Well, less than six months between updates. That's a step in the right direction, I guess
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or the books that they came from. They are the creations of JK Rowling and Tamora Pierce. All that is mine is this particular scenario that I am putting them in.
It was very early in the morning by the time that Arthur got home.
He came in and took his shoes off as quietly as he could. Most of the kids were still sharing rooms, and if one of them woke up it usually meant that they would all be up in a matter of minutes. They really needed to build more onto the house...
Despite his best efforts, he heard footsteps on the stairs and in the hall before he had even put his shoes away. But it was only Molly, peering through the dark kitchen at him.
Of course Molly had heard him come in. Even if she hadn't been waiting up, she'd slept as light as a feather ever since Bill was born. He managed a smile for her, and then sat down at the table
"Did you find..." Molly began, but Arthur shook his head.
"Nothing," he told her. He didn't want to say that the people on the streets two nights ago had described people with robes and white masks. "Not a trace of him anywhere. Even tracking charms didn't come up with anything. We're going to start widening our search range tomorrow morning."
After a few seconds, he heard her start bustling around the counter, probably putting on tea. "Did you find out anything from his family?" she asked. Her voice sounded a bit strained. He knew that she was worried too.
"They left him home by himself," Arthur said. He didn't really want to tell her this part either, but he felt worn out and had been keeping his opinion about this to himself all day. "It was already getting dark out, and they all went out without him, and when they got home he was gone. They didn't even tell anyone that he was missing, either."
"Well," Molly began, trying to be fair. He'd known it would be hard for her to understand that they wouldn't even bother looking for a child they'd been taking care of. "It's a bit of a tough spot for them, isn't it? They probably wouldn't have been able to think of a way to get word to Dumbledore or the Ministry, and it's probably best to not get the muggle Police involved in this…"
She trailed off, probably seeing the answer in her husband's still-slumped shoulders.
"Their nephew is missing," he told her, "and all that they would do is tell us to get off of their property."
Behind him, Molly stayed quiet.
Arthur pulled out the picture that he'd been given, a school yearbook picture that had been the only one less than five years old. It was a muggle photograph, a frozen image that would have excited him under different circumstances. But now...
It was a picture of a legend that had until now been faceless, save for a few glimpses of a young couple and a photo of a wiggling, smiling baby still in his mother's arms that was in the prophet years ago. Now, all that Arthur could see was a boy, with a too-thin face, too-big clothes, and smile that really wasn't anything more than a twist up in the corners of his mouth.
"He's younger than Ron," he said, without turning his eyes from the photo. He sounded oddly casual, even to himself. "They'll be in the same year at Hogwarts."
Molly came up to him then, and put her hands on his shoulders.
Cheeseman Street, Summersea
A world away, Harry Potter had no idea of the commotion he was causing.
Even if he had, it probably wouldn't have meant much to him at the moment. Still sitting on the sofa with Moonstream, he was having a hard enough time keeping up with what was happening around him. All that was getting through were Briar's words and a single thought.
They'd said yes? They were letting him stay here?
A huge wave of relief swept through him, and all the tension in his body started to drain out. He didn't really know what was going to happen next, but at least he had somewhere to stay now, and even if they didn't' necessarily want him, they at least didn't mind enough being there enough to say no…
They were still talking, but he could barely understand it anymore. Everything was blurry too, and he blinked several times, rubbing his eyes.
They stopped talking.
"What's wrong? Are you tired?" He wasn't sure who that was, but he thought they were talking to him. Someone else said something quietly, and got his eyes working well enough to realize that everyone was looking at him.
It seemed like they were waiting for something from him, and he abruptly realized that he did have something to say after all. "Th-"
He didn't quite manage to get the words out before he slumped forwards.
His sight almost blacked out completely, but the sound of cries and a pair of hands grabbing tight onto his shoulders pulled him back onto the sofa and back awake.
Harry had still been more tired than anyone had thought, including himself. He'd lasted that long only because of his nerves, and now that he was finally starting to relax, it all came crashing back down on him.
They were talking again, but he couldn't tell what it was anymore.
Someone grabbed onto his hand and pulled him to his feet. Standing was better. Standing made him wake up more. He looked up, blinking, to see that it was the woman with red braids that was holding on to him. She tugged his hand lightly, and Harry blearily realized that she wanted him to follow her
"Come back downstairs once you have him settled," Moonstream called after them as they left the room. "There's more that I need to talk to you about."
Harry followed her through the house. It took all of his focus to keep his eyes open and stay on his feet, so he couldn't really do anything else besides staring stupidly at their still-clasped hands until she stopped in front of a door, turned the knob, and went inside. He managed to get in after her and then stopped, staring blankly at the room in front of them.
He wondered what they were doing here. It was a bedroom, but there was no way that it was meant for him. From what he was still awake enough to figure out, it was bigger than Dudley's, and had a bed that was almost the size of Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon's, and some windows.
