Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter either. It belongs to its creator J.K. Rowling and probably Warner Bros. too. I'm not too sure about that. This piece of literature is simply the work of a humble fan. I also credit Jim Butcher for various themes, subjects, or references that I may use.
Author Notes: This is a Harry Potter crossover with the Dresden Files the book series. All my knowledge of the Dresden Files comes from the books. I've never seen the TV series. For the timeline that will be stated later. Thanks to the folks at DLP for help with editing.
Chapter Twenty Two: The Daughter
by: Water Mage
"Well this is a lovely evening," Harry said, looking at his mother with a weak smile.
Lily stared at him for a long moment before sitting back further on the couch to include his wife in her inspection. His mother didn't look impressed. She took the fine china tea glass in hand, gently blowing the steam away and sipped. "I disagree," she said.
Silence hung between them. It was awkward sitting there in the living room, waiting on his father, and time stretched on without a word spoken before Aurora finally spoke up. "You have a lovely home, Mrs. Potter."
Oh, you have got to be kidding. Harry slowly turned his whole head to stare and he was aware the expression on his face was more disbelieving than incredulous. As hard as he might, he couldn't wipe it away because bloody bleeding hell, Aurora was smiling and trying to be charming, and really it was just all too much to take.
Lily didn't smile back. "Thank you."
Harry cleared his throat, searching for anything to diffuse the tension. "So, how have you been?"'
"We were doing just fine until you two broke in here," James answered instead, entering the room. He sat in the empty space next to his wife and said, "I put Aiden back to bed." Then he turned to the intruders. "Answers would be appropriate now. And please, Summer Lady could you drop the veil. I would rather see your true face when speaking to you."
The shadow of surprise flashed across her eyes and she bowed her head toward him. The human glamour she'd been wearing fell and blonde hair cleared out to Sidhe white, and her whole body seemed leaner as fingers and limbs grew slightly longer. Green eyes turned inhumanly bright and her pupils changed in one blink from round mortal orbs to feline lengths. Rosy lips turned up into a faint smile.
"How did you know?" she murmured. Just the sound of her real voice made the room feel warmer.
"Believe it or not we've known about the two of you for some time." Lily's tone was brisk and matter-of-fact. She regarded Harry's astonished face, her eyes sharp. "And after the Faerie War everyone knows now, too."
Then Aurora did something that made Harry's fingers twitch toward his wand. She laughed. A delightful sound reminiscent of two little ringing bells. "Of course my husband wouldn't have mundane parents. No. That would be terribly improper."
"You don't know. He didn't tell you." James leaned forward and there was something resembling satisfaction in his tone.
Harry crossed his arms. "That would defeat the point of a family secret. Can't go off tattling to everyone now can I?"
The expression drained from Aurora's face leaving her features distant and lovely, perfectly and utterly blank. Empty of all emotion. Gone was the pretense of humanity. Soul or not she was Sidhe, Queen of Summer, supreme of the fae. Her inhuman stare was for the Potters and them alone. Harry recognized it for what it was. She was curious. Bugger it all.
"You aren't White Council," she said, watching them with bright eyes. Then her stare fell on the identical platinum rings both were wearing. "Venatori Umbrorum, 'The Hunters of Shadows'. It's been many years since I've spoken to a Venator. Tell me how goes the Oblivion War."
"I don't know what you're talking about," said James with a bitingly fake smile.
Aurora smiled and Harry realized that was just the opening she was looking for. "Let me remind you. Your group has been fighting a war for more than five thousand years against the old gods and demons of Before. Shutting them away and banishing them into eternal wander; forever lost outside the mortal world and unable to do harm. Out of sight, out of mind, and consigned to Oblivion."
Harry frowned. "I've never heard—"
"Don't!" James said, addressing Harry for the first time in a long time without anger. Harry was so startled that the words died on his lips. James' stare was imploring. "Clear your mind. Focus on your own breathing. This is very important right now. Knowing any of this creates a sort of resonance in your mind, and if someone knows to look for it, they can see it."
They were talking about primal spiritual entities. These were beings that couldn't be destroyed. Dispersed yes, but over time they would reform—these thoughts raced all at once through his mind as he recognized the urgency—but you could forget them. Occlumency had never felt this useful in years. He took two deep breaths and his thoughts were shielded and locked up tight.
Lily placed her teacup on the saucer and leaned back on the sofa. She regarded Aurora with a long even look. "The war is a classified secret of our organization. How you even know of it speaks of a security breach and can even be taken as a violation of the Unseelie Accords. We might not have the magical muscle of the White Council, but the Venatori are a power not to be trifled with."
Aurora's cat-eyes glittered as she laughed, warm sunshine and twinkling bells, and it made Harry shiver. "Was that a threat?" Her smile fell and turned small, haughty. A bit of her true self peeking through. "I don't respond to threats. I make them."
