow up was likely to have. "But that goes both ways, she's also described as being brash and reckless like her Master. A recklessness that has cost people their lives in the past."
Ahsoka winced and looked down, well aware that her own arrogance had cost clone troopers their lives before. It was something that still weighed on her mind and plagued her with guilt to this day.
Harry turned his attention from Aayla and smiled sadly at Ahsoka. "Trust me, you aren't the only one to make that mistake. I've been there. War often puts people into positions of leadership they aren't quite ready to handle. You can only learn from it and move on. Become the leader you need to be by learning the practical lessons as they come."
Ahsoka's brow furrowed a little bit, looking up at him. She was surprised when she didn't see recrimination or lecturing there, simply understanding of a shared pain. It was one thing she liked about Harry. He didn't ever try and hide or pretend when he spoke with her about something serious.
Harry turned back to Aayla, and she was surprised that she didn't see any recrimination in his expression either. He hadn't been upset with her for making an observation or a statement of fact. "Is that all they think?"
Aayla glanced at Ahsoka, knowing they had this discussion in the past. "She is generally regarded as too passionate and emotional, and has a problem with the attachments she forms."
"Again, just like her Master," she finished with.
"And that right there is the problem. You list emotions and attachments as insults," Harry replied immediately, disgust in his tone.
"Emotions and attachments can both lead to the Dark Side," Aayla's response was almost reflexive, as it was one of the central mantras of the Jedi Order.
Harry shook his head, "Can lead… key words. If you go your whole life, never experiencing the ups and downs of life. If you never experience heart-break, loss of a relative, jealousy over a childhood friend's cool toy you wish you had, then how will you react as an adult who never had to deal with those things when the situation is far more dire? How will you react to the death of someone you know?"
"Deaths are not something to be mourned. It simply means a person is free to become one with the Force," Aayla replied, once more one of the mantras of the Order coming to the fore.
"Wow, remind me to never rely on you to rescue anyone for me. If you don't care if they live or die, you're useless," Harry stated plainly as he shook his head in slight disbelief. "No emotions mean you're no longer living. You're a Droid. I might as well program one of them to fulfill your functions."
"The Jedi Order isn't about denying emotions exist, it's about not letting them rule you," Aayla responded, this wasn't the first time she'd had this argument. "Droids can't feel the living Force."
"The Order has no concept of living. They've cut themselves off from living life," Harry replied shortly. "You Jedi shut yourselves down to avoid putting yourselves in all situations that might cause a negative emotional response. Things normal people, at least emotionally healthy ones, learn to deal with as children and teenagers."
"Your Order's religion has decided to avoid the whole situation entirely, and stick everyone in some tight rope act from a circus. Of course toss in 'Force powers' and that balancing act is suddenly done 100 meters in the air with thermal detonators. While you all hope you all never drop one, or Merlin forbid, fall down."
"I understand this is just from the accounts I've heard from Ahsoka, though your opinion seems to dovetail nicely. Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka, are just two examples. 'Passionate' as they may be, by your own admittance are powerful and incredibly accomplished in your war. Though of course when Ahsoka was telling me things, she tried her hardest to downplay her part in things," Harry stated wryly with a shake of his head and glanced at her, grinning a bit when she blushed and looked down.
"They've done this without cutting themselves off entirely from living. Attachments with one another... to others. Passion. Compassion. Those things so looked down on, have been a strength for them at times," Harry said while gesturing at Ahsoka.
"Yes but those very things could lead them down the Dark Side. They become liabilities in battle and can impair their judgment," Aayla replied, a nervousness to her tone now as Harry openly espoused an idea much like Sith propaganda.
"Your life doesn't need to be 100% ruled by the doctrines of your Order. There is a reason during times of war that soldiers have leave and should have strict time limits on deployment. Otherwise they burn out or develop a whole host of issues along the lines of post traumatic stress disorder or worse," Harry stated with a sigh, "When you're not in battle, there's no need to avoid attachments. Yet your Order looks down on them for this."
"But… they're risking falling to the Dark Side. Attachment can skew judgment and cause a Jedi to value one person or thing above others. They lose sight of the Greater Good," Aayla said and then blinked. Harry's eyes had darkened and his entire expression hardened.
"'The Greater Good.'" Harry spat out the phrase, and the absolute loathing he colored the phrase was far more visible than at any other point in the discussion. "More lives have been sacrificed and lost to that phrase than any other in history. Mostly because people who didn't understand the true meaning behind the phrase used it to justify their actions."
"It is the truth!" Aayla argued, her tone becoming more heated as Harry's philosophy seemed to more and more mirror what she had seen of the Sith. "They form attachments and then they start making decisions that sacrifice others in order to protect whatever is most important to them."
"It just gets worse from there. Their thinking gets skewed. They start to focus on other things. They become overwhelmed with fear of losing those that are important, or vengeance when those that are important to them are inevitably lost. Having and being ruled by those emotions can easily make them vulnerable to the Dark Side," Aayla said emphatically.
Harry snorted, "So can having the compassion of a rock. Without compassion there is no morality. By your logic a Jedi should never smile, or laugh or frown or be irritated. By the very nature of the example you used, your Order makes you suppress your emotions so that if you get sent on suicide missions, your compatriots should not risk saving you or risk being labeled as evil for it."
"That's not true. It's just allowing the emotions that cause those things to rule us that is forbidden," Aayla replied shaking her head, "And what is your alternative? Just indulging in your emotions?"
"Well, admitting that one has them is a good first step," Harry replied.
"And when those emotions get twisted? Or become overwhelming?" Aayla demanded and pointed at Ahsoka. "She was just here ranting, upset and angry and all your shelves were shaking in direct response to her emotions."
Ahsoka looked surprised at that but Harry seemed utterly unconcerned. "A person should deal with emotions as they come. They shouldn't wait until they're overwhelming them to do something about what's bothering them."
"And when they can't wait? Then what? They embrace the easy path, and fall to the Dark Side. They have abilities and skills that are so tempting, giving into your emotions opens those possibilities up. Trust me. I know. Those abilities and powers and thoughts that are selfish and seem like they would be rewarding… they are so tempting," Aayla said heatedly.
Harry nodded, "That they are. But let me ask you both something. If you're a soldier, do you drop everything at the first sign of trouble on a mission and allow your emotions to overwhelm you?"
