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Enter the Dragon (Harry Potter/Shadowrun)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Dunkelzahn, Jul 10, 2018.

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  1. Extras: World-Building: But what about dragons!
    Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    Okay, so here's my massively over-detailed dragon crib sheet. I've tried to remove any hints about future story events, but in case I missed something, there might be some very minor spoilers included. Hence the tags.

    This is not canon information for Shadowrun dragons, rather it is a combination of elements from Shadowrun and Earthdawn, combined with my own ideas and what I took from Doghead13's original then melted down and refined into what I hope is a cohesive and self-consistent whole.

    As a note, various elements of this may well change as the story progresses, and none of this is required reading to understand the rest of the story --- at least it shouldn't be if I do my job properly.

    Dragons
    Dragons are large, vaguely reptilian, creatures, though they are ‘reptilian’ in the sense of not fitting in any other category rather than being similar to other reptiles — as is the case for most of the members of the reptilian class.

    Dragons are generally more intelligent than humans, are functionally ageless after they reach their prime, can usually fly, can breathe fire, and are physically and magically powerful. There is only a single sapient dragon species, but there are several wildly disparate body types or dracoforms. There also exist a variety of physiologically-similar but non-sapient species who may or may not be the results of various magical experiments on the part of the sapient dragon species over the year (Hint: they probably are).

    Dragons are a major feature of the sixth world’s political and economic landscapes. They live a long time and are generally quite happy to make their influence felt. Many dragons are among the wealthiest individuals in the world, and they all wield a great deal of very personal physical and magical power. Great Dragons, in particular, are almost uniformly major players on the world stage.

    As a note, the dragons of Shadowrun canon are somewhat altered in this iteration. Some social taboos are altered, and there is significantly more variety in basic physiology. These changes are made both for plot reasons and for reasons of internal consistency.

    Draconic Biology

    Dragons are highly magical beings. Much of their physiology runs on magic or is only able to run because of magic. While dragons do produce a tremendous amount of magic on their own, it is not enough to maintain their physiology in anything other than a torpid state. Because of this, dragons are only active when the magical background levels are high enough to support their activity, hibernating through low-magic ages.

    Also because of this basic integration of magic into their physiology, dragons exhibit much more variety, even in basic biochemistry, than is seen in any other single species. Most dragons have a physiology reminiscent of most other life on earth, carbon-based with aqueous biochemistry, but some are wildly different while still somehow remaining genetically compatible with their fellows. Some, like iron dragons, have non-carbon-based biochemistry, and some are even able to exist as an undifferentiated classical element given form.

    Dracoforms

    Despite being a single species, Dragons come in several wildly different general phenotypes called dracoforms. These forms sometimes have additional sub-variations as well. There are four such general types.

    • Western Dracoform
      • Western Dragons are six-limbed with two hind legs, two forelimbs and two central wings. Their builds vary from scaly-lion-with-wings to four-legged-snake-with-wings. Adult western dragons are generally about 20 meters long when full-grown, with a wingspan up to 30 meters. Standard forms have highly-variable scale colorations but are otherwise similar to most other magical reptiles in biochemistry.
        • Iron Dragon
          • One narratively-significant subtype of the western form are the iron dragons. Iron dragons have a biochemistry based on metallic phase iron and copper rather than carbon, and the majority of the iron dragon’s body is iron rather than water. Iron dragons are about seven to ten times denser than other dragons, and they tend to have a much more widely variable diet, getting most nutrition from mineral sources rather than animal.
          • While some other magical creatures — notably drake-dogs — have similar biochemistries, iron dragons are likely the result of a long-forgotten magical accident with the others resulting from subsequent experimentation. Harry is the only member of the subspecies currently known to be living. There have been such in the past, but they have died or otherwise dropped out of circulation.
    • Eastern Dracoform
      • Eastern Dragons are four-limbed and generally range from serpentine to crocodilian in shape. Adults can reach nearly 35 meters in length, of which more than half is tail. Even though they lack wings, Eastern Dragons can fly just as well as their western counterparts. Standard forms also have a widely-varying range of scale colorations, and some may have fur.
        • Sirrush
          • The sirrush variant has proportions similar to a whippet, much longer legs than usual and a more compact body with almost no tail.
        • Elemental
          • Elemental dragons are a class of eastern dragon variants whose physiology is made entirely of an undifferentiated classical element. These characteristics never breed true, so such dragons only show up by random chance. Often, these are water-based. Earth-based ones tend to have similar habits as iron dragons. Fire and air dragons are unfortunately incapable of hibernating through the non-magical ages, so they have only rarely reached adulthood.
        • Aquatic
          • Normal eastern dragons are terrestrial, but there are some aquatic variants. Aquatic variants often have a dorsal ridge of long fur, much like leviathans, and they may be the result of interbreeding between eastern dragons and leviathans. It is often very difficult to see the line between aquatic eastern dragons and their more specialized leviathan brethren.
    • Feathered Serpents
      • Feathered serpents are serpentine in shape, with body proportions similar to a very slim eastern dracoform but feathered. They possess two pairs of limbs, one of which is a pair of brightly-colored feathered wings, and one pair of relatively short rear legs. Both sets are used for ground locomotion (like a bat rather than a bird), and the rear legs have an opposable thumb and are sufficiently dexterous to be used for fine manipulation. This tends to lead to some rather interesting resting postures for feathered serpents — think reading a book while holding the book with your feet.
      • These dragons are generally under 20 meters long and have a disproportionately short wingspan of 15 meters. Because of their proportions, feathered serpents tend to have a subtle oblong cross section, biased towards the vertical, in order to increase their stiffness during flight. This is in contrast to the western dragon tendency towards horizontal bias.
      • Feathered serpents tend to have the shortest tempers of any of the Dragons, and they also tend towards violent solutions more easily. This is not a universal tendency, but it is fairly common, and has been attributed to several factors, ranging from the rainforest areas they live in and the thoroughly vicious food web there (which is a silly distinction because everywhere else is just as nasty) to some sort of association with the classical element of fire. It seems more likely that it is a draconic variant of ‘short man’s syndrome’ considering that the feathered serpents never reach sizes even close to those of the other variants.
      • Some feathered serpents have a toothed beak, and some may have a feathered body as well as wings.
    • Leviathans
      • Leviathans are sea-dwelling dragons. They have a heavier build than eastern dragons but are similarly wingless. It is not known whether they can fly in the manner of eastern dragons, but they never seem to do so where anyone can see them. Leviathans are capable of walking on land, but they do so infrequently.
      • Given the body sizes involved and their relatively delicate limbs, this is one of the best arguments for leviathans being able to fly as if they did not have the capability to float most of their weight, their limbs would certainly not be up to the task.
      • Leviathans are quite large, upwards of 60 meters counting the tail. They are quadrupedal, but have poor manual dexterity, favoring webbed flippers for better swimming rather than talons for grasping.
      • Most of the variation in leviathans comes in their build and color. Some are heavyset with proportions like an unnaturally wide crocodile crossed with a manatee, and some are thin, looking more like oversized sea snakes. Heavy builds are more common among ocean dwellers, and the lighter builds tend to live in large rivers and lakes.
    Great Dragons

    While not actually a distinct dracoform, some individual dragons exhibit an indeterminate growth habit — that is, they continue growing after they reach what would normally be the maximum size of their particular subspecies[1]. These individuals are called Great Dragons, and they can get quite large indeed. There are physical markers which indicate whether a dragon will exhibit such growth, but no one other than dragons know what those markers are.

