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 Four: The White Council Inquisition
by: Water Mage
There was a roar of wind and a terrible earthquake that rocked the island and Harry grabbed onto Aurora to hold them steady. The sky darkened as angry gray clouds blanketed the sun, but at that moment, there was a viridian bolt of lightning, and the sky seemed to split open at the seams. What came forth was something inhuman. Its presence burned the aether around its hulking shape as it rose forth like some titan of old, bolstered by the dark energy of the ley line beneath them.
"Stars above," Harry gasped, as sheer, undiluted eldritch power flooded out across the surface of the island.
The spirit of the island was over twelve feet and was only vaguely humanoid; its shoulders too wide, its stance too crooked, its unnatural frame covered by a voluminous cloak. Green eyes burned from within the darkness of the cloak's hood and it was not pleased with what it found.
"Okay," Harry said, giving his wife a weary frown over Margaret's drooped head. "Do you think its upset about us wrecking the place?"
Aurora readjusted her grip on the unconscious woman and returned Harry's frown. "Your powers of deduction are astounding."
A trace of anxiousness was apparent in her expression that was clear as day. Harry gulped as the dark power thrummed in the air and the wind blasted forth like it came from the depths of the Arctic, almost taking him off his feet. Harry gritted his teeth, fighting the tiredness in his body, and readied his wand, but he wasn't the only one making a stand; a shape moved between them and the angry spirit.
"Wardens, Code Eagle," barked the short, stocky wizard, who recognized Margaret moments ago. He didn't take his stare off the being, unflinching as its hostile aura grew. "Alpha formation and haul ass back to the boat."
A man broke ranks, even as the gray cloaked Wardens took up defensive positions, and his long, grey white hair blew in the force winds as he joined his gruff looking companion. His skin was the ruddy brown of a Native American exposed to plenty of sunshine.
"Feeling left out, Injun Joe?"
Injun Joe serenely faced their adversary, mouth tilted in a slight smile. "You would be terribly missed if the spirit locked you up down below, Ebenezer."
"Ah, I'm touched," Ebenezer replied, as he raised the Blackstaff. "I didn't know you cared."
"I'm not including myself."
They traded fierce, wolfish smiles at each other.
The Wardens obeyed Ebenezer's command and they formed a loose ring formation, beyond them were the married pair and their unconscious companion, but also was the regal Asian woman with snow white hair, sharp eyes taking in the three.
"Formalities will stand for now. Follow me to safety, if you please," she said in a brisk but confident tone that didn't match her tiny fragile frame. "Wardens on me."
Carrying Margaret between them, husband and wife had no option but to follow the Council wizards as they double timed it back to the shore. The entity's eyes flashed and white hot fire gathered before it in a lance rushing toward the wizards, carving a trench coated in ice and frost as it sped forth. Harry glanced back over his shoulder to see Injun Joe dive into the ground as easily if the hard earth was a swimming pool. Ebenezer muttered a word and made a slashing motion with his hand. Streams of darkness and light screamed from his staff to meet the onrushing flame, the power of entropic destruction and banefire consumed each other in a crack like thunder and a roiling sense of incomprehensible wrongness, leaving reddish cracks spider-webbing out across the air from the contact point.
Merlin. Harry's eyes went round. The warring energies actually fractured space.
There was a distant rumble and Injun Joe burst from the ground in a spectacular explosion of soil and rocks. In mid-air his form rippled like heat waves above a desert, changing in a move that was so familiar it stole Harry's breath, because Injun Joe's body simply flowed into something different as easily and effortlessly as breathing.
The towering entity didn't go head up against the form of an old man.
Instead, it was tackled by a gray rhinoceros the size of a shuttle bus.
Harry tripped and was forced to avert his eyes to focus on his escape. His heart hammered in his chest as the deep bellows of the rhinoceros melted into the mighty roar of a lion, air shaking with intent and power. Harry didn't have to look back to know that Injun Joe had shifted form again. Comparing the old Native American to an Animagus would be like comparing a caveman learning to create fire to a chemist using that same fire to create napalm.
He didn't dare look back again. Getting off this island was more important than watching three juggernauts duke it out with powers Harry didn't wholly fathom. They hastily made their way to the ramshackle dock where a white rental boat wallowed alongside their own craft, about twenty feet longer and intended for luxury rather than waterskiing like theirs. Harry was glad the Council wizards had the extra space because without Talos behind the wheel he didn't have a clue how to captain their boat.
They were ushered onto the craft by the dour looking Wardens and the wheel was immediately grabbed by a buff looking wizard who looked like he was made of solid muscle. He was tall, had a short beard of patchy brown and grey, both his long hair caught in a ponytail and cloak flapped in the harsh wind. He barked orders over the roaring gust and his fellow Wardens obeyed his commands as they loosened the line, unsecured the boat, and prepared for take off. The engine rumbled to life as they turned out toward enormous expanse of the turbulent lake waters.
Harry carried Margaret bridal style into the cabin down below. He sat her gently on the bed mindful of Ancient Mai's watchful stare. He didn't like the way she stared at Margaret. The displeasure was barely apparent but it was there all the same. Aurora must have sensed that he was about to say something rude because she stepped in front of Harry and bowed her head without taking her eyes off the woman.
"The sun's light brightens upon our meeting," Aurora said, once the woman bowed in turn. "You must be Ancient Mai."
"Lady Summer," Ancient Mai replied. "I admit this is an unexpected predicament."
"The White Council's involvement in this affair is indeed unexpected," said Aurora simply.
Harry unfortunately knew Aurora quite well and there was no way she was going to just hand out information to the old woman. Aurora barely told Harry all the Machiavellian schemes she had in play and she actually liked him. He was going to follow her lead in this and close ranks. They might not always get along but if it was her or the White Council, he knew where he stood.
"We tracked the theft of a Council artifact," Mai watched Harry continuously wave his wand over Margaret, murmuring healing charms under his breath. Stark curiosity shone in her dark eyes. "We did not anticipate you and your husband or a wizard who has been dead for over two decades."
Aurora shrugged one slim shoulder. "The Summer Court's business is its own."
"And I will leave the Summer Court to answer it," said Ancient Mai with a smile that was empty as Mab's heart. "The White Council does have questions and we will have answers all the same."
She stared directly at Margaret.
"What are you going to do to her?" Harry asked, glancing at her while keeping a careful eye on the bones knitting together in Margaret's arm.
