Disclaimer: No, still not mine. Isn't it obvious?

Summary: See Previous Chapters.


Intimidating or not, it was only a matter of time before Umbridge tried to assert her 'authority' again, so Zhoom and Vaneria made themselves scarce. Watching them go, Professor Sinistra blinked in surprise. "Who was that and how does your cousin know him? How did he get here?"

Nightflower thought for a moment. "The new guy is Zhoom, a ranger and mercenary from the Sandsea. Vaneria worked with him a few times during her apprenticeship and sometimes helps him out when things get out of hand there."

Henna snickered. "From the look of things, chasing down rebels isn't the only thing they do, either. I wonder if Uncle knows about that."

Nightflower smirked in reply. "I doubt it, but you can't fault her taste. I'm guessing that the spell brought him here, somehow. We'll ask Vaneria when she gets back, but\ it may take a while."

Professor Umbridge glared at them. "And in the meantime, we are supposed to just put him up in Hogwarts, as well?"

Henna sighed. "Be thankful it wasn't Atrix, because then you'd really have a problem. If it's too much of a fuss, though, Zhoom would probably be more comfortable in Hogsmeade. You can ask him later."

Draco Malfoy had been assigned to follow the mage and ranger, but the two managed to shake him off with little difficulty. Zhoom looked after the boy then turned to Vaneria, raising an eyebrow in question. Vaneria sighed. "Think Drakath, except with different colouring, and somehow even less competent. Foolish brat with an over-inflated sense of his own importance and thinks he owns the world. Until he somehow manages to back it up, however, very few people take him seriously."

Zhoom nodded, but made no comment. The only time anyone took Drakath seriously was when he showed up to annoy you, and even then only paid attention long enough to kick his ass and make a witty remark. "Even so, you should be careful, 'Ria. I have a bad feeling about this 'High Inquisitor'.

Vaneria nodded. So she wasn't the only one who was uneasy about the whole thing. Glaring at a cluster of Fourth-Years, who had stopped to swoon, she continued walking. "A storm is coming, but until it hits, there is very little we can do about it."

Zhoom nodded, moving to lighter topics. "I hate situations like this. Give me action any time. But tell me, how is that baby dragon of yours?"

Like any proud mother, Vaneria lit up at the mention of her pet, and launched into a detailed description of Avatre's latest antics. Thriving on the latent magic that surrounded and infused Hogwarts, Avatre had grown to the size of a small pony, big enough to carry a rider, in an emergency. Vaneria was planning to start training her for that, as soon as she could find a suitable dummy.

Like the three cousins, Zhoom had been conscripted to the Order of the Phoenix, where all four were currently attending a meeting. As all they seemed to be doing right then was talking in circles, Zhoom and Snape appeared to be entertaining themselves by holding an unofficial contest that involved lurking in the shadows. At the moment Zhoom, who Sirius couldn't actually spot right now, was winning, as Snape had to be seen and heard to give his report.

The Potions Master was half-way through describing a prisoner who no-one knew what to do with, but who was apparently very important, when Zhoom betrayed his position with a loud snicker at the same time as Vaneria bolted upright, shrieking with laughter. Henna and Nightflower both thumped their heads on the table.

Snape looked annoyed, confirmed by his dangerously silky tone as he glared at them. "May I ask what is so amusing? The Dark Lord finding something important is seldom a good thing."

Stifling her giggles, Vaneria managed to pull herself together long enough to answer. "You've just described Nythera. She may be considered important, but I will be very surprised if your Dark Lord isn't cursing whoever caught her before a day is out. Nythera may act like a bratty teenager, but she is a force to be reckoned with, and hates having people tell her what to do."

Zhoom, Henna and Nightflower all winced. Henna and Nightflower had been too young to participate in the Elemental War, a full six years younger than their cousin, but they had heard stories. Even Zhoom, who was still irritated about the Death Eaters who had stolen the Orb of Light, wondered whether or not to feel sorry for Voldemort. Nythera was very powerful, and no-one would be forgetting the Elemental War anytime soon.

Friendships aside, mouthing off to the Forces of Nature and starting a war just because you had been grounded and your magic bound was a bit extreme. Various heroes were still trying to placate the Elemental Lords (and Ladies), who were still angry at Nythera in particular and everyone else as a whole.

Snape glared at them. "A friend of yours, is she?"

Vaneria shrugged. "We were apprenticed to the same Master, for a while. She's a friend in the same way that people like Robina or Valencia or Thyton are friends; you know them by name and help each other out and talk when you meet up, but you aren't necessarily that close."

The main difference between the Magic Users of Lore and the Magic users of this world was not so much the magic itself, but how they used it.

The mages of Lore knew the limitations of Magic, and used it as needed, wielding the power with little more than a thought, unless involved in a complex ritual. The witches and wizards of this world, in contrast, used magic for just about everything, but always required a wand movement and incantation.

In essence, while Vaneria could incinerate something/someone, or put them to sleep in an instant, or reverse most spells, even moglins hyped up on that blasted mogloween candy, levitating a table or turning a rabbit into a top hat was beyond her skill. Mostly because she never saw the point, and therefore never learned, but that was beside the point.

On the other hand, that was probably a good thing, as the very thought of the Hogwarts student population running around throwing fireballs or blasting each other with wind or energy made her cringe, and look for a good hiding spot. There was a reason that Mages only took one or two apprentices at a time

Of course, living in the same tower as Cysero for several years as she trained with Warlic certainly taught you an appreciation of being cautious when experimenting with or even just using magic, especially on other people. It also taught you how to deal calmly with magic-related fiascos, but that didn't mean that you looked forward to such things, especially when you were the one who had to fight off the results.

This was probably why Vaneria was stuck fulfilling her 'favor' to Dumbledore by seeing if the young student mages of this world had the potential to wield the magic of Lore.

