Kallist hovered nervously in the front of the classroom as Jace made encouraging noises and tried not to let his cloud see that he was nervous, too, at having to stand up in front of all of the first-years while Professor Potter lectured on amortals. He was pretty sure Ral already knew, though. His friend had poked him three times already, and Jace wondered if it was because Ral was trying to figure out if he was doing all right, or if he was trying to distract him from his nerves.
Ral, of course, was only too happy to spend ten minutes in front of the class explaining exactly how he'd created Kallist. He'd hopped onto the professor's desk and was talking and gesturing excitedly with his wand. "Thank you, Mr. Zarek," Professor Potter cut in. "To bring all of this together, we used to think that amortals were essentially spirits or energies bound together with magic, and banishing them would unbind those energies, but that they'd eventually pull themselves back together. All of that still appears to be true, but thanks to Mr. Beleren's recent, er, adventures, we've been able to refine our understanding. The energies that create a particular amortal will generally reconstitute themselves after that amortal has been banished, but their memories will be lost. All right, I'd like you to give me twelve inches on the amortal of your choice by next week. Class dismissed."
Jace found that his legs were trembling slightly. He let out a breath—and Kallist, who'd been doing a fantastic job this whole time, flickered and dumped a bucket's worth of water onto his head. Sputtering, Jace pushed his wet hair back out of his face, and turned to glare at Ral, who was laughing at him.
"Jace?" It was Professor Granger's voice. Jace turned quickly.
"Sorry," he said. "Kallist kind of gets nervous sometimes."
"Oh, that's fine," Professor Granger said distractedly. "Jace, you have a visitor."
He blinked at her. "What?"
Professor Granger was playing with her sleeve nervously. "Someone who—I think you'd like to see."
"Um, all right." Why was she so nervous? Her anxiety was contagious, and Jace felt himself shuffling back and forth. "Can Ral come, too?" He knew that was stupid, but something about her expression made him feel as if his world was about to rock on its axis, and Jace had had more than enough of dealing with world-changing events by himself.
Pause. "Yes, I don't see why not. Ral?"
"Okay." Ral sounded doubtful as well, and a little defensive. "Sure."
"Thanks," Jace murmured to him as they followed Professor Granger toward her study.
"It's no big deal," Ral said, with a shrug, but Jace thought he caught a quick smile at the corner of Ral's mouth.
There was a woman standing in Professor Granger's study, looking out the window, her white hair bound into a single simple plait at the back of her neck. She turned as they entered, and Jace put a hand to his head. There was something so—oddly familiar about her, but he couldn't figure out what it was.
"Jace?" she said softly. "Hermione, he won't recognize me—you shouldn't have—"
Her voice echoed, resounding, in Jace's head. Stay there, Jace. Be quiet. Don't come out. But the hair was wrong, and he'd felt her—"Ranna?"
A hand went to her mouth. "You—you do recognize me?" she said faintly.
"But you're dead," Jace said uneasily. "I felt—I felt you—" His voice was shaking. She wasn't a ghost, but Ranna wouldn't have left him, would she? All he remembered about her were fleeting images, a sense of safety, and—pain. Her voice screaming in his head.
"I thought you were dead," Ranna replied quietly. "The Death-eaters tortured me, Jace." She put a hand to her white hair. "See?"
"But you didn't die," Jace said slowly. "But then—but you must have known I was alive!" Pain rose in his throat. He hadn't even known who Ranna was, all he knew was that he'd trusted her more than anyone in the world.
Apart from a slight shiver, Ranna remained motionless at the other end of the room. "The Ministry decided it would be best if I lived as a Muggle," she said. "I was not informed that you were alive. Since the alternative was prosecution, and since I didn't really have much magic left anyway, I complied."
"Prosecution?" Jace echoed.
Ranna's eyes flickered to Professor Granger. "You haven't told him?"
Professor Granger looked at the floor. "I didn't know until recently," she said calmly. "And then I didn't want to tell him, because I didn't want to get his hopes up that we could really find you."
"I see." Ranna took two steps forward and then knelt to look Jace directly in the eyes. "Leading up to the Wizarding War, there were certain elements of the Ministry who believed that Harry Potter wouldn't be able to defeat Voldemort, so a number of other measures were attempted. I led one of the teams. We were trying to see if we could raise a child with a talent similar to Harry's connection to He-Who—Voldemort."
"And that was me."
Ranna nodded, a short little jerk of her head. "Yes."
"Then you're not—"
"I'm not your mother, Jace. I'm sorry."
Rubbing a hand across his eyes, Jace sniffed. "Then I'm just an experiment."
"Hey!" Ral put in. "You are not just anything, you idiot! Besides, experiments are cool!"
Jace had to laugh at that, and he was feeling slightly better by the time he turned back to Ranna. "You say you're not my mum, but I—remember—" Her voice. Her arms. Her warmth. "I remember you being my mum," was the best way he could put it.
Ranna gave him a sudden smile. "I tried. We shouldn't have been doing what we were doing, Jace. We were all very scared. But I did want you to have a normal childhood—I was trying to let you have that. But I never meant for you to think of me as—"
Jace's lips were trembling, even though he was trying to make them stop. "Well. You fucked that up," he said finally, then remembered that Professor Granger was here, and he'd probably get in trouble.
"What?" Ranna asked.
"I do. I did. I cried myself to sleep wanting you. I just." Jace sniffed again. "I don't care why, I just, I want my mum. I—" He wasn't supposed to be getting upset, but to his horror, there were tears overflowing down his face, and Ral put an awkward hand on his head. "Please? Don't you want me?"
"Oh, Merlin," Ranna said, and then he was in her arms, and he was sobbing, and so was she. "Yes, of course I want you, I thought they'd killed you, my little boy, I thought you wouldn't—"
Her words devolved into incoherence. Jace rested his head on her shoulder, and Kallist swooped down, spitting lightning. "Kallist! It's okay. This—this is—she's my mum," he sniffed.
"Oh!" Ranna exclaimed. "What—hello, little friend."
"This is Kallist, he's my, um, my pet, I guess." Jace waved a hand to Ral. "And this is my best friend."
There was a moment of startled silence. "Oh, yeah," Ral said, just a heartbeat too late for nonchalance. "Yeah, I'm Jace's, I'm Ral. Nice to meet you, Ranna."
"And later you can meet Elspeth and Nissa and Chandra and Gideon!" Jace exclaimed, suddenly realizing the possibilities. "And I can show you my classrooms! And everything! If—if you want to see it?"
Ranna nodded, stroking his hair back from his forehead. "I want you to show me everything about you, Jace."
A/N: Thank you all for reading! This story was a blast to write, and it was really fun to watch people's reactions as it unfolded. FYI: there IS a sequel in the works, but it's still in pretty early stages, so it might take quite some time to get it polished enough to start posting.