There was a kind of youthful beauty in Ancient Mai's features leftover from the ravishing young woman she once was. Harry could imagine her as the gorgeous wizard she used to be. There was too much hardness in the set of her mouth now and she made him on edge. She was not someone to turn their back to.
"We have ways to verify truth from lies," Ancient Mai said. "We will unveil the mystery of this supposed resurrection."
Harry tilted his head. "You don't think she's really Margaret Dresden do you?"
Ancient Mai's laugh was brief and lacked real mirth. "At face value? Of course not, Lord Summer. That luxury is for the peacetimes. The White Council is at war." Her next comment was directed Aurora, "You should know all about the nuisances of warfare."
Harry mentally winced at the jab. It had only been four weeks since the Faerie War. Aurora had played her role as the pawn so flawlessly that no one believed her sane. After all, it took madness to want to see the world end. Oberon's head on a pike outside Lux Sanctum was her true goal. Everything else be damned.
"Do I know about war?" Aurora's expression was unwavering. "In the winter nobles hide in their castles with their harvest and men huddle around their pitiful fires, women cry as their babies freeze. They all pray for the cold winds to die, and when the ice melts and the flowers bloom that's the time of passion and bloodshed. Under the sun is when rage is most absolute. Summer is the season of battle." Aurora smiled. "So yes, wizard, I do know a thing or two about war. I am war."
It was oddly sexy, thrilling almost, the elegant way Aurora made her point. Green eyes traced the curve of her neck and Harry's throat went suddenly dry as something between his lungs smiled and pulsed and shattered and it hurt in the best possible way. His eyes went round and he suddenly pictured a burning fire in his mind because bloody bleeding hell. He was not going there. Using every bit of Occlumency training from years ago, Harry fed all his emotions into that burning pyre until he was empty.
"The song of summer is the clash of swords," Ancient Mai inclined her head, taking no insult from the counter. "My mentor told me once when I was a girl."
The Summer Lady simply nodded. "Margaret Dresden is a friend. I wish to stand with her when she faces her peers. I will confirm her testimony."
Ancient Mai considered her a moment, expression remote. "I wouldn't truly believe her claim if she didn't have at least one of the Fey on her side."
"Lefay, your people called her," Aurora acknowledged. "A worthy name."
Harry stood up and sighed. "She's stabilized. She just needs to rest."
The forces Margaret tapped into with the Blackstaff was death and it was ruin. The destructive principle released by Margaret still made ice creep under his skin. Harry hoped the wizard she knicked the staff from was merciful otherwise it was going to get ugly. Although the way that stocky old man looked at Margaret, it was like he was seeing a miracle. Maybe…
"Ma'am," one of the Wardens called down. "You might want to see this."
Mai's white silk robes billowed behind her as she moved quickly up the stairs. Aurora and Harry were right behind her and the boat rocked as it sailed away from the island. They moved between the Wardens at the back of the boat and caught sight of what held their attention.
The water crystallized, freezing solid in a track that raced across the lake in seconds. Ebenezer ran above the path of ice toward the boat like the hounds of hell were on his heels. Viridian lightning fell from the sky and struck the path originating at the shore. Green fire consumed the ice, racing after the wizard in an blaze of deadly, unnatural flames.
He wasn't going to make it. Harry raised his wand. "Accio—"
Ebenezer raised his arms and leapt off the ice track. Instead of meeting icy lake waters, a giant eagle the size of a pickup swopped down and grabbed him with its talons even as the ice bridge went up in a fiery inferno. A piercing cry echoed in the sky and the mighty bird flew toward boat where it dropped Ebenezer rather unceremoniously on the bench beside the wheel. Despite his age he was nimble enough to catch himself from tumbling over to the deck.
Ebenezer wiped mud off his flannel shirt and scowled up at the sky. "I know you did that on purpose, wiseguy."
The eagle descended toward the boat and its wings flapped once and twice and then its form was flowing into the grinning face of Injun Joe. He stuck his hands inside his jeans and ignored Ebenezer's glowering expression.
"That doesn't sound like thank you," Injun Joe pointed out.
Ebenezer laughed, shaking his head. "You'll sooner see that fifty bucks we bet back in '52."
"Reneging?" Injun Joe smirked. "Typical."
When Ebenezer turned to Ancient Mai his expression blanked, a dark frown making his face severely grave. "Where is she?"
"Down below," she replied, simply.
He nodded. "Listens-to-Wind?"
"Of course," replied "Injun Joe" Listens-to-Wind. "You will have privacy to interrogate her."
Harry still had his wand in hand when he made his presence known. "It'll be in your best interest not to harm her."
"Lord Summer," Ebenezer said, calmly. "If she's the real McCoy she won't ever have anything to fear from me."
It wasn't like Harry could stop him really. He was phenomenal at manipulating magic for combat but Ebenezer was a powerhouse of pure destruction. Harry stepped aside and the shorter man nodded and continued on his way below deck.
Injun Joe turned his gaze to the Warden captaining the wheel. "Morgan, take us full speed away from the island."
Morgan nodded and the boat's engine roared as he punched it. The deck was getting a little crowded so the Wardens fanned out and moved at different points to stand sentry, watching the island behind them dissapear until it was speck on the horizon.
"Brilliant," Harry exhaled in relief. "This place is cursed."
Injun Joe traded a look with Ancient Mai and the woman shook her head. He stared at Harry for a moment. "That island is far from cursed. But it is prideful and holds grudges. It will be in your best interest to never step foot there again."
Aurora inclined her head, smiling faintly. "I am fully aware of the island and its original purpose. But it's good to see you again, Listens-to-Wind."
Injun Joe's smile was worn but genuine. "You've grown, little dawn."
Harry tilted his head. "You've met?"
"When I was small and this land was young," Aurora replied with an enigmatic stare, causing Harry to raise an eyebrow. He couldn't resist.
"You look good for your age."
Aurora thought on it for a moment. "Merely good?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Merlin preserve us. You Seelie are so vain."
Injun Joe's full attention was again on Harry. "Merlin? You're the wizard of Summer." He looked at Aurora. "Your husband?"
Did everyone know about their marriage? There had to be a newsletter he didn't subscribe to. This was getting ridiculous. Harry needed to start gathering contacts in the supernatural nations because he was tired of being clueless. It was like his early years in the wizarding society.
"Yes," Aurora answered. "And the king who is to come of the Summer Court."
Harry waved and put on his poshest accent. "Hello."
