My Name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden.
Conjure by it at your own risk.
I'm a wizard. One of the strongest on the planet, when it comes to sheer metaphysical muscle. I've been called many things. Crazy, violent, loyal, quick-to-anger, mysterious… tall. And maybe I am those things, to one level or another.
And I know magic. Hell's bells, it sort of comes with the territory.
But even me, the crazy American wizard, who doesn't have any idea when to quit, the guy that's found himself the ant staring down a metaphorical T-Rex far too often, knows there are some things you don't do lightly.
One of those things is making a deal with a Queen of Faerie. Asking Titania of the Summer Court to enchant a cup so powerfully and so thoroughly that it creates a binding contract with anyone willingly placing their Name into the goblet that they find themselves bound to compete in a magical tournament for honor and glory, at risk of life and limb, is an insane endeavor. The price for that sort of enchantment was pretty steep, being that if you failed to participate, or even just weren't entertaining enough in the tournament, Titania could claim your access to magic forfeit, and leave you a regular old Average Joe, who knows too much, and has too many enemies.
It only gets worse when your Name, freely given to a creation of the Summer Court, is also gifted to the Summer Queen herself, putting you on her personal rolodex of people who can be completely and without hesitation submitted to her will.
The second thing you didn't do was a matter of respect, and some fear.
You don't treat Goblins like second class citizens without expecting a blade in your back, or a pair of hands around your neck. Not without having gone mad, or eating too many paint chips as a child. Even the descendants of those near perfect predators, their once fully fae blood watered down and diluted over generations, (perhaps as a result of living so long away from the Erlking, their patron, and his realm of the Nevernever, or perhaps because of interbreeding with humans or something else,) are not to be taken lightly.
And the third thing is just common sense.
You don't expect just anyone to defeat who may as well be the second coming of Kemmler himself, with just enough of old Adolf sprinkled on top to keep it interesting.
Certainly not a fourteen year old kid with more power than sense.
Now, I'd never had much gift for auguries and oracles, nor had I ever had a vision of things to come. So I didn't see any of that coming.
But when I found a large, sleepy-eyed Grey Owl sitting on my desk, holding a letter, cleanly punctured in three small holes by its talons, I did have just the smallest shiver of foreboding.
"It's mental, Murph," I snarled towards the hospital window, running a hand through my hair. My left hand.
Hey, old habits die hard. Mab had taught me well, in her insane Physical Therapy/School or Hard Knocks/Boot Camp of the Damned. The Queen of Air and Darkness had showed me it's never a bad idea to keep your right hand, the one that expels energy, at the ready. And if you have that hand firmly wrapped around your recently replaced staff, carved with enough complex runes to help you with whatever magic you ended up doing? Well, that was all the better.
"I mean, I'm having enough trouble keeping Chicago safe, and this guy wants me to leave all of that behind for some money?" Granted, a large sum of money, in gold that would be untraceable, should I melt it down and sell it in bars. Hell, it'd be untraceable anyway, coming from a completely separate society.
"Well, what exactly is the job?" Murphy asked reasonably, as small, cute, and deadly as I am tall, hawkish, and… deadly.
Well, that's a lie. Murphy's cuter than I am hawkish, especially with my new charmingly roguish scars, which thankfully didn't pluck out my eye in the process of being carved into my brow.
And she's far, far more deadly.
When I gave her a sour look for completely ignoring my incredibly valid point, she went on. "All that you've said is that it's somewhere in the UK, and that they need a wizard. What will you be doing?"
I grumbled something on the edge of coherence.
Giving me a firm, playful look from her hospital bed, (which did all kinds of interesting things for me,) I relented to Murphy's feminine wiles.
Darn blondes and their darn cuteness.
"They want me to teach a bunch of brats how to defend themselves." I groan, bringing the hand that had been tirelessly trying to give me a bald spot down from atop my head, and across my face, before settling my thumb and forefinger into a gentle rub at my tired eyes. The scars that still lingered from a close brush with a flamethrower offered an interesting texture on my tightly-closed lids. "I wouldn't know the first thing about teaching a class-"
"You taught Molly just fine," she cut me off pointedly.
Darn insufferable blondes and their insufferableness.
"And look where she found herself. I failed her, Karrin, and now she's less human than when we started. I wanted to teach her how to use her Talents, Murph, not drag her halfway to Crazy Town and then toss her at Mab." I sigh. "Those kids would be better off if I didn't go near them."
Before I managed to get around to feeling too sorry for myself, getting lost in the many ways I'd failed my appr… ex-apprentice, and current magical employer, (again,) Murph cut through the regret with a firm "Bullshit."
