"If we were in public, Mr Dresden, I'd have you killed for speaking that way to me."
"If we were in public," I told him, "you'd try." I drew myself up and glared down my nose at him, ignoring Hendricks's looming presence. "Now. Get the hell out of my office."
Marcone straightened his jacket and hi tie. "I presume, Mr Dresden, that you are going to continue your investigation with the police department."
Marcone walked around my desk, past me, and toward my door. Hendricks followed in his wake, huge and quiet. "Then in my own interests, I must accept your offer and aid the investigation however I might. Look up the name Harley MacFinn. Ask about the Northwest Passage Project. See where they lead you." He opened the door.
"Why should I believe you?" I asked him.
He looked back at me. "You have seen the deepest reaches of my soul, Mr Dresden. You know me in a way so profound and intimate that I cannot yet fathom its significance. Just as I know you. You should know that I have every reason to help you, and that the information is good." He smiled again, wintry. "Just as you should know that it was unwise to make an enemy of me. It need not have been this way."
I narrowed my eyes. "If you know me so well, you should know that there's no other way it could be."
He pursed his lips for a moment, and did not try to refute me. "Pity," he said. "A true pity." And then he left. Hendricks gave me a pig-eyed little glare, and then he was gone too. The door shut behind him.
As Marcone left the irritatingly useful wizard's office, Hendricks rumbled behind him, "should I be sending a guy here to check up on Mr Dresden later?"
"No," Marcone replied, preparing to expand as they trooped down the stairs of the building, only to hold the words back as he saw another man ascending the stairs below them.
"Oh, hello," the dark haired man stated cheerfully, "you wouldn't happen to know if the office of the wizard Harry Dresden is up there, would you?"
Marcone stared into the man's over-bright green eyes for a moment before responding as Hendricks shifted behind him, feeling a strange sensation that the crime boss associated with the beginnings of the soulgaze he had shared with Dresden. Waiting several moments for a gaze that didn't come despite the signs, he eventually responded with a simple, 'Yes'.
The unidentified man gave them a quick grin in response before bounding up the stairs two at a time, giving Marcone time to analyse his ratty and somewhat unclean appearance.
"Wait," Marcone called, causing the man to pause, "are you a wizard?"
The man turned and raised a surprised eyebrow. "Yes," he stated. "How did you know?"
"Intuition," Marcone replied shortly, before reaching into his coat pocket. "Take this, and after your business with Dresden, come see me at my club. I have an offer you may find yourself interested in," Marcone instructed, not wasting time on pleasantries.
The man quirked an eyebrow. "Sounds like fun," he stated, glancing at the details on the card before continuing, "depending on what I find out within the next few minutes, I might just swing by."
Marcone took note of the fact that the man cavalierly treated the offer that was anything but as an optional invitation. The man either didn't know who he was, in which case he was rather uninformed about the city, did know who he was and was being a fool, or did know who he was and was confident enough in his own power that he could act the fool. Marcone would withhold judgment for now.
The man tucked the card into a frayed pocket and began ascending the stairs backwards, "thanks for the info and the card. I'm Harry by the way." Without another word he disappeared around the corner, still walking backwards.
Marcone couldn't help but feel a small twinge of amusement when he overheard Hendricks's muttered comment.
"Joy. Because one wizard named Harry wasn't enough."
X x X
Harry Dresden sighed as he massaged his temples. Dealing with Marcone always left him with a headache. He was startled out of his musings by a knock at the door. "Come in," he called, somewhat grouchily.
A dark haired, green eyed man stepped through the portal to his office. A dull buzz on his magical senses told Harry that his visitor was a practitioner. He straightened and fixed his eyes on the man, noting that despite his initial assumption, he couldn't yet be out of his teens. His hand drifted to his blasting rod unobtrusively.
"Can I help you?" Dresden asked shortly, his patience for the day already dangerously low.
"I certainly hope so," the man replied with more cheer than should be legal, clearly finding something greatly amusing. "But first, I must ask if you really are a wizard."
Something about his tone made Dresden scowl. He gestured sharply, and the door that the stranger had just stepped through gusted close with a bang. "Happy?" he inquired, feeling inordinately pleased by the surprised expression on his visitor's face.
"Very much so," the teen replied, before reaching into a pocket on his long baggy pants and pulling out what looked to be a rather fragile blasting rod. Before Dresden had his own rod aimed at the now possible foe, he pointed his own rod at the ragged chair that was provided for clients and gave it a sharp flick.
Dresden blinked, lowering his focus in surprise. In the place of his old ragged chair now sat a rather comfortable looking padded armchair. He made a note to swap the chair around with his own before looking back to see that the annoying grin had now become a pleased smirk. Dresden scowled and tried to look like he hadn't just been about to attack his visitor. "Well then," he stated, leaning back into his own inadequate chair. "What can I do for you, Mr...?"
"Harry," the man replied confusing Dresden slightly before continuing, "Harry Potter. And I was hoping you'd be able to answer a few questions I have."
"Fire away," Dresden told Potter, "and depending on the questions, we can discuss payment afterwards."
Potter nodded before leaning forward. "Ok, first question: what part of the States am I in?"
Noticing Potter's British accent for the first time, Dresden replied, "Chicago."
Potter nodded. "What year is it?"
A pause. "2001. It's January."
"If I said the words Hogwarts, Voldemort or Crumple Horned Snorkack to you, what would you think?"
"That you've been playing around with anagrams and that you're no good at it," Dresden promptly replied.
Potter frowned as he pinched the bridge of his nose. "Well, that's just grand."
"Am I gonna get an explanation for all these questions?" Dresden asked pointedly.
"Oh, it's nothing much," Potter waved away. "Just, you know, discovered that I'm pretty sure I've somehow crossed the boundary between dimensions to a realm where wizards advertise in phone books and get job offers from random men with bodyguards who can apparently tell a wizard by sight."
Dresden held back a 'bullshit' at the incredulous claim at being an Outsider. He'd had a few crazies wander into his office in his time (although they were usually non-practitioners), and he usually had enough patience to put up with them for a short while. This time, however, he was irritated, had work to do and people to protect. Preparing himself, Dresden looked the self proclaimed ancient malevolent being in the eye.
It was like staring into a broken mirror. He was fractured, warped, yet still whole. 'He' was a grown man, past his prime but not yet old, patches of gray marring his dark hair, a worn, weathered face and tired, distant green eyes. All around him was an infinite greyness, and he was drifting in the centre of it. Sickly green light waxed and waned just out of sight as he drifted aimlessly.
The man's distant eyes focused suddenly on a far away point. A dark wraith approached, two red slitted eyes watching from within. In an instant it was before the man, and then it struck.
A great and terrible battle occurred in the blink of an eye, and the grey landscape slowly began to turn dark. The man assaulted the shadow with unparalleled ferocity, ripping and tearing without mercy. A transparent hulking white form loomed around the man, lashing at his foe with him. The wraith began to howl as black liquid boiled from its wounds, before attempting to flee—only for the man to draw it into himself and consume it.
The once grey landscape had now descended completely into darkness, pressing in around the man. He hunched over, as if in pain, before beginning to tear at his face as thousands of tiny ripples moved beneath his skin. Sharp nails tore at skin, strips of flesh coming off in swathes. A horrible scream rent the darkness that pressed in against him, before it was cut off abruptly.
When he rose again, there was no evidence that he had been in any sort of struggle at all—save for a split second of distortion, his face replaced by a grinning skull with green eldritch flame burning in his eye sockets, a glittering cloak over one shoulder and a dark slender wand in his hand—before he raised his head to gaze at the empty darkness above him, focusing on the single speck of white to be seen.
