An accident sends Harry Potter into another world and soon his talents are needed more than ever before. The question is not whether he can win, but can he survive?
By Random Shinobi
Summary: An accident sends Harry Potter into another world and soon his talents are needed more than ever before. The question is not whether he can win, but can he survive? Insurmountable odds have never been this insurmountable for him. [HP/Dresden Files crossover. Not DH compliant. Starts before Grave Peril.]
Disclaimer: If you recognise it, then it might well belong to Ms. Rowling or Mr. Butcher. I only claim my OCs and plot.
Special thanks to snuggle the muggle for her help.
Chapter Six: Courtly Dances
Among the innumerable hordes of lesser creatures that inhabit the vast Netherworld stand apart of few groups of stronger beings that should be called upon only in the direst need, for their power is considerable and their minds, utterly inhuman. Foremost of these dangerous groups are grotesque Greater Daemons and the unearthly Sidhe. Many foolish Summoners have lost their lives and very souls to the mighty Sakhr the Deceiver, whose forked tongue has a forked tongue. But more than the fell demons, one should be wary of the deceptive fey. This is because a wise man can always tell that the foul Hellbound seek only to spread their righteous suffering upon virtuous mortals, while the aims of the capricious Sidhe are manifold and unpredictable; some beneficial to humanity, some utterly destructive. Look at the false muse, Leanansidhe of Unseelie. She's a whore, thief and murderer, yet she uses her eldritch powers to provide great inspiration to all kinds of mortal artists and craftsmen.
Harry put down his quill, being careful not to spill the dark green ink, and leaned back on his luxurious armchair. Despite all the anti-nonhuman crap in the book, the young wizard still wasn't sure whether King Solomon had been a racist or if the man simply had had a much better defined sense of self-preservation than he. He closed his eyes for a moment, rolled his stiff wrist and flexed the somewhat numb fingers, trying to regain some manual dexterity after long hours of diligent writing. The large wooden table in front of him was filled with piles of paper and a few open Latin textbooks; visible proof of Harry's attempt at translating Clavis Salomonis. Sighing tiredly he reached for the aforementioned book and drew it closer, his eyes focusing on the next paragraph.
While many Sidhe and most Daemons will answer willingly even to an inept and weak call, controlling these beings is an another matter entirely. When dealing with the repellent Hellbound, losing control means instant death and eternal damnation, while with the inhuman Sidhe it likely results in a lifetime of servitude ‒ sometimes a very short one. To safely contain and command beings far stronger than oneself, special measures are needed; only the most magically strong and iron-willed Summoner can hope to bind a Lord of the Netherworld with a Circle alone. Crafting a Seal is the best way to achieve total dominion over an otherworldly being. Seals are made by trapping the tiniest sliver of a fae or demon's essence into a symbol of magic, and thus can be used to give the right resonance to a Circle, almost immunising it against that particular creature's powers. A Seal can be made to simultaneously hold essence fragments from many different beings. My own Seal, made into the form of an iron and brass ring, can command over a hundred wicked demons.
He closed the leather-bound book he had been reading with a sharp snap and lowered it on the opulent, partially-gilded bedside table, next to a silver goblet filled with some crystal clear, softly bubbling liquid. Translating the ancient text from Latin to English was a difficult and tedious undertaking for someone with his less than prodigious language skills.
Because most incantations were derived from Latin, all wizards learned the basics of the language as a by-product of studying magic and memorising hundreds of magic words. Well, perhaps 'derived' was a wrong word as in reality the process went the other way around. Incantations were arithmetical constructions designed to automatically bend magic into the form of a spell without any significant mental effort on the caster's part. Latin used to be the language of magic until Muggles took it up and twisted it, inventing new words and making up a grammar almost as incomprehensible as the original arithmetical calculations.
Thus far the text had barely mentioned the Arthame, but from the scarce information he had acquired, he surmised that it was simply a strongly enchanted athame that the Sorcerer-King Solomon had owned. What its powers were, he didn't know.
At the moment, however, Harry had far too many other concerns to be truly worried about the slow pace of the search. His first and foremost worry was Voldemort. While it was positive that the Dark Lord wasn't out there killing his friends, it didn't make things much better; the bastard didn't exactly lack people to kill in this dimension either. It was still his fate, his responsibility to end the Dark Lord...or die trying. Unfortunately it seemed that the older wizard was still light years ahead him and Harry wasn't sure if he could ever bridge the humongous gab in skill.
