"So." Stephen Strange said, dumping a large pile of books onto the desk. "What are we going to do?"
Wong, the librarian of the Hong Kong Sanctum, scratched Stephen's name off the overdue list. "I'm not sure what you mean."
"Don't act like you don't know." The sorcerer grumbled. "The London Sanctum, remember? It's in a worse state than Britney Spears' career." The Cloak handed Wong another stack of manuscripts.
Stephen looked up at Wong's face, scanning him for any reactions. His Cloak helpfully poked Wong's cheek to make sure his expression wasn't made of stone. "No? Doesn't ring a bell?"
"Your point is?" Wong asked.
"My point is that you've never heard of anyone, and that doesn't even make sense since you keep gossip magazines in the back and-" He took a deep breath. "Okay, nevermind. What I'm saying is, aren't we going to do anything about the London Sanctum?"
Wong frowned. "Why would we?" He began to take the books off of the desk, checking the covers before sorting them on a trolley.
"I thought we guarded all the Sanctums. Shouldn't we… I don't know, fix it up?"
"Yes. You are American, so you defend the New York Sanctum Sanctorum. The students that live here guard this Sanctum. And the wizards in England are in charge of the London Sanctum."
Wong moved to take the trolley away, but Stephen grabbed his arm before the librarian could leave. "Is there anyone there that I might know? They could use some help rebuilding the Sanctum, right?"
"None that have trained here." Wong said. He grabbed a book from under the desk, opening for Stephen to see. "This is a list of all the living sorcerers who guard the Sanctums. You see? No one that either of us had ever heard of. What goes on in the London Sanctum is none of my business, and it should be none of yours, either."
Stephen quickly scanned the two pages. The left page was dedicated to all the guardians of the New York Sanctum. His name was the only one on the list that wasn't blotted out. The London Sanctum, on the opposite page, was filled entirely with names, some scratched out, others added in on the margins, and several more snuck between the lines.
None of them were familiar to Stephen. When the librarian wasn't looking, he picked up a pen from the table, clumsily jotting down 'and the Cloak' with shaking hands.
He looked back at Wong, who was already pushing the loaded trolley away. "Wait!" The sorcerer slid around the desk, chasing after the librarian.
"What now?" Wong grumbled. He stopped, allowing Stephen to catch up.
"I thought everyone trained at the Hong Kong Sanctum," Stephen began. "How come I've never met a single Brit in my entire-" He quickly added up the weeks he had trained. "My entire six months?"
"They have their own schooling systems." Wong answered, frowning. "How have you never heard of this? They prefer the interior branches of magic, and they're already xenophobic enough. The British magicians dislike other countries."
Stephen gaped. "You mean that there's an entire society of people that just study interior magic? That's crazy!"
"I know," Wong said, rolling his eyes. "How do you think I'm able to tell you?"
"But – But – Think of the possibilities, Wong! There are people studying and exploring a single aspect of magic!" Stephen spluttered. "They've probably mastered everything you could think of! Interior magic's vague enough for us as it is, and-"
Wong gave Stephen a flat stare. "I have books to shelve, Strange. If you're going to continue telling me things I already know, will you please get out?!"
Stephen backed away, Sling Ring already on his fingers. "Alright, alright. I'm going."
"And no Sling Rings in the library!" Wong yelled, but it was too late. Stephen was already gone.
The moment the portal closed up, Stephen turned back to the Cloak. "Did you get it?"
The Cloak gave its equivalent of a nod, unfurling a corner to reveal the book Wong had shown him.
"You're the greatest," Stephen grinned, taking the list from the Cloak's embrace.
Later that night, Stephen was curled up on a couch in front of a roaring fire, flicking through the list with shaking fingers.
The list of British defenders went on for a good thirty-four pages, compared to New York's grand total of one. While most of the names in the beginning we crossed out, most likely meaning retired or deceased, there were still a good three or four dozen still active members defending the Sanctum.
The Cloak snuggled up on his lap, the sorcerer continued to go through the pages.
He should have never doubted Wong, Stephen realized as he went through the book. Obviously the London Sanctum was safe enough in the British's many, many hands.
It was during that precise moment that Stephen witnessed the page scratch Gawain Robards' name off the list.
He stopped, backtracking to the name that had definitely been unmarred three seconds ago.
"Did you do this?" He hissed to the Cloak, and the red cloth gave its approximation of a 'no'.
Eric Munch's name was suddenly eliminated, and both Stephen and the Cloak watched as the ink blotched through the name.
This was bad.
"Something's happening." Stephen hissed, rushing over to the the bookside table to snatch up his Sling Ring.
