I know I was only going to post this when everything was done but at the rate I'm going, I'll be finishing it up in the afterlife. :/
Also, it's Christmas, so.
Things calmed down a bit after that first meeting. Mike gave him the highlights of what he'd missed - which was mostly the hashing out of a formalised truce with caveats for self-defence and shelter in case of extreme situations like rad storms, natural disasters, illness or injury beyond their own capacity to handle, etc. For all that Baker and Sully had let each other have it verbally, both had seemed on-board with not immediately going to war. For now.
Harry listened to the report with an uncomfortable twist in his guts, not helped any by the angry mutters of his fellows over the following days.
The more he'd thought on it yesterday (trying to calm down and mostly failing), the more conflicted he'd felt. It had seemed so blindingly obvious at first. Sully had sparked an unnecessary conflict that got people killed, the end. But once he'd started to think about what he would do in a same or similar position… It was hard to look down on the man for it. But, he still felt the same way about it. Ugh.
Scuttlebutt came and went about some video footage Sully had left behind which supposedly proved that the second battle had been kicked-off by the Humans rather than Sully and the natives. Nobody had seen it yet, or would admit to having seen it, but since it was never formally addressed by Baker - most just assumed it was genuine. Of course, not many really cared too much. Most people's lingering grudge was over a) being shot at b) being denied the secure and cozy Hells Gate base. Moral righteousness didn't count for much when you were were tired (nocturnal predators meant nocturnal firearms going off), stressed, grieving the recent loss of your fellows and living in crowded conditions. The lack of it proof about whose fault the recent uprising was, wasn't making anyone any happier.
Some people felt like to even question the official story was tantamount to treason while others felt like the longer nobody saw the so-called evidence, the more it meant it was probably true. Some people seemed to resent being forced to suspend their righteous anger on a maybe and more than a few didn't give a shit either way - their beef was the attempted murder of their group and that wasn't going to change any time soon.
Still, time passed. Fear of the native bipeds subsided, somewhat, and was replaced with fear of the local flora and fauna. Harry practiced conversion and rune-work on scraps of unobtanium and managed to put together a pretty decent ward against most creatures below the cognitive capacity of a thanator. For a guy who'd never had any formalised runes schooling, it was pretty good. He also took the opportunity to test several working theories on how such a ward could be paired with automated converters - tiny chips of avalonium draining energy from the area around it to power the ward automatically. He succeeded on attempt number three and even though the higher-ups seemed dubious that a small handful of glowing stones could protect them - Harry sure slept better at night.
By the time he'd finished, weeks had passed. Every single day was loud with construction work. Most of the builders doubled as army grunts (apparently that was a whole specialisation?) and the few scientists did their best to uphold their contractual obligations under restricted circumstances. Everyone had something to do, it seemed, except Harry. At least until they managed to get the large-scale amounts of unobtanium needed to build the gate itself. Until then? There wasn't much to do except nap in the sun and practice his magic - something he genuinely had to do in order to burn off the excess that his body insisted on generating. He started small - helping their little farm take root and mature faster - then moved into mass transfiguration (a perimeter fence pulled from the stone beneath their feet) and finally into large-scale rune work of the previously-theoretical sort. The kind that only lasted as long as he fed magic into it but mostly didn't work at all.
It was frustrating. And yet… three months of work later and their little hodgepodge camp had a stone pillar in the middle (with tiny chips of embedded, glowing avalonium) that repelled carbon dioxide (instead of just carbon, that had been an unfortunate afternoon), xenon and hydrogen sulfide in a large enough area to completely cover their camp.
It wasn't quite the air purification that Earth would need but it was a pretty satisfying start. Watching his companions take off their masks with cautious wonder wasn't half bad either.
Harry straightens up, swiping an arm over his forehead. It's so muggy on Pandora. The only thing he can compare it to is the summer he spent in China, looking for old magical enclaves. He can feel the air he breathes, heavy and thick in his lungs.
Mike hands him a canteen of water and eyes the trellis he'd been working on as Harry takes long, grateful gulps.
Despite his massively increased supply of magic, Harry's experimentation has found that some of the limits he was taught in school do still exist. Not all of them, but most.
