The Ambition to Fight Back

More Tumblr-spiration.

One of my biggest peeves about Harry Potter was the scene in Deathly Hollows where all of Slytherin was thrown under the bus because of one loud-mouthed turn-coat. It was the conclusion of the paper-thin, transparent archetype houses that Rowling had wrote for seven books, where all of Gryffindor was good and righteous and main character material (except Pettigrew, who hadn’t been a Gryffindor for decades) and all of Slytherin was evil and cowardly and conniving and antagonist material (except Regulus Black, except he just happened to turn good at the last second of his life), and all of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were background characters more akin to props than people.

Apparently Rowling justifies Slytherins’ objection to fighting by saying that they would have been fighting their family. That… ok, maybe this is an american thing, what with the war of brothers in our history, but that’s just not good enough to me. That seems like all the more reason for them to fight.

“Potter’s right there, let’s just give him to Lord Voldemort!”

Pansy Parkinson was pointing to the boy who lived, who’d sought a brief refuge in the long final night of conflict between him and the would-be tyrannical facist, and he froze. The Gryffindors stood and whirled around to face the Slytherins, wands drawn as they turned.

Each and every Slytherin had already stepped back twice, save the loud-mouthed young woman who was ready to sell Potter out, leaving her standing alone in the center of four houses of wizards and witches.

“Does anyone else believe we should hand over our own student to the wizard who wishes to finish the murder he could not accomplish 17 years ago?” McGonagal asked, a brow arched.

Pansy looked around to find the rest of her house staring intently at their shoes and the cobbles beneath them. “But- but it’s him or us!” she cried in a strangled voice.

A single Slytherin pushed through the crowd and put a hand on her shoulder- turning her around to face them, a queer magic user who used the terms witch and wizard for themselves on a whim, who’d been found in several parts of the castle and dungeons entangled with both witches and wizards over the years, who was widely considered an embarrassment in Slytherin, not so much for their predilections but more for their libertine attitudes about Muggles and mixed blood magic-folk. “Pansy,” they hissed, “I can assure you that there will be death this night. But it will not be a matter of Potter or us. It will be a matter of Voldemort or us. After seven years, do you really think that Voldemort and the Deatheaters can prevail when they could not kill Potter and his friends in the chamber of prophecies? In a graveyard with no one aware of his whereabouts and no assistance? Potter will live this night, and even if that were not the case, I am sick of being part of this racist, despicable house. I am sick of the people out there in grim masks spouting all sorts of anti-muggle, homophobic, sexist bullshit, assuming not only that I agree with them, but that they are right.”

The witch-wizard released the quivering woman’s shoulder, and she slumped to the ground.

“Alright, you den of serpents,” they said, turning to address the bigots and aspirants they’d dormed with for seven years. “The fuckers out there believe that lineage, or sex, or blood dictate magical power, and they’ve been a blight on our proud house, changing our reputation from ‘those who aspire’ to ‘those who hate.’ Meanwhile, we’ve just spent seven years trying to outdo a muggleborn woman who was born to dentists and is regularly called ‘The Brightest Witch of Her Age.’ I don’t care if you like it, we have empirical proof that magical talent is about intellect and cleverness, not blood or parts.” They whipped their long, ebony wand from a sleeve, “and I for one am tired of being held to such an archaic, offensive standard that would deny my mind and attribute everything I am to what is in my veins or between my legs! So I’m fighting those fuckers!”

The crowd of Slytherins murmured to one another, and looked to them doubtfully.

McGonagal peered at the foul-mouthed agitator, and stepped up to join them, “Are any other Slytherins going to join us in the fight?” she asked imperiously.

The murmured amongst themselves again, but this time one stepped forward, a young fourth year, one eye concealed by her hair, a voice that faltered unaccustomed to being raise, “Professor,” she beseeched, “those are family members out there,” she said. “A lot of us… we can’t go into that. But… we know our potions. Some of us are pretty decent with healing, especially those who often patched up the… trouble makers of our house. Let us see to wounded, we can see what we can do inside, but it’s just… not in  a lot of us to level a wand at our parents. …or sisters.”

The woman nodded, “very well,” she turned to Filch, “Escort Ms. Parkinson to the Dungeons, Filch.” She turned back to the assembled Slytherins as the crooked man put a hand on Pansy’s shoulder and steered her to the stairs. “The rest of you, make yourselves useful. We will triage wounded here. Get what will be needed from the potions room, Snape kept more supplies in his office. Those with the stomachs to fight come with me.”

McGonagal strode out of the Great Hall with three houses, and more than a few Slytherins falling in behind her, the queer-witch pushing through the crowd level with McGonagal and Potter, but addressing neither. The older witch placed a hand on their shoulder, though, “While the sentiment is appreciated, as is the convincing of your house mates to aid us, the language…”

“I got ya,” the young wizard-witch nodded, “Sorry, my passions got away from me.”

“Well, such is the liberty of youth,” McGonagal replied, “I wouldn’t say that such a speech would not have come from me at your age…”

The young wizh smiled and doubled their speed as the army neared the bridge, crossing it eagerly as Deatheaters began to ready themselves for the battle to be rejoined.

They can’t remember which side cast first in the second stage of the war, but they remembered every familiar voice, every seen-before boot, every cloak-clad body she’d seen elsewhere. The witchard shouted in gleeful fury as they spun and dodged and threw spells. They, being a Slytherin and famously under-trained in it, were never skilled at the Patronus charm, but they found themselves making a new memory, a memory of standing up to every hateful wretch she’d had to take tea with, had to listen to as they were lectured about the inadequacies of half-bloods, had to bite their tongue to keep from raging against the homophobic slurs of, of blasting handsy “uncles” in the fork for every pinch of their ass, and in the heat let loose an explosive cry of EXPECTO PATRONUM! and marveled as an immense basilisk of silver light, crowned with crest and horns and a wide hood rimmed with spines spreading from it’s neck slithered from the end of their wand, hissing and rasping and sending Deatheaters flying with deft swipes of it’s luminous tail, the King of Snakes sending the servants of the pretender to the throne sprawling.