    For example, Dunkelzahn is a Great Western Dragon with blue scales. At the beginning of the story, he’s about 15,000 years old and is nearly 200 meters long, ten times the length and a thousand times the weight of a normal adult western dragon. He’s still quite youthful by the standards of Great Dragons, roughly equivalent to the early-thirties for a human, and he is thus not terribly large by those same standards. He has an unusual charisma to him, however.

    Others are similarly ridiculously huge, though their size varies wildly with age and subspecies. The indeterminate growth pattern seen in Great Dragons generally averages out periods of time larger than a century to a constant rate of increase in volume per unit time; thus, the length of a Great Dragon will be proportional to the cubed root of its age for sufficiently large units of time.

    Great Dragons never stop growing, and they never stop getting stronger. This has some interesting effects on population dynamics. Most of the population gets killed off by infighting and accidents, sometimes even by a particularly determined non-dragon opponent, but a small number survive long enough to become effectively invulnerable. Examples of these are never really seen in-story, nor are they known in-universe, but they should exist, simply going by the population dynamics argument.

    Then again, some of the oldest dragons may have simply gone to sleep and not woken up on time after a low-magic age. Given the growth rate seen in Dunkelzahn, even the oldest possible ones (65-70 My) would only be about 5 km long, barring odd circumstances. This is definitely small enough to curl up comfortably under a good-sized mountain, if you allow for magical construction methods.

    Great Dragons only get more powerful with age, but power and sanity are independent variables. The older a dragon gets, the more likely it is to exhibit odd personality traits. These do not necessarily interfere with the dragon’s ability to interact with the world as it actually is (i.e. their sanity), but they do tend to make for odd behaviors. Strange obsessions with seemingly inconsequential minutiae, withdrawal from society at large, and paranoia are some of the more common traits. These tend to combine to make meeting a very old dragon an interesting experience on the rare occasion that you can actually find one.

    Reproduction

    Like many other highly-magical creatures, magic plays a critical role in draconic reproduction. It facilitates the physical act of mating in the case of very large dracoforms, sometimes taking the place of external genitalia entirely and sometimes modifying the form of such to be more effective. It also makes dragons reproductively compatible with just about anything else with sufficient magical potential.

    The offspring of such unions will vary in nature, depending on the actions of the parents. Most asymmetric breeding in the past was intended to produce servitor races for the dragons involved, most notoriously the elves, and the involved dragons guided conception and development to bring this about. Left alone, the resultant offspring will be a mix of traits between the parents weighted by the relative amounts of magic used.

    Most dragons choose not to acknowledge this fact, but past interbreeding with metahumanity is the ultimate source of wizards, though none of the dragons involved were Great Dragons. Given that the predecessors of humans in their modern form were an old genetic engineering project of dragon kind from before written draconic history, many dragons feel that interbreeding with them is distasteful, similar to bestiality in human societies, though not nearly so severe a taboo given that humans are sapient beings. Perhaps the more accurate comparison would be to an interracial union in the immediately post-Jim Crow south, but with less risk of violence.

    Drakes are dragon-metahuman hybrids made in a less traditional, but ironically more traditionally acceptable, manner.

    Diet

    Dragons are consummate omnivores; if a human can eat it, a dragon can eat it; if a human can’t eat it, a dragon can probably still eat it. Dragon nutrition requires high magic levels in the environment to support most digestion, thus environmental magic can be considered a required macronutrient for the draconic diet. Without it, dragons go into hibernation (hence the Awakening). Growth also requires magic in addition to food.

    Dragons produce some of their own magic, but not enough to maintain high activity levels in a low-magic environment.

    Modification/Tinkering

    Dragons change the life around them, and those changes extend to themselves. This is in part due to their metaphysical significance; dragons are a major force in the world, and therefore will have major effects. More directly, though, magic allows dragons to change themselves and others, and over the course of the last seventy-thousand-odd millennia a lot of stuff has gone down.

    Dragons originally evolved as a quadruped species with an elongated body, shaped very similarly to a very large lizard, or, more accurately, a crocodile. The various dracoforms resulted from enterprising dragons trying different changes out on themselves and their offspring. Some traits were invented out of whole cloth, like the spinal-mounted reactionless drives and the fire breath. Others were copied from successful designs in other animals.

    If a dracoform seems to be a collection of different traits from different creatures that were stitched together into a single body… well, there’s a very good reason for that. The wings of the western dracoform were cribbed from bats (about 50 Ma back). The muscular structures supporting the wings were stolen from birds (within the last 40 million years, previously the design was different). The extra set of limbs was added because no one wanted to lose relatively dexterous hands.

    Feathered serpents cribbed their feathers from certain bird species as well as their wing designs. A design with wings like those of a pterosaur was popular for a time about 50 Ma before the present time, but the tight restrictions on associated body shape due to the nature of the wing membrane anchorage saw the population transitioning to the bat design.

    Leviathans patterned themselves after some of the great sea creatures that existed in the late cretaceous period. The body shape is taken from mosasaurus. The dorsal hair was actually inspired by a variety of different critters and serves a variety of purposes from camouflage to luring and capturing prey. Bioluminescence is another common trait which is not widely known to the world at large. Teeth shapes are cribbed too. Often individual leviathans will slightly change their own forms depending on what they choose to eat, though the one that made baleen for filter feeding was mercilessly ridiculed by her peers until she changed back to more respectable teeth[2].

    The impressive abilities seen in all dracoforms: regeneration; the flight organs; the spectacularly effective brains; the uniform magical ability; the effective immortality; even the wildly improbable size; were all specifically engineered into the species by dragons themselves. The massive variation seen in a single species is due to this tendency. Dragons decided early on to take a personal hand in evolution.

    Dragons have done the same thing to one extent or another with a large variety of other critters over the history of their species, including proto-humans and the vast majority of sapient species. Most of these changes were made through what is essentially extremely advanced transfiguration[3]. Some were made through more… traditional methods; the most notable of these were wizards and elves. Wizards are the only other group to routinely do the same. Non-magical humans are perfectly willing to dabble though once they figure out how.

    Lifespan

    Dragons are ageless, after a fashion — that is, they do not die of ‘old age’. A dragon can die of injury, disease, poisoning, or any number of other causes, but dragons just don’t wear out over time.
    Normal dragons tend to die within the first few millennia after reaching adulthood due to random chance catching up to them. They grow to a certain adult size and power, and then they can only improve through practice and learning to better apply what they have. Thus, a normal dragon basically keeps rolling the dice until they get sufficiently unlucky — a recurrent gamble not helped by the average dragon’s tendency toward tender pride and aggressive defense thereof.

