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Enter the Dragon (Harry Potter/Shadowrun)

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

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  1. SystemSearcher

    SystemSearcher "I fought the door and the door won"

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    Hmm... You could potentially enchant a homemade railgun in a way that massively reduces, or removes its energy requirements, thus making it actually portable, while also reinforcing it so that it doesn't get damaged with every shot, thus getting a "magic" gun that doesn't require enchanted ammunition.
     
  2. The Unicorn

    The Unicorn Experienced.

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    Given the material science derived from Harry's dragon body that seems rather pointless.
    Superconducting wire that can handle temperatures much higher than room temperature, be shaped into very thin wire and retains its superconducting properties under intense magnetic fields translates into making small lightweight power supplies with arbitrary large power densities and very high energy densities. Combine that with highly durable super-ceramics and you get a railgun pistol with power only limited by the recoil you can handle. I suppose someone could enchant a gun to have infinite ammo, or be self cleaning, or the like but no enchantment is needed to make a man portable rail gun that could drill a hole through an Abrams tank lengthwise.
     
  3. Acolyte

    Acolyte Getting sticky.

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    I didn't mean technically enchantments but charms. Like that charm that turns objects into portkeys. It takes a second or two to cast it. Instead of a word activation just make it a impact start and now you have a bullet that can teleport anything it hits. From what i understand you need enchantment for things that need to be long lasting and work often. Charms on the other hand are short term things that can work only short term but can be tied off to wait till activation.

    So any decent wizard will probably be able to make quite a few over months and stuff. Especially when the wizards start using gun. So every wizard would have charmed pistol bullets that explode or cut their target.
     
  4. Dragonladysally

    Dragonladysally Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    I totally agree, and I can see that US MPs plus the EUR military police after poor little gilderoy
     
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  5. Pyeknu

    Pyeknu Cross-Dimensional Magical Sith GIrl

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    And no matter what Gilderoy does, his obliviation spells won't work on the meatheads.
     
  6. The Unicorn

    The Unicorn Experienced.

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    Only if you're Albus Dumbledore, and even then in this setting it takes quite a bit of effort.

    Sure. My assumption was a wizard being able to make one every day or two which is where I god the ~200 GBP per bullet.
    No, it doesn't work that way. Not if it takes months to make a decent stock of ammo.
     
  7. Gaming Geek

    Gaming Geek Tired of the random default stuff

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    I don't know... having a magical holdout piece hidden on me with such a MASSIVE advantage would be worth spending a few months to set up. The ultimate "Oh Shit" tool, so to speak.

    Then again I played Techno-Mages in RIFTS so I am used to prepping between campaigns building new toys.
     
  8. The Unicorn

    The Unicorn Experienced.

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    Sure, but why would you make magic bullets and not a magic gun for that? I'd think an undetectable gun would be a lot more useful than a normal gun loaded with magic bullets, and the bullets wouldn't take any less effort.
     
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  9. Gaming Geek

    Gaming Geek Tired of the random default stuff

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    Enchanted gun was made at char gen, clearly.

    What? That would be my primary chargen buy-in for a battle enchanter.
    (edit)

    Besides which, you don't make your gun undetectable. You make your HOLSTER undetectable, your gun silent and never taking any damage from firing bullets, your magazine as 'limitless' as you can expand it to be... Actually depending on the gun type, you could get away with a 'silence' spell on an attachment at the barrel exit. Given how some systems make it easier to only bind one effect on an object, and harder to stack more on a specific single item.

    I always liked the magically cooled LMG barrel combined with a limitless ammo box combo myself.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2020
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  10. The Unicorn

    The Unicorn Experienced.

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    That sounds more like a primary weapon then a backup, but I agree all those magical effects seems quite reasonable to apply to a gun.
     
  11. Acolyte

    Acolyte Getting sticky.

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    Charms don't take that long tho. Its literally a flick of your wand. Its not inscribing runes or what ever. Its the charms that everyone know, like windgardium levosa. Bombarda and stuff shouldn't need more than a minute for a bullet. Making a portkey takes like a single spell. Its the same principle.
     
  12. The Unicorn

    The Unicorn Experienced.

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    But they still take effort (at least in this story) and they don't last (at least in this story) so you couldn't make magical bullets to keep in your gun. You might be able to make a magic bullet you immediately fire (but that leads us again to the small number of sniper rounds), assuming the act of firing the pullet doesn't destroy the charm (as the author's comments suggest would happen).
     
  13. Acolyte

    Acolyte Getting sticky.

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    No i don't remember the chapter but it did say charms can be tied off and stay indefinitely. And it will take an effort of course, but for a wizard it will be like a few bullets a day, but that would still be a clip a weak. Its pretty convenient for their own weapons, especially if they are shadow runners.
     
  14. Edmond G. Bertrand

    Edmond G. Bertrand Getting sticky.

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    Ok... massive nit-pick coming.

    Our esteemed author wrote:
    "
    Just outside the door to the Slytherin common room, Abigail froze mid-stride as her mouth dropped open and her eyes widened in horrified realization.

    …when school started up again…

    She was graduating; there would be no ‘when school started up again’ for her!"


    NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO and NO again. Abigail DOES NOT do the graduating. She will be GRADUATED. The SCHOOL tells you when you're finished and ready to move on.

    The way this should have been written is:

    "Just outside the door to the Slytherin common room, Abigail froze mid-stride as her mouth dropped open and her eyes widened in horrified realization.

    …when school started up again…

    She was being graduated; there would be no ‘when school started up again’ for her!"


    I know a lot of the readers here are going to scream at me over this, but I am RIGHT on this. It is the correct way to phrase the sentence. You MATRICULATE TO and are GRADUATED FROM a school. These are Latin-based words with specific meanings. Abigail, as a character, if she's even half as well educated as she is portrayed in the story, would know this. Some of you are going to say, 'pish-posh'... it doesn't matter. YES, IT DOES. English is a tool. Using it well and correctly is the mark of someone who cares and wants to be understood. This story is WAY too good to be befouled by small errors like this.

    ::soapbox off::
     
  15. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    A quick check on Merriam-Webster (Graduate) shows both usages as correct.

    Also, a note to dispel any confusion for the other readers who might not be checking the CaerAzkaban group, the segment he is referring to (4.9.3) has only been posted there at this point.
     
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  16. Alkration

    Alkration Getting sticky.

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    Soo quick Question, is it just me or isn´t that Flamel Apprentice kinda similar to Sakura from Fate

    The purple Clothing and Hair would fit and she is definitely someone who would avoid her Family-Name. Even the
    would fit as the Matous were originally known as the Makiris and hand to flee to Japan.

    @ Dunkelzahn does that mean the 3rd Crossover is Fate?
    btw awesome Story just finished binging
     
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  17. Hunting time

    Hunting time Getting out there.

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    i had a thought about something and im curious how you resolved it.
    so at the end of the previous age of high magic there had to be books on shadowrun magic and how to use it and learn it. since everyone was capable of it.
    where did they all go to?
    i suppose the Dragons might have kept some, and the same for the elves but what about all the rest?
    if you don't have a concrete answer for that yet i suggest you look into a Movie/TV series called "The Librarians" for a ready made answer to that which could fit fairly seamlessly into the world that you have built so far.
     
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  18. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    She's not Sakura Matou.

    As for the third setting:

    Aside from a few oblique hints like Miss 'Flamel', the third setting will not become immediately relevant to the plot for quite a while yet. There's a lot of plot and character development to go through first.

    As a note, if it were Fate then I would probably avoid confirming it one way or another this early on, what with how much that particular setting tends to attract annoyingly insistent rules-lawyer types. Much better to avoid that sort of thing until closer to when it would become relevant.

