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Title: Between Here and Now and Forever
Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters: The Founders, various OCs
Rating: PG-13
Summary: The Aurae Aurelii arrive.

Chapter 1
Master Founders Post
Chapter 22

Helga did not sleep that night. Sindri had convinced one of his associates that he needed the space in order to experiment with his plague-carrying undead frogs. (In reality, the frogs seemed not to have survived the blast, which Helga was glad about. Her father was not nearly so pleased.) Ari, meanwhile, was busy puppeteering an illusory version of Helga, which he led about like a distrusted guest and occasionally had very misleading conversations with. This had been Grimhildr's idea, in order to keep Bjornson from realizing she was busy elsewhere. Helga was worried about when Hrafn would notice the difference between her and the illusion, and it kept her working quickly.

She finished her work either very late at night or very early in the morning, although it was difficult for her to tell exactly what time it was, since the sun rose too early and set too late here in the North. It must be late, though, because when she poked her head out, nobody was stirring.

"Grimhildr," whispered Helga, nudging the girl. She had fallen asleep sitting up on a bench against the wall, and she made a thoroughly snarly sound when she realized she was being asked to wake up.

"Not interested," she muttered, crossed her arms, and went back to sleep.

"Oh come on, I haven't even told you what I want you to do!" said Helga.

"Stop being so loud," she muttered. "I have sleep to do."

"I just need your help in testing this," said Helga. "I can't go down the mountain and check on it or they'll get me."

"No hiking," muttered Grimhildr.

Helga sighed. "You've forced my hand, Grimhildr." She waved her wand, and the bench unceremoniously dumped Grimhildr into a heap on the floor.

"Ow," she whined. "What?"

"I need you to see if the trees come when I call them," said Helga. She took Grimhildr by the shoulders and propped her up against the wall. "Come on, it'll be fun!"

Grimhildr looked grumpy, tired, and decidedly unconvinced. "Fine."

* * *

Grimhildr plodded sullenly out of the cabin and towards one of the four bridges over the moat. She had never really got on with anybody in her family -- Myrgjol and Eydis, her sisters, were irritating know-it-alls at best, and Mother had no time for anything but her work. Father... well, she had thought things would be better if she lived with him, but he merely found Grimhildr useful. Which was, admittedly, a step up.

Nevertheless, it appeared that this clearly-insane half-sister who appeared out of nowhere from England, of all places, was not going to be an exception. So far she was bossy, patronizing, foolhardy, and utterly focused on rescuing her idiot friends. Also, she could pass for human on exactly no sleep, which Grimhildr thought was unnatural and suspect.

Still, maybe they could go somewhere nice when she and Father got out of here. Odds were Father wouldn't want to go anywhere nice, so she'd have to go on her own, but Grimhildr could take care of herself, probably, even though that sounded absolutely terrifying, so maybe she could just get lost in the ensuing chaos. She nodded a tired hello to the berserker guarding the gate, and handed him an apple. Bjornson's berserkers were immune to monetary bribery and prone to flying into a bear-rage at the terribly confusing idea of counting, but they liked sweet things.

"I'll just be a few minutes," she told the berserker. "Just don't tell anyone, all right?"

"Apple! Yes!" said the berserker gleefully. Then he looked at her sadly. "Apple more."

"I'll get you another one when I get back," she sighed.

"Good more yes apple lady food," said the berserker agreeably. "Apple, apple, apple!" He began to eat the apple messily, and Grimhildr hurried away towards the trees. 'Apple' didn't even sound like a real word anymore.

Crouching to get a better look at the roots of the biggest tree nearby, she put her hand on the trunk and was rewarded with the definite feeling of... energy? Motion? Interest? She couldn't quite describe it, but whatever it was, this tree was being drawn towards the fortress.

It made her much more nervous than she had been -- not that she loved Bjornson and his allies, but she was betraying her father's patron as much as she was betraying her father's captor, and now it felt, well, permanent.

She felt a sudden breeze behind her and heard the crunch of shoes on forest ground. Startled, she turned to see a person -- a woman in warrior's clothes, wearing a sword and holding ...something in midair. A bridle?