"I feel like we might've gotten off on the wrong foot. For that I apologize." Lily's green eyes weren't as bright as Aurora's, but they were still the extraordinary color that people complimented and right now they were darker than Harry had ever seen. "But you're in my home, and you will respect that. For the record there would be no question if I was threatening you. You would know it." She brought her arm up revealing the pistol she'd been concealing with the sleeves of her dressing robe. "Your kind doesn't do well with iron, right?" she said, low and dangerous. "Now I'm threatening you."
"Mum!" Harry shouted, and in one smooth stroke the pistol was transfigured into a tulip. "Let's all just calm down."
Lily dropped the flower and reached for her teacup again. "I finished what I had to say."
"Oh, I like you," said Aurora, regarding her with glittering eyes.
James stared at her, stone faced. "That was a guess, wasn't it? You didn't know we knew about the war. You read me."
"You saw my true face and I wanted to see yours. And Harry's knowledge won't bind anything to this world. He's technically not even from this universe now is he?"
"What's wrong with you," Harry snapped, glowering. "What was that about?"
"Such fire. Such strength. Yes." Aurora glanced at him. "I can see where you get it all now."
Harry narrowed his eyes. "Are you satisfied?"
"I am. Strength and passion are strong in your family. Future generations will surely inherit those qualities. Our children will be a force to be reckoned with."
He blanched and hurriedly assured his parents, "She's just joking. Always kidding, this one here."
"You're blushing, Harry," Lily pointed out, looking at him over the rim of her cup. "The Venatori tried to rid the world of the faeries. Obviously we failed. They still hold a grudge."
He rubbed his cheeks hard and sighed. He didn't acknowledge the smirk Aurora wore. Even if he wanted to hex it off her face. Getting him riled up was turning into her favorite hobby. He was going to start retaliating. Aurora's eyes shined, pleasure showing for a moment, warm and full of promise. Was she—no, she was not flirting with him in front of his parents for Circe's sake. He wasn't the innocent schoolboy he used to be, but there were boundaries.
James cleared his throat. "I know not answering direct questions is the party line in the Summer Court, but we do things differently in the mortal world. Why are you two here?"
He shrugged. "We never got a wedding gift. So we came to collect."
"Harry, please," said Lily with a sigh.
If he hadn't been thinking of how to answer this question for the last twenty minutes he would have drowned in his floundering. Anyway, he still floundered but it wasn't the epic struggle for a coherent answer it could've been. Harry pinched the bridge of his nose.
"It's kind of a long story."
James' stubborn look was eerily identical to the one Harry often wore. "I don't believe we're going anywhere."
Harry mirrored his expression. "I have my own questions. How long have you two known about us; and what do you mean everyone knows now?"
"Information gathering is a specialty of ours, and you haven't been discreet with your dealings with the Summer Court," said Lily with a shrug. "When the Queens fought every practitioner, seer and sensitive felt the effects. With a fourth of Chicago destroyed answers were needed. I imagine every supernatural power on the planet has heard about what took place above Chicago."
Damn it. Another mess he had to worry about. With the Jade King hiding in the shadows it was only a matter of time before the White Council came sniffing around. Wankers thought they ran the show on mortal magic. Okay, one thing at a time.
"I see," he said out loud, lips set in a thin line.
Aurora looked at him, her eyes calm. "We will deal with that when the time comes."
How did she— Harry shook his head. He must be getting easy to read. He reinforced his Occlumency barriers just in case. "Okay, it's like this; over three years ago Aiden told me something. It was a prophecy that I never told another living soul. But nine hours ago I heard the same prophecy uttered by someone else, word for word. Something that should be theoretically impossible. I came for answers. That's why I'm here."
Lily shared a stricken glance with James. "Harry, are you sure?"
"I wish I wasn't. I hate having him involved, but he is."
James shook his head. "You can run the numbers all day, but the probabilities of two prophecies made by two different people are so insanely low that it's laughable."
"Be that as it may it happened," said Harry. He ran a hand through his hair. "I needed him to help me figure out why."
"But he's just a boy," said Lily, aghast.
"Aiden's plugged into something greater than all of us. He has control of an ability that I don't even have a name for. It's like divination but more complex. I can't even grasp how he does it. It's like second nature for him. I can do the same to an extent, but nothing on his level. I suspect it may have something to do with why he wouldn't speak when he was younger. It's just a theory based on his power, but I think—he was living multiple lives at once."
James' frown made him look years older, weary almost. "That doesn't make any sense."
Harry shrugged. "It's just a theory. I've never heard of abilities quite like this before. We both can do it, so it's obliviously genetic. Maybe something passed down."
Aurora looked at his parents, her stare pensive. "Bloodline talents are not so unusual for particular mortals, but its sheer scope makes this a peculiar trait. A very powerful one."
Harry closed his eyes for a moment and nodded. "I've been over it so many times, but it always comes back to that. We got the ability from someone in our family. Reckon from an ancestor. I need to know who. This is key—"
To figuring out how he got here.