The rapidly-growing alien banana-fruits (and the veritable field of de-spined bansheba that are providing enough seeds for fresh bread every day) are proof that the principal exception to Gamp's Law related to food was still solidly true. No matter how often he tried, or how much magic he poured into it (and too much magic tended to have worse results, something he only remembered from his first year classes much too late) he simply could not conjure food. He could make something that looked like it. That felt like it. Even something that smelled and tasted like it.
But it wasn't food. It couldn't sustain a person. It was just an illusion that could be felt by more than one sense and that was it.
Hence, the farming. He could hasten growth with impunity, could transfigure garden beds and levitate soil, could even summon beneficial bugs and alien worms if shown a picture of them first. His actions freed up the scientists and soldiers to do their own things and in truth… he kind of liked it.
It was like all the best parts of gardening back on privet drive with none of the worst. It was peaceful. It was productive. He got to see tangible results from his efforts and, thanks to his magic, it didn't take him all bloody day and a few months of growth.
Harry turned. One of the roving patrols had wandered by. The active soldiers tended to poke a bit of fun at his ex-soldier-turned-private-security, but it was all in good fun. Especially after the early days when Mike had been the voice of experience on a planet where everything wanted to kill you.
"That's a, uh, nice garden you got grown' there sport. The banana fruit, right?"
"Teste-fruit" Another solider coughed. The first one flipped him off.
Harry smothered a snicker. The fist-sized fruits did kind of look like weird, elongated-
"Hey, the mess have worked out a deep fryer. So long as they cut it into banana shapes I could care less."
The sergeant sketched a wave to Mike as the group moved on.
"Is it weird that our dick-fruit's alien equivalent is teste -fruit?"
"It wasn't until you said that, asshole!"
At night, when it's even less safe than usual to be outside but unable to sleep with unprecedented levels of magic buzzing under his skin, he experiments in smaller ways. He continues teaching himself runes from digital copies of his own damned books and from the work done by various sub-groups across the world. Simple concepts such as anchored shrinking and atmospheric charms all him to turn an empty storage container into a glass terrarium, in which he plants shrunken alien flora. Soft, orange spiral leaves snap into their own central columns at the slightest touch, making cute little flooping noises. A plump, tuber-like plant with orange and green stripes literally generates warmth for a couple of days before both its heat and colour fades. Two different kinds of blue-green iridescent ferns throw soft, diffused light at night. After a while, even the soil starts to glow, as the plants roots spread.
A couple of the more easy-going scientists take samples to see if the off-shoots of shrunken plants will reproduce dwarf species and one casually warns him that the cute, plump tuber generates warmth by absorbing radioactive isotopes and might explode one day.
Harry moves the terrarium a few inches further back from his bed.
Later, he tries to replicate the windows of the Ministry, tries to make them look out on familiar scenes from Earth buuuut he doesn't really know where to even start. Were the originals just illusions? Or actual stable gateways to whichever part of the world they looked onto? He can create illusions easily enough and there's plenty of energy here to keep them going, but anchoring them to a window frame where it looks like the image is 'just outside' proves… difficult.
Mike makes him promise to stop after he compromised the atmospheric seal for the third time, not caring in the slightest that the module was set inside the range of his rune-powered filter field. Redundant safety features were a thing he believed in.
One night, restless and maybe a little stupid with sleep deprivation, he turns himself into a snake and knocks precisely everything over as he thrashes about, being way bigger than he expected.
It's only after he's changed back that he remembers human-to-animal self-transfiguration is the fastest way to erase your own identity. It's why animagi are something unique.
It had just been so easy to change on a whim.
He's starting to scare himself.
"I think there's such a thing as too much magic." He observes one day to Doctor Johnson-Johnson - or JJ - the scientist in charge of all things botanical. The man was officially subordinate to the much more sour Doctor Li but Li spent most of her time in self-imposed isolation.
"In general, or for specific things?" JJ asked absently. With Harry taking over keeping the camp sustainably fed, the Doctor had to go back to his regular job of analysing local materials for potential medical, commercial or military use. It looked remarkably boring.
"Probably both, but mostly for me." He stretched a languid arm towards an empty sample tray and sighed as it leapt towards him and changed into a kitten in the same moment.
Magic was so easy now. But.
