Harry's eyes snapped open at the light rustling noise that came from the edge of the clearing. In the sun's bright light the tree of whispers lacked most of its magical glow. Instead of its mystery and deep romanticism, it was noble and proud, protecting those who sheltered within its vine canopy. They hung down towards him like rays of light made corporeal, providing physicality to the warm pinpricks of sunlight lucky enough to make it through the canopy of the tree of whispers, dotting his body with gleaming diamonds.
Atan'iti pushed back the hanging pink strands with one long arm, the other cradling a number of round fruits. Harry sat up and crossed his legs. "Good morning," he said to his mate. Atan'iti entered through the wall of vines and took a few steps toward him. Specks of light raced up and down her body as she moved forward, and Harry thought that he couldn't be happier anywhere else.
Atan'iti laughed and looked down at him. "It is almost after noon Harry," she said. "You must be hungry. Eat." Atan'iti dropped a fruit and Harry caught it, smiling up at her.
"Thank you." He bit into the fruit and was shocked at how delicious it was. Harry wiped the juice off his chin and exclaimed, "This is good!" He sprang to his feet, and was surprised at how fast and effortless the motion was. Harry had been in shape in his human body, of course, but he could tell that this one was both less dense and stronger. The combination made all of his movements seem… like he was dancing.
Remembering the revelations the night before, he looked down and double-checked his body. It was still Na'vi, complete with traditional Na'vi clothing, minimal as it was. Harry supposed that the new clothes were a simple matter of adapting the human clothes he had been wearing before. Or maybe they had just been created from nothing. It wasn't impossible. An entirely new body had been crafted for him, after all.
"I'm still in shock, I think," Harry said, looking back to Atan'iti. She was eating her own fruit. Her hair was still plaited over her ears with the majority of her black hair still loose down her back. She was wearing the traditional Na'vi necklace of decorative wood, and a light covering of cloth woven between thick ropes that covered her small, high breasts. Harry had always noticed them, ever since he had first seen her. At first he felt strange, being attracted to a woman who wasn't human, but then he realized how silly that was. The question of body didn't matter. It was about the mind. Atan'iti was as intelligent as any human, fully able to share in and reciprocate Harry's feeling of love and his need for communication and companionship, so what was so wrong about the attraction? When she had first picked up Harry to try and feel his magic, close to two months before, that was the first time he had gotten firm, prolonged contact with her body. It was his most memorably early experience of his new life. Harry stepped forward and touched Atan'iti's cheek. "I have a beautiful mate," he said.
Atan'iti gave him a small smile and her cheeks turned the color of her darker stripes. Atan'iti touched Harry's shoulder and ran her hand down his arm. She grasped his hand, and their fingers laced together properly. Atan'iti looked down at their hands, "When I was younger I used to come to this place and pray for my hands to be normal, to be like the rest of the People."
"I'm glad you're different," Harry said. Harry finished his unidentified piece of fruit and dropped the core on the ground. "Do you think we should go back to your home? Are you ready to face everyone?"
Atan'iti smiled and raised her head slightly, standing on her tiptoes. Harry felt her bare stomach brush against his, and her hand pushed down on his shoulder slightly as she raised her eyes above his. She was looking down her nose at him, and Harry could see her smile widen slightly, her sharp teeth showing. "We are not ready to announce our mating, yet," she said.
Then she tripped Harry. She used her leverage to throw him backwards and had secretly wrapped one of her legs behind his, making him unable to stumble backwards to regain his balance. Harry fell, and reached for her on instinct, pulling her down with him.
Hitting the ground didn't hurt. His bones were strong and his body was light. Even so, he let out a small 'oof!' when Atan'iti landed on top of him. Quickly, Atan'iti got her legs under her, one on each side of Harry, and pushed her hands against his shoulders to keep him on his back. She let out a small sound that was a cross between a grunt and a chuckle, and said, "There is one important thing we must do before we announce our mating, Harry Potter."