    The third setting is another Wainscot-magic setting, similar to Harry Potter. Unlike the wizarding world in this setting, however, the third setting is not a hidden remnant of the past; rather, it formed as a reaction to the effects of the wizarding secrecy movement.

    Prior to the Fifth Age and the Wizarding secrecy movements, even during low-magic ages, magic was still a known quantity, if a less common one. Wizards were just another part of society (e.g. there would be a town enchanter right next to the blacksmith, a potions master in the next town over, and so on).

    This meant that non-magical technology did not develop very much for a very long time. With the ready availability of magic via hired wizards, there was little incentive to go to the lengths required to develop the knowledge and infrastructure for modern non-magical technology. This meant that, despite the tremendous length of time civilization has existed in setting, technological levels never progressed past that of a 'swords and sorcery' fantasy. The secrecy movements in the Fifth Age changed that.

    With magic removed from the public consciousness, people's reactions generally split into three classes:
    1. The pragmatically indifferent type - the majority of people didn't think too much about the change, simply accepting that the magical stuff in their legends and history didn't seem to be happening anymore and getting on with their lives accordingly
    2. The 'progressive' type - a small group fell prey to their own scholarly hubris, dismissing all the previous historical records of magic as foolishness because the modern man was obviously much more intelligent and advanced than their primitive ancestors who couldn't fathom that there might be some way to explain these strange phenomena 'scientifically'. Aside from the cloying smugness, practically speaking, there is little difference between this group and the previous one.
    3. The open-minded type - an even smaller group looked at the old records of magic and accepted them as truth, positing that something had changed to make those old magical creatures and practices die out. This group formed the seeds of the third setting.
    The first two groups went on to produce the scholarly tradition that later led to the Renaissance, modern science and technology, and the Industrial Revolution.

    The third group decided to try to regain magic for themselves and over the last five hundred years or so, they managed to develop a unique magic system from scratch which was particularly well-suited to low-magic environments and extremely weak practitioners. It is, however, only about five centuries in the making, and their understanding of what they are doing is fraught with misinterpretations and errors.

    As a result of developing independently and after the separation of the wizarding world, neither setting knows of the other's existence. Both are actively hiding in general, and due to the nature of the newly developed system, wizarding detection methods misidentify it in various ways, usually as poltergeist activity.

    Nicholas Flamel is the only wizard who knows of the hidden society, and he only discovered it by accident when one of their early members tracked him down on account of his fame as The Alchemist on the non-magical side of things. Of course, being Nicholas Flamel, rather than inform them that no, wizards are actually in hiding, not gone, he decided to keep an eye on things and see what the newcomers managed to put together without interference. For the same reason, he has kept their existence secret from his wizarding colleagues as well. This is the reason he insisted that the meeting in 4.8.4 take place in the non-magical world.

    There are a few different parts to that:
    • On the non-magical side of things, it's been 6000 years, and very little survives that long without careful maintenance. Since the ones doing the maintenance deliberately decided to hide the information, there's not much chance of such popping up here.
    • On the wizarding side of things, the knowledge was passed down, but it faded out of practice over the years of the conflict during which wizards effectively came to dominate the remnants of the magical world.
      • Shadowrun-style magic can only be used in sufficiently magical areas, and the wizards' main advantages in that conflict were their mobility and the ability to retreat to non-magical areas where their enemies could not follow.
      • As a result, there was no safe place to teach and practice those magics for a many centuries, and they fell out of use.
      • Later, secrecy policies meant that magic had to be subtle and easily hidden, and for wizards, the Shadowrun-style magic only really starts to shine over wand-magic when you get into large-scale effects, so there was an incentive against reviving it.
    • As for the history of the Fourth Age, that was lost with the Library of Alexandria during the Imperial conquest of magical Egypt (what would later be the magical Ottoman Empire, that is, not the later Romanian Imperial liberation or the largely non-magical conquest by the Romans) --- and I do mean lost; secrecy spells were heavily involved and mistakes were made. It is possible that there are other physical copies floating around, but the spells used ensure that no one knows about them.
     
  19. Alkration

    Alkration Getting sticky.

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    Dunkelzahn thanks for explaining that

    this probably means the 3rd setting is somewhat of an urban fantasy one, right?
     
  20. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    It is.
     
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  21. Hunting time

    Hunting time Getting out there.

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    well since I'm not sure what setting you picked for the third setting besides it being the 3rd group you talked about i cant say for sure if it fits better or not. however i cant think of many that would fit better or as well as The Librarians.

    The Library has been around for 2000+ years collecting magic artifacts and books and they are groups that practice their own version of magic.
    besides some spells it was mainly draining off the leylines into creating magic artifacts that produced certain effects.

    There is a lot there already to work with, 3 movies, 4 seasons of tv, novels, comics

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mythology_of_The_Librarian
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Librarian_(franchise)
    https://thelibrarians.fandom.com/wiki/The_Librarians
     
  22. TenMoreMiles

    TenMoreMiles Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    Hang on, is the third setting Jonathan Norrell and Mr. Strange?
     
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  23. timuzhti

    timuzhti Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    Why are you using the past continuous?
     
  24. Edmond G. Bertrand

    Edmond G. Bertrand Getting sticky.

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    It's technically called "Future imperfect", but there are two ways of writing it. One was the way I suggested and the other would be to say
    "She was going to be graduated". Either way, it's a future-looking statement, and English is not great at expressing such
    ideas, because it's a difficult concept, either for classical Latin or for French - which are the two principle parent languages
    for English.

    In German you'd say, "Sie (she) würde (was going) ihren (to be) Abschluss (graduated) machen (made)" and in Spanish you'd say,
    "Ella (she) iba (was going, imperfect tense) a ser (to be) graduada (graduated). In French you'd say, "Elle (she) allait (was going) être diplômée (entered into or become (a) diploma)"

    Finally, you'd say in Latin, "Et ut iret lectus" - "and (it) was going to be graduated".

    Does that help?

    Regards,

    Edmond
     
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  25. timuzhti

    timuzhti Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    English doesn't have a general imperfect tense, it has a progressive/continuous and a habitual (and it would be the past imperfect you're using anyway). If you're referring to future in the past, in English that has two forms. "Was going to be graduated" is correct. "Would be graduated" is correct. "Was being graduated" is not. It makes no difference whether "graduate" is used as an ergative or transitively in passive voice, but in the ergative it is less obvious since it could also be a (metonymic) noun.
     
  26. Edmond G. Bertrand

    Edmond G. Bertrand Getting sticky.

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    I understand what you're saying, but I disagree that we don't have an imperfect tense. You could frame it this way, saying "That she knew that she very likely being graduated" Or you could say, "Was going to be graduated" (as you point out). "Was being graduated" is looking retrospectively upon a possible future plan. It's correct, though admittedly an unusual construction of the statement.

    Now, you've one-upped me, since I've never even _heard_ of an "ergative". That's new to me. You a Ph.D linguist???

    Regards,
    the_scribbler
     
  27. Threadmarks: Section 4.9 - ...I got better
    Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    4.9 …I got better


    4.9.1 Invasion!

    The NEWT committee had chosen a potion which, while tricky, was relatively quick to brew for this year’s testing, which in turn meant that the testing period had lasted for just under two weeks rather than stretching out to a third. As a result, Abigail’s final examination period had just ended, shortly after the beginning of the evening meal hour, leaving her and all her peers exhausted.

