In which Dave Strider is the Bro Who Lived.
Six years ago Dave Strider found out his cousin and aunt hadn't bothered to mention that his Bro hadn't died in a skateboarding trick gone horribly wrong, even though that made perfect sense because his Bro would never have fucked up a skateboarding trick anyway, but the point of this was that Dave had been lied to his entire life, or at least kept in the dark about a major part of his life.
It wasn't like Dave had ever gotten a chance to know his Bro, but he felt like he'd known his Bro, like spiritually or some shit, not like ghosts or angels or something stupid like that, more like he'd communed with the guy via awesome interests and irony. ALL of the irony. Bro was the greatest, and he was also dead.
He was dead mostly because some dog-faced evil asshole had decided he and Bro needed to die to really ensure his villainous rule over the magical world (which by the way Dave had no clue existed up until he and Rose got letters to a MAGICAL SCHOOL full of WIZARDS but whatever).
Mostly this explained the weird scar on Dave's forehead in the shape of stairs.
Okay, it didn't explain why it was the shape of stairs. It did explain why there was a scar.
Anyway, six years. Six years passed, and then it became super shitty when the Dog Lord showed back up to make sure every generation of every race would be miserable.
The world was at war, and now things had to get worse in Dave's off time, too, because that was how things had to work, that was the life of the Bro Who Lived.
Now, right now, the trolls showed up.
Right now, as in right this fucking moment, Hogwarts was inexplicably Sorting the trolls, because apparently the trolls needed even more color-based reason to hate each other. The trolls were at the school because for some reason they all needed to be safe at the castle, and the troll castle had been crashed by dog-masked motherfuckers, so they were all going to be stuck together.
What it meant in practice was that Dave was now stuck at a table, for the entirety of dinner, for the entirety of every meal, for the entirety of his classes and possibly even his time in the damn common room, with Karkat Vantas, whose main character trait seemed to be the inability to keep his fucking mouth shut.
"This is hoofbeast shit," Karkat said, winding up. "This - tie - fuck this shit!" He pulled at the tie around his neck as though it was strangling him. "I feel like Serket's lusus sprayed me with her stringy white shit."
"Too much information," Dave interjected.
"Oh, shut the fuck up," Karkat shot back.
"Come on, Karkat," John tried, keenly, ridiculously earnest about it. It wasn't that Dave had given up on ever being able to deal with this guy without him having a psychological breakdown, it was that it was obvious no one would be able to deal with this guy without him having a psychological breakdown. "Give us a chance."
"I'm going to give you a chance to run before I practice my threshecutioner training on your shit, Egbert," Karkat leveled at him.
"You don't have any threshecutioner training," the kid with huge horns sitting next to Karkat whispered loudly to him.
"Tavros," Karkat said plainly, "the only real training to be a threshecutioner is to be ready to cut assholes into pieces and have a sharp enough weapon."
"I don't think that's true," Tavros said slowly.
"Do you really have a weapon?" John asked, interested. "What is it?"
"Egbert," Karkat said, "if you keep asking me fucking questions when I threaten you this is going to be a long fucking year."
"Tell me about it," Dave said, leaning on his hand heavily. He debated the merits of rap battling this kid into submission, but he had enough to deal with being the Bro Who Lived. At least, right now. "This is because you're hung up on that hot troll girl who you wouldn't leave alone in the line, right?"
Karkat instantly looked at Dave in horror. "What?"
John started laughing. "Oh man you don't stand a chance now! Dave's the Bro Who Lived, he's always crawling with ladies."
This was not remotely true. Or at least it wasn't yet. Dave wasn't sure he would know what to do with crawling ladies. Not that he'd ever admit that. It was complicated. "Yeah. Ladies. All at my feet. I'm constantly stepping over ladies. Like I have to hopscotch through them and shit. All that hopping."
