Not the broken bone kind, or even the sharp and agonising thrill of the cruciatus curse; it was a sadistic mix of the feeling of a 'throbbing all-over' deal mixed with bursts of sharp and targeted pain. Once able to categorise the immediate pain, Aiden was able to enjoy the harsh sting of a raw throat, as well as the fun addition of crusty skin and the stiff discomfort of her clothes that had dried from being tossed into the ocean. Next she noticed that her face was buried in a grainy substance – ah, sand.
Not yet capable of wondering just what had prompted her painful return to consciousness, she tried to say, 'Did anyone get the number of that Dark Lord?' but it came out as a strangled, "Arrrrggh…" instead.
Her left hand instinctively moved to clutch her head, but she quickly stopped the movement when it sent another jab of pain, this time through her arm.
She gathered that fabled Gryffindor Stupidity (or was it determination?) and managed to crack open one unfocused eye but closed it almost immediately after when the light jabbed her retinas, sending more pain through her brain. After a moment of viciously biting her lip to strangle down the urge to either scream or cry – she wasn't sure which she was likely to do first, but instinctively knew that doing either would result in further pain – before forcing open her eye again, relieved when the light was not as pain-inducing as before.
She noticed a fuzzy shape standing over her, but couldn't bring herself to care who or what it was – hell, it could be Tom-bloody-Riddle and she still wouldn't give a hippogriff's behind what happened.
The pain was somehow building, reaching a crescendo inside her body and she stopped thinking. She felt herself shutting down, and she was left with the image of worried dark eyes that had been rested on her by the woman standing over her.
Her last thought, as she welcomed the darkness and the dislocation from pain, was 'stupid dumbledorian weather.'
The next time Aiden awoke she felt a lot better, and this probably had something to do with the relative absence of pain. Relative in that there was still pain, it had just been dulled to the point that her threshold of pain deemed it as a minor annoyance instead of all-consuming.
This allowed her to examine just where she was.
It seemed that the storm had had one positive ramification: she was now on land. Land. Heavenly, rock solid, trees-grow-on-it land.
Quite apart from being on land, Aiden found she was also in a bed – sure, it wasn't top-of-the-line, but it was quite a step up from sleeping on the deck of that boat and even the broken-spring infested deal she got at the Dursleys. It was simple – there was only the bed and a closet, as well as a few boxes that were labelled. She guessed that this room wasn't used much and had been turned into a storage room of sorts
Her vision was fuzzy, but she was able to see that her glasses were on the side table – at least that was something to be thankful for, even as it affirmed her private belief that her glasses truly would be able to survive a bomb, she picked them up, putting them on and feeling relieved at the sharpening of her surroundings. She was able to scan the room again and see details that she had missed in the initial glasses-less sweep – the duffle bag that she had stolen from Idiot Man was leaning against the wall seemingly none-the-worse from its dip in the ocean. She also realised that what she had assumed to be a bed was actually a futon, but that didn't really bother her – it just secured her assumption that this room (whoever's room it was) was a storage room, which kind of made her feel a bit better – at least she hadn't taken up used space.
Once she moved her attention from the futon, she noticed that there was a large window that graced almost the entire left wall of the room and looked out over a very high cliff. Aiden could just see that there was a beach below – likely the very same beach that she vaguely remembered being deposited on.
Not that she was checking out the surroundings then – but she definitely remembered being covered in sand.
Her thoughts, which had drifted off in the weird realisation that her experience of the last two weeks or so was actually the first time she had seen an ocean and a beach, not to mention a boat not on tv, were dragged back to the present as she noticed a person in the doorway.
It was an old woman – well, she'd guess about sixty, although it was obvious that the woman was still fit and active. The woman had white hair, soft wrinkles on her face that indicated a penchant towards smiling, and kind brown eyes. She had that kind of classic beauty, and Aiden could tell she would have been extremely beautiful in her youth as well. The woman's eyes widened and she stepped forward, pushing Aiden gently back against the cushions, even while smiling kindly at Aiden.
The woman started talking, and Aiden got a bad feeling about her future.
Now, this wasn't the same bad feeling that is associated with imminent death and/or an encounter with some kind of dark creature hell bent on sucking out your soul or eating you for dessert, oh no. This was the bad feeling that came with hearing a language completely alien to your own, and not understanding a whit of it.
Aiden sat there blankly, staring at the obviously kind old woman, panicking inwardly and forcing herself to not show that emotion on her face. She got the attention of the woman by putting a hand on her arm, and she said, "Er… I'm sorry, but I don't understand you."
