The ghost of James Potter stared down thoughtfully at his one-year-old son as bright orange flames with centers of blue danced around them. Harry giggled and reached out to touch a burning beam that lay strewn before him. The fire curved gently around his hands and ran down the length of his arms without burning him, illuminating faint red symbol-like markings that covered Harry's body. One single symbol, a lightening bolt-shaped mark, was remarkably prominent on his forehead, brighter in color than the other markings, discernable in shape if not their bright red color, on his body. Harry did not seem concerned that the house's roof had just collapsed and the rest of the house was burning down, nor did he care that his clothes had burned off and he was naked.
Children are often such unaffected by socialistic values concerning modesty.
Every now and then, Harry glanced over to where James floated and giggled. Once, he tried to offer his father a handful of flames, but James declined. Slightly disheartened, Harry turned back to playing with the burning embers.
James smiled nervously as he watched. Despite being dead (or, rather, because he was dead) he was having a great deal of difficulty understanding that Harry was immune to fire. His mind refused to touch on how Harry had managed to summon a firestorm forth to obliterate Voldemort and the entire house when Voldemort cast the Avada Kedavra spell. The immunity could come from a wizarding child's natural protection, if he stretched the theory long enough, but he was sure there was some great Wizarding professor out there rolling his grave, ready to haunt James for such thoughts. Could it be considered immunity? It seemed to James that the fire was an integral part of Harry's natural being, as fire did no more harm to Harry than did breathing air.
James sighed. Harry giggled again and crawled over to his father. "Up! Up!" Harry held his arms out to his father and stared pleadingly. James reached out to touch Harry, but his hand passed through. Harry shrank away from the cold touch and his mouth trembled. A fleeting sense of sorrow filled James at the sight of Harry's confusion. "Da?"
"I'm sorry, Harry," James whispered, "I'll never be able to touch you again." Harry sniffled and looked away from James. His eyes fell upon a single flame that desperately clung to a single piece of tiling, so he reached out and grabbed the flame. It brightened momentarily in his cupped hands before flickering out. Harry's mouth trembled harder and it opened.
James leapt up and floated upside-down into Harry's vision before Harry could wail his frustration. "Harry!" James crossed his eyes, wrinkled his nose, and wagged his tongue at Harry. Harry's face froze, and then he squealed with laughter and reached out to his father. James pulled away from Harry's reach before he could be touched. "Can't catch me!" James said breathily as he waved his hands about. He made another face at Harry. "Can't catch me at all!" Harry giggled again.
James righted himself and watched Harry crawl off to play with another flame. "Come on, Dumbledore," he muttered. "Or someone. I can't stay here forever waiting for you people to help Harry."
"Will I do?" asked a voice behind James.
James whipped around and saw a little girl of perhaps eight staring up at him. This was the first time he had noticed her; just how long had she been standing there?
He squinted. At least he supposed she was staring. Her eyes were hidden behind gigantic mirrored sunglasses that took up half of her pointy face. Her black hair was gathered at the top of her head in a crooked ponytail and she wore a bright orange jumper with a column of the gaudiest mismatched glass buttons down the middle that James had ever had the misfortune of seeing.
"Who are you?" he asked warily. He floated between her and Harry. If she attacked, James was unsure of how he would protect Harry. She did not feel dangerous though; at least, not in the harmful aspect. There was a mischievous set of her mouth and a nervous energy that emitted from her frame. Looking at her as she shifted her weight from one foot to another and glanced around curiously, James easily recognized her as a person who couldn't sit still for long.
She smiled at James. Her mouth was wide and expansive. My, what a set of sharp teeth you have there, kid. " 'm Marcia." She had an accent where her syllables were flat and her words slightly slurred together. Its high-pitched tone spoke of habitual whining.
"And why are you here?" James took a wild gamble. "You're not with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, are you?"
Her eyebrows perked up, just slightly above the upper rim of her glasses. "Who?"
James gulped. He dared not say that name. Well, they were both dead now, so what did it matter anymore? He braced himself. "V-voldemort."
She cocked her head bird-like to the side. "Who?"
James leaned over for a closer look at Marcia. She leaned away from him. "You're not from around here, are you?" he asked finally. She shook her head hard enough for the end of her ponytail to whip around and smack her cheek.
"Technically, I don't exist, but I generally stay in my mother's kingdom out of trouble ever since the Beast got really, really mad at me." She pointed at Harry, who was playing with another handful of flames. "I was jumping dimensions when his blast of power knocked me off-balance. Came here to see what sort of demon would be strong enough to rock an entire dimension."
James' eyes widened. "Demon?" Dimension?
Marcia shrugged. "He's a demonling, actually. Half demon." She scratched the jutting angle of her jaw. "Well, sort of half demon."
"A half demon?" If Harry was half-demon, that must mean one of his parents was a full demon. James was sure he wasn't a demon, and Lily certainly never mentioned anything, so unless she had an affair – no, no, don't even go there with those thoughts. Even though he was dead, James could feel a headache forming.
A burning support beam toppled over and crashed into one wall, which crumbled beneath the impact. Harry jumped at the sound and whimpered, glancing over to James for assurance. James ignored him as he concentrated on Marcia. Sweat from the surrounding heat formed on her forehead and she wiped it away with the back of her hand. "Somewhere in your bloodlines," she said, not looking at him but at her surroundings, "a demon integrated itself; probably a male demon with a female human, since I've never known a female demon to abandon her children in the human world. She's more than likely to eat them first, and generally does, but we won't go there. The demon-gene from that time carried from person to person throughout various generations, until it reached a suitable carrier, which I would say is your son. Demon genes are recessive."
