WARNING! WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ IS VERY FRAGMENTED AND WILL NEVER BE FINISHED! MANY SCENES ARE DODGY, EXPERIMENTAL, SORELY IN NEED OFSANITYFICATION AND FUCKED UP! INCOMPLETE ABANDONED FIC IS INCOMPLETE AND ABANDONED! CHOPPINESS AND MISSING SCENE BREAKS ABOUND! DANGER WILL ROBINSON!
Hi all! Doghead13 here, and I'm afraid that this is not a notice of resumption of this fic, nor is it a finished artefact. That is unlikely to ever appear: the frenzy of inspiration in which the original was churned out has long since died.
Instead, this is the scratch file for the fic: this is the fragmented, incomplete, needing plenty of revision and stuff like that, what exists beyond the original first part of the fic. I don't expect to ever finish this thing - other projects have grown to replace it on my priority list - but nevertheless, here it is.
It should give you a reasonable impression of where I wanted to go with this thing and what made it a Shadowrun cross. The stumbling block that killed it relates to the way one of the big sources of inspiration was Calvin and Hobbes: maintaining the essential 'Calvin-ness' while having his character grow and mature was like trying to... well, it just wasn't happening and that's about all I have to say about that.
To Su Doh Nimh: if you want to use, abuse, spin, fold, mangle, or reject as 'Nah, I've got a better idea' any component of this, go right ahead. I've thoroughly enjoyed what you've put together so far, and this file is posted largely for your benefit.
Stay awesome, all.
- Doghead13, 26/07/2016.
The inside of the train was, Hermione mused as she seated herself, just as old-fashioned as it's exterior.
It was quite unlike the modern trains she'd travelled on a few times (mostly on school trips,) unlike the open insides with rows of pairs of seats down each side, it had a corridor along one side and little six-seat compartments all along. Everything was spotlessly clean polished wood and metal instead of grubby plastic, the window had little slide-down panels at the top, and there was an angled grille along the side of the compartment below the window through which she could feel warmth – it was startlingly unlike B.R.
(Then again, unbeknown to Hermione, it was also startlingly -like- B.R., if one were to travel back to the B.R of the 1950s.)
She, Harry and Suze had seated themselves in the first empty compartment they came to, Suze having walk at a stoop and duck under doorframes to get there; the front of the train seemed to be occupied entirely by a lot older kids, probably in their last year or so at Hogwarts, with the kids getting younger as you went back.
As Harry, fed up by her struggling, humped her school trunk onto the overhead luggage rack – all made out of old-fashioned-looking shiny steel – she heard someone slamming a door just back a bit down the train; a man in a smart uniform walked past on the platform.
"Heya!" said a cheerful boy's voice. "Everything else is full, mind if I sit here?"
"Sure, c'mon in." Harry said.
Stopping peering after the guard, Hermione looked at the new occupant of the room; a red-haired boy about her age, dressed in a rather threadbare check shirt, baggy corduroy jacket and patched-kneed denim jeans, dragging a trunk.
"Thanks," the boy said, humping his trunk up onto the rack with startling ease, "I'm Ron, Ron Weasley."
""I'm Harry," Harry said, immediately and obviously enthusiastic, "This is Hermione and this is Suze, she's with me."
"Hi." Hermione said.
"Well met." Suza said. She, being the wrong shape for the seats, had settled herself in the middle of the floor.
"Wow," the ginger boy mused, scratching his head once he'd flopped into a seat, "I guess they weren't joking when they said centaurs were okay, I thought it was the twins playing silly buggers."
"Well actually that's coz of me, I said I weren't gonna go if Suze couldn't come-with and Mr Dumbledore said he couldn't be having with that so, well, Mr Flitwick says he twisted some arms but that doesn't sound like something Mr Dumbledore would do so I guess it's gotta be one of those saying thingies and anyway that's why they added centaurs to the list, I mean Mrs McGonagall says there's more allowed than what's written down, she says rats and hamsters and stuff are okay too and she says one kid once was allowed to have a chicken but they added centaurs so there weren't gonna be no arguments."
"Yeah, I sorta know that," Ron said, producing a decidedly mangy half-bald old rodent that had been in his pocket, "Because Scabbers wasn't against the rules or nothing when Percy had him."
"Huh, that's weird." Harry said. "Hey, is that some sorta magic rat or something? It's just it don't smell completely of rat."
"I don't think so." Ron said, giving the rat a glum look before stuffing it back in his pocket. "All he does is eat, sleep and, you know, widdle."
"Oh." Harry said, scratching his head. "I guess it picked up your-pocket smell."
"I had a bath this morning and my clothes came right out the washing." Ron sounded a bit defensive about that.
"Aw, that wasn't what I meant." Harry told him, waving it off. "You had bacon and eggs for breakfast, didn't you? And I think pork sausage."
"Well yeah, how'd you figure that out?" Ron asked, dubiously checking the front of his shirt.
"Because I got a really really good nose," Harry said, scratching his head, "I can smell the last few things someone ate for a few hours after they ate it and everything smells of something, like you smell like person who had fried grub for breakfast and Hermione smells like person who uses lemon-scented soap for their washing and Suze smells of person and horse and gun smoke and that special wax you use on a composite bow and this carriage smells like linseed oil and warm wood and the engine smells like axle grease and coal smoke and hot metal and the air round here smells like exhaust pipe and dead pigeon and I guess I smell like a Harry what slept in and didn't have time for a bath this morning."
"... oh." Ron said. "Huh, that's gotta be pretty awesome."
"Yeah, sometimes it's real good, like when you're on the moors and you can smell all the plants and where there's rabbits and deer and sheep and stuff thought the deer poo kinda pongs and then there's when the wind's coming off the sea and you can smell the salt and seaweed and maybe a bit of engine from fishing boats or the trains. Mallaig's nice, it all sorta smells of kipper and fishing boats when there ain't too many tourists around but the seagull poo can get a bit much. London stinks though, I think it's because there's way too many people what ain't washed and all them exhaust pipes and jet planes and someone else's rotten kebab in the gutter and all that chewing gum and dog poo and things what died and went manky and all them stinky pigeons,"
"Harry, you're blathering again." Suze pointed out as the overexcited boy paused for breath.
Harry stopped halfway through opening his mouth, considered that for a moment, looked highly embarrassed, drew several deep breaths, and sat back down, causing Hermione to realise she couldn't remember at what point in the prior burbling he'd stood up and started trying to pace around the somewhat crowded-by-centaur compartment.
"... sorry." he said. "I, uh, kinda tend to blather when I get worked up about stuff."
"... I'd noticed." Hermione said.
"Er, yeah." Ron mused, scratching his head. "Hey, what Houses d'you reckon you'll be in?"
"I'm hoping for House Gryffindor!" Hermione declared. "I read all about the Houses of Hogwarts in 'Hogwarts: A History' and it sounds best!"
"Well, my friend Mr Snape says there aren't any good houses really," Harry said, frowning, "I mean, he says Gryffindors are mostly blood-crazed dolts who don't know how to identify a fight they can't win, and Hufflepuffs are mostly halfwitted dunderheads who likely don't know how to tie their own shoelaces, and Slytherins are mostly degenerate sophisticates who can't get over some pre-Atlantean foolishness about bloodlines, and Ravenclaws are mostly ivory-tower intellectual snobs who can't tell the difference between theory and practise, but Mr Snape's kinda sarcastic like that."
"... Oh." Hermione said, her initial impressions crashing and burning.
"Well just so long as I don't end up in Slytherin I'll be okay," Ron chirped up, "Mum says there ain't a wizard who went bad didn't come from Slytherin and they're all slimy gits. And everyone knows Gryffindor is best because they're all heroes like Dumbledore and Harry Potter."
Harry looked at him for a moment, the started reeling off a long list of names beginning with 'Roderick of Fife' and ending up with 'Sirius Black'.
"... huh?" Ron asked.
"Well, those are all the Gryffindors what were into dark artity stuff and murdering I can think of," Harry said, once again scratching his head, "And, y'know, Mr Dumbledore were in Slytherin, and Harry Potter ain't been sorted yet so who knows where he's gonna be, so I guess your mum's either dumb or makin' stuff up, and makin' that sort of stuff up is, yeah, pretty dumb – I mean, there's already a billion and one stupid reasons to look down on people so why make up another one because of what a hat said to 'em?"
"... uh." Ron said. "... what? HEY! Mum's not dumb! You take that back!"
"Well in that case she's makin' stuff up and that's dumb," Harry stated, crossing his arms and glaring through his fringe at Ron, "And people who do dumb stuff are normally dumb, and dumb people are annoying."
With an aggravated cry of, "I don't have to listen to this rubbish!" the ginger one beat a hasty retreat, very nearly stepping on Suze's tail as he went.
"Yup," Harry said, with a faintly aggravated shake of his head, "Dumb."
Disclaimer: Unable to publish disclaimer.
There is a dragon in the way.
Enter the Dragon.
A Doghead13 fanfic
Written & produced by Calum J 'Doghead13' Wallace.
Preread by the Caer Azkaban Yahoo group.
Brought to you by Hairy Scottish Git Productions, GMBH
This is not a drill.
Chapter 2: Educating the Dragon.
(In which our outsize reptile has quite the excitable first year.)
"That was kinda rude, Harry." Hermione said.
"Mr Snape says being rude to people who're rude to you is perfectly fair play so long as they're not goblins or teachers because being impolite to goblins is bad for your financial status and being impolite to teachers is bad for your academic performance." Harry said with a shrug. "And I don't like people assuming dumb stuff about me, it takes loads more than just not being dead to be hero-y, if you ain't never had a rank on your name you ain't a hero unless you've gotten something like Vee See on your name."
"Vee See... rank... wait, what, you mean you're THAT Harry Potter? That's what that weird Ollivander man meant about wands and scars! You mean your wand is a carbon-copy of You-Know-Who's wand!"
"Well if you mean the one that Mouldy-whatsisface galoot bounced a spell off the face of then yeah, that's me, and yeah, I guess that's what Mr Dumbledore's friend Mr Ollivander meant, and yeah, apparently Mouldy-whatisface's wand had a feather in out off the bum of the same phoenix as my wand's in-it feather came from and that phoenix is Mr Dumbledore's friend Fawkes who I don't know proper yet and I'm not sure if that's important yet. But, y'know, the only way I'm sure I was there when that Mouldy-whatsisface went squish is because Mr Hagrid – he's really cool, you'll like him – says so and he's real bad at lies and he found me in what was left of Mum and Dad's house and there was a squished Mouldy-whatsisface all over my bedroom and I had blood all over my head and my mum was dead on the floor but I don't remember any of that stuff so I can't really say what happened and how'd people know he bounced a Killity Curse thingy off my face anyway, I mean me and Mouldy-whatsisface were the only not-dead people there until Mouldy-whatsisface splatted so how'd they work that stuff out, for all I know my mum coulda jumped in the way and killed him back, I mean sometimes when I usta get bad dreams I'd see this sorta green light coming for me and this really crazy voice laughing and I can't remember anything else and there weren't anyone else there so it's kinda weird that everyone assumes that Mouldy-whatsisface creep bounced a Killity Curse thingy off me."
"... aw drat."
Announced by the brisk twin-tone 'Ba-Dip'(1) of it's horn, a diesel-engined freight train swept past in the opposite direction – first the heavy agricultural-tractor roar of the locomotive, then the slam-slam-slam of air being buffeted between wagons and carriages – causing the entire Hogwarts Express to shake and rather nicely punctuating their conversation.
"You know, it says how they worked out what happened in 'Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts'," Hermione said, "It says that they used a Prior Incantum on You-Know-Who's wand and it came up as the Killing Curse having been cast as the three most recent spells, and it also says that the Killing Curse leaves a distinctive trace of dark magic on the victim, and you had that trace."
"Yeah I know, but that Killity Curse thing leaves that stain stuff on everything around it when it goes off to the point that it'd be enough for my mum to get hit with it to leave it on me and anyway all the spells outta that Mouldy-whatsisface guy's wand for as far back as that Prior Incantum thingy can go – and Mr Flitwick says that's seven because of something arithmantic I really ain't got my head round – were Killity Curses and if it's more than one you can't tell how many Killity Curses have gone off someplace because they all sorta smear together. And anyway, don't believe stuff you read outta 'Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts' too quick, it says stupid stuff what ain't real about me," He scratched his head, "I mean, I know that's what the government says happened, but governments are governments. Being stupid is what governments are there for."
"You should respect the government!"
"Respect Maggie Thatcher? Ain't you never heard of miners' riots an' poll tax?"
"... oh. Yeah, I guess..."
"See? Governments are just governments, they weren't there and they don't know what's going on and most of the time the people running them are the sort of people who want to run a government because they get an erection when they boot people around, at least Mr Snape says so and I guess he'd know even though I still ain't sure what that means and nobody'll explain because they say I ain't old enough if I don't already know, which is real dumb because how're you gonna know stuff if there ain't nobody's explained it? And, y'know, they say that Mouldy-whatsisface guy's wand was in it's holster when they found it so whatever happened I'm pretty sure he wasn't pointing it at me and I'm not sure if they checked it out enough since it got nicked like two days after they found it and nobody ever saw it again, if I ever work out who's got it I'm gonna nick it back because I reckon any weapon someone tried to slay me with is worth keeping."
Hermione stared blankly at him.
"... Harry, what do you think happened?"
"Well I dunno, do I? I mean whatever happened it left that dark magic stuff all over the place, left a bleeding bit in my face shaped like a lightning bolt, made my mum dead, blew the wall off my room, and made that Mouldy-whatsisface guy go splat, and that's about all I'm sure about. I know I didn't do nothing, what'd a little kid do if he's got a Mouldy-whatsisface screaming 'I'm gonna make you a dead little kid' in his face? I mean I don't think that Mouldy-whatsisface guy did extra stuff to make himself go splat because, what kind of rampaging dunderhead makes himself go splat on purpose? So I guess Mum did something but I dunno what and all the books I could find came up with all sorts of implausible ideas for how it could be something special about my face. I mean, okay, my face is obviously special since it's my face but not in the making Mouldy-whastisnames go splat when they Killity Curse kind of special."
"It's pronounced 'Voldemort', Harry."
"I know that, but people seem to go twitch when someone says 'Voldemort' and they do that trying-not-to-laugh snort when I say 'Mouldy-whatsisface' and I don't much like making people go twitch and I'm not gonna say 'you-know-who' because how am I gonna be sure if the person I'm talking to knows who? What if there ain't nobody's ever told 'em? And besides, someone who couldn't even Killity Curse a little kid proper is obviously a complete waste of skin and don't deserve respect so I'm gonna keep calling that popinjay something that makes people laugh."
"He scared a lot of people really badly, Harry."
"Hermione, I'm gonna let you in on a big secret, most people are stupid and I mean so stupid I'm surprised they don't need a map to wipe their bums. People who're scared of a twit who couldn't properly Killity Curse a little kid are obviously imbeciles because that twit couldn't properly Killity Curse a little kid and who's gonna be scared of someone who goes splat when they try to Killity Curse a little kid?"
"... I thought you said he didn't try to hit you with the Killing Curse?"
"Well I dunno!" Harry complained, frustratedly throwing his arms up in the air, "I mean everyone seems to think so and I don't remember that stuff, I mean all I'm saying is maybe it wasn't that Killity Curse thingy but people thinking it was is probably a good thing since it maybe means less people are just gonna poo their pants and fall over when someone yells Arabia Carnival!"
"That's 'Avada Kedavara', Harry." Hermione said, pretty certain she'd got the pronunciation right – she'd read it in 'Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts'.
"And I know that too, Arabia Carnival is me pulling legs and making people snigger same as when I say Mouldy-whatsisface, it's because not being scared of stuff is the first part of working out how you're gonna go stomp all over the stuff you're not letting scare you," Harry declared, still immensely frustrated, "And, hey, if I'm wrong and that Mouldy-whatsisface guy did bounce Killity Curses off my face that means Killity Curses bounce off my face so I don't gotta be scared of 'em anyway, and if I'm right and it was something even weirder and scarier than Killity Curses that bounced off my face that means stuff that makes Killity Curses look like tickling hexes bounces off my face so I don't gotta be scared of Killity Curses anyway because my head is far too awesome for that."
Here Hermione momentarily wondered whether the right term was 'overinflated', then chided herself for being unnecessarily mean.
"So," Harry continued rabbiting on, "Whichever way it is I'm gonna be okay so long as I don't get cocky because Sergeant-Major Hooktalon says getting cocky is a good way to get dead and I don't wanna get dead but then I guess the only people who do got it even worse than I did before, uh, before that whole thing with standity-stone thingies going all glowy and stuff, and I'm glad I've never been onea 'em because Sergeant-Major Hooktalon says suicide is a cowards way out and I ain't no coward!"
"Harry, blathering." Suze remarked.
"What was that you were saying about 'vee see' and ranks earlier?" Hermione asked, deciding she wanted the subject changed until she'd had time for some research about the prior one.
"What, the stuff it takes to be heroes, right?" Harry checked. He was now walking a knut coin back and forth across his knuckles.
"Well I was talkin' soldiers and stuff," Harry said, flicking the coin up in the air then catching it before it could fall on the floor, "I've been reading a lot of stuff about wars and history and stuff lately and I'm pretty sure hero-ing is part of being a soldier especially if they've gotten medals and stuff, well, unless they're Nazis or Soviets or some-such. All the history books are way clearer about that than any of the stuff I've managed to find about dragons, that stuff's kinda hard to work out and everyone seems to get bits wrong." He was now balancing the coin on the end of one finger; the train proceeded to dislodge it by hitting a bumpy section of track.
Hermione considered that while Harry was recovering his coin. "I don't know, Harry. I mean, all that killing and, you know, bombs... it just can't be good."
"Well that's all well and good when you ain't got this great big enormous giant spider or something charging down on you and wanting to eat your face," Harry said with a shrug, "Then if you ain't as awesome as me you're gonna be real glad if you've got a well-tuned Ess Em Ell Ee or an Ess Ell Arr or something else what's good at making holes in stuff. Or what if some barking mad little guy with a stupid moustache went I'm gonna invade Poland and you're next?" (1) He held the bronze coin up at eye level and contemplated it for a long moment, "Then, well, either you gotta really do for anything that tries to get you or you're gonna get proper squished," There was a loud wrenching sound as he crushed the coin between his fingers, "Like that."
"It would be nice if we lived in a world where bad things only happened to bad people," Suze chirped up, giving Hermione an intense side-on look, "But we do not. The acromantulas have treated my kin as prey, as a tasty delicacy, for longer than I have been alive; are you saying that we should allow them to devour us because they are thinking beings? Do not try to tell me we should attempt to talk to them; that attempt was made in a time when I was but a pleasant thought in Father's head and it is quite difficult to talk reason into any being that simply will not listen."
"Weren't my centaur friends started the fire and it weren't me neither," Harry said, flicking the mangled coin onto the floor, "But I'm sure gonna fight it 'coz there ain't nobody messes with my friends. There's this real good saying Master-Sergeant Griphook told me a while back; 'let he who would have peace prepare for war'. I reckon it makes sense 'coz if you're ready for all sorts of bad stuff to happen then if it does happen it's way likelier you and your friends are gonna still be alive when it's all over."
"... I guess." Hermione muttered.
"That's what soldiers are for, Hermione," Harry solemnly told her, "That's what they do, it's their job to save the world."
Hermione paused, digesting that, then frowned and picked what was left of the coin up.
It was crushed to the point of looking like a small piece of Playdoh someone had squeezed in their fist.
"... how strong are you, Harry?" she asked.
"Way stronger'n I look." Harry said.
"He can pick me up without strain." Suze helpfully added, fondly ruffling Harry's great mop of scruffy black hair.
Looking from pint-sized boy to sizeable centaur and back, Hermione found that somewhat hard to believe, so she said so;
"I find that somewhat hard to believe."
Harry shrugged, not at all put out, while Suze stifled a snort and wryly shook her head.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Hermione asked, slightly put out.
"I apologise, it is merely that Harry seems to have that effect on people. The legend and the reality are so widely separated that few know how to respond."
"... Oh." Hermione said, and they lapsed into silence for a while, Harry playing with another coin and Hermione distractedly contemplating everything she'd just heard.
"... Hey, Harry?"
"What was that you said about something a hat says to someone?"
"Well," Harry said, "It's supposed to be a big secret because someone ages back thought keeping everyone guessing was funny, but how first-years are sorted is they get a magic hat called Donald sat on their head and he looks in their brains and has a talk to them in their heads and figures out what house they're gonna be in, I tried to get him to tell me how he works that stuff out but he just laughed and said he'll tell me if I ever need to know."
It was nearing the last light of day when 45401 came pounding her way down the glen towards Hogsmeade station, the beat of her exhaust hammering off mountains and echoing across the moors, the elderly carriages of the Hogwarts Express briskly clattering across the well-beaten metals of the West Highland Line behind her as Jim Coates closed her regulator and eased her brakes on; steam hissed from glands as she drew to a stately halt in the branch station that marked the sole ingress of the so-called 'muggle world' into the village of Hogsmeade across the loch from Hogwarts, and she sat, simmering, as her passengers poured from the coaches.
She was a notorious locomotive amongst the railway enthusiasts of Britain; her Midland Railway-style livery had drawn a lot of critical remark, but her owners (an oddly hard-to-contact conglomerate known as Hogs Haulage PLC) had so far proved unavailable for comment, and had failed to return her to her proper livery despite myriad scathing letters from fans and old hands of the London Midland and Scottish.
Her haunts were hard to pin down too. A lot of enthusiasts had tried to find a way to book a ride on the daily workings undertaken by Hogs Haulage from the far north-west to London and back without success; whatever the run they hauled those train for it was decidedly private indeed, as was the exact location their locomotives were stabled and just why their owners had seen fit to paint them in such an unprototypical (3) livery.
At least 45401 (and her stablemates) had been saved from the cutter's torch. The number of fine old locomotives that had dwindled to nothing in the scrap-lines was all too numerous; for every loco that reached preservation, dozens had been met with the ignominious fate of being cut up for scrap.
Some had been less than twenty years old when they were withdrawn – a terrible waste of a perfectly good locomotive.
Most of the people who kept a weather eye out for the Hogs Haulage trains would have been quite scathing and disbelieving if told what the purpose of their trips was – but not all. One tiny handful knew what those trains stood for.
And the majority of that handful could use magic.
To the vast majority of her passengers, 45401 was beneath notice; just the engine that had hauled the Hogwarts Express today, nothing special.
To the few, she was a slice of history in carefully-preserved steel and, in her time, she'd transported her fair share of fellow slices of history; the Boy-Who-Lived was merely the latest on that list.
Thirty feet from her smokebox and completely oblivious to the significance of the simmering sixty-some year old locomotive, Rubeus Hagrid was busy bellowing, "Firs' years this way, firs' years this way!" at the top of his lungs.
To him, she was just a big old lump of red-and-black metal.
Her crew were already checking her over in preparation to return her to her place in the Hogsmeade motive power depot as the first year students boarded the boats at the nearby jetty; Mac unfastening her couplers as Jim went round seeing that the guard, Ivor McIver, had the coaches prepared for the shunter – an Andrew Barclay 0-4-0 saddle tank, formerly property of a Speyside distillery – to haul them back to the carriage sheds for cleaning and for the Hogwarts house elves to transport the children's luggage up to the castle. The children always made a heck of a mess in the train; the small contingent of Hogs Haulage house elves always tut-tutted about the drifts of sweetie wrappers, soft drinks bottles, used chewing gum, and other such detritus.
By the time Hagrid was calling for the first years to mind their heads as they passed under the low entryway to the tunnel that led to the Hogwarts castle docks – more normally used to transport the food those students would eat – Jim was backing 45401 past the coaches, towards the points that led to the turntable and engine shed; as the students filed into the Great Hall, they were seeing that their drake-dog was fed and settled in the kennels, and by the time the Sorting began they were leaving the shed on their way down to the Hogs Head Inn and a well-earned pint of Honest Abe's Old Peculiar.
Out of all the first-year students, only one knew exactly what to expect, that one being Harry Potter who was, being Harry, far too enormously excited to remain coherent at this point; Hermione found herself wanting to put her hands on his head to stop him bouncing as they listened to the scruffy old magical hat he'd earlier claimed was named Donald singing some sort of vaguely bawdy doggerel. It was all very impressive but having an outrageously strong and hyperactive small boy fidgeting, giggling and pointing things out beside you made for a bit of an unneeded distraction.
The sorting proceeded alphabetically by surname, and Harry amused himself by spotting kids he recognised as their turns came up, marking each with a cry of 'I know him/her'; first in that category was that odd girl Hannah Abbot he'd met in Diagon Alley one time and then her friend Susan Bones, both of them ending up in Hufflepuff, then Hermione ended up in Gryffindor which was pretty good since that was what she'd said she wanted to do, then that mad kid Draco whatsisname who'd nearly gotten his head sat on for being dumb the time they'd run into each other in Hogsmeade went to Slytherin which Mr Snape probably wasn't going to be very happy about, and then Mrs McGonagall said "Potter, Harry." and Harry came happily bouncing over to the hot seat enjoying his audience and the bated breath all over the room. Maybe he didn't look like a dragon right now but he was a dragon and dragons are supposed to be impressive and that means he needed all the awe he could get.
'Ah, hello again Harry, it isn't often I get to talk to someone more than once. Doing okay there, sonny?'
'Yeah Mr Donald, I'm doing good.'
'Glad to hear it. Hmm, so where shall I put you then?'
'Well, I dunno really, I mean, Mr Snape says there aren't any good houses really and I guess I'm not really bothered since it isn't a part of where I'll be living but I guess you already know that I mean Mrs McGonagall says you can see everything in someone's head when they're wearing you, huh?'
'Aha, no preference, now that's a fun challenge right there! Hmm, I confess I'd half expected Gryffindor or Slytherin, but neither would suit you at all. You'd do quite well in Ravenclaw but I think you'd lose patience with their cliques before long... aHA! I know just the place for you, sonny;'
The next part was bellowed out loud:
Up at the staff table, Snape looked faintly surprised and muttered, "Blasted reptile."
Then he stifled a chuckle as he saw the pole-axed looks on the collective faces of House Gryffindor, the startled looks on the collective faces of House Ravenclaw, the quietly-discussing-what-this-meant looks on the collective faces of House Slytherin, and the way House Hufflepuff were collectively yelling and applauding.
It seemed that Harry had, as they'd expected, put a cat among the pigeons from the word go.
After the uproar related to a certain boy-who-didn't-snuff-it becoming a Puff, the sorting proceeded apace; it was followed by a brief bit of buffoonery from Dumbledore that led into the arrival feast, whereupon Harry once again gobsmacked everyone in the room by seeming to inhale what amounted to an entire roast cow while enthusiastically chattering away at about a mile a minute at the surrounding swarm of Puffs; this he counted as a great success as he gave the girls he'd ended up sat between (Susan Bones and Hannah Abbot) giggle fits and managed to get the older boy opposite them (who'd introduced himself as Cedric Diggory) to snort so hard his pumpkin juice came out of his nose.
Once everyone's appetite was sated (aside of course from Harry, who regarded just one cow as a light appetizer and intended to eat enough to feel full when he got back to his lair) Dumbledore made a few announcements about a new member of staff and some rule changes, in particular the bit about the Forbidden Forest;
"The Forbidden Forest is as the name suggests strictly off limits to anyone not accompanied by a member of staff or a registered resident of the Forest. And last but quite definitely not least, there is a hallway on the third floor that is likewise strictly off limits as it contains a certain death for any who venture therein. It is marked, and locked in a way that will require considerable deliberate effort for any student to unlock; I trust that nobody will make the attempt as it would be quite remarkably foolish."
Harry frowned for a moment. Out of everyone in the student body, he alone had a rough idea what was going on with that; a few days before, a fist-sized package had arrived by armoured carrier under the guard of four squads of armed-to-the-teeth goblins led by Hooktalon, they'd even brought rocket launchers, and had been handed over to the Hogwarts staff. A full squad of said goblins were now camped out in that passageway, which had been heavily fortified complete with rocket launchers; they'd been instructed to scare off any students, and warn off or if they pushed it machine-gun or rocket any non-students who weren't Dumbledore, Hooktalon, Slackhammer, or someone called Nick Flamel. Harry knew this as one of the goblins standing guard down there was Master-Sergeant Griphook, who'd explained he'd be unable to attend Harry's marksmanship lessons until the mission was completed, and had sworn the young dragon to secrecy on the subject.
"Now then, it's time for us all to get some sleep." Dumbledore declared, rising to his feet. "We've a big day in the morning."
Prefects went round calling the attention of their houses' first year students, leading each house to depart the Great Hall in a disorderly mob.
Once everyone had been directed to their House common rooms, those few first-year students not residing at the castle were shown how to get to the way out; in the Hufflepuff case, this meant Harry and a boy named Zack Smith who lived down in Hogsmeade – and that was about that.
"Would anybody," Dumbledore asked, "Care for a lemon drop?"
He and the teaching staff were now in his office and about to begin the final pre-term meeting; everyone of course refused the offer of a lemon drop. Most of those present had accepted a lemon drop, once; none had ever accepted a second lemon drop, the things were just about acrid enough to etch glass, suiting only Dumbledore's overly resilient palate.
With that formality out of the way they had one very important thing to resolve that evening;
"Now we must organise class schedules." Dumbledore continued, and there was a round of groaning – not one of the teachers enjoyed that particular task, thus their habit of putting it off until the absolute last second.
But they all had to admit, it had to be done in time for the students to receive their timetables at breakfast in the morning, and that meant that now was the only time they had left.
So the arguments began. Throughout, there was one distinct peculiarity;
"Severus, Minerva, Fillius, are you all quite sure about having students from all four houses as single classes?" Dumbledore asked, once the not-in-the-know members of staff had departed.
Snape grimaced. "No, Albus, I am not; I predict pandemonium. However, our experiments require more time than otherwise available, so..."
"Aye. We're this far," and McGonagall measured half an inch with her forefinger and thumb, "From finally working out what exactly Harry managed to do to himself at Avebury, and myself I'm beginning to believe that the sooner we make those final connections the better for us all."
"The magical energy, the 'current' if you like," Flitwick said, "That ran through Mr Potter's body in that moment at Avebury... Albus, the only way in which his transformation could possibly have occurred is if more magic flowed through his body in that second than flows through Hogwarts in a century!"
"It was quite seriously that intense?" Sinestra asked.
"Quite so." Flitwick confirmed. "Aurora, it has proven quite impossible to detect Mr Potter's aura from a range less than fifteen miles for a reason similar to the way one cannot see all of Hogwarts from the front row of Severus's classroom."
"Fifteen miles?" Sinestra boggled. "But, but, but Albus's aura only covers a region a hundred yards across!"
"Precisely." Snape chirped up. "That reptile's aura contains more magic than those of every other living thing in Britain – combined. It is at its core intense enough to alter the laws of nature within his body; how else do you suppose a being weighing more than ten tons yet the size of a young adult Hungarian Horntail is able to fly as easily as a seagull?"
"And I hate to repeat myself, but the laddie's transformation couldn't have happened without a magical charge greater by a few orders of magnitude than any recorded since the anomalous excursions of 1883." McGonagall put in.
"Whatever happened that evening in Avebury," Flitwick took over, "It seems to have involved enough magical energy that, if channelled through a single Reducto, it would have obliterated everything within a hundred and twenty-five miles, bedrock included, in a blast that would make the mightiest of volcanoes seem like a tickling hex – and you all know how inefficient such a rudimentary blasting curse is."
"I see." Dumbledore said. "Yes; uncovering the facts is indeed of the utmost importance. Minerva, Severus, Fillius, if you require any assistance in your research or your teaching, don't hesitate to ask." The old man directed a grim look around the office. "All of you, whatever support you might give them, do not hesitate. The survival of all life in this world, not merely of magical life, might conceivably be in the balance."
There was a round of solemn nodding, and thus it was decided.
Sitting upon Suze's back as she jogged down to the castle, (Yes, jogged. Centaurs most definitely do not trot, canter, or gallop, and take grave exception to any contradictory claims) Harry found himself in a state of high excitement once more.
Yesterday had been interesting, even though him taking the train to Hogwarts had, when it came down to it, been silly; but that wasn't a big deal, like a lot of things that were silly it had been fun and anyway he now reckoned trains were pretty cool; he'd long wished he had a train set and riding a proper steam train, with chuffs and everything, had made that desire crystallise.
Anyway today there'd be classes, and Harry was really looking forwards to them. Over the years since he'd left Privet Drive (which now seemed like some sort of an unpleasant dream) his friends from the Hogwarts staff had got him caught up to what most Wizarding-raised students would have learned prior to Hogwarts in matters practical; on theory he was far ahead of his peers, but he wasn't sure how that would hold up in practise and was really looking forwards to finding out.
Waving a cheerful greeting to a small patrol of centaur warriors, they exited the edge of the Forest; another wave to Hagrid, who was dunging out the thestrals' stables as they headed up the lawn, and Harry leaped lightly down from Suze's back as they arrived in the courtyard where Mr Filch was sweeping up assorted litter that'd made it's way in – mostly leaves and the likes from the windy night they'd had, a few sweetie wrappers left by the arriving students, that sort of thing.
Mr Filch was a real sourpuss, but Harry didn't mind. Mr Snape had explained Filch's status as a squib, and how that made life difficult for the small man, so Harry reckoned it made sense that Mr Filch was kinda grumpy; he said a cheerful good morning, disregarded the way Filch grumped, and headed into the castle, catching up with a couple of other non-boarding students, most of whom got suitably gobsmacked by having a centaur loom over them.
(Centaurs could do a lot of looming. Fully upright, even a petite and slightly-built centaur like Suze could look Hagrid straight in the eye. For her part, Suze was in the process of contemplating just how small humans looked from her angle.)
He'd already eaten a good deal of breakfast, so what he had at the school meal was just a top-up despite being enough to make Ron Weasley feel a little inadequate; the important bit was getting his class timetable, and he was absolutely delighted to find that the very first subject of the year was Potions with Professor Snape.
"I've heard this Snape bloke's a right arse." Zack Smith said, dubiously contemplating the timetable.
"He used to be pretty difficult to deal with but he's got a lot better over the last couple of years." one of the upper-year students – a lanky girl with shaggy bubblegum-pink hair – remarked, looking up from her breakfast.
"Well the important thing with knowing Mr Snape is being able to tell when he's actually angry and when he's growling because he likes growling." Harry said. "You can tell when he really is angry because he goes even whiter and you can't see he's got lips any more, and he stops using complicated insults and starts shouting."
"... you know him?" another upper-year student, to whom Harry hadn't yet been introduced, asked.
"Yeah, he's onea my business partners and we get on pretty good." Harry said, nodding firmly.
"Must admit I hadn't realised he actually liked anyone." the boy who'd introduced himself as Cedric Diggory mused.
"If Mr Snape doesn't like someone, they really know about it." Harry explained, shrugging. "And if he calls something 'acceptable' or 'tolerable' that's him saying he likes it."
"... I thought he hated my guts." the pink-haired girl said, startled.
"Oh, sorry, I'm Tonks." she said. "And-"
"You're the Tonks who gets worked up about her first name, right?" Harry butted in, "Cuz he said something about you right about when last school year would've been ending, we were talking about how to tell the difference between properly-made and badly-made-but-works potions and he used some of yours as examples of how it oughtta be done, he said something about them being good enough to sell and, well, he's real particular about what he will and won't sell – I asked and he said that any customer with the sense to approach a master-craftsman deserves the absolute finest quality regardless of product."
"Toldja it's hard to figure out what he's thinking."
Having spent a couple of minutes silently striding around the room, Snape stopped in front of the blackboard and whirled round to spend a moment thoughtfully contemplating the class.
"... I confess," he said, "That I am stymied. It is my tradition to, at this time, select the most prominent member of an incoming class of students and demonstrate how little he or she actually knows of the exacting and magnificent art of potions, but at this moment in time our most prominent incoming student is of course Mr Potter and I am aware that his knowledge of potions is acceptable."
He paused while everyone looked at Harry, who didn't know to get uncomfortable or anything; dragons like being admired.
"Thus, Mr Potter, for the next few minutes you will keep your eternally ravenous jaw firmly shut. Is that understood?"
Harry made an enthusiastic 'Uh-huh' noise that didn't involve opening his mouth.
"Good." Snape said. "Now then, might anyone among you – excepting, of course, Mr Potter – be aware of the precise reagent composition of Orihalcum?"
Silence. Well, apart from Harry nodding and grinning with his teeth firmly clenched together.
"Hmm, so none of you are up to date on recent alchemical discoveries... perhaps I should enlighten you. Orihalcum, also known as mage-iron or glass-steel, is a structured phlogistonic nitrate of aluminium, known to muggles as aluminium oxy-nitride. Now, who if anyone might be able to tell me where one might acquire a beozar?"
Hermione Granger's hand shot up.
"Well, young lady?" Snape growled.
"In the belly of a goat, Sir."
"Correct; perhaps there is some hope for you after all. That said, do not call me 'Sir'; I work for a living. The correct term of address is 'Professor Snape'. And might anybody – excepting Miss Granger – be aware of the difference between aconite and wolfsbane?"
There were a few moments of uncomfortable silence replete with Harry rolling his eyes, and then a chubby dark-haired boy hesitantly raised a hand.
"Yes, Mr Longbottom?"
"Th-there's n-no difference; th-they're the same p-plant."
"Are you quite certain of that, Mr Longbottom? Wouldn't want to embarrass yourself your first day, would you?" There was some tittering from the Slytherin portion of the room, and Longbottom swallowed a couple time.
"I'm s-sure, P-Professor."
"Good; you are, as it so happens, quite correct." Snape swept a glower around the room. "You, you, you, and you! Three days detention each! I will not have cronyism or toadying within this chamber! The preparation of potions is an exacting art, and if you mess it up – which, from that unutterably gormless expression upon your fool faces, you most assuredly will – it can become quite decidedly hazardous! You will all be quiet! You will speak only when given permission! You will pay attention! You will be careful! You will follow instructions religiously! Because, if you fail to do so, you will likely blow yourself sky-high and I. Will. Make. Your. Life. Unutterably. Miserable. DO YOU ALL UNDERSTAND ME?"
"Yes, Professor Snape." everyone chorused.
"We shall see. Oh, and by the way? Miss Granger, Mr Longbottom, five points each to House Gryffindor for actually possessing the intelligence to both await permission to answer and for actually possessing a little knowledge of matters alchemical. And Mr Potter, you may now cease to hold your mouth quite so rigidly closed."
He then proceeded to go into a five-minute rant about the preparation of the potion he'd selected for this first class of the year; a potion for the cleaning of metals which, according to Snape, was easy but would, if one messed it up, usually produce a rather loud bang.
Nearly half the class got bangs and got snapped at. Most of the remainder got a sharp nod when Snape checked out their potions; a few got a quiet, "Acceptable" and a handful of points apiece.
Those few were Hermione, Draco Malfoy, and a Slytherin girl named Pansy Parkinson.
One unfortunate – Neville Longbottom – found himself on the receiving end of a string of spells aimed at his cauldron by a Snape whom none but Harry could tell was slightly panicked and was then subject to a sharp five-minute lecture on safety procedures, after his cauldron started to melt.
Snape then proceeded on a rant about what made that potion work, why it worked, how to tell (and cause) the difference between the ones that worked well and the ones that merely worked (it mainly boiled down to how evenly the ingredients were sliced and the lack of any acrid smell) what had gone wrong that turned Neville's attempt into something Snape described as 'corrosive enough to etch glass' (a matter of wrong order of ingredient addition) and what homework he expected; with that done, he dismissed the class, calling Harry to wait back for a brief word.
"What's up, Professor Snape?" Harry asked once the rest of the students had gone.
"Two subjects." Snape said, and pointed at Harry's cauldron. "Although a passable effort, you and I both know that you are capable of better than that; you have achieved acceptable quality on this brew in the past."
"... I'm sorry, I guess I kinda got overexcited and got sloppy chopping the spriggan leaves, right?"
"Indeed; kindly be more patient in future."
"I'll do that."
"What was the other thing you wanted to talk about?"
"Mr Slackhammer has requested a meeting at our earliest convenience. I have suggested that we visit Gringotts this coming Saturday; will that be acceptable?"
"Yeah, that works for me."
"Good; I shall make the necessary preparations."
"Okay, Mr Snape."
"I shall see you later then, young man."
Following Potions, a simple pattern that mindboggled everyone not a member of the staff rapidly began to emerge, starting in Fillius Flitwick's classroom when, on his first attempt at casting a simple levitation charm, Harry's feather proceeded into the ceiling at several thousand feet per second with a whipcrack one Belfast-born first-year reckoned was unnervingly like a bullet going overhead; the tip of his wand was left glowing red-hot and dribbling smoke.
This pattern continued in the year's first DADA class, when a simple stunning hex more-or-less obliterated the practise target and converted a block in the stone wall behind to sand, causing Quirrel to become utterly incomprehensible from increased stuttering for days; it continued in Transfiguration (McGonagall privately admitted to her colleagues that she'd never seen anything like it, in between joking that she should probably donate Harry's 'needles' to Barrs for the production of Irn Bru) and flying lessons, wherein (much to everyone's horror) the broom produced a tremendous TWANG noise and shot forwards like a crossbow bolt out of under Harry's hand, proceeding to bury itself to the bristles in a nearby grassy knoll.
It transpired that Harry was suffering control problems of a degree that Aurora Sinistra declared to be 'Epic'; it didn't take she and Vector long to figure out that Harry was putting more magical energy into each casting than every one of his classmates combined; he was experiencing equal trouble with every class that involved active magic.
To say he was less than impressed with the resulting intense regime of finesse tutoring would be to... well, to lie through one's teeth. Harry being Harry, he took it all in stride and rapidly became quite smug when he got his head around exactly why his magic kept going spectacularly wrong, causing Snape to privately remark to McGonagall that if Harry's head kept swelling it would likely burst; the barely-detectable smile on the acerbic man's face when he said that demonstrated that he was joking, and the Scotswoman just chuckled and shook her head.
By the time Friday evening rolled around, a twofold set of rumours were flying around the school, the first around the Boy-Who-Lived's apparent power level (several upper-year students having connected the dots about why half the firsties were treating Harry like his wand might go off at any minute) and the second about why the entire staff (sans Filch) seemed in such high spirits.
The other conclusion that everyone had arrived at was that The-Boy-Who-Lived was immature, hyperactive, almost obnoxiously good-natured, self-assured to the point of outright arrogance, and so completely laid back about everything it was a wonder he wasn't horizontal.
You'd have sworn he was eight, tops, but nothing fazed the kid.
Saturday arrived and with it Snape and Harry were into Diagon Alley bright and early for their meeting with Slackhammer; they were directed through to his office with a round of salutes from resplendently dress-uniformed guards as soon as they arrived in the bank.
"Ah, Mr Potter, Mr Snape, welcome, welcome." Slackhammer said, rising to his feet and greeting his business partners with a cordial bow. Despite Harry's best attempts over the years, he'd never managed to get the dapper goblin to be any more personal than 'Mr' on anything even approaching a regular basis.
The broad shark-like grin on Slackhammer's face told both Snape and Harry that the goblin's news was good.
"A seat, gentlemen." Slackhammer continued, gesturing them to the comfortable armchairs that were to be found in his office whenever he was expecting to entertain important guests such as his business partners; Harry knew that because the times Slackhammer hadn't been expecting him the armchairs had been brought in for them. "Would you care for a little refreshment?"
"A small Firewhiskey please, Mr Slackhammer." Snape said.
"I'd like a cup of goblin tea please." Harry added. Goblin tea was strong stuff; it most definitely would not have suited a human palate, being ferociously acrid and hot enough to take the skin off the roof of your mouth, but the young dragon found it to his taste; the flavour reminded him of a car battery.
Slackhammer rang a small bell, and his batman immediately appeared, bowing in response to Slackhammer's, "The usual thankyou, Corporal Icefang." before quickly disappearing to see to it.
"Now then, gentlemen," Slackhammer continued; waiting around when you could be discussing business was considered boorish by right-thinking goblins, "I have recently had some quite intriguing possibilities brought to my attention, concerning your analysis of the materials composing Mr Potter's brain and nerves."
"Concerning my examination of Mr Potter's central nervous system?" Snape asked, very surprised. "While the materials involved are quite fascinating in their make-up, I confess I fail to see how they might be applied in practise."
"For an answer to that, Mr Snape, one must look to the world of electronics and electrical engineering." Slackhammer told him. "It seems that Mr Potter's nerves are composed of what is referred to as a room-temperature superconductor. And as a member of our company – your esteemed self – was able to decipher how exactly to replicate the given substance and, as it happens, it is cheap and easy to do so... Gentlemen, if you thought the sum we earned from NASA was substantial, you haven't seen a damn thing yet."
Corporal Icefang returned, placing the drinks on the coffee table, and passed them round.
"Thankyou, Corporal Icefang."
"M'pleasure, Mr Vice-Chairman sir." and the other goblin departed once again.
"How might the structure of Mr Potter's nerves be of such value?" Snape asked.
"Severus, a superconductor is a substance in which a voltage or temperature curve is impossible – if one end, so to speak, is heated, charged, cooled, the entire length follows suit instantaneously. Such materials usually only function in this way at extremely low temperatures, so much so that the operating temperature of so-called 'high-temperature superconductors' is typically well below the freezing point of water. The technological potential of a superconductor not merely able to function at room temperature, but at a temperature as hot as molten steel, is simply limitless. I have taken the liberty of patenting the fabrication process in our company's name, and I currently have electronics manufacturers, electrical power suppliers, research laboratories, myriad companies the world over in every sphere of industry, clamouring for use of that technology; I assure you that there is absolutely no sphere of technological endeavour in which this substance cannot be gainfully and profitably applied. And I have had certain technologists of my acquaintance take a look at your analysis of Mr Potter's brain matter, and the potential technological applications of that data... Boundless in the region of computing. Tell me, what if anything do you know of the internal function of computers?"
"Very little, I must confess." Snape admitted. "I am aware of their existence, but that is all that I know."
"Well I ain't used one since before I turned into a dragon." Harry said. "They had Commodore C64's at the school I usta go to when I lived at the Dursleys and we used 'em for somea the classes..." He hadn't really thought about all that in ages.
"You lost me at the 'See sixty four' part." Snape muttered.
"And how much do you know of said computer's construction?" Slackhammer intently asked Harry.
"Well not a huge lot, I mean I know they got microchips and stuff in 'em, and I know those are made outta silicon with really really tiny wiring and stuff on them, and I know what transistors are and how really really tiny they can get, and I know what bits and bytes and kilobytes are, but..."
"And that knowledge will suffice here, Mr Potter; if I were to tell you that your brain matter functions much like a vast network of computers formed from transistors manufactured at the molecular scale, well, do you understand what I mean?"
"... wow. Well, I, um, I think so?"
"And if I were to tell you that our as-yet small number of employees believe that they can reproduce that material as a form of processor chip for a computer?"
"... wow. That's be worth a LOT of money, wouldn't it?"
"Am I to understand that these materials would allow us to corner the global market in these 'computers'?" Snape asked, doing a damn good job of correctly pronouncing a word he'd used perhaps five times in his entire life.
"Quite correct, Mr Snape." Slackhammer confirmed. "And that market alone is worth enough to make a king's ransom seem like the small change one might occasionally notice dropped in the street. Enough that if we are to go ahead with this, barring some unspeakable disaster, everyone within this room will become so phenomenally rich that I guarantee we shall not need to work another day in our lives and nor shall our great-grandchildren, regardless of how long those lives might perhaps be – and that is without even mentioning the myriad other potential uses for both materials."
"Mr Slackhammer, what sort of money are we talking about?" Snape asked.
Slackhammer let out a dry chuckle. "Frankly, Mr Snape, the potential markets available for these technologies... Of the two, the superconductor is by far the more valuable; there is barely a single industry or machine that could not put it to good use – and yet Mr Potter's brain matter is worth enough, as a technology, to earn an estimated two to three billion Galleons per annum at current market levels."
The rotund goblin noted his associates' flabbergasted looks.
"Gentlemen," he said, "Welcome to the big leagues."
It didn't take House Hufflepuff as a unit long – a couple hours tops, in fact – to notice Harry seemed a bit dazed and distracted even by what they currently considered his usual standards; he spent Saturday afternoon wandering around in a cloud with a big silly grin on his face, and when asked just giggled. By the time Sunday evening rolled around, they'd shrugged it off as the Boy-Who-Lived being weird.
Suze came closest to getting a straight answer, and that was a huge cheesy grin and a mutter of something about gold.
She shook her head. He'd explain himself when he felt like it.
When the Hogwarts rumour mill noticed that Snape too seemed to be in a bit of a daze and was being far less unpleasant to be near than normal, it really got going.
"Ladies, gentlemen, other beings, welcome back." Snape said. It was now Monday morning shortly after breakfast, and the first-years were back for their second Potions class of the year.
He gestured at their readied potions' kits, especially Neville's cauldron.
"It has come to my attention that I have failed to properly impart to you the true hazards that those ingredients upon your desks represent. You may believe me severe, especially considering my given name, but I assure you that I am not demanding of you simply for my amusement."
He paused to let the students work out that he'd just made a joke with himself as the butt; there were some obedient giggles, to which he replied with one cocked eyebrow and a faint smirk. He'd been in an uncharacteristically sociable mood since sometime on Saturday and the entire student body had absolutely no desire to be the one who made Snape's almost-cheerful mood revert to his usual sour disposition.
"In this room, there are many layered charms for the safety of all who prepare potions herein. These charms are here for a vital purpose; potions are universally volatile. Their function depends on reactions that, if incorrectly performed, will almost inevitably have unpleasant side-effects; that metal-cleaning potion that you prepared this time last week can, with a certain combination of errors, become corrosive enough to etch glass. Within this room, those unwanted side-effects are suppressed and controlled. Mr Longbottom, your attempt would have melted clean through the floor, removing your legs at the knees, if it was not for those safety charms; that, ladies and gentlemen, is precisely how deadly a badly-prepared potion can become."
"Frankly, I am severe and exacting as any failure to do so on my part may cost your lives in times to come. I am demanding of you because I must; that is in itself the nature of potions as an art."
"I trust that you all understand this?" There was a round of nodding and 'Yes, Professor Snape' ing. "Good. Today we shall be preparing a potion for the treatment of burns. Note that, if prepared incorrectly, it may explode with sufficient force to drive fragments of cauldron clean through a thick stone wall; I add that, within this room, said detonation would merely blow unpleasantly spicy muck to ceiling height and earn you a detention. The primary reaction concerns..." and Snape went into a five-minute rant about reactions and reactivity and precautions for the prevention of things that blow up.
Once again, once the potions were prepared, Hermione and Draco and Pansy got approving nods and points, this time joined by Harry; Neville didn't manage to get his cauldron to erupt, but became the target of a lecture about how, due to the addition of ingredients in the incorrect order, his potion would cause a horrific, scarring, rash.
Once he'd then explained how and why the differences between failures, mere successes, and superb performances had occurred (mostly about timing of the addition of ingredients, though the accuracy of ingredient preparation factored into it) how it all worked and what homework he expected, Snape dismissed the class.
"A moment of your time, Miss Granger." he added, shaking off the way Harry had rocketed out the door with a declaration of hunger.
Hermione warily waited as the rest of the class departed; she received puzzled looks from several students, especially Draco Malfoy.
"What is it, Professor Snape?" she asked once they were alone.
"Mr Longbottom needs help, young lady, and your attempts have as yet proved to be of quite acceptable quality," Snape informed her, tapping her cauldron, "I would appreciate it if you were to render Mr Longbottom a little assistance in comprehending my lessons; in future lessons students shall be paired, and I wish you to be paired with Mr Longbottom so that you might prevent any further catastrophic errors on his part."
"Will it impact my grades?" Hermione asked.