My eyes snapped up from the place they'd found on the floor, and right to hers.
For a moment. Then they slid to her cute button nose.
Eye contact is an intimate thing. It's not always loving, like when two drunken idiots get into fights, staring the other idiot in the eye the whole while. Not like looking into the eyes of the person killing you, or of the person you're killing. But whenever it happens, it means you're connecting with someone, be it for good or ill.
For wizards, or any practitioner of above average strength, there's the added intimacy of the Sight to whenever we look someone in the windows to the soul. We get a good, hard, indelible and unchanging look at who they are at their core, and sometimes what they may be, and they at us.
I wasn't afraid of Seeing Murphy. I'd Seen her already, to an extent. Sure, the Sight, even fully opened, isn't as thorough as a Soulgaze, when it comes to understanding people on a deeper level. But even so, it's as perfect as a Soulgaze in that facts can't be obscured from it. The Sight always cut to the heart of any matter, pierced through any veil, and showed the true nature of anything Seen. It showed the flow of energies, magical and otherwise. It showed a better understanding of everything, while Soulgazes only worked for other people. Or, well, anything with a soul.
It was like a magnifying glass versus a microscope. You'd get a good look either way, but the magnifying glass let you see a few things at once in detail, while the microscope gave you a perfect picture of a single thing at its most base level.
I'd already Seen Murphy. She was, in her truest, purest form, an avenging angel of justice and order. After working with me for a few years, her soul had been stained with the illegal and arguably immoral things she's had to do to protect those she was sworn to. But she fought on, as beautiful and strong as ever, despite her flaws and the things she had endured. The thing's I'd dragged her into enduring on my behalf.
I wasn't worried what I'd See in Murphy. I already had a pretty good idea, and on top of that, I knew her pretty damned well.
That didn't mean I wanted her to See me, though.
Murph didn't have the Sight. If she Saw me, it would be the only perfect, untouchable memory in her whole head. And despite how close we were, the years having each others' backs, the camaraderie, and what else seemed to be growing between us nowadays…
That terrified me. What if she saw something she didn't like? The Winter Mantle, the scars my death had doubtlessly left on my soul? Either of the two times I'd (temporarily) experienced it?
Or worse, what if she saw something she didn't like that was purely me? I'd known for a long time, I had a certain… Predisposition towards darker magics. Well, that's not completely true. I'm especially good at labor-intensive spells, because of my metaphysical endurance, and my real talent lay with thaumaturgy; drawing connections between two things, and forcing what happened on the small scale to occur on the big scale as well. The most well-known examples of this, by the vanilla community, at least, were voodoo dolls. Known for their use in causing pain, harm, misfortune, and sometimes death to those they were wielded against. Whether I liked it or not, thaumaturgy was one of the easier types of magic to do damage with, just under evocation and mind-magics on said list.
(That didn't make it inherently dark, though. It's more complex than that. Take a wrench, for example. It's a tool. Its purpose is for creation, repair, maintenance. That doesn't mean it won't bash a head in pretty good, if you decide to give it a whirl.)
On top of that, if I'm going to be honest, power in general had always been a bit if an aphrodisiac for my subconscious, and darker magics were all about instant returns on investment. Whatever it was, thaumaturgy, evocation, mind-magics, or something more esoteric, like binding a creature to your will by Name, like a Demon, or worse, a fellow person, it would present an instant plus after use. 'Hey, your enemy's dead.' 'Hey, this person is now so afraid of you they will literally do nothing but quiver in their boots whenever they see you.' 'Hey, you now have access to a sentient magical wrecking ball, or total dominion over this person.'
My subconscious can also be more than a little bit of a jerk, but if I told him that he'd give me some 'that makes you one too, idiot' crap again.
"Dresden," she said sharply, pulling me out of my self recriminating. "Did you hear a single word I just said?"
"Er…" My left hand resumed scratching and rubbing at my hair. "Something about how great I am?"
Murphy snorted. "More like how you're not completely useless." Her eyes softened momentarily, as did her voice. "Don't you think that in the world we're living in right now, those kids could use someone who's seen what you have? To teach them before they need to know? To give them a chance at fighting?"
"But Murph, you know Chicago needs me. The Fomor are getting worse, and-"
"And nothing," A bitter smile. "We managed for months without you. I think we can handle a school year, with a newly minted, lightsaber-wielding knight of God running around."
"I-" I had nothing to say.
She was right, and I hated it.
