During the train ride before third year Harry has a close encounter with a dementor that causes him to absorb the soul fragment within him, granting both knowledge and power. Features Harry with a ...
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And yes, here in chapter forty two you get the answers to life, the universe, and everything.
Or at least fairy magic.
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"Firenze?" Hermione raised her hand. "You pointed out one of the qualities of a dryad's bow was that they could adapt to the strength of a user. But then you pointed out that was very little use to someone who was already expert, and didn't have to be constantly replacing bows. Surely you are an expert. So why did it sound so important to you to get a dryad's bow?"
"There are several properties more than I just stated," the centaur dipped and tossed his head with one pawing hoof. "Any wooden bow must have gentle treatment and be protected from excessive damp or dryness. Also, the slightest chip or crack can render them not only useless, but dangerous to the one using them. Both these problems are less extreme for the living wood of a dryad's bow, which can self-repair. More than that I would prefer not to say."
Luna spoke for him, "Centaurs have been master archers from their earliest history, and have not always gotten along well with wizards. So spells for deflecting arrows have been around for a very long time, even made it into medallion form so they are always on." She lifted a charm locket out of her shirt and showed it off. It had a pair of broken arrows inscribed on the back.
Serenely, she replaced it under her shirt and went on explaining. "Those spells are potent enough to render archery all but useless against most wizards, so long as they are adequately prepared - which wizards fighting in wars against the centaurs always are."
Here Harry spoke up, adding the weight of some of Voldemort's experiences to Luna's observations, "Incidentally, those same spells work perfectly fine against bullets, better than against arrows, actually. They weren't designed that way. But through stroke of genius, practical necessity or sheer dumb luck, those arrow deflecting spells create a screen that resists material objects with force directly proportional to the object's velocity. So bullets, which depend on velocity for everything, are subsequently blocked better."
Tom Riddle knew this from personal experience. He'd grown up during World War Two when this had been a hot topic among mages, and later proved it himself in person. You slaughter enough muggles and sooner or later you run into one who tries to use a gun, illegal or not, against you.
High velocity bullets against those anti-arrow shields... you might as well be attacking the ocean with a bit of pocket fluff. It was pointless, absurdly so.
Hermione began nodding, suddenly seized by a thoughty stupor. "People are very impressed with modern guns but the energy delivered ranges from only about as much as a thrown baseball, to not terribly different than a bowling ball at release. The equation is very well known, energy equals one half mass times velocity squared, and while a bullet may go very fast it has negligible mass. The largest personal scale bullet I know of is the 12 gauge shotgun slug, which weighs in at about an ounce. For other bullets an ounce is just way too big to serve as a system of measurement, so they get measured in grains. The trick about bullets is all that energy is highly concentrated, instead of being spread out over a wide area, like a baseball. The Hollywood myth of people instantly dropping dead the moment a bullet wings them is as much movie magic as Mary Poppins is!"
"Who?" Luna blinked.
"Mary Poppins. She..." Hermione began to explain, but got cut off.
"Oh, I know who she is." Luna interrupted, serenely puzzled. "She is one of my great-aunts, and was going to be my nanny, but she retired with her husband Bert three years before I was born. I was just wondering how you knew her."
Hermione's jaw swung free as if unhinged for a moment.
The blonde girl continued calmly, as if she had not just shattered one of her friends childhood myths (proving that things she'd accepted as fake often DO exist. Really, she was living in a world of magic and centaurs. How much more naive about 'that can't possibly be real' could she be?),"No, one of the things that had to have interested our teacher here is something that most centaurs have been seeking for simply ages. Due to the magic properties inherent in a dryad's bow, they can be made to penetrate a wizard's arrow deflecting shield, whereas unenchanted equipment could not."
"It is not the only way," Firenze supplied politely. "There are more ways than petitioning dryads to get a magical bow. But we centaurs lack the spell ability to charm or transfigure parts to make them ourselves. Nor do we have the wealth to convince corrupt wizards to break their own laws to supply them for us. And the majority of us feel that consorting with evil to get them is too high a price to pay itself. Goblins would surely provide them, but we run into the same barricades of no wealth and incompatible morality with them."
"Do you seek war with wizard-kind?" Hermione asked, eyes round.
Firenze pranced an irritated circle before answering. "Just that we do not seek it does not always mean it does not come seeking us!" he declared."In your Dark Arts there are several spells requiring the death of a centaur, or the harvesting of parts that requires our death. Your Ministry turns a well-bribed eye away from predations against us. That is why our population is so small, even in this last refuge."