"Frankly, young lady, if Mr Longbottom's performance should improve with your instruction I shall assign his improvements as extra credit to your grades. That young man is utterly lacking in confidence in his own abilities, and fails to add ingredients in the correct order due I believe to his uncertainty; I believe your surprising levels of attention to the subject might guide him onto a path that shall not result in him blowing himself to pieces."
"Okay, Professor Snape."
"Good. And, Miss Granger?"
"Yes, Professor Snape?"
"Please do not attempt to brew potions outside of class as yet. Seeing you blast yourself to a grease smear would be most unpleasant, and the vast majority of potions are not nearly as forgiving as those I foist upon my first-year students."
"Yes, Professor Snape."
"Good. Run along now, young lady; you have a meal to attend."
Snape watched her go, then sighed and glanced back at Hermione's cauldron.
"Well, we shall see." he muttered. "Twinky!"
"Mr Snape Sir is calling for Twinky, yes?" Twinky the house elf asked, appearing.
"Indeed." Snape pointed at Hermione's cauldron. "I would appreciate it if that, once cooled, were to be added to Madam Pomfrey's supplies."
"Is Miss Pomfrey Ma'am's supllieses not being Mr Snape Sir's own brewingses, Mr Snape Sir?" Twinky asked, thoughtfully sniffing at Hermione's cauldron.
"... but isn't Mr Snape Sir being a great and wise alkermisterer, Mr Snape Sir?"
"Twinky, this," and Snape pointed at Hermione's cauldron once again, "Is of a quality on a level with my own."
The little elf went rather pop-eyed. She'd heard that before about perhaps a dozen students, tops, none of whom had been first-years; nodding rapidly, she put on a set of oven gloves, carefully picked the cauldron up, and popped away.
Snape allowed himself a dry chuckle as he began clearing up the stinking mess Neville had produced. It hadn't taken him long to impart to the house-elves that cleaning up their own messes was a matter of pride to alchemists and it was a master's business to ensure that his students' messes got dealt with; house-elf pride and honour wasn't so different.
Besides, he liked doing things with his hands. He never would have become an alchemist if he hadn't felt that way.
By the time Snape arrived in the Great Hall, the scene he had vaguely feared was already in progress; Harry Potter was eating.
That may not sound like much, but the third whole roast cow was on it's way down the hyperactive pint-sized boy's throat amidst a deadly hush; every eye in the hall was riveted to Harry, and half the cutlery at the Hufflepuff table was missing.
As Snape approached, a fork that had been sitting unused in front of a slack-jawed bug-eyed Cedric Diggory vanished into the ravening Potter's insatiable maw.
Snape swept his gaze to the staff table and caught Madam Pomfrey's eye; he produced his wand and, with a quick flick, departed with a levitating and loudly complaining Lizard-Who-Won't-Stop-Eating in tow, rapidly followed by a certain exasperated mediwitch, a hand-wringing herbalist, and a very thoughtful Dumbledore with a half-eaten roast cow levitating along beside him.
"What the hell were you thinking, you wretched reptile?" Snape growled as the procession proceeded towards the infirmary.
"Hungry!" Harry declared, attempting to grab the helmet off a suit of armour, which dived for cover, "I ain't never been so hungry afore, I swear I could eat two whole trains!"
"If you eat the Hogwarts Express I shall be downright furious, you idiot lizard!"
"But I'm HUNGRY!" the part-time preteen boy wailed.
"And you shall have all you can eat shortly, just remain calm!" Snape snapped, failing to take his own advice.
"Gettin' hungrier!" and the severity of the situation was underlined as Harry's voice dropped to an inhuman castle-shaking roar.
A moment later the door to the side chamber off the infirmary that they'd prepared when they realised his appetite was rapidly increasing crashed open, the small group of staff having broken into a dead run; a moment after that Snape lost control of his levitation spell as Harry, on seeing the small mountain of things only he would regard as tasty (or, for that matter, food) within, erupted back into his dragon form and descended on them like several tons of very hungry metal-munching winged lizard.
Metal, glass and frozen meat splintered as draconian teeth closed on them, and the small group of Hogwarts staff beat a hasty retreat.
Meanwhile, back in the Great Hall, the rumour mill had long since passed the point of batshit and was rapidly closing on conspiracy theory.
"So. Potter's appetite. We're going to have to deal with this sooner or later."
And with that Snape spelled the death-knell for the mood in Dumbledore's office, in which a fair number of staff were gathered for today's informal after-dinner meeting.
"How is he?" McGonagall asked, turning to Madam Pomfrey.
"He's stopped eating. I... well, I and Rubeus had to refill that room twice over. He's eaten three times his own weight over a period of four hours – I've no idea where he put it all, I'm starting to think there's some form of expansion effect upon his stomach – and once he was done eating he demanded Suze's company; as soon as she entered the room he curled up around her and fell asleep."
"Reckon he'll be growin' like a mushroom now," Hagrid chirped up (Not that 'chirp up' is the best description where concerning our favourite half-giant) with a bright look most of his audience found immediately reminiscent of Hermione Granger, "Yeh see it's usual fer young dragons ter get mighty hungry fer a few days before they go inta a growth spurt," he nodded to Madam Pomfrey, "In th' run up ter it they're likely ter eat sev'ral times their own weight each day."
"Are there any warning signs we should be aware of in future?" Snape asked.
"Nah – well, there ain't none anyone's ever written down. Somea the best dragon-handlers get a feelin' when one's gonna do it, but..." and Hagrid shrugged expansively, causing a rather startled ferret to plop out of his sleeve and land in Dumbledore's lemon drop bowl.
"Rubeus, you appear to have mislaid a ferret." Dumbledore said.
The ferret gave Dumbledore a measuring look, then demonstrated itself to in fact be a Jarvey by flipping him off with both forepaws and declaring in a smooth baritone, "Fuck you guv'nor, and your little dog too. And your dear old mum. You wanna piece of me, I'll bite your nadgers off!"
Some ten minutes later, the foul-mouthed (and unfortunately magic-resistant) mustelid having been retrieved, the group returned to their seats and the subject.
"What are we going to tell the weans?" McGonagall asked.
"A very good question." Snape said.
"I seem," Fillius said, "To recall a disease that causes a magically enhanced insatiable appetite and related lack of expansion of girth. One of my elder cousins died of it - dash it, I can't remember the details, it was before my first year as a student here."
"That does sound familiar now you mention it," Poppy said with a nod, "I'll check my library at once."
Hermione Granger, age twelve, had a vitally important question. That question she shared with the majority of House Hufflepuff, and concerned the well-being of someone who currently felt like her only friend in all the world; Harry James Potter.
It was Susan Bones who invited her to join the Hufflepuff vigil as they waited for word; she found herself in their homely common room, being quietly introduced to everyone by a dashingly handsome third-year by the name of Cedric Diggory.
It was a totally different feel to Gryffindor ground. In Gryffindor, you were expected to fend for yourself; you stood on your own two feet or got flattened. In Hufflepuff, as soon as you were into their common room (cutely called the Sett) you were 'one of us'; you were something second only to family, and for the alienated young witch that was something of a revelation.
Her parents were good people, but they were busy good people and she'd spent more than a few birthdays alone with a book – Tony and Sharon Granger's patients came first at all times. That's how they'd built a very successful and well-to-do private dental practise – by being willing to go into the office to deal with someone's toothache at stupid o'clock in the morning – and that was, when you thought about it rationally, what was paying the cringeworthy price-tab of Hermione's Hogwarts fees – but that wasn't to say she hadn't been lonely and things like that aren't entirely rational.
Thus the feeling in the Hufflepuff common room was pretty alien to her – almost, but not quite, enough so to make her shy away.
Almost, but not quite. And when it comes to things like that, 'not quite' means 'making this lonely child latch on like a drowning girl clings to a lifebouy'.
House Hufflepuff makes you feel like you'll never, ever, be abandoned again – and when you've spent most of your life alone that is a feeling that should probably be a controlled substance.
Thus she was almost (almost, but not quite) disappointed when Sprout arrived with, at last, news.
-/- Fragmentation; some kind of staff meeting -/-
"You're a right nightmare!" Ron snapped. "Always gotta know it all, no wonder you're that greasy git's teacher's pet! It's no wonder you ain't got any friends!"
Hermione burst into tears and bolted, so upset she even left her notepads behind.
That one had hit entirely too close to home.
Ron also left the table, going storming off up to his dorm without actually realising the effect he'd just had.
For his part, Neville Longbottom sat there in a quandary about whether to go and punch Ron in the teeth or to go and make sure Hermione was going to be okay or to do what – so he ended up doing nothing.
"... I'm such a woosie." he muttered.
-/- Fragmentation; later that day -/-
"Y'know that Hermione Granger?" Parvati said.
"Course I do." her less-flighty twin sister replied.
"She's in the downstairs loo, crying on about something." From Parvati's manner, Harry got the sense that this was supposed to be a juicy piece of gossip.
So he immediately looked at Hannah since she usually knew the gossip.
"Hmm?" Hannah said.
"Padma an' Parvati were saying something about Hermione." Harry prompted. A surprised look passed between Hannah and Susan.
"Well, yeah, you know the downstairs toilets just towards the stairs from Professor Snape's classroom?" Hannah explained. "We saw her in there earlier on, just after Transfiguration, and she's really upset."
"What happened?" Harry asked. Hannah and Susan failed to recognise quite how worked up he was getting, though most of the older Puffs cottoned on at once.
"I'm not sure, I asked her what was wrong and she said something about that Ron Weasley and wanting to be left alone." Susan said.
There was a noise like a string of tiny firecrackers from the region of Harry's knuckles, which caused Cedric Diggory (currently seated opposite the trio) to flinch.
(The usually-cheerful third-year knew what he'd just seen. The last time he saw someone that pissed off was after Charlie Weasley caught his girlfriend cheating on him with that what's-his-name arse from Ravenclaw.
He gave Eric Cadwallader and Maxine O'Flaherty surreptitious elbow nudges.
"We'd better sort it out." Cedric hissed, and there was a round of nodding from the rest of the Puff's Quidditch fanatics.)
Harry, deep in a funk, didn't notice the byplay.
"Sure she wants left alone, Susan?" the boy hero asked.
"She kept saying 'leave me alone' when me and Hannah tried to find out what was wrong." Susan explained.
(Cedric glanced concernedly at Maxine and then Eric.)
"Aw blast it." Harry muttered. "I hate it when I can't do something."
"Is there anything we might help with, Harry?" Justin Finch-Fletchley asked, leaning forwards to see past Susan.
"Not just now." Harry told the Eton-set lad. "If Hermione wants left alone, well, we've gotta leave her alone."
No Puff argued with that.
It had, after all, taken the collective House Hufflepuff less than a week to realise that arguing with Harry Potter was absolutely pointless, no matter how hard you worked at it – you just had to stick with him and keep hinting till he came round by himself, and the only Puffs who hadn't figured it out were Zak Smith, who was kinda bone-headed like that, and Nymphadora 'Don't-Call-Me-That' Tonks, who was way too mired down in her excessive number of NEWT classes to worry about firsties.
-/- Fragmentation; same evening; arrival of Quirrel bearing troll-related bad news -/-
"No." Harry said.
"What?" Susan asked.
"I'm goin' down and finding her, you're goin' to the Sett." the pint-sized boy firmly instructed her.
"But you've got just about as much chance as us fighting a..." Hannah abruptly cut off when Harry reached out, grabbed the faceplate of a nearby suit of armour between forefinger and thumb, and crushed it utterly flat with no visible effort at all; he crushed it so thoroughly he left very visible fingerprints stamped into the metal.
"I tole you I'm way more'n I look." he said. "I gotta go now, see you later." And, with that, he took off at a sprint.
-/- Fragmentation; this scene needs lead-in -/-
"You wanna stop being mean now or am I gonna have to do something unpleasant to you?" the pint-sized boy cheerfully asked.
By way of an answer, the troll lashed out with its club; there was a horrible meaty slam as Harry went flying into and, with a splintering crash, clean through the wall.
"Durr, me 'ungry." the troll stated, casually advancing on Hermione.
She screamed again.
That was when, with another tremendous crash (this one seeming to shake the whole castle) a scaly arm longer than the troll was tall came bursting through the wrecked part of the wall where Harry had disappeared, snatching the brute by the leg; a split second later, with another tearing bang, a three-horned reptilian head the size of a small car finished the demolition of the wall.
"That. Hurt." the newly-arrived (and quite unexpected) dragon stated.
Its jaws closed like some set of gigantic obscene scissors on the troll's upper half, ripping clean through, and the dragon let out a surprised mumble of, "Mmm, yum, bacony!"
Hermione couldn't manage to produce more than a terrified squeak as the titan proceeded to gnash it's way through the remnants of the troll while heaving the rest of the wall off and advancing on her.
"YumyumyumOW!" it said. "GRRKLE! OWdrat!"
Hermione squeaked again.
"What in the HELL is going on HERE?!" came the tremendous bellow of an arriving (not to mention unutterably incensed, you could easily tell that when he actually swore) Severus Snape. "And why exactly did you have to revert to your usual outsize reptile self IN FRONT OF A STUDENT just like we decided you MOST DEFINITELY SHOULD NOT, Mr Potter?!"
"It was the troll an' Hermione din' know 'bout it an' it woz gonna devour her so I devoured it an' it tasted like bacon but I think I got a troll bone stuck in me teeth an' I don't think I oughtta change back because the troll bone's bigger'n my arm when I'm human-shaped I think, Mr Snape." the dragon replied, frowning.
"... I see." the foul-tempered potions master replied, calming down slightly. "You will both immediately accompany me to the infirmary and there will be no backchat!"
"Okay." the dragon said.
"... what's going on?" Hermione squeaked.
"Are you an imbecile, girl?" Snape snarled. "Do you think it an error that I called this wretched lizard 'Mr Potter'?"
"Hey, that ain't fair, she din' know!" Harry declared.
"... wha, wha, I, uh, wha?" Hermione squeaked.
"Oh for all the... foolish girl! Come on, get your behinds into gear AND DON'T YOU DARE EAT THAT ARMOUR, POTTER!"
"... still hungry Mr Snape."
"Drat it! I'll have the house-elves provide you a meal once we're in the infirmary, you no longer have something jammed between your teeth, and we're no longer in danger of running into more dunderheaded fools lolly-lagging around the damn castle when they should be in their dorms!"
"It's that Ron Weasley's fault, he was bein' mean to Hermione an' she was hidin' in here bein' all sad an' stuff an' she din' know about the troll!" the dragon firmly declared. "An' you'd all run off someplace before Susan remembered 'bout that!"
"This is neither time nor place for a post-mortem, Potter – get your behind into gear and COME ON!"
"Oh alright then."
"Well, Miss Granger? Are you coming or shall Mr Potter have to pick you up by the scruff of the neck like a badly-behaved kitten?"
Her eyes like Frisbees, Hermione followed dragon and potions master without a word.
"Both of you remain exactly where you are! And no playing the fool!" Snape snapped, and went storming off, leaving large dragon and small bushy-haired girl seated in the side room at the back of the Hogwarts infirmary.
"Okay, Mr Snape." the dragon said, then settled down on it's haunches with a barely-stifled giggle.
"... what's going on?" Hermione plaintively asked.
"Oh, um, well I'm a dragon, right, it happened when those standing stone thingies went all glowy after I banged my head on 'em a few years back an' I don't really remember what all happened because I was too busy seeing stars." the dragon explained with a shrug. "We still ain't really sure how it worked but Mrs McGonagall says she's startin' to get an idea about it."
"... er, what happened?"
"When the standing stones went 'all glowy', what happened?"
"Oh, I turned into a dragon. I usta be a human but you know how easy stuff is to misplace sometimes huh? But don't have a big, you know, situation about it, I'm cool with it 'coz being a dragon's really awesome apart from the whole not being able to let people know bit, sometimes I just wanna go flyin' down Diagon Alley an' yell LOOKIT ME I'M A DRAGON because people gotta respect dragons because we're awesome and cool but all sorts of people are stupid and that means I gotta look like a human mosta the time."
"... oh. Um, look, I guess you can change back and forth between dragon-form and human-form, right?"
"Yeah, that's how I got the other side of that busted-up wall after that troll hit me with his club." the dragon confirmed with a nod, and Hermione suddenly realised just how much like the weird kid called Harry Potter it sounded, and what, exactly, Snape had been on about.
"... Harry?" She checked.
"Aw, it ain't nothing, you were in distress and there's some stuff a dragon's just gotta do because if he didn't he wouldn't be a proper dragon, and anyway there ain't nobody allowed to pick on my friends and I don't care if the somebody who tries it tastes like bacon."
"... am I your friend?"
"Course you are, weren't for you I wouldn't know trolls taste like bacon an' Master-Sergeant Griphook likes the way you smell, you can tell 'coz he nodded at you, an' you're really clever, an' anyway ain't nobody can have enough friends because friends are the best thing ever, well, apart from damsels and treasures and I think guns but then guns and damsels are two sorts of really special treasure because they're hard to find so that's obvious."
Hermione spent a few startled moments digesting that, then asked, "How'd you know where I was and that the, the t-troll was going to come get me?"
"Well I didn't know the troll was after you till I saw it going into the jurden with its club an' everything, my friend Hannah – she's really nice, I think you'll like her – she said earlier she'd seen you down in the downstairs girls jurden all upset and stuff because that Ron Weasley done something, and then after Mr Quirrel said there was a troll downstairs my friend Susan – she's just as nice as Hannah and I think you'll like her too – reminded us you were down there last any of us knew, and all the teachers had already run off to go get the troll so I thought I'd better go let you know about the troll, only when I got there it turned out the troll was out to get you so I thought I'd better see it off, then when it hit me with that club I got really cross and I kinda lost my temper and bit it, and, well, it was really tasty but it's got nasty sharp pointy bones that get up between your teeth and stick in that meaty bit where your teeth stick out of and that hurts." He spent a moment rooting around between his teeth with his tongue (which was easily as big as Hermione) then stopped doing that with a pained yelp.
"Are you okay, Harry?"
"Yeah, but I can't get my tongue under the troll bone at the right angle to hook it out and when I try it jams in and that really hurts."
"Let me have a look." she said, getting up and heading over to his head. "Say 'aah'."
"Aaaah." Harry said, opening his fearsome jaws as wide as he could.
The troll bone was as thick as Hermione's wrist, and the end jammed into Harry's gum was sizzling a bit; something told her that inside Harry's dragon body was very very hot indeed, especially considering the way being near where his throat went past his football-sized tonsils was like when you're too close to a furnace.
Disregarding that, she gripped the jammed-in bone with both hands and pulled.
"OW!" Harry declared, flinching back, and the bone yanked itself out of her hands.
"... sorry." she said., withdrawing.
"Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow! Aw man, I think my mouth's bleeding a bit. Aw, don't be upset Hermione, it ain't your fault, I just got stuff jammed in my teeth and that kinda stuff happens, right? I mean last time it was a driveshaft but that came out pretty easy coz the bit that was stuck in melted and that's why I don't eat Hyundai's any more, they got nasty pointy spiky driveshafts."
"... you know, Mum and Dad are dentists. They might be able to help." Hermione said, partially because she felt bad about having hurt his already-hurt mouth.
"Well mebbe we'll try that if Mrs Pomfrey can't help." Harry pragmatically told her, nodding firmly, and then they lapsed into silence – uncomfortable on Hermione's part and puzzled on Harry's part.
"Professor Snape's kinda scary." Hermione eventually said.
"Aw, he's not so bad." Harry told her, accompanying his comment with a reptilian shrug. "He pretends he hates everything but I know he doesn't even though it's kinda hard to tell; when he likes something he goes less white and you can see he's trying not to smile and sometimes he gets this sorta excited gleam in his eyes then starts talking and talking and talking about things, normally about how his research works but sometimes he gets, well, for-Mr-Snape-excited about other stuff, and, well, when he does that asking him things before he's finished talking isn't a good idea, he gets really cross and starts yelling when someone breaks his train of thought, and I guess that's fair since interrupting is rude. And, well, Mr Snape gets really cross when people are rude."
"But isn't him going on about everything being stupid a bit rude?"
"I think Mr Snape not growling would be like he wasn't breathing, it doesn't really mean anything unless he starts shouting – if he's not shouting it's just him being Mr Snape. He says being growly all the time is useful because if people think that if they make you angry you'll pull their lungs out through their noses they're less likely to do anything that'll make you angry. Except goblins, he says being growly at goblins is enormously bad for your financial status."
"Trying to annihilate my carefully-crafted reputation, Mr Potter?" said a certain acidic voice, causing poor Hermione to nearly jump out her skin.
"Um, no, I wasn't Mr- um, Professor Snape. I mean, you've gotta admit Hermione's the only person who don't muck anything up in your class and I figured she deserves to know what you're really meaning when you growl."
"I see." Snape said. There was a woman Hermione hadn't offhand met before standing beside him, and she was pretty sure this woman was the school nurse; accompanying them was Harry's pet centaur. "Very well; and both of you kindly keep that information strictly confidential." With that, Snape whirled round and strode off.
"... scary." Hermione said.
"Nah, he's just being Mr Snape."
"Severus tells me you've something stuck in your teeth and can't change back, Harry dear." the woman said.
"Yeah Mrs Pomfrey, I think it's troll leg-bone." the dragon admitted, then paused to poke around in his mouth with a talon again. "OW!"
"Harry, just stop poking at it already!" Hermione requested.
"... ow, ow, ow. Er, yeah, I think that's a good idea.
"Harry, what've you gone and done to yourself?" Suze asked; the 'this time' was unsaid but definitely implied.
"Well I ate a troll and it tasted kinda like bacon but I got one of it's bones stuck in my teeth..."
Just outside the infirmary, Severus Snape paused, ran the last few minutes over again in his mind, and grimaced.
"Drat that reptile, he's mellowed me."
Twenty minutes of half-stifled swearing later, Madam Pomfrey declared the bone (which, counter to Harry's guess, was not a leg-bone) jammed beyond her ability to remove, partially as, being a part of a troll, it was naturally highly resistant to magic, as was Harry's mouth as it was a firmly-attached component of a dragon.
Thirty seconds after that, Hermione had suggested her parents again. The next twenty-six minutes she spent explaining what a dentist is and what they do.
Albus Dumbledore was quite promptly called for, and he then requested the presence of Minerva McGonagall as she'd actually met Tony and Sharon Granger and thus had a measure of them; shortly thereafter, she took off via Portkey and then Apparation to go and ask if they'd be willing to assist in this matter.
"Well it seems there is some scoring on your teeth, Mr. Potter. This canine has a particularly large score. What exactly have you been eating? Do you make a habit of eating trolls?" Tony Granger asked, sweating profusely from the heat coming from the blast-furnace of a stomach of the dragon, the heavy protective gear and respiration equipment, the tools he was using, and the fact that he was voluntarily up to his arse in an extremely large dragon's mouth. He owed young Mr. Potter a good turn, for saving his dearest only daughter from the aforementioned troll, which seemed to have part of it's arm firmly wedged between Harry's first superior molar, and his second superior pre-molar. "Tongs."
Suze slapped the requested implement into his waved-around hand.
"No thir! 'ant et 'un 'efor!" replied Harry, trying to avoid running his tongue over Tony while the man was extracting the troll chunks from his mouth. "OW!"
That last was a result of Tony finally managing, aided by the pair of blacksmith's tongs, to drag the offending bone out.
"Tony! Careful now!" Sharon Granger lectured. She was against the back wall of the room, holding onto Hermione, who'd taken to twitching violently at every repetition of the word 'Troll'; this had immediately directed her mother's centre of focus onto a certain distraught daughter, leaving Tony knee-deep in dragon drool and with a certain centaur as an assistant.
Centaur. Dragon. Troll. The mere fact that those things EXISTED was enough to throw Tony for a loop, and never mind being asked to extract a portion of the latter from the teeth of the second while the first did a remarkably competent job of passing the necessary tools. He'd been thrown the first time he'd met Suze, but had shaken it all off with a, 'this wizarding stuff is weird'; how weird hadn't really sunk in until he ran into all this in a professional capacity.
"Daddy! Be careful!" shrieked Hermione, biting her nails to the quick, as she watched the procedure with an evident mixture of interest and fear.
"S'allright, Harry won't hurt me, I've almost got it!" Tony said with a laugh. The bone had splintered a bit and he was now using more familiar tools – pincers – to extract the fragments.
"Daddy! Honestly, can't you see you're hurting poor Harry!" Hermione complained, causing a brief double-take.
"Anthony Granger, the poor boy is already in enough pain as it is! You stop lumbering around like an elephant in his mouth, it's not like we have any anaesthetic proven to be safe for a dragon." Sharon added.
Tony's jaw dropped, as he turned to look at the two most important girls in his life.
'I am a twitch away from being an after dinner dessert to this beast of a dragon, who just ate a 9 foot bloody troll like a damned treacle tart, and they are worried about me hurting HIM!?'
Tony shook his head. He knew it would happen eventually, but in his daughter's first year, he knew he had already lost her to this, this, well, this Monster!
Oh well, Sharon's father had laughingly warned him when he had brought Hermione home from the hospital. He had hoped he could keep his little girl all to himself for at least a couple decades, but it looked like it was already too late.
Who would have thought that the man who took his daughter away would not be a shining knight on horseback, but a dragon more likely to flambé the knight?
With a sigh, he returned to work. Stupid boys, eh, dragons. "Hold on just a second there Harry, almost... almost... There! Got it!" He proudly turned with the severely charred remnant of the troll's arm, expecting the accolades of his daughter and wife. He idly wondered how he could publish this in the Dentist's review. First sapient interspecies extraction? Safety techniques for the hygienic maintenance and upkeep of the orthodontia of a pre-adolescent dragon?
While Tony was ruminating on the fame this could bring him, he suddenly realized that his wife and daughter were not congratulating him for his daring and skill, but that blasted lizard!
"Now Harry, you really have to learn to chew your food! Why, that could have affected your permanent teeth if we hadn't gotten it out of there, or you could have gotten an infection, or even an abscess!" Sharon warned.
"We?" muttered Tony.
"Be quiet, dear. Now Harry, besides troll, what does your diet consist of? Are you getting plenty of calcium and fluoride in your diet? What about vegetables? Are you getting enough protein?" Sharon asked.
Harry was greatly enjoying the attention, as he worked his jaw back and forth, getting the feeling back. "Well, Mrs Granger, I'm pretty sure I get plenty of the first from the scrapyard where Hagrid gets me Toyotas, and I really like Devils' Snare as it's nice and minty, and I love the taste of roasted Acromantula, but there ain't so many left now." he happily explained, delighted to no longer have a troll bone jammed into his gum.
"Scrapyard? Devils Snare? Honestly, Harry! Who lets you eat that kind of thing! Devil's Snare is dangerous and could kill you! Wait! Did you say Acromantula? Those are giant spiders Harry! What do you think you are doing? You could be hurt!" Hermione declared, instantly and absolutely horrified.
"Ha! Please calm yourself, Miss Granger. Mr. Potter's body utilises iron, steel, aluminium, titanium and other metals in much the same manner as yours or mine utilises carbon-based proteins; technically speaking, iron is the basic building block upon which his body is built. I am given to understand that he consumed all of the contents of a garage the night upon which his remarkable transformation occurred." Snape remarked. "As for his remarkable digestive tract, it's fires are fuelled by vast quantities of hydrocarbons; think of his bioalchemy as being much like a living smelter. And as it happens, according to Mr Potter, Devil's Snare tastes like a cross between parsley and lemon mint; I believe it is due to the precise composition of reagents within the structure of the plant in question, in addition to potent reactile accelerants it contains traces of minerals usually acquired from certain herbs... As for the Acromantulas, yes they are indeed giant spiders, but you should bear in mind the fact that they pose as much threat to Mr Potter as a chocolate frog to you or I. I find that when properly grilled they are quite the delicacy myself." Snape explained, idly glaring at the suddenly bashful dragon who was looking anywhere but at the potions master.
"Sorry, Professor Snape, I didn't know that you could get solomonella from undercooked Acromantula," Harry mispronounced, looking somewhat embarrassed; nobody corrected him, partially because he was somehow managing to be too cute to correct despite being a multi-ton dragon,
"Harry, just what made you try eating giant spider, instead of a, well, I guess a nice balanced diet?" asked a quiet Sharon Granger.
"Well for a start they tried to pick on Suze's family." Harry explained. "And then, well, they taste kinda like scrunchy chicken in diesel and they don't make me fart which chickens do, I think it's the feathers, and anyway I got a score to settle with spiders."
"And pray tell, why would you have a score to settle with spiders?" Sharon asked.
"Um, well... backwhenilivedinthecupboardtheywouldcrawlallovermeandscaredme." whispered a suddenly shrinking Harry Potter, seeming to literally fold in on himself, going from a large dragon, to a small pre-teen boy. "They're creepy." The boy still had the gorgeous rich emerald eyes of the dragon, but now had a tousled head of dark hair that had both Granger women itching to run their hands through it.
For different reasons, of course.
"Why would you ever be put into a cupboard Harry?" Sharon checked, and Tony stifled a wince as he saw the tears brimming in the corners of his wife's eyes and the way her fingernails were biting into the palms of her hands.
That was Sharon firmly into mama-bear mode and when that happened the best thing to do was dive for cover; when something got her maternal instincts going, she was absolutely remorseless.
Snape was considering her, an unreadable look on his face; Suze looked worried, Hermione looked scandalised, and Dumbledore was idly tapping one foot and humming along to an unheard-but-jaunty tune.
The potions master proved himself quite sensible in Tony's educated opinion when, in response to the remarkably similar glares directed his way by both female Grangers (not to mention one female centaur and one school nurse) he grimaced and angled a thumb at Dumbledore.
"Oh, they didn't really need me to do anything, doing better than Dudley on an exam, not knowing how the footie went when Uncle Vernon had to work late, or when I got blamed for the stuff Dudley nicked from the corner shop..." Harry rambled, shrugging.
Suze hugged him with one arm for a moment.
"Have you settled the score with the spiders, Harry?" Professor McGonagall asked, adding her glare to those being directed at the still blissfully humming Headmaster.
"Huh? Oh, yeah I guess. I mean there were loads of them before, now it takes me ages to find any. But Hagrid said he gotten a big sack of their eggs from the nest, and he said he knows how to raise them so as long as I don't get too guzzle-guts, I should be able to still have some sometimes." Harry explained, immediately cheering up.
"Yes, Harry, one must be mindful of restraint and balance, as even the spiders play a vital role in the ecosystem of the Forbidden Forest. For the Greater Good of the Forest you really will have to learn to control yourself." a certain headmaster provided, before returning to humming.
"... greater good of the forest?" Snape muttered, firmly shaking his head; Tony was pretty sure he saw a look of mixed disgust and disbelief flicker across the man's face. "... introduced species, ecological disaster, greater good?!"
"They're really yummy and, y'know, they tried to eat my centaur friends! They taste sorta like a hairy chicken but with diesel on, and they're really scrummy when they're roasted proper. Hey, uh, I think the troll didn't go down too good, and I need to...uh, you know..." explained Harry as he held his stomach, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot.
"Come along boy, I'll escort you to the forest so you can take care of your necessities," interjected a worried looking Snape, seeing the fierce looks being directed towards the still obliviously humming Headmaster.
"I think I'll come with you, Professor. I'd like to see the grounds while I'm here and talk to Harry as well." Tony added, now out of his protective gear but still holding the blacksmith's tongs in one hand, while he placed the other firmly on Harry's shoulder. He was no longer in dentist mode, but still had a strong urge to inflict pain. Then there was the fact that he recognized the look on his wife's face, and had no desire to be hit by any of the splash damage; when Sharon Granger went ballistic she was absolutely unstoppable and wise men got the Hell out the way.
"Good idea you two, I'd like to ask a few questions of the esteemed Headmaster here, and I don't think Harry needs to be present for them." said Sharon, smiling and nodding at Professor McGonagall, who was idly tracing the runes on her wand. "Hermione, why don't you go with your father?"
"I don't feel like going for a walk, Mum," Hermione replied, fixing Dumbledore with a glare cold enough to flash-freeze Harry's stomach juices.
"Hmm." Sharon glanced side-on at her daughter, arched an eyebrow, nodded, and smiled ferally.
"I stay." Suze stated, her off-hand idly patting the pistol grip of her rifle.
"Off you go boys! We'll take care of things here!" Professor McGonagall said. It didn't sound like a suggestion – it sounded like an order.
"Hey, why are you all going glarey at..." Harry started, but Snape grabbed one arm, Tony Granger the other, and the potions master placed his off hand over Harry's mouth.
"Shut up and run, you idiotic reptile!"
"For the love of God, don't look back!" Tony muttered, as he and Snape lifted Harry and dragged him from the room.
Harry couldn't help but wonder what was happening when he heard a "Silen-" and then a squelching noise coming from the infirmary back-room. He thought the voice was Hermione's, but wasn't sure since she sounded pretty like her mum.
It must be great to have a mum. Maybe he could borrow Hermione's?
As the two men marched him downstairs and then through the Great Hall, he noticed that the Gryffindor hourglass seemed to be rapidly filling with gemstones. Hmm. Everyone who could give points was in the Great Hall, with the exception of the Headmaster and Hermione's Head of House. Hermione must really be impressing those two to be earning so many house points.
He mentioned wanting to go back, and both men laughed this weird sort of laugh while Tony stooped and threw Harry over his shoulder in a fireman's carry.
Unsure of what was going on, Harry resisted the temptation to turn into his centaur shape and sit on Mr Granger's head until the man explained; Hermione probably wouldn't like her dad's head getting sat on and she was nice, if weird; he had absolutely no clue of how much this thought resembled pots calling kettles black.
Once they were outside, the dentist put Harry down, and looked him squarely in the eyes with what looked like an attempt to be Sergeant-Major Hooktalon-style of scary.
"Harry, I want you to listen to me very closely. I am going to give you some very important advice." Mr Granger declared in what seemed to be an attempt to growl. He was also waving the blacksmith's tongs around.
"Huh?" Harry asked, puzzled.
"One." Tony said. "Whenever women sound like that and are smiling at each other, get the hell out of there as fast as you can, and forget that crap about 'leave no man behind'! Tip a pint up for the poor bastard at the pub, and don't make the same mistake as him."
"... er, right?"
"Two. If you think my princess is going to be just another damsel, or score on the wall of your lair, you need to remember something very important. If I have to go to jail for protecting the virtue of my daughter, it will be for something so gory, abominable, and atrocious, that they reinstate the death penalty."
"Three. I will be sending you a film to watch. It's what inspired me to become a dentist. Very popular in its' time. It has Dustin Hoffman in it. You know that funny fellow who played Captain Hook in the film Hook? You remind me of him quite a bit Harry."
"Four. You can score all you want in Quidditch, but if you try and pressure to 'score' with Hermione, or try it before you are at least engaged? I'll use these bolt cutters to crush your bollocks like rotten grapes."
Seeing as how he'd quit trying to be scary and seemed to be waiting for a response, Harry gave Tony a faintly surprised look.
"Y'know, I think you oughtta get growling lessons, Mr Snape's friend Miss Chelmsford can help with that, she's a really good growler."
"Well, I kinda figured that was you trying to growl at me and, well, you're not much good at it and I don't listen to growls from people who're bad at growling because it's normally rubbish like Uncle Vernon usta say, I mean, look at it this way, Uncle Vernon's proud of voting for Thatcher. And I think you might have been trying to be scary but, well, you're never gonna be able to out-scary Sergeant-Major Hooktalon because being scary is what Sergeant-Majors do, that's what they're there for, someone's gotta get the bone-headed squaddies to act all soldierly and stuff. And, y'know, I don't play quidditch because brooms go twang, zoom off, and stick in stuff whenever I try to get 'em to work. Anyway, I really gotta go take a dump before I really stink the whole place up." With that he transformed and went shooting away across the forest.
Back where the young dragon had just launched, Snape gave Tony a side-on look.
"So that's where Miss Granger got her unfortunate judgement." he remarked. "I must surmise that what wisdom she possesses was inherited from her mother."
"... I beg your pardon?" Tony asked, quite put out.
"Need I remind you that you just attempted to threaten an excitable dragon, currently massing sixteen tons and putting on nearly a ton per month, whose teeth are able to shear through a motor vehicle's engine block as easily as you or I would bite through a breadcrust, and who has a digestive tract hot enough to boil lead?" the potions master asked, sardonically raising an eyebrow.
"... er. Wait, hang on, how exactly couldn't he get that troll bone out if he can bite straight through a car?"
"That's the thing about troll bones; they behave in quite an intriguing manner under pressure. Against side-on pressure, they are relatively easily broken; when compressed end-on, their resilience is quite remarkable. In many ways, they resemble the material I believe you would know as carbon-fibre."
"... ah. I see. I suppose they perform well against heat?"
"Not especially so – far better than most metals, but not especially so." Snape said with a shrug. "However, they transfer heat extremely well; Mr Potter suggested attempting to burn it out but we decided that was a bad idea as his flame breath is almost a thousand degrees Celsius hotter than his blood."
"Ah. Well, I suppose that makes sense." Tony shook his head. "I just don't want Hermione becoming any more entangled in... in all this."
"Entangled?" Snape let out a humourless bark of laughter. "She is in the process of befriending a rather sizeable dragon who takes grave – and, I might note, exceptionally violent – offence to anyone and anything that dares so much as threaten his friends, and you're worried about her becoming 'entangled'? What exactly, may I ask, do you expect to become of her?"
"I don't know, and that's what I'm worried about." Tony said. "Look, Professor. Sharon and I, we know next to nothing about... about this world. Trolls, giant spiders, dragons, ye gods! It scared the Hell out of me, man!"
"... hmm. I retract what I said about you lacking wisdom." Snape remarked.
"What exactly is that supposed to mean?"
"That, Doctor Granger, is supposed to mean that this, this 'world', is not the la-la land Minerva has an unfortunate habit of painting it as; this world is an exceptionally scary place largely inhabited by unutterable bastards who would not piss on a burning orphan unless they were paid to do so, and even then they would wait for the bank draft to clear – in fact, they would largely be more likely to point and laugh, and possibly fry sweetmeats on the conflagration."
"I'm not a doctor, I'm a surgeon... and what exactly in the Hell are you talking about, what's it got to do with my daughter, and why do I have a bad feeling about this?"
"Bad feeling? Anthony, expect that feeling to get naught but worse as time goes by."
"It's Antonio, actually, but call me Tony."
Snape gestured in the direction Harry had flown off. "Very well. Tony. That dratted dragon still believes that people are generally good and that the world is a place where bad things only happen to bad people. He still believes that the goodies always win and that everyone comes home in one piece. I suggest that you ask a police officer how likely perfect safety is, and I suggest you ask yourself exactly what is the nature of any so-called civilisation wherein a being capable of speech and in fact quite civilised – such as that wretched lizard's pet centaur – is considered an uncontrolled wild animal. Once you have found the answers to those questions, Antonio Granger, get in touch with me. Until then, don't do anything foolish such as discouraging your daughter from associating with the most powerful protector a young witch of non-magical parentage and background could possibly find herself. And while you're about it, be extremely careful who you trust. Curiosity may have led to the death of the cat, but it's the lackey of the politician who dislikes inquiry who cast the spell that killed the cat."
"So you're saying Hermione can't look after herself."
"What exactly in the way of 'looking after herself' do you believe a lightly-armed pre-teen child is able to perform?" Snape sneered, "Especially one who has largely been ostracised by the imbeciles that she inserted herself into the midst of – and just what the Hell do you think a dentist or a twelve-year-old girl able to do when the government in general and the individual in a position of leadership in specific regard those of us of non-magical parentage as barely worthy of the term 'human' and never mind anything in the way of legal representation? The phrases bandied about are 'mudblood' or 'muggle-born' and I apologise for having used either within your hearing as both are quite disgusting epithets,"
"And you think that Harry kid's different."
"I know the blasted reptile is different. Firstly, although underage and thus lacking most of the resultant influence, he is the patriarch and sole living member of an Ancient and Noble House and thus has... certain political and legal immunities and benefits. Secondly, he is quite admirably protective of anyone he considers a friend. Thirdly, as you somehow failed to properly perceive, he is an excitable sixteen-ton dragon able to lob boulders with the ease you or I would throw a rugger ball. Fourthly, he is the only living creature ever known to have survived being struck by the Killing Curse, the flat-out deadliest spell known to wizardkind. Fifthly, he is almost sickeningly good-natured; the only thing about him I can categorically say I dislike is his rampant habit of chattering away at about a thousand miles per minute, aside from his frequent babbling he is a surprisingly tolerable child and as I do not as a rule like children that is saying something. And sixthly, I have watched that boy dismember an acromantula the size of a small lorry for having the temerity to threaten one of his friends – and, as it so happens, a few hours ago he bodily devoured an adult mountain troll, a creature that usually requires several fully-trained magic-users to contain, not kill, contain – due to said creature attacking one of his friends; I have absolutely no doubt that any creature or being that dared pose a threat to one of his own would meet a similarly ignominious end at his jaws."
"... and you think he'd go off at anyone who had a go at Hermione."
"Think? Anthony, he ATE a troll because it attacked your daughter. Remember? The reason you are here at this time?"
"... ah. Yeah."
The two men lapsed into silence for a while.
"What's with those 'acro-mantula' things?" Tony eventually asked.
"Acromantulas are a species of semi-sapient giant arachnid." Snape said. "They treat any creature less than twice their size – human beings included – as prey. Their origins are obscure, but it is known that they did not evolve naturally; their genesis was a part of a botched experiment, much like basilisks or the duck-billed platypus, but the original instigator of the acromantula is currently unknown. When hatched, they are approximately the size of a large man's hand, and able to prey on species up to the size of a housecat; as they age, they grow continuously. The largest known specimen was approximately eight yards long in the body with legs of a similar length. Their silk is of immense value in the spell-proof cloth industry, it is the most magic-resistant material known and I understand that it's tensile strength is sufficient to stretch a woven cord of it from Earth's surface to geosynchronous orbit, and their venom is an ingredient of several remarkably versatile potions – although deadly in all but the most minute doses, killing through paralysis of the heart, if administrated in sufficiently dilute quantities it is a part of the simplest treatments for collywobbles and the dragon pox, and is excellent as an active ingredient within potions for the cleaning of magic-reactive metals such as gold. However, the damage they do to the ecosystem of their territorial range is extensive and largely outweighs the benefit of availability of their product reagents; in this area, they are primarily responsible for rendering at least twelve native species entirely extinct and endangering a further twenty-seven, four of which are the source of truly unique reagents, and until that dratted dragon came into the equation the only things preventing them from boiling out of that forest like a plague of elephant-sized locusts were the typically low wintertime temperatures of this area and a hard-fought defensive action over a period of some fifty years on the part of the local centaur clan."
"There'd probably be a way to captive-breed them." Tony said. "To, well, to milk the silk and venom."
"It has been done, primarily by removing their limbs; however, they are capable of regrowing amputated legs in a matter of days and strict vigilance is thus absolutely paramount." Snape said with a shrug. "Personally, I am of the opinion that your kind – non-magical humans – would be best able to contain and control those brutes, but those in a position of authority have other ideas."
"Hey, are you guys friends now?" a certain dragon asked, landing beside them and causing Tony to wince slightly.
"Perhaps." Snape said, shrugging slightly.
"Oh right, that's cool. It's just you were kinda getting all glarey at each other when I went to take a dump."
"It's as resolved as it can get now, Harry." Tony said. "Hey, and, uh, couldja do me a favour?"
"What sort of a favour?" Harry asked, sounding a touch dubious.
"Take care of Hermione, okay?"
"Well I was gonna do that anyway since she's nice." Harry said, shrugging as he transformed back to his human shape. "Hey, I'm really hungry."
"You're always hungry." Snape groaned.
"Nah, just mosta the time, I'm in a growth spurt remember? I'm a growing dragon and you can't do growing if you ain't eating enough."
"Precisely my point. Wretched lizard."
"You're in a real sour mood today, Mr Snape." Harry said, giving his friend a worried look. "What's wrong?"
"I suppose you recall our conversation shortly after your abortive first visit to Diagon Alley, correct?"
"Well, yeah, course I do." Harry said with a nod. "I think about that stuff real regular – it's gonna be real important when people find out I'm a dragon so I've got to work out what to do before it gets annoying."
"Indeed; and that, my boy, is closely related to my current concerns."
"I don't think Hermione's gonna tell on us." Harry said.
"Ah, you misunderstand me. We shall discuss this later, in private."
Harry shrugged, obviously not getting it.
Tony just stood there and tried to work out which of these two he should be glaring at just now.
-/- Fragmentation. Scenes needed:
"Actually," Dumbledore admitted, looking faintly embarrassed, "I am quite aware of how destructive Acromantulas are. However... let us just say that when Harry gorges himself on the things, he gets indigestion even worse than when he's been eating plastics."
Snape grimaced and nodded. "Acromantula venom entering his digestive system gives him diarrhoea acidic enough to etch granite; much of the scarring on the cliffs beneath his lair comes from such. Believe you me, when that blasted reptile has indigestion everyone in the area knows about it – and not in a good way. It's about as quiet as a volcanic eruption for one thing."
"And I swear to God the smell could knock a dog out at half a mile range – upwind." McGonagall added.
"Unlike Albus I believe that some incidents of terrible stench and corrosive faeces are allowable if the result is removal of the forest's acromantula infestation; they are a destructive introduced species, endangering several potent reagent resources, and I maintain that we would be better off without them." Snape said.
"And this is neither the time nor the place to once again rehash that particular argument, boys." McGonagall growled, causing the two present of her male colleges to roll their eyes at each other and drop it; irritating the Scotswoman had never proven profitable.
- Tony and Sharon leave Hogwarts; Hermione's ostracism continues; Slackhammer invites Snape and Harry to another business meeting; intro to next scene, discussion of money; SSP has experienced a massive increase in cash flow; they look at possibilities for buy-outs -/-
Harry thoughtfully scratched his head as he contemplated the varied printouts.
"Mr Slackhammer," he said, "Are these Hogs Haulage people the people what run the Hogwarts Express?"
"Indeed, they are." Slackhammer confirmed.
"Cool..." Harry said. "Um, it says here that it's one hundred and sixteen Galleons and twelve Sickles each share, and it says there's ten thousand shares in the company um, uh, owned by... a hundred and fifteen different people I think? One of which is me and I've got nine and a bit percent. And the rest is all for sale so doesn't that mean the train company's for sale?"
Slackhammer spent a moment checking his copy of the printouts.
"Essentially, yes." he said.
"And it says here I've got, um, fifty-seven million Galleons in fluid assets so that means I can afford to buy the train company, right?"
"Yes; correct." Slackhammer confirmed.
"Then I think I'd like to buy the train company, Mr Slackhammer." Harry said, looking up from the printouts.
"What makes you consider this a wise investment, Mr Potter?" Snape asked.
"Well it's not really that Mr Snape, it's more since I've got fifty-seven and a bit million Galleons in my vault I can afford to buy stuff because I think it's cool." Harry explained. "And I was having a look at the train in London and I think it's really kinda cool and I'd like to be able to say it's MY train. And I don't think it'd be wasting money because I think I know how to make it more profitable."
"And how do you propose to increase the profitability of the company, young man?" Snape asked.
"Well for a start there's more places in Britain than London and Hogsmeade it'd be worth having a train for magic people." Harry said. "Birmingham and Liverpool would be really worth having trains for too, there's more magic people in each of 'em than there is in Hogsmeade and did you know it's cheaper to send ten tons of stuff to Hogsmeade by train than it is to send a ton of stuff to Sidealong Road in Liverpool by lorry? And you said that Mr Malfoy guy was one of the biggest baddies there are, and he owns the lorry company, and I think if we make it so he gets less money that'd be a good thing."
Snape nodded thoughtfully. "Perhaps."
"And," Harry continued, "Did you know they're building a railway to France?"
"Ah yes, the Channel Tunnel project; quite the impressive effort of engineering." Slackhammer said.
"Well I was thinking maybe I could have trains from London to Paris and stuff too once it's finished." Harry said. "I mean, there's lots of magic people in Paris, and loads in Bruges and stuff too, and all the trains that aren't in places that used to be Russian can have trains the same size as British trains, well, apart from like Spain, right?"
"I shall ensure that the possibility is investigated." Slackhammer confirmed.
Harry nodded happily. "Then I'm gonna buy the train company."
"I shall arrange for it at once." Slackhammer said, nodding back; he turned his attention to a telegraph sender, and began tapping out something in Morse code.
Snape gave Harry a side-on look.
"You just want to play with trains, don't you?"
"Well... that too."
"Mr Snape, regardless of his reasons I concur with Mr Potter's decision that the purchase of Hogs Haulage would be a wise move." Slackhammer remarked, still Morseing away.
"Oh? And how so?"
"I am given to understand, Mr Snape, that everyone currently within this room sees eye-to-eye on the subject of wizarding 'justice' and what passes for law within the magical parts of our civilisation." Slackhammer said, still tapping away at the Morse sender.
Snape raised an eyebrow.
"As you are no doubt aware, the Goblin Nation is one of the few non-human polities to achieve a measure of independence and self-governance within the so-called 'Wizarding World'." Slackhammer continued. "What you likely do not know is that we are at a constant risk of reconquest; it is relatively unusual for a year to go by without the Ministry making some form of attempt or dirty trick intended to bring goblinkind back under their direct control. The social system that gives rise to so-called 'Dark Lords' is not only bad for business, it is bad for goblinkind, Mr Snape, and I and my fellow boardmembers have begun to investigate certain methodologies for stymieing said social system."
He looked up from the sender with a flourish, his message sent.
"I am given to understand," he said, "That during the years of abolition of slavery within the non-magical society of North America, fleeing slaves escaped via a hidden network of pathways referred to as an 'underground railroad' and I reckon it poetic that those from our homeland should begin their journey to freedom aboard a train."
"We could bring them to Hogsmeade." Snape said. "But what then?"
Slackhammer smiled thinly. "Then, Mr Snape, Gringotts PLC's container ships sail daily from the port of Glasgow, travelling to places all over the globe; perhaps they could carry... a little extra cargo. For charitable reasons. I'm sure we understand one another."
"We do indeed." Snape said, matching the thin smile.
"That's what to do." Harry said. "You bring my gold up by lorry at the moment. Why not bring it by train? We could have special coaches that burglars can't get into, all armoured and stuff and with guards with big machine guns. And that way the people who really really really need to not be here any more could ride north with my gold and get on a boat in Mallaig that'd take them to the ship that'd get them way away from those Sassenachs and all their pish." (4)
"I must," Snape muttered, "Remind Minerva to desist using Gaelic foul language in front of the impressionable dragon."
-/- Fragmentation to the tune of about two in-story days -/-
"What in the name of gold are you doing here, Harry?" growled a very unexpected voice, and the trio turned round in a big hurry, "Is there some sort of crisis ongoing out there?"
What they saw was breastwork, sandbags, bullet-proof glass, gun barrels and goblins; a certain goblin Harry immediately recognised as Master-Sergeant Griphook was peering over the breastwork.
"Well, um, we were kinda running away from Filch and I kinda lost track of where we are." Harry said, scratching his head.
"Filch? Argus Filch, aye? What's he playing at?" and the NCO came out of behind the breastwork, starting to look concerned and reflexively checking his rifle – one of the new H&K's that Gringotts had begun cycling in using SSP's banking fees.
"Well nothing really, it's just Susan and Hannah were gonna stay over at my lair and Susan needed something that's in her room and it turns out it's after all the kids are supposed to be in bed and after we got Susan's stuff and were heading back for my lair Filch's cat kinda came after us and I didn't want to get Susan and Hannah in trouble, right?"
The concerned expression vanished from Master-Sergeant Griphook's face, replaced by a faintly amused look. "You're always getting yourself into scrapes, aren't you lad? Come on through, you can hang out with my lads for a while and I'll show you how the Bofors gun works, then you can head home after Filch should've moved on. All clear lads; it's just a tearaway Associate and a couple of his ladyfriends come to say hello."