Injun Joe's dark eyes sparkled and he looked between the married pair, nodding. "Your rule will be unlike anything known."
Especially if Aurora had it her way, Harry mentally tacked on.
"Are we going to the White Council headquarters?" asked Harry.
Injun Joe nodded. "We will dock the boat and then take the Ways through the Nevernever to the Hidden Halls."
"The Hidden Halls of Edinburgh," Aurora murmured. "I hope the Council is pleased with the Ways that Mab has granted them through her territory."
"They satisfy the needs of the Council."
They got comfortable on the bench because it was going to be awhile before they returned to the mainland. Ancient Mai sat on the opposite bench facing them between two Wardens who stared straight ahead, like they were in the military. The old woman's eyes were half closed but Harry had no doubt she was aware of every inch of her surroundings. She was dreadfully creepy.
Harry's hand reached out, fingertips barely brushing against Aurora's. He remembered the sensation of her speaking into his mind and focused on projecting his thoughts, holding on to that feeling with his willpower.
Aurora I'm not comfortable with this, Harry thought directly through their connection that hummed between his veins like the warm kiss of summer entwined around the vitalizing caress of magic. It felt sort of intimate, this closeness.
Aurora's lips turned down in the slightest of frowns. Dear husband, the Council has been underestimating the Sidhe Courts for millennia. They're not nor will they ever be a threat to us.
Her overconfidence was going to bite her in the ass one day. Harry refrained from sighing and thought, If things go south I'm apparating us out.
Agreed, said Aurora's calm, charming voice.
A few minutes later as the coastline appeared as a dot in the distance, Ebenezer climbed up from below deck. His face was very pale, but there was something like quiet happiness around his eyes. Injun Joe raised his eyebrows and Ebenezer nodded at his silent question. The Native American shoulders sagged a bit and a tension Harry hadn't noticed was released.
"Be that as it may, she has much to answer for." Ancient Mai said, interpreting the silent exchange. "The Senior Council will have to gather for an inquisition."
Ebenezer gave Mai a chilling look. "There won't be a trial. She's committed no crime."
"She stole the staff of your office," Mai said in a flat tone.
Ebenezer's jaw tensed up. "Borrowed. Not stole."
Injun Joe faced Mai and shook his head. "He's right in this. Margaret Dresden has broken no Laws of Magic or committed crimes of treason."
The nearby Wardens traded looks with one another when he said that. Harry realized until this moment they hadn't really known who the unconscious woman really was. Some might have recognized her but hearing her identity confirmed was alarming. Harry didn't miss the way the wizard at the wheel entire body went suddenly stiff, a dark frown transforming his face. It looked like Margaret didn't have a friend in Warden Morgan.
Ancient Mai lifted her chin haughtily. "We are at war, gentlemen. Do not mistake my cautiousness for pettiness. The massacre at Archangel was the fault of a traitor who knew its defenses inside and out."
"Surely you don't mean?" Ebenezer refused to say the rest.
The old woman's stare was firm. "The inquisition will give us our answer."
Ebenezer thrust out his jaw but made no other argument, leaning back against the railing and crossing his arms. He turned his stare to Harry who straightened up when those knowing eyes found his. The old wizard let out a breath.
"She's asking for you."
Harry frowned. That he wasn't expecting. He stood up and left Aurora to sit with the at odds wizards and she looked terribly amused by it all. Politics was the faerie version of foreplay. The old man's stare followed Harry all he way down the stairs and he looked like he sorely wanted to follow along behind him.
It was only eight steps down the staircase and the cabin opened up around him. Light streamed in through the windows throwing golden oblongs of sunshine across the floor. Harry stopped in his tracks at the sight before him. Margaret sat up on the bed in her tattered clothes, legs crossed, and hands cupped around her mouth. She whispered into her hands, flickering purple light peeking out between her fingers. Dark eyes lifted when she caught sight of Harry.
Margaret's hands open and something that looked part falling star and part hummingbird darted through the air. The bright nimbus of light streaked past Harry in a blur of color and he caught sight of a tiny pair of wings and purple-hued hair before it was gone.
"Was that a faerie?" Harry asked. "One of the Little Folk."
"The Wyldfae are excellent freelance agents," Margaret remarked. She stared at him intently and muttered, "I can't believe you're real. Empty night, look at you."
Harry narrowed his eyes, considering her. "This is about the soulgaze. Most people go temporarily mad when they see my soul, but you—"
"I know exactly who you are, Harry Potter," Margaret interjected, her voice calm, unshakable. "You restored me to sanity and I remember everything. Why I almost died, the enemy we face, what's coming, Everything."
"What you said about me," Harry trailed off.
Margaret considered her words for a moment. "Higher powers play games with the fates of men. Sometimes they arrange events in our favor." She shook her head. "And if you're here we are well and truly fucked."
Harry's brain took a minute to catch up to fact that Margaret was talking about him. The sudden understanding made him freeze and it's like they're in this vacuum and there was nothing but him and this solemn woman looking back at him in this dangerously quiet little cabin.
"What do you mean, if I'm here?" Harry said and his voice came out low, like he was afraid to wreck this, whatever this was.
"You're the Hammer reborn."
He frowned. "Is that supposed to mean something to me?"
Margaret's eyes burned intensely, staring into him. "If there's no hope and no end in sight for the world's suffering your bloodline is the last failsafe."
Harry's muscles coiled tightly instinctively ready to disapparate away from this woman and her harbingering words, but he couldn't. Harry was held in a trance and he barely realized he uttered, "Explain," through clenched teeth until she was replying.
"In the last days when darkness descends and the night is empty there will be a war for the dawn. If those star borne warriors fail, the world fails with them. And oaths are kept and the widow will wail when the last scion takes up arms, and if the hammer, born again of a dream, falls that final blow will be dealt to all," Margaret recited. "You're the hammer. And when the Outsiders and their masters overwhelm this world you're the means of our mutually assured destruction."
Harry ignored the pounding in his heart as another prophecy stitched his future together in scenes that failed to hold shape in the current light. A small part of him had known it would come down to a terribly epic answer to his lot in this alternate life, but Harry held on to a fleeting hope on his being here amounting to some type of accident. A hiccup of fate.
"Words are words, Mrs. Dresden," Harry murmured. He stuck his hands in his pockets, feeling for one dreadful moment like he was fifteen and hearing Trelawney's prophecy all over again. "I'm brilliant with a wand but knowing how to kill Outsiders, and the world right along with them? I think not. Reckon you got the wrong guy."