Months, unconscious on Demonreach, (my grouchy, visitor-hating sanctum,) followed by just a few days walking around as my own ghost, followed by Mab's attempts to kill- I mean 'prepare' me, for an Outsider threat, and to kill her daughter, Maeve, followed by yet more months on Demonreach, with nothing but a few rare visits from Murphy and Thomas.
And then, the whole Hades' vault fiasco.
In the past two years, a lot had happened. I'd become a father twice over, sold my soul to the least of any evils around willing to take it, given my dog, Mouse away, (granted, for a very good reason, and to a very good home,) chatted up angels, Fallen and otherwise, had a few scuffles with the former sort, had a talk with a Greek God about how similar we were, watched my apprentice become a literal force of nature, and fought extra-universal monsters intent on destroying all of creation.
Oh yeah. And I'd finally made out with Murph.
And on top of all of that, ranging from the life-alteringly blissful moments of fatherhood I'd managed to get the smallest taste of, to the painfully, impossibly, mind-numbingly complex, difficult, and dangerous sequences of events in which I'd more or less managed to save everything made, ever, from Outsiders, I hadn't gotten much living done. Sure I'd saved it, and the world, but I didn't get to really live in Chicago, in my city, very much at all.
I'd missed Chicago. I'd missed my home.
And now, I was being called off by some strange new wizard I'd never heard of in Britain, to babysit some kids for the better part of another year.
I didn't want to go. It was selfish, certainly, but I'd never claimed to be a saint.
But I had to. I couldn't just trust that they'd find someone else to do the job, and do it right. And while my track record with teaching wasn't the best, I did trust myself to show a bunch of kids what goes bump in the night, and how to keep it from bumping you off.
"You're right, Murph." I sighed.
"As usual," she smirked triumphantly, before hefting a sock full of diamonds in her hand, her eyes glittering a blue far prettier than any precious stone. "Now, let's have a good long talk about how this got in here."
I'd long been a subscriber to the Wile E. Coyote school of Suuuuuuuper Genius!
But there were times that the other side of the street was of use to me, too.
"Grow up, Harry!" She hollered after me as I fled from the bed-ridden, five-nothing girl, a fond smile on my, and if I had to bet, her, face.
Standing at the near end of the Whatsup Dock, so his toes were mere inches from the dirt of Demonreach, was a tall, thin, long-bearded and bespectacled old man.
He also seemingly unconsciously put out an aura of power that clearly said attack me, and I won't be responsible for your medical bills.
His eyes twinkled like stars, and aside from the aforementioned feeling of I'll kick your metaphysical ass so hard it'll pop out your ears playing across my senses, he seemed like a grandfather, smiling and unbowed after his many years on the planet.
Now, he didn't feel stronger than me. As I'd said, few out there were, when it came to strictly human practitioners. But that didn't mean he wasn't close.
And that didn't mean his talent felt, even from this distance, and with the interference of all of Demonreach's power, so refined that I wouldn't doubt he could singe the hair off a fly from a hundred paces without so much as warming the rest of it.
"Are you Albus?" I asked roughly, feet firmly planted a foot back from where the dock began. I'd put out a few feelers on the guy, when I'd decided I wouldn't sleep well after refusing if I didn't at least take a closer look at things. Not many people from my side of the pond knew him, and were willing to talk about him to just about anyone. A few had talked though, my grandfather and mentor, Ebenezar McCoy being a particularly helpful resource. What I'd found didn't exactly inspire confidence in my own abilities in a fight against him. So, I decided that I'd stay on Demonreach until I got a measure of the man.
Basically, what I'd learned through others came down to three things.
One, he was hands down the strongest wizard in 'Wizarding Britain,' though, maybe, (maybe) not the White Council, alive today.
Two, he was a master of Mind Magics, which put him high on the White Council's watch list, regardless of his place at the head of the 'Light' in Britain. Sure, what he specialized in wasn't the most destructive thing, seeing as his mind magics consisted entirely of ordering and defending his own mind, as well as simply peeking at another's thoughts. He walked the very razor's edge of the Third Law, but referring back to fact number one about this guy, and the bonus of his having countless wizards and witches who followed him fanatically, the White Council wasn't too keen on starting trouble with the man.
And Three, he was exactly what he felt like to my wizard's senses. A magical ass-kicking machine.
Maybe that's a disappointing third fact, but it's perfectly accurate. Just because he's the strongest and most well-renowned wizard in his 'Wizarding World' didn't mean too much to me.
