Once again a huge 'thank you' to the lovely and exceedingly talented Silencia20 for all her help with the school in the Ore Mountains! I know some people were confused about it, but it will have a huge impact on Heather and Harry later on down the line...
Heather sometimes forgot that she was learning magic.
Honestly, among the multiple duties she had to Family, trying to make progress into the enormous backlog of paperwork, and attempting to learn an entirely new system of being- well, the majesty, the wonder, was sometimes lost.
The First Year curriculum was also geared into reinforcing the very basics, which was incredibly dull to Heather.
In Charms, Transfiguration, and Defense it was wand movements, concentration exercises, rote memorization being reinforced over and over again. In Potions- despite Professor Snape's rather epic first day speech, which Harry had magnanimously relayed to her- the stirring motions corresponded to wand movements. Preparing ingredients was largely glossed over in favor of learning which fires were to be used the proper potion type and how a twirl versus a swirl stirring motion could mean all the difference between a poison and a remedy.
Herbology was all about common sense and how to recognize the most dangerous types of plant life by sight. Literally. That was most of the curriculum. Every other lesson Sprout would put two saplings or cuttings in front of a pair and then the pair would have to use their text to determine which plant was benign and which was not. Which meant that even those who couldn't be bothered with the practical half of the class- which was essentially magical farming- still learned something important, if only by unpleasant fluid to the face or arms and a trip to the Infirmary. There was some crossover when it came to proper cutting and preservation techniques, which Heather assumed was why Snape didn't focus on it much.
But it was all so repetitive. So dull.
Heather had been keeping a tight grip on her frustration with her fellow students, though. She understood- she did!- the struggles they were having. Could see how hard they were working to overcome obstacles that didn't exist for her. And she helped where she could!
When Heather noticed that Cordelia Carrow tended to hyperfixate- on Charms mostly- while also tending to miss social cues, needing to be reminded every five minutes about what she'd been told to do, and had acute reactions to negativity directed at her person, the former Potter Heiress had been starkly reminded of Before-her's brother. He'd had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. So Heather had written up everything she remembered about helping him manage his ADHD-related issues and had Percy slip Assistant Professor Shacklebolt.
Gracey Tilton was one of the Ravenclaw aux students- what Heather had taken to calling their group- and after Heather had witnessed the Ravenclaw having a meltdown over their things being coated in stickiness thanks to an ill-timed prank- the meltdown required Madame Pomfrey to come to the student- instead of making fun of the girl, she had sent for information. Six days later Liv sent back a thick file of compiled information about neurological disorders, diagnosis and treatment options, and contact information for Healers, Physicians and the like.
Percy passed the file to Penelope Clearwater, who passed it to Professor Flitwick, who then passed it to Madame Pomfrey, who then went to the Headmaster.
A fortnight later Headmaster Dumbledore announced that the school would be hosting a cadre of Apprentice Physicians, who were compiling information for their Mastery Thesis. Gracey Tilton was one of the many students whose parents agreed to allowing the foreign Healers to treat their offspring, and then Gracey herself agreed.
And yet, for every situation where Heather could help- there were twice as many that she couldn't.
Rhiannon Rookwood had lashed out at Heather when the red-haired girl had tried to offer help with the girl's obvious scarring. The right side of Rhiannon's face looked like someone had carved it up and then just let the upraised skin harden. If that weren't terrible enough, the girl's eye was almost entirely obscured by the jagged scarring, and Heather had noticed the girl's intense headaches from trying to constantly compensate for her bad eye.
The Black Family Magic had protected Heather from the sickly yellowish curse, but Heather would never forget the unhinged look and the nauseating feel of the girl's magic as it rose between them during Rhiannon's emotional outburst.
And the less said about Heather's attempt to comfort Audrey Diggle after Heather had used strategically placed stinging hexes to chase off some upper year Slytherins the better. That had been in a loo on the fourth floor and Heather had yet to feel comfortable going back into it after being thoroughly lambasted and shoved hard enough she lost her footing and cracked her head on one of the ornate sinks.
Red hair was rather good at hiding blood.
So, while magic was wondrous….it often took a backseat to the many, many things that Heather felt the compulsive urge to 'fix'.