Sunshine fell across Margaret as she leaned forward, washing her face in gold and highlighting the somberness lingering in her eyes. "I saw into your soul. You are the hammer. In you is the power to destroy the Outer Gates. And the backlash of godflame will kill us all."
She was absolutely insane. He wanted to go home but tearing down the Outer Gates was crazy. Was such a thing even possible? He knew firsthand what was beyond the borders of this world, what existed between this reality and between all others.
"Godflame?" he asked, a thousand thoughts whirling through his mind.
Margaret's grim frown was identical to her son's. "The ultimate fuck you."
A slight tremor shook the deck and the sudden noise of the boat docking made them both freeze. Footfalls echoed down the stairs and just like that all the air rushed back into the room. The bizarre moment of suspension, the two of them baring truths of shrouded pasts and shapless futures, was broken and Harry took a step back as Wardens entered the cabin. The both of them were still locked on each other as the gray cloaked wizards moved to escort the woman off the boat.
Aurora moved to Harry's side when he came above deck. She took one look at his expression and looped her arm through his. "What troubles you, my husband?"
"Not here," he said under his breath.
A thoughtful gleam flashed in her eyes and she nodded without saying a word, thankfully. He followed along silently as his thoughts darkened his eyes and sent his head spinning. Why should he take Margaret Dresden's word? This morning the woman had been utterly mad. How could she know about his family, his entire bloodline? He might be a little lost but he wasn't some promised gatebreaker. The sheer enormity of what she was proposing made his heart trip and stutter and stop. Certainly, Harry already concluded his ancestry was relevant to how he ended up here, but there were too many pieces. He had them all but failed to understand how they lined up. Harry swallowed a slight bubble of hysteria. And if Harry, who had no handle on his talent, was so special, then what did that make Aiden?
The Council wizards moved quickly to hustle them off the boat. The married pair followed along as the Wardens cast a veil to hide their movements from the few people along the shore. Three Wardens took point and three more guarded the rear as they swiftly moved across the wharves to a narrow walkway between two old supply stores.
They came to a dead end and Ancient Mai wasted no time in flicking her fingers at the wall. A neat, perfectly rectangular portal to the Nevernever appeared as quiet as a whisper and without fanfare. They moved through the Way between worlds.
It was perfect autumn weather in Chicago, pleasantly warm for late afternoon. They emerged in a dark wood covered in a thick layer of snow and Harry knew with certainty that he'd been here before when the chill of the land of endless winter hit them in a sobering gust of cold wind. The small mountain they stood upon was the center of a crossroads. The hillside sinking before them and rising again into the night was called Icereach. At the top was the pass that led into the heart of the Unseelie Mountains, to Mab's stronghold of Arctis Tor.
Aurora shot him a look. He nodded, already guessing she was masking their presence from Mab's sight. She'd gotten good at shielding them when they snuck around the Nevernever. They weren't popular these days. If Mab knew they were here…
"Come along," Aurora said, pulling him from his thoughts.
They didn't take the path right leading into the Seelie Plains, where Mab's authority ended and Titania's began. The trail they set off led to the left, following the face of the hillside in a counterclockwise direction. Margaret gazed around the forest almost wistfully. Odd noises of strange animals filled the Winter wood, some cries haunting, others beautiful like a siren song and tugged at the heartstrings, and others were the quiet and faint whisperings of the trees themselves.
"You're using one of my old Ways," said Margaret, nodding to a tree whose trunk had been carved with a pentacle.
Ebenezer nodded as the group turned off the forest path onto a foot trail. "Aye. Our various retreats and Paths in the Nevernever aren't safe. This was a compromise we struck with Winter."
Margaret cut her eyes to him sharply. "Who would be bold enough to threaten the Council's holdings?"
He visibly hesitated, lips turning down in a frown. "Now's not the best time to say."
"Wizard Dresden," Ancient Mai smoothly cut in. "As of eleven months now the White Council and Red Court have been at war." Her stare was piercing. "A war started by your son."
Ebenezer looked daggers at the old woman. "Ancient Mai!"
A hundred emotions cycled through Margaret's eyes in an instant, like the frames of a film reel, spinning and spinning and spinning. Mai watched them all go by, they all did, wondering which one would lock in place. After an excruciating wait, Margaret's eyes finally settled on something Harry knew very well.
"That's my boy," Margaret stated, not bothering to hide her defiant grin. "To Hell with them all. They had it coming."
Listens-to-Wind smiled slightly at the fire in her voice. "It's nice to see time hasn't dulled your passion."
Warden Morgan made a noise from his lead position that sounded an awful lot like disagreement. Margaret snapped her head around to focus on him. "I haven't acknowledged your unremarkable existence for a reason, Morgan. Now do the same and we'll be peachy keen."
"Easy, Donald," Ebenezer warned the Warden, calmly staring Morgan down.
Morgan nodded sharply but didn't wipe the sour expression from his grim face moving more swiftly through the evergreens. The path led up to a clearing in the woods. Smack dab in the center of the clearing was a mound of earth about a dozen yards across and almost as high, thick with stones and vines. Thick slabs of rock formed the posts and lintel of a black doorway. Several grey cloaked wizards stood before the doorway with staffs, wands, batons, and swords, all magical foci, and all pointing directly at them.
The line of wizards eyed the group coming down the trail with stoic faces and didn't drop their guard until they all moved properly into the light.
"Wardens, at ease," Morgan barked and they relaxed, lowering their magical weapons.
"Is that—" A middle aged Warden at the doorway began, gaping at Margaret, who blew him a kiss.
Listens-to-Wind cleared his throat. "The time will come for that later, Warden Pekovic. The will of the Council takes precedent."
"Yes, Sir," Pekovic said, snapping his eyes away from Margaret.
"We seek entry to the Hidden Halls, O Warden," Morgan's voice rang out in a solemn baritone. "May we pass?"
Pekovic straightened, giving him a crisp nod. "Be welcome to the seat of the White Council. Enter in peace and depart in peace."
There was something about the words that rubbed under his skin and made him vaguely uncomfortable in a way Harry couldn't place. The security protocols had to be jinxed. It was brief and was over as quickly as it came as they stepped through the archway.