James studied him intently. "What will you do with that information? What then?"
"If I knew where this ability came from, I don't know, maybe I can get a clue on what in the hell happened to me—to your Harrison. If I can't get back home, then. I don't know. We all need closure."
"I think. I would like that," Lily said quietly. Her eyes shined wetly.
Harry turned his stare to the ground. His ears felt hot and he managed a shy smile. Crying women always made him feel uncomfortable and awkward, like something hot was building underneath his skin and turning his senses hypersensitive. Petunia Dursley hadn't been one for tears. Hers and especially his own.
"I'll do some digging and get you what I can," James offered.
The cordial tone made his brain short circuit. "You're being unusually civil to me. Especially considering the last time we spoke you said you would kill me. And also, can we talk about you and Mum's love for homicide? It's a bit much."
"The irony in that is delightful," Aurora murmured, her voice low, sweet.
He rolled his eyes. "You're a breathing irony."
There was an unreadable expression on James face that Harry couldn't decipher. When he did answer the question his voice wasn't warm, but it wasn't the chilly tone he was used to hearing. "Everyone knows you were up there in the thick of the Faerie War. The Knight of the Cross, a wizard, some teen wolves and you saved the world. You might not be Harrison, but. I mean, shit," James sighed and wiped a hand down his face. "What I mean is, I can appreciate you doing good in his name."
Something loosened in his chest, some long buried ache he righteously ignored. He really didn't care about making his parents proud. That bridge had long since burned. But having their love was the Mirror of Erised's truthful reflection of his heart then and now.
"I'm not going to apologize for the past—" James started.
Harry snorted. "The moment just jumped straight out the window."
His father sighed. "But I'll try not to be a dick from now on. Happy?"
"Immensely." Harry smiled slyly. "So do we hug it out? Cool jock pat on the back style."
James leveled a flat glare at him. "Don't push it."
"So I'll be by for holidays, yeah?" Harry grinned at his Mum, ignoring James twitching eye.
They had a good laugh as they got up to hug, minus his Dad of course. James settled for a nod. Aurora stepped in to hug Lily, too, and his Mum froze. They all did.
Aurora blinked innocently and Harry saw right through it. She tilted her head. "Is it too soon?"
"Is she serious?" Lily stared at Harry.
"Ignore her. I do it all the time."
"For that it's only my generosity that you still draw breath," said Aurora smoothly.
"She's kidding this time, I swear," Harry assured her, smiling weakly. She really was. This kind of talk was the Sidhe version of foreplay. That he wasn't telling his parents however.
Aurora smiled and it was as breathtaking as the sunrise. "I had a wonderful time. I do hope we can do this again, Mom and Dad."
She was insane.
Harry grabbed her arm and couldn't even lift his eyes to read his parents expressions before he was twisting on the spot and disapparating.
Harry walked around his loft turning on lights while ignoring Aurora as she peered around with undisguised curiosity. Apparating here was second nature, and it was a good thing too because there were supplies he actually needed to get. Using blood in magic was heavily frowned upon by the Ministry, but that didn't mean it wasn't done. The Ancient and Noble families loved their old and obscure magics. The whole thing gave them an underserviced sense of superiority that their ancestors had left them super mystic arts that muggleborns would never have access to. The Black family library had been full of the stuff. The journals of Sirius's great-great-grandfather Phineas Nigellus in particular made for very interesting but dark reading. Obsessed with blood, the lot of them.
"You had too much fun with that didn't you?" asked Harry, shedding his oxford leaving him in an undershirt.
Aurora rolled her lower lip between her teeth and looked up at him through her lashes. "You always think the worst of me."
"You went to a crummy acting school. You know that, don't you?"
"Do you expect me to answer that clearly rhetorical question."
Harry paused. "Are we bantering? Is that what's happening now?" He made a face and muttered, "That's how Ron and Hermione started off."
He pointed at her. "I was talking to myself. Don't listen to a private conversation between myself and I. Rude."
"You're a strange mortal," she responded after a moment of staring.
Harry shrugged. "I went to a school for wizards. Coming out being only labeled strange is a blessing."
"A school of magic," said Aurora, eyes bright with speculation.
She was like a dog with a bone. He groaned. "You really need another hobby besides trying to get my life story. It isn't happening."
He left Aurora in the living room while he went into his bedroom closet. He grabbed a duffle from a shelf and tossed in a silver dagger, some herbs and oils, and a stack of books that he shrunk and dumped in. Some other things went into the bag and when it was filled to the brim he zipped it up and made his way back to the living room.
Aurora gave him an even stare as he entered the room that instantly put him on edge. He found out why. The woman sitting in his favorite armchair wore a blood red dress that looked like it cost more than his loft. Diamonds glittered around her neck and around her wrists. Dandelion white hair tumbled down her shoulders in soft waves. Her mouth quirked into a smile when she saw Harry, but there was nothing behind it. It was lovely, distant and remote.