Grimhildr realized it was one of the Aurae Aurelii -- no other sort of woman would dare show her ankles so wantonly, and nobody sane rode thestrals. Plus, there was the uniform, but anyone could have worn armor and clothes she'd bought or stolen. "Aurelia?" she said cautiously. Her father had always warned her not to startle armed men. (Or women, Grimhildr supposed.)

The woman turned to look at her. Grimhildr could hear the invisible horse at her side. "Aurelia Sheffield, yes," said the woman.

Before she could say anything more, Grimhildr blurted "Oh! You're Cliodna Sheffield! Can I ask if --"

"No," said the Aura. "I have been riding all night and I'm in no mood. Please accept my apologies. Have you --" A long yawn cut her off. "Have you seen two idiots in uniform?" she asked.

"...No," said Grimhildr. "Are they lost? You can stay at Bjornarbitholm --"

Aurelia Sheffield laughed sharply. "Yes, I'm aware. We were sent here."

Grimhildr's bubbly astonishment at meeting someone famous faded into a nauseous terror. She was probably here to contain the visiting thieves -- to hunt them down or something, as Grimhildr didn't think they'd been found yet. She was the Enemy. "Oh. Oh, of course," she said, trying not to sound terrified.

"Of course," said Sheffield. "Something wrong?"

"No," said Grimhildr, too forcefully.

"Right," said Sheffield. "Well, anything you can tell me about the mess would be nice -- and additionally, if you could help me track down those idiots --"

"They haven't been found, I don't think," said Grimhildr.

"My idiots? I should think not, I'd have known," said Sheffield. "They answer to Grummond and Vaurien, and if you can see thestrals -- no? Well, all right then," she said. "Fill me in, and maybe I can answer your questions."

"Fill you in on what?" Grimhildr asked.

Aurelia Sheffield looked faintly annoyed. "Whatever fool's errand the Council's sent me on this time. I understand they were Slytherin's spies?"

She didn't like this -- being helpful while working against an Aura -- three Aurae, if the other two ever turned up, and one of them was Cliodna Sheffield. She didn't understand why Sheffield couldn't see right through her, though. Still, Grimhildr could see no way out of it. "Thieves," said Grimhildr. "They took... something of my father's, I don't know what it does," she said. "It was Lady Ravenclaw and some transfigurator -- not human, he --"

"Oh, he's human all right," said Sheffield, sighing. "God damn it. I wondered why she'd pulled me out of a siege just to --" She cut herself off, looking at Grimhildr. "What?"

Grimhildr realized she was staring. "I've just never seen an Aura before. Is it true you defeated the forces of Koschei the Deathless all by yourself?"

"No, Alfhild was there too," said Sheffield, dismissively. "And there was this hag with a flying mortar, but mostly she got in the way. Anyway, he's still alive, so it isn't as though we accomplished anything. Bloody Horcruxes." This subject appeared to have made her grumpy, and Grimhildr was sorry she'd asked.

"Well, it's really impressive," Grimhildr said. "I'm Grimhildr Sindrisdattir, did I mention?"

"No," said Sheffield, who looked as though she'd rather not know. She started off in the direction of Bjornarbitholm, leading the invisible thestral along.

"Well, that is who I am," said Grimhildr. It occurred to her, suddenly, that she could tell Aurelia Sheffield about her father's stupid escape plan and Helga's trees and Ari's... general Ariness. It might even be enough to impress her with Grimhildr's honesty and resourcefulness. "Can I tell you someth--"

"Look," said Sheffield, "I've heard basically everything from starstruck kids over the past few years. Yes, we can always use more Auras, no, I do not have godlike powers, no, you cannot be my personal apprentice, yes, you will still have to defeat one of us in single combat no matter how sterling your other skills are, no, I will not fight someone specifically for you, no, I will not help you impress whoever you fancy, no, I am not interested if, Lord help you, I am whoever you fancy, and yes, I am exactly as wonderful and/or despicable as the rumors have it. That about cover it?"

Well, if she wasn't going to listen, Grimhildr wasn't going to shout. "Yes, I suppose it does," she said.