"I've wielded more magic before." He caught the kitten with a gentle hand. "Forging avalonium has to take the cake for sheer force and quantity. But here… it's like having a full stomach all the time. Not bad, just, uncomfortable. And it doesn't ever go away."
JJ eyed the kitten in his hands with more 'aww kitty!' than scientific interest and took a quick look around before abandoning his work to rub its furry little tummy.
"Have you tried not converting Pandora's energy?" He asked, making faces at the bundle of transfiguration, cosmetic and animation charms. Harry absently made it sprawl on its back and 'play grab' JJ's fingers. The magic was easy but the focus and imagination was still something he had to concentrate on.
"I can't." He admitted, hiding a thread of worry. "I've tried. I don't know if it's something I've never had control over or if I've managed to train myself into bad habits but… it's a constant process."
JJ frowned down at him. "That sounds dangerous." He observed. "You're not gonna explode or anything, are you? I'm a plant doctor, I don't do humans."
Harry rolled his eyes.
"No, like I said, I just feel 'full'. I get full and it stops, but the second I spend any of that magic, the ambient radiation around us is enough to top me up again. According to Mike, just being near me gives him better rad-results when he goes for a checkup - 'cause I'm absorbing it all."
"Wow." Was JJ's educated response. "I should hang out with you more often. I hate iodine tablets."
Harry sighed and aged the kitten into a tabby. Half a second later, he realised he was holding Crookshanks in his arms and the cat snapped right back into being a metal tray.
"Helpful." He snarked, hiding the way his heart had just stuttered in his chest. He handed the tray to JJ who took it back to his station with a bemused look. "But it's not good for humans to always be full, right? I mean, if you eat all the time… you get fat."
"Magic fat?" JJ mused. "What's that like?"
"I don't know!" Harry stalked to the window and leant against it. Mike was outside, doing his daily weight-work so he didn't lose muscle mass to the lighter gravity here. "Not good, probably."
"I wonder if you can get magic diabetes." JJ adjusted his equipment and resumed taking notes. "Magic congestion? Ohh, magic stroke, nasty."
"Why am I talking to you?" Harry wondered aloud. "You were fine when we were planning the gardens."
"It's because I'm a plant doctor." JJ reminded him, swapping out samples. "I like plants. I get them. I got two doctorates so people would stop walking away whenever I talked about them. But even I know" He glanced up and pinned Harry with a look. "That you know that there's no such thing as a magical medical expert anymore. If you want answers or reassurance, it's only going to come from one place."
Harry rolled his head back against the window, looking up at the sky. Polyphemus was looming in it. Sometimes it felt like they were all falling towards it.
"I know." He said quietly. "But whining about it is better than worrying. Fear and magic? Not a great mix."
He didn't look back to see how JJ took the implication.
"Well… stomachs expand." JJ seemed to have settled on 'optimism' when faced with a magical angst bomb. "Maybe it just means you're going to be able to hold more magic at a time. And, based on the readings I've been getting all morning, you might end up draining all the local ambient radiation before it becomes a problem anyway. Problem solved! At least until the next rad-storm."
Harry hummed in response, eyes tracking distant shapes floating and looping through the air. Radiation was just one form of energy his body could (was, automatically) convert but it was the main problem. Maybe he could move into one of the smaller rad shelters already built inside the mountain? It'd be as close to an empty space as possible. A place where he could let his body rest a bit.
Just in case.
"Bored?" JJ asked after a long, restless silence.
"So bored." Harry agreed, knocking his head against the not-glass. He wanted to go running out into the distant forest, wanted to explore and maybe blow something up or re-create the entirety of Diagon Alley at double the scale. Something. His rune work had become more of a chore than anything else - as you advanced into more complex matters it required too much calculation (or trial and error). The most complex stuff he knew - the programming to be carved into the gateway they were building - was so beyond him it was almost hilarious. Hilariously awkward.
It wasn't fun anymore. It wasn't even interesting, not when it didn't immediately work.
"It's just-" He burst out. "I used to have so much to do! Back home. There was always something. Something I had to review, to make decisions on. Always somewhere I had to be, someone I had to meet, something to organise or attend or approve." He looked sown at his hands, so often idle here. "I don't… really know what to do with myself. I am literally on an alien planet and I'm so jittery with boredom I can barely stand it!"
"But you can use your magic more here, right?" JJ asked. "I would think that'd be pretty fun."
