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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.
     
  5. Extras: DEPRECATED: Section 3.17 - A friend in need
    Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    This chapter has been heavily edited, see the new version here.
    3.17.0 A friend in need

    Given a direct order from the head of their institution, the clerks at the Wizarding Examination Authority had moved with unusual haste for a government organization, and Harry had received the requested syllabus within two days of his visit with Madame Marchbanks. He had shared it with his older friend as soon as he could afterwards, and after a surprised Abigail had given her thoughtful green-eyed friend the tightest hug she could manage in enthusiastic thanks for his efforts, she had immediately gone through the document in detail.

    It had been an enlightening read.

    As it turned out, their earlier review sessions had already covered most of the academic topics that might show up on the exam; it seemed she and Harry had cast a much wider net than the examination committee had when choosing topics to cover, which was rather reassuring to the concerned seventh-year. That was of secondary importance, however; the true revelation had been the weight placed on practical spell-casting.

    It seemed that the Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests were aptly named. While the theoretical portion of the exam was required to pass, the difference between an Acceptable and an Outstanding on the NEWTs lay entirely in the practical. In fact, truly outstanding scores on the practical could even be used to compensate for subpar performance on the written.

    New knowledge in hand, Abigail, being the shrewd girl that she was, immediately concluded that her study time was best spent on practical spellcasting. In her typical practically-minded and realistic manner, she also concluded that she was unlikely to be able to learn some obscure or novel magic in time to impress the examiners during her NEWTs — it was simply too far outside her normal milieu.

    Abigail was neither a puissant researcher nor a brilliant inventor; they were not her fields of expertise. She excelled at an earthy sort of pragmatism, and as a result, she knew that her best bet to tackle the practical portions of the NEWTs was simply to practice — practice until she could perform the standard curriculum to perfection.

    Which, in turn, led to the pair’s current circumstances.

    Harry currently stood in the Lair’s shooting range, taking a short break from his own practice — his control and accuracy remained perennial works-in-progress, and he had been doubly pleased to be able to keep Abigail company while doing something useful at the same time. In the next lane over, his older friend was working on her casting endurance.

    Much like most other human activities, the more a wizard worked his magic, the stronger it got; though, there were, admittedly, limits. An average wizard, for instance, might improve to be head and shoulders above his fellows through hard work, but he would never challenge the likes of Dumbledore through exercise alone. That said, it was a thoroughly practical and universally applicable approach to self-improvement, and it was one well-suited to Abigail’s purposes, so long as she was willing to put in the hard work.

    Because hard work it most assuredly was.

    To be sure, magic was always hard work, in one way or another, but endurance casting made that hard work more conventionally apparent than most. The exercise consisted of casting a spell requiring moderate magical draw — for her current session Abigail had chosen a silently-cast stunning spell — repeatedly until the caster just shy of exhaustion, maintaining proper form and control all the while. The caster would then take a short rest to recover before doing it all over again.

    In effect, it was rather like wind sprints for magic use, and as might be expected, it had similar physiological consequences. As the caster’s hard-working metabolism struggled to kick out enough energy to support the heavy activity, he faced consequences included elevated body temperature, both from the high metabolic activity and waste energy from imperfect casting, heavy breathing to supply the caster’s body with enough oxygen to keep up, and exhaustion.

    In practical terms, it meant a lot of exertion, sweat, and heavy breathing.

    Needless to say, it was not the sort of activity to which the normal Hogwarts winter uniform — a heavy woolen ensemble layered for warmth and modesty and topped with a full-length woolen cloak — was well-suited. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Abigail had dealt with the mismatch in a thoroughly practical manner, stripping off her outer robe, cardigan, and Slytherin tie in an attempt to stay cool, and unbuttoning the neck of her blouse ease her breathing. It was a sensible choice which was quite effective and comfortable, allowing her to go through her exercise routine without risking heat stroke in the middle of a Scottish winter.

    However, it was also a choice which had left her sweating profusely and panting heavily while wearing only a thin white blouse, her pleated gray Hogwarts uniform skirt, and a pair of black thigh-high stockings — woolen, in deference to the Scottish winter weather.

    A healthy young woman in her late teens wearing a soaked, nearly-transparent-in-places white blouse and a damp — and therefore more figure-hugging than usual — pleated skirt cut a rather striking figure. Her exposed skin glistening with perspiration under the artificial lamps of the range and the thoroughly intriguing shifting of certain portions of her anatomy caused by her heavy breathing and oftentimes energetic arm movements only exacerbated the situation.

    In short, Abigail’s current state made for a sight that many of her male classmates would have given their eye-teeth to witness.

    Fortunately for her peace of mind, they weren’t present; only her good friend, Harry, was.

    For his part, Harry was avidly watching his older friend as she went about her exercise routine, finding the sight weirdly cool for reasons he didn’t rightly understand. It was much the same situation as his ongoing admiration for the sight of his centaur damsel at full not-gallop — he knew he liked what he was seeing, but he didn’t know precisely why it was so appealing. The young dragon simply wasn’t mature enough yet to understand such interests.

    Not yet, anyway.

