I tried to lay claim to Seph. He sliced me to ribbons.
I tried to lay claim to Harry. Mione turned me into a gibbon.
With that in mind, I must say:
These characters were never mine, anyway.
As for the situation,
Chaos has always been Harry's infatuation.
Can you blame me for giving him more?
I don't care, Chaos galore!
(These notes were written almost a month ago. With only minor changes, I am leaving them as is. In the notes at the end of the chapter, there is an announcement.)
Yes, I did just do my disclaimer in rhyme. I was getting bored typing them and figured why not. I know I'm no poet. So don't worry. I won't quite my prose fascination.
Thank Gil for commenting on where magic could have come from just hours after another reviewer, Kimonhon, asked me a question about it. (Both are on AO3.) Gil's idea is that their magical abilities are diluted Limit Breaks. I never would have thought of that. To add my own commentary to that: The reduction in power of the skill made it easier to access it over time, until it became an almost at-will ability. Further weakening resulted in the need for foci. Also, it slowly homogenized in manifestation as a result of so many people with them breeding together.
Wasn't sure if I'd be able to fit that in the story any time soon, and I wanted to get it out there for those who are be curious.
Wanderingsilverrose on FFN inspired the part of this chapter. Yes, it is the part you've all been waiting for. Fair warning: I am lousy at writing combat.
Holy heck, we're already up to...
"Rage," the smooth voice said, "is like a living thing. It feeds upon every small slight. It destroys everything that it cannot feed upon. It is, as far as I can tell, the single most destructive force out there. Not because it has power in itself, but because of what it can make us do."
Severus nodded his agreement. Har.. Potter was making acceptable progress. While he was talking, to keep his hands busy, he was carefully etching runes into one of the golden disks. Nonetheless, he was still speaking far more introspectively than the Potions Master had expected.
"When I was not enraged, I was a good SOLDIER. I followed orders. I slaughtered thousands in the name of Shin-Ra. I conquered the world for them. I ignored my own thoughts and feelings in favor of their bottom line." He examined the piece for a moment before popping into a shallow glass dish. A dash of acid showed that it was, indeed, repelling any substance that would destroy it. Potter ignored his first success, carefully fished it out and moved on to inscribing another.
Snape would have pointed it out, but he didn't want to side track the conversation. Potter was, after all, finally discussing the things that troubled him. Changing the subject now might result in his not speaking of it again for weeks or months.
"When I found out that Hojo was apparently my father, I was infuriated. I'd use a stronger word, but I can't think of one that really covers the magnitude of it. Wroth, perhaps? The man – a loosely used term – had tortured me for as long as I could remember. Even as a SOLDIER, I still had to report to him for treatments and tests that left me in pain for days. With my constitution, that is quite a feat..." He trailed off for a moment to stare at nothing, then shook himself.
"I didn't want it to be true, but it was there in his notes. He was my father. Jenova was my mother. An experiment that he'd locked away, keeping her from me. Or, so I thought.
"I went... as Zack would say, I went bat-shit insane. Jenova was an alien parasite, and the cells that they had infused me with were sentient enough to encourage me. Her voice was all-consuming, and she led my thoughts: 'Hojo did this. He's at fault. Shin-Ra funded him, so the company is at fault. All the people on the planet allowed Shin-Ra to exist, so they're at fault. They killed me, too. I was the last Cetra. They must pay.'
"She wasn't the last Cetra – was never a Cetra at all – but I was insane enough to believe her. I wanted to punish them. All of them. I started with the people of Nibelheim."
He laughed humorlessly. "It was later known as the Nibelheim Incident. An 'incident.' All that death and they made it sound like a puppy had wet the carpet. I single-handedly wiped out an entire town and burnt the buildings to ash. And, what did they do? They put a memorial up in my honor and said I died from a dragon attack."
Severus winced, but didn't interrupt.
"They gave them to Hojo... They took my vanquishers, the men who saved the world, and tortured them to find out how they could kill me. What was so special about an Infantryman and a newly-minted First Class that they could kill the 'Great General Sephiroth' in that run-down reactor?"
He sighed in resignation. "Ultimately, they found nothing. Of course there was nothing. I was insane and enraged. I left myself wide open to attack. A babe in swaddling clothes could have pulled it off... And, yes, I am aware of the irony of that statement."
Harry grinned at him, inviting him to join the joke. Severus couldn't help the small smirk he gave in return. At least his sense of humor was intact. Or, perhaps, it was resurfacing.
The boy turned back to his work and continued: "Five years later, I had.. regrouped in the Lifestream. It was an interesting experience, being shattered that way. I thought myself whole, but I know that I wasn't. I left pieces of myself behind as I tried, again, to destroy everything... I would have succeeded, too, if it wasn't for those lousy kids."