The varied machine guns promptly pointed someplace else; the goblins let Harry and the two girls through, and an enjoyable couple of hours were spent chatting with the goblinish soldiers, being shown over equipment, getting a look at the huge three-headed dog in the next room, and otherwise doing cool and memorable things.
Neither Susan nor Hannah knew it and neither would learn it for years, but they left the secret goblinish encampment along with preferred customer status for the Bones and Abbot clans – both girls had heartily impressed the goblin squaddies, and things (or people) liked by the Goblin Nation's soldiers are liked by Gringotts as a matter of company policy.
"Hermione's crying in the back of the library again." Susan Bones said. "I thought you'd want to know."
Harry's cheerful expression abruptly terminated itself, replaced by a black glower.
"Right, I've had it with this." he stated, rising to his feet.
"Had it with what?" Hannah asked, puzzled.
"Had it with sittin' back and watching."
"Where are you going?"
"Nowhere much, I just gotta talk to a lady about stuff."
With that, he was out of the Puffs' common room at a dead sprint.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Hannah asked the world in general.
"... I, well, don't know." Susan admitted; the rest of the world failed to reply.
-/-Faintest of fragmentation; needs Harry arriving in library-/-
The library door opened quietly. Usually, Harry crashed doors open and closed with great gusto, and had been known to take them off their hinges when especially excited, but it had taken him a grand total of one slam to get a handle on exactly how Madam Irma Pince responded to loud noises in her library; she'd joined Snape and Hooktalon on the very short list of people who A) knew what he was and B) didn't hesitate to yell at the dragon.
"You're still getting picked on, ain't you?" Harry said.
"What about it?" Hermione dubiously asked.
"Well, I wanted you to know I can do somethin' about it." Harry explained with a shrug. "Aw, don't look at me all growly-like, I don't mean sittin' on anyone's head or anything, I mean I can, y'know, carry you off an' that way you'd be stayin' in my lair."
"What? Your lair? Aren't the Hufflepuffs in dorms too?"
"Well mostly." Harry said, shrugging. "But kids who live within about thirty miles of the castle don't gotta stay over at the castle, right? And since I gotta lair up the back of the Forbidden Forest..." He shrugged again.
"Then how would I be allowed to stay in your lair then?" Hermione asked.
"Well the rules say kids can sleep over with friends who aren't staying at the castle if the friends are some of the kids who live real near to the castle and the rules don't say how often you can do that, especially if the kid who's sleeping over is a, a what's the word, a dependent of the kid they're sleeping over with, then they ain't allowed to stay at the castle anyway."
"I'm not a dependent, well, of anyone but Mum and Dad."
"I could kidnap you and that way you would be."
"... isn't that against the rules?"
Harry snorted, fished around in his pocket, removed a shrunken book, put it on the table, and un-shrunk it.
It proved to be an enormous brass-and-leather-bound tome bigger than Harry's torso, with 'HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WIZARDRY AND WITCHCRAFT: RULES OF.' engraved into a brass plate on the front cover. From the look of it, it had to weigh more than Hermione.
"Ain't much of anything's against the rules if you say it right." Harry said.
"How on Earth can a school have enough rules to fill that?"
"Well, it's because they've been making rules for like a thousand years and once something's a rule they don't ever stop it being a rule, they just add more rules to it if they feel like it. My solicitor Madam Axetalon went through it for me and she says there's even more loopholes in there than in the laws about owning dragon eggs, and she's real good at spotting that sort of stuff, it's her job, it's how she gets her money and she's rich. And, well, there's a rule that says if someone's someone else's pet then ain't nobody can stop the someone-who's-a-pet staying with the someone whose pet they are."
"... isn't that against the law?" Hermione asked, then started getting worried when Harry grimaced
"The Wizarding World ain't a very nice place, Hermione, and it don't matter what anyone told you." he said.
"... you mean it's legal?"
Hermione thought about that for a long moment while staring at the book of rules.
"How can they do that?"
"Same way as they can say my Suze's an animal because she ain't a human. Same way as it took the goblins lots and lots of shooting to stop the laws calling them animals, and I'm meaning loads of machine guns kinda shooting, not someone with a rifle kinda shooting. There's a lot of not-nice people out there, Hermione, and they don't much like people like you, and if they knew I'm a dragon they wouldn't much like me neither. Course that means I'm gonna have to make like Smaug on 'em sometime soon, but then they really oughtta learn you don't wanna make a dragon angry and from what Mr Snape says the only way they ever learn stuff is the hard way."
"Would I ever be able to stop being your, your 'pet'?"
"Well yeah, any time I said so and, y'know, I'd say so if you wanted me to, I mean it'd be really rude not to," and Hermione nodded. She was well aware of Harry's Snape-imparted stance on manners.
"Apart from the whole me not needing to live in the Gryffindor tower what else would it mean? I mean, law-wise?"
"Well main thing it'd mean is me being allowed to really smash people's faces in if they messed with you." Harry said, shrugging. "Well, and it'd mean you'd gotta do stuff if I told you to but I ain't gonna do that unless it's important anyway."
"... I'll need to think about this." she said.
"Okay. It ain't an offer that's gonna go away or nothing."
Hermione nodded distractedly, still staring at the book of rules.
"It's insane." she eventually said.
"What is?" Harry asked.
"That something can exist right here in Britain that's so... so wrong."
"Yeah, I know." Harry agreed, shrugging. "Way I see it is, I'm gonna be a good little boy-who-ain't-dead till we decide it's time for people to know I'm a dragon, then I'm gonna stomp all over 'em because I don't like people who mess with my damsels, and they'd better take real good attention because there ain't nobody don't take notice when dragons say they gotta take notice," He clenched his fist and grinned crazily, "Well, unless they try to take any of my treasures away first, because if that happens forget about bets, they're gonna find out just how good that advice in the Hogwarts motto thingy really is."
"... Hogwarts motto?"
"It says 'never tickle a sleeping dragon' in Latin. Dunno why they always seem to use Latin for mottoes, I guess it's because it looks all motto-ey."
"Hey, and, uh, Hermione?"
"Guns and damsels are very valuable sorts of treasures. Thought you'd wanna know," Harry rose to his feet, "You know where to find me, right?"
Hermione nodded warily; the human-formed pre-teen dragon paused in the act of walking away, and glanced back at her.
"It's that Ron Weasley. Innit?"
"What about it?"
"I'll fix his shit." Harry told her, and left.
Hermione spent a few long moments staring after him, then shook it off, opened the front cover of the book of rules, and began to read.
The next morning, the brothers Weasley were surprised to say the least when, as they (and their fellow Gryffindors) were just entering the Great Hall on their way to breakfast, a certain pint-sized Hufflepuff whom they all agreed should have been a Gryffindor because, come on, he was HARRY POTTER, got in their way.
"What?" Fred Weasley asked, but the boy hero ignored him, instead glaring fixedly at his younger brother Ron.
Then the short-arse Boy-Who-Lived grabbed the much taller youngest Weasley brother by the front of his robes, hoisted him off his feet with a complete lack of any visible effort, and banged him against the nearest wall.
Several of the nearby Gryffs went for their wands, but the words that came tumbling out of Potter's mouth stopped them dead in their tracks.
"Hermione nearly got her head smashed in because of you, you ginger cross-eyed Sassenach," the Boy-Who-Lived growled, "Real gutsy of you. Real Gryffindor courage, pickin' on someone who's too nice to fight back. Well that's over with, Ron Weasley. I'm a Puff and we don't let nobody mess with our friends – and you keep pushin' my friend Hermione around you're gonna find what it's like to have your face used to bust a door open, YOU READ ME?"
Ron let out a petrified squeak that might have been supposed to be a yes.
"Good." Potter said, ditched the youngest Weasley boy in a heap on the floor, and went storming off.
Fred, George and Percy shared side-on glances.
What in the Hell had their mutual younger brother gone and done this time?
-/- probably Fragmentation; would flow better with another scene in here -/-
Hermione Granger was in her favourite place – the Hogwarts library, her nose buried in a book, all that was missing a radio to play some background music to help her focus, making notes with one hand while she turned pages with the other.
She'd finished reading the Hogwarts rule-book that morning and gave it back to Harry, and was now checking out all the Wizarding law books she could find, making notes and trying to collate everything.
Her concentration received a rude interruption when someone sat down opposite her and politely cleared his throat.
Looking up, she found one of the Gryffindor prefects, Percy Weasley, looking back.
"Hmm?" she warily asked.
"Hello, Hermione." Percy said. He sounded worried.
He also had his younger brothers – the notorious Weasley twins – flanking him.
"Er, hello." Hermione said.
"We've got the idea our little brother's being a right prat." the left-hand Weasley twin said.
"What's that got to do with anything?" Hermione dubiously asked.
"Aw come on, you think anyone in Gryffindor hasn't noticed how you're out of the tower real early in the morning and don't come back till nearly curfew?" the other twin asked.
"Just leave me alone." Hermione told him. "I have enough trouble dealing with one Weasley without you three joining in."
"Listen, Hermione." Percy said. "House Gryffindor are supposed to be almost like a family. We're not as close as the Puffs, but we're no cowards and what kind of yellow git doesn't stand up for his own?"
"Apparently the sort called Weasley." Hermione said, standing up. She suddenly realised she really wished she had one of Harry's guns on her.
"Look, what we're saying is, if one Weasley does something wrong, it's the responsibility of all the Weasleys to..." Percy started, but Hermione wasn't listening any more.
Instead, she'd grabbed her notebooks and fled the library.
"... oh Hell." The left-hand twin, Fred Weasely, muttered.
"Fred... Perce... this is bad, isn't it?" His twin brother asked.
"Yes." Percy said. "What in Merlin's name has Ron being doing to her?"
"We'd better make sure he gets his head on straight." George agreed with a grim nod.
"Yeah." Percy said.
The family Weasley lived by three simple rules. Rule One was, family first. Rule Two was, no making the family look bad.
And Rule Three was, muggle-borns have it too rough anyway.
"We'd better have a word with Ron." Percy said.
"Yeah." the twins chorused.
Better they handle this than their parents having to; Arthur was too nice to really hammer the point home, and Molly would go completely overboard.
"What's all this noise?" the librarian, Madam Pince, scathingly queried.
"Sorry Madam Pince, we'll pipe down." Percy said.
"You'd better. This is a library, not a madhouse."
The trio of redheads nodded.
"Please keep these books together for Hermione Granger, Madam Pince." Fred quietly requested. "Our brother's got her real upset and she ran off."
The librarian's disapproving look vanished like an illusion as she realised what had been happening.
Weasley family justice was well known to the staff of Hogwarts.
"I'll do that, young man." she said. "You run along now."
"Yes, Madam Pince." Fred said, and the trio of brothers departed the area, directing meaningful glances at one another.
-/- Fragmentation; same day; would flow better with another scene in here -/-
"Excuse me, Mr Potter..."
"What do you want?" Harry growled as soon as he recognised the fiery shock of ginger hair atop Percy Weasley's head.
"I want to know what my youngest brother's been playing at so as the twins and I can get him to sort his act out." Percy bluntly stated. "Look, Gryffindors do not bully Gryffindors. A bully is a coward, and we are not cowards. Ron's forgotten that. He's made your friend Hermione scared of all Weasleys and it's up to me and the twins to get his head out of his arse, to do that we need to know what he's been doing, and Hermione won't talk to us."
"I don't know much." Harry growled. "What I do know is it's his fault that troll nearly got her and I wasn't joking when I said I'll smash his face in if he keeps picking on her. You better watch out too, I've heard it's a prefect's job to stop the other kids in his house being berks and you better do your job or there'll be trouble, I don't like what I've been seeing you Gryffs get up to and if it keeps going on someone's gonna need their feet taken outta their earhole. That Ron better stay away from Hermione and my Puffs or he's gonna get his attitude adjusted big-time, there ain't nobody picks on my friends."
"There's no need to threaten me, Potter." Percy said, slightly surprising Harry by not sounding angry – instead, he sounded apologetic. "When one Weasley's being a twit, it makes the whole family look bad – and that just isn't done. We'll give Ron a pointed reminder, and that's a promise."
Harry thoughtfully contemplated that for a moment.
"You better." he said. "Coz I don't care about that stuff with her parents not being able to do magic, she's brainy and there ain't nobody picks on my friends."
"Count on it." Percy told him. "We keep our promises."
Harry's searching look lasted a few moments, and then the Boy-Who-Lived nodded gravely.
"Okay." He said, and Percy headed for the Gryffindor table with an answering nod.
Susan and Hannah, seated either side of Harry, gave each other meaningful glances.
As for the upper-year Hufflepuffs, they were thinking something quite similar to what was going through the two first-year girls' heads. Even 'Don't-call-me-Nymphodora' was taking notice.
There was a little-used tradition when it came to a Puff's closest friends. They'd have to discuss this with Professor Sprout at the next House meeting.
Harry spent a few long moments glaring at his dinner plate, then muttered something Snapeish-sounding and went back to eating.
-/- Minor fragmentation; extend last scene to show Harry's evening. Next scene needs lead-in -/-
"Bloody Hell!" Ron croaked, going as white as a sheet, and his trio of brothers' worry immediately evaporated.
Ron had always been as transparent as a window.
"I... oh crud, sure I yelled at her a bit, but... I, oh boy, she nearly got got by that troll?" The youngest Weasley brother slumped forwards, burying his face in his hands. "Oh bloody hell, I've been a right git..."
"What'd you say to her anyway?" Fred asked.
"Well, I can't really remember." Ron admitted. "It wasn't much, I know coz I always remember when I've really chewed someone out, I mean I'm pretty sure we've said worse to each other over who got the last sausage."
"When all is said and done we're quite a rowdy family, Ron," Percy said, "I guess being an only child she's not nearly as used to yelling matches as we are."
"Fred... George... Perce... how the bloody hell am I gonna make this okay?" Ron asked, running his hand back through his hair.
"I've heard that Malfoy twat and his mates going off at her," Fred suggested, "How about you do what we shoud've been doing all along and cut the great git down to size next time he starts in on her?"
A round of thoughtful nodding began with Ron, and spread itself to his brothers.
None of them had the faintest idea of what they'd just begun.
-/- Fragmentation; at a similar time... Both scene above and scene below need expansion at this end -/-
"Wassup Hermione?" Harry breezily asked, and then his flippant attitude vanished like dust before a storm as he recognised the expression on Hermione's face.
"Look, if you carry me off will I really not have to stay at the Gryffindor dorms any more?" she asked.
"Why's that?" Harry asked, immediately concerned.
"It's nothing." Hermione sounded way to hurried when she said that. "I just... I just wish I hadn't talked the Sorting Hat into putting me in Gryffindor."
"Well, yeah." Harry rose to his feet. "If I carry you off well obviously you've gotta stay at my lair instead of anyplace else, it's how a damsel being a captive in a big ferocious dragon's lair works, I can get you a chain or something if that helps."
"Oh, good," Hermione said, "I'd like you to carry me off, Harry."
Very abruptly, a solid metal dragon, the size of a Second World War fighter plane, who'd just peaked seventeen tons, was looking down at a delicate damsel very literally asking to be carried off, and what self-respecting dragon doesn't know exactly what to do in a situation like that?
Harry demonstrated how much better he'd become at growling since last time he found a damsel to carry off, declared "I'm a dragon and you're a damsel and I'm gonna carry you off!" and, with another ferocious bone-shaking growl, put action to words.
-/- Slight fragmentation; description of flight needed. These two scenes should run together -/-
Hermione took the time to examine her surroundings.
The cave itself looked to have started out as one of those worn where an underground waterway comes out of a cliff; the stream responsible for it's formation ran through a deep channel in the floor, through a grille in the wall at the lip of the cave, and plunged to the river far below.
(It wasn't really that far, but a couple of hundred feet looks like the edge of the world when you're a shortish twelve-year-old who's afraid of heights.)
However, it had very visibly been heavily modified by a mix of cutting at rock and, from the look of it, melting rocks together. She could see places where solid stone had flowed like wax in the heat – parts were fused into jet-black glass.
The atrium area she was currently within had been widened and it's floor levelled, and a wall that would be chest hight for Hermione's father had been made by piling rocks and then heating them until they fused together across the lip of the cave.
Four passages had been torn from solid stone, disappearing into the shadows, and a slight but noticeable warm breeze was blowing from them; it was all lit by electric lights tacked onto the walls.
The source of electricity was immediately obvious as the small waterwheel, connected to a generator, that was spinning away turned by the fall of the stream in the floor; it was enclosed by more melted-together stones and a metal grille, and the stream had been covered over by another metal grille and had a thick, heavy shag-pile carpet – the utterly luxuriant type that tries to swallow your feet up to the ankles – folded away from where it could be used to cover the grille; some tools (a couple of spanners and one of those screwdrivers that has multiple interchangeable heads, including a few small socket spanners) laying around on the floor stood mute testimony to why the carpet was folded back.
There was other furniture; the beat-up and sagging sofa upon which Hermione was seated, three equally battered old armchairs, a hefty wooden kitchen table surrounded by straight-backed chairs, several glass-fronted cabinets containing assorted gem-studded nick-nacks, immensely heavy curtains that could be drawn across the mouth of the cave, what looked like a bunch of standard Hogwarts wardrobes and dressers, a great black-and-white enamel Rayburn with a fire merrily crackling away within and heat rolling off it in a seemingly-endless wave, and a couple of large metal cabinets had been bolted to the wall at the other end of a polished (and stuff-encrusted) wooden counter-top from the fire; the counter-top had a very old-fashioned porcelain sink set into it and cupboards and a fridge below.
The entire chamber had a severe case of flatsurfaceitis(5); there were random bits and pieces ranging from toy guns to massive leather-bound books to Lego models to bottles of carefully-labelled potions to great sheaves of doodles and writings to a scattered tangle of maps covered in notations to a huge globe to housebrick-sized gold bars, scattered absolutely everywhere on every available flat surface including, in myriad places, the floor.
It might as well have had 'Scatterbrained preeteen child lives here' written on it in large neon letters.
"Okay," she said, looking around, "I guess that's me carried off, but, um, couldn't you have waited long enough for me to get my stuff?"
"... oh. Oh! Um, sorry, I kinda didn't think of that." Harry admitted.
-/- Slight fragmentation; needs bridge. These two scenes should run together -/-
"Suze... what is it Harry means to you?"
Suze's expression immediately changed to a look Hermione had seen before.
It was the kind of expression she was used to seeing out of the corner of her eye when she was curled up by the gas fire in the living room with a good book on a cold night and her mother looked at her – a slight soft smile, the sort that told you that all was well with the world.
"In the beginning, he terrified me." the centauress admitted. "I believed he was a dread beast, come to lay waste to all, I believed he would devour me – but where we expected a fell destroyer, we found a kindly child. Then, as I was first becoming fond of him, he saved the lives of Father, Grandfather, warriors of my kin – two of my uncles, my eldest brother, one of my cousins – Father had spoken words that should surely have earned all of my kin Harry's enmity, yet he struck against the Spider Plague as if it was his own kin and home they threatened. Until that time but three summers past, we were sore pressed; myself I have lost four brothers, a sister, my mother, one score uncles, two aunts and two score and two cousins to those fell beasts within the span of the seasons I recall for myself, yet since the day the Great Wyrm descended upon their hordes they have not spilt one drop of centaur blood... By debt of blood unspilled, he is one of us, a young warrior of the Black Woods Clan, and his foe is ours – yet at the same time he is the Great Wyrm of these lands, and thus lord of all he sees. To our knowledge it is a situation unique within all the tales of our past, and... I would wish to see good come of all this. At the side of our Great Wyrm, perhaps we might no more need to cower and hide in forgotten corners of this world; perhaps with his aid we might someday be able to walk the paths your kind have forged with our heads held high. And his aid is something that, once granted, I have never known to be withdrawn; House Hufflepuff suits him well, for he is steadfastly loyal to those he has deemed his own."
"You love him, don't you?" Hermione checked.
"Though they call him my master and me his vassal... he is like a son, or a younger brother." Suze said. "And to him, it is as if I am the elder sister he never had... or the mother he never knew. Perhaps someday there may be more to it than that; we might read the portents of the stars, but the future is a secret untold even by Selene. Night brings naught but hints to the paths we might travel, and who can truly know what the omens we have seen seek to tell us?"
With a tremendous blast of cold air and a crash of talons against rock, Harry landed in the mouth of the cave, flanked by a trio of broom-riders; Professors McGonagall, Snape, and Sprout.
"I confess I had wondered at what time the blasted reptile would decide to increase the breadth of his collection." Snape stated, leaning his broom against the wall across the lip of Harry's lair. "My congratulations on your promotion in life, Miss Granger; he is a dratted dragon and a wretched lizard, and he quite assuredly needs the aid of level heads such as your own to aid him in avoiding any further foolishness in the future. Don't you say one word, you daft boy! Recall that as this is term-time you are not entitled to answer your teachers back?"
"Okay, Mr Snape." Harry grumbled. "Old sourpuss."
"Insolent glutton!" Snape snapped.
"Foul-tempered poltroon!" Harry snapped back.
"Blithering cross-eyed pillock!" Snape declared. "Ha! You're still thirty years too soon to out-insult the master, boy!"
"How about 'Slobbering armpit-sniffing reprobate'?" Harry asked. "That's a pretty good one."
"Perhaps." Snape allowed. "Hmm, yes, I'll bear that in mind for the next time Goyle fouls up."
The irritable potions master noted the way Hermione was now looking at him as if he'd grown a couple of extra heads.
"What? Do you quite seriously believe I have no sense of humour, Miss Granger? Odd; I'd thought you better suited to House Ravenclaw."
"You do realise Fillius would become insufferably smug if he heard you saying that, don't you Severus?" McGonagall checked, looking amused and blowing Hermione's mind in the process – the Gryffindor first-year had never seen her Head of House wearing anything but a stern expression before.
"Naturally, and I likewise realise he would be looking insufferably smug at your expense, Minerva." Snape said, whereupon McGonagall blew Hermione's mind again by grinning broadly and directing a two-fingered offensive gesture Snape's way; more mind-blowage followed as Snape casually returned the compliment. "Now that we're done demonstrating to Miss Granger that we're just as human as any, perhaps we should be discussing business?"
"That's a good idea, Mr Snape." Harry said, flipping the flap of carpet over the stream and settling himself in the middle of the room. "I think you lot just completely blown Hermione's mind."
"Aye now," McGonagall said, "Seems tae me it's an open and shut case. It's nae like our Harry's ever changed his mind now, is it?" Hermione's mind blew yet again when she heard that; she was used to a faint Scottish accent coming from her Head of House, but not that tangled knot of Scottishisms.
"I change my mind sometimes, Mrs McGonagall." Harry said, sounding a bit defensive. "Usually when I find out I've been really wrong about stuff, because not changing your mind when you find out you're wrong is... is..."
"The mark of a wilfully-ignorant blundering pillock?" Snape helpfully suggested, and Hermione realised she was starting to get used to having her mind blown.
"Is the mark of a wilfully-ignorant blundering pillock, thankyou Mr Snape, and I ain't no way one of those!" a certain dragon stated.
"Well then, since that's the case I'd hope you'll bring my first-year there down from this lair o' yours fair lessons, laddie." McGonagall sternly lectured, wagging a finger and failing to contain the smile.
"I don't think Hermione'd let me not." Harry said, scratching his head.
"What I want to know," Hermione said, "Is why nobody's asking my opinion."
"Well don't just sit there and glare then, girl," Snape said, cocking an eyebrow, "I trust you've realised the ramifications of this?"
"Well why exactly does everyone seem to think I'm going to have a big situation about this?" Hermione snapped, then went rather pink as she realised she'd just snapped at a teacher. "Look, I made sure I knew what I was getting into. It's not a big deal, you don't need to be so serious about it."
"And tell me, Miss Granger, why precisely do you believe we would be taking this seriously if it was not?" Snape asked, eyebrow remaining cocked.
"I know you are neither hard of hearing nor an imbecile, young lady."
"Mr Snape, if you don't stop growling at my damsel right now I'll be forced to lick your head." Harry stated, authoritatively pointing at Snape.
"Dratted dragon!" the man roared, glaring back. "I am attempting to impart the gravity of this situation to Miss Granger and you are not helping!"
"And you're growling at my damsel, which ain't helping neither!" Harry growled back – his voice had dropped below the range of tones possible for a human's speech, becoming this spine-chilling basso profoundo snarl.
"Tha both o' yeh eejits cool doon richt tha noo!" (6) McGonagall roared, giving Hermione her latest shock – the transfiguration mistress's voice had plummeted from it's usual faint accent to a rolling Gaelic-influenced Scots brogue as thick as ten-day-old porridge as she very abruptly demonstrated herself a local lass.
"We are attempting to have an intellectual disagreement here, Minerva." Snape stated.
"An' yeh kin cool doon or yeh kin tak yair backside raight tha fook doon tha castle, yeh gurt great chewchter!" (7) McGonagall fairly growled, then spun round and stabbed a finger at Harry, "An' yeh too, laddie! Quit yair blatherin' on an' act lak a responsible dragon fair a change or maself'll hae tae gie yeh a guid clip roond yair lug!" (8)
"... Well, I suppose that's us told, eh Mr Potter?"
"Yeah, think so Mr Snape."
"Guid." (9) McGonagall said, her accent starting to fade. "Now I'll be having a wee word with Miss Granger in private. You four take yair backsides through there and wait till I tell yeh we're done."
"No, you and Hermione can go through there if you really think it's so important." Harry said, crossing his forelimbs.
"Oh aye?" McGonagall asked.
"Aye." Harry growled, glaring back. "I'm no gonna move on that, Mrs McGonagall, and if you think different, well, you're out of luck 'coz I don't trust nobody on this stuff."
"Looks like that's you told too, Minerva." Snape remarked, ignoring the venomous glare this earned him.
"Yeah." Harry stated, voice dropping back to that bone-chilling snarl. "It is."
There was a short pause as everyone else in the room (bar Suze) reminded him or her self that they were dealing with a multi-ton magic-resistant dragon who tended to be a mite touchy about things (and people) he regarded as his.
-/- Slight fragmentation; needs bridge. These two scenes should run together -/-
"Miss Granger, you misunderstand me. The Sorting Hat sorts first by customer preference, second by whatever the customer in question truly believes to be the most important; loyalty, courage, knowledge, or ambition. If it sorted by whatever was strongest in an individual's personality, you would most assuredly be a member of House Ravenclaw due to your all-encompassing and quite insatiable thirst for information. That, not some nebulous 'good enough', is why I believe you should have been a Ravenclaw, or possibly a member of my House courtesy of your most immediately apparent ambition to know all that there is to be known; it is for the same reason that I believe most of the House I have the misfortune to be forced to attempt to administrate should have been sorted to Hufflepuff as they are largely execrable sheep wont only to obediently follow along in the footsteps of whichever imbecile was foolish enough to first blunder along a certain course, just as most of the current residents of House Hufflepuff should most assuredly have been members of my house as they are cunning little rapscallions indeed."
"What about Harry?" Hermione asked. "What house should he have been, using your way of meaning 'should'?"
"That is difficult to say." Snape admitted. "Either House Gryffindor as he is one iota short of fearless, House Hufflepuff as he is quite fanatically loyal to any whom he has reason to deem a friend and never mind his remorseless and in fact relentless ferocity in the protection of one such as yourself whom he has declared a damsel, or House Ravenclaw as he has an utterly insatiable appetite for raw knowledge; one would have to be a Sorting Hat to say for certain. The only house to which I can categorically state he is unsuited is my own as his sole ambition is to be the perfect dragon by his own peculiar definition of 'dragon', though I have cause to believe he is beginning to expand his personal ambitions; all things change with time."
"You think the House system is broken, don't you?" Hermione checked.
"Indeed, Miss Granger, the House system as it stands is quite decidedly broken. It is my belief that we would all be better served by such a system if the students were to at the barest minimum be re-sorted after each two years of their time at Hogwarts, preferably at the beginning of each week; opinions can change with astounding speed and fluidity during one's youth. I realise that the ideal would be quite difficult to implement, but it is not yet a crime for a man to dream."
"Miss Granger," he said, "Imagine a world without restriction or check on the activities of big business, a world where monopolies and price-fixing are routine and in fact unimpeded by the government, a world where employee's rights, minimum wages, occupational health and safety, not selling useless addictive products, all of those little things one takes for granted within the non-magical world, do not exist. That, young lady, is the Wizarding World."
"Indeed. The concept of human rights or equality has not caught on in magical Europe. It is said that, within the mundane world, the rich get richer whilst the poor stay poor – HA! They think they've got it tough, do they? Quite frankly, if our problems were as few as theirs we would be laughing."
-/- Slight fragmentation; same evening; further professors have arrived, and the professors are doing parts of their Harry-related research at Harry's lair-/-
"This is really a rather bad map." Hermione said.
"And where would you suggest we obtain better?" Snape checked, cocking an eyebrow. Something in his manner gave the feeling he thought he knew what was coming.
"Well, there's the Ordinance Survey maps, or maybe something like a National Geographic atlas." Hermione explained. "I'm starting to think that muggles are quite a lot better at map-making than wizards, and if there's any islands or something that're hidden from muggles we could easily add them to a good map. It's one of the things I've noticed that're most different between the wizarding world and the muggle world – measurements are much, much more precise and consistent in the muggle world."
Snape considered that for a long moment, then glanced at Sinestra.
"You truly believe we require accurate maps?" he checked.
"The more accurate the better." Sinestra said. "If we're to plot these, these 'nodes' for want of a better word, accurately enough to find them on the ground..."
-/- Slight fragmentation; after the professors have left, Snape having promised to acquire better maps -/-
"The professors are very different when they're not, you know, in school. Especially Professor McGonagall." Hermione mused.
Harry nodded. "Yeah, I know. I asked Mr Flitwick – not Professor Flitwick because he wasn't being a Professor then – about it, and he says there's a very important difference between when they are and aren't being Professors. He says that when they're at the school and being Professors they've got to be the respectable authority figures because the kids need respectable authority figures, so when they're not at the school that's when you get to know the real people instead of the Professor masks they use for their jobs."
"... that makes sense."
"Yeah, doesn't it just? And, y'know, I think I get the point. I mean, I've never heard Mr Snape laugh when he's being Professor Snape, and I've never heard Mrs McGonagall call someone 'yeh auld eejit' when she's being Professor McGonagall, and I've never seen Mr Flitwick do shadow-puppets when he's being Professor Flitwick – it's like they're completely different people and I see how people who've only seen them being Professors are going to think they're these serious people who you've got to respect and everything, and I figure that it's how you get kids to take you seriously about this whole education thing." (10)
"It's obvious that you respect them, Harry, so why do you think other people wouldn't?" Hermione asked.
"I respect them because of who they are, because of what they can do." Harry said. "I respect Mr Flitwick because he's a three-times Olympic-gold-medal duellist. I respect Mrs McGonagall because she's a lovely old lady who can turn a desk into a real live pig as easy as I can eat a rasher of bacon. I respect Mr Snape because he's invented more potions than I've had hot dinners and because he ain't scared of nothing at all. I respect Mr Hagrid because he knows exactly how to find the bad bit and get oil onto it when my skin gets really itchy and dry because my body's growing too fast for it even when I don't tell him where I'm itching. I even respect Mr Filch because even though he can't do any magic he manages to keep the whole castle properly organised despite people like those Weasley twins making a real mess, and because anyone who's nice to cats can't be all bad."
"I didn't take you for a cat person."
"Cats are okay, you know where you stand with a cat – if you make a cat cross the cat's gonna tell you so right off and same goes for if a cat likes what you're doing."
-/- Fragmentation; somewhere between these two scenes running together and a week or two separating them -/-
"Dad looked at the laws about guns after we met you at Daigon Alley, Harry, and, well, you do know those are illegal, apart from that one," Hermione pointed at the Lee-Enfield that Harry was holding, "Which is illegal if you don't have a gun license for it and you're not old enough to have one of those, so, um, you do know those are illegal, right?"
Harry grinned as he patted the Lee-Enfield. "Well yeah, it's illegal for humans to own much guns but I'm a dragon so I don't gotta worry about that stuff."
"... what?" Hermione was really starting to wonder about his mysterious ability to randomly befuddle her.
"Well they ain't written no laws about whether porpoises are allowed to own guns, have they? And they ain't written no laws about whether dragons are allowed to own guns, have they? And they ain't written no laws about whether centaurs are allowed to own guns, have they? They've only written laws about whether humans and goblins are allowed to own guns, and since I'm not a human and I'm not a goblin then laws about humans and goblins ain't laws about me." Harry elaborated.
"... I don't think that's how it works, they're laws about people. A porpoise isn't a person, it's an aquatic mammal. You're a person, you talk too much not to be, and centaurs and goblins are definitely people."
"No, porpoises are people, they swear too much not to be. And Madam Axetalon says those laws don't apply to not-human people. She oughtta know, she's a goblin so she's a not-human sorta person, and anyway goblins got a whole lot of laws for themselves. Didja know it's illegal for a goblin older'n ten not to own any guns? And since I'm a declared asset to goblinkind it's illegal for me not to have any guns too."
"That's different from muggle law, Harry."
"No it ain't, the goblins have been conglomerating- contradicting- centreb- um, sending, yeah, sending soldiers to fight wars and stuff with the muggle army since the Boer War an' they're officially a regiment of the British Army an' it's all written down in laws and stuff even if most people don't know about those laws because people who don't glow ain't supposed to know about goblins, Mr Shatteraxe says it's classificated top secret because the wizards would really freak out if they knew."
"... oh. Wait, what, porpoises swear?"
"Lots and lots and lots, I ain't never heard a porpoise say stuff without part of it being 'fuck'."
"How can you hear porpoises say things?"
"Well I found out porpoises are well sweary same time as I found out them whistly noises they make is talking, it was that time I went for a swim in the bay and bumped into one and he got so in my face and squealed at me so hard I thought I'd better check out if his squeals meant anything but thweet, and when I told Mrs McGonagall what he'd called me she said she'd haveta scrub my mouth out with soap if I swore like that any."
"... check out if it meant anything?"
"Well yeah, if I concentrate real hard on talking I don't understand I start understanding it."
"... that must be fascinating. What did the porpoise say?"
"He said... 'You fucking great lump of fucking fuck! Can't you see I'm fucking swimming here, fuckface? I'll take a fucking dump down your fucking blowhole if you don't get your fat fucking tail the fuck out my way, you fuck! What're you fucking goggling at me for, fuck sake, you're just like all those fucking beach-swimming fucks, too fucking retarded to understand a fucking word a dude fucking says, aren't you? Fuck off outta my fucking way, fuckface!' So I said 'Fuck you, fuckface.' back the same way as he said stuff and got outta his way, he got all sorta surprised and cross about that and started really yelling at me. Well after a while I sorta learned howta talk porpoise by mistake, I think it was while I was waving him around by the tail."
"... uh." Hermione mumbled.
"Porpoises really don't like being called fuckface, by the way. It makes 'em real cross." Harry solemnly warned her. "I hadta grab Two Fucking Bubble Spiral by the tail and fly around waving him about before he stopped trying to get me whenever he saw me, he went swimming off Skye way after that and I ain't seen him since, my porpoise friends call him a right sore loser."
"... how did we get from gun laws to porpoises?"
"Well I dunno, you asked stuff about porpoises being sweary. Anyway, I gotta do my rifle drills."
"Well, okay then." Hermione said.
Harry set to determinedly posing with his Lee-Enfield in front of a big mirror, shifting it around while keeping an eye on his reflection and managing to look like he knew what he was doing, all of which seemed fairly pointless.
"What're you doing, Harry?" Hermione asked.
"It's very important to hold a rifle right." Harry explained. "Partly because guns are kinda dangerous if you aren't careful with 'em and partly because nothing gets Sergeant-Majors angrier than someone holding a gun wrong and there is absolutely nothing scarier than an angry Sergeant-Major."
"Um, Harry, what's a Sergeant-Major?" Hermione asked. "I, well, don't know much about the army."
"Well, I've read bits and pieces about it and I'm not quite sure if it's the same with the goblins as it is with human armies, but as far as I know there's a Sergeant-Major for every regiment and he's who makes sure that the whole regiment is properly prepared and organised for any fighting, stuff like discipline and drills and that stuff, he makes sure everyone keeps their equipment in good condition and he makes sure nobody gets sloppy because when soldiers get sloppy it helps the baddies win," Harry told her, "The only things I'm sure about is that even Generals and so on act like they respect the Sergeant-Majors, if something needs to be done in an army the way to make sure it gets done is to tell a Sergeant-Major about it, and they are very very good at being scary. They have to be, it's a part of their job. And, y'know, from what the goblin solders I know have told me, if a Sergeant-Major says you're 'barely competent' at something it's his way of saying 'you're doing okay', and if he says you're 'showing acceptable competence levels' then it's his way of saying 'good job there'."
"... oh." Hermione said.
Harry contemplated the Lee-Enfield for a moment.
"The last time he was here, Sergeant-Major Hooktalon said I was 'almost competent' at handling a gun." the currently human-form dragon stated. "And, y'know, I really don't want him to be disappointed next time I see him because I think he'd go bananas, and since he's gonna be on the train tonight, well..."
Hermione considered all that for a few moments. What kind of awe-inspiring being would a dragon call 'scary'?
She resolved to be very very polite to any Sergeant-Major she ever met.
This meant it was important to learn to determine who was and wasn't a Sergeant-Major, which meant...
"Harry, do you have any books about goblin uniforms and so on?"
"Sure I do. They're in Or'zet – that's the proper name for what wizards call gobbledegook – but I've got an Or'zet-to-English translation dictionary," Harry said, pointing at his bookcase, "They're on the top shelf at the left-hand end, the dictionary's at the very left end and the book about goblin military organisation is third from the left."
"Mind if I...?"
"Sure, go ahead." Harry said, once more visibly delighted at finding someone who loved books just as much as he did.
As Hermione went into research mode, Harry returned to practising his rifle drills in front of the mirror.
Most of the young people who pass through Hogwarts never stop to think about supply lines; how the makings of dinner get from point A (production) to point B (the table) isn't the sort of thing your average teenager worries about, and that applies whether or not the teenager in question is magically gifted.
Most of them, if asked, would shrug and say, who cares? Others would guess it was something to-do with portkeys or maybe house-elves.
And the same goes for most of anyone who isn't in the supply, haulage, or retail businesses. Most people have no idea how their dinner got from point A to point B, beyond muttering something about the shop and a farm and, er, lorries?
Once again, that applies whether or not the people are magically gifted, though your average witch or wizard on the street would readily assume that their dinner made it's way to the shop at which they purchased it via a portkey or maybe a house-elf.
Very few witches or wizards would suggest that the supplies they took for granted came via lorry or train, depending on where they called home; that few would be entirely correct.
For the population of Hogsmeade, life wouldn't grind to a halt if the daily train from London didn't come – but it would become harder.
Just for the nearby school at Hogwarts, keeping a few hundred hungry teenagers fed and the castle lit and heated gulps its way through several tons of supplies every day. Potions classes at a school such as Hogwarts requires nearly a ton per week of ingredients; cleaning supplies are used up by the gallon day in, day out, and an average school year will require sixteen tons of parchment (enough to entirely fill a standard four-wheeled British Rail box van) eight thousand gallons of ink, and nearly a hundred thousand quills.
In the past, Hogwarts and the town of Hogsmeade were supplied by therestral-hauled flying cart and by relays of house-elves – but then the muggles drove the railway through the mountains, and enterprising wizarding eyes turned to the mighty iron horses that pounded down those glens.
And they turned to the cost. It was only a matter of time before someone noticed that the railway worked out cheaper than therestrals, house-elves, or portkey production – especially if you used a drake-dog to get a diminished load of coal to fire the boiler. Drake-dogs were a jumpy and excitable lot, but as long as you had something to bank their flames and someone's attention to keep them focused on the job, they were just the business for raising a good head of steam – and a drake-dog might eat as much food as four house-elves, but one drake-dog and a few tons of coal was far cheaper than feeding the hundreds of house-elves that it would take to keep Hogsmeade and Hogwarts supplied.
Perhaps it could have been done by portkey – or perhaps not. A portkey doesn't last forever; after a dozen or so trips it would begin to wear out, and to produce a portkey required costly materials to anchor the enchantments, materials that were burned away as the portkey wore.
Hogs Haulage was founded late in the year 1912, partially in response to a Ministry request intended to reduce Obliviation expenditures without budgeting for more portkeys or house-elves. The first train to Hogsmeade entered the town on the fifth of April 1913.
At first, the train was a weekly event, split off from a muggle freight train in Fort William and dedicated to Hogwarts. But it didn't take long for the enterprising soul who'd established that service to spread his advertising to the businesses of Hogsmeade; a town of ten thousand greedy wizards can guzzle it's way through many's the ton of supplies per day, and if you live in Hogsmeade ambling down to the local shops takes less effort than Apparating to Diagon Alley.
In the years since, those trains have become a daily visitor to that gradually growing wizarding town. Every day, the train comes to Hogsmeade bringing stock for the town's shops, ale and firewhiskey for the pubs, food for the inhabitant's tables, packing cases of potions ingredients, kegs of butterbeer, coal for the household fires, ton after ton of pumpkins to be pressed for juice, supplies for the castle, and those few passengers unable to Apparate and unwilling to Floo.
The train leaves Hogsmeade at nine o'clock sharp in the evening and travels all night, arriving in London at around seven the next morning; here a replacement crew arrive by Floo and the locomotive is handed over as the London shunters and freight handlers assemble the train that'll travel north; the crew that have driven all night return home by Floo, and the train departs London at nine in the morning, to arrive back at Hogsmeade at seven in the evening.
Two hours later, another crew will take another train, behind a different locomotive (Hogs Haulage has a roster of twelve locomotives of wildly varying vintage, from a century-old lady originally built for the Highland Railway to one of the youngest main-line steam locomotives in Britain) and they are used in strict rotation) on their way south to London.
Muggle or magical alike, freight is the blood that keeps civilisation alive.
Today, driver Jim Coates, his fireman Mac, their guard Ivor McIver and the crew drake-dog Smaugey had just completed receiving locomotive number 70015 – a British Rail Standard Class 7 Pacific by the name of Apollo, the youngest loco in the Hogs Haulage roster – from their colleagues Keith Moss, Stanley Coates (Jim's younger brother) and Murdo Hagrid (the hag-blooded first cousin of the better-known Hagrid) and, having got done giving the loco a good once-over, were speaking to the shunting foreman about today's cargo as they watched a novel sight.
The Kings Cross shunting locomotive – a Hunslet 'Austerity' 0-6-0 saddle tank – was carefully moving down onto the mostly-assembled train with three oddly-painted and modified BR Mark 1 coaches. From the look of them, two were obviously Brake Gangwayeds but had their windows (small in the first place) mostly blocked up and covered with sturdy metal hatches; the one in the centre was some type of fully van-sided coach, maybe from the old travelling post office, and all, as well as being absolutely festooned with rivets, were crouched on their suspension, adequately demonstrating that, whatever their contents, it was just a tad heavier than what a BR Mark 1 coach usually carried.
And all three were painted an oddly familiar green and gold.
"What's the crack?" Jim asked, nodding at the strangely-painted coaches and calming old Smaugey's nerves while he was at it; the drake-dog kept nearly flaming whenever the Hunslet chuffed.
"Gringotts bin settin' up somefin' up norf." the shunting foreman, a Londoner by the name of Kelly Brown, explained with a shrug. "That 'ere's the strong van, sixteen ton of valuables they got 'idden in it I 'eard. 'Em other 'uns got a couple dozen goblins in 'em, armed ter the teef I'll bet." He nodded firmly.
Jim dubiously peered in the open door on the side of one of the BG's as it rolled past him; he found a khaki-clad goblin dubiously peering back at him from around a cigarette and along the top of a decidedly threatening assemblage of metal pipes and boxes; Jim knew what crossbows did and anything that had a trigger was definitely bad news.
Come to think of it, he recognised the colour scheme; green and gold, the company colours of Gringotts.
"What'd they be takin' sixteen ton o' valuables to Hogsmeade for?" Mac asked, peering over Ivor's shoulder at the goods manifest.
"Well that'll be vehicle number four," Ivor said, "Lemme see... sixteen point one five ton for... Harry Potter?"
"Yup," Kelly confirmed with a nod, "Sixteen ton fer 'Arry Potter 'imself, way I 'ear it this'll be right regular, they were 'aulin' it up by road but it's grown ter the point it's cheaper fer 'em ter send it by rail."
"Sixteen ton of valuables?" Mac boggled. "Ain't the Boy-Who-Lived what, eleven or twelve, just started up in Hogwarts and all?"
"Yup," Kelly said. "Me youngest's in 'is year she is, different 'ouse though, surprised the Richards outta me when my Lavender told me 'e'd ended up an 'Ufflepuff, allus figgerd 'e'd be a Gryffindor."
There was a dull THUMP and cloud of feathers as Smaugey flamed a pigeon that'd startled him during the meaningful pause; Jim gave him a clip round the ear, and the drake-dog let out an apologetic yip.
"Well I'd like ter know how he's earning hisself that kinda money." Mac said.
"Well I dunno much but 'e's got 'em goblins proppa 'et up." And Kelly headed over to what would be the rear end of the three coaches when the completed train was in motion.
Jim, Mac and Ivor contemplated the trio of green-and-gold coaches for a moment as Kelly busied himself checking they were properly coupled and braked to the fitted vans that formed the rear half of the train while one of his lads uncoupled the shunting loco from the leading Gringotts coach.
"Any word on how his load'll be handled up north?" Jim asked as Kelly walked back over and started waving the shunting loco to back up and get the next wagon.
"S'ter be picked up by some noo sub-branch 'em goblins 'ave set up in 'Ogsmeade, right 'ush-'ush it is." Kelly told him.
"Huh." Jim said, nodding. "Interestin'."
"Yer better start gittin' 'er ready ter 'ead norf." Kelly said.
"Aye, s'that sort o' time." Jim agreed, and he and Mac headed for 70015, eagerly followed by Smaugey.
The shunting locomotive hissed past with the second-to-last wagon – a four-wheeled refrigerated van laden with food for the kiddies at Hogwarts – as they walked; the only remainder was the train's solitary passenger coach, currently loading at the nearby platform. Wasn't usually many passengers, the twelve they'd seen boarding today was more than normal, but there were enough across the year to pay for upkeep of the coach and make a little back so the service stayed.
"Got a funny sorta feeling about they goblins, Jim." Mac said.
Jim nodded. Thinking back, there'd been talk around the depot about more and more goblins taking the Hogsmeade train. Hadn't the gaffer said something about the little buggers nosing round the office?
Well, whatever, it wasn't Jim's problem and nor was it Mac's. In about five minutes time they'd be backing 70015 down onto the train, and perhaps five minutes after that – no, a glance at Jim's watch showed it to be a bit over six minutes, they had a total of eleven minutes thirty seconds before the starting signal would clear – they'd be on their way home to Hogsmeade.
All was quiet for several long moments after Boy-Who-Lived, Hogwarts potions master, and newly-registered servant of the House of Potter, had left.
Until, that is, one Auror Sergeant First Class Kingsley Shacklebolt spat out a heartfelt and highly uncharacteristic "Shit."
"Yeah," his partner, Auror Sergeant First Class Rupert Hayes, immediately agreed, "There goes another one... damnit I'd thought the Boy-Who-Lived would be better than this."
"What's all the racket?" their boss, Amelia Bones, asked, sticking her head out of her office.
"You're not going to like it, Chief." Shack said.
"I don't need to like it, now tell me what's happening."
"The Potter boy was just past along with a suspected Death Eater and some poor bloody muggle-born girl he's somehow talked into registering herself as his servant." Shack told her.
"Shit," Amelia unknowingly agreed with Shack, "No signs of mental tampering, I suppose? No signs of the Imperius?"
"Nothing we could detect." Shack confirmed.
"You're going to like this though, Chief," Auror Second Class Matt Weasley, a cousin of the better-known branch of the clan, chirped up, "I got a cavalry marker onto her."
His fellow Aurors and the Chief gave him a round of startled looks. A cavalry marker was Department of Magical Law Enforcement slang for a tiny pellet of bioalchemic-safe metal, enchanted with a carefully-masked tracking charm and made to record and transmit spell use on the bearer, and usually implanted into the forearms of undercover DMLA officers; the name stemmed from the fact that when an undercover operation went South that little implant would do an excellent job of calling in the cavalry. They were expensive work, especially as they had to be made by trusted DMLA personnel for self-evident security reasons, but they were one of the DMLA's few advantages in the fight against the pureblood and 'novae pure' industrialists and their undergound slave trade.
A trade that, despite supposedly having been stopped by Dumbledore's manoeuvrings on the Wizengamot some thirty years prior, everyone who was anyone knew was still going on. The appeal of cheap, hell, almost-free factory labour was just that strong, and as production-line manufacturing of enchanted goods spread it was becoming more and more common – and once someone had been got by the so-called Syndicate, it became an absolute nightmare to prove that they weren't willing, the combination of memory charms and judicious Imperius use was just that hard to track.
Half the time the poor bastards walked in the door of the DMLA offices under their own steam and were registered as bonded servants only hours before their servitude was illegally sold on the auction block.
"How?" Amelia finally asked.
By way of an answer, Matt held up a microdart projector – a thing that looked a bit like a muggle hypodermic syringe, usually used again for undercover work, this time to surreptitiously fire tiny tracking darts into suspicious packages – up from below his desk.
"Charmed it so she wouldn't notice and shot it into her leg when she walked past me, Chief."
"Good work, Weasley. Okay, boys – I want that girl monitored 24-7, this could be our chance to roll up the damn Syndicate for good. Shack, Hayes, hand-pick the personnel monitoring her and make damn sure they're trustworthy. We know there's moles in this department and if word gets back to those bastards heads are going to roll, understood?"
There was a round of nodding; everyone in earshot was trustworthy, very competent, highly intelligent, got good hunches, and just generally good at their jobs. They had to be; there were after all two kinds of Auror.
The competent and the dead.
And since Madam Amelia Bones OoM1 took over the post of Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement after her predecessor bit it in an Apparate-by cursing only hours before Voldemort's fateful encounter with the Boy-Who-Lived, a dead Auror meant pissed-off Aurors on the street with twitchy wand hands, hunting for payback.
She'd turned them from shattered remnants to one of the finest magical police forces on the planet; her regime was best summed up by what she'd said to her buddies on the battle-worn remains of Team Six only a week before she'd been pegged for Director;
'That's it boys, I've had it. From here on out, they put one of ours in Saint Mungo's, we put one of theirs in the ground...'
Many people mistakenly assume that Her Majesty's Royal Corps of Aurors are the Wizarding police. In one respect, that assumption is correct – but not if one assumes that this means they're beat coppers. Her Majesty's Magical Law Enforcement Patrol – known as LEPs in Department of Magical Law Enforcement terminology, and The Police by the average British wizard on the street – are the Wizarding equivalent of the friendly neighbourhood 'Bobby'.
More educated guesses call them the Wizarding equivalent of a SWAT team or armed response unit. Again, that guess is wrong; Her Majesty's Corps of Hit Wizards are the Wizarding equivalent of a SWAT team or armed response unit.
No, the Aurors are something a cut above even that. They are Wizarding Britain's elite counter-terrorist task force; you don't send an Auror to an armed robbery; you send a Hit Wizard. When someone's sending bomb threats, or an international portkey point has been hijacked, when hostages have been taken, when people have been killed or worse, that's when you send in the Aurors.
Hit Wizards are hand-picked from the ranks of the LEPs; Aurors are hand-picked from the ranks of the Hit Wizards. Sometimes, an LEP cadet is fast-tracked from DMLE Academy graduation to the Aurors for one reason or another; perhaps due to rare magical ability, perhaps due to raw talent, or occasionally due to connections – and that last is highly unpopular among the majority of Aurors, the ones who got there by being just that damned good at their job.