    Of course, that would not always be the case. Despite the mismatch in species, Harry was growing up in a human society, his fellow students were all humans and many of his friends and role models were human. Of those few non-humans he interacted with regularly, centaurs followed a mostly human aesthetic for beauty, and goblins… well, from a visual perspective, goblins were mostly asexual — their sexual displays mostly took place chemically — and therefore didn’t figure much into the young dragon’s nascent sensibilities. Harry’s aesthetic impulses were therefore developing along the path normal for a human adolescent.

    Mostly, normal, anyway.

    It was and would remain true that no human woman, no matter how beautiful, would ever be able to really capture the young dragon’s attention by appearance alone — to figuratively grab him by the glands and give him a hard shake — the way she could a male of her own species, and Abigail, while fit and quite attractive, was no rare beauty. Nevertheless, between the Harry’s gradually developing aesthetic appreciation for the human female form and the emotional intimacy springing from their friendship, the seventh-year girl would have been able to pull off a fair approximation of the feat — had the young dragon been at the appropriate point in his development.

    The fact remained, though, that Harry was not mature enough that the appealing sight of his older friend in her current state could command his undivided attention. Thus, though he watched his friend and her workout with interest and a broad smile on his currently human face, his interest remained innocent, his smile reflected only the simple joy of being with his friend, and his state of mind remained clear enough to keep other thoughts in his head.

    Perhaps closest to mind was a topic which had played a surprisingly prominent role in his recent meeting with Madame Marchbanks — his haphazard inquiries into the nature and behavior of magic. While the conversation at the meeting had focused heavily on his work with runes to create that neat-looking but otherwise useless tree thing, the elderly witch had not restricted her recommendation to that topic alone. Rather, she had promoted the spirit of inquiry in general, and Harry had collected a long list of things he was curious about — a list that was forever getting longer, at that.

    Perhaps he ought to pursue some of them, as well?

    “Good work, Abigail!” the currently human-shaped young dragon congratulated his friend warmly as she finished her set, prompting a beautiful, if very tired, smile from the young woman in return, before he stepped up for his next set of target practice.

    Now that he had put some more work in practicing his own stunning charm, Harry no longer had to concentrate quite as hard to cast successfully, allowing him to continue his earlier train of thought even as a withering hail of brilliant rods of burning red light flew downrange.

    It was about as precise as a hailstorm, as well. As he had mentioned, accuracy remained a work-in-progress.

    There was the stamped-rune method he’d come up with to refine, of course; that’d be a good place to start, but there was also the magic-pumped laser he was originally trying to make for the holographic projector he had originally wanted to make. The young dragon frowned thoughtfully as he considered that. Based on how much trouble he’d had so far, that sounded like it might be a long slog of a project.

    It might be better to save it for later.

    Then there was his magic-to-electricity idea that’d hit a snare a few months back; he was still trying to come up with a new lead on that. The young dragon shrugged at the thought, accidentally throwing off his aim even more than usual on the next casting. He didn’t have anything right now, but it was something to keep in mind. There was also that question he’d thought of right before he’d had to leave when he talked to Donald all those months ago; that was still hanging in the back of his head alongside half a dozen other odds and ends.

    Things were really starting to pile up, to be honest.

    Harry nodded to himself as he surveyed the devastating aftermath of his target practice. He probably ought to start up something to keep track of it all, maybe some research notebooks? Those seemed to work for Hermione pretty well. The human-shaped dragon stepped back to take another break as the splintered remains of the enchanted targets slowly began to pull themselves back together — their wooden forms rather less resilient to the amount of magic he could throw downrange than an equivalently-sized magical person.

    For now, though, Harry thought with a sigh, he really ought to seek out some tips on how to cast more accurately. Sure, he’d hit the targets eventually, but most of his magic had still expended itself on the increasingly pockmarked stone wall at the end of the range — another unacceptable performance.

    Who was the best person to ask, though?

    Harry frowned in thought, the expression going unnoticed by Abigail, who was slumped over in a chair against the wall, her eyes closed and still trying to catch her breath. Much as he respected the man’s talents, Harry’s usual go-to, Mr. Snape, was probably not the best choice. Spell accuracy really wasn’t in the potions master’s purview — from his stories, Mr. Snape tended to rely more on subterfuge to get close enough that he couldn’t really miss. Harry’s other go-to, the goblins, were really good at accuracy, but as the young dragon had learned to his own embarrassment at the dueling club, accuracy with firearms and accuracy with wands were entirely different animals, so the goblins were right out.

    That left the other professors to consider.

    Mr. Dumbledore was probably a good choice since he was pretty good at pretty much everything, but he was really busy most of the time, so that might be a problem — the elderly wizard could barely find time to oversee Harry’s alchemy lessons every month or so. The young, currently human-shaped dragon tapped his chin thoughtfully as he considered the rest of the staff. To be honest, Mr. Flitwick was probably the best choice, now that he thought about it. The half-goblin was a really good duelist, so he’d know all about spell accuracy and speed, and he was a really good teacher, so he’d know how to teach it, unlike Professor Lockhart.

    Plus, there was another magic-related question like Madame Marchbanks had been talking about that he’d been meaning to look into ever since that duel with the annoying blond kid. Since it was a question about a charm, the resident Charms master would probably be the best choice to answer it, too.

