Prologue & Chapter 1
"And the Valar drew unto them many companions, some less, some well nigh as great as themselves, and they labored together in the ordering of the Earth and the curbing of its tumults."
– The Silmarillion
That is, all of the Valar, save for Námo.
The Judge of the Dead chose but one companion.
Clothed in pale flesh, emerald green eyes, and hair as dark as a starless sky, this companion had seemingly appeared from nowhere.
Or so the other Valar thought.
Only Námo and his spouse Vairë the Weaver were aware that this being had not been selected. This being had willingly come from farther than imaginable in the vast and unknown nothingness whence the Ainur had first sang the Earth into being, all to follow the grimmest Valar of them all.
Until this Ainu appeared, the Námo and Vairë had thought all Ainur had themes. When one Ainu's theme was fire, another's was water, others' crafting, healing, compassion, emotions, dreams… Námo himself had a theme that concerned life, death, and judgement. Every Ainu had a theme, and with that, countless variations and songs to expand and enhance that theme. That was how Ilúvatar had created them.
Yet this Ainu was an anomaly. This Ainu seemingly had no theme. No name. No knowledge of any tune save the Ainulindalë, the universal Music of the Ainur.
Námo desired no help, especially from a themeless Ainu, yet as soon as this stranger with glowing green eyes appeared before him on Arda, he Knew, from the bottom of his heart, that he had no choice but to reluctantly accept this Ainu as his companion.
Námo called this companion, or rather, follower, merely that: satar. Others of the Valar altered the title to 'Sataressë' for semblance of an actual name, or 'Nurundil,' meaning 'Death's Friend'.
After having been given free reign over souls by Ilúvatar himself, Námo worked in fashioning the souls of the Eldar and Atani, that is, Elves and Men, his satar by his side, learning to weave souls.
And after the First Children were awoken by Ilúvatar, so too were their souls, and Námo's true work started. By this time, his companion was an almost constant presence.
Together, each one balanced out the other. Whereas Námo would pass judgment upon souls upon the call of Manwë, his companion would spread the other souls that still had a chance at redemption and place them ever so carefully back on Arda.
The themeless Ainu had a knack for picking up others' songs. So in the precious spare time not spent harvesting and scattering souls, Námo's satar spent learning from other Valar.
Nessa the Dancer was the first to call Námo's companion 'Sataressë'. The Dancer saw the newly christened Sataressë as a friend and would confide things she would never confide in her own companions much less fellow Queens of the Valar, for she was the least of them. Sataressë listened patiently and sympathized; Nessa, for all she acted carefree with her deer, had many sorrows and hurts.
She taught Sataressë to run among the deer and a song that made one fleet of foot. Though never able to truly keep up with the Vala, Sataressë was nonetheless glad to have found a friend in Nessa, and given a label that remotely sounded like a name. Running among the deer and Nessa's own companions felt so free. And it made Sataressë able to finish duties all the more quickly.
When off duty and unable to find Nessa, the satar wandered to Yavanna, Giver of Fruits, to learn different properties of flora. From there, Sataressë coaxed an old, large tree to grant a single, small branch. After all, what was one small branch out of thousands? Yavanna, having seen Námo's satar asking one of her creations – children – for what essentially qualified as a limb, disapproved and didn't speak to whom she had now dubbed Nurundil, and by extension, Námo, for a long time.
By then, the satar had taken the precious living branch to Yavanna's husband, Aulë, Smith and Lord of Earth, to learn of how to fashion all things physical. Delighting in all things crafting, Aulë readily demonstrated how to create many things. After practicing on several fallen and dead branches between duties involving ferrying countless souls, Námo's companion finally began to carve the branch that had been willingly given.
When Yavanna saw and felt the power of Nurundil's end product, the knots in the branch carved and tapered into strength and elegance she grudgingly acknowledged it to be a piece of work almost to rival her husband's.
Aulë's zeal for craft had apparently caught on; various items made from melodies learnt from the other Valar began to appear around the Halls of Mandos.
It was Vairë who took on her husband's satar next, hoping to pass on the craft of weaving. The result, however, was not a story as the Vala had expected, but cloth that shone like the stars and was liquid to the touch. When Vairë queried as to what the product was, the only reply was a mysterious smile and vanishing with a swish. Though Námo knew what it was, even he could not see his satar in the occasion the cloth was produced and worn. Half parts irritated because the cloth managed to hoodwink him and half amused at his wife's bewilderment, Námo informed Vairë of the item's properties so that she may weave it into his satar's story.
But all this was done across an indeterminable amount of time, for the satar dutifully spent the most time in the Hall of Mandos, at Námo's side.