He didn't understand the chuckle that followed that statement, but this was more for the boy's mental health than his own understanding.
"They killed Hojo, stealing my most desired act. Then they tracked me to the Northern Crater. They weakened me. Eight on one combat is not easy, if you were wondering. Cloud, the same infantry man that was with Zack at the reactor, killed me a second time. My own oversight, the murder of Cloud's Cetra girlfriend, allowed the Planet to react to the Meteor I'd summoned. The second attempt was a failure – one that would have succeeded had I been even slightly more rational."
"The third attempt... Wasn't really my idea. Hojo had cloned me. They called themselves my 'Remnants' and proclaimed that they were bringing me back to punish everyone for what they did to 'Mother.' I'd pulled myself more together by that point and wanted nothing to do with the whole debacle. I knew that no one would believe it, though, so I allowed them to summon me out of the Lifestream. I allowed them to force me into possessing Kadaj. I used his body to fight Cloud again."
A small smile flitted across his lips. "I did my damnedest to provoke him into a killing rage. I didn't want to be stuck in some cell somewhere or executed in some show of propaganda for Rufus Shin-Ra's new organization. It was a good fight, but Cloud isn't as skilled as he thinks he is. I was not weakened and he was not that strong. I let him win. Why else would I just stay still and let him hit me repeatedly? That Limit Break of his was far too lengthy to really be of any use against an actual warrior."
He noted Severus' questioning look. "When we take enough damage, special abilities manifest. We call them Limit Breaks. Cloud's supposed best Limit Break is to jump around hitting his target with his sword. Or, rather, swords."
He cocked his head. "That was an interesting weapon... All swords aside, however, I held Kadaj still until he'd done enough damage to kill us. Then... I let go. I went back into the Lifestream, to deal with the loneliness of being shunned by the other dead."
Severus sighed and started to – carefully – question him about the story. He was definitely in for another night of nightmares.
It was a day that would live on as a horror story in the minds of most Hogwarts residents. Fred and George, on their way to their next class, were grabbed and hauled into an unused classroom. Standing in front of them was a spiky haired man with the most intense blue eyes they'd seen, even ignoring the glow. It wasn't difficult to assume he was one of Harry's friends, as those eyes glowed.
"So, I hear you're pranksters and that you're pranking someone that tried to hurt the General."
At their nod, the man leaned forward with a wicked grin. "I want in."
They exchanged glances. "Sure, the more the merrier -"
"- not like your other friends aren't helping."
All pretense of wickedness disappeared, the man's mood changing in the span of a second. "Great! I'm Zack Fair. Nice to meet'cha!"
Sephiroth stood in front of the other former SOLDIERs and Hermione. He wanted to show the next DA meeting how Summon Materia worked. But, he wanted to be certain that it did – in fact – still work before he performed the demonstration. Nothing lost a crowd's confidence faster than a failed exhibition. He slotted the orb in his arm band and glanced at the others.
"Hermione, this is a... weaker summons. It is, quite probably, the best for training in how to use and control the creatures that you call. It is also..." he winced a bit, "rather strange. The creature summoned from this Materia can vary. One form is the Chocobo-Mog. It consists of a Moogle riding on the back of a Chocobo, which is a rather large bird. A Moogle is... the closest I could explain would be that it rather resembles a strange teddy bear. The second version is referred to as 'Fat Chocobo.' A laughable, if accurate, name.
"To demonstrate it, I'm going to have the Room provide us a creature. Don't run and don't scream. You are safe. Any of the group of us could handle it with ease. I'll do the first variant, and then the second."
He caught her nod out of the corner of his eye. That was enough for him. A command to the room had a Behemoth manifesting in front of them on the plain. The large purplish creature wasn't paying any attention to them at the moment, since the room had given it a dead Zuu to devour. He paused to consider the two creatures. The Behemoth was huge, twin horns crowning an extremely ugly face. Razor sharp claws kneaded the earth as it fed. It was tearing into the Zuu – a raven-like creature the size of a small plane, but with a much longer neck – with gusto.
When he heard Hermione swallow her revulsion at all the blood, he lifted his arm. Energy raced around it as he sent a beam of light from the Materia to a location a few dozen feet away. A runic sigil flashed too quickly for most to read. Sephiroth watched impassively as a large yellow chocobo and rider materialized. He watched it rush past him and sighed, only to realize that the rider was most definitely not a Moogle.
Cloud trudged along with the occasional little wiggle as he tried in vain to surreptitiously get the fabric of his stolen pants back into position. He glanced up at the overcast sky and sighed. He was uncomfortable, tired and it didn't even have the decency to be a pretty day. The Planet had better be grateful that he'd clawed his way out of the Lifestream to do this. The first drops of rain hit his head and he sighed. It figures.
