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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. naarn

    naarn Getting sticky.

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    I'm actually a bit surprised that he's still alive after trying to murder Hermione. Didn't Harry specifically cite one of the advantages of becoming his pet as him being authorized to... proactively... protect her?
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2018
  2. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    Harry never actually found out since Hermione never told him. She just wanted to put the entire episode behind her, so she never mentioned it.

    As for the staff, well, they knew exactly what would likely have happened, and they didn't want that on Harry's conscience or ---particularly in Snape's case --- on Harry's reputation, since they need that for later when the political games start. At the moment, Hermione is Harry's pet as far as the school rules are concerned (Minerva filled out the paperwork necessary to add an alternate place of residence to keep questions from being raised if anyone looked), but she is not formally registered as Harry's servant or other official dependent with the Ministry for the reasons Harry outlined to Mr. Granger in 2.10.6. There's a bit of legal ambiguity there which they'll have to clear up before Harry's legal grounds for killing Draco where he stands in retaliation would be completely airtight.

    In any case, as far as Harry knows, Hermione was just feeling kind of off for a week at the time (as he mentioned when defending himself for not sharing the Shakespeare pensieve memories in 3.4.1) and she never explained why.
     
  3. Mashadarof402

    Mashadarof402 Versed in the lewd.

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    I must admit some curiosity to the time when The Boy Who Lived becomes known as the Boy Who Ate.

    And everyone still doesn't know he's a dragon, so the assumption is that he overpowered the big bad dark lord, put on a bib, then pulled out a steak knife and fork before noshing down on him like prime steak.
     
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  4. Syphi

    Syphi Making the rounds.

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    Are we waiting on 'The-Boy-Who-Canibalized' then?
     
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  5. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    If you are, then you'll be waiting longer than I'll be writing.

    Any devourings of humans or similar beings are going to be like the one at the end of Harry's first year, in the heat of the moment with Harry in his dragon form.

    This Harry was originally patterned off Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes --- think 'little kid pretending to be a T. rex' not Hannibal Lecter.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2018
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  6. Lurm

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

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    Aight, so it should be caught up to Yahoo now.
     
  7. Darksnider05

    Darksnider05 Making the rounds.

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    I never understood why Snape so was white washed in this story. The man is a former terrorist and bigot, every time he talks in this story all my brain screams is "says the terrorist".
     
  8. Sigmeister Admiral

    Sigmeister Admiral Know what you're doing yet?

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    Probably because the setting, being a Shadowrun prequel, is far different from canon anyway. For all we know Snape spent his entire time as a Death Eater in a depressed, nihilistic haze of “I’ll help Voldemort burn down the current order and then backstab him before he can build a new one” and didn’t even twig that the prophecy might pertain to Lily’s child until after he’d given Voldemort the information. The fact that he’s choosing to avoid any sort of relationship specifically to ensure the Snape bloodline dies with him to spite his father shows he’s definitely a different character to canon.
     
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  9. D King Hecht

    D King Hecht Getting sticky.

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    I think you may have been reading to many bash fics.
     
  10. Extras: Character Extras: Snape's Backstory
    Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    In canon, Snape was an ass that refused to grow up and made some utterly reprehensible decisions in pursuit of those childish grudges. In this setting, he's an abrasive jerk lashing out at a system that greatly deserves lashing out at while making some major mistakes along the way.
     
  11. Darksnider05

    Darksnider05 Making the rounds.

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    So has Harry asked about his parents or heard anything about them that was positive in this story? Can't really search as the pages load terribly.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2018
  12. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    So far, he's only asked about where his mother was buried (2.7.6), and then, only in response to seeing how Hermione and her mother interacted.

    As for information, he neither knows very much --- good or bad --- about his parents, nor has the question yet occurred to him as something he should ask about. So far, Harry has been very much involved in his quest to be the best dragon he can be which involves the present and future concerns, rather than the past.
     
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  13. wichajster

    wichajster Know what you're doing yet?

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    I would not consider Snape to be white washed. He IS a terrorist, is not even attempting to improve things in meanwhile and is ridiculously childish. For example he has massive amount of money and instead spending it on, say, paying Hogwarts fees for Muggleborn or for preparing his planned revolution he spends it to spite Malfoy.

    Also, while understandable, his preferred methods tend to make situation worse rather than better.

    It is worth noting that while magical UK is horrible, it is still described as much better than alternatives. And Snape is actively working to undermine it. I would not call it a great strategy.
     
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  14. megamiaouh

    megamiaouh Getting sticky.

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    It fits Shadowrun themes so I have no real complaints.
     
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  15. naarn

    naarn Getting sticky.

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    And Ron never mentions it? And Theo never mentions it? And the other Weasley's never mention it? And the student body as a whole never found about why Ron had detention forever and/or why Draco was in medical for an extended period of time? That doesn't really make sense to me.
     
  16. nyanaeve

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

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    harry don't live in the castle so interaction with students is minimal and generally school related, so gossip and casual friendship are probably not is thing
    only author fiat make the dragon find you otherwise you go the dragon ;)
     
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  17. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    Oh, no, those circumstances were definitely all over the school, as in, everyone was talking about how Ron and Draco got in a fight and Ron managed to kick Draco in the crotch so hard that Draco lost a testicle. It was the reason for the fight that never got around, everyone focused on the --- admittedly rather sensational --- outcome.

    People knew Ron was acting in response to Draco throwing a curse at his housemate's back, but the identity of that housemate and the severity of the curse got lost in the shuffle. Even those who might have heard something then got thrown off the scent by Draco not getting expelled --- after all, if he'd really tried to murder a fellow student, he'd obviously be expelled, right? --- so the curse got downgraded to something unpleasant enough to set Ron off but ultimately nonlethal, the confluence of which is hardly rare in Hogwarts.

    As for Ron speaking up, he is mightily embarrassed about his kicking Draco in the crotch when he was down and his father telling him that that was an inappropriate thing to do, so he's not advertising the details. Marcus Flint certainly isn't going to be volunteering more information publicly; he was after three things, getting one over on the Malfoys by ensuring Ron got off without appropriate punishment, using the injury to cover administering a sterilizing potion to Draco later to complete their revenge on the Malfoy family, and earning a minor favor he might be able to call in with the Weasleys (much more the first two than the last). Drawing more attention to the situation hurts those goals, particularly the second one. Draco isn't going to speak up and incriminate himself... well, he might have, if not for his father specifically telling him not to do so. Then between Hermione's lack of injury, and her not speaking up to let people know she was Draco's target, the full details never took hold in the public forum.

    Given that, and with the faculty remaining mum on the subject in Harry's presence, Harry remained ignorant of the details.

    Also, a bit of clarification on the in-story legality of Harry being able to protect Hermione violently which I realize wasn't particularly clear n my earlier post. At the moment (prior to officially registering Hermione with the Ministry as his to protect), Harry would be perfectly justified acting in her defense, as in, had he been there when the attack happened and killed Draco in the process of defending Hermione, there would have been no legal consequence. Retaliating after the fact would be legally problematic. Of course, had she been officially registered, retaliation against the Malfoy family would be legal --- though the Malfoys would also be legally entitled to defend themselves (the legal framework essentially reserves to the Houses the right to wage war).