He sighed dejectedly. Unlike his friend Hermione, Harry wasn't able to absorb new knowledge like a sponge, and by all accounts Riddle was even faster learner than she. Luckily duelling was more than just spell-knowledge, otherwise he wouldn't thrash the brunette witch every time they practised wandplay...
Then there was the faint sound of a door opening and Aurora walked in, somehow slipping through the ward guarding the room without tripping it. Focusing at the young woman who had just entered his room, Harry took in the changes in her. It seemed that every time he saw her, she wore different clothes ‒ even when they met again just a few hours later. This time, however she had done a complete redo. She was breathtakingly beautiful, as always, but now her clothing was significantly more formal than he had ever seen, as if she was readying for a formal ball. She wore a bell-sleeved, flowing gown of yellow and white silks. Her normally pure white hair was now a warm golden colour and tied in elaborate loops and knots. A jewel-encrusted tiara circled her head and entwined artfully with the golden locks. Even her nails were all painted and shiny.
“You seem to be healing well,” she remarked casually as she walked to him, her dance shoes clicking softly against the shiny parquet. Harry found himself unable to look away from her as she moved across the room. She wasn't exceptionally 'bouncy' nor did her hips sway significantly more than what was normal for a girl with her measures, but somehow her gait still managed to almost ooze femininity and sensuality. He couldn't help but notice the room suddenly felt a bit hotter; her very presence was almost intoxicating. “The burns are barely visible now and they will likely be completely gone before the evening, which is good.”
Her mention of his burns brought his mind back to the present and he blinked owlishly, his cheeks reddening a little. She was right about his injuries, Harry noted absently as he turned his eyes from her chest and looked at his hands, which were only slightly discoloured. After many tries, faerie magic had proved effective at repairing the damage Voldemort had caused, despite the fact that he seemed quite resistant to their power. Lifting his gaze to her pretty face, Harry expected Aurora to continue, which she promptly did. “I'm going to host a party this evening and wish you to attend.”
His eyes narrowed and his posture stiffened a little. The young wizard could tell she wasn't really asking, rather she was stating how things were going to be. Well, it wasn't like he had anything else planned and it might be informative and even fun... Well, possibly. On the other hand, he had never really been a party-going person. “Very well...” Harry said resignedly, accepting for a moment that he would just have to go with the flow. “What kind of party are we speaking of?”
“A dance ball,” she replied curtly.
“Dammit,” Harry swore under his breath. He only knew a few wizarding dances and even in those he sucked. He had absolutely no inclination of making himself a fool in front of a bunch of prissy Sidhe blessed with preternatural grace.
Aurora seemingly ignored his outburst and turned to look at the sword in a display over his desk, taking a few steps and reaching for it. She drew the gently-curving sword from its sheath with a nearly inaudible hiss of metal sliding against wood, the blade silently igniting with golden fire.
“This sword, does it have a name?” Aurora asked as she watched the shortsword's flickering aura of pure Summer Fire, seemingly enraptured by the dancing flames. “It certainly deserves one... Especially now when a tiny portion of Summer is caged within it.”
“Not really...” Harry replied after a moment. “Everybody just calls it Gryffindor's sword after its enchanter and first owner.”
“Then we should give it a proper name,” she said, tearing her gaze from the goblin-silver weapon and focusing at Harry again. “Names do hold power after all. Personally I'm rather partial to...Muneracchius.” A faint, mischievous smile played on her lips and she had left a dramatic pause before saying the name, as if it was supposed to mean something to him. Unfortunately, he had no idea of what she found amusing or what was so special in the pig-Latin name she proposed.
Deciding it might not be the most prudent move to admit not knowing a shit of what she was talking about, Harry just smiled and said, “I rather like it! So, Muneracchius it is, then.”
“Good,” she said and sheathed the newly-christened sword before putting it back on the wall. “You are going to need a new scabbard for it. This one is simply too plain, not worthy of the blade.” She paused and elegantly smoothed some imaginary creases on her rich dress. “I'm going to take a walk in the garden and will return here to fetch you for the ball.”
“Wait! Didn't you say that the party is in the evening?” Harry exclaimed and quickly glanced at his wristwatch. “It's only eleven thirty. How long walk are you going to take?”