Then Atan'iti sat back, balanced on his hips, and crossed her arms. She slid her fingertips underneath her garment at the armpits, pulling it up and over her head to reveal her breasts. Harry lay there, breathing hard at the sight. Harry hadn't really known what to expect, but he was sure that anything he could have imagined wasn't as good as the vision he had right now. Atan'iti tossed her garment to the side and looked down at him, one hand going behind her neck, the other resting on her navel. Then she started to rock on his hips, and Harry thought that she was right. They still had one more thing to do.
Sometime later, Atan'iti took Harry's arm from around her and sat up. "It is time to go back and announce our mating," Atan'iti said. Harry propped himself on an elbow and put a hand on her back, just above her tail. She was looking at the hanging vine wall of the Tree of Whispers. Harry felt like once they walked through the pink veil, they would have to re-enter the real world. "You're worried," Harry said.
"Your relationship with my people…" She shook her head and seemed to revise her thoughts, "You are mated to me, and more than an Avatar, but you are not yet Na'vi. It is unprecedented. You speak our language fluently, but you do not know our ways. You have our body, but yet look so different with the silver." Atan'iti looked down at Harry. Her eyebrows were furrowed, "My father will be lenient on allowing you to learn and become one of the People, as he was once human, but I do not know how he will react knowing we are mated. It will be so sudden to him."
Harry nodded slowly, "I won't pretend to know the ways of the People, but I know what fighters are like. I think that I can win your father's respect."
Atan'iti hugged him, falling on top of him for the second time that day, "Thank you, Harry," she said.
After that, the pair gathered the direhorse that Atan'iti had rode out the night before. She leading it easily without needing to bond, and they began a slow, pleasant trek back to Hometree.
Harry was acutely aware of his new body and, while completely Na'vi, how distinct it was with the silver patterning on his skin. He was ecstatic that he was able to fulfill his commitment to Atan'iti and his role as her mate, but he had serious doubts about his place with the People, and what purpose he would serve. The six-legged direhorse snorted and shook his head, his powerful breath rushing from the esophagus near what was equestrian analogue of a collarbone. Harry found it fascinating that a number of the animals on Pandora breathed from the front of their chest instead of the human and Na'vi way of through the mouth. It was quite the evolutionary advantage, choking from food being physically impossible. The direhorse noticed Harry looking at him and swung his long neck across Atan'iti and nuzzled Harry's arm.
"He likes you!" Atan'iti said with a laugh. She patted the direhorse fondly, rewarding him for his good behavior.
"Well I have at least one soul who likes me," Harry said, "Now we just need to figure out how to convince the rest of the People." Harry reached over and patted the direhorse as well.
Pandora was different in a Na'vi body. It wasn't so dangerous anymore, for one thing. Secondly, the sizes seemed more… right. Harry touched the mosses and grasses that grew out of the trees lining their little trail with his fingertips. "Tell me what happened after I died," said Harry.
"I did not know it was possible to feel that much pain," Atan'iti replied. I put a knife in the demon that killed you, and then I went to Hell's Gate for more. I wanted revenge."
"And wanting revenge isn't expected?" Harry asked.
Atan'iti shook her head. "The demons that attacked our friends needed killing, but that was not the only reason I did it. I did it to make them pay for killing you. The People do not kill because they want to. Never."
"I see…" Harry said. He wasn't sure what to say. Revenge was normal for him. There had been many death eaters he had hated. He had taken satisfaction in killing Voldemort because of the pain of losing almost everyone he knew. "When I killed Voldemort, the only reason I did it was for my friends."
Atan'iti looked at Harry, "I am not good at finding lies, Harry."
Harry smiled at her, "I'm not lying. I don't think less of you for doing what you did. It was a fight. You were protecting yourself and your friends."
Atan'iti rushed into Harry's arms. Harry again remembered when she had picked him up on that island near the waterfall on the first day they had met. She had manhandled him like a child and put his chest against her catlike ear. She had been listening for his magic. Now, Atan'iti was half a head shorter than him. Harry pulled her head to his shoulder and wrapped his left arm around her waist. "The things I do sometimes… the things I think… they are not like what the others think."
Harry smiled, putting his cheek on the top of her head. "What you're thinking is normal for humans," he said. "I don't think you should be scared or ashamed of that."
Atan'iti pulled back and took the direhorse by the queue, leading him forward. Harry followed, quietly.
