The room was in twilight, and Harry heard the distant sound of traffic. On the table between two pink beds was a lamp that gave off a soft purple light. The light was barely enough to bring the room out of darkness and into twilight. Rain was pattering on the window, and Harry was surprised to see metal bars on the outside. They were very high up, and he could see the grid of small apartment windows through the bars—each a single point in a never ending matrix of the humans who occupied them. Raindrops clung to the glass, and refracted the harsh violet light from an unseen neon light that shone through the gloom.
There were two girls, one tucked under each pink bedspread. The marine, Miller, was sitting on the right bed, with the younger girl. "Tell me what Pandora is like again, daddy," said the younger girl.
"Well," said Miller, "I've never seen it myself. You know that."
"I know!" the little girl said, "But tell me anyways."
Harry moved closer to see the girls' faces. It was very dark, and the purple light cast by the single lamp didn't help much. As he did, the memory faded.
Harry sat in the seat of a futuristic helicopter. The large sliding doors to either side of him where thrown open, exposing the two ducted rotors that kept the aircraft in the sky. Down below was a wasteland. Harry had seen pictures of deserts from his time in primary school when he was back in England. The tan expanse of parched, cracked dirt interspersed with drought-tolerant plants was a paradise compared to the dark brown hills below. Harry leaned further out to see what should have been rolling grasslands. Instead he saw barren hills marked with heavy erosion. Huge chasms were cut into the hillsides, and mud had filled a large part of the area between the peaks, slowly flattening the land. Without the roots of plants to hold the dirt in place, erosion and gravity were doing their unassuming, quiet, unstoppable work.
"You ready for this, Private Miller?" a grizzled marine across from Harry and Miller asked.
"Yes, sir," Miller responded.
"Remember, private, this isn't a police action. These terrorists have been destroying carbon dioxide scrubbers in the region. They deserve the worst circle of hell for that. We're going in and taking them out. No exceptions."
Miller looked at the man, and nodded after a split second, "I know the rules of engagement, sir. You can count on me."
The older marine nodded, "Let's get this over with then."
Miller and another woman were in a kitchen with a small circular table. Just like in the bedroom, a sturdy metal grate covered the window and Harry could see they were dozens of stories off of the ground. He could see through the neighboring skyscrapers a sliver of an angle and saw a hazy afternoon sky. It was a yellowish grey haze and the sun had an ever present halo around it, like Harry was looking through a camera lens at it.
"We can make room," the woman said. "You heard what's happening in Florida. It's not just the news, mom is confirming it too. Her house will be underwater in a year."
"Where?" Miller asked. "We only have the two rooms."
"She can sleep with the girls," the woman said. "We'll get a bunk bed if we have to."
Miller let out a sigh, but nodded in resignation. "Of course she can stay. I suppose it isn't all bad. We'll get the three-generations tax credit too."
The woman looked offended and slapped Miller's shoulder lightly, "Mom is more than just a tax credit!"
Miller smiled at his wife and it was obvious to Harry he was joking, "I know, I know. I'll just take everything we can get at this point."
Harry rose up, out of Miller's mind, back into the real world. It was like crawling out of a clear tube surrounded by the void of space, with color and sound and air returning as you rose up into reality.
Harry heard Miller gasp raggedly through his rebreather as the spell was broken. The prisoner stumbled backwards, his eyes wide with terror as he looked at Harry. "What did you do?" he asked. His military stature, that neutral, rigid pose he had first presented to Harry, was gone. He was replaced with a man who had been exposed to the impossible, and was scared.
"I'm sorry," Harry said again as he looked down at his red wand. It was short in his hand, and he had to hold the handle gingerly with his fingers instead of his palm. Right now, Harry could swear that it glinted with a certain malice. He hated using that spell without permission, and he had never before used legilimency on a muggle. They were like children when it came to magic, completely defenseless. His conscience had the voice of Eywa, laughing, as if to say, "Some protector of Earth you are!"
"Harry," Atan'iti said hesitantly, touching the arm that held his wand.
"It was a spell," Harry explained. "I looked into your memories to find truth."
"A… What? A spell?" Miller said.
Harry looked through the tightly woven branches at Miller, "Yes, something to see your memories." He paused, and then dropped his wand arm to his side, "I'll speak to Jake on your behalf."