She tilted her head a little. “Here in the palace time flows more or less with the same pace as in the mortal world, with only minor fluctuations possible,” she explained. “In the Garden of Elysium, however, it is not so. It is the very heart of our domain and there time flows as the Queens of Summer will it.”
Harry perked up. “You can travel in time?”
“Not at such,” Aurora said. “I can fit eternity into a second or make aeons pass in an instant, but the past is still locked for me and the future only a one-way road.”
“Oh,” he said, feeling somewhat disappointed at the lost opportunities.
Aurora regarded him for a moment, her expression unreadable, before smiling faintly and turning around, the hem of her yellow dress swaying. Before she left the richly furnished room, Harry had already turned his attention back at the books and his translation work.
The Summer Ballroom was immense, occupying a complete wing of the palace and soaring over four storeys high. The massive room was illuminated by thousands of brightly glowing glass bulbs set on the walls and ceiling, flooding light over every gilded detail. Lofty windows set with faceted panes ranged the run of one wall, the low-lying sun shining through the coloured glass and painting the hall with all the colours of rainbow.
The party had been going for over an hour and Harry was hanging in the sidelines, trying to avoid attention and trouble. Thus far it was working quite well. Sure, his walking into the ballroom with Aurora and the rest of her entourage had garnered some speculative gazes and a few circuitous inquiries, but he could easily deal with that. They were nothing new...even if the reasons behind them were now completely different.
Harry took a sip from the crystal glass in his hand and leaned against the wall. He absently eased his bottle green cravat a little and opened the uppermost button of his white shirt. The whole affair was a bit boring, but at least the food and drink being served were excellent.
There was a small group of fae children huddled together near him, speaking in hushed voices as if they were scared of being noticed by their elders. Or perhaps they were simply more polite and intelligent than human children. Some of them were still toddlers, most a bit older. Of course, he didn't know quickly the nigh immortal Sidhe matured, and so they could conceivably all be older than he.
A young girl with two pig-tails snapped her fingers and a small flame appeared on the tip of her index finger, which seemed to surprise one of her companions. He took a step backwards, hitting a third one and causing the boy's grip to falter. A glass shattered against the floor with a loud crash, spreading glass shards and reddish liquid on the parquet. The children instant began arguing exactly who was to blame for the accident, the volume of their voices finally reaching and exceeding that of normal speech.
Harry took a pity on them. Lowering his pitcher on a nearby table, he walked to the bunch of squabbling children, the charmed holster spitting his wand into his hand. “Evanesco,” Harry intoned and the Vanishing Charm left his wand with a barely perceivable flash of light. Invisible flood of magic washed over the parquet and the floor was suddenly clean again, all glass fragments and the strawberry-flavoured juice seemingly vaporising into the air in an instant.
The kids were all staring him with their big, strangely-coloured eyes. There was a short pause as they looked at each other, before the fae children exploded into a chorus of exclamations. “That was cool!” “It wasn't a Glamour!” “Wow!” “Can you do something else?”
Deciding he could as well oblige them, he reached for his suit pocket and withdrew a single gold Galleon, flipping it high into the air with his thumb. The gold coin spun wildly through the air, making mad loops and sharp zigzags. The faerie children giggled, laughed, oohed and aahed as he performed his magic, waving his wand in grandiose manner as if he was leading an orchestra.
An idle twist of the holly wand made the Galleon leave behind a trail of bright green sparks as it moved randomly over the kids' heads. “Columbidae,” Harry whispered under his breath and he could hear sharp gasps coming from the bunch of young Sidhe. In a flash of orange light, the coin had turned into a pure-white dove. The Transfigured bird made a single circle over Harry and his audience before flying away.
The minor charms and mid-level Transfigurations were nothing but parlour tricks, something that every graduated wizard could do with ease, but Harry had to admit they were very nice tricks. The children certain seemed to enjoy them, and Harry himself found it impossible to contain a wide smile. They really were adorable.
“Good evening, Lord Potter,” A cool, silky-smooth voice said from his left. Harry sheathed his wand and quickly turned to face the incomer, his good mood vanishing in an instant. She wore a slender, strapless gown of blue silks. The dress flowed over her curvaceous body like water, crashing into white foamy lace at its hem. Reddish hair curled down past her hips in a riotous cascade, complementing her flawless skin, high cheekbones, and lush, full, red lips. He recognised the woman as one the four Winter delegates invited to the party, and that made him instantly wary; he was allied with Summer which made her his enemy by default. Still, he had to admit that she was exceedingly beautiful and it took more mental effort than it should have to keep his eyes from roving all over her body.