    Great Dragons, on the other hand, follow an indeterminate growth pattern, and they continue to grow physically and magically stronger with time even after reaching adulthood. They can — and do — improve with learning and practice, but their base form improves continuously too. Great Dragons can fairly easily reach a point where the number of things which can harm them is exceedingly small, and thus the likelihood of encountering a lethal situation tends toward zero as a Great Dragon ages.

    The average draconic lifespan is some few hundred-thousand years. For the population of normal dragons, this average looks more like 30-35 thousand years with a few particularly canny individuals stretching this up from the mode of about twenty-five thousand. There aren’t many Great Dragons, but they drive up the average lifespan considerably because they can reach some truly spectacular ages.

    Effects of Age

    Really old dragons tend to be a bit… strange. The oldest surviving dragons are a trio of clutch mates who hatched during the Eocene, about 37 My ago. They started playing a game of hide-and-seek 27 million years back in which everything else on the planet was ‘it’. None of them have lost yet, and none of these young whippersnappers are going to make one of them give up. These three are completely irrelevant to the story, just as they’ve been almost completely irrelevant to the entirety of human history.

    They do periodically orchestrate secret organizations searching for their clutch mates (if the other ones get found, they win!), but this is always done from the shadows. The most recent such was the Illuminati, engineered by the sibling lairing under the Antarctic ice sheet using astral projection and dream manipulation while the dragon in question was hibernating through the Fifth Age.

    This sort of situation is surprisingly common among older Great Dragons; for every Great Dragon that dies tragically or heroically, there is at least one more that retired quietly into what any other race would consider senility. Unlike other races, though, senility among Great Dragons makes them no less skilled or powerful; it just means that they direct that tremendous skill and power towards oftentimes just plain silly goals.

    Aside from the hide-and-seek triplets, there’s one slightly younger dragon that transfigured itself into a mountain in the Canadian Rockies four million years back and currently amuses itself by staring at hikers until they get uncomfortable. Another one just doesn’t bother to wake up any more. It lairs in a cave in Cherry Creek Lake, Colorado, specifically the same cave Dunkelzahn laired in during the Fifth Age. The cave is much larger than Dunkelzahn thought it was, the rest is just very well hidden.

    Another one decided to start hoarding socks when they were first invented, but only unmatched ones; it secretly steals them. That one hides because it is paranoid about other dragons stealing its precious treasure (secrecy is the first line of defense!). Still another one lairs in a giant faux-pineapple under the Arctic ice sheet and hasn’t left since the Pliocene. That one was actually responsible for engineering the human species, or at least their predecessors, and has recently begun ghostwriting a children’s television series in secret.

    The tendency towards isolation seen in most dragons only gets worse with age; during the Sixth Age, there are actually more ancient Great Dragons in hiding than there are publicly active ones, and not even the active Great Dragons know this.

    Language

    Dragons have the rather unusual problem of truly being too large to make effective use of a normal audible language. An adult dragon has vocal cords that are longer and heavier than an adult human’s entire body and a voice box approximately the size of a minivan, the resonant frequencies of such an organ are too low to carry any real amount of data in a reasonable amount of time.

    Thus, while dragons do have a spoken language — mostly invented just so they can say they have one — it is used only in the most tediously formal of situations. Like the ents of Tolkien’s work, saying anything in spoken draconic takes a very long time, so anything you want to say in it should be worth taking a very long time to say. Real vocalizations from dragons are normally used to convey very simple ideas, like challenge in combat, simple acknowledgement, or warning — dragons are very good growlers.

    Because of this, a different method of communication has been developed for use among dragons. The unimaginatively-named dragon-speech is a mixture of projective telepathy, psionic divination, empathy, body language and interpretive dance. Of all the languages used by the Named, it is perhaps the richest and most expressive, conveying thoughts in their entirety — complete with context and reasoning and emotion and imagery all in one go.

    Dragon-speech can be used to speak to non-dragons, though it is often an unsettling experience for non-dragons so addressed. The speech method is in fact universal enough and forceful enough that dragons can often control sub-sapient animals by commanding them through it — no magic, preparation, or domestication necessary. Even sapient creatures will perceive dragon-speech as tremendously forceful. Dragon-speech does, however, suffer from the limitation of being at least in-part mental, and thus entirely unsuitable to transmission through lower-dimensional communications media like video.

    Dragons are very proud of their language, and they often find other languages rather limited and awkward to use in comparison. Because of this, even though dragons can emulate other spoken languages through magic — and, in fact, find doing so to be very simple — most will use a metahuman interpreter when they need to translate for whatever reason, usually to use technological means of communication.

    Behavior

    Dragons are very strange critters. They are the oldest surviving intelligent species on the planet. They are universally magical, curious, long-lived, and inventive. This combination of traits has led dragons on a convoluted path as a species.

    Dragons are curious, and they tend to look into everything and anything that catches their interest, regardless of whether doing so is a good idea. They also have a massive helping of self-assurance which blurs the distinction between confidence and arrogance. Long life means that dragons have a lot of time to look at things, a lot of time to polish things, and a lot of time to go a bit off in the head.

    Dragons tend to be possessive and will hoard things. Many dragons focus on hoarding wealth and political power. Some hoard knowledge. Some have other habits.

    Dragons tend to be touchy about status and insults, which is a direct consequence of their social structure and individual strength. Draconic society, like many similar human societies, is a polite one by necessity. Everyone in it is perfectly capable of killing everyone else with little preparation or planning.

    Dragons tend towards grand plans and ambitions; those plans and ambitions are highly varied in nature, but the name of the game is always, “go big or go home.”

    Society

    Draconic society, to the extent that such a thing exists, is highly-formalized and ritualistic. Formal rites have been created and strictly followed for almost every aspect of life from mating and child rearing to greetings, apologies, farewells, and funerals. This was directed towards reducing the number of casualties resulting from interactions between dragons — both among the dragons themselves and those around them.

    Every dragon is a dangerous combatant, and worse, almost every dragon is absurdly touchy about personal respect and status. Because of this, while dragons are often quite brusque to the rest of the world, they are normally painfully polite to each other, because the slightest insult is very likely to draw a violent response — a violent response which, given the lifespans and memories involved, is often wildly disproportionate to the initial offense and which has been plotted out in exquisite detail for centuries in advance.

    Formal society essentially outlines a set of actions and responses which no one is allowed to take offense at because they are the ‘appropriate’ way to go about things. Dragons who behave informally might get away with it outright if they’re lucky and have a good relationship with those they interact with, but it is far more likely that someone or other will take offense at something and will then wreak bloody revenge for whatever they determined was a slight — possibly centuries down the road. Most will make some allowances for very young dragons who don’t know any better — though only if they are obviously trying to be polite and put the effort into learning the proper forms as quickly as they can manage.

    Aside from their prickly personalities, the other reason for such formal interactions is the draconic tendency to form magical connections with everything in the vicinity because of the nature of dragon speech. This means they can accidentally enter into rituals with alarming ease. The formal rites, and particularly the mating rites and the shift of child rearing to the respected elders rather than the actual parents, were established to cut down on accidental ritual formation by making such relationships more emotionally distant.