Harry wisely kept his mouth shut about a centaur phallus being one of the more common ingredients associated with certain fertility rites very popular among purebloods.
Once again Firenze pawed a back hoof, staring at them haughtily. "Let that be another lesson for you, one always drilled into centaur youth: You do not have to seek a war for it to find you. If everyone who wanted peace was left alone by those who didn't the world would have nothing in its history that we would recognize today. But it should be obvious to you that we do not live in such a world. We never have, nor will we. The nature of evil is such that it will always bring suffering and death where it can. Those who bring evil with them will always bring force to bear to compel compliance. When one is faced with them you may either choose to resist or become a willing victim. If you chose to resist, know that you will have to counter their force, and that will require some force of your own. Your strategy will dictate how much, but more is always welcome, and having less is not a virtue."
Allowing his students a moment to absorb the new material, the centaur nodded. "The capacity to fight should always be sought by those who desire peace."
After waiting another moment, the centaur pranced and continued. "So, for myself, a dryad is an ideal route for acquiring magical bows. And ultimately, for you as well. Indeed, for you this is far more important."
"Why is that?" Hermione asked.
"Didn't you know?" Firenze pranced aside in a gesture of surprise. "The fey have a profound impact on the world around them - and you are among the most potent of all fairy creatures. It is not just that fairy magic is hard to quantify. It may even be that their magic is more magic than other's magic."
On beholding their universal confusion regarding what was, to him, aprofound statement, this caused the centaur to rear somewhat in irritation."What do they teach you in that school?" he demanded.
"I would like to reply that they prepare us for life, but obviously they don't," Harry returned. "Could you explain more, please?"
The centaur took a deep breath to calm himself. Reading their faces, he said, "I perceive that I must start at the beginning. You are aware of how ordinary magic prevents some muggle technology from working?"
Three eager nods.
"Do you know how?"
Three shaken heads.
The centaur released a barking sigh, rearing and circling before he brought himself back under control. Seeing a number of upturned faces around him, Firenze explained. "Astronomy is not just the study of stars, although there are many that treat it as such. No, one does not get far in it without also being drawn into the study of mathematics, but also gravity and light. So it was with muggle science and the same with centaurs. We are aware of some muggle science, and can guess at the rest. Plus, we have overheard much. Quite a few of our young foals like to drink invisibility draughts and hang out at muggle schools. And one of the basic precepts is this: to learn about one thing, discover how it affects other things."
He noted three students listening attentively.
"Very well," the centaur continued. "One third of all matter is positive, one third is neutral, and one third is negative, existing on a level finer than the keenest senses can detect. Muggles have given names to these particles. They call them protons, neutrons and electrons. Muggles have discovered a technology whereby they employ electrons, stripped of their association with protons and neutrons. They call this science electricity, and it is the basis for a profound number of their tools."
Seeing their acceptance, the centaur dipped and tossed his head approvingly."It is well known that muggle devices using electricity do not function inside of a magic field. What is not well known is why. Let me tell you. One of the unexplained side effects of a magic field renders it impossible for electrons to leave their association with protons and neutrons. Without free electrons, electricity cannot exist. Radiation, as the muggles term high energy particles separating from the rest of matter, also cannot exist near magic since the parts of matter cannot be separate from one another inside of a magic field. For this reason nuclear weapons cannot function inside of a magical area, but that is a topic for another time."
Hermione had acquired a frown. She raised her hand. "I'm sorry. But how can that be? I know living organisms generate electricity along nerves, and..."
"Bio-electricity is a different form, and not changed," the centaur explained. "No one knows why. We centaurs are the only ones to study the matter, and we are few, nor are we wealthy. Indeed, for us it is only aside interest, one of limited importance, a hobby if you prefer. But we have learned two things: bio-electricity does exist in a magical environment, and normal electricity does not. Theories as to why are not well explored."
Firenze watched as the trio struggled a moment with this to various degrees before accepting it.
Seeing he had their undivided attention, he continued lecturing over his crossed arms. "Now we are drawn back to the precept: to learn about one thing, discover how it affects other things. Fairy magic may be more potent than anyone else's, although there is much debate about this. It may merely be that it obeys fewer rules, and is more uncontrolled. But the evidence is significant, in that: while a side effect of normal magic is to increase the forces holding the basic building blocks of matter together, it has been observed fairy magic makes a great many rules quite flexible. Much of that which is constant ceases to be so around fairies."