In brief moments of respite, Námo's companion would work on a stone that had been discovered during the times spent with Aulë. It was transparent, yet black. It was nothing beautiful, and when Námo commented so, his companion gave a small smile.
"Beauty matters not. Not all that glitters is gold, Seron," was the simple reply, before the satar returned to depicting something on the stone.
Being referred to as 'seron' briefly took Námo aback. Nobody had ever referred to Námo as a friend. He himself had called his companion 'satar' for countless ages, "heartlessly never bothering" to give his companion a true name, as his sister had once told him. Irmo and Nienna called him 'Brother,' yes. But no one had called him 'friend'. Not once.
But Námo almost immediately recovered his composure and replied that the stone was still no *Silmaril, and nothing drawn on it would bring it remotely of comparison.
He was surprised for the second time that day when his satar retorted, "Even your brother, Irmo, the Lord of Dreams, could not make me dream of imitating something so dangerously beautiful."
[*Silmaril: a jewel made by Fëanor, an elf. There are three silmarils, and they caused their creator and his sons, and elves in general much grief.]
Námo Knew of everything that would be except the fate of those who lay in the freedom of Ilúvatar. And his satar was no exception, for his companion had not returned to Ilúvatar's side after helping mould Arda.
Námo had Known that his companion would not choose to dwell in eternity with the other co-creators of Arda in Valinórë.
So Námo was unsurprised when his long-time companion came to him, seeking rest.
"I have been here a long time, and I grow weary. I am no Ainu; long has it been since I gave up that identity. I have done my part in creating and protecting Arda." These were no complaints. Merely statements. "Now that Morgoth has been vanquished," Green eyes fixed themselves upon Námo's own eyes. "…Let me go."
Námo had to fight from closing his eyes in resignation.
"Seron." The voice was gentle, but pleading.
Námo had seen this coming. He really had.
Námo, known as Mandos, Chief Counselor to Manwë, Keeper of Souls, Judge of the Dead, should not have felt grief.
But Námo, as dispassionate as he was renown to be, treasured his companion on almost equal ground with his spouse; almost like his child.
But he Knew that this one would be born once again to be great. Despised and glorified in equal parts, life full of tragedy and danger. He Knew that his satar would triumph, but it would be a hollow one.
A… Hallow one, if one had to word it specifically.
And Námo Knew that their paths would cross again.
That was the one thought that comforted Námo as he nodded, the shell of his companion fading, leaving only a glowing soul behind.
As Námo carefully cupped the soul in his hands, a tear slipped down his nose and landed on the soul.
"Forgive me, firstborn Istari of the Maiar."
Námo placed the soul among the souls of Atani, Men, to be reborn.
"Till we meet again, Seron."
Of Dubious Dreams
Harry Potter stirred, feeling slightly uncomfortable. The sun was shining directly in his eyes, which was odd, since he and Ginny usually closed the curtains before going to bed… and since when had his bed felt… grassy?
When the last thought registered in his head, Harry jolted himself upright. Where was he?
Shielding his eyes – a part of his brain noted that he didn't have his glasses on – from the bright sun, Harry took inventory of his surroundings. Grass… grass… grass… and more grass.
Well. It didn't take much deduction to see that he was in a field of grass. A bloody damned big one too. He couldn't even see the end of it.
Next, Harry looked down and examined himself and nearly jumped out of his skin.
It wasn't so much that he was as naked as the day he was born that shocked him.
It was that he… was a she. At least, that was what the two lumps of flesh on his chest told him, and after decades of marriage, Harry considered himself no stranger to female anatomy.
Sighing with no little exasperation, Harry flopped back down in the grass.
This had to be a dream. Either James or Albus had slipped their uncle George's dreaming potions into his soup last night, and it was marvelously, or rather, horrendously past the expiration date. That was the only explanation.
Why. Why. Why, why?
Sodding George. And Fred, when he was still alive and kicking. After all, he and George had both worked on the potions that made dreams customizable.
That last thought made Harry's disgruntled line of thinking screech to a stop.
The dreams were customizable.
Harry perked up. Even if it was way past its expiration date, the potion must still retain some of its properties, he mused.
And if this dreamscape consisted only of grass and stark nakedness, it was a very boring dream indeed. And Harry Potter didn't do boring. He had been an auror for over half a century, and even if he were on his last legs before retirement due to boredom, he wouldn't stand for even his potion induced dreams to be boring.
He leapt to his feet, mildly surprised that he felt more nimble than he had for decades. Then he remembered it was a dream.
