ven when stranded in a strange world, Harry continues to make waves. Friends are scarce, but there is no shortage of those who would like to see him drown in the swell of his own making. And what a...
By Random Shinobi
Summary: Even when stranded in a strange world, Harry continues to make waves. Friends are scarce, but there is no shortage of those who would like to see him drown in the swell of his own making. And what are the true motives of the beautiful Summer Lady? [HP/Dresden Files crossover. Not Deathly Hallows compliant. Starts before Grave Peril.]
Rating: R (M)
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 Eight: Baptism by Summer Fire
“So... Did you meet the Winter Knight?”
“Yes, he's a violent and vicious man,” the Sidhe knight drawled, disgusted. “Corrupted to the core and just what Winter deserves.”
Aurora let out a small burst of laughter and turned to face her adjutant. “Then, Lord Marshall, he's exactly what Winter wants. Nobility of character is not what they seek in their human tools. They want ruthlessness and controllability. That man may deserve Winter, but he's more than Winter deserves.”
Lord Talos bowed his head slightly in acquittance. “That may be as it is, my Queen. But I must insist that‒” He suddenly fell silent and glared at the small, luminous fae that had just flown in the room, her tiny wings buzzing.
She come to a halt in a respectable distance from the two High Sidhe. Standing only about four inches tall, the female sprite was small even by the modest standard of the Wee Folk. Her long white hair and yellow, almost see-through gown fluttered in the wind generated by her silvery wings. Curtsying mid-air, she hesitantly hovered there like an overtly large dragonfly, as if unsure of what to do next. The bright golden aura surrounding the sprite sorceress flickered, sometimes blazing while occasionally dying completely.
“Hello, little one,” Aurora said kindly and beckoned the faery to come closer. The tiny sprite obeyed and, after getting over her initial nervousness and stopping making mad loops and zigzags, begun to twinkle furiously. “You wish to show me something?” A twinkle. “Hmm... Come here then. Lord Talos, if you would mind lifting that bowl from the upper shelf? Thank you.”
The Lord Marshall lowered the tarnished silver vessel on the table and Aurora emptied what little remained the water pitcher into it. She dipped two fingers in the basin and then flicked them over the small sprite's eyes that were now closed in concentration. Twin drops slid down her rosy cheeks, merging on her chin, and fell in the bowl, sending ripples across the surface.
Muttering a few nonsensical words and waiving her hand rhythmically, the Summer Lady wove her magic and the water in the basin became deadly still. As the ripples abruptly died, the basin reflected light like a well polished mirror. Then her lecanomancy took full effect and images started to appear.
Both Sidhe leaned over the shimmering bowl to witness whatever the sprite had seen.
“You are late, Dresden.”
Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden looked at the short blonde woman for a moment, as if searching for a proper excuse, before answering, “Yeah, I know, but I had to take one stupid job just to pay the repair bills.”
Murphy arched her eyebrow, tilting her head a little. “Did your car break down again?”
“No, actually. I met one faery in a bar, and he was completely ignoring the Accords, and I...” He trailed off as he saw that Murphy was desperately trying to contain a smile.
“Oh,” she said softly, her lips twitching a little. “Did he try to kill you?”
He looked at her blandly for a few seconds before answering in a dignified manner, “He might have swung that gaudy sword of his at me.”
He decided to ignore her and surveyed the damaged building in front of him. The front of the burned store had been fenced off by police so that people wouldn't accidentally mess up evidence. Not that those few strips of black and yellow tape would stop anyone now as the authorities had deserted the place hours ago. Murphy was currently the only officer at the scene and even she wasn't supposed to be here still. Despite that the fire had been extinguished almost eight hours ago, distinct traces of smoke still lingered in the air.
Dresden spared a look at the short policewoman standing next to him, still recovering from her fit of laughter, before turning his eyes back at the blackened ruins. “So, Murph. Why am I here? I assume this is more than just a simple arson or an unfortunate accident.”