"Good," said Sheffield. "Wait! Stop!" she hissed, putting out a hand to keep Grimhildr from walking any further. Grimhildr frowned at her -- but, listening, she could hear talking.

"-- so then I tell her, I say, 'if you don't give me back my dolly I'm going to bite you!' and she just laughs in my face!" a woman was saying. "And she had horrible breath."

"Terrible," said a man, not sounding very sincere. "She sounds very dangerous."

"I'm just saying, I know how she is!" said the woman. "Wrong in the head. Evil."

"You were five," said the man.

Sheffield sighed. "Sounds like we've found them. Hold this, would you?" She handed Grimhildr the bridle and stomped off through the trees to find the voices.

Grimhildr looked at the empty air the bridle appeared to be attached to. She'd heard people who could see thestrals had bad luck, so she supposed this ought to be encouraging, but it was incredibly unnerving to be able to feel the horse's breath and hear it, but not see its face or ears. What if it bit her?

She overheard Sheffield shouting at the other two Aurae, and saw them approach through the trees. One was an irritated-looking woman with reddish-brown hair cut short like Sheffield's, and the other was a short, skinny man who was cheerfully making excuses to Sheffield -- at least, until she turned to him and shouted "Goronwy, shut up!" into his ear.

Goronwy shut up, but only for a moment. "I'm just saying," he whined, and then started up again.

"You could use Silencio," said the other woman. "I did that on the way here."

"Oh, Maelys, that's because you're a terrible sport," he tsked. "Oh!" His face lit up. "Clio! You made a friend!" Grimhildr realized he was looking at her, and suspected she was going to be the butt of some joke. She braced herself. "Congratulations!"

"Or I could just hit him," said Sheffield contemplatively. "This job calls for tough decisions."

"Might want to shut up, Grummond," said the other woman.

"You going to introduce us?" he asked.

Sheffield rolled her eyes, but Grimhildr supposed she might as well give them her name; it'd look suspicious otherwise. "Grimhildr Sindrisdattir," she told him.

At this he laughed. "We should get married! Then you'd be Grimhildr Grummond."

Something in Grimhildr snapped then; she'd had enough of being treated like nobody for years, and she was so tired, and somehow this joke proposal was the final straw. She dropped the thestral's reins, kneed Grummond in the groin, and stomped off, trying not to cry.

"OW! That's assaulting an officer of the law!" he shouted after her.

"I've always wanted to do that," said the other woman, Maelys. She sounded a bit jealous. "Can we buy her drinks?"

"If you've got the money," said Sheffield.

"Pfft, I'm not spending my money on some common brat, haven't we got an allowance for just in case?"

"Just in case someone hits me?" Grummond whined.

"Wait, does that count as defeat in single combat?" Maelys asked. "Is she one of us now?"

"If she is, so are a lot of other people," said Clio. "...Actually, that would really help with recruitment. I should run it by Lady A. I bet she'd laugh."

"Probably," said Grummond, bitterly. "It involves pain."

Their voices faded as she reached the fortress. Grimhildr sniffed once, wiped her eyes, and put on a bored face before returning to Helga's makeshift workshop. She supposed she'd have to tell her about the Aurae now.

* * *

While Goronwy was nursing his wounded pride -- and assorted other wounded bits -- Clio took a moment to look back where they'd come from. She'd landed out here because she'd mistaken the blonde girl by the tree for Hufflepuff, but even if she wasn't, they'd still better keep a lookout for oddities involving plants. "Maelys, go back that way a bit," she said, pointing. "See that really huge tree? Examine it and see if you can find anything odd about it. Report back to me in town. Well, such as it is."

"I'm interrogating a tree? What do I look like, a forester?" Maelys asked.

"What you look like is someone who's sworn to follow orders," said Clio, pointedly. "I think it's the uniform."

"Fine," huffed Maelys. She trudged away.

"God, she's a bitch," said Goronwy.

Privately, she agreed about Maelys, but Goronwy said that about most women who weren't prostitutes, saints, or nobles, so Clio wasn't about to agree with him. "They say the same about me," she said. "I try to take it as a compliment."

