Author's notes: Well, we're coming to the end of my pre-written chapters, folks. Next chapter only has 300-ish words till now, so I need at least 700-ish more to fit in the chapter length I've got going here. I hope you'd be patient, as I'm not really in the mind to do anything right now, even for RL work (being ill does that to me). And thank you so much for all the reviews, faves and follows you've given this story! I cherish each and every one of them.
Chapter note: There are many terms used in this chapter, which may continue to other chapters. The way the milaðen/jötnar use them is rather similar to how Japanese address people; so, a specific word denoting station in life or age. Unlike in Japanese, though, the milaðen/jötnar think that addressing a superior person (in station or age) as horribly rude, or even taboo, rather like in Indonesian/Malayan culture and language; in this case, they use the designation of the station/age as form of address. Please peek into the glossary below for examples and more explanations.
Aslakonnar: address title, pronoun: Their Majesty, Your Majesty (only for the womb-children of the ruling monarch)
Ðolu: pronoun: Their Majesty, Your Majesty (only for the ruling monarch)
Ðolúkonnar: address title: Their Majesty, Your Majesty (only for the ruling monarch)
Kip: address title: child (the age, not the lineage)
Losë: address title: referring to young adult
Moving: The Black Hole Residence, Kent, England, the United Kingdom; The neighbourhood park near the Black Hole Residence, Kent, England, the United Kingdom
10th October 2003
An argument – or rather, a proprietary contest, over me – between Amma and Andy is awesome, aweful, shocking, and the scariest thing that I've got the misfortune to be trapped in the middle of. They're scarier and much more lethal than Tom Riddle and Albus Dumbledore combined when duelling against each other at the atrium of the Ministry of Magic near the end of my fifth year at Hogwarts, somehow.
But then, considering the fact that Andy is a Black in nature and nurture and Amma has chopped more than one of the scariest man-eating monsters I've encountered into pieces and it wasn't her first time doing it either….
Well, still. Amma, coming here, just to fight with Andy over my care? I'm not a baby, for one! Andy has been "taking care" of me and my two Houses just fine, at that! And that, on top of taking care of Teddy full-time!
And where are those who are supposed to "guard and take care" of me? They should have spirited me away to wherever they've made a bolthole in! This serious verbal sparring – which looks like it is going to get physical soon – is bad for my health! It's terribly fortunate – or terribly convenient – that Teddy is not here at the moment, still at the non-magical nursery school we've enrolled him in.
`Aha! The school!` – I peek cautiously at Andy then Amma from beneath my fringes, then sidle as quickly as I can to the doorway that leads to my path of escape.
Why? Because I do not wish to attract both of their highly flammable attention, of course.
But now, it seems that both are no longer just exchanging insults and caustic remarks from either end of the kitchen table. It looks as if Amma is one insult away from vaulting over the counter to exchange physical blows with a fierce, incensed-looking Andy…
Who now has her wand out in attack position.
So I run, abandoning all caution.
And crash violently against somebody, who feels like a solid wall instead of a being of flesh and blood and bones. – Well, it's too late to rein my speed in by the time I notice anything obstructing the front door, anyway!
Too late to shake of my dazedness and escape elsewhere, too. Quick like a striking cobra from the nature documenter I watched with Andy and teddy last year, the living wall unbends enough to swipe me up into their arms.
Fortunately, it turns out to be Elder Rústla, my first contact with the milaðen, head of Amma's so-called "most special military force" and the spokesperson of their family group, who firstly got acquainted with me in Ýmirheim by taking me captive and cuddling my far-smaller other human-like form.
The "Potter luck" strikes again.
"Where are the others?" I ask, even as I squirm mightily in their embrace, silently demanding to be put back down. (I'm not even in my younger, human-like version that milaðen call… their? Our?… "warm-weather" form!)
"The others, who, Aslakonnar?" is the calm – infuriatingly calm – and soft response, even as the culprit cuddles me closer and pads their slow, leisurely way outside of the house.
"Your family, Elder Kilyari and the rest, Neville and Luna," I grit out. "Now put me down!"
"Rústla's family is mostly back in Ýmirheim," comes the explanation, half-sing-songed, as my captor crosses the front lawn, without loosening their embrace even a little. "Aslakonnar's… other caretakers… are with Kip Luna and Kip Neville, and we are going there. Rústla believes Aslakonnar would like to… get away, from the discussion inside?"
I snort, momentarily slackening my effort to escape. "Discussion, yes," I remark acerbically, with a heavy dose of sarcasm and irony. "With wand and fist brandished, of course, as disgussions always go. And they don't even think about me. What am I? A chair?"
Contrary to my expectation, Elder Rústla neither goes silent nor chastises me about my irreverence towards my mother and aunt. They laugh, instead. (Although, to be fair and exact, it's more a hearty chuckle than a chortle.)
And then they nuzzle into my mop of hair.
"Elder Rústlaaaa!" I whinge, mortified and acutely embarrassed. The feeling slides into a total if brief petrification when, quite clearly, I can hear Neville and Luna laughing – and it's definitely a great, booming, roaring chortle from both of them, this time.
Face flaming, I shove my captor's head away none-too-gently – and definitely not politely – and resume my effort to escape this cuddle-thirsty, touchy-feely, overly motherly lunatic. The effort doubles when, giving the general surrounding another wild look, I realise with quite a sinking feeling in my heart that we're somehow in the neighbourhood park now. No sane, self-respecting twenty-three-year-old human, male or female or neither or both, even an affection-starved one, wishes to be caught being carried and nuzzled like a baby in public!