Both Ahsoka and Aayla shook their heads in the negative, and Harry continued, "Then why would a trained soldier, allow themselves to put their emotions first in a high-pressure situation when lives are at stake? If they do, then it's because someone else screwed the mission up, or you didn't give that soldier all the training they needed to succeed."
"You don't like that Ahsoka was in here ranting. What should she have done then? Bottled it up? Said nothing about how life has dumped a load of bantha shit on her?" Harry challenged her, his voice firm without raising it. "No, she came here, found an ear that would listen, and aired her grievances. I can't do anything about those problems, and she knows that. But it's the fact she talked those emotions through which allows her to overcome them."
"But she-" Aayla began, but Harry cut her off.
"Yes yes, she threw some crap around," he waved his hands around unconcernedly. "Uncontrolled or accidental magic we call it. Our children have these bouts when they experience high emotions. It's normal. That pain and anger she felt has to go somewhere, right? So what if she banged some shit around. If she internalized all that, it just makes her wallow in it, and that is what will slowly poison a person's mind."
He waved unconcernedly over at a few boxes that had been turned over and dented, and they rose up and repaired back to their original shape before sliding onto shelves.
He turned to Ahsoka, "Feel better since you came in here and broke some shit?"
Ahsoka hesitated and then nodded, "I feel like a bit of a weight lifted. It's still there, but it isn't the forefront of everything."
Harry nodded, "And it won't go away until you finish working through it."
He turned to Aayla, who had been distracted slightly by Harry's casual display of magic but who refocused on Harry when his attention was clearly on her. "Sounds like you have some unfinished ranting of your own to do, if one goes by how passionate you are about this argument. I'm certainly not saying rant at me, but you need to find someone to do it with, or you'll face the same problems."
Aayla's face hardened at the words, which obviously touched upon something deep-seated and personal for her, so the subject was dropped. There was a pause before Harry replied quietly, his voice firm but soft. "Someone once told me that it is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
"Now I may have mixed feelings about the old man who told me that. As a matter of fact for the longest time I despised him, and thought he was a Dark Lord himself," Harry said, an unamused smile crossing his face. "He made so many choices around my life that were 'for the Greater Good,' which essentially was code for 'everyone's good but Harry's'."
The bitterness in Harry's smile faded a little bit. "Over time I learned that, like so many things in life, it wasn't black and white. He wasn't as good as he fancied himself or as dark as I imagined. Like the majority of people who aren't totally evil assholes or saints, he existed in shades of grey, dealing with events as best he could or as he thought best, usually in the most secretive ruthless manner needed to ensure his goals. Perhaps he acted in darker shades of gray, but they were gray none the less."
Harry shook his head, "However I may feel about the man, his words about choices have more than a little bit of truth to them."
When he saw Aayla's doubtful look, Harry gestured toward the hold. "I have a bunch of scum-bag bounty hunters and slavers in there. I could just go and execute them all. I don't even have to use magic, or fire a blaster. I just press a button, enter an authorization code, and the ship will space them."
"I don't even need any special abilities for that. I could also just take a blaster and start firing, or simply stop the life support systems from functioning in there and let them suffocate," Harry listed off dispassionately "I choose not to. It doesn't matter what emotion I feel. It doesn't matter what abilities I may or may not have. I make that choice and my choice defines me."
"I… understand your point to an extent. I still think allowing oneself to indulge in those emotions are dangerous. But... I'm not sure what all of that has to do with not being able to teach me," Aayla said, trying to bring it back to the original topic.
"And that is why I won't teach you," Harry said with a slight shake of his head. "I believe you will fail."
That left Aayla speechless, feeling like she'd been slapped. Worse was the look that was on Harry's face. It was a look that was filled with a combination of pity and a touch of scorn.
He shook his head slightly and then nodded slightly at Ahsoka. "We'll continue lessons in a bit, I'm going to go check on our guests." Then he moved to head out of the room, ignoring Aayla completely.
Aayla felt a lurch inside her, and it wasn't just her stomachs that did so. This one wasn't purely physical, it had a tinge of the Force behind it as well.
She knew without a doubt that if he left the room, the decision would be final. The vision that filled her with horror would come about, and there is nothing she'd be able to do to stop it. Aayla felt her temper flare as he moved to brush past her as if she were inconsequential, not even a nuisance.
She reacted and stepped in front of him, putting herself directly between him and the exit. "No! That's not acceptable. I will not simply give up. I won't let you brush me off like this. I can't let you!" she stated and almost snarled simultaneously.
She found herself looking up into stormy green eyes. He had nearly a head of height on her and that fact was driven home by being so close to him. She hadn't been in such close proximity to him before, and realized he was a lot more intimidating up close.
Especially right now.
His eyes, emerald green seemed to swirl with energy. It was as entrancing as it was intimidating and for just a moment Aayla wondered if she could fall into those eyes.
Being this close to him was also slightly disorienting. As an empath she was used to feeling emotions from people, just magnified by the Force. She could generally tell what people around her were feeling. But Harry was different. He was completely blank. He might as well have been a rock for all the emotions she was getting from him.
"I'm not letting you go until you agree to let me go with you," she stated, wishing her voice didn't quiver so much or have quite the tinge of desperation in it.
Harry scowled down at her, his voice taking on a cold and dangerous quality. "You think you can force me to teach you?"
Aayla's senses were screaming 'danger' at her but she ignored them. This was too important. She couldn't let her dark vision come to pass. "I won't let you walk away simply because I don't understand something! That could just be something else you could teach me."
"Why should I bother?" Harry asked, with scorn filling his voice, not backing away, nor making any move to engage her physically.
Aayla's voice was rising and she pointed her finger right in Harry's face, her temper combining with her desperation to get the point across. "Because I saw it! If you don't, then everything I've fought for will be destroyed. Everyone I know will die!"
Harry's voice was utterly apathetic and ice cold as he stared down at her. His voice added a mocking tone, "What happened to 'no attachments?' Those that pass on… well according to you they shouldn't be mourned. They'd just be 'joining the Force,' right?'"
"Jedi will die! My friends. Innocent people… children... will die!" Aayla responded, the vision of the darkness in her mind rising again. She stepped forward, looking up at Harry practically nose to nose with him less than an inch of space between the two of them. She felt herself losing her composure and struggled to keep it but she was losing the battle. In her mind the horror of death after death of betrayal and darkness filled her, not just her mind, but her emotions.
