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Enter the Dragon (Harry Potter/Shadowrun)

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

  1. Edmond G. Bertrand

    Edmond G. Bertrand Making the rounds.

    Nov 14, 2018
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    I spoke with Dr. Tom Tynning this morning. He said that despite any argument
    about "magical animals", certain fundamental truths still pertain.

    (1) A 300-ft animal just isn't possible. Period. End of argument. There's
    simply no biological way to support just a length. Even the biggest of
    the great Saurapods were massively shorter than the snake you're suggesting.

    Here's the WIKI entry:

    "There were larger dinosaurs, but knowledge of them is based entirely on a small number of fragmentary fossils. Most of the largest herbivorous specimens on record were discovered in the 1970s or later, and include the massive titanosaur Argentinosaurus huinculensis, which is the largest dinosaur known from uncontroversial evidence, estimated to have been 50–96.4 metric tons (55.1–106.3 short tons)[16] and 30–39.7 m (98–130 ft) long.[17][18] Some of the longest sauropods were those with exceptionally long, whip-like tails, such as the 29–33.5-metre-long (95–110 ft) Diplodocus hallorum[10][18] (formerly Seismosaurus) and the 33- to 35-metre-long (108–115 ft) Supersaurus.[19][18] The tallest was the 18-metre-tall (59 ft) Brachiosaurus.[citation needed]"

    See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinosaur_size
    These animals, like Giraffes today, had secondary hearts, in order to move the blood around in an
    efficient way.

    A 100-meter long animal would have to have at least three hearts, maybe 4. It would have to eat so much
    that the surrounding area would be denuded of prey in short order. It would have to eat massive animals -
    like the dinosaurs of old - and those simply don't exist, even in JKR's world. SO, there's no way
    for you to reasonably support this idea, unless you can somehow talk your way round these fundamental issues.

    Secondly, if a 1000 yr old basilisk was active in an area, it would leave very, very definitive tracks. It would be incredibly
    obvious that a snake of titanic size was moving around and the tracks would lead right to the Castle. Impossible to miss.
    Hagrid would see those tracks and know them for what they are and he would tell Dumbledore.

    Third, not all the skins that the Basilisk would shed would have been shed inside the castle's tunnels. At least one, or more
    would have been shed in the woods. Again - impossible to miss. The Centaurs would have found such for sure and despite
    their dislike for people, they would have said something to Hagrid or the Headmaster.

    SO.... this has to be resolved within the story. It's too glaring an issue to just sit out there, without explanation.
  2. Doghead13

    Doghead13 Grumpy Old Scottish Biker

    Sep 26, 2018
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    is a canonical image of Ryumyo, one of the Greater Dragons from crossover setting segment #2: Shadowrun.

    That is a train in the foreground, being dwarfed by him.
    Corvus 501, Skjadir, Happerry and 2 others like this.
  3. Edmond G. Bertrand

    Edmond G. Bertrand Making the rounds.

    Nov 14, 2018
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    Someone's creation, born of nothing, isn't proof.
  4. EternitynChaos

    EternitynChaos Once there was a Maiden...

    Apr 3, 2014
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    When the creation is from the worlds involved in the story and magic is involved I believe your wrong, for Shadowrun and this story in particular it very much is proof, it's like saying Tigers can't exist while standing outside a pen containing three tigers
  5. RedX

    RedX Not too sore, are you?

    Jul 9, 2014
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    ...What did the catgirls ever do to you?

    I mean, I like my "Magic A is Magic A" explainations as much as the next guy, even perhaps a bit more, but this sort of outright demand that a magical fantasy story accommodate real-life biology and zoology is entirely too much.
  6. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

    Jul 10, 2018
    Likes Received:
    Ok, I'm not entirely sure why this argument has gone off in the direction it has. For reference, my earlier answer on the basilisk was that it was about 150 feet long and proportioned like an overweight anaconda, leaving her about the same weight as an adult blue whale. The 125 tons of meat was about 90% of her body mass. I had lost a phrase in the editing that led to your 90 foot estimate; it has since been added.

    Quoted the relevant portion of my earlier response for reference.

    As for bringing in arguments about the biological realism of 100 meter-plus long animals, I would point out that this setting already has active reinforcement of materials by energy fields (it even does so of its own accord, when left to its own devices), alchemically-created biological super-materials (a few of which Harry and company are making good money by reverse engineering), beings that feed, at least partially, off of ambient magical energies (most every magical creature with the exception of wizards), animals that aren't even made of meat, millennium-long hibernation cycles, alchemically-mediated cold-fusion metabolisms, and biological reactionless drives in at least two different, unrelated, species.

    The limitations your contact used to draw his conclusion need to be qualified somewhat.

    Yes, normal creatures made out of normal meat cannot support themselves under their own weight at that size, and normal creatures with metabolisms based solely on normal organic chemistry cannot feed themselves efficiently enough to support such a size --- though if I were to be pedantic, I would point out that those are issues that apply to motile creatures which have to support their own weight and have relatively high metabolic needs; sessile animals like sponges, or aquatic, neutral-buoyancy ones like jellyfish don't really face the same hard limitations.

    When dealing with magical critters in a magical setting, limits still exist, but they aren't necessarily in the same place as they are for the real world. When your wildlife can employ active reinforcement to get around the square-cube law, have a way to plug in to the mystical equivalent of the electric grid to supplement their diet, aren't necessarily made of things as flimsy as meat and bone, can go into indefinite sleep mode during food shortages, can process their food in such a way as to extract upwards of 5 million times as much energy from it as normal, and can tell gravity to go take a hike --- well, the principles of magical biology have some different boundary conditions.

    Especially when dealing with artificially-engineered creatures... like, not to put too fine a point on it, basilisks... or dragons... or, for that matter, upwards of a third of all magical species.

    While the basilisk was only about 45 meters long, there exist 100+ meter critters in this setting. They were even in the source material for one of the settings as Doghead13 was kind enough to reference.
  7. Doghead13

    Doghead13 Grumpy Old Scottish Biker

    Sep 26, 2018
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    It's like the guy flat out doesn't understand the entire concept of a setting.

    Existence of functional magic in a setting - any setting - is direct, categorical, proof that the setting - whatever it is - CANNOT be operating on the same physical laws as the real world, because we live in a world where magic very conclusively does not exist.

    Ergo, the very moment the M-word appears, any argument that 'this cannot exist in reality' is invalid.

    That's what fantasy (including urban fantasy, and this story and every source it's taking from counts) does. It's what fantasy is FOR.

    It's like complaining it's unrealistic that Superman can fly.
  8. Edmond G. Bertrand

    Edmond G. Bertrand Making the rounds.

    Nov 14, 2018
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    Look guys, it's not that I don't accept the concept of a "setting", it's just that
    it takes a tremendous leap in believability to accept that something *that* big
    (i.e the basilisk) could grow that large WITHOUT having a food source to
    sustain or allow for it. I mean, seriously... don't you think that there would
    have to be either "old wive's tales" or SOMETHING that would reference
    "a time of great destruction" when basilisks and dragons roamed the area
    (around Hogwarts) and there was a great famine in the land because
    the great monsters were eating everything.

    What you're saying is that you can drop a monster (that wasn't at all in JKR's work, the way you've described it)
    without telling the reader at least *something* about how it came to be
    and why it got so god-damned large. You've written a very clever
    back-story for how Harry became a dragon and that works for the
    story-line because you've taken pains to explain in. Not so much
    for some effing snake, that you're saying is 5x bigger than the one
    JKR wrote about (hers was like.... 60, maybe 70 ft and that's
    the one that shows up in the movie).

    SO yes, ether buck up and figure out a way to make the damn thing believable
    or scale it back, because right now, it doesn't work for the story-line
    and you create a problem for the entire scale of the powers that are
    moving in the background of the story.

    And btw, not many of us know a single f****** thing about the Shadowrun
    storyline. There's no explanation as to why you're using it at all or how
    it might frame with the world that JKR created. It seems to me
    that you've just said that Harry's a huge, f****** dragon and left it at that.
    We know that dragons exist in JKR's world, but they're a damn sight
    smaller, apparently, than the one that Harry's become or is becoming.
    What else does Harry being a massive dragon, out of scale with all of the others,
    portend for the story? Why is it important that Harry might get to 100 ft. long (or more)
    instead of say... 45 or 60 ft. like the Horntail that he faced in his 4th year?
  9. EternitynChaos

    EternitynChaos Once there was a Maiden...

    Apr 3, 2014
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    Magic, there is your answer
    wichajster likes this.
  10. The Unicorn

    The Unicorn Versed in the lewd.

    Jan 10, 2015
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    I agree that's completly unbelivable. What I am not clear about is:
    1)Why you think it had no food source to get it growing that size?
    2)Why you think changing it from 100m to 30m, or for that matter 5 meters makes it any more belivable if you assume it didn't have a food source to get that large?

    The Baslisk obviously was in some sort of stasis/magical hibernation where it didn't need to eat since once released and became active it needed to go and hunt eating several dons worth of giant spider plus whatever else it got hold of.

    I don't think it is, but to change the question around, why do you find a 100m snake less belivable than a 20m flying dragon? If you go by what is possible biologically neither is possible.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019
    wichajster likes this.
  11. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

    Jul 10, 2018
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    Like almost every magical creature in this setting aside from wizards --- an aside which led to them dominating the magical world because of their versatility during low magic ages --- the basilisk obtains a significant chunk of its nutrition from ambient magic. It was sleeping and expending almost no energy for a thousand years while immersed in the highly magical environment of Hogwarts. Lots of food in (magic), little energy expended (hibernating), lots of time to grow (thousand years) with no real cap in size (magic, again), yields really big snake.