    Despite draconic claims to the contrary, this system of formal manners was only established relatively recently in draconic history — specifically during the Second Age — in response to the development of certain magics which greatly increased the lethality of interpersonal duels.

    The combat magic advances were later countered by further tinkering with draconic biology, but the forms were kept, and in fact tightened, in response to the creation of accidental rituals and their horrific consequences — one during the Second Age which triggered an ice age, and another during the Fourth which triggered the destruction of a continent.

    Towards the end of the Fourth Age, it was discovered that those supposedly accidental rituals were actually arranged clandestinely by a malicious actor — a dragon whose name has since been expunged from history as a punishment for those and other crimes, now known only as Outcast — and as a result, the restrictions on mating and child-rearing have since been lifted to an extent.

    Dragons tend to keep quiet about the reasons for their social conventions because it would reveal that they are just as silly as the other Name Givers, and they feel it would completely ruin their image.

    Draconic History

    Dragons have a recorded history going back to just before the First World. Recorded draconic history started with the invention of draconic memory crystals[4], which were the first storage medium reliable enough to last without maintenance during the five-odd millennia of a low-magic hibernation cycle and information-dense enough to fit in a reasonable hidden lair for those years while still holding a worthwhile amount of information.

    Previously, the low dragon population combined with their prodigious memories and very long lifespans made creation of a physical historical record a low priority. Dragons have a reliable oral history going back to the latter part of the Mesozoic Era. This is less than a thousand times the average draconic life-span, but still quite impressive since it is proportionally (lifespan-normalized) almost ten times longer than human recorded history.

    Evolution

    The species originally evolved from one of the large crocodile species that flourished during the Mesozoic era. The critical change between the previous species and the first dragons was the simultaneous development of sapience and magic. Thus, dragons originated as sapient magical super-crocodiles. One of the first magics the species developed was the ability to change themselves, and every member of the species made extensive use of this magic.

    Unlike humans, who are a social species, crocodiles are generally not social, and thus their early magics focused on self-improvement with no regard for societal body-norms, which would have been an alien concept to the early dragons. Within the first five thousand years or so, individual dragons had managed to increase their size and healing abilities to utterly absurd levels — in response to the dinosaurs inhabiting the same time period — and customization continued from there.

    The magical cycles and the accompanying Scourges have been a part of world history since before the first dragons evolved, and even at this point in their self-evolution, Horrors remain a very real danger to dragons. The early improvement of their self-healing mechanisms produced dragons with effectively indefinite lifespans. Thus, the long gaps between Scourges did not leave dragons forgetful and unprepared as it would later do for humans. This spurred on development in the individuals of the species and even the creation of a very loose social structure. Dragons are not naturally social, but they learned to cooperate when faced with a sufficiently dangerous common enemy.

    Over time, the process of draconic self-guided evolution continued, eventually producing the present-day physical, magical, and intellectual juggernauts that make up the species. Dragons are perfectly willing to beg, borrow, or steal — mostly steal — advances from other races in addition to creating their own. The draconic willingness to tinker with the stuff of life also extends well outside their own species. The evolution of meta-humanity is rife with such meddling, and it is debatable whether humans would have evolved as they did without it.

    Creation Mythology

    The draconic creation myth begins with a dark time in the beginning, when Horrors ravished the earth, fighting among themselves for the amusement of the Great Dark One, a supremely powerful Horror which created the others to fight to the death for its own bloody amusement. None of these Horrors had names, for none were able to understand the value of such.

    According to the myth, eventually one of the creations of this Great Dark One was different, containing within it some spark of life and individuality. This one did not wish to fight for its creator’s amusement, and it fled into the distance. There it chose for itself a name, Nightslayer, and became the First Named.

    After some time, Nightslayer looked over the world, and wept with joy at its beauty. From these tears, came nine creatures. The first, Dayheart, proudly proclaimed her name as the first dragon, and the others, unable to name themselves, were given names by Nightslayer. These were the progenitors of the Name Giving races.

    Soon after this, the Dark One discovered Nightslayer’s actions and tried to destroy him and his children, but the Dark One was unsuccessful, unable to stand against the power given by Naming. After vowing to hunt Nightslayer’s children for all eternity, particularly the dragons who would be corrupted rather than killed as an extra affront, the Dark One fled. In its flight, though, the Dark One sent a parting shot in the form of a giant fireball from the sky. Nightslayer shielded his children, but died in the process and was honored by all his children. The Dragons, in particular, burn their dead in memory of this sacrifice.

    After this, the children of Dayheart, the first dragon, became numerous and grew in skill and power. They prepare for the return of the Dark One, the Great Hunter who now bears the name Verjigorm.

    This creation myth carefully sidesteps any explanation of the presence of the Horrors, and it is conspicuously slanted in its treatment of several facets of reality. No attention is paid to the origin of the Dark One or the world itself, just that before the origin of Naming it was formless. The progenitor figure, Verjigorm, is also the ultimate evil being, and all that is good springs from it in defiance of its nature, through that progeny’s own strength. Also, the act of Naming is given pride of place in the myth, granting the Named power sufficient to overthrow the great Dark One.

    The importance of Naming likely derives from the development of thread magics which are tied up in identity. These seem to be an intrinsic and essential part of the draconic worldview — and that of all the name giving races, for that matter.

    Draconic culture seems to accept the world as they find it, something hinted at in the origin story. No thought is given as to the ultimate origin of the world, the why or the how of things, only a blanket exposition. There isn’t even an attempt to hint at how the world came to be, no primordial sea of chaos from which order was wrested or creation, just an already existing beautiful world which was horribly marred by an already existing Dark One.
    Finally, the myth is significant in that it attributes all that is good in the world, the wresting of control of the world from evil, to Nightslayer, the proto-dragon, and his children, but mostly his favorite child who was made in his image, the Dragon.

    If there was ever a sure indication of hubris, setting yourselves as the heroes in your own creation myth has to be it.

    Revisionism

    Dragons may maintain an accurate history of their own race privately, but if they do so, it is very private indeed. Those few dragons willing to speak to other races about draconic history and culture tend to be very sparse with any details which might be embarrassing or indicate past mistakes and they tend to be quite willing to take credit for the good things produced by other races if they think they can get away with it.

    To hear most dragons tell the tale, dragons have always been impeccably wise and all-knowing, and they have never ever done anything morally wrong with their magic. True, there have been unspecified mistakes made in the past, but they have always been tightly controlled, and they never impacted anyone else.

    Point in fact, it is certain that dragons have manipulated others using magic in the past; even their own forms are the result of it. This is despite vociferous denials of ever doing such things from Vasdenjas in his interviews with the scribes of Throal in the Fourth Age. Dragons tend to maintain a public party line, and they will almost always stick to it, even to the point of telling bald-faced lies about their history.