“Yes?” he replied slowly, wondering what a Winter Sidhe like her could want of him...and how he could avoid whatever it was.
Her next words were surprisingly concise and to the point. “I have heard you are searching for the Arthame?”
Harry's eyes narrowed. She already had the upper hand and he didn't like it at all. Still, the young wizard tried his best to keep his tone civil. “How do you know that? And who are you, anyway?” He knew that he practically announced that she was right, but it wasn't very likely that she was just guessing in the first place.
“My name is Leanansidhe, High Lady of the Winter Court,” she said with a small, elegant curtsy. “And how I know it is inconsequential. It matters not who told me. What matters is that I can tell you where the Arthame is.”
That stunned Harry for a moment. This particular fae was being rather forthcoming; too forthcoming to not have a hidden agenda. Despite her being of Winter, he knew her word was good as faeries were bound to speak no outright lies. This left him with the question as why exactly she came to him with the information.
“And you are telling this to me because?” he asked, suspicious. He had no plans of getting caught in even more faerie webs of debt and obligation, and so he would have to tread very carefully. He had already tangled himself more than well enough. “You are certainly not doing this just to help me.”
She smiled. “On the contrary, I honestly want you to acquire the Arthame. Not because you having it will help me any, but because of what you must do to get your hands on it.”
“And what exactly is what I have to do, Lady Leanansidhe?” He asked sharply, knowing without a shadow of doubt that he was being manipulated. He didn't like it at all, but it was not like he could do anything else than to listen to her.
“To get the Arthame you must first have the Seal of Solomon, and the ring is currently in possession of Lord Raith of the White Court.”
“The Seal of Solomon?” Harry repeated confusedly, before he remembered what he had read just that morning, and it dawned at him. “Are you saying that a demon has the Arthame?”
She nodded slightly and a tiny smile curved her full lips. “Indeed, the Greater Daemon Sakhr the Deceiver has it. And you will want the Seal when you try to subdue him. Otherwise you won't fare any better than you did against your own kin yesterday.”
“Voldemort,” Harry all but hissed, almost slipping into Parseltongue. His wand shot into his hand, but the Sidhe Lady caught his wrist before managed point the holly rod at her. Her touch was freezing cold and felt decidedly uncomfortable even through the protective charms, but he showed none of it. He absolutely refused to show any weakness in a court of sharks. A few angry red sparks escaped the wand tip as he glared heatedly at the woman. “Is the Dark Lord your source, then?”
“I'm not your enemy,” she growled coldly into his ear, her breath carrying the burning coldness of midwinter as it splashed against his cheek. Her hold tightened a little and Harry got the feeling that she could easily snap the bones if she wanted to. “And unless you wish to make it so, you shouldn't treat me as such.” Then the female Sidhe let go off his wrist and he briefly saw the reddened skin of her palm as her hand receded. She had burned! But then again, his skin had turned deathly white and numb where she had touched him. It seemed that Summer and Winter certainly didn't mix well.
“I didn't think you would be foolish enough to start trouble here, but I see I was dead wrong. Enjoy the party, Lord Potter.” With those words she was gone, leaving Harry to his thoughts.
The young wizard sighed dejectedly and absently rubbed his numb wrist. He really had the talent for making a good first impression...
“I don't like that Lady at all,” one of the boys sudden piped up as stared at the Winter Sidhe's back. “She smells mean and cold.” The declaration was instantly met with a high-pitched chorus of affirmations from the other children.
“I bet she's both,” Harry mumbled under his breath before turning to face the kids. “I think I will go and get a bit of fresh air.” Their faces fell in disappointment, but before they could protest at his decision, Harry had already flicked his wand and Transfigured the pig-tailed girl's small folding fan into a golden-furred puppy.
It served as an ample distraction, instantly capturing their undivided attention. While the kids squalled excitedly and almost squabbled for the right to pet the small and furry animal, Harry silently walked away. He didn't notice how a pair of emerald eyes followed his every movement.
Aurora was intrigued. The new Outsider was really something else; he was nothing like the usual Lovecraftian horrors his kind were. Of course, her knowledge of what lay behind the Outer Gates was very limited, but those foul beings that the Red Court was so fond of calling certainly were monstrous; they were worse than their vampire allies.