Yes, she was aware that it was a particularly bad habit of hers, but as the older sibling of a younger who didn't 'look special needs/disabled' the lesson of 'you never know the struggle someone else is going through no matter what they seem like on the outside' had been learned. Repeatedly. Unforgettably.
Yet, as she stepped inside the Room of Requirement- she was well and truly lost, but the Trolls were sort of a giveaway- and into a room that only existed inside her dreams, she was once again reminded of the majesty, the wonderment of magic.
The door slid shut behind her and she dropped her fall satchel on the floor. Satin skirts swished in the quiet of the room as she quickly walked towards the stupidly tall bed with the dragon quilt and by the time she had fallen face-first into a comfort she had forgotten she needed, she was crying.
She could almost feel a warm weight draped over her waist and warm breaths on her hair. Could smell the scent of Old Spice lingering on the right side pillowcase and the insistent press of a kitty's toe beans on her forehead.
"Moooooom! Pay attention to me!" Her husband laughed as she glared half-heartedly at his 'I'm not moving, I'm comfortable' expression while their eldest brat-cat wanted nighttime pets. "Moooom~!"
"I miss you so much." Heather cried into the magically-replicated quilt that she, Granny, and her husband had started right before Granny had suddenly passed. Before-her had been so heartbroken she hadn't been able to look at the half-finished quilt. Her wonderful mother-in-law had quilted it for her as a surprise that Christmas, and she had cherished the gift for the rest of her life. "There's so much I could use your help with. You were my partner, my buddy, my best friend- and I don't know how to do this without you!"
Instead of toe beans, light claws scraped against her forehead and when Heather glanced up there was Chromie, paw stretched out languidly, staring at Heather steadily.
Heather reached out and stole Chromie, earning herself an indignant squawk and a disgruntled ball of fluff to try and cuddle with. Chromie mewed in protest and wriggled, but eventually got distracted trying to groom Heather's hair, so Heather managed to hold onto her.
The Black Lady knew that she should get up. That she should walk to the door and find her brother and smile and apologize for losing her protective detail but she was just so tired. Not just her body- though Astronomy killed her sleep schedule- but in spirit. She just felt so drained.
Magic, wealth, and the resilience of youth could only carry her so far.
Was it Christmas Break yet?
Heather all but ran off the train, having waited for the crowd to thin down a bit before she disembarked. Secure in the knowledge that Mimsy had her luggage and Chromie, she only had to contend with her satchel. The frigid December winds whipped her flyway hair into her face but she ignored the whiptail stings as she rushed into Sirius' outstretched arms.
He had recovered a good deal of muscle, magic remedies mixing well with constant small meals and running after Snuffles. And he was warm, smelling of something spicy and safe and she stood there for a long moment, nose buried into his chest as the feeling of being safe washed over her like waves crashing against the shore.
"Hey, flower." Sirius murmured into her hair, one arm releasing her, letting in a spike of cold air before suddenly Harry was there, pressed up against her and Sirius as well. "Gods is it good to be able to hold you two again." Sirius' voice was thick with emotion, but with a firm kiss to each of their heads he composed himself, stepping back just far enough for Snuffles and Mallie to nosily push their way into the embrace.
The moment broke and then was there Grandfather, smelling of parchment and smoke. "Granddaughter." He greeted genially, his voice somewhat thinner than she remembered. He pushed her back a bit and inspected her intently.
But before he could say anything Sirius and Harry bounded over, minus Snuffles and Mallie. And then they were all heading for the portkey station. In a muted burst of magic they disappeared.
"Welcome!" A man with white-streaked crimson hair greeted them cordially. He was dressed in typical wizarding robes, only with a litany of badges emblazoned down the left side, with the emblem of the school proudly displayed on the right side. He had thick, calloused hands and faint scars peeking out from the edges of his impressive beard. "To the Hans von Aachen Institute for Magical Education!" His words were crisp and clean, but there was a bit of brogue that belied his native tongue.
"Thank you for having us." Heather replied somewhat absently, too busy taking in the sight of the entrance grounds. Small streams burbled happily over time-worn rock formations, pooling into the bases of statues before running off over the roaring falls at the side of the cliff. The arched entrance had massive, ornately decorated, intricately carved doors that were standing wide open beneath a jewel encrusted doorway.