He'd taken only three or four more steps before the sky decided that now was a wonderful time to open up completely. In seconds, he was drenched to the bone. A few muttered Wutain curses fells from his lips as he looked around for shelter. No such luck.
A surge in the Lifestream hit him and he staggered. Suddenly, underneath him, was a large mass of yellow feathers and muscle. He grabbed hold of the skinny neck. He wasn't trying to wring it, that could come later, but to keep from falling off the swiftly moving bird. He focused ahead and gasped. In its path was... a Behemoth?!
Their collision knocked over the massive, almost canine, creature. The force of the impact sent him flying to one side. He landed flat on his back, knocking the wind out of him. The chocobo - a Summons, he belatedly realized – warked, ran around a bit, and disappeared. The sound of metal shearing through bone preceded the thud of the beast's head hitting the ground near him.
Still flat on his back and gasping, he could do nothing but stare at the suddenly clear sky.
A smooth, masculine voice – one he'd pray to never hear again – sent ice through his veins. "Well, this is unexpected."
A second, much younger sounding voice, broke in before he could do more than twitch. This voice, unlike the first, was one that he'd been wanting to hear again for a very long time. "Cloud! Man, you're back? Great!"
The breath he'd just been beginning to regain left him as he was yanked to a sitting position and nearly crushed by Zack Fair's hug. He didn't return it, though. He was far too focused on the man watching them, holding Masamune to one side as blood dripped from the blade. The group behind the Silver General didn't matter. All that mattered in the world was dealing with him: Sephiroth.
Sephiroth blinked and raised an eyebrow as Cloud shoved Zack to one side and stole his sword. Zack hit the ground with a yelp that, amazingly, didn't distract the shorter man. He seriously debated just side-stepping the charging Infantryman, but that would mean that he'd plow right into Hermione. So, he lifted Masamune and the two blades met.
Cloud's momentum stopped, he retreated to one side. He parried attacks as they came, allowing the boy – man – to keep him on the defensive. There was no need to kill him, and Zack would surely be furious if he did. Still, part of him very much wanted to rend his repeated murderer – or, assisted suicide consultant – to tiny little shreds. His hard-won self control was quickly fading.
He had to get this fight out of Hogwarts. He couldn't allow the battle to destroy the first real home he'd had in either life. A thought had an archway forming. He allowed Cloud to harry him through it and onto the grounds. To his chagrin, not only did the others follow, but there was a group of students enjoying the rare sunshine nearby. "Strife, there are innocents here. We cannot fight. They could be injured."
Cloud was less than reasonable at the moment. "If they support you, then I'll fight them, too."
An image went through his head of Hermione cleaved in two by the sword Cloud was wielding. A sword that Angeal had been so happy to receive as a gift from Genesis just a few days prior. A sword he had loaned to Zack for the day's training, choosing to use the standard issue blade, instead. It wasn't the original Buster Sword, but it was close enough that its weight would easily kill her. Especially with SOLDIER strength.
Sephiroth's vision had never laced with red. No, when he was angry things tended to take on the sickly tinge of Mako green tinged with JENOVA, just as it did now. His hair rose slightly, reacting to the power gathering in him as his wing sprouted from his back. His grip tightened on his sword and he took a single step forward...
The ringing noise of a bullet ricocheting off of Cloud's blade caught his attention, even as Angeal stepped between them. The solidly built SOLDIER was bound and determined to step in. Luckily, Masamune did not impale him. "Enough, Sephiroth. We all know he can't really hurt you – or us – unless you allow it."
He glanced to his left to find the source of the bullet. That was far more urgent than Angeal's burgeoning lecture. Standing at the edge of the Forbidden Forest was a man with the wings of a demon. Swathed in living shadow, yellow eyes glowed in amusement as he held a massive three-barreled gun loosely at his side.
The demon spoke in its odd echo. "HE IS NOT HERE TO HARM THE PLANET OR ITS PEOPLE. PERHAPS YOU SHOULD ACTUALLY LISTEN TO OTHERS BEFORE DRAGGING YOURSELF OUT OF THE LIFESTREAM... THINKING WOULD BE A WELCOME CHANGE FROM YOUR USUAL PRACTICES."
Just like that, the anger faded and was replaced by humor. After all, it wasn't every day that a WEAPON woke simply to chastise someone for idiocy. His lips twitched and Angeal stepped to his side. Cloud turned from the demonic creature to stare in shock as Sephiroth laughed so hard that he was leaning on the darker SOLDIER.
Chaos faded and Vincent Valentine staggered slightly before righting himself. The ruby-eyed man smirked a little and then turned to Cloud. He shook his head. His voice was quiet, but carried well. "You honestly came streaking out of the Lifestream without even bothering to find out why he was alive again?"