Inside the Great Hall, Slytherins mixed potions and worked with Madam Pomfrey to administer aid. They rubbed salves in, coaxed people into drinking bitter brews, and bandaged wounds. At first, wounded students could only remember every cup of pumpkin juice they’d drank that’d been hexed by a Slytherin, and hesitate. But little by little, whether due to pain, or shock, or horror, they trusted in the new leaves turning over, and every sip redeemed the house’s reputation that little bit.

The Slytherins, for their part, kept their heads down and focused on the matter at hand, trying to block out the shouts outside the walls. Everyone of them could hear the cries of family and friends all too clearly, even if it was imagined, and shut their eyes as they stirred and cut and poured. Some pleaded that their family be brought in to be healed too, others told the fighters that the people who birthed them could be left to rot like the refuse they’d decided to be.

As the queer-witch fought, they also thought about those vast halls that would lie empty and filled with all sorts of magical goods–not everyone in Slytherin had trust funds, some had ambitions to acquire wealth as well as power.

But most of all, they aspired to topple the hateful upper echelons of Wizarding Society, and repay every injustice they’d ever given.

Transgressive–Valren

Valren fell into a chair in the dim tavern, and rifled through their bag, pulling out parchment and a quill. They hardly looked up as a server approached, “Mead, please.” Valren sighed as they scribbled. A potion of Altered Visage would cost 5 silvers, but only last about ten minutes. If they bought a more expensive one, they could be disguised for an hour’s time, but the potion would cost 30 silvers.

“Sorry boy, the temple of Hestic only accepts women as students.”

A temple course was easily within that duration, but they’d also need to keep up appearances throughout the day. If Valren was lucky, they could get a three hour potion, but it would cost nearly 100 silvers, and they’d need eight of them a day. If Valren learned how to brew the potions the materials would only cost half that, but 50 silvers a day is still a lot of money.

And a temple to a goddess of magic is not a place to expect to be lacking in magical detection.

Valren stabbed the quill into the table in frustration as the server returned with a mug of mead for them.

“Here you are, sir. 2 coppers.”

“Not a sir.” Valren muttered as they fished two coppers from a robe pocket.

“‘Scuse me?” the server asked confused.

Valren looked up. They knew their stubble was already growing back in, that their frame was too gawky, their chin too square. They peered into the server’s eyes. “Never mind,” they said, pushing the small coins into her hand.

“Let me know if you need anything else!” she said chipperly, turning to leave.

“Wait- do you have any pie today? Blueberry?”

“Yeah, would you like a slice?”

“I could use one, yeah,” Valren said, turning back to their quill sticking out of the scarred table. Valren grumbled again, and plucked the quill from the table, slipping it behind their ear, the pen’s long feather mimicking the long green point of their ear. They rubbed their face, reaching blindly into their bag to produce a soft leather bound bundle of crumpled and stained pages. In a move practiced to hind brain functions, they set the book on the table face down and opened to the piece of cardstock they were using as a bookmark.

The book was scribbled with a dark ochre ink–fortunately people don’t think about the colour blood turns when it’s dead and dry–and the pages smelled sickly sweet if you got too close–fortunately the only people who knew what that smell was had horror stories from the war where they were the monsters, so they didn’t pry. Valren scanned the pages to find where they’d left off last and started scribbling notes down in mirrorscript goblese.

Their native script of goblese would probably have been safe enough in most cities, but Golan had a not inconsiderable goblin population. Mirrorscript was about the least they could do to keep some secrecy.

Fortunately they’d invested in Secret Ink and and a lens of Magic Detection. When the server set down the plate of pie, even if she could read goblese written backwards, it would look like nothing more than incredibly tedious notes from the market approval board meetings.

“Are you a wizardry student?” she asked.

Valren looked up, “I wish,” they scowled, “No, there’s precisely one place to gain magical training in this town, and it only takes people it deems to be women. Valren speared a bite of pie with their fork and shoveled it into their mouth.

The server looked around and sat down. Valren hadn’t paid much attention to her at first, but noticed now she was a half-elf, a species surely only marginally more popular around town than goblin. “And of course only a fairly narrow scope of magic,” she said.

Valren cocked a painted on eyebrow. “You want to study too?”

The light boned, oak-toned half elf nodded, “But the sisters don’t take too kindly to the use of cast off husks.” She slipped the rough-bound tome from the goblin’s hand and turned it over to look at the front, “Binding?”

Valren’s golden eyes widened slightly, just an instant, “Well, when no one wants to teach you healing or fire magic and you find a book full of summoning sigils and incantations… you take what you can get.”

The two appraised each other–the server noted Valren’s awkward frame and crafted femininity, Valren noted the stud of bone next to her eye that they’d previously taken for a piercing.

“Viola,” the half-elf said, offering a hand.

“Valren,” the transgendered goblin said, taking the thing hand and shaking gently. “Magic detection?” they asked tapping the side of their eye socket analogous to the half-elf’s bone stud.

“Less conspicuous than goggles, greenie,” she taunted lightly.

“Lots of goblins wear goggles,” they replied. “Light makes us tetchy.

Minds Turning Like Graves

It was a young shepherd who first told us, before we heard a thing.

He came running flat out into town, “the, the nec-” he gasped for breath as he stood doubled over in front of the town elder. He put his hand on the boy’s hot shoulder, told him to take a moment. Standing up straighter, he tried again, “The necromancers,” he wheezed, “they- they’re coming and…” he sucked in another breath, “Well. you have to see it.”

We heard it first. The sound of wind whistling through bones clattering slightly, a slow march step and the creak of wheels. A large white banner rose over the hill, poles clutched in shining white hands of skeletons marching before wagon with white pennants streaming from short poles on it’s corners. A group dressed in blacks and reds sat in the driving seat of the wagon, and on the walls of it’s bed, but no one held the reigns. A skeletal horse team drew it, and seemed to need no direction. It slowed of it’s own accord as it approached town, but stopped just outside the gates.

One of the spellcasters hopped down from the wagon, and straightened his robe.

All of them wore fine plush robes, so clean they shined, without wrinkle or blemish. They seemed to want to make an impression on us.

“Hail,” the necromancer said, “may we speak with the elder? We have an offer to make.”

There were murmurs through the crowd that had gathered, and a wave of fearful anger swept through it, until it dissipated as the elder stood from his seat on the wall of the town well and held a hand up to calm his people.

“I am the elder,” he said, “you may call me Jerrick.”