The darkness weighing down upon him, the man began a journey towards the light that he knew instinctively would never end.
The two Harry's paused, still breathing heavily as they processed the contents of the soulgaze. Dresden had never had one quite that intense and it looked like it was Potter's first time. Dresden quickly shut off all lines of thought continuing in that direction.
"Outsiders don't have souls," Dresden blurted suddenly.
"What?" Potter asked blankly. "Outsiders? What are they?"
"Powerful beings that are locked beyond the boundaries of our dimension, the Outer Gates. They don't have souls and need to be summoned to enter our world. Pardon me," Dresden explained sarcastically, "but you don't exactly seem like a malevolent being with more firepower than half the starfleet. Even if that isn't normal magic," Dresden accused, pointing at the chair Potter sat on, now recognising it as an actual transformation rather than an illusion.
"Outer Gates? What are you talking about? I didn't come through any gates!" Potter responded, his annoying grin and cheerful demeanor gone. "Last thing I remember before I got to wherever here is, is going back to a girl's place, and then waking up in a gutter two days ago!"
"Let's just...calm down," Dresden suggested, his eyes on the blasting rod that Potter was holding as he waved his hands around wildly. Potter gave a begrudging grunt as he sank back into his transformed armchair that Dresden was now definitely stealing for his own once Potter left.
"You have a soul. That's how we were able to have a soulgaze," Dresden stated, getting his thoughts in order and ignoring Potter's mutter about how he damn well better have a soul after all the troubles he went though with it. "I don't know where you come from, but having a soul is a plus in my book."
"So good to know," Potter shot back sarcastically.
"Oh, I couldn't agree more," Dresden replied blithely, before shooting him an equally sarcastic glare.
"You gonna keep cracking jokes at the poor dimension traveler's expense or are you going to help me out here?"
Dresden frowned, not quite ready to accept the newcomers word at face value, no matter what his soul gaze had shown him. "You really think you've come from another dimension?"
"Yeah, pretty sure," Potter replied with a roll of his eyes. "I popped over to Scotland and found a few noteworthy locations missing. Seeing as this was the place I came to in, I came back here and had a bit of a look around. I used a few spells in that time and my magic feels different. On top of that, that soulgaze thing of yours passed right through my mental shields. It just ignored them. There isn't a single field of magic that works like that where I come from."
"Ok," Dresden nodded decisively as he decided to help the apparently magical, if deluded, man. "Here," he reached over to a showing of pamphlets on his desk before shuffling them around for several in particular, before handing two over to Potter.
Potter gave the pamphlets a glance. Their titles, So You've Been Living In A Cave, and The Laws of Magic jumped out at him. The first was considerably thicker than the second, which was only a single piece of paper folded in two.
"I wrote the cave one for new apprentices or practitioners who had stumbled into the craft on their own. The Laws of Magic one is something you need to know," Dresden stated seriously. "I don't know what sort of magic you're used to throwing around, but if you'd used that little transfiguring trick," here he nodded at Potter's chair, "on a person, you'd have just broken one of the Laws." His voice became deadly serious. "The punishment for which is death-and I don't think you'd get a pass just because you're apparently not from around here," he finished sarcastically, his tone disbelieving.
Potter's eyes narrowed at the thought of someone telling him what he could and couldn't do with his magic; he'd had quite enough of that in his old world.
Catching his expression, Dresden expanded on his explanation. "There are only seven Laws, and unless you've gone over to the Dark Side and only transform objects, not people, I'm fairly sure you'll be able to avoid breaking any Laws."
Potter nodded his understanding once. "I'll make sure I'm never accused of breaking these Laws. Just out of curiosity, who would be enforcing the penalty for breaking a Law?"
Dresden took note of Potter's distinction in his answer but replied anyway. "The White Council," he replied with slight distaste. "But that's explained in So You've Been Living In A Cave."
"Pretentious," Potter muttered. "Five galleons says they've all got a rusty dildo up their arses."
Despite not knowing what exactly a galleon was, Dresden nodded with distaste. "A spiked one," he added, remembering his own experiences with them. "Mostly, anyway," he amended.
Potter rose to his feet, his mind elsewhere. "If I there is anything else I need to know, will you be able to help?"
"Maybe," Dresden shrugged. "I have problems of my own that need dealing with."
Potter turned and walked to the door, before turning partially to look back at Dresden. "For your help...thank you," he admitted quickly, as if it had been irritating to do so.
"Anytime," Dresden mocked with a gracious nod of his head. He watched as the apparent dimension traveling wizarding Outsider left his office and decided that with his current wolf problem, he really couldn't be buggered to look into problems that were so clearly above his his pay grade.
Then he stole his chair.
X x X
Harry walked down the sidewalk feeling rather strange. Here he was, supposedly in another dimension against his choice with no apparent way to get back, and he really couldn't bring himself to care.
His friends were all long dead, so there was no pressing issues there. Also, Harry highly doubted the Aurors, Hitwizards or even the Unspeakables would be able to pursue him here, so that was a rather nice headache to be absolved of.
Sure, he had lost his home, possessions, and all of his money, but those could be gained anew. He still had his wand—both of them, more importantly, as well as his family cloak, so no truly irreplaceable items had been lost, even if he had never been able to track down the stone.
Pondering his lack of accommodation and money with which to acquire it, Harry had begun to consider which banks he could rob when he recalled the strange meeting with the businessman on the stairs to Dresden's office who had handed him his card. Figuring it was worth a shot, he checked the address on the card and hailed a nearby cab.
Forty minutes later, Harry was dropped off at a club by a cab driver who was sent on his way with a quick compulsion not to ask for the fare. The club was open, despite it being one in the afternoon. Upon entering, Harry blinked rapidly to adjust his eyes to the lack of sunlight as a tall figure approached him. It was the bodyguard type fellow who had been with this 'Marcone'.
"Mr. Marcone has been waiting," he told him shortly.
Harry hmm'd a response as he was led to an unremarkable door at the back of the club, that opened up to a neat office, brightly lit unlike the club. Marcone sat at his desk examining several files as he absently ate a sandwich. Harry took a seat in front of the desk as his escort took up a position beside the door, giving him an uncomfortable itching sensation between his shoulders. After several long moments, Marcone looked up.
"I am glad to see you took me up on my invitation," Marcone greeted evenly. "Mr...?"
"Potter," Harry replied openly, despite being on guard. "Although I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing here. Can't say I've ever put much thought into the entertaining business," he added with a nod in the direction of the club area.
"Entertainment is hardly my primary industry, although I do make a certain profit from it," Marcone stated after a short pause, wiping his hands on a napkin. "I run a business that deals in slightly less than reputable trades and sometimes less than legal items."
Harry looked Marcone in the eyes for several long seconds, before glancing over his shoulder at the guard and noting the slight bulge in his coat. "Maybe a proper introduction would help," Harry asked, keeping both men in sight.
Marcone appeared amused, steepling his fingers on his desk. "Very well. I am known as 'Gentleman' Johnny Marcone, and I run a certain side of Chicago."
"The north side?" Harry asked in apparent confusion.
Marcone frowned, "no, not qui-" he broke off, staring at Harry. "Of course you would have a sense of humour."
Harry shrugged, slightly disappointed that his ruse of cluelessness had been seen through so easily. "You're a mobster, apparently looking to hire a wizard. That's why you were at Dresden's office, right?"
"You hire him too?"
"Mr Dresden and I...have a certain conflict of opinion on certain issues that would make a working relationship difficult," Marcone answered after a moment of thought. "And as I currently find myself in need of a wizard in my employ, I am willing to offer you a slightly lucrative job if you would consent to a few few questions that I might have a better idea of your motivations and general trustworthiness."