A small quirk to his lips under his beard, and a brief nod of his silver-topped head. "Yes, that would be me. May I ask why you asked to meet here, rather than, say, the Accorded Neutral Ground? I believe the threat of your Queen's retribution would be a larger deterrent to any foul-play on my part than what you and this… I must admit I am unfamiliar with the terminology for some of the beings you deal with… Genius spirit? Can do to me."
"Genius Loci," I supplied, carefully eyeing the man no more warily than before. This man was dangerous, and he'd done his homework. He knew my town well enough to be aware of MacAnnally's, and he knew me well enough to be aware of my being the new Winter Knight.
And, from what I knew of his sort of wizard, they tended not to bother with any beings of the Nevernever, writing off the Fae, the... 'trueblooded,' I suppose, Goblins, and all sorts of other nasties we deal with from my side of the supernatural fence.
But he not only knew of Mab, (kind of a big name, in Faerie, granted, but still,) he also knew of the Unseelie Accords, Mab's brainchild.
Ugh. I'm going to have to not use that particular expression, considering. Picturing a Spirit of Intellect coming from Mab's skull… Not exactly a happy thought, considering the things it would know.
But the point was, he was surprisingly well informed for a wizard outside of the Council.
And knowledge was power.
What was worse than all of that, was that he knew exactly how dangerous he was, while I only had a really good guess. He had the upper hand in this situation, in experience, skill, information… everything but sheer power, which I only had as big a lead as I did in right now because of Demonreach's help.
But I didn't want someone that strong to think he scared me. Maybe he wasn't putting out the 'predator' vibes so many temporary allies and permanent enemies of mine had, (the two not being mutually exclusive,) but it still wasn't a good idea, just in case his 'kindly grandfather' thing was an act. Showing fear was almost never a good idea, on my side of the fence.
Or if this thing wasn't Albus Dumbledore, that would mean I especially didn't want it smelling blood in the water.
In recent years, I'd seen a lot of things, from illusion-weaving apprentices, to that one green-toothed Lady of the Sidhe replacing Georgia Borden on her wedding day, to freaking naagloshi, changing size, form, and sound at a moment's notice.
Bottom line was, it was hard to trust that anyone I didn't know was who they said they were.
"Can you bleed for me?" I asked gruffly. I'm sure that, as old as he was, he'd seen the 'disgruntled wizard' act before. That didn't mean I wasn't living it these days.
"Oh, I don't think that's entirely necessary, Mr. Dresden-"
"It is if you want me to work with you," I shot back before he'd completely finished. Blood looking human wasn't a guarantee of humanity, but it ruled out all sorts of things. Vampires of any Court, (save Jade, seeing as I knew nothing about them,) faeries, goblins, ghouls, and a host of other nasties. It wasn't a promise of humanity, but it was as close as there was for a single test.
Nodding affably, almost as if he was humoring me, he waved a thin, knobby stick, and in the air before him hovered a small, simple dagger.
Whoa. I mean, there were ways to fake things like that, maybe it was an illusion or something else designed to trick my physical senses, but if it was what it looked like, he'd just pulled matter out of the Nevernever without opening a Way, and put it together how he wanted it.
After confirming with my wizard's senses that it was not an illusion, and in fact shaped, will-hardened ectoplasm, I watched avidly as he drew the dagger across the top of his forearm, sleeve rolled away from the rivulets of blood that bubbled from the shallow cut, and let the knife fade away.
That was interesting. When his will and energy no longer supported its existence, rather than revert to the gelatinous form of ectoplasm, and slowly vaporizing, it faded away, like a ghost in a bad movie, that finally got what it wanted. Perhaps it was sent back to the Nevernever as raw materials?
Now isn't the time to geek out about magic, Harry. Plenty of time for that later.
"Well, you look pretty human, and so does your blood," I allowed, stepping off of Demonreach's shore, and onto the Whatsup Dock. "So how are we getting where we're going?"
"Ah, just a simple portkey trip, and we're there."
I nodded sagely. Of course I knew what a portkey was. How could I not, when my brother owned a boat that I ended up ferrying myself and others to and from my sanctum in every time the world was ending?
The marina could be called a port, right?
When he pulled out an old, well-knitted sock, though, I worried just a bit.
"Grab on then, and we'll make our way, hm?"
Dubiously, I reached out and grabbed onto the sock.
With a grandfatherly smile, and a twinkle of mischief in his eyes, he said "Reese's peanut butter cups."
And with that, the hand that had sneakily wrapped around my stomach crushed it, yanked, the world flashed white, and I was elsewhere.
After I finished emptying my breakfast on the cobblestone path leading up to the castle's grand main doorway, I glared up at Dumbledore.