He swallowed. "Hello, Queen Titania."
"Come join us, son-in-law. We have much to discuss."
Bollocks. This night officially sucked.
Harry crossed the room to stand next to Aurora. The chances of getting blasted to oblivion seemed less likely that way. Titania watched him cat-eyes not leaving his. Merlin help him if he started to break out into a sweat. She lifted a champagne flute to her lips and sipped, her green-purple eyes like wildflowers, remained on his face, unblinking.
"You two have been mysteriously absent as of late," Titania murmured, studying them with calm, heavy eyes.
Aurora shrugged one slim shoulder. "Not absent. Just not publicly visible."
"Some are beginning to wonder if you are in exile, but we both know differently."
"Rumors that are playing to my advantage," the Summer Lady replied.
"You are hidden from even me," Titania said. "All Sight becomes clouded around you."
Aurora smiled and said simply, "Oh?"
"Your warding skills have grown undeniably powerful to blind your steps through my own domain."
Titania glanced at her, face devoid of all expression. It was like looking at a lovely statue. Then she said, "An observation. Not a compliment."
Harry cleared his throat and Titania's distant stare fell on him. "Where's Lily?"
"Is that name supposed to hold meaning for me?"
"The changeling girl," he responded. At her unchanging expression he elaborated, "The Summer Knight?"
"My young mortal champion," Titania murmured, turning her stare to the glass in her hand. She swirled the liquid around and then lifted it to her strawberry red lips. "Even now Winter is training their new Knight, and so am I. When one Court moves, the other inevitably moves with it."
He shook his head. He didn't even want to get into what counted as training. "You do know the Knights are best friends. Isn't that like a conflict of interest?"
"I am well aware," Titania said. "Both are changelings as well. The symmetry is absolutely elegant."
"But—"He started to say.
Titania silenced him with one unblinking stare and then returned to regard Aurora. "You are entering a treacherous game. Your opponents are veiled and they are many."
"I'm not alone in this," Aurora replied. She touched two warm fingers to the pulse point of Harry's wrist. He sucked in a breath.
"You two are among Summer's strongest. You will need that combined might for the task you have taken up."
His wife lifted her chin defiantly. "He must pay."
Harry looked at her from the corner of his eye. "Are you talking about Oberon?"
Titania's stare fell on him and it was decidedly unpleasant, and then there was pain. It started at his heart and then spread to his lungs, a sheet of blinding agony. He tried to suck in a breath and nothing came. This was pain beyond measure. He was choking. He couldn't scream. Nothing had ever hurt this much. He fell to his knees. His fingers scratched at his chest in a desperate bid for salvation. Then something warm came beside him; something very soothing touched the back of his neck. The comfort they brought was small, but they also gave him back clarity.
"How you survived this long is a mystery, you talking monkey. Speaking my husband's name twice more will create a link between you and summoning him forth will be the last thing you will ever do. Do it once more and I won't just finish boiling the blood in your heart I will make it explode."
The low hissing voice stopped and with it the pain receded to bearable levels. By bearable it was something resembling hellish pain as apposed to immeasurable agony. He sucked in huge gasps of breath and it was all he could do to keep from reaching for his wand. That would lead to his death. He almost fell over but Aurora's fingers kept their comforting hold on his neck.
"Mother." Aurora's eyes were alight and dangerously angry.
Harry knelt there for a minute as the world righted itself. The room stopped spinning and the pain was eased as Aurora's fingers rubbed circles against his back. It took another minute before even blinking stopped hurting. He wiped his mouth, and his hand came away wet with blood.
"You'll have to learn manners if you want to sit at the adult table," Titania continued calmly, as if she hadn't just come a hairs breadth away from ending him.
Harry stared at her and once more remembered that he was looking at the personification of Summer. Hot, merciless and bringer of storms. She could cause the earth to shake by her power alone. It was within her might to cause the earth to swallow the city. "I won't make the same mistake again."
Next time Summer Queen or not, he might just go for his wand after all or apparate across the continent.
Titania turned to Aurora, her eyes bright. "You are playing a dangerous gamble once more, daughter mine."
"I'm aware of that. Yet, I will not stop. Too much is at stake."
"Your father's memory is long. He remembers what I did to him all those years ago. This time he won't only go after the lowborn. He's coming for all of us."
Aurora lips formed into a line. "We can't let him."
"That's why we are taking the offensive," Titania said with quiet solemnity. "You are to use any means necessary to stop him. Permanently."
Aurora tilted her head and blinked her eyes slowly. "Any means?"
"Do not tell me," said Titania, holding up a hand. "I cannot purge myself if I do not know what you have planned. I have an inkling that you have once more done something to break our treaty with Winter. Know this, my daughter, if you are caught then I cannot protect you. The Summer Court will disavow any knowledge of your actions."
"As Your Grace commands, your word is done." She inclined her head.