Goronwy looked at her for a moment, as if he was trying to work out whether she was serious or not. Finally, he said, flatly, "Don't."

That made her smile. She and Goronwy hadn't got on for years. "So, tell me what you've got on our three thieves," she said.

"Two," corrected Goronwy. "Hufflepuff's not inv--"

"Hufflepuff's not involved yet," said Clio. "This was set a month in advance. The lady in charge knew something was going to happen. And when her idiot daughter gets involved in some trouble, Hufflepuff usually gets sucked into it somehow."

"Fair enough," said Goronwy. "Ravenclaw was buying a lot of books, but that's nothing new -- I mean, she's been on the List of Interesting Readers since she joined up with Slytherin, and she always gets completely bizarre things, but nothing actually dangerous. I think her mum just likes to know what she gets up to."

"All right. And the rest?" she prompted him.

"Hufflepuff's got the usual stuff going on too -- she's... scarier. I mean, she's been on the list since it was created --"

"Really?" Clio asked. "I thought Lady A. had a soft spot for her."

"She was the first one on it," said Goronwy. "I think she owes Lady Aeaeae something big, and Lady A. wants to be able to collect when the time comes. Anyway, the books are uniformly scary --"

"What are they about?" Clio asked.

"Gardening, mostly. Trust me on this," said Goronwy. "The titles look innocuous enough alone, but..." He shuddered. "So she's definitely going to be an issue if she gets involved."

"Which she will," said Clio. "Anything else?"

He looked down at his notes and smirked. "Well, your lover is --"

"He's not my lover," snapped Clio, who was annoyed that gossip about the Godric Incident had got around to him.

Goronwy snorted. "Fine, then, your secret monster husband --"

She swiped the parchment from him. "All I'm trying to do is apprehend two thieves, recover the stolen property, and then do whatever bullshit our employer thinks is necessary to manage the situation. If I can be professional about this, maybe you could."

"Whatever you say, Aurelia," said Goronwy. She dearly wished she could just stab him sometimes. "You've got my notes."

She glared, then looked at the books Godric had been purchasing and borrowing from others' libraries. They didn't really seem like Godric's sort of thing. "...This isn't Godric's," she said. "You've got him mixed up with some other theorist. He does Transfiguration."
"He does," agreed Goronwy. "There's some stuff on Animagi there -- all rubbish -- and a bit of alchemy philosobabble about why you can't transfigure metals --"

"But half of this is Imperius stuff!" Clio said.

"I know!" said Goronwy. "More books for me to read and ban. Isn't it brilliant?"

Clio glared at him.

"What can I say?" he said. "I like my job."

"And I actually do mine," said Clio. She gave his notes back, practically throwing them at him. "This isn't Godric. Go back and double-check when you have a chance."

"I always do that," said Goronwy. "And while it's very sweet that you think you know him so well after -- how long has it been? Before you met me, I would hope. But are you sure he didn't do anything to your mind when you --"

"Silencio!" Clio snapped. "I'll keep your theories in mind. Thanks for the briefing."

Goronwy glared at her, throwing his hands up exaggeratedly as if to demand an explanation.

She smiled. "You can talk again once you've convince Maelys to take the spell off you. Might want to get started." She nodded at the path Maelys had taken into the forest, and watched with great satisfaction as he trudged off.

* * *

"Well?" Helga asked, as soon as Grimhildr opened the door. She looked surprisingly un-sullen, and Helga wondered if her insistence that It Would Be Fun! had somehow actually turned out to be true.

Grimhildr shut the door quickly, then locked it. "The Aurae are here!" she said.

"What, already?" Helga asked. "Bit early, isn't it?"

"All that happened was your stupid friends stole from my father," said Grimhildr. "And they did not even steal much, and well, what they did steal was hardly dangerous. I mean, they could've taken the plague-frogs. Why are the Aurae here?"

"Oh, this was all a set-up from the start," said Helga. "Hrafn told me his entire evil plan." She shook her head. "He has a lot to learn."