“Hail, Jerrick, I am Vesner. May my companions- sorry, living companions, come into your town? The skeletons will stay out here.”

“Who will control them if you come in?” Elder Jerrick asked, more inquisitive than accusatory or fearful.

“They have orders to remain here and do nothing. Doing nothing is their default state, it takes a command for them to act.”

Elder Jerrick nodded, and motioned for the watch to let them in. “Do you take tea?” he asked the necromancer who’d identified himself as Vesner.

“Yes, please,” the necromancer said with unexpected graciousness.

Elder Jerrick whispered a request for tea to his daughter who disappeared into the Elder’s house at the center of the market. “Well, it’s quite a lovely day, shall we speak out here?” Elder Jerrick asked Vesner, motioning to a shaded clearing surrounded by fruit trees.

Vesner and his companions looked around, “so long as your people don’t mind, with pleasure.”

The group sat and talked over tea as Elder Jerrick’s daughter emerged with a tray and kettle. The spellcasters explained their plan, including the provenance of the skeletons they’d brought–some were prisoners who’d been executed, others who’d had no family at death and accepted a lavish religious funeral in exchange for donation of their body, but, surprisingly, many of them were apparently entirely magically created.

We didn’t know magic could do that.

At the end of hours of talk, Elder Jerrick, who’d listened politely and quietly, only asking for clarification when it was needed nodded. “I cannot speak for my people on this. I understand that you are making this offer in good faith, and that your methods are quite apart from what we would assume. But at the end of the day, it is for them to decide whether they will accept.”

“Will you accept a skeleton, or small group of them, as town property?” Vesner asked. “They can be of great value.”

Elder Jerrick considered, and finally spoke, “let me think on that. Let us see what the people say. You have my permission to present your offer to them, though…” Elder Jerrick looked to the amassed horde outside the gate, “perhaps for space reasons, staying outside the town for that would be best.”

Vesner laughed. “Certainly, certainly. Thank you, Elder Jerrick.”

The older man nodded and shook their hands–he would later tell me those hands were quite cold–as they stood.

Vesner and his companions returned to their wagon and took a chest from beside the staves. As they opened it and pulled a table from it’s depths–far too large to have fit the chest’s apparent size–an attractive female necromancer started gathering the townspeople.

She was slight of form, but with a healthy softness. Her robes clung delicately to her body, and her hair was a bright red–in another context, it would be the colour of blood, but here, with such a cheerful smile, it called more to mind roses.

Maybe it was the rose that adorned it.

“Alright, we’re all friends here, gather around,” she said, motioning people to draw closer. “Does anyone have any particular magical training or talent?” she asked before beginning.

“I’m an adept,” Elder Jerrick offered, “I can manage a few blessings and tricks, but nothing on the order of a wizard. I’ve explained a few magical phenomena to my people now and again, though.”

“Great, just needed to know what the knowledge level was, wanted to make sure we didn’t accidentally talk down to you guys.” She flashed a brilliant, perfect smile. Those teeth were more otherworldly than any skeletal horde, just for their whiteness and evenness. A few in the crowd were audibly jealous.

“So, as you probably gathered,” Vesner said, taking the center, “we’re from the college which opened up a few days travel back–though with our horses, it’s one day’s travel. Horses that don’t need sleep are handy like that,” he stage muttered, to the appreciative murmurs of the farmers and couriers in the crowd. “We know that a tower full of necromancers is viewed slightly less favourably than an devastation beetle infestation popping up in most places, so we thought about what we could do to build some bridges with our neighbours.”

“What we came up with is offering some of the benefits of necromancy to folks, free of charge, just to take some of the mystery out of it,” the female necromancer said, “Hi, I’m Aleys.”

Another necromancer, a man of obvious ork lineage, with shoulders the size of Vesner’s twice over, and standing easily two feet taller, with a cloth over one eye, came up holding a staff and a torch-sized rod in one hand. His voice was a deep whisper, like far off rockfalls in caves. “You may call me Graf. What we decided to do was offer each household here a skeleton. We sent a runner up for some basic supplies who also did a quick count and a bit of reconnaissance,” tilted his head in theatric contrition, “Sorry about that.”

At Graf’s beckon, a skeleton emerged from the horde and walked over, clattering slightly as it walked. “One of the common misconceptions about undead,” he began, “is that the soul of the person is trapped inside. While it is true about some undead, usually sapient undead such as vampires, mindless undead, such as these skeletons, are magically animate automatons. Necromancers have used magic to converse with the dead in the afterlife, who had no knowledge of the use of their corpses in necromancy, so we can say with quite a bit of confidence that this skeleton is the shell that was used by a person in life, and nothing more.”

“Another misconception is that the undead hunger for the flesh of the living,” Aleys said. “Again, this is true for some, vampires and ghouls notably, but this skeleton hungers for nothing.” She crouched down and produced a rabbit from the chest and dramatically held it in front of the skeleton, which made no move.

“Much like an axe can be used to commit murder, a mindless skeleton can be used to destroy life.” Vesner said. “Kill the rabbit.” he commanded the skeleton passively and without interest. As the skeleton reached for the animal in Aleys’ arms, Vesner suddenly said “Stop!” causing it to halt in mid grab. “And just like an axe, it only carries the intent of the person who uses it. Hold the rabbit.” Vesner commanded, and Aleys placed the rabbit in the skeleton’s cradling arms.

The crowd’s breath held as the rabbit shifted in the arms of the skeleton, and it did nothing to the animal, even as the rabbit began to brux on the skeleton’s rib.

Vesner held the staff in his hand up, “This staff allows anyone holding it to use the spell Command Undead at will, as well as Inflict Light Wounds to repair the skeleton of any damage which it might suffer. Undead are fueled by antilife– the energy which heals a mortal harms an undead, and the energy which harms a mortal heals the undead. Would anyone like to try controlling the skeleton?”

The crowd muttered among themselves before the blacksmith, Richt, stepped forward. Vesner handed him the staff, “Remember, the skeleton will follow your command verbatim, exactly as you say.”

“How do I use the staff?” Richt asked.

“Just give a command to the skeleton with the intent to command it, the staff does the rest.”

Richt looked at the skeleton and pointed the staff at it, “Dr-put the rabbit down,” he said, with a steadiness that belied the anxiety inside him.