James thought about that. "So, in other words, my Harry is a demon, but he inherited it because it was something implanted generations ago?"
Marcia cocked her head to the side, in a manner that reminded him of his grandmother's chickens as they regarded an ugly bug worthy for eating, and seemed to give James' words some thought. "Close enough," she decided finally, almost to herself. "Only us animal demons are born looking like demons though. Rune demons - such as your son - have to get into some sort of trouble that causes their demon powers to manna, uh, manifest in defense, but the demon genes have to exist co-dominantly with the human genes. Sometimes, rune demons can go through their entire life without manifesting, so they stay human."
Marcia wiped the sweat away from her forehead again. "Rune demons all have elemental-like powers. At least," she muttered with a frown of distaste, "what they consider to be elements, since fire is actually just an oxidized chemical and thermal reaction." She wagged one finger at her surroundings. "This is just an estimated guess, but I'd have to say your Harry's a fire demon."
James snorted. "What do you suppose gave his element away? The fact that this place is burning down because of it?" They both looked at Harry as he crawled over a fallen piece of blazing timber, unhindered by the heat. James pointed. "Or maybe that?"
Marcia frowned defensively. "Hey now, all I know about rune demons is what my father told me and my own research into the DNA. Sort of. Well, it isn't my research, but I gave them the idea." She muttered bitterly under her breath about how some people just are never satisfied — you feed and clothe and give them all sorts of nifty equipment and theories, and all they do is gripe about how they were kidnapped in the first place. "Sometimes, elements influence the personality, like my father's. Sometimes, they don't. Depends on how powerful the demon is, 'cause the less the personality influenced, the more powerful the demon. Did you know that kind of power your son mamin, er, created is probably that of a third-class demon's? At least, I suppose it is. Only time can tell, really."
James studied Harry. "If he's a fire demon, does this mean he's not a wizard?"
"Dunno." Marcia looked from Harry to James. "What's a wizard?"
James gave her an odd look. "You know about demons, but you don't know anything about wizards?"
Marcia's minuscule stature puffed up in indignation. "Hey. I can tell you a lot about hyper drives and hijacking space shuttles and how advanced mankind will be after it moves on past this earth it destroyed." She deflated slightly. "Course, I didn't know anything about demons either when I was born." She jabbed a finger in the air. "A wizard does hocus pocus and all that jibber-jabber, right?"
"We do magic with wands. Magic does exist," James said hurriedly as she opened her mouth to speak. "I'm currently waiting for the headmaster of my school of wizardry to show up so he can help Harry." James gazed sadly at his son. "My entire purpose for being here is to see to that Harry's cared for."
"Magic with wands?" Marci's finger tapped against her lips and she mumbled around it. "Wands, eh? Are wizards anything like druids or magi?"
James thought about that. He knew what druids were, but did not recognize the word magi. "I would imagine."
"Ah." Marcia walked over to Harry. Harry looked up from the red-hot coal he had been turning around and around in his hands. Marcia plopped down beside him and smiled. Harry giggled and reached up for her glasses and Marcia crossed her ankles to lean forward. Harry snatched her glasses away and studied them intently. He stuck one of the stems in his mouth.
Marcia looked over at James. Her eyes were large and dark red without irises, and very beady-looking, like two shiny glass buttons. "What sort of magic do wizards do?" Marcia asked. "Would it cover Harry's need to learn how to control his power?" She stared as Harry smiled toothily at her and smacked the floor with her glasses. "I felt that blast. Don't think I'd like a third-class demonling growing without learning how to control his power." The wall behind her crumbled. She glanced quickly at the wall and then turned back to Harry.
An idea began to form in James' mind as Marcia tugged at the front of her jumper. Sweat poured profusely down her face and neck, but the fire was sucked away the moisture before it could dampen her clothes. " 'm hot," she said. "Gimmee those." She reached over and yanked her glasses out of Harry's hands. Harry's lower lip trembled as she slipped the glasses back on. "Let's get into cooler surroundings," she told James. She twisted around and pulled Harry close.
"It's okay," James told Harry. Harry's eyes flicked around uncertainly. James smiled and floated after them as Marcia leapt out of the burning house. Her tiny body coiled like a spring, compact and far stronger than what would have been possible for even a professional athlete, and a few hops, skips, and jumps carried her and Harry out of the house in mere seconds.
They stood outside on the walk that would have led to the front of the house. Marcia looked down at James' body, which lay where it had fallen when Voldemort killed James with his curse.
Marcia nudged it with the toe of her battered sneakers before looking at James. "What happened?"
"I was killed by You-Know-Who."
Marcia made a rude noise. "No, I don't know who," she said darkly. "So, who?"
She placed her hands on her hips. "There's that name again," she muttered. Her face scrunched up thoughtfully.
James crossed his arms as he gazed down at his crumpled form. "It's the name of a very powerful dark wizard bent upon taking over the world. Or, at least he was. Harry killed him with his fire when You-Know-Who attacked Harry with the Killing Curse. It was sort of an explosion of magic."