"You'd think." Harry knocked his head back against the wall, drummed his fingers against the bench beneath him. "It's weird, but no. It's like. I can do anything. Or it feels like I can. But none of it matters. Not really. Except the food stuff, maybe. Anything else I make or change or do - it either vanishes the second I stop thinking about it, or it just… clutters up the place like litter. And besides," he added quietly "it kind of starting to feel… disrespectful. To use the energy of this place for just… pointless nothings."
"Construction?" JJ suggested. "Mining?"
"Banned." Harry shrugged, lips twisting a little. Outside, the steady hrmmmgrrrrmmmmddd of the mining equipment continued unabated. "For some reason, all the engineers get anxious when I don't know what 'load bearing supports' look like."
JJ snorted a laugh. Harry grinned up at the ceiling. His tapping fingers graduated to a drumming sort of beat.
"Well, think of it like a vacation. In a foreign land." JJ offered next. "They don't have anything you're used to eating, or used to doing, but they have their own, new stuff to eat or do. I think, uh, Dr Moa? She was slated to be an avatar driver - they didn't send the avatar down for obvious reasons - and so she's not got much to do. Maybe she'd teach you the local language? Or one of your army buddies could teach you how to fight, or shoot a gun or something."
Harry rolled his head over and frowned.
"I don't exactly need to know that stuff." He had magic, after all.
"Maybe - but it's kind of like bringing a souvenir back, isn't it? 'I went to an alien planet and all I got was an exotic language and martial art skills'."
Harry hummed. Maybe. It was hard to remember sometimes, that he didn't have this kind of magic back on Earth. Too much and too constant it may be, but the state of it - of feeling every life around him at all times - just felt… natural. Like he'd never known anything else.
Back on Earth, even with cheaper and expedited unobtanium shipping making it both possible and affordable to transfuse alien energy into Gaia's life support system… Well, it still wouldn't be like this. If something happened…
He had Mike, and his bots, but… knowing some basic self-defence couldn't hurt. Probably. And he literally didn't know a single other language - maybe it would be cool to learn another. An alien language at that.
It'd at least be something to do.
JJ's idea was a sanity-saver.
He still felt restless - bone deep and only getting stronger - but brawling out on the grass with guys three times his size, who good-naturedly taught him all kinds of dirty tricks to protect himself helped keep a lid on it. The language lessons with Dr Moa weren't quite as good but since she was almost as bored as he was, she was always up for a round. She also didn't mind teaching him while they played a digital game of chess on their tablets, chatting with him in alternating English and Na'vi, interspersed with quizzes and challenges for him to create illusions of every item-word she taught him.
It kind of reminded him of whiling away afternoons with Ron and Hermione. There'd be days when even Hermione didn't have homework to do, she'd have a book but all three of them would sprawl on the couch in the common room, on the grass outside, in the archways of one of a dozen courtyards.
Just, talking. Sometimes napping. Just… doing nothing, really.
What he couldn't remember for the life of him was whatever it was that had let him be… okay, with that kind of stillness. Even content.
The very idea seemed alien to him now.
"Think they'd let me go out with one of the patrols?" He wonders aloud, maybe a month later. He's visiting JJ again but he can't do it too often. He's been politely but firmly alerted to the fact that most of the scientists had deliverables to meet, regardless of where on the planet they happened to be. Apparently, Harry was somewhat distracting.
"I think they couldn't exactly stop you." JJ replied absently, then froze.
Harry looked at him. JJ looked at Harry.
"…please don't tell anyone I said that." JJ begged.
There's a bit of yelling at first, some throwing around of responsibility and words meant to shame him into obedience but after a few days of "negotiation" and several rounds of Harry demonstrating both the ability to disapparate (teleport, they all insist on calling it) away from danger and to ignite the air around him while standing unharmed in the centre of a firestorm if needed…
Well, it became harder to argue about what was and wasn't safe, at that point. Not that Mike and Baker both didn't give it a damned good effort.
Sure, officially, Baker absolutely refused to give him permission to leave the base and officially, Harry was a civilian investor stroke private citizen who'd signed a contract to be here that boiled down to 'do what the soldiers say regarding security' but…
Magic. It was hard to argue with the person who was probably safer without an armed guard because weapons tended to look unfriendly and extra bodies in danger tended to distract certain teleporting civilians from getting themselves out safely.