    Unlike her peers who had gone directly from the test to their beds and slept off that exhaustion, Abigail had another objective. It had been nearly two weeks since she had spent any time with Harry, and remedying that unfortunate situation was far more urgent for the girl than catching up on her sleep. Thus, the evening found Abigail trudging tiredly into the Great Hall with the evening meal in full swing, thoroughly exhausted yet still quite eager to see her friend once more.

    Due to her fatigue, she took nearly a full minute to process the scene she encountered. Harry was sitting there at his usual spot at the table, cheerfully demolishing the food in front of him and carrying on friendly conversations with everyone nearby, as was his usual custom. Hermione was seated beside him, carrying on in her usual manner, and his Hufflepuff friends were scattered around the table, again just as usual. On his other side, in her usual spot, however…

    Abigail’s tired expression hardened into a dark glower.

    Seated on Harry’s other side was a new girl, a dark-haired girl in Ravenclaw robes that she vaguely remembered seeing around the castle a few times over the past couple years. Based on her appearance, Abigail tentatively placed her as a second year; though she could have easily been mistaken for a firstie if one considered size alone. The girl was tiny.

    Her presence at the table was not too unusual in and of itself; Hufflepuffs were hardly shy about inviting their friends from other Houses to dinner. Neither were her actions, really, not when taken at face value. The girl was engaged in the normal sort of conversation for a dinner among friends, speaking, gesturing where appropriate, and laughing from time to time.

    No, what caught Abigail’s attention — and earned her ire — was the girl’s body language.

    The small girl had adjusted in her seat to put her ever-so-slightly too close to Harry, compounding the effect by leaning subtly towards him. She took every opportunity to accidentally brush against him: leaning conspiratorially closer when she spoke, brushing against his arm when she gestured, placing a gentle hand on him to steady herself when she laughed. It was light, innocent, yet unmistakably deliberate: a series of continual subtle reminders that she was nearby, female, and not at all averse to being close to him.

    Abigail had seen girls run that sort of campaign before, usually when one of her more competent housemates found a boy to her liking.

    It was subtle.

    It was demure.

    And it was brutally effective.

    Her glower turned ugly as she saw the new girl lean across Harry to tap Hermione on the shoulder and get her attention, pressing her entire torso flush against the boy’s side in the process and even reaching down to brace herself with a hand on his thigh…

    Did she just…

    That… that… hussy!

    Her white-knuckled hands trembled at her side and she sucked in air through her clenched teeth as Abigail struggled to restrain herself from storming angrily over to force that the little homewrecker to skitter back to whatever dark corner of the castle had spawned her. Harry had seen nothing of her since NEWTs had started, and Abigail did not want the first thing he saw on her return to be an angry scowl. That would set entirely the wrong tone. Instead, with a supreme effort of will, she managed to force a smile onto her face as she approached the table. That smile became much less forced when her friend noticed her approach.

    “Abigail!” Harry greeted her with warmth in his smile and joy in his voice, shrugging off the new girl in order to stand up and welcome her to the table. “I missed you! How did everything go?”

    “Quite well, I think,” she reported. “At least the examiners seemed impressed. Thank you for your help with that, Harry!”

    Without waiting for a response or asking permission, she leaned in and gave him a hug, which he enthusiastically returned. Holding him tightly, Abigail glared a wordless challenge over his shoulder at the dark-haired interloper who watched the exchange intently. The girl nodded once in calm acknowledgement of Abigail’s unspoken claim, her expression unreadable.

    After holding the hug for just a moment longer than could be considered strictly innocent, she gave her friend one last squeeze and released him.

    “So, Harry,” she began, gesturing to the dark-haired girl, “who is this?”

    “Oh, yeah, I forgot you hadn’t met Su Li yet!” the young dragon said. “So, yeah, this is Su Li. She’s been my lab partner in potions since just after Christmas break, and she asked last week if we could be friends, and since friends are awesome, so I said we could, and she’s been really nice since. I’ve been looking forward to introducing you. I’m sure you’ll like her, too!”

    He turned to the newly named Su Li, “Su, this is Abigail Abercrombie, and she’s been one of my best friends since last year with that troll thingy around Halloween. She’s really great, and I bet you’ll be great friends!”

    “I am pleased to meet another of Harry’s friends!” Su Li greeted Abigail with warm voice and a friendly smile that did not reach her eyes. “I am certain we will get along well.”

    “Likewise, Miss Li,” Abigail replied in identical fashion, right down to the eyes.

    4.9.2 All’s fair in love and...

    “Abigail!”

    Su Li slumped back onto her own seat as her target stood up from under her. The interruption was of no real consequence, she had gotten the information she had been after, disappointing as it was, but that name…

    That name was precisely what she had not wanted to hear.

    “I missed you! How did everything go?”

    NEWT testing should have ended only a few minutes ago; Abercrombie was supposed to seek her bed for the night immediately afterward, just like she and the rest of her year mates had done every day before this one. That had been the whole point behind rushing to fit her investigation in today!

    Now the older girl had walked in on her at the most inconvenient possible moment and caught her red-handed. There was no way to spin this as anything innocent, no way to back off safely or argue down to a lesser charge. Now Abercrombie knew her intentions without room for obfuscation. Su Li was committed.

    Potter and his freshly returned friend exchanged greetings, as Su Li carefully schooled her face into neutral expression to hide her trepidation.

    All that remained was to see how Abercrombie reacted. Which of the rumors was accurate? Was Potter her little brother or her love interest?

    “Quite well, I think. At least the examiners seemed impressed. Thank you for your help with that, Harry!”

    The possessive hug that enveloped Potter between one word and the next could have been interpreted either way. The blistering glare was much less open to interpretation. Well... shit.

    “So, Harry, who is this?”

    As her target introduced her to this new threat, Su Li managed to collect enough of her wits to respond.

    “I am pleased to meet another of Harry’s friends!” she greeted the older girl with warm voice, a friendly smile, and a gimlet stare. “I am certain we will get along well.”

    “Likewise, Miss Li,” Abercrombie replied in kind.

    Su Li had managed to make a terrible first impression on a girl who could destroy her ambitions very easily, and that put her in a horribly vulnerable position. There was no retreat, not when Abercrombie knew her intentions, and there was no surrender, not with her mission. That made the tactical solution clear. The great general had laid it out clearly over two and a half millennia ago, and the prescription had not changed since.

    Retreat was impossible and defeat loomed, and so, when her target returned to the table at her rival’s side, Su Li practically glued herself to his side.

    When on death ground, fight.

    4.9.3 Dinner and a show

    The Hufflepuff table was disturbed by a bit of a scuffle in the process of freeing up a seat for Abigail, a scuffle which ended with Hermione moving over by one seat to make room for her older friend beside Harry.

    For her part, Su Li refused to give an inch, though she somehow managed to appear polite and considerate in the process. Later when she looked back on the event, even Abigail would be forced to admit with grudging admiration that it had been a remarkably talented bit of maneuvering on the petite girl’s part.

    At the time, she simply found it infuriating.

    Once the seating arrangements were settled, dinner continued. Harry carried on with usual affable good cheer even while serving as the battleground for the first skirmish of a covert war between the two mismatched girls flanking him, a war fought using glares, body language, and passive-aggressive commentary all flying over his head — both figuratively and literally.

    For those perceptive enough to catch on, mostly the older students, it made for quite the entertaining show.

    4.9.4 Sobering realizations

    Abigail slowly made her way back to the Slytherin dorms, stone-faced.

    She had made the extra effort to escort Harry to the main gate and see him off for the evening, which had been no mean feat for the exhausted girl. Between her NEWT testing and that debacle at dinner, it had been a very long day, but the effort had been worthwhile, nonetheless. The walk had had allowed her to calm down a little, to catch up on some of their more secretive projects, and most importantly, to spend some extra time with Harry without that interloper spoiling it with her presence.