The tunnel was dimly lit in a rainbow of color by crystals set into the walls bathing the corridor in an ambient illumination. They set off down the sloping, dank tunnel and the old walls were coated with bas-relief carvings and protection sigils and wards that thrummed with sleeping, deadly power. Harry idly wondered if Hogwarts had such security measures anchoring its ancient wards when he took another step and his world flared with light as ethereal green threads wavered into existence like—
A slim hand slipped into his tugging him along and the strings of fate faded into the aether. Beneath his feet a shuddering power raced underground like a silent, dangerous river of energy.
Aurora gave him a look and whispered into his ear, her lips pressing against his earlobe, "A ley line."
Like the one beneath the island, Harry started to say, and Aurora nodded before he could voice his question. He looked down at her hand holding his and shook it loose before she picked up anymore of his surface thoughts from their connection.
Harry looked away and accidentally caught Listens-to-Wind's measured gaze. The old wizard turned his head away without a word and continued following the group down the tunnel. Lovely. He was on a Senior Council member's radar. This day was getting better and better. At random intervals there was gated checkpoints, each manned by a Warden and a pair of temple-dog statues that followed their movements with lifeless granite eyes.
The silent protectors were three feet high at the shoulder, and looked like something Hagrid would love as a pet. They were ferocious even immobile with stone teeth ready to do some serious damage. Harry frowned at the protectors, mentally working out the chain of transfiguration spells and charms it would take to animate one in such fashion. Enchantments were never his forte. The arithmancy always went over his head. Give him a defense spell any day of the week.
The entry tunnel from the Nevernever was more than a quarter mile walk before they entered into the main corridor. Aurora trailed her fingers over an elaborate carving in the stone as they passed it, a haunting scene of titans driving twisted, monstrous creatures into the sea and around them the world burned.
"The lord of the Daoine Sidhe ruled here once," Aurora stated almost absently. "This was a considerable stronghold before your Merlin seized it."
Ebenezer snorted. "There's no need for the revisionist history. He was given ownership fair and square."
"Remarkable for a mortal," Aurora said.
Harry shook his head. "I know you meant that in the best possible way."
She blinked. "Of course."
"Tact, Aurora. Tact."
Her answer to that was a demure look that made him sigh because she got her jollies from seeing his disapproval. So far the headquarters of the White Council of wizards wasn't anything terribly impressive. It was a dim and drafty sort of place, a network of tunnels, all underground without any sort of orientation markings. Of course that was just to confuse intruders. If this was once a palace of the Daoine Sidhe Lord then it had multiple levels and chambers that were architectural marvels. Whenever they passed other wizards pacing the Hidden Halls their company was given a wide berth, stares following after them.
"If you will follow Warden Morgan," said Ancient Mai when they came to a split in the corridor. "He's going to escort you to the guest suites where you can refresh yourselves and rest until the hearing begins."
"Will Margaret be joining us?" Aurora asked.
That was a damn good question. Harry for one wanted to pick up their conversation where they left off. Ebenezer was the one who answered.
"No," he said. "She needs a medic to check her out and there's sensitive information we need to go over."
"Is Wizard Roseau still in charge of the hospital ward?" asked Margaret.
Listens-to-Wind nodded. "He hasn't missed a day of duty."
Margaret grimaced. "Great."
Ebenezer rubbed his jaw and squinted at her, sighing, "Stubborn to a fault," but there was a note of immense happiness behind his frown.
He nodded at Aurora and Harry and gently helped Margaret along across the hall, flanked by two Wardens, and they rounded a corner.
"Allow us time to organize and you will be informed before we start the proceedings," said Ancient Mai, bowing to them both before sweeping away with the Wardens at her back.
"I'll make sure someone guides you to the Speaking Room," Listens-to-Wind said before he too departed down the same corridor.
There was a beat of silence in the hall.
"Follow me." Morgan didn't look too pleased, and Harry wondered if that was his default expression.
They trailed after the wizard as he set pace through the tunnel complex. It was ten minutes of silent walking, passing quite a few other wizards, before Harry let his curiosity take over. He matched the gruff wizard's stride and cleared his throat.
"So," Harry began. "You and Margaret Dresden go way back, yeah?"
Wizard Morgan grunted.
Harry nodded. "I'll take that as a yes. So you must know her son, Harry. Really tall guy, dark hair, wears a coat everywhere and looks like a cowboy."
Morgan eyed Harry obliquely. "I do."
"Uh, right," Harry said. This guy needed to relax. "Do you know if he's going to be around today? I need to talk to him and explain—"
"I'm a Warden and my duty is to the will of the White Council," he said, voice laced with clear authority. "I'm no friend to violators of the laws, mother or son."
Harry blinked and shot him a look. "You have a lot of feelings."
Aurora sighed to herself shaking her head as they took the next left. Morgan glowered at Harry and then nodded at a young Warden on guard, opened a door, and passed into the receiving room of the guest suites. It was set up like a drawing room with a number of expensive comfortable-looking sets of furniture spaced around the square room. There was a long table against a wall filled with an array of foods, everything from roasted meats, strawberry pies, pomegranates, biscuits, and bottles of wine and cider stood next to the buffet, the least toxic choice amongst the other bottles of alcohol.
A set of five steps led up to a raised section of the floor that was like a miniature balcony that spanned the back of the room and doors opened onto what had to be the guest chambers. Crystals adorning the ceiling glowed more brightly here, a sharp contrast to the dim illumination of the hallways.
"There's a dignitary from the Fellowship of St. Giles staying in the chambers through the left door. She should be in meetings all day. The other rooms are free. It's going to be a few hours before they start."
Morgan managed a short nod before he left them alone. Probably going somewhere to sharpen his sword or practice his scowl in the mirror. Harry sighed.
Aurora sat down in a comfortable leather armchair, then gestured to the nearby couch. "Please sit. I believe we have much to discuss."
Harry sat pulling out his wand as he did so. "Muffliato!"
"A spell for sound?" Aurora asked.
"You caught that from the muffled bit, right?" Harry guessed and she nodded. "It's a neat spell that makes our conversation unintelligible to any listening ears."
"Very useful," Aurora agreed. Her expression grew clouded. "You've been troubled since you talked with Margaret Dresden."
Harry grimaced as it all came back to him. It whirled in his mind again and none of it made any sense. He leaned forward on the couch and tried to order his thoughts into some sense of coherency. When he spoke it was with a measure of trepidation, because if Aurora had answers to his questions, he had a feeling it wouldn't be any he liked.
"What do you know about the Hammer reborn?"