An Auror must be one part detective, one part police officer, and one part warrior. They are the best of Wizarding Britain's best.
They aren't the Wizarding equivalent of a police armed response unit. They're the Wizarding equivalent of the Royal Marines.
They are also, due to the numbers involved and the lack of popularity among the well-heeled and pure-blooded of jobs even half as dangerous as hunting the most lethal beings in the world, mostly made up of wizards and witches who, due to being muggle-born or half-blooded or just plain old poor, struggled to find better than a subsistence wage – and then found themselves welcomed with open arms in the LEPs because they were quick, because they were clever, because they were lucky, because they were deadeye shots, because if you wanted their trust you damn well earned it, because they were always looking for an ulterior motive, and because they were just that damn good.
Hermione had, when it came down to it, been expecting all sorts of things. Some sort of tattoo or something like that, some way of singling her out as being Harry's, well, property she guessed, but there had been nothing. Just some spell-work of a sort she recognised from Madam Pomfrey's examination of Harry's mouth after the troll incident, what were obviously some carefully-chosen probing questions, her signature and thumbprints on a piece of parchment, and that was it.
"I thought there'd, well, be some sort of, I dunno, something like a, well, a dog license or something." she mused as she, Snape, and Harry proceeded northeast along the shore of Loch Hogwarts towards the gulley where Harry laired.
Snape snorted. "It is the right by ancient tradition of any powerful Lord or Lady to mark his or her servants and followers in some way, such that those dealing with them might know them backed up by their leader's power, but there is no official procedure; to implement such would be regarded as insulting by many of the old pureblood families including, I might note, Mr Potter's ancestors."
"Should I make one up?" Harry immediately asked.
"I would suggest that you bide your time on that," Snape said, having seriously contemplated it, "For now. Although the tradition has been somewhat debased in recent years by this century's series of Dark Lords, it is still recognised in the higher circles of society; for you to engage in the tradition of marking would be a bold political statement for which the time is not yet ripe."
"Mr Snape, when are all these times gonna start getting ripe?" Harry asked.
Snape didn't reply for long enough that Harry was about to repeat himself, not that it meant a huge amount of time. "That I cannot say – but I suspect you shall recognise it when you see it."
"What's that meant to mean?" Harry complained.
"I mean that it will be the time for bold political statements at the same time as it is time for you to reveal your species to the world, dash it! And before you ask, no I have absolutely no idea when that shall be! But I can say one thing for certain, and that is that the more political and economical clout you accumulate before that time the better for the strikingly few decent beings in this world!... Look, engaging in the marking of your followers would be tantamount to declaring yourself the equal of the ten most powerful beings in the Wizarding World. And until your position is sufficient to absorb the resulting political backlash, I do not believe that would be a wise move."
"Who are the ten most powerful beings in the Wizarding World?" Hermione asked, pre-empting Harry's incoming rant.
"In order, Emperor Ling of the Han. King Hector the Second of the Australasian Union of Magic. Whoever is at any given time dubbed 'The Dark Lord', emphasis on the 'The'. Albus Dumbledore in his capacity as Chairman of the International Confederacy of Wizards. Comrade-Chairman Yuri Valiseyovich of the Union of Soviet Socialist Wizarding Republics. President Running Bull of the North American Confederation of Magic. Sheik Mohammed al'Azhared of the Greater Arabian Wizarding Union. Count Vladimir Dracula. The Maharajah of Roanpoor. Emperor Julius Medici the Twelfth of Rome. And the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Black and Black Heavy Industries, currently one Narcissa Malfoy."
"What sorta money are we talking about?" Harry immediately asked.
"Black and Black control fully three percent of the economy of the Wizarding World, and I do not mean Wizarding Britain when I say that; I mean Wizarding Earth. Their annual profits make those of Gringotts look like a drop in the bucket. Between the Han, the Confederation, Roanpoor, and the USSWR, one may count fully one third of the magical population of this world, split roughly evenly between the four, with related hitting power and industrial capacity. Count Dracula – not the caricature about which Stoker wrote, the real thing – is widely regarded as the most magically powerful being ever known to exist; he makes you seem a squib. The Australasians control three of the four most powerful places of magic in the world; Ayers Rock, the Great Barrier Reef, and Roturua. The Emperor of Rome is in control of most of southern Europe and through it more than half of those Wizarding industrial facilities outside of the Big Four. And Albus holds veto upon any efforts to pervert international magical law, a power he has exercised with great enthusiasm. As for the Dark Lord, the nearest there is to a current claimant had an 'unfortunate' encounter with your forehead over a decade ago."
Steel thrumming on steel; the pounding of steam racing up a blastpipe; the slam of wheels hitting rail joints; the sway of the carriages; it all blended together into one rhythmic cacophony.
They rode in silence but for the sounds of the train and the banter between the goblinish soldiers in the surrounding carriages, each minding their own thoughts as they hunkered down around the crates of hard cash – all thirty-five of them were on their way to Scotland, to a tiny port on the edge of the Atlantic, where they would take ship to somewhere beyond the reach of the men who'd taken their minds away.
For how long? They had no idea. Most of them didn't even know their own names, but each one swore somewhere in their hearts as they listened to 70015 storming out of Glasgow up the line to Fort William, their lives were their own now. There would be no turning back, dead or alive.
After all, it'd be better to die free...
Not one of them had any real knowledge of the calm-faced white-bearded old man who'd made their bondage a crime, or of the determined men and women with badges and grim looks who'd been fighting in their forgotten names for years; not one of them knew of the cold-eyed woman named Amelia Bones who'd sworn to kick over every rock, shine light in every dark corner, and leave no stone unturned in her hunt for the criminals who had bound them, nor did they know of the quiet conspiracy brewing between a cynical introverted alchemist and a cheerfully immature dragon to make sure nothing like what had happened to them could ever happen again.
The only things any of them knew of that were on their side were themselves, the heavily-armed khaki-clad goblins who'd helped them get this far, and the far-away land of hope and freedom called the Confederacy.
AN – I reckon that, being British, I can get away with the cliché of having Wizarding America be 'the land of milk and honey' – especially if it's not perfect, it's just not as bad as all the other choices.
In EtD, basically, the Wizarding American Civil War served as the American Revolution for Wizarding America, with the sides reversed; the rich, pureblooded North was in favour of remaining part of the parent old-world countries, while the poor, muggle-descended South revolted against tax pressures. They had little impact on the muggle Civil War, and ignored which side of that won what; Apparation made front lines a moot point, and the far more magically populous South handily rolled up the Wizarding North, establishing the Confederation of Wizarding America as the Wizarding rulers of much of North America; the capital was (and still is) hidden away in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Round about the end of the 1930's, the division of Europe between Grindlewold and the ICW and the Russian Revolution catching on in magical circles largely drove the Euro-pureblood slaving industry out of their traditional 'hunting grounds' in Eastern Europe. They looked no further than North America, especially since on the ICW books the Confederation was still marked as a number of colonies in a state of armed revolt, and never mind the lack of any meaningful separation between muggle and magical in the hard-pressed regions known as the Native American Nations.
By 1941, the Euro slavers had hit both the Confeds and the NAN so hard the formerly sworn enemies banded together to try to kick them back across the Atlantic; by 1959, when newly-elected ICW chairman Dumbledore rode his still-extant mass popularity to ram the banning of the slave trade down the ICW members states' throats, the 'Indian Wars' had basically been kicked under the carpet as yesterday's enemy became today's brother-in-arms.
The Confederation and NAN were recognised as ICW member states in 1981 during the Europe-wide tide of euphoria stemming from Voldie going splat; in 1984 they fully unified as the North American Confederation of Magic.
In the seven years since, Amelia Bones has become something of a folk hero in North America as the number of kidnapped American wizards and witches sent home under her aegis keeps right on stacking up, while Dumbles is regarded as a good man hamstrung by others as he's vetoed anything that'd make a piss-poor situation even worse.
Oh, and if anyone can suggest a better pseudo-Native-American name than 'Running Bull' I'd be most appreciative.
"Bring 'em in, Mr Dumbledore." said Harry.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Bring 'em in. Bring 'em all in, I wanna see Hogwarts letters goin' out to every muggle-born what's gotted old enough next year, an' I don't wanna see no talk about fees or nothin' coz I'm gonna be paying 'em."
"... I beg your pardon?"
"I'm rich, Mr Dumbledore. Well rich, I edged into the top thousand list of richest people in the Wizarding World last week – ain't so long ago I bought Hog's Haulage just coz I wanna play with trains. I got plenty enough money to pay for every muggle-born in Britain to come to Hogwarts. Bring 'em in, Mr Dumbledore. Bring 'em all in, I'll pick up the tab. An' y'know what? I'll pick up the tab for them what ain't muggle-born too, I mean why not? Ain't huge loadsa them when you lookit how much money I'm earning. You an' me an' Hogwarts, Mr Dumbledore, we're gonna make a better tomorrow... hey, are you okay?"
Tears were running down the old man's cheeks – but in reaction to Harry's concerned question he smiled, even as the tears continued streaming out of his eyes, and it was like all his life Albus Dumbledore had been living under a cloud and all of a sudden the sun had come up.
"That... that is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard," the old man said, taking Harry's hand in both of his, "I honestly have no idea how to thank you; that has been a lifelong dream of mine, and you're making it... reality."
"If there's somethin' money's better spent on than makin' a better tomorrow for everyone well I ain't got a clue what it is and I got the money for it, so why not?" Harry said with a nonchalant shrug.
That was enough; the old man broke down and sobbed.
In one simple sentence, eleven-year-old Harry Potter had created the single greatest harbinger of the change for which Albus Dumbledore had spent his entire adult life fighting – and the boy had done it without so much as batting an eyebrow.
For sixty years, Albus Dumbledore had seen himself as the leader of the so-called Light. For sixty years he'd been the sole voice of reason at the top - the voice of change for the better.
And in one simple sentence, eleven-year-old Harry Potter had taken those reins, and now they would bring them in.
They would bring them all in.
-/- Fragmentation; after a Potions lesson not long later -/-
"There's something I've been wondering about, Professor Snape." Hermione said. She was still a bit hesitant about asking him questions.
"Indeed? Let's hear it." the hook-nosed man said.
"It's about how you described aluminium oxy-nitride." Hermione said. "The bit about 'phlogiston'... I thought it sounded familiar from somewhere other than my Hogwarts books, so I got Mum and Dad to send me my old chemistry books and, isn't that part of an archaic theory about why things increase in weight when they burn? Something about something of negative weight being removed from the thing that was burning?"
"The comparative study of the histories of alchemy and chemistry is quite esoteric, Miss Granger, but it does so happen that you have enquired of the right alchemist; my journeyman's thesis was on that exact subject," Snape said with a slight nod, "And as it so happens, the explanation you seek is quite simple; at the time when the negative-weight theory ceased to be current, alchemical studies into the phenomena of fire showed that, rather than something of negative weight escaping from the burning substance, something of positive weight was being added to the burning substance by the flames. It was decided that the nature and behaviour of phlogiston had been incorrectly deduced. Over time, alchemy uncovered further properties of the reagent muggles call oxygen, but within wizarding circles the name 'phlogiston' stuck; you'll find that we are, as a people, unfortunately resistant to change."
"That's... well, that's actually very interesting, Professor Snape." Hermione said. "I, um, don't suppose I could read your thesis?"
Snape smiled ever so slightly, giving her quite the surprise; she was used to seeing smirks, sneers, scowls and snarls on his face, but not that faint smile.
"I suppose you could, young lady," he said, and unearthed a thick hand-bound book from his bookshelves; he spent a moment contemplating her, then placed it on the desk in front of her, "Care that you return this in good condition, Miss Granger; there are only two copies in existence."
He nodded slightly as she carefully picked it up.
To it's cover was riveted a brass plate, engraved with, 'Alchemy and Chemistry: A Comparison for the Educated', and below that in smaller letters, 'S. Snape'.
"I hope that you shall find the material within as intriguing as I did," he remarked.,"If you have trouble understanding the context, there are several superb texts on matters alchemical in the Hogwarts library and within that dratted dragon's private collection; there is a bibliography of texts I reference in the back of that volume you hold."
"Thankyou, Professor." she said, and there was that slight smile again.
Snape thoughtfully watched the girl go, and he wondered.
He knew that hungry look she'd had in her eyes when she looked at the copy of his thesis. He'd seen that same look in a mirror.
She was a competent enough brewer, for a barely-educated child, and she was quick and eager to learn; unlike the vast majority of students she never had to be told anything twice, and most of the potions she had brewed were easily of saleable quality. He wasn't sure if she had that spark of genius that separated the great from the merely good.
"... hrmph, girl's wasted in Gryffindor."
At least Lily's boy got her out of that pit of poltroons before they turned her into a dunderhead.
"I have an image in my mind, concerning the next Interscholastic Alchemical Tournament." Snape continued. "The image concerns the Cup for First Prize, resting upon that mantlepiece across this room. If Miss Granger should maintain this quality, that image might become a reality." That one hit home; the Cup in question had dwelt at Beauxbatons since Snape's team won it in his sixth year as a Hogwarts student.
"You really think she's Interscholastic material?" Grubbly-Plank asked.
"If we were to team that young lady with the Weasley twins... think about it."
His colleagues – including those not in the know – thought about it.
It didn't take a seer to tell that they liked the thought.
-/- Fragmentation to the tune of maybe half a week -/-
-/- Fragmentation, to the tune of maybe two or three days; Ron has just (as planned) reacted explosively to Dracoisms-/-
Performing her best approximation of a haughty sniff, Hermione spun round and started to walk away.
She barely heard the outraged hiss of "Reducto!" in Draco Malfoy's voice from directly behind her, but she definitely felt Ron Weasley's shoulder slam into her midriff, barrelling her out of the path of the blasting hex; it whipped past her ear with a scant few inches to spare, and struck the wall a few yards in front, gouging an impact crater the size of a big man's fist in the stonework.
Sprawling to the floor, she found herself staring up at Ron, who had just punched Draco in the solar plexus.
Ron was now stood over Hermion with his wand out, gabbling off a rapid-fire string of assorted hexes and jinxes; there was a pained yelp and a crash from down the hall, and she whipped her head round that way just in time to see Malfoy go down in a jelly-legged, bat-bogeyed, tangle of limbs.
"Bloody Hell!" Ron said. "Are you okay?"
"Ow, ow, ow, I'm okay, I'm okay, what happened?"
"That great twat shot a bloody blasting hex at your head!"
"... I, oh. Um, well, thanks I guess?" Hermione said as the ginger boy gave her a hand up.
"Well, um, no prob, um... Look, I know I've said some dumb stuff and I'm sorry about that, I mean I didn't mean for you to nearly get skepled by a troll, I just... I know I'm pretty bad at charms and, well, I guess I kinda snapped when you reminded me, right, but anyway it don't matter for nothing because you're a Gryffindor and Gryffs are supposed to stick up for Gryffs and I know I'll probably be in a heap of trouble but I don't care because NOBODY says any sort of bollocks about Gryffindors and if they think they can just go around hexing one of us they've got another think coming, and never mind if they try to KILL one of us like that slimy git just did!" the youngest male Weasley emphatically stated, stuffing his wand back into his back pocket.
Hermione stared at him for several moments, her opinion of him edging up from rock-bottom.
"I would have been okay." she said.
"Wasn't the point," Ron told her, shrugging, "I mean, I owe you one, right, because I opened my gob like a great twerp and that nearly got you killed and my mum'd have my guts for garters if she thought I was being a bully! I was being a great twat and that's the last thing I wanna be, just gimme one chance and I'll try to sort my head out - and anyway next time I open my trap and say something dumb just tell me to shut my gob before I get my foot caught in it, 'kay?"
Hermione considered that, and then nodded.
"Apology accepted." she said, and headed for where she'd arranged to meet up with Neville and Harry.
Behind her, Ron spent a moment considering the gibbering Malfoy, then shrugged and planted his hob-nailed boot firmly between a set of goalposts with all his might, figuring that he was going to be in a heap of trouble anyway so he might as well give Malfoy something to really think about.
"Don't mess with my Gryffs, you shite!"
Marcus Flint rose to his feet, a deep frown on his face, and said something that shocked the entire Great Hall into silence;
"It can't possibly have been Ronald Weasley. He and I were engaging in an, ah, discussion concerning Quidditch strategies near the base of the Astronomy tower at the time that Mr Malfoy was attacked."
Arthur looked down at his youngest son for a long moment. Ron's ears were going rather red and he was staring at his feet without a word of complaint; it was the usual reaction Ron had to being told off when he knew he'd really mucked things up.
"And, Ron," he said, dropping the stern-lecture tone of voice.
"Dad?" Ron asked, looking back up.
Ron's jaw proceeded to drop as Arthur solemnly grabbed his son's hand in a Quidditch-style high-five handshake, and said, "Good shot, son."
"Six months detention..." Ron muttered, slumping inwards on himself. "Oh boy."
Fred gave his youngest brother a companionable clout on the shoulder as he settled himself on the sofa along with said brother. "Buck up, Ron. You really learned Malfoy one."
"Um, you're remembering I bust one of his nuts open and lost us every point we'd got, right?" Ron glumly pointed out.
"Couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke, except maybe that cunt Stoker," Katie Bell told him, sitting herself down the other side of him and answering a random fifth-year Gryff's baleful look with a Harvey Jones, "And I reckon seeing that arrogant little bastard cut down to size like that was worth five hundred points any day."
"Amen to that, Katie," Lee Jordan agreed, leaning over the back of the couch, "Oi Ron, next time one of those twats messes one of us around let me and the twins know and we'll cover for you, right?"
"Yeah." Fred agreed. "Count on it, bro."
"Lucius, what has happened?"
"Draco, he..." Lucius sat down quite heavily. "He was involved in, in a... a, a melee, with one of those Weasley brats."
"He is well, isn't he?" Narcissa asked, increasingly worried.
"I... it seems the Weasley brat kicked our son in the fundamentals."
"He kicked our son in the fundamentals so hard that Draco's left testicle has had to be amputated."
"Husband, we are going to make the Weasley brat wish he had never been thrust from his mother's over-productive cunt, is that quite clear?"
"Perfectly; as it so happens, you and I concur on this matter... Draco mentioned something about a mudblood girlfriend of the Weasley brat."
"Then we know where to start."
Word moved as fast round the Hogwarts grapevine as ever.
And today, the word on that grapevine was 'Don't mess with that Ron Weasley and his Gryffs or he'll kick your cobblers up to somewhere between your ears.'
-/- Fragmentation; several scenes needed; another research session at Harry's lair is in progress, aided by the better maps -/-
"There's something missing." Sinestra finally said.
"I fail to see it." McGonagall stated.
"Look. For the pattern to make sense, we're missing two nodes. One at Avebury."
"The one we expected to find missing." Flitwick said with a nod.
"But there's another missing." Sinestra continued, and touched her quill to the big globe. "Just about... here. In the Sunda Strait, between Sumatra and Java."
"There's naught but a few small islands there." Snape stated, sliding the correct map across the table to Sinestra. "Perhaps if we plot it to this?"
Sinestra spent a few moments making a rapid-fire series of calculations, then a few more moments with ruler and compass, before sitting back.
"Assuming I've correctly factored the projection, it should be within this circle."
"There's naught but some volcanic rock called Anak Krakatau there." Snape said. "Likely miserable and storm-wracked."
"Did you say 'Krakatoa', Professor Snape?" Hermione asked, her attention jerked off her book.
"No, the name is Anak Krakatau." Snape informed her. By this time she was peering dubiously at the map.
"Oh my God, it is!" she declared.
"... I beg your pardon?"
"Krakatoa was an island in the straits between Sumatra and Java that erupted in, oh, 1882 I think – no, 1883, it was 1883. The island was almost completely destroyed by a series of volcanic explosions – I can't remember if it was three or four, it's been quite a long time since I read about it – anyway the explosions were audible in Australia and I can't remember whether it was four or five days later that they were still recording the pressure wave going round the planet." She made a rough scrawl on the map. "That's about the shape of the island that was there before the eruption if I'm remembering correctly."
"Someone give me the thaumometer graph readings for the years 1882, 1883 and 1884." Sinestra abruptly said, sounding downright alarmed; McGonagall, who was nearest to that shelf, hastily dug out the box files in question and handed them over. "Miss Granger, I'll need the exact date and local time at which these, these eruptions occurred."
"I shall arrange that." Snape said. "I'll be right back." and he Apparated away; Sinestra didn't react more than a nod and grunt.
"... why is it Professor Snape always seems to be who goes and gets what's needed if it's from the muggle world?" Hermione asked Flitwick, who she was standing next to, in a sotto voice.
"Severus," Flitwick said, "Was born and raised among muggles, in Sheffield if I do so remember correctly, and unlike most wizards and witches of his background he has maintained some contact with his roots."
Fifteen minutes later, when Snape got back, Sinestra had finished going through the scrolls from 1882 and was well into those from 1883; the potions' master had a softbound book under one arm, a place marked with his thumb; this he opened and placed on the table beside Sinestra.
"... thanks." she muttered, and (keeping her place in the scroll with one hand) had a quick read, frowning to herself, before turning back to the scroll.
Everyone in the room instantly knew when she found it. Her eyebrows shot up, her eyes visibly bugged out, she went as white as a sheet, and she started very quietly swearing up a streak that'd make a sailor nod his respect.
"Sinestra?" McGonagall asked, sounding a tad taken aback; Hermione got the idea that this most definitely wasn't usual language for the homely-looking woman.
"Not yet!" Sinestra snapped, and McGonagall looked even more startled while the other woman started frantically scrawling notes.
Her hands were shaking.
"... Merlin's Balls..." Sinestra eventually said, breaking the tense silence as she slapped a specific scroll and the parchment she'd been making note upon down on top of the open book; she stood back and spent a moment visibly attempting to compose herself.
"How bad?" Dumbledore asked, serious to a truly unDumbledoreish degree.
"Miss Granger is quite correct." Sinestra said. "Look, the thaumometer spikes massively, reaching the limit of it's recording capabilities, four times throughout the afternoon and evening of August 26 by Hogwarts time in the year 1883, and from that point onwards has an overall 10.28 percent increase in the average."
"Are you saying that the anomalous surges of 1883 were caused by one of these nodes exploding?" Dumbledore asked, adjusting his spectacles and peering at the graph.
"What I'm saying is that, given the instantaneous propagation of any magical field, these four spikes – each one of longer duration than the previous – match the local times of the four volcanic explosions that completely rearranged the geography of the island of Krakatoa, and destroyed every living thing on that landmass!" Sinestra declared. "I need the thaumometer records from the summer solstice in 1988."
McGonagall had been expecting that; she was still standing beside the shelf of box files, and immediately handed the 1988 file to Sinestra.
It took moments for the lanky woman to find the correct scroll out of the fifty-two in the box, and on unrolling it, she stabbed a finger at the readings.
There was a massive spike aligning perfectly with the solstice moonrise, and once the readings came down from off the top edge of the scroll, the ambient levels had shown another marked increase.
"The recording of magical fields is not my area of expertise." Dumbledore said. "Is it possible to adjust the thaumometer to read higher?"
"It should be, but we'll have to replace the antenna." Flitwick said. "What we're looking at is a result of a mechanical limitation in the standard thaumometer designs laid down by Doctor Nicholas Flamel some two centuries ago; the antenna spring, which controls the positioning of the needle and thus draws that line on the graph scroll, is a composite of steel and mithril. As you surely know, the mithril component of the spring responds to ambient magic by marginally altering in length; as it is anchored at each end to an inert section, this causes the antenna spring to flex, drawing the needle up and down on the graph scroll as the scroll, driven by the main drums, gradually passes beneath the needle. The needle is composed of steel with a coating of copper enchanted to maintain a specific temperature; this acts to blacken the regions of the heat-reactive parchment touched by the needle as it passes over the turning scroll. Altering the thickness of the components of the antenna spring – thinning the mithril should do it, but for reasons of sturdiness I suggest thickening the steel - should reduce the thaumometer's sensitivity, in the process increasing the maximum level it may record."
"We'd have to carefully re-calibrate the graph scrolls." Sinestra said.
"Indeed." Flitwick agreed with a nod.
"What's all this mean?" Hermione asked, swearing to herself that she'd start studying arithmancy at once.
"It means, Miss Granger, that the energies that transformed Mr. Potter to his current species are, as far as we can see, all but identical in nature to those that removed the island of Krakatoa from the face of the Earth." Snape told her.
Hermione whipped round and stared at the big globe, at the coloured pins denoting the positions and power of different nodes, and would ever after swear she'd felt the blood draining away from her face.
The positions of Avebury and Krakatoa matched the seemingly-chaotic pattern of the white pins they'd used to denote nodes whose power was too high to accurately calculate, and there were dozens of those white pins scattered across the globe. Every continent bore several, in fact every major land-mass bore at least one.
At least one gigantic time-bomb whose fuse nobody knew the length of.
"... oh my God." she choked. "There... there must be something we can do! There has to be!"
"There is." Snape said. "But to discern what, we must work out precisely what in Merlin's name Mr. Potter did to Avebury – and, further to the point, how precisely we might repeat it."
"And I wasn't properly conscious at the time." Harry muttered.
"Then I suppose I had better make inquiries of certain witnesses." Snape sighed, shaking his head.
"Witnesses... oh, you mean the Dursleys." Harry said. "Um, Mr Snape, I'm not really sure how to say this but they're too stupid to notice anything useful and even if they did they'd say they didn't."
"Forcibly mind-reading someone is illegal," Snape said, shrugging, "But I cannot say I care one jot about that."
"Are you saying you intend to legillimence them, Severus?" Dumbledore asked.
"Yes, I am. And don't you dare say one word about that, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore! I cannot say I particularly like this wretched planet we're stuck upon, but it's the only one we have and I do not intend to see it blown to pieces because some repulsive reject from the human race did not want to talk about anything outside a narrow-minded definition of normality!" Snape grimaced, "And, to be quite frank, my skills as pertaining to this matter are strictly limited; we are well into the trackless wastes of high-energy thaumatics and I am an alchemist, not a thaumaturgist."
"Can't say fairer than that, eh Mr Dumbledore?" Harry mused.
"... indeed." Dumbledore said with a heartfelt sigh. "Just... Severus, don't make my mistakes. There are some means that the end does not justify."
"We have had this discussion before, and we shall continue to have to agree to disagree." Snape told him with a nod.
The headmaster sighed again and shook his head, abruptly looking very old, but didn't say anything else.
"... what was that all about?" Hermione quietly asked Harry.
"Remember what I said about the government not much liking people like us?" Harry checked; she winced a bit at the still-touchy subject and nodded. "It's stuff to-do with that. Everyone here thinks something's gotta be done about it, it's just some of us have different ideas about what to do about it and Mr Snape reckons if it won't change, blow the whole lot of it up and start over."
"What do you think should be done about it?" Hermione asked.
"Well I reckon," Harry said, the now-familiar demented gleam reappearing in his eyes, "Anyone what messes with my friends is gonna be laughing on the other side a' their face when the time comes, and if they mess with my damsels screw waiting for the right time, they're dead meat. There ain't nobody messes with dragons, our foreheads are scarier than Arabia Carnivals."
-/- Major fragmentation. The professors have roughed out what Harry did to himself, the peak times of ley-line node activity, what needs done, and how to tell when a node is dangerously close to exploding; they are now surveying the world's nodes in search of danger points. In the interim, VoldieQuirrel has discovered the goblin blockade leading to the Philosopher's Stone, and bypassed it by burrowing through the wall on the floor below, directly into the Stone room; I have yet to figure out how he gets the Stone out the Mirror -/-
"Oh," Susan said with a laugh, "Of course I know Harry, everyone at Hogwarts knows Hurricane Harry."
"Hurricane Harry?" Amelia asked.
Susan nodded. "Yeah, he's like a storm on two legs.
"Miss Granger, precisely why are you rotting your mind with that Lebrinov pseudo-Sumerian drivel?" came the acidic voice of a Snape, making poor Hermione nearly jump out her skin.
"Huh? Wha? Oh! This? Oh, I was wondering what magic is and-"
"And you will quite certainly not find the facts in that... publication," Snape interrupted, "What you are holding is what happens when a reactionary imbecile grasps on to some horribly antiquated and decidedly incorrect information and uses it to build a particularly idiotic religion. Magical cores, PHAH! Nonsense! That mumbo-jumbo was resoundingly debunked before Albus was born! When will these poltroons grasp that most long-gone ancient civilisations are typically long-gone precisely BECAUSE they were WRONG about so many things?" By now, he was peering over Hermione's shoulder, and started reading in a sing-song voice, "One's magical core may be reinforced by sacrificing- WRONG!"
"If you wish to enhance your available reserves of magic, young lady, I suggest that you 'sacrifice' copious quantities of high-energy foods to your gullet!"
"Have you ever noticed how much magically-gifted persons such as you and I eat?"
"What about it?"
"Allow me to guess, your appetite has matched that of your parents from early childhood; the quantities of food you consume outpaced them somewhere around age six or seven, by the time of your eleventh birthday you were eating more than both of your parents put together, and you have a taste for fatty foods yet seem incapable of putting on body fat. Correct?"
"Well, yes, I've always had a huge appetite, well, at least ever since I can remember, and I've always been as thin as a rail."
"Of course. The fact of the matter is that a magic user's body converts fats directly into the energy that we call magic; this holds true for all magically-gifted beings. The inherit power of an individual user of magic or magical creature is directly proportionate to two things; how much so-called 'artery-clogging' food he or she consumes, and how efficiently his or her body converts fat into energy."
"Wasn't there something about Harry being half-starved at his aunt and uncle's place?" Hermione asked.
Snape shook his head.
"Albus was highly concerned by the varied hints Harry dropped in his first few days with us," he said, "He and I checked Harry's relatives memories; he was fed what would be, for a non-magical child of his age, a hearty – even fattening – diet. Unfortunately, as he is – was – a wizard, his body required anywhere from four times upwards the quantity of food intake he was receiving. Of course, we can no longer tell the true ramifications, but given his several – and, I might note, increasingly frequent as he grew – episodes of accidental magic, Poppy in particular believes that his body's ability to process fats had become almost absurdly efficient; potentially as much so as Albus's. We will in truth never know for certain, but circumstantial evidence and related conjecture does of course exist."
"Huh... Professor, how does a wizard or witch become overweight?"
"In much the same way as a non-magical being does so; by consuming more than they expend. The potential causes are several, usually mere laziness but occasionally via long-term incompetence in casting."
"Right... So, if a wizard or witch who doesn't cast spells while eating as they normally would puts on weight, how come we muggle-borns end up eating like horses but not getting fat before we come to Hogwarts?"
"It is known as accidental magic, Miss Granger," Snape told her, "The term itself is a poor one; one's subconscious mind has as much control over one's magical gift as one's conscious mind, and seemingly has a much better idea of what one is truly capable of. If an untrained magic-user is placed into a stressful or dangerous situation, he or she will likely subconsciously use rudimentary forms of casting until circumstances are no longer stressful or dangerous. Poppy and Albus, with assistance from the Sorting Hat, examine our incoming students closely, as do I; working together we are able to discern how each student's subconscious mind is utilising so-called accidental magic. Yours, as an example, is constantly performing a rudimentary but nonetheless impressive variant of occlumency; that, young lady, is the cause of your eidetic memory. Your subconscious responded to your all-encompassing desire for knowledge, magically augmenting your memory, and that is precisely why you never, ever, forget anything you have read or been taught. I dare say you have in your time subconsciously used magic to escape from or adapt to threatening circumstances; surely you have over the years noticed things that you could not explain until you were told of the existence of magic?"
Hermione nodded thoughtfully.
"When I was very little," she said, "I sort of got hit by a car."
"And did you sustain the expected injuries?"
Hermione shook her head. "No... I can only vaguely remember it, but one moment all I could see was radiator, I remember thinking something like 'This is really going to suck' and wanting it to not be there any more right when it was going to hit me and I knew I couldn't get out the way and then... then the next moment it was way up the street upside down with bits just gone and on fire and I had to sit down."
"Indeed; a crude and probably massively overpowered blasting hex of some form, like as not." Snape said, nodding thoughtfully. "I confess I had a similar experience as a child; it involved a broken whiskey bottle, a bullwhip, and my misbegotten father's right arm ceasing to exist."
Hermione was too shocked to articulate what she thought about that; it came out as a startled noise that sounded something like "!"
"Indeed," Snape told her, inclining his head, "At age seven, on the second occasion that he whipped me, I blew my father's arm off. Without the benefit of shield charms – and my father had none as he murdered my mother shortly before I took his arm, I still have not forgiven that woman for failing to defend herself for her child's sake and in fact I never shall – accidental magic, as it is termed, can be lethally dangerous. I confess that in the incident I am telling you of it was most definitely not an accident, I was trying to kill Father, and I succeeded; he bled to death. Admittedly, I'd intended to take his head off. But enough on that subject. Deep-fried foods, bacon, wheaty beers, large quantities of meats with the fat intact, full-fat cheeses – all are superb fuel for magic. Your body may be regarded as an alchemical process, and any alchemical process is ineffective without sufficient quantities of the correct ingredients; in the case of one's body, the correct ingredient to allow the powerful and effective casting of magic is fat and there is no such thing as too much."
Hermione blinked several times, still trying to parse the fact that Snape had just point-blank informed her he killed his own father when he was seven.
"Albus, as an example, consumes approximately half of his own body weight in high-energy fried food per day," Snape continued, "Yet he is quite remarkably physically fit for a man of his advanced age; I am told that he has a blood pressure a twenty-year-old should be proud of. Myself I am quite partial to partake of the wares of the chip shop in Mallaig; they serve a superb battered mackerel and any alchemist is well advised to maintain a certain reserve for the case of critical potion failure; when seconds count one is well advised to be well-fed and prepared to cast some quite decidedly energy-intensive spells. Minerva I understand has not fallen far from her roots; she is a daily customer at the Fort William chippers."
"You're saying," Hermione said, finally getting her head off the subject of father-killage, "I can eat all the unhealthy food I like, I can gorge myself silly on chocolate, and so long as I keep just doing what I've been doing for years anyway I'll stay thin pretty much forever?"
"... All I can say is, thank God I'm a witch."
"No, young lady. Not God; it is likely the ley-line node at Krakatoa you should be grateful to for your gift."
Hermione's recovering mood abruptly nosedived as all the momentous events and earth-shaking discoveries of the past eight months hit her again.
"... Even considering the chocolate I'm still not sure if it's a blessing or a curse."
"And am I to believe you have somehow failed to notice how a certain wretched reptile listens to you first, always, and only? It was I whom he listened most closely for some time; as of the moment you become a member of his, shall we say, harem, that changed. Miss Granger, you have a sixty-ton solid metal dragon the size of a bomber in your corner. A sixty-ton dragon , to whom a fully-grown mountain troll is a light aperitif, who is forcing the laws of magic to be rewritten as we speak, who is with his alliance to Gringotts beginning to shake the Wizarding World, and who is quite adamant that you are a genius and always worth paying close attention to; in fact, he values your opinion over that of anyone he knows. He is the second most magically-powerful being known to exist, second only to Vladimir Dracula of all beings, the only being ever known to survive the Killing Curse, and if anything outranks him physically it is either a volcanic eruption or I do not know what. What precisely have the bigots got that might compete with your overgrown lizard?"
Hermione resumed her startled blinking.
"I am given to understand that his housemates refer to him as 'Hurricane Harry'," Snape continued, "Draco Malfoy and his ilk are almost as afraid of Harry as they are of Ronald Weasley, and may I remind you that Mr Weasley cost Mr Malfoy a testicle when Mr Malfoy attempted to assault you? Our dratted dragon is on first-name terms with the Chairman of a Gringotts branch. That, young lady, places him as one of the top ten most politically affluent beings in Wizarding Europe. Financially, he is on a par with Malfoy Brothers Manufacturing. Do you know who they are? Only the twelfth wealthiest magical corporation in the world! By Merlin, girl, they have a legal monopoly on Floo powder supply throughout Western Europe! The intercontinental Portkey connections between the British Isles and the Confederacy are operated by Malfoy Brothers! They represent the world's most substantial purveyor of utility wands – that is a multimillion-Galleon industry right there! And Mr Potter is, on a personal basis, as financially powerful as Lucius Malfoy's entire corporation!"
Hermione's blinking continued, now accompanied by her jawbone attempting to become one with her collarbone.
"Physically speaking, he is without a shadow of a doubt the single most deadly being known to exist. That rifle there," and Snape pointed at the Lee-Enfield, "I have seen what happens to a deer struck in the cranium with that. So when I say that an acromantula can and will shrug off every shot that weapon can hold within it's magazine, you will understand the difference in resilience. Now consider that our dratted dragon can and will shred acromantulas in the same manner that you or I would pull apart a breakfast bap. And, with that thought in mind, consider that he prioritises protecting and supporting yourself and Miss Suze Banesdaughter over the defence of his gold..."
"... I'm that important to Harry?" Hermione blankly asked.
"Miss Granger, he declared to me that 'damsels' such as yourself are a treasure rarer and more valuable than gold. And considering that he has stated, quite emphatically I might note, that any passing 'baggins' can have his gold when they pry it from his cold dead talons, well... You witnessed him bodily DEVOURING a TROLL when it dared to threaten you; what more proof do you need?"
Hermione resumed blinking.
"He has frankly stated his intent to, and I quote, 'Splatter', anyone and anything that dares to mess with his collection of young ladies – currently meaning yourself and a certain centaur – and, if I have learned anything of him in the time that I have know him, it is that when he states that he intends to do something, he proceeds to do it at once. He does not hesitate, he does not falter, he does not forgive, he does not forget, he does not lose sleep for it, and quite frankly, Miss Granger, you are the only being in creation to whom he will listen if told to stop."
"... I really don't get why."
"I do, Miss Granger, I do. His is a high-average intellect, whereas you are, frankly, a genius, and only in part thanks to your subconscious Occlumency. And the greatest difference between our blasted lizard and the majority? He is almost sickeningly good-natured; he does not take offence to being corrected when the counter-arguments make sense, and if he ever does, at that moment the world shall become ten times as grim and dark a place as it currently is. Frankly, I do not believe it shall ever happen; that daft dragon means well."
-/- Voldie om nom noms the Stone. Quirrel faw down go boom. Voldie quick-marches for a rematch with the Boy-Who-Lived -/-
"So. The 'boy-who-lived'. Ha! The Boy-Who-Won't-Live-Much-Longer!" the noseless man declared.
"Who the dickens are you, what do you think you're doing, how'd you find here to get in and which reprobate gave you a nosectomy?" Harry asked, justifiably put out.
"Are you an imbecile, boy?" the noseless man snarled. "I Am Lord Voldemort! I am here to finish what I started eleven years ago! And of course I found you, I am the Dark Lord! Nothing is outside of my reach!... what in Salazar's name is a nosectomy?"
"Huh? Nah, you can't be Moldevorts, he splattered himself when he bounced that Arabia Carnival thingy off my face," Harry stated; he wasn't buying it, regardless of what Dumbledore said, "And since you found my lair you can't be half as stupid as someone who managed to splatter himself trying to kill a baby. Hey, and since getting your appendix took out is an appendixectomy I guess getting your nose took off is a nosectomy."
"... why am I discussing noses with the Potter brat?" the man who claimed to be Voldemort muttered. "Feh! Claim what you like, that mudblood bitch of a mother of yours did... something! A ritual! It caused my curse to rebound, not your face! And as I have progressed further along the path to immortality than any other all it succeeded in doing was the destruction of my body, which with the aid of my most excellent assistant Professor Quirrel who unfortunately perished in the process, I have regained!"
"No, onea my friends has a photo of the mess. Moldevorts was splattered all over the wall and the floor and the ceiling, I Mean He Went Splat! And when I splat things – well, or when my forehead splats things – They Stay Splatted!"
"I have only one thing left to say to you, foolish brat; Avada Kedavera!"
Harry only just had time to start saying, "Hey!" before the curse hit.
"And now," Voldemort declared, turning to Hermione, "For you, mudblood. You have the honour to be the second slain by me in this, my new-"
"You've got no idea how much that stings!" Harry loudly declared, sitting back up from where he'd fallen over. This was sufficiently strange to throw Voldemort off track mid-monologue.
"... actually, I have." the Dark Lord said. "By the way, Avada Kedavera."
He turned back to the quivering Hermione.
"Where was I? Ah yes, you-"
"I'm done talking to you, nobody just-" the Boy-Who-Wouldn't-Freaking-Die declared, popping back up.
"Avada Kedavera goddamnit."
"OW! Nobody just comes in here going-"
"-Arabia Carnival and-"
"AVADA KEDAVERA! WILL YOU PLEASE JUST DIE ALREADY?!"
"-Threatening my damsels!"
"AVADA KEDAVERA, AVADA KEDAVERA, AVADA KEDAVERA!"
The Boy-Who-Kept-Popping-Back-Up seemed to be staying down this time, so the highly irritated Dark Lord once again returned his attention to Hermione.
"Finally." he said. "As I was saying,"
That was when an enormous set of teeth descended on him; Harry, his piece said, had gone dragon-form and gone for the bite.
Harry chewed, swallowed, belched, then said, "Huh."
Hermione, who'd managed to get her teeth unclenched, let out a distinctly shellshocked-sounding squeak.
"S'funny. I didn't expect enemy to taste like pork." Harry continued. "Wonder who that was? Sure can't have been- ohboy, dragon gas."
With that, he whirled round, stuck his tail and backside out over the lip of his lair, and released what must have been the most epic fart in known history.
After all, farts are usually composed of methane or some such rancid gas, not screaming disembodied horribly-traumatised-due-to-just-having-passed-through-a-dragon's-digestive-tract shades of Dark Lords.
Hermione, still up against the wall where she'd been wishing there wasn't a Voldemort between her and the guns blinked several times and managed to get out a stunned, "... uuuuh..." between struggling not to giggle and struggling not to freak out.
"Huh, that was weird." Harry remarked, bemusedly scratching his head – which, coming from a dragon the size of a not-so-small aircraft, looked somewhat strange to say the least – and peering after the spectral Voldemort. "Stuff doesn't normally do that when I eat it, I guess I'd better see what Mr Dumbledore thinks about that. Oh well, he tasted like pork so that's... um, er, ohboy, aw man, I don't think enemy went down so good."
As the Philosopher's Stone that Voldemort had earlier eaten went to work on the Boy-Who-Lived-Eight-Frickin'-Times' largely-iron physiology and caused him to pass out with a fever, the last thing he heard was Hermione frantically yelling his name; she'd come to the conclusion that this was most definitely a valid reason to pitch a fit of the screaming meemies.
-/-Slight fragmentation; a professor came up to Harry's lair to find out where he'd got to -/-
The Hogwarts school brooms weren't the best.
They were universally beat-up. Oh, sure, Madam Hooch did her best to keep them in an airworthy condition, but given the constant battering they received at the hands of cack-handed students, it was a wonder you could get any of the dratted things to fire up.
The broom Minerva McGonagall was now riding was one of the most clapped-out old bangers in the Hogwarts broom shed, a horrible old rattletrap of a Nimbus Ten that hadn't run quite right for as long as Minerva had been a teacher – it normally had to be bump-started, meaning you had to hitch it up between your legs and run up and down with it until it's spells fired with a nasty choking bang and a puff of soot. It's varnish was a memory, there were chunks missing from the handle standing mute testimony to years of rough landings, the bristles constantly trailed smoke and sparks during flight, and it tended to pull left a bit – the steering charms hadn't been quite the same since that time Arthur Weasley (in his younger and crazier days) stuffed it into the side of a barn.
Minerva often wondered why it was that she always selected that particular beat-up old broom whenever she needed to fly, but whenever she started wondering that she remembered that the Nimbus Ten was a wartime broom, built to last back before the Floo was invented, during the Battle of Britain when an anti-Apparation anti-Portkey ward lay over the Isles, and out of every Hogwarts broom this was the only one from a model that had never let anybody down.
Sure, modern brooms were pretty reliable, had been since the revision of broom-charms in '68, but every so often one would conk out and drop it's rider out of the sky. The old Nimbuses? Built like castles. It didn't take lack of care to get a Nimbus Ten to pack in, it took a hatchet, and she'd had a thing about broom reliability ever since that time a Cleansweep Four overheated on her and burst it's bristles mid-flight.
Whenever she went down that weary old road of thought, she found herself wondering if she'd ever get over the shock of the tremendous thunderclap from the back of the broom and the sudden drop – just thinking about it put her on edge, it was the closest-run thing that'd ever happened to her.
And so she persevered with the juddering wreck that was the Nimbus Ten, clattering her way across the sky aboard this battered old thing that those cheeky youngsters with their flash new brooms called barely fit for kindling – ha! They'd be laughing out the other sides of their faces when those new-fangled brooms of theirs conked out and let them down!
(McGonagall's thoughts on old brooms are related to mine on old machines. And before anyone brings up reliability issues, allow me to introduce you to the Ferguson tractor.
Wee grey Fergies were the first motor vehicles driven to the South Pole; there is something to be said for any vehicle that will start and run reliably at forty degrees below zero.)
"What in Merlin's name," Snape murmured, "Has that blasted boy gone and done to himself this time?"
"He's... turning into gold." Hermione stated the obvious, her eyes like saucers.
"I have reasons to suspect he ate the Philosopher's Stone." Dumbledore said.
Snape looked like he was going to fly off the handle for a moment, glancing between concerned old man and very ill dragon, then abruptly let out a short bark of laughter.
"Oh Merlin, he would, wouldn't he? Idiotic reptile."
"Do you think he'll be okay?" Hermione asked.
"I am afraid that we have absolutely no idea, Hermione my girl." Dumbledore sadly told her. "We have, as it happens, never seen anything even remotely like this before; at this moment in time, all we can do is await Nicholas's arrival and hope."
-/- Slight fragmentation; Flamel has arrived -/-
"Hmm, most intriguing." Nick mused. "I'm sorry, Albus my boy; I have never seen anything like this before. I cannot say for certain exactly what is happening inside this creature's body."
"Will he be okay?" Hermione asked.
"... I cannot say for certain, young lady." Nick admitted. "Well, I suppose we'd better begin making more detailed examinations."
"Will you be okay?" Hermione asked him.
"Of course!" the youngish-looking man declared, obviously puzzled. "Why on Earth wouldn't I be?"
"I, uh, thought that since Harry ate your Philosopher's Stone..."
"Oh, pish-posh and tommyrot, it's easy enough to make another one and I won't need to worry about that for decades yet." Nick told her, waving it off. "It's not like I was at death's door when I made the first one. This'll be the fifth, they do tend to run out from time to time."
-/-Slight fragmentation; Snape has filled Slackhammer in on what's going on; a group of goblins arrive at the castle -/-
The quintet of goblins, Hermione reckoned, cut quite thoroughly impressive figures, for all that they were little taller than she. Four out of the five were dressed in ornate military dress uniforms and holding automatic rifles in a letter-perfect present-arms parade rest; the fifth was somewhat overweight and clad in a Victorian-looking suit replete with silken cravat, precise top-hat, and mirror-polished cane. One of the four rifle-carriers had a white armband round his left bicep, marked by a blue double-helix; a second wore a smart peaked officer's cap and a truly ferocious expression.
From the two-part brass collar around the cane's handle, and the telltale bulge in the left armpit of the beautifully tailored suit jacket, the dapper goblin was carrying at the very least a sword-cane and a handgun. Hermione realised at once that Harry had not been at all joking about the importance of weapons to goblins.
"Mr Vice-Chairman Slackhammer!" Dumbledore declared, either pleased or doing a good job of faking it. "Welcome, welcome! And to your companions the same! What brings you to the hallowed halls of Hogwarts today, my dear fellow?"
The rotund goblin in the suit doffed his top-hat to the old man.
"Ah, Albus my dear fellow, we have come to understand that one of our most valuable of customers has been taken quite gravely ill." he said. "I am accompanied by Sergeant-Major Hooktalon," here the goblin with the peaked cap touched said hat with his right hand, "Medical Officer First Class Grindbone," here the goblin with the double-helix armband touched his helmet with his right hand, "Foundry Specialist First Class Flame-Eye," here the left-hand rearmost goblin touched his helmet with his right hand, "And Master-Sergeant Griphook," here the right-hand rearmost goblin touched his helmet with his right hand, "All of whom have shown a certain interest in the well-being of our eminently valuable customer Mr. Harry James Potter; it is our hopes that Medical Officer First Class Grindbone and Foundry Specialist First Class Flame-Eye might possibly be able to assist your own medical staff in ensuring the swift return to health of Mr. Potter, while Sergeant-Major Hooktalon and Master-Sergeant Griphook have volunteered themselves and their personnel to ensure the security and safety of Mr. Potter's valuable holdings in this area during his time of sorrowful incapacity."
"Mr Vice-Chairman SIR! Permission to speak, SIR!" the goblin with the peaked cap barked, saluting.
"Permission granted, Sergeant-Major." Everyone present noted the way Slackhammer was acting like he respected Hooktalon.
The Sergeant-Major saluted Dumbledore.
"Mr Dumbledore SIR, it is my belief that the young Lord Potter's enemies might take this opportunity to do his possessions and associates grief while he is unavailable to task himself to the defence of home and family, SIR! I confess I have some liking for the kid as he has shown himself to be acceptably competent in the handling of weapons and I would not wish to see his belonging unduly messed with behind his back, SIR!" Hooktalon barked.
"You're talking about his lair and the centaurs, aren't you?" Hermione butted in.
Hooktalon saluted her. "Yes, Ma'am! Indeed I am, Ma'am! The moment those centaurs threw their lot in with our valuable customer Mr. Potter their problems became our problems, Ma'am! And I'll be damned if me and my lads let some damned arachnid mess with a good kid's home and kin, Ma'am!"
"I hate bugs, Ma'am." Master-Sergeant Griphook remarked.
"I LOVE bugs!" Hooktalon roared. "They make for a SPLENDID grill roast! Tasty with brown sauce! Master-Sergeant Griphook, you and your lads make damned sure Mr. Potter's belongings here at the castle don't come to grief, me and my lads will make damned sure Mr. Potter's belongings up the forest are secure, and we'll share the barbecue at the end of the deployment!"
Hermione noted how Dumbledore's smile had frozen.
"That sounds like a bargain to me, Sergeant-Major Hooktalon." Griphook said.
"Affirmitive," Hooktalon said, pausing to pound right fists with Griphook, "Looks like we've got ourselves a deal, buddy."
The Sergeant-Major whirled round and levelled a finger at the goblin with the red-cross armband.
"Medic Grindbone, you'd better make damn sure the young gentleman makes a swift recovery or there'll be Hell to pay!" he roared.
"SIR! Yes, SIR!" the medic barked.
Hooktalon nodded sharply. "Good! I know I may sound harsh, soldier, but it's a medic's job to make damned sure the troops under his care are fighting fit and right now Mr. Harry Potter is under your care, lad – you do your damn best and we'll see what we'll see! The young gentleman isn't just a nice kid, he's responsible for the biggest upswing in Gringotts' profit since the machine gun and before the machine gun the steam engine! That kid is worth nearly a million Galleons per month and if he kissed the dust even the vipers in our legal department would cry! You take damned good care of the young gentleman, and me and my lads will cover the rest! That all clear, soldier?"
"SIR! Affirmative, SIR!"
"Good! Get to work, then! HUT HUT HUT!" Were Hooktalon's lungs made out of leather or something?
Grindbone and the fifth goblin, presumably named Flame-Eye, quick-marched to stand in front of Dumbledore, whereupon both saluted.
"Medical Officer First Class Grindbone and Foundry Specialist First Class Flame-Eye, reporting for immediate duty, Mr Dumbledore SIR!" Grindbone barked.
"Thankyou, gentlemen." Dumbledore said, bowing his head to them. "Miss Granger, if you would show Medical Officer First Class Grindbone and Foundry Specialist First Class Flame-Eye to Mr. Potter at once?"