"A little warning next time, huh?"
"Oh, my. Have you never traveled by portkey before, Mr. Dresden?"
Childishly, I wanted to mock him as some small, petty revenge, but it was pointless. Besides, he'd be my boss for the year. Best to avoid getting under his skin until absolutely necessary, as demanded by my pride.
"No," I grumbled, climbing to my feet and wiping my mouth on the back of my hand. "I usually take a bus." Sadly, the Blue Beetle had gone where no mechanic could follow, and whenever I went into Chicago from my place on Demonreach, I was stuck with the overcrowded bucket of sweat and misery.
Maybe that's bitterness talking.
Thankfully, when I stood, I could see that none of what was formerly a doughnut and coffee had gotten on my duster, or the flannel shirt and jeans I wore under it.
My boots were, sadly, a different story.
Muttering, I started walking for the entrance, Dumbledore walking beside me, a bemused look on his face. Standing in front of the great doors, I glowered at them. Mostly because I wasn't sure how to open them, the knockers being a good four feet above my head on the positively mammoth stone building, and each looking like it weighed half a ton in wood and iron. I could probably push one, maybe both, open, if I had to… and if I avoided the iron lining and studding the red, silver, blue, and yellow doors. Butters had made it clear that avoiding leaning on the mantle whenever I could, in the long run, would cause less damage to my body, and help it to deal with the stress I'd put on it, and the stress I'd put on it again, the next time the Nickel-Heads came around, or the White Council got on my ass about something, or Mab had an errand… or, Hell's Bells, I hadn't thought about it in a while, but what if Mavra came back to town? Sure, I could probably take her in a straight up fight these days without too much trouble, but the thing about Mavra was, she's smart. Like any good wizard, she knew that you can prepare for anything, given the proper time. Sure, sometimes the best way to prepare is to make a bug-out bag and warm up the car, but anything can be dealt with. With the word of Kemmler in her hands, delivered by, ah, some unknown wizard… or witch… I didn't like thinking of what the Vampire sorceress could do.
And I had it on good authority, from one of the people in this world that could really kill me if he wanted to, that all it would take was a tall building, the element of surprise, and a high-powered sniper rifle,
The glower slipped from my face. It was not the time to be thinking about everything that could hit the fan in Chicago, when I couldn't be there to cut the power to it. Or, failing that, catch the spray.
With my face.
Stepping up beside me, the elderly wizard smiled at the door, and with another flick of his wrist, the doors calmly swung inwards, with the thud of a massive bolt being shunted to the side, and the slight creak of old, but well-cared-for hinges.
Which was baffling. There was no way he'd put in the effort to craft his own spell just for opening big doors dramatically. Equally improbable that whoever had taught him had made one and taught him. Unless of course it was one of the first spells he learned. His Flickum bicus.
Which, granted, wouldn't be the weirdest starter spell I'd heard of. Ramirez had started off with a shoe-tying spell, which was needlessly complex and difficult to execute for so simple an act. Sure, it helped to learn finer control of basic forces, but… it seemed so mundane a thing to create a spell for. At least with candle lighting, you're dealing with one of the primal forces of the material world, an elemental entity through which you channel your will.
Reducing magic to lacing up your boots felt irreverent, almost disrespectful of its power and majesty.
Then again, I'm a magic geek. I love magic, and I believe in it as a force for good. I think of it as beautiful, wondrous, and amazing, even if it's a daily occurrence for me. And I know there are those who think of it as something… less than that. Not the primal powers of creation harnessed by human will and intellect, but a really big, really complex multi-tool.
So maybe from that standpoint, shoe-tying and door-opening spells are just one more facet of that tool.
We walked in, past an old, hunching figure who growled about vomit in his halls, a gray and black cat weaving around and between his legs as he walked a mop over to the entrance.
Which I would've apologized for. Had he not threatened to hang me up by my ankles. So instead, I simply maintained my glower, and led the way inside of the castle.
Which, admittedly, was not my best move. I mean, the castle is seven stories tall, and as big as anything, which left me a lot of room to get lost. I also attracted a bit of an audience in paintings following and chuckling at me by the time we found the room we were looking for. We were somewhere on the third floor, after many minutes wandering in which I refused to ask the old man for directions, and he happily walked alongside me, a lightly amused, grandfatherly smile lighting his face, from the small twitches of his beard, to the merry twinkling of his eyes, when he stopped me with a hand on the shoulder, and indicated a room to our right.