    And it was that last bit that was responsible for her current mood.

    As she made her way towards the main stairwell, Abigail considered her situation with Harry Potter. She had known that Granger was interested in Harry in a vague sort of way, but the bushy-haired girl was both generally agreeable and a good friend. Abigail had felt comfortable that the two of them would eventually manage to resolve things to her satisfaction, one way or another. Hermione was her friend, and their competition, if it eventually came to that, would be conducted accordingly. Abigail would willingly accept whatever came of that sort of conflict.

    This Su Li was an entirely different creature.

    Abigail frowned and folded her arms as she waited impatiently for the appropriate moving staircase to settle into place.

    She had expected such a challenger to come eventually, but she had not expected it quite yet. Harry was a prime catch, even if he was something of a long-term investment; every girl in the school knew that much. As an individual he was intelligent, friendly, and charismatic. As the last Potter, he was wealthy and well-connected. As the Boy-Who-Lived, he was famous enough to have been a household name for as long as anyone in the student body could remember. And to top things off, he was stronger in terms of magic than the rest of his generation… combined.

    Taken as a whole, those characteristics would normally have made him the most sought-after boy in the school —probably the most sought-after man in wizarding Britain, to be honest — however, two of his other salient qualities had gotten in the way. Harry was still quite young, and he could be exuberant to the point of obnoxiousness.

    Most of Abigail’s contemporaries had been warned off by the first. It was an understandable response; his age would have warned Abigail off, too, if not for the aftermath of that troll incident giving her the perfect excuse.

    As for the second... well, Abigail was on the tail end of her teenage years, and after having suffered nearly seven years of teenaged drama and histrionics, she found such exuberance to be a net positive. Irrepressible good cheer was infinitely preferable to teenaged angst. That said, even she would readily agree that Harry could benefit from a spot of moderation. The younger girls, those closer to Harry’s age and thus unaffected by the first concern, were less sure, both of themselves and of what they wanted out of life. They tended to find Harry’s excessively enthusiastic good cheer to be more than a little intimidating.

    The two effects had combined to leave Abigail’s long-term plans for the young dragon essentially uncontested. Even Hermione, the closest thing she had to competition, had done little in the way of actual pursuit. Any progress she had made, she had mostly just fallen into by happenstance. No one else had been willing to throw her hat in the ring in any serious way.

    Her smile melted into a scowl.

    No one until the arrival of Su Li, anyway.

    On the one hand, Abigail could hardly fault the girl for having good taste in men. On the other, the younger girl had been decidedly underhanded in her approach to the situation, which had killed any sympathy Abigail might have had for her. The Ravenclaw had waited to make her move until Abigail was otherwise occupied and unavailable to defend her position, and so she had returned from her NEWTs, irritable and exhausted, only to be blindsided by a new threat on an entirely unexpected front.

    To make matters worse, the younger girl had shown neither hesitation nor remorse; instead, she had been at best indifferent to Abigail’s irritation. There had not been the slightest hint of apology in the girl, and it was not on account of ignorance of her crimes! Miss Li had known what she had been about; it had all been right there in her body language and facial expressions, plain as day.

    In fact, Abigail frowned thoughtfully, the younger girl had seemed almost too knowledgeable about such things.

    Su Li had met her on that front as a peer, possibly even a superior, galling as that was to admit. How on earth had a second-year girl managed that?

    It had taken Abigail years of careful observation to glean how that sort of thing was supposed to work, and Su Li was twelve! She couldn’t possibly have had the time to pick up things the same way; she’d have had to start when she was what… six, maybe seven? For that matter, why would she have bothered? Abigail knew some girls developed early, but not that early!

    Abigail scowled. Something about the whole situation seemed off, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was. After a few long moments’ fruitless consideration, Abigail shook her head, dismissing the question for now. The urgent bit was figuring out how to counter the girl’s influence on Harry going forward, not getting bogged down speculating about its origins.

    Fortunately, her conversation with Harry after-dinner had given some rather critical information. Harry was going to be quite busy over the summer with an overseas trip, and even though Abigail would not be joining him, neither would Li. The petite girl had not been read-in on the node situation, nor did she know of Harry’s nature as a dragon.

    At least Abigail could be confident that she wouldn’t lose any ground while she was otherwise occupied during summer break... and otherwise occupied she would certainly be! Now that her NEWTs were out of the way and graduation was all but a formality, the time had come to join the workforce, and true to his promise of the previous year, Harry had delivered her a dream of a job with Hogs Haulage. She was ready and eager to get started, and there was apparently plenty of work to be done!

    As for what that meant for her new romantic competition, well, it simply meant a few months’ delay before she really had to worry. Despite her shock at dinner, Abigail knew she hadn’t lost any real ground. She knew Harry, and the boy was still much too immature to realize what Su Li had been angling at, much less respond.

    The girl’s methods would only reach their true potency once puberty had begun in earnest for the boy and they could take advantage of the boy’s involuntary physiological responses. Come next September, though, when school started up again and Harry was a bit more mature, Abigail imagined she would have quite the fight on her hands. It would be a challenge to…

    Just outside the door to the Slytherin common room, Abigail froze midstride, eyes wide and mouth agape in horrified realization.

    …when school started up again…

    She was graduating; there would be no ‘when school started up again’ for her!

    “Oh, bollocks!” she hissed. “That’s why the little tart was so bloody smug!”

    Abigail couldn’t protect her interests if she wasn’t there! She would be seeing Harry infrequently at best, and Li would be there right next to him every bloody damned day! How on earth was she going to get Harry to give her a fair shake if she wasn’t there to keep her hat in the ring?

    If only Harry were a few years older… Abigail sighed. If Harry were a few years older, a great many things about this situation would have been radically different. Without the age gap to contend with, Abigail would not have been waiting like this; she would have already wrapped Harry quite firmly around her little finger and ensured that he was bloody well delighted to be there!

    If he were a few years older, Li’s designs would have been cause for amusement, not concern.

    However, the fact remained that Harry was not a few years older, and the means she might have used in that case were utterly unsuitable for use in this one. They were sickeningly so, in fact, no matter how easy it was to fall into those big green eyes or how often she might fantasize about them gazing into her own from an older but otherwise identical face. Taking advantage of her friend like that was unthinkable.

    Thus, the question became: what could she do? The traditional methods weren’t available, but neither was she willing to leave the cards to fall where they would.

    Harry was smart, loyal, and had a memory like a steel trap; he would never forget a friend, and if he made a promise, she had no doubt he would move heaven and earth to see it through. If he were already hers, she would never worry about him straying, no matter how many passes Su Li made.

    Unfortunately, he was not hers. Not yet. For that matter, he had no reason to think of her in a romantic light. At his current age, she was his friend, not anything deeper. She was fairly certain he didn’t really have any solid understanding yet of what ‘deeper’ entailed. It wasn’t as if she could just lay her hopes for the situation out logically and ask him to…

    Her thoughts ground to a halt for one long moment.

    Abigail blinked and followed that stray thought to its inevitable conclusion.

    Given Harry’s personality that would…

    “Oh, God!” she groaned, burying her suddenly burning face in her hands.

    Given Harry’s personality that would be almost certain to work perfectly.

    “This is going to be so embarrassing.”

    4.9.5 Odds and ends

    Albus Dumbledore smiled at the scene before him. Argus Filch, hard-bitten curmudgeon that he was, sat across the desk, openly crying tears of joy as he cuddled the now-restored Mrs. Norris to his chest, the greatest bright spot in his world returned to him.