    Harry nodded decisively. That’d be the way to go then.

    Suddenly realizing that the room had been unusually quiet for some minutes now, the young dragon turned to Abigail and saw that his friend appeared to have fallen asleep, leaning back in her chair. She must have been more tired than he thought.

    “Abigail?” he called quietly, attempting to wake her, only to be answered by a loud, decidedly unladylike snore.

    “Huh,” Harry frowned before gently nudging her shoulder. His only response was a sleepy grumble and a slight shift.

    Well, she had been working hard, so he supposed she had earned a nap, the young dragon thought — though that chair looked really uncomfortable.

    He frowned in consideration for a moment before nodding decisively. Best to do something about it.

    Harry bent to pick up the sleeping young woman as gently as he could manage and carried her out of the practice range and down the hall to one of the couches in the main room of the Lair and setting her gently down on the cushions to finish off her nap comfortably. The young dragon tucked her in with a blanket and stoked the fire in the Rayburn when he noticed she was already starting to shiver in her sleep as the occasional winter breeze swept in through the cliffside entrance — now much closer than it had been in the target range — to lick at her sweat-dampened skin.

    Looking down at the peaceful face of his sleeping friend, he absently brushed a stray lock of damp chestnut hair away from where it had stuck to her forehead. Since it was pretty obvious Abigail was going to be out of it for quite some time, Harry considered what to do with himself before nodding firmly as he came to a decision. Making a slight detour to pick up a blank notebook, he then sat in one of the nearby chairs from which he could keep an eye on his tired friend and settled in to keep her company until she woke up, using the opportunity to write down some of his plans for future research projects in the notebook.

    The notebook would be about half-full by the time he finished for the day.

    Later in the evening when the young dragon looked back on the day, he concluded that it was time well-spent. Neither he nor Abigail had gotten as much done as they had hoped, but Harry did learn that looking after his exhausted friend was a surprisingly rewarding way to spend the afternoon.

    Abigail’s beaming smile when she had awakened and realized what he had done had been even more so.

    3.17.1 Unfair comparisons

    Sitting in her favorite chair on the Lair’s library mezzanine, Hermione sat back from her reading for a moment to stretch. She could still hear the muted sounds of spellfire echoing down the tunnel from the shooting range where Harry was yet again working on his practical casting skills alongside Abigail. They had been doing that a great deal recently at Abigail’s behest, ever since the often dragon-shaped boy had managed to acquire a copy of the NEWT syllabus and the seventh-year girl had given it a thorough read.

    However, Abigail hadn’t been the only one to read that syllabus. Hermione smiled as she looked down at the arcane tome laid out on the table before her and at the half-full notebook of handwritten notes that lay open beside it. Hermione had taken advantage of Harry’s forward thinking as well and had seized the opportunity to learn what she would be up against in the wizarding world’s version of standardized testing.

    After all, it was never too early to start preparing, not in Hermione’s considered opinion.

    It was true that she would also have to sit the OWLs as well, long before the NEWTs came into the picture, but the bushy-haired girl figured that if she prepared properly for the NEWTs, then the OWLs ought to be easy enough to pass. Classes usually built up to harder things over time, so she figured that made sense.

    Hermione’s reading of the syllabus Harry had so thoughtfully obtained led her to the same conclusion Abigail had drawn, namely that practical skills were the name of the game for the NEWTs, and the bushy-haired girl had initially decided to go along with the older girl’s plan. It made good sense, and Hermione figured it would be nice to spend more time with her friends.

    Unfortunately, that initial plan had quickly hit a rather severe snag.

    Abigail had chosen to work on perfecting her ability to use the standard spell curriculum, a choice which involved a great deal of thoroughly exhausting practice, and as a normal witch in her second-year of schooling, Hermione simply could not keep up with the harsh pace her friends set. Her body and magic simply were not developed enough to handle the strain, and she knew of no way to rush that sort of thing along.

    Of course, the bushy-haired girl couldn’t find it within herself to blame her friends for not slowing down to keep from leaving her behind. Abigail was on a tight schedule for the approaching exams, and quite frankly the bookish second-year would never forgive herself if she was responsible for holding her friends back from being all they could be. She knew it wasn’t their fault.

    Though, that knowledge did nothing to make her feel better about the situation.

    Being outperformed by Harry was nothing new for the girl, and by this point, she was already well-used to it. Harry was the boy who was so absurdly overpowered that he spent most of his time as a massive super-dragon. Hermione couldn’t find it within herself to feel bad about coming in second-best to that — it would be like feeling inadequate about being shorter than a mountain, it simply wasn’t a meaningful comparison.

    Third-best was a different matter.

    Unlike the walking amalgamation of condensed absurdity that was Harry Potter, Abigail was an ostensibly normal witch like Hermione herself. The bushy-haired girl didn’t have an excuse ready for why she couldn’t keep pace — not one that she could convince herself with, anyway. Intellectually, the just barely teenaged girl knew that her older friend had five full years of magical training and physical development on her, and thus she couldn’t reasonably be expected to keep up with that kind of disadvantage.

    Viscerally, though, the bushy-haired girl knew that excuse was just that, an excuse.