Harry's eyes bored into hers, not backing away from her invasion of his personal space in the slightest. His tone not changing as it cracked like a whip. "Innocent people and children die all the time. What makes these ones so special? Who cares if a few more die?"
"I care, damn it!" Aayla snarled physically poking him in the chest with enough force that his body shifted slightly back as she pressed forward to glare up at him, her entire body heaving with emotion.
Harry's expression was blank for a moment and silence descended as those words hung in the air.
Aayla worried she had gone a step too far by almost escalating this to a physical confrontation. One of the cardinal rules of diplomacy and negotiation was to never be the one to first escalate things to physical violence. She winced at how easily her control had frayed and snapped.
Harry had just seemed to press her buttons one after another, and she'd lost her cool, and now she'd have no chance of staying with the duo. Once more the audible cries of betrayal and pain, from children and Jedi filled her mind. Their pain as their light was extinguished from the galaxy and darkness gleefully took its place. For just a moment she felt despair well up inside her,
Despair gave way to confusion as the expression on Harry's face shifted.
What had once been cold and scornful had first gone to blank, and then it changed to a gentle smile and his entire demeanor shifted.
"Okay," he said simply.
Aayla scowled up at him and then blinked as the word and its connotations penetrated her mind.
"Huh?" was her eloquent reply
Harry looked genuinely pleased and glanced back at Ahsoka, in an official sounding voice laced with magic he spoke, "Ahsoka Tano, Aayla Secura is hereby exempt from any secrecy oath you've made to me. We'll get one from her later."
Ahsoka blinked as she felt a slight twist in the Force as the meaning of the words settled into her mind.
Harry turned back to Aayla, an impish grin on his face. "Alright Blue, we'll talk about your oath after you find out all you'll need to know about them and their effects from Ahsoka."
Harry patted her on the head and said, "Welcome to the Gryffindor," then pushed past her and out into the hold.
She turned and watched him leave, utterly bewildered by what had just taken place. Her previous anger and desperation had so completely shifted to confusion that she was struggling to process and catch up. Harry's mood swings were giving her whiplash.
Aayla, at a complete loss now as to how she should respond, looked to Ahsoka for clarification. "What… just happened?"
Ahsoka looked tired, especially after the emotional upheaval she experienced when she witnessed the Council's latest betrayal, but there was a slight smile on her face as she walked by Aayla. "I believe you just passed a test."
"Test?" she gawked at Ashoka's back, but Ahsoka did not respond or enlighten her, which left Aayla all alone in the room.
Aayla watched her leave with a befuddled expression on her face. 'What could he have possibly tested me over, and how did I pass?'
She thought back to what had happened, specifically his clinical analysis of the failings of the Order, and the dividing lines that were being drawn by its leadership. She requested training, and volunteered for an oath, only to be harshly denied, and it was done in a way that confused Ahsoka too.
Then he started talking about some other topic, how, after Yoda, Skywalker and Ahsoka were both considered powerful and successful. Why? 'Because they were reckless, emotional beings.'
She didn't get it, and it was where she became completely lost. Her mind ground to a halt as that thought finally registered. Was it as simple as that? He had just explained how emotions were necessary. Was showing strong emotions what he wanted?
Or was it even simpler than that? What had he asked? 'Who cares if they die?' In her desperation, she gave an honest reply, one she only now realized went against many of the main tenets of the Jedi Code itself, even if they would want to pretend that it didn't..
She didn't even quite comprehend yet what about that statement caused him to change his mind. Was it her vocally and angrily expressing her opinion? Was it her declaring that she cared, and had an attachment to the beings who also served in the Order? She truly was no closer to understanding his logic now than when she had started to ponder his actions and words.
All she knew was that she would stay with them.
With the final revelation that she would stay aboard the Gryffindor, her legs collapsed out from underneath her.
All at once the past few days caught up with her. From the near-escapes on Nar Shaddaa, to seeing Force abilities that she'd never dreamed of, to seeing the heartbreaking scene of Harry speaking with the slaves, to meeting with the Council, and now securing her spot on the ship after being provoked.
She felt tears fall down her face as she realized she wouldn't be kicked or ordered off the ship that promised to potentially open a path to a future that didn't involve the death of everyone she knew… including herself.
She struggled to pull herself together, trying to calm herself but it all hit her at once. The first sob finally broke through.
She put her hand to her head as the tears fell while she tried to calm the storm of emotions. The vision had impacted her so viscerally, the deaths of so many dying in pain, agony, and betrayal. She had felt them all. Not the least of which was her own death. The fear, the hurt, the broken hope and dreams that came with each death. The sensation of sinking into darkness and then… nothing. Horrifying.
She had barely any time to ponder that vision before she'd been pushed to try and stay on the ship, and then talk to the Jedi Council, and then argued with Harry. She hadn't had any time to process everything. She had sectioned off her reaction to the vision, focusing on the issues at hand. But now, absolutely alone in essentially a storage closet of a strange ship, it overwhelmed her all at once.
"Here," a soft voice said.
She jerked in surprise at the sudden presence of someone else in the room, someone she hadn't even sensed. Aayla further flinched that anyone could see her like this, rubbing her eyes rapidly, even knowing it was futile. Many of the hardline Masters of the Order would harshly berate her for such a loss of composure.
She looked up and started slightly. Not a few inches from her was Harry. He was kneeling down and holding out a clean piece of finely tailored cloth for her to take. The action was so unexpected that Aayla looked at him blankly, not comprehending.
Harry smiled a kind smile and reached forward and wiped the cloth over her cheek in a surprisingly gentle touch.
She held still though a brief frown crossed her face as even the touch didn't seem to generate any sort of reading on his emotions. For an empath, that confused her further. She was so used to feeling a rush of emotions when there was a touch. It told her about people, their thoughts and intentions.
She'd often felt the gamut of emotions, happiness, gratefulness, anger, deceit, though it was usually always tinged with attraction or lust. Except Harry. He was still a complete blank to her.
He continued to wipe gently at the stray tears that still were on her face and had collected at her chin. She took the piece of cloth from him in order to begin wiping her own face as she took another steadying breath, cursing herself for the shudder in it. "I'm sorry. I'm a Jedi… I shouldn't just… break down like this."
Harry snorted a little bit, as he turned and easily sat down beside her on the ground. Though instead of scorn or irritation that had been there earlier, his face now reflected a bit of sadness. "Like I said. You're a living being. I know this may come as a shock but emotions are okay."