Then again, Pandora also hosted a wealth of more subtle dangers. The de-spined bansheba they were using for food was just one of an entire subclass of plant species that could and did spit toxins - sometimes from beneath leaf cover and across considerable distance. Nine humans in six years had fallen into giant chalice plants, been unable to get out and had slowly drowned/been digested. Then there were more passive threats like furred fronds that were soft to the touch but left microscopic cuts behind filled with gangrenous bacteria, or the cute and clever monkey-like animals that wouldn't attack you - but would absolutely call attention to you to distract predators from themselves.
So. Harry spent his free time going walkabout in an alien jungle and whatever unlucky sods had drawn the short straw that day got to clump after him and try to keep him from touching anything, falling off or into anything or otherwise ending his life like the ignorant tourist he was.
Today, jittery with too much energy and no success with re-creating a flying broom, Harry was re-enacting a form of 'Harry Hunting'. He ran - bounding through the lighter gravity - as his guards tried frantically to catch him.
The pounding of feet behind him as a section of men tried desperately to keep up only made the laughter in his chest burst free.
Poor blokes. He was pretty shamelessly cheating too. Most of them were fitter than he was and used to the terrain to boot - so he was casting free with chameleon charms and misdirecting illusions, playing a sort of reverse cat and mouse. A distant part of his brain kept close watch on their familiar little sparks - warm and comforting and his - keeping them safe and close.
Most of him was just fucking with them though.
As he ran, wide eyes took in the life around him. Wasp-like critters the size of his hand (hastily banished), googly-eyed deer-like animals that bounded away and flashed pale-blue butts at him like alien rabbits and even something that looked awfully like a six-legged dog that came close enough to bite but which bolted suddenly away before it even tried.
They weren't magical. They felt… not wrong. But, not really like anything. They were alive, indisputably… but they weren't his. They were almost nothing, except something moving and strange and new and exciting.
So he ran, he explored, he played for maybe the first time in his life that didn't involve organised sport. And when his lungs grew tired and his legs threatened rebellion, a ping of magic had him stumbling to a concealed riverbank to watch glittering fish-monsters swim lazily against the current.
As an apology to the poor sods stuck with him, he conjured up some refreshments and made sure his redirection charms were steering them safely towards him. An impulse later and a double-whammy of anti-insect and anti-arachnid wards pulsed through the air, scattering a hundred tiny and not-so-tiny things away from the tree he was half-sitting, half-leaning against, leaving him safe to close his eyes and relax.
A heartbeat later, a knife was at his throat. Another, and his skin from chin to chest was abruptly unbreakable. Stiff, uncomfortable and could be torn away - but unbreakable at the upper layer.
He opened his eyes.
"Hello." He greeted his first alien, struck again by how not-magic they felt. He hadn't blinked twice at Centaurs, Mermaids, Veela and even a Vampire back on Earth. He'd marveled, but they'd never really stood out to him. In hindsight, at a subconscious level, they'd felt 'like him'.
The blue person peering suspiciously at him, upside down with gigantic golden eyes and flicking blue ears, was more Muggle than the most Muggle Muggle he'd ever met. More Muggle than even the Dursleys.
Not mine, some part of him decided firmly.
"What are you?" The alien hissed.
"…Bit of a personal question, don't you think?" He grinned. It widened when the alien brought the knife closer - not enough to kill, it was probably only aiming to scare - only for the blade to skitter away from his skin like it was trying to cut steel.
"Put down your weapon and let him go! Now!"
The alien spooked, hissing and twisting around to put the trunk of the tree between- him? Her? And the armed men brandishing guns.
"It's okay." Harry waved a hand at them, blinking as his hand left golden trails in the air behind it. In his peripheral vision, he saw the alien flinch back. Squinting slightly, he refocused on his magic and wrestled it back under control. As it settled, so did his mood - back down to normal instead of euphoric.
Bloody hell. He hadn't even noticed the change in himself until now. Had that happened before?
"Sorry," He called, twisting slightly and ending the charm on his skin as it tugged unpleasantly. "Are you alright? Am I trespassing? I was just having a bit of a run."