"Oh, I believe that." Marcia put Harry down on the ground just as he began to fuss. Harry crawled over to his father's body and clutched one limp hand. Marcia crouched down again and pointed at one of the faint red symbols that covered Harry's body. They were fading quickly, and were now only faint outlines of what they had once been. "See these? These are the Chaotic runes for inferno. As he gets older, Harry'll get stronger. He's going to have physical, um, traits beyond a normal human being's. A greater strength, speed, and agility won't make him much but a popular athlete. And when he's old enough to enter his rut, the runes will appear permanently like tattoos. If he doesn't get his training, he won't be able to control his fire, his speed or strength, know how to handle his rut, or even explain to people about the runes. He's always going to realize how different he is from other people. Sometimes the difference is really, really bad. And if his personality's influenced by his element, he's going to be a tad explosive when it comes to other people. Even if it isn't influenced, if he's the class I'm thinking he is, Harry's power is going to be considered a threat to other people. Hell, even at fourth-class he'd be considered a threat."
Marcia crossed her arms and thoughtfully cocked her head to the side. "See, people don't like what they don't understand. Your son'll be beyond the normal human being's comprop, compren — blah, my chip is going haywire 'cause of that blast — understanding and they'll hate him for it. Fire's not something to play around with, 'cause it burns. Your son may lose his temper and use his power in response on account of his not knowing how to control it. He could lose control of the power even if he doesn't lose his temper, simply because there's too much to control without the needed training." She shrugged. "Of course, considering what happened today, things could get a little ugly."
"Were you teased?" James asked as he studied her intently.
"Only about my height. I'm not short, really. Just kind of, um, on the underdeveloped side," Marcia said quickly, a furtive look cast downward at her flat chest. "But teasing isn't the worst thing that can happen. A group of scientists experimented on my little brother and pushed him a little too far." She turned the palms of her hands up. "All anyone ever knew about what happened to them were individual body pieces scattered everywhere, and blood drenching the walls and floors." Marcia looked down at Harry. "Nandin was only eleven years old. But he's a cat demonling, and animal demons are, um, animalistic. Well, all demons are, but animal demons tend to be more crude and violent than rune demons."
James studied her for a moment. "Would you take Harry?" he said finally. It felt right to ask her the question. She just stared blankly so James pushed all his jumbled thoughts together. A sense of urgency had him hurrying through them without much coherency. "Harry defeated Voldemort, and the whole world will worship him because of that. He'll be famous! I want him to grow up with a normal childhood. But he also needs to know how to control this power. You're the only one who seems to know anything about it, and I've met you, so I know who Harry is going to in case I have to haunt you for doing such a poor job at raising him."
James looked at the burning house, and then turned back to Marcia. She and Harry were outlined amidst the orange glow cast by the roaring fire, bright embers floating in the air all around. "I don't want him to hurt others with his power. I want him to be a wizard, but I don't know if he's going to be one if he's also a demon. If he is a wizard, he should go to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But that won't happen for another ten years, and we both know he's a demon, so you may as well train him before that. So that," James pointed at the house, "won't happen. If it does, Harry will have someone who understands and isn't frightened." The Wizarding world had been more than frightened of Voldemort, who was human. How much more for little Harry, who wasn't human and still just a baby?
"Train him? As in fight?" Marcia's mouth twisted as if she had bitten into a lemon. She dug one toe into the ground. "Well, suppose I could."
James sighed. "I won't let you have him if you don't think you would make a good mother." Her expression changed slightly, a subtle shift from hoping against to hoping for.
"I could raise him like a son?" She could not keep the note of hopefulness in her voice.
James smiled; even if Marcia was a demon (or demonling), she had a woman's wistful want for a family. "Yes. But I want you to keep a steady contact with Professor Dumbledore, so Harry can at least know the heritage of his human family."
Marcia regarded Harry in silent thought. James waited patiently as Harry fussed with his dead body's hair. Marcia fidgeted nervously when she glanced at James. At one point, she grabbed her ponytail and yanked it sharply in frustration. Finally, she sighed. "Suppose," she said. She looked at James and blushed bright enough for the rushing blood to show despite her dark skin. "No one ever thought I'd make a good mother. 's not that I'm happy to have him through your misfortune, but…" Marcia's shoulders went up and down in a clunky shrug, and she looked resigned. "Or maybe I won't be a good mother. I really shouldn't take him."
James shook a hand at her. "Nonsense. My senses tell me you're a good person." He pressed a hand to his forehead. "Or maybe it's actually the fuzzy headedness speaking."
"You are disappearing," Marcia said in what she hoped was a helpful manner and pointed at James' feet. He looked down at them. He was beginning to fade feet first, which meant that his wait for someone to care for Harry was now decidedly over.
"Harry'll be safe," James declared in a soft voice. He floated over to his son and knelt down before him. "Love you, son," he told Harry. He planted a chilling kiss right against the glowing lightening bolt-shaped mark. Harry gasped and shrank away from his father. James' heart twisted; at least, he supposed it did, even if he was a ghost. He turned to Marcia. "If you have any questions about wizards or Harry or anything, you can ask Dumbledore. You can trust him."
"Stay here. I know someone will come soon, and if it isn't Dumbledore, then it's someone who knows where you can find him. You will need to tell him everything that you know about what happened. Beware of anyone from Voldemort, such as a Death Eater, because they'll only mean you harm."
Marcia nodded. "Right." She waved as James faded completely away. "Look for this Dumbledore guy. No Death Eaters from What's-His-Name. Bye."
Marcia and Harry looked at each. "Now what?" Marcia asked no one in particular. Harry stuck his lower lip out in a pout. She nodded her head. "You and me both, kid." She sat down beside Harry and grabbed one of his arms again to study the runes. There was only the faintest bit of color now to show they had ever existed, though the mark on his forehead still glowed brightly. "I'll have to talk to Dad about this," she muttered to herself. She traced the mark thoughtfully. "I don't think it's normal."