The woman turned to look at him, the mirthful expression on her face vanishing in an instant. “The fire started at the occult store at the street level.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” Dresden said and idly waved his hand at the smoking remains of the shop. “It was one of the few credible stores dealing in occult in whole Chicago. But still, what makes you suspect that the fire was of supernatural origin?”
“The flames burned green and were exceedingly difficult to put out,” Murphy dead-panned. “It took hours to stop the fire.”
He blinked. “Oh, that might give a little hint...”
“You could certainly say so,” she said and cleared her throat before continuing, “Also, remains of nine people were recovered from the shop. And they didn't die in the fire, they were all killed beforehand; from what we can gather from the charred skeletons, they were literally ripped apart. To me it seems that the shop was set on fire to destroy evidence of a mass murder.”
Dresden sighed. “What about Mr. Bock, the proprietor?”
Murphy cocked her head a little as she looked sharply at the wizard, the few still working streetlights painting her blonde hair with yellow. “He was among the dead. Did you know him?”
“Not really.” He shrugged. “I had only spoken to him a few times.”
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence before Murphy voiced her next question. “Do you know what or who could have caused something like this? Thus far we have no leads. We have no motive, no reason for the victims to come here, no witnesses, no murder weapon... Hell, we have yet to even identify the victims other than Bock. We have absolutely nothing!”
“It was probably elemental fire, phlogiston,” Dresden said, and after seeing her questioning look, he clarified, “When wizards call fire, it's usually not real fire even though it looks like it; there isn't any chemical reaction happening, nor does it need air to sustain itself. Elemental fire is simply magical energy released as heat and light.”
She sighed. “Great, just great. Do we have another Kravos in our hands now?”
“It's a lot worse than that,” Dresden said, his voice deadly serious. “Kravos was a sorcerer of only moderate talent, and the one who did is much better. Usually elemental fire burns through its energy reserves in seconds, leaving behind only the natural fires it ignited. To have it last significantly longer would mean that the caster kept concentrating on the spell and feeding magic to the flames...or made the spell to draw energy from around it to keep it going. Both are big-time magic.”
The image turned into a swirl of waning colours and the Sidhe looked at each other. The sprite had grown bored and wandered off some time previously.
“Lord Potter has started to make waves,” the Lord Marshal drawled. “It won't take long for the White Council to connect the dots. I wonder if he will drown in the swell of his own making.”
The Summer Lady just arched one perfect eyebrow and smiled knowingly. “You underestimate him. Besides, a few dead humans and one beaten-up regional commander is nothing compared to the death of the White King. Now, that will open some interesting avenues.”
Lord Talos' face blanched. “What have you done, milady? I thought you were forbidden to act against the Vampire Courts?”
“Oh... I merely nudged him in the right direction.” Her smile turned outright vicious. “I never told him anything about attacking the White Court. In fact, going after Lord Raith was Leanansidhe's idea. Vindictive bitches are so delightfully predictable.”
“So that's why you wanted him to attend the party... But why are you so certain that he will prevail against the vampire lord? He's a wizard, and Raith is supposed to be untouchable by magic.”
“An Outsider wizard,” Aurora clarified. “I doubt his Aegis extends to powers beyond our reality. Unless Harry somehow loses his magic, Lord Raith stands no chance.”
The Sidhe knight shrugged. “It could happen...”
A pile of debris shook and then fell, exposing the dishevelled wizard buried underneath. Steadying himself with both hands, Harry slowly rose up to his knees. The shattered Death Eater mask fell in pieces, the fragments of blackened porcelain clattering to the floor, and revealed the bruised face below. A coughing fit shook his mauled body and he spat out blood, saliva and tooth fragments. Dust and blood stuck to his scalp in clumps and his tattered clothes were grey with dust and dirt. What remained of the walls were painted with crimson, carnage hanging from the many holes and cracks. Nothing remained from the two Muggle guards except blood and gore now staining the devastated hallway. The stench of gunpowder and blood was almost overwhelming.
He mumbled a string of rather obscene profanities but they came out as hardly more than incoherent whimpers. There was not a spot in his body that didn't hurt and Harry wanted nothing more than to collapse on the floor and groan. Warm blood trickled down from his left ear and he was fairly sure he had lost hearing from that one. Well, at least he still had the other one; it rang so badly that it couldn't possibly be ruptured.