    Whether or not Harry faced legal consequences however, the death would have been a black mark on his reputation given that Draco is still a child, and that sort of thing tends to leave lingering unpleasantness in everything associated with it. The faculty in general --- and Snape in particular --- are being very careful to manage the boy's reputation until he is old enough to defend himself in the public square for admittedly varying reasons.
     
  18. mpop

    mpop Not too sore, are you?

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    • Don't necro. This is against Rule 7.
    I remember reading this stuff when it was only up to the trolls. It's come a long way since then.
     
  19. Extras: Administrative Note: Note from the original author
    Doghead13

    Doghead13 Grumpy Old Scottish Biker

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

    Anyway, I came here to say that yes, Dunkelzahn did indeed ask and receive my permission to continue the fic, so let's not have any more people coming onto Caer Azkaban asking if he's plagarising me, ta very much. He asked before he borrowed it.
     
  20. 94000130 FFF70000

    94000130 FFF70000 Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    Speaking of which, have you heard from Dunkelzahn lately? He seems to have gone missing, but as someone outside the yahoo group, I don't know if anything's been explained over there that hasn't been explained over here.
     
  21. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    Still around, but I hit a bit of a snag with how to handle the first part of Harry's second year. Had my imagination run away with me earlier on this convoluted plot involving Lockhart, his plans for Harry, and their interaction with Hermione and Abigail, but I was having a lot of trouble working out how to write the other characters believably while still weaving other necessary plot threads into the schedule.

    Eventually, I realized I'm already almost 60k words into chapter 3 at the end of the opening feast, and trying to keep the detailed Lockhart subplot would probably push the story to almost that much more by the time we got to Christmas without really adding anything to the long-term story. The man's just not important enough to spend so much time on, so I've been reworking things.
     
  22. 94000130 FFF70000

    94000130 FFF70000 Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    That's understandable. Good to know this hasn't been abandoned.

    inb4LunaknowsHarryisthedragonandaskshimtocarryheroff
     
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  23. preier

    preier Know what you're doing yet?

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    Nice to see you back mister president. A minor nitpick about Snape's backstory vs chapter content : he refers to his father's death as protecting Lily, who had determined that Snape's was abused by said father. Lily would thus have been in contact with his father, which could not be allowed

    Nothing major but I rather liked it and was sad to see it disappear
     
  24. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    I didn't think the two stories conflicted with each other, though I realize the backstory is lacking a little detail that I hadn't spelled out.

    I had imagined that sequence of events to have gone roughly as follows:
    1. Young Lily begins to catch on to the fact that Snape is being abused and starts asking her friend some concerned questions
    2. Snape realizes that Lily will attempt to intervene based off his understanding of her personality, giving him the impetus to actually confront his father about the man's treatment of him
    3. Snape preemptively confronts his father to try to head off that eventual contact with Lily
    4. Snape's father reverts to form during his son's efforts, threatening the boy physically
    5. Snape's mother steps in attempting to protect her son while still unwilling to raise her wand to her husband
    6. Snape's father lashes out in anger, killing Snape's mother in the process, and then turns to his son again, blaming him for the situation in general and his mother's death in particular
    7. Snape lashes out with 'accidental' magic to defend himself, taking the man's arm off and then leaving him to bleed out
    Objectively, the situation was self defense on Snape's part and Lily was only peripherally involved, but subjectively it was quite different for the traumatized child involved in the events.

    Snape knew that confronting his father would result in violence. The conflict only arose as part of an attempt to keep Lily away from his father, otherwise Snape would probably have let the situation ride in the unpleasant but nonlethal status quo until he could just leave. If the conflict had not arisen, his mother would still be alive and he would not have killed his own father. Thus, in Snape's traumatized, guilt-ridden, obsessive mind, he was responsible for his own mother's death and killed his own father in pursuit of protecting Lily.

    As a note, I have no plans for the full description of the incident to make it into the work. Snape's backstory is there so I can keep his character straight, not to serve as flashback material. I only posted it because discussion of Snape's character came up earlier.
     
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  25. Aaron Fox

    Aaron Fox That Crazy/Not-Crazy Guy

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    Eh, I've seen scenarios where this has Lily's father help out.

    I remember in Weres Harry that when Lily brought Snape home beaten and bruised, Lily's father escorted Snape back home and gives Snape's father a brutal tranquil fury beatdown before telling the abusive parent that if he ever comes back then he will be dead... and Snape's father lays off after that. Harry reminds Snape of Lily's father in his tranquil fury state and suggests -for the safety of the school- that Harry is to be expelled.
     
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  26. Mr. Cloak

    Mr. Cloak Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    This is a masterpiece the likes I have rarely seen- and I created an account here just to say it. Well done!
     
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  27. Threadmarks: Section 3.6 - Popinjay
    Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    3.6.0 Popinjay

    Beyond the enchanted ceiling, moonlit clouds swept dramatically across the darkened sky as the returning students eagerly awaited the opening feast and the beginning of a new school year. Candles blazed overhead as Abigail picked her way through the increasingly crowded Great Hall until she took her usual seat at the Slytherin table.

    Back to the wall and two seats door-ward from the third hanging brazier, it was a prime seat by Slytherin reckoning: the blank wall at her back meant she could keep an eye on all approaches; it was close enough to the staff table for her to stay informed; but it also was distant enough to avoid casual notice from the professors. As she settled in to await the Sorting and the subsequent opening feast, Abigail nodded pleasantly to her various acquaintances nearby who nodded in return even as they made note of her unusual facial expression — a giddy smile was hardly normal for the House of the Serpents — at least not in public.

    For her part, the seventh-year wasn’t even aware of the broad smile plastered onto her face; rather, she was still giddy from her trip through the forest with Harry. Brief as it had been, the experience was amazing! It was the first time he had carried her while in his dragon form — well, it technically wasn’t the first time; Madame Pomphrey had teased her about something similar that had happened immediately after the troll incident, but she was mostly unconscious at the time, so it was the first time she could clearly remember — and it was everything she could have hoped it would be.

    Once they had escaped into the trees — and were thus completely out of view — Harry had smoothly resumed his native form and gathered both her and Hermione up in a single massively-taloned hand, seamlessly shifting to walk on the knuckles of his wings as he cradled both girls gently.

    Just like that hug back in Diagon Alley, Harry’s grip had been simultaneously brutally strong and infinitely tender. Add to that the feeling of being utterly enveloped in his presence as the forest whipped by — a breathtaking sight in the gathering twilight — and that impromptu trip cemented itself in Abigail’s mind as a treasured memory for years to come.

    Perhaps the dragon thing wouldn’t be a major issue after all.

    Unfortunately — at least by Abigail’s reckoning — Harry had made excellent time, reaching the clearing behind the gamekeeper’s hut, carefully depositing the two girls on their feet, and flowing back into human form just as the first of the thestral-drawn carriages carrying the other students arrived at the main gate of the castle. All three friends had been seated at their respective House tables with time to spare before the Sorting.

    And, speaking of the Sorting, the Deputy Headmistress had just announced the beginning of that event, prompting Donald, the disreputable looking Sorting Hat, to wake up.

    Freshly awakened, the Hat seemed rather unusually startled, glaring out over the assembled students as if it had expected a different scene, though Abigail had no idea why that would be the case. Regardless, that lasted but a bare moment before the animated headgear visibly set aside its surprise in favor of resuming its usual routine, only a lingering air of minor annoyance to mark the event.