"Lucrative, you said? Sounds appealing," Harry answered. "You don't want me to turn someone into a toad first to prove anything?"
Marcone gave him a hard look. "Mr Potter, if I hired you under the assumption that you could deliver magical services and you were found lacking, you would find yourself in a rather perilous position. I had assumed that you have ample common sense."
"Understandable," Harry shrugged, seemingly undeterred by the implied threat. "Sure you don't want me to turn someone into a toad for you?"
Marcone's lips twitched, just barely. "Perhaps later," he offered humourlessly, before surveying Harry for a long moment. "You have no compunctions about working in organised crime?"
Harry snorted. "People are sheep, and at least people like you are honest about what they do. Besides," Harry smirked, "I somehow get the feeling that you run a fairly clean business."
"Indeed," Marcone agreed, leaning back in his chair and reaching down to retrieve a single piece of paper from a draw. "If you will look over this contract and sign, you may begin your employment immediately."
Harry reached out to take the contract, skimming through it quickly. He smiled when he reached the part concerning his wages and bonuses, but frowned in puzzlement when he saw that the only requirement of him was to keep Marcone safe from supernatural threats. Perhaps he had angered a wizard?
"This looks pretty good," Harry agreed after a short while. "But there's one more thing I'd like."
"And what might this be?" Marcone queried.
"A new identity. Drivers license, bank card, passport, job history, the whole shebang. I'm kinda new in town."
Marcone tilted his head slightly as he examined Harry. "Will your need for a new identity possibly interfere with my business?"
Marcone stared at the short answer, expecting a more thorough explanation. When none was forthcoming, he nodded slowly. "Very well. I'll see that arrangements are made."
Harry beamed broadly at Marcone, causing the mob boss to frown internally. Swift mood changes were often a sign of instability. As he watched the wizard sign the contract provided with a flourish, he concluded that as long as the young man could help with his wolf problem, he could deal with any other issues as they came.
"Hendricks, have a driver take Mr. Potter to the downtown offices and introduce him to Miss Blue," Marcone instructed, before the barest beginnings of a wry grin tugged at his mouth. "I'm sure she's getting bored."
Hendricks gave a nod in reply before opening the door for Harry as the wizard rose from his seat. With a nod to his new boss who was already absorbed in his work once more, Harry left the room with the odd thought that maybe he should get himself some robes so he could have them billow dramatically whenever he left a room.
X x X
Harry spent the car drive looking over the brochures that Dresden had given him back in his office; So You've Been Living In A Cave and The Laws of Magic. Examining the Laws first, he found them fairly simple—and obstructive.
Thou shalt not kill by use of magic. So killing without magic was ok? And what was he supposed to do if another wizard came at him? Hack at them with a sword?
Thou shalt not transform others. So no repeats of Malfoy the Amazing Bouncing Ferret. He could live with that. There were other ways to humiliate a foe.
Thou shalt not invade the mind of another. Keep the Legilimency to the muggles.
Thou shalt not enthrall another. Hmmm...that could be a problem. Imperio was such a useful spell at times.
Thou shalt not reach beyond the Borders of Life. He had never really been one for Inferi anyway.
Thou shalt not swim against the Currents of Time. Whoops...death penalty in the third year of school.
Thou shalt not seek beyond the Outer Gates. Outer Gates? Outsiders? Maybe this was what Dresden was accusing him of being earlier...they couldn't be too bad if he mistook him for one.
Harry threw the pamphlet out the window as they arrived at their destination, breaking him from his musings. Looking out the window, Harry took in the view of a rising skyscraper lacking any particular identifying feature.
Stepping out of the car and ignoring it as it pulled away behind him, Harry entered the lobby of the building, idly wondering what he was expected to do now. His musings were interrupted by a sharp English accent.
"Hey! You the wizard?"
Turning to the new voice, Harry was confronted by a woman who would be lucky to be out of her teens, sitting on the counter of the reception desk. She wore a grey woman's business suit with the shirt unbuttoned, revealing a tight white blouse and a very obvious hand cannon hanging off the hip of her business pants. Her face seemed naturally cheeky, an expression accented by the pointed studs in both her eyebrows, as well as her vibrant blue hair.
"Miss Blue?" Harry answered wryly. At her nod he continued, "good to meet someone else who speaks proper English."
"I'm so glad I meet your approval," she shot back with a South African accent as she hopped down off the counter and approached him. "I'm called Suzie to everyone besides the Boss though."
"Suzie Blue," Harry tried it out. "What can I do for you?" He grinned at the silly little rhyme.
"Give me enough personal details to steal your face and take over your life," Suzie replied brightly.
"Or enough personal details to create a history for you. Jeez wizard, thought you'd have a sense of humour," Suzie muttered as she gestured for Harry to follow her to the elevator.
"Why's that?" Harry asked nonchalantly as the elevator doors closed and they began to ascend. Nauseating elevator music began to permeate the small metal box.
Suzie rolled her eyes as she watched the floor number count rising. "Hello, wizard? I've got no idea what the Boss could want with you. I figure he hired you for laughs, cause there's no way he actually believes you." When there was no reply forthcoming, the young woman turned to face Harry. "Don't tell me that off—where the fuck did you go?"
In a single smooth action, the revolver at her waist was drawn and aimed loosely at the floor. She jumped when a chuckle seemed to come from the air in front of her. Upon closer inspection, Suzie realised she could make out a blurred outline of the supposed wizard. "What the fuck?" she breathed as Harry seemed to fade into view.
"Chameleon spell," the green eyed wizard told her smugly as he buffed his nails. "Works best in enclosed spaces so no one can get around you to see the sides of it."
"Bloody fucking hell," Suzie swore again in shock, Harry noting that she slipped subconsciously into an Australian accent.
"Still think I was hired for laughs?" Harry inquired mildly as his spell faded completely.
"Maybe the Boss does know what he's on about," Suzie allowed as she holstered her hand cannon. A soft 'ding' signaled that they had arrived at their destination.
"So glad I meet your approval," Harry teased as he followed her through a maze of occupied office cubicles to an office on the far side of the floor.
"Don't push it, wizard," Suzie warned as she produced a key and unlocked the office door, before closing it behind Harry as they walked inside. The office was sparse, with a wooden desk and computer occupying most of the space and no ornaments on the wall.
"I have a name, you know," Harry told her conversationally as he sank into a comfortable chair in front of her desk as Suzie sat down on the other side.
"I'm sure you do. But I don't want to know it," Suzie informed him tartly as she began to type rapidly at the computer. "What I do want to know are the salient points of your new life," she added before pausing in her typing and looked at him expectantly. "Name, gender and place of residence please."
Harry quickly marshaled his thoughts. The best cover stories always contained twisted but unrecognizable versions of the truth, making them easier to remember then completely new identities, but still pass inspection from those who used to know the user. However, Harry wasn't expecting to be hiding from any of his old acquaintances here. "Harry Potter," he answered easily. "In case you couldn't tell by my generously proportioned breasts, I'm a male. I don't have a place of residence at this point in time."
Suzie made a few more rapid keystrokes. "I'll build your identity up around this basic information, so you'll have to make sure to glance over your ID once it's finished, which should be in a few days," she explained. "Just make sure not to memorise too much of it. Officials like to make a note of anyone with perfect recall of their drivers license number without checking it."
Several minutes later, Suzie had finished compiling Harry's new life. She handed him a number of printouts as they issued from a nearby printer, before leaning over to a chunky machine that had just finished spitting out a number of plastic cards. Upon closer examination, they turned out to be honest to god health care, drivers license and public library cards. "Happy birthday," Suzie told him as she handed him the cards. "You just turned 21."