As soon as Miller was out of earshot, Atan'iti stopped and spun Harry to look at her, "You can use your magic to just bond with anyone? I don't like it!"
Harry shook his head, "It's not like a bond, not really. It's more like an invasion. I force him to remember what I'm looking for, and I see what he sees. There's no sharing using legilimency."
Atan'iti seemed surprised. At what, Harry wasn't sure. Finally she asked, "Does it hurt? He looked like he was in pain."
"There isn't any pain. I suspect for him… it was probably outrage that I was forcing him to see what I wanted. It is not a pleasant experience and I don't like doing that to people. It isn't right. I had to be sure of his motives though."
Atan'iti was still appraising him, "I don't want you to do that again."
Harry smiled at her, "I don't want me to do it again either, and hopefully I won't have to. But Atan'iti, you must understand something. Some of my abilities, some of the things that can be done with magic… well, they aren't very pleasant. In fact, sometimes they can downright evil."
"Evil," Atan'iti didn't seem to be all too familiar with the word. Both she and Harry had been speaking Na'vi to each other, and Harry realized that he had switched to English for that last word.
"I know what it means, Harry Potter!" Atan'iti responded to him, this time in English. "I do not like it. You will tell me before you feel the need to use something that is evil."
Harry smiled at her, "I can do that."
Jake was waiting for them at the meeting room of Hometree, just one layer above the ground floor. He had a hand on the shoulder of Atan'iti's brother Telan, and Neytiri stood next to him. The royal family of the Na'vi, Harry thought, all looking at him, coming to grips with his sudden integration into their family. Harry was rather surprised at the hostility written into Telan's features. He had never spoken to the boy, but resolved to work himself into Telan's good graces.
Jake glanced quickly at the silver patterns on his skin and the lightning bolt scar on his forehead, and drew his eyebrows together. "Last night Atan'iti ran from this room, and Neytiri told me you had died. Now here you are, alive in a new body, bonded with my daughter." He shook his head, "At first I thought you were just a strange boy. Recently I found out you were a wizard and everything I thought I knew about the world has changed. Now I'm told you've died and come back to life." Jake shook his head. "I find that incredibly hard to believe. Not even Eywa is capable of bringing someone back from the dead. I was simply transferred."
"He did father," Atan'iti said. "I saw him die. He was the thanator. Back at Hell's Gate he was shot by the demon, Miller. Last night I went to the tree of whispers and prayed to Eywa, and Harry heard me."
Jake took his hand from Telan's shoulder and rose to his full height. He was taller than Harry, large even for one of The People. "You will explain exactly who you are, Harry. Who you are, what you want, what you are planning. Now."
"Father!" Atan'iti protested, "Please, don't!"
"Be quiet, Atan'iti!" Jake said. "I have a responsibility to my family and to my people. I was willing to accept Harry could perform magic, but this is far beyond what I'm willing to believe without some damn good reasoning."
Harry squeezed Atan'iti's hand. "It's okay," he said to her. She turned and looked at him, the fierceness that was directed at her father softening somewhat, but she still looked ready to defend him. "Really, it is."
He turned to Jake, "Everything I've told you previously is true. I came from Earth a long time ago. I really am a wizard, able to do magic. In fact, I recently reacquired my wand thanks to Private Miller." He held up the red wooden stick to emphasize his point. "As for why I'm here, I'm still not entirely sure. I've learned some things about my own past from my first communion with Eywa. I know why she is scared of me." Neytiri's eyes narrowed dangerously and Harry eyed the angry bioluminescence that swirled around the Na'vi's body. Maybe scared wasn't the right word to use.
"And the reason is?" Jake asked.
Covering every base, Harry thought. It was Jake's right, after all. Harry's hand was intertwined with Atan'iti's. Bonding with his daughter gave Jake and Neytiri the right to know pretty much anything they wanted about Harry.
"Eywa believes that we, magic users, failed back on Earth, and that we are responsible for Earth's current predicament."
"And what do you think about that?" Jake pressed.