One suspicious eye edged around the tree enough to glare at him. Harry raised his hands amiably and sighed as the alien bared its teeth at him while his escort rushed up to drag him away.
A silent absent-mindedness hex was only partially successful against the seriously focused minds of the men behind him, but it was enough to stop them from brandishing their weapons some more at least. He let them pull him back, rather more gently than they'd meant to.
"My name is Harry." He introduced himself. "What's yours?"
The alien edged out a tiny bit further, testing. When guns didn't immediately spring up to fire, it edged out some more.
Female, Harry decided, while trying awfully hard not to look down to double-check. The shape of its - her - face was feminine and she wasn't actually wearing much besides strings of smooth beads that somehow didn't click, clack or even rustle as she moved.
"You…" The alien said slowly, mouth moving slightly as if it was tasting the air - or an idea. "You are a Sky Person… baby?"
"Oh, come on. Young Adult, at worst." Harry frowned. "Of age, actually, by some people's standards. Bit too much facial hair to be a child, I'd like to think."
"Is he talkin' 'bout that peach fuzz?" One of the men behind him muttered to another. Harry graciously ignored him.
The alien didn't respond. It just… looked at him. Stared. Sort of an alien version of flabbergasted, if giant blue kitty-people that were too slinky for their own good were capable of such a thing.
Then she was gone, leaping up into the canopy and away. Harry's eyebrows shot up as he actually had a hard time even sensing her once she broke his line of sight. It was like he needed the visual shape of her to tell her apart from any other animal or tree - which would explain how she snuck up on him in the first place. He'd have to watch out for that.
"O'Connell, you getting any readings?"
"Negative, sir. No bogeys in range."
There was a general shift of mood as the small group of men tried to wind down from 'ready to fight to the death'.
"Is that… lemonade?"
"With ice-cubes, in soda glasses, on Pandora? Thank God I'm not the only one seeing that."
"Forget the lemonade - is that a… jelly elephant?"
"I wouldn't call that mess an elephant."
"Hey!" Harry snapped, mildly offended. He'd seen it in a book once when he was a kid.
Complaints aside, they're all used to his conjured food by now. They make sure to drink the water they brought with them and snack on some rations before cautiously taking some time enjoy the food that was all taste and no substance.
Except the gelatin elephant. Harry's never actually had jelly before. The elephant tasted like it.
Less than a month (and a well-deserved bawling-out) later and Baker has accepted that Harry is probably safe enough to go out on his own (or given up on him in disgust, it's hard to tell). Harry's reflexive magic is strong enough that even if he's caught off-guard, he can generally get away from danger (or stop it, or shield against it) with little more than a thought, and he's passed all recognition tests on flora & fauna that must not be touched under any circumstances. That doesn't mean he can't still trip into some or get shot by others - but if he's running ahead like an idiot, having a guard along won't exactly stop that. His guards are reassigned to the scientists who need to move about in the wild again, gathering new resources and doing their tests to fulfil contractual field hours.
Doctor Li is one of the few (JJ was another) to deliberately request Harry as an addition to the usual guard. From the the clench of her jaw and the white-knuckled grip she kept on her bag the whole time, he figured she thought she'd get better protection? He spares a moment to pity her. Maybe he should tell her about the Harry Potter effect?
…Nah. She looks miserable enough.
Harry himself, more than a little alarmed by how 'high' he'd gotten from the combination of built up magic and endorphin release from his run, had pushed for and gotten one of the shelter rooms inside the mountain. It wasn't perfect - his magic still replenished itself - but with greatly reduced background radiation it did at least happen a lot slower.
When he's not out exploring or with a group, he tries to keep himself contained inside the mountain. Tries to keep himself in check, to be more aware of changes to his own state of mind. For everyone else's sake, as much as his own.
Fear and magic. Still not a great mix.
The work inside the mountain continues moving at a decent pace, considering the small equipment they have (but also Harry's ability to keep it perfectly repaired and sharpened) but the issue of not having enough unobtanium starts to become a problem.
Both Baker an an RDA person have been trying and failing to negotiate the re-opening of even a single, minor mine. An industrial-sized interstellar gateway calls for some pretty titanic-sized avalonium structures. The tiny chips found inside the modules and even just on the ground around them are fine for small things but not nearly enough for what needs to be done. They may just hollow out a mountain for nothing at this rate.