Harry finally climbed to his feet with Aurora's help under Titania's iridescent gaze. "What say you, wizard? What will your role be?"
"I'm going to break him down and crack him open."
"That is why I named you Aequitas Lumina," Titania smiled, slow, pleased. She nodded to Aurora. "He's learning."
It was either get with the program or have his organs liquefied. He wasn't stupid.
Aurora didn't break eye contact. "We won't fail."
"Good hunting," said Titania. She lifted her glass to toast. "Remember our House words."
"Burn them all to ash," both Aurora and Harry responded on top of each other. Harry more out of self preservation than duty.
Titania smiled a feline smile with those deep red lips, and she tilted her head at Harry. "We'll make a king out of you yet."
There was a gigantic gust of wind, a sound like a high speed pressure of air inside a vacuum chamber, and Titania was gone.
Harry wiped blood away from his chin and glared at Aurora. "At least my Mum never actually shot you."
"She did apologize for injuring you."
Harry stared at her. "No. She really didn't."
Aurora actually flipped her hair. "Well you aren't dead so count your blessings."
"I almost did die, hello," said Harry jabbing at his heart. "I should be in a coma or something. Mummy dearest was out for blood."
"You're being dramatic," Aurora sighed, making him choke. "Surely you've noticed since our marriage you've become harder to hurt, faster to heal. You're fine."
"What," Harry said.
Her smile was smug. "You're welcome."
Memories flew through his mind—mild concussions easing off quickly, scraps and cuts closing oddly fast, weirdly above average stamina and endurance. He thought his healing spells had improved, but that field had never been his forte.
"What," he said again, staring as her smile turned wider.
She ran a finger down the line of his jaw. "As far as side effects went, not bad wouldn't you say?"
"Cheeky thing aren't you," he said, reaching to poke her in the arm. He paused midway and stared into her too bright eyes. He remembered exactly who he was dealing with. "I'm going to grab my stuff and we can go before this night turns even more into a bloody mess."
"Is this what mortals call a date night?"
Harry's mouth fell open a little. "You are ridiculous."
Her laugh followed him as he walked out of the room.
Harry's eyes were itching, and he felt like if he slept now he wouldn't wake up for days. They didn't have that kind of time. Leananside was on the move all across Faerie searching for her stolen hellhound, and she wouldn't rest until Margaret was back in her kennel. The thing was Lea was good. She was more than a match for Harry when they went one on one. If the White Wand hadn't freaked out and taken over then who knows how the fight would've turned out, then.
The sun rose in washes of orange and gold light as the ski boat cleared the turbulent waters of Lake Michigan. There wasn't anyone else out on the great lake. Not that it mattered because the boat was veiled with faerie magic rendering them undetectable by mortal means. The city disappeared behind them as the boat skimmed out into the center of the lake.
Harry stared at the boat's captain, dressed in a pair of slacks and blue v-neck under a black blazer. His snow white hair was bound back and even behind those dark sunglasses the Sidhe wore Harry knew his stare was being returned. "Why aren't you dead?"
Margaret let out a little laugh from where she was sprawled on the boat's deck. "Love outlasts death. The science is the movement of two flowers in the sea. The tin soldiers are seven and nine and made of dirt. Who is the keeper of the mists, no one but the stars know. Tell it all, shhhh, listeners are the spark of fate's fire."
She had taken to scratching at her face until she bled and Harry was forced to bind her hands. It didn't stop Margaret from dabbing her fingers in her bloody welts and using the blood to doddle all over herself. Her arm was covered in red scribbles that seemed to amuse her. It made his stomach turn a bit. But at least she was occupied.
"I was only serving my lady, whether my actions were condemned or not," said Talos, coolly. "Queen Titania was merciful and my punishment was light."
Harry sighed. "Pity."
It wasn't because Titania was merciful. She was no such thing. His usefulness hadn't run out and once it did then the Summer Queen would show him whose orders he really followed. He would rather see Talos sweeping the halls of Lux Sanctum, or at the bottom of the deepest pit of the Nevernever with a Dementor or two for company.
Aurora appeared at his side and studied his smile. "You're in good spirits."
"Not particularly," Harry said, shaking his head a little to clear his thoughts of Talos getting his comeuppance.
The boat bounced across the waves at a steady pace, throwing up splashes of spray that Harry deflected with an Impervius Charm. He would do something unspeakable for a Pepperup Potion right about now. The lake was vast and there was nothing but water as far as he could see.
"Why couldn't we get to this place by taking a Way through the Nevernever?" asked Harry.
The rising sun cast an almost unearthly glow about Aurora and he had trouble looking at her directly. She smiled as she basked in the sun's rays. "You said the spell would have more of an effect if we went someplace that holds meaning to her."
Harry looked around at the empty lake and said slowly, "Yeah."
"There's an uncharted island in the center of lake that Margaret Dresden often frequented."
"Still doesn't answer my question," Harry repeated. "Why did we have to take the normal way here? Shortcuts are fantastic."