"You knew they were coming?" Grimhildr asked. "But we cannot possibly --"

"That's a very dangerous phrase," said Helga. "It gives me ideas."

"But we never agreed to this! Getting out of here is one thing, but the Aurae?" said Grimhildr.

"If I knew about this beforehand," said Helga, "don't you think maybe I might've fit it in somewhere in all that work we did last night?"

Grimhildr frowned. "But you were doing something with trees. I mean -- there was a recognition spell in it somewhere, and I thought --" She looked at the apparatus Helga had set up; the acorn and the unicorn hair were suspended in a thick glob of tree sap, which, if the spell was working properly, should be transmuted into a drop of amber by midday today. "I thought it was to make the trees let you through but not the berserkers."

"Oh, no," said Helga. "In fact, if we can find out where Rowena and Godric are hiding, and if they manage not to get themselves killed before midday, I think we all stand quite a good chance of getting out of this alive, in one piece, and in my own case, very, very smug. I have to say I'm looking forward to it."

* * *

Godric had drifted in and out of sleep that night, leaning against the wall of the moat. He had had enough presence of mind to keep a hold of Rowena, who had fallen asleep before him, but his sleeping self had only worried about keeping her above water, not preventing any potential awkwardness that might ensue, so when he finally awoke all the way on what he presumed to be the next morning, Rowena had her arms around his neck and was snoring, which he didn't think she would like at all when she woke up.

He was about to poke her shoulder in the hopes of perhaps waking her up, or at least dislodging her from his neck, but the sound of several people talking above them made him reconsider.

"...bears found them last night, but we thought we'd leave them there until you got here." This voice was definitely a Norseman -- he thought it was Hrafn.

"Thank you. But, why exactly did you need the Aurae, again? Looks like you caught them yourselves," said a man he didn't recognize at all. He sounded Welsh. Aurae? Godric tried not to panic, but failed miserably.

"Well, Lady Aeaeae said she'd send you," said Hrafn. "Besides, she didn't really trust us to keep Rowena for very long."

"Aah. Yes," said the unknown Welshman. "I've heard all sorts of things about that one."

"Oh, she's not that bad," said Hrafn, as if he had doubts about this.

"You're the second person I've ever met who likes her, then," said the man. "First one was her mother, and I think even she was lying. Her lips were moving, at any rate. You know how it is."

Godric felt Rowena clamber away from him, which was a bit of a relief. He looked down and saw that she was terrified. Aurae? she mouthed, pointing up at the illusory flames above them.

He nodded, and made a what-do-we-do? sort of shrug.

How the fuck should I know? was Rowena's mouthed response. Then, You go that way! I'll go... She hesitated, looking in the opposite direction. Never mind, I can't swim.

Fight them? he mouthed at her, making fists.

Rowena put one hand over her mouth, barely stifling a laugh. When she recovered, she mouthed, You? No way.

He glared at her, but he couldn't think of any good alternatives, so he stayed metaphorically silent as well as literally so, until something heavy hit the top of his head, at which point he said "Ow!" and looked up.

The flames had been rolled back to reveal the light of day. Hrafn Stigandrson, and the unfamilliar Aura -- a short, skinny man with dark hair -- were standing over them and watching. They had lowered a ladder, which was apparently what Godric had been hit by. It was simultaneously heavy enough to have hurt, and completely tiny from his perspective, and Godric just looked at it with a mixture of dismay and annoyance. It just figured that their captors would give him a way of getting out that he wasn't actually capable of. "You have got to be joking."

"Come on up, both of you," said the Aura Aurelius cheerfully. "I've heard so much about you! Now, where are your wands?"

"They don't work down here anyway," shouted Rowena.

"Yes, but they work up here," said the Aura. "Do I look stupid to you? Come on, get up here and give me your wand."

Rowena and Godric exchanged glum looks, and she clambered up the ladder. As soon as she had made it to the top, the Aura took her wand with a Disarming Hex. He helped her up, shaking her hand. "It's so lovely to meet you! I'm Goronwy Grummond."

"Fuck off," said Rowena, sullenly.

