Disclaimer: I do not own the Harry Potter world or characters. Those belong to J K Rowling, with gratitude for letting us play with them. The basic challenge comes from Whitetigerwolf, and thanks for the idea and framework.

Chapter 12: A Battle Joined and Enjoyed.

Puzzling over the remaining stanzas occupied an amount of their free time over the next few weeks, and they were doing well in all their classes as well. Wood finally got the message that Harrir wasn't interested in a game where you got chased by self-propelled malicious bowling balls, leaving him with a little more free time. Hermione took some time to practice with her new axe, discovering that, although it looked awkward and heavy, she could easily wield it in one hand with little difficulty. Surprisingly, it was Hagrid who helped her most here, giving her instruction in how to wield it, an art that took more finesse than most would have thought.

Keeping up in their schoolwork was easy enough, provided they kept at it, and they did a little more than was asked, and Harrir and Daphne managed to tone down Hermione's drive to excel enough that she didn't come across as a show-off. Harrir even started teaching the girls the Futhark runes and their meanings. "Don't rely too much on the books," he'd told them. "There's at least one glaring flaw in each of them."

They looked forwards to Professor Bastion's classes, as much as they did Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall and Charms with Professor Flitwick, and that was saying something. Their last lesson, just gone, had included the Maxims 29 and 35. The leonine wizard had taken to choosing the lesson's Maxims at random. But it was easy enough to see the meaning of them "The enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy. No less, no more." That was an obvious one. Although it seemed hard to get that through some of the students' heads, the idea that your enemy's enemy wasn't necessarily your friend was a good one. As for "That which does not kill you has made a tactical error," the Professor had brought out examples from the 'Blood War' that Voldemort had waged, demonstrating that until the aurors had been authorised lethal force, they had been losing. This brought up mention of a third Maxim, which they were told to find and present at their next lesson, with twelve inches of parchment on how they interpreted it. The theory that day had included the definition of the 'Dark Arts', those magics that left a residual taint on the soul and magic of those who wielded them. Such a taint could be cleansed, but until it was, the taint was... addictive, if that was the right word for it, as the wizard or witch would crave the sensation of that taint. The lesson had concluded with a mock-duel... where the only spells permitted were the ones for throwing green or red sparks. From what they could tell, it was intended to get them thinking of uses for the spells beyond signalling.

The day of Halloween arrived, the Samhain, and the fledgling goddesses received letters from both their mortal and godly parents. Although Harrir was not left out, exchanging letters with Odin and Frigga, he still felt a little down. He had no idea where his mortal parents had been buried, and although he'd been brought up in a loving family, there were times, such as on Halloween, when he felt the ache of their absence keenly. He'd spoken with those who remembered them, getting different takes on what they were like, depending on who was speaking of them. He spent time as an eagle-owl, learning the shape's quirks, and growing to understand it. He even asked Hagrid what he knew of a 'web-strung heart'.

The half-giant had stopped dead in his tracks at that, he looked around to make sure no-one was listening. "Y' didn' 'ear this from me," he whispered, although he could still have been heard a good fifteen feet distant, "but there's acromantula in the Forbidden Forest. Very dangerous they are, although Aragog wouldn' 'arm a fly... too small, y' see? But why d' y' ask?"

"In the heart of the nest is something belonging to Hela... you know, Daphne?... I think it's a spearhead. Umm, how many acromantula?" Harrir was a god of battle, but he wasn't foolish.

"Hmm." Hagrid looked into the forest. "Leave it wi' me, an' I'll see what I can do."

When Hagrid passed the children on their way to the Great Hall for the feast that night, he handed Daphne a silk-wrapped bundle. "There y' go," he told her. "One spearhead, right where Harrir said it'd be. Not sure 'ow much good it'll do 'thout the haft, but there it is."

Daphne hugged Hagrid's leg, the only part of him she could reliably get her arms around. "Thank you, Hagrid," she exclaimed, "I can't do much in exchange... hang on." Placing the first two fingers of her left hand to her lips, she then reached up... way up... and lightly touched his cheek. "There. Now neither illness nor poison may claim you." Turning away from the bemused groundskeeper, she lifted the silk to look at the spearhead.

The length of grey metal that met her eyes matched the same material as Hermione's Relentless, and bore three razor-sharp edges about a central axis. At the base, these flared out and back on the blade, forming a blunt crosspiece of sorts, presumably to stop the targets from pushing themselves further up the haft. The socket for the haft seemed somehow sad and forlorn, incomplete... She decided there and then that she would find the haft if she had to search the entire school brick by brick.

The meal was passing uneventfully enough, when Professor Kettleburn, who taught the third-years and older students Care of Magical Creatures thrust open the doors to the Great Hall screaming "TROLLLLL!" before collapsing in a heap on the floor, bleeding badly from horrible wounds inflicted by something blunt and huge. As Madam Pomfrey assessed his injuries, shaking her head as she determined the poor man would be losing another limb, Professor Dumbledore stood to give his instructions.