The skeleton bent at the pelvis, and gently placed the rabbit on the grass, and stood up as Aleys moved to pick the rabbit up and place it back into the chest.

Richt considered, and looked to Vesner, “May I?” The necromancer nodded. “Follow,” the muscle-bound man in a leather apron said, as he walked to his forge. “Can I demonstrate an action for it to perform later?” he asked.

“Certainly. We’ve ‘taught’ them to harvest pumpkins. Tell it to watch your actions, and then say ‘that is making a sword,’ or whatever you want to show them.”

Richt nodded, “Watch me,” he said to the skeleton before leaning the staff against the counter of his open air shop and picked up a bellows. He carefully stoked the fire inside, blowing air in, and telling it conditions under which to give it air or turn coals over, with Vesner’s aid. “That is stoking the forge.” Richt said. “Stoke the forge.”

The skeleton took up the bellows, peered into the forge, and gave it two short bursts of air, set the bellows down, and picked up an iron to turn the embers over. Richt stood back in awe.

“In your line of work you will need to exercise care if you take a skeleton. They could reach into a baker’s oven and be little the worse for wear, and in general, they will have no problem with radiant heat, but your forge is hot enough to cremate bone, so they will need safety equipment much like your own.”

“Can they make weapons?” Richt asked.

“Skilled labour is best left to sapient creatures, but with a detailed enough process of conditional orders, it is possible for them to produce basic weapons. Artisanry will still be the purview of yourself and other sapient smiths.”

“And they can work all day?”

“No rest needed. This skeleton can stoke a fire or make basic metal ware all through the night and into the day. The only limit will be how well you can sleep through the pounding.”

Richt considered. “What if I wanted two skeletons?”

Vesner’s smile spread across his face, a look of genuine satisfaction, “Well, the typical human requires five silvers worth of obsidian to animate. There is also the cost of the, er, material, which is dependent upon a number of things. But a simple skeleton such as this one we could create for a cost of 10 silvers, and would sell for 20.”

Richt nodded.

The boom of an explosion thundered across the town. Everyone spun in the direction of the mill and ran flat out to it.

“ALEYS, GRAF! BRING TEN!” Vesner shouted as he followed the crowd.

No one in town will forget the sound of eleven skeletons in an all out run. The clatter was deafening, and the scrape of bone on stone as they neared was like nails on a chalkboard.

“SKELETONS! ENTER THE MILL, PICK UP A WORKER, AND BRING THEM OUT, KEEP THEM SAFE FROM THE FLAMES.” Vesner commanded as Aleys chanted a short invocation and touched his shoulder with a hand that shimmered red, blue and green, a radiant cascade slowly enveloping him as he strode into the flames with the skeletons. Flames licked at his robe and feet, but were rebuffed by a thin force.

The remaining horde of skeletons were brought up to aid the bucket chain, forming two pairs of rows of their own, handing up an endless stream of buckets along two rows then down the other.

“HOLD THAT FRAME!” Vesner shouted inside as timbers cracked.

Eventually, nine skeletons carried out nine men, burned, coughing, but alive. Vesner and the tenth did not emerge until the flames had been doused, the last skeleton carrying a prone form in it’s arms.

My father.

“He was at the center of the fire,” Vesner said as the skeleton laid him on the ground between us. In the moment, with it’s blackened bones, I hated the thing, blaming it for his death, as if it were an avatar of the grave that killed with a touch, rather than the unwavering tool that tried to save him. Vesner indicated the burns over his body, “he likely died instantly, probably painlessly. I’m sorry.”

I looked at the necromancer. Then from him, to my father, to the skeleton.

“Yes.” Vesner said reading my open mind, “I could raise him. I have no skill with the gods, but his body can be animated. If you wished, if he wished, I could animate him as a skeleton, then use another spell to return his mind to him. Speech with the dead is a simple matter, we can speak to him privately, later.”

I nodded.

The town was still hesitant about using the skeletons. In the end, the necromancers let every household take a staff as they’d be useful in defending the town from rogue undead, bandits and monsters, and as a sort of receipt to claim an undead at a latter point if the household changed its mind. About a third of my neighbours took skeletons, and the town was gifted ten in trust. Richt commissioned several skeletons with more trainable minds.

My father wasn’t sure how he felt about becoming an undead. He wanted to think about it. But he also didn’t want to leave us without his income and protection. I still don’t fully understand, but Vesner created some psuedo-duplicate of my father’s spirit to place in the skeleton, and a small pebble that could speak to him in the afterlife. Vesner cautioned that though my father was a good man, he only had so long to make his decision, before his spirit was subsumed into the divine.

Murder Aforethought

Halloween, 1981

Godric’s Hollow, West Country, England

“Get Harry!” James shouted to his wife as he faced the man framed by the doorway, crackling clouds throwing light behind him.

Voldemort had finally come, the thing the Potters feared more than anything else.

Good thing they’d also planned for it. Peter may have been under the Fidelis charm, but that had it’s limits. The small, perpetually frightened man could, through the charm withstand grave torment, and never a word of the secret would be forced from his lips.

Fear of torture has always been just as, if not more, effective than the torture itself.

Lily ran into her small son’s room and swept him up. She turned, quailing for only a moment as her heart climbed up her throat in fear for her husband–but they had their plan.

In the small house’s entryway, James deftly blocked the first sickly green ray with the small cabinet that sat by the door, shedding keys and coins as it rose under direction of his wand. The might of the ray splintered it to bits as Lily’s hand grasped a large duffle bag kept under Harry’s crib and she disappeared with a loud pop.

James smiled, just a small curve, as he knew his wife was safely away.

“AVADA-” Voldemort began.

“ACCIO BUGOUT!” James shouted.

As the murderous lich finished his incantation, a large aluminium-framed backpack rose behind him and flew towards James, knocking the death-dealing just enough that the ray veered from it’s target and bit into the wooden paneling as James reached out and closed his hand around the backpack’s handle on top.

A tremendous shout of rage went up in two places simultaneously that night.

Voldemort’s thin voice shattered windows and mirrors in Godric’s Hollow as his magic was involuntarily channeled through it–a lack of control he’d not shown since he was a small child. “Four times!” he shouted to his greasy-haired companion–who was silently grateful Lily had survived and that he himself was so skilled at occlumency.