At her lack of response, and the way she turned her head to look away in shame, Harry reached over and turned her head gently but insistently back toward him to look into her eyes. "You're not going to fall to the Dark Side and take over the galaxy because your emotions finally got the best of you in a stressful time while all alone in the back of a ship after what could charitably be called a long day."
Aayla smiled a little bit at the weak joke, but the result was still only temporary. She felt like a failure. No other Jedi behaved like this, at least as far as she knew. She had always been called emotional, and her empathic abilities hadn't helped, but to lose her composure like this was definitely not the Jedi way.
Harry settled down quietly, leaning back against the bulkhead as he watched Aayla studiously avoid his gaze. He hadn't meant to push her to a point where she broke like that. He had simply been pushing her buttons to try and get her to see the hypocrisy of her statements and the Order's tenets as a whole.
He had no problem reducing someone to tears if the situation called for it. But… the brief explosion of emotion was what he expected, not a complete collapse like he was seeing.
"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked softly.
Aayla looked at him and frowned, instead of pondering why she should open up and spill her deepest secrets and hidden shame to a total stranger, she instead blurted out, "Why are you acting so different?"
Harry tilted his head with a little bit of an amused smile on his face, inviting her to continue.
Aayla gestured obliquely, clarifying her question "Just a minute ago you were… cold and… uncaring."
Harry raised an eyebrow a hint of a smile on his face, "You mean emotionless."
Aayla flinched slightly at that statement and deflated immediately. Emotionless was truly not a state that Jedi coveted. Serenity was the goal, but in the end, they weren't all that different. Either way, it was rare she achieved a sense of serenity, doubly so because of the emotions she constantly sensed from others with her empathy.
It was just as difficult for her not to succumb to her baser instincts and emotions when confronted with a stressful situation. Normally she managed to control herself so that she didn't end up in this state, but Harry had hit several soft points for her.
Normally she persevered and managed to control herself, and she never lost control in front of others. She had always managed to keep it in, her personal shame never becoming public. Until now
She couldn't help it this time, as she felt her lip quiver first. She shut her eyes as tightly as she could, somehow hoping that if she couldn't see anything, then no one would see her at her weakest moment.
She held her breath without thinking, and then, when her lungs burned and she could take it no more, she gasped for air, only it wasn't the sound of a gasp that escaped from her lips, but a half sob. She put her hand to her head trying to control her sudden onslaught of emotions.
She never lost composure like this. Ever.
But… all those deaths. All those faces. Dying in shock and horror. And for a brief moment it felt that the fate of the Order and universe rested on her to avert that horror and that she was going to fail. That had been worse than all the faces she'd already seen die in this war. These were all personal. She'd not just seen them, but felt them all.
She'd never had a Force vision like that. It had destroyed her equilibrium.
Harry wrapped an arm around her shoulder gently. Aayla stiffened before relaxing slightly, he was warm and comforting and space was cold, so the closet they were in seemed chilly, without her having to deal with a further influx of emotions. She shivered before allowing herself to be comforted at least a little bit.
Harry's voice was soft and soothing, as he began to speak into her conical shaped ear, "To answer your question, I'm still rather… irritated with our slaver guests. Your presence and initial lie didn't help your case. Then you turn around and start asking me to show you something that, as far as I can tell, no one else that you're likely to run into can perform. All this, when you've already admitted to spying on me."
She pondered his words as she tried to ignore the sensation of more tears falling down her face and dripping from her chin. It was true, this couldn't have been counted as a 'normal' day by any stretch of the imagination, and her own arrival had no doubt complicated matters for him. Having to deal with an Jedi fraught with unrestrained emotion yelling about a vision no doubt only further annoyed him.
"Regarding this vision you've received, I wasn't entirely convinced that it wasn't just a manipulation to get closer and continue to spy upon me and Ahsoka," Harry went on as if he was reading her mind, "So I needed to know how honest you were."
"I needed to know the real you, and you'd be amazed at what people reveal about themselves when they're worked up," Harry said as he chuckled a little bit.
"You mean when you get them angry?" Aayla said tiredly, looking up at him as she felt Harry once again wipe away some of the freshly fallen tears on her face.
"Well… angry, giddy, desperate, aroused. Any of those tend to work," Harry replied blandly, a small smile on his face. "Drunk can also work, but can also distort the personality. So I tend to shy away from that route."
Aayla blinked and looked up at him, shock riding freely on her face at the comment about arousal. Briefly, she wondered for a moment if he knew the last two moments in her vision, and found herself blushing a bit. But his expression was only amused, he didn't have a knowing look. She elbowed him lightly, and managed a small smile.
Harry took the nudge in good humor. His expression turned more somber, though his voice remained gentle. "I admit that I was deliberately trying to provoke you. So I pressed at spots that seemed like they might be sensitive. I do apologize, at least a little bit for the approach I took, and how I said what I did."
"So you didn't mean it?" Aayla asked, her tone a mix of confusion and accusation.
"I didn't say that," Harry replied, his tone gentle but firm. "I didn't say I was sorry for what I said, just how I said it, and how I was provoking you."
When Aayla looked at him, as she tried to understand what he was saying, Harry continued, "Ms. Secura, I know you barely know me. You don't know my history. You don't know what I've discussed or taught Ahsoka."
"I have made it very clear that I have a large problem with your Jedi Order. I see a great many things that are completely illogical or I just flat out don't like. I freely admit, I am biased and until I see counter proof, that isn't likely to change." Harry stated honestly.
"But don't think that I don't recognize that you've done in order to be here, and from what I heard from that holovid, you maneuvered that whole meeting with the Council so that you could push them into a situation where they would allow you to stay here," Harry said gently.
"The question I don't know yet is the real reason why. In your own words, without being provoked just short of attempting to stab me with your laser sword." There was a brief pause, "Do you want to tell me about it?"
Aayla frowned, she could read the sincerity in his tone and eyes. She ducked her head slightly, her eyes focusing on the floor. "You heard me mention my visions to the Council."
It wasn't a question, it was a statement, so Harry didn't say anything in response.
"I wasn't kidding when I said I had a vision of a possible future. It was one that showed me what would happen if I didn't stay with you," Her voice shook a little bit but she did her best to remain calm. "I saw things, terrible things. I saw the death of just about every single person I know and yes, even care about."