"This is our guestroom," Tris explained when he turned to give her the same look that he'd been giving the room. "You won't be staying in here permanently, sorry, but it will do until we can get something cleared out for you."
That made sense, sort of. The Dursleys would have never let him sleep in the guestroom even if there wasn't even any room left in his cupboard for him to squeeze in, so he supposed it was nice of these people to let him use theirs, even for a just a little while.
"You should get some sleep," she told him, letting go of him (he wasn't sure why, but for a moment he wanted to lunge over and grab back on again) and going over to the bed. Confused, Harry looked at one of the windows. It was still the middle of the day.
"But..." he started, and then shut his mouth tight. What was he doing? He couldn't start talking back when he'd just gotten there.
She heard him, but she didn't seem angry. Instead, she told him, "I have no idea what you were doing to get yourself so run down, but I spent the whole way here wondering if you were going to fall over again. You need to sleep. Even if you do lie down for a while now, I think that you'll still be plenty tired enough to sleep tonight."
He still thought that it was strange that he'd be allowed to go bed now, but she was right about the falling-over thing at least. He was trying to stay still, but he could feel his body rocking back at forth a lot, and he was worried that it would rock too far soon. Maybe sleeping would make him feel better. Except...
Something was wrong, Harry realized suddenly, but he was too tired to remember what it was, and he couldn't make himself really focus on anything. Remember. Re-mem-ber. If he couldn't remember, that meant that he forgot it. Forgot. Forgot? Was he forgetting to do something?
Oh, that was right, he hadn't said it yet. He couldn't go to sleep before he said it. He pinched his arm a little to make himself wake up more.
Harry opened his mouth, and then closed it again. What was he supposed to call her, anyway? 'Aunt' probably wasn't good, since she wasn't actually related to him. Even if he did say Aunt, Aunt what? Moonstream called her Trisana, but then everyone had said Tris. That probably didn't matter though, since he knew that you weren't supposed to call adults by their first names unless they said it was okay. What was her last name again? He thought he remembered it – he'd been concentrating really hard when Moonstream told him their names – but he wasn't sure that he had it right. Should he try it anyway?
"Miss Chandler?" he tried quietly. She jumped a little and went tense, and he started worrying that he had got it wrong.
"Don't call me by my last name," she told him, going back to moving around the blankets and pillows. Then she thought for a few seconds and said, "or my first name either, for that matter."
"Then...what –," he stammered, bewildered.
"It's Tris," she told him, straitening back up and looking at him. "I don't like Trisana, Tris is fine. Do you remember the blonde woman downstairs?"
"It's the same with her. She'll want you to call her Sandry, not 'Lady Sandrilene' and all that. Anyway, what did you want to say?"
"Thank you," he said in a rush, "For letting me stop- no, stay...for letting me stay here." Talking was starting to get hard. "I won't cause any trouble. No, I meant – ". Wait, he'd gotten that last part right the first time. "Never mind," he mumbled, and then he thought about how that would sound and quickly added, "Not about saying thank you and everything else, about the..."
He knew that he wasn't making much sense, and she might think he was weird for talking like that, but at least he'd said it now.
She didn't answer right away, which might have worried him more if he wasn't fighting with all he had to keep from passing out in the middle of the room. Then she pulled the covers down and said, "It's alright. Come lie down."
Harry climbed into the bed. The whole room seemed to be spinning around him, do he just rested his head on the pillow, too tired to move around anymore. He only sort-of noticed when Tris pulled the curtains closed, but he did notice when she came back over to the bed, tugged his shoes off, covered him with the blankets and smoothed them over.
This feels nice, Harry thought, just before he fell asleep.
He hadn't meant just the bed.
Tris waited by the bed until she saw the boy's eyes flutter closed and his rise and fall of his chest slow down with his breath. It didn't take long; he was asleep in less than a minute. He hadn't even remembered to take off his spectacles. She reached down and gently worked them off. As Tris lifted the lenses away from his head, she noticed something in the semi-darkness. Between a part in his bangs, she could see something on his forehead. She frowned, and then reached back down to touch it. She couldn't make it out all that well with so little light, but she could feel the rough line bending sharply. Just as she was about to push his hair back, the boy shifted in his sleep. Not wanting to wake him, she pulled her hand away and left the room.
A scar? she wondered as she headed back down the stairs. It would be hard to tell without getting a better look at it, but the shape hadn't felt like a something that would have happened by accident. She thought briefly about his family, but then pushed it pulled her mind away. The obviously hand-me-down clothes and the way that the boy had talked had told her more than Harry himself had, but she still didn't know enough to make any assumptions.
They were waiting for her downstairs, some more patiently than others.