Ignoring how I jerked and twitched to bring my staff around, almost moving to brain him, he said "This will be the Defense room for the year. Feel free to set it up however you'd like, and meet us in the Great Hall for dinner around six o'clock. Your quarters adjoin to this room through the door beside the chalkboard. Feel free to familiarize yourself with the text as needed, and check the schedule for any important dates, class times, and breaks." His smile widened until he was levelling a full-on beam at me. "Welcome to Hogwarts, Mr. Dresden." With that, he swept away.
"Yeah," I said to myself, looking the classroom up and down. "Welcome to Hogwarts, Harry."
Hogwarts, I would learn, was very much alive. Outside of just the paintings, the building itself seemed to live and breathe, stairways shifting at slightly different times every day, more or less according with how urgent things were. Most weekdays had priority on punctuality, while the weekends were far more relaxed, sometimes changing almost at random.
And the feeling of the place. It felt so… comfortable. Safe.
I almost let that overtake me, after I'd settled things down. It had waited until I'd gotten my things settled there before springing that on me.
That's how I knew it was false.
It was very much the opposite of Demonreach… but it was still a genius loci. For all that Dumbledore sounded as if he had never encountered one the other day, I wondered if he knew Hogwarts had something that helped those living there to love living there.
Probably. Hell's Bells, it was possible he'd just pretended not to know about them to put me at ease.
Or worse… he knew about them, and this was his sanctum. He was the head honcho. Maybe just like my job as Warden of Demonreach, the Headmaster title was more than just that. Maybe bonding with the genius loci was automatic, with the position.
And from my memory of Demonreach's psychic assault, before I'd shown myself worthy to it, and it allowed me to take my place as its Warden, Hogwarts was every bit as powerful as Demonreach…
And less than a year ago, I'd seen that it took both Ladies of the Winter and Summer Courts, plus a whole mess of Sidhe and other assorted Fae on top of that, to actually beat Demonreach in sheer strength.
And that was with the spirit just enduring, rather than fighting back. Though, admittedly, that was what it did best.
When I'd settled into my room at Hogwarts, emotions of comfort, safety, warmth, and home that I hadn't felt since my apartment burned down sprung on me.
Needless to say, I immediately threw my mental shields into place until I puzzled all of this out. I kept them on after that anyways. It didn't block all of it, but it was better I wasn't caught up in feeling safe that I miss very real potential dangers around me.
Paranoia. Destroying that warm, fuzzy feeling since the beginning of time.
I didn't actually meet any of the other professors that night, save for a goggle-eyed woman who predicted 'great strife' in my future, Dumbledore once again, the Mop Man, an elderly man with a false foot, more scars than I hoped ever to receive, one wildly-spinning, false, and obviously enchanted eye, and no sense of personal space when warning you not to do anything he'd make me regret. (He reminded me more of the late Donald Morgan than I would've liked. I'd come to respect the man, especially after his sacrifice, and didn't want to think of how much I still hated and resented him for how he treated me.) The last staff member that I met was a sallow man, with greasy black hair, who wore a permanent scowl etched into his features.
I tried not to judge. I'd found a similar expression on my face more than a few times, in the not-too-distant past.
More importantly though, about two weeks after I arrived, the students showed up. It was strange, looking down on them from the high table, and stranger still being surrounded by so many young practitioners. When I was that age, the only practitioners I knew of were myself, Elaine, and our mentor-slash-attempted-enthraller. Of course, he had intentionally isolated the both of us from the White Council, and this society too, if he knew of it, so that's not very fair to me, I suppose.
I'd gotten over that a long time ago, but it still hurt every now and then. Like an old battle-wound. Hell, I had enough of those to go around, even if the Mantle numbed that pain, these days. As long as I didn't meet one of the pissed off Little Folk, intent on jamming an iron nail into my shoulder.
Damn, but it hurt when all that old, lingering pain shot through my body again. All the worse for its absence for so long.
Lost in thoughts of old pain, I didn't notice the old man standing until he cleared his throat for the attention of everyone in the hall. I hated just a little bit that I sat up a bit straighter, and immediately gave it to him.
No matter the looks, regardless of the long beard, full head of hair, and sheer height that was in complete contrast with my grandfather's empty, shining head, stocky build, and thick, sun-tanned and field-hardened body, the commanding air he held reminded me of the one who taught me the power, beauty, and wonder of the Art.
"To our new First Years, Welcome! To our returning students, Welcome Back! We have just a few things to cover this year before we can tuck in, and I ask that you all bear with me."