Lily fell to her knees clutching her small son as James appeared behind her shouting his rage in a voice continuing from Godric’s Hollow.

“WE WERE BETRAYED!” the black-haired man shouted, instinctively covering his wife and son and scanning for further threats.

Sirius rushed to their sides, wand ready, “Prongs!” he called, “Are you all alright?”

James fumed, but, satisfied that he was, for the moment, safe, tucked his wand away and turned gently to look at Lily and Harry. Lily nodded and stood with her husband’s hand spotting her. “We’re alright. Your plan kept us safe.”

Sirius dropped his wand as he pulled the three of them into a relieved embrace. “Mooney,” he hissed.

James shook his head, “No, he didn’t know. Remus didn’t betray us tonight…”

Worm…” the men snarled as one, as a crack echoed in the small headquarters. They rushed to the room where their childhood tagalong friend slept, to find it empty.

A disheveled man ran into the room, hyper-aware, keeping his distance from his friends and the small child. “What’s going on?” Remus asked.

“Remus, shouldn’t you be in your room? Locked?” Lily asked.

The man waved the concern off, “It-it’s passed,” he shuddered. “I-I’m fine. What’s going on?”

“Peter betrayed us,” Sirius fumed, “betrayed them.”

Remus closed to the darker haired man who was still pacing, long black coat swinging as he did. “Trust me now, Padfoot?”

Sirius looked his friend–his lover–deep in the eyes, and raised his hand to the man’s cheek, “yes,” he whispered as he pulled him into his arms.

“Is everyone alright?” a firm, kindly voice called from the entryway of the Order’s refuge.

“We’re in Peter’s room!” Sirius called out. The long-bearded owner of the kindly voice stepped into the doorway.

“And where is Peter?” Dumbledore asked of the old friends. “Am I to understand something has happened that you call him by his given name, Sirius?”

Sirius only nodded.

“Peter betrayed the Fidelis,” James said.

Dumbledore sighed and closed his eyes, “I had hopes for that man. But his fear was simply too great.”


Basically, someone on Tumblr hypothesizing a version of Harry Potter where Voldemort had gone after the Longbottoms instead of the Potters got me thinking “What if Rowling had sorted her magic system out before writing the first book?” So this is an AU fic where the Potters had portkeys prepared in the event they were betrayed. I could write more, but I do need to head out for class.

Kalan’s Story

“Kalan, child of Frelnir, Getr, and Enoin, do you understand why you have been brought before the assembly today?” Elder Richin, a tall, bald-headed man asked as he look down at me from where he perched, like a scrawny vulture, in the stands.

…why are they called stands when they are seats?

I brushed a stray lock of hair back behind my ear, grazing the raised scars of my Scarifice of Vasha, now nearly a decade past, as I looked up to him, surrounded by the adults of the town, “I believe it’s because I burnt the town’s Vashan Records when an experiment got away from me.”

More than a few of my elders stifled a chuckle, struggling to keep the solemn looks on their faces such an occasion demanded.

“Yes.” Elder Richin said, “Would you care to elabourate on what occurred that night? Perhaps you can explain why you felt the need to destroy the magical history of our people?” he cocked an eyebrow at me.

“Well, it wasn’t so much that I felt the need, so much as it kind of happened. You see, I was just trying to perform a basic conjuring, and it was the flames of the half-fiend fire elemental that set the fire.”

“Are you saying, in all honesty, that it did not occur to you that would happen?”

“Well…” I shuffled my feet, one hand clasping the elbow of my other arm behind my back, “I mean, I could have sworn magical fire didn’t set things on fire unless it was an aspect of the magic, and fire elementals and demons are inherently magical, so their flames should be magical, so… magical fire.”

Richin pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed, “Some. SOME magical fires will not ignite materials. In general they do.”

“Well, I know that now…” Richin would be tempted, and within rights, to slap my head from my shoulders for playing the petulant child if I hadn’t been rather… good to him in the last few months. He’s probably still tempted.

“Why did you feel the library was the appropriate place to perform this conjuring?” he pressed on.

“Because that’s where the books are. I had to use one for the conjuring in the first place, and I knew there could be unforeseen complications, so I figured better to use the facilities of the library and be right there to find the appropriate book to deal with whatever complications arose than to be somewhere else and add theft of a book to the whole breaking in thing.”

“Your ability to well plan poorly thought out courses of action is admirable,” Richin said, fingers having moved from the bridge of his nose to his temples. “Is there a reason you decided to summon a fire elemental, rather than earth or water or air or some other Vasha-damned thing that wouldn’t burn the building down?”

“…I didn’t want to get the books wet, blow their pages around, or put a giant hole in the floor from where the earth elemental came out?”

Several members of the assembly were only succeeding in hiding their amusement by turning it into fits of coughing or managing to laugh silently as they clutched their stomachs and fell off the stone benches.

Richin looked downwards and muttered–I could only catch the invoking of Vasha’s name. For misotheists, we share a lot of traits with the second men.

“Look, if the magic courses were at my level, rather than remedial, theory-only bullshit, this wouldn’t have happened, and it’s not like you can’t reverse the damage,” I levied.

“We’ve been over your complaints about Elder Erther’s magic tutelage. Until you can attract a master to apprentice to, that is your place. And you’re right, the damage can be reversed, and you’re damned lucky for that. If it couldn’t be, this would be a much more serious offense and the other elders would not be TAKING THIS SO LIGHTLY,” his voice rose to address the assembled incapacitated with laughter. He calmed again, breathing deeply as other elders slowed their hysterics and regained their seats. “As it stands, instead of recommending your destruction, I will be recommending your exile until such time as you can show you are not a danger to–” he caught himself as he remembered our peoples’ propensity for being raucous dangers to everyone around them “until such time as you can show you are a self-controlled danger to those around you.”

I was mortified and pissed off. Exile was nearly a death sentence. Vasharan Warriors were regularly sent into the wilds to survive on their own without support from their towns as a test of their abilities before they formally accepted into the military structure, or as a lesson when they were still young. But the town was always still there, and would usually go looking for them when the set time was over! Also–I’m not a warrior! I wasn’t trained to kill wolves bare-handed and harvest grubs! I mean, I could find some, just, you know, turn over some logs, but I doubt I’d get anywhere near enough to sustain me! A sentence of exile for a young vasharan woman with only the barest instruction in magic was essentially a round-about and stupid way of selling them into sex-slavery. Round-about because they could just put me in the damned market and be done with it, and stupid because they wouldn’t get the money!