    As for why Harry is so large, it's because he's a Shadowrun-style great dragon, not a Rowling dragon. The Great Dragons in the Shadowrun setting are the dominant figures in the setting --- the sort of being that can personally contend on better than even ground with the might of nations --- post-modern, militarized nations with industrialized magitech. A Rowling dragon could be taken out with an anti-tank rifle; a Shadowrun great dragon (Lofwyr) can tank an orbital strike and kept right on going. The size is kind of a critical component to their role in the setting; without it, they'd be much more vulnerable, changing the setting immensely. Even the "normal" dragons in Shadowrun are a bit bigger than Harry is now. Harry is young, so he's still pretty small, and more importantly, he lacks the tens of thousands of years of experience that also contribute heavily to his elders' strength, but he's on track. As a note, there are creatures similar to Rowling's non-sapient dragons in the Shadowrun setting --- they're a different species.

    Also note, there have been some very old tales about Harry's kind of dragon --- from the centaurs and their ancient oral histories "...of the War of Gold and Ivory, of the patronage of the Darkened Mountain, of the fading of the Great Ones..." in combination with their prophecies about the return of the great wyrm. I like to drop stuff like this in as subtle foreshadowing.

    I get that you don't know the Shadowrun setting, which is fine. I didn't know it even existed before reading Doghead13's original, and even now, everything I know about it I picked up from the wiki and a couple of the source books I managed to scrounge copies of. The rest I pieced together from logical extrapolation and trying to create a sensible mix between the settings I'm melding together.

    The Shadowrun setting is a dystopic one. In it, the world runs in cycles between ages with no magic and ages with lots of magic. The fifth world, a low magic age, lasted from about 4000BC to 2012, and was essentially the normal nonmagical world we live in (at least up 'til the mid 1980's when the game was first published, after which it became an alternate history leading up to a cyberpunk setting), then magical creatures slowly started appearing around the turn of the century building up to the Awakening at the beginning of 2012, transitioning to the sixth world. This was signaled by the appearance (from hibernation, hence the Awakening) of the Great Dragons, starting with Ryumyo (I believe Doghead13's picture is of him at the Awakening) and quickly followed by several others. Humans exposed to large amounts of magic start exhibiting strange physical traits due to latent genetics, bringing back the high elves, dwarves, orcs, and trolls (as opposed to the wizarding versions) and all those traditional hokey 'magical' things started actually working. All sorts of other magical wildlife, from other non-sapient dracoforms all the way down to magical viruses that turn people into vampiric monstrosities appeared to wreak havoc and the world became a very scary place indeed. Eventually, extradimensional demons called Horrors put in an appearance as the magic levels got high enough to support their existence.

    I was trying to fit Rowling's characters and setting into that. So, I made some changes. Rather than being completely gone during the fifth age, magic levels simply reduced drastically, leaving pockets of magic in places like puddles on a drying seabed. Wizards were metahumans with an internal magic supply fueled by their diets, so they could persist even away from those pools, leading to military superiority over the rest of the magical creatures still awake and wizarding dominance over the magical world. Magic is a darker, more dangerous thing which has consequences --- scary ones --- for its misuse. Magic takes real effort to cast, and there are very real disparities in strength between casters. The consequences of institutionalized secrecy are taken to their full, dystopian conclusion, and the wizarding world became a much darker, scarier place that would be right at home in Shadowrun canon. They're currently in the run up to the Awakening now.

    The big scary magical superweapon of a basilisk, the suped-up trolls, the goblins with miniguns, the obscenely dangerous magical disciplines, and the other similar changes are intended to make for a consistent flavor when the Shadowrun elements start cropping up in earnest.

    As for fitting the plot, I believe it does, but the plot is not the same basic one from Rowling's work. It is changed rather thoroughly --- as if some huge dragon ran through it or something, who'd of thunk it? Those changes, however, take some time to propagate since a lot of the first few books worth of plot were the culmination of years worth of buildup --- Volemort being disembodied, 1981; the diary (pre-1981); Sirius' imprisonment (1981); Triwizard tournament (international and I figure it had to be a long time coming). Fifth year was the first time Harry's actions started driving the central plot rather than being driven by it.

    I've got three major segments to that hashed out.
    The Hogwarts years are about Harry growing up and learning to behave as an adult. The true challenges he faces in the process are not ones that any amount of draconic overkill will help him with, so his current utter physical dominance and magical invulnerability is mostly a non-issue during this time.

    The second segment is establishing a life for himself in a world in flux as the Awakening approaches. For what it's worth, the story that actually kept my attention on this for long enough to start me writing this is one that is set in this segment. The rest was necessary exposition which I hope I've managed to turn into a good read.

    The third is cultivating that life and defending it from all the new, terrifying even to the likes of a young-adult Harry, threats that crop up in the sixth world, including, among other things, his own elders.
  12. Happerry

    Happerry The Song to the Flame

    Feb 20, 2013
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    The part where it's a Shadowrun crossover it literally there in the title, it's not some hidden factoid. If you don't know about Shadowrun and have questions about it, that's one thing, but when someone provides a source from Shadowrun, like Doghead did with that dragon picture, which he specifically said was from Shadowrun, just ignoring it and going...
    Doesn't exactly encourage people to explain the other setting to you when you refuse to accept sources from it any more then someone who knows shadowrun and doesn't know Harry Potter won't get far talking about how all this wandless magic was never in Shadowrun and where in the world did it come from while ignoring someone posting a link to, say, the Ollivanders wiki page.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
  13. Mashadarof402

    Mashadarof402 Versed in the lewd.

    Apr 11, 2017
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    Your problem is that you're trying to insist on real world biology in a setting where multi-ton scaly creatures can fly without jet engines, people can turn into cats, and surviving being turned into chunky salsa is entirely doable by floating around as a non-corporeal entity just waiting for a host body.

    This is a setting with magic. Which means there are, if the setting is consistent, physical laws running that universe that do NOT match up with the ones your professor has spent his career learning.

    You're trying to use a "2+2=4" framework in a universe where "2+2=4 but sometimes also creampuff" is the one of the fundamental laws of that reality.

    To wit, a physics teacher may say that you cannot violate the laws of thermodynamics, which is true in this reality, but if you dropped him in the elemental plane of fire, all his denial will do is make a discordant accompaniment to him being burned to a crispy critter.

    So long as the OP does not break his own rules of the setting, there isn't a problem.

    As for not knowing about Shadowrun, it's posted right there in the thread title. Presumably you had SOME interest if you were coming to take a look. If you want to say a thing is impossible just because it takes from one side of the setting, first you should check to see if it actually is impossible.

    Otherwise it just looks like you're bitching about the entire premise of the story and want the author to do a pure HP story.
  14. Wolfboy

    Wolfboy I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Sep 11, 2017
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    One of the possible explanations for the Basilisk being that size is age. It is, according to Rolling, supposed to have been Salazar Slytherin's familiar and thusly as old as the school itself. In both settings magic grows stronger the longer it exists thus a stasis spell that "kept the basilisk nourished but asleep would allow the creature to grow to such a size. The reason it is hungry is that it hasn't fed properly since Riddle had to abandon it in the 40/50's.
  15. Doghead13

    Doghead13 Grumpy Old Scottish Biker

    Sep 26, 2018
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    Not even that. Harry Potter is a setting where TIME TRAVEL exists - and that's physics fuck on a level that makes Ryumyo in all his 180-some-metre glory look pedestrian.
  16. Aaron Fox

    Aaron Fox That Crazy/Not-Crazy Guy

    Oct 1, 2018
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    I always believed that the basilisk was a sort of 'nuke' option for the defense of the school. Basically the idea was to use the Chamber as an escape route (and, in all seriousness, the chamber looks like an over the top hidden den/escape route) for the students and teachers while the defenses keep the attackers at bay and bleed them. If the other defenses are breached (the wards, the battlements, and whatever Godrick had for a defense), then the basilisk would be unleashed upon the attackers.

    ... thankfully, these defenses were never breached or put to the test in canon until Voldy came along. The four would probably have plenty of paranoia given the time period they were in, and Salazar probably would likely be the most paranoid of the bunch.
  17. Vinom

    Vinom Getting sticky.

    Nov 6, 2017
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    Honestly, a lot of breeds of non-magical snakes don't have a capped growth pattern in the real world. This could just be a case of, like with Harry and his potentially flying womb seeking sperm, magic enhancing the functionality of the biological system it is in.
  18. Doghead13

    Doghead13 Grumpy Old Scottish Biker

    Sep 26, 2018
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    This was pretty much my exact thought process too back when it was my fic, and similar goes for the rest of your reasoning here. Hell, the same goes for the whole of your post there - the exact fiddly details differ, the reasoning is virtually identical, down to taking the Statute of Secrecy to its logical conclusion and the gun-mad goblins.

    Guess why I made the Goblinish name for what wizards call 'Gobbledegook' 'Or'zet', folks - short version for anyone not familiar with Shadowrun, in Shadowrun canon Or'zet is one of the Orc languages from the Fourth Age. As ever, don't know how Dunkelzahn's handling it here, but back when it was my fic they were another variant of metahuman closely related to Orcs who'd managed to stay Awakened through developing their own source of magic to keep them going, much like wizards.

    The purpose is and was singular. The common point of failure of many, many, fanfics where the protagonist gets a powerup - and this is absolutely one from Scene the First - is that their canon plot is in danger of being too small for them; with a Harry like this, canon!Voldemort is strong enough only to do a recurring impression of roadkill. There's two approaches to rectifying this; either power the primary antagonist up too, or find the protagonist a plot that's big enough for them.