    Pomona had declared the mandrake crop mature earlier that morning, and the harvest had gone quickly. While Poppy had handled Mr. Finch-Fletchley in the Infirmary, Albus had taken the opportunity to prepare and deliver the restorative draught to Argus personally. It was not often that he got to see the results of such charitable efforts in person.

    After one last look, he decided to leave the man to his emotional reunion and to get on with the rest of his business. Today, that meant a trip to the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade, where Rosmerta provided a pay-by-the-call floo connection in one of her back rooms. Normally, going out of his way just to use the floo would be a silly prospect, he had a floo-connection in his office, but this was a special circumstance.

    It was also a ridiculous circumstance. One of his students needed assistance; a number of people were quite eager to provide that assistance; but her parents were too bloody proud to accept that assistance graciously. To get around that, he had had to get creative about providing it. Fortunately, he had a plan and knew just the man to call.

    Unfortunately, while it was not strictly illegal, it was also not the sort of dealing he would care to acknowledge publicly, hence his reluctance to use his personal floo connection.

    Albus’ long beard swayed as he shook his head in disgust.

    “Of all the bloody problems to have to deal with…” he muttered as he arrived at the pub.

    Ducking into the establishment, the elderly wizard approached the bar and laid down a coin. After Rosmerta gave him a nod acknowledging the payment, he made his way to the backroom floo connection. Soon the fire flared green and a connection was established.

    “Hello, old friend,” he said.

    He paused as he listened to an unheard response.

    “It is good to speak with you as well, however, I am afraid this is a business call.”

    Another pause.

    “I need to arrange for a particular individual to receive a large number of galleons.”

    This time, the response, while still unintelligible, was quite audible.

    “Yes, I know you cannot authorize…”

    The unintelligible voice interrupted him.

    “I am aware you are not running a charity, but…”

    The voice grew more irritable.

    I will be providing the funds,” Albus interrupted loudly.

    The voice went silent before making an interrogative sounding reply.

    “It is a bit of assistance for a man who is too stubborn to accept financial help when it is needed,” the Headmaster explained. “I need a means to pass him the money without it coming across as charity.”

    More mumbling.

    “An extra sweepstakes drawing would work out quite well, I believe.”

    A questioning mumble.

    “Arthur Weasley.”

    A pause.

    “Yes, he is a subscriber,” Albus assured him. “Address in Ottery-St. Catchpole.”

    The line was silent for a long moment before an affirmative reply came through.

    “Two months, it is,” Dumbledore nodded decisively. “I will have the funds in your hands by the end of the week.”

    A pleased mumble.

    “The pleasure was mine.”

    The green light of the active floo connection flared, then petered out.

    4.9.6 Awkward discussions

    As had become the norm over the week and change since Hermione had insisted on going home for the summer without him, Harry found himself in the depths of the Hogwarts library, busily researching everything from wards to contract law to social customs in hopes of finding some other way to protect the bushy-haired girl in absentia.

    He had told her back then that he had a solution, and he did, but it was a solution he was reluctant to employ. The approach had its advantages, but despite those, the young dragon had assiduously avoided taking it, for very good reason.

    When Harry had first carried Hermione off to be his damsel, he had gone the route of registering her as his pet as far as the school was concerned. It was a good way to protect her from anyone that might be looking to harm her, and so far, it had worked quite well. The arrangement provided him the excuse to step in to protect her from any threats that arose, whether those threats were the likes of Ronald Weasley and the other Gryffindors — who had actually turned out to be pretty okay ever since he had told them off that one time — or those horrible slavers and such Mr. Snape told him about.

    It worked nicely, as long as he was there with her.

    But that was the rub, right there; it worked nicely, as long as he was there with her. The fact was that the arrangement would only be effective if he were in place to deal with problems as they happened. It was based on a school rule, and it specifically did not justify hunting an offender down after the event. If he wanted to put a protection in place that would justify that — and thus would carry weight beyond his immediate presence — he would have to go further.

    A lot further.

    The next step along that chain was to publicly declare his protection, formally placing her under the aegis of House Potter. At its core, such an arrangement was essentially a public notice to all and sundry that if attacked her, the House of Potter would employ its assets to protect, or failing that to avenge, her.

    It was that last that was the really important bit, because it was that last that gave the declaration teeth. It was essentially a line in the metaphorical sand — an emphatic statement of ‘this far and no farther, or I will make you regret it’ — and so long as it was publicly declared beforehand and the forms were followed, it was a threat which the issuer could carry out to the hilt. Actions done in pursuit of such claims would not face legal challenge, though of course, choosing to employ such means also meant forfeiting one’s own right to any assistance that might otherwise have been due from the legal authorities.

    That ever-present threat was the bedrock on which wizarding society was built, and all Houses had the right to make them, though the ability to prosecute them varied. A newly formed, lesser House might command enough respect to give would-be assailants pause — after all, even a single skilled wizard could be a dangerous opponent, especially one out for blood and willing to die to avenge his family — but for the most part, the calculus of risk was a little fuzzy for such little fish. The danger of retaliation from the victim could be close to commensurate with the benefits gained, depending on the circumstance.

    Crossing an Ancient and Noble House, on the other hand, with the centuries’ worth of accumulated wealth and privilege that status implied, tended to be a much less ambiguous prospect.

    The Head of a lesser House might challenge the offender to a duel, or in extreme cases, might dispatch a few particularly talented House members to deal with the problem violently, but for the most part, they would generally make use of their legal privileges to uncover a crime and leave enforcement for the legal authorities. It was simply a more realistic use of limited resources.

    Conversely, the Head of a greater House might well lead off with assassins, follow up with a small army of mercenaries, and conclude with the wiping out of the offender’s entire family.

    That last bit about wiping out families had seemed a tad extreme to Harry when he’d learned of it, but wiping out the entire family was hardly a requirement, so he could just not do that. In any event, the stark simplicity of it all had appealed strongly to the young dragon when he had learned of it, and he’d been all for going ahead immediately back when he had first carried Hermione off, only for Madam Pomfrey’s strong objection stay his hand.

    As the Healer had explained, the devil was in the details... or in this case, in the unintended consequences. Such a formal announcement took the form of officially claiming the one to be protected as a retainer of House Potter in an arrangement commonly known as a servant contract, and that carried consequences for those involved. The exact nature of those consequences varied depending on the circumstances of those involved, but they would have been quite severe for Harry and his bushy-haired damsel as they were at the time.

    Indeed, those consequences and their severity had not changed during the intervening year, nor would they for quite a few years to come, hence his extensive search for a better alternative. Unfortunately, despite investigating many, many options, the young dragon had had precious little in the way of success.

    His initial impulse had been to simply insist on keeping Hermione at his side and dragging her along on the trip despite her protests; however, he had dismissed the idea almost as soon as it had occurred to him. Harry had made promises about what he would and would not do back when he had carried her off, and unilaterally dictating her itinerary over her stated objections would have been a very long step into unacceptable territory.

    With that option off the table, the problem had become one of keeping his damsel safe while he was away.

    His next thought had been to hire a goblin security team to guard her; he had a history of successful engagements of that sort, after all. He’d already set an appointment with Mr. Slackhammer for later in the week to arrange for one to look after the Lair in his absence, and while he might incur a surcharge for a second one on such short notice, such would hardly have broken his budget. Unfortunately, Hermione’s insistence on alone-time with her parents had left that idea stillborn. If his damsel wasn’t willing to let him be there, then an entire goblin fire-team would be right out.

    That particular condition had ruled out more of his options than anything else.