Harry looked at her with big green eyes. She grinned at him and patted him on the head. "You're cute." She looked around. "But you need some clothes." She walked over to the house, but paused before James' body. She stared at it a few minutes. With a sigh, she looked over to the house, craning her neck to get a better glimpse of it. She didn't suppose there would be any clothes to be had.
As if to agree, one burning wall collapsed forward. Marcia scratched her head as she contemplated current matters. She tried to remember how Mama had raised ten children. Marcia recalled a great deal of diapers and crying amongst the whole lot. When such matters arose, both she and Dad ran away before Mama could involve them in appeasing the crying or changing the diapers. "When in doubt," she decided aloud as she looked over her shoulder at Harry, "ask the expert." She walked over to Harry and picked him up. Harry looked at her uncertainly. "Of course, I have to wait to ask whoever about this Bumblebore, or whatever his name is." She started to carry Harry over to a near-by lamppost, but stopped.
Marcia shot a calculating look at James' body. "But if your father was killed by What's-His-Name, and you killed him, and this What's-His-Name was taking over the world, and your father expected me to know his name, then I guess he's really, really evil." She put Harry down on the ground. "And your father himself said not to trust those Death Eaters." She paused in her line of thought to follow a different thread. Just how does one eat death?
"Best be prepared, just in case." She walked around the small yard until she reached Lily's raised flower patches. There was a small brick wall, only knee-high, that surrounded the flower patches, so Marcia kicked the wall until it shattered. She tucked the heavier pieces into her pockets. Weighted down with the bricks, she clunked as she made her way back to Harry.
Harry was amusing himself by chewing on the singed grass he pulled free from the lawn. Marcia nodded approvingly as she sat next to him with a loud clunk. "Good boy," she said proudly as she patted him on the head. "My mother says a child should eat his greens, 'cause it's good for them." She plucked a few blades of grass. "And what could be greener than this?" Actually, they were sort of brown and sickly-looking from being too close to the burning house, but she dusted them off anyway and offered them to Harry. He clumsily snatched and stuck them in his mouth.
Marcia watched Harry gum contentedly on the grass blades before she decided to try one herself. She chewed on it for a moment before she decided grass was bland and tasteless. "Blah!" She twisted her face in displeasure. Harry giggled at the sight of it. "I'd probably get more taste out of chewing on one of Rufus' old leather boots."
She tossed the half-eaten grass blade away and rubbed the palm of her hands against her leggings, and then paused. She leapt to her feet, cocked her head to the side, and listened more closely. The roar of a running machine was gradually increasing. She looked around at the forest around the house, whose flames had greatly died down now that the walls had collapsed in itself, and gathered Harry up in her arms. Harry gasped as Marcia jumped from the ground to the top of the lamppost. She landed, and stood balanced on one foot, her free leg bent and braced against her other knee with Harry seated on the bent leg. Harry looked around in alarm and clung desperately to her arms as Marcia frowned and squinted at the night sky.
A motorcycle flew through the air, despite it not being hover-capable. Bah. Magic. Messing around with the wonders of physics (most of which Marcia never learned because she figured there were more brilliant people than she who had the memory space to waste memorizing that stuff). Marcia, dressed in bright orange with buttons that reflected light, and Harry, who was not wearing anything, were clearly outlined against the dark blue sky. However, the rider of the motorcycle did not seem to notice them. The motorcycle dropped out of the sky at a sharp angle, hit the ground with a loud crash, and skidded a few lengths before coming to a full stop. The rider jumped off the motorcycle and sprinted across the ground to James' body.
The rider was a lean young man with shoulder-length black hair. He flung his helmet to the side when he reached James' body and dropped to his knees beside it. "JAMES?" He grabbed at the stiffened arms, dropped them, and jumped to his feet again. He ran to the house, stopping just outside the reach of the flames. "LILY?" He turned away from the house with a ragged sob and glanced around wildly. "HARRY!" He cupped his hands around his mouth. "LILY! HARR-"
Marcia hugged Harry close to herself just as the man noticed her. He stared at her silently for a moment before stumbling over to them. "Who are - Harry! Is he all right? Give me Harry!"
Marcia regarded the man thoughtfully. "Are you Bumblebore?"
"Give me Harry!" She gathered that was a no. He didn't look like one anyway.
Marcia's grip tightened around Harry as he whimpered and clung to her. "No."
"Give me Harry!" The man whipped out a long thin stick from the waistband of his trousers and waved it menacingly at her. "He's my godson! Give him to me!"
Marcia shook her head. "No way. If you aren't Bumblebore, you can't have him."
"Dammit! He's in danger! Give him to me! I'll protect him!" The man wrapped his arms around the lamppost and shook it fiercely, his strength fueled by adrenaline. Marcia lost her balance. She grabbed the top of the lamppost with her right hand to keep from falling, her legs swinging wildly for purchase.
Harry whimpered. Marcia's diminutive chest swelled with a fierce protective feeling. "No." She propped Harry on the post's top and wrapped her left arm around him for protection.
When the man called her something Marcia's mother would have washed his mouth out with soap had she heard, Marcia hooked both legs around the post to free her right hand, fished a brick out of her pocket, and threw at it at the man. "Language! There's a baby present!"
The brick shattered upon making contact with the man's head. He stumbled backwards as his hand flew up to touch the area of contact. He was dazed for a moment, his eyes crisscrossing and his entire body swaying. Did she knock what little sense he had left from his head? "Woman!" He seethed visibly with anger as he recovered, gritted his teeth, and went back to shaking the post.