Harry looked at his wand. With it he could do so much, but he wasn't all-powerful. "I don't know," he said honestly. "It makes sense on a certain level, but I'm just human… was human I mean." He smiled sheepishly and knew that his bioluminescence was reacting to his emotions like a blush. The pinpricks of light that dotted his body were so expressive, he thought. It was analogous to facial expressions on humans, except it was something above and beyond. Na'vi had facial expressions, but they had so much more. The queue, the bond, the bioluminescence. They were so connected. Is that the problem with humans? Are they… we… too disconnected from one another?
Harry shook his head, "I simply don't know. Right now, I'm here to protect Pandora, and I'll do that with every skill I have at my disposal."
Jake scrutinized Harry intensely, arms crossed and a frown fixed on his face. Finally, he said, "That is good enough for now, Harry. But if you don't know why you are here, I share Eywa's concerns. You are powerful, that much is clear. I don't know how powerful you are, but what I do know is that unfocused power is dangerous. It is similar to Earth's need for unobtainium, isn't it?"
Harry could feel Atan'iti's hand pull at his as she tensed, "Father, that is unfair."
"It's fair," Harry broke in. "I will protect Pandora. That is my focus."
"That's good enough for now," Jake said.
Harry smiled and looked at Telan, "Hello, we haven't met yet. My name is Harry."
Telan just glared at him. This is going to be tough. "Well actually, we have met, sort of. Do you remember when that invisible beast rampaged around the Sky People school?" Jesun's expression softened slightly, giving way to curiosity. "That was actually me," Harry said with a smile.
"You?" Telan replied? "How?"
"I was invisible," Harry said. "Unfortunately the object that makes me invisible was left back at Hell's Gate, but I will show it to you once I recover it."
"Invisible?" Telan said. "You have something that can make you invisible?"
"I've seen it," Atan'iti broke in. "It is a beautiful covering that wraps around you completely. It was so soft, softer than the mane of a foal."
"It's called a cloak," Harry said. An idea came to him suddenly. "Actually I have something to show you now. It's not nearly as good as a real cloak, but it's pretty cool nonetheless."
Telan looked at his father, who was scrutinizing Harry again. "It'll be harmless, I promise. Just like the rabbit in the hat," Harry said.
Jake nodded and pushed Telan toward Harry and Atan'iti. Harry stepped forward with a warm smile and held his wand up to the ceiling. Telan stopped a few feet in front of Harry face shifting between distrust and excited curiosity. Atan'iti came up to the side, not wanting to miss one of the rare displays of Harry's magic. Really, Harry thought, there had been so little time to show her anything. There was still so much to show her, so much to learn about her.
He shook his head and refocused on winning over Atan'iti's family. With his wand in the air, and Telan standing within an arm's length, he brought it down and rapped the top of Telan's head. The boy gave out a startled cry and Harry knew he was feeling the consistency of egg run down the back of his neck. Harry stepped back with a gleam in his eye as Telan's skin was washed away by his surroundings. The application of the disillusionment spell was a strange sight. It looked as if Telan's surroundings were being painted on over him, oozing down to his toes. After a second, the effect had completed, and Harry could only see the faintest outline of Telan. Harry purposely kept the spell only moderately effective so Telan's profile was still barely visible. During his time in war, he had become a master of the disillusionment charm, being second in the charm only to Dumbledore and Voldemort. For now, Telan laughed in delight and tore off running, the edge of his form shimmering like a ripple in space.
Harry heard a smack, and Atan'iti jumped three feet into the air with a yelp. One hand going to her bottom. Apparently Telan had a mischievous streak as another disembodied laugh rang out on the other side of the central dais of the meeting room.
There was a patter of quickly falling feet, and Harry heard another smack, and Jake's expression became startled, "Telan!" he shouted.
Time for some defensive measures, Harry thought. He cast an exclusion zone around himself, the simplest ward that dispelled any enchantments that came across it. Apparently Telan had been coming for him, as the left half his body crossed over the line of the ward. Suddenly there was half of a little blue Na'vi boy, his single visible eye intent and one grinning incisor showing. Harry stepped to the side and caught Telan by the shoulder, "Not so fast!" he said, and pulled the boy all the way across the exclusion zone.
Atan'iti wasted no time in retaliating against her brother, and gave him a smack on the back of the head, "Idiot," she said. She was looking at Harry when she said it, though.