So far, they didn't. It wasn't so much lack of skill, as lack of understanding the consequences, and limitations. As such, Vaneria would explain the theory, but until she found a student who was willing to be responsible and actually learn, rather than just looking forward to throwing fireballs at each other, she could not, in good conscience, teach them any actual magic.

There were one or two who had real potential, but even then, Vaneria was leery. Learning to use the power of a mage was neither easy, not the work of months, and all of them (Henna and Nightflower especially) would be damned if they were staying any longer than absolutely necessary.

As it was, she was reduced to asking them to shield, the one piece of magic she had taught them, then hitting them with a wind-blast to keep herself from going insane. Being knocked flat on your backside was a fairly safe method of proving that something could be dangerous, even if she did find blasting uppity, superior gits with attitude problems to be a bit more enjoyable that she should.

This newcomer Mage, Harry Potter decided, made a very interesting teacher, a bit like Professors McGonagall and Snape mixed together, with a touch of Professor Trelawney for flavoring.

She was very to-the-point, didn't tolerate any fooling around or sabotage, punishing whoever was behind it with utter disregard to their house or parentage, as a certain pureblood had quickly found out when her tried to bully and then threaten her with first his Head of House, and then his father. Vaneria had said that Snape could take it up with Dumbledore, and if Mr Malfoy had a problem with how she taught, he could bring it up to her in person.

Like McGonagall and Snape, Vaneria had started her first lesson by giving a speech, weeded out the unwilling or lazy by stating that she would not teach anyone who did not wish or try to learn, and then gone straight to business.

Like Trelawney, Vaneria had warned them that books would only take them so far, and that if they did not have the talent, then there would be little that she could teach them. Much to Hermione's relief and delight, she did have the talent, as did Harry. The third member of their trio did not, but had been more interested in learning physical defense from Vaneria's cousins anyway. He wasn't the only one, as Physical Defense had skyrocketed in popularity when the two young women had been joined by the tall, darker-skinned Ranger. He had resorted to asking Lavender and Parvati why everyone was suddenly so keen, as Hermione had huffed when he asked her, and been informed that self-defense was probably a good idea, now that Voldemort was back, especially if they got to see all of those lovely muscles and deep eyes in the process, and did Harry think that the tattoos had a special meaning, or were they just for show?

Hermione was delighted to be learning something new from Vaneria, while Harry was interested in anything that might help him stay alive long enough for Voldemort to be killed permanently. Add the fact that Umbridge certainly wasn't teaching them anything (and was clearly livid about the course), and that they might be forced to resort to physical force to pass their exams, most of Hogwarts was eager to attend at least part of the course.

Testing for Mage potential was like choosing a wand. Vaneria had brought them up one at a time to see if they could get a reaction from what she called a 'beginner's staff', which was made of a plain shaft of wood, totally unlike the elegant and/or creatively designed staves that Vaneria herself used. Those who did get a reaction from the staff moved to one side of the young Mage, and those who didn't either left to go back to their own pursuits, or waited around to watch.

Anyone who thought that they would be doing magic straight away, however, was sadly mistaken. Once everyone had been tested, Vaneria had produced a book, asked Hermione to duplicate it, and gave everyone a copy that they would be studying in their own time before she let them anywhere near a more advanced staff or taught them a single spell.

This was followed by a very detailed explanation of what she would do to anyone caught fooling around (Harry pitied anyone stupid enough to disregard the warning, as Vaneria did not seem easy to get past or fool) and told them that they would be informed of when and where the next lesson would be held.

Right now, Vaneria was walking Susan Bones through a basic shield and what she called a 'normal-cast' with what she said was 'Surging's Staff'. It was an Energy-based staff, ranked just above a beginner's staff, and produced a bolt of crackling energy.

Closing his book, Harry walked over to where the practical lessons were going on. Henna and Nightflower were staging a demonstration for a very impressed audience, Zhoom watching from the shade of a tree.

Trying not to look as intimidated as he felt, Harry walked over. "Is everyone that good, where you come from?"

Zhoom spared him a brief glance. "Better, usually. Most Warriors and Rogues have several years and a lot more experience on those two. Henna and Nightflower are only a month or so out of training, and not even in their twenties. Before you ask, Vaneria ranges somewhere in the middle, as far as Mages are concerned."

Someone else had overheard that last bit, most likely, because the twins had barely finished demonstrating when someone interrupted their explanation. "Hey, if you are only just out of training, what makes you qualified to teach us? I can beat you any day!"

Beside Harry, Zhoom laughed under his breath. "I never thought I'd meet someone more of an incompetent fool than Drakath." He raised his voice. "Very well, boy, which one of them did you want to be defeated by first?"

Draco obviously hadn't expected anyone to call his bluff, but he had also never been very good at backing down gracefully. "I can take both of you at once, no problem."

The two women exchanged amused looks before exchanging their current weapons for their 'default' ones. Nightflower gave a half-mocking salute. "Whenever you feel ready, then."

It was really sort of embarrassing to watch.

Draco lunged at Nightflower, who calmly side-stepped, and nearly impaled himself on Henna's sword, calmly held in a ready position. Twisting to avoid it, Draco staggered right into Nightflower's trip and fell hard. Keeping just out of his range, the two young fighters explained the technical terms for what they had done, and asked the class to point out where Draco had made mistakes.

It was a long list.





A/N: Yes, I know that it's really 'Sir Jing's Staff', but the Hogwarts students are hearing the spoken version, where 'Sir Jing' sounds more like 'Surging'. You may have noticed a trend there.

It's been a long time since I updated, I know, and I've lost a lot of my inspiration, but I will try to finish the story. In the meantime, reviews are appreciated, as they let me know what I'm doing right and where I need to improve.