    While the sight of a miffed hat was quite unusual, the Sorting itself was rather uneventful. Only two incoming students stood out from the gaggle, and neither had been sorted into Slytherin. Ravenclaw had received Luna Lovegood, noteworthy as the sole daughter and heiress of the only completely independent publishing house remaining in wizarding Britain. Over the last two centuries, the Ministry-controlled Daily Prophet had either forcibly acquired or otherwise driven all others out of business.

    The second noteworthy, Ginevra Weasley, caught Abigail’s interest solely because she was amazed to see yet another Weasley child come to Hogwarts. Hogwarts had already hosted two of the redheaded siblings when Abigail herself was Sorted, and she had now seen five more Sorted during her tenure as a student.

    Magical families rarely produced so many children so close together. By Abigail’s reckoning, at the time this youngest girl was born, there would have been five magical children under the age of five packed into one house — a tiny house at that, if the Weasley reputation as an impoverished House was accurate. Conventional wisdom in the magical community called that sort of scenario a deathtrap due to the hazards of accidental magic.

    The potential scenario of one child’s accidental magic startling another into their own episode and touching off a cascade of panicked magical children was a very real and very frightening one. Formal magical schooling started so much later than its non-magical counterpart for precisely that reason.

    Abigail frowned thoughtfully. Had the Weasleys taken an unconscionable risk and simply gotten lucky, or had they discovered some way around the problem?

    And, if they had, what implications would that discovery hold?

    It was enough to make the seventh-year wonder if Harry might be facing some competition in his quest to take over the wizarding world. Her friend was planning to lead with economic conquest and introduce other methods as they became necessary, but it looked like the Weasleys might be trying to overwhelm the opposition by out-breeding them.

    Abigail chuckled at the notion for a moment before she turned contemplative — that sounded like it might actually work. It’d be slow, to be sure, but eventually you’d win no matter what… huh.

    Maybe they were on to something?

    That would probably be a good failsafe plan, she’d have to bring it up at her next meeting with… following that train of thought to its ultimate conclusion brought her giddy smile back full force as she sipped at her water in an attempt to calm herself back down. Perhaps not the next meeting, then, but when he got a little older they could…

    She clamped down on that line of thought, and it seemed it was time to change the subject again. Casting about for something else to occupy her attention, she noticed the Headmaster standing to make an announcement.

    “Good evening to you all!” the elderly wizard proclaimed, his voice carrying to every corner of the room with no evidence of strain. “It is my distinct pleasure to welcome you for another year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I sincerely hope summer vacation proved relaxing, and that you are all ready to commit fully to your academic pursuits. On that note, you may have noticed a new face at the staff table. Please welcome your new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor, Gilderoy Lockhart.”

    As the room dissolved into applause, Abigail noted that the cheering had an unusually high pitch, as if a disproportionate number of girls were involved for some reason. Perhaps the man was famous for something or other? Though, she frowned thoughtfully, considering the audience… he was probably on one of those asinine Witch Weekly Most Charming Smile Awards or some such. She scoffed internally at the thought, useless rag.

    The few girls in her House who read the thing usually stuck to the Most Eligible Bachelor lists — had to choose your target carefully, wouldn’t want to sell yourself off to someone poor, heaven forfend — well, that and the makeup tips.

    The name meant little to her, though it sounded vaguely familiar — something about her book list, if she remembered correctly. Abigail looked more closely, and indeed the new staff member was rather memorable.

    A wizard in his late twenties with a medium build, flowing blond hair, and dressed in flamboyant silk robes, he was handsome if you were into that sort of thing, she supposed — she preferred a more rugged and practical sort, strong rather than pretty. Though, even if he was her type, the blond hair would have ruined the effect for her — probably for most of the current crop of Slytherin girls, too, come to think of it; the distaste stemmed from a common cause, after all.

    As the man stood up, a broad smile plastered itself on his face with a practiced air, as if he had spent hours rehearsing the expression in front of a mirror.

    It reminded her of someone.

    “Thank you, thank you,” the blond man said with the air of a man who firmly believed that he needed no introduction. “Now, now, calm down, I shall be here all year, there will be plenty of time for us to get to know one another,” he went on smarmily.

    The carefully-coiffed hair, the smug self-assurance, the absolute certainty that he was both the smartest and prettiest person in the room… that was it! He reminded her of a more attractive and genteel version of Draco Malfoy — specifically that irritating expression the little twerp wore when he thought he had the upper hand in any given situation.

    The sight of that sort of expression on one of her professors left Abigail hoping her appetite would recover by the time the food was distributed, but many of the other girls in the audience seemed to be lapping up the performance — even a few of the firsties wearing green and silver, thankfully none of the older ones, though. By contrast, perhaps two thirds of the males looked thoroughly unimpressed, among them — still standing where he had been before the new professor had hijacked his introduction — Albus Dumbledore.

    Of course, that did nothing to discourage Gilderoy Lockhart.

    “I have graciously accepted the position of Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts,” the puffed-up man continued in his overly-polished voice, satin robes gracefully trailing his extravagant hand movements. “It presented an excellent opportunity for me to pass at least some few of my many skills on to the younger generation, a long-standing goal of mine — which many of you may have read in my autobiography, Magical Me.”

    Wait, that title — that was on the reading list for this year! That was where she had seen his name — he’d written half the book list! And one of those books was apparently the man’s autobiography.

    With that new revelation in mind, Abigail’s eyes narrowed at the pompous and self-serving monologue. She had already tagged the man as a self-important fop, but he might still have had something to teach — talent came to all sorts after all. If he was merely treating this as an excuse to sell more of his books to a captive audience, though… well, she would have to wait and see what he was like in class, but this augured poorly for her NEWT in Defense.

    While Abigail had been thinking, Lockhart had continued with his performance, somehow managing to mention seven of his own books in the short interlude. Minutes passed as the dandy droned on with his book promotion masquerading as an introduction only to have his spotlight quietly and unintentionally stolen by a small figure entering through the main door and catching increasing amounts of attention from the student body as it purposefully made its way across the Hall.

    The visitor — only slightly taller than the recently-Sorted first-years who were still hungrily awaiting the end of Lockhart’s overlong introductory speech and the subsequent arrival of the food — was a sharply-dressed goblin carrying a leather portfolio in one hand and a wizarding camera hanging about his neck. As he made his way towards the Hufflepuff table, more and more of the students turned their attention to him until Lockhart was nattering away almost unnoticed in the background as the goblin came to a stop next to Harry Potter.

    Abigail’s currently human-shaped friend turned to the goblin and offered what appeared to be a warm greeting — the details of which were unfortunately inaudible from across the room, drowned out by Lockhart’s ongoing speech — before accepting the leather portfolio. She saw her friend’s wonderful green eyes widen as he examined the contents and a broad smile stretch across his face only for the goblin’s camera to flash as he took a picture of the boy’s reaction.

    It figured it would be the flash of a camera that was enough to finally catch Lockhart’s attention.

    “Mr. Potter!” the man protested, sounding horribly put out but somehow still managing to smile at the same time, “This is hardly the time for a photography session. It is very rude to interrupt.”