The woman blinked, and even if they didn't speak the same language Aiden easily interpreted the look of shock on her face. The woman composed herself and seemed to think about something, before pointing a hand to herself and saying clearly, "Obaasan."
Aiden caught on quickly.
She nodded and pointed to herself, "Aiden."
The woman sighed and nodded, smiling. She said something that Aiden couldn't understand, gesturing to the door and miming something that Aiden took to mean something along the lines of 'food' or 'I'm going to get you food'. Aiden just nodded and lay back down; contemplating the turn her life had taken.
The rest of the day went along a similar vein, with Obaasan smiling kindly and pointing out pieces of furniture and objects and giving them names in the language that Aiden desperately tried to remember, which was made somewhat possible through occlumency. She still had no hope in hell of understanding any sentences though, and Obaasan had resorted to miming things most of the time.
Having someone fussing over her, especially a kindly stranger that spoke a different language, was a novelty for Aiden. Obaasan did it in a way that wasn't smothering, like Molly Weasley was so apt to do, nor was it the commanding and threatening mothering of Madame Pomphrey.
The gentle attention and help, so unlike any she remembered being given to her in her life, was soothing for Aiden's frazzled nerves – she was still wired after all the drama of being pushed through the veil, not to mention immediately after that being stuck in a small amount of space for two weeks, and she knew that she had yet to bring herself to accept that Dumbledore wouldn't be popping out of a cupboard and telling her he was bringing her back to the Order headquarters for her own good, or that Dean would call her up and invite her to the Limos District for a meeting with her friends, or that she wouldn't ever ride on the Hogwarts Express again.
She had a feeling she was still in the process of processing the fact that she was stuck in an entirely different dimension (or at least that was the conclusion she had reached on the ship with those maps) and that she would never see her friends or even the Dursleys ever again. She felt equal parts sad and happy for this – sure, she would miss her friends; Susan's witty remarks, the way that she could con Blaise into helping her prank Malfoy, how gullible Anthony was, Fred and George's pranks and mayhem they created with a zealous joy, and that Eliza was always complaining to her about dressing in a more 'womanly manner' – but there was also a huge upside to not being on her home turf; no dark lords out for her head, no Dumbledore trying to manipulate her, no suffering fake friends, no annoying Girl-Who-Lived moniker, no rabid reporters, no Dursleys, and no one who holds any kind of expectations or delusions about her – she could just be herself and not have to worry about donning a mask to placate the masses. Well, once she decided just who she was.
And hell, even if she never did magic again she would be happy – magic has only been a large part of her life for five years, and she had always considered the time at Hogwarts to be somehow disconnected from 'reality', mostly because she would always have to go back to the 'real world' and deal with the Dursleys. She knew how to function without a wand; she could do this.
And if she just happened to work on runes; well, she'd be able to use that form of magic which would just be a plus.
The next day in the house Obaasan allowed Aiden to get out of bed, although she found that it made her body ache to walk around, and showed her around the house, once again pointing out every object and giving it a name before getting Aiden to repeat it to her. Aiden found she could recognise a very limited amount of words they used – pretty much only 'food' and 'water' and 'are you tired?' She found out how to say 'I'm fine' which was 'Daijobu'. That helped a lot, especially because it was all she usually said while recovering.
They also taught her a few phrases that she guessed were 'I'm hungry', 'I need to go to the toilet', 'I'm tired', 'thankyou', 'please', 'yes' and 'no'.
All in all, she considered those the basics (of the basics), and it was immensely helpful to know. Obaasan apparently lived with her family – Aiden thought she'd understood that the younger woman in the house was Obaasan's daughter, and that her husband was Obaasan's son-in-law. There were also three children; the oldest being 11 and the youngest 6, and they all chatted incomprehensibly at Aiden for the whole time she was out of her room. They were all so nice – Aiden had no idea why they were doing so much for her, much less why they hadn't even considered just pushing her out the front door after she woke up, even if they couldn't just leave her to die on the beach (even if she was thankful they hadn't).
It was a type of selflessness that she had never witnessed in action, much less experienced – the Dursleys would certainly never have done it, and if they had been forced to then they would have paraded around the fact that they were selflessly helping some person, and all acts of kindness she had seen in the wizarding world were either because it was a family member, friend or for some political gain. But she knew this family was after neither – first of all, she wasn't famous or anything in this world, so they could get no political gain, and secondly because their house was isolated – she had come to discover that the house was built on top of a cliff that overlooked a beach, and there were no houses in the immediate vicinity, even though she could see a small village when she looked out from the side opposite the cliff.