"Why would you want to know about—"Aurora froze abruptly and her eyes went distant for a moment and then focused with a sudden intensity, and he could see the light behind them flaring with thoughts. All the breath left her chest in a slow exhale and she caught his stare, speaking quietly, "How certain is she?"
Harry shrugged. "She seemed pretty confident I was this person."
"Dark days," his wife sighed. "You must understand I probably know less than she does. The Gatekeeper and Mab razed Babylon to the ground and all trace of that prophecy went with the city. Surely the Archive would know but even then getting her to tell you anything is a lost cause since she's bound to neutrality."
"Why would Mab even care?" Harry's head was spinning.
Aurora pursed her lips for a moment. "It's complicated. Ask me again some other day."
"So it's true then? This person can destroy the Outer Gates."
"So it's foretold."
Harry shook his head and muttered, "I need some air."
"We're beneath Edinburgh Castle, so I doubt you'll find getting fresh air simple," she stated. "I wouldn't try your translocation ability to appear on the surface. It would take a god to overpower these wards."
Funnily enough only one bit struck a cord within. "We're in Scotland?"
"The current home of the White Council for over half a century."
It was strange how easily the memories of Hogwarts came with just those few words. The pang of homesickness struck him just as hard as it did three years ago. It was the people more than places that mattered and he missed his friends now more than ever. Hermione and that crazy bag of hers probably had answers in there somewhere. Ron would complain before doing something foolishly brave. Then his thoughts unexpectedly wandered to how Aurora would get along with his friends. He ran his hand through his hair and blew out his breath, suddenly feeling tired.
Harry cancelled the spell with a flick of wand and stood up. "I'm going to lie down for a bit."
Aurora was silent for a while. Then she said, "If we fail to stop my father and his circle they will release the Old Ones and let in the Outsiders."
He looked away. "I know."
Harry didn't say anything else. He knew where she was going with this. Whether he liked it or not he was linked to the events of the prophecy. It wouldn't be a stretch to theorize himself as the promised hammer. And if it came to pass, he was humanity's vengeance. He felt sick.
With weary footsteps Harry walked up the balcony and passed into the far right door along the wall. The first room he came to was a sitting room. An open door to the left showed a glimpse of a sink, so that had to be the bathroom. A shower was on his to-do list, later though. Another door just ahead of him was closed but it opened into the bedroom. He fell on top of the massive bed without taking off his shoes. He was exhausted, really, from all the fighting earlier, from the journey here, from the prophecy, from everything, and he was realizing just how much of a longshot they really had in succeeding. He was tired of all these fights and he was tired of searching for a way back home and he was tired of telling himself soon, soon, soon. It was too much on his shoulders, all these things, Summer Lord, husband, a fugitive, and maybe now a foretold killer. A long fall from savior.
Harry felt the bed dip and Aurora's voice came quiet in the dark, "Shhh."
She crawled up next to him so very carefully with only the faint rustling of her clothes and the sounds of their quiet breathing was heard in the room. Aurora slid in front of him gently lifting his arm, so it rested around her waist. She pressed her back to his chest, his fingertips barely brushing against the smooth strip of skin on her stomach from where her shirt had ridden up. And it fit. It fit so well it was scary. Harry started to pull back but her fingers wrapped around his forearm and held him still, and they stayed like that for a while just breathing, fitting together, and it was like they were finally in sync.
A month ago, or a week ago, or yesterday, maybe Harry would have pushed her away or hexed her into tomorrow, but he was just so tired. He could barely keep his eyes open. It was a bizarre sensation feeling his body shut down. It was probably because he'd been tense all day so he was acutely aware of his muscles relaxing, starting at his shoulders and then down to his feet, tendons pulling loose and his body pliant. Aurora was warm in his arms and she made a humming noise of satisfaction when he pulled her close, tucking his face into her neck, and her hair fell across his nose smelling of lilacs. It was calming in a way he couldn't place.
They fell asleep like that, or at least Harry did. When he felt the blanket pulled over them, Harry woke delirious from a dream more asleep then awake really. He felt disconnected, almost out of body when he felt, as if from very far away, Aurora's fingers in his hair, and then Aurora's lips ghosting over his face, trembling where they pressed against his forehead, his mouth, a soft sigh of breath against his lips. He thought he heard her say, quietly, "Sleep well," and then, "stupid boy." He forgot it all as soon as he slipped fully into sleep.
The inquisition was held in what the Council called the Speaking Room, which was a roundabout way of saying auditorium. Because that's what it was with its rows of stone benches rising in a full circle around a small circular stage, in the style of the Greek theaters from ages ago. There were maybe four hundred wizards in attendance and they filled only a third of the seats. An impressive number since they were mostly wizards already present in Edinburgh and those members coming on such short notice. If all Council members came there was no way they would fit inside this room.
Security wasn't a care they took lightly. Wardens formed a ring all the way around the stage, two at the doors, and in the aisles between the rows of benches. It was eerily reminiscent of the Wizengamot with everyone wearing formal black robes, with stoles of silk and satin of various colors and trim to denote their status. Some of Council's members wore blue stoles, some red, few in gold, and there was braided cords and emblems stitched on most, some type of badge of merit or class.
Harry and Aurora sat on a stone bench set over to one side of the stage floor, looking terribly out of place. After a good shower, Aurora laid a glamour on their ragged clothes. They were royalty of the Sidhe and had to look the part. Harry felt very smart in his pearl-grey three button suit. Aurora's scarlet crepe wool dress matched his tie. The dress had long sleeves with black satin cuffs and her skirt stopped just below the knee. Her white hair fell over her shoulders in gentle curls. Harry thought they both looked simply smashing.
Everyone was staring at them.
Harry was ready to get this show on the road. The sooner they cleared this up the sooner he could finish his talk with Margaret. A door shut with a bang and an old woman entered in complete ceremonial dress, plus the grey cloak of the Wardens. She had iron grey hair, cropped short at her ears, and her bearing was solid like a soldier. She too carried a staff and bore a sword at her side, a polished, long and elegant scimitar.
The quiet conversation that filled the room died when all gazes fell on to her. Harry wondered who she was to ensue such respect when she banged her staff three times upon the floor, and the seven members of the Senior Council entered in their dark robes and purple stoles. Ancient Mai, Listens-to-Wind, Ebenezer, and the stern Martha Liberty he recognized from years ago, and even the mysterious Gatekeeper was a familiar presence in his hooded cloak.