And Harry… he starts getting headaches.
Harry sighed as he stood in space and summoned another beetle. With a flick of his fingers, the beetle shivered into a button and a thread was conjured to bind it to the last button in line.
He kind of wished he'd been binding them length-wise from the start. It was going to take forever to finish the bridge with them all on their sides.
"Can you believe that the beetle-to-button transfiguration has been on the Hogwarts curriculum, unchanged, since 1279?"
His eyes stung, so he kept them on his work. A bit of her bushy hair was visible just at the corner of his vision.
"This is gonna take you ages."
Ron. Behind him. Munching on something that crunched.
"It originated because wizards never used buttons, you know. They had sealing and sticking charms for their clothing, even for the seams - but as Muggles wore buttons more and more, a wizard began to stick out and it was considered vital that everyone know how to fashion buttons in a hurry. Beetles were everywhere and as transfiguration was easier and more reliable than conjuration, the spell was created and taught to children at the first opportunity."
"Does Pandora even have beetles?"
"What?" He asked, not quite daring to turn around. How would Ron know that name?
"Oh, honestly Harry-"
He turned, but they were gone. He was alone, standing in space, his bridge of buttons barely begun and most of the ones leading up from Pandora were missing.
-and snapped awake, an ache in his chest like he hadn't felt in a long time though his eyes were dry. His head hurt and his body wanted to go back to sleep but he…
He forced himself out of bed, tapping his tablet to get some music playing.
He needed to get back to work.
Nobody in the camp is actually trained on mining operations. There might be some up in the ISV but when Harry asks if there might be some unobtanium still lying around from the last time work was done, the answer is a solid 'probably'.
"Will they let us use what's in storage?" He asks Baker later, whose face says everything about how likely that would be.
"Otherwise, we could steal it." Harry suggests. A bit of pressure in the back of his mind lessens, even as the pain radiating from his ears to his eyes and down his jaw spikes.
"Steal it. A few hundred tonnes of raw ore, and the equipment to move it. Without them noticing."
"We don't need the equipment." Harry gestures at the closest module and it floats obligingly into the air. At the resulting explosion of muffled cursing from inside it, he gently puts it back down. "And I can make us mostly invisible." He adds, demonstrating on himself and Mike. The disillusionment charm still feels like a cracked egg and is still imperfect - but at night? It should be enough.
"We can make multiple trips if we need to. As soon as the mountain is bigger, we can hide it inside. Or just take a little, transform it, then go back for more. Would they even notice?"
"If we break into the base's storage, yeah." One of Baker's aides points out.
"I can unlock any door," Harry demonstrates again, a flick of his fingers locking and unlocking the near-by module. More muffled cursing happens, with someone shouting at him to cut it out. "But I don't know how a digital security system would register that." He admits.
"We can test that." Another aid observes. "Or, just start at the nearest mine-site instead. Odds are low that they're still being actively monitored."
"Do tests, put together a plan." Baker orders them all. "We don't want to step on too many toes here, but we can't dance forever. Keep me posted."
The tests show that when Harry alohomoras a digital lock linked to an ID-registering security system, the system flags it as authorised access - without an ID. Something that should be impossible but which doesn't flag any automated alerts. Unless a human visibly checks the record, it shouldn't cause a problem.
They also test his 'lift capacity'. Normally, there are two limits to the spell. Personal skill and object weight. Gorged on magic and very familiar with the spell, they run out of heavy things for him to test.
After Harry remembers that people can actually be carried by the enchanted object (thank you, OWL exam) they re-work the plan to allow for any security detail to be invisibly seated on the ore filling the giant transfigured tray they intend to use for transport. Transfigured, because it needs to fit inside the opening to the mountain.
They spend a few nights doing dry runs with waste rock from an old, exhausted mine.
It… goes fine.
Then Harry's headaches become crippling migraines.
Then the doctors find growths inside his skull.
(…right before posting, realises this is one of the worst places to leave a story at Christmas. _)
In happier news, did you know that Astolat created a macro that can translate work from scrivener (via Word or Open Office) into a format that Ao3 can understand?
She is amazing and I love her. Thanks to her, I've resumed cross-posting my old stuff. Once I'm up to date, updates will be simultaneous on both sites.