Brightly colored sprites zipped through the air, their tiny voices sounding like bells on the wind. From within the school she could see the inquisitive faces of students and what looked like tiny serpentine dragons with luminescent rainbow scales peering curiously from behind wide pillars. Cats of all types seemed to be lounging on various surfaces, tails flicking in mild interest.
"Wicked." Harry breathed beside her, all but bouncing on his toes.
"Right you are, pup." Sirius added, seeming like a kid in a candy store. "This place gives Hogwarts a run for her money, as much as a traitor as I feel for saying that."
The man- Jost Rausch, if Heather remembered correctly- let out a warm, booming laugh. "Well, we'll certainly take the compliment, my good sir!" The man grinned down at Heather and suddenly the girl could see this gentle bear of a man as Madam Connie's partner-in-crime. "Come in! You must be cold! And though the wards do an excellent job of negating altitude sickness, you'll feel much more like your usual selves after some hot food and rest!"
"I gotta admit, Soph, I'm almost jealous." Heather told her former roommate-Family ward with a somewhat wistful grin.
The dorms were in a long stone hall with winding, ascending levels. The students were all mixed and matched, putting young students between older students that could assist them, with Wardens- like Resident Assistants- in slightly larger apartments at regular intervals. The apartments were small, perhaps the size of Dudley's second bedroom back at Number Four.
But even at this base level, the institute set itself apart from other magical schools.
Thursdays were laundry day, when all the students gathered up their personal laundry- the secretive Heinzelmännchen took care of things such as bedsheets or Potions smocks- and trooped to the Washing Hall, which was down a small hallway and a short flight of stairs. The Hall had traditional wizarding washing equipment but also had 'modern'- 1950sish- washers and dryers. So the students learned household charms as well as the more 'mundane' ways of doing things, as not all of the students could focus their magic enough to activate runes or perform the charms. But all learned how the other half lived and learned personal responsibility early on.
Adjacent to the Washing Hall was the Bathing Tower. Technically the Tower had showers as well as baths, of course, but again there was the mix of nonmagical and magical taps. With the added bonus of the occasional glittering, chittering sprite splashing through or the serpentine Lindwryum meandering through, rinsing their gleaming scales in the torrents of hot waters.
The mountain-ensconced school was….magical. A wholly different experience from Hogwarts, but somehow actually fantastically magical to Heather. Not that Hogwarts was bad or anything…..but there was a lack of expectation here. Not only that but from the youngest student- an orphan four year old from southern Asia- to the burly Headmaster there was a sense of excitement and innovation; a sense that anything was possible.
It was….free in a way that Hogwarts wasn't and Heather was by turns excited and jealous.
"It's amazing." Sophie agreed, dropping onto her bed and grinning so widely Heather wondered if it made the girl's face ache a bit. "Ted has a whole list of new students coming after the holidays- we have so many different faiths here we just call the whole of December 'Celebrations Month'- and after that we're…."
Heather let Sophie ramble on, smiling slightly, happy beyond anything else she was feeling that this girl hadn't ended up in the clutches of someone like Yaxley.
Fuck those idiots who were making fun of her in their articles. Heather and the House of Black- and Harry and House Potter- would see them all eating their words.
Heather laughed, chasing after two dull yellow and bright gold sprites, trying to catch the mischievous little things before they carried her satchel off entirely. The inside of the mountain was warm despite the being so near the snowcapped peaks and coupled with all the merry chase the two little buggers had led her on Heather didn't doubt that her face was a red as her hair.
She had the feeling that Harry had been making new friends. How he knew she had been going over some reports she had no idea, but somehow he knew and had recruited assistance, of that she was certain.
She couldn't blame him though! The elemental sprites were all different shades of color and had an innate cheerful energy that made everyone around them feel brighter, for lack of a better phrase.
They were definitely having a bit too much fun having two Marauders- Remus had arrived the morning after they did, with Aunt Cassie in tow- and her brat of a brother around, though!
She caught up with the sprites at the end of a hall that she had never see.
And then she promptly forgot about finance reports.