"What he said before," Briar started, before Tris had even made it back to her seat "about not knowing how he got to the temple, how do you know that he was telling the truth? If he doesn't like his family, what if he's lying about not knowing how he got to the temple or where he came from so he doesn't have to go back."
"That's actually a valid point." Daja said, frowning.
So nothing else that I've said is? Briar grumbled.
We can talk about that later. Sandry told him. Daja didn't let anything of the silent exchange show on her face as she went on to say, "How do you know that he isn't making things up. It would make this whole situation much simpler if he was."
Before answering, Moonstream turned to Tris. "Is he asleep?"
"He gave the same answers to us, and Lark was the one who questioned him," Moonstream said, now speaking to all of them.
None of them really had any arguments to that. They all knew firsthand how difficult it was to lie to their foster-mother.
"In fact," she continued, "even the things that he could tell us didn't make any sense. He told us the name of the place that he was from, but it's not a place that I or anyone that I have asked has ever heard of. He has never heard of Summersea before, either, and you were wondering about his accent yourselves."
Moonstream looked at them carefully. They all still seemed a somewhat doubtful, but they were all listening intently. She went on.
"I was hoping that while he's staying here, the four of you could keep an eye on him. Since this whole situation is a mystery, see what you can find out and piece together what you can."
"If you're so concerned about where he came from, why are you giving him to us?" Daja said. "Why not keep him at the temple so you can all watch him yourselves?"
"That's exactly what the problem with leaving him at the temple is. By the morning after he appeared every Dedicate was already gossiping about him. If we keep him there, it would only be a matter of time before the Mage Council gets involved."
The four of them looked at each other, and then Sandry asked, "How exactly was he found?"
"I found him," Moonstream informed her, "and I don't feel sure of how it happened myself. One moment he wasn't there, then there was a bright light, and then he was. On top of that, I was in a secluded, guarded area of the Hub at the time, so I doubt that he managed to get that far on his own."
Clearly, it didn't make any more sense to them than it had to her.
"Some kind of transportation magic?" Tris asked. She started fiddling with the end of one of her braids absentmindedly. "I've never heard of anything that worked like that."
"He isn't a mage," said Moonstream. "Myself and several other mages examined him, and we couldn't find anything. We even used methods that would have let us see it if he normally has magic but had just used up his power, and we found nothing."
Tris looked like was about to ask more about that, but then she seemed to notice something in Moonstream's face. "What are you thinking?"
"There was something else about what he told us that seemed…odd," Moonstream began, and even Briar was paying very close attention now.
"I mentioned before that he said he was being chased. His arm was bleeding when I found him. He says that he was hit by something that he thinks came from his pursuers."
"An arrow?" Sandry asked.
Moonstream shook her head. "The injury wasn't quite right for that. It looks more like a friction burn that tore the skin. He described whatever hit him as 'like a bullet made out of light, or something,' and I have no idea what that means, so don't bother asking. However, it does sound like a magical attack."
Briar was frowning slightly. "He's hurt?"
"It's not a serious injury, and it has been healing well. You should still check on it later tonight to make sure it doesn't become infected."
Briar was nodding, clearly making a mental note for himself. Tris smirked knowingly at Sandry. Even for someone as used to dealing with injuries as Briar was, he had let himself get sidetracked a little too quickly considering how reluctant he was acting at having the boy there.
Moonstream continued. "The possibility that he was attacked by mages is concerning enough, but he also told us that he saw that same sort of light coming not directly from them, or around whatever their target was, but from the ends of wooden sticks."
"Sticks?" Sandry repeated, as if she'd misheard her.
"Apparently, they all had one."
"What kind of magic would anyone need sticks for," Briar asked sceptically.
What kind of Green Mage questions that there is a value in anything made of wood? Tris jibed.
"Not any that I've heard of," Moonstream told him, "but I suppose that means we should pay more attention to whatever magic got him inside the Hub being so unusual."
For a minute or so, no one said anything. Briar grabbed a cookie off the tray that was still sitting on the table.
"So we have a boy who somehow broke into the Hub – when he wasn't even in Winding Circle to begin with – and has no idea of how he managed that, came from Trader knows where, is connected to some new kind of magic, doesn't know how to get back to his family, and apparently doesn't want to get back to his family..." Daja summarized.
"Anything else that you didn't tell us that we should know about?" Briar muttered.
"Just one more thing," Moonstream said.
"Of course there is."
"Don't use magic around him for a little while."
All of them stared at her.
"...Why?" Daja asked after a while.
"He doesn't know what mages are," Moonstream explained, "which is something else that tells us that he's probably not from Summersea."
That explanation didn't help things much.
"'Probably not from Summersea' doesn't even begin to cover that," Tris said, brow furrowing. "Where in Shurri's name would someone have to be living to have never heard of mages, even if that someone is still a child?"