    Some of the topics covered up in this way include the origins of wyverns and hydras[5], the question of whether dragons have ever reproduced with non-dragons (they have, extensively), draconic involvement in other forms of experimental breeding and experimentation on other creatures (there was lots of it, accounting for almost three quarters of the magical species on the planet), sapient or non, just how far back the current dragon civilization extends (not nearly as far as they’d like you to believe), why dragons decided to eschew long-term meaningful relationships in favor of ritualistic and highly-impersonal one-off matings (despite their claims to the contrary, dragons and rational behavior have only a passing acquaintance with each other, particularly in emotionally charged situations), the reasons behind draconic misgivings about ritual magic and blood magic (as recently as the Third Age there were eight continents), past usage of such, the mysterious relationship between dragons and the very strongest of Horrors (avoiding another incident of this is the reason dragons have put so much effort into rendering themselves corruption-resistant over the last few tens of millions of years), and anything else that might be construed as embarrassing or demeaning. In this way, the dragons are just as bad as the elves (who are another embarrassing issue for the dragons, as the previous servitor race which turned on them).

    Magic

    Physically, dragons are built like tanks wish that they were built. This is nothing compared to their magical structure.

    Dragons have been altering themselves to be better equipped to survive and thrive almost since their beginning as a species. Many of their physiological characteristics were chosen to deal with relatively transient issues. For instance, a dragon’s massive size was once an effective advantage against the contemporary dinosaurs and to a lesser extent, the lesser Horrors, but it now largely superfluous; the same relative advantage would be just as well-served by a body less than half the size. Dragons tend not to get rid of excessive adaptations, but they do stop improving them.

    One constant in draconic history, though, are the Horrors. They have been a serious threat to dragons since the beginning, and they remain one today. The little Horrors that attack physically are no threat because of the draconic physique, but the Greater Horrors that rely on mystical effects and mental corruption are much more problematic. For this reason, dragons have focused their mystical alterations mostly defensively. The prodigious mental capabilities of dragons are used to actively counter threats, with the spectacular intellect being a happy side effect. The astral sight allows dragons to actively find and counter the Horrors that don’t take physical form. Even the astral topology of a dragon’s soul is made to be self-contained and as utterly inviolable as possible. This continues to be a work in progress, but the species has already come a long way.

    As a consequence of this, mystically speaking, dragons are built like bunkers — not just little tornado shelter bunkers, either; they’re more like full-on, NORAD strategic command bunkers. They are almost impossible to affect with purely mystical means without their active consent and participation. Other creatures might pack more of an offensive magical punch than a dragon --- a pseudo-divine spirit, for instance, might be able to cause far more damage using magic than a dragon of similar power --- but the dragon could weather that strike mostly undamaged.

    Dragons obtain this durability through a variety of means. The simplest is their magical capacity; dragons are massive reservoirs of magical energy, and their sheer metaphysical inertia goes a long way toward keeping them safe. In addition to this magical mass, dragons are built with layered defenses both on the material and astral planes, and a spiritual topology which minimizes their effective metaphysical surface area. This optimization makes external dragon magics significantly less effective than their raw power levels would imply, which is why many dragons seem disproportionately fond of physical confrontation despite their obvious mystical clout.

    To revisit the earlier example, a pseudo-divine spirit is a magical construct which forms around the idea of a domain --- that is, the idea of having certain capabilities --- and like most spontaneous natural constructions, it automatically forms in a minimal-energy structure which is still satisfies those restraints of capability. Such a spirit is thus optimized for effecting change on the world, a state which necessarily leaves it greatly open to outside influence. This is why pseudo-divine spirits are so very vulnerable to Horrors.

    Dragons, on the other hand, are optimized to resist changes from the world, which has the necessary consequence of making them less able to effect changes on the world. They can make such things simpler by temporarily changing themselves, essentially flexing their metaphysical topology into a different configuration, and they call the act of doing so ‘using raw magic’. As might be expected, use of this raw magic makes dragons themselves greatly vulnerable to Horrors, and thus they tend to do so only in safe locations, usually their lairs.

    It should be noted that the Horrors have not remained idle over time. Despite draconic efforts to make themselves less mystically vulnerable, every advance is eventually met by a corresponding increase in capability from the Horrors, leaving the two groups fairly evenly matched on balance in their eon-long mystical arms race. Dragons traditionally have the edge in remaining alive and increasing their numbers, while Horrors typically have an edge in sheer mystical lethality and refusing to stay dead.

    Given the relative strength of draconic defenses from an outside perspective[6], Horrors truly live up to the name at this point. Greater Horrors have become the sorts of things that hunt pseudo-divine spirits the same way a human might hunt a rabbit.

    [1] This is contrary to my understanding of the Earthdawn/Shadowrun continuity in which all dragons grow indefinitely and have the potential to eventually become Great Dragons, with the Great indicating a social status rather than a biological one. Here, only a few dragons have the ability to become Great Dragons, and they are correspondingly greater than their canon counterparts.
    [2] Teeth which she then used to good effect on her detractors, leaving herself as the only surviving Great Leviathan. Afterwards, no one was stupid enough to question her dietary preferences, though she still switches back to real teeth before meeting anyone.
    [3] An existing creature was changed with enough detail to be fertile, then bred to make the new species before the transfiguration reversed itself. Thus, the temporary transfiguration produced a new real species.
    [4] These crystals were invented by Dunkelzahn’s predecessor as Loremaster, whose chosen name became the title for the position as a form of recognition.
    [5] The origin of hydras was eventually revealed too publicly to be covered up during the Fourth Age, and dragons of the time reluctantly owned up to the story. After that bit of history was lost during the Fifth Age, specifically during the accidental misplacement of the Library of Alexandria, the dragons are now back to denial, and the story will likely never see the light of day again since the last of the original hydras (thus the last evidence) was killed off during the waning days of the Fourth Age.
    [6] This is doubly true for real “outside perspectives” like crossovers. I have some vague ideas for side stories and such which involve temporarily dropping Harry and his core family into other settings from other works mediated through [REDACTED FOR MAJOR SPOILERS]. This will inform the relationship between Harry’s magic and those other settings.
     
  2. Extras: World-Building: Magical Capabilities
    Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    One thing to remember about transfiguration in this setting, which I've said before, but I'm not sure if it was on this thread, is that when a transfiguration is performed, it's essentially telling the world to treat the target like whatever you are transfiguring it into.

    A consequence of that is that the change is only as convincing as you have the skill and inclination to make it, so when you perform a transfiguration, it will take whatever characteristics you're concentrating on, if your attention slips or you don't care about a particular bit, it stays the same. When you transfigure a mouse into a snuffbox, if you forget to concentrate on the surface finish, you will end up with a furry snuffbox.

    When Harry transfigures himself, he concentrates on being human-sized, looking human-like, and having skin sufficiently sensitive to enjoy hugs. He doesn't really care about anything else, certainly not his strength, or his weight... or, for that matter, those handy reactionless drive organs he has mounted along his spine. The ones that he had to learn specifically how to use independently, since he sort of instinctively filled in with them before (much like he's doing now).

    And while I'm at it, have an exposition piece on magic in the setting. I've removed references to the third crossover setting which I've not yet revealed outside my own notes.