    I despise the former, especially in settings where the protagonist is canonically all but overwhelmed - and Potter absolutely is one. What the hell's the point of giving your protagonist the metaphoric equivalent of a plot bulldozer if he's just going to trundle it obediently through all the stations of the canon yet again? Let him strut his stuff and drop the hammer on canon, you'll end up with a -far- better fic in the process to my eye.

    So, I went looking for a plot big enough for Dragon!Harry, and Shadowrun's Awakening is an absolutely stonking plot big enough for any powerful protagonist to really get their teeth into.

    (And yes, the pic of Ryumyo is indeed from the Awakening: that's the moment that he became the first dragon to be seen at the beginning of the Sixth Age.)
  19. Edmond G. Bertrand

    Edmond G. Bertrand Making the rounds.

    Nov 14, 2018
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    OK - so that works for me... but I still am somewhat put out by the idea of the Basilisk feeding "off magic alone".
    I'd love to see something about Salazar doing exactly what was talked about earlier in this thread... sort of having
    the basilisk as a "nuke" option in defense of the school... and letting it eat the giant spiders, etc. that were around.
    Maybe the basilisk was *already* ancient when Salazar brought him to the school??? That would really work
    as a plot-detail. THEN you could say something about it being "fat and happy" for a long, long time and sleeping
    off a just kick-ass gourging (like.... I don't know.... eating hundreds or thousands of orcs or some other terrible
    invader upon whom it had been unleashed in the years leading up to Salazar finding it and coaxing it to come
    to the school and act as its defender).

    I still don't understand the whole Shadowrun bit... and how that's going to cross into the HP world. You know
    that the moment that Harry's dragon-form becomes known the muggles, SOMEONE is going to
    want to authorize a nuclear strike against him - and that gets into what would be a very, very messy (and
    otherwise unnecessarily complicated) storyline for you.
    Corvus 501 likes this.
  20. Doghead13

    Doghead13 Grumpy Old Scottish Biker

    Sep 26, 2018
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    You are here because the people in charge of things like launch codes are not that jawdroppingly stupid.

    Sure Joe Twat down the local boozer is going to yell about nuking it, but General McHigh-Level-Military-Officerington tends to have a loose idea of what lobbing nukes at random bits of a densely-populated nuclear-armed country (say, just a few tens of miles from the largest population centre in the north of Scotland and not all that much further from where the Royal Navy park their ICBM subs) is going to result in - and as for the British politicians, well, if anything was going to get the Queen off her tush and sending the Guards to line Parliament up against a wall in front of a machine gun nuking their own country would do the trick.

    OPREP PINNACLE NUCFLASH is not the sort of thing anyone with the brainpower of a wet noodle wants. That way lays extinction events for the human race.
  21. Hunting time

    Hunting time Getting out there.

    Mar 29, 2018
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    perhaps try looking up Shadowrun Lore, reading about the Awakening, Great Dragons, Magic.
  22. Lordamnesia

    Lordamnesia Getting sticky.

    Jan 12, 2015
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    Why exactly are you put off of the idea of larger magical beings living off of mostly magic? Honestly the amount of land mass needed just to feed something the size of the basalisk or a dragon of Harry's expected size is ridiculously large if they conform to non magic predator feeding habits. Think about the only animal that we know of today that is in that size range, the blue whale, and how it literally eats all day. Expecting magical creatures and beings to conform to science and what we think the universal laws to be is rather conceited and silly.

    It's funny you say that, because what your not getting (and complaining about) is that Magic Comes Back. To everyone, in every corner of the world. People wake up as dwarves, trolls, elves, orcs. Various people are contacted by spirits and become spellcasting shaman, while others try spells they see in books and cast magic. Cities literally appear out of mist, and islands only seen in myth appear.

    On top of it all, this is Harry Potter still, and the heads of governments know about magic. So why exactly would Harry showing his dragon self make people want to nuke him into the ground?
  23. Ashenerden

    Ashenerden Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 27, 2016
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    I binged on your wonderful story in the last 20 hours. You are a talented writer, congratulations. You either have a great beta reader / redactor or your attention to basics of writing like correct spelling, sentence structure and stuff like that is very good. Story concept is familiar to me, I could have sworn, I've read a dragon Harry story just like this but it soon started to become unfamiliar to me. Probably started reading and failed to watch the thread or something to make me lose track of your story.
    In a few places I was really impressed with your description of the environment /scene but I cannot be more spesific just before doing a more attentive reread. Although the concept is sound, your story was too sedate for my tastes. I really stopped being able to read HP fanfiction nowadays. Reading about adventures of an eleven year old boy and a relatively immature one doesn't keep my attention as it used to. Harry pottering around with Runes and electricity stuff was like a Checkov Gun that just didn't go off. It was there, I read it but ... If that stuff was totally excised from the story, I believe nothing would noticeably change. It was like reading the main character of a story play with her dolls every chapter of the story. Yes she is a child, and young children playing with dolls is a very normal thing; but it becomes pointless after a while. Please don't let me or my comment discourage you. If I was 20 years younger, I would have liked your story even more. Good job.
    Corvus 501 likes this.
  24. Dragonpriest88

    Dragonpriest88 *Prostrates Self*

    Jan 13, 2017
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    I also just finished bringing your story. It's wonderful! I cant wait for more to come out!
  25. Doghead13

    Doghead13 Grumpy Old Scottish Biker

    Sep 26, 2018
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    There is a non-zero chance that you're thinking about my long-abandoned fic of the exact same name as this, which Dunkelzahn has taken on and is both continuing and improving - the parts of the fic prior to the beginning of Harry's first year in particular are largely my work.

    I never produced a complete version of the first year segment of the fic as I was unable to work out how to get the character to mature without losing the Calvin-like traits, and in the end lost interest.

    As to the stuff with the runework and electricity, you're complaining about a Chekov's Gun not having been fired yet midway through act 1.
    Corvus 501, NotAnHiro and Lordamnesia like this.
  26. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

    Jul 10, 2018
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    The story is fairly slow-paced, I'll admit that, probably too slow, really, but... eh, I really like the extra detail and worldbuilding.

    On the topic of the runes and Harry's tinkering, one of the things that I tend to find rather jarring in fiction is the way people's research always goes off perfectly. The character decides, "Hey, I want to do some new thing, and I bet I could do it this way." They sit down and fiddle with stuff for a while, maybe having to collect some resources and expend some effort along the way, and then, lo and behold, they are able to do exactly what they set out to do exactly how they thought they could do it from the start. There are no false starts, no dead ends, no boondoggle projects that eat up tons of effort before they have to be abandoned as lost causes, just idea, effort, success, in quick succession.

    Real research doesn't work that way.

    If you're doing research, you're trying to learn something new, and your initial guess is probably going to be wrong. Real research tends to fail far more often than it succeeds, and I wanted to show that here. It takes more than intelligence to be a good researcher. Intelligence is useful, but resilience and tenacity in the face of repeated failure are more important in the long run.

    Harry had an idea, tested it out, and had some limited success before running into an unanticipated problem, so he now has to rethink his approach before he tries again. Right now, he's thinking about what his next move will be on the problem. Then he will test the new thing, encounter some new challenges, rework his methods, and try again, repeating until he either gets something useful or encounters a problem he can't figure out how to work around. That's how research normally goes, and Harry is going to end up with a lair full of remnants of failed experiments before he actually gets useful results.

    Happily, it also serves as narrative conflict to help realistically develop Harry's character, so there's that --- obstacles to overcome and the like.
  27. Threadmarks: Section 3.13 - Trial run

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

    Jul 10, 2018
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    3.13 Trial run

    3.13.1 Shifting priorities

    Unlike the Flourishes and Blotts of London, the Mackenzies of Glasgow had not been in the bookselling trade long enough to have derived their name from it. Nevertheless, Mackenzie’s Bookshop had been a fixture in the magical quarter of Glasgow for the better part of a millennium, and despite periodic remodeling, that age shone through in the general feel of the place. Closely packed shelves stretched from floor to ceiling framing too-narrow aisles; the air was permeated by the musty smells of ink and old parchment; and the overall ambiance teetered on the edge of claustrophobic. In its current circumstances, packed full of a tittering throng of enthusiastic witches eager to meet the hero they had read so much about, it shot clear over that edge into downright panic-inducing for anyone with that condition.

    Gilderoy Lockhart was not one of those people.

    Such places were, in fact, among Gilderoy Lockhart’s preferred environments, and he took to the interminably repetitive, artificially cheerful meet-and-greet of a book signing like a fish to water. He truly enjoyed such events and was perfectly willing to spend hours at the grind and relish the experience, but they were also the sort of activity he could handle on automatic while considering other matters... exactly as he was doing now.

    Even as he signed another book while wearing his well-practiced sparkling smile, the blond dandy’s thoughts were miles away — about a hundred miles away, to be exact — back at Hogwarts. The closing feast had given him much to think about.

    So far, Lockhart’s stint as a defense professor had been one long series of setbacks and frustrations. Between the continual missed cues in his attempts to insinuate himself into Mr. Potter’s social circle and the jarring mid-term shift in tone precipitated by what he now knew had been basilisk attacks, nothing had gone according to plan.

    He sighed, smoothly hiding the action as part of an exaggerated stretch to loosen his cramped fingers drawing yet another wave of giggling from the women in line.

    Potter simply didn’t react at all as Gilderoy expected him to. There had been no excitement at the prospect of meeting a celebrity, nor had there been nervousness at the same. Young Harry seemed perfectly calm when put on the spot in front of others... which Gilderoy would have been able to deal with, except for the fact that the boy showed none of the arrogant bravado he would have expected to see instead.

    Gilderoy simply had no idea what to make of the boy. None of it made any sense!

    He had even gotten to the point of considering the use of some brewed persuasion to get his foot in the door. Nothing too serious and certainly nothing of any significant duration, just a little something to get the boy interested in actually talking for once rather than mostly ignoring him. Gilderoy was still confident that, given a decent opening to start a conversation, he’d be able to win the boy over.