"Lark didn't want to say too much right away, since he seemed confused , but she tried to find out what he did know without probing too deeply. She asked him if he knew what magic is, and he just stared at her and then told her that his Aunt and Uncle said that magic isn't real. So he is either from somewhere where magic is heard of, but not present, or he has been lied to."
Sandry, Daja, and Briar were all still a little stuck on 'magic isn't real', but Tris was already thinking things through.
"But you think whoever was chasing him was probably using magic," she said.
"Which would indicate that he was lied to."
"He's going to have to be told about it eventually," Daja told Moonstream. "There's only so long that we can hide it if he sees Briar's plants moving or Tris shooting off sparks, and we're not the only mages in Summersea."
"I did not mean for you to keep it from him indefinitely," Moonstream answered, "just for you to wait until he adjusts more to being here before you explain things fully to him. On the way here, he was looking around him as if he's never even seen outside before, let alone Summersea. I think at this point, he could become overwhelmed easily."
The four of them went quiet, sort of.
This is ridiculous, Briar said. One of us will slip up by tonight.
Sandry bit her lip a little while she thought. Maybe not. We usually try not to use magic for little things as it is. When we're here, me and Daja usually just use our magic when we're working, and even then it's not always that obvious unless whoever's watching can see magic. We could keep him out of the garden and Briar's workroom when he's in there, and as long as Tris can keep herself under control-
It's good to know that you all have so much confidence in me, Tris commented dryly.
You know what I mean, Sandry told her. Your magic isn't as easy as ours to keep in, and when it comes out it's a lot harder to miss. Anyway, it will only be for a little while.
"What about Chime?" Tris asked out loud. Briar's mood got even worse at the reminder about the glass dragon. He and Tris had been interrupted in their argument over the damage she'd done to his Shakkans. "She'll be a bit hard for him to miss if he's living here."
"I've thought about that," Moonstream admitted. "Maybe just being a bit vague about where she came from will work for now."
Tris's brow furrowed. "She came from a ball of molten glass because the glassblower was struck by lightning, lost control of the power he didn't know he had, sucked in random charms off of the street, and then somehow managed to not only create a sentient being, but a sentient being that was in the form of a creature that doesn't even exist outside of legends. How exactly am I supposed to be 'a bit vague' about that without even mentioning magic?"
"Well...maybe just don't say anything about where she came from, then."
Moonstream sighed, and closed her eyes briefly. "What I'm hoping for most by leaving him here is that you can give him as normal an environment as possible." When all four of them opened their mouths to comment on their ability to do normal, she cut over them with, "Notice that I said normal as possible." They closed their mouths again. "He seems to be very emotionally stressed right now, and it would be best for him to be able to settle down quickly. Keep an eye on him, and if whoever was chasing him before comes looking for him, deal with them in whatever way seems best to you."
After that, the conversation got lighter. They talked some about living arrangements for Harry, and more about what was happening at the temple, and before long Moonstream was heading out the door, meeting her guards in the street, and then on her way back to the temple.
"So, now what?" Briar asked dryly. It was just them now, and there was no need to speak through their bond anymore.
"Now," said Tris, "I suppose I start to see what we can have for dinner, and we wait for him to wake up."
If anyone is wondering why Briar seems so hostile to Harry being there, it's not that he has any real problem with him personally. His superficial reasoning is that he knows how much of a bother this is going to be. More deeply, it's because Briar still has a lot of his own issues to deal with from being in the war, and he can tell that whatever role he has with Harry is not going to end up be as minor as Moonstream suggested at the end of the last chapter. He also has some doubts about his ability to step up at this point (example: see Briar's attitude towards the idea of becoming Evvy's teacher in "Street Magic"). Also, if Moonstream had said 'Either you take him or he's ending up on the streets' he would have agreed more quickly, but he knows that if they had refused, the temple still would have taken him in. He'll come around tho :)
The girls agreed because more easily because Daja was a bit worried about Harry and could think more level-headedly about the whole thing, Tris could not have rejected him while he was there listening (too many bad memories from her own childhood), and Sandry…well, Sandry was Sandry.
So, I started answering reviews in PMs. There were a couple that I couldn't respond to because reviewers had PMs blocked on their settings (except I think SilverFoxQueen. I was on a trip when I got your review, and then I forgot to reply, and then it just got embarrassingly late. Sorry). I'm not going to go through those reviews now, because it's after 10 pm here and I still need to do research for an assignment and it will take me a while to dig out those specific reviews, but after this chapter I'll try to keep better track, so I can answer them and anonymous reviewers in my updates. Thank you to everyone that's been giving me support!
Speaking of reviews…I just figured out that about 73 people have this story +alerted, but I usually only get about 10 or 11 reviews a chapter. Moar plz? :D
Hope this update was somewhat enjoyable, and that it contains a minimal amount of grammatical errors.