Thanks be to Greywizard for the help.
"You're a wizard, Harry," the man said in a thick British accent. I rolled over on my bed and vaguely remembered replying.
"Yeah, I know," I said. "I'm in the phonebook."
"Since it's yer birthday, I got yeh a cake," the man said. Looking back at it, I distinctly remember it not being my birthday. He shuffled off before I said anything, though. I also remember opening an eye and seeing him wave an umbrella around and occasionally pet Mouse. "I'd best get yeh packed while ye eat."
The next thing I remember, I was in a train compartment with an owl, two kids, Mouse and Mister. Mister would be my house-cat/elephant cross. He got his size from the elephant. Mouse is a cuddly Fu Dog of unusual size with crazy mystical powers. The fact that he was wagging his tail told me I wasn't in any immediate danger. With bleary eyes, I sat up to listen to what the kid was saying.
"It says so, in Hogwarts, a History," the girl said. She looked like she was about eleven or twelve, somewhere thereabouts. By her accent, I could also tell I wasn't in Chicago anymore. Glancing down, I realized I wasn't wearing my public clothes, though I was fully covered. Just to be on the safe side of the law, I put on my duster to make sure that I didn't expose something that shouldn't be exposed.
"Where am I?" I asked them, as I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes.
"You're on the train to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," the girl said.
"Shouldn't you know this?" asked the boy. "Aren't you a professor?"
"No," I said. "I'm a private investigator."
I handed him one of my cards. If you don't know, I'm Harry Dresden. I'm in the phonebook listed under 'Wizard,' and the only one in Chicago. My card pretty much says it all.
HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD
Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties or Other Entertainment
"I don't understand," the girl said after glancing at my card. "Why are you on the train if you aren't a professor?"
"That is a very good question," I replied. "Last thing I remember, I was asleep in bed after dealing with some Red Courts that were causing trouble. I don't know how I got here."
"I might be able to help with that," said my friendly intellect spirit, Bob, from his human skull home. The two kids jumped as his eyes lit up.
"Okay, Bob, what happened?"
"You have a talking skull named Bob? Blimey!" the boy exclaimed.
"I like this kid," Bob said with a playful tone. "I'd like those seventh year girls in the front compartments better if you get what I'm saying, but he's alright."
"Right, right," he said. "You're always so snippy when you don't get your sleep. Anyway, this guy teleported into your room, told you that you were a wizard, said happy birthday and then packed up all your stuff. We went to this magic shopping mall by holding onto a sock, whereupon you snored in a bar while the guy went around buying stuff with gold. We chatted for a bit. The owl's yours, by the way. He said it was a birthday present."
"My birthday is in late fall," I noted.
"Hey! Free prezzies, don't knock it!" my familiar chided.
"Why do you have a talking skull?" the girl asked.
"Where else would you put an intellect spirit? I tried a shoebox, but it just didn't work," I replied, perhaps a little more tersely than I had intended.
"Oh, well I suppose that does make sense," she said, pondering the possibilities. "I just never read of those in any of the books I received."
"Just goes to show you can't trust everything you read," I replied with a shrug. "The National Enquirer reports stories of alien babies a few times a week."
"But these are books for classes," she protested.
"Now, I'm really not surprised," I said. She would have said more, but a blond kid stormed into the room, interrupting her, first. He had two goons that looked like miniature Marcone goons. Well, they had to come from somewhere.
"So, where is Harry Potter?" demanded the kid.
"The only Harry here is me," I said. I glanced down and noticed both Mouse and Mister's back hairs were beginning to rise. This kid was obviously no good. He glared at me and caught my gaze a little too long, pulling us into a Soul Gaze. It's something more powerful mages can do. It's involuntary and works both ways. You look into their soul, but they get to look into yours, and this kid was as black as they come at that age.
I understood him for what he was: dark, twisted, racist, and leaning heavy on the dark path, even if he hadn't fully tumbled over the cliff. Yet. He was certainly teetering as he looked over the edge, though. It was a little like looking at a Vader Junior. If I was serious about being a Warden - that's a wizard cop by the way - this kid would have been gagged, blindfolded and prepared for neck separation. If I was the serious kind of Warden, that is.
When it finally ended, the boy took an involuntary step back and pointed at me.
"Yeah kid," I said. "That's who I am. That's what I am. And I know exactly what you are. So if you don't want me to get serious, I suggest you go back to your little hole and leave me alone."
Blondie ran off just as fast as his prepubescent legs could carry him. My redheaded companion thought I was the cat's meow. "Blimey! You chased Draco Malfoy away! You're my hero."
I shrugged innocently. "He's an asshole. What else was I supposed to do?"
The girl seemed a little miffed at my choice of words.
Soon enough, we came to a stop. The bigger kids climbed into carriages drawn by the ugliest things on four legs I've ever had the misfortune to lay eyes on, and considering some of the things I've seen in the line of...well not duty, but in the line of getting my ass handed to me, I've seen a lot. The rest of us went by boat.
Guiding us into the boats, I saw a large man that seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn't quite place it. He looked about half giant. Who knows, maybe he was?
The boats were small, cramped, and not designed for someone my size to ride in. The self locomotion bit was fun, though. It kinda reminded of the rides in Disney World – just more magical, although, personally I would have much rather ridden in the carriage.
We then headed towards a castle that looked something like Disney might have dreamed up while he was dropping acid. My common sense, something that wasn't always super present, noted it might be a bad idea to look around this place with my Sight.
Mage Sight is an ability that allows a wizard like myself to observe the world as it truly is, or maybe more like it wants to be. But the important thing is, you can never forget what you see with the Sight. Mages who keep it open for long periods of time tend to go quite insane. Looking at something as ancient and magical as this castle obviously was, could easily take me for a free ride on the Crazy Train.
Once inside the kids lined up in alphabetical order. I just stood off to the side. Kids would sit on a stool, wear a stupid hat which would yell out a nonsense word and the other kids would cheer. Seemed like four groups were present, all dressed in different colors. My train buddies, whom I now knew were Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley, were both placed in Griffon-Door. Blondie-Bitch (as I had begun referring to him in my head) was placed in Slithering.
There was a minor incident when people were calling the name of that Harry Potter kid. No one seemed to be able to find him. That's when an old Gandalf type caught sight of me.
"You sir, what are you doing here?" he asked.
"I'm wondering that myself," I said. "Went to bed last night in Chicago, woke up on a train this afternoon."
"Oh dear," he said worriedly. He also said "fizz pop doodle snuff" but I'm not sure that had any meaning. I handed him my card.
"Seems you're looking for someone?" I asked suggestively.
"How did this happen?" he asked, ignoring my suggestion that I could use both work and money.
"All I remember is someone waking me up in the middle of the night and telling me I was a wizard," I said. "It wasn't exactly news."
"Your name wouldn't happen to be Harry, would it?"
"Harry Dresden, to be a little more precise."
"Oh dear," he said in a slightly depressed tone. "I do believe we have a problem."
"Just a bit of one," I agreed.
"Maybe we should just send you home."
"That might be a stellar idea," I agreed. "Just let me say goodbye to a couple of new friends."
He nodded and I walked over to the two strangers on a train that I met. I handed them each another card, both with my work and home numbers as well as the number for a certain police sergeant, and told them, "Call me if you need my help. I'll be there as soon as I can."
Something told me they were going to need it.
The author of this story owns none of the characters, but Jim Butcher and JKR do.