    Magical Capabilities

    Magic in the setting, outside the Wizarding World or [REDACTED], tends to focus on combat boosts and relatively large-scale battle magics. Magic exacts a cost for use, usually in personal effort, and therefore is only used when a suitable non-magical method doesn’t exist or is too unwieldy.

    Off-the-cuff magical casting generally costs just as much effort as actually doing the task non-magically, but that effort comes all at once and in different forms. Despite the additional complications of non-magical setup, magic is generally still more difficult to do actions on the fly; sometimes, however, the desired actions are too unwieldy to set up non-magically.

    Outside of off-the-cuff casting, more variety is seen in support magics and other magical effects. Complicated or subtle effects are normally seen in laboratory settings or from ludicrously advanced spell-casters. There is a fair amount of magitech in use as well, produced by those laboratories. Just as with non-magical systems, magical technology effectively stores earlier effort for use at a later time. As the Sixth World goes into full swing, magical technology becomes more and more commonly available, but outside the Wizarding and [REDACTED] traditions, active on-the-fly casting remains mostly combat-focused.

    By contrast, wizards have a tradition in which those subtle and complicated effects are the norm and are used for even simple chores like washing dishes. This is made possible by elaborate and extensive spell design. Wizarding combat magic has been forced into hiding by secrecy; the big flashy stuff has gone unused long enough to be forgotten. In the Sixth World, it will be rediscovered, but it is little different than the stuff from the other Hermetic traditions.

    [REDACTED]

    Traditional Spells

    Traditional spell work involves moving magic directly in such a way that it accomplishes a desired effect. This sort of casting is an arcane, unintuitive, and byzantine procedure, requiring extensive training, discipline, and strength. The results, however, can be remarkable, more than enough for a single caster to change the course of a battle of armies. With proper practice, this sort of casting is powerful, adaptable, and fast, making it ideal for combat.

    While these spells are adaptable for combat, they are only flexible within a certain range, and their precision is poor. Working magically with delicate things in this system is problematic, and generally involves a different style of training and the aid of tools.

    Naming and Thread Magic

    In traditional magic, names have power. That is, the true Name is associated with a person’s being, and it carries great power and influence over the one so Named. The Name is a central part of the Pattern of a person, and it is therefore an integral part of their very being. This holds true only for the Namers, or those who give themselves and others names. Non-Namer entities and objects still have Patterns, but no associated Name.

    A Name is both a strength and a vulnerability. If others learn your Name, then they can do a great deal to you, both for good and for ill, but one’s Name helps to reinforce one’s own identity in the face of outside interference. This second effect is of great importance in fighting against Horrors which often assault the soul and sanity directly.

    Thread magic is the process of weaving a Thread, usually a central aspect of one’s power, along a Pattern to add strength and weight to that Pattern, and in the process to tie it to the caster. Performing Thread magic requires the ability to both manipulate one’s own magic to an insane degree and the ability to discern Patterns. Even Dragons, with their innate sensorium, require a great deal of practice and learning to accomplish this.

    Wizarding Magic

    The wizarding world has developed casting methods for highly-repeatable, precise, routine casting during their seclusion in the Fifth Age. These are done through the use of a tool, the wand, around which has been built a huge variety of spells which are triggered by supplying the wand with energy and direction.

    Wizarding, or ‘wanded’, magic does not require the same depths of personal control needed for traditional casting. Instead, the effort is expended in tool-making and spell design. Despite outward appearances, a wand is a tremendous feat of magical engineering, involving the sort of precision design and fabrication which would not be rivaled in any other field until the development of modern computer microprocessors.

    Just as modern computers allow tremendously complicated programs to be developed and run on them with a single trigger, so too do wands allow tremendously complicated magical effects to be achieved with a simple trigger. Spell design is another tremendously complicated field for wizards.

    Charms
    These spells, built on the wand system, are generally called charms, and they make up the vast majority of what modern wizards consider to be magic. Despite the artificial classifications of curses and hexes and such, most are simply charms with differing effects. It is telling of the sheer variety of magic available that such distinctions were introduced over the years.

    As mentioned above, the sort of control necessary for traditional casting is not required for charms, but with enough practice, such control can be substituted for some or all of the control mechanisms for the wand (silent casting). The requisite effort goes in at the time of spell design and wand crafting, with the caster supplying the energy and the trigger. Because of this, wand magic is absurdly simple to perform, and wizards have managed to incorporate it into everything they do.

    Transfiguration

    One field which is technically distinct from charms is that of transfiguration. Transfiguration is an art of changing the form of an object or material into another. That is, the caster uses magic to make one thing appear to be another. Transfiguration is a broad discipline, capable of a tremendous variety of effects, including the apparent creation of living creatures.

    Despite appearances, transfiguration does not change the underlying nature of the target. Transfigurations can be dispelled, and when they are, the object will revert to its original state. Thus ‘living’ creatures produced are not actually alive. Changed materials are also not exactly ‘real’, as the changes are not truly permanent.

    Transfiguration is a special case in that while the wand serves as a convenient channel, each casting is specialized, thus the wand system can only handle so much of the workload, with the rest being made up by the caster. Transfiguration is thus considered to be a generally challenging field by wizards, and expertise in transfiguration is seen as a mark of some skill.

    Because of its lessened dependence on the wand, some transfiguration is still commonly done without wands in the wizarding world. The jump between wanded and wandless casting is much less for certain transfiguration disciplines than it is for charms.

    Animagi

    One such wandless transfiguration is the Animagus transformation. An Animagus overlays magic on himself to make his body seem to be that of an animal to all outward appearances except magical ones. By necessity, this must be done wandlessly, since most animals are unable to handle a wand — dependent as it is on opposable thumbs. There are additional considerations about spiritual compatibility and such which influence the Animagus transformation.

    Harry’s transformation back into a human is not, strictly speaking, an Animagus transformation due to these spiritual considerations, but it is a wandless transfiguration on a similar order. Harry never stops being a dragon, he just makes the world act as if he was shaped like a human. This is the reason that he retains his strength, intelligence, and magical resistance despite having an apparently human body.

    Alchemy

    There are two magical disciplines which involve changing substance and form, alchemy and transfiguration. Despite their similarity in appearance, they are quite distinct processes. Alchemy is effectively a fabrication process, changing the form of a substance; though it is one which can fabricate objects down to a sub-nuclear scale. Transfiguration is an emulation process, essentially telling some material to behave differently than it should through the persistent use of magic.

    Alchemy is one area of magical endeavor that has been around for a very long time[1], but has advanced to almost unheard-of levels in the wizarding world, driven both by internal experimentation and observation of the advances of the non-magical sister field, chemistry. At its base, alchemy is discipline wherein a material can be converted into a new form while facilitating the change with magic. That is, an alchemist can change one thing into some other thing while ignoring at least some of the intervening steps that would be required to do so without magic.

    Alchemy can be used for reshaping material in bulk, but such is generally much more difficult with alchemy than it is using more traditional non-magical methods. The changes associated with the field are usually those which cannot be accomplished otherwise (or cannot be accomplished efficiently otherwise) including nuclear transmutation and changes in intrinsic magical properties.