"I saw their deaths. I felt their deaths. I felt the emotions they were feeling as their life faded from their body. I felt them disappear and join the Force, every one of them in agony and feeling betrayed. One by one, and there were hundreds of them. Including almost everyone I know. Dozens of children I recognize from the temple," she shuddered again and felt Harry's arm squeeze her reassuringly over her shoulder.
"Then I saw my own death, and I felt every single bit of pain, confusion, and terror the others were feeling magnified a hundred times. I felt everything the moment I died. Heat from the world, pain from blaster bolts hitting my body."
"I saw and felt all of that in the span of a few seconds. I can't close my eyes now and not see them all staring back at me or feel what they were feeling." The tears had already begun to fall again as her mind once again turned to that bone chilling vision she so desperately wished she could forget.
She looked up at him, and had no idea how helpless she looked at that very moment to him, but she welcomed his embrace as he switched from a one armed hug of companionship, to a full embrace of comfort. "I will tell you, that's the one area you Jedi have me beat all hollow. The seeing paths to the future."
"I was told I don't have the Inner Eye for seeing such things," Harry replied in a tone that was dry and sarcastic "Of course then that same woman proceeded to walk into a wall. So… her opinion on 'the Sight' was questionable at best."
Aayla laughed at the idea of a seer walking into a wall, and only then finally realized where the handkerchiefs were coming from, as she saw him conjure one from thin air with the briefest of disturbances from the Force. This time though, he handed her the handkerchief, which allowed her to keep some of her shattered dignity.
"You know just how to switch dampers and make someone feel better, don't you?" she said quietly as she blew her nose.
Harry grinned impishly. "Improper use of humor and sarcasm. It's one of my many character flaws."
"Ahsoka said something about your character flaws. Though, when she talked about them, I distinctly remember a Zeltron's chest being involved," Aayla said wryly.
Harry snorted lightly, "I refuse to comment upon that as I may end up incriminating myself. And I hardly see appreciation for beauty as a flaw."
She rolled her eyes and muttered, "Pervert," but that didn't stop her from sinking further into his embrace. There was just something comforting about it.
After a prolonged silence that lasted a few minutes, he asked, "Feeling better?"
Aayla found herself nodding and managing a smile, indeed feeling better than she had been feeling before her emotional explosion.
"Oh good. Otherwise I was going to have to break out my store of chocolate," Harry said, his voice tinged with relief.
"Your chocolate stores?" Aayla echoed.
Harry nodded, "At times, it's more effective than a calming charm, especially on those of the feminine persuasion."
At Aayla's raised eyebrow he continued, "Oh yes, I have all different kinds in case of emergencies. Chocolate bars for immediate fixes. I have chocolate chips for cookies and baking. There's chocolate ice cream, when cooling down is important. Chocolate cake mix for parties, chocolate powder for hot chocolate when I need to warm up, and chocolate syrup for…" Harry broke off from his ramble.
Aayla raised her brow as she stared at him, wondering why he trailed off, "Chocolate syrup for what?"
Harry grinned impishly "Maybe someday I'll show you, Blue."
Aayla blinked several times, and then narrowed her eyes slightly. "I'm not going to be safe one minute around you, am I?"
Harry just laughed in response before pulling away to stand up, offering her a hand to do the same. "C'mon, I'm going to check on our guests, we've still got a long ways to go before we get to Kashyyyk."
Aayla took Harry's hand, letting him pull her to a standing position. She was grateful that he didn't pry further into her thoughts or attempt to make her talk. He just let her follow him into the main cargo hold. He could obviously tell she was tired and he nudged her toward one of the unused cots that seemed to appear. Aayla was emotionally and physically tired enough that she didn't complain.
She spent the next few hours and watched as Harry spoke to a few of the recently freed slaves in the hold that had woken up. This time he did it without the bubble of silence around them. Though she only made it those few minutes before she fell into an exhausted sleep on a cot Harry had provided for her as well.
Most of the slaves were exhausted from their ordeals, and seemed to be more than content to spend time catching up on sleep, but others stayed awake sitting on their beds and talking, always quietly and nervously. Aayla knew that even though they were sleeping on cots, they were probably the first fresh beds they'd had in awhile, possibly the first good sleep as well.
Aayla watched when she woke this time not just focused or turning over Harry's 'magic' in her mind. She spent quite a bit of time watching him with a more impartial eye, and realized that Harry seemed to be very experienced or had been trained with people in these sort of situations.
He moved slowly. Spoke softly and calmly. Didn't raise ever his voice or show anger. He sat on the floor near the cots, giving each person he was talking to her own space. It also gave them a level of perceived power just by sitting with their heads above his. He nodded encouragingly when they spoke. He didn't initiate contact with any of them even when they started crying. He let them comfort one another freely. But didn't flinch when they initiated timid hugs. That alone made him more accessible than Jedi she knew might handle it.
Over the next few days of hyperspace travel, she would become more and more familiar with the sight of how Harry interacted with the slaves. Ahsoka spent most of that time in the cockpit only occasionally coming back to talk to Harry. She wondered when Harry slept because it seemed he was up before her and went to bed after her. She had almost no time to talk to him about his 'magic' because he was almost always taking time to comfort the recently freed slaves. Some of the slaves would come to him individually to talk, others were only brave enough to come in groups.
Aayla finally gave them more space by heading into the cockpit where Ahsoka had gone some time earlier. Ahsoka had spent the last few days quiet and off by herself. Aayla had only seen her occasionally, but the girl seemed to be on an opposite sleep schedule from Aayla on those days so their interactions were quiet. Aayla respected the girl's need for introspection and appreciated that neither Ahsoka nor Harry pressed for details about the vision they were now aware that she had.
Still on the last day of their hyperspace journey, Aayla went looking for the former padawan, intending to talk to her at least a little bit more than the few passing conversations they had the previous days. Harry hadn't really spoken to Ahsoka more than a handful of times very much over the past couple of days either, but mostly because he seemed to be spending the majority of his time with the freed slaves. In fact Aayla realized that she never saw him anywhere but with the slaves during that time.
Ahsoka was found with her eyes focused on the passing hyperspace lines. There wasn't a sound in the cockpit, and most of the pilot station controls in front of her were dimmed. When Aayla sat down in the pilot seat next to her Ahsoka blinked slightly and gave her a small smile.
"What is it you're doing?" Aayla asked curiously, she had been doing the same thing many times over the past few days and Aayla had been focused on some of the other things she had seen, discussion on what Harry had done, and discussion of her own Oath, something she had nervously but willingly given.