"Behave, Harry," Luna grins, poking my nose with a finger, as my desperate gaze catches her twinkling one. "Or it'll be timeout for you," she adds in a sing-song voice.
I scrunch up the offended body part at the offender.
Neville is… kinder, in a way. Without saying or doing anything to me, although still grinning quite like a loon, he slashes and swishes and swoops his wand in the all-too-familiar pattern of Notice-Me-Not charm, ending it with a rather playful jab at me and my on-and-off gigantic captor.
But then, he ruins it by proclaiming in a grandiose tone and flamboyant bow (that he must have perfected quite in secret with how Malfoy-esque it is), "There. Now you could freely and safely indulge your inner child without shame, my prince."
"Princess," Elder Rústla reminds him mildly, and Neville the Git nods with apologetic seriousness.
"Traitors, the lot of you," I growl, lacking any witty comeback to parry the unexpected tag-team effort.
"Aslakonnar should be careful with that proclamation," now my captor says in a slightly more serious and sterner tone, to me. "It is not long yet, in our minds, when the last war passed, and it was a… ah, what do these people call it? A… civil war, for the most part."
I let out a sigh. – The War; a civil war, indeed, from all the accounts that I have read in the library back in Ýmirheim, also from snippets of people's recollections, and of course the physical evidence that lingers even until now, one of which led me (quite accidentally, literally on the first step of my former selfs birthland) to the finding of my adoptive baby sibling.
And to the fact of my former self's death, at that.
"Sorry," I mutter to the grassy lawn far down below, slumping in Elder Rústla's admitedly cuddly hold. If I felt abashed to the point of horrified flailing a second ago, now I feel both horrible and horrified for a far more serious matter, and it (surprisingly or not) feels worse than before, especially since it affects my three interlocutors just as badly. (With Neville and Luna, I suspect, remembering how we found little Laumir in that ghost town.)
"You're still learning, Harry," Luna kindly points out, as she and Neville seat themselves in a pair of swings that are conveniently nearby. Then she continues, with a lighter tone in her voice that seems to be aimed both at me and my captor, plus a softly teasing smile, "Now, what got you into the same trap as before? I thought you'd learnt about not getting into ambushes?"
I let out a huff, half smiling (with much reluctance) while jabbing my pointer and middle fingers at Elder Rústla's muscled forearm. "Amma," I confess quietly, with a lingering melancholy from a second before. Then, in a much more indignant voice (and feeling), "And Andy, too. They've been fighting like hungry cats over a day-old fish, all morning, and it's over my care; of all things! I can't believe it."
And from the surprised – no, flabbergasted – looks she and Neville sport, they can't believe it, either.
Apparently, it's just Elder Rústla who can believe it, judging from how amusedly they chuckle and how fondly exasperatedly they now tuck my head under their chin and tustle with it that way, as though I were five and recently discovered of doing some cute childish mischief.
Fortunately, or because they wish to avoid my returning temper and make use of my fast disappearing melancholy, my current, pretty exasperating captor soon elaborates about their opposite stance to the sentiment that we, the three humans, share.
"They are mothers, and such is the purview of mothers, to defend their children and their right for those children. It is vexing and baffling when one is the child, oftentimes, however well the explanation might be, but it usually becomes clear after one becomes the mother, in time.
"Ðolúkonnar is not an exception to this, and the feeling has only been made more acute after the disaster that befell the… Ðolu womb-children at the end of the war. Aslakonnar being reborn and returned home has truly been an unlooked-for boon, especially after such long, difficult centuries. In fact, Rústla was immensely surprised when Ðolúkonnar permited Aslakonnar to visit here, under such paltry guard at that. And then Ðolu found out that Aslakonnar fell into a stranger's care…."
"Andy is not a stranger! And it's my choice that–."
"Please hush and let Rústla continue for a little while more, Aslakonnar. The problem would be much clearer, Rústla hopes, with all the details laid out." The huge, strong hand presses lightly against my mouth, and I fall silent, wide-eyed.
No Milaðen ever interrupted me, except for my mother. And she rarely did that, too.
Shock and confusion turn into grave understanding as Elder Rústla then says, "Ðolúkonnar was… angry, very angry, when they found out, by accident, from… Losë Eðlenstr; in a moment of irritation-driven carelessness in Losë Eðlenstr's part, or so Rústla believes."
It turns into horror when they continues with, "Rústla would like to apologise for an earlier deception, as needed as it was. The previous team has been detained in Ýmirheim until further notice, since none of its members even tried to prevent the takeover of care from happening. We can only hope that Ðolu will be merciful to them all.
"Rústla thought that Aslakonnar should not be burdened by this matter. However, it then became clear that Aslakonnar… should know, if only so that Aslakonnar would understand why."
"Amma won't hurt…," I stutter. But then my mouth clicks shut without Elder Rústla ever having to shut me up again. Because Amma will hurt the Contingent, definitely, I know that well, although I haven't known her for a long time. And all the Contingent's fault is letting me live my life.
I feel sick.
Elder Kilyari the agile grannie, Eðlenstr the aggrevating but well-meaning overgrown child, the people who have been keeping Andy and Teddy and Neville and Luna safe for me, whom I haven't bothered to remember even the names of….
I free myself from Elder Rústla's arms in one strong, sudden jerk, then speed down the streets back home, quicker than I ever did.
Amma entrusted my care to the Contingent. But Amma also entrusted their lives into my care, by assigning me to teach them how to survive and blend in on Earth. And they're not going to die because of me and because Amma is being a stupid git.