    Harry had even briefly considered letting the Grangers use the Lair while he was away. It was out of the way, defensible, and he was certain Mr. Bane and the rest of the clan would be willing to look out for the Grangers while Harry was away. They patrolled all the approaches as a matter of course, so it would hardly have been an extra imposition. However, Hermione had also said her parents couldn’t afford to take off from their work, so that wouldn’t do, either. Plus, he’d have that goblin security team at the Lair anyway, which violated his damsel’s alone-time condition, so that was a ‘no’ on two counts.

    Magic held some intriguing possibilities. An emergency portkey was an obvious choice — one that Harry would be pursuing as soon as it could be arranged — but it was insufficient on its own. Portkeys could be thwarted, by wards or even by something as simple as surprise. If Hermione were stunned before she could trigger the device, or if she spent too long trying to get her parents out with her... no, it was not enough.

    Defensive wards on the Granger family home would have been ideal. Well designed, carefully installed, and properly powered, a defensive ward could turn nearly any building into a veritable fortress, but from what Harry understood from his research on the subject, such wards took time to emplace. While simple wards could be cast on the fly provided the caster was sufficiently skilled, they were little more than a charm that targeted an area rather than a person or an object. A proper defensive ward was an entirely different kettle of fish.

    Any defensive ward worthy of the name was a many-layered affair incorporating many diverse forms of magic into its structure, and each of those layers required time to settle and integrate during construction. Because of those waiting periods, most defensive wards took months to emplace, and a proper job like the Hogwarts wards or the wards Harry envisioned for his Lair would be composed of tens of thousands of layers and could easily take decades to install.

    Even the most basic defensive wards, the sort that did little more than warn the inhabitants of danger and buy them a few scant minutes to prepare a defense — and consequently the sort that were wholly inadequate for his damsel, in Harry’s considered opinion — would take more time than he had before the end of term, especially since he would have to hire them done instead of popping down there to do them himself. In hindsight, he really should have put more effort into learning to ward things himself, but there had just been so many other things to do.

    He shook his head and dismissed the thought. There was no help for it now.

    One by one, ideas had come to him, and one by one, they had proven unsuitable. Harry had been slowly resigning himself to the fact that there was only the one real option that met his damsel’s conditions and kept her acceptably safe. All that remained was to come to terms with the necessity and the consequences that would linger for years to come.

    It was all very heavy, and thus Harry was quite pleased with the interruption when Abigail walked up behind him.

    “Harry?” Abigail spoke to her draconic friend.

    “Abigail!” he greeted her with an enthusiastic smile. “How are you doing today?”

    “Can I talk to you for a minute,” she asked.

    Harry cocked an inquisitive eyebrow, “Sure, we can do that. Take a seat.”

    After doing so, Abigail fidgeted awkwardly for a few long moments while looking anywhere but at her younger friend until Harry’s curiosity finally reached a breaking point.

    “So, what did you want to talk about, Abigail?”

    “Well, um… oh this is awkward!” Abigail began before sighing and taking a deep breath to set herself. “Well, I was just recently thinking about the future, and it occurred to me that I’m graduating in just a couple of weeks.”

    “Oh, yeah! Congratulations, Abigail!” Harry said warmly. “Good work on that!”

    “Thank you, Harry,” she nodded and flashed him a sunny smile before continuing. “The thing is, I was thinking about our friendship when I came to that realization, which forced me to realize that I was not going to be on campus next year with you.”

    “Oh, I hadn’t thought about that,” her friend’s voice was much more subdued as he considered that wrinkle. “It’s going to be a lot harder to keep in touch with you on a different schedule, isn’t it?”

    “Indeed, it is. Especially with the initial project you’re going to have me working on,” Abigail agreed. “That will have me traveling all over the country for quite a while. That survey is going to keep me busy for at least half a year, even with the other new-hires to help.” She sighed gustily, shaking her head at the prospect. “It’s a good thing I did so much work on endurance casting lately; casting that many diagnostic charms is going to be exhausting.”

    She shook her head and continued. “Anyway, that means you’re going to be at Hogwarts next year, and I’m going to be just about everywhere but.”

    “Yeah, I’m gonna miss you,” Harry acknowledged softly, then his expression brightened. “But it’s only going to be half a year, then you’ll be mostly back in Hogsmeade, right? That’s not too long, I guess, and it’s not like we’re going to stop being friends or anything!”

    His smile dimmed slightly as he took in the older girl’s still somber expression. “We’re not, right?”

    No! No, we’re not going to stop being friends, Harry. I have no intention of that!” Abigail was quick to reassure him, leaning in with a warm smile to give a quick hug. Reassurance delivered, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, visibly steeling herself to broach the new topic.

    For his part, Harry waited attentively. Abigail’s expression firmed, she opened her eyes, and she began to speak.

    “It’s just… well, I just had something important planned, and it’s a bit difficult to do from a distance,” she sighed. “The thing is, Harry, while it is true that our friendship is very important to me, I was angling for something a little more… significant, in the long term.”

    The young dragon cocked his currently human head with an air of childish curiosity and innocently asked, “What do you mean?”

    The older girl took in his naïve, trusting, and oh-so-very young expression for one long moment before letting out an explosive sigh.

    “I guess it’s probably for the best to just get it over with,” Abigail muttered before continuing in a more normal voice. “Harry, I am interested in you as a potential husband in the future.”

    Harry’s currently human eyes popped wide open at that.

    “Before you say anything,” Abigail ploughed on, not about to allow herself to be interrupted after all the trouble she’d had getting started. “I know you’re a long way from being ready to make any serious decisions on that front, but I wanted to put all my cards on the table before I left.”

    “I’m not willing to start anything right now, our ages are too different, and more importantly you are much too young at the moment for that to be in any way appropriate,” she continued in a rush, “but in a few years, we will both be older and that age difference will mean very little. I like you as you are now, Harry, and I see a lot of potential for that to deepen into something more as you as you get older.”

    With her piece said, Abigail fell silent.

    “Um… thank you?” Harry managed after a moment or two of shocked silence. “I mean, that’s really flattering, and I like you too, Abigail, but, um… I don’t really know what to say…” He frowned uncertainly, “What did you want me to do?”

    “Mostly, I just wanted you to keep me in mind for that role as you get older,” Abigail explained. “I won’t be around with you at school, and I wanted to make sure you didn’t forget me in favor of the other girls who will be closer at hand.”

    “I’m not going to forget you, Abigail!” he protested, mortified at the very idea. “You’re my friend, and I don’t forget friends!”

    “I know that, Harry,” she assured him, “but if I hadn’t said anything you would’ve had no reason to think of me in a romantic light when the time came for that sort of thing. I just wanted to make sure that, as you do get old enough to think of such things, you don’t make any hasty decisions without giving me a fair shake.”

    “Oh... I guess that makes sense,” the young dragon slowly nodded as he rolled the idea around in his head. “So, you want me to promise to talk to you before I do anything like that, then?”

    “Before anything that would preclude us building such a relationship in the future, yes,” she clarified. “I’m specifically not asking for a promise of future commitment, just a promise of consideration, and of course that promise would be reciprocal. If my interests were to change in the future, I would talk things over with you before making a commitment, too.”

    Harry thought about that for a long moment, carefully considering the deal from every angle he could imagine, just as Mr. Slackhammer had instructed him to think through such things.

    “So, we would be agreeing to hold off on any romantic-type stuff with anyone else without discussing it between the two of us first?” he summarized.

    “That’s it, exactly,” Abigail agreed.

    Harry slowly nodded as he considered the idea.