"Okay." Hermione said with a nod.
"Miss Granger Ma'am..." Hooktalon said.
"Don't you worry, lass," the Sergeant-Major gravely told her, "Those two are the best we've got, they'll have Mr. Potter back on his feet in no time!"
"And if we don't you needn't worry about vengeance." Grindbone said, pulling a single .303 bullet out of his uniform jacket and brandishing it. "Got one all set up with my name on it and all, lass."
"You keep that damned bullet stowed away, boy!" Hooktalon bellowed, getting in the way of Hermione's shocked reaction, and the shocked reactions of the other goblins. "Medics worth their armband are all to hard to find as it is without them blowing their own brains out! To Hell with what those wand-waving dandies think, I won't have any soldier under my command wasting himself – suicide is a coward's way out! Is that perfectly understood, soldier?"
"It'd better be!"
-/-Fragmentation, though not much at all-/-
"Mr Grindbone..." Hermione said, not taking her arms away from Suze's shoulders. The centauress was still all but inconsolable.
"The title's Medic, lass." the goblin reminded her. "What's up?"
"I was, well, wondering about what you said earlier about, you know, vengeance and all that, and... look, does goblin society hold a doctor responsible if the patient doesn't make it?"
"We don't." Grindbone said. "But when you're talking da- uh, dratted wizards dealing with us gobs, that's a different question. Mosta them bas- blighters figure if a gob can't save one of 'em it's the gob doing it on purpose."
The goblin chuckled and shook his head.
"I dare say us gobs get up to stuff just as crazy, lass. Any culture makes some damn-fool mistakes from time to time, scuse my Anglo-Saxon. And anyway, if I may be frank, if the young gentleman doesn't make it I wouldn't want to go through life as the goblin who failed to save the life of a customer responsible for a net twenty percent increase in Gringotts profit, we've seen civil wars over less. What would you know about matters medical anyway, lass?"
"My parents are orthodontic surgeons."
"You're the daughter of dentists? Well I'll be- ! I'll let the lads know, that'll win you some respect there ma'am! No sensible squaddie'll ever make a dentist angry, a gob's teeth are his final weapon and well worth caring for!"
"You guys are really into fighting, aren't you?"
"It's not so much that, ma'am. It's more a matter of... a male of your kind, chap by the name of Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, put it very well, 'Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum.' Means 'Let he who desires peace prepare for war.' Respectfully ma'am, the Goblin Nation will always be prepared for war. We have to be; our children can sleep safely in their beds because there are well-trained and well-armed soldiers ready to make the other blighters bleed in their name."
Hermione nodded distantly, thinking of two book she'd read over the Christmas holidays, one called 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich' and the other 'Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl'.
"I guess." she said.
"It's a safe guess, ma'am. The need for trained fighting gobs such as myself will never go away; any society needs someone to defend it from time to time, and the better prepared that someone is the better a job they'll do when the time comes."
"AhA!" Snape declared, looking up from Grindbone's microscope. "Take a look at this, ladies and gentlemen."
Hermione warily watched as Snape, Pomfrey, Flamel, Flame-Eye and Grindbone crowded round the microscope.
"Fascinating." Nick Flamel murmured. "And oddly... familiar."
"I've seen something like this before, sir." Grindbone said. "During the fighting in Egypt two years back, a young Rupert who got hit by the Midas curse in the second Giza raid. We tried all sorts, and in the end we just kept pumping him full of blood-cleansing potions and a couple potions for controlling the transmutation of metals till he pulled through."
"Indeed?" Snape asked. "Hmm, yes, this does quite resemble the Midas curse, doesn't it?"
"I concur." Nick Flamel said. "Poppy, Specialist Flame-Eye, your thoughts?"
"Looks like the young gentleman's metallurgy is altering itself from the ground up, m'lord." Flame-Eye said. "Seems similar to the forging of adamantium, but involving different metals. His magic-reactivity is shooting up like a mortar bomb, I'd say we need to concentrate on controlling that."
"Controlling the reaction itself, yes?" Madam Pomfrey checked.
"Yes ma'am. It's like Medic Grindbone said – Lieutenant Crackjaw's been composed of solid gold since '89 and it hasn't slowed him down. Made the lucky Rupert rich off his own skin-flakes too, ma'am." Flame-Eye rooted a couple of vials out of his webbing. "These here are the refinery potions we use to control the magic reactivity of adamantium during it's forging, it might be wise to test 'em on a sample of the young gent's blood at once, ma'am."
"I'll handle that." Madam Pomfrey said. "You boys keep on studying his bioalchemy – there's life in the lad yet."
"You okay there, ma'am?" Grindbone asked Hermione.
"Yeah, I'm okay, I'm okay." she assured. "I'm just worried about Harry."
"Aye, and so am I." the goblin told her. "A handful of discoveries stemming from the young gentleman's bioalchemy have netted the Goblin Nation enough money we're cycling in new armaments a decade early – and who knows what other miracles his health might lead to?" He started once again spreading assorted tools out on the countertop beside the microscope. "Here, you'll know the names of this equipment, aye ma'am?"
"Sure I do." Hermione said; and indeed she did, there was nothing there that wasn't either clearly labelled or familiar from the times she'd helped her parents at their dental practise.
"Good, good." Grindbone said, nodding. "I'll be concentrating on checking over what's happening inside the young gent's body, you pass me equipment as I ask for it, it'll help keep your mind occupied ma'am. Sound good?"
"It's better to be doing something than just sitting here and fretting." she said.
"Miss Suze, perhaps you could assist Flame-Eye and I in a similar manner?" Snape suggested.
"... yes. Yes." Suze said, lurching to her feet and irritably swiping at her eyes; she had clearly-delineated tear tracks down her face. "I'll do that."
The potions' master nodded gravely. Hermione could tell that he'd got the same idea as Grindbone – since she'd really known him she'd been able to tell he was struggling to conceal how much he liked Suze, and the more her mind was kept off of fretting over Harry the better.
-/- Small fragmentation; Harry is now on the road to recovery, and Hermione takes the time to ask the goblins some questions -/-
"What sort of profit does Gringotts make each year?" Hermione suddenly asked.
Grindbone blinked, then chuckled. "I shouldn't really be telling you this, ma'am, but it's about two and a half billion Galleons."
You could see the gears whirring in Hermione's head for a long moment, and then her eyes bugged out as she got the idea;
"Wait, what, that's fifty pounds to a Galleon and Harry's -" She swallowed violently. "You're saying he's earned you people over two billion pounds in the last year!"
"You've seen his gilded bed." the goblin said. "That is composed of about a tenth of his share dividends and interest over the last four years."
"... my God, how much is he worth?"
"Sorry, ma'am, but that comes under client confidentiality. That said, I'm allowed to tell you that Mr Potter is one of the three most affluent clients Gringotts has ever served – and the other two are his business partners." Grindbone angled a thumb over his shoulder at the chunky assault rifle he had slung on his back. "Let's just say, on the change from those three's transaction fees the Goblin Nation are going from thirty-year-old SLR's and Lee-Enfields older than your grandparents to brand-new top-of-the-line gear like the H and K G41 rifle I've got here – and there are two and a half million battle-ready gobs in this world."
-/- Slight fragmentation; these two scenes should run together as Hermione continues asking questions of goblins -/-
A huge and immensely toothy grin immediately spread itself Slackhammer's face.
"Well, Miss Granger," he said, "It just so happens that young Mr. Potter has a quite distinctive and most pleasing scent that all goblins are easily able to detect."
"Really? What's he smell like?" Hermione asked.
"Profit." the rotund goblin stated.
"Gringotts is after all a merchant bank." Slackhammer continued. "And, like all banks, we are investors in people, Miss Granger. When an entrepreneur has a fine product, we are eager to ensure that said product arrives at a profitable market, for a modest fee of course. A deal where everyone wins is good for business, and things that are good for business are good for Gringotts. We move money around so that our clients need not go to the related effort, charging a small fee for the convenience of course, and as you are no doubt aware money makes money; money is of limited functionality if merely sitting around in a vault, it is when one makes one's money work that it is prone to increase in quantity. To the majority of a bank's customers, the bank itself is there to insure that no harm may come to their money for as long as it remains theirs, and for that our payment is the dividends we accrue through using money entrusted to us to finance loans and to maintain an interest in varied corporate assets; that is how we can afford not to charge a handling fee of those customers who step into our branches to conduct their financial business. Almost a half of the financial assets of Wizarding Britain are stored day-to-day at one Gringotts branch or another; the fare your parents paid for your journey to Hogwarts, much of the money that your parents spent during your visit to Diagon Alley, the fees that your parents paid for your attending this institute, they are stored at Gringotts branches whilst they await a decision as to where to spend them on the part of those who earned them by providing you and your family with the products and services involved. With those liquid assets we are able to fund loans and engage in dealings within the corporate world whether magical or not. That, Miss Granger, is what a bank does; that is what we're here for."
"Okay, but how does that involve Harry?"
"As it so happens, Mr. Potter and his business partners have several products quite superior to their nearest competitors, and there are plentiful well-funded customers eager to apply said products to practical purposes. Of course, we charge a modest fee for currency conversion such as pounds or dollars, to Galleons or, further to that point, gold bullion, and there are of course banking fees involved in the myriad related transactions. Any deal that is profitable to everyone involved is a deal we are proud to play a part in; the end customer profits in receiving a superior product, the producer gains a profit in providing that superior product, and we make our customers lives easier via administrating the flow of trade and, in many international avenues, providing transport for the product itself; of course we charge a small fee, we would be unable to continue providing services to our clients otherwise, and never mind bringing in the profit that feeds us and allows our children to rest easy at night."
-/- Slight fragmentation; Harry recovers -/-
"Harry James Potter," the potions' master snarled, "If you ever do anything even half as foolish again, I shall never forgive you! Is that quite clear?"
"... huh?" Harry was obviously decidedly confused.
"I gather you ate my Philosopher's Stone?" Nick checked.
"Um, is that a sort of part of a someone who says he's Moldevorts?"
"... I beg your pardon?"
"Well this dude with no nose turned up, right, and he said he was that Moldevorts twit only he can't have been because when I splat stuff it stays splatted. And he kinda threw a whole load of those killity curse thingies at me – they really sting, y'know – so I got kinda angry and, well, ate him. He came outta the other end as some sort of a ghost and, er, I kinda started feeling real weird and- hey, why's my nose changed colour?"
-/- Slight fragmentation as everyone gets what happened straight; these two scenes should run together.
"I'm, uh, sorry about eating your stone, Nick." Harry said, sounding contrite. "I, well, I guess it was sorta inside that Mouldy-whatsisface creep."
"Oh, it's quite alright, no great loss; they're easy enough to reproduce once you know how." Nick said, waving it off. "That said, I do believe you owe me five hundred and twelve Galleons, six Sickles, and a knut, to pay for ingredients for a replacement."
"... well, I guess that's fair enough."
-/- Fragmentation; the professors have discovered that the ley-line node at Yellowstone in the USA is in grave danger of exploding. Harry decides he wants some backup if he's visiting a strange foreign country -/-
"Ah, Mr Potter, come in, do." Mr Slackhammer said, rising to his feet. "It is a pleasure to see you in good health once more, my young friend; how might I be of assistance this fine day?"
-/- Minor fragmentation; Hooktalon's platoon volunteer to accompany Harry and his party to the U.S. Harry raises the subject of guns that're handier to tote around than the Lee-Enfield; he speaks to Hooktalon on this subject -/-
Sergeant-Major Hooktalon frowned thoughtfully.
"Well son," he mused, "With your ability to soak up recoil I reckon we'd better be getting something just a little bit extra special for you, hey? There's a bloke I know the other side of the pond, human ex-squaddie called Ed Becerra, damn fine gunsmith – he'll sort something out for you for the right price!"
-/- Fragmentation; preparations are made to travel abroad without the MoM knowing about it -/-
"The logistics of this trip could prove... a little interesting. Now, I know we can get into the Republic of Texas by muggle aircraft without raising any alarms whether with the Texans, the Ministry here in Britain, the Colonial Department on Manhattan Island, the Native American Nations, or the Confederate States of Wizarding America, but the NAN keep a tight eye for magicals coming into their territory by muggle aircraft, rail, portkey, or Apparation – we'll probably find ourselves being tracked by Soviet intelligence but that's par for the course, they keep close tabs on all international travel aside from the transatlantic Portkeys between London and Manhattan. That makes our choice fairly obvious."
"So what's that mean? Broomstick or something? I'm still kinda havin' trouble with 'em." Harry said.
"No; any broom-rider attempting to enter NAN airspace is shot down as a matter of course. Thus," Dumbledore explained, "We go by road... can anyone here drive a muggle automobile? I know where we might procure a suitable conveyance if we can find a driver."
"I suppose that task shall fall to me." Snape sighed, long-suffering.
"You have the license I understand muggles insist upon for the operation of those devices?" Flitwick asked, quite surprised.
"Fillius, when I am not here at Hogwarts I live as a muggle. You've known that for quite some time; why does my usage of a motor vehicle surprise you?"
"I was given to understand that they are fairly unusual in private hands."
"Then you are strikingly out of touch. He who does not possess a motor vehicle is unusual in this day and age."
"... I shall take your word for it."
"What kinda car do you drive, Mr Snape?" Harry asked, immediately interested.
"Something cheap, economical, and... not exactly what one would call glamorous. It is also somewhat older than you are," Snape made as if to cut off there, but happened to glance up and see the question forming on Harry's face, "A P-reg Vauxhall Cavalier, and no you may not eat my car."
"P reg? Isn't that from in four years?"
"No, it is from 1976."
"Oh right, that P reg, wow, mosta the cars I eat are newer than that."
"Are you quite sure this contraption's safe?" Sinestra dubiously asked as they seated themselves.
"Definitely." Harry said. "They make jet planes out of really good metal, it tastes delicious, and anyway if anything does go wrong we've all got our emergency portkeys."
"Ixnay on the ortkey-pay. Wretched reptile. And no attempting to eat the infernal contraption we are seated in."
"There are hundreds," Dumbledore said, completely failing to reassure Sinestra, "Possibly thousands, of these machines in operation at any one time and accidents are fairly unusual."
-/- Fragmentation; the group road-trips to Yellowstone in the Humvee owned by Dumbledore's contact, stopping off at Hooktalon's gunsmith contact's place -/-
Time was when Ed's odder customers raised eyebrows down the firing range; he still remembered the first time a goblin had turned up.
How times change; now nobody batted an eyelid at Hooktalon, and though the centaur girl got some odd looks they were quickly shaken off soon as folks realised she was with Ed.
He knew what they were thinking; 'Oh, them's with Ed, they'll just be folks'.
More odd looks were directed their way when the kid started working his way through the assortment of guns Ed had brought, as the shooters and firearms buffs realized that this kid was taking a lot more recoil than anyone his size by all rights could, and then people started getting enthusiastic, especially as they realized that the kid, though not Olympic-level by any stretch, was a pretty good shot.
He nearly said something when Buck Forrest – a Vietnam vet, truck driver, and borderline member of the aluminum-foil-under-hat brigade – after seeing the kid with a .357, unlimbered his Colt Anaconda and offered the kid a try.
Ed considered the kid for a long moment, and momentarily wondered if he was dreaming.
Had this little kid really just soaked up the kick from everything up to and including a forty-four Magnum without so much as twitching an elbow?
Hell, in the kid's hands that Colt Anaconda had looked like it kicked like an anemic baby; he'd never seen anyone successfully fire a forty-four with one hand and never mind hitting the target (and getting a nice tight shot cluster) while doing so. The ideas began to flow; just how hot can you load anyway?
Maybe it was time to find out.
"Kid," he said, "How strong are you?"
"He can lift me, over his head, with one arm, and it doesn't take him sweat." the pretty centaur helpfully provided. She was smiling at the kid with that particular sort of a proud smile that makes a feller reckon that lady'll go all mama-bear if someone messes with her kid.
"Iff'n I've got someplace hard enough to stand throwing a Land-Rover's easy." the kid added, a big hopeful smile on his face as he demonstrated his ability to lift the smiling centaur with one arm. "Lorries are a bit harder but that's coz they kinda seem to go all wobbly."
Ed considered that, considered the kid, considered the centaur.
She was built like a brick shit-house; petite her human parts might be, but the rest of her was a solid slab of honed muscle. She must weigh as much as a compact car.
Yeah, Hooktalon was right. Something special...
-/- As prescribed by the RL Ed, something in .45-70 Government; make and model taken from a firearms recognition manual I own -/-
"Century Arms Model .45-70.
-/- Further fragmentation; Ed having sold Harry the big Century Arms and some very special silver bullets, the road-trip resumes. Arriving at the centre of the Yellowstone nexus, they have a surprise encounter -/-
Rough timeline, from the beginning of the kidnapping through to when Harry leaves the DMLA building, would look like;
0845hrs GMT, day 1 - Pan Am Flight insert-flight-number-here departs London, destination: Los Angeles. Harry and some others are aboard this flight; the Grangers are at the airport, at Hermione's insistence, to see him off.
0922hrs GMT, day 1 - Grangers arrive home, observed by kidnappers.
Remainder of morning and most of afternoon/evening of day 1 - kidnappers continue observation.
Round about 1900hrs GMT, day 1 - Harry's flight lands in L.A. Dobby begins trying to find the Great Wizard Mr Harry Potter Sir at this time and is trying - and failing - throughout this whole sequence; at this time Dobby and Lucius are both unaware that a certain basilisk became dragon chow a few months earlier.
2259hrs GMT, day 1 - Kidnappers begin attack on Granger household.
2301hrs GMT, day 1 - MLEP officers on Hermione-watching duty receive first indication of spellfire at Granger household.
2302hrs GMT, day 1 - One of the spells cast by Hermione in self-defence, a Reducto, finds it's mark in the throat of one of the kidnappers, shredding a substantial portion of his jugular. Amelia scrambles Auror teams.
2303hrs GMT, day 1 - Portkey initiation detected at Granger household. By this time, two of the kidnappers have been stunned by Hermione and revived by their mates, the one she got in the throat with a Reducto is dead, and a fourth is experiencing severe head trauma having been bludgeoned with a coffee table by Hermione's mother; the Grangers put up a hell of a fight.
2304hrs GMT, day 1 - Auror Teams Five and Seven arrive at the Granger household in time to prevent the remaining on-scene kidnappers completing memory modification of Sharon and Tony. Both remaining kidnappers are taken down, have their memories modified, and are turned loose with trackers upon their persons.
2405hrs GMT, day 1 - Auror Team Five, led by Shack, positively locates where Hermione's been taken; Crabbe Manor. They do not storm the building for several reasons, in particular because the tagged kidnappers are still on the move and the building has wards that are very problematic to crack.
Rest of night of day 1 and most of morning of day 2 - Aurors maintain stakeout on Crabbe Manor while maintaining tail on tagged kidnappers.
1344hrs GMT, day 2 - Portkey initiation detected at Crabbe Manor as Hermione is portkeyed to Dolohov's auction house in London.
1402hrs GMT, day 2 - Auror Team Six positively locates where Hermione's been taken and identify the contents of the building.
1405hrs-1424hrs GMT, day 2 - Auror Teams Two, Four, Five, Six, Eight and Ten set up to storm the auction house.
1425hrs GMT, day 2 - Aurors blow the wards and kick the auction house doors in.
1433hrs GMT, day 2 - Cessation of spellfire at auction house.
1435hrs GMT, day 2 - Rescued vics, Hermione included, Portkeyed to DMLA & given related care & med examinations.
Evening of day 2 - Hermione is interviewed by Amelia and an as-yet unnamed legillimens. On reviewing the legillimency data, they assume her memory's been messed with.
0200hrs GMT, day 3 - Auction house, having been picked clean of evidence, is summarily burned to the ground.
Early morning, day 3 - DMLA mind-mages determine that Hermione's memory has absolutely no sign of having been tampered with. Auror teams start rounding up suspects; last surviving member of the Grangers' attackers is genuinely killed resisting arrest.
Roundabout 1830hrs GMT, day 3 - Harry & company arrive at Yellowstone by road in a civillian-owned Humvee property of one of Dumbles' American contacts, have their encounter with Harlequin, and release the ley-line node before high-tailing it outta there.
Exact moment of node ignition is 1835:22 GMT. Node release is -significantly- more spectacular than Avebury; it releases a column of coruscating flame red-orange energy approximately one mile across and almost a million kilometers tall; during the first hour after node release this pillar is bright enough to cast shadows during daylight, but it soon begins to fade; for the first week it is bright enough to read a newspaper by the light of; total visible lifespan is approximately one month.
Uncle Dunky half-waking due to the deafening magical-resonance bang goes here.
Early afternoon, day 3 - Harry & company shake off American magical law enforcement and take a domestic flight south to meet Hooktalon's recommended gunsmith. Amelia decides to act on the two current possibilities she can see - the possibility that Hermione's memories have been untraceably modified, and the possibility that they have NOT.
Sometime in the afternoon of day 3 - Amelia's meeting with Shatteraxe. DMLA curse-breakers begin ward-cracking on Crabbe Manor.
Early hours of day 4 - Harry visits the gunsmith, makes some purchases, and then boards his flight home, flying from a different airport to what he used on his way to the States.
While Harry's in the air on his way home - Aurors take delivery of equipment Amelia purchased from Gringotts, and Amelia finalises organisation of firearms training for her officers. Aurors storm Crabbe Manor.
Afternoon and evening of day 4 - recovered personal effects from Crabbe Manor returned to rescued vics. This includes a bracelet Harry gave Hermione, which bears a stealthed tracking charm.
Morning of day 5, roundabout 0800hrs GMT - Harry learns that Hermione is missing and, having checked that tracking charm, finds her to be located at the DMLA.
No later than 0815hrs GMT, day 5 - Harry visits the DMLA in a state of barely-controlled rage; certain aspects and details of his behaviour, voice, and ludicrous physical strength combine to convince Amelia that Hermione's memory has not been tampered with.
Between 0815hrs and 0845hrs GMT, day 5 - Tense confrontation between Amelia and Harry is defused by Hermione. During this conversation, Madam Bones will use the line, "Mr Potter, I AM the Law." and bluntly informs him that although he may have very personal reasons for involvement, she has been fighting this battle her entire career, and he'd better not screw her case up, thankyou very much.
By 0845hrs GMT, day 5 - Harry has left the DMLA, taking Hermione with him, and the second 'chapter' draws to a conclusion with a scene featuring Harry and Hermione preparing to board the train to Hogsmeade a day early compared to all the other students, once again completely stymieing Dobby.
Some of the fallout includes Amelia now being entirely aware of what Harry is, Harry being simultaneously pissed off with and grateful to the DMLA, and the handful of Aurors - basically Amelia's 'inner circle' – who're aware of what Harry is convinced that Hermione is either stone cold crazy or a hell of a lot more powerful than she seems.
It also transpires that Hermione is a natural spellcasting crackshot, having as a student just about to enter second year scored three solid hits, one of them a kill shot, at eight yards range in a live-fire combat situation; further ramifications of this surround Hermione struggling to come to terms with the fact that, self-defence or not, she killed someone.
Amelia's office door flew open and Constable Morrison, one of the LEP officers who'd been monitoring the Granger girl, came crashing in.
"Chief! Spell fire at the Granger place – our girl just got stunned and bound!"
Amelia was on her feet like a shot, slamming the alert trigger that'd scramble the Auror teams with the heel of her hand as she came upright – a trigger that had been untouched since Voldemort's renowned encounter with Harry Potter.
"Kinglsey." Amelia Bones said.
"Chief?" the big Nubian asked, turning round.
Director Amelia Bones of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement handed her most trusted Auror a bag, containing several specific items.
"Operation Good Housekeeping is go." she stated.
Shack opened the bag.
Within nestled, along with a handful of inactivated anti-Apparation, anti-Portkey ward stones, several items he recognised from his training in countermeasures against muggle weaponry.
Two were flashbangs. The other two bore the word 'INCENDIARY'.
"We've got the bastards, Kingsley. Don't let a single one of those slaving filth get away. Pick that structure clean of evidence, and then I want to see it turned into a smoking hole in the ground. And make sure the moles in your unit are 'killed in the line of duty'."
"Gentlemen," the man in the raised booth announced, "We have something just a little special for you tonight. This fine young mud comes complete with matching wand and basic training in it's use; just a little work and she'd make the perfect line overseer, personal assistant, or maybe a handmaiden for a young gentleman. Bidding starts at twenty-five Galleons... Twenty-five, twenty-five, twenty-five, twenty-five to the gentleman up the back in the white robes, do I hear thirty? Thirty, thirty, thirty..."
What was happening abruptly clicked in the back of Hermione's mind.
She was being sold.
Nobody would mistake the six crack Auror teams for beat coppers now.
They looked more like some kind of hellish long-coated red-clad riot police in their blood-red robes, heavy-duty dragonhide body armour, spell-proof steel helmets, and bubblehead-charmed face-shields – especially since Teams Six and Eight were now carefully rappelling down the face of the nondescript red brick building to which the Granger girl had been taken, their wands fitted into spell-inert aluminium 'Expelliarmus cages' strapped to the backs of their casting hands.
"... two hundred ten, two hundred ten, two hundred ten to the gentlemen at the front in the grey robes, do I hear two hundred twenty? Two hundred twenty, two hundred twenty, two hundred twenty..."
Matt Weasley felt the fury building up inside as he peered cautiously through the small dusty window.
An auction house. A goddamned auction house, right under their noses.
He rammed the anger back down, listening to Shack's calm voice counting down on his earpiece;
"Eleven. Ten. Nine. Eight..."
"Going for two hundred and ten Galleons to the gentleman at the front in the grey robes; going, going-"
That was when a voice from somewhere behind Hermione bellowed "GO!" and something went flying past her head.
It burst in a dazzling white flash, the thump of the detonation knocking her breath out – as she blinked the spots out of her eyes she just caught the windows up the top back of the auction hall bursting inwards on the receiving end of booted feet, a voice roaring "DMLA! FREEZE!" over the ringing in her ears, a rapid-fire spray of spells seared around the room, something struck her on the back and knocked her sprawling, and then as she got her head off the deck she was witness to the auctioneer, flat on his face on the floor, pinned down by a big black man in blood-red robes and helmet who'd rammed his boot into the small of the other man's back; his wand – wrapped in his meaty fist and connected to his arm by a dull blackened metal linkage – was aimed squarely at the back of the auctioneer's head.
"Frezno Dolohov, you are under arrest. Go ahead creep, go for the wand – make my day."
The whole room was, Hermione noted, crawling with red-robed helmeted men and women, and the people who'd already been there were all on the floor.
A spell flashed past, missed the big black man by an inch, went on to liquidise the skull of another red-clad man, and all Hell abruptly broke loose.
Hermione tried to make herself one with the floor.
"Ha! Still got it!" an unexpected voice with a completely unplaceable accent declared. "About time you kids showed up."
Whirling round, the group found a very memorable man leaning against the Humvee.
"And who," Dumbledore asked, "Might you be?"
"That'd be telling, wouldn't it?" He was tall and slender, with blood-red hair, green eyes, very noticeably pointy ears, and a black diamond-shape painted around his left eye; he was dressed vaguely like a stereotypical cowboy. "I'd been wondering who bled off the Avebury nexus."
"That'd be me." Harry stated.
"What the frag did you do that for, kid?"
"It," Dumbledore stated, endeavouring to gain control of a conversation he'd never been in control of, "Was a fortunate accident."
"Fortunate? You're either crazy, a fool, or you know something I don't. Probably not the latter. Whatever you people think you're playing at, either you've no idea of the ramifications or you're being manipulated by something that should not exist; those nexii were constructed to drive – and keep – the Horrors out of the world. The longer they stay closed, the better."
"And the longer they stay closed, the bigger the explosion when they burst." Harry stated, glaring back.
"Are you familiar with arithmancy and thaumatic physics, whoever you are?" Sinestra asked.
The man raised an eyebrow in a markedly Snape-like way; she handed him a copy of their calculations.
"Parts of this are in Nick Flamel's handwriting, I'd know it anywhere." the man remarked, dubiously contemplating the notes. "Hmm. Powerful release. Explosive?"
"Have you ever heard of Krakatoa?" Dumbledore asked.
"Volcano. Big one. Nexus?"
"Indeed." Snape confirmed.
"... frag. Rock and a hard place, huh?" The man handed the notes back to Sinestra. "Yeah, I'll see you kids around. Just remember, you'll be helping me clear up the mess that'll come with the magic being let back into the world and if you don't, you'll wish you had."
With that, the man abruptly vanished.
"... my word." Dumbledore said, removing and cleaning his spectacles.
"What now?" Snape sighed.
"That was not Apparation, or the activation of a portkey. That was whatever methodology house-elves use to get around."
-/- Scene runs on to a successful node-draining exercise and cuts to... -/-
"Well, here we go." said Harry, and slapped his palm – covered in his own sizzling hot blood – down in the centre of the circle.
To his perspective – and that of every living thing within half a mile of him – the world exploded.
Somewhere hundreds of miles away, in a well-hidden place, an immense eye opened and flicked around, quickly examining it's surroundings.
"There it is again," an incredibly deep voice rumbled, in a rolling language that hadn't been heard anywhere else in thousands of years, "What in the Hells is causing that abominable racket?"
A few moments passed without reply before the owner of the eye dismissed the peculiar feeling with a swift shake of his titanic head, and went back to sleep.
He was still far too exhausted to worry about earth-shaking bangs, but he was beginning to believe that they had some significance – and, he noted, he was not quite as tired as the last time.
They'd searched her, scanned her with assorted magics, removed something from under the skin on the back of her left leg, taken the shackles off her wrists and ankles, and Portkeyed her back to what they said was the Department of Magical Law Enforcement Headquarters.
Here they'd let her clean herself up, given her a set of plain Wizarding-style robes to replace her trashed pullover and jeans, shown her into a clean sparsely-furnished room that reminded her of those police interview rooms you see on the TV, given her a hot cup of tea and something to eat, and now the big black guy was sat the other side of the smallish room, watching her with a look of quiet concern on his face.
She minded her own thoughts for nearly half an hour before it got too much, and she asked the question that'd been on the edge of her mind since she surfaced from the stunner:
"Are Mum and Dad okay?"
"I'm afraid they were hit with a couple of memory-modification charms before we got to the scene," the big black guy said, "We're working on reversion and it's looking good so far."
"What about the one I Reductoed?"
"You hit him directly in the jugular vein; he was as good as dead before he hit the floor. That was an excellent piece of precision casting, I couldn't have placed a spell better myself and I'm considered a crackshot."
"... am I in trouble?"
"All wizards and witches have the right to respond to a lethal threat with lethal force, lass. And as soon as someone casts a hex, that's a lethal threat," The big black guy leaned forwards, his expression solemn, "It took a lot of blood, a lot of sweat, a lot of tears, to win muggle-borns such as you and I that right, Miss Granger, I know you're going to feel like shit when it sinks in that you killed a man, everyone does the first time, but it was entirely justified and scum like that deserve worse than you gave him. You haven't broken any laws; your underage use of magic is covered by the right to self-defence. You're not a perp; you're a victim who did a good job of trying to fight back."
To say that Hermione was surprised when she saw the very familiar 'Dirty Harry' poster on the wall in Amelia's office would be an understatement.
"That poster was used to advertise a muggle 'film', I believe the term is, known a 'Dirty Harry'." Amelia said, noting where Hermione was looking.
"Daddy's a big fan of Dirty Harry." Hermione said.
"Indeed? Myself, I saw much of that during a stake-out early in Voldemort's rise, in 1971 as I remember, and quite enjoyed it; it reminds me of the way I made Auror Corps, and his compassion for victims and methodology for dealing with crooks is quite inspiring." Amelia told her.
"Oh." Hermione said.
"It paints an excellent portrait of what the DMLA have to deal with, for all that it's set in a muggle context." the greying-haired woman mused. "Now then, take a seat, young lady. We have a lot to discuss; don't be afraid, you're not in trouble any more, my lads made damned certain of that."
"Chief," Doyle said, "She doesn't just LOOK clean. The only traces of any mind-magics I can find on her are a calming draught about ten months ago and my own legillimency probes. I went in as deep as I dared, and... nothing. She's about as clean as I've ever seen anyone."
Amelia frowned, contemplating the Pensieve.
"So what you're saying is, this... this crazy story her memories are telling us is REAL?"
"I'd be willing to bet my badge on it, Chief. Any concealment of mind-magics wipes out everything; if she'd been reprogrammed, there wouldn't be a sign of that calming draught either."
"I see." Amelia said, still staring at the Pensieve.
"What're we going to do, Chief?" Dubrovnik asked.
"The only thing we can, Jake. We enforce the law."
"The Potter boy?" Shack asked.
"He hasn't broken any laws, and neither has the Granger girl; there's some hearsay evidence of conspiracy to commit grand treason and conspiracy to fraudulently remove registered servants from the United Kingdom, and I'm not certain if he should be classed as an unregistered animagus, but I think we'll file investigating those at the bottom of our priority list; I for one don't fancy getting on the bad side of a magical creature that shrugged off eight Killing Curses in the space of roughly thirty seconds – especially not one that gulps down mountain trolls and Dark Lords like you or I would eat chocolate frogs."
"So are we treating this as a prospective Dark Lord?" Doyle asked.
"We'd better be on alert for that, but I don't think the Potter boy's Dark Lord material." Amelia told him. "Nothing like this has ever come up before, lads. We can't treat this as by-the-book; we're going to have to play it by ear."
"Am I the only one who's got this feeling whoever's behind that damned auction house is going to find out exactly why the Hogwarts motto is good advice?" Trussel suddenly asked.
"You're not alone in that, Truss. They haven't so much tickled a sleeping dragon as given it a swift kick in the fundamentals." Amelia sighed, raking her hand back through her hair. "I just hope I'll be able to impart to him how important this case NOT getting screwed up by sixty tons of pissed-off metal is WITHOUT getting myself char-grilled... Dammit, who'd be a cop?"
"Rough job but someone's got to do it, huh Chief?" Shack gloomily agreed.
"Indeed... What the hell, it certainly beats inspecting cauldron bottoms. Okay, lads, enough about that, there's some doors at Crabbe Manor that won't kick themselves in. Doyle, get some rest. You're dead on your feet. Shack, Matt, grab your teams and get an anti-apparation, anti-portkey net ready to throw over the place. Everyone else, get your boys set up to break some heads. You're in charge of this one, Truss – I've got to talk to a goblin about some destructive devices."
"On it, Chief." Emma Trussel said, rising to her feet and nodding to the other team leaders.
Her Majesty's Corps of Aurors had a case to close.
Blackblade's expression, not to mention the subtle hand gesture, immediately had Chairman Shatteraxe on full alert; goblins do not grow old by being unwary, and one simply cannot reach the position of Chairman of the Board of a major branch of Gringotts PLC without being careful almost to the point of paranoia.
He checked the monitoring display beneath his desk (positioned to be visible if he glanced in the direction of his lap) and, as Blackblade had indicated, immediately saw that the human woman the young Lieutenant was ushering was indeed under the effects of Polyjuice; that was the only thing that would cause the security systems to colour the dot indicating her position yellow.
"Madam," Shatteraxe said, raising the lovingly-maintained antique Winchester M1897 pump-action shotgun he kept beneath his desk; this he aimed at the woman's forehead as he cocked the action, "Whoever you are, I cannot say I appreciate being approached by persons utilising Polyjuice to conceal their identities; you have approximately thirty seconds to explain yourself before your head parts company from your shoulders." There was the click of a sub-machine gun's safety coming off as Blackblade smartly placed the business end of her MP-5 against the side of the woman's head.
"A moment, Chairman Shatteraxe." the woman said, glancing at the timer she'd just withdrawn from beneath her robes. "The dose should be wearing off right... about... now."
Shatteraxe raised an eyebrow as she reverted to her true self; the shotgun didn't waver one inch.
"Director Amelia Bones?" he said. "I still require an explanation, and it had better be a good one. Lieutenant Blackblade, you are dismissed."
"As you can probably imagine," the Director of Magical Law Enforcement dryly replied as the young goblin officer withdrew, "If I am to be able to meet with persons, such as yourself, that my 'bosses' see as an enemy, there are certain hoops that must be jumped through; thus this little, shall we say, charade. If you were to ask, as an example, Minister Fudge, he would be under the impression I was currently in my office, conducting an important security briefing with the leading officers of two of my Auror teams, and have instructed that I am not to be disturbed for any reason less than the emergence of a new Dark Lord."
"And your purpose for springing this, this 'meeting' on me?" The shotgun still didn't waver.
"As of 0200 hours today, Dolohov's auction house is a smoking hole in the ground." Amelia told him.
"That much is a matter of public record. And your point is?"
"I lost five good officers on that operation."
"It is a matter of public record that you lost sixteen."
"Only five of them were good officers. The rest... lapdogs and moles for Fudge, and via him the industrialists who're spreading shit like that damned auction house all over my country. They were traitors, and traitors die."
"I assume you have a proposal?"
"Correct. I'm aware that you've been smuggling 'servants' who have run away from their 'employers' and are 'in violation of contract', out of Europe via the Hogsmeade trains, Chairman; 'sadly' all related evidence appears to have gone missing." She placed a standard DMLE evidence wallet on Shatteraxe's desk. "These are the only copies; the officers investigating were 'tragically' killed in the line of duty during the raid on Dolohov's auction house; likewise, all records of their investigation seem to have 'gone missing'. But I digress; I want those."
And she pointed firmly at the shotgun.
Shatteraxe once again raised an eyebrow.
"Oh? And for what?"
"Because my officers have recently come into a glut of evidence and related leads concerning the activities of the criminal slave-trading Syndicate, and I fully intend to see those bastards permanently locked away in the deepest, darkest hole I can find – and the ringleaders killed while 'resisting arrest'. There's a change coming, Chairman. I can feel it in the air. Surely your people have noticed the precipitous climb in the strength of our world's magic; surely your people have taken note of the spiralling numbers of muggle-born births. If those increases continue at this level, the Statue of Secrecy is done for, and all Hell is about to break loose. I intend to use that opportunity to kick over every rock, shine light into every dark corner, leave no stone unturned – to make Wizarding Britain a nation I can be proud to call my homeland. And to do that I will need to overpower the industrialists. I could fight fire with fire – but the Killing Curse has unfortunate implications and is, frankly, politically impossible. That means I need a way to make the bastards just as dead as an Avada Kedavera without having my lads start slinging Unforgiveables around. Consider that a wizard shot in the face with a rifle is just as dead as a wizard hit with the Killing Curse, and that the rifle isn't nearly such a political or metaphysical quagmire,"
"I was under the impression that the ICW had declared firearms to be Dark artefacts?"
"Indeed they have, but where the Boy-Who-Lived goes the masses follow, and his routinely carrying a rifle – supplied, I gather, by your people – while loudly and insistently declaring it's worth and noble purpose has caused a certain, ah, renaissance in the public image firearms possess within the Wizarding World. Frankly, the moment the Boy-Who-Lived began publicly carrying one of those Lee-Enfield rifles your people so love was the moment that said rifle became the armament of a hero within the mind of the Wizarding public; the declaration in question is looking a little shoddy and I am given to understand Dumbledore is working to have it quietly overturned and forgotten about."
"I see... You're aware that there will be a significant sum of money involved? Firearms do not grow on trees, and nor does ammunition." Shatteraxe said, returning the shotgun to it's place under his desk; he would not believe what she was saying until he'd had it verified, but it seemed most definitely worth paying attention.
"Of course; fortunately, my officers have recently come into a substantial quantity of used unmarked Galleons with a striking lack of tracking charms."
Shatteraxe stared at her for a long moment, and then let out a bark of laughter.
"You're telling me you intend to use the Syndicate's seized funds to tool up and take them out?"
"I believe we understand one another, Chairman."
"Very well." Shatteraxe rang a small bell twice; a pair of uniformed orderlies immediately entered the room. "Lieutenant Tallfellow, have this," and he indicated the evidence bag, "Taken to our operations department for verification; if it checks out, they are to place it in our most secure classified materials vault."
"Yes Sir, Mr Chairman Sir." one orderly said with a bow, scooped up the evidence bag, and scurried out, giving Amelia an odd look as he passed.
"And, Madam Bones, a word before you go?" Shatteraxe continued.
"I'm listening, Chairman."
"Shotguns and semi-automatic handguns," the elderly goblin growled, "The weapons I am willing to provide to you, are short-ranged if quite sufficient for policing work; we have weapons in our arsenal, weapons that cannot be seen or heard coming, with effective ranges measured in miles. If you attempt to double-cross us, if you attempt to storm Gringotts or any of our other facilities using these weapons, you will fail, your operatives will die, and we will retaliate with overwhelming force; we will destroy you. The Goblin Nation has not been dominated by foreign rulers such as yourself in almost a century and we shall never again allow ourselves to be subjugated. Is that clear?"
"Good. A profitable day to you, Director Bones." Shatteraxe turned to the second orderly, who had been waiting attentively. "Lieutenant Hackbutte, Madam Bones here wishes to arrange the purchase of small arms suitable for law-enforcement usage; show her to see our quartermasters at her soonest convenience. They are to demonstrate a number of current-production combat shotguns and semi-automatic handguns to her for evaluation purpose; I believe a demonstration of current forced-entry techniques would be in order. Quartermaster Corps are authorised to arrange the sale of up to fifty shotguns and two hundred handguns to her, and to arrange the supply of sundry related training, munitions, and accessories."
"Yes Sir, Mr Chairman Sir." the second orderly said with a bow. "Director Bones, if you would accompany me?"
"Very well; a profitable day to you, Chairman Shatteraxe." and Amelia stood and followed Lieutenant Hackbutte out.
Shatteraxe watched her go, spent a moment carefully clearing and stowing his shotgun, and then rang the bell again; Blackblade appeared at once.
"Lieutenant Blackblade, bring me the surveillance and financial records on Madam Amelia Bones of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and see to it that surveillance efforts on her are redoubled."
"Yes Sir, Mr Chairman Sir."
Shatteraxe spent a few moments in silent contemplation, then rose to his feet and walked over to a concealed cabinet; this he opened.
Within was the most secure communications link in the London branch of Gringotts; he spent a moment considering it, and then tapped out a priority message in Or'zet on the Morse sender.
With that done, he returned to his seat, rang a bell, ordered himself a nice cup of tea, and sat to wait for a reply.
In a few short hours, the Grand Board of Directors of Gringotts PLC would be meeting ahead of schedule as per his request. Events were, as his assistant Vice-Chairman Slackhammer had postulated (he had to think of a suitable reward for Slackhammer, that youngster would go far if he didn't get his head blown off) now moving very, very fast indeed. A repeal of the status of firearms as Dark Artefacts would trip off an avalanche beginning in Gringotts, continuing in the Americas and Africa, and eventually coming to a rest on the pureblood-supremacists' craniums. If the old legends were indeed coming true as Bones had hinted, as the fading aches in Shatteraxe's joints hinted, as the way he felt more alive than he had in decades hinted, nothing would ever be the same again.
"Three... two... one... GO!"
Matt Weasley mashed his thumb down on the ward trigger; there was a dull crackTHRUMM as the ward network they'd slipped into the Crabbe manor grounds ignited, blue flashes at the distributed ward-stone positions signalling the net coming up; before the spots had faded out of the corners of their eyes, Team Two were racing across the lawn in a tight knot with the prepped ward-buster between them and spells searing against the manor's ancient wards from where teams Five and Three were providing a little fire support, and then the ward-breaker's head smashed against the wards and THWAM!
Matt knew how it worked. The black powder charge at the back of the ward-breaker, set off by the head impacting something (such as a ward line) drove a piston forwards, compressing a volatile ward-cracking potion. Forced down the thin tube through the head of the ward-breaker under immense pressure, the ward-cracking potion would be projected into the wards in a narrow jet strong enough to bore a hole in stone.
Downside was that the potion had to be tailored to the ward, and to do that you had to be able to properly examine the ward. That was easy enough on a shell ward like the Crabbe Manor wards; on a volumetric ward like at, say, Hogwarts it would be a Herculean task. The potion was a fresh batch, tailored to the specifications they'd learned when they reconnoitred Crabbe Manor the previous night, and it did it's job perfectly. There was a dull thump somewhere in the guts of Crabbe Manor as the ward-core explosively overloaded; the wards pulsed once, twice, and shattered like glass.
The drop wasn't showy. Just a three-axle lorry pulling up at a loading dock in a run-down part of London, and a number of pallets wrapped in black plastic and marked with gnostic delivery labels being wheeled on a hand-operated pallet truck into the warehouse the loading dock stood at the front of; a delivery note was signed, and the driver climbed back into his vehicle and left.
Inside the warehouse, a group of stone-faced men and women began stripping the pallets down, revealing that their contents were quite a bit less innocent than they had appeared – beneath the shroud of black cling-wrap and the uninformative address labels were ominous wooden or plastic boxes, stencilled with cryptic part numbers and the words 'MOSSBERG' or 'GLOCK' – while further pallets contained what anyone who'd worked around firearms would immediately recognise as cases of ammunition.
After a few minutes, once the boxes had been removed from the pallets and sorted into stacks, a pair of short, uniformed figures with pointed ears, brownish skin, craggy faces and overly large teeth entered from a back room along with a middle-aged human woman clad entirely in black; the varied humans who'd been unloading the pallets immediately turned their attention to the woman.
"Alright, lads." she said. "These two chaps are Sergeant-Major Hooktalon and Colour Sergeant Griphook. They're going to run you through the operation and safe handling of our new weapons, and after that it'll be time for practise runs."
She slammed one of the wooden boxes open, and lifted out a Mossberg 590 pump-action shotgun.
"Chief, we're getting our own guns?" Shack asked, downright stunned.
"Damn right, Kingsley." Amelia growled. "The bastards who've been shitting all over our country can't defend against these things; we're going to stomp them into the dirt."
"Oh boy, looks like Christmas came early this year!" Auror Trussel said with a big grin.
Hooktalon let out a bark of laughter. "HA! That's the spirit!
The first thing the Department of Magical Law Enforcement knew of the arrival of Hurricane Harry was a roar of "WHERE. IS. HERMIONE?" in a voice a bit like an exceptionally angry blast furnace.
Then the door to the DMLA offices flew off it's hinges, admitting the most unutterably incensed and threatening preteen boy that anyone in the main office floor had ever seen.
The last time Harry had come here, he had been on the short side of four and a half feet tall, looking more like an eight or nine year old, or a short ten year old, than his true age.
Somehow, he had in the last eight and a bit months put on nearly a foot of height and a couple stone of solid muscle; the fact that he was dressed in muggle clothing (jeans, hiking boots, and a tank-top with a complex print of some sort of dragon on the front) merely served to accentuate the fact that, aside from his boyish face, he now looked more like a short adult than a preteen boy.
And he was so incredibly pissed off that there was very nearly smoke coming out of his ears. The slick electrical feel in the air was getting more and more intense as he came, and loose objects were starting to levitate around him.
He fixed the nearest Auror – Matt Weasley – with a glare that could have slagged a brick wall, hauled his spectacles off revealing that his eyes were currently featureless spheres of gold, and roared "WHERE IS SHE, WHO TOOK HER, AND ARE THEY DEAD YET? BECAUSE IF THEY AIN'T THEY SOON WILL BE!" at the top of his absurdly powerful lungs.
The interview room door flew open so hard it sheared the doorstop off the floor and embedded it's handle in the wall – and an utterly incensed Boy-Who-Lived came storming out, closely followed by the Granger girl, who was almost but not quite clinging to him.
The Aurors had thought he was pissed off when he arrived at the DMLA offices – but, they realised, compared to this he had only been mildly angry.
He marched right up to Madam Bones, somehow seeming to loom over her despite being about a foot shorter.
"The DIRT who thought they could take my Hermione away." he ground out, nose right in the Director's face and voice still that impossibly deep basso profoundo snarl. "They. Are. Dead."
Once the door had got done punctuating his statement by falling off it's hinges, Madam Bones glared back.
"When the case is closed," she informed him, "The culprits will either be dead or a Dementor's breakfast. Count on it."
"Dementor's breakfast?" Harry roared, not moving an inch, "I promised Hermione I'd watch out for her, and I keep my promises! Either they're six foot under or I'll be down on that prison of yours like an atom bomb, I don't care if it's a recorded threat, I'm at the end of my rope!"
"Mr Potter, for as long as I'm Director of the DMLA, I AM the Law. Don't you get yourself involved any further in MY case, boy – Albus sweated to see those bastards' activities made illegal, and those are laws I am damned proud to enforce! The scum who did the leg-work, I'll lock them away in the deepest darkest hole I can find. The ringleaders, once I know who they are, my boys will arm for troll and pump the bastards full of enough blasting hexes to flatten Diagon Alley. You've been involved in this for under a year; I've been fighting this war my entire career. This isn't a simple vendetta, boy, this is my life's work, and I'll thank you not to mess it up!"
The Potter boy started to go red and inflate, but a slim hand on his shoulder stopped him dead in his tracks.
"Harry," the Granger girl said, "Calm down."
... and, just like that, the Potter boy did.
"Hermione, this is important." he said.
"Harry, she IS the police. I know you're big and I know you're powerful and I know you can flatten anything that gets in your way, but she's been fighting this stuff since long before either of us were born – she knows exactly what she's doing and I don't think we should get in her way."
Harry nodded sharply and turned back to Amelia.
"You'd better not let 'em get away with it." he warned. "I want payback, one way or another, and if you don't make sure I get it I'll get the job done myself."
"Mr Potter," Amelia told him, "Some years ago I established four very simple rules in life; rules that I have applied to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement since the beginning of my tenure as Director. The first rule is, suspect everyone. The second rule is, investigate everything. The third rule is, never give up. And the fourth rule is, they put one of mine in Saint Mungo's, I put one of theirs IN THE GROUND! I lost five good officers killed in the line of duty at that damned auction house and I WILL see the bastards pay – tenfold."
Harry nodded grimly. "Good. Just remember, anyone who touched Hermione at all, they're dead. And if you don't do it, I will."
"That's already done and dealt with, son," said the calm voice of Kingsley Shacklebolt as the big Nubian came ambling into the main offices, "Got the snatch team leader with a cutting curse to the throat myself when he took my partner's left eye. One of the flashbangs when off down the back of his pal's robes, torched him on the spot. The other four, one went in the fight Miss Granger put up before they got her – Reducto to the jugular vein – the second tried to put up a fight when Team Six kicked his front door in, Matt took the top of his skull off with a cutting curse, and the third and fourth were at the auction house – someone starts throwing Killing Curses around, we take off the kid gloves, and those two learned that the hard way. And the auctioneer got to play smoochies with the meanest-looking Dementor in Azkaban twelve hours ago. The handlers at the action house... they aren't perps, son, they're vics themselves just like your lass there nearly was. Poor souls didn't even know their own names any more."
"And for your information we have a solid lead on the parties responsible for setting those scum on Miss Granger in the first place." Madam Bones cut in. "And no I will not be telling you who he is, I want to see his degenerate ass in a body-bag in the DMLA morgue with a nice clear pattern of blasting hex strikes on what's left of him, understood?
"You want his dead shot-up body, well I want. His head. On. A pike."
"Sounds mutually compatible to me, Chief." Shacklebolt remarked, amused.
"Hmm. Difficult to organise, but probably possible – we need merely hit him in the throat with a severing curse once we have him down, then arrange to spread a sufficient quantity of cranial matter at the scene." Amelia mused.
"One other thing before you go." Amelia said.
"What?" Harry grumbled.
"Miss Granger," Amelia said, "Quite frankly I would like to see you in law enforcement on your completion of studies at Hogwarts. It's going to take a lot of hard work from dedicated people to make Wizarding Britain into a land I'd be proud to call home, and the more highly accurate spellcasters we've got fighting alongside us the better."
"I'll think about it." Hermione promised.