"You can just print these things out like that?" Harry asked with slight disbelief.
"Government's gotta buy their machines from somewhere," Suzie smirked. "The Boss told me to get your ID set up pronto, so they should be in the system and official by tomorrow morning. Also, you get your signing bonus and first fortnight's pay in advance," she told him cheerfully, laying a suitcase that had been apparently been waiting under her desk before they came in, before clicking it open.
Harry grinned brightly at the sight of the rows of bundled cash. Suzie rolled her eyes at him.
"Don't go blowing it all at once," she cautioned. "It's gotta last you another month."
"I think I can make it stretch," Harry told her seriously. Lucrative pay indeed, Harry thought to himself.
"Good to hear," Suzie replied, before checking her phone as it buzzed. "The Boss would like to see you tomorrow at nine, at the same club you met at earlier," she informed him. "Until then, you've got some free time."
Harry nodded, taking it in. He really did love earning money for himself. It was so much more fun than inheriting it—better way of keeping score too. Then he glanced from the now closed suitcase full of money to Suzie. "Suzie my dear, I can't help but notice I've recently come into a nice amount of money. Would you perhaps like to spend a night on the town with-"
"Call me 'my dear' and we're going to have problems," Suzie told him sweetly, resting her chin between her palms as she placed her elbows on the desk. "And I'm afraid my family would never forgive me if I went out with an Englishman."
Harry sighed mournfully. "Whatever shall I do with all this cash then?"
"Buy a hooker. Find someplace to stay. Whatever you're going to do, do it somewhere that isn't here," Suzie told him unsympathetically. "Some of us are still on the clock for another two hours."
"A hooker? Well, if you insist..." Harry replied doubtfully, rising from his chair. "Maybe I could go have a beer or two before that though."
"Potter," Suzie snapped. "If you don't stop flaunting the fact that you have time and money to burn in front of those who do not, I am going to throw this stapler at you."
"What, you mean my full free night ahead of me and the thousands of-"
Suzie threw a stapler at him.
X x X
Two hours later, Harry found himself sitting atop his shiny new motorbike outside an impressive looking hotel. The bike was clearly built for speed, and was garnering a few appreciative looks from passerby. A bit of subtle wand work, and Harry had purchased it for so little of the original price he might as well have just stolen it. As it was, it had still cost a nice chunk of his suitcase of money. Still, the free leather riding gear was a nice addition.
Kicking the bike stand out and removing the key from the ignition, Harry made his way through the hotel doors and towards the reception. The lobby floor was decked out in white marble, while a number of columns dotted around the ground floor were covered in black. Approaching the attractive young receptionist who was watching him expectantly, he pulled out his best 'I'm a good guy' smile.
"Good evening and welcome to the Aestiva Hotel. Is there anything I can do for you?" the blonde woman greeted professionally.
"I'll have your best room, thanks," Harry returned with an expansive gesture, wand hidden within the long sleeve of his new leather jacket.
The woman blinked blankly for several moments, before turning her gaze to her computer. Several minutes later, and a confused declaration that he was sure he'd arranged with the management to pay upon leaving, Harry was riding the elevator to the third from the top floor. Another few minutes after that, and he was walking through the door to his room, a veritable apartment, and the first real bed he'd slept on in days. Kicking off his new riding boots, jacket and shirt, Harry collapsed onto the bed and was asleep in moments.
X x X
Harry woke abruptly at eight thirty the next morning, experiencing a moment of disorientation before the previous day's happenings came back to him. Rolling off the bed, he stumbled into the shower that he had inspected briefly the evening before, shedding his clothes before stepping under the near scalding water for a proper wake up call.
Ten minutes later Harry stepped out of the bathroom in a pair of thoroughly Scourgified jeans that he'd been wearing for several days straight now, a grey shirt and his new favourite leather jacket, pausing only to retrieve his riding boots from where he'd kicked them the night before before heading out the door. He paid absolutely no mind to the small child with vibrant red—almost orange—hair who was loitering next to the elevators as he entered them, putting the way her unusually serious gaze followed him down to his less than stellar appearance.
Stepping out of the hotel doors, it was a simple matter to remove the avoidance and notice-me-not charms that had allowed his bike to remain on the footpath of the busy hotel unmolested (as it wouldn't do to be weaving in and out of traffic whilst wearing charms that made drivers of larger, meaner cars ignore him). Checking his old, battered watch, Harry saw he had fifteen minutes during rush hour to make a trip that would probably take twenty five during off-peak. He grinned, slipped on his helmet and let his engine roar.
Seventeen minutes later saw Harry pulling into the club parking lot with a scowl on his face. It appeared that his new bike would be subject to some tinkering in the near future. Breezing into the club through a side door next to the main entrance, Harry gave a cheerful wave to Hendricks who glowered at him in reply, before moving on to the office he had visited the previous day. Once again, he found Marcone sitting at his desk doing paperwork involving god knows what.
"Heeeeeere's Johnny!" Harry parodied in greeting, seating himself in front of his new boss.
Marcone paused in his paperwork, before slowly raising his head to pin Harry with what, on a lesser man, might have been called a scowl. "If I ordered you not to call me that," he began slowly, "would you listen to me?"
"Probably not," Harry admitted. "Suzie said you wanted me here at nine though?"
"Yes," Marcone replied, after taking a moment to pinch the bridge of his nose. "I would like you to elaborate on your capabilities as a wizard."
"Sure," Harry shrugged easily. "I'm powerful, and if the wizard or whatever you've managed to aggravate comes after you, I'll squash them. Questions?"
"Specifics, please. I've known a great many young men supremely confident in their abilities only to see them falter at the first sign of trouble."
Harry frowned at the doubt to his abilities, not having had to deal with that for several years now, before acquiescing. New town, new players, after all. "How about you tell me what you need a wizard protecting you from, and I'll tell you how I'd shut it down."
Marcone examined the young man across from him for several moments before replying. "Werewolves," he stated, as if it should reveal all. When Harry continued to stare at him like an eager student, he frowned in annoyance and expanded. "I believe it is a pack of werewolves attempting to kill me, in some sort of attempt to bring me to justice. They have already killed a number of others in their attempts to do so."
"Wizards or normals? The werewolves, I mean."
"Normals, I believe. At least, from what I have seen of a wizard's power, they would have no need to resort to a wolf form in order to kill a man, even one so highly placed as myself."
"How are their attempts made?" Harry quizzed his boss.
"Come the full moon, they place themselves as close to myself as they can before transforming," Marcone answered, a slight feeling of satisfaction at the competent behaviour of his most recent hire rising within him. It was good to see the green eyed wizard could act maturely when the situation called for it. "However, their indiscriminate choice of prey once transformed has led to a number of innocent victims in their efforts to kill me," Marcone continued. "Only one of their attempts has come close to succeeding."
Subconsciously, Harry growled lowly within his throat, coming close to startling Marcone with how animalistic it sounded. "I'd set about tracking them down then. Either through fur or blood they've left behind, or through scrying, although that's not so reliable. Once I'd found them, I'd introduce silver nitrate to their bloodstream and watch as their immune system attacked their organs trying to purge it."
Marcone sat back in his chair, raising an eyebrow. "Ruthless," he observed.
"They attacked and killed non-combatants in their little crusade, and if any of their victims survived, then we're looking at another werewolf who has no idea what they are, going around and killing every full moon. The fact that they've done all this on a crusade against their own personal opinion of evil just makes it worse."
"You speak like you have past experiences in a situation like this," Marcone observed.
"Something like that," Harry replied shortly. "Besides that silver nitrate thing, I can also conjure flowers and make a hat out of a rabbit," he added enthusiastically, closing the topic.