    As the Headmaster chuckled quietly at the irony of that statement, Harry looked up in bewilderment — not having noticed the flash due to his intent focus on the contents of that portfolio. “What photography session? Corporal Steelhammer was just delivering something for me,” as Harry looked up, he saw the camera the goblin in question was still holding, and his gaze narrowed suspiciously only to be hit with another flash. “Hey! What are you taking pictures for?”

    “Orders, sir,” the goblin said simply. “The Vice-Chairman requested pictures of your reaction to the completion of your first major acquisition.”

    “Really?” the young dragon asked.

    “It is something of a milestone, sir,” the goblin explained. “I understand humans do similar things in certain circumstances — graduations, weddings, and the like.”

    “Oh, okay,” Harry said, nodding agreeably before dismissing the issue. “So, everything is finalized?”

    The sharply-dressed goblin nodded, quiet voice carrying clearly in the suddenly silent Hall, “Yes, sir. As of ten o’clock this morning, the publicly held Hogs Haulage, PLC has been dissolved and reincorporated as Hogs Haulage, Ltd. under your sole ownership, sir.”

    That revelation had every eye in the Great Hall focused on the tableau of boy and goblin.

    “Good,” the boy-shaped dragon nodded firmly, “and the new personnel?”

    “Are you certain you wish to allow such information into the public sphere, sir?” Steelhammer glanced significantly around the crowded room.

    “It shouldn’t be a problem as long as you don’t mention names,” Harry waved off his concerns. “It’s not like there’s a competing magical rail company at the moment to try to hire them out from under me.”

    “Very well,” the goblin acknowledged. “In that case, I am happy to report the new personnel mostly confirmed, sir,” Steelhammer reported. “Four are currently out of contact, but we anticipate confirmation within the next two days, possibly a week for the one currently employed in the PRC. After that, it will be a question of waiting out their current contract requirements — management should be ready within two weeks; the engineering personnel may take a month or two. When they arrive, we will alert you.”

    “Great!” Harry replied enthusiastically. “Thanks! And please pass my thanks to Mr. Slackhammer, too.”

    “Of course, sir,” the sharply-dressed goblin acknowledged before turning smartly and making for the door without further ado.

    The goblin managed to make it out of sight before the students exploded into conversation, previous speech forgotten. After all, the children had just learned that one of their own was now the sole owner of the Hogwarts Express, a perennial icon of the Hogwarts experience; for the moment, that far outweighed what some new teacher had to say — no matter how pretty he was.

    On the other side of the room from her friend, Abigail could do little more than watch from afar as her friend fielded questions from his friends in Hufflepuff, so instead she turned her attention to the rest of the room, reasoning the dispositions of some of the children might give her some clues to what challenges were on the way in her future employer — though, judging by Malfoy’s absent scowl as he stared hungrily at his still-empty plate, she might have been giving her fellow students too much credit. Most seemed oblivious to the potential ramifications of their classmate’s purchase.

    Seeing no benefit to be had from observing the student body, Abigail turned her attention back to the staff table only to be forced to choke back her own laughter once more. The new professor, that Lockhart fellow, was still standing exactly as he had been minutes previous, looking forlornly out over the sea of children who had forgotten he existed.

    A quiet giggle managed to squeeze itself out of her despite her attempts to choke it down. Harry couldn’t have arranged a better prank on the smugly self-important dandy if he had tried!

    It was much funnier than anything the Weasley twins had managed over the years, to Abigail’s way of thinking. In fact, their reactions to being upstaged would be sure to be memorable. Her gaze flitted over to the Gryffindor table searching out the redheaded menaces to get a look only to find… nothing.

    The twin menaces were nowhere to be found!

    Abigail frowned. Come to think of it, she hadn’t seen the Weasley twins at all during the train ride, nor during the Sorting. She did see their elder brother who seemed at ease, turned around from the table and talking quietly with Clearwater at the Ravenclaw table. He was one of the Gryffindor prefects, and it was part of his job to keep track of the pair. At least they were probably safe if their brother wasn’t worried about them — though it begged the question…

    What horrors were those two brewing while out of sight?

    Just as that realization began to set in, Abigail’s downward-spiraling train of thought was interrupted by a shout from one of the younger students.

    “Look, up in the sky!”

    Her eyes snapped to the ceiling of the Great Hall. The vaulted stone was enchanted to be transparent from the inside, showing a beautiful view of the night sky and the sparse moonlit clouds — and shooting across that beautiful scene, below those moonlit clouds, was a flying automobile.

    Abigail sighed. At least that answered the question of what the Weasley twins had gotten up to. It was simply inconceivable that anyone else could be driving that car in this situation.

    It was quite the spectacle, but as the seconds ticked by, Abigail had to wonder — what was the punchline?

    Then her eyes snapped shut as the night sky lit up like high noon.

    3.6.1 Ungraceful arrival

    Clouds raced across the moonlit sky as the twin brothers drew close to the end of their harrowing voyage.

    When the twins had decided to ‘borrow’ the family car, they hadn’t realized just how much of an ordeal they were setting themselves up for. It had begun with their take-off from the alley. Despite the brothers’ experience with brooms, the enchanted saloon was an entirely different animal.

    Broom flight was intuitive, essentially involving hauling the end of the broom around where you wanted to go and letting the enchantments do the rest. Advanced broom handling involved ‘willing it’ to go where you wanted and as fast as you wanted it to go there. A good broom responded so quickly and so intuitively that it might as well be an extension of the rider’s body.

    By contrast, the Ford Anglia handled like a pregnant whale swimming through a sea of treacle. Lateral steering used the steering wheel just like it did on the ground; speed was controlled by the accelerator, just like it was on the ground; but altitude was controlled by means of shifting gears into either ‘up’ or ‘down’ and using the accelerator. Of course, that meant that you couldn’t control your forward speed while changing altitude — a nuance which Fred learned by trial and rather distressing error while attempting to fly for the first time in that narrow alley. To make matters worse, pitch and yaw — not that the brothers knew enough about aviation to know the proper terms — were ‘controlled’ by not turning too fast and hoping for the best from the cobbled-together stabilization charms.

    All told, the control schema led to more than a few hair-raising mishaps early in the flight.

    Once they managed to get into the air, the main issue had become one of navigation. The Express was long gone by the time Fred and George had managed to bring their wild first flight under control and return to the station, so their original plan to stealthily tail the train had to be scrapped, leaving the twins scrambling for an alternative. They had eventually remembered that fold-out map they had acquired previously for the prank, and after managing to set down on a rooftop to retrieve it from Fred’s trunk — in the process, leaving skid marks which would greatly confuse maintenance personnel — George tried his hand at navigation.

    Armed with the knowledge that Hogwarts was somewhere in Scotland on the south shore of the Black Lake, the fourth-year applied his limited knowledge of geography — and a rudimentary translation charm the pair had learned expressly for a prank candy that hadn’t panned out — to settle upon Loch Morar as their likely destination. From there, using George’s wand and a point-me spell as a compass, the intrepid duo set out on a north-northwest heading at best speed — only to quickly realize that ‘best speed’ meant they were going to be driving for at least eight hours.

    Of course, eight hours turned out to be an optimistic estimate. George’s navigational inexperience led them to slowing and descending often to read the road signs along the way and correct their course. About nine hours into the flight, the car’s magical reservoir ran dry, leaving the aggregator enchantments to power the vehicle directly. Even with two adolescent wizards in the cabin, the demands of flight left the engine sputtering and missing strokes and the boys firmly convinced they were seconds away from falling out of the sky for the latter part of the trip.