    As far as Hermione was concerned, magic was an intellectual pursuit, and, in her mind, she was supposed to be able to keep up with people years ahead of her in that sort of thing — just like she always had before. Hermione knew she wasn’t the pretty girl, not with her hair and teeth; she knew she wasn’t the athletic girl, as she’d always preferred reading to sports; and she certainly knew she would never be the popular girl, because that just wasn’t going to happen; but she’d be damned before she gave up on being the smart girl!

    That was her thing, damn it!

    So, after her first discouraging practice — which had seen the bushy-haired girl collapse into a chair at the practice range after a single endurance set, unable to do more than watch as her friends continued to set an exhausting pace for nearly another hour — Hermione had decided to rethink her strategy and search for another path, one better suited to her own strengths. It was a search which had led to her retreat to the library.

    The change was a practical decision on her part, a strategic choice to focus on maximal return on her investment.

    It certainly had nothing at all to do with a desire to retreat because the bushy-haired thirteen-year-old girl felt more than a little dismay in the face of her significantly older friend’s impressive performance and well-developed… ah, talents.

    Not one thing to do with that.

    Honest.

    In any case, rather than following in Abigail’s footsteps and banking on the examination committee being impressed by her sheer competence with the standard spells, Hermione had decided to pursue variety. Oh, she would still keep up with her morning target practice with Harry — he would insist on that, and since Abigail wasn’t there in the mornings for the younger girl to compare herself to, Hermione didn’t have any really compelling reason to kick up a fuss. For the rest, though, she would learn as many spells as she could, so that, come time for her NEWT practicals, she could overwhelm the examiners with her spectacular versatility.

    It had seemed a decent choice — Hermione was not blessed with spectacular magical power as Harry was, nor was she particularly enamored of the idea of putting as much sweat into things as Abigail seemed to prefer. Rather, she was a smart girl with a prodigious memory who loved to read, and those were traits that fitted her chosen course perfectly.

    And, if that course led to her spending a great deal of time researching obscure magics among her beloved, comforting, and ever reassuring books, rather than working hard, sweating, and putting herself in a position to be compared unfavorably to a girl five years her senior, then so much the better.

    At the moment, Hermione was working through the first-year curriculum, spell by spell, and looking up any and every equivalent she could find within the wealth of written references Harry had managed to accumulate. Along the way, she had learned twenty-seven distinct divination spells designed to help search through written material within a specified spatial volume, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Using those, she had managed to locate four-hundred and fifty-seven distinct spells designed to perform roughly the same function as the basic light spell — the first one they had learned during the previous year.

    Not bad for a week’s worth of work.

    So far, Hermione had successfully learned eighty-five of them, and she fully intended to learn them all. They were low-impact, easy to cast spells, but, at the end of the day, the bushy-haired girl figured sheer variety had to count for something. After this, she would move on to the basic levitation charm, then to other basic utility charms, and so on and so forth, so that, by the time NEWTs rolled around in five and a half more years, her repertoire would be second to none.

    Bending back to her work, the budding young witch smiled at the prospect. She was going to learn a tremendous amount of magic; she was certain she would enjoy the process thoroughly; and the end results would definitely be more impressive than Abigail’s excellent grasp of the basics.

    In the face of that, what did it matter if her older friend was prettier than she was? She was fine with that, the bushy-haired girl thought with a scowl.

    Honest.

    3.17.2 Welcome correspondence

    The morning meal was unremarkable as were most meals during the school year, essentially any that was not specifically labeled a feast. Scheduling was loose; the house elves made breakfast available for nearly two hours, ending fifteen minutes before the first of the day’s classes, and students cycled through the Great Hall on their own schedule over the course of the allotted time.

    The breakfast hour was also the time scheduled for owl-post delivery. Nearly three centuries previous, a covered temporary roost had been built into one of the dormers on the roof of the Great Hall for that purpose; with two entrances allowing passage from the outside into the interior of the building, owls burdened with post could perch, sheltered from the weather, and wait for their targeted recipient to show up for the meal. It was a great improvement over the previous system, which allowed post owls to deliver post at any time and anywhere on campus. The reduction in mess and disruption was deemed well worth the not-inconsiderable cost of remodeling an enchanted ceiling.

    Even with the additional cost of remodeling, it was much easier to enchant the Great Hall to prevent the owls from casting and defecating everywhere than it would have been to attempt to enchant the entire school in the same manner.

    So it was that a certain Ravenclaw student had just loaded down his plate with a third plateful of bacon and eggs — which as a young wizard, meant he was only about a quarter of the way through his meal — when a rather disreputable-looking owl delivered an extraordinarily thick envelope addressed in a cramped hand. It was a piece of correspondence the teenager had been simultaneously anticipating and dreading in equal measure — depending on what was said in the enclosed document, he would either be vindicated or condemned.

    A certain scheme of his devising had gotten the sixth-year into a bit of a pickle.

    When he had come up with the idea to hire a private investigator to look into his Defense professor’s background, it had seemed like such a good plan. The price had been steep, to be sure, but the payoff had seemed huge, so he’d been able to scrounge up the fee by passing the hat among his fellow schoolmates — if only just, as it had turned out — with only a bit of fast talking.