"Ow!" Telan rubbed the back of his head looking between his sister, Harry, and the glowing circle that was surrounding him. Without another word, he scampered off, down to the base of the tree.
"Invisibility would be very useful against the RDA," said Jake. At Harry's nod, Jake said, "Follow me. I want you to speak with Norm and Max. We have work to do."
Norm, Max, and the scant few refugees that made it out of Hell's gate were in a secluded corner in the base of the tree. Stacked around them were metal crates that had been salvaged from Hell's Gate, and a table with chairs, where one man was asleep with his head tucked into his arms.
At first they didn't recognize Harry, but realization quickly set in as he said, "Hey guys!"
"Harry?" Max asked. "How? I thought you died… And where did you get an avatar? Wait… where are you linked from?"
"Not linked," Harry replied. "Eywa gave me the special treatment."
"I thought you said you were the one who made your new body, Harry," Atan'iti broke in. She had put her hand on Harry's shoulder as she came in with Jake and Neytiri. Harry still wasn't used to the regular contact from his new mate, but enjoyed it every time it happened.
"Well, yes" Harry replied, "But it was a team effort."
Jake said, "I'll fill you two in later with the specifics. For now, Harry is here to help with our assessment of the new situation. He'll be lending his unique perspective."
So the group got down to discussing how to improve the current situation. Right now the problems were twofold. First, they needed to assess what capabilities the RDA had to engage in warfare. The second was how to deal with the prolonged exposure of the humans in Hometree. The methane and sulfur in the atmosphere of Pandora could be held off for a while by the rebreathers, possibly a week or more, but eventually the gasses would do harm to the humans by leeching into the skin. It was a slow process, but extremely painful once the skin started to become inflamed and react to the atmosphere.
Harry listened to everyone offer solutions. The secondary link station where Norm could pair with his avatar was only capable of sustaining three people indefinitely. Harry counted over a dozen refugees total. Max was doing most of the talking, as Norm didn't seem willing or able to provide much in the way of helpful input. His normally excitable nature was muted after the death of his wife and betrayal of his daughter. The blue light of the rebreather mask washed out his normally pale face even more, making him look like a skeleton bathed in artificial blue light.
The rebreathers themselves were an impressive piece of technology. The filtering unit was a tiny little module that was stored under the chin on the bottom of the mask. It seemed to do its job with no need of recharging and Harry was wondering exactly how they worked.
Harry was sitting at the table next to the sleeping man. Gripped by a large amount of curiosity and a small amount of mischievousness, he took his wand and cast the bubblehead charm on the sleeping man. The pink bubble snapped in place around the man's head, over the rebreather mask as well. Harry then removed the mask. The man was a light sleeper because he immediately sat up with a yell, his hands going to his own throat as if he was suffocating.
"Calm down," Harry said absently as he fiddled with the filtering device in his hands, "Your rebreather is a force field."
He thought he could make it work. Enchanting muggle technology was forbidden back when he was in England, but after spending many nights talking with Arthur Weasley he learned how easy and effective it actually was. Machines and technology were purpose built, and magic was easily able to latch on and expand those capabilities. For example, Arthur's car was designed to transport people. To magic, it was only the next logical step to expand that transportation into the air. With a sophisticated piece of technology like this, designed to filter and remove harmful substances from the air, he wondered if enchanting it to also remove harmful substances from the skin and blood would be possible. He would need some of the books he had left back at Hell's Gate.
"I think I have a solution to both our problems," Harry finally said out loud. "First, we can talk to Private Miller to see what their offensive capabilities are. I'm particularly worried about Parker's claims of orbital bombardment. Secondly, I think I might be able to enchant these machines to provide a complete solution to prolonged exposure to the atmosphere. I just need some materials back in my room in Hell's Gate."
Norm scoffed at that, "Good luck getting in there. Your room is in the middle of the compound. You'd need to be a ghost to get inside unnoticed."
Jake and Harry's eyes met, and Harry knew Jake was thinking about Harry's demonstration less than an hour ago. "You think you can get inside? That would greatly improve our recon of the base at large, and allow you to recover what you need."
"I can," Harry said. "I've got more reason than ever to succeed now. No more holding back."