The entrance of the troll to the Great Hall changed things at once. The staff hesitated, just a moment, but that moment was enough for the troll to step forwards into the Hall, and shrug its club from its shoulder and swing at the nearest child, Lisa Turpin.

Lisa saw the tree trunk that passed as the troll's club heading in her direction, and closed her eyes. She was just a first year, she shouldn't have this happen to her. All across the hall, students and staff alike cringed, knowing what would happen to the poor girl.

The sound that echoed through the Great Hall was not the wet crunch of a crushed body, but instead the sound of flesh slapping against wood, and wood splintering in response. Although they saw it with their own eyes, everyone, with a few exceptions, had trouble believing what they were seeing. Hermione Granger, bushy hair ablaze with lightning holding back the improvised cudgel of the troll with her bare hands, her fingers sunk deep into the wood of the club...

Before any other response was even thought of, Harrir leapt on top of the club with a cry of "JOYOUS BATTLE!" and ran up the length of wood that his friend held rock steady, despite the troll's best efforts. The troll was then distracted when Daphne plunged her spearhead, which she wielded like a dagger, through its foot. Thus preoccupied, it had no chance to resist as Harrir grabbed the creature by the ears and used that as leverage to drive his knee against the troll's nose, shattering the bone and driving it up and back into the troll's tiny brain. As he sprang to the floor, the troll wiped clumsily at its nose, trying to figure out why the blood wouldn't stop... and finally fell over dead.

Harrir looked almost disappointed. "That's it?" he asked. "Aren't there any more?"

The Metallic Trio looked around at Dumbledore's office. There was an interesting array of magical artefacts displayed, and the wall behind his desk was covered in portraits of the wizards and witches who had held the position of Headmaster in the past. They could see a perch for a bird, and on it, a small red-gold bird, most likely a phoenix, as it looked an odd blend of songbird and raptor. Daphne found her eyes drawn to the collection of staves that Dumbledore displayed above the mantle on his fireplace, and to either side.

At the insistence of the elderly wizard, Daphne had placed her spearhead, and Hermione her axe, on his desk. Said wizard was currently scrutinising them, wondering how to handle this. Having ordered them to his office after they'd so efficiently dispatched the troll was a reflex on his part, an attempt to limit the flow of hard information, although he knew better than to try and stop rumours. It was unprecedented that such a creature could manage to pass the wards which should have kept such a creature from entering the grounds, and the clean-up was not a task he envied Filch. To make things worse, not one of them showed so much as a scrap of remorse. But if he came down too hard on them, he would be seen as being in the wrong... Sometimes he envied the villains.

Questioning the children had led him nowhere. "How did you know what to do?" just led to "Instinct." The three of them, loyal enough to each other for Hufflepuffs, though of their Houses, none of them were Badgers. Finally, he decided his course of action.

"It seems I must give you an award for Special Services to the School," he said, his eyes twinkling. Directing his Legilimency towards the 'godlings' was useless, he discovered. Their thoughts were beyond his reach for some reason, and it was like gradually immersing his mind in raw, concentrated sulfuric acid. Not a pleasant experience, he had to warn Severus about that.

The three friends looked at each other, then turned to the Headmaster. "Why?" asked Harrir. To him, at least, there was nothing 'special' about putting down a rogue mountain troll. "If you insist on rewarding us, would not some more physical memento be better than a piece of plated tin sat in a trophy case somewhere?"

Albus was caught by that answer, as it made as much sense as any proposal he might suggest, and he thought hard. Lifting his wand, he caused a number of objects in his office to glow with a white light. "These objects are either unenchanted, or of little power and harmless. You may each choose one of them. Now, while you choose, could we discuss these weapons, and how you come to have them? If I am not mistaken, this is Uru, a mystical metal most uncommon. Even the dwarves have lost the secrets to crafting it."

Harrir had selected his 'reward' quickly enough, a solid glass orb the size of his two fists together, with a single flaw within that resembled a lightning bolt. "It is," he confirmed. "They're birthday presents, I suppose you could say. Personal gear as defined by the rules, and from my father." He looked up at Dumbledore. "I'll be getting one, as well, as soon as I can figure out where All-father put it."

The bemused Dumbledore ruminated on that thought, while Hermione made her choice, a delicate glass bowl like his dish for lemon drops, charmed to be unbreakable. The winged-horse patterns were what had drawn her to it, no doubt. Daphne's choice however, was the only staff he had that had no power. It was a well-formed stock of yew, five-and-a-half feet long, with dragonhide wrappings up and down the shaft. There was no socket, and no decorative orb at the top as was the wont for a wizard's staff. Albus had long ago come to the conclusion that the staff was incomplete. Still, the runework on it seemed finished, and he was reluctant to deliver any staff into the hands of a student. Even as the girl ran her hands over it, Harrir's eyes widened, then narrowed.