"So... time isn't the only thing that behaves oddly around the fey, but other rules as well?" Luna queried delicately.
Hermione blinked, pondering, "That would impact technology rather badly."
"Precisely!" The centaur snorted, rearing slightly. "And the many delicate adjustments and measurements they make are thrown off as a consequence. Living things appear to always be exceptions. But on that which is not alive, the same careful calibrations using the same tools to create one result, can easily produce an entirely different one around a fairy. Fairy creatures do not appear to do this intentionally, nor are results consistent. A delicate and precise machine to produce ball bearings, for example, if placed near a fairy, not only could but would be producing balls that are square, round, triangular or oblong, ranging in size from a tiny speck to a golf ball, all on the same settings for an otherwise constant machine."
The centaur snorted, recrossing his arms. "Although wizards are completely ignorant of it, their slaughter of the fairies kicked off a muggle scientific boom. Previous to that, accurate measurements and reproducible results were all but impossible, as fairies were everywhere."
Hermione was nodding, with a somewhat awestruck yet frightened look."And since science depends on accurate measurements and reproducible results, it would've been impossible in a world overrun by fairies!!"
Firenze nodded at her, congratulating her comprehension. "Yes. Until the swarms of fairies were destroyed, muggles depended on weapons on which a slight change did not matter. So your sword feels slightly heavier today, so what? Does your shield feel a fraction of an inch thicker or thinner?Well, it will even out in time, and in the meanwhile can still do its job properly."
"But now!" Hermione blurted, eyes wide in her eagerness of realization."The standard muggle weapons today depend strongly on tolerances of tens of thousandths of an inch! Firearms are extremely precise and finicky weapons. The slightest variance of the mechanical parts... any change at all would render them completely unusable! If not dangerous! If your bullet or barrel was too tight, you'll get an explosion. If they got too loose, the gas would escape and bullet wouldn't go anywhere. Clips could fall out, the firing pin not reach the bullet today, the hammer be too wide to strike or a trigger so thin it breaks off. The weapon could jam for so many dozens of reasons..."
Firenze nodded soberly and spoke over crossed arms, "I am told that muggle chemists also have extremely precise mixtures, particularly for their weapons."
"Of COURSE!" Hermione began ranting, the subject drawing whole new scope to the problem. "Gunpowder is relied upon to burn at exact rates according to precise mixtures, and carefully measured in precise doses. The properties have been exhaustively studied until they know exactly what to do!"
"Yet around a fairy," the centaur interrupted. "Those properties are subject to change without notice. So a mixture relied upon to burn at acertain rate of speed might go slower or faster."
Hermione raised her head, realization leading to dawning horror. "So a mix of powder relied upon to produce a certain amount of force could be stronger or weaker, and you'd never know until you fired it. A weaker charge could get your gun jammed, as the bullet failed to move properly, and the gas-powered eject of used cartridges in most firearms would probably stick."
"But a much stronger explosion than calculated for could easily get the gun to blow up in your face," Harry reflected soberly. "They build those things to have tolerances based on the expected charge. Too much more than that and the explosion of your gun would be probable." He frowned for a moment in consideration. "Just like happened often in the early history of firearms - back when fairies were common."
"And the primer in those bullets, an exact chemical mixture calculated to go off under a certain amount of force, might explode under the jostling of your hand as you pick a gun up - or it might not go off at all, even when the firing pin strikes and is supposed to trigger it!" Hermione ranted."Or go off late! Half an hour after you pulled the trigger, long after a battle was over, your gun might fire."
"Or the thin metal that pin is supposed to deform to create that pressure on the primer might decide that it is stronger today, and not bend at all."Harry supplied. "Or it might prove weaker, and puncture entirely, blasting part of the force of your gunpowder's explosion back where it isn't supposed to go. It's a small thing, but there are SO MANY parts of this that could fail!"
"And it wouldn't just be firearms," Hermione concluded sadly. "Car engines are another thing that depend upon precise tolerances. Those wouldn't work either, I'm afraid. Our technology depends upon so many exact measures of so many interconnected things that the slightest failure of those at all could lead to catastrophic failure of just about anything!"
"But archery," Luna intoned wisely, "Depends upon very simple principles, and uses uncomplicated mechanical forces subject to the fine control of a living creature, which can compensate for any irregularity. If not on the first shot, then on the third. A creature complicated enough to stand on a bit of wood and surf a wave could adapt to minor changes in archery equipment as they occurred."