He took her free hand and laced his fingers through hers, and they walked quietly down the path. Harry didn't think they needed to speak. The rest of the journey was spent in silence, for the most part. Harry simply took the time to enjoy the feel of his Na'vi body and the closeness of his new mate.
Hometree was coming up in the distance. They had left the heavily forested area that made up the large distance between Hometree and Hell's gate and now were walking through the same clearing that Harry had carried Atan'iti through when she had broken her ankle. Na'vi mothers and their children lined the clearing, either singing in groups, or gathering various berries and fruits Harry assumed they cultivated. All the Na'vi, mothers and children alike, stopped what they were doing to stare at Harry and Atan'iti—mostly Harry. His silver patterning was flashing and shimmering in the unmolested sunlight that struck the grass below their feet. Harry could hear their whispers, and he was able to understand them. In fact, he wondered if he had been speaking Na'vi to Atan'iti since he had come back. He wasn't sure.
A few brave Na'vi children ran up to Harry and touched his skin, staring at the gleaming patterns with looks of awe and amazement on their faces. Harry was pleased that their curiosity was so open, and that the mothers did not stop their children with a harsh look and sharp words. That would have been the treatment he would have gotten back on Earth if he had a strange human body. Here, there was simplicity and trust. It warmed Harry better than the sunlight that reflected from his body.
"The man who killed you is here," Atan'iti said.
Harry was surprised, "I thought you stabbed him," he said.
"I did," Atan'iti replied. I left him there… to die. But when I came back, he was healed. He said that a voice spoke to him, told him to put a silver stone in your mouth in exchange for healing."
"The All Father saved him," Harry said. He was shocked, but it made sense. The marine was the one responsible for getting that little bit of Unobtainium to tag along with Harry, giving him a new body. "I want to talk to him."
"Why? Atan'iti asked, "He is a demon."
"I just do. I want to see how he acts. Has he said anything to you?"
Atan'iti paused, "I do not like him."
They were closer to Hometree now. Crowds began to appear, all of them staring at Harry. The majority of the Na'vi had never seen Harry in human form before, and the only Na'vi harry had met were ones long used to dealing with humans. The Na'vi here were mostly adults and adolescents, with a good number of hunters among them. While they weren't exactly hostile, there was a definite sense of caution flowing through the quickly gathering crowd that the children did not possess.
"Atan'iti! Who is…" Neytiri had been walking towards them from the inside of Hometree. She stopped when she saw Harry. Her eyes were wide, the large earrings that she wore as the People's spiritual leader swaying slowly. "How is this possible?"
"Eywa has brought him back to me, mother," said Atan'iti. They were still holding hands. Out of the corner of his eye Harry saw her glance at him and she took in a sharp breath, "We are mated."
A subdued exclamation ran through the gathered Na'vi, followed by whispers. Harry could hear them speaking in their own tongue, "Who is he?" "Atan'iti has consented to an outsider?" One comment stuck out the most to Harry, and it even made him smile a bit. Whoever had whispered it certainly had a snarky, sarcastic personality, "She is the Olo'eyktan's daughter."
Neytiri looked at Harry with a narrowed gaze, "You continue to… plague me, Harry Potter. At every turn I try to distance you from The People, and every time you step around my attempts. You are dangerous, but now I have no choice. Jake will have the final word on if you stay with us. For now, I wish to speak to you privately, mother to son."
Then Neytiri turned away from them and walked back underneath the huge archway that led into Hometree. Atan'iti quickly followed and pulled Harry along with her. Harry assumed it was a good sign that Atan'iti didn't hesitate, so followed in her wake without protest, trapped by Atan'iti's grip on his fingers.
Neytiri was sitting at the same meeting table Harry had passed when he visited Atan'iti after he accidentally hurt her ankle. Atan'iti sat across from her mother, Harry next to Atan'iti. "Where did you get this body? Was it made by the Sky People? You have the hands and the eyes of my mate." Neytiri asked without preamble.
"No, it wasn't made by the scientists. I made it, kind of."
"You?" Neytiri said, "How?"