I tuned the man out, as I surveyed the students. Some of the students, mostly the older ones were… drenched. That made little sense, seeing as it was as sunny as the UK seemed to get outside that day, and only the youngest went over the lake in the boats, so none of the older students had a chance to fall in. One gangly red-headed kid seemed especially sullen about it, and I did my best to put the pieces together.
It really fell into place, when I managed to spy the red rubber, broken and hanging limply from his black robes.
And when an intact one, presumably filled with water, flew towards my face from seeming invisibility.
I stood with a start, a curse fighting for purchase on my lips, even as I pushed out "Defendarius!" Immediately, a blue, rounded plane of energy appeared before me, and the water balloon exploded against it. I was almost surprised to see plain old water run down the shield. I had half-expected a potion of some kind, or an acid. As it rolled down in small rivulets, I felt the shield spell fizzle out, the effort I pushed into it slipping away from my metaphysical grasp.
Or an ooze monster that would coalesce and attack me. I'd had that kind of day before.
A scowl lit my face as I looked around. "Ventas Servitas," I muttered, and my staff, which had been leaned up against the wall behind me, shot into my hand, brought to me by a column of air. Reaching out with my wizard's senses, I searched out the invisible enemy. Waterballoons weren't much of a threat. It couldn't keep me from doing much magic, as most would stop running before long, and there simply wasn't enough to put a real stop to my magic.
It wasn't like I was in real danger.
Not from that, anyways.
"Oooooooh!" shrieked a man's high, reedy voice, from thin air. "Looks like the new Professor doesn't like to play! Peevesy can take care of that though!"
If my once-apprentice had taught me anything when she fought beside me, an invisible enemy could wreak havoc with you. Kill you easily, with the proper tools.
There. I carefully didn't respond as my wizard's senses, which I'd nearly given up on locating my mystery aggressor with, in such a magically over-saturated area, found my enemy.
But, rather than finding a specific wizard among over a hundred of them, I found a cold spot, floating in the air in the general vicinity of where the balloon came from.
My eyes narrowed as I raised my staff, pointing it at the spot, and shouting the same phrase again. Thunderously, I uttered "Ventas Servitas!"
I heard a chuckling at first. "You think a little wind will dry us all off, is that it?" It had the tinny, not-quite there quality of a ghost, as I'd expected. The voice, though, came from the right of where my spell was, by just a bit.
I redirected it, and heard a strangled yelp of surprise, as my enemy suddenly became visible. A pale, almost entirely rotten-egg colored man landed on the staff table before me. My eyes narrowed as the former man shrank away, the small spirit, (especially compared to my six-and-a-half-feet,) had eyes full of fear.
"I'm not much for Ectomancy," I grouse, "but I do know a thing or two about exorcising poltergeists like you. Headmaster?" I asked, turning to the utterly dumbfounded man.
I realized, shortly after, that the room had gone silent, and everyone was staring at me. Some in shock, others in awe, and in the case of the four ghosts intermingling with the students at their tables, abject terror.
"Well now," The elderly man said, recovering from his shock rather quickly, "I don't think so drastic an action is necessary. Peeves has never been more than playful, in his own way, and I'd hate to leave a so comparatively docile poltergeist without a haunt." There were quite a few murmurs of disagreement at that, mostly from the students. The redheaded one shouted something about "booting the bugger out the door," but I shrugged.
"Don't mess with me, my class time, or my experiments, and I won't kick you out of the castle. Got me?"
Nodding, fervent and frightened, followed by a quick, subservient "Yes sir! Thank you Headmaster! Thank you, sir!" With that, the ghost vanished, and quickly afterwards, his cool presence disappeared from my senses.
Sitting back down, to a surprising round of applause, I smirked just a little. I was a little shocked at how impressed they'd been at my display.
I frowned when I considered that, though. If that was impressive for them, what did that say for how they dealt with ghosts? Or was their evocation really so awful that three simple spells, none particularly powerful, and one assisted by my staff, were impressive to them?
Dumbledore held a hand up to cut off the whispering and murmurs that broke out as the applause faded. "As I was saying, we have a new Defense teacher in our midst. I would like to introduce to you all Harry Blackstone Cop-"
I jerked in my seat at the mention of my first middle name, and was up and roaring at him over his words midway through my second, "THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING!?"