"If I ever find myself in need of a hat, you'll be the first person I call," Marcone told him with a straight face.
Harry gaped openly for the barest of seconds before regaining control of himself. "So, you want me to shadow you for the next few days? Be your magical bodyguard for hire?"
"No. At least, not immediately."
Harry raised an eyebrow in question, prompting Marcone to continue.
"I would like you to pursue the options you mentioned, at least for today," Marcone told him. "I do not plan on leaving the club today, but as for tomorrow..." he trailed off.
"Tomorrow?" Harry prompted.
"Tomorrow, I believe my assailants, having been faced with failure after failure, may attempt something...rash. I would like you to be on hand to 'squash them'," Marcone informed him evenly. "That is, if you haven't managed to track them down before that."
"Sounds like a plan," Harry agreed, rolling his shoulder around. "Do you know if any of the werewolves left anything behind? Fur is the most likely, unless you wounded some of them."
"I am not aware of any such leavings."
"Damn," Harry sighed, rubbing at his cheek. "I hate scrying."
Marcone surveyed him for several moments. "If you find yourself at a loss, I would suggest inquiring at the Special Investigations Unit. While they were the unit tasked with responding to my report of the attack, I am unaware of what evidence they took."
"And they'll just hand this evidence over to me?"
"Hardly. But do you have no subtle methods of persuading them?"
Harry frowned slightly at the suggestion. "Are they good cops?"
"Their Lieutenant, Karin Murphy, is, as are the majority of her men, sans the usual bad eggs. Why do you ask?"
"I have a thing about doing that sort of thing to good cops. Bad cops, politicians and people trying to get money out of me are fair game, but good cops..." Harry trailed off.
"Understandable," Marcone nodded, before glancing around almost furtively. "While I don't make a habit of admitting it, I do hold a certain respect for good officers, of which Lieutenant Murphy is an example. Additionally, Lieutenant Murphy is a friend of Harry Dresden. If he were to catch wind of any magical coercion, I'm sure any number of werewolves would be the least of our worries."
"Hmmmmmm," Harry acknowledged, before shrugging. "Ah well. I'm sure I can always rely on my roguish charm and handsome looks to see me through."
"Indeed," Marcone looked back down at the small pile of paperwork on his desk. "If that is all, I will see you here again at nine am tomorrow, hopefully with news of your success."
Harry leapt to his feat and snapped off a mock salute at the clear dismissal, before marching out the door and leaving Marcone to fight the urge to massage his temples. Were all wizards so aggravating?
X x X
Harry gnashed his teeth in frustration as his latest scrying attempt was met with failure. He was reaching the end of his patience, and had spent hours trying every combination of materials he could think of. Shattered clay cups, cracked tin dishes and even a twisted titanium bowl lay strewn about his hotel room. He'd tried every liquid medium he could get his hands on, from tap water to champagne, to no result.
"I hate scrying," Harry muttered to himself. Even at the best of times, his attempts at scrying had been rather iffy. Now, in an entirely new world where his magic didn't behave as he was used to, it was even worse. He would give it one last try, before throwing in the towel and trying his luck with the police. He'd always had a decent amount of luck using glass bowls and vinegar when all else failed.
Several moments later, curses that would make a sailor blush echoed out into the hall, and an angry wizard was stumbling around his penthouse room pulling small shards of glass from his hands.
Harry killed the power to his bike as he glided into an alley across the road from the precinct of the Special Investigations Unit. Fumbling at the kickstand for several moments, he managed to nudge it into place before removing his helmet and setting it on the handlebars.
The day so far had been a failure. After wasting most of his time on scrying, Harry had used his room phone to call the number on the card that Marcone had given him, only to have the bodyguard Hendricks answer. After a number of monosyllabic responses, he had been given the address of the attack on his new boss that had come closest to succeeding. A trip across town later, and he had managed to waste even more of his day, the scene having been picked clean of anything that could possibly be used to track the were responsible.
Harry now found himself watching the quiet entrance to the brickwork police building, trying to plan out how he would get what he needed without resorting to wand work. He absently applied a warming charm to his jacket. There was a heavy cloud cover above, masking the moon he would guess was just rising. Throwing his leg off the bike, the wizard crossed the empty road to the precinct entrance, shouldering open the swinging double doors and entering the bland reception.
Whistling irreverently, Harry approached the empty receptionist's desk, glancing around in hopes of sighting someone he could talk to. Coming up empty, he shrugged, before ringing the small metal bell sitting on the counter and stealing one of the boiled candies sitting in a bowl next to some hideous plastic plant.
Several minutes passed with Harry slowly growing more and more irritated. He rang the bell again, waited another minute, then rang it again. He was about to ring it for a fourth time when the rows of fluorescent lights above him began to flicker and die, before one in two lit up again. Slightly on edge, the wizard cast his gaze around the reception as he balanced on the balls of his feet—before freezing as a number of rapid shots of gunfire rang out, followed by a blood curdling roar echoed through the station. Muffled shouting and rapid footsteps issued from further within the building, and Harry could just make out the tap tap tap of a small caliber weapon firing.
Harry vaulted the desk, his wand flying into his hand. A door marked 'Staff Only' was pushed aside to reveal an empty bullpen, various objects laying about as if they had been dropped without thought. A shattered mug of coffee lay on the floor, a stain forming in the carpet around it.
There was screaming now, human screaming, some of which was cut off midway through and some that morphed from terror to pain. Advancing towards the manic sounds of the disturbance, Harry spotted a door with an opaque window set in it, through which he could make out shadows dancing across it, all of them moving away from the sounds of screaming, gunfire and low, guttural snarls.
There was a lull in movement, and Harry steeled himself. Holly wood pulsed warmly in his hand for a brief moment as he stepped through the door, facing the direction the shadows had fled from. In the seconds immediately after, he was confronted by good news, bad news, and a clinical observation.
Good news: there would be no need to wheel and deal with SI in order to get access to whatever he would need to find the werewolf his new boss was worried about.
Bad news: he had just found the werewolf his new boss was worried about.
Clinical observation: there was no way in fuck that was a werewolf.
Harry's shock at the sight of the demonic wolf like creature only lasted for a second, before his attention was drawn to more pressing matters. The temperature of the hallway dropped dramatically, sending goosebumps crawling over his skin. A cry of "Fuego!" followed by a rush of magic caused him to glance over his shoulder in time to see a torrent of boiling flame sweeping towards him, scalding heat flying before it.
Rather than risk a shield in the narrow hallway with no room to dodge, Harry made to negate the oncoming fire with a flame of his own. Muscle memory and a skill for non-verbal spells sent a column of fire racing down the long hall without real thought—where it was promptly swallowed and overwhelmed by the other gout of flame.
Harry was given a split second to process his shock comprehend the way his spell had been steamrolled before the inferno was upon him. He spun on his heel and Apparated back into the bullpen, avoiding a toasty fate by mere millimetres.
There was a long, eery silence after the screaming of wounded men, rapid gunfire and the roar of the mammoth fire spell that had consumed Harry's own. Then there came a long, furious howl.
Goosebumps ran up Harry's spine as he berated himself for his stupidity. If he had seen someone else do as he just had, he would have derided them as an imbecile.
"Sure Harry," he muttered to himself as he walked back into the scorched hallway to follow the path of destruction. "Why don't you try negating the mother of all fire spells with a bloodthirsty wolf thing at your back? I'm sure that will go over well. No, don't bother Apparating out. It's not like the other wizard might be more powerful than you or anything. Stupid dunderhead."
"Who're you?" A shaky voice demanded.
Turning, Harry took in the sight of a near hysteric young officer with a familiar figure at his side. Battered, bruised and exhausted but not beaten, Harry Dresden approached the whole in the wall that he had apparently blown some sort of demon wolf through.