    And, in that fast talking lay the trouble.

    He had been, perhaps, a tad… enthusiastic in his rhetoric when describing what benefits his fellow conspirators could expect to receive from their investment — both in the certainty of the return and the timing — and his compatriots had rather quickly grown impatient with waiting.

    A few weeks previous, they had managed to coerce him into a clandestine meeting to report on the plan’s progress, and his fellows had been dissatisfied to say the least. He had managed to convince them to hold off and wait until the investigator got back to them, but it had been a long few weeks since — what with the dirty looks and low-key hostility he had faced since. The report he now held was the key to ending that tense state of affairs — hence the anticipation.

    Of course, depending on what the report had to say, the subsequent state of affairs might not be an improvement — hence the dread.

    As the sixth-year opened the envelope, revealing a brief cover-letter and a second envelope inside, and began to read, he breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t the best of news for his purposes; however, it should be enough for him to work with. It would take some more fast talking, but he could use this to get his co-conspirators off his back — hopefully without getting cursed in the process.

    He’d have to put the word out to get everyone together for another meeting.

    3.17.3 Through the grapevine

    “Once again, I thank you all for your attention,” Lockhart addressed his class as the session ended. “I feel I should remind you that your projects will be due at the end of next week!”

    Lockhart had assigned the class project in yet another effort to spark the interest of Mr. Potter. The student was to take one of the scenarios described in his books and come up with his own take on how to handle things. The blond dandy had thought it a prime opportunity to spark a conversation — what better source to consult for such a project than Lockhart himself.

    Unfortunately, this gambit had been no more successful than the previous ones, as the pint-sized powerhouse had simply nodded agreeably and then gone on to complete the entire project in time to turn it in at the next class. Now Gilderoy was stuck grading an entire school’s worth of essays with nothing to show for it.

    A very disheartening outcome, if he did say so himself.

    Despite his disappointment at the lack of progress on his primary goal, the secondary one remained, and the blond dandy still kept a sharp eye out for suspicious behavior, and as the students were shuffling about preparing to leave once more, that vigilance paid off once more.

    It was another note, passed between the same two boys as the last. The teenagers’ actions were just as suspect as they had been several weeks previous — the sequence of events was nearly identical, in fact. This time, however, Gilderoy Lockhart was ready when the second boy went for his wand to vanish the scrap of parchment.

    Had he been Dumbledore, he might have used some arcane twist of magic to reverse the partially-completed vanishing charm and reconstitute the paper in his hand.

    However, Gilderoy was not Dumbledore, and he used a rather more prosaic, but no less effective, approach. Given his prior knowledge of the coming situation, he had prepared by keeping a similarly-sized slip of blank parchment at hand, and as the vanishing spell was cast, the former obliviator countered with a humble switching spell, moving the note to his hand and leaving a blank slip of parchment in its place to dissipate into its component molecules and spread irretrievably over several square miles of the local landscape.

    Neither teenager noticed the substitution.

    As soon as the room emptied, Lockhart casually opened the note to give it a read.

    It seemed that the children would be holding a meeting.

    How intriguing! Gilderoy cocked a golden eyebrow. Perhaps he should drop in?

    3.17.4 Anonymous reporting

    “Madam Bones?”

    In the bustling offices of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, the Head of the Department, Amelia Bones paused at the sound of her secretary’s voice. She was on her way to a meeting regarding recent developments in an old case, and she was tempted to dismiss the interruption, but the serious woman rarely interrupted her without good cause.

    “What is it, Beverly?”

    “You have received an interesting piece of mail, ma’am,” her secretary replied. “It seems to be a rather thorough report loosely implicating one Gilderoy Lockhart in what could be a rather extensive case of fraud.”

    “Gilderoy Lockhart…” Amelia frowned, searching her memory, “the author?”

    “Yes, ma’am. The report details findings of consistent traces of mental manipulation on an impressive number of witnesses across the locations of all his books,” the woman summarized. “It also includes a rather insightful cross-referenced analysis of nearly a decade worth of news reports and the inconsistencies included therein. Very solid work.”

    “Really?” That did sound like impressive detective work — always good to keep an eye on upcoming talent. “Who was responsible for the report? I don’t recall assigning such an investigation.” Normally celebrity investigations were the sort of thing she kept a close eye on, if for no other reason than to avoid being blindsided by the press.

    “That’s the thing, Madam Bones,” Beverly replied, “it’s an anonymous tip. The cover letter said it was a report the author had put together at the behest of a client, and he thought the results were suspicious enough he ought to forward them to us. It said he didn’t know if it was something we were already investigating, but he figured it couldn’t hurt to let us know.”

    “Damn!” Much as she appreciated the help, Amelia hated finding out about new cases. It always meant the world was a little worse than she’d hoped. “Is the case strong enough to open an investigation of our own?”

    “I doubt it, but I am not the one to determine that, ma’am,” her secretary averred.

    “Of course, of course,” Amelia sighed at her oversight. “Send it off to Investigations with a note asking how they think we ought to handle it. In the meantime, I’ve a meeting to get to.”

    “Of course, Madam Bones,” Beverly said, already reaching for a blank sheet of parchment to write the requested note.