"Amazing." She breathed, looking around the cavernous cave in wonder. All along the walls were radiant stones and strangely glowy greenery. She stepped further off the stone path, reaching out a hand to let a sprite alight on it for her to use a personal spritelight. Dropping her newly reacquired satchel to the mossy floor, she slipped off her boots, using her wand to unlace them so she wouldn't have to surrender her little friend.
The mossy floor of the cave was cool and damp under her bare feet, but not cold. She drifted between strangely stone tree trunks, leisurely making her way towards the sound of running water. She walked and walked, until her calves were burning unpleasantly, and she just about gave up before she turned a corner and found herself some place entirely different.
Humanoids with canine heads and feet turned to peer at her curiously, their fastidious work stilling.
On her hand her sprite perked up and zipped off to greet a few of the strange people.
"Uh hello?" she tried, causing more than a few to cock their heads to the side in a manner eerily reminiscent to Mallie and Snuffles. "I'm sorry to disturb you, but I think I got lost and I'm-I'll just be going now, I'm sorry!" She bowed a little and went to back up and return the way she came, only to be stopped by a curious whine from behind her.
When she turned around an older, grey spotted, humanoid was standing near her, bright gold eyes seeming to pierce her soul.
Heather stayed entirely still.
Eventually the- man?- man a 'gruff' sound and nodded, his doggy ears flapping against the sides of his furry face. He made a 'follow me' gesture with his fleshy but still not entirely human hand and led her to a workstation nearly at the end of the room, his tail wafting lazily behind him.
Heather watched in silent fascination as the man began to knit- knit!- some silvery metal together, making small, precise loops, occasionally threading a nearby gem onto it. Small gems of green, blue, purple, and pearlescent white. There was something fascinating in watching the man work his craft, his golden eyes intent on the task, seemingly forgetting her entirely.
Just as she was contemplating excusing herself- she was starving- the dog-man looked up, gesturing for her arm. She handed him both her arms, removing her right when he reached for her left. Her Family Ring breathed into existence, sitting proudly on her pointer finger. But the dog-man didn't seem to notice or care, instead he slipped the lightweight silvery metal piece of art onto her wrist, patting it firmly when she gave him an askance look.
He pointed from the new addition to the silvery dragonfly that rested on the curve of her right ear, then to the dancing, flittering sprite and back to the bracelet.
Then she was being gently, but pointedly, ushered back to the cave. And when she turned to thank him she found that the workshop was no longer there.
Her little sprite friend settled back down onto her hand and its buddy came zooming down from deeper inside the cavern.
She followed their lights back to the Dining Hall, bemused.
Heather was speechless. "What?" She squeaked embarrassingly shrilly.
The homely young woman with silken blonde hair and bright, cresting wave blue eyes laughed lightly, the sounds bright and cheerful. By her side a humanoid with a canine head and feet barked twice in rapid succession, the sounds sharp and contrasting to the burbling sounds of the Undine nymph.
"It considered a sign of good fortune to be gifted an Undine garment." Headmaster Jost explained, his blue-green eyes crinkled near the edges, betraying his amusement. "And in my experience its best to merely accept the gift, the ladies of the waters are surprisingly stubborn."
"A-Are you sure?" Heather asked somewhat hesitantly, loathe to touch the seemingly free-floating garment with her human hands. The water nymph nodded eagerly, her mermaid tail swishing lightly behind her as Heather reached for the folded pile of fabric held in the water nymph's outstretched arms.
She had already been given a gift once this visit! What the hell?
Heather gasped in surprise as the silken fabric unraveled, showcasing a beautiful dress. The top was corset like, decorated tastefully with small jewels and ribbons, with laces in the back that bled into a full skirt that ended in trailing, delicate lace. She almost dropped the arm covers- beautiful sheer things that ended in full gloves and would likely run up to just short of her shoulder. The color shifted a bit throughout, like light on the water, but the dress was nearly an exact reflection of Harry's eyes.
"This is…beautiful." Heather murmured, her eyes wide with awe. She glanced over at the nymph, suddenly wondering what she was supposed to do. Was she supposed to bow? Nod? Curtsey?
The Undine woman let out another laugh, doing a strange forward flip that cause her tail to land heavily on the water. Heather shut her eyes to avoid getting water in them, and when she opened them again the nymph and the- Canoid, was it?- were gone.