Potter observed the other wizard as he began to work a spell involving a Snoopy plush toy and some of the blood that the wolf beast had left behind. "You look like shit," he cheerfully pointed out.
"You should see the other guy," Dresden snarked back. "Oh wait, I just blew him out of a building. You can't."
"What are you doing?" The near-panic officer questioned, eyes wide.
"Magic," Dresden replied shortly.
"Magic," the kid echoed.
"Go downstairs. Send the emergency people up here, Rudy. Go on. Send them up here to help the wounded," Dresden tried to coax him, wavering slightly in place.
With one last wild look at Dresden, the bloody Snoopy doll in his hands, and Potter, his wand still held loosely in his own, the young man beat a hasty retreat, mumbling under his breath.
Dresden began a chant of Latin to a strange tune even as his eyes drifted out of focus. After making further alterations to the plushie while Potter watched with interest, Dresden broke the circle he had drawn around himself and allowed the power he had been building up around himself to wash out of it and into the night.
"What are you doing here?" Dresden asked wearily as he leaned against a blacked wall, trying to regain his wind.
"I did some scrying earlier," Potter answered with a vague half truth, "and I was looking for what I thought was a werewolf."
Dresden snorted. "That was a loup-garou. Bigger, nastier, and smellier than a normal werewolf, and they only transform under the full moon, not at will," he explained as he began to make his way out of the hall. He wavered and nearly fell, before Potter caught his arm to balance him.
Noting the broken handcuffs around Dresden's wrists, Potter flicked his wand at each ring, causing them to spring open and fall to the floor. "Transform at will? Werewolves can't do that, and that thing sure as hell wasn't anything like the full moon wolves I've seen before," Potter argued, gesturing at the whole Dresden had blown in the side of the building as they moved through the bullpen.
"Well Mr. Dimension Traveller," Dresden mocked back, still disbelieving of the tale, "maybe things work a little bit differently here."
Potter froze for a moment, before a litany of inventive curses spilled from his mouth. If Dresden hadn't been so close to dead on his feet, he would have mustered the energy to be impressed.
"...puss filled wart on a whore's arse, you stupid dunderhead," Potter finished. He couldn't place any trust in his extensive knowledge of the arcane now, and the fact that he hadn't even considered this possibility was a glaring error on his part. If his mentors could see him now...
A thought occurred to him. While his magic felt strange, it still worked—the only difference was that he was expressing it differently, for all that the results were the same. He considered his scrying earlier. That had been a particularly bad session, even for him. While the subject of his scry had been flawed, he had directed the magic the same as he would have in his old dimension. Perhaps that was his error? With his internal wand-work he could subconsciously correct the flow of his magic to achieve the desired results, but external magic was formed and guided outside the body, leaving him to do things as he always had with no sure way of feeling where it was going wrong.
While the loss of the ability to scry was no great thing, whatever wards he wanted to place would be reduced to knotted bundles of reactionary spells, an inelegant alternative to the proactive wards he favoured. His ability to enchant would also be curtailed. This was troubling.
Potter pushed his worries aside as they passed through the reception, paramedics looking them over briefly as they rushed past to get at the more critically injured officers. Outside, various squad cars were arriving with reinforcements, while a number of news vans had already pulled up around the ambulances clustered around the precinct entrance. As the two Harry's paused just outside the building, the various agencies began to take notice of them.
"Harry," a Hispanic woman hissed as she approached Dresden's side, a look of worry on her face. She placed an arm around his waist, supporting him and allowing Potter to release his other arm.
"Susan," Dresden rasped as he placed an arm over her shoulders. "Potter. I can't stay here. The police-"
"Get going. I'll head them off," Potter told the woman at Dresden's side. A flick of his wand and a very temporary notice-me-not charm settled about them.
Despite giving him a mildly suspicious look, Susan wasted no time in guiding the near insensate Dresden away from the precinct towards a parked car.
Potter turned to face the reporters who were nearly upon him, a paramedic and uniform officer on their heels. He snorted. Of course the reporters would be there before the emergency services.
"Sir! Can you tell us..."
"What on Earth..."
"Are you the only..."
Placing a charming grin upon his face, Potter began thoroughly bullshit the press, weaving a tale of masked gang members, rabid St. Bernards and exploding gas cylinders. The press ate it up. After all, it was much more believable than the tales that some of the more hysteric officers were telling of a giant, man eating wolf that was impervious to bullets.
X x X
It took more than an hour for Harry to escape the ravenous press, give his statement to the police and assure the paramedics that he really hadn't sustained any injuries. Some time after that, and he was pulling up outside his hotel, having visited the club that seemed to serve as Marcone's office only to find him absent, along with anyone who might know where his boss could be.
Deciding that he could just as easily report what he had learnt (namely that he was out of his depth as far as supernatural know-how went and that Dresden had some serious magical chops behind him) to Marcone tomorrow, Harry received his room key from the receptionist and endured the long elevator tip to the top floor. Upon arriving there, he immediately noted that his door was slightly ajar, a shadow in the hall betraying movement within the room.
Slipping his wand from his jeans pocket to the sleeve of his jacket, Harry nudged open the door and stepped into his penthouse and immediately felt let down, before perking up for an entirely different reason.
"Oh, excuse me," the woman excused herself with an embarrassed smile. "I was planning on being finished here before you returned."
Harry gave the woman a shameless once over. She was a petite woman, clad in the red and black colours of the hotel employees, the blouse she wore rumpled just enough to reveal several tantalising centimetres of bare skin above the low waistline of her business pants. She was most likely a cleaning lady based on the cart she stood next to and the music player on her hip. Her hair was a spiky riotous mix of various shades of red and orange, almost making it look like her hair was aflame. If it weren't for her unfortunate similarity to one of his past girlfriends, he might have given some serious thought to convincing her to stay for a drink or three.
"It's no trouble," Harry assured her as he collapsed onto his couch after fetching a drink from his fridge, coincidentally giving him a clear view of the woman as she worked.
"It's unusual, you know," the woman commented as she worked, dusting surfaces that Harry was sure were already clean.
"What's that?" Harry queried.
"To see a cute thing like you on the penthouse floor. Usually we get stuffy old men who spend half their time calling for room service so they can perv on us," the woman rolled her eyes.
Harry, who had certainly not been subtly checking out her posterior as she bent down to adjust her shoe, put on an indignant expression. "Have they no shame?" he asked pompously.
The woman giggled. "I'm sure you'd never stoop to such behaviour," she assured him while giving him a look that told him she knew exactly where his eyes had been.
"Well, you can't exactly blame them," Harry shrugged his excuse.
"Flatterer. So where do you come from?"
Harry took a sip from his drink while he considered his answer. "I'm from out of town, I'm hoping to make a living for myself here."
"And what brought you to this hotel in particular?" she pressed, beginning to pack up the cleaning supplies she had set out.
"Nothing really. I got a generous advance from my new boss and decided to treat myself," Harry answered, wondering where this was going and if it were common for the help to strike up conversations with high paying patrons in the Muggle world.
"Ah. That's good to hear," she stated softly.
"Why's that?" Harry asked, his suspicious side coming to the fore.
"That maybe we'll start getting less crotchety old men and more cute young things like yourself staying here," she flashed him a quick smile. Grabbing her cleaning cart, she began to push it from the room.
"Wait," Harry called as she was about to close the door. "I didn't quite get your name."
"No," she agreed, turning to face him. "You'll have to work to earn that." With a wink, she closed the door and was gone.