    He might not really get the whole kissing and making-babies thing, yet, but the young dragon knew quality when he saw it, and Abigail had that in spades. She was already pretty awesome as a friend, and he had no doubt that when he was old enough to really wrap his head around the whole thing, she would prove to be at least as awesome in that regard.

    He also knew investments, and the deal Abigail had offered, if he understood it correctly, was essentially the equivalent of a stock option, a guaranteed opportunity to buy in the future if conditions proved favorable. He could see no downsides to such a thing, and if she were willing to offer it for the price of a conversation — a conversation that he would likely seek out anyway, for her advice if nothing else — he would be an utter fool to pass it up.

    While Harry might be young and at times arguably a tad foolish, he was not nearly foolish enough for that.

    “That seems like a fair deal. I agree to those terms.”

    Deal!” Abigail agreed immediately, sounding quite relieved about the whole thing.

    Although come to think of it, the course of action he had been considering when she arrived was just the sort of thing that required one of those conversations. In fact, he probably ought to address that right now; he could use some advice, anyway.

    “Um, that reminds me, Abigail,” he began, “there’s something I’ve been looking at that we should probably talk about.”

    4.9.7 Damage control

    “What’s that, Harry?” she asked, her previous giddy relief suddenly freezing into an icy lump of foreboding.

    What had he been working on that their previous conversation could possibly have reminded him of?

    “You know how the professors and I are going on a trip at the beginning of summer?”

    “Yes…” Abigail nodded slowly.

    “Well, Hermione insisted that she was going to go home, instead,” he explained. “So, she’s going to be back at home while I’m across the Atlantic, and I’m kinda worried about her. I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep her safe while I’m gone.”

    “Have you told her about the risks?” she asked immediately, concerned for her bushy-haired friend. “I know not all muggleborn get disappeared when they’re away from school, but enough do.”

    “I did, but she insisted that she wanted to spend time with her parents,” the dragon averred. “She wouldn’t budge on it.”

    “Then take her parents along for the trip,” Abigail suggested immediately. “You said it would last a month, right? After a month traveling together, she’ll probably have had her fill of her parents’ company and be ready to get back to school.”

    “Yeah, I suggested that, too.”

    “And she refused?” Abigail surmised.

    Harry nodded glumly.

    Abigail let out an exasperated sigh, raising a hand to pinch the bridge of her nose in a futile attempt to ward off an oncoming headache. “I suppose you want me to talk it over with her?”

    “If you want to try, that’d be great!” Harry brightened momentarily before he seemed to deflate. “I kinda doubt it’ll work, though. Hermione can be really stubborn about things sometimes, and I think this is going to be one of them.”

    “What do you plan to do if I can’t convince her?”

    “I’ve been looking for options for the last week, and the only thing I can see working is to take her on as a retainer,” the young dragon explained. “That would publicly mark her as mine, so I could legally retaliate against anyone who tried anything, and everyone would know it. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can think of.”

    “A servant contract!” Abigail yelped before leaning closer to hiss, “You know what that will look like, right?”

    “Madam Pomfrey explained it to me when I was looking into options to help her out last year,” he said with a glum nod. “I just can’t think of anything else that might work — at least not anything I can get in place on such short notice. If she’d told me about it back at Christmas, I might have been able to get some wards on her house or something, but not this late.”

    “Yeah… yeah, I can see that,” his older friend said, nodding slowly in grudging agreement. “Still, the hit to her reputation… she’d never be able to find a husband in the wizarding world if you two go this route, not one worth her time, anyway.” Abigail shook her head as she considered the matter further, “The only way you could keep it from being that bad would be…”

    She trailed off as she realized precisely why their earlier conversation had reminded him of this topic.

    “…oh.”

    “Yeah,” Harry nodded at her unspoken realization. “Like Madam Pomfrey told me back then, at our age, people are going to assume the worst one way or another, and the only way to keep things respectable is to set things up for ‘the worst’ to be a respectable thing for Hermione to be doing, which means…”

    “You’re planning to give her a silver torc, aren’t you Harry?” Abigail said in a dead sort of voice.

    “Yeah,” her draconic friend admitted sounding guilty.

    Damnit! Not even fifteen bloody minutes before… she sighed.

    Abigail couldn’t bring herself to blame Harry for this; he really seemed to have considered the situation, and this was the only way she could see to protect his friend from the unpleasantness of the wizarding world, given the unreasonable restrictions that stubborn bushy-haired twit had forced onto his shoulders…

    No, she stopped herself, taking a deep breath, that was unkind. Hermione was her friend, and she was still very sheltered from the realities of life in the wizarding world. Hermione Granger hadn’t had one of her childhood friends disappear in the middle of the night, and Hermione Granger hadn’t spent the better part of a year after her OWLs struggling to plot out a career path that wouldn’t involve getting on her knees during the job interview. Perhaps it was understandable that the younger girl wouldn’t see eye-to-eye on the necessity of being careful.

    Though understandable was by no means the same as excusable.

    Brown eyes narrowed; Abigail really ought to have a discussion with that girl about her unreasonable expectations very soon.

    “I see…” she temporized, buying herself more time to think.

    Like Harry had said, Granger could be amazingly stubborn sometimes when she got an idea in her head, and Abigail trusted her younger friend’s read on the situation. She would still try to talk the girl out of it, of course, but success probably wasn’t in the cards.

    Likewise, she couldn’t fault him for considering the drastic step of offering the girl a silver torc, the rough equivalent of an engagement ring in European wizarding culture, in the bargain. Had Granger been the daughter of another of Harry’s retainers or had Harry been much older than she was, the optics might have been different, but as it was, a silver torc would be the only way to allow the younger girl to save any face. Without one, she would be trading away her good name for safety, and Harry would never allow that to happen to one of his friends.

    Servant contracts were ostensibly intended to facilitate the exchange of a service; it was the reason they were commonly referred to as servant contracts, after all. That necessarily implied that the servant should have some sort of valuable skill. It was that skill, their ‘service’, that they were bartering for their patron’s protection. Hermione was a very smart young girl, full of enthusiasm and potential, but the fact remained that she was just that: a young girl. She was just approaching the end of her second year of schooling, and she had neither learned skills — at least, nothing worthy of public recognition — nor a rare inborn talent to bring to the table.

    The only thing she did have with which to barter, as far as the wizarding public was concerned, were the clothes on her back, or more aptly, the body under them. With a servant contract in place, it would be assumed, rightly or wrongly, that Hermione was paying for the protection of House Potter in that coin. Without the accompanying torc, that meant she would be seen as Harry’s plaything, only a few steps up from a street-corner whore... and even those few steps would only be on account of the exclusivity of her supposed clientele.

    On the other hand, the gifting of a silver torc would make the arrangement, and the associated servant, respectable. The public would still assume that there were sexual shenanigans occurring behind closed doors — there was no way around that, not with a young lord taking in an otherwise unrelated and unskilled girl so close to his own age — but the silver torc put any such shenanigans in the context of a long-term relationship, one eventually leading to either a concubinage agreement or, much more commonly, to marriage.

    Both of those presented some obvious challenges for her own plans, of course, challenges which would need to be addressed in due time, but first…

    Abigail frowned uncertainly for a long moment before mustering the will to ask, “You are just doing this to protect Hermione’s reputation, right Harry? I mean, you’re not actually…”

    No!” Harry rushed to explain. “I mean, I like Hermione and all, but I don’t even really get what that sort of thing is all about yet. I mean, I get from what people have told me that the whole marriage and making-babies thing is a really big deal and all, but I still don’t get why, and I figure that means at least I’m still way too young to be making any decisions about that sort of thing, plus, making decisions about things you don’t understand seems like a pretty dunderheaded thing to do, and I don’t want to be a dunderhead, and that’s one of the reasons why I didn’t want to do this in the first place, but I ain’t been able to figure out how to get around doing it, and I didn’t really know what to do, so I was looking for…”

    Abigail sighed in relief as Harry continued to babble his way through a surprisingly complete rehash of their earlier conversation. His denial opened options for dealing with the situation without losing out completely.