She paused, that unnaturally stillness that made him uncomfortable. "The island does not lead to anything… pleasant within the Nevernever. This route is slow but safe.
Harry shook his head. "Alright, my discomfort meter just went from this," he held his hand chest high, and then quickly raised it above his head, "to this. Explain. Now."
"There are lines of energy crossing the entire planet. Certain spots have greater concentrations than others. This region in particular is a nexus for them."
Something tugged at Harry's memory and he breathed, sharply, "Ley lines."
"Exactly," she nodded. "The place we're going has one such ley line. In fact, the island is its source. It's where the energy stems from. Very dark and dangerous energy."
Harry stared at Aurora. "When I said this was a shady bit of dark magic, I didn't mean we were about to do a medieval black magic ritual." He waved his hand around in frustration. "You don't know how mortal magic gets altered around that crap. I swear if I come out of this calling myself Dark Lord Potter it's on."
Aurora pursed her lips thoughtfully, considering him. "That does have a certain cachet."
He groaned and snapped his fingers in front of her face. "Focus, would you. I can already see the wheels turning in that pretty little head of yours."
"Pretty?" she asked, preening under his disbelieving stare.
"Unbelievable," Harry muttered, moving away from her and to the other side of the deck. "Bloody sociopathic narcissist."
Talos' glasses slipped down showing his inhuman feline eyes. "Trouble in paradise?"
"Ah, yes, because this moment wouldn't be complete without your dumb comment," said Harry, shaking his head. "Please shut up and go back to lurking in the background like a good little minion."
Talos just smiled that infuriatingly smug smile of his.
Harry turned to face the stern just in time to see an island rise up from the chilly waters of the lake. It was covered in tall trees and filled with brush and foliage, like thick thickets that looked half his size and filled with thorns.
The shoreline was like something from one of those old horror films of old Western ghost towns. And it had been empty for some time because the forest had come to take back its land. Trees grew through the old wooden buildings and most had fallen into decay and collapsed into themselves. The sudden silence in the air was eerie as his eyes traced the crumbling structures, scanning the abandoned town for signs of life. There should be at least animals or birds but there was nothing.
"Well this is lovely," muttered Harry under his breath.
Aurora was beside him once more. "That's the dark energy of the island. It compels people away or it drives them insane. Make no mistake, we are not wanted here."
Harry rubbed the goosebumps on his arms, finally placing the forbidding feeling for what it was. This place was death and ruin and they were going mucking about on shore. Shit. All of Aurora's plans needed revising by him in the future. He should know better by now.
"Where do we dock?" Harry asked, gazing around. His eyes landed on the sad remains of a rotting pier at the shoreline. The planks were long gone and the wooden columns jutted out of the water, broken and useless. "Oh."
Talos shut the engine and the boat glided to the broken wooden post nearest the shore. He was already climbing into the front of the boat as the vessel bumped against the column, waiting with rope in hand. He tied the boat to the column.
Then the Lord Marshall was lifting Margaret up into his arms and jumping overboard. Aurora blew a kiss at Harry and followed him over. They landed on the surface of the lake like it was firm earth. Without a backward glance they continued walking across water to the shore.
"Five points to Summer," he said, impressed.
Harry concentrated and sprang into the air. It was like stop action. One second he was on the boat and the next he was standing next to the others on the shore. The trees shook as if a storm were passing. And if it wasn't for the backwash of air it might have been hypothesized as apparation.
"That's how you got over my wall of thorns. You can fly," Aurora deduced, looking satisfied as if she solved some great mystery.
He refused to meet her stare on principle. "And you can walk on water. Let's not make it into a thing."
Harry took another step and froze as the world transformed into light. Countless threads of glowing green light surrounded him. Each one touched a part of his body and stretched off into the infinite beyond. He could feel the Earth hurtling through space, around the sun, and all it would take was a thought and he would fall and fall through space and away from this planet, from this universe. Harry's stare fell onto one glowing thread and his mind went spiraling between the past and future and outside time marjoram.
There was darkness and it was absolute. Only there was something here with him in the dark, waiting. A gate loomed large above him. The structure itself appeared to be a massive frame at least eight stories and housing a pair of doors denoted with innumerable glyphs and sigils, wards and warnings. Power vibrated off of the gate and Harry reached out his hand—he had been here before…
The ground shook beneath his feet. The island shook.
Something other swept over him and through him, an unkind awareness. It was the chill of a grave, a vast darkness, and its sheer presence fell on him and crushed him. It didn't like him. Its malevolence spread into his mind, into his veins, and then it…stopped. It was—curious.
There was music, someone was singing a lullaby, and then came a whisper in the dark.
Your treasure will remain secret. This one is mine, Guardian.
Harry sucked in a gasp of breath. He scrambled backward until his back hit a log. Aurora appeared above him and he flinched as the world tried to right itself as reality reasserted its grip. Aurora's hands grabbed his face and held him still.