Harry wailed and clung tighter to Marcia's arms. She quickly fished another brick out of her pocket and threw it at the man, but he managed to duck it. "GIVE HIM TO ME NOW!"
"NO!" Marcia threw two more. "James gave him to me!"
He dodged the first, but the second one got him in the shoulder. "Damn it!" His anger dissolved into sorrow. He looked long and hard at James's body, pain and sadness plain on his face, and then looked up at Marcia. "He's the son of my best friend." He slumped against the lamppost and looked ready to burst into tears.
Marcia looked at James's body with uncertainty. The man smelled sour, which was something she always attested to unstableness. On the other hand, he did not seem like he wanted to harm Harry. (Well, there was the small problem of his shaking the post while Harry was balanced on it, but that she could probably blame on the grief and how it made a person irrational - usually.) Still, unstableness was not a good thing with which to let a baby associate. Marcia chewed on the inside of her bottom lip. "James told me to look after Harry," she said as she waved at James's body. " 'm supposed to wait for some guy named Bumblebore or something like that." The man looked up at her with a lost look on his face. Marcia tried to sound helpful, "If you look for him, I wouldn't mind."
"If I looked—" As if someone had flipped a switch, the lost look dissolved into intense fury. "Wormtail," he hissed as his eyes narrowed dangerously. He ran over to the motorcycle, slammed on the clutch to start it, and then roared forward. He skidded to a stop beside the lamppost and cast Harry a longing look. "You'll give him to Dumbledore?" he asked softly. Well, that wasn't what she was going to do, but it was close enough. Marcia eagerly nodded her head to placate the man. He looked relieved as he revved the motorcycle and shot forward. The ground ripped beneath the spinning wheels. Just as he reached the edge of the sparse woods that wrapped around the burning house, the motorcycle lifted into the air and floated off. Marcia briefly wondered if flying helped the gas mileage — she knew it must help maintain the tires if they spent more time spinning in the air than they did on the ground.
"Mm?" Harry looked from the swiftly fading motorcycle to Marcia.
"That man," said Marcia to Harry as she pointed after him, "was a tad off his rocker. I don't want you to be with him in the future, 'kay? Least not until he's had some therapy." And from the way he smelled, it might very well be a lot of therapy.
Marcia jumped off the lamppost and sat at the base with her back pressed firmly against it and Harry on her lap. She tried to remember games that her parents played with the younger children, but all she could think of was the old children's rhyme, "Patty cake, patty cake, baker's rhyme, bake me a cake as fast as you can." She decided to play it with Harry, but Harry did not know it. "I'll just teach you then," Marcia said as she grabbed Harry's hands. "It would be a good cagno, cogagnative, well, it would just be a good learning experience."
After Marcia grew bored with the patty-cake game, she went on to play with Harry's fingers and toes. Harry squealed with laughter and delight for a while, but soon became restless and cranky. "Mum!" he snapped at Marcia as he hit her with one tiny fist. He reached out to James' body. "Da?" He wailed.
Marcia desperately looked around. "Where's Bumblebore?" she demanded loudly with a shade of hysteria. She jumped to her feet and propped Harry on one hip. He continued to wail and flail about in her arms. "Blast." She put Harry down on the ground. He continued to scream and fuss as he crawled over to James' body. "No! You can't do that. Dead bodies are icky. They have lots of germs." Marcia picked Harry up again. He screamed into Marcia's ear and kicked her sharply in the pelvis with his bare feet.
Marcia decided to come back to this dimension at a later date to speak to Bumblebore.
At this moment, she had a testy baby on her hands, she couldn't hear, and she was in desperate need of an expert's advise.
It was time to seek out Mama.
She tightened her grip on Harry and Jumped through the space and walls that separated the Realm of Reality from the Realm of Fantasy.
There are four Realms that exist. The first two, the Realms of Chaos and Order, are emotional states of existence. The last two, the Realms of Fantasy and Reality, are the physical states of existence. From the Realm of Fantasy came the unexplained, the exceptions to the rules, and manifestations of energies that bent the rules of reality by any which means. Magic leaked from the Realm of Fantasy into the Realm of Reality, and Marcia Jumped from one Realm to the next through the holes from which the magic leaked. She found her trail of essence from earlier. It stopped abruptly at the dimensional intersection, where she had been bowled over by Harry's blast of demonic power. She made a special note of which dimension this Harry originally belonged in, and then hurried on to the Realm of Fantasy. Upon entrance, Marcia slipped across space to reach her mother's kingdom.
Ria Runesking was a little albino whom Winter had chosen as its Queen. She was married to the rune-demon king of East Greer, Turk, and Marcia was their daughter through adoption (or rather obnoxious manipulation, as was Marcia's usual way of getting the things she wanted). Ria ruled the frozen domain of Winter, and its People loved her for her kindly ways, which is to say taxes weren't so bad, especially during times of famine, and she wasn't nearly as unorthodox and mentally unstable as the Queen before her. She ruled the domain of Winter from the Winter's Ambit, a gigantic castle created from Winter itself. It was at this castle Marcia arrived. Harry stopped crying and stared with in open wonder or confusion at the walls of ice.
Marcia sighed gratefully as she dashed through the halls. Ria, who always had a great deal of trouble finding her own way about her own castle, had signs posted at every corner. Marcia followed the ones that read, "Queen's Quarters" with arrows pointing directions.