When the Cloak didn't respond, he grabbed it by the edges and shook out the nonexistent dust, waking it out of its reverie.
"Something's happening!" He repeated, clumsily attempting to stick his fingers into the Sling Ring. "We have to go!"
The Cloak draped itself over his shoulders just as Stephen began to spin his arm, summoning the portal.
In the corner of his eye, Stephen saw another name – a something Proudfoot – get marked off the list.
"No time to tell Wong," He muttered worriedly, bringing up an image of the London Sanctum Sanctorum in his mind. "Just me."
He dived through the portal, the orange glow of a shield spell already shining on his arm.
"Where's the fight?" He gasped, dramatically shutting down the hole behind him.
The room was humiliatingly empty.
He stepped towards one of the doors, and swung it open.
The only things in the room of any significance were the sentient dining table that was sprouting leaves along its legs and the animated, moving panting. Basic magic.
"Looking for Dumbledore, too, are you?" A voice asked. Stephen jumped, whipping his head around, but there was no one behind him.
"Oh, come on," The voice complained, and Stephen swung his gaze back into the dining room. "Never seen a portrait before, boy?"
It was the man in the painting, he realized with no small amount of shock. "You can talk?" He asked with wonder, stepping closer.
"Well, of course!" The man in the portrait cackled. "Yes, you're one of Dumbledore's! Without a doubt! The old fool always finds the odd ones!"
The Cloak pulled off one of the leaves growing from a table leg. Another one grew back instantly, and so the Cloak ripped off that one too. A large battle promptly ensued.
"Um," Stephen said, before the thought occurred to him that finding somebody else was probably the best course of action. "Uh, yes! I'm off to meet Bundledore! In fact, I'm in a very big rush, so…" He waved his hands.
This was why he came up with his plans beforehand.
The man in the portrait glared suspiciously at Stephen, leaning as far forwards as a two-dimensional oil based painting could. "Yes… Well, just go off to the fireplace, then. I assume even an idiot like you knows how to use the Floo."
Stephen nodded seriously. "Oh, definitely, I know. How about you tell me how to use it so that I know that you're not an idiot."
Behind him, the Cloak began to wrestle with the entire table leg.
"You dare?" The man in the painting asked, taken aback. "Of course I know how to use the Floo! You grab a handful of the powder and sprinkle it on the fire, jump in and say you want to go to Headmaster Dumbledore's office!"
The former surgeon fought the university-driven temptation to take notes. "Headmaster… Dundledore?"
"Dumbledore." The portrait enunciated. "D – U – M –"
"No, no, it's fine." Stephen said, searching for the exit the painting had mentioned. "You've been a great help. You're not an idiot at all."
"I would hope not." The man in the portrait sniffed. "Imagine! Me, Oraclitus Spheer, taken to be some common fool! It's blasphemy! Fireplace is in the hall, by the way, fourth door to the left."
The Cloak suddenly snapped the table leg in half, and hurriedly bolted away, dragging its owner along before Stephen could notice.
"Well, then," Stephen ground out, turning around in the Cloak's embrace so he could face the man in the painting. "Have a nice day!"
"You too!" Spheer's portrait said, turning back to his staring contest with the sentient table.
As Stephen and the Cloak left the Sanctum, the painting frowned. "Now then, what have you gone and done to yourself?"
The table burped in reply, sulking over its wounded leg.
Oraclitus Spheer craned his neck to try to see where Stephen had gone. Sadly, being a painting, he was unable to see past the rim of the frame. "You don't think he was lying, do you?"
This Floo Powder compound is amazing, Stephen thought, stepping out of the much more cramped fireplace in awe. A substance that is both easier to use than Sling Rings and easier to market. No doubt the British economy's made a fortune out of this stuff.
With Floo Powder, would you even have to buy tea? Couldn't you just order one, drink up and Floo over to Asia before anyone's even noticed? You could steal anything in the world and never have to worry about the escaping part since it virtually takes no time or effort. How small does a fireplace have to be for the Floo to work? Since it isn't being exploited all around the world, it's got to be several hundreds of dollars a cup. Thousands, even. Wait, it has to be converted to pounds, since it's in Britain. And-
Stephen looked up. "Wait, what?"
An ancient, withered old man was sitting at a desk, a feathered quill poised over a large stack of paperwork. Beside him, a large red bird was picking at a tray of yellow candies.
Stephen squinted. "So, I'm assuming you're one Headmaster Dumbledore?"
"That would be correct," The old man said. He gestured to a cup of gently steaming tea that had definitely not been there ten seconds ago. "Would you like some tea? It's quite nice. Peppermint."