    The end of term feast had changed all that.

    Seeing the tiny waif of a boy dragging a snake the size of a large whale into the Great Hall like a cat carrying a freshly-killed bird had scuttled that plan, thankfully before it could be put into motion. There was something going on with the young Potter that was well beyond Gilderoy’s understanding, and the blond author now realized he had better avoid any actions the pint-sized juggernaut could conceivably interpret as aggressive...

    ...no matter how frustrating the slow progress had become.

    The famous author graciously accepted another book, smoothly asking to whom he was to make the signature out, even as his internal monologue continued.

    As for the rest… well, that he was more optimistic about, despite the rude awakening represented by that giant basilisk. While the ever-frustrating Mr. Potter had rather decisively stricken the terrifyingly lethal ophidian monstrosity from the board, an unknown danger lingered about the school threatening the students he was charged with protecting, but fortunately for Gilderoy, all available evidence pointed to the otherwise shadowy danger being human. Humans he could deal with.

    Despite their common appearance in his novels, Gilderoy tended to avoid even moderately dangerous non-humans in real life. All too often such creatures possessed some degree of magic resistance, and mental magics tended to be quite delicate when applied across species. Between the two effects, the interspecies barrier rendered most of his spell repertoire useless, and without those spells, the former obliviator knew he was mostly helpless in any real conflict.

    Humans, on the other hand, were a mostly known quantity, and mental magics, Gilderoy’s stock-in-trade, were designed to work on them. Admittedly, some individual humans would give him pause, legendary monsters every bit as dangerous as that behemoth Mr. Potter had unceremoniously dragged through the school, but in this case he felt confident. With Voldemort dead and Dumbledore paying his salary at the moment, Gilderoy was unlikely to encounter any such monsters in the course of his investigations. Even Mr. Potter, who had recently been showing all the earmarks of joining that rarefied company of wizards so strong as to be nearly untouchable, was unlikely to be on the opposing side of things… for obvious reasons.

    Gilderoy smiled winsomely as he handed another freshly signed copy of Magical Me to a blushing middle-aged woman.

    In the end, Lockhart supposed there was only one course to take when he returned to his post as the Hogwarts defense professor. His plans for becoming Harry Potter’s mentor might well end up slipping beyond his grasp in the end, though that was by no means certain. Regardless, he would have to stay the course and accept whatever came on that front, no tricks... not without a better understanding of the lad’s capabilities, anyway.

    For the rest, he would have to remain vigilant. He’d been in enough similar situations as an obliviator, after all. While many calls to the obliviation squads were simply to cover up after accidents, not all of them were. Reading the situation to know when to call for backup was another essential skill.

    Who knew? He thought, a genuinely hopeful smile sneaking its way onto his face. Perhaps if he played his hand well, he’d have a thrilling detective novel published in a year or so, one based on the true story of this year’s events at Hogwarts.

    This time, the hero might even have the right name!

    3.13.2 “Romantic” aspirations

    Just a few days after the fall term had ended, the halls of Britain’s premiere magical school lay quiet and empty.

    In the normal course of events, perhaps one student in ten would have stayed on campus for the winter break. The vast majority tended to be quite eager to get off campus, but there were always those few who were reluctant for various reasons. After the attacks, first on Mrs. Norris and then on Justin Finch-Fletchley, that number was closer to one in fifteen. While the basilisk might have been dealt with, plans had already been made long before the end-of-term feast.

    Of course, that one-in-fifteen fraction was subject to the usual vagaries of random sampling, and of the fifty or so students currently counted among the ranks of House Ravenclaw, only two had decided to stay. One of those had only stayed on account of his girlfriend in Hufflepuff also staying, and with a mostly empty castle available to explore with said girlfriend, he was rarely to be found at the Ravenclaw dorms.

    Thus, Su Li found herself with the essentially uncontested run of the tower, a situation she was currently exploiting for all it was worth. She had spread out messily to occupy the entirety of the large table to one side of the house common room. Normally, the table served as a common study area and was almost always occupied by at least half a dozen of her housemates, but for the next few weeks, it was all hers.

    Sweet, sweet elbow room.

    The petite girl sat back from her work, arched her back, and spread her arms wide in a languorous stretch. She had never realized just how much of a luxury space could be until she had managed to acquire so much of it. Quarters back home had been tight, shared as they were with a gaggle of cousins, and the situation at Hogwarts, while improved, was similar. Having the entire House to herself, though?

    “I could get used to this,” she moaned as her shoulders popped with her movement.

    Indulging in one final stretch, the petite girl shrugged her shoulders and bent back to the task at hand. She had work to do, and this assessment was the first part of it — a critically important precursor to the rest. It was also a part she had only recently acquired enough information to complete to a borderline-acceptable standard.

    The folder in front of her, one of several dozen spread across the table, was the only one of its fellows which had yet to be tied shut with string and sealed with wax. It lay open, its first page a neatly formatted grid featuring a full-color wizarding photograph of one Harry Potter. The accompanying text presented, if one were literate in traditional Chinese, a fairly detailed biography of the boy so pictured.

    “Almost done,” she muttered quietly as she began flipping through the pages of the dossier, thinking back on the work that had led up to this point. “Just need to finish up the personal assessment.”

    Potter had proven himself the most challenging of the lot by far. Between the boy’s tendency to disappear off campus and his irregular habits even when he was available, pinning down the Potter heir was a difficult task... so difficult, in fact, that she had been seriously contemplating leaving him out of her target evaluations. He was just one boy among many, after all.

    Oh, she had known he was powerful; the signs were almost impossible to miss, and there had been those stories about punching out a troll in his first year. The physical strength had been interesting, but it could easily have been a secondary effect of the boy’s tremendous magical reserves. That sort of magical power very rarely bred true, not in full, which made it less than ideal for her purposes. As a result, she had been leaning toward Longbottom as her favorite candidate; of the available pool of males, his unnaturally deep understanding of plants had seemed the most likely talent to prove to be heritable.

    Until the dueling club, that is.

    Su Li chuckled at the memory. She had never expected to receive such an intelligence windfall at that dueling club — for that matter, she hadn’t really expected to learn anything there at all, attending mostly to pass the time. To think, if not for the Malfoy heir’s idiocy, she might have passed over a diamond in the rough.

    “Perhaps I ought to arrange something as thanks?” she mused, considering the situation and the resources she had available for a moment before dismissing the idea with a shake of her head. “No, not worth the effort, really.”

    Steering her thoughts back to topics that were worth the effort, Su Li considered what she knew of Harry Potter. When he had simply been a frustratingly mysterious loose end, it had been easy enough to consider writing him off entirely, but the boy’s talent for languages had changed that calculus entirely. Such a talent was far too valuable to ignore out of petty frustration.

    Unfortunately, Potter had not become any easier to reconnoiter, despite her renewed zeal, and even now the green-eyed boy’s profile remained woefully incomplete. Some parts had proven simple enough. As the last Potter, the boy’s family history was a matter of public record, and as the Boy-Who-Lived, so was his very early life. Pictures had been easy enough to acquire from an enthusiastic Gryffindor first year. An aspiring photographer, the excitable boy had been willing to provide her with copies any of his photographs in exchange for the cost of film.

    From there, things got fuzzier. From the incident in Godric’s Hollow to the start of the 1991 school year, Potter’s life was a black hole. She had managed to dig up some rumors of involvement with Gringotts in the last few years, rumors which had been lent some weight by the events of the opening feast, but nothing concrete. The goblins ran a tight ship.

    Of course, for purposes of her evaluation, the boy’s personal history was hardly of primary importance. As far as she was concerned, a history shrouded in uncertainty was irritating at worst. The lack of a tissue sample, on the other hand, might be a deal-breaker.

    Personality and character were secondary; Su Li needed to know about genetics. If that linguistic talent wasn’t heritable, then Potter was useless. Hints of that could be gleaned from family history, but direct samples were much more reliable.

    Had she been running this mission even fifty years ago, Su Li would have been stuck acquiring blood samples... a very risky proposition. Blood could be put to a wide variety of nefarious uses, and if she were caught, she would be suspected of all of them. Fortunately, she didn’t have to run that risk. The clan had developed analysis methods which could use a wide variety of different samples, of which hair was the easiest to obtain. Hair was far less damning than blood, polyjuice and its variants being the most common use for such things. Being caught collecting hair left Su Li at risk of being labeled a sexual deviant, and she only cared about that insofar as it would affect her primary task.

    Su Li shook her head, dimissing the idea. In any case, it had been simple enough to devise a method for unobtrusively acquiring hair samples; people rarely made the effort to secure their shed hair. She had settled on a highly-refined summoning charm as her method of choice; it was a difficult charm to master, but easy enough with practice. Using it, she had managed to complete the rest of her dossiers within a month of her Sorting.

    Harry Potter, however, continued to remain elusive, even after a year and a half.

    No matter how she tried, the charm returned nary a single hair. It was almost as if the boy didn’t have any hair to lose... a ridiculous proposition, considering the unruly black mop clearly visible on top of the boy’s head! Regardless, whatever the reason, none of that shaggy mop ever seemed to come loose for her summoning charm to pick up.

    It had been incredibly frustrating.

    So vexed had she been that after Halloween of her first year, she had even visited the site of the boy’s purported battle with a troll in hopes of finding some of his spilled blood, despite the risk of discovery. Yet, even then her efforts had come to naught.

    It had been that failure which had left her inclined to abandon her efforts entirely. Even if Potter could kill a mountain troll at eleven, doing so unscathed seemed too far-fetched to believe, which had led her to doubt the veracity of the tale entirely.