Whatever she was doing though, it definitely did not seem like meditation. Too much active concentrating.
"It's a discipline of magic that Harry said I could start working on without a focus, called Occlumency," Ahsoka said before she looked briefly thoughtful, then added, "Huh, it feels nice to be able to say that to someone."
Aayla tilted her head, "What's Occlumency?"
Ahsoka chuckled, "It's a way of defending your mind from attack and manipulation. It also helps with memory recall and focus. Harry said the Jedi do the first step by learning to clear their mind. After that you have to create some sort of safe space in your mind, a construct of whatever you like and start organizing and sorting your memories."
"Sorting your memories?" Aayla inquired curiously, and thought the appeal of being able to defend one's mind against manipulation was definitely a selling point for her. At one point in her life, her memories had been wiped because of glitteryll poisoning when she'd been captured. To this day she still didn't have all of her memories back, but sorting memories, she didn't understand that part.
Ahsoka furrowed her brow as she stroked one of her head tails idly. "It's hard to explain, and Harry had to actually show me how. But... I'm going in and sorting my memories and storing them each after organizing my mind, so that they're protected."
"Harry explained that once that was done the only people who would be able to access the memories would be myself or anyone I allow. He also said that it would help greatly in my lessons going forward, though we haven't really gotten into how."
Ahsoka looked a little bit sheepish. "We've actually not done anything practical in other subjects yet, though he's done a few practical demonstrations though."
"Oh, what did he demonstrate?" Aayla asked, thinking back to what she had already seen.
"Just ask Harry to demonstrate 'noise', and make sure he demonstrates with water," Ahsoka grinned impishly, remembering her own introduction to the water. Then her expression grew more serious. "The rest we're sort of taking slowly, at the moment he's making up the instructions as he goes."
"I thought you said that this was more formal and structured instruction," Aayla protested with a frown.
Ahsoka nodded, "It is, but he said he's only seen it instructed from a young age as a student, or from about my age when someone has a founding in all of the different areas of magic. He's never seen it instructed to people older who already have some experience in using magic, but no concept of what he calls the basics."
"So he's adjusting the courses to account for our prior training then?" Aayla asked.
"Partially," Ahsoka nodded hesitantly, "Though Harry has phrased it as 'adjusting it to include deprogramming for all the idiocy I've been taught'. But he also has none of the course material relevant to all this with him. He has some safe house he's alluded to somewhere on Kashyyyk, that was the main reason we were travelling there next."
"The fact that they're extreme hardliners regarding slavery is only a bonus," Ahsoka chuckled a little bit.
Aayla pondered the ramifications, "A formal education in manipulating the Force."
She looked at Ahsoka again, curiosity quickly getting the better of her, "What all have you witnessed him do besides the teleporting and shrinking and the room growing thing?"
"I've seen him change one thing to another, which is an art he calls Transfiguration," Ahsoka began to list off after a pause, ticking off her fingers. "I have seen him stick things to walls that then become immovable until he releases them, which is apparently a class of spell that falls under the category of 'charms.' Of course I've seen him literally create something out of nothing."
Aayla nodded a little bit, she had witnessed that herself with the conjured handkerchiefs.
"That art is apparently different than transfiguration, and is called conjuration," Ahsoka elaborated slightly. "At first I thought he was somehow transfiguring air into the new material, but he went into some long technical explanation about how things work that made my head spin."
"An explanation of the way things work with the Force?" asked Aayla unable to keep surprise from her voice.
"Yep," said Ahsoka brightly, her inner calm that had been a result of her mediation and occlumency practice now gone. "It is like the astrophysics of the Force."
"So... it's like a study of what the Force can and can't do. Different rules for the most part?" Aayla tilted her head curiously as she pondered that.
Ahsoka frowned and hesitated at that. "I don't... know that I would go that far. More like a study into the different ways we can use the Force."
Aayla tilted her head in the other direction as a puzzled look crossed her face. "I don't understand the difference. We're not supposed to 'use' the Force, but be guided by it."
"Harry has said to me multiple times, that he doesn't believe that there is anything Magic can't do."
Ahsoka held up her hand, to cut off Aayla's follow up statement. "He says that there are some things Magic shouldn't be used for. There are consequences for certain actions. And that Magic can and does exact a price for the abuse of its gift."
Aayla nodded a little bit, there were similar thoughts along the Force. Channeling too much, trying to do too much, could kill a Jedi. Many Jedi in the past had died using the Force to such an extent they literally burnt their bodies out, almost always in defense of others. Dark side users also tended to extract a price on their bodies as they acted as well."
That was a bit of an ominous statement for Aayla, as she considered the implications. Aayla's mind briefly flashed back to the discussion of oaths that Ahsoka had explained to her several days earlier, before she had given hers.
"Making an oath is a commitment. Making one and sealing it with magic is an even bigger commitment," Ahsoka tried to explain. "So Magic views a violation of an oath as an affront and exacts the price. So if I talked about this to you before Harry released me from the oath to talk to you, the price it would make me pay is my connection to Magic or the Force."
"But... what if you had a slip of the tongue? Or what if someone forced it out of you? Like... an interrogation or something?" Aayla asked, her brow furrowing with the possibilities.
"Magic itself will help protect the secrets. It won't let me just slip. As for interrogation, working on occlumency will protect me from anyone with the capabilities to extract the knowledge," Ahsoka had said reassuringly.
Her expression shifted into a teasing smirk. "Just… make sure Harry doesn't try and slip any requirements about showing your breasts into the oath."
Ahsoka continued, unaware that Aayla had been remembering their earlier conversation. "Harry's people had multiple ways to coerce people to give up their secrets, many of them involuntarily, as well as ways to modify memories."
"He's teaching me how to fight those methods, then said he would teach me how to perform a few of them. Ahsoka shrugged slightly, returning to the topic at hand. "Some of what we talked about is crazy abstract though, like what he calls divination and prophecy, which he says he can't teach."
Ahsoka laughed a little, "He's still rather stunned at how often Jedi seem to look to the Force hoping to see the future. Harry said he has no talent at all for that and very few of his people ever genuinely did."
"On the other hand, something like transfiguration is completely different. The basics make sense... in theory."
