What idiot gives pixies flamethrowers? Well, okay, tiny magical fire-rod things, but still… basically flamethrowers. If you know anything about the little folk, you know that they have a tendency to be kind of singleminded. And giving flower-fairies large quantities of fire is just asking for trouble, given that the inevitable result is that they accidentally torch a flower, or even just realize that doing so is a possibility, panic, and then everything in a five-mile radius winds up burned to the ground.
And why do I keep getting caught in burning buildings?
I ducked and hunched my shoulders a bit, to let a streak of fire splash off my duster (magical reinforcement. Handy stuff), and shook my shield bracelet out of my sleeve. I fed a trickle of will into it, and my shield snapped into existence around me as a semitransparent dome. Another random burst of flame skittered across it, and I stared at the mess.
Molly popped into existence behind me, nearly making me jump out of my skin. And, incidentally, straight into the whirling vortex of flame that this crummy warehouse was rapidly becoming. That girl was getting way too good with her veils.
"Boss? If we don't make it through this, I just want you to know…" she paused, and her tone was grave enough that I actually glanced back. "I… I just want you to know… this is all your fault."
"Thanks." I responded drily. "But have a little faith, grasshopper. Don't I always have a plan?"
Molly shrugged, sighing heavily. This caused some rather interesting maneuvers slightly below shoulder level, but I very carefully didn't notice them. The young Miss Carpenter might be built like a weightlifter's dream, but she was my apprentice. That and having those kinds of thoughts about someone you've known since they were small enough to think boys were icky is just weird.
"Insubordination will get you nowhere, grasshopper." I noted as sternly as I could manage.
"Is that why you're still stuck in this crummy burg, boss?" she chirped.
It was my turn to sigh. I shook my head and grabbed my blasting rod. Pointedly ignoring Molly's raised eyebrow, I focused my will. I'd only pulled this trick off a few times before. Come to think of it, the first time wasn't long before Molly became my apprentice. But it was the sort of… creative thinking… that masters usually discouraged in their apprentices. Mostly because it was tricky- the sort of tricky that ends in craters more often than not.
Tricky, I have to admit, I'm not that great at. But creative? Creative I can do.
I closed my eyes and concentrated on the energies filling the area, and after a few seconds, the heat was suddenly gone. In concept, it was pretty simple; rather than fuelling the fire spell I had prepared with my magic and will, I'd simply pulled heat out of the general area. This had the happy side effect of starving all the various fires nearby (and confusing the hell out of the pixies), but as I prepared to gloat about my success, I realized two things.
First, that the heat that was no longer in the general area was now (barely) contained in a pulsating red glow around the tip of my blasting rod, and second, I was still inside a building whose no-longer-burning state was going to be very, very temporary.
"Molly? Now might be a good time to run." I suggested in a strained voice.
I didn't bother looking to see what happened- I think Molly might have gathered up the pixies as best she could on the way out, but I was too busy aiming my shuddering, smoking blasting rod at a segment of roof that I was hoping was thinner than the other bits.
Things got very bright and very loud after that. My memories are pretty jumbled, but I do remember the sickening sensation of being smashed over the head with something heavy. It was, by this point, familiar enough to be almost comforting.
When my head cleared enough to think again, I was more than a little confused to feel rhythmic motion and a steady click-clack through the floor. Some part of my befuddled brain reported in that I was probably on a train. I hoped the part reporting wasn't my subconscious. The guy's a jerk.
I dragged my eyes open, actually remembering not to shake my head this time. World-spinning nausea on top of a splitting headache just didn't do it for me anymore.
Hey, even I learn eventually.
I was lying on a fairly nice plush carpet in a... cabin?.. compartment?.. train room... that looked weirdly ornate.
And, somewhat to my confusion, there were two kids bending over me, a boy and a girl, about ten or eleven years old.
"Harry? Are you alright?" the boy asked.
Well now, this was interesting. Two kids I had never seen before apparently knew who I was. Although... huh. Now that my brain was clearing a bit, I had to admit they looked a bit familiar. The only problem was, things were still kind of out-of-focus.
I closed my eyes again for a second, took a deep breath, and then hoisted myself to my feet. I couldn't put my finger on it, but for some reason I wanted to be at my full height to deal with these kids, so I stood up as straight and tall as I could.
When I opened my eyes again, I was staring straight into Hermione's eyes as she held a pair of glasses out to me.
Somewhere between my brain and my mouth, my blurted 'Stars and stones!' turned into a groan of "Oh, bugger..."
BRIEF AUTHOR'S NOTE:
Just so you all know, I'm planning on updating weekly, at least until I manage to pooch my buffer by being lazy. So expect updates regularly on weekends for at least the next couple of months.
Also, for those that are curious, the Dresden Files end of things is set somewhere between Turn Coat and Changes.