Disclaimer: (In the spirit of Crimson Starlight)
Shana: *trussed up to chair in magical ropes*
Snape: *gargling with Listerine* Gah!
Shana: You know, there is a small problem with this situation…
Snape: *spitting* And what is that?
Shana: *shifts in chair, attempts to wiggle fingers* Kinda hard to type trussed up like this.
Snape: Hmmm… *waves wand*
Shana: *ropes shift so hands can reach keyboard* Well, damn.
Snape: *prods* Back to work!
Shana: *mutters* Alright, alright! I own only Shaluinn. Everything else belongs to Rowling. And a special thank you goes out to my dear friend Kim whose assistance has been invaluable in making sure my terminology and timelines are accurate as well as helping me keep canon characters in character, though her spell-checking leaves something to be desired.
Chapter 4: Base Jumping, Dark Lord Teasing and Other Dangerous Sports
Shaluinn hurried to catch up with the deceptively fast-moving Minerva. Falling into step with the elder woman the redhead asked the question that had been nagging at the back of her mind since the house elf Dobby had told her McGonagall was Headmistress. \"How long ago…?
Minerva looked up at the somewhat taller, heavier woman beside her for a moment, before turning her attention forward again. \"Just over a week ago now.\"
The redhead nodded silently. I received Albus\' letter after he was already dead. He may very well have sent it the day he was killed. Damn wizarding post takes forever to go cross-continent let alone overseas.
Sooner than anticipated, Minerva stopped before a large, arched mahogany door. Pulling her wand from her sleeve, the Headmistress waved it as she murmured, \"Lemon drops,\" so Shaluinn could hear. \"You may set your own wards and password now.\"
Turning in a circle in the hallway, the redhead voiced the obvious question, \"At the risk of sounding seriously stupid Mist-, Minerva,\" she caught herself, \"where, exactly, are we?\"
\"The Sixth Floor.\" Returning the wand to her sleeve, the elder woman preceded Shaluinn into the room beyond.
The younger woman followed quickly, entering a medium-sized room that was clearly meant to be her office. There were little in the way of furnishings other than a simple desk, several chairs, a couch and the requisite fireplace; the particulars of decorating clearly being left to her. Shaluinn dropped her bags as she gave the room the once-over.
Her gaze veiled, Minerva silently observed the younger witch taking in her surroundings. The question that had been prodding her since meeting the redhead rose to her lips as she watched Shaluinn turn her attention, apparently, toward the fireplace. The words died on her lips, eyes widening as the redhead strode straight toward the wall to the right of the hearth, the black-clad figure\'s right hand sweeping up before she smoothly walked straight through the solid stone.
A frown marring her features, the Headmistress stepped up to the span of stones, tapping five in succession with her wand, pulling back as the wall opened up into an archway. She proceeded through the portal, the way automatically closing behind her. Eyes narrowed, she swept the room beyond with her gaze, finding the figure she sought, kneeling, legs folded beneath her, before a bank of floor to ceiling windows. She frowned again in confusion as she caught Shaluinn\'s whispered words.
\"I am so going base jumping!\"
\"Merlin\'s beard! How did you do that? And what is \'base jumping?\'\"
Shaluinn turned her head sideways to acknowledge the Headmistress, before turning her attention back to the incredible view. The redhead\'s new quarters overlooked the cliff and displayed a commanding view of the surrounding area. She had every intention of taking a flying leap out one of those windows, at some point, with a parachute strapped to her back. Gods, I am such an adrenaline junkie.
Tearing herself away from the view, the redhead rose to her feet with a grace and fluidity that her frame belied. She noted the various pains and protestations of muscles with the movement but staunchly refused to acknowledge them. Turning her back to the windows, Shaluinn addressed her new employer.
\"Do you know what parachuting is?\"
\"Of course. Muggles jumping out of planes with tents of fabric billowing above them to retard their fall,\" Minerva snapped impatiently, wanting her other question answered more.
\"Base jumping is the same thing, except instead of jumping out of a plane, they jump off a cliff, or a tall building, or,\" she hooked a thumb over her shoulder, \"out one of those windows.\"
\"Oh dear,\" that hand fluttered up toward McGongall\'s throat again.