    It should be noted that alchemical changes are permanent; the substance really does change, just like it would in the equivalent non-magical process. This is distinct from the transfiguration discipline where the substance is changed to all outward appearances except the magical. Transfigured changes are reversible through dispelling the transfiguration magic; changes are only stable while the magic is in place, telling the object how to behave. It is possible to semi-permanently transfigure objects, but this is done by stabilizing the transfiguration magic so that it will not dissipate naturally. Transfigured objects can be identified as such through their magical signatures. Alchemically transformed objects cannot.

    It should also be noted that an understanding of conservation of energy is critical to alchemy while it is nearly irrelevant to transfiguration. An alchemical transition from a low-energy to a high-energy state will absorb energy from outside the system, and the inverse will make energy available. Transfiguring something only adds a little energy in the form of the cast magic, the underlying material is unchanged.

    This is one of the major reasons that alchemy has a reputation as a dangerous discipline in the magical world. Knowledge of mass-energy equivalence is not widely disseminated in the magical world, and even for those who are aware, the amount of energy that can be released or absorbed in such reactions is staggering.

    While alchemy does not allow the alchemist to ignore mass-energy conservation, it does allow the alchemist to mostly ignore activation energy and the associated reaction rates through judicious application of magic. Certain fundamental symmetries of the physical world are also mutable through the application of magic, including CP symmetry.

    Alchemy amounts to a field of magic capable of producing quite literally anything that can, in principle, exist. If you can describe the end product sufficiently, you can transmute something into it — frictionless materials, magnetic monopoles, materials with differing inertial and gravitational masses, they’re all potentially feasible if an alchemist puts in sufficient effort to find a way.

    Wards, Enchantments, and Runes

    Some spells can be cast in such a way as to affect an area or object persistently. These persistent spells are wards (area) and enchantments (object). These are used to a wide variety of effects, and they are similar to charms in that the effort goes in early with the effects coming out whenever triggered later.

    Sometimes, the wizarding world even goes back to its roots, making machinery for the direct manipulation of magic. These machines mix physical systems and magical ones through the use of magical circuitry called runes. At one point, these were so widely used that the prototypical symbols were used as primitive alphabets, but they fell into disuse for this purpose as people realized that purpose-built alphabets were much more effective for language — as well as being less likely to accidentally explode if read by magical persons.

    Potions

    Potions are a magical mix of the non-magical fields of chemistry, nanotechnology, and biology. The discipline involves mixing different ingredients so as to change their composition, tailoring the end result to have certain desired effects. This is like chemistry, but there is more complexity than that, since some of the processes involved work on the principles of self-assembly, effectively making tiny magical machines to accomplish complex tasks, usually within larger bio-magical systems. The field is spectacularly complicated and immensely difficult to learn as anything other than a series of recipes to memorize, but it can accomplish truly amazing things.
    Ritual Magic

    Ritual magic is a casting method which allows multiple casters to cooperate in order to produce a result which is normally beyond the capabilities of any of the individual casters and in fact, is often beyond the capabilities of a hypothetical caster who is as strong as all the involved casters combined. Ritual magic is a wooly sort of practice, and it can have unexpected results if the ritual is not carefully designed, or if the casters’ commitment or focus falters in mid-casting.

    Ritual magic, in this sense, was developed by the dragons early in their history after its accidental discovery and was used extensively prior to the Fourth Age. During the Fourth Age, a series of accidents occurred due to sabotage by the dragon who would later become known as the Outcast, though its interference would not become known until late in the Fourth Age. These mishaps had some rather severe consequences, leaving the world in the middle of a short but severe ice age and short a formerly heavily-populated continent. The dragons involved cracked down on ritual magic use until the reason for the rapid-fire disasters could be discovered.

    As a result, the use of ritual magic died out during the Fourth Age, and no modern magical traditions make use of ritual casting in the traditional sense. Many of them have things that they call rituals, but none of these provide a power boost over on-the-fly casting, they just provide more precision or ways to work around missing components and tools.

    A ritual consists of several components: the casters, the framework, the ordeal, and the result. The casters are self-explanatory, these are the individuals involved in the casting. Casters of a ritual do not even need to be aware that they are involved in the casting; they simply must be linked together magically as part of the framework. However, it is generally a good idea to alert them to the goings on and have them knowingly and willingly involved. Rituals take time, and the mentality, emotions, and, perhaps most importantly, will of all the casters combined is critical to the function of the ritual.

    The framework is simple, consisting of some sort of mystical bond among the casters. This is the first part where power boosting comes into play. The final strength of the ritual is proportional to the number of bonds of cooperation among the casters, that is, the more links there are in the framework, the more potent the ritual. While, in principle, the framework can consist of any topology, the ritual will have its greatest potency in a fully-connected ritual, where all casters are joined to every other caster. The bonds in question can be anything which allows the flow of magic between casters. Such bonds can be formed due to a variety of reasons, but they can range in severity from simple physical contact up through the sorts of soul-deep marriage bonds that have never been common enough to be well-known. As rituals can often take place over the course of months, even years for major workings, maintaining these bonds can require some logistical planning for the less permanent options.

    The ordeal is the other place where power-boosting occurs. Symbolically, the ritual ties the actions of the casters during the ritual to the result the ritual is supposed to attain; thus, the more effort the casters expend during the ritual, the more potent the result of the ritual. For this reason, the casters in a ritual will normally undertake some major challenge during the casting process in order to cause themselves to expend more effort. While the ordeal does not necessarily have to be conceptually related to the result, because it is simply the effort expended that is needed, it should be remembered that the state of mind of the casters is also important, and the casters will find themselves much more focused on the result if the ordeal is closely associated. This is the reason for the concept of symbolic importance.

    The result is the outcome of the ritual. It can be almost anything, as determined by the intent of the casters. The permanency of a ritual can vary. Some rituals perform a physical action, which itself leaves permanent results, but the ritual result is temporary. This is the sort of ritual which removed the eighth continent during the early Fourth Age. Other rituals perform an ongoing action, which relies on the casters to perpetuate. This is the sort of ritual which resulted in the Ice Age.

    An interesting facet of ritual magics is that they can be performed by accident. The creation of the ritual, while an exceedingly difficult task, consists of components which might be performed for other reasons. For instance, magical beings might form a framework through marriages or friendships and cooperate on a major task. Given the right circumstances, these unrelated actions can result in a ritual.

    This potential was the major driver of the shifts in draconic society, specifically the overly-formal and impersonal mating practices, which took place leading up to the late Fourth Age seen in Earthdawn. These “traditions” were put in place specifically to prevent the accidental formation of ritual frameworks.

    [REDACTED]

    [This section held a description of magics relating to the third crossover setting I have planned but have not yet revealed. It has been hinted at in precisely one scene so far in the story, so kudos to anyone who can catch it. As it will be some time before it shows up in the forefront, I've removed references here.]
    [1] The Earthdawn continuity’s True elements are a central example of such.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2019
  3. Extras: Character Extras: Snape's Backstory
    Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    Close, actually. I've included my current working backstory for Snape (no spoilers for story events included, just spoilered for length).