Harry immediately began casting spells on the areas he had seen her working, and on his surroundings in general. When they revealed no sign of tampering or anything out of the ordinary save higher than usual levels of ambient magic, he frowned. His instincts told him there was more to that conversation than he was aware of, and he had long learned to listen to these hunches.
With a shrug, Harry put the matter to the side of his mind and resolved to think on it later. Marcone had told him that he wanted him at his side tomorrow, and he didn't think it was for tea and biscuits. If the werewolf/loup-garou/whatever had no qualms in assaulting an entire police precinct, it's next attack on Marcone would probably be even less directed.
A smirk made its way across the wizard's face. It had been such a long time since he'd faced such a powerful foe. Maybe this new dimension wouldn't be so bad.
X x X
"Hmm," a small voice whispered in his ear. "Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either. There's talent, oh my goodness, yes—and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that's interesting...So where to put you?"
"Not Slytherin, not Slytherin,"
"Not Slytherin, eh?" continued the small voice. "Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it's all here in your head, and Slytherin would help you on your way to greatness, no doubt about that-"
"Oho, piqued your interest there, did I boy? Perhaps Slytherin is the best for you..."
"No. Not Slytherin."
"A strong sentiment, yet I thought you desired greatness?"
"I don't need Slytherin to be great."
"You said it, not me."
"Not afraid to speak your mind, are you boy?"
The hat chuckled to itself. "I say you will not excel outside of Slytherin."
"I say you're wrong."
"Precocious for an eleven year old, aren't we?"
"You think you know better than me, who has been doing this for a thousand years?"
"Well! If you're sure...when you fail, be sure to come see me, won't you? I so rarely have the chance to gloat."
"I won't. Get on with it, you old rag."
Harry removed the Sorting Hat from his head to the sight of Gryffindor house's celebrations. He smiled slightly. The Hat didn't think he could make anything of himself outside of Slytherin? He would prove it wrong.
X x X
Harry was woken the next morning by a continuous slow knocking on his hotel room door. Stumbling from his clad only in a pair of transfigured pants, he scowled at the sun he could just see rising through the window.
"What?" he barked as he opened the door to stop the infernal knocking.
A paper cup with steam rising from the top was shoved in front of his face. "Boss man wants to see you," Suzie Blue said by way of greeting. Once again, she wore a formal business suit with her side arm prominently displayed.
"What time is it?" Harry demanded irritably.
Harry took the offered cup of what his nose told him was coffee with a glare. Stepping away from the door and back into his well appointed hotel rooms, he stumbled towards the shower, Suzie inviting herself into the penthouse after him. She spent the next several minutes examining the richly coloured rooms with their marble floors and thick dark rugs while listening with half an ear to the various crashes and curses that signified Harry rising from his sleepy stupor. She was just starting to grow impatient when Harry emerged from the bathroom in a leather riding jacket and jeans.
Harry silently thanked magical cleaning spells as he adjusted the clothes he had been wearing for close to a week now, locking the door to his room and following Suzie to the elevators.
"What does he want so early?" Harry grumbled as they walked down the cream coloured hall.
"Can't say I know," Suzie shrugged in response. "Boss keeps his own hours and expects people like you, me and Hendricks to be able to keep up with him. Time's a factor though."
Their conversation paused as they passed a young child with absurdly orange hair in the hall, no doubt waiting for a parent or minder to catch up, before they reached the elevator.
"I'll follow you in my bike," Harry offered as Suzie hit the ground floor button.
"Not today," she shook her head. "You're riding shotgun. Try not to throw up over the upholstery."
Harry snorted. "As if I would."
X x X
Harry was slightly tense as he stepped out of the Jeep that Suzie had used to drive them to Marcone's club.
"You ok there?" Suzie asked innocently as they entered the club through a side door.
"Of course. Why wouldn't I be?" Harry replied, acting supremely unconcerned.
"Just checking. I think you left a few nail marks on the oh shit bar."
Harry sent the crazy woman driver a glare. Going fast was all well and good, but he much preferred it when he was the one doing the steering. Further conversation was curtailed by the arrival of Hendricks, who gestured for them to follow him. Rather than leading them to the office that Harry had seen Marcone in previously, the giant man instead lead them around to the back of the club and through a door that opened to a loading dock, beyond which was an empty car park.
"Miss Blue. Mr Potter. I am glad you could make it."
Harry turned to face his boss, noting the way he almost seemed to blend in with the shadows as he sat at a paper covered table with his back to a wall. He was wearing a dark grey suit today, and looked perfectly awake despite the early hour as he cleaned a disassembled pistol laid out before him.
Suzie gave Marcone a respectful nod. "Do we knew when we should expect company?"
"Soon, I believe."
"Am I allowed to know what's going on, or do I get to wait in suspense?" Harry asked sarcastically, raising his hand like a schoolboy.
Marcone frowned slightly. "Last night I engaged in discussion with a local gang. They did not appreciate the outcome of our discourse." His frown deepened. "Despite their losses, they persist in their foolishness. However, they should not have known that I would be present here. I would very much like to find out who told them."
"How many are coming?" Harry asked, running over the occasions he had fought against Muggles before in his head.
"More than eight, less than fifteen," Hendricks revealed. "They will approach from the back if they have any brains at all," he continued with a gesture to the car park and the high vision limiting wall beyond it. "Mr Marcone and Suzie will take up positions on the roof and harass them. Potter, you will stay here and draw their fire while I take them out from that window over there," the bodyguard finished, pointing out a second story window that would create a crossfire with Marcone and Suzie on the roof.
Marcone finished reassembling his gun, pulling the slide back and releasing it with a loud clack. "Our guests will arrive soon. I trust you all to do your part."
Harry leaned easily against the wall with a clear view of the car park as the others made to leave for their positions.
"Mr Potter," Marcone added before he left, "you should be aware that our aggressors are lycanthropes."
"Got it," Harry gave a short nod, hiding his lack of knowledge. He really did need to remedy this as soon as possible.
Marcone smiled. It reminded Harry of a crocodile animage he had tangled with once. "Good. I'd hate for you to go into this unprepared."
Their guests didn't arrive for another fifteen minutes. When they did, it was to screeching tyres and loud music as three battered SUV's pulled into the car park and raced towards the loading dock. Steady gunfire from the roof opened up on them as they rapidly drew closer, prompting a response from the vehicles. A hail of semi-automatic fire erupted from them, forcing Marcone and Suzie to duck behind the low wall that edged the roof.
Harry stood before the loading dock, completely at ease with the lead SUV barrelling towards him. The occupants didn't bother shooting him, instead intending to crush him against the concrete wall before dealing with the bastard who was hiding up on the roof. Harry gave a shark's smile, and raised his wand.
The lead truck ploughed into the ground as a great force crushed the bonnet down, the rear of the vehicle going airborne. Another flick of his wand and the metal of the car began to twist in on its occupants, for whom there was no escape. The SUV was crushed into a vaguely car-shaped cube half its previous size as it slid towards Harry, sparks flying from where metal dragged across the bitumen. Its momentum came to a stop inches before the wizard, who casually rested a foot on it as blood from its mangled occupants began to drip to the ground.
A clear shield sprang up around him as gunfire from the remaining two SUV's switched to the larger threat, ignoring their harassers atop the roof for now. Harry made no move to retaliate as his shield halted the bullets in their tracks as his attackers piled out of their vehicles and used them as cover while they wasted ammunition on him. Only when they had all exited the cars did he respond.
Harry directed his magic not at the nine enemies attacking him, but at the cars they took cover behind. While they were distracted by the sight of one of their number suddenly losing a chunk of their head courtesy of Hendricks, Harry was shaping and directing metal to conform to his will.