    Though the events of the end of term feast had led her to reconsider the situation once again; a troll was less than nothing compared to the likes of that basilisk, and she had seen that evidence with her own eyes. Heritable super-strength was back on the table; though again, she still couldn’t verify that. Su Li grimaced.

    In any event, she still had not managed to acquire a sample from Potter, which left far more uncertainty in her report than she was comfortable with. On the one hand, he represented the potential to gain a universal linguistic talent and tremendous physical strength for the bloodline. On the other, one or both of those could turn out to be non-heritable, leaving her with efforts wasted.

    It was a high-stakes gamble, high risk, high reward, and it was really too much to ask of a twelve-year-old girl. Su Li had no idea whether the potential benefits were enough of a prize to gamble her entire future; she simply couldn’t decide.

    Luckily, she wouldn’t have to.

    Su Li let out a heavy sigh as she finished writing out her explanation of the situation. Giving the picture of the green-eyed boy one last lingering glance, she closed the folder, tied it shut, and reached for her sealing wax. Once sealed, the dossier joined the rest of the messy pile, landing right atop the one labeled “Neville Longbottom.”

    She closed her eyes in satisfaction. Her initial task was essentially complete, all that remained was to package the lot for delivery and ship the whole batch home to Hong Kong. After that, she could relax for a few months while she awaited orders.

    When they arrived, she would have her target, and then she would be able to get on with her real business at Hogwarts.

    3.13.3 Gumshoe

    In a grungy office above a seedy dive on Knockturn Alley, a hard-bitten man going by the name Frank sat at a ramshackle desk smoking a cheap cigarette. His lips twisted into an irritable frown around a smouldering stub of a cigarette as he glared at the door through a haze of tobacco smoke, automatically tuning out the usual assortment of questionable noises wafting up from the bar downstairs.

    It was a nice door. Solidly built of finely joined wood, darkly stained and varnished, and sporting a glass window with the words “Private Investigator” etched into the glass, mirrored to be readable from the outside of course. It stood head and shoulders above the quality of the rest of the office, the contents of which all but shouted that the owner was hard-up for cash.

    Of course, the relative extravagance of a quality door was understandable, since it served as the anchor for the expansion enchantments which enabled the entire office — along with the modest personal residence accessible through the office’s other, decidedly less impressive door on the wall behind his desk — to fit into the depth of the door frame. Compared to the cost of the enchantments, the cost of the carpentry was barely an afterthought, and even at that price, the enchantments were a frugal investment. Rent in the Alleys was murder —in Knockturn, sometimes literally — and such expanded apartments reduced the cost of living astronomically.

    However, Frank was not the sort of man to spend any appreciable amount of time simply staring at a door, no matter how fancy. Rather, he was impatiently awaiting a knock on that door.

    His prospective client was running late.

    A few months previous, Frank had been contacted with a proposal for a job, an investigation into the past of some dirtbag or other... the client hadn’t mentioned a name. The request was vague, but Frank wasn’t particularly bothered by it; he got a lot of those. People rarely hired private investigators when they already knew the answers.

    What did bother him was the delay. He hadn’t often encountered clients that insisted on waiting for two months after first contact to even describe the job, and the few times he’d encountered something similar, they’d had ulterior motives. When someone approached him for legitimate business, they were usually in a hurry... a real hurry, not just impatient and annoyed like Frank was now. Private investigation work was generally a response to something unexpected, not a routine chore. Frank chuckled ruefully at the thought; not that he’d object to a little more routine, the steady income would be nice. The fact remained though, his clients were normally desperate, scrabbling for answers.

    Just like Frank had been when he’d gotten into the business.

    He sighed, blowing out a plume of fragrant smoke as the memories once more rose unbidden. Back then he’d been bright-eyed and optimistic. Betty, his sweetheart from Hogwarts, had just given him the most important ‘yes’ of his life, and Frank had been over the moon. Then not even two weeks later, she’d disappeared overnight without a word, leaving behind nothing but an engagement ring and unanswered questions — questions Frank had been desperate to answer.

    Back then, there’d been no one to help him, so he’d rolled up his shirtsleeves and gotten to work, teaching himself magical investigation and tracking in the process. When the money started to run out, he’d started hiring himself out to use those skills to keep himself afloat. One thing led to another, and eventually he came to where he was. As the only game in town, it hadn’t taken long to build a reputation as the man to hire if you needed to find something or someone.

    Frank knew desperation; he knew it all too well. He’d been in ugly situations before — still was, in truth; he thought, fingers straying to where a delicate golden chain dipped into his shirt collar — and he knew from hard-won experience the sorts of actions and attitudes desperation engendered.

    ‘Lackadaisical’ and ‘sedate’ did not fit the pattern.

    Something was dodgy about this deal, and ‘dodgy’ was a dangerous prospect... especially in Knockturn Alley, where ‘dodgy’ and ‘deadly’ coincided often enough to be mostly interchangeable.

    Of course, Frank thought as his fingers almost absently fished that delicate golden chain out of his shirt, the other side of desperation was being willing to take stupid risks. Frank sighed, fingering the simple but elegantly feminine gold ring threaded onto the chain next to a similarly styled golden locket. While the particulars of his desperate situation had changed, the urgency had not.

    Unlike all those years ago, Frank now knew what he was about. He had the skill; he had the knowledge; and he had the plan. It was a desperate, ugly, and, above all, expensive plan, but Frank was confident he could make it work — provided he could get together the funds.

    In short, Frank thought as he tucked the ring safely away, he needed cash, in quantity, and he was desperate to get it. The price this new client had offered was simply too high to dismiss out of hand, no matter how dodgy the situation.

    A knock on the door roused Frank from his ruminations. It seemed that the source of that plentiful, potentially dangerous, cash had finally seen fit to show himself.

    “Come in,” Frank called in a rough voice as he ground the pitiful remains of his cigarette into the ashtray.

    The door opened revealing a boy in his mid-teens, dressed in a Hogwarts uniform of all things.

    What was this?

    “Mr. Nadgett?” the boy asked tentatively.

    “I answer to it,” Frank acknowledged with a nod. Nadgett was not his real name, of course — he’d wanted to avoid having his work follow him home, so to speak, so he’d picked the name out of a book. The oft grim and depressing Dickens had seemed an appropriate source; it fit right in to the grim and depressing underbelly of the wizarding world. “I take it you’re my mystery client, kid?”

    “Yes, sir,” the boy confirmed, fingering the blue trim of his robe nervously.

    “The two-month delay would have been waiting for the end of the school term, then,” Frank nodded to himself. So far it seemed he’d been working himself up over nothing, which, while a relief to his worries, did nothing to alleviate his irritation.

    The boy nodded.

    “I suppose that answers one question,” Frank allowed before allowing a little of his annoyance to seep into his voice. “Though the question of why you are nearly an hour late for this meeting still springs to mind.”

    “Ah… yeah, sorry about that,” he looked down sheepishly rubbing at his neck. “Um… well, when I was coming through the bar downstairs, one of the women was… well… insistent…”

    Taking in the teenaged boy’s embarrassed blush, Frank sighed and wiped at his face in exasperation before taking a closer look. “Well, judging by your clothes, you managed to resist getting dragged off to a room.”

    The boy nodded with a glum expression. “Yeah. I mean, it felt bad to turn her down, but I kinda want to save that for something special, right?”

    “Save your regrets, kid,” Frank said with a harsh laugh. “I’m sure she got exactly what she wanted.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “She wasn’t interested in sex, kid. She was looking to rob you blind. Check your coin purse on the way out, she probably emptied it while you were flustered,” Frank suggested with a dry chuckle before his expression twisted into a scowl. “In fact, check it now. If you lost my fee, we might as well save ourselves the trouble.”

    The boy’s eyes widened in horrified understanding as he shoved a hand into his hip pocket. “Oh, damn!”

    “She got you, did she?” Frank scoffed, leaning back in his chair. “See yourself out, kid, and be careful on the way. You’ve already lost your money, don’t let your life be next.” He turned away, already reaching for another cigarette, and mumbled, “Bloody waste of time…”

    “Wait!” the kid protested. “I can still pay!”

    “Are you telling me that you’ve got enough to cover my fee twice over?” Frank shot him a skeptical look. “Pull the other one, kid. You’re a Hogwarts brat, so I might believe you could scrape that together once, but not twice.”

    “No, not that,” the student explained, reaching for his boot. “I just made sure not to carry that much in one place.” He drew a sizeable pouch from a small expanded pocket on the inside of his boot. “She just got the money I brought for lunch.”

    “Not bad, kid, not bad,” Frank congratulates his visitor with a laugh. “Well, since you’ve got the cash, I suppose you have my attention. What’s this mysterious job of yours?”

    The younger man took a deep breath to compose himself before he began. “Well, Mr. Nadgett, we’ve got this one really annoying teacher at school, Gilderoy Lockhart…”

    As the private eye listened to his prospective client’s description of the situation, his opinion of both the job and the boy currently in his office fell precipitously. Nonetheless, he listened carefully.

    After a few minutes, his visitor finally concluded his explanation and fell silent — his Ravenclaw-blue trim seemed to have been well-earned. In Frank’s experience, long-windedness was a house trait.

    “So, let me see if I understand the job correctly,” Frank clarified. “You have a teacher you don’t like, and rather than learn to deal with disappointment like a normal, decent person — or, for that matter, rather than approaching the headmaster of your school to complain like a whiny little twit — you decided to try to hire me to sift through the man’s past for something embarrassing enough to get him fired. Is that what you’re asking?”

    His visitor nodded.

    “No deal,” Frank flatly denied. “Kid, real investigations start with a question, not an answer. I’m not going to take a job expressly intended to smear an innocent man; my professional ethics won’t allow it. The office might be in Knockturn, but I’m here for the rent, not because I like the neighbors.”