\"Don\'t worry Minerva, I have a bit of reconnaissance to do before I throw myself out any windows,\" she soothed the woman. \"As to your other question, how did I do what?\"
The Headmistress blinked several times as she collected her thoughts, having been effectively derailed by the other woman. She crossed her arms in front of her, hands tucked up her sleeves, before responding.
\"How did you know where the portal to these rooms was, and more importantly, how did you enter without tapping out the stone sequence? I have yet to see you wield a wand,\" she spoke carefully, a hint of suspicion coloring her tone.
Instantly realizing her mistake, Shaluinn reacted instinctively, as she would had she offended one of her Masters, years of living within the Japanese martial arts culture, and the resultant conditioning, taking over. Without preamble, the redhead fell to her knees, folding her body down on itself, prostrating herself before the Headmistress. As she dropped, her back remained straight as a board, her hands, pressed together, slid forward on the floor, the touching index and thumbs forming a circle where her forehead pressed to the floor, fingers together but splayed flat against the hard wood.
\"I cry your pardon, Mistress. I did not mean to bring shame or dishonor upon your House.\" It was something that she hastily remembered not to make the statements in Japanese.
Utterly unprepared for this response, McGonagall\'s mouth dropped open in an \"O\" of shock. Quickly regaining her wits, Minerva closed her mouth with an audible click, eyes fixed on the still-prostrate form before her. \"Oh, for Merlin\'s sake, girl!\" She strode forward to bend at the waist and tug on the younger witch\'s shoulder.
Responding to the touch more than the voice, Shaluinn lifted her head and turned her face to look up at the elder witch, concern etched across her features. \"Mistress?\"
McGonagall tugged again, visibly keeping her irritation at bay. \"Enough!\" she snapped a bit more harshly than intended, stepping back as the redhead slowly rose to her feet. \"You are my colleague, not my servant, Shaluinn,\" Minerva chided gently. \"You have neither shamed nor dishonored my House or this school. I am simply curious how you found the portal and gained entrance.\"
\"I apologize. The mistake was mine,\" the redhead responded as she bowed deeply to the elder witch. Anticipating the forthcoming protest, Shaluinn cut it off. \"Bowing is the traditional manner of greeting and showing respect in Japan. The deeper the bow, the greater the other\'s position and the respect due. There are only so many of my mannerisms I can change in a short time. I tend to fall back on old habits when thrust into new, and somewhat alien, surroundings. I did not intend to upset you.\"
\"It\'s alright, my dear. You took me by surprise is all,\" Minerva admitted.
Righting herself, the redhead looked past the Headmistress to the solid-appearing wall beyond. \"You are wondering about my use of wandless magic.\" Shaluinn turned her attention to the elder witch as Minerva nodded. \"The full explanation would be a bit long and drawn out so I will give you the short and sweet version.\"
Turning to face Minerva fully, the redhead continued, \"For the past twenty-plus years I have been living as a Muggle. Up until six months ago I did not even own a wand. Over the years of being without, I\'ve acquired some ability for wandless magic.\" At the elder witch\'s quirked eyebrow she elaborated.
\"Apparently, even if you try to deny magical heritage, if you have enough latent power, it will manifest unless you learn to control it, as I did, minus the focal point of a wand.\" Shaluinn snapped her hands down at her sides, fingers spread, as identical ebony wands dropped from her sleeves into her waiting hands. Heading off the next question, she smiled ruefully, \"I\'m ambidextrous, at least with a wand.\"
The redhead brought her hands around, palms up, and opened them, offering the wands for Minerva\'s perusal. Again sensing the next query, as the Headmistress lifted the one from her left palm, she continued. \"They are identical, 13-inch ebony shafts made from a single branch with a core of \'Yamata no Orochi\' heartstring. I suspect Albus\' gave them to the wandmaker with me in mind, and already paid for, as they are simply priceless and I could never have afforded them otherwise.\"
The Headmistress spared the redhead a sideways glance as she turned the deceptively simple, undecorated shaft in her hands before returning it to its owner.
Shaluinn brought her arms down parallel to her sides, palms facing in. With a flex of her wrists outward, and fingers spread, the wands snapped back into her sleeves. \"The best part, is that you can\'t \'Accio\' these wands without knowing their names.\"
\"Indeed,\" the elder witch agreed. \"That is a handy trait.\"
\"Minerva…\" the redhead started and faltered, suddenly fumbling with her words, her cheeks growing pink with repressed embarrassment.