"What's that all about?" Harry asked Amelia.
"From what we've been able to reconstruct, at eight yards range Miss Granger scored three solid hits out of five spells cast in fifteen seconds, one of them a kill cast. When I say that most LEP officers would have difficulty hitting her cast rate, accuracy, and lethality, I hope you'll grasp how remarkably she performed; she's Auror material. You have a your arm around a genuine spellcasting prodigy's shoulders, Mr Potter; you'd better take good care of her or I'll have your heartstrings for a wand core."
"I didn't want to leave her in Britain when I was overseas in the first place." Harry growled. "But her dad was being a pain in the neck. You think I'm ever letting her outta my sight again, you've got another think coming."
"You're a right possessive twit sometimes, Harry."
"Dead right! You're MY Hermione and I'm keeping you, so anyone else wants a Hermione they can find their own!"
McGonagall gave Amelia a sharp look.
"Madam Bones," she said, "Have you ever heard the saying about being in a room with a sleeping dragon?"
"When in a room with a sleeping dragon it is very important to remember that when the dragon wakes it is going to be one angry dragon." Amelia replied, slightly affronted that McGonagall might possibly think she didn't know any variant of the ancient Wizarding proverb that had given Hogwarts it's motto.
McGonagall glanced in the direction that Harry had gone.
"Well then," she said, turning to go, "You'll understand what I'm talking about when I tell you that the pureblood industrialists are about to discover that they have woken a dragon."
Amelia thought back to the legillimencer's report on Miss Granger, and let out a dry laugh.
"You have a point there; it's turning out to be an interesting decade indeed."
Amelia thoughtfully returned her monocle to it's place.
"Well." she said.
"Well what, Chief?" Hayes asked.
"Well I suppose I owe my niece an apology; it seems Potter hadn't pulled any wool over anyone's eyes."
"So it's not just me thinks we had the wrong idea about their, uh, relationship, from the word go, right Chief?" Matt Weasley checked.
Amelia suppressed the slight smile. "Frankly, Matthew, I get the feeling we were interviewing the next Lady Potter."
Rupert Hayes whistled quietly. "Damn. Hell of a way to protect her."
"It's original, I'll grant you that." Amelia agreed.
"Yes; taking something intended to subjugate..." Shack drifted off, shaking his head. "What do you bet that even if the Minister forces him to marry a pureblood the Granger girl still bears the heir?"
Amelia glanced around at the various splintered tables, stove-in doors, cracked walls, shattered doorframes, scorch marks and displaced objects Hurricane Harry had left in his wake on the way in, and let out a dry laugh as she once again though about what McMurdo had seen in Hermione's memories.
"Shack," she said, "If Cornelius even dreams of trying it, I get the feeling our following crime scene will involve scraping the Minster's bollocks out of the Minister's earhole." She rose to her feet, slapping her hands together. "Alright, people! Let's get this mess cleared up, and remember, none of this ever happened."
Boy-who-lived or Dragon-who-just-won't-die, he'd already hit the Wizarding World like a bludger on engorgement charms and the DMLA did not need him pissed off at them too – they'd already come far too close for comfort.
After all, the dragon was awake, and now nothing would ever be the same.
Hermione Jane Granger, age just short of thirteen, was in a state roughly approximating shellshock.
She'd been warned – at least, when she thought about it, Snape's acerbic commentary over the previous year had amounted to a warning – but it hadn't sunk in that, once they got going, events would move quite so fast.
Metaphorically speaking, she hadn't had the chance to catch her breath since the kidnappers had Reductoed her family's front door in. She'd been struggling to get her head around what was happening since the first spell flew, and she still hadn't managed the trick.
First the kidnap, then the surreal haze that was the twenty-four hours she'd spent as a prisoner in the now-rubble Crabbe Manor, then that auction, then hours of cross-examination at the receiving end of the DMLE, then Harry had come literally crashing back into her life and swept her headlong back up into the whirlwind – all in all, she was glad to be aboard the sparsely-populated passenger carriage behind the locomotive of the Hogsmeade train, sat in a compartment accompanied only by Harry, who was fixing her with a concerned gaze.
They were taking the train a day early; the Hogwarts Express would be running tomorrow, and she was surprised both by the presence of this day-early mostly-freight train and that Harry had escorted her in via what was, apparently, the employee's entrance with the scant few people around them greeting him with variants of 'Morning, Boss.'
"... You own the Hogwarts Express." she finally said.
"Well yeah," Harry admitted with a shrug, "I bought Hogs Haulage just before that whole thing with the troll and my employees have known I own the company since the company Christmas party."
"Well first off it's profitable, and second off I've figured out how to make it more profitable, and third off, well, I kinda like trains, okay? I mean look around you, look at this stuff. Isn't it cool? And y'know being able to say, 'yeah, this is my train', is REALLY cool."
"You bought the freaking Hogwarts Express because you wanted to play with trains?"
"Well, yeah. Y'know when Dudley was six he got a train set for his birthday. He smashed it straight off of course but... I really wanted one of them and I never could, and since I'm dragon-sized now and I've got more money than I know what to do with I thought I'd get me a dragon-size train set, right?"
"It's not a toy, Harry."
"Mrs McGonagall says the only difference between men and boys is the size and expense of their toys but she's wrong. If it was just a toy it wouldn't be nearly so cool; I mean trains are pretty cool anyway and if they're doing real stuff they're even cooler." Harry ran his hand down the worn, fingerprint-stained wood of the window frame. "This is way older'n either of us, Hermione. It's a British Rail Mark One carriage, it was made not so long after the second world war and you can really see all it's history when you look at it, can't you? Imagine how many people have put their hands here before me; isn't that cool? I can't look at it without imagining all the places it's been and all the things it's seen. There coulda been all sorts of people sat where you're sitting, I mean the Queen coulda sat there sometime for all I know – it's, yeah, I love old stuff."
Hermione looked around the compartment in a new light. For the first time, the age of what she was looking at sank in; this was living history. Each slight ding and scrape in the fixtures had an unknown story to tell; if it had possessed a voice, the old carriage could have told her many tales from it's hundred-thousand-mile journey out of the past.
"I suppose." she said.
"And it's mine." Harry told her. "The engine's mine. The tracks here, they're mine. It's all mine, my very own bit of history – my train. Isn't that cool?"
"Yeah... it's pretty cool."
They lapsed into silence and listened to the hissing and bang of buffers as the locomotive backed down onto the train; they could vaguely hear the clanks as the fireman coupled the coaches to the locomotive.
"Harry... how'd this all happen?"
"How'd what all happen?"
"This thing with people attacking me, and... and..."
"It happened because people don't know that if they mess with you they've gotta deal with me. I shoulda done this a while back, but..."
Harry stood up and started fishing around in one of the varied shopping bags – the one he'd picked up at the bank.
Finally, he came out with a plain and unadorned brown corrugated cardboard box, marked only with a number scrawled on with a fat black marker.
This he placed on the seat beside Hermione before sitting back down the other side of it.
"Hermione," he said, "I've been thinking about this real hard since I found out you were missing. You remember that stuff Mr Snape was saying about marks and such just after we registered you as mine?"
"There's hardly a day I'm not trying to get my head around it."
"Well I could say the same, Hermione, but from another angle... Hermione, if anyone messes you around they are dead. End of story. The, the, the sassenach bastards who thought they could take my Hermione away, maybe they don't know it yet but they were dead the moment they laid eyes on you. And if they're very very lucky they won't have to live to regret it first. Thing is, I reckon I oughtta give people who've got the brains to look some sorta warning that they oughtn't to mess with you and, well..."
"And you want to Mark me, right?"
By way of an answer, Harry nodded and opened the box; the distant scream of the guard's whistle served as an understroke.
It contained a very familiar collar – familiar because Suze had a completely identical one around her neck.
"Yes." he said, picking up the collar.
Hermione thought about it. She thought about it long and hard.
And then, punctuated by the great hiss of high-pressure steam from up front as the driver, Mr McIver, started the train for Hogsmeade, she pushed her hair back out the way and said, "Well go on then."
-/- End 'Chapter'. -/-
Well, there's major holes as yet. Needs more about the DMLA and Gringotts; Ron needs more screen-time, as does Neville; I need to work out how to write the professors working out what happened at Avebury which is going to be tricky as I'm going to have to invent pseudo-science; there needs to be more industrialism and I need some hard figures around the money in the early-90's computer business... lots left to do here.
1 – British locomotive horns have a very different (and definitely very British) character to those used in the US; instead of the strident 'Getouttatheway!' blare from an American loco, it's a sort of languid 'be Aware!' twin-tone 'ba-Deep' noise. You know the British reputation for politeness? It's to the point that even our freight trains are polite...
2 – 'Ess Em Ell Ee' and 'Ess Ell Ar' are both phonetic pronunciation of acronyms. The former refers to the Rifle, Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield Mark III aka SMLE, while the latter refers (in this case) to the L1A1 Self Loading Rifle (and not a Single Lens Reflex camera.)
The SMLE MkIII is the bolt-action rifle frequently toted by Harry in this fic; Suze usually carries an L1A1 SLR. Both are former British Army service rifles.
3 – 'Unprototypical' is the term used by railfans (certainly in Britain) to refer to anything either 'incorrect' or 'not proper' concerning preserved or restored railway equipment and/or models. It's something railfans who're taking it all way too seriously tut-tut about.
I know this as I have had a 'thing' about trains since before I can remember; a Class 37 may look small to people used to Yank metal, but as a little boy that grumbling behemoth was the most awe-inspiring thing that'd ever towered over me.
Oh, and if anyone was wondering about the comments about the Hogwarts Express paint-job, including Harry's remark about the Black Five looking like it should be black in the previous 'chapter', this is a railfan in-joke based around the loco used to haul the Hogwarts Express in the films; a GWR 'Hall' class, which should by all rights be Great Western green and named Otton Hall.
(Should've used something LMS if they wanted crimson...)
4 – 'Sassenach' roughly means 'English' as 'Enemy' and is not a pleasant thing to call someone; it's fighting talk. 'Pish' is, IIRC, roughly 'Cunt' in Scots Gaelic and is used similar to 'Shit' in phrases such as 'Yer drivvelin' a load o' pish' (Rough translation: 'You're babbling a load of cunt.')
Neither word is fit for polite company. Harry is vaguely aware of this due to the context in which he's heard McG use these words, and only uses them when he thinks what he's talking about deserves it. No he doesn't know what they mean.
5 – Flatsurfaceitis: A malady suffered by any area in which a child of any age (or anyone who didn't get around to growing up) spends a lot of his or her time. It's easy to identify a place with Flatsurfaceitis as any flat surface will be mostly or completely covered in random clobber – and who, exactly, is going to tell an immature multi-ton dragon who's got a Dursley-imparted pathological dislike of housework to tidy his lair? Well, apart from Hermione that is, but she's got damsel privileges.
6 – Translation: "The both of you idiots cool down right the now!"
7 – Translation: "And you can cool it or you can take your backside right the fuck down the castle, you bloody old man!"
Note that 'Teuchter' is Scots Gaelic and roughly translates as 'old man', but the translation doesn't hold the full meaning of the word; it carries connotations of a hidebound old fart and is mostly used to refer to Wester Ross or Outer Isles yokels.
8 – Translation: "And you to, boy! Quit your babbling on and act like a responsible dragon for a change or I'll have to give you a good slap round your ear!"
9 – Translation: "Good."
10 – Translation: "You big idiot."
I was forwarded the recording of which the following is a transcript, from Harry care of Gringotts, with the request that I pass it on to you;
(Crunching noise; long pause)
Gruff adult male: Is this thing doing what it is meant for?
Preteen boy: Yes, see, that red light means it's recording.
Gruff adult male: Hrrmph. Whatever that might mean. Hmph.
Preteen boy: It means you can say your message now, Mr Bane.
Gruff adult male: Ah, I see... (throat-clearing) I am Bane son of Magorian of the Black Woods Clan, and I intend this message for the, the, the human VERMIN that dares to compare me to a mere HORSE!
(Pause, indecipherable but foul-sounding muttering, heavy breathing)
Gruff adult male: Get this through your thick human skull, you, you HUMAN you! Centaurs do not in any way resemble a mere beast of burden! We most assuredly DO NOT trot, nor do we canter, and we most definitely do not gallop! We walk, we run, and if the situation gives us cause we might perchance sprint! We have neither fetlocks nor flanks and we most assuredly do not have a coat of accursed horsehair – it is FUR! HRMPH! We are not a mish-mash of mere horse and mere man, we are noble and magnificent warriors who deserve your every ounce of respect and in fact AWE! And it is you and those, those, those equine pets of yours that have the wrong number of limbs! HRRMPH!
Preteen boy: Yeah, six is right since, y'know, dragons have two legs, two arms, and two wings, and that's six. Toldja centaurs are cool!
Preteen girl: Are you two clots quite done yet?
Preteen boy: Hermione, it's important. That nasty dude was disrepectifricating my centaur friends and that just ain't proper. Next he'll be saying dragons are baddies, just you wait.
Gruff adult male: Hrrmph!
Preteen girl: Clots.
(Sound of someone taking a deep breath)
Gruff adult male: Human, I am centaur and I am proud to be centaur; I have tasted perfection in the winds that blow from across the ocean that spreads before my home and in the rumble of thunder deep within the mountains behind. You have little or no idea of what it is to be centaur – to know that you are the perfect fusion of grace and strength, to be the hunter without parallel, to be at one with the world as she wraps her bounty around you – you call the stars themselves mere balls of some form of fire.
Preteen girl (interrupting): But they-
Gruff adult male (ignoring interruption): And I care not what the Great Wyrm's pet might say on that subject; she is, when all is said and done, merely human thus surely misinformed, not to mention female and therefore quite silly, and a child thus likely foolish.
Preteen girl (annoyed): You- you- you- you sexist twit!
Gruff adult male: Do not think to tell me what terms I should use to speak of myself and my kin, human; I am scion of a people whose history was long and glorious aeons before those horse words of yours were first invented, and you would do well to remember this.
(Long pause; rustling, sound of shifting feet, preteen girl muttering darkly)
Gruff adult male (dubious): How does one turn this accursed device off?
Preteen girl: Well, you push the button that has stop written on it.
Gruff adult male (annoyed): If I could decipher that wretched scribble you humans call a futhark this exercise would be unnecessary!
Preteen boy: You press the red bit thataway, Mr Bane.
Gruff adult male: Ah, I see.
(Loud click, cut to halfway through a Ned's Atomic Dustbin track.)
Anyway, that's about as much as I have of this for now.
Chapter 3: To Run with the Dragon.
(In which our outsize reptile very determinedly changes everything.)
Locomotive number 5972 Olton Hall, a GWR 4900-class 4-6-0, was barely idling as she pounded down the hill from Glenfinnan towards Hogsmeade.
Although painted a most unprototypical maroon, she was unmistakable to any fan of the GWR; there is a certain cast to any locomotive of the Great Western Railway, a cast matched by none, and if you know what to look for you can tell a Great Western locomotive at a glance, no matter how horribly improper a paint job has been applied to her.
That's not to say that 5972 looked bad in maroon; she was a handsome locomotive and she'd have looked good in any colour, but a Great Western locomotive should by all rights be Brunswick green, and if you thought the detractors had complained about a Black Five being painted red they had nothing on the horrified howls from those fans of the Great Western who had seen 5972's Hogs Haulage livery.
After all, to those few she wasn't just a big old lump of metal; she was a carefully-preserved half-century-and-change-year-old piece of history, and to the people who knew to appreciate her for what she was one might as well respray the Mona Lisa.
Slinging a load of mixed traffic on the back of her was exactly what she was meant for. From the day back in 1937 she'd first rolled out of Swindon Works she'd hauled a mix of freight and passengers, and today was no exception.
"Hello Mr Dragon, I'm Luna Lovegood. Please don't devour me." the little blonde politely requested.
"That," said an entirely unexpected voice, "Is far enough."
Lucius turned his head to sneer, and froze as he found himself looking down an 18.53-mm calibre metal pipe.
Lucius Malfoy was one of the handful of people not Ministry personnel who'd seen the Ministry briefing on firearms; thus, when he found himself with a riot shotgun levelled at the bridge of his nose by a certain currently-pink-haired disowned relative of his, he knew precisely what would happen if Acting-Constable Tonks fired the slug she'd just chambered into the thing.
"What is the meaning of this?" Two full Aurors – the wog and some sort of Weasley from his hair colour – were patting him down, relieving him of his wand and his cane.
"Remember when the Carrows killed the director of the DMLA? 1973 I think it was, back when I was a raw recruit, shortly after you joined the Death Eaters," came the deeply satisfied-sounding voice of Amelia Bones as the jumped-up bitch emerged into the front half of her office, "You may have overlooked the resulting legislation but the moment you walked through that door Cornelius's rules stopped applying and -mine- took over. And we both know you bought your way out of a Dementor's Kiss, Lucius Alphonse Malfoy."
"Is your company," the Prime Minister said, "Proposing to purchase British Rail, lock stock and barrel, Mr McMurdo?"
"Indeed." McMurdo confirmed with a nod.
"And why would that be beneficial to the public?" the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked.
"My employers believe the current proposal would lead to rapid inflation of ticket prices." McMurdo told him. "The current model proposes rail infrastructure being owned by one company and maintained by another with scheduling space rented to train operating companies who hire rolling stock from further companies – each taking their bite of profit and thus increasing the prices paid by travellers. Considering the current growth of low-cost air travel, my employer can easily see this leading to the situation where it is cheaper to fly from, say, Manchester to London than it is to take the train – and one can immediately imagine the environmental impact."
The discussion lasted hours, but eventually boiled down to two words, said by an increasingly irritated Ian McMurdo;
"I beg your pardon?" the Prime Minister asked.
"My employer wishes to purchase one slightly used rail network, Mr Prime Minster, and has instructed that I ask you to name Britain's price."
The Prime Minster and the Chancellor of the Exchequer glanced at each other.
"Well, Mr McMurdo," said the Prime Minister, "Now you're talking my language."
"Congratulations, Mr Potter." the suit-clad man said, his voice carrying despite him talking quietly.
"They sold, right Ian?" Harry said.
The man, now identified as Ian, nodded, smiling.
"Indeed." he said. "As of 1400 hours today, you are now the outright owner of British Rail."
Every muggle-born jaw in the Hufflepuff common room dropped in perfect unison.
"Good." Harry said with a nod and smile. "What's the status on the ten-year plan?"
"Everything's in place; we're ready to proceed at your word."
Harry nodded again, smile widening.
"Make it so." he declared, making Hermione realise he'd been watching Star Trek over her shoulder.
"What was that about?" Hermione asked, still not quite able to believe what she'd been hearing.
"Well Professor Snape and me invented some things, right, and it turns out they're worth a LOT of money in the muggle world." he said.
"Yeah? What are they?"
"Well first off, have you heard of the Shuttle Thermal Protection Improvement Program?"
"Isn't that the new skin NASA were putting on their Space Shuttles, oh, about two, three years ago? Some sort of fancy kinetic-resistant lightweight polymer that acts as a heat shield as effective as the silicate materials they used to use? I read about that in the National Geographic a few months before I got my Hogwarts letter." Hermione said.
"Yeah, well me and Professor Snape invented that material." Harry proudly explained. "And, well, I dunno if you've heard of SSP Conductor Solutions but anyway me and Professor Snape invented Lightning Wire."
There was a crash from where one of the Puff first-years had just fallen off his chair; he scrambled to his feet with a yell of "Oh my GOD you mean YOU'RE the superconductor people?"
"Yup." Harry said with a nod.
"Oh wow! Hi, I'm Steve, Steve Murchison, my dad's an electrical engineer for the Hydro Board and half the time he's cursing that stuff, the rest of the time he's cackling with glee about all the things he can do with it."
Harry nodded seriously. "Yeah, the first thing we looked into was faster computers but that'll take a lot of engineering and long-distance power transmission was an obvious immediate application." He turned back to Hermione, angling himself to include Steve in the conversation. "Anyway the muggle government were more-or-less broke and had a railway network they were talking about selling off in dribs and drabs. Now I have a railway network and the government isn't broke any more."
"... you seriously bought British Rail?"
"I seriously bought British Rail."
"That's completely crazy."
"No it's not and I've already figured out how to make things really competitive – that's why I bought out six haulage companies and British Leyland. See, containerised goods are trucked all over Britain, and when you're dealing with containerised goods or even better unit freight a train is way more cost-effective than the hundreds of lorries it'd take to haul the same number of containers. A few mergers in the right places, Hermione, and I will be the king of freight transport in Britain. In fact I already have been since two o'clock, it's just nobody's realised it yet."
"Are you going to drive the other truck companies out of business?"
"Of course not, that'd be a monopoly and those are illegal. Buut if they want to stay competitive, before long they'll have to ship containerised goods by rail anyway to avoid me completely undercutting them and that way they'll be paying me to send their freight on my trains – so I win anyway. Don't look at me like that, it's not like I'm taking over palletised freight transport yet."
Hermione blinked a few times.
"I'll wait for the fuel prices to start sky-rocketing when the oil runs out to do that," Harry continued, "And by then the ten-year infrastructure improvement plan will be complete. Railways as we know them were invented in Britain; I think it's high time this country had a truly modern network and I've got the money to foot the bill."
"... huh." Hermione said.
Harry looked smug.
"You just want to play with trains, don't you Harry?"
"Well... that too."
"What in Merlin's name are you doing?" Myrtle complained.
Harry didn't answer for a moment, instead continuing to gingerly lever tiles off the wall of her cubicle with the wrecking bar, the pixies neatly catching each tile and handing them to Suze, who stacked them in her saddle-bags.
"Thought I'd – urgh – do you a. Favour." Harry said, wrenching more tiles off.
"Favour? You're wrecking my toilet!" Myrtle was starting to sound more and more upset about this.
"No I'm not, I'm just refurbishing it." Harry told her. "Look, Hermione's been reading about how ghosts work, right, and a ghost who's haunting someplace can't go anyplace else, right?"
"What's that got to-do with WRECKING my toilet?!"
"I'm just taking the tiles off! I'll put new ones on, promise! They've gotta come off because they're part of what you're haunting so anyplace there's one of these tiles you can go and I figured you'd gotta be getting really bored stuck in here and the pipes all the time!"
Myrtle skidded to a halt mid-moan.
"... what?" she asked.
"Well if I stick one of these up in my lair and one up in every museum and exhibition centre in Britain then you're haunting all the interesting places as well as the toilet." Harry told her. "And there's plenty enough tiles to go round especially if we cut them into really small pieces because even if you chop up the something a ghost's haunting the something's still haunted."
"... are you sure it'll work?" Myrtle asked.
"Sure I am! It's been done." Harry said with a shrug. "That's how the ghosts from Camelot can be all over England, it's because Camelot was smashed into pebbles then bits buried in every corner of every county in England."
"Really?" the ghost girl squeaked.
"Yeah, it's simple stuff." Harry firmly told her.
"Can you put pieces all over the world?" Myrtle begged. "It's just I always wanted to travel, but I died before I could..."
"Sure I can, I'll make sure there's bits go anywhere interesting I see!" Harry declared. "And I'll try to make sure they don't get thrown in rubbish dumps or washed down rivers into the sea or anything, I'm pretty sure if you put a bit of something a ghost's haunting into the concrete for a building's foundations then the ghost'll be haunting that whole building and... hey, I just had a good idea."
"What sort of idea?"
"How'd you like to be able to haunt the roads?"
"Roads aren't very interesting, Harry."
"Maybe, but they go everywhere in the world and everyone goes on them. And who's to say what is and isn't a bit of a road?"
Myrtle considered that for a long moment.
"Harry," she said, "You're the best friend a dead girl could possibly have."
By way of a reply, Harry gave her a big grin and a thumbs-up, and resumed levering tiles off the wall.
"Mr Potter, I am quite insane," Odd said, not seeming particularly concerned, "I have it on good authority that if my partner had arrived a minute later I would be in the bed next to Frank Longbottom; I can assure you that I have more nartwurblers in my belfry than even Albus Dumbledore, I would say I am off my trolley but I've never had a trolley in the first place. As you can imagine this leaves me, uh, less than suited to raise any child – unfortunately I doubt anyone would adopt Luna given her, ah, unique personality – which is, I note, my fault – leaving the only available alternative the poorhouse and that I strongly suspect would be even worse for her than I am. And, well, to cut a long story short I have reason to believe I am getting worse as time goes by, so I was rather happy to hear you've been, well, taking her under your wing, so to speak, and I was wondering if..." He drifted off.
"If what?" Harry asked, still wary of Odd.
"If we'd be able to come to some sort of an, ah, a more permanent arrangement? You're good for her, you see.
-/-In the interim between what's been posted here of the end of ch2 and the beginning of this sequence, several critical events have taken place.-/-
Prior to the beginning of second year and thus within the as-yet unwritten fragments of ch2, Harry had a chance encounter with a certain basilisk in the Forest, proved completely immune to basilisk stare and venom, and declared char-grilled basilisk to be 'spicy'.
On the train at the beginning of second year, Harry found himself approached by Luna Lovegood who, acting on her father's advice, politely asked him not to devour her; this fully introduces Luna's plot-thread as it extends into hints about there being something seriously wrong with her. Her alienation from Ravenclaw is rapid and total as she is severely shellshocked and has an unfortunate tendency to freak out and start trying to scratch people's eyes out without warning.
Amelia and company have continued their case, catching up with Lucius and Narcissa; Lucius is dead of a shotgun blast to the upper chest, with his head piked outside Harry's lair, Narcissa is in hiding, and Draco has been made a ward of the MoM until his majority.
Harry's business empire continues to expand, with him ploughing chunks of his profits from early superconductor sales into outright purchasing British Rail, several haulage concerns, Eurotunnel, and British Leyland, admitting in the Hufflepuff common room that this is because he 'wants to play with trains'; massive survey projects are in progress all over Harry's new 'train set'.
Ron's status at Hogwarts has continued to grow as, instigated by Snape, he receives combat and discipline training from certain goblins; he ploughs the results into becoming a combination protector and arbitrator for the lower years of Hogwarts students, reacting explosively when 'his' Firsties are threatened and aided and abetted by many of the midddle-year Gryffs; he is developing abilities roughly analogical to a Shadowrun physical adept.
Hermione is continuing to demonstrate herself as A) an extremely capable student and B) a spellcasting prodigy, even as the restoration of her parents' lost memories continue; it transpires that she was carried and born in a certain village called Avebury in a house less than fifty feet from the heart of the ley-line node. Her parents' memory recovery progress forms a sub-thread of the DMLA and Hermione plot threads, with scenes showing a snapshot version of her childhood, including the difficulty her parents had conceiving her and the time Sharon spent pregnant with her.
Harry chances on Tom Riddle's diary in Moaning Myrtle's toilet during the first time Ginny opens the Chamber of Secrets and, being ravenously hungry, eats it. Horacrux proves to cause dragon gas.
Aurora's continued examination of readings of the ley-line nodes shows that the nodes at Pike's Peak and Ayer's Rock are in danger of detonation; the gang decide to travel first to Denver, then to Oz, releasing each in turn; once again, they go by muggle means, doing so during the Hogwarts Christmas break.
-/-Harry & company have just released the Pike's Peak node. Cut to...-/-
Somewhere startlingly close, in a well-hidden place, an immense eye opened and flicked around, quickly examining it's surroundings.
"That does it; what's a wyrm got to do to get some sleep around here?" an incredibly deep voice rumbled, in a rolling language that hadn't been heard anywhere else in thousands of years, and the owner of the voice heaved himself sluggishly half-upright, irritatedly peering around the cavern in which he had lain for untold centuries as he rubbed the last of the sleep-fog out of his eyes with one titanic forepaw.
He spent a few moments ensuring that everything around him was in it's place, and then selected a finely-made scrying dish.
"It is time to uncover what is causing that din." he muttered, and yawned hugely.
He was still bone-tired, but he had a bad feeling about those bangs and about the fact he could now summon the energy to move.
This was early. Too early.
And if something happens three times, it isn't a coincidence.
-/-A message reading, 'Good morning world; you're up early. Welcome back; play nice.' is crossposted to myriad Usenet newsgroups under the username 'Saeletra' from a webcafe in Houston; scene with the Great Dragon Ryumyo being seen over Japan; Harry & co travel by airliner to Australia, on their way to release the Ayer's Rock node. Meanwhile, lagging behind their flight for various reasons, an enormous blue dragon has emerged from someplace at Cherry Creek Lake near Denver, showing great fascination with the technology around him, and proceeded to light up every defence grid in his path as he makes a beeline for Oz; scenes with Wizarding panic reaction to Ryumyo and Dunkelzahn's emergences. Further scenes exploring how it's just too damn late for the ICW as Celedyr, Rhonabwy, Lofwyr and others wake up; by the time Harry & co's flight lands at Sydney, the Sixth World isn't just the future, the Sixth World is NOW. Having Portkeyed overland from Sydney and driven the final stretch, Harry and company arrive at Ayer's Rock, climb to the top, and proceed on their way to perform the ley-line release, when...-/-
"... Oh boy." Harry said.
"What's wrong with you now?" Snape grumbled.
By way of a reply, the dragon pointed behind his companions, who glanced over their shoulders and then paused.
"Hmm; I'd concur with that." the usually-snarky potions master said, going even paler than usual as he saw the staggeringly massive royal blue dragon that had just got done landing a few hundred yards away from them along the top of Ayers Rock.
It was a behemoth, far bigger than any of them had imagined dragons could possibly become, even given the insane rate of Harry's growth. It's head was easily the size of a smallish bus, it's body almost as long as a medium-size airliner, and they were connected together by prodigious quantities of sinuous neck and extended into a great muscular tail that must have put the beast's overall length way past the nose-to-tail measurements of even a Boeing 747; it dwarfed Harry to the same degree that he dwarfed his human companions.
It had teeth like the ones found on the bucket of a back-hoe loader, talons like something used to snip through trees, it's eyes were bigger than Hermione's head even when you took her bushy hair into account, it's jaws vast enough to swallow a centaur in one bite, and it's scales a gorgeous deep blue almost like a naval uniform or a finely-made gun.
"Hello." Harry said, trotting forwards past the freaked-out others.
"Greetings." the titan said, and everyone noted that, unlike Harry, it's lips didn't move when it spoke. That said, the voice most definitely sounded male.
"Er, hi, if I'm impinging on your territory I apologise but I wasn't aware anyone had a lair around here." Harry earnestly said.
"No, nothing like that, young one. I simply wish to ascertain that you have thought through the ramifications of your current endeavour."
"Well, not really, no." Harry admitted, shrugging. "We haven't worked out what'll happen when we turn enough of those things off," and he patted the ground, "But what we have worked out is that if we don't then sooner or later they'll explode with the force of really huge nuclear bombs and, well, until you showed up I was the only person we knew about who could survive the act of turning them off."
"Indeed." Snape chimed in. "As far as my colleague's calculations show, as far as the destruction of Krakatoa shows, if these, these 'nodes' were to overload, the result would be more than merely cataclysmic; it would in fact be apocalyptic, and I confess that this young man here is as it so happens the only being we know of able to survive the energy that courses through one's body upon releasing one of these 'nodes'."
"I see." the enormous blue dragon said. "And might you perchance have a copy of said calculations with you?"
"Just here." Sinestra instantly chirped up, producing her notebook and hesitantly offering it to the giant dragon.
"Hmm..." he said, critically examining it; it looked insanely tiny hooked between the scythe-like talons of his forepaw. "I confess the system of notations herein are unfamiliar to me; might you be able to humour an old wyrm with an explanation, young lady?"
"Um, sure." she said, and did.
Once she was done, the massive dragon gave her the notebook back, and sat back on his haunches with a sad shake of his head.
"... those fools." he muttered. "I suppose you had better proceed with your plan, then. But be cautious; you risk unleashing things for which this world is unprepared, young ones, and we must ease our world into this if we are to avoid disaster."
"Indeed; that much is immediately apparent." Dumbledore said, inclining his head. "The level of magic within our world has almost doubled in the years since Harry released the pressure upon the node at the village of Avebury; such an increase can but make changes to the world, and thus we are proceeding with this only when we have good reason to believe each is about to explode."
"Hrmph; I suppose that's probably for the best, but I trust you realise that as each node is released the pressure upon the others shall assuredly grow greater."
"That had indeed occurred to us." Dumbledore agreed, nodding. "We are as yet uncertain as to how to avoid an eventual chain reaction of sorts, but we are looking into it with all haste."
"Very well." the behemoth said. "Take care of yourselves, young ones."
He turned to leave.
"Wait!" Harry said.
"What is it?"
"... what kind of dragons are we?"
The titanic dragon considered that.
"We differ in our bloodline, you and I." he finally said. "I confess that though I suspect you are an Iron Dragon I am unsure as I have never had the pleasure to encounter one of your kin before, and your colour is quite different to that I have had described to me; I would have thought your parents would have told you the details, lad."
"... they've been dead since before I can remember. And, uh, I was mostly made out of iron until I had a bit of an accident with a Philosopher's Stone." Harry admitted.
"That is unfortunate; you have my commiserations."
"... um, thanks, I guess... look, what are dragons like me supposed to do? What am I supposed to be?"
"Whatever you feel the need to do and be." the titan firmly told him, looking deep into Harry's eyes. "To be all we can is our way. In a way, we are the protectors of this world; we are, after all, the mightiest beings nature has ever created, and it serves us all to seek the well-being of all that is good and true and noble around us. A world that is healthy and peaceful is good for all and, when all is said and done, lesser beings such as your companions are our children; we did, after all, create them in ancient times."
"... oh. Um, look... what's your name, if you don't mind me asking?"
"You may call me Dunkelzahn; and you are known as?"
"Harry. Harry Potter."
"Hmm; I shall remember to learn the meaning of your name, lad; you interest me. I must go now; I have business in the region of my primary lair." A slight but, to those familiar with Harry's dragon-form body language instantly recognisable, smile lit Dunkelzahn's mighty jaws. "The world is Awakening around us, lad, and someone must tell the humans what is beginning. In my flight to this place I have seen more of them than I had ever imagined might exist; did you know that they drive great mechanisms of metal through the sky, mechanisms almost as big as myself, at heights so high I can barely breathe there? Their cities sprout great towers of crystal, the wind whispers with voices, and their steeds are wondrous machines like none I had ever dreamed of; this is a strange and fantastical age we have awoken to, is it not?"
"You mean jet planes?" Harry asked. "We came here on one, y'know. The really big ones are called Jumbo Jets, they're pretty cool and, yeah, nearly big as you are. And I guess you mean skyscrapers and stuff, right? They're made out of steel – that's what you get if you alloy iron with carbon – with glass on the outside because, you know, windows and all that."
"Glass? I must remember to learn how it is made in such vast quantities... Now, I must return to my lair and properly greet the humans who have made their homes around me as I slumbered; farewell, for now."
With that, Dunkelzahn leapt into the sky, and was gone in moments.
"... wow." Harry said, staring after the giant dragon.
"... that was scary." Hermione stated.
"No, it was awesome." Harry firmly informed her, returning to his human shape. "And I mean both sorts of awesome."
"And why would that be, young man?" Snape asked him, raising one eyebrow.
"Because now I know what sort of dragon I am." Harry explained. "And... and I know I'm not alone, and I know what I'm supposed to be."
For the second time in over a decade, Snape failed to stifle the bark of laughter.
"It was still scary because that was a dragon ten times the size you are – I mean, his head's the size of a bus kind of big, and I'm a small and probably very tasty squishy thing compared to that!" Hermione informed Harry.
"Well I suppose so, but if Mr Dunkelzahn wants to devour any damsels then he'll just have find his own because you're my Hermione and I'm keeping you." Harry told her with an unconcerned shrug.
"Miss Granger, you do realise that if Mr Potter continues to gain size with each node we release to the extent he did today he's liable to be almost as sizeable as that Dunkelzahn character in a distressingly short time?" Snape queried.
"Well, maybe, but come on, he's HARRY." Hermione pointed out.
"And are you telling me that you fail to recall that before this latest prodigious growth of his he weighed nearly sixty tons in his lizardy form?" Snape snapped.
"I don't eat friends OR people who might be friends some time and I DEFINITELY don't eat my damsels so I don't get what the big problem is." Harry said, firmly crossing his arms and glaring back at Snape.
"Snarky old git!"
"I'd take points for that comment if this was term-time, Mr Potter."
"Well if this was term-time I wouldn't growl back when you growl, would I?"
"Will you two please stop acting like five-year-olds?" Hermione requested.
"We most assuredly were not, Miss Granger. We were merely having a little intellectual disagreement." Snape instantly told her.
"Idiots... Hey, um, Harry, I just thought of something."
"Oh yeah, what?"
"How come you didn't tell the other dragon you used to be a human?"
Harry blinked, somewhat taken aback, and then let out an embarrassed laugh while rubbing the back of his head as he shifted to his human form.
"Um, well, actually because it was yonks ago and I'd kinda, well, forgotten."
-/- Fragmentation; Harry & company complete the node release and leave. Cut to a Mysterious Figure – a red-haired elf, dressed vaguely like a stereotypical cowboy, with a black diamond painted over his left eye – emerging from behind one of the very few hiding places at the top of Ayer's Rock.-/-
The elf straightened up, popped the crick in his neck, scratched the back of his shoulder, and grimaced.
" ...Little tesetilaronit used to be a WHAT? Oh har fraggin' har, he PUT ONE OVER ME!" he complained to the world in general; then the humour of the situation caught up with him and he laughed, long and hard.
-/- Scenes showing and describing the global cascade of goblinization-/-
Dunkelzahn commences his famed interview in Denver; Vernon Dursley goblinizes into an Orc midway through a rant about 'freaks'; some Joe Wizards realise that the muggles passing by the Leaky Cauldron can now see the place; Harry & company's flight home touches down at Gatwick; the world is Awake and all Hell has broken loose and, unbeknown to any of the Potter gang, Harlequin has followed them back to the U.K.
Awakening sequence continues with a meeting being arranged between the President of the USA and Dunkelzahn, global military reactions to goblinization centring on Master Sergeant Paul McAllister, US Rangers, a squib turned troll, to set up for the Blackhawk Dawn side-story; and now we're back to ol' Hoggers.
-/- Several Hogwarts students have goblinized. There is no pattern to it, and Madam Pomfrey is in a state of panic. The MoM lock the castle down under quarantine; right as the students are assembled in the Great Hall and waiting for the related staff announcement, Voldemort comes crashing in the door, having re-embodied himself in the interim.-/-
"What," and Harry pulled out his big revolver, pointing it at where the end of Voldemort's nose should be, "You again?"
"Yes! Me again!" Voldemort snapped, twirling his wand round his fingers; he was quite convinced that his shield-charmed bracelet would stop any mere muggle bullets.
"How many times do I have to kill you before you get the message?" Harry complained, glaring back; he was quite convinced that the special bullets he had loaded into the Century Arms would blow sizeable holes in any mere Dark Lord.
"More times than you can! CRUCIO!" Voldemort declared, and Harry yelped and fell flat on his face – and it was more a startled squawk than a scream of pain.
And as it happened, his reaction to the curse also caused his hands to twitch, and when a finger that's placed on a hair trigger twitches it does something very specific.
The silver .45-70 bullet proceeded to disprove Voldemort's theory about shield charms being able to stop bullets as it found it's mark somewhere in the region of Voldemort's sinuses.
"OW!" Harry declared, popping back to his feet. "That stings even worse than Killing Curses you complete twat! Hey, I'm talking to- oh. Oh. Uh, oh boy, poor guy, I think I kinda blew his brains out..."
"Th-th-that was You-Know-Who!" Neville Longbottom burst out.
"Um actually how are you sure I know who?" Harry said.
"I mean v-Voldemort!" Lots of people gasped at Neville daring to say the dreaded V-word, as usual.
"What, him? Nah, it can't have been him. See when I was a little boy my forehead immolated him, and when I immolate things they stay immolated. Funny thing though, I was sure I'd eaten this guy right before I had that, um, accident with a Philosopher's Stone... oh well, guess it must have been some sort of weird dream."
-/- The MoM interrupt the fallout from this scene; Fudge comes crashing in with some toadies and a couple Dementors in tow, intending to have the goblinized students Kissed and the leftovers disposed of; his intention is let slip of as he's reacting to the gunshot dead-Voldemort-body in the middle of the Great Hall, and most of everyone immediately flies off the handle.-/-
As for Minerva McGonagall, she'd spent the intermin becoming increasingly, and visibly, infuriated; by the time Fudge's rant wound to a close, the middle-aged Scotswoman's mouth was drawn to a thin line and her eyes were blazing.
"Dawlish, if any of Dumbledore's people try to get in the way-"
But Auror Dawlish was destined never to hear what Fudge wanted him to do to any of the Hogwarts staff who 'got in the way', as it was that moment that Minerva McGonagall, enraged beyond all reason, grabbed the front of the Minister of Magic's robes in both hands and headbutted him, sending him flat on the floor senseless in one shot.
"And don't you say one word, John Dawlish!" the incensed Scotswoman barked. "You're not too old for me to give you a clip round the lug!"
"That was possibly a little excessive, Minerva," Dumbledore said, eyes twinkling like hell, "But probably inevitable. Tell Argus we'll have a use for one of those cells he insists on maintaining."
"And would any of you wee buggers," McGonagall continued, levelling her number 2 glare - the one capable of stopping a Hogsmeade pub brawl dead in it's tracks - at the aurors, "Care to make that TWO cells? Murdering MY weins over these changes - not while I'm breathin' he doesn't!"
Most people, on seeing McGonagall's animagus form, assumed she turned into a large domestic tabby cat.
Her animagus form was a member of the species Felis silvestris grampia - the Scottish Wildcat, an animal that may look much like a big tabby-cat, but it has the strength to take on a golden eagle and, if the situation warranted it, the will to do exactly that.
And there's no more certain a way to make sure a female wildcat will take on anyone and anything than to threaten her kittens.
One of the Aurors - one Rupert Clench - made the mistake of going for his wand. Half a second later, a white-hot ball of fur, fury and claws had hit him in the face as Minerva McGonagall demonstrated exactly WHY her number 2 glare was capable of silencing a pubfull of drunken shitkickers.
"Wow," Ron Weasley breathed, "I never thought I'd say it, but Professor McGonagall is AWESOME."
"What do you expect?" Harry, who had just chambered a round into the Lee-Enfield and was standing by to blast anyone who tried to go after his damsels, asked. "Mrs McGonagall's made in Scotland, from girders."
The tension among the cluster of students immediately broke as the muggle-borns started giggling while everyone else went 'Huh?'
"That," Harry declared, fixing Fudge with a decidedly unpleasant glare he'd been taught by Snape, "DOES. IT. I've had ENOUGH of this, this, this SHIT. Now it's time to kick ass and chew Toyotas - and I'm all outta Toyotas!"
-/-Enter Harlequin stage left-/-
Harlequin promptly recognises the Dementors for what they are – a lesser form of Horror – and goes medieval on them with a very large knife and a Colt Single Action Army, enthusiastically assisted by Harry who 'didn't like them things anyway'.
Cut to DMLA plot thread. Dispatching the MLEPs to keep the nationwide situation under control while using her Hit Wizards to target crisis areas, Amelia has her Aurors storm the MoM, seizing control of Britain's magical government at this critical juncture. Several Wizengamot members are killed in brief firefights, as are those Fudge-loyal MoM employees who actually put up a fight; by the time Harlequin and Harry are done taking out the pair of Dementors the Ministry is under Amelia's control.
Back at Hogwarts, Harlequin and Harry make quick work of the pair of Dementors but Fudge keeps pushing it. Part of the byplay – in this case a case of Weasley-related foot-in-mouth disease – causes Luna to freak out and try to scratch Ron's eyes out; Ron is maintaining his new-found honour system and just blocks her strikes; Harry pops his dragon form and pins Luna to the floor with one forepaw while loudly demanding to know what's wrong with her; Fudge continues to push it and, after opening his big mouth once too often, causes Harry to lose what little's left of his temper; raw Minister of Magic proves not to cause dragon gas, while his toadies are taken out by Harry's pals, Harlequin, and assorted Hufflepuffs; the last one goes down to a boot to the head from Ron Weasley after one of his/her castings gets a little too close for comfort to Ginny.
Harry gets Luna calmed down, sincerely surprising most of the 'Claws who were under the impression that doing so involved running away or a thorough stunning; the Hogwarts population react to Harry's transformation while Snape goes into a foaming rage about it; Harry and Hermione deliver further shocks to the students, Harry by shouting Snape down and Hermione by shouting Harry down; Draco shits bricks.
MLEPs led by Auror Shacklebolt arrive to secure Hogwarts and a firefight nearly breaks out, but Dumbledore acts voice of sanity before Harlequin can open fire, Harry can start flambéing things, or the MLEPs and Shack can start hexing anything that moves.
Aftermath begins. Goblinization is determined to be non-contagious; the Hogwarts quarantine is lifted; meetings between Amelia, Dumbledore, and the muggle British government; Hermione now has a Hogwarts-wide reputation for being either phenomenally powerful or dangerously insane; Draco is walking on matchsticks; someone spreads that Harry has stated he doesn't devour things that politely ask him not to devour him and students start queueing to request not to be devoured;
"HEEEY, HOWZIT GOING?!"
Colin Creevy nearly hit the ceiling. He then hit the floor, staggered back to his feet, and finished up by whirling round.
He found the notorious Ron Weasley casually leaning on the corridor wall behind him.
"Hi! So, you're Ginny's boyfriend, right?" Ron said, doing a truly petrifying job of faking cheer.
"Well I just wanted you to know, right, that if you do ANYTHING to hurt my sister, what I did to Malfoy is going to look tame. Seeya! Bye!" And with that Ron went sauntering off up the hall.
He had his old pair of boots hanging over his shoulder; there were faint bloodstains visible on the toecaps.
Poor Colin proceeded to wet himself.
"It's like I can't keep a boyfriend for love nor money!" Ginny bitterly complained as Colin's dust faded.
"There there," (insert-fellow-Gryff-of-her-year) commiserated. "Creevy's a weirdo anyway."
"Ronald Weasley!" Parvati barked. "I've heard you keep scaring Ginny's boyfriends away!"
Ron gave the young Hindu a sharp look.
"If they run off when I tell 'em I'll slaughter 'em if they hurt her, they weren't good enough for her anyway." He said.
"I'm starting to wonder if Tungska was some sort of ley-line discharge."
"It was me trying to whack the damned rock back into orbit." Harlequin immediately chirped up.
"If these madmen's plan works out, the Horrors will flood back into the world." Harlequin said. "Damnit, if only this Voldemort idiot blowing himself sky-high hadn't caused that damned mana spike."
"What if we smooth the mana spike?" Harry immediately suggested, leading the immortal elf to give him a weird look.
"And how exactly do you suggest we do that? Sandpaper?"
"Well we use magic. Stop looking at me like that, I'm not the thaumaturgist, that's what Hermione and Aurora and Nick do."
"Well, it's called the Thingy." Harry said.
"... you named a powerful magical artefact 'the Thingy'?" Harlequin asked, immediately highly amused.
"Well yeah, we couldn't think what else to call it." Harry admitted.
"This work is quite remarkable." Dunkelzahn said, examining the rather non-ornate unimpressive piece of dinged-up steel pipe and the random-looking tangle of ticking brass cogwork inside of it. "An artefact of this power should be impossible to create with the world's mana levels this low, unless..."
"You haven't been messing around with blood magic, have you?" Harlequin warily asked, the humour having vanished again.
"Actually, nothing that sticky." Hermione said. "We cracked what actually happens when Harry bleeds off a node, and used the bleed-off from the Pendle Hill node to empower the Thingy."
"You wouldn't happen to be interested in sharing precisely how one might bleed off a node in such a way?" Harlequin promptly asked, raising an eyebrow.
"No, we wouldn't." Harry told him. "See, just because I think this whole elves and dragons being supposed to be enemies thing is retarded doesn't mean I'm going to trust someone who's said he fully intends to kill me. Or anyone else for that matter before you ask, Dunkelzahn."
"Eminently sensible." the ancient dragon said with a nod.
"Hey, can't blame me for trying." Harlequin pointed out, shrugging.
"You don't need to do that." Harry said.
"It has become essential; how else would we empower the tools that shall be needed?"
"Harry's right, you know." Hermione said, and glanced at the globe that had once been coated in map pins; you could still see the holes in between the scant remaining scattering of pins.
Dunkelzahn raised a curious eyebrow.
Harry nodded. "Yes. You see, the biggest node on the planet is still there. It's still stable; we have reasons to believe it'd be stable if we closed down all the others and left it to cook for a million years."
"Are you sure about that?" Dunkelzahn asked.
"Absolutely certain." Harry told him. "It's capacity dwarfs even Yellowstone to a staggering degree; it makes Avebury or Krakatoa look like a half-arsed joke. Hell, it even makes the Everest node look petty. Hermione and Aurora had to check ten times straight before they even started to believe what they were seeing."
"You're convinced of this?"
"Damn right. We're ready to do this, and we're commencing at midnight tonight."
"You're moving fast."
"Of course. We've been planning this since the first rift opened. You really think one node, even a big one, would be able to empower a magical artefact more powerful than anything that has ever existed? I don't think so. Oh no, we're not just popping that one node. We're taking out every. Last. One."
"... I see. And the heart of it?"
"Don't ask me any questions and I won't tell you any lies. Look, we've done good work together, but we need you to sit this one out. If anything goes wrong with all this, the world is going to need a strong leader – and I reckon he's you."
"Are we really going to do it?" Hermione asked.
Harry's grin got even wider, even more unnerving.
"Damn straight." he said. "Tonight, we blow Ben Nevis."
Harry popped back to his feet, thumbed the revolver's hammer back, said "Hey, that stung!" and proceeded to empty the five rounds in the cylinder into Voldemort's head from point-blank range, reducing the Dark Lord's latest cranium to something the approximate consistency of chunky salsa.
She threw up her arms in despair and marched off to where they'd left McGonagall minding the portkey. "Clowns!"
Dumbledore let out one of his dry twinkly-eyed chuckles.
"Now now, boys." he said. "Let's get this node released and head back to Hogwarts before poor Miss Granger has a head explosion."
"I heard that and you're a clown too, you old goat! Harry James Potter you stop laughing at me this instant!"
"Would anyone care for a lemon drop?"
"Man, this is the third day in a row she's gone bananas." Harry grumbled.
"Aw man, I'm bleeding." Hermione said, considering the deep scores along her arm. "She's crazy, Harry."
"... yeah, guess I gotta put a lead on her or something, I guess." Harry said.
"Harry! You can't, uh..." Hermione drifted off, considering Luna's craziness. "... I guess that's probably a good idea, actually."
"See?" Harry told Luna. "I've gotta put a lead on you because you've been a naughty Luna, Hermione says so, so it must be right, she's good at being right."
It is perhaps unfortunate for Hermione's peace of mind that Harry took Luna's lack of a response to this as agreement.
"Don't you have to go home?" Hermione asked, and immediately winced at the look that promptly appeared on Luna's face.
"Daddy doesn't normally remember he's got a daughter." the crazy blonde said.
"Stop talking about it Hermione, Luna gets scared if she isn't on her lead so that isn't a question any more."
"You'd almost think you were jealous, Hermione." Luna remarked. "Maybe Harry should put you on a lead too."
"That's not it!"
"See? She's always so envious, isn't she Harry?"
"It's not that at all! It's just..." Hermione drifted off, unable to work out how to put it without the potential of Luna freaking out.
"It's okay Hermione, I know you mean you're my Hermione and everyone else has gotta find their own." Harry helpfully said, not helping.
"That's not... oh Bloody Hell you two, I just don't know how to say anything any more, especially when it might mean Harry going bonkers or Luna freaking out!"
. And, I might note, I will be most disappointed if I do not find you and our world both alive and well at that time. Retain your belief in the value of all things, young Harry Potter; it will serve you well. The rest I leave up to you."