"Those are our choices, sir," he said, distracting the Headmaster from his reluctance. It was powerless, as far as he could see. "Do you have anything aught to tell us? Or might we take our belongings and go?"

The old man blinked. "Harry, my boy," he said, and saw the black-haired boy's face harden. He didn't seem to like that familiarity, a pity. "As responsible adults, we can't really let anyone roam the halls of Hogwarts with such deadly weapons."

Hermione looked crestfallen. That was her axe, her Relentless, and she'd only recently gotten it. When Harrir spoke, he lifted her spirits immensely. She should have known he'd have a plan. "Won't that make classes a little difficult?"

Dumbledore's attempt to control the situation derailed quicker than any train crash. "What do you mean?"

"If you don't want us wandering around with deadly weapons, why haven't you confiscated everyone's wands yet?" Harrir said, his flat tone somehow menacing. "There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways that you can kill someone with one, if you're a wizard or witch."

"I hardly think any of the spells you learn in first year are lethal..." Dumbledore's striving to retake control of the conversation was interrupted by Hermione, even as she retrieved her axe and the silk-wrapped spearhead that belonged to Daphne.

"Have you ever wondered what would happen if a Red Sparks spell is launched from a wand inserted in someone's ear?" she asked in a matter of fact tone. "It quite ruined the watermelon I tested it on... took me ages to find it all." So disturbed by the matter-of-fact recital of the results, not to mention the question, the Headmaster quickly dismissed all three of them, and popped a lemon drop in his mouth as the door closed, sucking on the sour treat to soothe himself. Then he noticed the blank space in his display of staves, and groaned, realising that the other two had distracted him from Miss Greengrass and the staff.

That evening, in the dorm she shared with Tracy Davis, her best friend through childhood, Daphne unwrapped the spearhead and laid it on the bed by the staff she'd taken from Dumbledore's hearth. The highest office in Hogwarts was that of Headmaster, so 'highest' wasn't a reference to altitude (or she'd have been looking in the Ravenclaw dorms, or Professor Trelawney's quarters) but to status. Hermione had been stunned when Daphne explained that. Not that she'd realised it herself until she saw the length of yew. She carefully slid the haft into the socket on the spearhead, and twisted, the two parts coming together to be whole, then spun the spear about its centre of balance and thrust it skywards, declaiming much as Hermione had. The Old Norse words just came to her, and she suspected that all three of them had as great a command of that tongue as of English.

«Now this night, I take up my weapon, and lay claim to Uunngåelig, Inevitable, until the day I fall in battle,» she stated, in a firm, low voice, and Tracy rolled over in her sleep, as all across the castle ghosts shivered as though some one had danced upon their graves. Peeves was found curled up under Snape's bed, shuddering in fear. Only the Fat Friar seemed unworried.

"Good thing I died in battle," he smirked.

Somewhere within Hogwarts, the spirit of Voldemort seethed. He still didn't have full control over this vessel, only being able to fully possess them while they were unconscious, a state that generally accompanied extreme drunkenness, making the body difficult to control. If he'd left the wards a disembodied wraith, he'd no idea how long it would have taken to get back in. The only upside to this person as his vessel was that no-one would even imagine it. The troll plan had failed before it really began, as that Kettleburn fool had led the troll right to its demise before the panic and confusion could really set in. And that dog! No wonder that fool had warned everyone away from that corridor. Although it did seem undisturbed... perhaps Dumbledore had forgotten where he put the stone?

On those rare occasions his vessel managed to get to the Great Hall for dinner, at least since he'd been forced to take refuge inside this waste of flesh, he'd been able to see glimpses of the rest of Hogwarts through her eyes, even if it was a wobbly, distorted view, due both to the thick glasses and the proclivity of the vessel for strong drink. There was one over there, at a table distressingly full of students in yellow and black, who had at least a partial measure of the blood of Muspel... A plan formed slowly in the wraith's mind. He wouldn't be able to maintain control long enough to perform the ritual himself, but he would be able to take advantage of the chaos that would result. He didn't need long, and the stone would be his. All he needed was someone to perform the rite... a convenient patsy... like that Malfoy boy...

Susan Bones felt a chill run down her spine, and glanced around. No-one else seemed affected, so she shrugged it off and returned her attention to her notes for Transfiguration.

Odin sat upon his throne, Geri and Freki at his feet, Hugin and Munin on his shoulders, and stared at the gigantic crystal which played out the scenes around Hogwarts. If Harrir needed help, he was ready at a moment's notice to send it, or to go himself, and bear the consequences, Norn's bargain be damned! He'd seen the future of Asgard without Harrir, seen it countless times in cycle after cycle... He knew the great wheel that was life had to turn, but he had learned from the once-mortal that he'd made his son a very important lesson. Although the wheel must turn, the ground it turns upon can be different...

Far beyond sight and sound and sanity, Niddhog roared its impatience. He was hungry now, and demanded his plans proceed...