"John, are you trying to convince people that Dave's an actual star again?" Rose leaned back from her spot at the Ravenclaw table, calling across the distance. "And leaving out the incredible danger and constant hate and endless amount of danger that suddenly arrives at the end of every school year?"
"No," John said after a split second of very noticeable silence.
"Anyway," Karkat said loudly, as if he hadn't been loud the entire time, "you're the Bro Who Lived and that's incredibly fucking annoying. But it probably means you'll be dead in a year or something because the war is that horrible now, because people are being culled left and right so - "
"Karkat," Fish Princess chided him from a few seats down.
He turned on her. "What?"
"Culling is different," she said carefully.
"Culling is the same antiquated shit, Feferi, I don't care if the Empire has a 'reason' and you know that," Karkat said, maybe slightly more civil than before, which wasn't saying much.
"Why am I listening to this conversation," Dave wondered to himself.
"Maybe because it's relevant to something?" John suggested.
"Yeah I don't think so," Dave said.
He wished they'd serve breakfast for dinner. He had a serious craving for apple jam.
There was, predictably, bullshit with the Dog Lord that came up this year too.
As usual, Rose had a book list for the goddamned thing, like the Dog Lord was in fact a fucking professor who put out a curriculum that he and John and Rose had to follow in order to risk their lives and get the government pissed off at them in the process.
"Best class ever," he mumbled, as he wandered through the shelves, not really paying attention to what shelves were supposed to be what or anything, because more than anything at that point he wanted that kid with the huge horns to come around and try to rap battle him again. "Like I should do an essay on hey surviving your school year without dying in a castle's tower or how to use beats to scare off dicks who are pretending to be bugs or animals up in your business to spy on you or shit, because you are just that sick, bro, and it's a legacy from your Bro-dad - "
"Hey Dave," John called from a shelf away.
"Jesus!" Dave jumped. "I wasn't talking to myself."
"Yeah all right," John agreed, moving into his row of shelves. "Troll girl's looking for you."
"Which one? If it's creepy Divination troll tell her I really don't want her tarot cards," Dave said. One good thing about having best bros when you were the Bro That Lived was being able to ask other people to manage the annoying things about being famous, which mostly boiled down to "having to put up with people who thought they mattered to someone who was famous for almost dying all of the time."
John shook his head. "No no, Ravenclaw, I mean, Ravenclaw who sniffs everything."
"Oh." Dave considered that, and pushed the booklist at John. "See you later man."
"Uh," John said, looking down at the list.
"Blame Rose," Dave called back to him as he walked away.
Hot Blind Troll Girl was at a table, licking a book. Dave didn't judge. "Hello, Strider," she greeted him upon finishing the lick.
"Hey," he returned.
She grinned at him. It was a terrifying grin, but he liked it. "Lalonde said you were failing Interspecies Etiquette."
"I'm not failing Interspecies Etiquette. I'm ignoring Interspecies Etiquette," Dave said. "Serious difference."
"There isn't even a class. It's just pamphlets. How can you fail something that is only pamphlets?"
"That's why I'm not failing it," he said. "Because it's only pamphlets."
"She wanted me to tutor you," she said, and licked the next page. He watched her, almost not sure if he should be watching this, but whatever. She was reading, right? "You need a tutor?"
"No," he said. "But we can hang out or something."
She grinned again, more broadly than before.
"Etiquette, coolkid. Say please."
"I may be 'failing' etiquette but I know trolls don't say please," Dave said.
She looked deeply satisfied. He was pretty sure he'd won something, and it was about time there was a romantic plotline.
The new professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts was a ghost who wore sharp anime sunglasses, not sharp like fashionable, sharp like they probably would have cut him and might have been sharp enough to kill him in the stupidest way for a human being to die ever. It didn't inspire confidence.