"Well, aren't we friendly?" said Grummond, conversationally.

She made no further attempt to fight as Hrafn bound her wrists behind her back. "This is for your own good, you know," said Hrafn.

"Now you," said Grummond to Godric.

Godric looked doubtfully at the ladder. "No," he said, flatly. "This ladder is made of toothpicks. Toothpicks for ants."

Grummond crouched down by the edge of the moat, pointing his wand at Godric. "I'm going to have to insist, Gryffindor. It's even charmed specially for you! Clio told me about your condition, you see."

"But magic doesn't work down here," Godric pointed out. "I don't trust it." He glanced at Rowena over Grummond's shoulder. She had gone from glum to confused, and then her face broke into a wide, terrifying grin. It was the nicest thing he'd seen all day, although given how the day was going, that wasn't saying much.

"Oh, no, it's just spells from wands and that sort of thing," said Grummond. "The long-term stuff stays put -- actually, it's quite an interesting setup they have here, I'd like to --"

Rowena kicked him into the moat, and he fell with a startled cry. Above, Godric could hear the sounds of scuffling, but for now he concentrated on dragging Grummond out of the water. "Give me Rowena's wand back," he told Grummond, who was pointing his own useless wand at Godric.

"Expelli-- Inflama-- CLIO!" Grummond shouted. He tried to kick Godric, and succeeded only in splashing around a bit as he dangled from Godric's fist. "HELP!"

"Let's try this again," said Godric. "Hypothetically, I could hold you under the water until you stopped kicking, take the wand from you, and leave, or you could give me Rowena's wand." He shook Grummond for emphasis.

"PUT ME DOWN! Fuck, fuck, fuck. CLIO!" He had a glazed look of terror on his face, which suggested to Godric that he was used to being in control of things. Godric rather suspected he had stopped thinking altogether, which was disappointing -- he'd expected an Aura Aurelius to be braver.

There was no time to get Rowena's wand back from a fear-frozen Aura, then. Godric looked up to see that Rowena was still struggling to get the rope off her wrists while Hrafn tried to keep her from escaping. No help there. "Fine," he told Grummond. "Yours will have to do for now." He took the wand Grummond had been threatening him with, climbed the ladder as quickly as he could (it did not feel safe in the least, but it didn't break) and turned Rowena's rope into rags as soon as he could reach the edge of the moat.

She broke free and immediately pushed Hrafn in. "That's for setting us up!" she shouted. She held out her hand to Godric, who handed her Grummond's wand. "I meant ...if you needed any help up," she told him as he hauled himself off of the tiny ladder.

He looked at her as though she had lost her mind, which was entirely possible, considering the way today was going. "You wanted to help me up?"

"Well, I mean..." She looked him up and down, and frowned. "All right, yes, that was stupid." She kicked the ladder into the moat, and waved her wand at it, slicing it in two with a spell. There were a couple of splashes, and some cursing in Welsh. "Hah! Let's let them soak. Come on, we should --" She turned, and the smile fell off her face.

Godric turned around. Clio was there, with her wand pointed at them. "Oh," he said. "Oh, er. Morning?"

Clio sighed. She looked extraordinarily tired. "You're under arrest, the both of you," she said, closing in on them. She wasn't looking Godric in the eye.

She was concentrating on Rowena, and much as Godric didn't want to, well... "Stupefy!" he said, sending the spell at Clio.

She blocked it easily, but hesitated in hexing him back. In that split second Rowena shouted "Confringo!" and Clio was knocked off her feet. "Run!" she shouted.

"Good plan! Sorry, Clio!" he said, taking Rowena's advice and fleeing. He didn't know where to, but surely anywhere was better than --

"Stupefy!" Godric heard Clio shout. He ducked instinctively, then realized that Clio probably wouldn't be hexing at him -- after all, he wasn't all that dangerous compared to Rowena. Rowena! he thought, looking back to see if she was all right.

He saw her on the ground, quite knocked out. Then Clio raised her wand again, and she was looking at him, finally. She seemed desperately sad. "Stupefy!" she said again, and Godric felt himself falling as everything went black.

Chapter 24

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