"Well, I suppose that is us told, eh Mr Potter?"
"Yeah, think so Severus. Well, looks like we're done here – let's head on home, I'm tired and hungry and Mr Dunkelzahn turning up really rattled me and I feel a bit cramped-up and I'm fed up of being human-shape, I want to have a square meal and stretch my wings a bit then get some rest and let all this get straightened out in my head before it makes me scratchy, and anyway there's something about this lump of rock that's giving me the heebie-jeebies."
"Why not simply resume your reptillian form right away?"
"It's tempting, but we're all tired and you guys don't need to get zonked out by having to Portkey my dragony arse half way round the planet."
"... sentiment appreciated."
"We're ready to Portkey whenever you are, Harry."
"Okay, let's get outta here."
(Needs thoroughly polished, but a little bit like this huh?)
Sergeant Paul McAllister, US Rangers, was one of the many US military personnel who'd been struck by what was now being called goblinization, and was now a troll. He'd been sent back Stateside with those of his buddies who'd taken the same hit; when the quacks had cleared them, declared it non-pathogenic – hell, just some damn mystery probably related to that freaking DRAGON that'd turned up out Denver way – he and two of his buddies – PFC Ricardo Sanchez, another troll, and PFC Michael Stacker, an Orc – had been the first declared fit to return to their unit – and with it, Somalia.
Paul McAllister was also a squib from the McAllister wizarding clan from Montana, a cadet line of the old-world Greengrasses.
And he'd known that the nervous woman he was now glaring down at had a wand on her for the last three years.
"Are you able to create Portkeys? Are you able to Apparate?" he bluntly asked. Heads had already started turning.
"... y-yes!" Evans squeaked, obviously scared almost out of her wits. Normally, he was a little more polite when dealing with the medical detachment, but this wasn't a normal time. And, Hell, McAllistair was perfectly aware he now looked a hell of a lot like a mountain troll with horns, a species that scared your average wizard or witch pretty badly for a damn good reason.
"My buddies are on the dirt in that damn city," he told her, "In a whole world of shit, they need all the help they can get, and they need it pronto. Get the idea?Sanchez! Grab a couple of Ma Deuces off the Humvees and every fifty-cal belt you can round up. Stacker! You're our pig-man, jump to it." He turned back to the worried orderly. "I need portkeys to the gridrefs for the downed helos, stat. And get expansion and lightening charms on those backpacks."
She nodded, drawing her wand from where it'd been concealed in her uniform; she was getting with the program. "I'm on it."
"What the hell's going on?" PFC Murdock asked.
"This lady can load us up with enough munitions it'd normally take a Humvee to carry, and teleport us right where we need to go." McAllister told him. "Let's get out there and get our guys home, Rangers."
"Would cooling charms on the Ma Deuce and M-60 barrels help?" Evans suddenly asked.
That was when a grim smile spread itself across McAllister's face.
PFC John Kenner, US Rangers, was pretty certain he was about to die.
Until, that is, the Ma Deuce started up – and, notably, didn't stop.
A towering figure stepped out of the smoke, lit up by the strobing muzzle flash from the heavy machine gun he was firing from the hip – the belt was strung over his shoulder into a pack on his back and the gun just kept going and going and going – why the Hell wasn't it shooting it's lands out, why the Hell wasn't the barrel melting? - a moment before that Kenner had been more than a little leery of the 'goblinized' members of his unit but right there right then Ricardo Sanchez and his big gun were the most beautiful sight John Kenner had ever seen.
That was when Luna abruptly stopped shivering and, howling like a banshee, bodily hurled herself at Draco with her fingers bunched up into claws – and then things started happening very fast indeed.
Draco hastily backed off while Crabbe and Goyle tried to get in the way; Luna hit the pair of much larger second-years like a small blonde whirlwind, sending Goyle reeling away with five bloody gashes across one side of his face only to encounter Crabbe's fist coming the other way, doubling her up for a split second.
Even though her wail was now a wheeze, she didn't even slow down; there was a nasty ripping noise, and Crabbe paused to blink bemusedly at where she'd just ripped his shirt open from shoulder to wrist and left claw marks along his arm.
"Huh?" he said.
That was when Harry grabbed Luna.
Ignoring this Draco went for his wand, gabbling off the first syllables of a spell only for Hermione to launch off and hit him in the face with a bone-rattling backhand slap that sent him flat on his back on the floor.
"Ey, yer not allowed ter do that." Goyle said.
"Oh shut it you stupid twerp, in case you hadn't noticed Harry was going to pull his lungs out through his nose!" the bushy-haired girl declared.
Crabbe and Goyle gave each other a dubious look.
"Eh, we'z just gonna be goin'." Crabbe said, picking Draco up and slinging the semi-conscious wannabe over one shoulder.
"Din' see nuffink." Goyle agreed.
"Weren't nuffink 'appened." Crabbe added.
"Boss... slipped. Onna spilled potion, like." Goyle concluded. "An Filchs' cat 'ad a go at us coz 'ee landed onnits tail."
"Good." Hermione said, glaring ferociously at the two of them.
As soon as they'd gone, she turned her attention to where one mightily bewildered Harry was keeping a firm grip on a now twitching and sobbing Luna.
"Is she..." Hermione stopped, not sure how to say this or, for that matter, what to say. Harry immediately made a shushing gesture, in the process having to let go of Luna with one arm, and Hermione couldn't help but notice that the barmy blonde was now clinging onto him almost like someone who had been drowning but someone had just thrown a lifebuoy to would cling to said lifebuoy.
"We'd better take her back to the dorms." he whispered.
Hermione nodded hesitantly, and followed him as he carried Luna away towards Hufflepuff territory.
Looked like he'd found himself another damsel.
"There's something seriously wrong with Luna Lovegood." Harry stated.
"Oh?" Snape asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah. And I want to know what it is." the unnervingly massive dragon said.
He was looking straight at Flitwick.
"Yes, well, she's had a rather hard life and-" Flitwick started, but Harry cut him off.
"That isn't what I'm talking about." he said. "I'm saying, there is something seriously wrong with Luna Lovegood. And I want to know what before why."
"And why might that be, Mr Potter?" Snape asked, eyebrow still raised.
"Because I like her, okay? And I don't like seeing someone I like going into a twitching screaming fit and trying to claw someone's eyeballs out, regardless of how much Malfoy deserved it."
"Severus?" Flitwick asked.
Snape grimaced. "Yes, well, Draco might perhaps have mentioned such an event, though Mr Crabbe and Mr Goyle maintain that he slipped upon a spilled potion and cracked his skull upon a paving slab. Likewise, they maintain that Filch's cat clawed them whereas Draco maintains they were clawed by the Lovegood girl. Most peculiar."
"Wow." Hermione mused. "I hadn't realised I put the wind up them that much... er, I didn't say that, okay?"
Snape let out one of his dry chuckles.
"What exactly happened, Harry?" Flitwick asked.
"Well, you know how Luna talks about weird animals, right?"
"I'd noticed as much."
"When me and Hermione came past, Draco was really taking the piss out of her about it while she was stood there shivering a bit. I told him to shove off, he said something about Luna being a 'halfwit that believes in crap like nargles' and Luna..." Harry shook his immense head. "That was when she stopped shivering."
"She attacked Draco, correct?" McGonagall asked.
"She went even more berserk than Bane does when someone looks at one of his daughters the wrong way." Harry said, nodding. "Draco's a twat but I didn't want her getting the boot over him being a twat so I grabbed her. He went to curse her while I was trying to get her calmed down, Hermione proper flattened him and warned Crabbe and Goyle off. We took Luna back to the Hufflepuff common room and got her calmed down, then afterwards took her back to the Ravenclaw dorms."
"I find myself becoming a little concerned about this." Snape muttered.
"Mr Snape, happy people don't go batshit and try to dig other people's eyes out with their fingernails, even when the other people are colossal twats like Draco Malfoy." Harry said. "I want to help her, if I can."
"You're aware she's Odd Lovegood's daughter?" McGonagall checked.
"I figured as much when she walked up to me and said, 'Hello Mr Dragon, I'm Luna Lovegood. Please don't devour me'. But that hasn't got much to do with it; I want to know what's wrong."
"It's probably a variant on the thousand-yard stare." Shacklebolt spoke up.
"What's shellshock got to do with anything?" Harry asked.
"Selene Lovegood frequently experimented with... less than safe rituals, from what I know she worked with the Department of Mysteries and tended to take her work home." Shack told him. "Her last one went critically wrong, and the resulting blast propelled a solid brass candle-stick into her skull with enough force that it punched through the drystone wall behind her. Her daughter, Luna, was in the room at the time, and, well... there wasn't much of Selene's head left, and a large portion of her brain ended up sprayed across her daughter; it was one of the nastiest accidental deaths I've seen, and believe me, in twenty-five years with the DMLA I've seen some bad ones."
"Ah." Harry said.
"I've heard it took the girl eight months to start speaking again." Shack concluded, shaking his head. "Frankly, after that I'm not surprised her grip on reality's... somewhat shaky."
This is more plot bunny that is hopping across my mind. Part Dumbles musing and part a meeting at the ministry.
The future. It was a grand word, with all sorts of promise – unpredictable, uncontrollable – had been for almost as long as he could remember – and he remembered, by human standards, a long time indeed, having just celebrated his hundred-fiftieth birthday.
He remembered when Victoria was Queen, he remembered the first journey of the Hogwarts Express, he remembered the defeat of Gellert Grindlewald, a man he'd once called his closest friend – he remembered a century and more of sweeping changes for a world.
Changes that could all too easily sweep over you and leave you feeling like a helpless baby.
For almost fifty years now, ever since he'd shot his best friend in the guts with a concealed Welrod pistol, those changes had mostly been positive. He could see it, the march out of darkness of the Wizarding World. Within his lifetime, muggle-born wizards and witches had finally won the right to be more than a slave, and the goblins – those valiant souls – had made the Ministry eat ash.
There were many flaws to the world he cherished and wished to lead, but he could see a bright new dawn for the Wizarding World – and for that bright new dawn to ever come, Tom Riddle had to die.
For years he'd suspected that would mean Harry Potter having to die too – but now he'd seen a way up out of the darkness, the light at the end of the tunnel wasn't an oncoming train; the soul fragment that had long dwelled in Harry's famed scar (he'd made damn sure it was famed) had been burned away in the phenomenal magical release at Avebury during what was, simply put, the ultimate weapon for the cause Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore had doggedly perused for his entire earthly life.
Long he'd thought that the only available option was to drive Harry to commit suicide-by-proxy against Tom, then take the bastard down the moment his semi-immortal status ended – but Harry's change had changed that and, along with it, everything. In long conversations since with his old friend Alastor Moody and his almost-protege Severus Snape – and what a fine thing it was to see hope on Severus's thin face – he had been bluntly introduced to what could have been several better, perhaps more moral, plans that could have worked.
Surgically remove Harry's scar and with it the soul fragment; hide the boy with the Canadian branch of the Potters, and strike like a thunderbolt against each of Tom's followers in turn, squeezing every drop of information about who and where and when then using it to strike the next. Tom's organisation – the Death Eaters – had only ever worked due to the man playing the internal tensions and power-games like a fiddle; it had shattered like glass when Tom 'died', and if he'd thought of it in time Albus could have used that schism to take the Death Eaters apart one unmarked grave or cell in Azkaban at a time... and without his followers, his private army, Tom was a threat so small he could be ploughed under by a team of a dozen well-trained Hit Wizards, and resurrected or not, he could easily have been subdued, then get Harry to cast a Reducto or two into the unconscious would-be overlord's cranium, end of story.
But Albus, he had to admit to himself, had squandered the opportunity for that. So set had he been on his initial plan that he'd allowed dozens – no, hundreds – of Death Eaters to get off Scot-free, allowed them to regroup and reform, and eliminated the opportunity for the best possible results for the Wizarding World as a whole, not just Britain.
Now he was faced by Alastor's alternative, revised, renewed version of that plan. The soul fragment that had once inhabited Harry's scar was long gone and the boy in question was now a sixty-five ton Killing Curse-proof dragon.
Alastor had suggested a game plan – a game plan that would, Albus suspected, irrevocably stain the souls of everyone who took part in it.
But better they burned in Hell than Tom was allowed to destroy the future Albus had glimpsed when he spoke to Dunkelzahn.
Snatching and interrogating Death Eaters under Veritaserum, outside of the due process of law, and then making them disappear, using the information to hunt down every last member of Tom's army for summary execution, was nothing Albus would ever have thought he could condone – but they had to die. Better a few hundred unmarked, unmourned graves than to allow those terrorists to destroy what parts of the Wizarding World were just and true and worthy of continued existence. For the future of humanity as a whole, not just the Wizarding branch of it, the Death Eaters had to, simply put, cease to exist.
He'd heard it said that when survival is at stakes, the kid gloves come off. What sort of gloves will come off when the survival of life as you know it is at stakes?
And what cost the future?
Actually having one was, Albus believed, worth any cost.
The numbers spoke for themselves. Average thaumometer readings the world over had climbed by a factor of ten since Harry's transformation at Avebury. The growing strength of the world's ley-lines was at the point that within five years even untrained muggles would be able to see them; muggle-born births had increased by a factor of ten after Harry's transformation, and had been steadily increasing ever since. In the twelve months post-Avebury, over nine hundred muggle-born magical persons had been born in the Britain Isles alone, along with a wild spike in the Wizarding birth rates. Split between the five schools on the home islands, they were expecting 235 new Hogwarts students to arrive in September 1999 – a fivefold increase in what had, since the anomaly of 1883, been the average yearly student population – and in that year, the muggle-born population of first-years would outnumber the wizarding-born population for the first time in recorded history, and do so by over five to one.
And that wasn't even taking this 'unexplained genetic expression' business into account, and if anyone had any idea how their visit to Yellowstone would impact the magical population growth their name wasn't Albus Dumbledore. He'd recognised the descriptions of true elven and dwarven infants from the ancient texts the moment he'd thought to compare them to the reports coming in from his newly-minted muggle contacts.
After their visit to Yellowstone, the muggle-born birth rates had sharply increased once more, and again after Pike's Peak and Ayers Rock, though they had yet to see if that was a spike or an overally trend; how precisely the magical schools of the British Isles were to deal with the SEVEN THOUSAND AND CHANGE muggle-born wizards and witches born in the year since their visit to Australia...
Dropping Tom and his sycophants into that little lot would be like dropping a piece of smouldering brimstone into a swamp of naptha. It would ignite a blaze that would consume anyone who was standing too close – and, in the case of this particular blaze, anywhere in the world would be too close.
The march of his world into the future had been marred only by the non-death of Voldemort. He didn't delude himself to think that the old plan of Harry's death at that monsters hands making Voldemort fully killable was the best or most moral thing he could have done. Long talks with Alastor and a more optimistic if snarky Severus Snape had shown him several better plans that would have worked.
Hide Harry with one of his Canadian relatives on his fathers side. Then swiftly move against the Death Eaters without mercy. Without Voldemort to provide a focus for their actions, the internal dynamic tensions the man had played to fiddle would tear the organization to flinders. It was in this initial window of vulnerability that had been squandered that permanent removal of his power base, to Azkaban by Albus' preference, would have been most effective. And had the least long term damage too the Wizarding World. But Alastor' plan for moving forward now was far more… unsavory. And Albus was fearing far more necessary for the very survival of not just the magical world but all humanity.
Snatching and interrogating Death Eaters under veritaserum outside of ministry holding cells and then disappearing them. Then using the information to hunt down the rank and file members of Voldemort forces for summery execution without trial was never something Albus would have thought he could condone. Better they take more casualties then destroy everything they held dear and leave them vulnerable to the Chaotic forces of change. But fate had a backhanded sense of humor. The Chaos he had hoped to gentle was coming, he knew it. He could feel it building in his magic.
The resurgence of the magic in the ley lines around Britain and their growing strength was reaching the point that within five years they would be fully visible to even the most magically weak muggles. The self repair of Stonehenge had been impossible to hide from the Muggles as the first the Ministry heard of the event was during the weekly talks the muggle Prime Minister and he had made Fudge start attending. It had even been a shock to Albus as he hadn't heard about that event either. And the Obliviators were unable to do anything as millions of people had seen the pictures and tens of thousands had visited the magnificent site in all it rune painted and repaired glory. Muggle repelling and confundus charms didn't last around the site either as the magical charge building in the complex burned off anything that wasn't part of the original construction.
Then their was the 'unexplained genetic expression' sweeping out across Britain and the near parts of Europe. Especially along the ley lines. One child in twelve born since Harry's change had elven features not the caricature of the house elves that had been created by wizards as servants but the true heritage and magical power of the high elves had been born into some of these children. Then there had been the children born with the features and magic of the dwarves, some even of the lost orc's and the true high trolls. Not the mind gelded trolls the ministry allowed to exist at the fringes of human society but the true long lived magic wielding high trolls who had given the Picts and Norse a run for their money when it came to control of Scotland and the Scandinavian countries.
A few adults had also spontaneously changed, a very few had been wizards and squibs. And unlike their muggle brethren all these re-born races could see past the muggle repelling wards and had enough magic to enter in and interact with the magical world, the few magicals changed had been weakened for awhile but after that had been as powerful or more so then before.
Magical creature births were also way up as the dragon reserves reported record sized clutches and nearly every other major magical creature began having offspring in multiples. The thestrals herd at Hogwarts had increased by half with this years crop of foals. The unicorns had also had a resurgence in births. The Centaurs had seen their births increase ten fold over the pervious years under the threat of the spider horde. Which was attempting to make a comeback but Harry decided he liked the 'tasty morsels' and had kept their numbers in check. So far.
Cornelius had been apoplectic with wanting all the 'freaky births put down' but there was just too many of them, nearly a hundred thousand in England alone not to mention the rest of the UK.
That was more then all the wizards and witches in existence. There was just no way for the magical or muggle world to begin to hide the problem and the PM was adamant about totally rejecting Fudges 'put them down' idea's. Albus totally agreed with him on that point. The Unspeakables could find no common thread to explain this except all the births and changes happened after the 1988 Summer solstice, the fact that the muggles had plotted the location that every child had been conceived in and all had been near a ley line or a standing stone complex that evening.
But a life time of keeping secrets and not wanting to risk Harry's secrets just yet held his tongue, something else was missing and the ambient magic at the standing stones and along the ley lines had changed and seemed more wild to Albus.
Albus had put brought up his warning…
"There is another indicator I would bring forward to you all. Hogwarts and the other regional schools, are expecting an increase of nearly four hundred first generation or squib line magical children starting school in the fall of 1999-2000, that is for each of the seven other magical schools in Great Britain and Ireland." Stunned shock filled the cabinet room. The muggle and magical cabinet was silent because of they lacked the frame of reference that Albus and the other headmasters who had access to the book of names did.
"To counter point that the 'normal level of magicals born in that same category for the last hundred years has been about seven hundred children for all eight schools. In nineteen ninety-nine it will be nearly twenty-four hundred, and nearly sixty-five hundred the year after. From the numbers the other headmasters and myself have been looking at, that number will plateau, we think, at thirty thousand new magical first generation or squib line children of school age and of strong enough magical potential to be trained every year there after. A similar increase in births has happened in of magical families have also seen nearly a hundred new children over what has been the norm since the end of Voldemort's War welcomed into the world since the point in time the Unspeakables mentioned." Albus sat back and sipped his tea as the combined cabinet digested the stunning news.
"Well it looks like the Crown and the
"NO! We can't let this flood of…untrained…children, and these beasts!" Malfoy spat, "into our world they would swamp us in a generation and our way of life would end…"
"It is already over Lucius," said Albus gently "magic has spoken and this is its way of telling us that change… as hard as it might be to all of us, even myself. Is now… inevitable.
Several of the muggle security types had raised eyebrows or had silent conversations with each other. Their surface thoughts and his own had mirrored each other in sentiment if not wording.
~Who let the petulant brat into the room?~
~They elected him?~
~He's a loon. Somebody trank him and get a straight jacket. We can't even think along those lines, these are British citizens.~
~We need to see him out the door.~
~A nine millimeter migraine or some naga venom should do this problem quit well.~
That last had been from one of the security guards, whom Albus realized with a start was also a wizard and if what he read before the agent slammed down his occlumency shields was also an MI-5 agent.
Jim Coates was still shaking as he walked away from Number 5972 'Otton Hall' (her being painted any colour other than Great Western green still made him twitch) to check for any damage to the stock.
Dementors! Damned Dementors! He wasn't sure whether he should be glad or angry that he'd instinctively reacted to the crushing despair by closing 5972's regulator and screwing her brakes down tight – and God alone knows he was grateful to dear ole Smaugey for seeing those brutes off with scintillating blasts of white-hot fire! The drake-dog was currently pacing the two shaken railmen, warming them with the heat rolling off his body, and churring with concern.
Ole Smaugey knew the deal and that was for sure. A good drake-dog was definitely a railwayman's best friend.
It wasn't until the curvature of the tracks allowed him to see the coach one ahead of the Brake Composite Corridor at the rear of the train that Jim skidded to a halt, utterly gobsmacked at the damage to the fifty-year-old carriage.
The side of the coach's rearmost passenger compartment was shredded, torn out from inside and spackled with scattered blobs of some sort of grey slime.
"What in the...?" Mac murmured.
The two men, accompanied by one concerned drake-dog, cautiously approached the scene of the damage.
Yes, it had definitely been torn out from inside. Some massive object had punched out from within, peeling the skin of the coach back and splintering the timbers; after considering the destruction for a moment, the two of them ducked under the brake van and checked the other side.
The side of the damaged coach opposite the torn-up segment had been torched. Some timbers were still smouldering; others had been utterly blown away, and the metal skin looked like it had been melted. It looked like the aftermath of the time Smaugey had sneezed on the side of a coach, only done from the inside.
"What in Brunel's name happened here?" Jim asked.
"I don't know, Jim." Mac said. "We'd better get this one down to the repair yard before anyone pitches a fit."
"We'll have to talk to Mr. Dumbledore about this." Jim said. The gaffer usually left all running of the Express to the boys on the footplate who knew the deal, but this? This needed to be looked into at once.
Dementors were bad enough without the brutes wrecking perfectly good rolling stock!
"Why are you doing this?" Rita burst out. "Most people out there have nothing to-do with the discrimination you faced!"
Snape sniffed haughtily.
"Oh, I know that there are those who are more culpable for this, this disgusting joke of a civilisation than others, Miss Skeeter, and I assure you that they WILL be held to account. However, in truth, if the people of the Wizarding World wish to know who is responsible for this, this upheaval... to see the face of the culprits they need only look into the mirror."
"It's pretty simple, really." Harry agreed, casually leaning against the wall and gazing at Rita through hooded eyes. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. If you're trapped in a broken system like the Wizarding World, and you simply sigh and accept it as being unchangeable, you're a part of the problem and it might as well be you putting those chains on little kids."
"... what? But what could anyone have done?"
"You're aware Arthur Weasely spent the last forty-seven years skirting bankruptcy?" Snape asked. "How exactly could someone be wretchedly poor on a Ministry department head's wage? I'll tell you how. It's because Arthur spent ninety-seven percent of his earnings – every knut he could spare – to get kids out of the slave market and someplace safe. He fought the system from the inside with his paypacket; he did what he could, and he is a part of the solution. Believe me, Skeeter, he WILL be rewarded richly enough that, with a little sense, no Weasley will EVER need to work again. Arthur is a hero and if anyone says anything different I'll blow the bastards away."
"But why are you KILLING people instead of being reasonable and following in Mr Weasley's footsteps?" Rita asked.
"Albus Dumbledore and Arthur Weasley and their ilk tried being 'reasonable', they tried to get this 'civilisation' into the twentieth century without bloodshed, and they failed. Much as I like them, they were fools to ever think they could succeed against thousands of years of bigotry and oppression without having a few people taken out in the street and shot. Me and Severus, we're just figureheads. We're the face for the thousands of decent people – people you look down on and sneer at as 'muggle-borns', as 'mudbloods', as 'muggles', as 'beasts' – who've had a bellyful of fear, who've taken all they can tolerate, and are now fighting the system from the outside with a gun. There is a time for softly-softly, a time to be 'reasonable', and that time was over long before I was born."
He pushed himself fully upright and spent a moment looming over her – gone was the shortish lad who she'd known during the Triwizard, replaced by well over six feet of solid muscle and burning eyes as green as a Killing Curse.
"I will not fail and I will not falter; the flames of freedom have been lit, Miss Skeeter, and the torch has been entrusted to my care."
"And I shall aid him in feeding those flames for as long as there is breath in my body." Snape added.
The ancients remind me of Hermione.
They were extremely intelligent, but at the same time they were kinda foolish. Just like she does, as soon as they had an idea in their heads they went all-out for it without stopping to think of the consequences.
They found something that worked well, and went right ahead with it, never thinking and never realising it was destroying the thing that made their world, their power, possible in the first place.
Even when their cities started to fall out the sky and the sea rushed back into their polders they didn't realise that the nexus circles were draining the magic out of the world.
They didn't even take notice when the Great Dragons warned them and then left.
The thing that scares me is what'll happen if something isn't done. Those nexus circles are still draining the magic out of the world, and sooner or later they are going to have drained everything they can contain, and that's when they'll probably explode.
I can't let that happen. Avebury was one of the biggest, and when it released it's magical charge it had me – a boy descended, like all of the old wizarding lines, from the Great Dragons – to flow through.
That's the only reason Avebury's still on the map instead of being a glowing crater miles across.
I have to release the charge from all of them. When I do that, the world won't ever be the same again – it won't just be people descended from dragons who'll be able to do magic, everyone will be able to learn. As far as we can work out, the released magical flow will be so intense it'll score glowing lines in the air bright enough to be seen from space.
I don't know what'll happen when the magical charge flows through me but as far as Severus and Hermione can work out it'll make me stronger, and it's not like I've got any real choice about whether or not I do this – nobody else can, and if it isn't done the results could all too easily be disastrous.
So to cut a long story short, me and my ladies are going to get out there and change the world.
It's funny, really. For years I thought Magorian's stories were wrong, that it all broke loose at Avebury in '88, but I was wrong; we were just looking at the prophecies the wrong way.
Looks like this 'sixth age' really is going to start in 2011 after all.
"Why in Merlin's name would muggles be interested in simulated dragon guts?"
"Because when you drop something from above the atmosphere, it tends to become rather hot, and it seems your formula performs admirably within said conditions; it appears that they have been using a fragile form of silica to coat their spacecraft, and they would very much like to utilise your formula to replace the coatings of their vessels; it is, as it happens, far cheaper and more resilient than what they have to date utilised." Slackhammer sat back with an even broader and more shark-like grin on his face. "Mr Snape, the quantity of money that this 'National Aeronautics and Space Administration' are willing to pay for useage of your discovery is, simply put, astronomical. As their number of spacecraft within use increases, the quantities of your formula used will of course increase, and they have stated their willingness to pay by the hundredweight; they are, simply put, quite desperate for a heat-shielding material with the level of efficiency found in the formula you have uncovered."
Snape slowly started to smile.
"So they want to use a copy of my guts to coat space shuttles, huh?" Harry asked.
"Indeed, Mr Potter; indeed."
"I propose that the three of us become business partners within this, ah, operation, shall we say;" Snape suggested; "To me it falls to uncover further improvements upon this substance and others, to Mr Potter it falls to inspire said improvements through his physiology, and to you, Mr Slackhammer, falls the distribution and production financing of these remarkable materials."
"I'm good with that." Harry said, nodding.
Slackhammer's grin got even broader.
"It seems to me, gentlemen," he said, "That everyone within this room is about to become quite astoundingly rich."
"Ah yes, the Great Wyrm named Mr Harry Potter; I have yet to have the pleasure of encountering him, but your descriptions of his physiology do paint quite a remarkable portrait, don't they?"
"Indeed, Mr Slackhammer, they do."
... Have made a few alterations to the first 'chapter', mostly in the form of answering a certain unicorn's questions, but nothing game-changing.
"...um, am I doing this right?"
"Well, er, this is the first time I've done the carrying-off thing and I wanna get it right, right? Because doing it wrong would be really embarrassing.
Shadow considered saying he was doing it wrong for a moment – after all, she'd been fully expecting to get eaten – but came to the conclusion that saying no to a dragon was probably an enormously bad idea."
"No, no, you're doing it right." she said.
"These books aren't very good, Professor Snape." Harry said.
"Oh?" the formerly-greasy-haired-one sneered. "And why, perchance, do they fail to meet your exacting approval?"
Completely missing the sarcasm, Harry had a quick flick through, and then pointed.
"Well, it's obvious that they aren't about the same sort of dragon as me because all of them say dragons can't talk and I can talk so I think I'm a different sort of dragon to these." he said.
"And what, perchance, do you believe I would be able to do about this shortcoming?"
Again, Harry completely failed to perceive the sarcasm. "I was wondering if people who don't glow might have books about the sort of dragon I am. I mean, Aunt Petunia found some books about dragons in the public library and they sounded much more like the sort of dragon I am."
"So, you wish to acquire muggle-written books concerning dragons? You are aware, I assume, that they are likely to be naught but fantasy?"
"Well, yeah, but I kinda guess when there's nothing not-fantasy then about the only way I'm going to get anything good is by reading the fantasy stuff and seeing if I can work out which bits are real and which aren't. It's like those stones created me without creating a world for me to fit into." the young dragon explained, causing Snape to have to stifle a wince as that one hit entirely too close to home.
"I shall see what I can uncover." he finally stated, before turning and sweeping out of the room.
"Thanks... Aw man, I'm hungry again..."
Setting down the last of the books Snape had given him, Harry turned to stare out the window for a long moment.
There were several common themes he'd been able to unravel – themes too common for him to disregard.
Firstly, he needed a lair and a pile of treasures to sleep on. He wasn't sure why, but all the books were certain that dragons and lairs (which should be in caves) were a good combination, and that the lair should have plenty of treasure upon which the dragon should probably sleep.
Secondly, there was some stuff about kidnapping damsels that he wasn't really sure about. Apparently it involved some sort of vile endurance that he couldn't really work out what meant; he resolved to work that out later.
And thirdly, he had to be very very wary of knights in shining armour. From what he'd read, dragons just couldn't trust knights not to stick a lance in them while they weren't looking; he resolved to be especially careful around the suits of armour that scattered Hogwarts, they were entirely too knight-like for comfort.
He considered the slagged patch on the wall where he'd sneezed the other day.
If any knight-like thing got too close, he'd roast it before it could get him.
"... I'm hungry." Hmm, that cupboard looked very edible just now.
Only a few weeks later, and after some very intense instructions from a stern old lady called Minerva McGonagall (who was enormously fun to get a smile out of, mainly because it was rather tricky) Harry found himself A) living at this large and very strange castle apparently called Hogwarts, B) able to turn himself into (for a few hours at a time) pretty much any animal he cared to imagine (and oh boy did the groundskeepers, a rather baby-like huge guy called Hagrid, provide a lot of inspiration) and C) bored out his mind again. When he unexpectedly changed species, his brain had changed along with his body; it now weighed the best part of fifty kilos and he had a desire to fill it as much as humanly (or, rather, dragonly) possible. He'd already read every book Dumbledore and McGonagall would let him get his hands on, and he wanted MORE. Magic was interesting stuff, but he wanted to know about cars and computers and jet aeroplanes, things that exploded and things that lit up and things that irradiated and machines that go 'Ping!'.
He wanted to know EVERYTHING, and he wanted to know it NOW, dammit!
And thus it was that he decided to walk out of there. When close to four tons of dragon decides to go someplace, stopping it is rather difficult - especially when it can become a small mouse at a moment's notice. By way of several different shapes - first a mouse, then a hawk, then a black panther, then a tall greying man in a tweed suit - he proceeded down the road out of Hogwarts, past the nearby village apparently called Hogsmeade (what a silly name for a village) and into a town not that much further away - a town called Inverness, and it was there that he found something absolutely wonderful, something quite unlike anything he'd ever imagined before; a public library.
Thus he swiftly established himself a routine. He'd start the day with a light breakfast (only three or four entire sheep, half a hundredweight of coal, five gallons of petrol, forty gallons of water, and a nice big pile of scrap metal) then turn into a seagull and fly to town, find a quiet place to turn into a man in a tweed suit, pop into the library, spend most of the morning there, nip back to Hogwarts for lunch (the same as breakfast) at about midday, read the book that Dumbledore and McGonagall thought would keep him occupied that day, fly back to Inverness, back into the library, read until the library closed, then back to Hogwarts for dinner, lessons with McGonagall (who would quiz him on the book they'd given him that morning) and then bed.
His bedroom (or, rather, lair) wasn't in the castle itself; it was up in the nearby crags on the edge of the forest that stretched out from the lake opposite the castle; it was a good big cave, specially hollowed out for him by Dumbledore and McGonagall with some help from their friend Fillius Flitwick (a tiny little man with a squeaky voice and a wonderful sense of humour) but it kinda felt like it lacked something. Having read every book about dragons he could get his hands on, he was pretty sure those somethings were a nice big pile of treasure and a damsel or two. He wasn't quite sure what he'd do with damsels, but the idea felt right, so he reckoned he'd get onto that one once he'd got himself a good big pile of treasure. On that subject, he was careful to scrounge every bit he could; most of it was currently copper coins he'd got off the street around Inverness, with the occasional wizarding coin found laying around Hogwarts or the grounds, and a good number of interesting bits of machinery he'd pilfered from local scrapyards; he was rather proud of his Caterpillar V8 truck engine, even if it was missing the gearbox and half the injectors.
Days turned to months, and reading expanded out into doing. Months turned to years, and draconian strength (he was by this time strong enough to throw a whole car) aided him in his experiments and constructions; he put a water turbine down in the nearby river for power, erected a couple of windmills, and began scrounging around for supplies and materials. Soon his lair had electric lighting and heating, and when he wasn't in the library or getting into highly theoretical talks about magic with McGonagall and Flitwick he was either seeing what he could construct in his lair, or sleeping among his increasingly large and increasingly weird pile of treasure, which now contained a whole but very rusty steam railway locomotive he'd found when he was trying out being a shark, and his pride and joy, a lovely nuclear bomb he'd found laying about while flying around America.
But he still didn't have any damsels, dammit. Not even one. He wasn't really sure how to proceed with that. He'd read that dragons were supposed to kidnap princesses, but he was pretty sure that would lead to unfortunate encounters with knights in shining armour. Speaking of which, he was always careful to keep a close eye on the suits of armour that littered Hogwarts; from what he'd read, a dragon just couldn't trust knights not to stick lances in them when they weren't looking, and anything involving shining armour was a bit too knight-like for comfort. He'd done everything he could to make his lair knight-proof (digging a huge trench full of spikes across the doorway that you had to fly over had been a good idea, as had the razorwire round the top to make it hard to climb down, but he felt it really lacked something. Like land mines) but he was determined to keep a good eye out for knights anyway. Besides, he'd made himself a really big shotgun, so if any knights tried it he'd ventilate them clean through.
Eventually, his eleventh birthday came round, and Dumbledore (quite flummoxed by the great guddle of machinery and coins, and a little alarmed by the entry-way) took great pride in presenting the young dragon with his Hogwarts letter.
Cheers for your varied messages, and sorry it's taken me a while to get back to you; I've been thoroughly sidetracked by an original fiction project I'm working on for some time now.
Anyway, I've got a roughed-out plot centred on the ley-line release, currently in the form of a few framework scenes.
Each of the 'nodes' has a maximum capacity for magic it can store. This capacity is, and is noted in an already-written scene, enormous; it gradually leeches into the node, building up and up over the millenia, to the point that most of them are now mostly (or entirely) full, with the rate of leeching being determined by the capacity of the node itself - a larger node will build up it's charge faster, though not to such a degree that they'll all hit full at the same time, and there are some variables in the speed at which a node charges, largely around location, how many ley-lines feed into that particular node, etc.
Unfortunately, there is nothing to stop a node gaining charge once it's reached it's maximum capacity and, like anything run over capacity, it then becomes only a matter of time before the node experiences a catastropic failure.
As yet, only one node has done so. This node was a small one known as Krakatoa, and after a several-month period of breakdown catasropically failed at about 05:30 hours local time on August 27th 1883, triggering the first of four explosive magical releases that, simply put, removed the mountain and it's related land-mass from the face of the Earth.
The Krakatoa eruption increased the levels of magic in the world by a small but significant percentage, and kicked off the Wizarding World's industrial revolution. Within eleven years levels of muggle-born ingress had nearly doubled, bringing it to Potter-canon levels and sufficing to trigger the first ever Wizarding population boom; the increased population pressures are suspected to have triggered the current cycle of Dark Lords.
Avebury was another major node, with a maximum capacity approximately four thousand times that of Krakatoa; if left to it's own devices, it would have catastropically failed sometime in the early 2200's. However, it's supernatural effects were much more significant than Krakatoa; the island's detonation burned up nearly ninety percent of it's stored magical energy, while less than half a percent of Avebury's released charge was burned up by Harry's transformation. Total number of magical births of mundane parentage have increased by a factor of ten in the time since Avebury, while extant magical beings are finding their abilities functioning far more easily and with more power behind them, with a number of long-presumed squibs finding the ability to cast a number of weaker spells. In the muggle scheme of things a number of species previously unknown to science have been popping up in widely-settled regions such as England and the eastern seaboard of North America; in the magical realms of cryptozoology, shortly after the beginning of Harry's first year a gent by the name of Xenophillius 'Odd' Lovegood finds a living specimen of the Crumple-Horned Snorckack, a creature long thought either mythological or long extinct.
As Harry's first year progresses, the Hogwarts staff decypher exactly what happened at Avebury and develop a method of plotting further such nodes. They discover that the planet is covered in nodes of varying power levels, in a seemingly chaotic pattern that rapidly proves to have a clear arithmatic principle to it's distribution.
However, they are surprised to discover that one is missing from this pattern. It's location: the Sunda Straits between Sumatra and Java. Hermione, who is listening in, points out that a certain notorious volcano went off there, and they discover this volcano to have been the result of a node releasing.
After some further calculations (and the horrified realisation that Hermione is right) they quickly work out how to tell if a node is about to blow itself sky-high, and find shortly after the end of Harry's first year that the next catastropic failure will occur at the Yellowstone node at an unknown time in the near future.
Making haste to prevent the potentially apocalyptic catastrope, they here meet a gent by the name of Harlequin, and after some tense words manage to explain to him what's going on and the consequences of letting sleeping ley-line nexii lay; he grudgingly gets out the way, while warning them to be very careful as they have no idea of the potential consequences of their actions.
The Yellowstone release is enough to trigger the first wave of UGE births, and once again the rate of muggle-born births spikes dramatically, though not to quite the same degree as after Avebury. From there on, it's a sort of chain reaction; each node released increases the pressure on the remaining nodes and shortens the deadline for their release. When the gang trigger their second intentional release it's at a mountain just outside (and in fact directly visible from) Denver; the resulting increase in the world's mana levels is enough to wake up a certain future President of the UCAS, and the mystcal 'bang' is enough to very firmly get his attention.
He independantly comes to a similar conclusion as the gang, and catches up with them at Ayers Rock. By this time, the Awakening is at full steam ahead; Goblinisation is one node release away from kicking off, UGE has hit at full blast, and the 'Hello world.' post has appeared on a Usenet newsgroup, reading 'Hello world; you're early. Welcome back; play nice.'
From roughly there the plot thread's mostly undetermined as yet.
"What?" the acerbic man asked.
"What's really going on out there?" The frizzy-haired girl plaintively asked, gesturing out the mouth of the cave.
"Nothing you'd want to know about." Snape muttered.
"I may not want to, but I NEED to."
Snape considered that for a few moments, eventually sitting back down.
"You have a point... Tell me, you have walked through Diagon Alley and seen what there is to be seen there. Did you perhaps stop to wonder where all those wares on sale came from in the first place?"
"Each and every item had to be made, young lady. For example, a pocket sneakoscope contains twelve components, each of which must be precise in manufacture. How is it that you suppose they may be profitably sold for less than a Galleon apiece?"
"They're not hand-made, are they?" Hermione guessed.
"Their components are not, but final assembly requires enchantment of those components and thus must be done by hand, by a magically-gifted worker. They are a popular product with a limited lifespan; once activated, a sneakoscope will last but a year or two before it's mechanism is too badly degraded by the magical drain on it's substance to continue function. In short, around half a million of them are produced per annum, with a final retail value of around five Sickles, perhaps one third to half of which is the retailer's mark-up. The components are cast and stamped, with only a little machining required; materials, power, and upkeep of machine tools costs perhaps one Sickle per sneakoscope. How much of the remnants do you suppose goes to the worker who assembled and enchanted the sneakoscope itself?"
"Well, I don't know. I suppose it'll be a per-hour pay rate, right?"
"Quite incorrect, I am afraid. A small percentage of the cost of manufacture, perhaps half a Sickle a day per head, goes on feeding the slaves who assemble the things. I am afraid juveniles are preferred for such labour as they have smaller fingers, eat less, are easier to cow, and are less likely to attempt to flee, especially when chained to the production line."
"That, young lady, is the world you and I were born into. Now do you understand why Harry and I fully intend to tear this, this world, down with our own hands?"
"How does that keep happening?"
"Liberal usage of Obliviation and simple murder. A blind eye turned by the uppermost echelons of society and a blindfold drawn over the eyes of non-magical humanity and, alongside them, much of wizardkind; out of sight is largely out of mind, and the people who actually give a damn about the numerous magical children of non-magical parentage are few and far between. The only difference between you, young lady, and those poor unfortunates locked up in mills and sweat-shops is that you had the luck to received one of Hogwarts' decidedly limited budget of scholarships. A scholarship funded, I might note, along with almost a hundred of your fellow students, by one Arthur Weasley expending over ninety percent of his annual wage on contributions to the Hogwarts scholarship fund."
"Why hadn't nobody told me Hogwarts was really needing money for that kind of stuff?" said a sharp voice from behind them, and spinning round they found Harry fixing Snape with a flat glare.
Snape blinked, a little nonplussed. "I beg your pardon?"
"Mr Snape," the dragon sighed, gesturing at his mound of treasure, "That's less'n a tenth of my money and I'm getting more, a lot more, every day. You and Mr Dumbledore tell me how much you'll need so there ain't nobody don't get one of them scholarship thingies and I'll make it happen."
Snape blinked again, staring at Harry's 'hoard'.
"And I," he said, "Believe I shall match you Galleon for Galleon."
"... Less than a tenth of your money?" Hermione squeaked, her eyes bugging out as she stared at the mound of, well, frankly, glittering treasure.
"Well yeah, you see if you've got lots of money you really oughtta have most of it in a bank and investments where it'll make you more money." Harry explained.
"Harry, just how rich are you anyway? And how'd you get that way?"
"Well my last bank statement said I have fifty-seven million Galleons in ready cash." Harry said. "That ain't counting what I've got invested in stuff. And, well, have you heard about the Space Shuttle Thermal Protection System Renewal Program?"
"That project that's replacing the skin on the American's space shuttles with some fancy new material, I can't remember what they called it, but yeah, I know the one, there was an article about it in National Geographic a couple of years ago. What about it?"
Snape smirked at her. "That 'fancy new material', dubbed Draconite as it seemed poetic, is in actual fact an artificial reproduction of Mr Potter's stomach lining."
"... What?" Hermione boggled.
"You heard me. And I am given to understand that several of my other discoveries stemming from Mr Potter's bioalchemy are becoming quite the thing of the moment in the non-magical world."
OK, OK, considering the content of the current fanfic-pet-peeve thread I'll just drop you in here then Ed.
(Background: Having had a close encounter with Quirrelmort and recovered from the related Philosopher's Stone poisoning, Harry decides he wants a gun that's handier to tote around than the Lee-Enfield. He talks to Hooktalon...)
Sergeant-Major Hooktalon frowned thoughtfully.
"Well son," he mused, "With your ability to soak up recoil I reckon we'd better be getting something just a little bit extra special for you, hey? There's a bloke I know the other side of the pond, human ex-squaddie called Ed Becerra, damn fine gunsmith – he'll sort something out for you for the right price!"
"Cool." Harry said, nodding. "Can we go see him now?"
"Easy lad, easy – it's three in the morning where he lives."
-/-Fragmentation; the following US-time day, Harry has visited Ed's local firing range along with Ed and demonstrated his recoil-absorbing ability-/-
- Main scene written in US English as Ed's American. Feel free to Yankpick (the inverse of Britpicking) and, Ed, since it's from your perspective, rewriting to more how you think would be appreciated – as would writing you prescribing a suitable Big Fucking Handgun.
Buck is a character I'm playing in our current RPG campaign. He's a whole mess of trucker and Nam-vet stereotypes rolled into one and is the sort of person who'd carry a .44 for reasons other than Dirty Harry.
-/-Slight fragmentation; these two scenes should run together-/-
The gathered researchers watched as their colleague flipped through the numerous recording scrolls, quietly muttering under her breath as she made several notes on a piece of scrap parchment. It was easy to spot when she found the relevant recordings, firstly by the way her eyes widened to an almost comical extent, and secondly by the way her mutterring went from near inaudibility to a clearly spoken "Merlins Saggy Scrotum!"
"Sinestra?" McGonagall queried her normally calm and polite friend, suprised at her outburst.
"Not yet" Sinestra replied as she continued making notes, although it was noticable that said notes were being written with a somewhat more shaky hand.
The others waited, sharing uneasy glances between themselves as they realised that whatever had been found, had to be big. Finally, Sinestra pulled three scrolls from those she'd been examining and turned to the gathered group.
Cedric Diggory, seated opposite Harry, gave the boy hero a firm nod.
"Good one, Harr." The Quidditch-addict said, then glanced around at the upper-years. "Oi, what do you all reckon?"
"I reckon," Max Abbot, Hannah's elder brother and the seventh-year Hufflepuff prefect, declared, "We make Granger one of us."
"Seconded." Stephanie Coates, current Head Girl and youngest daughter of the man who drove the Hogwarts Express, put in.
There was a round of nodding that rapidly spread itself across the Hufflepuff table, and once it was done Steph rose to her feet.
"Okay, we're agreed." she said, and headed directly for the small bushy-haired girl who was seated alone (apart from a certain Longbottom) at the emptiest end of the Gryffindor table.
Hermione's rumination on what she now knew of Wizarding law was interrupted by the seventh-year in Hufflepuff black-and-yellow who sat down beside her.
"Hi." the unfamiliar girl said.
"... hello?" Hermione checked.
"I'm Stephanie Coates, but call me Steph, everyone does. Look, the password to the Hufflepuff dorm is 'Alexandre Dumas'. You're welcome in the Sett any time, we'll let you know when the password changes."
Hermione stared somewhat blankly at the older girl's broad, smiley, working-class face.
"Welcome to House Hufflepuff, Hermione." Steph said, and rose to her feet, heading back to the Puff's table.
Nevile Longbottom, as usual seated squarely beside his only friend, stared at her for a long moment.
"... wow, Hermione..." He eventually said.
"... um." Hermione muttered.
"... do you know what that meant?" Neville asked her.
"I think so." she said. "Neville... did they really just declare me an honorary Hufflepuff?"
"Well, I can't see why else they'd tell you the password and welcome you to House Hufflepuff if they hadn't." Neville said, frowning as he visibly attempted to think up alternative theories.
"... but according to 'Hogwarts: A History' that hasn't happened since, ye gods, September 1836!" Hermione complained.
"Well, um... I dunno what to say." Neville admitted. "I guess that now 'Hogwarts: A History' will have to say that it hasn't happened since November 1991."
Hermione stared at her only Gryffindor friend for a few moments, then extracted her shrunken copy of her favourite book from her robes, un-shrunk it, and turned to Page 236 (the end of the chapter about Hufflepuff traditions) to check; it was after all a self-updating volume.
Neville was right; at the very bottom of the list (by order of date) of honorary Hufflepuffs, a list that encompassed twenty-three pages, was the entry:
'Hermione Jane Granger. 27/11/1991'.
"... oh." she said.
Neville didn't say anything; he just gave his best friend a pleased look because, for once, good things had happened to good people.
-/-/- Fragmentation -/-/-
Having spotted Hermione, Harry went storming over to her.
He paused for a moment, giving her a searching look while she tried to rub the grot and tears out her eyes, then sniffed firmly, grabbed her, slung her over one shoulder in a rough approximation of a fireman's carry, spun on his heel, and went stomping off out the library ignoring the disapproving hiss his racket won him and, for that matter, the way Hermione was now yelling, kicking, and hitting his back.
Halfway from library to front door, he stormed past Filch, who watched this mini-procession with great interest.
"What's this, Mrs Norris?"
"Miaow?" the cat in question remarked, proving her true intelligence by hastening directly away from the infuriated human-form dragon.
By the time Harry was marching past Hagrid's hut, now accompanied by a rather worried-looking Suze, Hermione had given up on hitting and kicking him and run out of breath for yelling, and was hanging over his shoulder muttering darkly to herself, something she was still maintaining when they got into the edge of the forest, whereupon he plonked her down, abruptly turned into his dragony shape, looked her straight in the eye, let out a truly ferocious growl, and declared "I'm a big fearsome dragon and I'm gonna carry you off!" before scooping the now once more yelling girl up in one forepaw, scooped Suze up with the other, and launched.
-/-/- Fragmentation -/-/-
Once he finally stopped manhandling her like a sack of potatoes and put her down, Hermione spent a long moment glancing around before directing a renewed glare at Harry, who had plonked her down on a sofa and immediately changed back from dragon to pint-sized boy.
"What'd you go and do that for you bonehead?"
"Well you can't carry a damsel off less'n you pick her up and, you know, carry her." he said with one of his pragmatic shrugs.
"That's not what I meant! I meant why'd you come and grab me and cart me here when I was trying to be alone?"
"That wasn't you trying to be alone, that was you being all upset and stuff because those stupid people in Gryffindor were being outrageously obnoxious again and I've had enough of sitting on my bum like a no-good poltroon and watching and not doing anything useful! I'm fed up with watching you be upset all the time!" the suddenly-no-longer-human-formed dragon bellowed, incensed, "Those Gryffindors don't deserve someone as nice as you and never mind the whole thing with brainy – they're all stupid dunderheads and miserable bullies! I ain't gonna sit on my tail and watch a whole bunch of rampaging popinjays pick on onea my friends especially if she's a damsel! What kind of a dragon just sits around and lets a damsel get all distressed when he could be making like a proper dragon and carrying her off someplace ain't nobody's gonna pick on her no more? I'll tell you what kind of a dragon – the kind of a dragon who ain't doing it right! The kinda dragon Mr Snape'd call a tremendous waste a' skin! And anyway after that whole troll thing I promised your dad I'd look after you and with you in that stupid tower half the time that's kinda hard innit! So I carried you off and forget about whether you were ever gonna say that's okay! There's some stuff a dragon just can't not do if he's ever gonna be a proper dragon and being a dragon is the best thing that's ever happened to me and I ain't gonna muck it up!"
Hermione stared blankly for a few moments at the massive blue-black-scaled behemoth that was busy looking all affronted.
Then she rapidly shook her head.
"I, uh, you, uh, what?"
"Harry, I'll talk to her." Suze said. "You go and explain to Mr Flitwick and Mr Dumbledore, okay?"
"Yeah, okay." Harry muttered, and sprung into the air off the lip of the cave with a great rattle and thump of his wings slamming air out the way.
"... you have absolutely no idea how confused I am just now." Hermione said.
"That tends to happen when Harry's around." Suze told her, sounding highly amused but oddly sympathetic; she rose to her feet and trotted over to beside the sofa, upon which the bushy-haired girl was still seated. "He seems to make a policy of doing whatever people do not expect."
"Your daughter," Snape said with a pained grimace, "Would likely live a longer, happier and more productive life than otherwise if that blasted reptile were to declare her a damsel, carry her off to his lair, and never permit her to be elsewhere, I am sad to say. And I would like to make it quite clear that you did not hear that from me; I am, as it so happens, contravening the Statue of Secrecy merely by discussing this disgusting matter with you, Doctor Granger."