"Not to interrupt, but I have to know." The group turned to stare at Genesis. "Why are you wearing such ill-fitting clothing? You could have just summoned yours."
Sephiroth took in Cloud's attire. Too short – and tight – denims showed off a healthy amount of ankle and left nothing to the imagination. His shirt, a button down in dark green, was only held closed by three buttons. Those buttons were rather quickly losing that battle. He was barefoot, and his soaking wet hair was still spiky, but drooped down like an under-watered plant.
He tried very hard not to laugh again.
Deep below the Chamber of Secrets there was a cavern. In that cavern, Mako flowed freely as a river with small embankments on each side. A millenium ago, Salazar Slytherin had found the cavern and made several close guesses as to just what the river was. Thinking that nothing good could crawl out of Death, he'd built the Chamber to both hide it and to keep anything from escaping it. After so many years, however, and with so many openings of the entrance and the death of the Basilisk... The pathways were now open.
A blackened tentacle latched onto a stalagmite and began to use it to pull the main body of another – less welcomed – entity out of the afterlife.
"Really! The nerve! Sephiroth, you have got to get a better class of minion."
Harry shrugged "Meh, the Weasleys were cheap. Buy one, get the whole family free. Plus they breed quickly so they're replaceable; I mean there's already a young female, so there's AT LEAST one breeding pair right there."
Hermione looked horrified "You... you don't mean?"
"Why of course! Pair Ginny up with any assortment of the other Weasleys and I'll have an army of low level minions in a couple of years."
Sirius had an odd grin on his face "Only if we can market it. You would not believe the demand for incest porn in the Wizarding world, we'll make a killing."
"Hmm. Get more minions AND fund our offensive... I like it!"
Hermione was left to sputter uselessly as the rest of the room ignored her (cause she's useless).
I'd say that I was a terrible person, but I'm too pleased with myself right now.
(This was added later in a PM:)
I could just picture Snape reporting to Voldemort and saying
"By foul craft Potter has crossed Weasleys with Goblin Men. He's Breeding and army in the caverns of Hogwarts."
Voldemort stared dumbly at him for a moment and says "SHIT! He's pulling a Saruman. As if those two groups didn't reproduce fast enough already. Together they'll swarm like ant. ANTS!"
I like Hermione, but I found the rest of Yinko's Omake so funny that I just had to include it. Again, no alterations.
A short version, severely downplayed, of the games from Seph's point of view. He'll go into further detail later, though I may not type out that conversation.
Cloud's final attack in Advent Children was Omnislash, his "best" Limit Break. I can't be the only one that felt Seph holding still for that had to be deliberate. It was too long compared to his reaction time.
Zuu and Behemoth both have pictures on the Final Fantasy Wiki if you want to get more detail on their appearance. The Behemoth has always looked like a greatly oversized dog with claws and horns to me.
Cloud pushes Zack aside to kill Sephiroth. In his mind, the small damage done by the push is far less than what Seph would do to his friend. He can't let that happen, so he takes steps.
About Cloud's clothes and such: In Cloud's case, he didn't think about creating his own. He was not used to thinking about doing things that way. Angeal thinks that he can't summon the original Buster Sword because it rusted away. They'll figure it out, and we'll have all our characters ready for action.
To "harry the retreat" is an old military tactic. It means that you continue to attack, picking off people as the opposing army tries to get to safety. Not kind, nor fair. But, war isn't either. "Wroth" can mean angry and wrathful, or stormy and violent. I think it's a perfectly good term for his feelings, though it was technically Middle English.
Cloud killing Hermione? Well, Sephiroth killed Aeris/Aerith. In Seph's mind, the perfect revenge for that would be killing the only woman in their group at the moment. Luna, if you're curious, was in class.
THREE FOR THE PRICE OF ONE! Chaos, Vincent and Cloud in this chapter. Yay! Hm... Who's crawling out of the Lifestream, now? Hint: It's not Jenova.
Between FFN and AO3, this story has over 100k hits now. Wow.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am sorry to inform you all that my mother died on May 22, 2014. She was at home.
Mom's pleasure in hearing what was happening in this story – and listening to me read her the reviews – was a large portion of my impetus for writing. I loved how proud it made her. She was also delighted by all the wishes and comments she received from you. They brightened her day and made her feel that someone – other than her family, that is – cared what happened to her. It brought her great comfort.
Thank you, for that.
As it is, I have spent the last two weeks trying to get things taken care of. She was cremated last week and is now, once again, residing in my dining room. Albeit, in an altered form. She shares shelf space with the ashes of my husband's cat, and I can't help but wonder – given some of the noises in the house at night – just what those two are getting up to.
I guess I just have one last thing to say: Goodbye, Mom. I miss you.