    While the silver torc indicated long-term intentions, it was most certainly not a finalized contract. If it were, there would be no reason to distinguish between it and the golden torc that would eventually take its place when a more permanent arrangement was finalized. If circumstances changed, then the silver torc could be revoked. Such a revocation was, of course, not without consequences itself, but with a little care those consequences could be managed... particularly if the torc was exchanged for another, rather than taken away outright. After a long enough period, it could even be done without any debilitating harm to Hermione’s reputation. She would still be tied to House Potter, but she would not necessarily be in the way of Abigail’s designs.

    For that matter, even if that silver torc eventually transformed from a convenient fiction into reality, it wasn’t necessarily the final word for Abigail’s hopes. While both were very uncommon, neither concubinage nor multiple marriages were strictly forbidden by law. In fact, as verbose as the wizarding legal code could be on the most arcane and obscure of topics, it had surprisingly few restrictions on such things.

    Of course, no laws had been made on the subject because such formal restrictions were generally unnecessary.

    Women amenable to the idea of sharing their man with another were… atypical, to say the least. Most tended object quite vociferously whenever the possibility reared its ugly head, and ignoring the vociferous objections of an armed, irate witch tended to be unwise, particularly for the person sleeping with her. At least, it was unwise if that person had any interest in waking up again.

    Abigail was certainly not sanguine about the idea of sharing Harry, but neither was she ready to rule out the possibility entirely... not this early, at any rate. Though that said, there was no bloody way, in this world or any other, that she was going to be the one to raise the possibility!

    She turned her attention back to her friend, who was still in the process of babbling an explanation.

    “…and then you said you were interested in me as a husband sometime in the future, and that was awesome, and I’m flattered and all, and don’t get me wrong, but I had no idea of how to respond to that, either, and I was really confused, so I thought I’d ask for your opinion about…”

    “So, you don’t intend it to be permanent, then?” Abigail confirmed aloud, interrupting Harry’s babbling dissertation.

    Harry shut his mouth with a click and shook his head.

    “Okay, then,” she nodded. “I don’t think that poses any insurmountable issues with what we were talking about earlier, but thank you for telling me, Harry. You did the right thing.”

    The young dragon breathed a sigh of relief.

    “How about we do this,” Abigail proposed. “I’ll have a talk with Hermione as soon as I can and let you know if I can persuade her to take a less boneheaded stance on things. If that works, then we can avoid the whole business. If it doesn’t work, then I’ll let you know, and you can do what you have to.”

    Harry nodded agreeably.

    “Now then, I’m feeling stressed about this whole thing, and I’m sure you are too, so…” she held out her arms in a wordless request.

    Harry, quite pleased to comply, hugged his friend with great enthusiasm.

    4.9.8 Artisan

    Later that same evening, the hissing roar of an acetylene torch filled the Lair as Harry, currently in his human shape, worked with steel. The glowing metal stretched and deformed in his hands like taffy as he shaped it into another branching structure much like the one he had gifted to Madam Marchbanks several months before. As the young dragon reached the end of a small branch, he pinched off the excess and popped the still-glowing scrap of metal into his mouth, chewing and swallowing the morsel with every indication of relish.

    Like taffy, indeed.

    In the time since the most recent staff meeting, Mr. Snape had managed to confirm that a regard gift would be appropriate for their coming meeting with the Confederacy leadership, and Harry had volunteered to take care of it. Of course, Hermione had thrown a spanner in the works with her insistence on going home for the summer, which had delayed things, but now that Abigail was handling the next steps on that mess, Harry had time enough to work on other projects for the first time in nearly two weeks.

    Unlike his previous bonsai model, this one was nearly as tall as Harry himself... in his human form, that is, and it was consequently a fair bit more work to build. Of course, this time around, Harry also knew what he was doing, so the process was going much more quickly than it had the first time.

    Soon, he would finish the sculpting, and then he would begin adding the ‘antenna’ inlays and the runic ‘leaves’. Probably another day or so of work by his estimation. Then it would be time to add Suze’s carving work for the base — already done except for the final fitting to the tree’s ‘trunk’ — and another bit that Mrs. McGonagall was working on, and then the regard gift would be complete. Barring unforeseen difficulties, it would be ready in plenty of time for their trip.

    After that, he needed to pack his personal luggage for the trip. Mr. Snape had said he was handling logistics for them all, so that luggage consisted almost entirely of books to keep him from getting bored. Harry didn’t think it would be particularly boring, but Mr. Snape had insisted.

    That had been an odd conversation, Harry thought as he paused to reheat the workpiece.

    Having Mr. Snape of all people insist on someone keeping themselves entertained was unusual, to say the least. The potions master held himself aloof from such frivolous considerations whenever possible. Of course, the truly odd thing was that it made sense in context. Those normally pointless frivolities would serve an eminently practical purpose during the coming trip, hence Mr. Snape’s uncharacteristic interest in the topic.

    As the dour man had explained, young children would typically spend at least part of any long trip, be it by plane, by train, or by car, sleeping and “giving the adults responsible for them some blessed relief from their usual puerile antics.” For Harry, this was unfortunately not a viable option, not with most of the trip taking place in enclosed vehicles. Harry still couldn’t maintain his shapeshift while asleep, and the sudden accidental appearance of a dragon inside a car or plane, especially one whose interior was decidedly smaller than said dragon

    Well, it just didn’t bear thinking about, really.

    In any event, it made the materials he chose to take along to keep him occupied, productive, and above all awake, a thoroughly necessary bit of kit. Thus Mr. Snape had suggested that it would be best to err on the side of caution and take some extra along. The dour man had even warned Harry that he was packing an air-horn himself as backup for that purpose; had looked positively gleeful at the prospect of using it, too.

    The young dragon smiled at the memory as he set the torch aside, his workpiece once more glowing a cheerful orange, and got back to work.

    It was good to see his friends happy, even if it was at his own expense. Of course, he might have felt differently if it had been a credible threat, although Harry hadn’t felt the need to inform his friend of his error. The air-horn wasn’t very loud at all by Harry’s standards. It wasn’t even as loud as his rifle, and Harry was hardly bothered by that.

    Heck, he could growl louder than either one; that could get loud enough to knock the squirrels out of the trees, which was really funny even if he didn’t do it so much anymore.

    The young dragon frowned.

    The sight of Suze, temporarily deaf and bleeding out her ears from her ruptured eardrums had been more than enough to teach Harry to be more careful, even if Madam Pomfrey had been able to fix it right quickly and Suze didn’t hold a grudge.

    Now Harry was much more cautious about that sort of thing.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2020
    udkudk, Corvus 501, Karion and 140 others like this.
  28. stads

    stads I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    nice chapter thx for writing it
    wonder if the goons will back off them self if they see the collar on hermoine's neck
     
    Damnedmatt likes this.
  29. Korfayron

    Korfayron Making the rounds.

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    I'd love to see Abigail coming down like a tonne of reality on Hermione informing her of the statistics of muggleborns who cease to exist and the exact nature of the danger that is likely coming after her.
     
  30. Ayashi

    Ayashi Well worn.

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    Sadly i doubt such numbers exist in the first place. Mostly because those with the power to do such a study/census (or just order it done) either don't care about the issue, or are (ab)using it themselves.
     
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