Richin stared at me. “You are excused from the chamber, Child Kalan.”

Bile raised in the back of my throat in time with the anger rising up my spine. I faltered a moment, biting back words that I would definitely regret and searching for words that were less reactionary, “You forget yourself Richin,” I hissed with eyes narrower than an orc-helm’s eye-slits, “I may be a quarter your age, but do not forget that I won my passage from childhood with pain greater than an old man like you could ever hope to withstand,” the assembly murmured around him with a sound like the forest turning bad on a traveler at night, “you may exile me, and you may spell my doom, but you will do so with respect, you feeble old fool, or the next spell that passes from page, to these eyes, through my lips will send your soul to the gods,” I shook as adrenaline coursed up from the small of my back uttering the gravest threat our race recognized, “and, might I add, nothing of yours will ever pass these lips again.” The murmurs of the assembly turned bemused.

Richin considered impassively, “You are excused, Kalan.”

I turned and swept out of the chamber into the hot sun without like a fell wind.

I was still shaking, but tremors were beginning to still, when a throat cleared behind me. I turned, tamping down my fury, and regarded the second-men scholar who’d been visiting us to study our culture for the last month. “Yes, god-child?”

He smirked, “Not everyone outside your culture has much love for the gods,” he advised, “I was of course not allowed in the assembly, but the elders did allow me to scry over your hearing,” he pulled out a bag of tobacco and began rolling a cigarette, “It’s a shame they’re so strict about a minor, easily repaired indiscretion.” He offered the cigarette to me.

I waved it off and produced my own, “Welcome to Vasharan culture. I’ve seen starving wolves more forgiving than Richin.”

“You show promise,” he said, raising the roll-up to his lips and igniting it with a small flame from his finger. “To cast a spell from a tome, with no practical training in spellcasting? Impressive. You know, I’m an instructor at a mage’s university–do you know this word, university?”

“Larger Vasharan cities tend to have academies and universities of various types, or similar institutes.”

“We instruct our students in both the theoretical and practical aspects of magic. Even specialist students receive at least theoretical instruction in their forsaken school of magic.”

“Cost?” I said with clenched teeth as I lit my rollup from a tinder twig.

“Well, for students from wealthier families, we do charge a tuition, but for promising students who may not have much money to put forth, there are opportunities to conduct adventures and crafting for the benefit of the college. A talented pupil such as yourself might make would likely do quite well in these ventures.”

I cocked and eyebrow and leaned against the warm outer wall of the assembly chamber, “Well, let’s see what the shake out of this is. If I’m exiled, I’ll take you up on that. If I’m not, I may get apprenticeship offers here.”

The creak of the Assembly Chamber door announced a new participant in the conversation. A tall and weedy Vashar man, just a year my senior, poked his head out the door. Males of Vashar society didn’t receive the same Scarifice ritual that women did, instead burn scar tissue crept artfully up his jawline, and canvassed his neck and, I knew, most of the rest of his body. The result of Dipping, a practice whereby Vasharans were immersed in aligned water after receiving a spell which gave them the vulnerabilities of undead or fiends, causing sever burns and tremendous pain. The head belonged to a friend of mine, Miete–we had grown up together, and spent a lot of time together before he was taken as an apprentice by an older Vashar.

“You should probably get out of here, or at least prepare to, Kalan,” the young man said, “Richen’s agitating to have you exiled–at best.”

I swore and muttered a lengthy slander of Richen’s lineage and parentage–an impressive feat in the libertine society of the Vashar. “He wants me destroyed?”

“Looks like he wouldn’t object if you were slain shortly after your exile. Probably in a way that would not be the good kind of unpleasant.”

“Fuck.” I ground out my cigarette under her bare heel. “Alright, Wizard. You’ve got a deal. Let me pack my stuff.”

“I can have you out in an instant if you fear for your life,” the man offered.

“No. I need to stay to be sentenced, if I don’t it just gets worse. However, if you could get my stuff outside the outskirts of town and be ready with that teleport spell I’m thinking you had in mind, that would be appreciated.”

Miete’s head snapped around, then back outside, “they’re winding up. Looks like final points are being raised. Get your stuff. I’ll come find you when they say you can come back.”

I ran off and packed–a proffered haversack from the wizard was useful in hastily gathering old keepsakes–and was nearly done by the time Miete rushed into my chambers.

“They’re ready,” he said.

“Are they in the mood to be understanding if two young hormonal Vasharans were a bit slow getting back?” I asked, wheedling for more packing time.

“No.”

“Fuck.” I cast an eye back over my room, still needing to gather things, including some more personal artifacts.

“I can get the rest,” the gods-child wizard said.

I hesitated a moment, “Decorum be fucked,” I relented, “Congrats, Gods-child, you’re an honorary Vashar in my eyes, take particular care with the nightstand contents, I’ll be cross if you leave me at a loss for relief in a college full of people that think sex is shameful and drugs are bad.”

He laughed. “You have so much to learn about colleges… Don’t worry, whatever you have, I’m sure I’ve seen it before-” he opened the cabinet as Miete grabbed my arm to pull me out. The gods-child retched just a bit, to my amusement before my stronger friend pulled me bodily behind him.

Back in the Assembly Chamber, I stood before Richen.

“Kalan, child  of Frelnir, Getr, and Enoin, the Assembley has reached a decision.”

“No shit.”

Richen fumed at my insolence, but I knew the result anyway, so I had little to lose.

“You are to be exiled for a term of no less than five years. At the end of that time, you may approach the village as a petitioner for re-admittance to Vashar society.”

I laughed. Genuinely. “You mean re-admittance to this society. If I made it to another Vashar settlement, especially one of the larger ones, like Hetrot, you know damned well they wouldn’t care about my exile from this backwater.”

“This is not the way to make an impression on the counsel that may decide your fate in five years,” Richen lectured with cocked brow.