Aurora's voice did something weird where it was musical and soft but strong in the power laced through it. It was like a clarion's call breaking through the fog of disorientation. With each beat of his heart Harry's perception cleared.
Harry's hands grasped hers, holding them to his face, against his cheeks. "Aurora?"
"What happened?" asked Aurora. There was an unusual timbre of concern in her tone. "You fell and the earth quaked. You began to seizure and I, I—"
"This island is alive," he rambled, distressed, so his words came out too fast, tumbling over each other. "That's not right—it has a sort of spirit to it. Yeah, that's it! An awareness. It's really strong and not friendly." He looked at her and his eyes were wide. "The ley line set off my ability like a. Like a catalyst. The island tried to end me, but then it saw something in me—" He swallowed and his voice came out very quiet, "I think we got permission to be here."
"Genuis loci," she breathed. The look she fixed Harry with was intense. "That's what the wizards call such a spirit. You spoke with it? Communicated."
Harry gently took her hands from his face and looked down at his side. There lay the White Wand, fallen in his haste. He stared at the seemingly innocent piece of white oak wood. "It wasn't me."
Aurora followed his stare to the wand and her mouth turned into a harsh frown. "Harry…."
"I know," he acknowledged her warning.
There was nothing left to say. He carefully put the White Wand back in his pocket. It was safer on him then tucked away somewhere else. Dumbledore had that much right with the Elder Wand. He ignored Talos' stare of intent and Margaret's crazy grin.
"Let's hurry," said Harry, staring off thoughtfully. His mind was racing. "I don't think we should stick around longer than we need to."
They made their way between the derelict old buildings and away from the could-have-been town, keeping pace steadily uphill. It was slow going as the growth was thicker here. If Harry and Margaret weren't with them, he was positive Aurora and Talos would have made their way easily through the thick brush. The Sidhe moved with elegance through the foliage and thorns and branches seemed to bend around them in a way that wasn't noticeable unless you kept a careful eye for it.
They came to the edge of the town and Harry stopped suddenly, staring with wariness at the mountain that loomed above the forest ahead. His Occlumency locked up his thoughts tight and even then there was a strong sense of psychic pressure that pressed into his mind.
"We shouldn't go any further," Harry said, holding out his arm to stop the others. "I think this is as far as our visitors pass goes."
Aurora nodded, her eyes watching him carefully. "I agree."
Harry pulled the shrunken duffle bag from his packet and then enlarged it with a flick of his first wand. He started pulling out supplies idly listening to Margaret's nonsensical ramblings that disturbed the otherwise silent morning.
He grabbed a book and flipped through it, skimming it as he read under his breath, "North by northwest, intent formed by will… fate line across the palm…"
"Have you ever done such magic like this before?" asked Aurora.
Harry snorted. "Every Tuesday after tea." He shook his head. "Nope. The last time I saw a restorative ritual I was fourteen, and it was some dark stuff. This won't come close. I hope."
After some more time consulting the books Harry was as ready as he would ever be. First, he placed four black candles at each cardinal point, using the Point Me spell with his wand so that he could align them properly. Next, he got out the black handled athame with its thin silver blade, along with a silver goblet he knicked from Solaria Garden a few years back.
"Alright," he said quietly. "Now or never."
Talos led Margaret into the center of the ring formed by the candles and then moved to stand beside Aurora. Margaret promptly took a set on the ground laughingly playing at the dirt. Immediately she started drawing the same doodles on the ground that matched the blood drawn ones on her body. Harry contemplated hitting her with a quick Scourgify but last time he cast the Cleaning Charm on her, she kidney punched him. So she could just stay messy for all he cared.
Harry stepped into the ring and set the goblet on the ground. He reached into his pocket and withdrew the vial of Aiden's blood.
"Blood of the child, freely given, you will restore this mother." He dumped the vial into the goblet and switched it for the athame. With a swift stroke Harry cut into his palm and his blood ran down into the cup. "Blood of the friend, willingly given, you will mend this woman."
Harry bent to one knee and gently wrapped his fingers around Margaret's. She didn't even look at him, continuing her drawing with her free hand. He cast a Numbing Charm on her hand and quickly made a cut across her palm. She didn't feel it but Margaret turned fascinated eyes to the swell of blood as Harry maneuvered her hand so that it fell into the goblet.
"Blood of the victim, peacefully taken, you will renew this wizard."
Their blood mixed and there was almost a tangible hum of power. It was in the air, in the wind, and beneath their feet and building like a static that was turning into electricity. Harry picked up the goblet and almost hissed as the concentrated energy welled up from the cup, threatening to spill over. Somehow the cup was full with blood, more than that went in, and it wasn't simply blood now. It was a potion.
Harry took Margaret's hands and folded them around the cup. Under her blank gaze he mimed drinking, hoping that she understood. He could feel Talos and Aurora's silent stares but didn't dare stop trying to coax her. She had to freely drink it or it wouldn't take. Then without warning Margaret lifted the cup and downed it, drinking so deeply that it dribbled down her chin as she swallowed it all.