Ahsoka was interrupted from continuing by a slight bark from the bird that Aayla had just thus far only seen on the back of a chair and briefly on Harry's shoulder. The bird had been a silent observer and both women had sort of forgotten about her presence.
The bird suddenly hopped off the chair and onto Ahsoka's shoulder, with a fluttering of wings. Ahsoka winced a bit expecting to feel the bird's talons, but the bird seemed to be able to just settle in without gripping the muscle in her shoulder as it settled in.
Ahsoka started slightly and then smiled. "Well hey girl, that's the first time you've been nice to me."
The bird ruffled its feathers haughtily but didn't reply, though let out a contented sound when Ahsoka tentatively began to stroke her chest feathers. "This is Hedwig. She's apparently from Harry's home world, and is a species called an Owl according to him, they sleep in the day, and hunt at night."
"Harry certainly has interesting pets if nothing else," Aayla thought aloud
Hedwig immediately barked in disapproval at Aayla complete with glare.
Ahsoka stage whispered, "She prefers 'companion' though Harry calls her a 'familiar'. In my experience, it is best to simply treat her as if she's sentient."
There was a short bark from the owl, and Ahsoka added sheepishly "And Harry said it's safest to just assume she's the smartest one on the ship at any given time."
"Though, if we're talking about pets, I think Hedwig thinks Harry is her pet," Ahsoka said with a little giggle, though her statement was punctuated by an affirmative and approving little bark from the bird.
Aayla tried to fit this avian in with her current knowledge of Harry, and just couldn't see the relation. He seemed to be a highly complicated man, who defied all attempts to describe and categorize him in a simple manner. Aayla frowned at how wide his skill set was from what she'd seen, "Definitely curious to know what kind of work he prefers to do when a mothering droid and a nocturnal avian are his primary companions."
"Don't forget Dobby," Ahsoka added with a grin, still stroking Hedwig's feathers.
"Yeah... I have no idea what to think about Dobby," Aayla admitted.
"All of this does make me wonder what he does with his time though. He doesn't seem to be an active bounty hunter and I haven't seen anything to smuggle," Aayla said.
Ahsoka laughed, "I have no idea what he does. He certainly doesn't spend much time as a bounty hunter. He said he only registered after someone offered him a slot in the guild after he 'accidentally' saved some guy's life in a bar. The bounty hunter used his credentials to blow off the local police afterwards, and that apparently intrigued Harry. He said that was ultimately the only reason he joined was so could avoid local law enforcement too when he wants to."
"He has no need for money. He appears to just go wherever the flow takes him," Ahsoka frowned a little bit as she verbally puzzled out some of his issues. "The only overarching thing is that he's searching for some things. That's why we were on Nar Shaddaa."
Ahsoka elaborated at Aayla's curious look. "He performed a job for someone, and in return, his reward was delivering some package to some slicer. The whole point of it was merely the introduction to the slicer. Harry paid him ten thousand up front, and another twenty thousand when the slicer mentioned the bounty hunters hanging around the ship and elsewhere."
"And then promised 500 thousand creds if he could find some information on a specific person on the list," Ahsoka said with a frown. "Though… he seemed to be completely caught off guard with the idea that the person could be found."
Aayla blinked, that was a lot of credits no matter what he was looking for. "Who is he searching for?"
"No idea. He hasn't really talked about it. Though I haven't asked. He doesn't pry about my history or anything I've done. So I've sorta extended the same courtesy," Ahsoka shrugged a little bit.
"Do you have a name?" Aayla asked curiously.
Ahsoka tilted her head before she sat forward to the ship's computer keyed up a datafile on the ship she had access to see if there was anything easily accessible.
"If he didn't tell you are you sure you should be looking for it?" Aayla asked She still had it in her mind his distaste for her when he thought she was a spy. She definitely didn't want to be accused of spying after making progress.
"He told me he didn't have anything to hide in there. Any important secrets he has are in his head," Ahsoka said with a shrug. Unfortunately it took Ahsoka about thirty seconds of going through the computer to realize that organization was definitely not Harry's strong suit. At least not any sort of organization she could determine.
She found herself reading recipes for bizarre food dishes and drinks. Files on planetary geological surveys and historical sites. There was even a file labeled thesis whose title made Ahsoka blink "An in depth theoretical examination of psychological impacts of long term youth exposure to a reclusive pre-industrial society through an examination of response to high stress situations, with a focus on concern for mortal peril."
"This is about as organized as slime on a hutt's backside," quipped Ahsoka.
"Ahsoka!" Aayla said, mortified at the language that was just spouted by the younger woman "You were on Nar Shaddaa for less than a day, when did you start speaking like one of them?"
"Whatever, 'Blue'," said Ahsoka with a laugh. "Stick around Harry enough and you'll find that your vocabulary expands accordingly."
"I do not wish to start swearing like a spice smuggler," replied Aayla.
"True, that wouldn't be the career choice I'd see you emulating," Ahsoka said as if she were agreeing with the thought.
"No, more like a high-priced dancer." Harry's voice came from the doorway.
Aayla whipped her head around to see Harry leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed with a look of amusement on his face, though his eyes flicked to Hedwig, a bit surprised at the owl's friendliness.
Her eyes narrowed as a flash of irritation crossed her face. "Just because I'm a Twi'lek doesn't make me a dancer."
"It wasn't the Twi'lek bit that made me assume that, so much as it was the skintight black leather outfit with the suggestive cutaways that you're rockin," Harry said with a wide grin.
Aayla glanced down at the outfit she was still wearing and cursed herself as she felt herself blush. The very large exposed valley of her own cleavage seemed to speak for itself in this case. "Well, I'm not a stereotype," she huffed ineffectively.
"So you can't dance? You move like you had dance lessons at some point," Harry replied with an amused grin. "I can recognize a predator when I see one, and most of the good ones have taken formal dance classes."
"Yes, I've taken dance lessons in the past. I frequently need to infiltrate places where the only 'in' is as a Twi'lek dancer or slave," Aayla said with a slight shrug.
"I wouldn't have thought the Jedi would covertly send in women to seduce men to find evidence or assassinate anyone," Harry said with a frown. "Sounds seduction and elimination would be against their morals."
She blushed initially at the thought, then responded angrily, "I do not perform seduction missions for the Jedi Order."
Harry raised an eyebrow and moved into the cockpit, Aayla shifted out of the pilot seat for him and he settled in without comment. He glanced at the time and noted they were coming up on Kashyyyk shortly.