"Thank you," Stephen said happily, awkwardly picking the small cup up with shaking fingers.
It wasn't a coffee, but Stephen didn't have any money and he was being offered free food. He wouldn't complain.
He suddenly remembered that he was a random stranger that was covered in ash.
Stephen placed down the tea on the deck and shook the soot off the Cloak. He eyed the pile of leaves it had been carrying. "Now, how did you get these?"
The Cloak sheepishly tossed them into the fire – The green flames had already vanished, and had been replaced with warm orange and red ones – and Stephen recalled why he had come here in the first place.
"Oh, so apparently three people guarding the London Sanctum Sanctorum are dead." Stephen said stiffly. As a former surgeon with a perfect record, he wasn't exactly used to informing people about death.
"I mean, I just checked and it doesn't look like anything's wrong there, so maybe it's just a coincidence, but I thought might come and try to help if something's gone bad." He babbled, picking up the tea again.
He took an experimental sip. "This… This is really nice. I'm Doctor Strange, by the way."
Dumbledore appeared quite pale. "Oh, dear. Was a one Mister Proudfoot among the deceased?"
Stephen nodded. The Cloak wandered off his shoulders to play with Dumbledore's various gizmos.
"And you are certain there was no one there?"
"Just a talking painting." The sorcerer said. "By the way, I have to tell you, these talking paintings you guys have are spectacular." He nodded towards the wall full of snoozing portraits behind Dumbledore. "Can you show me how to make them?"
The Cloak picked up a gilded delicate-looking device, and accidentally snapped one of the hinges.
The fact that three people had just died kicked in for Stephen, and he quickly put down the peppermint tea (Which was an easy nine out of ten stars, on Stephen's scale,) and folded his arms. The Cloak got his hint and put down the magical triangulator before it broke the other hinge, too.
"Then I'm afraid they must have irritated the man-eating table." Dumbledore said sadly, stroking the shining feathers of his bird. "They were good men. It will be hard to find anyone else good enough for the Sanctum's holiday shift."
The old man looked up at Stephen. "Is there anything else you came here to inform me of, Mister Doctor?"
Stephen frowned. "Actually, my name is Stephen-"
"But you said earlier that your name was Doctor-"
"No, you see, that's a title, since I used to be a surgeon, and-"
"My apologies, dear boy, I wasn't aware-"
"Oh, no, it's a common mistake-"
The two men fell into an awkward silence. The bird squawked and spat out a wad of fire, setting the Cloak alight.
"Where did you say you were from again?" Dumbledore asked carefully.
"Oh, I'm the new defender for the New York Sanctum, you see, ever since that whole ordeal with Kaecilius and the Sanctorum here got destroyed – Sorry about that, by the way." The Cloak swept around the room in a panic, searching for a source to extinguish the flames. It was completely ignored.
"It was no issue," Dumbledore said. "So you are the new guardian?"
"Yeah, there was this huge battle and everything. Who's the guy in charge of things over here? We really could have used some help with Dormammu and all."
"I am," The withered old man said. "As Supreme Mugwump, I am the one in charge of defending the London Sanctum Sanctorum, as well as recruitment and organization."
The Cloak flew out of an open window, and vanished from sight.
"Oh my – Listen, again, I am so sorry about those three guys, I came as fast as I could, but I-"
Dumbledore gave a warm smile. "Quite fine, I tell you. In fact, I've been researching some records, and I think I've found a man who can take their place."
Stephen sagged in relief. "Really? That's great! Tell you what, I'll even help you go get him, I've got heaps of contacts in the medical industry that owe me some favors, and-"
"Just one problem with that." Dumbledore said. The old man's eyes – Bright blue, Stephen noted, – pierced his own. "And I will need to ask you an important question."
"Ask away!" The Sorcerer Supreme said, spreading his scarred and shaking hands. The Cloak rushed back in, steaming gently and shivering.
"What would you do if an innocent man was in jail?"
"Get him out, of course." Stephen said without thinking. Suddenly, his mind began to connect the dots. "Wait a sec, is this replacement guy-"
"The replacement guard for the Sanctum is a convict known as Sirius Black." Dumbledore said, his face utterly solemn. "And I have conclusive evidence that he doesn't belong where he is."
Dumbledore leaned forward. "What would you say if I invited you to help me break into the most secure prison on the planet?"
Stephen stood up, and offered his arm for a handshake. "I'd say you've got a deal, old man."
Ocean's 11 has got nothing on Doctor Strange and Dumbledore, y'all. Comment below and tell me who should help them break Sirius Black out of jail!
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, and I don't own Marvel, either.