The empty goblet fell from her limp fingers and it rolled out of the circle. She burped and then laughed a little at herself. His heart sunk.
"Oh, no," Harry murmured, frowning down at his hands.
Aurora took a step forward and Harry turned to her, an apology on his lips when Margaret grabbed his head and spun it to face her. He stared into those fathomless dark eyes and for the first time felt the beginnings of a soulgaze. But that meant— his eyes widened as the connection formed.
Her power made him gasp. It was absolutely beautiful in its complexity but deadly in its strength.
Harry rocked back on his heels as he gazed into the everburning star that was Margaret Dresden's soul.
He saw Margaret garbed in gray standing amidst a sea of white robed people with no faces. The shadows gathered and grew at their backs, she shouted to get their attention, but she was ignored like always—she closed her eyes and let the shadows engulf her. Pity them. The end was coming. The end was near.
She was Margaret Gwendolyn LeFay McCoy Dresden.
Many names, many titles. But she was so much more. She was a prisoner, a victim, wizard, rebel, daughter, wife and above all a mother. She loved her children. There wasn't anything she wouldn't do for her boys. Thomas was safe and her little Harry was protected, but he needed guidance—training. What was coming, Stars and Stones, she prayed he wouldn't fall. Not like her.
She was a fighter but she could never protect the ones she really loved. What was after her would come after him. Her one true love. The little time they had she would never forget. All the while she would never forgive herself for putting him in harm's way. She was sorry with everything that she was. Please, forgive her.
Might didn't make right. She knew that but there was no deal she wouldn't make to keep her people safe. Because there was secrets. Some would cost her life and others would buy life. There was darkness in her soul. She knew its potential and what she was capable of. It was her greatest strength and her biggest weakness. She stayed in between the dark and light, because she knew who and what she was. She was the daughter of the Blackstaff. She was not going to fall in line with those who beget evil.
The cord snapped and just as swiftly as it begun the soulgaze ended. Harry stared as Margaret blinked rapidly, waiting for the inevitable reaction that came with soulgazing him. And waited.
"Do you hear that?" asked Talos, tensing up and pulling a rapier out of thin air at his left hip.
Harry stood up and listened, his whole body ready. "I don't hear anything."
Aurora peered into the forest ahead and said softly, "She's here."
Out of the forest stepped a very tall, beautiful woman with deep red hair that curled past her hips in a riotous cascade. The green gown she wore looked out of place amongst the scenery, but she wore it well as she stalked toward them, golden eyes gleaming in the morning light.
"You naughty brats. You took something that belongs to me," Lea purred, but there was real malice in her voice. On either side of her stalked a pair of hellhounds, four total, watching them with flat red eyes.
Talos pointed his sword at Lea and glared at her down the length of the blade. "Go, my lady. I will hold her off."
No one saw him move. In the next instant he was in Lea's space, sword swinging toward her neck. Lea dodged almost lazily. She feigned left and Talos reacted a second too slow. Her hand blurred forward and grabbed him by his arm, breaking it in several places, before the other darted forward. She grabbed Talos by the throat and pulled. There was a sickening squelch and he hit the ground, but Lea's hand remained there in the air holding the dangling and dripping remains of his trachea. She dropped it almost casually on his twitching, gasping body that was ripped open and dying, the ground turning a deep black-red color beneath him. It all happened in less than twenty seconds.
"Now where was I?" said Lea, staring at their shocked faces. "You have something of mine and I want it back."
From behind Harry came a noise and he spun around as Margaret climbed to her feet. "I wasn't aware that I was a thing to be kept."
Her voice was quiet but no less resolute. She rose up tall, back straight, and head held high. Her dark eyes shone with a focus and clearness that Harry had never seen. There was strength in the set of her jaw and in the new way she carried herself.
"Impossible," Lea breathed, golden eyes wide.
Margaret raised her hand flat with palm facing the ground. The doodles on her arms flared violently red. Harry stared as it clicked in his mind. They weren't doodles, they were glyphs. The identical glyphs drawn on the ground lit up just as brightly and from the earth rose up a staff of dark, twisted wood, unmarked by any carving. It was black like the nighttime sky. She grasped it in her left hand and a chill descended in the air.
"It's been a long time, Leanansidhe," said Margaret quietly.
Lea inclined her head. She flexed her fingers and her nails grew into sharp claws. "I suppose I should say welcome back."
"I've come to collect my debts," declared Margaret. "This ass whooping you got coming is only the start of what you owe me. So ante up."
Author's Note; Not much to say here but I hope you liked it. There's going to be quite the epic fight next chapter.
Special Thanks; Wizard Giller, knight504, Bill Door, Jon, Dark Syaoran the first three for any and all editing help and the last two for keeping the laughs coming in the story post at DLP.