She despised vampires. She hated them with such heated fury that she sometimes scared even herself. Yet she knew she was right in hating them so. They were rabid beasts ‒ no, they were worse than that. They were decidedly aware of the anguish and destruction they caused...and callously revelled in it. These loathsome leeches lorded the power they had over humans, thinking of them as simple cattle existing only for their pleasure, ignoring the fact that humans too were sentient and had their own dreams and hopes. It was unforgivable.
On the other hand, it was not like her own kind were innocent either. For centuries she had marshalled peace between the two Faerie Courts and for a moment she had been satisfied to see that the situation had eventually cooled down into something akin to the human Cold War. But the endless skirmishes hadn't truly ended, they had just merely been transported to the human world, using humans as unknowing pawns to wage endless war of which they weren't even aware.
And the war? It was fought just because it had always been fought. There was no other reason for it, no rational reason or explanation, and her inability to stop the needless war frustrated her to no end. She had decided long time ago that she would end the war between the Courts no matter the cost, but she had never even contemplated how high the price would actually rise. Aurora knew without doubt that to end the endless war only one Faerie Court could remain.
But if that was the sacrifice needed to finally end the circle of mindless violence, then she would gladly pay it. No price could be ever high enough. Any amount of destruction would pale in comparison of what the warring Courts would cause given eternity.
Lord Potter's sudden appearance had played well into her hands. She knew he was a valuable piece the moment he had laid her eyes on him. Taking the amount of power he had drunk from the Wellspring and surviving it was not a small feat, and neither was piercing all wards and protections placed around the Garden. Had she required any further proof, the half dozen bloodied corpses of scrunts scattered around him would have provided it.
Simply having him to do her will was not enough, though ‒ she needed to secure his true loyalty. She wasn't stupid enough to think she could buy him over with just wealth and power alone. He seemed to have those in abundance, anyway. But seeing his reaction to her and other female Sidhe showed her where his weakness lay...and it was a huge weakness.
If she didn't use it, someone else would. There was no doubt of it; he was simply a too big a prize to be ignored. Of course, she could always put one of her many underlings on the job, but devotion by proxy was never as good as the real thing. She licked her lips. Perhaps it wouldn't even be too bad...
Harry's low-spirited pondering was interrupted as someone sat next to him on the bench and delicate arms circled his shoulders, drawing him into a sideways hug. “You shouldn't be so downtrodden, it's a party after all,” Aurora spoke to his ear. “In fact, it's my party. Should I feel insulted?”
For the first time Harry noticed that she was literally hot, instead of just figuratively. The warmth of her touch went far beyond any normal body temperature. Not that he really cared; the Summer Lady's skin could be scalding hot and he still wouldn't even be uncomfortable due the Temperis Charm. Without really thinking, he leaned against her inviting warmth and relaxed in her embrace. He sighed dejectedly. “It's not you or the party. I was recently reintroduced to my own inadequacy and just got reminded by it.”
“Inadequacy,” Aurora repeated, her voice soft and soothing. She tilted her head a little and looked into his eyes. “How so?”
“The Dark Lord threw me around like a rag-doll without even truly trying,” he said and stood up, shaking her arms off him, and walked the few steps to the stone trail. Placing his palms on the cool stone, he leaned slightly over the trail, alternating between looking at the dark garden opening below him and the starlit sky over him. “If it weren't for the fact he managed to accidentally explode the body he was possessing at the moment, I would be dead. I have already seen him die four times... My luck will eventually run out.”
“Harry,” she said softly and he perked up. It was the first time she had called him by his first name. “Don't sell yourself short. With the amount of Summer Fire you have, I sincerely doubt this Lord Voldemort overshadows you in strength. Learn to use it and victory will be to yours, I'm sure of it.”
She stood up and walked next to him. “And while destiny is sometimes cruel, bear it we must.” Aurora sighed and turned her gaze towards the starry sky. “Like that abominable Queen Mab once said: Sky is our domain, but freedom is not ours to taste.”
Suddenly the dark sky was alight with colour, beautiful ribbons of red, green and yellow light coiling amongst the sea twinkling stars.
“Northern lights...Auroras...” Harry whispered as he looked at the multicoloured lights dancing high in the sky. Then he turned to look at the noblewoman standing next to him. “They are beautiful.”
A small smile found its way to her lips. “Thank you. Shouldn't we go back in?” She offered her slender arm.
Harry took it without hesitation and, together, they walked back into the brightly lit ballroom.