    Those enchantments — designed to collect ambient magic from the surrounding environment and slowly charge a magical reservoir from which other spells drew their energy — generally worked well for light duty in magical areas, often serving to power magical appliances and even light-duty wards. Vehicles, however, tended to draw too much power too quickly to be widely practical. Too many of them could easily drain the ambient magic in an area to the point where the slow trickle of collected magic effectively ground to a halt.

    For grounded vehicles, this was only a minor inconvenience, but for flying vehicles… well, Arthur had confiscated the vehicle as part of his job in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Department for purposes of public safety, and he had driven the car to King’s Cross rather than flying it there for much the same reason.

    Needless to say, those enchantments were not intended for cross-country marathons through the low-magic majority of the United Kingdom.

    That said, between what little could be siphoned up from the environment and the aura output of the two mildly-terrified adolescent wizards driving it, the enchanted automobile managed to scrape by. All told, it took the boys nearly ten hours to reach the shores of Loch Morar and then another hour slowly puttering along the south shore to locate the castle.

    “Oh, thank Merlin!” Fred exclaimed from his position behind the wheel on seeing the towers of Hogwarts gleaming in the moonlight. Eleven hours of driving an unfamiliar vehicle on an unfamiliar route to a place you weren’t sure was where you thought it was while terrified that you could drop out of the air like a stone at any moment made for a harrowing ordeal. “George, next time I come to you with an idea like this, punch me.”

    “You got it,” the other twin replied, perfectly serious for once. “Same to you, brother. Where should we land this thing?”

    Fred looked critically at the castle grounds, “How about by the lake shore? There’s enough open space there.”

    “Sounds good,” George said weakly, looking out the passenger window at the castle arrayed on the left of the car. Seeing one roof in particular, spoke up speculatively. “Hey, Fred, I’ve got an idea, and it just might make the whole flying car thing worth it.”

    “What is it?” his brother asked, tiredly.

    “You remember the charms on the ceiling of the Great Hall?”

    “The ones for transparency?” Fred confirmed, too exhausted to follow through on his brother’s reasoning from the hint alone. “What about ‘em?”

    “Well, how about we buzz the roof first before we land?” George asked, mischief in his voice. “They’ve probably just started the feast by now, so everyone’ll be in there…”

    That prompted a tired grin from the driver, “You’re right, that would make all this almost worth it. I’m in.” And with that, Fred swung the car around for one last maneuver, flipping the headlights on for effect.

    As the brothers approached the castle, they grinned with renewed enthusiasm. It was going to be spectacular.

    They were right.

    3.6.2 Automatic misunderstanding

    As the flying car approached the castle, long-dormant wards roused from their centuries-long slumber. Hogwarts might have been on peacetime footing for most of living memory, but some of its wartime defenses were sufficiently specialized that there was simply no need to turn them off — they cost little to operate on standby and were unlikely to interfere with normal school activities. This one — designed to protect against magical artillery — was one such always-on ward. It scanned the sky above the castle battlements for sufficiently dense masses of magical energy, compared them to the ward’s list of allowable magical signatures, and attempted to disrupt any such object not permitted access to the castle.

    The enchantments on the Ford Anglia fit the bill admirably.

    Admittedly, there were also two authorized signatures attached to the interloper, but — unfortunately for the twins — that also fit a previous threat profile. Back in 1143, the then-contemporary Dark Lord had attempted to fool the school’s defenses by tying a kidnapped student to his ward-breaker. The rather brutal gambit had worked, temporarily taking down the Hogwarts wards for the first and only time in the history of the institution. After the Dark Lord had been put down in a suitably bloody manner, updates were made — after all, the kidnapped student back in the twelfth century hadn’t survived the impact anyway; what difference did it make whether the poor sap died from the counter battery fire rather than the final impact?

    And, so it was that a magical device, roughly analogous to a modern anti-missile battery, prepared to fire on the unsuspecting family saloon.

    However, that analogy was quite rough. Unlike their non-magical counterparts which tend to be comparatively simple in design due to various practical considerations, the complexity of magical artillery is limited only by the twisted imagination of the mind that creates it. Predictably, among the first improvements made are countermeasures for various interception methods, making the choice of an appropriate counter-spell critically important.

    During the times when such spells were in common use, the development of artillery countermeasures and counter-countermeasures was a constantly evolving artform, greatly limiting the utility of general countermeasures — the only kind which could reasonably be built into wards.

    Of course, limited utility was quite distinct from no utility.

    The seemingly decorative finials adorning the peak of every tower on the campus lit up with an eldritch glow.

    In the absence of clever solutions, the Hogwarts warders returned to the simplicity of brute force. With access to an effectively unlimited well of power tapped from the local ley lines and stored in the collection of house-sized ward stones hosted in the deepest, long-since sealed, sub-levels of the castle, the ward designers had chosen the most general, most widely-applicable method of disruption possible.

    Just throw magic at it.

    Lots and lots of magic.

    And the anti-artillery ward — abruptly awakened after long centuries of dormancy — threw magic.

    Lots and lots of magic.

    3.6.3 Look at the pretty lights

    Scattered across the campus, forty-two towers lit up with brilliant magical discharges — looking for all the world like unnaturally long-lived lightning bolts — simultaneously arcing from the towers to strike a comparatively tiny flying car as it puttered over the roof of the Great Hall.

    The enchanted vehicle shuddered under the onslaught before suddenly twisting away from its previous course and diving with previously uncharacteristic grace. The eldritch lightning cut off abruptly as the car passed below the altitude of the battlements, and the lightly-charred saloon came to a stop a few feet above the ground only for one door to fly open of its own accord as the vehicle spun on its longitudinal axis leaving the open door to hang down. A pair of frazzled and smoking young wizards tumbled out to land in an awkward, undignified heap on the grass of the castle lawn.

    As they struggled to regain their bearings, the door slammed shut of its own accord, and the car spun once again — this time emptying the boys’ trunks out of the boot in a similarly rough manner — before setting down gently on the lawn a few feet away from the them. The vehicle had hardly touched down before its horn blared defiantly as the engine revved and the rear wheels spun out, throwing sod and dirt on the two sputtering boys who has so misused the enchanted car before it accelerated off through the open castle gate and into the forest beyond with the loud crack of a backfiring engine.

    The echoes were still fading when a strident — and ever so slightly Scottish — female voice rang out.

    “Whate’er is the meaning of this?” McGonagall exclaimed as she burst out into the courtyard at a dead run followed quickly by several of her colleagues. As she caught sight of the still smoking teenagers slowly coming back to their senses, she arrived at a rough idea of the answer to her own question. “Misters Weasley! Ne’er in all my years has one of my students gone so far as to trigger the siege wards! This was several dozen steps too far for a prank, what do you have to say for yourselves?”

    She trailed off as she drew closer to the still smoking pile. “Misters Weasley?”

    She was answered by a groggy and disoriented groan.

    “I see,” the stern Scotswoman said, voice falling back into a more normal stern tone. “Well, I suppose your punishment will have to wait until we get you both into Madame Pomphrey’s care.”

    She motioned to Flitwick to take one of the boys while she levitated the other. For his part, Snape called for a house elf to handle the trunks.