The adults were talking amongst each other and shooting her concerned glances every once in a while, saying something about 'Akuma no Mi' whatever that was, or at least that's what she gathered as they seemed to repeat that phrase a lot.
The day wore on, and eventually Aiden was persuaded to go back upstairs and go to sleep.
The next month or so passed similarly – Aiden honestly had no idea how the time passed so quickly.
Almost before she knew it she found herself understanding greater parts of conversations, or at least the gist of things; she also understood enough basics to get someone to explain a word to better understand the meaning, even if she was unable to properly compose sentences in the language just yet. She knew that this was thanks to the family – the wife's name was Miyu, and her husband was Kaede, and their children were Masuyo, Shinji and Taiki. Aiden had also discovered that 'obaasan' was not a name, but that it meant 'grandma' and, while she was embarrassed that she had been calling a relative stranger grandma when she initially learnt about it, but she came to be happy that she had been so accepted right off the bat with the kind family.
Obaasan had began teaching Aiden how to read, using (to Aiden's eternal mortification) the simple children's books that were more designed for five-year olds – even Taiki, the youngest, could easily read them. Aiden took the lessons with a grain of salt – at least she was learning how faster than a child, and the books always had objects and pictures that allowed her to learn more words to use in conversations. She learnt that they had three alphabets – hiragana, katakana and kanji, and the Japanese language was made up of a mix of all three. She was in hell, and could not see herself being very proficient in reading or even copying down the characters for a long while yet, even if she was able to spend most of her day attempting to do just that.
She had accompanied Miyu down to the small market on their side of the island many days, helping her with carrying her purchases and watching the interaction between everyone with a kind of fascination – the fascination of the unknown, as most of the conversations were incomprehensible to her.
Fortunately, the family had stopped talking slower just for her benefit – she found that she may as well learn at regular speed – after all, that was what she'd have to learn to do if she was going to have any kind of life in this dimension.
She had decided to put any and all studying of her rune books aside until she was fairly confident in her ability to read and talk this new language – after all, she already knew english, and always going back to that language may have some impact on her improvement in the new language – if she was distracted enough, she may find it harder to concentrate at the goal at hand.
Not that it was all seriousness and mind-numbing studying – she spent at least a part of her day playing with the kids; they showed her games and having fun and kept her energy levels and physical fitness up, and she found that it helped their parents and obaasan when she took them away for a few hours. She was happy to help all she could, and was pleased with her growing speed and endurance that was hard earned from being pulled around by the three hell-raisers.
But even if she had been helping them by being a pseudo-babysitter, she really felt like she should be helping the family much more. After all, she had practically been conditioned by the Dursleys into doing household chores, and even if she had convinced Miyu to let her help cooking and washing up after meals, and doing other odd jobs around the house, it felt like she was imposing upon the family and that they were just too polite to tell her to go away.
This was why, that night when Kaede was complaining about not having anyone to help with some odd-jobs around his shop over the dinner table, that Aiden jumped at the chance to help. They were surprised, but Kaede was happy for the help.
The next day Aiden awoke to someone shaking her shoulder. She groggily looked up at Kaede and frowned, "Don't… wanna get up."
He chuckled but threw a change of clothes at her and said, "Hurry up – I have much to show you and very little time to do it in. We are lucky you are quick to catch on."
Aiden grumbled as she got up but obediently washed her face and grabbed a piece of ribbon to tie back her messy black hair, stumbling out of the room and blindly grabbing some fruit for breakfast out of the kitchen before making her way out the front door.
She grudgingly followed Kaede down the path that lead to the village, but was confused when he lead her past the small grouping of shops that were the only ones that this island contained. He led her around a group of taller buildings and she was surprised to see the ocean. Well, she wasn't surprised the see the ocean, per say; but she was surprised that she could see another island, about 500 metres from this shoreline – there was also a lot of small boats tied onto the beach and docks, obviously used to ferry their owners across the expanse.
While she was puzzling over the fact that she didn't know there was an island alongside this one, Kaede lead her over to a basic small wooden sailboat, that Aiden could tell would just fit the both of them and Kaede's supplies comfortably. He then proceeded to demonstrate how to properly sail the boat, and had Aiden take over on their journey across the water to be sure that she got it – he didn't expect her to be able to sail it straight away, but he explained that later she would have to be able to sail it to deliver orders over to their home island, and unless she felt like swimming, sailing was the only option.