"Now I know you were expecting someone who was still limited by the human body and couldn't do mad calculations on how exactly to avoid becoming a fully expressed ghost like me, because apparently that's something most people want to avoid," the professor said, "for reasons I can't comprehend. But you'll find I know more than your past professors. Future ones, too. Because I've calculated that based on the past performance of professors in this position I won't be teaching in this position next year, you won't be lucky enough to have me here for enough years that I'll be able to actually help you reach maximum awesomeness, which is too bad, really. This is beside the point. You can be sure that I'm the best professor for the task, because I'm uninhibited by human limitations."
"Weren't you a human?" Rose asked, without raising her hand.
"Technically, a long time ago, yes, I was human," the professor said, "but - "
"And ghosts are only created by humans who feared death," Rose went on, "so obviously you weren't so wedded to the idea of becoming incorporeal. In fact, you were directly opposed to the idea."
"You realize I'm going to be grading your papers, right?" the professor asked her.
Rose tapped her pencil against her notebook. "I'm not worried about it. You'll be gone next year, and you can't mark me down for anything real."
"I like her," Hot Blind Troll (who Dave had to admit he'd known her name almost the entire time) whispered to Shouty Troll.
"Rose has a point," John said, waving his hand, not being called on either. "How are you going to teach us magic anyway?"
The professor looked over his glasses. "I'll be teaching theory and advising you personally. Trust the headmaster and just do it. There's a war on, guys. You need to be able to not die."
"Yes," Rose said, "I'll defer to your expertise in that."
The professor had this look on his face like he wanted to get in the most pretentious debate ever with Rose, but even the slightest hope of continuing to be employed and have an excuse to be smug at people who were required to listen was keeping him from saying shit.
Dave grinned a bit. Every once in a while, this place offered real and complete entertainment that wasn't offered by him and his sicknasty talents.
"You know how this is going to work out, right?" Rose asked.
They were sitting out by the lake, wizards' robes spread out so they wouldn't get sand all over their actually important clothing.
"I'd need to know what the hell you meant by 'this' before I guessed," Dave said, "and then need to care, but you're going to tell me anyway, so, why not, go ahead, let's pretend that I gave you permission."
Rose went on just as she was going to no matter what he'd said. "Well, we're going to get caught up in interpersonal drama. It'll turn out that something new to Hogwarts this year will have a major impact on the overall events of the year and help us in whatever is coming up this year. And the interpersonal drama will be impacted by the fact that we're in and generally are always in a dangerous situation of some sort that is equally of our making and the Dog Lord's. But we'll have each other, and that's some sort of reward."
"The power of friendship to make us feel like our lives being shitty is worthwhile," Dave conceded. "Yeah. That's supposed to be a thing."
"Yeah," Rose said. There was a pause while they both thought about this. "You and Pyrope, huh?"
"We have a date, yeah."
"Probably a bad idea," she said thoughtfully. "Interpersonal drama."
Dave shrugged. "Yeah, but I'd like to make out with a troll before I almost die."
"That's fair." Rose looked at him. "Aren't you going to ask me?"
"Rose, have you got a date with the Hufflepuff troll girl who you've been flirting with for the last few months?" he asked, rehearsed.
"Dave! I'm blushing! I'm horrified that you've noticed. Yes, we have a date," Rose said, all without missing a beat. "Look at us. Almost functioning teenagers."
"Poor Egbert," Dave said reflectively. "No hot trolls for him."
"Spidertroll's trying her mind-control on him," Rose said. "Not literally, though she has knocked John out a couple of times in the library, which was a little hilarious. But she's fucking with him."
"Her? Ugh," Dave said.
"How is her sister any better?" Rose posed.
"They're not actually sisters," Dave reminded her, "and Terezi at least has the concept of justice and who really deserves what."
"Troll justice," Rose pointed out.
"It's different. Plus, she's less of a bitch," he said.
"That's true." There was a pause. "We should probably eventually talk about the overarching plotline."
"No," Dave said idly. "Fuck that."
"Works for me."
They looked out at the lake. The sun was dipping into the trees. No one wanted to think about anything serious, and the story would get there eventually, especially if the author was remotely interested in anything besides teens bullshitting.