    As the odd procession made their way back through the castle toward to the Healer’s domain, the twin siblings slowly recovered in a process somewhat retarded by their gentle, yet still disorienting, swaying under the influence of the professors’ levitation spells. Still, the brothers managed to come to their senses — as much as the pair was ever sensible — by the time they reached the doors of the Great Hall.

    They were just in time to hear a godawful clamor arise from within.

    “What now?” McGonagall asked the world at large as she hurried to the doorway before freezing in place, giving the pair of troublemakers a fine, if sideways, view of their handiwork.

    The Great Hall was a sea of ginger.

    Every student — barring a single black-haired, green-eyed Hufflepuff who had finally looked up from the contents of a certain leather portfolio and was now sporting a puzzled frown as he looked around the room — had been transformed into a perfect copy of either Fred or George Weasley, though none but the originals themselves would have been able to say which.

    One Fred — who was standing near the head of the Gryffindor table and looked to have been giving a speech — reached up to grab a lock of his now-red hair and pull it down before his eyes. Staring for a moment in astonishment, he then let out a piercingly girlish shriek.

    “My hair!”

    “Filius?” the transfiguration mistress managed to find her voice.

    “Yes, Minerva?” the half-goblin prompted, beady black eyes focused unerringly on the increasingly shrill Fred panicking about the state of his hair.

    “Is that…?” she began before trailing off, unable to find the words.

    “Gilderoy?” the diminutive Professor finished for her, sounding thoroughly amused. “Yes, I do believe it is.”

    “I see,” the stern Scotswoman managed, her voice oddly clipped, as if sternly suppressing some sort of response.

    “Off to the infirmary, then?” her much more obviously mirthful companion asked.

    “Aye, that we should.”

    Oblivious to their professors, the two still-levitated twins surveyed the results of their handiwork.

    “Fred,” George whispered, awestruck.

    “Yes, George?” Fred replied in kind.

    “That was glorious,” the first twin breathed.

    “It was, George,” Fred acknowledged. “Truly, it was."

    3.6.4 Tribulations of a magical education

    “Well, I suppose that answers my question,” Abigail sighed, her voice sounding quite disconcertingly different than she was used to.

    She pulled down a lock of her now-red hair to examine it in detail as a few of the remaining staff, led by Sprout and Pomphrey, worked to restore some semblance of order to the Great Hall. As far as pranks went, this one seemed fairly benign — irritating, to be sure, but not terribly damaging. Temporary transfigurations were a known, and sadly common, hazard when dealing with the Weasley twins — and magic in general, for that matter.

    Looking out over the confused sea of ginger, though, the seventh-year girl had to admit, the scope of the prank was thoroughly impressive. The twin hellions had managed to get almost everyone, even some of the staff. Of course, they’d dropped the ball with Harry, but she was happy to give the twins a pass on that one. Anything that could unwillingly transfigure a dragon of her friend’s stature was terrifying to imagine, even as a hypothetical concept.

    Imagining such a thing in the possession of the twin terrors was something she refused even to consider.

    Shaking her head, Abigail returned her attention to her plate, now thankfully filled with the usual Hogwarts fare, and tucked in. No sense worrying too much about it, the prank would either wear off or the professors would figure out how to fix it. They always did, eventually. Abigail just had to hope they figured it out before it was time to hit the showers for the evening.

    If they didn’t, personal hygiene would necessitate certain firsts she had been hoping to save for her wedding night.

    3.6.5 Staff reflections

    Nearly two and a half hours later, the four Heads and the Headmaster gathered in the latter’s office to briefly touch base before heading off to the usual start-of-term scheduling meeting with the remainder of the staff.

    “What have you learned?” the Headmaster began without preamble. They were in a bit of a hurry after all. The excitement of the evening had thrown a rather significant wrench in the works for the start of the term, and all but Pomona Sprout — who had stayed to watch over the students — had been forced to skip out on the feast to deal with the chaos.

    As a result, they were all more than a little hungry — and consequently more than a little cranky.

    “The feast was rather subdued,” Pomona volunteered. “Many of the students were understandably quite concerned about their transformations; though, thankfully, they reverted shortly after ten o’clock. Had the effects lasted much longer, I’m quite certain there would have been a great deal of panic. Do we have any idea of what happened?”

    “I know the Weasley twins did something at King’s Cross,” Minerva explained. “Though, I must confess, I was unable to follow their explanation of how they managed to accomplish the results they did using a potion of all things.” The Scotswoman shook her head. “If only they managed to apply themselves so well in class…”

    “Oh, they will,” the sallow Head of Slytherin proclaimed darkly. He had been privately fuming since he had listened in on the explanation in the infirmary. “I will make certain of it.”

    “Oh?” the transfiguration mistress asked her colleague in surprise. “It is unlike you to take such a personal interest, Severus. What has changed?”

    “Those two irresponsible, cack-handed buffoons recklessly endangered the entire student body — even many of their parents!” the man bit off the words with his even-whiter-than-usual lips, clearly incensed. “They modified the portal using a customized polyjuice variant of their own concoction.”

    “However did they manage the application?” Albus spoke up curiously as the potions master paused for breath. “As I recall, the maintenance access is heavily warded, and the security sweeps would have…”

    “They used contagion,” Snape spat.

    The headmaster’s normally calm eyes widened in shock for a moment before his expression darkened. “On the portal enchantment?” At Snape’s nod, he sighed. “Will a quarantine be necessary?”

    “For the portal? Most certainly — I have already taken the liberty of alerting law enforcement. As for the victims, thankfully not,” the dark man said, “but only by the grace of whatever deity is puerile enough to waste its time watching over this pathetic society. Between their choice of a lunar trigger and several odd substitutions I can only assume were made due to budgetary constraints, the effects will fade before the next lunar cycle can reinforce them.”

    The aged headmaster collapsed back into his chair with an explosive sigh of relief.

    “What exactly do you mean by ‘contagion’, Severus?” Flitwick asked curiously. “The term is familiar, but I am afraid the context is not.”

    “It is an obscure method used only very occasionally in potioneering,” the dark man explained. “The potion is deliberately left in an incomplete and volatile state and is then brought into contact with an active magical construct. The interaction between the two produces the final effect, essentially imbuing the targeted construct — and anything which comes in contact with the targeted construct — with the magic of the potion.”

    The half-goblin winced. “That sounds… unpleasant to deal with. Wouldn’t that burn right through most containment spells?”

    “Almost all of them,” Snape said agreed flatly. “And the effects themselves can be enormously intractable for similar reasons. For example, if we make the very strong assumption that every other part of the procedure would remain unchanged, we can conclude that had the twin menaces not used the lunar trigger — building an off-switch explicitly into the magic rather than relying on the body’s natural resistance to expel the effect over time as normal polyjuice does — the transformations would have been practically irreversible, with the contagion rewriting the body’s magic to retain its new form of its own accord.”

    Heedless of his colleagues’ collective wince, the potions master went on, “Worse yet, had the potion been even slightly more potent — a circumstance which was likely avoided only due to the perpetrators’ dismal lack of funding — the effects would have lasted long enough for the effect to trigger again on the next lunar cycle, reinforcing the effect.”

    “Self-reinforcing on a lunar trigger… so, we might have had…” Sprout trailed off, unwilling to voice the obvious conclusion.