They got over to the 'sister island' of theirs, as Kaede explained it to Aiden, and he lead her through the streets to his shop. She made sure that she could find her way back to the boat, but she was surprised at the thriving shopping district. It was yards more advanced and occupied than the few shops they had over their side, even if it was still under par of what she was used to in her dimension – she found it was most comparable to the wizarding Limos District actually.
She spotted many pubs, hearing lively music coming from them even at this hour – it was barely five o'clock in the morning, so she guessed they had been going all night rather than opening earlier. There were also a lot of stores for different things – a bookshop, clothes stores, leather workers, crafters, jewellery shops, masons, grocery stores, cafes… she could just imagine how many people would be drawn here at a reasonable hour of the day.
She wished she was here at a reasonable hour of the day.
Kaede steered her into his shop and past all the weapons on display. She had learnt a while ago that he was a blacksmith – which explained the muscles in his arms and why he must have had 100 men's worth of weapons in his home, and that he was always 'playing' with them near the dinner table – Miyu threw pots and pans at him when he did that, which Aiden found funny after she got over her shock at seeing how violent the deceptively slight woman could be.
Kaede opened the shop even though he doubted anyone would be there this early in the morning, (but you could never be sure) and showed Aiden around it. He showed her weapons, gave her their names so she could answer if a customer was to ask, and explained that she would be doing deliveries and when she wasn't she would work on the counter at the till. Under no circumstances was she to go anywhere near the forge – that would be dangerous, and it wasn't like she had aspirations of being a blacksmith anyway.
Aiden found that it was nice just watching over the shop – that first day, she wasn't overrun by customers and she spent the idle time struggling through a slightly more advanced children's book that obaasan had given her the day before. She managed to chat to some of the browsers, and only got a few weird looks at her mangled sentences, which she shrugged off easily – hell, she'd gotten worse from her time as the Girl-Who-Lived.
Kaede didn't have to make too many pieces – apparently he was in front in his work – so he spent a bit more time around lunch showing her different items – some decorative and religious items that he'd crafted for those looking for that type of thing, and telling her some warnings and stories about pirates that she only half understood.
He made her go out for lunch, taking over the register for that time and giving her enough beli to get a meal from one of the café's she had seen on her trip through town earlier that day.
All in all, when it came time to close up shop and follow Kaede back to what she had come to think of as 'home', she was happy with how the day had gone, even if she had spent more time learning what to do off Kaede than really helping him, not to mention that she had been roped into even more lessons – just before they started packing up, Kaede was talking about something (Aiden didn't really understand what) when he said something along the lines of "well, at least you know how to defend yourself."
Aiden had stared blankly at him, and he had said uncertainly, "You do know how to defend yourself, right…?" Aiden, being the generally slow person she was had replied, "Oh, sure – I know how to run away."
And at the end of a very confusing tirade that Aiden had managed to vaguely understand, the blacksmith had put his hands on her shoulders and said, "I'll teach you then – ya can't survive long in this world if ya don't know how. Hell, ya can join Taiki and Shinji in their lessons. Teach 'em young, I always say – ya never want ta go without protection round here, 'specially not since pirates stop here all the time! Hell, this is one a' the biggest towns on the South Blue! The marines can only do so much, and not all a' them have our best interest at heart, lass."
Aiden, being the naïve girl she was and only having a tentative grasp on the language, had stupidly agreed.
And that was what had led to her practising knife handling alongside a six year old and an eight year old, both of them far outclassing her. Masuyo, being the oldest, was the best at them but she had foregone knife practise to go over to a local dojo where she apparently trained with her sword.
Now, the art of physically combating someone was long dead (for the general public) in her old dimension except for a leisure pursuit or way to keep fit, so suddenly being drilled by the guy that had taken you into his home and basically being told that you are very likely to be attacked and that you would have to protect yourself when it happened, was a shock to the system.
Because no matter how many Dark Lords and things she shouted spells at, physical training was a far cry from saying a funky word and flicking a stick in the correct way to spit fire at the bad guy.
Not to mention that it was a killer on the muscles and her sensibilities – she found that people on this world, herself included (given proper motivation) were able to move waaaay faster than people ever could on her world, spell or no. They could also train to jump higher, survive harder blows, and generally to a whole different insane level of physical ability.