Marcia skidded to a halt at the sound of her former name. She changed her name when she tried to change her life. While the changing of the name may have worked, the rest of her attempt at change did not. (It might have been helpful if she had been smart enough to realize that choosing the name suggested by the Lord of Chaos wasn't so great, but then hindsight is always twenty-twenty.) She turned her head to the corner of a hall where her brother, Nandin Sydney, stood. He was a small, dangerous man with a feline grace and beauty, although two heads taller than Marcia. His smoky gray hair seemed to float about his head as if it were a halo, and his eyes were covered with mirrored glasses much like Marcia's.
She had originally been named Sydney Geneve, courtesy of Nandin Sydney when he rescued her from a science compound where she, at the young age of three (), was studied for her demonic behaviors and physique. Marcia had been sold to science when she was only a year old, but at least it was slightly comforting to know it had been a very hefty sum. She and Nandin had a perfect brother/sister relationship from the very beginning: Marcia spent half her time being with Nandin and thereby irritating him to the point of his losing control, and then spent the rest of her time trying to avoid him until he was rational once more.
Family members were the only people she permitted to call her Sydney. Friends and strangers alike knew her as Marcia Runes. What her enemies called her was something entirely else, but she avoided that thought. Marcia was an expert with avoiding people, things, fights, and overall responsibility.
"Hello, Nandin!" Marcia skipped over to her brother and held Harry out to him. Harry and Nandin regarded one another with curiosity or, in Nandin's case, barely disguised disgust.
Nandin gestured at Harry. "What is that?"
"This," said Marcia as she stuck her chest out proudly, "is my son!"
Nandin peered over the frames of his mirrored glasses at Harry. His golden cat-like eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Your son?" It sounded more like a statement than a question. "What have you been doing behind our backs?" he mused thoughtfully. "On the other hand, it would explain why you've been gone for the past several years, blaming it all on the Lord of Chaos as you usually do."
Marcia sputtered wordlessly in protest. After a moment, she paused long enough to take a deep breath. "I didn't do nothing," she said resentfully as she pulled Harry close. "I was skipping through the dimensions when I was rocked by this blast of demonic power." She flung one arm wide. "The walls came crashing together, it was that immense, and I thought a demon was running amuck where it didn't belong. So I entered the dimension to investigate." She curled the flung arm around Harry as he began to fuss again. "Turned out to be a year old babe."
Nandin's eyebrows went up in surprise. " 'Tis a lot of power for a year old babe."
Marcia ignored him. "His father's ghost was there and he gave me Harry to take care of. I said that Harry would need to learn how to control his power and so he said that I would be the best person for the job." Close enough, at least.
"Did he now?" Nandin's expression was cold and hard as he casually crossed his arms before himself. "Does his father know you can't even take care of yourself, let alone a baby?"
Marcia sputtered with indignation. "I can too take care of myself!"
"Sydney, you can't even boil water without somehow turning it into some toxic sludge that melts the bottom of the pot."
"That only happened twice."
"And most people still mistake you for being a child."
She stamped her foot. "Only 'cause I'm short."
Nandin rubbed the bridge of his nose with two fingers. "Why would anyone think you would be a suitable mother?"
Marcia glared resentfully at him as she hugged Harry close to herself. "Well, I'm going to be a great mother!"
"I'll believe it when I see it." Marcia whirled around, away from Nandin, and started to march down the hall. She stopped and turned around to face her brother.
"I think I would be a great mother for Harry," she began stubbornly, "because I know what it's like to be born as a demonling and having uncontrollable powers. Okay," she said rapidly before Nandin could interrupt, "so my powers weren't uncontrollable until I had that small accident with the sposomolecular device, but that's beside the point. Harry's family was killed What's-His-Name, so now he's got me, and Mama and Dad and you, and all our brothers and sisters and aunts and grandparents."
Nandin shook his head as he watched Marcia hurry down the hall when she finished her speech. Despite her not being present, he still had the last words: "Chaos and Order have mercy on the poor brat."
Marcia found her mother in her Stateroom, going over the year's accounts to decide taxation. "Mama?" Marcia peaked her head around the corner of the door.
Ria did not look up from her work. "No," she said.
Marcia blinked. "No? Whaddya mean, 'no'?"
"I know you want something, and I've not the time to pamper you."
Marcia stepped around the corner and walked over the desk Ria sat at. Ria, dressed in heavy red robes to keep warm, still did not look up from her calculations. She was a tiny, fragile-boned albino, the effects from childhood starvation. Had her face been full rather than sharp and harsh, she might have been considered pretty. Her right hand was crippled and twisted, having been crushed so many years ago when she was a little girl, while her left hand, which guided the ink pen, was decorated with a black dragon tattoo that stretched from knuckles to shoulder. Its red eyes, deeper and darker in color than Ria's light red eyes, stood out in direct contrast to her white skin. Although the dragon was flat and one-dimensional, there was something wickedly alive about it, typical of anything that could be considered a "gift" from the Lord of Chaos. ("A curse by any other name," Turk had once said to Marcia before she conned her would-be parents into adopting her, "is still a curse.")
Harry reached out to Ria's tattoo. His hand touched the black dragon, and the red slits for eyes flared wide as Ria snatched her arm from Harry's reach and leapt to her feet in shock.
Ria was barely a head taller than Marcia, but while Marcia just looked and acted like a child who raided her rebellious teenaged brother's stash of highly-illegal crack, Ria's calm demeanor and radiating sense of maternity made her appear as a woman. A tiny doll of a woman, but a woman nonetheless. Harry stared at Ria with hopeful eyes and reached out one tiny hand. Marcia looked down at Harry with motherly pride. "Look what I got!"