Harry and Atan'iti touched down just beyond the Hell's Gate perimeter. The jungle had been cleared away nearly 100 feet past the turret perimeter and was maintained using an indiscriminate herbicide. Floodlights filled the gap between perimeter and jungle, and there were groups of men working at the nearest perimeter turret. It seemed they were still inoperable after Celia's sabotage.
Harry leapt off Txe'lan and turned to Atan'iti. "I'll be in and out. Just sit tight and I'll be back soon."
Ata'iti nodded from her perch, looking every bit the consummate huntress on the back of her dragon. The image was ruined somewhat by Txe'lan brushing Harry's hand with its head, prompted through its bonded queue with Atan'iti. "Be careful, Harry," she said.
"You bet," Harry replied with a smirk, and then twirled his wand around himself. He didn't hold back his mastery of the disillusionment charm this time, and camouflaged ropes the color of the living jungle wrapped around his body, making him disappear completely from view.
The moss still rippled from under his feet, and the various bioluminescent fauna reacted to his touch as he approached the clearing, but all that stopped once he stepped passed the line where the herbicide had been sprayed. The moss on the ground was brown and dead, and the trees had been cleared away completely. The only thing left in this no man's land was the rare tree trunk that hadn't been moved away. Now Harry was just a ghost, a whisper that strode toward his enemy, completely unaware.
He moved past the group of men working at the building which housed the perimeter turret, over the asphalt, and then into the avatar compound. There he saw Norm's avatar with its eyes open, staring out the door. Harry rolled his eyes, as he had explained Norm wouldn't be able to see him, and he shouldn't risk looking out the door or windows for Harry. But if Norm was anything, it was curious.
"I'm here," Harry said in a whisper.
Norm jumped, "Harry? Where are you?"
"I'm right next to you, I said I would be invisible."
Apparently Norm had to experience something with his own senses before he truly believed it, "Yeah, got it. Invisible. I remember."
"Stay here and be a lookout. If anything goes wrong you are to gather as much information as possible and then disconnect. Don't risk your avatar."
"Yes, I remember," Norm said. He slinked back into the hut, "Well, uh, good luck I guess."
Harry didn't reply, instead heading directly towards the main entrance to the compound. He waited outside the airlock doors and waited. Should he open it himself? The airlock would report its current state to the command center of Hell's Gate, and they weren't sure how easily Harry would be able to slip in. He had a choice of trying to piggy back into an airlock cycle with a human to avoid a suspicious signal, or use the airlock himself to avoid the possible catastrophic discovery by being in such close proximity to a member of the RDA.
In the end Harry decided to open the hatch by himself and walked into the two stage door. He closed the outer hatch and started the filtration units that removed the toxic gasses from Pandora's atmosphere. Once the light above the inner door turned green, he opened it up with a hiss.
No one was there. Harry let his shoulders drop in relief and walked into the mess hall. The air was light and cool inside. Harry had his breath held, unable to use a bubblehead charm as it would cause his disillusionment to be useless. A floating pink bubble was quite noticeable, after all. Instead, he checked his area carefully, and once he was sure there were no people or cameras, he tapped his head. The mess hall turned pink, and he took in a few deep breaths of native Pandoran air. He cancelled the charm and moved with purpose towards his room.
It was only a few seconds before he saw someone, a doctor in a white lab coat. He exited a room with a large window built facing the hallway. White light was spilling into the darkened corridor through the window and door as the doctor shut it softly behind him. Without a single indication of knowing he was being watched, the doctor walked right past Harry.
Harry moved up to the window and peered inside. There he saw a hospital bed with a woman in it, and Harry's eyes widened in shock. It was Charlene! Norm's wife was alive! There was a mask over her mouth and monitor behind the bed, showing a steady heartbeat. Beyond that Harry could see Charlene's chest rising and falling with a reassuring regularity. This would be fantastic news to the refugees, and Harry knew it would bring Norm back from the despair that had gripped him.
Move on, Harry thought to himself. Right now his mission was to recover the things that would save the human refugees at Hometree and to report back any intel he could gather. He was almost to his room when he heard voices coming from an open doorway to his right- the command center.
"The scientists and children are secure and settled in?" Harry heard Parker ask.
"Yes sir," another man replied. Harry moved up to the door and saw the administrator of the RDA standing at the central holo table, looking at something on a datapad. An aide was standing next to him with a second datapad clutched in the crook of his arm.