Harry didn't recognize the gaunt faced wizard among them, but he definitely knew of the wizard that led the group. The Merlin, the title given to the leader and most powerful of the Council, and he did the title justice. Arthur Langtry was a tall man, broad shouldered, with snowy white hair falling past his shoulders and a flowing silver beard. He was as close as this world came to having an Albus Dumbledore in terms of formidable reputations. He was in charge of one of the strongest organizations on the planet for a reason. They took up positions at the rear of the stage standing nobly.
A Warden appeared escorting the woman of the hour. Margaret was looking decisively better than we they parted now in formal black robes and red stole, with an embodied silver compass rose. There was a classic elegance to her facial features, a faint haughtiness, hinting of aristocracy as she faced her peers with her head held high.
"Tibi gratias ago pro vobis attendentes, adiutores meos concilium membra," the Merlin began speaking in flawless Latin.
It wasn't that big of a leap to understand why speaking in Latin was ideal when dealing with an international organization such as theirs. It was an old language and wizards tended to adapt bits of it to their spellcraft. Harry picked up some of it over the years just by osmosis. He could hold a conversation well enough if he kept his sentences simple. He actively started listening so he could translate.
"We are here today for an inquisition. This is not a trial of justice but a matter of truth, to hear the testimony of one Margaret Dresden, whose alleged death occurred twenty seven years ago, validate her claims, and determine if she has been compromised in her absence." He then gestured with his hand.
Warden Morgan came forward to place a glittering, cylindrical crystal about a foot long in front of Margret's feet. Behind that, he set a pitch black candle, which he lit with a muttered incantation. Crouching down, Morgan framed the candle with his hands and murmured again. Pale light streaked from the candle into the crystal in a glowing stream and shot up out of the crystal again in a large cone stretching up above the stage, eight yards across at the top. Within the cone of light appeared Margaret's face, like the magical equivalent of a jumbotron from a sports arena.
"Nice," Harry muttered.
He got the general impression the other wizards in the room were impressed as well. The Merlin nodded, "Wizard Peabody could not be reached in time and the usual formality of transcribing will be dispensed in favor of recording these proceedings for review. We will begin with authenticating her identity before the Council."
The woman who wielded the staff and sword was identified as Warden Luccio, Captain of the Wardens. Luccio revealed her acquaintanceship with Margaret from years ago and verified her character with a soulgaze before the Council. A soulgaze couldn't be faked or misled; it was a window into their soul. If that wasn't enough, Ebenezer calmly disclosed looking upon Margaret with his Sight earlier and confirming her identity.
"Margaret Dresden," the Merlin said, "how do you explain the circumstances of your alleged death?"
She shrugged. "How do most stories start? At the beginning, I guess." Margaret let out a long, deep breath. "For you to understand how I 'died' you have to know how I lived. I know this Council has little respect for my ideals. You've called me optimistic, brash, naïve, arrogant—and shortsighted, yes. I made some mistakes and I paid for them all. I vowed to never be so crippled again for the whole of my life. I knew my time was coming up and readied for it."
"Your 'death' while giving birth was not a natural accident?" Martha Liberty asked.
"It was a murder attempt," Margaret replied, in equally perfect Latin. "I'm not so naïve as to believe the Council didn't know. I'm sure your investigations proved that it was a ritual entropy curse. I knew it was coming for me and I prepared accordingly."
The Merlin's facial expression didn't change from its solemn mask. However there was a sudden sharpness to his gaze. "Wizard Dresden, are you accusing this Council of a cover-up?"
Margaret half smiled, shrugging. "Of course not, honored Merlin. I misspoke."
"That would not be the first time," the gaunt faced Senior Council member added smoothly. "How do you explain your dead body we discovered?"
He was rail-thin of medium height and build. He had no hair on his head at all, not even eyebrows. His cheekbones were sharp enough to cut glass and his eyes bulged out from his thin face, giving him an almost emaciated appearance. He returned Margaret's false smile with his own.
"Are you certain it was my body, Wizard LaFortier?" she asked. "You're the expert on magical creatures. Not humans."
A murmur ran through the room, Lafortier dropped his skeletal smirk, and Aurora, at Harry's side, chuckled, "Dresdens."
Lafortier's voice lashed out at the woman, harsh and cold, "Then enlighten us, Wizard. Tell us true what happened that night twenty seven years ago."
"The nature of the entropy curse manipulates probabilities of death. I knew childbirth would be me at my most vulnerable. I made a number of enemies and very few people I could call friends in those days. So I made a deal. I didn't have a lot of time and it wasn't detailed as I wanted it to have been." She shook her head and looked frightfully angry at herself for a moment. "In exchange for saving my life I made Leanansidhe the godmother of my child."
The Merlin waved a hand. "Your contract is known to us but not its nature."
Margaret nodded. "It was Halloween when my attacker struck with his entropy curse. The energy caused my organs to fail and in my dying breath I sent that bastard my death curse, and I made him pay."
"What did the Leanansidhe do to save your life?" Martha Liberty asked, getting straight to the point. "Using your death curse should have taken your remaining energy and killed you."
"That's when Lea intervened and tethered me to herself feeding me her own life energy. My organs were still failing, so she got rid of them." Besides the clenching of her fists Margaret's face was blank, her expression never changed. "She transformed me into a beast dog. I was sloppy in our bargain. My life was saved but it was hers from then on, and for the last twenty seven years I've been one of her pets."
The surprise in the room was almost tangible.
Some of the wizards looked indifferent and a few satisfied, as if Margaret deserved what she got, but mostly there was anger. A whole lot of it.
The Merlin looked around the room. The quiet murmuring went silent. He nodded once. "Is there anyone who can confirm this? The Senior Council cannot just take your word—"
Aurora stood up.
Words were lost as the Merlin stopped talking. Everyone in the room went still. Margaret glanced to the side to see Aurora stand and a slow smile spread across her face. Gesturing to the stage the Merlin motioned that she had the floor. He gave her his full attention.
"The White Council acknowledges Aurora, Lady of the Summer Court of the Sidhe," the Merlin said smoothly, without missing a beat. "Do you have testimony collaborating her story?"
Aurora nodded. "I do. It was I who rescued Margaret in her transformed state from Leanansidhe's frozen citadel."
"A convenient alibi but not fullproof. Remember that someone leaked the defenses of Archangel to the Red Court," Lafortier said to the room. "Wizard Simon Pietrovich's wards were completely bypassed. Let this Council not forget who his apprentice was. Wizard Justin DuMorne, friend to Wizard Margaret Dresden."