    “Yes,” Severus said flatly, “we narrowly avoided the creation of were-Weasleys — in all likelihood complete with an infectious bite, given the volatile nature of contagion. It is still an open debate in the potions community whether lycanthropy is a naturally-occuring disease or the result of an ancient incident very similar to this one.”

    “It should come as little surprise that most potions masters go far out of their way to avoid ever even peripherally touching on the subject,” the sallow man continued. “The practice is spectacularly unlikely to work as intended simply because of the complexity of the interactions involved, and even when it does, the slightest oversight in planning can have devastating results. As it is, the Misters Weasley appear to have had several distinct aspects of their folly interfere constructively to our benefit.”

    “Where on earth did they come across such a dangerous technique, anyway?” McGonagall asked. “Given your reaction, I hardly think they would have learned it in one of your fourth-year lectures.”

    “Contagion is most often used in cursebreaking as a means of corrupting existing wards away from their original purposes, opening them up to manipulation by other, more reliable means,” Snape explained. “In that case, the targets are usually so optimized that nearly any shift away from their intended purpose will result in a simpler situation for the cursebreaker, and when the desired result is simply ‘anything different from what it is now’ even something as unreliable as contagion can be a useful tactic. However, ‘reliable enough for cursebreaking’ is a far cry from what most anyone else would consider sane. After all, most everything involved in cursebreaking…”

    Flitwick, already nodding along, completed the statement, “…is exceedingly dangerous — particularly when performed by a pair of amateurs in a crowded train station involving a portal through which hundreds of children will pass during the course of the day.”

    The room fell silent for a moment as the three Heads who had not known the stakes from the word ‘contagion’ came to fully appreciate just how lucky they had been.

    “What are we going to do with those two?” McGonagall asked, her lips thinned and nearly white with disapproval. Her initial exasperation had only worsened during her colleague’s explanation of the risks inherent in the situation. “Detention seems wholly inadequate in this case, yet I am reluctant to expel the boys…” The Scotswoman turned to her sallow-faced colleague who was normally quick to jump on any mention of expulsion, particularly regarding pranksters and troublemakers.

    The man in question’s visage twisted with a pained grimace. “As odd as the reversal of our usual roles is in this case, Minerva, I am afraid I cannot recommend expulsion. This last action, foolish and ill-advised as it was, has proven that the little monsters are sufficiently talented that cutting them off from further instruction would simply make them more dangerous, not less. They are accomplished enough to cause major damage, and with this they have proven they are thoughtless enough to barge into such course of action with nary a thought to the potential consequences. I refuse to allow any student of mine to pass from my hands in such a state.”

    The bearded headmaster spoke up from his contemplative silence at hearing his subordinate’s tone. “What then do you suggest, Severus?”

    “I shall supervise their detentions,” the dark man said, with the quietly dignified air of a soldier volunteering to face the oncoming barbarian hordes alone. “Indefinitely. They will have served their punishment when I am satisfied they are sufficiently well-trained to know better than to attempt such a thing again. Until then, I will ensure that they have no idle time to involve themselves in such behavior.”

    The Hufflepuff Head let out a long whistle. “You’ll have your work cut out for you there, Severus. Teaching the Weasley twins restraint seems a tad…” she trailed off searching for the appropriate word.

    “Sisyphean?” Flitwick volunteered from his chair.

    “Exactly,” the other two Heads chorused in unison.

    3.6.6 Advanced flight lessons

    Though the clouds still raced across the sky driven by the tireless winds blowing in from the north Atlantic, they were no longer visible from the ground as the moon had long since set, and the vast majority of the student body had settled in to their various accommodations. After a little less than an hour and still well before the feast had ended, the transformations had ended without incident, and being students enrolled in a magical school, few bore anything more than lingering annoyance at their unexpected temporary ginger-fication.

    All but one of the students went off in good spirits, bedding down quickly to sleep off the excitement — as well as the usual range of gastrointestinal consequences of their overindulgence at the feast — and prepare for the beginning of the school year.

    That one student, however, remained hard at work under the cloudy and moonless sky, awkwardly puzzling over an assortment of crates strewn about a clearing in the depths of the Black Woods.

    During the feast, the newly established Hogsmeade branch of Gringotts had discreetly delivered the sizeable contents of the last cargo van on the Express to the clearing below Harry’s Lair. Of course, without ground access to the Lair, they could take the heavy cargo no further, and the young dragon found himself awkwardly trying to work out how to get the things up into his Lair.

    “Huh,” Harry muttered into the darkness of the clearing. The currently moonless night ensuring that the Black Woods lived up to their name. “I hadn’t thought this stuff would be so big.”

    Early in the summer, Harry had gone a bit wild with his newfound financial liquidity and a few industrial equipment catalogs, buying several pieces of equipment that seemed useful for his continued experiments. The combination welder and diesel generator he’d been able to carry up easily enough — it had only been about the size of a compact car — but the combination CNC lathe and mill was proving to be more of a challenge.

    In a fit of childish enthusiasm, the young dragon had picked the biggest and best model he could find — a selection criterion which made for a very large device indeed in the world of computer-controlled machining equipment. He hadn’t realized it would be almost as big as he was when fully assembled, and even when shipped partially-assembled… well, the largest of those crates was nearly the size of Harry’s torso.

    Harry grabbed onto the top of that largest crate, one great clawed hand at either end of the massive wood and steel box and shifted the whole thing experimentally. He could certainly handle the weight easily enough — the box contained the main chassis, so it was mostly empty-space, it couldn’t possibly weigh more than seven or eight tons — but how on earth was he supposed to take off while carrying it?

    “Huh,” the dragon huffed again in consternation, sitting back on his haunches and scratching at his head for a moment before looking up at the Lair entrance over a hundred feet off the ground. “Maybe some kind of pulley so I could drag it up there? I’d bet Mr. Ronan would let me borrow some of their rope.” A glance at the broken rocks at the foot of the cliff and the soft, muddy streambed before it disabused him of that notion. Dragging precision equipment through that was just begging for problems.

    “Huh,” Harry said for the third time.

    Hermione might have had an idea, but she was already asleep in anticipation of the start of classes the next day. The only reason Harry hadn’t sought his own bed was because he’d insisted on getting his new toys — tools, he meant tools — delivered that night, and he couldn’t very well leave the things out in the open. What if it rained or something?

    “Levitation, maybe?” he muttered.

    Pulling out his wand — those auto-resizing wrist holsters really lived up to the advertising — Harry ran through the motions and levitated a small boulder from the scree at the base of the cliff. Despite the human-sized implement looking utterly absurd in his draconic hand, he managed to hold it steady for a few seconds before his control slipped, and the boulder shot off down the glen on a ballistic trajectory. Past experience told him it would probably be landing in the sound — one time he’d managed to skip one halfway to Skye.

    “Not yet.”

    It wouldn’t do to lose control when moving these things around; they were precision parts, and even the slightest bend on one of them might necessitate months’ worth of recalibration and repair, tens of thousands of galleons worth of replacement parts, or — in the more likely case — both.

    Harry was rich, but he wouldn’t stay that way for long if he started wasting money like that.

    The young dragon flopped down on the ground and let out a whistling sigh of exasperation, his irritation lending a flicker of flame to the exhalation. What on earth was he going to do?

    As if in response to the thought, another flame flared up in the clearing and chirped at him questioningly.