“Please. Richen, if you don’t die within five years from backed up testes exploding, it’ll be some other fate. You can’t expect to live much longer,” I paused, “especially when you go exiling young women with arcane potential that paid you certain favours for so long.”

He sneered, “All the potential in the world means nothing without a master to shape it.”

“I’ll remind you that you said that when you see me next.”

“I doubt very much that ‘arcane’ potential is what your future owner will see in you on the auction block, ilntr,” the bastard gloated, using a particularly rude word that would have moved me to burn his heart from his chest… …if I knew that spell.

“Well, I guess it’s time for my, what, five minute head start?”

“In light of the graveness of your crime,” Richen began to my gritting teeth, “we have decided your head start will be 45 seconds. At the end of that time, if you are within the village limits, you will be dealt with at the discretion of he who finds you.”

I smirked, outwardly, but inside I was just a bit panicked. 45 seconds would be close, so it’s a good thing I already packed. “You wish,” I said, pumping my fist along an imaginary shaft as I slowly turned and padded out of the Chamber.

Outside I broke into a dead run. Locking eyes on the wizard, I put every ounce of strength I had into my legs–it wouldn’t be much longer before I had some of the more violent members of the village looking for me–“NOT FAR ENOUGH!” I shouted to him.

“Shit. Where are the bounds?” the wizard wondered as I ran up to him, grabbing his shoulder in one hand and my bag in the other.

Teleportteleportteleportteleport” I raced through clenched teeth.

As the wizard started the gestures I could see thick-bodied Vashar men fondling their groins as they lazily walked my way.

We faded from that spit of land just as they neared grabbing distance.

Another Tumblr Inspiration–“Are gods really gods if no one believes in them anymore?”

Marissa Dakin posed an interesting question– “Are gods really gods if no one believes in them anymore?” –followed by small vignettes imagining the Greek gods in modern times, immortal, but no longer gods, trying to make their way in this world where no one believed them, they had no more power, but were still their domain at their core.

Her Hades sounds more like Ares, as he usually does because people still fear death, and the personification of it is seen as vicious. The cause rather than the result.

So I wrote this, inspired and moved by the world she painted.


Hades steps into the small washup area in the basement of the coroner’s office and sighs.

It’s winter, his wife is away, visiting her mother down south. No one understands arranged marriages anymore, but he always tried to treat her well, and there was love that blossomed there. But her mother feared her lost to his realm forever. So in the winter, she flew south to her mother, and he stayed north, where his job was.

An involuntary laugh, dry like a crypt, escaped his throat in a rasp. If only Demeter had known what it would come to.

Hades washed his hands, toweled them off, wiped the remaining moisture on his scrubs, and sat down, flicking on the small radio in what passed for an office.

A song came on and he instantly recognized the voice. A tear came to his gold-flecked eye as he retrieved a pomegranate from his lunch bag. Orpheus was the only who’d done truly well. Even after a car crash that nearly crushed him, he’d moved onto a modest success as a singer. Even Apollo had to envy as Orpheus’ tracks sold in small numbers but wide distribution. Hermes had helped build the website.

“It’s all information,” the messenger had said, “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” Hades mouthed as Hermes’ voice echoed in his head.

He slipped a pomegranate seed between his lips, the taste bringing vivid memories of Persephone. It was always hard to truly remember her in the winter. Things were different now, though. There’s nothing quite preventing him from visiting Demeter with her, they’re just immortal, not bound by divine law anymore. He could go.

If he was wanted. If his mother in law didn’t do as much as she could to keep him from her daughter’s mind in the winter.

He was needed there, in his office, anyway.

He may no longer rule the underworld, but he still has his duty to the dead. He no longer oversaw an eternal lake of souls, or the Elysium Fields—now he watched a dimly lit chamber of little doors, each holding or waiting to hold a body to be examined. He performed no small number of the examinations himself, but mostly he was there to watch over them, and receive any bodies brought in during the night.

Kharon had long ago traded his boat for a van. Instead of ferrying the dead to the underworld, he now couriered corpses to the morgue. He had another job as a hearse driver too—thank someone for the immortal lack of sleep-need.

Hades hated the night shift. He never took glee in his role, it was a duty, and one his brother was too vain to step up to. But now he had to watch as Kharon brought in women beaten to death by their pimps or husbands or rapists, children caught in crossfires, boys not quite past childhood killed on one side or another in those crossfires… no one seemed to die peacefully in the night, or those who did seemed to always wait till morning. Family discover them in their beds, in chairs in front of TVs, or even witnessed them just- fall, and not move again, and they called the coroner and arranged for the body to be picked up in the morning. Only victims were brought in at night, after the police had come and canvassed and said it could be moved.

Sometimes, when it was a slow night, Kharon would sit with Hades on his break, or when he had no work to do. They would talk, play old games long forgotten by mortals and undiscovered by archaeologists, reminisce. Kharon had no wife in the before time, and it wasn’t easy for him to date mortals now—the gods may not be gods anymore, but he still carries the unnerving presence of death.

Sometimes he would see Hecate or Melinoe as he picked up a body. Kharon would smile, and then immediately wonder if he should be smiling. Melinoe always quickly turned away and left, Hecate would acknowledge him, but give no indication of whether the smile was appreciated or not.

Hades would try to advise his friend as best he could, but then- he married Persephone when courtship was asking the father for the woman’s hand and nothing else, so there was only so much help Hades could be.

In the winter, Hades would vacillate wildly between warmly welcoming Kharon in on these nights, and quietly saying he needed to be alone.

On those nights he would sit, and listen to the radio play Orpheus, and eat pomegranate seeds—and be glad that only the dead knew the silver tone of his tears.

 

Wexford University of Wightcraft

Discussions on the gaming forum I  frequent have me thinking about the Magic School genre. Personally, I like the idea of magic instruction being handled by higher, rather than primary or secondary education, since this allows for magic folk who are competent in the mundane world.

I don’t want to explain everything, but I figured it’d be good to explain that much.