"Pietrovich is dead?" Shock softened Margaret's face. "Archangel's a fortress. I wouldn't even know how..." Margaret trailed off and she shook her head, frowning now. "And Dumorne is an asshole. Calling him my friend would be like labeling me and you as friends."
Lafortier glared. "Disrespectful to your core. Just like your son."
"Chip off the old block," Margaret snapped back.
Ebenezer held up a hand. "This isn't the first time you've laid blame for that tragedy onto others, Wizard Lafortier. We'll find answers but not like this."
Listens-to-Wind nodded. "Wizard McCoy is right. Let's hear the rest of the tale before we start seeking justice for events still clouded."
"Lady Summer," said the Merlin calmly. "Can you testify to the mental state of Wizard Dresden when you found her?"
Aurora swept her eyes across the room. "If its secrets you're worried about, then rest at ease. The curse shattered her human mind into pieces. She was a beast and nothing more. Her transformation was complete." She lifted her hand to tuck her hair behind her ear. "It was by Summer fire that Winter's enchantment was melted and undone."
Harry stood up. "It's true. Everything in her mind was just broken. I was the one who healed her."
"Harry Potter, Lord of the Summer Court of the Sidhe," the Merlin named him and Harry's eye twitched a little at being known, but he wasn't one for politics. Never had been.
"I remember you," Martha Liberty said, as recognition slowly shone across her face when her and Harry met gazes. "You've climbed quite a bit in the world, Lord Summer ."
Harry shrugged, a little pleased that she remembered him positively, and not for knocking around a Warden. "You look as lovely as ever, Wizard Liberty."
She snorted. Then she looked sideways at the Merlin. "He does have considerable skill with magic."
Ancient Mai nodded. "I agree. I watched him heal Wizard Dresden's critical injuries on the journey here. He's strong in the Art."
"And solely bound to Summer," said Aurora, reaching over to lace her fingers through Harry's.
Do not ever let them soulgaze you, my husband, came Aurora's voice into his mind.
Harry squeezed her fingers and thought back, Or you.
He dropped her hand and stepped forward. "My powers returned Margaret's mind to her and I swear on my magic that she is wholly herself again."
It was a big thing for a wizard to swear on his magic in this universe. If a wizard broke their vow they would find their magic severely weakened. A little hindrance Harry didn't suffer from but they didn't need to know about that. The Senior Council members looked appeased by his oath, glancing at each other, all except the Gatekeeper for some reason. The hooded wizard kept his sights on Harry alone.
"There are a lot of accusations being thrown around and you should really be thanking me," Margaret said, lifting her chin.
The Merlin's sudden focus on her even made Harry's breath stutter. "And why is that, Wizard Dresden?"
She ignored his measured tone. "My would-be killer was the White King. When I used my death curse on him I did the world justice."
LaFortier's frown was ugly upon his thin face. "Used and wasted. Lord Raith still lives. He's protected against magic. One of many reasons why he rules the White Court."
"You don't say," Margaret said, feigning astonishment. Her expression flipped like a switch turning predatory. "Do you think I just bumped into him in a bar somewhere? I didn't want to kill him. If I did another bastard would just take his place." Her dark eyes gleamed. "My death curse rendered Lord Raith unable to feed."
"Do you know what this means?" Ancient Mai said in a breathless tone, turning to the Merlin.
The Merlin's mouth opened in sudden surprise and understanding. "It means that the White King is virtually powerless," he said heavily. "and has been for over two decades."
All hell broke loose.
The commotion in the room was ear ringing. No one could believe it. Even Aurora was shocked staring at Harry with round eyes. The White Court of vampires was a race of succubae with formidable powers at their disposal. They were once just as ruthless as the Red Court and focused on an outwardly-oriented expansionist agenda. That changed decades ago and these days the Court was consumed by infighting and power-defense. No one knew the reason for their stagnation until now. The White King couldn't get aggressive, like in the past, without power to back it up. He was probably functioning on reserves like a car running on its last tank of gas. Margaret's death curse did more than render him powerless, she crippled the entire White Court.
"Order," the Merlin called and the room grew quiet after a reluctant moment. He cleared his throat. "I'm declaring an hour recess. The Senior Council will deliberate over this new information. The inquisition is adjourned for now."
The Senior Council withdrew off the stage. Harry watched as Captain Luccio joined Margaret's side and they began to talk in low voices. Aurora took a step closer to Harry and then frowned. A shadow fell across Harry and he turned to find the Gatekeeper towering over him.
"Last we met I told you that your questions would wait because our hour was not yet at hand," the Gatekeeper said, quietly. "Our place in time has arrived. Come with me, Mr. Potter. We have much to discuss."
He should bloody well think not. Harry's heart heaved in his chest and he took a panicky step back. "Look, I'm not going to destroy the gates. I mean, Margaret told me. I know what you want to talk to me about. And I'm saying it right now you have nothing to worry about I—"
"She told you nothing," the Gatekeeper interjected. His deep, resonant voice didn't sound surprised. "You still don't know who you are."
Harry waved away Aurora, who was moving to his side. "Then tell me," he demanded.
"Trails, paths, endings, beginnings, the impossible probabilities." The Gatekeeper shook his head. "You have seen the doorways. It is in your blood, in your name—Potter, creator, shaper, maker of things."
"What?" Harry stared into the depths of that hood, glimpsing his gaunt face and metal and silvery looking eye when the Gatekeeper leaned down closer to him. Harry's entire body was buzzing so loudly that there was no other sound in the room.
It wasn't just his imagination. The wizard had done something with his hand so the sounds of the room warped together into a blur of noise. It was some type of vacuum bubble reminiscent of the Muffliato Charm. The Gatekeeper reached up to his cowl with his black leather gloves, pulling back the hood a little, and Harry caught a flash of a thin grey beard against bronze skin.
The Gatekeeper leaned closer and whispered near Harry's ear. "The Outer Gates didn't just raise themselves. Janus built them and in you his blood runs strong." He took a step back to study Harry's shocked reaction. "Like I said, we have much to discuss. Come along."
Author's Note; there you go. Finally some answers, well for the most part. I'm sure you can make an intuitively leap to figure it all out with what's known so far. For sure the next chapter will detail Harry's abilities and Aiden's and the return of Harry Dresden.