Harry raised his wand, about to cast… something on the man. Some sort of spell. He didn't know what to use though. Should he simply kill the man? Take control? Harry shook his head furiously at the thoughts going through his head. He had promised Atan'iti not do use the dark side of magic without asking her first. It was a promise he intended to keep.
As Harry was deciding on more forgivable options, Parker spoke again, "Any problems with them?" he asked.
"No sir, they've been extremely cooperative once they realized how well they were being treated."
"Good, that's good." Parker said. There was a pause, then Parker said, "Make sure you highlight their cooperation in the report."
"Sir?" the aide replied.
Parker sighed, "Just do it." He threw the datapad down roughly onto the holo table. "Can you really blame them? They had a golden opportunity here, a place to simply live. Now we're sending them back to that shithole. I'd prefer that they get the severance and relocation packages- as many as possible- instead of being thrown in jail. Those little tree humpers especially will have no idea what to do when they land back at Earth. A free education is their best bet. Do your best to make it seem like Jake, Max, and Norm were behind it all. There's no way I can do anything to help those three, but for the rest..."
The aide nodded, "I understand."
Harry lowered his wand in shock. Had he just heard Parker correctly? He was minimizing the fallout from the scientists' mutiny at Hell's Gate? Stunned, Harry backed out of the room. He couldn't think straight. Something was nagging at him. No, not nagging. Something had punched him hard in the gut and twisted his insides. What was wrong with him?
Harry moved quickly away from the command center and towards his room. The door was locked and a glossy red device had been placed over the door handle, denying entry. Harry frowned at the strange device. He had never seen something like this before anywhere on Hell's gate, so he was pretty sure it came with the RDA. None of the other doors he had seen had this device either.
Deciding there was nothing to do but try, Harry pointed his wand at the device and whispered, "Alohamora!" The device fell to the floor with a heavy clatter. Apparently it was pretty much solid metal. The noise rang through the corridor, and Harry blanched. He ran inside his room, spotted his books stacked on the desk opposite his bed and said, "Pack!" The books flew into the trunk and the lid slammed shut. If anyone decided to ignore the terrible noise that only a heavy metal object falling onto more metal could make, they definitely wouldn't ignore the slamming of his trunk lid. Harry took the chance to catch his breath while ducked out of sight in his room and reapplied the bubblehead charm for a few seconds before cancelling it again. Harry quickly shrunk his trunk and picked it up, turning back out into the hallway. Sure enough, people with flashlights and pistols were scanning the hallway. Due to the effectiveness of his disillusionment the flashlights swept right past him. Harry moved the opposite direction of the searchers, looking for an alternate exit.
Behind him the security forces moved into his room and shortly after that Harry heard Parker yell, "Who the hell opened this door? I ordered it sealed!"
Harry didn't stop walking, and quickly made his way to an exit hatch. He closed the inner door and didn't wait for the small chamber to flood with outside atmosphere. Instead he whispered the unlocking charm again and the outer door swung open. Then he sprinted off towards the avatar barracks.
"Mission accomplished," Harry said to Norm. "Get back into bed and unlink. I'm getting out of here."
Norm was startled again by the disembodied voice, but nodded and moved to lay back down in his bunk.
Harry sprinted back through the no man's land and into the jungle where Atan'iti was waiting for him. She had her bow drawn to her cheek as Harry approached, rustling thick fronds announcing his arrival as he pushed them to the side. He cancelled the disillusionment and smiled at her, "Let's go."
Atan'iti shook her head, but was smiling back nonetheless, "You move like a human still, Harry. You make too much noise. We will need to fix that."
Harry bounded into Txe'lan behind Atan'iti and wrapped his arms around her waist. "Spending some quality time with you to learn how to move and act sounds wonderful. After I deliver the good news to Jake and the rest, I think we deserve some hard earned time alone."
If that intrigued Atan'iti, she didn't show it. She was a warrior after all, and they were still out in the field. She acknowledged his comment and then set Txe'lan to flight.
For himself, Harry simply gripped Atan'iti's waist tighter and closed his eyes, enjoying her warmth and the rushing wind as they flew back to Hometree. Tonight was his first true success on Pandora. If only he could clear the knots in his stomach.