    “Oh, hey, Fawkes! How are you?” Harry asked, already somewhat cheered by the arrival of the phoenix.

    The living flame chirped back happily.

    “Glad to hear it,” Harry said warmly. “What brings you to visit?”

    The avian flame pecked insistently at the still-smoldering grass which had been caught in Harry’s earlier exasperated sigh before looking at the dragon leadingly.

    “Oh! Sure, we can do that,” the dragon said in sudden realization before he let loose with a stream of flame in earnest, the glaring blue-white inferno washing over the fire-bird, flashing off the damp grass below and behind the bird in a puff of steam and hammering the newly-bare dirt. Fawkes trilled in pleasure.

    Some five seconds later, the flame cut out, leaving the merrily-burning phoenix as the only source of light in the suddenly much darker-seeming clearing. Fawkes shook himself for a moment before sounding an appreciative chirp.

    “You’re welcome!” Harry replied enthusiastically. “I’m always happy to help out a friend, especially when it’s so simple.”

    Fawkes replied with an inquiring whistle.

    “What am I doing?” Harry confirmed the question. “Well, I’m trying to get these crates up into the Lair,” he gestured with one of his forepaws to the large pile of goods. “Thing is, some of them are too bulky for me to hold safely and take off with, and I’m not sure how to go about doing it.”

    The living flame let loose an incredulous cackling sort of sound before voicing an intricate series of clicks and whistles.

    “Hovering?” the dragon said with a puzzled frown. “How would that be any easier than taking off…” He was interrupted by another rapid-fire series of clicks. “What do you mean, ‘you can do that without using your wings’?”

    Fawkes half-hopped and half-glided over to one of the smaller crates before gripping one of the anchor points used load it with a crane firmly in his talons. The fire-bird then firmly folded its flaming wings on its back before both it and the crate began rising smoothly into the air. Fawkes got about ten feet into the air before settling gently back down with the crate clunking on the soft earth. He hopped off and gave a one-winged gesture that could mean nothing other than “Now you give it a try.”

    The dragon, for his part, was looking at the phoenix with open wonder. “Wow! How did you do that?”

    Fawkes chirped again impatiently.

    “‘I already do it’?” Harry repeated dubiously. “I’m pretty sure I’ve never done something like that before?”

    Another chirp.

    “I already do it to supplement my wings when I fly?” the dragon asked. “But how do I do it without my wings?”

    The phoenix hopped up again and glided to a stop on Harry’s back, right over his spine. The bird pecked at the dragon’s spinal ridge, once on one side, and once on the other, before sending a pointed stare at the green eye turned back to watch what it was doing.

    Harry thought for a moment. “Oh! You mean those not-rocket thingies Madame Pomphrey told me about!” The fire-bird gave a moderately exasperated-sounding twitter. “What? I didn’t know I was using those already!” the young dragon defended himself. “And if I was using ‘em accidentally, I have no idea how to just push with ‘em! I mean, how do I just use those thingies?”

    Fawkes nodded his relatively small head at that as he hunched his neck in consideration for a few minutes while pacing back and forth along the dragon’s spine. Harry spent the time slowly flapping his wings and attempting to isolate what he was doing with his other flight organs at the same time.

    It proved to be a fruitless endeavor for the young dragon.

    Eventually however, the friendly fire-bird let out a triumphant squawk, recapturing the attention of his draconic friend.

    The immortal flame had an idea.

    Three minutes of explanation and another two of shuffling had the darkened clearing playing host to an exceedingly odd tableau. The phoenix had resumed his perch on Harry’s spine between his wings, but now the dragon was splayed out across the of the clearing, all six limbs, neck, and tail lying limply on the grass, looking for all the world like the most terrifying rug in all of God’s creation.

    “You sure this’ll work?” Harry mumbled to his avian friend. “I feel kinda silly.”

    Fawkes gave an ambivalent tweet in response and rocked back and forth on his talons.

    “Well, I guess there’s only one way to find out,” the currently pinned dragon opined. “Go ahead.”

    And with that, the phoenix pushed once more — this time in reverse — driving the silvery dragon even deeper into the loam. For his part, Harry struggled to push back without using any of his limbs, not that he could get any purchase with them in any case. With his limbs splayed out as they were, he couldn’t get nearly enough leverage to push back against the unnaturally strong magical fire-bird pinning him down.

    As Harry fought back against the already crushing — and ever-increasing — weight of his fiery friend, he reflexively scrabbled for purchase against the soft dirt of the clearing but found none. Eventually, though, he flailed about enough to find what he was after; a slight lessening of the pressure against his breast-bone let Harry know he had hit upon the right thing to do. He closed his eyes to concentrate, and he repeated it, varying his efforts slightly as he homed in on the proper effort to exert until he finally started to consistently push back against Fawkes’ artificially-enhanced weight.

    Then, just as he managed to counter the crushing force exerted by the phoenix, Harry had the bright idea to throw as much effort as he could into this new endeavor.

    As the young dragon dumped far more energy into his flight organs than he ever had before, the edges of his spinal scales reflected a greenish-white light from the glowing skin beneath as magic coursed along either side of the ridge of his spine, and Fawkes let out a startled squawk as the phoenix was suddenly flattened against the dragon’s back by the unexpected acceleration.

    Wind whistled around the pair as they precipitously gained altitude for the better part of five seconds before Harry finally realized he was no longer lying on the clearing floor and opened his eyes — only to see the clouds spread out below him, faintly illuminated by the stars above.

    “What?” the young dragon exclaimed looking at the scene for a moment in consternation before realizing he was the better part of half a mile in the air. Harry traced a still-rising ballistic trajectory for a few seconds as he lost concentration before his wings firmed up and snapped as they caught the wind, flight organs seamlessly picking up the slack that the wind couldn’t support just as they had before, just with one small change.

    Now the young dragon could feel them.

    It was an unqualified success!

    “Thanks, Fawkes!” Harry called out to his fiery passenger, who gave a tired chirp of acknowledgement as he hunkered down on the dragon’s back to stay out of the wind and rest from his exertions even as the pair glided back towards the still-darkened clearing.

    As he settled in for a landing smoother than he had ever managed before, the young dragon’s eyes narrowed in realization, “Hey! Is that how you always managed to win in our games of tag?”

    Fawkes hopped off and shot his draconic friend an exasperated sort of glare accompanied by a honk that seemed to imply that that should have been obvious.

    “Well, I didn’t know, okay,” Harry said defensively. “I’ll definitely win next time, though!”

    The phoenix sounded off with a tired, but still patronizing, trill before abruptly flaming away.

    The dragon stared after the bird for a few moments before letting out a snort — a non-flammable one this time — and turning back to the massive shipping crate with a grin.

    The rest of the night passed with no further frustrations.
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2018
    nox, Dukem, loatroll and 128 others like this.
  28. RageKnight

    RageKnight My heresy senses are tingling

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    This is the FIRST time I have seen someone use the castle wards in a way that involves how they are supposed to work and not through "Harry did or have X thing for the wards to work"
     
  29. hyperspacewizard

    hyperspacewizard I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Woot I love it glad to see this update very fun story
     
    Obsidian Razor likes this.
  30. Pyeknu

    Pyeknu Cross-Dimensional Magical Sith GIrl

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    Good to see the story going. Nice update!
     
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