All eyes turned soberly to the centaur.
"It is my regret to inform you," Firenze spoke seriously, arms still folded across his massive chest, "That any connection you had to the muggle world was most probably severed when you became fey creatures. Any tools you were fond of, from telephones to computers, automobiles or airplanes, and of course their weapons, would no longer function either for or around you. Wizards create a magic field only when using magic. But fairies create one at all times. You cannot turn it on or off. If you wish to fight, muggle tools are not an option. What seems simple could well not be. If you pull the pin on a grenade, the timing fuse, which depends on precise chemical reactions which have been laboriously clocked at exact rates, could well go off in your hand - or not go off at all. Do not forget, even Time, that great constant, is a variable among the fey. All lesser rules more so."
"But the Weasleys got their car to work around Harry!" Hermione exclaimed.
"That was back when he was simply a wizard." Firenze corrected. "Mages cannot use electricity. It does not exist around them. But they have, for some time, been exploring options: spells and charms to create equivalent tools and effects. It is not the same. It could never be the same. But they are, at times, able to produce equal results - though the particulars may be quite different. I have seen this car you speak of and it behaves more like an animal than a device. If it still required the things it did when it was purely a machine it would have stopped functioning long ago."
"That's right," Harry mumbled to himself, allowing Hermione and the others to overhear because there was nothing particularly private in his musing. "It's only been running on the same tank of petrol for about ayear now."
Firenze stamped a hoof. "That is correct. It no longer runs on mechanical principles because it is no longer purely a machine. But that is after vigorous magical renovation. Because both the technological basis and the spells that modifies it are unpredictable around the fey, such a device would be useless to you. Also, the more powerful the fairy magic, the stronger the changes. As you are among the most powerful of fairy creatures, technology is at its most unpredictable around you."
"Then why isn't everything malfunctioning around us all of the time?"the bushy haired one questioned.
Luna pierced her with a steady gaze. "Because we live at Hogwarts."
"Luna is right," the centaur told them in commanding tones. "Allow me to explain. Life and magic may be the only pure constants unaffected by fairy magic. Things closer to life are more resistant to change. So, ablacksmith hammered sword, made purely by hand, would vary very little, even in the strongest of fairy auras. But muggle devices are made by machines, which in turn were made by other machines, using resources mined by machine and designed on more machines, and so on. It was once my privilege to see a group armed with muggle rifles enter the forbidden forest; muggleborns after easy kills on the rare creatures found there. But when they passed a fairy nest their devices nearly ceased to exist. One turned into a simple wooden stick, like a branch freshly plucked from a tree. The barrel of another became as flexible as rope, and eventually slithered off. Other reactions were no less extreme."
"So handmade devices are more durable against the changes wrought by fairy magic, and virtually everything at Hogwarts, or in the rest of magical society, is handmade. I see." Hermione began blinking. "I know muggle smiths anciently would recite prayers over forges as they worked. Does that help?"
"It would," the centaur answered. "But more importantly, the stronger the connection to life force something has, the less fairy magic changes it. So an item made of wood and leather would resist far stronger than one made of metal. Magic also hampers the change, an item handcrafted by a wizard is better than one made by a muggle. One created from parts of magical plants and creatures may well be constant. So magic devices are generally safe, to a degree. I still would not advise anything requiring tolerances to within thousandths of an inch," Firenze cautioned wisely.
"Why hasn't our film projector broken down, then?"
"Uhm," all eyes turned to Harry, who blushed. "Well, in the first place we don't spend too much time around that equipment, just setting it up and taking it down when it has to be moved between rooms, and most of the time it just stays set up in the History of Magic class."
"And?" Hermione delved, being able to tell there was more.
"Do you know my dog?" Harry looked up, meeting all their eyes with apoker face. They nodded. He inhaled deeply. "The film projector ate Spaz. I've found it wandering the halls at night on those metal tripod legs, hunting other pets. It scared me."
Firenze swished his tail, satisfied. "The affect of fairies on technology does not have to be obvious, instant or immediate (though it can be all of those things) and it certainly is not universal. It obeys very few rules, and changes can be good as well as bad. Yet it tends to accumulate the longer you stay in an area. Still, at your level of fairy power, if you were to stay the night at a muggle house, it would most likely be quirky until the day it got torn down, no matter the amount or extent of repairs done to correct its foibles."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "So," he postulated. "We could cut a swath of destruction simply by walking down streets in muggle London?"