“School full of fucking magicians, and they’ve got me on a fucking plane,” I grumble softly as I stand in line for security, shifting the weight of my body and my bag from one supporting leg to the other. As I neared the tables, I started working my feet out of my loosely tied canvas shoes before stopping as the speakers above squawked-

“Holders of maroon and chartreuse checkered tickets, please see the security attendant designated by the same coloured badge, for a special process.” I looked around, pushing my foot back into my shoe, and held the red and green patterning of my ticket up to be seen by a guard who’d met my eyes. It was subtle, but his uniform was older in style than those worn by the other attendants, and not just 80s shoulder pads style. The pants were plain and simply made, black with a stripe of red and green banded ribbon up the sides, the shirt more of a pale blue tunic, not tucked in, with a slightly darker vest, more of a doublet, over it. On the upper chest of his vest, there was an embroidered patch of a shield, an orange band across the top, the rest maroon, save for a smaller red shield centered upon it with a stripe of pale blue down it’s center. He nodded as he saw my ticket’s checkered edge and waved me over.

“Are you, er, with the university?” I asked, recognizing the colours of his badge from the letter that had arrived a few months ago, unbidden, and deeply confusing,

“I am,” he replied, “please, follow me. I just want to see if there are any others…. ah, yes.” He gestured again to people in line, and I was shortly joined by four more people. Nervous, unsure. Only one seemed perfectly at ease. He had the confidence that often came to the conventionally attractive. I looked him over as he strode up, greeting the guard with a distant warmth. He was tall, his build solid, muscled, but not overly bulky. His hair and teeth impeccable, and his clothes quite expensive.

The other four of us traded a sidelong glance as we all knew this was some trustfund pissant. His manner with the security attendant was that of a man accustomed to dealing with servants, underlings and hired hands, which must be dealt with in a magnanimous, but firm manner, to keep them in a good a mood even as you reminded them of their relative station.

“Yes, hello, Mr. Cascara,” the guard said, practically forgetting the rest of us, “I was told I would be he- serving you today.”

“Mm, yes. I do hope this bit about procedure is for the, er, mundies’ benefit?”

“Oh, don’t worry, sir,” the attendant said, ushering us through a door, “it’s perfectly quick process, nothing like the ordeal they must go through. Wouldn’t want the wrong sort to get through and be a danger to the new year of students.”

The four of us not obviously brought up by someone made of more wood pulp than an actual tree rolled our eyes as one, and, to my amusement, so do the attendant as Mr. Cascara stepped past him.

“So, I take it you have a good idea what this is all about, Cascara?” I said.

He turned, his face knit in something between offense and incomprehension that someone addressed him in a room clearly containing only a single peer.

“Mr. Cascara, please,” he smiled fakely, “Yes, my family has been in the University for generations. We’ve contemplated moving to England so that we may start our instruction much earlier, but so many of the family inv-”

“Right, so you know what’s going on. Good on you,” I said, cutting his recitation of the family wiki article short and silently enjoying the look on his face as he suddenly wasn’t allowed to finish gloating. “I’m sure your family thinks it’s hot shit, but the mark of a good breeding in this instance would be making your knowledge available to the people who clearly don’t have generations of immersion in this world, not making sure the school employee knows what you think his place is.”

Cascara scowled. “So you’ve chosen to make enemies before the term has begun,” he said. “Well, it’s certainly a novel concept. I didn’t particularly expect you lot to know your wands from your asses, but this is a surprise.”

“Wait, wands? We get wands?” said one of the others, a slim young woman in glasses behind me.

“The letter mentioned something about them,” I said before turning back to Cascara. “Fuck sake, stop this bullshit peerage routine. We all can trace our lines back to fabled magicians, that’s how this works. Just because your family is so carefully arranged that most of the members are of the illuminatable percent doesn’t mean you’re better.”

“Yes, it does,” Cascara said, “Tell me, have you received tutoring in spells? Dueling? Metabiology?”

“Formal? No, but I’d lay wager that much of mythology was based on what comes from the Other Realm, so there is a certain amount of autodidactism going for me.”

“IF you needed a bezoar, where would you look?” Cascara asked, the question mark replaced with gloating.

“Stomach of a goat. Failing that, a cat’s stomach or the stomach of a nervous preteen young woman with poor habits. A bezoar is an accumulation of hair and undigested food particles commonly found in goats, but more commonly heard of these days in ‘bizarre surgery’ listacles online, and standing to reason possibly discoverable in cats, which are believed to cure poison.”

Cascara was slightly taken aback. “Luck. What is the procedure for homunculus creation?”

“Combine the master’s blood or scum with clay and a few various herbs in a mason jar, shake to combine, and bring to around 150 degrees Fahrenheit, the optimal temperature of compost, and maintain that for 40 days, after which time the now transparent humanoid form should be kept at 104 degrees Fahrenheit and fed blood daily for 40 weeks. Of course this is my own surmising of the accuracy of medieval texts. It’s entirely possible that it does in fact require specifically semen, specifically horse manure, etc, but I’m going out on a limb that such things are medieval reference, not absolute necessities.”

Cascara was silent a long while as I smirked. “What,” he said with a smug self-satisfaction, “is the purpose of the Philosopher’s Stone?”

“While the Philosopher’s Stone’s most known capability is facilitating the transformation of base metals, such as lead, into higher metals, such as silver or gold, its purpose was the transmutation of the human form, purifying the base flesh into a higher form, potentially one which is immortal, certainly one which is rejuvenated. Of course, I am self-taught from what is considered mythology, so I cannot know what the true purpose is, but that is what the mythology posits, and I’ve been right so far, so I feel fairly confident in saying that the true purpose of the philosopher’s stone is to rejuvenate the alchemist and grant them immortality.” I see from the corner of my eye the amused smiles of my fellow lost wights–magically gifted peoples whose families forgot their lineage. Cascara clearly wants to find some way to prove his superiority over me.

No one’s under any delusions that his likely-magically-augmented physique is somehow anything but superior to my all-natural flaws-and-all body bricolaged to an approximation of my satisfaction with transition hormones. But this has nothing to do with physiological giftedness. This is all about the wealthy lording around over the lower class. Gee, look at that, magic’s no cure for human bullshit.

The attendant cleared his throat, “There is a plane to catch, ladies and gentlemen.”

I looked to the attendant and shouldered my bag again, “yeah,” I said, looking back to Cascara, “I’m sure the plane won’t mind us continuing our measuring.” I turned and followed the attendant through the door, “Not sure how much the inches matter when it’s clear I’m still unrolling measure tape and Cascara here’s already tucking his away making apologies and saying this never happens to him.”