    With a final nod, the busy Head of the DMLE was on her way.

    3.17.5 A conversation with Flitwick

    It was late in the afternoon, and Hogwarts’ resident dragon walked purposefully through the halls towards a locality he didn’t often visit. The Ravenclaw dormitories were nearby, but Harry didn’t actually know any of the Ravens very well, instead his current destination was Mr. Flitwick’s office. He had some questions, and he rather hoped the diminutive half-goblin professor would be able to answer them for him.

    Arriving at the charms master’s office, the young dragon in human guise knocked gently, “Um… Professor, are you there?”

    “Come in!” the diminutive teacher welcomed him gladly. “Come in, take a seat. What brings you here, Mr. Potter? You don’t call on me very often, my young friend.”

    “Well, it’s a couple things really,” Harry began. “Um, first, you remember how much trouble I had actually hitting anything back during that dueling club thingy?”

    “Indeed, I do, Mr. Potter,” the half-goblin said with a nod.

    “Well, I’ve been trying to practice and get better,” the young dragon told his professor, “but it’s real slow going, and I was hoping you had some tips on how to do better.”

    “I see,” Flitwick said. “Firstly, I must congratulate you on your commitment to self-improvement, Mr. Potter. Such is always a worthy goal! Aside from that, however, I can only advise that you keep practicing; it really is the only way to improve, I am afraid. Everyone is bad at aiming a wand when they first start, do not be discouraged.”

    “Oh,” Harry said, sounding quite crestfallen. “There’s no tips or anything then?”

    The diminutive professor considered the question for a moment more. “I suppose you might try reducing your wand movements to a minimum, keep the necessary gestures as small as you can make them. The lion’s share of inaccuracy with a wand comes from the wand movements themselves, after all. Oh, and start with piercing charms, they are an excellent way to practice getting your timing down — that final horizontal sweep is tricky to aim properly, and if you can get that right, other charms will be much simpler by comparison.”

    “Thanks, I’ll try that, then!” the young Potter sounded much reassured by the advice.

    “I am glad to have helped, Mr. Potter,” Flitwick said with a smile. “And might I inquire as to your other question?”

    “Oh, right!” the currently human-shaped dragon acknowledged. “I had some questions about a charm I saw at the dueling club. It called snakes…”

    “Ah, serpensortia, I am familiar with the charm.” Flitwick said. “It summons one or more snakes which will then follow the caster’s commands — not terribly useful in real combat because commanding the snakes requires concentration from the caster, but good showmanship for the stage.”

    “Well, I was wondering — does it conjure a snake or pull it from somewhere else?” Harry asked.

    “I… I’m not entirely certain,” the small man frowned. “I was under the impression that it was a conjuration, but I don’t know if anyone has asked that question before,” Flitwick replied. “Why do you ask?”

    “Well, the summoned snakes knew parseltongue, and I’m pretty sure that annoying blond kid doesn’t know how to speak it,” Harry explained. “I thought conjurations could only do what the conjurer told them to do, and this one couldn’t tell it how to speak parseltongue. If it were pulled from somewhere else, though, when I killed it I’d have thought it would have left a body, and it didn’t. So, I’m not sure which one it was.”

    “That is an intriguing question — a question to which I cannot say I know the answer,” the diminutive charms professor said thoughtfully before his tone turned excited. “And when we find a new question we can’t answer, there’s only one thing to be done — we will have to find out!”

    “How do we do that?” the young dragon asked. It sounded similar to Madame Marchbanks’ ideas, but he wasn’t sure how to proceed on this one, having less of an idea of how the snake summoning charm worked than he did of how runic systems did.

    “We must devise an experiment! That is, we will attempt to create a scenario from the results of which we can draw a conclusion with certainty regarding the nature of the charm,” Flitwick explained enthusiastically. “Our current observations are inconclusive, because they could support either option. Our experiment should be designed such that the results will eliminate the confusion.”

    “So, we want to design something so we can tell for sure whether the snake was conjured or summoned?” Harry confirmed.

    “That is one way to go about it,” the half-goblin nodded enthusiastically.

    “So how would we do that?”

    “Why don’t you work out an experimental design and then bring it back to me?” the small teacher proposed. “Then we will go over it. I will help you refine it, and then once we have a good one, you will carry it out. It will be a good exercise for you; the ability to learn by experimentation is an important skill in life.”

    “Okay!”

    3.17.6 A teacher’s musings

    As the charms professor watched Harry Potter leave his office, the diminutive man practically vibrated with glee, his expression full of a burning zeal which would have sent his lazier students running for the hills had they beheld it.

    The young dragon was only a second-year, and he was already producing research ideas like this one! Filius Flitwick saw the potential for greatness in that boy — and for his own career as one of that boy’s mentors.

    The question the dragon had posed so innocently was Mastery-level work in the field, his reasoning had been solid, and he immediately grasped the concept of testing through experimentation — a mindset that was depressingly rare in the magical world. Properly executed — and Filius would see to it that it was properly executed, no matter how hard he had to ride his young student to ensure it — that research proposal could see the boy through to a charms mastery before he sat his OWLs! The half-goblin would not allow such talent to languish in mediocrity.