    “There’s no way that smarmy git is innocent!” his teenage client objected, sounding a little desperate. “He’s just so… so slimy, and he leads all the girls around by the nose! I mean, he’s gotta be thirty or so, and the girls are my age. That’s about as sleazy as it gets! He’s gotta be guilty of something!”

    “So, this is all about the girls in your school paying attention to the handsome young teacher and ignoring you?” At the boy’s sheepish nod, the hard-bitten private eye sighed in disgust. This case just got better and better. “God save us all from the teenage libido,” he muttered. In a clearer voice he continued, “Look, without a reasonable suspicion that your professor committed some sort of crime, I’m not going to take on this job. I’ll leave the unfounded smear campaigns to the Prophet, thank you very much.”

    “What if I doubled the fee?” his young client offered.

    Frank froze for just a moment. That was a lot of money, and he needed it for... no, there was no way...

    “Don’t make an offer we both know you can’t back up, kid,” Frank bit out in a harsh growl. He trailed off when the boy reached back into his boot and drew out another pouch. “Damn, kid, where’d you get that kind of cash?”

    The kid looked well-off, but not that well-off.

    The boy coughed, looking off to the side awkwardly. “I passed the hat at school and I might have overstated your original estimate a little.”

    “I see,” Frank eyed the teenaged would-be con-artist with a raised brow. “And I suppose you were intending to take a commission on hiring me? One that you conveniently neglected to mention to your friends?”

    The boy nodded; his eyes downcast.

    The private eye shook his head in disgust as his opinion of his prospective client fell even further. This kid was a slimy little brat...

    ...though, he was a slimy brat who was offering a great deal of money.

    Frank drummed his fingers on the desk, torn, as he considered the possibilities. He didn’t have much, but he still had his principles… mostly, and he was reluctant to give them up. He’d already done enough questionable things along the way; adding what was essentially character assassination to the list was not something he was eager to do.

    On the other hand...

    Frank’s fingers ceased their drumming and slipped involuntarily to the golden chain around his neck. The amount on offer was enough to move the timetable on his personal mission up by nearly a year...


    He groaned, slowly pulling his hand away and shaking his head, reluctance in his every movement. “Still not happening, kid. Not unless you can give me something he’s done that’s worth investigating — and no, having a gaggle of teenage girls chasing after him because he smiled at them and they’re too stupid to realize it was just a smile doesn’t count.”

    There, he’d said it. Frank cringed at leaving that much cash on the table, but he’d stuck to his principles — cold comfort to be sure when Betty was still… He shook his head to break off from that train of thought, trying to ignore the feeling of her engagement ring burning accusingly against his breastbone.

    If only he’d had some excuse…

    “Well, when we were looking for something ourselves, we noticed that a couple of his books seem to take place at the same time, but they’re on opposite ends of the continent,” the teenager offered. “Is that suspicious enough?”

    It was a bit weak, but…

    “That’ll do, kid,” Frank nodded. “Payment up front, and no guarantees that I’ll find anything. The premise is pretty weak, but there might be fraud involved.”

    And there might be... if he squinted hard enough. He could squint pretty hard for that kind of payday.

    “So, you’ll take the job?” his client asked.

    “Just as soon as you pass me those coins,” Frank confirmed with a nod to the pouches in his client’s hand. The caveat ‘and I’ve counted them’ was left unstated but clearly implied.

    The transaction was completed quickly, both parties eager to get it finished, if for different reasons. Frank was interested in getting the ball rolling so he could do his job and move on to the next, his client, on the other hand, was simply eager to get out of Knockturn Alley.

    As the boy hustled out of his office, Frank rose from his desk.

    It was time to get to work.

    3.13.4 Networking

    It was a fine afternoon in December. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, and while the air was brisk, no one needed more than a light coat to ward themselves against the chilly breeze. AII told, things were shaping up well for a superb picnic on the front lawn of the Hogs Haulage Hogsmeade offices.

    As Mike McDonald trailed along after his parents, holding his much younger sister’s hand to keep track of her in the crowd, he couldn’t help smiling at the scene; perhaps all the finagling he’d had to do to arrange to take off work for the afternoon would prove worth the effort after all.

    Colleen certainly seemed to think so — the excitable bouncing and wide-eyed looking-about his much younger sister was doing from her place at his side made it seem a good guess. Mike made sure to keep a firm grip on her hand. It wouldn’t do for the girl to run off after something that caught her fancy before the family got itself situated... particularly not when he was responsible for looking after her. Mike loved her dearly, but like most small children, his little sister could be a pain to keep track of.

    Whether they’d come for the promise of free food, the chance to meet the Boy-Who-Lived, or simply for the excuse to have a party — he was fairly certain his own family was here for a combination of all three reasons — the turnout was impressive. It seemed nearly the entire company had shown up for the barbecue. Between the employees and their families, there were over a hundred and fifty people on the lawn already, and it was still early in the afternoon.

    From the fragments of conversation Mike was able to pick up on as they picked their way through the throng, he gathered that most of the attendees expected quite a few more guests to show up as the afternoon wore on towards meal time. He wouldn’t be surprised if practically the entire population of Hogsmeade managed to find some way to put in an appearance eventually.

    He was about to ask his father why they were walking through and bypassing so many of his coworkers when the reason became abundantly clear.

    “’ey, Jimmy!” his father’s voice rang out above the general din. “O’er ‘ere!”

    As the man so addressed waved to his father and began making his way as to meet them, Mike chuckled. Of course, he should have expected his father to seek out Mr. Coates before anything else. The pair had worked together for longer than Mike had been alive, and he was fairly certain that neither man would want to participate in any company function without the other present. He was hardly an unwelcome addition for the rest of them, too. Uncle Jim always had a kind word and a friendly gesture for all the McDonald siblings, a habit which had made the man a favorite of the children as they grew up. That status was proven once again as Colleen tore her eyes away from the sights around her to focus on the man in question.

    “Uncle Jim!” she cried joyfully as she slipped away from her brother in favor of hurrying over to give the man an enthusiastic hug about the knees. “You’re here too?”

    “O’ course, ah am, little lady,” the man answered, giving the six-year-old a pat on the shoulder in return for the hug even as he gave Evan and Mike himself an agreeable nod. “’s a company picnic, innit? Ya couldna thought I woz gunna leave your da’ ta face it all alone?” Jim’s voice fell to a stage whisper, “’e’s ‘opeless for this kind of thing, ‘e is.”

    Colleen giggled at the joke, and then her attention quickly returned to the surrounding celebration as the conversation turned to other, less interesting, topics — at least, less interesting from the perspective of a little girl. For his part, Mike kept a gentle hold on his little sister’s shoulder and nodded absently as she excitedly pointed out various sights and sounds while keeping the bulk of his attention on the conversation among the adults. It hit on the usual range of topics for his father and Uncle Jim, ranging from lighthearted topics, like the upcoming match between the Magpies and the Bangers — Hogsmeade residents tended to follow the local Scottish teams rather than the English ones the southerners favored — to more serious ones like how Mister Hawkins, known to Mike as their long-time neighbor from the next street over, was handling his father’s recent death. Eventually, however — perhaps inevitably — the conversation turned to the picnic itself and the rather famous personage hosting the event.

    “’ey Jim, whatcha think o’ the young Potter?” Mikey’s father asked his friend, predictably drawing Colleen’s attention at the mention of her favorite boy-hero’s name.

    For his part, Mike was actually kind of surprised it took this long for someone to ask. The Boy-Who-Lived’s purchase of Hog’s Haulage had been the talk of the town for weeks after the news broke in September, and it had quickly regained center stage as soon as word of the boy’s company picnic had hit Hogsmeade’s gossip mill.

    “Probably best if you see for yourself, Mac,” Jim told Mike’s father. “Not too sure what to make of ‘im, myself. ‘e’s… well, ‘e’s a bit of an odd fellow from what I can tell. ‘e’s over by the grill it you want to meet ‘im.”

    “Ooh, ooh! Can we go?” Colleen had been practically vibrating with excitement ever since the young Potter’s name was mentioned and the knowledge of where the boy could be found had finally pushed her to the end of her rope. She hugged her father’s knees and directing a devastatingly cute pleading look up at him through her eyelashes. “Please!”

    Out of all the McDonald family, it was a weapon only their mother could stand against with any regularity.

    Mike’s father folded like a wet napkin.

    And so, the family set off again, this time towards the grill to meet the famous new owner of the world’s largest — and, in fact, only — magical rail company. It didn’t take them long to reach their destination.

    Oddly enough, Mike’s first impression of the scene didn’t touch on the Boy-Who-Lived, despite him being the goal of their expedition. Neither did it include the admittedly rather more imposing sight of the eight-foot-tall centaur maiden hovering attentively beside said small boy... and in light of that oversight, it was unsurprising that the nearly-teenaged girl with bushy brown hair on his other side didn’t register at all.

    No, Mike’s attention was immediately commandeered by the trestle table set up next to the grill. It was a perfectly normal sort of table, sturdy but easily put up and taken down for temporary events like the picnic, hardly an unexpected sight. What was unexpected were the three colossal slabs of meat, each several times the size of a full-grown man, which the table strained to hold up. What little of the table which remained uncovered by those gargantuan cuts of meat was in turn laden with a variety of more conventional fare, but that hardly rated a mention by comparison.

    What manner of beast had yielded those?

    The only thing Mike could think of was a dragon, and no one ate those... at least not away from the dragon reserves where they had to do something with all the excess meat. From what he had heard on the subject, dragon meat was all but inedible without a tremendous amount of preparation, and even then, it was an… acquired taste, certainly not the sort of thing one would expect at a barbecue hundreds of miles from the closest dragon reserve.