    Snape was born to a non-magical father and a pureblood magical mother of the Prince family. His father was physically abusive, and his early life was miserable. He lived in a non-magical area, and one of his neighbors was the Evans family. Their daughter, Lily, was his closest friend before Hogwarts, and for a boy as generally disagreeable as Snape, that was a major feat. Snape was more than a little obsessive about Lily and had set all of his hopes for the future on that friendship even from an early age.

    Events of Snape’s childhood came to a head when his father killed Snape’s mother in front of him when the boy was still several years away from starting Hogwarts. The young Snape then killed his father through accidentally-on-purpose magic while defending himself from a similar fate. In addition to severe psychological scarring and trauma, this left the young Severus the only living member, and therefore technically the Head, of House Prince.

    Later, when Lily found out she was a witch, Snape was the first to explain to her what that meant, and when they went to Hogwarts they went together. Various things happened at Hogwarts, Snape and Lily were sorted into different Houses, and the rampant bigotry against those with non-magical heritage made things difficult for both Snape and Lily.

    Lily caught a lot of trouble because she was a bright, talented witch with non-magical parents, but she was in Gryffindor, the House with a good proportion of the more welcoming sort. Snape was shielded somewhat by his status as the heir of House Prince, but as a halfblood in Slytherin he had to watch his back all the time and work to fit in well enough to avoid persecution no matter what his personal opinions.

    When Lily caught the eye of James Potter in their later school years, stress mounted. Despite his later maturity, even personal nobility, at the time, James was a spoiled brat whose sense of humor tended toward the crudely physical and pranks. Seeing his crush hanging about with a Slytherin, particularly one with whom he had had an ongoing and increasingly vicious prank war, did not endear Snape to him and the prank war escalated.

    One thing led to another, and between the stress of trying to maintain a front against his enemies in Slytherin and the mounting, very real threat of the rising political unrest at the time (which threatened to push those schoolyard conflicts into deadly violent ones), eventually Snape snapped at Lily and said things which could not be unsaid.

    Lily was a volatile sort — nice, kind, but vindictive when she deemed it appropriate. Crossing her could be a nightmare, and to Lily his words seemed to confirm that James had been right about Severus all along, which implied that Snape had been deceiving her for years. This meant that Lily interpreted Snape’s mistake not as a minor blowup, but rather as a deeply insidious betrayal. Of course, she wasn’t absolutely certain of that conclusion --- had Snape come forward with a sincere and convincing apology, they might well have worked things out --- but neither Severus nor Lily really knew how to navigate the situation, and their years-long friendship evaporated in a few words.

    At this, Snape despaired. He had pinned all his hopes in life on Lily, and he didn’t really see a way to go on. He went through a mildly suicidal period during which he picked up some lessons in alchemy (at least partly in hopes that it would kill him without the cowardly stigma associated with suicide) until he eventually hit on an idea. Lily would never be his — not his friend and certainly not anything more — but he might still be able to make the world a better place for her. The current social order condoned the enslavement of people like Lily for no reason other than their birth to non-magical parents, and this struck Severus as monumentally unjust. Snape sought revolution.

    There was a revolutionary group active at the time, still operating in the shadows. Snape sought them out. The leader of the group — a charismatic man and a very skilled con-artist who operated under the nom de guerre, Voldemort — courted Severus for his cause and told him what he wanted to hear in order to gain Snape’s valuable services as a potions master. Severus ate this up eagerly, much to his later regret, and joined Voldemort’s cause.

    On joining, however, he soon found that the rest of the membership were all the same sorts of people that he despised. Voldemort’s movement was not one of liberation, directed at draining the cesspool of wizarding society; rather it was a group of malcontents who wanted to float to the top of the filth.

    For a second time, Snape despaired. The current establishment was rotten to the core, and now he was personally marked by another psychopath that promised to be even worse. At this point, Snape decided that the best he could do was tear everything down and hope someone could rebuild something more worthwhile over the ashes.

    Snape’s new strategy was directed toward promoting a third side — casualties.

    Snape began a subtle campaign of misinformation and sabotage. He passed selected information to Voldemort’s enemies trying to make every conflict bloodier on both sides. He subtly sabotaged potions to interfere with healing, passed misinformation, and even resorted to outright murder when he could get away with it.

    This came to a head, when he passed on what he thought was an obviously invented prophecy, trying to set up further misinformation later. This backfired when Voldemort interpreted the prophecy seriously and in a way Severus had not anticipated, bringing his old friend Lily under fire from the man, along with her new family. Snape was horrified anew, and tried desperately to save Lily, approaching both sides of the conflict, but she was killed along with her husband in 1981, leaving her son Harry behind. The only silver lining was that she managed to take Voldemort with her.

    After the war, Snape’s final frantic efforts to save Lily kept him out of prison when Dumbledore claimed Snape was his agent spying on Voldemort. Snape, however, did not abandon his cause. Open conflict was no longer available to hide his actions, but Snape was more determined than ever to tear down the Wizarding World in the hopes of making Lily’s death mean something and not just serve to prop up a corrupt and disgusting society.

    In the following peace, Snape took a posting as a potions teacher at Britain’s foremost magical school, Hogwarts. There he has done his utmost to carefully sabotage the learning of the students. As Head of his old House, Slytherin, Snape coddles his students, particularly the children of his old colleagues from his time with Voldemort. In doing so, he ensures that they never learn to deal with adversity and remain only minimally dangerous. More importantly, it also ensured that their potions skills were abysmal.

    The number of students graduating with the required potions knowledge to become aurors — the government’s combined military and special police arm — fell by more than seventy-five percent during his tenure, denying the current regime much of their ability to enforce their will on the public. The few that did pass, were those which Snape felt had the right mindset and morals to be trusted to rebuild a new society on from the ashes of the current one. The current Head of the DMLE has noticed that her youngest aurors tend to be more reliable than the older ones, though she has not yet worked out why.

    This was Snape’s life before his meeting with Harry.


    Snape is bitter, cynical, abrasive, and unlikable. He also had a rather significant body count on both sides of the aisle in the last war, though most of the killings remain unattributed. He is not a nice person even in this setting; he's just 'not nice' in a somewhat more sympathetic manner than in canon --- mostly because the setting makes such behavior more understandable.

    In canon, Snape was an ass that refused to grow up and made some utterly reprehensible decisions in pursuit of those childish grudges. In this setting, he's an abrasive jerk lashing out at a system that greatly deserves lashing out at while making some major mistakes along the way.
     
  4. Extras: Administrative Note: Note from the original author
    Doghead13

    Doghead13 Grumpy Old Scottish Biker

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    Actually, he started life in an attempt to construct a Snape that the Caer Azkaban Yahoo group (on which the popular opinion of the character roughly matches yours) would cheer on without making the character totally unrecognisable.

    Anyway, I came here to say that yes, Dunkelzahn did indeed ask and receive my permission to continue the fic, so let's not have any more people coming onto Caer Azkaban asking if he's plagarising me, ta very much. He asked before he borrowed it.
     
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