"... I beg your pardon?" Tony fairly growled, and Snape rolled his eyes.
"The Wizarding government," the potions master stated, "Are – with a vanishingly small number of exceptions – composed of three types of imbecile; the bigoted, the corrupt, and the astoundingly condescending. This has been the case at the very least since the time of the founding of Hogwarts, and quite likely for long, long before. And, may I point out, Wizarding law contains no 'bill of rights' or any such recognition of the fact that every supposedly-thinking being is just as much of a poltroon. Oh, no. You could almost call the Wizarding World what I believe is in your terms referred to as a caste system, and due to a genetic fluke your daughter is generally regarded as a member of the third-to-lowest caste."
"How exactly does this work?" Tony asked, getting the feeling he wasn't going to like it one tiny bit.
"It is based on lineage." Snape said. "The Wizarding World is ruled by purebloods of the first degree, also known as the Ancient and Noble Houses, those able to trace their name and lineage back to prior to the founding of the first School of Magic; Durmstrang in the north of Russia. It is they who form the seated Wizengamot, and each Wizarding nation's equivalent body assigns members to the International Confederacy of Wizards. Out of all the wizards and witches you have thus far met, three are members of Ancient and Noble Houses; Albus, Minerva, and Mr Potter. Beneath them are the upper class of Noble Houses, also known as purebloods of the second degree and able to trace name or lineage or both back at least one thousand years; I am the sole living member of the Noble House of Prince, and Madam Pomfrey is the heir of the Noble House of Pomfrey. From our ranks the Minister of Magic is selected, with each Patriarch or Matriarch of a Noble or Ancient and Noble house holding a number of votes dependent on how many lines they have over the years subsumed. Beneath those of my caste are purebloods of the third degree, able to trace their lineage back a minimum of five centuries, such as the ginger cross-eyed imbecile responsible for your daughter's encounter with that troll; they largely form the middle class of the Wizarding World, and those Ministry departments not led by the upper classes are provided heads from amongst their ranks. Final in the stakes are purebloods of the fourth degree, those not able to trace their lineage more than a handful of generations; they compose the working class of the Wizarding World."
"Okay, I read you, but you didn't make any mention of when people's parents can't do magic." Tony pointed out. "And what about people like those goblins or that centaur?"
"Ah, yes; according to your average wizard on the street, a 'true' pureblood is by definition not descended within three generations from a non-magical being such as yourself; otherwise, they are regarded as some form of partially-blooded. If one grandparent is the child of non-magicals, the wizard is known as a 'quattro', in other words one-quarter non-magical, and is liable to be looked down upon to a degree, unless of course they have the fortune to be a member of a Noble or Ancient and Noble house. Half-bloods of the first degree, such as Mr Potter, are those whose mother or father was the child of non-magical beings; again, some discrimination is likely unless they are a significant member of a Noble or Ancient and Noble house. Halfbloods of the second degree, such as myself, are the child of a wizard or witch and a non-magical being; discrimination is all but certain unless they are a truly prominent member of a Noble or Ancient and Noble house. I am quite fortunate in that; my father, as well as being an unrepentant bastard who murdered my mother in cold blood for having the temerity to be better than his foul self, in one shotgun blast left me the patriarch of a Noble House of one. As for non-human sapients... They are primarily viewed as something less than a so-called 'muggle', or to use layman's terms a non-magical human; the only reason that goblins are not treated as uncontrolled wild animals is due to their admirable propensity to remove the heads of anyone who dares to look down upon them. A few others, most notably the veela, share in their success; both goblins and veela are treated as members of Noble Houses composed of all members of their species. Most are not nearly so fortunate; centaurs, as an example, are treated with just as little regard as most of your kind would treat cattle."
"Where does Hermione come into all that?"
Snape's grimace was a truly unpleasant sight.
"I am afraid that, within the Wizarding World, she has next to no standing." he said. "She is what is referred to as a 'muggle-born' or 'mudblood', and I apologise for having used either term within your hearing, Doctor Granger, as both are quite disgusting pejoratives. I am afraid that she has only three rights within the hive of scum and villainy that calls itself the Wizarding World; the right to breathe, the right to possess a wand, and the right to defend herself, her property, and her 'betters', and all that grants her those three rights is her enrolment here... I apologise, Doctor Granger, but the subject as a whole makes me quite decidedly angry."
"What'd she ever do?" Tony snarled.
"Nothing, you blundering fool!" Snape spat. "It is more a matter of what this sewer that calls itself a civilisation did to one of the vanishingly small number of people I have ever given so much as a damn about and those like her, in fact Lily Evans was the only woman I can conclusively state I have ever loved. And, Doctor Granger, she found herself in the exact same position as your daughter finds herself in today – and my dear Lily did not have sixteen tons of fanatically overprotective dragon watching her back. She found herself a protector in the form of one of my childhood enemies, Mr Potter's misbegotten bastard of a father, and was then slain for having the temerity to beg the so-called Dark Lord not to slaughter Mr Potter where he lay in his cradle. Lily Evans was without a shadow of a doubt the most beautiful woman I have ever had the pleasure to encounter, and the most brilliant person I have ever had the honour to know, and that bastard cut her down where she stood in much the same manner as you or I would strike down a fly. That, Doctor Granger, is why I should like to suggest that you do everything in your power to assure that your daughter becomes and remains a close companion of Mr Potter; that dratted dragon would and has remorselessly exterminate anything that attempted to do harm to one of his own, and at the present moment he is our best hope to see the disgusting system that oppresses the vast bulk of magical beings overthrown and reformed into something at least loosely resembling a fair and just government."
"You're a revolutionary, aren't you."
"Indeed, Doctor Granger, " Snape confirmed with a sharp nod, "I most assuredly am. The Wizarding World is an open sewer, swimming with vermin and corruption. One day, all the shit will rise up and flood the streets, and when the scum who call themselves our betters find themselves drowning in their own filth, they shall quite assuredly look up and cry, 'Save us!'. And I shall look down and whisper, 'No'." His sneer grew even more startlingly malignant.
"... I take it you're an Alan Moore fan."
"One man's comic book is another man's inspirational text, Doctor. In the time of my tenure here, I have successfully reduced the number of students graduating with a NEWT in potions by ninety-five percent. And such is necessary for any law-enforcement position; I have single-handedly reduced recruitment of Aurors, Obliviators, Hit Wizards and Animal Control Team operatives by a factor of ten, and with any luck the succession of imbeciles Albus is careful to hire to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts shall reduce that figure even further. For some years I assisted the activities of the so-called Dark Lord in the hope that he in his short-sighted arrogance would awaken the sleeping dragon that your kind has represented since the invention of the repeater rifle, but Mr Potter blasted that imbecile to a grease smear before he could set the muggles off, sadly enough. Mark my words, one day I shall witness the destruction or subjugation of this, this zoo, and on that day, Doctor Granger, I shall allow myself to smile."
Tony sighed, shaking his head.
"I should never have let Hermione get involved in this... this mess."
"It is fortunate indeed, both for yourself and for your daughter, that you did, Doctor Granger. Unattached, uneducated and fertile witches are worth several thousand Galleons on the open market, especially if virgin. Until she was enrolled here, she was protected under the Protection (Children) Act of 1644. The moment she was enrolled here, she became a guest of the headmaster's family and therefore under his protection; the moment the Sorting Hat declared her a Gryffindor student, she became a guest of the Gryffindor family and therefore under their protection. By virtue of the laws of hospitality, any attack upon a guest is legally considered an attack on the host, and members of the middle, upper or ruling classes of the Wizarding World are legally entitled to utilise lethal force in self-defence."
"... you're talking about slavery!"
"Yes, Doctor, I most assuredly am." Snape agreed with a nod and grimace. "This last year, eight student candidates of non-magical parentage turned down places at Hogwarts, and now there are eight eleven-year-old children for sale in the back room of that oh-so-charming pet shop in Diagon Alley. Their parents are likely either pushing up daisies as we speak, and if they're very very lucky just missing any memory of having had a child – either that or appearing on the television to beg for the return of their vanished offspring. That, Doctor Granger, is the world an unfortunate quirk of genetics brought your daughter into and that, Doctor Granger, is why Mr Potter represents her best hope of anything even remotely resembling a pleasant life. To be quite frank, as of this moment it would be best for her future well-being if he were to immediately put a collar on her; she would promptly become the property of the patriarch of an Ancient and Noble House, and he is well within his rights to utilise indiscriminate lethal force in the protection of his property. The Hell with it, as he is the patriarch of an Ancient and Noble House, he is well within his rights to do any damn thing he so pleases short of unprovoked murder and usage of the three Unforgivables, and to be quite frank he does not need Unforgivables to decimate anything that gets in his way – as a certain troll discovered earlier this evening. Oh, and I might note that dependant on his caste and that of his opponent, provocation ranges from 'breathing too loud' through to 'attacking him or his property'. In which vein, any living creature property of the patriarch or matriarch of an Ancient and Noble House is legally entitled to use indiscriminate lethal force in self-defence; to put that into perspective, were Mr Potter to declare your daughter his property, she would be well within her rights to respond to any attack upon her person by machine-gunning with one of the Vickers the goblins so love anything that dared move within a couple hundred yards."
"I don't like this." Tony said, grimly shaking his head.
"Nor do I, my friend," Snape agreed, momentarily touching Tony's shoulder, "And that is why I do everything within my power to undermine what passes for law and order within the Wizarding World."
"What can I do to help?" Tony asked, turning to squarely face Snape.
A slight half-smile appeared on Snape's face for a brief moment, and he extended his hand.
"Welcome to the revolution; I shall keep you informed."
Tony nodded and shook the proffered hand.
"In the meantime," Snape continued, "Well... our present goal is to do whatever we possibly can to support a certain blasted reptile. I believe we should discuss this with your wife once she has done with chewing Albus out."
"Talking about Albus Dumbledore, can we trust him? What about that McGonagall woman?"
"Albus? Ah, yes, he and I are... fellow travellers, shall we say. Albus believes that there is some good left in the Wizarding World, and that it might be salvaged, turned around, without bloodshed. He and I have a little agreement; we share information, and while he works the political angle I work towards... something a little less understated. I shall likely be the first against the wall when the revolution comes; my manner in the classroom has won me few friends and many enemies, but law enforcement must undoubtedly be weakened before equality for all may be attained, whether you believe my way or Albus's way to be correct. I would prefer to live to see the better tomorrow I have been working towards since my teens, but if that better tomorrow puts me six feet under, so be it - I have yet to discern means that the end does not justify, and what price my existence when compared to the wellbeing of such shining stars as your daughter and my poor departed beloved? As for Minerva, she is one of the few members of the established order who has warranted my regard; there are scant few good people left in this mess, and Minerva is one of them. Sadly, she is strictly law-abiding yet in her eagerness to see any children such as your daughter granted some sort of rights she paints an unrecognisably glowing portrait of the Wizarding World."
"What about moving overseas?" Tony asked.
"For Merlin's sake don't do that, man!" Snape barked, eyes wide.
"... what? It can't be so bad worldwide."
"Wizarding Britain is regarded as progressive and open, Anthony. As bad as it is here in the United Kingdom," Snape shook his head, "Overseas it ranges from just the damn same – such as France – through to infinitely worse. Within the Aztec Empire, anyone not a pureblood of the first degree is a de-facto animal. North America is little better – it is fragmented into a million and one blood-crazed tribal kingdoms. Africa... just don't go there whatever you do, it is hell on Earth. Much of Asia is even worse than Africa. Australia and New Zealand are much the same as matters here, as are Japan and Vietnam. Magical Eastern Europe never escaped the age of the Soviets and I disregard the form of equality that means everyone being just as fucked. Most of the rest of the world is a colony of someone or another and anyone native is regarded as an animal... I apologise if I have misled you, but our enemy is not the British, it is magical humanity as a whole. Sometimes I think that there is something about the magical gene that makes one an unrepentant bastard, until I remember Lily."
"How much of this does Harry know?" Tony asked.
"More than you'd think." Snape admitted. "He is kind-hearted, helpful, attentive and eager to please, and his somewhat childish demeanour can quite easily fool one as concerns how perceptive he truly is; there is very little of any import that he misses, whether or not he lets those around him realise. He's known about all of this since an unfortunate incident in Diagon Alley a couple of years ago; some form of confrontation with Ministry personnel, I do not know all of the details. He and I have a little agreement; he has agreed to restrain himself and to avoid allowing the world to know of his nature until such a time as we have all the necessary preparations complete, at which stage, going by the fact that he is a dragon the size of a bus and strong enough to throw said bus like you or I would throw a rugger ball something tells me he'll give the government a significant shock."
"What's with his guns?"
"Ah, yes, you can thank our associates within the ranks of the goblins for that one, and I believe Mr Potter's possession of said firearms a truly excellent thing as it can but delay the time that the Wizarding World as a whole discovers his true nature and thus the more time we have to prepare; and perhaps he might inspire a few of the downtrodden masses to approach the goblins concerning the acquisition of their great equaliser. He is, as children go, a sensible young man and quite cautious where concerns things that might do injury to those he holds dear, firearms included; I myself only know the most basic components of the rules of safe and sensible handling of firearms, and I have never seen Mr Potter point a gun at anything he did not intend to kill."
"And why's he so important?"
"Aside from being Lily's son...? Anthony, he is a halfblood of the first degree, the patriarch and sole survivor of a highly-respected Ancient and Noble House, and no longer human. He represents a walking, talking, fire-breathing violation of all that the Wizarding World holds dear, he is also almost entirely fearless, composed of solid spell-resistant metal, is the only being ever known to have survived being hit by the Killing Curse, unswervingly loyal to his own, and is able to decimate anything within several hundred yards with little more than a thought. And might I note that he is good-natured and likes people? You have crawled inside the lad's mouth; what, precisely, do you think he'll do to the filth in power once he feels ready?
"Without a shadow of a doubt."
"Hey, are you guys friends now?" a certain dragon asked, landing beside them and causing Tony to wince slightly.
"Indeed, my boy, we most assuredly are." Snape said, nodding sharply. "Myself and Doctor Granger do, as it so happens, have compatible goals at this time; goals, I might note, that seem compatible with your own."
"Oh right, so he's one of us then, that's cool. It's just you were kinda getting all glarey at each other when I went to take a dump."
"It's resolved now, Harry." Tony said. "Hey, and, uh, couldja do me a favour?"
"What sort of a favour?" Harry asked, sounding a touch dubious.
"Take care of Hermione, okay?"
"Well I was gonna do that anyway since she's nice." Harry said, shrugging as he transformed back to his human shape. "And, y'know, since you ain't as much of a twit as Mr Bane I wanted to ask if it's okay if I, you know, carry her off, right? It's just that troll was distressing her and I think that makes her a damsel because, you know, damsels in distress, and dragons are supposed to carry damsels off or they just ain't proper dragons and being a dragon is the best thing that ever happened to me so I really don't wanna go doing it wrong or anything."
"If she's okay with it so am I." Tony said, for all that it took him a superhuman effort to drag that out.
"Well I guess that's cool, I mean I figure it'd be kinda rude to carry a damsel off if she was gonna get all upset about it and there's no point being rude because being polite don't cost nothing at least that's what Mrs McGonagall says." Harry mused, nodding thoughtfully. "And you don't gotta worry about nobody picking on Hermione no more because if they try it they've gotta go through me first and, y'know, it'd take a lot of going through to go through a dragon."
"And how precisely do you intend to carry Miss Granger off, Mr Potter?" Snape asked, cocking an eyebrow.
"Well I'm stronger'n I look, right, so I reckon I can just sort of pick her up, go somewhere nobody's gonna notice, go back to my real shape, and fly back to my lair." Harry said, thoughtfully scratching his head.
Tony made an abrupt mental note to move his practise to Mallaig.
"You do that, lad. But only if Hermione's okay with it!"
"Okay, Mr Granger! And you don't gotta try to growl, you're bad at it and I get the idea so it's okay anyway."
"What'll have happened to them?" Hermione asked. "I mean, those eight kids you mentioned?"
"Myself and my allies were able to save three of them." Snape told her. "One of our fellow-travellers got a fourth out. The other four... I confess I do not know, but the primary usage of such individuals is as sacrificial ingredients for assorted rituals. The luckier ones are used for menial labour in circumstances where a house-elf would not be appropriate and the work is valuable enough to go to the expense of controlling a magically-gifted human being yet sensitive enough to avoid risking gossip; I would say that they have approximately a fifty-fifty chance of being dead by now and a similar chance of being scheduled to die in a ritual in the not-so-distant future. The unfortunate few..." He shook his head. "The twisted appetites of the most unpleasant of our species sickens me to the core, Miss Granger, and I will say no more on that subject as it is quite unsuitable for the ears of a young lady."
"No, Miss Granger, I am saying that, whatever you believe on the matter, you do not want to know. I know, and adamantly wish I did not as it is a matter that makes me physically nauseous and has on occasion caused me to vomit."
"And again you misunderstand me. Half of the total is, in terms of numbers we manage to take off the market, a remarkably good year. A, fellow traveller, shall we say, put it in remarkably good terms; 'Expect nothing, hope for everything'. I continue to hope, Miss Granger, as although it is a dirty job someone has to do it."
AN – Oh ye gods, do I wish I could reply to the reviewer who left his review under the name 'Sean'?
The anon calling himself Sean is the first to so much as start to guess at an angle on how this connects to Shadowrun.
Sean, ma main man, if you're reading this, expect Dunkelzahn to poke his reptilian snout into continuity next chapter; he's the owner of the mysterious large eye.
And pretty much, but insert 'Torch' in place of 'Eat'.
And, yes, the Tir Na n'Og crowd will find themselves on the receiving end of one very annoyed reptile who really does not like people shitting in his backyard. Imagine living within a couple thousand kays of Harry's lair as like living just round the corner from a Hells' Angels hideout – they're loud, they frequently make a mess, but if some other bastard craps all over their home turf they will provide an apt demonstration of why there is 'Hell' in their club's name.
As for Lofwyr, well, Lof's the likeliest derailment point for the Shadowrun-canon plot as Harry would take grave offence to what Lofwyr did to establish a lair; the biggest difference between this Harry and the Shadowrun-canon dragons is that this Harry regards any non-dragon sapient not-a-knight being within the bounds of his lair as one tiny step short of being a part of his hoard...
"Huh; that's a book I haven't read yet and there ain't so many left, can I borrow yours sometime?"
"Sure." Hermione said, abruptly realising she was in the presence of someone just as book-crazy as herself.
"Cool, thanks." Harry said, nodding. "It's gettin' harder and harder to find new books to read about magic an' stuff but I guess that's 'coz there's only so many magic-type people writin' books and I'm a real fast reader and I got a real good memory so I don't never gotta read a book twice and it takes me way less time to read a book than it took the writer to write it so it's kinda hard for 'em to keep up, I guess. I mean there's all sortsa weird stuff in some of them books but I guess that's 'coz a book's only ever as right as the person who wrote it, I mean the only person whose books I've read who gets it halfway right about dragons is that nice Mrs McCaffrey lady and she ain't got everything straight and I kinda guess loads of books are as wrong about stuff as that whole Smaug thing."
"Who's Mrs McCaffrey?" Hermione asked.
"You mean you ain't never read Mrs McCaffrey's books?" Harry asked, horrified. "You gotta read 'em! Here, read this!"
He pulled a beat-up and somewhat dog-eared hardback book, missing it's dust jacket, out of inside his coat, and showed it to Hermione.
It had 'Dragonflight' stamped into it's spine. She noted that his manner about it was a bit like what you saw with very religious people and Bibles.
"That's a real special book from the first printing so be dead careful with it, okay?" Harry warned, adding meat to her theory.
"I'm always careful with books." Hermione said, somewhat reproachful.
"Okay, that's cool then." Harry said, handing it to her.
Hermione promptly opened the book, and began to read...
When is a legend, legend? Why is a myth, a myth? How old and disused must a
fact be for it to be relegated to the category: "Fairy tale"? And why do
certain facts remain incontrovertible, while others lose their validity to
assume a shabby, unstable character?
Rukbat, in the Sagittarian sector, was a golden G-type star. It had five
planets, plus one stray it had attracted and held in recent millennia. Its
third planet was enveloped by air man could breathe, boasted water he could
drink, and possessed a gravity which permitted man to walk confidently
erect. Men discovered it, and promptly colonized it, as they did every
habitable planet they came to and then, whether callously or through
collapse of empire, the colonists never discovered, and eventually forgot to
ask, left the colonies to fend for themselves...
That should be fairly easily explained. Just have a Hogwarts bylaw that states that any "last scion's of 'Ancient and Noble Houses' (and retinue) get a private suite due to the risk of assasination", and that within such a suite the scion is allowed to erect any security, eg wards/spells/enchantments/weaponry, they choose to ensure their own safety. That way, Harry get's his own room, along with the right to have his damsels stay with him, and the right to keep his guns as well.
Hmm, I can work with that.
I'm thinking the Succession (Expenditures) Act of 1736, and Heirs of Ancient and Noble Houses, or possibly Patriarchs or Matriarchs of such. The fact that Harry is the Patriarch of the Ancient and Noble House of Potter... well, he's pretty much unique out of his year in having no magical relatives left. Let's look at the other members of Ancient and Noble Houses I've pegged as such in his year;
Susan Bones - she's the Heir of the Ancient and Noble House of Bones. Amelia is the Matriarch of the House.
Neville Longbottom - ditto that but for the Ancient and Noble House of Longbottom and the Ancient and Noble House of Gryffindor, both of which Augusta Longbottom is the Matriarch (Acting) of having married into the House from a family merely Noble and being the underage heir's closest living magical relative; Harry got to inherit when Voldie's Av Kav hit James as he abruptly became the only living direct-line member and yes, I do know Lily died after James, bigots, remember?
Daphne Greengrass - ditto that but for the Ancient and Noble House of Greengrass of which her as-yet-unnamed grandfather is the Patriarch.
Hannah Abbot is a member of a cadet branch of the Ancient and Noble House of Hufflepuff; no mistake she ended up a Puff. The current Patriarch of the line is one Nicholas Flamel, who is Hannah's great-great-grandfather's first cousin, and she's thirty-sixth in line of inheritance.
I may decide on others.
"I'm hoping to get into Ravenclaw." Harry said. "Mr Flitwick says they've got a huge library full of books you can't get anywhere else and he says I'll only get to read them if I go into Ravenclaw."
"... er." Ron said.
"Oooh, what sort of books?" Hermione pounced.
"... um, I'll just be going then." Ron muttered, beating a hasty retreat.
"Huh; wonder what's up with him? Oh well. I dunno what sort of books because Mr Flitwick hasn't let me read them yet."
"Hogwarts: A History doesn't say anything about a Ravenclaw library." Hermione mused.
"It's a good volume, but it doesn't have everything in it." Harry told her. "It can't, Hogwarts is really huge and it's only four thousand pages and, well, I've already found stuff that isn't mentioned in Hogwarts: A History."
"Isn't this your first year?" Hermione asked.
"Well, yeah, but I've lived just near Hogwarts for two and a half years now and when it's not term-time I got to explore some, and, well, Mr Snape and Mrs McGonagall told me some stuff that isn't in the book, like what the windows are made out of – they're orihalcum – and I found where the wards – that's the spells that stop people apparating and stuff in Hogwarts and stop muggles seeing Hogwarts – are worked from and it doesn't say anything about those in that book. And it says electric thingies don't work there and that's rubbish."
"But..." Hermione stopped, horrified at the idea of a book being wrong.
"Well, radios mostly don't work right but that's because of the way the castle's walls are made, they're twelve feet thick and full of noble iron and radio kinda can't get through that. What? Oh, come on, I kinda got to thinking about why radios and stuff don't work right at Hogwarts and I figured it couldn't be because of the magic because Diagon Alley's been where it is since before Hogwarts was built and it's wards are just as strong and there aren't bits of London where radios don't work so I did some research. That's parta why I want to be in Ravenclaw, there's a window in the Ravenclaw dorms where if you stand a radio in the right place you can pick up this well neato Irish radio station and I've got one of those wind-up radios, the type with a little generator and turny handle to charge the battery, it's cool."
Hermione considered Harry for a long moment. She was coming to realise that being his friend was going to be a very interesting – if confusing – experience.
"... I'm going to need to see this." she said.
"... I guess he did something you didn't expect."
Suze nodded as she settled herself beside the sofa.
"You have absolutely no idea how bewildered I was when he carried me off; I confess I expected to be eaten."
"Eaten? I... okay, I suppose it's a pretty fair assumption, but... um, he doesn't eat people, does he?"
"No, he doesn't."
"... oh good. Look, does he expect me to just, you know, stay here?"
"You mean you expect him to allow you not to? You mean you think there's any way out of here but his wings? You mean you expect him to allow you to leave if he doesn't think you'll come back? You mean you expect him not to go and bring you back if you don't come back under your own power?"
"... he really did kidnap me, didn't he?"
"I suppose you could call it that. I suspect he'd call it rescuing you."
"I don't need rescuing!"
"Then I suppose it's coincidental that you haven't been back to the Gryffindor dorm before curfew in three weeks, and that you wake before anyone else and immediately leave? Do you expect me to believe that you have any desire at all to be there?"
"no... but I didn't expect someone to, well, make my mind up for me."
"It was pretty obvious you were not going to make a decision." Suze said, shrugging.
Wind...? From eating cordite? Oh, ye gods...
After they'd picked themselves up and brushed the shattered remains of the
windows of the Great Hall off themselves, the Hogwarts staff departed en masse
to find what had just caused that deafening boom. They were fairly sure that
they knew where to look, and what - or, rather, who - to look for...
They were correct in the latter expectation, but not in the former. This didn't
mean that the subject of their search was hard to find; quite the opposite,
actually, as he could be seen on the far side of the lake, sitting in the
shallows, surrounded by clouds of steam.
"You wretched reptile!" Snape bellowed. "What in the name of Merlin did you just
The dragon hung his head while simultaneously giving off a relieved sigh which
sounded remarkably like a noise the Hogwarts Express made after arriving at
Hogsmeade Station each September 1st.
"Um... sorry," he said shamefacedly. "I... I was out flying and I spotted this
old wooden box up in the mountains. I thought it might be some kind of treasure,
so I landed and had a look at it, and it had a lot of really big bullets in it
- too big to put in any of my guns, or even the goblins' - and I was hungry
and the metal casings and what was inside them smelt really yummy, so I had a
quick snack and flew back here, but then I needed to let off really, really
badly, and when I did, it all sort of came out in a rush and burst into flames
and suddenly I was flying REAL fast, but I couldn't stop and I went right over
the castle so quick I didn't really know it was there until I'd gone way past,
and then my fart ran out and I was able to slow down and turn around, but my bum
was feeling all hot and uncomfortable, so I landed by the lake to cool it off
and I feel much better now."
Nobody said a word to Harry's "explanation". Nobody could.
Yes, folks, it's Dragon!Harry a la Errol from Discworld - another jet-propelled
dragon! Couldn't resist the idea of cordite-produced flatulence because, y'know,
that is so like what a jet engine does - take in air, burn fuel with it, squirt
the results out the back to produce this thing we call thrust.
BTW, Harry's "treasure" is meant to be an old, long-lost box of artillery
shells. I thought about having him find an old naval shell, but I thought that
might be a bit much even for him to digest. g
Love the story so far. This popped in to my head and thought I'd share.
"Boy! Why is your pet not on a leash?"
With a growl that carried over surprisingly well from his dragon form Harry
answered, "She is not my pet, she's my damsel."
"She's your what? Never mind, filthy beasts like that should not be loose in the
Alley," the squat toad like woman in the pink robe croaked as she drew her wand,
an action that was repeated by the three men following her.
As easy as it would be to shift back in to his dragon form, he was warned
several times that his secret must never get out so he did the next best thing.
"Run Suze!" Harry called as he took her hand and started to charge through the
group towards the entrance to Gringotts.
Knowing that she was swifter than he was in little form she picked him up and
tossed him on to her back as she ran headlong in to the witch and wizards
knocking them aside as though they were tenpins. The young centaur didn't slow
down until the spear points of the goblin security guards were pointing at her.
Harry and Suze were both breathing hard as they tried to explain the altercation
outside and why they had come running in to Gringotts. Before they could get
more than a few feet away from the door it opened again reveling the pink robed
woman and her accomplices as well as several blue robed Aurors all with wands
drawn. The two groups were quickly separated by the heavily armed guards.
Hearing one of the names associated with the commotion inside the bank Crackjaw
made his way to the lobby where his business partner was being held. "Mr.
Potter, what is the meaning of this?" the goblin asked as he stepped past the
Harry quickly explained what had happened moments before in the street he was
quickly ushered in to Slackhammer's office. "I know you are to young yet to have
a wand, but perhaps we can find something else for you and your companion to
defend yourself with..."
(engages lecture mode) 'Noble' or 'Responsive' metals react to the presence of magic, 'Ignoble' or 'Unresponsive' metals do not. 'Noble' and 'Ignoble' are terms specific to metals, while 'Responsive' and 'Unresponsive' are used to refer to inert reagents in general. Ignoble materials are useful as a base, whether to suspend a potion in the form of a gel or paste, or (in the case of metals) as a surface upon which to engrave runes, as they will not alter the effects of the magics that they carry.
Some usually-ignoble reagents, such as aluminium and iron, can be made noble by mixing them with the right chemicals - or, to use wizarding terms, reagents. In the case of aluminium, the plogistonic nitrate known as orihalcum or aluminium oxy-nitride is one of only two known noble compound of the base element, the other being thermite. Orihalcum is immensely magic-resistant, and has the intriguing property of becoming more physically resiliant as it's magical charge grows; thermite is quite magic-sensitive and if exposed to a sufficient magical charge will combust with great ferocity.
Plogiston comes, IIRC, from a very old theory of what made things burn; in the context of this fic, it's what wizards call oxygen. It's me messing with words to a certain degree as I'm trying to give the feel that 'alchemy' is in fact a close relative of muggle chemistry that diverged several centuries ago (prior to the development of the term 'chemistry' but has arrived at a similar (and correct) level of knowledge as muggle chemists.
I'll be explaining all that (and other bits as I think them up) in-story later.
I think the easiest solution might be, "Mr Potter suffers from a medical
condition that would be disturbing and disruptive to room-mates, and
will be housed separately." When asked, mention is made of nightmares,
sleepwalking, and a tendency to wake up violently when disturbed,
doubtless due to the traumatic tragedy of his parent's death.
- Peter Volk.
(Omake by Stick97)
What happens when a dragon teethes? Wasn't there a scene in DragonHeart
where the dragon gets a skeleton or something stuck in his teeth?
Maybe Harry eats the troll, and gets the club stuck in there, can't return
to Harry size, and the Grangers get called in to reassure Hermione, and they
help Harry out?
"Well it seems there is some scoring on your teeth Mr. Potter. This canine
has a particularly large score. What exactly have you been eating? Do you
make a habit of eating Trolls?" asked Dr. Granger, sweating profusely from
the heat coming from a blast furnace of a stomach of the dragon, the heavy
protective gear and respiration equipment, and the fact that he was
voluntarily up to his arse in an extremely large dragon's mouth. He owed
young Mr. Potter a score, for saving his dearest only daughter from the
aforementioned Troll, which seemed to have part of it's arm firmly wedged
between Harry's first superior molar, and his second superior pre molar.
"No thir! 'ey are awful! I 'on't 'ink I 'an ge' the 'aste out of 'ere!
Yuccth!" replied Harry, trying to avoid running his tongue over Dr. Granger
while he was extracting the troll chunks from his mouth. "OWWWW!" yelped
Harry, as Dr. Granger firmly pulled on the offending troll appendage.
"Dan! Careful now!" chastised Emma Granger, who was against the back wall of
the room, holding on to a still distraught Hermione who flinched at every
mention of the word troll.
"Daddy! Be careful!" shrieked Hermione, biting her nails to the quick, as
she watched the procedure with interest.
"No worries you two. Harry won't hurt me, I've almost got it!" laughed Dr.
"Daddy! Honestly, can't you see you are hurting poor Harry!" chastised
"Daniel Granger, the poor boy is already in enough pain as it is! You stop
lumbering around like an elephant in his mouth!" shouted Emma Granger.
Dan Granger's jaw dropped, as he turned to look at the two most important
girls in his life. 'I am a twitch away from being an after dinner dessert
to this beast of a dragon, who just ate a 9 foot bloody troll like a damned
treacle tart, and they are worried about me hurting HIM!?'
Dan shook his head. He knew it would happen eventually, but in his
daughter's first year, he knew he had already lost her to this, this, well
Monster! Oh well, Emma's father had laughingly warned him when he had
brought Hermione home from the hospital. He had hoped he could keep his
little girl all to himself for at least a score or two years, but it looked
like it was already too late. Who would have thought that the man who took
his daughter away would not be a shining knight on horseback, but a dragon
more likely to flambe the knight?
With a sigh, he returned to work. Stupid boys, eh, dragons. "Hold on just
a second there Harry, almost... almost... There! Got it!" He proudly
turned with the severely charred remnant of the troll's arm, expecting the
accolades of his daughter, and wife. He idly wondered how he could publish
this in the Dentist's review. First sapient interspecies extraction?
Safety techniques for the hygienic maintenance and upkeep of the orthodontia
of a pre adolescent Draco Volens?
While Dan Granger was ruminating on the fame this could bring him, he
suddenly realized that his wife and daughter were not congratulating him for
his daring and skill, but that blasted lizard!
"Now Harry, you really have to learn to chew your food! Why, that could
have affected your permanent teeth if we hadn't gotten it out of there, or
you could have gotten an infection, or even an abcess!" chided Emma Granger.
"We?" muttered Dan.
"Hush Dan! Now Harry, besides troll, what does your diet consist of? Are
you getting plenty of calcium and fluoride in your diet? What about
vegetables? Are you getting enough protein?" questioned Emma.
Harry was greatly enjoying the attention, as he worked his jaw back and
forth getting the feeling back. "Well, Mrs. Granger, I am pretty sure I get
plenty of the first from the smelter where Hagrid gets me my treats, and I
really enjoy Devils' Snare as it's nice and minty, and I love the taste of
roasted Acromantula, although they are getting harder to find locally."
"Smelter? Devils Snare? Honestly, Harry! Who lets you eat that kind of
thing! Devil's Snare is dangerous and could kill you! Wait! Did you say
Acromantula? Those are giant spider's Harry! What do you think you are
doing? You could be hurt!" screeched a panicked Hermione, envisioning the
potential loss of her first and only friend at Hogwarts.
"Ha! Please calm your self Ms. Granger! Until we reached an agreement with
the smelter, we were having reports of lost carriages from the Express, and
none of the enchanted suits of armor would go any where near their alcoves
if they faced a window. For that matter, according to the blasted lizard
here, Devil's Snare tastes like a cross between parsley and lemon mint. As
for the Acromantula's, yes they are giant spider's, but they pose as much
threat to Mr. Potter, as a chocolate covered grasshopper to you or I. I
find that *properly* cooked they are quite the delicacy myself." smirked
Professor Snape, glaring at the suddenly bashful dragon who was looking
anywhere but at the Professor.
"Sorry, Professor Snape, I didn't know that you could get solomonella from
undercooked Acromantula!" blushed Harry.
"Harry, just what made you try eating giant spider, instead of a nice
balanced diet?" asked a quiet Emma Granger.
"Well, to be honest, at first it was just to settle an old score." explained
"And pray tell, why would you have a score to settle with spiders?" inquired
whispered a suddenly shrinking Harry Potter, seeming to literally fold in on
himself, going from a large dragon, to a small 11 year old boy. The boy
still had the gorgeous rich emerald eyes of the dragon, but now had a
tousled head of dark hair, that had both Granger women itching to run their
hands through it. For different reasons of course.
"Why would you ever be put into a cupboard Harry?" asked Emma, as she felt
her eyes well with tears, as her nails dug into her palms. She looked
towards Professor Snape, whose eyes were widening as he saw the glare coming
from both of the Granger women. He slightly shook his head, before
surreptitiously pointing towards the twinkling headmaster sitting in the
overstuffed chintz armchair.
"Oh, they didn't really need a score, getting a better score than Dudley on
a examination, not knowing the score for the football games when Vernon had
to work late, keeping Dudley from scoring with Pier's sister, or when I got
blamed for the score he made from the corner store..." rambled Harry,
listing things and idly scoring the flagstone floor he was sitting on, as he
thought of instances.
"Have you settled the score with the spiders Harry?" asked Professor
McGonagall, as she added her glare to the still blissfully twinkling
"Huh? Oh, yeah I suppose. I mean there were scores and scores of them
before, now it takes me ages to find any to eat. But Hagrid said he scored
a big sac of their eggs from the nest, and he said he knows how to raise
them. As long as I don't get to eager, I should be able to still have some
in moderation." explained a now cheerful Harry.
"Yes, Harry, one must be mindful of restraint and balance, as even the
spiders play a vital role in the ecosystem of the Forbidden Forest. For the
Greater Good of the Forest you really will have to learn to control
yourself." interjected Professor Dumbledore, before returning to humming an
"I know sir, I just couldn't help myself they taste so good! Sort of like a
hairy chicken, but when I cook them they get so nice and crispy! By the way
sir, what song is that you are humming?" asked Harry.
"Hmm? Oh, Shaft's The Big Score, I believe. I do so enjoy a good
blaxploitation movie! Quite the musical score if you ask me!" replied
"Do you think I could get a copy of the score? It sounds really good, and
would give me something to hum besides The Ride of the Valkyries when I am
flying" asked Harry.
"Of course dear boy! It will just take a score of minutes for my musiquill
to score it out for you." said Dumbledore.
"Uh sir? How long will that be?" asked Harry.
"Hmm? Well, if we were using the centaur definition, five minutes, another
20 minutes, and yet another definition, quite a long time, why do you ask?"
twinkled the bearded old man.
"Cause I think the troll didn't agree to well with me, and I need to...uh,
you know..." explained Harry as he held his stomach, shifting uncomfortably
from foot to foot.
"Come along boy, I'll escort you to the forest, so you can take care of your
necessities," interjected a worried looking Snape, seeing the fierce looks
being directed towards the still oblivious Headmaster, who was nodding in
time to the musiquill. No one could say the man was not an expert in
keeping his own skin intact after all. Voldemort had nothing on the anger
brewing between the women in the room.
"I think I'll come with you Professor. I'd like to see the grounds while I
am here and talk to Harry as well." added Dan Granger, now out of his
protective gear but still holding a large pair of blacksmith's tongs in one
hand, while he placed the other firmly on Harry's shoulder. He was no
longer in dentist mode, but still had a strong urge to inflict pain. He
also recognized the look on his wife's face, and had no desire to be hit
with any of the collateral splash damage.
"Good idea you two, I'd like to ask a few questions of the esteemed
Headmaster here, and I don't think Harry needs to be present for them." said
Emma, smiling and nodding at Professor McGonagall, who was idly tracing the
runes on her wand. "Hermione, why don't you go with your father?"
"I'd rather stay mother dear," replied Hermione, fixing Dumbledore with a
glare that could melt the lining of Harry's stomach.
"Hmm." Emma looked at her daughter, arched an eyebrow, nodded and smiled
ferally. 'She's growing up so fast!' thought Emma, wiping a small tear from
"Off you go boys! We'll take care of things here!" smiled Professor
"But what about the music scor.." asked Harry, before Snape grabbed one arm,
Dan Granger the other, and placing his off hand over Harry's mouth.
"Shut up and run, fool boy!" hissed Snape.
"For the love of god, don't look back!" muttered Dan, as he and Snape lifted
Harry and dragged him from the room.
Harry was curious as to what was happening, when he heard a "Silen-" and
then a squelching noise coming from the room. He thought the voice was
Hermione's, but wasn't sure. As the two men marched him through the Great
Hall, he noticed that the Gryffindor hourglass seemed to be rapidly filling
with gemstones. Hmm. Everyone who could give points was in the Great Hall,
with the exception of the Headmaster, and his Head of House. Hermione must
really be impressing the two to be earning so many house points. He
mentioned wanting to go back, and both men laughed somewhat crazily, as Dan
merely stooped and threw Harry over his shoulder in a fireman's carry.
Once they were outside, he placed Harry down, and looked him squarely in the
eyes. Even though his insides could melt lead, he suddenly had a cold
feeling in his stomach, as he began to sweat for some reason.
"Harry, I want you to listen to me very closely. I am going to give you
some very important advice." growled Dan Granger as he brandished the
blacksmith's tongs threateningly.
Harry gulped, and nodded. When did Hermione's father get so scary? He
seemed so friendly and appreciative earlier today?
"1. Whenever women sound like that and are smiling at each other, get the
hell out of there as fast as you can, and forget that crap about 'leave no
man behind'! Tip a pint up for the poor bastard at the pub, and don't make
the same mistake as him.
2. If you think my princess is going to be just another damsel, or score on
the wall of your lair, you need to remember something very important. If I
have to go to jail for protecting the virtue of my daughter, it will be for
something so gory, abominable, and atrocious, they reinstate the death
3. I will be sending you a movie to watch. It's what inspired me to become
a dentist. Very popular in its' time. It has Dustin Hoffman in it. You
know that funny fellow who played Captain Hook in the movie Hook? You
remind me of him quite a bit Harry.
4. You can score all you want in Quidditch, but if you try and pressure to
"score" with Hermione, or try it before you are at least engaged? I will
use these tongs to remove to crush your bollocks like rotten grapes.
Harry paled more than Snape could ever hope to. "Uh, gotta go. Bathroom
calling!" He then promptly transformed into a paler version of his normal
dragon form and flew away as fast as he could.
Dan Granger smiled and waved the tongs, shouting out "Have fun storming the
Snape merely arched his eyebrow, and drolly asked, "How are your benefits?"
Huh. That kind of got away from me there. Sorry if I intruded there, but
it just seemed to fit.
Why yes, I do have a daughter, why do you ask?
I may throw this up on my acct with a link to your story whenever you
post it in the wild.
Obviously, really enjoying your view of Harry, and remember if you don't
know the score, you don't know the whole story.
Ok, taking my burnt lips off the dragon fire heated crack pipe now.
Posted by: "skeptic72000" myeh skeptic72000 Sun Dec 13, 2009 8:13 pm (PST)
The first thing to realize is that Harry and Suze and everyone else is making things up as they go along. A dragon's damsel responsibility is basically determined by the damsel. Suze is basically raising Child Dragon Harry. She tells him stories and teaches him about the stars and the history of the Centaurs.
Harry seems to be physically arrested at age eight. Either that or he is really really short for his age. When the Grangers met Harry at Diagon Alley for the first time they thought he was several years younger than Hermione.
I can just see the following scene a couple of days after Halloween. Harry is still trying to be a fairly normal human boy so he can't carry Hermione off in dragon form.
Harry runs up to Hermione after dinner in the great hall.
Harry bursts out, "Hermione have you finished dinner yet? Can you come with me to the dungeon, I want you to meet my friends Susan and Hannah. We can all go visit with Suze later and she will get the elves to bring us a snack. I really want to show you my lair here. You don't mind coming down to meet my friends and see my lair do you? You were in distress and I have to carry you off to be proper and your father who isn't a poop head said that I could carry you off to my lair if you didn't mind."
Hermione smiled down and said "No Harry, I would really like to meet your friends. I never had a chance to really talk to them as Hufflepuff and Griffindors don't really have classes together. I saw them in the library but Madam Pince doesn't let us talk. "
Harry grinned and dragged her by the hand over toward the Hufflepuffs "Susan, Hannah this is Hermione. We had a wonderful adventure a couple of days ago when we saw this troll and then Hermione's parents came to see us in the infirmary and they looked at my teeth since I had got something stuck in my mouth when I bit down on this hard thing. Anyway I want to show Hermione the common room and my lair."
"The Hufflepuff common rooms are all down in the basement but the opposite direction from the Slytherins, but they might be just a little further underground, but its hard to tell since we go down this set of stairs toward out rooms and they go down two other stair cases which aren't as long but they have two sets"
Susan said "Stop pulling Hermione along, Harry, some people don't want to move so quickly after supper particularly on these stairs."
The four of them head down the stairs, Harry in the lead with Hannah bringing up the rear. Susan says "What is your favorite class, Hermione? I like Herbology since it gets us out of the castle, and since Professor Sprout is our head of House we can ask questions when things get confusing."
Hermione replies " Charms is a lot of fun, just being able to wave a wand and see things float or move or change color. Can you really ask your Head of House for help, Professor Macdonegal is never around except during class or office hours."
Hannah chimes in with "Really? Thats wierd. Professor Sprout spends an hour every evening in the common room, in fact it was more than that at the start of the year. And she assigned a "big brother" or "big sister" to all the first years to make sure that they didn't confused or lost. Anyway here we are. Just go through the round door"
The girls brushed past Harry who was holding the door open and entered a bright cheerful room with three fireplaces and lots of chairs and sofas. The walls were a light bright yellow and the sofas a dark yellow, and the chairs and tables a black wood. Susan and Hannah grabbed Hermione's arms and pulled her toward a dark passage at one side.
Hannah said "Let me show you our dorm room, and I need to change my sweater. Are you warm enough? I have a thick sweater you can borrow if you want"
When the girls reemerged, Harry was there waiting for them. Harry said "Hermione what do you think of our Sett? Come over here and sit by this fireplace. All the furniture is slightly smaller so things are more comfortable. Would you like to play exploding Snaps? or Monopoly? Hannah has a set."
Susan said "Lets do Monopoly. Hermione can you play? Its a really strange game that Hannah had from one of her muggle cousins."
Hermione replied "I am willing to play monopoly. My parents and I used to play together. "
After the game was over, Harry jumped up and said "Are you all hungry? Come on lets visit Suze and she'll give us a snack, and I really really want to show you my lair"
Hannah said "Tempus, Yes lets go call on her, the astronomy class is meeting just after dark to see the early stars and planets this week so she should be back."
Hermione said "You can just call on Professor Suze whenever you want?"
Hannah said "Oh yes, Harry is a great friend of hers and she welcomes all of us too."
Susan added "Now come this way, its quite close just up this set of stairs"
Harry grabbed Hermione's hand and dragged her behind him until they came to a portrait of a meadow. He spoke "Welcome friends" and the portrait opened. All of them entered a large fairly bare room with a mural of a forest meadow painted on the walls. A soapstone wood stove heated one corner. There was a couple of library tables and chairs and bookshelves and a low padded platform near the corner.
Harry burst out "Welcome to my lair. This is where Suze and I live during the school year. You can come here whenever you like. Its a safe place where there aren't any knights or bullies or trolls."
Suze said "Good evening, Harry, Susan, and Hannah. Hermione its good to see you again, and let second Harry's invitation. Feel free to come here at anytime and use any of the books. We have a little potions lab set up, but I don't want you to brew anything alone. You can use it if Harry or I are here"
Hermione said "Thank you, Professor. I would really love to look at your books and this would be so more peaceful than the Gryffindor common room especially when the twins are playing pranks. Professor Suze, how is it that you and Harry have your own suite and such a very large room?
Profesor Suze said easily "These rooms are especially warded against magic damage and have their own exit to the castle. Harry is staying here because he is still having occasional outbursts of accidental magic and it would be unfair to his dorm mates if he loses control and damages their possesions. I needed the extra room, centaurs hate close quarters, and the exit leads to the grasslands in front of the forbidden forest. When the castle gets too oppressive I can go for a run or to see the stars. I took the job as part time Astronomy professor so I could study medicine with Madam Pomfrey, and stay with Harry. Sometimes his magic runs wild and he needs my help, so this is his lair at Hogwarts"
"Now, Harry, clear the books off the table and bring up enough chairs and I'll call the House elves to bring us a snack"
Responsibilities of a dragons madien, by Harry Potter.
1. Be a rare gem (already done cause I picked you cause you were.)
2. Be a good shot (Target practice on weekends with rifle or preferred choice of firearms)
3. Warn of approaching knights (I gotta sleep sometime so always keep an eye out for those evil things! )
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"... boil lead?" Tony blankly asked.
"Indeed. The temperature within his digestive tract typically hovers at around four thousand degrees Fahrenheit; that's why his appetite for hydro-carbons is quite so insatiable, his internal fires are quite literally fuelled by the large quantities of coal and petroleum he ingests. The highest I have recorded within his stomach is almost six thousand degrees, and the lowest a little over three thousand. His is a truly astounding morphology; he is almost entirely composed of metals, much of them formed into complex and quite astounding alloys. He is also, I might note, fanatically and in fact violently protective of his friends, as a certain troll discovered to it's detriment earlier this evening.
Also remember than Harry's death was to be part of a ritual: The Horacrux creation. The only two people who knew about horacurxes, Albus and Voldemort, died before giving any explanation, and Albus did not begin to research then until after SECOND year.
It certainly would not be too over the top for an author to decree than the ritual murder requires a specific spell to kill ("cold blooded murder"; the AK requires HATE, and few people are able to mix hate and cold blood).
Maybe, since we are talking about a ritual... that spell is wandless (maybe runic or something)... and it emits a green light and happens to fill the entire room with a dark magic residue quite similar to that of AK?
In fact, let's take it a step further. Since it is a pity to let a perfectly plot point waste, and you have all those ley-lines all bound up doing nothing since Harry turned into a dragon... The Horcrux ritual is one of the bare handful of surviving rituals than use the power of ley-lines -that's why you cannot use a want, too much power. That gives Voldemort a reason to use relevant locations for the horacruxes instead of a high security vault buried ten miles under the Himalaya -it is a requirement of the spell.
Maybe whatever Lily did to save Harry has nothing to do with "mother's love" (as if she was the only one) but with another surviving ley-line ritual... and that gives Harry a second reason to, not only survive, but leave in a much more powerful body, when he met the ley-lines again...
* Chapter 1: group/CaerAzkaban/message/104362
* Chapter 2.1: group/CaerAzkaban/message/104970
* Chapter 2.2: group/CaerAzkaban/message/105295
* Chapter 2.3: group/CaerAzkaban/message/106556
* Chapter 2.X: group/CaerAzkaban/message/106827
* Chapter X.X: group/CaerAzkaban/message/107845
Having been browsing around the commentary about this fic on varied forums elsewhere - DLP etc - I'm staggered by how many people out there on the net have completely failed to comprehend what 'Shadowrun crossover' MEANS.
First off of course the fic's world is going to go to shit and of course it's already halfway there. Of course there are revolutions, breakaway states, ethnic cleansings, people being declared 'subhuman' - IT'S A FREAKING SHADOWRUN CROSSOVER. Shadowrun's setting, when you get down to the nitty-gritties, takes a hell of a lot of out-nastying. OK, so oWoD and Rifts manage it, but sheezus people.
And second off, which trumps, magic or technology?
The first section of this fic can be found at: s/5585493/1/Enter_the_Dragon and being able to make sense of this is pretty much entirely dependent on having read it.
As it's in excess of forty thousand words, for TL-DR purposes, this fanfic works on the premise that at around age 8 Harry unexpectedly turned into a somewhat Shadowrun-style dragon able to eat pretty much anything including whole cars. Things got slightly derailed when Snape unexpectedly screamed something about 'Viva la Revolution!', and a supporting cast of confused centaurs, bigoted Ministry personnel, wizarding railwaymen and goblins with Vickers guns wandered in at some stage, between them helping to construct a somewhat darker-and-edgier angst-ridden Wizarding World for the completely angst-proof Harry I've accidentally created to enthusiastically fail to angst at.
As we rejoin the action, Harry and a girl he met in Diagon Alley (one Hermione Granger) accompanied by Harry's pet centauress, have just boarded the Hogwarts Express on their way to their first year at Hogwarts.
For those who like Ron, there is a faint scent of Ron-bashing here, but I've done my best to keep it to the level of preteen-kids-being-preteen kids and Ron being the somewhat thin-skinned kid he is.