    Nor did he seem to be alone in that assessment. From what Mike could surmise, several of his father’s coworkers — men who had presumably volunteered to man the grill for the occasion — were engaged in a heated discussion over how to prepare the monstrously large steaks even as the last of their number pointedly ignored the ridiculous sight in favor of preparing the mound of more normal cuts occupying the remainder of the table.

    After gaping at the unusual sight for several long moments, Mike finally dragged his attention away from the sight just in time to catch the tail end of the discussion they had walked in on.

    “… a minute; if the precision machining is so effective, why didn’t everyone just do that from the start?”

    The question came from a small boy who looked to be just a few years older than Colleen. He was engaged in an intent conversation with a pair of much older gentlemen who had that unmistakable sort of technical look about them, a look Mike recognized well from a childhood spent around the railyards. People with that sort of look tended to do some of the most interesting stuff in the yard, forever taking giant locomotives apart and putting them back together using cranes and grease and fire and all sorts of stuff of that nature... practically irresistible for a young boy such as he had been at the time.

    Honestly, he’d be hard-pressed to stay away from it even now.

    One of the men — a Scotsman by his accent, who looked to be of an age with Mike’s father — replied with the air of one who felt he had been asked a question with an obvious answer. “Because precision machining is expensive, laddie, and the economics of early steam made the costs prohibitive. We talked about this just last week!”

    The other man, a significantly older fellow who spoke with a foreign accent with which Mike was unfamiliar, chimed in, “Coal was simply much cheaper than the time of a skilled machinist. Fortunately, the economics have changed, a situation which we can now turn to our advantage.”

    The boy, presumably Harry Potter given that Uncle Jim had stopped nearby, frowned thoughtfully.

    “I got that, I think, but if precision stuff is so expensive, how come we’ve got stuff like this?” He gestured with a white plastic fork. “I mean that’s just as precise as you’re talking about for the pistons and wheels and stuff, right? Why is the fork so cheap? I know it’s not the materials. After we talked last time, I looked it up and steel is actually cheaper than the raw plastic resin per unit mass.”

    “Ah! So that’s where you got turned around,” the first engineer exclaimed, sounding rather pleased that his young friend had, in fact, been paying close attention during their previous discussions. “That fork was molded, not machined… well, the mold was machined, but that’s just the once, and then it produces millions of those forks.”

    “Why don’t we do that then?” the boy asked. “I mean, if we’re running a whole train company, we’ll need lots and lots of parts, right?” At the man’s nod, the boy continued, “So why not make them like they make those forks if it’s so much cheaper?”

    “It’s because you can’t make molds like that for steel,” the man explained patiently. “To cast something to final dimension, like that fork,” he nodded to the utensil in question, “you need to have a mold formed in just the right way. For plastic, that works fine, because there are plenty of things that will make a durable mold that won’t stick to plastic and stay solid when the plastic is liquid. For steel, you’ve pretty much got sand casting and investment casting. Sand just won’t hold enough detail for what you’re talking about, not reliably, and investment casting isn’t easily repeatable, so it’s not really any cheaper than machining.”

    The young boy’s expression turned thoughtful as he considered that, but before he could formulate a reply, Mr. Coates took the lull in the conversation as an opportunity to break in to introduce them.

    “Beggin’ yer pardon, Mr. Potter, Mr. Wardale, Mr. Porta,” Jim nodded to the young boy, the Scottish gentleman, and the older man whose accent Mike hadn’t been able to place, respectively, “but if you’d be so kind, I’d like to introduce my fireman, Mike McDonald.” He gestured to Mike’s father who nodded in wordless greeting as the two older men so addressed gave friendly greetings.

    “Hi!” The young Potter was somewhat more enthusiastic.

    “And this is his wife, Irene, their sons Evan and Mike,” Mike nodded agreeably alongside his younger brother, “and their little daughter, Colleen.”

    Colleen waved shyly from her position half-hidden behind Mike’s leg where she had retreated when her bold cheer had deserted her upon actually seeing her hero right there in front of her. She hid her face completely when said hero offered her a brilliant smile and wave just as he had the rest of the family.

    For his part, Jim grinned on seeing the little girl’s reaction and elaborated, “Little Colleen was the one who really wanted to meet ya, ya’ see.” He teased the girl who responded by pushing herself even closer to her older brother’s leg. “She’s been lookin’ forward to it ever since she found out ya were takin’ over tha company.”

    “Well, I’m happy to meet you, too!” Mike wouldn’t have thought it possible, but the Potter boy’s smile grew even wider. “It’s always nice to meet someone who’s happy to see you. Was there something in particular you wanted to talk about?”

    Mike felt his sister’s hand tighten on the back of his trouser leg and looked down to see her folding in on herself nervously. Taking pity on the terminally embarrassed girl, Mike spoke up with the first question that came to mind, hoping to deflect the conversation away from her until she could recover her equilibrium. “So where did you get those giant cuts of meat over by the grill, anyway? And what exactly are they? Don’t think I’ve ever seen an animal big enough for that before.”

    “Oh, those?” the boy gestured to the table. “Those are from the basilisk I killed last weekend.” Those calm words were enough to draw the undivided attention of everyone within earshot. “The thing was raiding my pantry, so I had to hunt it down. I didn’t really know what to do with all the meat, so I brought some to share here.”

    “That’s only some of it?” Mike choked out around his astonishment.

    “Well, yeah,” the small boy said absently. “When Mr. Snape helped me butcher it, we ended up with about five hundred of those; it took forever to remove all the bones. Do you know how many ribs a snake has? Way too many, I’ll tell you. Even with how much I usually eat, I didn’t think I could go through all that before it went bad.”

    “Five-hundred?” he breathed, thinking of just how large such a creature must have been to provide such a bounty of meat. “How the heck did you kill something that big?”

    “Forget the size,” Jim broke in, the first of the magical adults to pull himself together enough to say something. “How the heck did you kill yourself a basilisk, lad?” He shook his head in wonder. “An’ for that matter, where’d you find one?”

    “Huh?” the young boy asked. “Oh, I just punched it after it tried to bite me. Ended up rupturing a bunch of its organs and breaking its… neck? I dunno, it’s kinda hard to say what’s neck and what’s not-neck on a snake. Anyway, I found it near where I live in the Black Woods — um, I think most of you probably know it better as the Forbidden Forest — but Mr. Snape seemed to think it probably lived somewhere in Hogwarts, a secret chamber or something.”

    “I see,” Mike said dully.

    “Wow!” Evan, the middle McDonald, spoke up for the first time. “So, all those Harry Potter adventure books are actually true?”

    Those things,” Harry Potter grimaced distastefully. “No, none of those actually happened, and me and the goblins are still trying to pin down the authors about not marking them properly as fiction.”

    “So, you didn’t grow up in a magical castle and go off on adventures all the time?” Colleen spoke up for the first time since encountering her hero in person. She sounded very disappointed.

    “No… well, sorta?” the boy frowned thoughtfully. “I mean I lived with my aunt and uncle up until I was eight, then I had a magical accident which meant I had to move, and I moved to Hogwarts, and Hogwarts is a magical castle, and I’ve had a few adventures since I got here, so I guess the description fits since I’m still growing up now. The actual adventures were really different, though.”

    Harry shook his head frowning mightily. “I don’t see why they had to write me as such a git, anyway,” he muttered. “Going about and slaying all those poor dragons just minding their own business... ’s just not right.”

    The conversation among the McDonald siblings fell silent for a moment, long enough for their father to break in himself. “A basilisk at ‘ogwarts, y’say? That’d explain why Brown was fit ta be tied on our last run, eh Jimmy? Sumthin’ like tha’ in tha school ‘is little girl’s at? I know I’d be jus’ as angry if it were my little Colleen.”

    “Brown?” Harry interjected quizzically.

    “Kelly Brown,” Jim volunteered. “’e’s your shunting foreman at King’s Cross, an’ ‘is youngest daughter is in your year at ‘ogwarts.”

    “Brown…” the boy frowned thoughtfully. “So, he’s Lavender Brown’s dad?” At Jim’s nod, Harry beamed. “I didn’t know her dad worked for me! I’ll have to make sure to introduce myself proper.”

    From there, the conversation turned more towards personnel and other corporate matters which the young Potter waded into with all evidence of enjoyment. The boy seemed positively gleeful at learning about each and every one of his new employees, treating every new name as if he were meeting a brand-new friend.

    While his younger siblings had lost interest about the time the basilisk dropped out of the conversation, finding the subject matter thoroughly dull, it was an eye-opening experience for Mike. He’d only been working at his new job for a few short months, but the attitude around the place was already crystal clear. At the warehouse, the management looked down on their employees with guarded suspicion, as if everyone there fully expected him to abscond with some of the merchandise as soon as no one was looking.

    That same attitude seemed to filter down all the way through the corporate hierarchy to his coworkers on the ground level, as illustrated by his difficulties in arranging time off to attend the barbecue. It took forever to convince one of his coworkers to cover his hours for the afternoon, and even then the man had seemed convinced that it was all part of some scheme to make him look bad in front of the boss.

    It was a far cry from the warm camaraderie he saw between his father and Mr. Coates, and the difference in management styles could not have been more apparent. If only the jobs had opened up a few months earlier, Mike would have jumped at the opportunity to work for the company he saw on display here. In fact…

    “Mr. Potter?” Mike spoke up.

    “Hmm?” the boy acknowledged.

    “Umm, I’ve got to finish out the rest of my contract at the warehouse, ‘cause I gave my word, and I’m not gonna go back on it, but after that, do you think you’ll still be hiring?” the eldest son of the McDonald household asked tentatively.