Ria eyed Harry suspiciously. "Put him back, Sydney," she said finally as she sat down. "His family must miss him."
Marcia winced. "Why does everyone assume the worst?" she demanded as she set Harry down on the icy floor. He seemed unbothered by his nudity. He crawled to Ria and grabbed two fistfuls of her red robes.
"Up!" Harry cried. "Up!"
"His parents are dead," Marcia said as Ria bent over and grabbed Harry. Ria settled him in her lap and began to assure herself that Harry was in possession of all ten fingers and toes.
Marcia decided to resort to babbling. "He's a little fire demonling and I came across him after his power manifested itself and said that he was going to be strong but he wouldn't know his power and his father said-"
"Don't forget to breathe, dear," Ria absently reminded Marcia as Harry played with the heavy pearl necklace that thrice circled her throat.
"-and his father said that I could train him and raise him but I should also see someone named Bumblebore - Dumbledore? My language chip is going haywire, too. Which I haven't done yet, but he was getting fussy so I brought him to you because I don't know what to do."
"Get some clothes on him," Ria said immediately. Harry stuck one strand of pearls in his mouth. She tugged them free from his mouth and grasp. "And then feed him."
"I gave him some greens!" Marcia declared proudly.
"What sort? Leafed or non-leafed?"
Marcia tried to remember of grass was technically leafed. It had been a few centuries since she had studied anything remotely involving biology. "I think it was leafed," she said finally.
"What about fruits?"
"Vegetables? Meats? Grains? He's certainly old enough to begin eating solid foods. No honey or molasses though, and easy on the fruits."
"All right, all right." Marcia reached for Harry. "I'll give him a well-rounded meal."
"Sydney." Ria ignored Marcia's attempt to grab Harry. "A baby is a great deal of responsibility."
Marcia looked offended. "I can be responsible."
"You have never given me reason to believe you are responsible." Ria held her non-crippled hand up before Marcia could protest. "You run every time someone mentions work. You hide whenever the thought of doing something that is not fun arrives. You are not suitable to raise a child because you have no experience and little maturity to handle such responsibility."
In Marcia's experience, when a person was confronted with their faults, it's always best to plead guilty through someone else's negligence. "No one has ever given me a chance before!" Marcia waved her arms around in a mild fit, carefully watching so she didn't knock over anything expensive or difficult to clean. "Everyone in the family thinks I'm undependable and irresponsible, so why should I try to live up to non-existent expectations? I met Nandin in the hall and he wanted to know how anyone could mistake me for being suitable at motherhood. He even said I couldn't boil water without turning it into toxic sludge that melts the bottom of the pot!"
"It also went through three stories' worth of floors before it disappeared into the basement's ground to only the One knows where."
Marcia ignored Ria. "Any woman can be a great mother though, even someone like me!" Marcia grabbed the edges of the desk and peered across its width at her adopted mother. "And just because I don't act responsible doesn't necessarily mean that I'm not. I'm responsible when I have to be."
Seeing an opportunity to win the argument, Marcia interrupted Ria. "Right there! Right there, you see! That's a classic example about how people don't respect me. Why do I want to do something for someone if they can't respect me? If I don't do things for them, they think I'm lazy. But I don't want to do things for them! No one respects my decision to change my name, and I guess no one is going to respect the fact that someone thought I'd be suitable to raise his child. No one's going to respect that maybe, just maybe, I can be a mother to this child!"
Marcia slammed her fist into the desk to emphasis her point. The desk rattled and wood splintered. Marcia blinked guiltily at the long crack that now ran the length of the desk. "Oops." She looked sheepishly at her mother. "I didn't mean to hit the desk that hard."
Ria's closed expression caused a jolt of panic to race through Marcia. A stranger had believed her, and it was far more than what Marcia's own family thought she deserved. It had been enough for Marcia to hope she could achieve having a family she did not have to force herself upon, but all that threatened to wither up and die. What should have been supporting her instead deterred her goals.
Well, since a fit of righteous anger did not work, mayhap whining would. Whining had won her more arguments than anything else in her lifetime. (Well, except for violence, but Marcia didn't consider violence against her own mother – she wasn't Patches, for crying out loud!) Marcia pitched her voice higher to the tone that caused most people to agree to anything rather than be forced to listen to for a time. "Mama, I came here to ask your help. Doesn't that mean I'm at least trying to be responsible? I don't know what to do, but that isn't to say that I'm not trying to change that so I can know what to do and so I can be a good mother, because I can't be a good mother if I don't try to use available resources that would allow me to know how to be a good mother."
Ria leaned back against her chair. Harry yawned and dropped his head on to her chest to snuggle closer. Ria ran her crippled fingers through his hair. "Being a good mother," she said slowly, "is not something you learn from others, just as respect is something earned and not readily given. Being a good mother is raising a child to be a good person, and many times the children are different. It's experience and observation, mixed with wet diapers and teething and unexpected surprises." She chuckled softly and shook her head a little. "The One knows I raised twelve of you, and it's been different each time. You must adjust to suit the difference and needs of each child, and what may be good for one would not be good for another. It is something you never stop learning."
Marcia listened intently to her mother, nodding every now and again. She even schooled her face so she looked like she was concentrating on the words. When it came to persuading the Queen of Winter, it was best to lay it on thick. Attitude and eagerness, piled on top of the whining, would win her this victory.
"Motherhood isn't a rite or a passage or a stage of life. It's continuous, and honor that comes from it must be earned through the results of the children. That you want to learn how to raise a child safely and effectively does indeed show me you are trying to be a good mother." With a resigned sigh, Ria cradled Harry in her arms and stood up. "Come along. I'll give you a quick lesson before I return to my numbers."