He glanced back at Aayla with a wry grin. "Blue, you do realize that we're going to a planet where most of the denizens walk around naked. Where exactly are you planning on getting a change of clothes?"
Aayla frowned but before she could reply, Harry hesitated and then visibly brightened "Unless of course you were planning on taking up local customs and walking around naked too! If so, I totally approve."
Aayla sputtered as Harry's playfulness threw her off. Ahsoka broke down in giggles at her expression which focused Aayla's attention on her. "What about Ahsoka? She's wearing less than me!"
"I'm not dressed in black leather," Ahsoka supplied with a cheeky grin.
Aayla had immediately blushed at the silliness of her come back and then shot a betrayed look at the girl who had responded as good as she got.
Harry glanced over at Ahsoka who was now blushing a bit "Well, we were going to stop and get her some clothes on Nar Shaddaa, but the whole 'Kill the Jedi' tone of the conversations sort of binned those plans. So we'll need to try and find clothes for her, or I guess she could follow your example and just walk around naked, too."
"I am not walking around naked!" Aayla protested loudly.
She would have begun a longer rant but she caught the wink that Harry shot a blushing, but grinning Ahsoka. Aayla huffed slightly, trying to ignore her own blush from Harry's teasing. She purposefully changed the subject. "Ahsoka was trying to pull up the list of people that you gave to the hacker to see who you are looking for."
Harry looked at them with a raised eyebrow, a glance at the countdown ticking to the exit of hyperspace.
"We were looking because you said there may be historical figures, and I wonder if the Jedi archives might have some mention of any of these people?" Aayla explained.
"They don't," Harry replied easily as he began to prepare for the exit from hyperspace.
Aayla frowned, "How do you know?"
"I checked two or three years ago," Harry shrugged lightly.
"You... sliced into the Jedi Archives? What do you need to hire a slicer for then? Anyone who could do that would be a legend," Ahsoka asked in disbelief.
It was true, no one had ever managed to break the encryption on the archives. It was said that a Jedi had originally used the Force to come up with the basis for the underlying systems.
"Nah," Harry said, "I just walked in the front-door and checked the records. Didn't find anything."
Ahsoka and Aayla both had dropped jaws at this. Harry was seemingly unaware as he reached forward and dropped the ship smoothly out of hyperspeed over the planet Kashyyyk.
Harry angled his approach toward the planet and the direction he knew the city Rwookrrorro was in. He flicked open the com to signal his approach and frowned when he only got static. "Huh. That's strange. No challenge from the traffic controllers. Rwookrrorro's traffic is hardly ever too busy for them to be slow on the uptake."
Harry continued to head to the planet though he felt his sense of something being wrong growing inside of him.
Ahsoka apparently felt it too because she had snapped out of her shock and was checking scanners. "Harry... I'm reading... several large ships in the city, not in the docking bays..."
Harry glanced over at the display she was looking at with a frown, on his face.
Ahsoka was frowning, as well "I'm reading weapon's discharges from the ships. They're under attack."
Harry's stared out the forward view screen as if he could see the city and the ships inside of it from there. Though his preoccupation didn't stop his fingers from moving over the controls quickly, as if they had a mind of their own.
"The scanners recognize the ship as trandoshan... slave ships. It's... a slave raid," Ahsoka said grimly.
Harry froze for just a second before his fingers flew over the instruments even faster than before, and the ship accelerated toward the planet. His face was concentrating but he commented wryly, "You know Ahsoka... I thought I was the only one whose luck was this bad. My 'saving people thing' has kicked in more times since I've met you than it has in years.
Author's notes: Oh NOES slaver attack! Sharp Eyed Shout Out to anyone who guesses what canon event is going off the rails next!
I want to start by saying that this was a bit more drama filled chapter than some of the previous ones. I'm sorry if it didn't have the humor you've come to expect.
This chapter and the previous one were both written way before the recent revelations of Ahsoka Tano as Fulcrum in the new Rebels series. Until that appearance no one had known what had happened to her. So. I was free to make it up. Now Harry's already messed with fate. Whee!
Anyone who complains that Aayla was acting out of character, my response is that the trauma of not just watching, but feeling everyone you know die will do that too you. She needed to kind of process that. And yes, Harry WAS pressing her buttons, so he was a trifle more insulting toward her. But the only way to get someone to think is challenge their ideals, and he is. It was a character development chapter.
To those people who still think I'm bashing the Jedi Order. First, I really haven't made up any actions they didn't take in canon. Sure one Jedi master was a jerk. And Harry responded, but you'll notice that his comments barely touch on that one. I'm presenting their actions from a certain point of view, which is Harry's. Harry is not always right. He knows this. But he also provokes people until challenged. So. It's the same thing with Anakin, the perspective on him is generally from Ahsoka's point of view, so he is idealized, we haven't gotten to the reality yet.
Finally, Harry really has to poke at a Jedi's ideals to get them to think so you'll see him do this at least 3 or four more times throughout the story. I can hardly just say "And Harry talked to Aayla and made her question the logic of the Jedi decisions and she agreed." Er…? Wut?
Thanks to stargatesg1fan1 for grammar editing once more.
Thank you to Plum as always for the massive story assistance, the little tweaks and for a major change in the basic structure of how I write. I'm always learning and improving!
Plums notes: Yeah, I got nothing this time.
Alternative chapter titles-
"Aayla ends up on her knees and begs all in one chapter!" - Harry Potter
"Harry Potter is an Asshole." - Aayla.
"I'm pretty sure you tried to use that one before." - Harry.
"And it still applies." - Aayla.
"If the store room's a rockin, don't come a knockin!" - Harry Potter.
"Excuse me, do I get my one holocom call?" - Bounty hunter locked in cupboard
"I come off looking pretty badly in these chapters." - Barriss Offee
"You deserve it. traitor." - Ahsoka.
"Hoot hoot hooooot hoot hooot hooooot. Hoot HOOT!" - Hedwig.
"No, we are not renaming this story 'Hedwig's adventures in putting up with her idiot pet and the sexual tension between him and his barely dressed friends.'" - Harry.
Alternative titles submitted by readers for last chapter:
"Harry Potter and his impossibly hard rod!" -Harry.
"That time Harry got his rod cut in half." -Aayla.
(Selection of those submitted by Honest Lunar Raven. Feel free to submit your own in a review for this chapter. Shoutouts to good ones in the next chapter.)