"I was killed, and became a part of Eywa for a short while." Harry said, "It was amazing. I could see… everything." He looked at Atan'iti, "I could see you, praying. I heard you. That's why I came back. I had a choice. I could actually have decided to stay as a part of Eywa." Harry smiled and glanced at his mate sitting next to him. She seemed shy as she ducked her head and looked at him with a coy smile, "It would have been a simple choice had I not known you, Atan'iti. But since I had met you, since we were mated, the choice was still simple. The All-Father provided me with the power in the form of Unobtainium, and I shaped the body with my magic."
"Atan'iti told me you had died. You say that you died, and then came back with a new body?" She shook her head. "It is… hard to believe."
Harry just shrugged, "It is magic. My body isn't completely natural… you can see that. Harry offered his silver-banded arm as proof. Your deity seems to have taken a liking to me."
Neytiri shook her head, a harsh scowl on her lips, "You call him the All-Father. At least I have a name for him, now." Neytiri sighed and Harry could see her shoulders drop slightly, "You say that you came back because you wanted to be with my daughter. That is… honorable. It is hard to admit when you are wrong, Harry Potter—especially when it is your responsibility to listen and interpret Eywa's will. I still have more to learn about Her—and Him."
There was silence for a few moments, and Harry thought that there should be a clock ticking. There was no steady tick to break apart the awkward stillness in the meeting area, and the emotions that were laid bare on the small circular stump the Na'vi used as a meeting place. "Thank you," Harry said simply.
"You are willing to help?" Neytiri asked.
"Yes," Harry said, looking at Neytiri. Her large eyes were locked on him. They were wide and looking at him intently. Harry noticed they were significantly larger compared to Atan'iti's. They were more alien, more vicious.
"And you are willing to learn our ways?"
"Yes," Harry said again. "I will learn, but I will always have some humanity in me."
Apparently Atan'iti couldn't contain herself any longer, and she attacked him from the side with her arms, wrapping them around him for an instant, before regaining her composure. Neytiri eyed her daughter disapprovingly, but then she shook her head, "You are lucky, Atan'iti," Neytiri said, "The morning after my mating was filled with betrayal and tears. I would never do the same to my own daughter, and neither will Jake. I know you will not allow Harry to fail and make a mockery of The People, so I am happy for you."
"Thank you, mother," Atan'iti said, her smile wide.
Harry couldn't help but smile as well, "Yes, thank you."
Neytiri nodded, "I understand that it is common for humans to give gifts when celebrating a mating. I do not have a gift, but I imagine you will want your own place to sleep. I will have a new hammock hung in your favorite spot, daughter."
Atan'iti's smile grew wider. She reached across the table and rested her hand on her mother's, "It is better than any gift I could have hoped for."
Neytiri nodded, "I will go and make the preparations for you two." She looked at Harry, "I expect you to learn well, and learn quickly. We will need you."
Neytiri left, and Harry and Atan'iti were left alone. "It is almost time for the evening meal. Do you want to go now? It will be a chance for others to get used to you. Or you could meet my brother. He is much younger, still a child."
"I've seen your brother," Harry said, standing up. "I want to meet the man who killed me first. The All-Father spoke to him, and I want to know exactly what He said."
Atan'iti frowned, but she said, "If you won't change your mind I will go with you." Her tone allowed no argument.
Harry followed her up the spiraling ridge until they took a smaller fork off of the 'staircase' that cut across the center of the Home Tree. There was a forty foot drop to the nearest landing below them, but Harry didn't feel any vertigo. His Na'vi sense of balance and grace wouldn't allow it. They entered a hole in the outer trunk that curved up in a tunnel, just barely tall enough for him to stand upright. They entered small room that looked like a storage room. It was perhaps 10 feet by 10 feet wide, with an archway covered by thick woven branches that face outwards. Harry could see natural light filtering through the woven door. In it, he saw a human dressed in military clothes, squatting down over a low ledge and looking out a window into the jungles of Pandora, far below them.
"Demon!" Atan'iti said to him loudly. "Harry has come to speak with you."
The man immediately fumbled with the hay-like material that covered the floor of his cell and Harry saw the red flash of a very familiar object. Harry knew that it was his wand immediately. It wasn't so much the sight itself, but rather the feeling that appeared in his stomach at the sight. For a wizard, it was unmistakable. It was all over in under a second. The marine turned quickly and stood up.