Two more foes had fallen to Hendricks' accurate fire by the time Harry had finished layering his spell. With a flourish, the two cars simultaneously morphed into four irritable felines. The short gunfight came to an abrupt end as the remaining gang members fell to the beasts, mauled horribly; one unfortunate man collapsing with a gurgle as his face was ripped off.
The sudden silence after the skirmish was louder than it had any right to be. All save one of the lycanthropes were dead, and the survivor would soon be wishing he could join them. Harry took a seat on the car that he had crushed as his cats rubbed their flanks against him, maws wet with blood.
"That was an impressive display, Mr Potter."
Harry looked back over his shoulder at the dry voice to see Marcone, Hendricks and Suzie approaching him warily. At the new voice, his cats growled lowly, but were soothed and directed to watch the unconscious survivor with a wave of Harry's wand.
"I aim to please," Harry responded modestly, buffing his nails against his jacket.
"You forgot the bears," Suzie pointed out, avoiding looking at either the shredded corpses lying about or the pool of blood collecting under Harry's makeshift seat.
"I rather thought the lions and tigers were enough, don't you?"
"Are they real?" Hendricks asked curiously.
"About as close to real as you can get with magic," Harry shrugged.
"Mr. Hendricks," Marcone called, cutting across their conversation as he stared down at their prisoner, ignoring the lions and tigers that prowled around him. "Kindly prepare our remaining guest. Mr Potter, are you capable of cleaning the area?" he gestured to the destroyed SUV and bodies littering the area.
"Easy," Harry shrugged.
"Miss Blue, please keep Mr Potter company while Mr Hendricks and I have a chat with our guest," Marcone directed, his dollar-bill coloured eyes hardening.
Suzie nodded as she watched Hendricks hoist the unconscious man over his shoulder before following Marcone inside. No doubt the bodyguard would gain the answers their boss wanted shortly. She turned to watch Harry as he moved about cleaning up the site of the fight. Watching him transform the bodies of the gang members into juicy steaks and throw them to his cats for them to snatch out of the air was just a little bit surreal.
After several minutes of feeding his pets, Harry grew bored with the game and vanished the remaining debris, before turning his wand on the crushed SUV. A moment of concentration and it seemed to burst into water, drenching the surrounding area and washing the drying blood on the ground down a nearby drain.
"I still can't believe it," Suzie admitted, stealing Harry's attention from his work.
"Oh?" Harry responded.
"Magic," she gestured at the great cats frolicking around him for attention. They were acting like kittens; kittens with blood on their claws and around their jaws. "Are they alive now? I mean, if they died what would happen?"
"Well," Harry considered. "They should be able to 'live' a natural life span so long as they can gain energy enough to continue the spell from food and what have you, they'd just revert to base otherwise, but I'm not entirely sure at the moment."
"Why's that?" Suzie asked, intrigued.
Harry sent her a considering glance. "Recently I...suffered an injury that makes me doubt my ability to keep up long term enchantments like this. As living animals, they might last for as long as I will it, or-"
He was cut off as the four large felines around him convulsed for a moment, before collapsing and growing into a mangled arrangement of car parts.
"Or they might revert into their base materials if I don't pay particular attention to them," the wizard sighed.
"Can you create anything else?" Suzie continued curiously as she hunkered down to lean against the building wall.
"Pretty much," Harry admitted. "I could create the biggest, baddest, meanest and smelliest bear you've ever heard of without a huge amount of effort, but it would go the same way as these guys went if I didn't maintain a hold on it," he explained with gesture at the piles of metal before vanishing them. "Not that that would be a great deal of trouble, just...irritating."
"What else can you do? Can you fly? Teleport? Turn invis—no, you've already done that..." Suzie trailed off as she pressed him, looking for all the world like an eager child as she waited for his answer.
"Oh, Suzie," Harry laughed easily, remembering something a kind old Headmaster had once told him shortly after revealing the existence of magic to him. "Magic is both the most wondrous thing you'll ever see and a poor substitute for the magic you witness every day."
"Now you just sound like you're trying to be wise," Suzie teased him with a wry grin.
"Trying? I'll have you know that-"
He was ignored and then interrupted as the blue haired woman checked her phone after it began buzzing in her pocket. "Hendricks got what he could from the guy. The boss man wants to see you in his office now."
Harry sighed at being cut off before he could begin a proper rant. Still, duty called. He offered Suzie a hand up with a mocking bow only to have it slapped away before heading back inside the club, leaving the mundane loading dock with no evidence of the fight that had place there not ten minutes previously.
X x X
"Mr Potter...I find myself at a loss."
Harry was seated across from Marcone in the man's office, sprawled lazily in the comfy chair. On the other side of the desk, his boss regarded him with keen eye as he leant forward, fingers steepled.
"Why's that?" Harry asked, outwardly carefree as always, but inwardly guarded.
"Were it not for the evidence of my own eyes as well as a report from Miss Blue, I would be disinclined to believe you to be anything more than a charlatan."
Harry's face went flat. "Oh?"
"Mr Potter. I extended a hand to you because I believed you to be of use in my employ. Up until this morning, I had been doubting my decision."
"I told you that I could squash your enemies, and I did," Harry replied evenly.
"You did," Marcone acknowledged. "However, it is not your ability I find to be lacking, but your knowledge."
Harry remained silent, staring at his employer.
"Mr Potter, did you intentionally mislead me in regards to the depth of your knowledge on the matter I hired you to deal with?"
Marcone relaxed marginally. The reply had been immediate but not hurried, self assured but not blusterous. Genuine.
"I'm glad we were able to clear that up without further misunderstanding," Marcone told him with a smile.
"How did you find out I had bad info about the werewolf?" Harry interrupted before Marcone could continue.
"I have a great many sources of information within this city, Mr Potter, and I am directing a substantial portion of them to uncovering whatever they can about this untapped world that has recently been revealed to me. It was inevitable that they would bear fruit," Marcone revealed.
Reaching under his desk, he pressed a button and a minute later Hendricks and Suzie filed into the office, Suzie taking a seat next to Harry while Hendricks remained standing, leaning against the door frame after closing the door behind him. "I received a call early this morning, from a Harley MacFinn. I believe you met him last night, Mr Potter; he is our loup-garou. He announced his certainty that I was responsible for a number of recent misfortunes to befall him and his intention to come for me tonight."
Hendricks and Suzie stirred slightly, while Harry considered the information.
"Doesn't seem very smart," Harry opined.
"I believe he was still partially in the grip of his transformation, and frustrated with his inability to reach me last night, took the opportunity to voice his aggression. However, that is but an educated guess."
"Sounds plausible," Harry agreed. "So, ambush?"
Marcone gave a nod to Hendricks, who spoke up, "I've arranged for a trap large enough to hold him to be dug on Mr Marcone's property. If we can lure him there and trap him, we'll be able to hold him until morning when he won't be a threat."
"If the trap doesn't work, I should be able to pin him down," Harry volunteered. After witnessing his ability to transform objects at will, none of the three questioned him.
"Very well. Miss Blue, I will leave it to you to coordinate whatever other personnel you and Mr Hendricks deem necessary to contain the beast," Marcone concluded. "Mr Potter, if there are any preparations you need to perform, I trust you will have time to do so."
Three nods of affirmation followed Marcone's directions.
"I will require your presence at my estate at no later than three pm this afternoon, Mr Potter. Miss Blue will provide you with directions-"
The phone rang shrilly, cutting off Marcone's dismissal. With a frown at the phone that only a limited number of people had access to, he lifted the phone from its cradle and pressed the speaker button, before waiting for the caller to speak.
"Mr John Marcone?" the voice questioned, as if it had been expecting a response.
"This is FBI Senior Agent Denton. I have information that is pertinent to your immediate safety."
X x X