"Possibly," the centaur agreed. "Again, do not forget every aspect of this is variable to a very great degree. You might do no harm at all, or none that would be evident. However, if you were to take up residence there, the area around your home would almost certainly be rendered uninhabitable to muggles, who rely on devices that would break almost constantly. Ask me for specifics?" the centaur shrugged, splaying his hands helplessly."I have none to give you. By its very nature, the subject cannot be exhaustively studied, as there appear to be almost no rules, nor can any measuring device be termed 'constant' in their presence. Again, there are very few who even try to understand the phenomena, and I have told you as much as is known."
"So, to archery?" Luna bounced eagerly, having already known much of the effect of fairy magic, and not having the close, personal connection to muggle technology as the other two, who were losing something by no longer being able to rely on it.
"Ah, yes," the centaur smiled, reaching for and stringing one of the practice weapons. "Another reason you should be grateful to your dryad friend is this: handmade wooden archery equipment changes very little around you, so it is an excellent martial discipline for you to practice. However, a dryad's bow changes not at all, being part of a living thing, and thus you will be more accurate with her gifts of gear than with any other."
"There is also the fact they can be used to penetrate anti-arrow shields,"Luna smirked with a quirky grin.
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Centaurs were prized as instructors for a reason.
Nobody sought to learn their teaching methods. No one was all that hot on the idea of being trained by someone who'd been taught by a centaur(it was just like being taught by any other expert.) There was no great urge to get their devices or tools for training. They wanted the centaurs themselves to be their teachers.
The reason for that was very simple.
As Luna had pointed out, humans were made up of a great many things, but magical creatures tended to possess a very narrow focus. It was almost as though everything magical had been created for a reason, and sought to fill that purpose. Most had special abilities to help them do so.
Centaurs were focused on the pride of personal ability, and to get there they had a gift for teaching.
It was a simple yet profound thing. There was no great, showy display or jaw dropping moments. They simply had a knack for perceiving a problem in a person's development, understanding how to fix it, and conveying that data in a fashion usable by the student.
While it may sound simple, all important things are simple, and simple things are often hard. Their being able to do this effectively meant there was no wasted time or effort under their tutelage. All of the work you put into learning achieved the best possible results for your time and energy.
It has been often said there was no such things as a bad student, only bad teachers. While not perfectly true, it was accurate in by far the majority of cases. And on their subjects of expertise, centaurs were near perfect teachers. On that one day on instruction, the trio learned more than they would've in six months of an average college elective on archery, which is not to say they were good, or even adequate, but they'd made for a passable start. For now they were left with physical limits as their main liability(and the need to reinforce and refine their newfound knowledge).
That led to their mention of the fact of how they were so dissatisfied with their own physical training regime, and it seemed natural in the course of conversation for the centaur to take over supervising that.
Then it was time to see if those supplements would assist them in building up body conditioning while working out with a centaur.
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I'm tired of anonymous jerk-offs telling me 'bows suck, guns are better.'That may even be true, but it's not what I want to do with my story. So I slapped down some rules to make it physically impossible for my heroes to use them. Just because I'm tired of listening to the blind 'the way we do things now is the only true and perfect way to do ANYTHING' crowd.
I want a fantasy story, not Rambo, the Fairy Blood.
Say what you want about them, there isn't a handgun or personal scale firearm in the world that packs as much energy as a 25lb cannonball going 80mph - and wizards use those on themselves in a SPORT for FUN!!
Also, forgive me, but I get annoyed by the 'Oh, EMP shielding will make muggle items work in magic areas' crowd. For one thing, EMP stands for Electro-magnetic Pulse, and if you wrap a couple of copper wires around an iron bar and apply current, what you get is electromagnetism, NOT magic!
There is no sense, sanity or reason to suppose the one behaves like the other. You might as well say that "Oh, I made my watch waterproof. Now it will function in magic zones." If the one behaved at all like the other, muggles would have detected magic and developed tools for experimenting with it just like we did electricity or any other thing. People in general believed in magic FAR before they'd ever HEARD of electricity!!
And wizards are too out of touch to have stopped them all. Indeed, there would have been no need for secrecy at all if we could've employed magic just like we do electricity, or magnetism. Some people could've used it directly (wizards) others through light switches and batteries. No need for conflict. Use those wizards like we do electricians and everybody in the world would've been using magic all the time for everything.
And while that would've made an interesting story, it's not the Harry Potter universe.