    “How long is your contract?” Harry asked, seeming to become more focused under the direct question.

    “A year and a half,” Mike answered, “er… well, about thirteen months now, I suppose. It’s been a while since I started.”

    “I expect I probably will,” the boy confirmed. “I’ve got big plans for Hogs Haulage, and I’m gonna need a lot of people to see them through.”

    Harry looked at him closely, and Mike was struck with the oddest feeling, as if he were being laid bare before something far larger and far stronger than he was. It was an… unsettling experience, and it seemed an odd fit with the pint-sized boy in front of him... until he recalled the discussion about the basilisk.

    At that point it made a great deal of sense.

    “Are you interested in working for me?” the suddenly rather intimidating boy asked.

    “I am, sir,” Mike snapped straight upright at the question.

    Harry nodded. “I’ll look forward to interviewing you then when you’re free. Mike, was it?”

    “That’s right, Mr. Potter,” Mike confirmed. “Mike McDonald.”

    “I’ll keep an eye out for you,” the young Potter promised, reaching up to pat Mike on the shoulder before turning back to his earlier conversation.

    Mike let out an explosive sigh of relief at the end of that unexpectedly intense exchange. Nonetheless he smiled brightly, unknowingly echoing his father’s proud smile at the exchange. Working here would be infinitely better than the warehouse, and he just had to make it through to the end of his contract. He could do that.

    After all, he was just moving stuff around a warehouse; what could go wrong in a year?

    3.13.5 A working vacation

    As Harry gazed out over the still-lush grass of the Salisbury plain, his two damsels and his friend, Abigail, standing quietly at his sides, he couldn’t help but marvel at how quickly events could move. With the conclusion of his company Christmas party just the previous evening, Harry had given the final go-ahead on the project to drain the Stonehenge nexus and here he was the next morning, standing beside the ancient stone circle as his friends put the finishing touches on their preparations.

    His friends could work fast when they wanted to.

    Still, they weren’t quite finished yet. Mr. Snape and Mrs. McGonagall were hard at work reinforcing the already-formidable notice-me-not wards that had been raised to cover their morning activities, and Mr. Flitwick was still fiddling with the sensors he’d developed in conjunction with Mr. FlameI over the course of the last six months. They were apparently supposed to measure the magical field strength all over the site during the drain, and after he finished with those, there were apparently a few dozen more that were supposed to attach to various portions of Harry for much the same reason. Madame Pomfrey had insisted those go on at the last moment, though, so for now he remained unencumbered.

    As the young dragon waited patiently for his friends to finish their various preparations, he couldn’t help but be a bit nervous. His friends had done everything they could to ensure he’d survive this, and he knew that, but they had done nothing to hide the potential risks. In fact, they had taken great pains to point them out to him and ensure he knew what he was getting himself in to.

    Yes, as far as Madame Pomfrey and Mr. Snape could determine, he ought to be able to handle the amount of magical flux they expected from the circle when it discharged, particularly since his recovery from the incident with the philosopher’s stone, as his changed composition was even more amenable to storing massive quantities of magic. But at the end of the day, that ‘ought to’ was based on educated guesses about both his still poorly-understood biology and the even-less-understood stone rings.

    There were no certainties in this situation, only guesses and assumptions, and if those guesses turned out to be wrong… well, there’d be little left of Wiltshire, much less Harry and his friends.

    It was a sobering sort of realization, even for the usually ebullient dragon.

    That said, no matter how nervous he was, Harry remained resolute on continuing; it wasn’t like he had a choice, not really. Oh, his professor friends wouldn’t have forced him, he knew that well enough — they really couldn’t in any event — but everyone agreed the stakes were clear. Either they found a way to discharge the nexuses safely, or the ancient devices would do so of their own accord, unpredictably and in a decidedly less-than-safe manner. It was a choice between a potentially lethal gamble to fix the problem and invariably lethal cowardice.

    That hardly counted as a choice at all in Harry’s books.

    But resolute or not, necessary or not, the young dragon really didn’t want to dwell on the absurdly dangerous risk he was about to take... best to find something else to think about.

    “Hey, Abigail?” Harry began without turning his head. “You remember that conversation we had before break, you know, about studying for your defense NEWT?”

    “Yes,” Abigail acknowledged readily. “What about it?”

    “Well, I heard back from Mr. Slackhammer, and he had some more ideas on what I could do,” the young dragon told his friend. “I’m going to be meeting with him later during the break. Just thought I’d let you know I’m still working on it.”

    His friend smiled. “Thanks, Harry.” There was a pause. “Are you nervous about this nexus thing?” she asked, rightly interpreting his abrupt change in subject from the task at hand.

    Harry nodded wordlessly, eliciting a pair of attempted comforting hugs from his two damsels which unfortunately passed unnoticed by the young dragon due to his natural armor.

    “Well, from what you’ve told me, this is really important, right?” his older friend confirmed.

    He nodded again.

    “’Then I suppose there’s nothing to be done but get on with it and hope for the best.” Abigail sighed, “I know I’m not saying anything you didn’t already know, but it’s all I’ve got.”

    “No, I know what you mean,” Harry hurried to reassure his friend. “But... it’s nice to hear it from someone else. Makes you feel better about your reasoning, you know?”

    Abigail nodded in her turn.

    “Um, you know, I had an idea the other night when I was talking to a couple of my new engineers,” Harry began. “And since you’re going to be working at Hogs Haulage soon, I thought I might run it by you while we’re waiting.”

    “Oh,” the older girl cocked a curious eyebrow. “When was this? I don’t think I remember that conversation.”

    “It was pretty early in the afternoon,” the young dragon clarified. “I think it was when Mr. Rowland took you over to introduce you to the management team.”

    Abigail nodded; that scheduling seemed plausible. “So, what is this new idea?”

    “Well, it’s like this…” Harry began only to be interrupted by Madame Pomfrey and Mr. Flitwick. It seemed the time had come to rig him with the final sensors, and then it would be showtime.

    Business ideas would have to wait for the future.

    3.13.6 Winter lights

    A cold wind gusted across the Salisbury plain in southern England, shaggy green grass flattening before it until it splashed to either side of a large metallic dragon and rushed on, swirling around and through an incomplete circle of ancient standing stones.

    The color of burnished steel and large enough to stretch nearly halfway across the stone circle itself at full extent, the dragon made for a curious sight — large metallic dragons being rather uncommon in these bucolic locales — as he very deliberately picked his way between the ancient stones. A handful of humans and a single centaur watched carefully from a prudent distance as he approached one unassuming stone in particular. Once there, just as the sun reached its zenith on the cold December day, the dragon took an action which made the already curious scene even curiouser.

    Shifting to support himself on his wing-knuckles, he freed his forepaws, and then raised one of them. Bending down to carefully examine the massive appendage, the dragon then raised his other paw holding a knife — a fairly stout and sizeable one by human standards but looking more of a comically tiny lancet on the grand scale of its current holder — which he carefully inserted between two of the massive scales on his paw and then shoved home with a wince. He quickly withdrew the knife, its blade already glowing orange-white and half-melted by the time it cleared his skin, and with it came a glowing rivulet of white-hot blood, a few stray droplets of which were already setting the damp grass to smoking.

    He took a deep breath and firmly placed his still-bleeding paw down on the stone in front of him, simultaneously pushing magic into the point of contact. And with that, a set of events was put into motion, the twin of one which had happened two-dozen miles to the north and nearly half a decade earlier at the much larger stone circle in Avebury — a chain of events which had led to the transformation of a small human boy into a massive dragon.

    The very same dragon touching off the events on this day.

    Once again, magically charged blood came in contact with the stone responsible for discharging the ancient device, forging a connection. Once again the signal was received, this time in the form of a deliberate pulse rather than precise, if coincidental, timing. And once again, the device did as it was designed to do, discharging the accumulated energy of millennia through the freshly forged connection, lighting up the space between the dragon’s palm and the bloody stone with a light brighter than the noon-time sun.

    That was where the similarities ended.

    Avebury had discharged into a scrawny, malnourished, completely untrained pre-teen wizard. This time the recipient was a strapping, young, partially-trained dragon — a dragon whose kind were not only able to tolerate high levels of environmental magic, but which in fact thrived on it. Where the boy’s magic had scrabbled desperately for a miracle simply to survive the onslaught at Avebury, the dragon’s physiology simply kicked into high gear to process the unexpected nutritional windfall, a task made even simpler by the relative weakness of the nexus. With a capacity estimated to be several orders of magnitude lower than that of the Avebury nexus, Stonehenge had been chosen as an initial test case for precisely that reason.

    Rather than a brilliant light show reaching to the heavens and arcane disturbances reverberating around the globe, the draining of Stonehenge had more of the feel of a lightbulb burning out: a bright flash of oddly-colored light, a sharp buzz followed by a dull thump, and then the dim gloom of unmet expectations.

    It was honestly a rather welcome relief for everyone involved.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2020
  28. stads

    stads Not too sore, are you?

    Nov 20, 2018
    Likes Received:
    nice chapter thx for writing it
    interesting in the hiring of the private detective wonder if he will get a close encounter of the draconic kind atleast there is less probing in those but the teeth might be a isue :d
    Ame likes this.
  29. Vannevariable

    Vannevariable Know what you're doing yet?

    Oct 1, 2018
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    Aaaaand counting down until someone tries to replicate the Harry incident on their own and either explodes or becomes a dragon in their own right...

    Voldemort dying to that would be hilariously karmic.
    Edmond G. Bertrand likes this.
  30. Ovid

    Ovid I trust you know where the happy button is?

    May 22, 2017
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    Remind me again, what effect does the draining of the magic build up points do? Specifically, in regards to the Shadowrun lore? Does it speed up the occurrence of the next age, slow it down, etc?