"Thank you." She murmured to the empty stone water basin before she shivered, realizing that she had gotten a fair bit of water on her from the undine watery departure.
Heather took stock of her appearance, her red hair still wet from the shower and twisted up into a bun.
They had arrived back to Blackmoor Hall just that morning and it was just now after dinner. But Heather had been insanely curious as to her new dress, feeling a bit chagrined at how much childish excitement bubbled up inside her at the thought of such a pretty piece of clothing.
But it was just so…..perfect! How could she possibly put it on her klutzy self?
Still, she found herself standing in front of the looking glass hung on the back of her wardrobe door wondering who the hell was staring back at her. Mimsy had been a dear and tightened the back of the dress for her and she…..she looked so different from her usual self. The slipsoft fabric glided over her slightly lumpy teenage form, somehow making awkward pre-teen look somewhat refined and elegant. The neat rows of ribbons and gems added depth to her torso in a manner that was both elegant and tasteful while the skirt fell to the floor in an stylish ripple of fabric.
Even the brightly painted toes peeking out from under the delicate lace just sweeping against the floor and the glasses perched on her nose. Aunt Cassie was going to get her eyes treated tomorrow, supposedly the woman's Christmas gift but Heather had a feeling Aunt Cassie would hardly hold herself to that polite fiction.
"It's not a Christmas gift, it's a Boxing Day gift!"
Heather laughed a bit at herself, pulling on the gauzy arm covers, her digits slipping easily into the immaculately made fingers. Her new bracelet easily shifted to sit atop the fabric, as did her ring. On her ear her dragonfly decoration reflected in the light and on her right hand her wand holster- the black dragonhide leather with the silver stitching- rested underneath.
With little more than a thought and the slightest brush of her fingers her pale wand shot into her hand, a familiar weight after all these months. She still didn't know a great deal of spells but she had a much better idea of how to perform them, what made them work.
Her door opened and she whirled around, embarrassed to be caught out playing dress-up like a silly little girl. She dismissed her wand and tried to control her mortified feelings at being caught out so unexpectedly.
Sirius stood there, frozen at the sight of her.
He stared at her so long Heather began to feel self-conscious. "What?" She snapped, a bit sharper than intended, crossing her arms across her chest defensively, red creeping up her neck and into her face.
Sirius shook his head- not unlike a dog- and walked closer to her, a bittersweet smile playing around the edges of his mouth. "You're already so grownup." He said, stopping just short of her and seeming to drink in every detail about her. "A Lady in your own right and- hell, flower, I've missed so much."
Heather's stance softened and she reached out for Sirius- this broken, broken man who loved his brother's children so very fiercely- embracing him in a hug, letting him bury his face in her hair. "It's ok, Siri." Her throat clogged and she tried to stuff down the urge to cry. "I-we still need you, you know."
Sirius shuddered against her and then he was twirling her around, laughing despite the tears streaming down his cheeks. "Dance with me, flower!" He called with a slightly too loud laugh.
Heather flushed, mortification overcoming her as Sirius positioned their arms, his resting on her waist and hers mirroring him, with their hands linked on the other side. "I-I can't." She admitted, looking down, knowing her cheeks were aflame. "I don't know how."
"That's ok, ole' Paddy can teach you." Sirius assured her, unlinking their hands long enough to chuck under her chin until she looked up at him. He grinned, earnest and sincere. "Stand on my feet- I'll be fine, flower, you weigh less than Snuffles, furry garbage repository that he is."
Heather laughed then, stepping up onto Sirius' black leather motorcycle boots just before she was swept away by her self-proclaimed uncle. She was so caught up in his excited chatter, dancing to music only he could hear, that she didn't even realize that he took them all the way down the hall to the lesser ballroom.
When Sirius finally stopped she realized that they had an audience. Aunt Cassie was dancing with Harry and sitting by himself was Grandfather, looking intensely satisfied and unbelievably sad at the same time.
But before she could dwell on that thought the old fashioned record player crackled and a new song- when had the music started?- started to play and Sirius swept her away again.
Feel free to leave me a line if you enjoyed this~!
(Also, in case anyone is interested, my buddy EmptySurface has a Naruto SI/OC and I recommend checking it out!
Kyo's story is quite the tale! It's called 'Hear the Silence'!)