And all of the training, Aiden would swear a witches' oath to, had to have been designed by a bat-shit insane crazy person.
Because if that person wasn't bat-shit crazy, then she was a hippogriff and best buddies with the tooth fairy.
It was always: 'run faster!' 'jump higher!' 'that stance is wrong!' or 'don't let a bit of water push you away!'
Kaede taught her how to fist fight first of all, her fighting with Masuyo most of the time, and getting her arse handed to her constantly by the girl.
When Kaede had deemed her 'passable' in fist fighting, he accosted her in the weapons shop when on a quiet day and made her try out every single weapon in the place – and every single weapon almost managed to end in disastrous results. It was truly horrible, and Aiden was embarrassed that if anyone even mentioned – The Day – then Kaede would start crying or go into some kind of trace, muttering under his breath about 'the horror!' 'Oh humanity! Why didst thou abandon me?' and other such things as that.
She insisted that he was exaggerating – that guy had managed to get his toe sown back on, thankyou-very-much, and if he didn't hold it against her, then the blacksmith shouldn't.
What had come out of that horrifying experience was the knowledge that she didn't suck nor was she a hazard (or as much of a hazard) towards innocent bystanders if she was using a dagger, and that she was forbidden from even touching any other weapon with the intention of swinging it for the rest of her life.
And thus proceeded her training on the dagger.
Building on the insane training schedules to get her 'up to snuff' on her hand-to-hand combat, she was first shown how to treat the daggers properly and how to maintain them – stuff like washing off blood (he expected her to get blood on them?) and sharpening. Following that was how to hide them underneath your clothing, how to quickly draw them in the heat of a fight, and how to spot daggers (amongst other things) on other people.
Aiden had bitterly reflected that it was no secret why Kaede had become a blacksmith – he was of the bat-shit crazy variety when it came to self-defence and all things pointy and sharp. After he believed her able to do all the previously mentioned stuff, he had made her learn how to use them alongside his two sons, both of which did better than her for the first month or so.
But after that, it just clicked. Maybe it was because she was so devastatingly bad at every single other weapon she touched; maybe it was because the humiliation of losing to a six year old was a very good motivator, or even because it was a substitute for her beloved defence class; but either way, she started to become like magic with her daggers.
It had now been a full five months of staying with the Kuroi family, and she had gotten a hold of her life after being tackled through the veil – or at least she didn't feel like she was scrambling to understand everything around her and that she stuck out like a sore thumb among the locals any more.
Those months had been hard – learning the language and how to write and read it, learning how to defend herself from attack, and helping Kaede with his store meant that she was absolutely, hopelessly exhausted when she went to bed at night, not to mention it had hardly allowed for time to get all depressed at how she would never go back to her dimension, that she had left all her worldly possessions in said dimension, and that all she had ever known was also left behind.
But on the other hand, she could not deny that she felt much better for this chance at a new life.
All this time for nothing but work and self reflection lead to a few revelations about herself that she doubted she would have ever discovered otherwise, like the fact that she was a naturally lazy person – no matter how the Dursleys attempted to ingrain a sense of work ethic into her, she had discovered that she would prefer lazing about to working her arse off, not to mention that she was a very hard-headed individual… well, she knew that already, but really never got to win any fights because she always rammed against people with control over herself; and that she was actually very capable in seducing the opposite sex. For the last bit, she had simply never had the self-esteem for it before – but put her in a good environment for a while, allow her confidence to build up, and she was shameless (probably had something to do with always having to be a few steps away from Dudley while shopping or going anywhere really, not to mention the zip privacy you have in a school where guys can sneak into your shower and put viewing charms on the walls) but to her incredulity, it actually worked – she could make some guys go red and splutter, and she spent a bit of time developing the skill during her time working the cash register in Kaede's shop.
She felt like, for the first time in her life, she was a normal teenager. Well sure, she could use daggers, but that counted as normal around here.
If you ignored the fact that she really did just materialise out of nowhere, she could blend in perfectly with the locals.
Whenever her 'training' schedule had gotten to be too much, she would go and sit on the edge of the cliff that the house looked over. That was as close as she could get to flying on a broomstick – the height was vertigo-inducing, and the fact that there were jagged rocks that waves crashed over at the bottom did not deter her. It made for a brilliant sunset view, and whenever she could, she spent that time peacefully curled up at the edge of the cliff.
She knew it couldn't last.