    Not only that, but Flitwick was looking forward to seeing what the work would produce — success or failure, it was sure to be fascinating.

    The half-goblin chuckled, thinking back on that conversation with Severus, several years previous, in which Filius had made a teasing comment regarding the potions master’s uncharacteristic enthusiasm regarding the young dragon’s bio-alchemy. At the time, his disagreeable colleague had issued a challenge to wait and see how enthusiastic he was when the boy revolutionized Flitwick’s own field, and Flitwick had to admit, it was an exhilarating experience even now.

    And after seeing how Severus had fared over the intervening years…

    Well, he suspected he was in for interesting times to come.

    3.17.7 Clandestine excuses

    “That’s everyone here,” a sixth-year Gryffindor boy said in a firm voice that rang sharply in the dusty normally-abandoned classroom as he shot a hard look at a similarly-aged Ravenclaw. “Now I think it’s time you come clean about just what’s going on with our project.”

    “Yeah! What did you do with our money? We gave you all that so we could get rid of Lockhart and the girls would go back to paying attention to us, but he’s still here, and the girls are still all a-flutter about the blond pillock!” another boy piped up angrily, only to be followed by a cacophony of similar demands from the rest of the room. There were perhaps two dozen boys in attendance, hailing from every House but Slytherin. The age cohorts were not quite so evenly represented, as not a single boy there was younger than a fourteen.

    “As you all know, I hired a private investigator from Knockturn over the winter break to investigate Professor Lockhart’s background,” the Ravenclaw sixth-year so addressed replied to the crowd.

    “Yeah, yeah, we know! You told us that last time,” came an annoyed call. “Why did you call this meeting, if that’s all you have to say?”

    “I’m getting to it!” the Ravenclaw growled defensively. “Anyway, the investigator got back to me, and he found something! He suspects Lockhart used mind magic on people to cover something up!”

    “That’s it?” the first Gryffindor said incredulously. “You wasted all our money on that?”

    “It was not wasted,” the Ravenclaw protested, sounding a little nervous in the face of an increasingly hostile room. “He thought it was important enough to forward a copy of this to Law Enforcement!” He brandished a small stack of parchment as if it were a talisman to fend off the ire of his fellows.

    “Let me see that,” an older Hufflepuff growled, stepping up to rip the parchment out of his hands. His fellows crowded around to see for themselves as he read it. “I guess that’s something, at least,” he acknowledged grudgingly after a few minutes. His compatriots nodded in reluctant agreement with the assessment.

    “Do you mind if I take a look at that?” came a question from someone sitting quietly at a desk near the door.

    “Huh? Oh, sure,” the Hufflepuff said agreeably, absently handing the report off. “Now, what else do we need to do with this? I don’t want to waste our investment.”

    “Yeah, that looked really suspicious,” a younger Ravenclaw piped up. “Maybe we should tell the Headmaster?”

    “No!” the Ravenclaw who had hatched the scheme interrupted vociferously. “We just need to wait for the DMLE to do its thing. I don’t even want to think about how the staff would react to this. It’d be one thing if we had something solid, but just suspicions? Not happening!”

    When one of his fellow sixth-years gave him a narrow-eyed look of suspicion, he hurriedly elaborated. “We hired a private eye to dig into the past of one of our teachers looking for something to get him fired. How do you think Snape would react to that?”

    There was a round of reluctant nodding. Snape would make their lives unutterably miserable for that if he found out, if for no other reason than preemptive revenge for the possibility that they might do it to him in the future. To be honest, they couldn’t even really blame him for that.

    Merlin knew they’d thought about it.

    “Just let it run its course, it’ll work out,” the Ravenclaw assured his fellows. “And don’t tell any of the staff, especially not Lockhart.”

    “It had better work out,” the seventh-year Hufflepuff from earlier warned him darkly, “or it’ll be on your head.”

    The murmur from around the room affirming that sentiment was not reassuring to the sixth-year Ravenclaw who had arranged it all.

    As the last of his co-conspirators filed out of the room, the sixth-year Raven let out an explosive sigh. “It had better turn out, or my seventh year is going to be mightily unpleasant.”

    “Do you really think they’ll hold that much of a grudge?” the person sitting near the door asked curiously.

    The sixth-year scoffed. “At the price we paid? You bet your arse they will!”

    “I see,” blond hair bobbed as he nodded agreeably. “Well, I suppose you’ll just need to hope for the best then. Best of luck to you!”

    “Thanks,” the sixth-year said. “Um, can you pass me the…”

    “Oh, certainly!” he handed the investigative report back to the teenager. “There you go. Have a nice day!”

    The Ravenclaw nodded distractedly as he ambled out of the room.

    “Goodbye, Professor.”

    3.17.8 Unpleasant ruminations

    This was a troubling development, Gilderoy Lockhart thought as he sat under his concealment charm.

    An advanced variant of the common notice-me-not charm, his current choice induced a strong sense of ‘there’s nothing out of place here’ in anyone caught within the area it affected. It was a commonly used tool in the obliviator’s collection and a particular favorite of Lockhart’s. It did not prevent others from noticing the caster — a common property of other methods which made navigating crowds quite difficult — rather it made the caster seem completely unremarkable.