I'd felt the Name, even partially spoken, resonate in me. He knew my Name. My true Name, he had perfectly pronounced, and practically given to over a hundred young, impulsive novices, who had more energy, willfullness, and idiocy crammed into one finger than the most hyperactive of my retinue of the Little Folk had in a week. They could trade my Name away for so much, or use it themselves. Hell, they could be tortured for it, by the wrong people! Like Nicodemus Archeleone-
My blood froze further, at that thought. He and Anduriel could hear through any shadow he wanted to, if the place it is spoken isn't properly hallowed or protected ground. Did this count? Or did Nicodemus and his Nickelheads have over three fourths of my Name now?
Almost everyone in the hall flinched at my voice. Only Dumbledore himself, the greasy-haired Potions Professor, I think I heard him referred to as, and the grizzled old man eyeing me from the end of the table.
"You do not," I seethed, "simply go giving a man's Name out! Not without knowing who you're giving it to! Not without knowing the man's enemies, or what they're capable of! Not without asking the guy first!" Turning to the students, I bit out angrily, "I'm Mr. Dresden, and that's all you need to know." Sitting down, glaring murderously at Dumbledore, whose eyes no longer twinkled, but instead held a grim confusion in them.
"As you say, Mr. Dresden," he continued, without missing a beat, his voice exactly as it had been before my interruption. To the students, "Mr. Dresden has come all the way from Chicago, in the United States, to teach Defense from his many experiences with Dark and dangerous creatures. I am certain he will be an invaluable instructor, and I hope that you all enjoy learning from him, and can benefit from his knowledge."
The twinkle returned to his eyes as he turned to the other side of the table, where the man who seemed to be a veteran of many a lawn-mowing accident glowered moodily.
"And this, will be our new Chief of Security, Ex-Auror, Mr. Mad-Eye Moody. Now, to forestall any worries from you, we are not anticipating any trouble this year. We are, however, going to be hosting a certain event that we believe it necessary to prepare for in every conceivable way, regardless of how likely we think it that anything will go wrong."
Which, I translated in my head, meant that trouble was brewing, and they didn't want a panic to make it any worse.
"Because of this event that we will be hosting, I am sad to say that there will be no Quidditch matches, nor will there be a Quidditch Cup." Only pausing briefly to allow a few of the students, mostly those from the red and gold table, and most of all an older boy who stood, raving about his chances for a great year, and for how this could hurt how he'd be drafted, he continued on. "Instead, we will be featuring the first Triwizard Tournament in over 200 years!"
Despite his tone, the look of the man's eyes showed he didn't approve of this competition. Vindictively, I was glad. He deserved to be uncomfortable, unhappy even, after nearly blurting my Name to a room full of hormonal and insecure teenagers!
"We, along with groups from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons' Academies will each have a champion, chosen by an impartial judge, who will compete for honor, fame, prestige, and glory, as well as a one-thousand galleon prize!"
There were shouts and interest at this development, though the one kid, the one who had shouted at hearing that this 'Quidditch' thing was cancelled, still groused and groaned. The redheaded boy who had been soaked by the poltergeist looked especially interested, while the two kids who seemingly sat with him looked as if they were leaning away from even mention of this tournament.
"Due to the dangerous nature of this tournament, which led to its now-lifted ban, there will be an age-limit placed on entrants. Only wizards and witches of age, and capable of making their own legal decisions, may compete in this tournament." There were more than a few boos at this, and I tried to emulate the aloof, sneering professor beside me in ignoring them. "Let us remember, this tournament is meant to foster inter-school relations. Let us be welcoming and gracious hosts to our fellow witches and wizards, when they arrive. Now, I believe that is all, so..." Raising his hands, his smile grew genuine once more, as his eyes lit up, and he said with joy, "Let's enjoy the food!"
Yep, I'm blowing off other projects again, this time for the stereotypical Professor Harry story. I hope I've captured his character fairly well. I plan to take this all the way through Fourth Year, at least, but I am working on other projects (in spite of appearances) and work on this will likely take a back seat to those original and fan works of fiction.
As an excuse for why Another Potter's updated chapter two is taking so long…
It's so boring. Not the story, or the idea, but writing something I feel like I already have. It's so hard dealing with the Durselys, when I just want to throw Clarissa into Hogwarts already! On top of that, months ago, Highschool had gotten a bit crazy, work-load-wise, and now, I'm just discovering that college will by insane, when it comes to the effort and responsibility I'll have. It's a little scary.
And we'll just forget those two months of Summer I had more or less completely free… We will, won't we?
Also, fun fact, likes obliterating my formatting when I move things here. So that's fun.
Correction. Some of my formatting gets obliterated. The rest just lamely hides with the rest of the text.
Send me any comments, complaints, or corrections, and I'll get on it ASAP. So, like, in a month.
Good Luck, and Happy FanFic-ing!