\"Oh, stop pussy-footing around and have out with it!\"
The taller woman let out a light chuckle at the Headmistress\' tone. \"Would you tutor me in Transfigurations?\"
McGonagall was visibly taken aback by the question. \"Whatsoever for? I don\'t understand.\"
Shaluinn ducked her head as she answered, looking a bit sheepish, the expression strangely out of place on the younger witch\'s face.
\"Like I said, I\'ve only had these wands for about six months now and, frankly, that\'s not enough time to become proficient again, even with Albus Dumbledore as your tutor. The wandless stuff I\'ve been doing without really thinking for a long time, but this,\" she gestured like she was waving a wand, \"no longer comes naturally to me.\"
Minerva reached out to place a comforting hand on the redhead\'s arm. \"Of course, my dear. I would be delighted. I\'m sure you will prove a quick study.\"
Shaluinn just barely reigned in the flinch that came in response to the unwanted and unexpected touch, covering the slight movement by smiling brightly back at Minerva. \"Thank you.\"
With the younger woman\'s admission, the question that had been nagging at McGonagall came back to the forefront. When she spoke, it came out as more of a statement. \"Albus\' \'trips\' this past year… He was visiting you!\"
Shaluinn simply nodded in answer, not correcting the woman, who was only partially right.
\"Well! That does explain quite a bit.\" The elder witch let that revelation settle over her for a moment before literally shaking herself. \"Oh dear me, I\'m forgetting myself. These are your quarters,\" she made a sweeping gesture to take in the suite of rooms, \"and your classroom is right next door. There are also both boys\' and girls\' bathrooms on this floor.\"
\"Would it be possible to add changing rooms to those facilities?\" the redhead asked, already thinking ahead to the coming school year.
\"Of course! We will make that one of your Transfigurations projects,\" Minerva answered with a firm nod.
Shaluinn couldn\'t help but smile as the elder witch\'s enthusiasm was infectious. \"Now that that\'s settled, where is this, \'Burrow?\'\"
\"Ah, yes, that.\" Minerva considered the taller woman for a moment. \"I\'m still not so sure about this, but if Albus believes the skills you can impart are necessary…\" she did not finish the thought, her tacit approval evident. \"We should go, as the day is drawing on.\"
The elder witch let Shaluinn lead, again slighty unsettled at the way the redhead simply made a gesture and walked through the wall. She tapped out the opening sequence and followed.
They paused outside the newest professor\'s office, long enough for Shaluinn to drop a wand into her left hand and silently weave several layers of wards, as well as changing the password.
\"You don\'t seem to have lost your skill at that,\" Minerva observed, as she began to move away.
\"The past six months I\'ve spent primarily on relearning that,\" Shaluinn answered. \"I thought they were the most relevant aspect of my education that needed work.\"
Minerva did not answer, merely nodding as she led the way back to the Headmistress\' office, allowing the younger witch a chance to take in her surroundings. When they reached the stone gargoyle she spoke, \"Panthera Leo,\" loud enough for the new professor to hear.
Once back in her office, McGonagall shot Dumbledore\'s portrait her own variant of the \"evil eye,\" before stepping up to the fireplace.
Minerva turned back, \"What was that?\"
Shaluinn spread her hands out toward her sides, \"I\'m glad we\'re obviously taking the Floo Network. My Apparating and Disapparating skills are, shall we say, a bit rusty?\"
\"We shall have to work on that as well then.\"
As Minerva reached up to the jar on the mantle, threw a pinch of Floo Powder into the flames, called, \"The Burrow!\" and stepped into the green flames to spin out of sight, Shaluinn turned to stick her now visibly pierced tongue out at Albus Dumbledore\'s painting. The redhead laughed at his answering rude gesture and threw her own pinch of powder in, shouting clearly, \"The Burrow,\" stepped in and spun away.
A/N: Yamata no Orochi (八岐大蛇; often called Orochi in English) is a monster in Japanese mythology. Orochi is alternately described as an eight-headed snake, dragon, or even a Japanese version of the Lernaean Hydra. It is one of the most well-known monsters in Japanese myth. It was slain by the god Susanoo after he was cast out of Heaven.
The Lies You Tell Yourself by Shanastay