He wasn't too embarrassed that he was bare-arse naked; after all, this wasn't the first time he'd woken up unclothed, with perfect vision, alone. He'd experienced it once before in the almost-afterlife with Dumbledore. And the alone part helped to assuage some of his embarrassment. After all, when he woke up, he could always hex his sons six ways to Sunday… He knew some creative ways to humiliate his sons.
Though it was slightly more worrying that he was a woman in this dream…
Maybe he was having the midlife crisis he'd never had…? Did wizards get those? A… three-quarter-life crisis?
Shoving a somewhat [read:particularly] disturbing thought from his mind, Harry looked around once more, chose a random direction and started walking.
Then he thought, to hell with walking; this was his dream: he'd bloody well run if he wanted to. He'd never get tired anyway; it was a dream. Nothing like the nightmarish visions back when he'd been in his teens, when the connection with Voldemort had still existed. This was a potion-induced dream! Even with degenerate properties, it had to be still somewhat customizable.
Surprisingly, Harry found running great fun (that is, after getting used to the rather uncomfortable wobbly and bouncy sensation on his chest, of course. He was extremely grateful that he wasn't a woman in real life). Previously, he had never found the act of running very enjoyable; probably came from years of using it to run away from something or someone. But running, now, felt freeing. At the speed he was currently going, it actually felt somewhat similar to riding a broomstick. Except it was grounded.
Harry heard the trees before he saw them. Upon hearing them, with a lurch, Harry was reminded of the whispering voices behind the Veil in the Department of Mysteries. Pushing decades-old memories aside with an effort, Harry stopped at the edge of the forest. The trees were huge; easily taller than the trees of the Forbidden Forest, and were amass with whispers. He tried to discern what they were saying, but they seemed just out of reach of his understanding. They reminded him of something that seemed… before…
Shaking his head and muttering about consequences of pranking with expired potions under his breath, Harry cautiously walked into the forest.
Sure, these trees dwarfed the trees of the Forbidden Forest… but hey, this was a dream, what harm could he do by exploring? And he'd never gotten to try out this particular Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes product. Now was his chance, even if it turned out to be ages past the expiration date, judging by how the dream was turning out to be.
Harry looked down at his feminine hands. Clenching and unclenching them, he hedged a look at a nearby tree. His eyes (were all eyes with 20/20 vision this keen?) immediately picked out hand and footholds. After a moment, Harry shrugged. Why not?
With a running start, Harry practically flew up the tree. At least, that's what it felt like to him.
Stopping and crouching on a branch that was some forty meters high, for the first time in this dream, Harry grinned. Maybe he wouldn't hex his sons to kingdom come after all.
Shifting his footing on the branch, Harry eyed an adjacent branch, considering its distance.
Feeling reckless for the first time in decades (could all dream potions make you feel and think more youthfully? He could get used to this) Harry leapt from the branch to the slightly higher branch; he felt a swooping feeling in his stomach when he almost thought he was falling, but his fingertips latched onto the branch like vices until he was able to swing and acquire a strong grip on the branch with his other arm. Spotting another tree, Harry tried again, this time aiming for a branch of about the same level. It was like the jungle gym he'd sneaked off to, to avoid Dudley and his gang when he was a kid. But better.
He swung again, and again, and again. Harry whooped, he hadn't had this much fun since he'd taught his grandkids how to ride brooms!
Feeling invincible (this was a dream, after all) Harry swung towards a tree that he belatedly found he'd misjudged the distance of. His fingernails scraped against the bark…
…and he tumbled down through some fifty meters of leaves, canopies, and thin branches, his fall finally broken by a particularly large branch.
Grimacing, Harry slowly sat up, hand on his lower back, the body part that had most painfully come into contact with the tree branch that had broken his fall.
"Urgh… Bloody hell, George, dreams aren't supposed to hurt…" Harry gasped, with a voice that sounded more like his daughter's than he cared to admit.
Decades of auror instincts kicking in, Harry took inventory of all his injuries; scrapes, bruises-to-be, splinters, and gouges from some vindictively sharp branches. If this were reality, Harry knew he would not only have had broken ribs, but a broken spine as well. Harry very nearly growled.
After that mishap, he really wanted his wand. He felt safer with it. After decades with it, it was safe to say it was like another limb.
The dream-adrenaline had worn out, and Harry was grumpy again. He hurt all over, and he felt naked. Oh wait, he was naked. And he was a female.
"Sodding dream potions…"
If only he could wake up.
"Bother George… Bother James and Albus. When I wake up from this dream they'll definitely regret – " he was interrupted from his tirade by a clicking sound behind him. He immediately turned around and found himself face to pincer with an acromantula.
Harry's eyes widened.
Now he really needed a wand. Otherwise, this dream would quickly turn into a nightmare.