Harry grabbed Ria's pearls again as the woman swept down the hallway with Marcia closely at her heels. "But what about his family?" Ria asked suddenly. "You will, of course, do everything in your power to let him know about his real family. It's not right to deprive him or them of each other."
Marcia nodded her head vigorously. "Of course!"
Nothing more was said until they reached the nursery. While Ria's children were all grown up and had left to make their own lives (or at least to cause trouble where their mother could not catch them), Ria had kept the nursery clean and well-stocked with toys for grandchildren she still patiently awaited.
The nursery was a large, well-lit room. There were toys stacked in neat little piles; dolls, stuffed animals, toy soldiers, various building blocks. There were rocking chairs and rocking horses, a little tea set on a miniature table covered with a lacy white tablecloth and surrounded by chairs that matched the size of the table. Large dolls and stuffed animals occupied all but one of the chairs. Beyond the tea set was a little red wagon filled with blankets and pillows. It was to this wagon Ria went. She handed Harry to Marcia and began to remove the blankets and pillows. Harry wiggled in Marcia's grip and whimpered.
Marcia pumped him up and down in the air. "It's all right," she cooed. Harry swung his feet and fussed. When all but one blanket and two pillows were removed from the wagon and piled in a neat stack on the floor, Ria turned back to Marcia and grabbed Harry. He immediately calmed down and Marcia gave him an accusing look. Ria gently settled him on the pillows and wrapped the blanket around his naked body.
"And now to get some clothes." Ria's crippled hand grabbed the wagon's wooden handle. She paused a moment to carefully work the twisted fingers around the handle. "There are baby clothes kept in a storage room around here somewhere," she said to Marcia. She set off in search, studying the signs and pulling the wagon behind her.
Marcia trailed behind. Her mouth gaped open in a wide smile. "Mama, did you ever expect me to produce your first grandchild?"
Ria looked over her shoulder at Marcia. "After two hundred years of waiting for any grandchildren? I could almost swear the dozen of you are celibate, except I know half of you aren't." She turned around to open the nursery door. "Unfortunately, I find I must agree with your brother, Nandin: why would anyone give you a child?"
Marcia sputtered wordlessly for a moment.
"Sydney, I do not, of course, mean to hurt your feelings," Ria added quickly, her voice kind. "I wouldn't give up any of my children to any stranger who came flitting along. I do ask how you came upon him, merely because most others have relatives the children can live with, not a stranger. And you said his father gave Harry to you, but his parents are dead."
"Would you give us up if you were dead at the same time?" Marcia grumbled.
Ria stopped abruptly, confusion clear on her face. "How could anyone give you something if they were dead?" Marcia knew the look of Ria's face; how in the world did you become the beneficiary of someone's estate and dependants?
"He was a ghost," Marcia said firmly. She crossed her arms before herself. "Was skipping dimensions when I was rocked with this blast of power." Marcia gave her mother a slightly edited version of what happened, paraphrasing a few things so she wouldn't have to make up an explanation of this Voldie fellow or these wizards folk. "So then he asked me if I would teach him." Marcia shrugged. " 's not as if it's my idea. So then he decided I would make good mother material, told me to tell Bumbledore, and then faded away."
"Ah." Ria frowned thoughtfully. "So you were at the right place at the right time. Well, that would make sense." She stopped in the hallway and opened a door. It opened up to a closet filled with clothes on hangers. Many of the clothes were tiny and doll-like, and systematically arranged by size, and then color. Female-oriented clothes hung to the left and male-oriented clothes hung to the right.
Ria carried Harry to the middle of the closet. "Babies take time, energy, and above all else, patience. They are like blank slates; anything anyone says or does will be stored away as influence of some sort." She looked suddenly at Marcia, as if it just occurred to her what sort of person would be raising Harry.
One of Marcia's eyebrows went up. "What? What did I do now?"
Ria turned away. "Nothing," she muttered. She stared thoughtfully at the clothes, and then grabbed a small blue jumpsuit from off its hanger. She tossed it to Marcia. "Let's see how you dress Harry," she said as she folded her hands demurely before herself. "What should you do first?"
Marcia tried to be as gentle, but Harry squealed and squirmed and wailed as she grabbed his flailing limbs and tried to push them into the jumpsuit. He was not in the mood to be touched, or perhaps he didn't like the idea of being dressed in a cold set of clothes.
Harry grabbed a handful of Marcia's ponytail and yanked. He screamed shrilly and whacked her with one tiny fist as tears flooded down his face. He knocked her glasses askew. Amidst his wiggling and wailing, Marcia managed to pull the jumpsuit on. After she zipped the front of it up, Marcia topped the outfit off with a tiny blue cap, and then collapsed at the side of the wagon, her glasses hanging crookedly off one ear. Harry stopped wailing and glared balefully at Ria as if to blame her for this atrocity. His nose dripped, and his face was red and splotchy.
Ria pressed the palm of her crippled hand against the side of her face. Her colorless lips were pressed in a thin line, but Marcia secretly suspected Ria was highly amused. "You do realize," Ria said slowly, "that you forgot the diaper."
Marcia's eyes widened. She tore her glasses off and jumped to her feet. "You mean I gotta dress Harry all over again!"Ria's mouth twitched as she shook her head. "You may want to feed him first. It would put him into a better mood."
Author's Note: Ria's and Marcia's opinions of women and families and babies are theirs and theirs alone and do not reflect those of the author.