    As he listened to the retreating steps of his student echoing in the deserted hallway, Gilderoy mused on the implications of what he had just learned. When he had first caught wind of this clandestine gathering, he hadn’t known what to expect, but he had never anticipated finding this.

    To think, two dozen of his students had banded together in the interest of getting him fired, not because of his actions, not because they thought he was a poor teacher, but because the girls they were interested in apparently had crushes on him rather than the boys their age. Lockhart scoffed at the very idea; he certainly hadn’t done anything to encourage them! For that matter, they could have just waited a few months and the problem would have fixed itself — impatient brats.

    And the price they had paid! The blond dandy couldn’t help whistling at the memory of the price he’d seen quoted on that cover letter. His students had put that much together? For this? He didn’t know whether to be impressed at their dedication or appalled.

    Had he been that much of a horn-dog at that age?

    Blond locks swayed as the young professor shook his head to dismiss that line of speculation. Whether he had been or not, he certainly had never hired a private investigator to dig up dirt on one of his professors. That was definitely a new one in his experience, and it presented its own set of new challenges to go with it.

    Lockhart knew that the case against him, as presented in the report he had read, was far from air-tight. There were far too many gaps and alternate explanations for it to carry water in court. Despite that, the former obliviator couldn’t help admiring the unnamed private eye’s work. The man had managed to make something out of one of Gilderoy’s own cover-ups, and he had some idea of just how difficult that sort of thing was.

    The inconsistencies the man had latched onto were ones the former obliviator had left deliberately. A perfectly uniform story screamed of manipulation to an experienced investigator — witness accounts were always a little bit spotty — but for the still-unnamed private eye to have taken those deliberately-spread crumbs and put together as much of the story as he had was a remarkable feat.

    It was something Lockhart would never have thought possible.

    And it prompted the blond former obliviator to reconsider other potential outcomes that he had deemed impossible. The evidence presented wasn’t enough for a conviction, but it was probably enough to spark some interest. What if someone at the DMLE could use that to dig up more evidence he hadn’t considered? Gilderoy was still confident in his skills, but what if that confidence was misplaced?

    That could get very messy, very quickly.

    The blond man frowned. He had considered many times the possibility that his lies might be found out — that the elaborate house of cards might come tumbling down — and he had thought through the measures he would have to take should he be discovered. They were measures he did not like.

    Not at all.

    His dislike of those measures was, in fact, the main reason that he had gone for the attempt to become Harry Potter’s mentor rather than running the risk of discovery by attempting to take credit for any other, more prominent, heroic incidents. The life of a fugitive was not one that Gilderoy Lockhart wanted to live, but the life of a prisoner was even less appealing. With this development, both possibilities seemed all too real.

    The footsteps of his students had long-since faded from his hearing, and the former obliviator abruptly stood up, absently dispelling his concealment charm as he walked toward the door. He would have to make some preparations just in case, he mused as he left the classroom. If the worst happened, having a few things in place beforehand would be invaluable — they might be the difference between freedom and captivity, or possibly between life and death.

    Given the nature of Azkaban, Gilderoy wasn’t entirely sure which was the more terrifying dichotomy.

    Hopefully, his initial instinct was correct, and his cover-up was good enough to withstand scrutiny. If that was the case, his preparations would be a waste of time, but he could live with a bit of wasted time.

    If his fears proved prophetic, on the other hand? He grimaced at the thought as he exited the long-unused classroom ad turned down the hallway for the trip back to his office.

    For now, Gilderoy would quietly put some preparations in place while keeping an eye out for trouble — it could just blow over with no further issue, after all — but if the DMLE did manage to find something substantial, they’d send aurors. His eyes narrowed speculatively at the thought — given the location of the potential arrest, they might try to disguise the arrest, both to avoid panic among the children and maintain control of the Ministry’s public image.

    Yes, that was how he would have played it, were he in their position. Lockhart nodded as he considered the idea, running through the scenario in his head.

    A Ministry official, probably from the education department, would come with a quiet request for a meeting — played off as some bureaucratic nothing in front of the children — accompanied by a few plainclothes aurors for the arrest. Aurors rather than normal law enforcement would be overkill, to be sure, but they’d want to take him quietly, and that meant overwhelming force to make sure he couldn’t kick up a fuss. With him in custody, they’d have time to set the propaganda machine running to cover the Ministry’s collective arse well before the trial. It would let them mitigate the impact of the scandal of arresting a teacher they’d presumably vetted before hiring.

    The blond dandy’s expression hardened as he considered his options. At least he didn’t have to worry about being disappeared rather than tried, cold comfort that it was. He was facing the Ministry, not the oligarchs; they’d come for him with officers rather than assassins — Dumbledore’s reforms had guaranteed that much, at least. Imprisonment would still mean Azkaban, though, and the spectral guards employed there were in many ways a worse fate than death. In all honesty, the assassins might well have been a less frightening prospect.

    As he opened the door to his office and made his way to the attached apartment suite, Gilderoy shook his head, dismissing the thought. If it happened, he would just have to ensure he was ready to strike first — without hesitation — he’d only have one, narrow, window of opportunity.

    He’d have to make it count.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
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