"The Thanator you killed," Harry said. "That was me."
"You?" the marine said. He stepped forward a bit, but stopped two arms lengths away from the woven door. Then he shook his head, "So is this the part where you throw me out the window, then? I don't know what you're playing at, but just yesterday you were sure Harry was dead."
"What exactly did the All-Father say to you?" Harry asked.
"I don't know what you're talking about," the marine said.
"I think you do," Harry replied. "You landed on a piece of silvery metal, didn't you? You were touching it when He spoke to you."
The marine looked at him, not saying anything.
"Well, anyways, I have a few questions for you," Harry continued. "Atan'iti told me what you said. She said that you were healed in return for putting that silver stone in the mouth of the Thanator."
"I said that."
"Why did you do it?" Harry asked. "You could have gotten up and walked away."
The man was silent again, his hands behind his back and his shoulders squared firmly. It was a military stance. The man was formidable, and Harry almost felt as if he was being judged. It was altogether rather out of place, being that the man was behind bars, but Harry allowed him his illusions as the silence stretched on.
Then he spoke. "My daughters have dolls that they go to bed with every night. Well, Stephanie, my oldest, may no longer use it, but when I left, Stephanie and Roxy both demanded I tuck in their dolls with them. They were Na'vi dolls. After the RDA got expelled the first time, there was something of a grassroots campaign among the population. When I left, they thought I was coming here to help the Na'vi." The marine shook his head, "I'm not an evil man. Whatever that voice was, it said I would save someone or something named Harry. Why would I not spare something, just out of spite?"
Harry nodded. "I can understand that."
The marine continued, "I want to help. I want to help everyone come to an agreement. We can mine the Unobtainium in an unobtrusive way and we can leave you be. We can provide education or materials if you want, or we can simply leave you alone."
"That won't work," Harry said. "The mining can't continue."
The man shook his head. He didn't like Harry's answer. "Fine," he said, "I'll still help."
"You lie," Atan'iti hissed.
"No! I'm not lying," the marine said.
"Why would you help us?" Harry asked.
"Because my daughters love the Na'vi! If the mining is unacceptable to the Na'vi then I don't think I can be a part of it. I don't think I would be able to come home proud of what I'd accomplished."
Harry was beginning to believe the man was sincere. He had been approached by the All-Father, and he had followed through with the bargain. "Maybe…" Harry said. "When you killed me I lost something. It was a small red stick with a handle on it. Did you see it?"
The man went silent again. If possible, his posture became stiffer. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Atan'iti. She was looking at him with an expression of confusion on her face. She probably hadn't caught the flash of red. It was quite possible that Harry hadn't actually seen it, after all. It could have been more of a vision given to him by his proximity to his wand. It was made from his blood, after all, and blood magic was strong and ancient.
Then the man let out a breath and his hands made an appearance from their clasped position behind his back. "I can do better than tell you where it is. I have it with me." He walked over to a pile of the hay on the ground and kicked it away, revealing Harry's wand. He picked it up by the tip, walked over to the woven door, and handed it to him through one of the larger slots, handle first. Harry took it and immediately felt power rush into him through his arm. He still had his magic! If anything, it seemed stronger. He wondered if it was from the Unobtainium. Unobtainium was the power of Pandora, just as magic was the power of Earth. Now that it was a part of him in addition to the magic in his blood, it made sense. Harry smiled down as he looked at the lovingly shaped branch of Hometree in his hand, and he felt complete. He had a new body, a new mate, and finally, his wand. A sense of peace and comfort washed over him.
"Thank you," Harry said to the marine.
The marine just nodded, "Will you speak to Jake on my behalf?"
Harry looked down at his wand, then back at the marine. He didn't want to do this. "I might, but it depends on one more thing."
"And what is that?" the marine asked.
Harry just shook his head, looking down at his wand. Then he looked over to Atan'iti and exhaled a sigh through his nose. She was looking back at him curiously, and her expression changed into one of concern. Harry wondered what she could see in his face. He turned away from his mate, and looked back at the marine. "I'm sorry."