He stoop up and faced the vampire lord. Dust and blood slid down his torn robe in a flood, unable to stick due Impervious. “You killed them,” Harry snarled, his furious words slurred by blood and the missing teeth. “They fought for you and you killed them ‒ just like that! You were their master; it was your bloody duty to look after them. Fuck, you even killed the kitten!”
“All things die,” the White King said coolly and drew the sword that hung on his hip in one fluid movement. It was a beautiful Japanese blade, almost twice as long as Harry's own sword. “Some merely die more slowly than others. Passage of years will eventually fell the strongest of dragons and even the Black Court vampires with their vaunted immortality may be killed. Humans die with almost disturbing regularity. Why fight against nature in an attempt to save those who are already doomed?”
Harry bit his teeth and saw red. Seething anger and fury swelled in him at the callous words and he wasn't sure if he had ever hated anyone more. He practically shook with bottled hatred and his grip of his wand was painfully tight. Draco was an annoying pest, Bellatrix, a mad bitch, while Voldemort lived to be a bastard of epic calibre, but none of them had ever been quite this...infuriating. He silently vowed to kill this monster even if was the last thing he did.
The vampire lord levelled the curved blade at the wizard and took a few steps forward, walking leisurely and seemingly without care. A faint, sardonic smile curved Raith's lips as he spoke, “Perhaps you should worry more about yourself as your foci seems to have broken.”
“Huh,” Harry said intelligently and glanced down. To his surprise and horror only half of his wand remained, the explosion having apparently ripped away rest of it. Wisps of dark smoke curled upwards from the smouldering remains of a golden feather sticking out of the shattered stick.
Harry's mind reeled over the fact that his wand was broken. A wand was much more than just a symbol of a wizard's power – it was their power. Still, he refused to just flee, defeated. Instead he drew the sword of Gryffindor – or Muneracchius as Aurora called it – and it instantly flared up with brilliant golden fire, igniting dust particles that got too near and doubling its fiery halo.
The young wizard faced the white-clad vampire lord across the devastated corridor, his fury now mixed with a healthy amount of trepidation. By modern standards Harry was a pretty decent swordsman, meaning that he was significantly more likely to cut his enemies than himself. Of course, it didn't mean he would last a second in a fair duel against the White King who had likely practised swordplay daily for many centuries. Good thing was that the fight was ridiculously stacked; Harry doubted Raith wore bulletproof clothing or had his sword coated in basilisk venom.
The vampire lord sprang into motion with the speed and suddenness of a coiled snake, his curved sword cutting the air with a soft whistle. Harry tried to raise the sword in defence, but was far too slow and the vampire's blade drew a red line across his chest. It was a shallow cut but hurt like hell, as if someone had poured salt into the wound. Moving with serpentine grace, Raith spun around the wizard's shoulder and brought his sword down. Harry collapsed with a grunt as the curved blade struck the back of his knee, tearing through the spell-reinforced layers of cloth and biting into his flesh.
Lord Raith obviously didn't subscribe to any gentleman rules and wasted no time to attack Harry while he was down. Steel screeched and shattered as Muneracchius intercepted the downward thrust aimed at the wizard's throat and cut straight through the vampire's sword.
The White King swiftly retreated to a safe distance, now a bit more wary of the wizard, and let Harry to stand up. Both combatants stared at each other, appraising and planning. Harry was bleeding and limping while Raith had lost half of his katana.
Then the vampire attacked again and their swords clanged together with such force that Harry lost his hold of Muneracchius. While the enchanted sword was sent spinning, Raith grabbed the wizard by his collar and slammed him face-first to the wall.
Thanks to the Adaptive Cushioning Charm, the impact hurt only his pride. Harry spun around and the tiniest flick of his hand summoned a bluish shied to take the vicious slash intended for his throat. Blue sparks flew everywhere and a loud sizzling hiss filled his ears as the vampire's sword carved a silvery gash across the protective screen. Thankfully the shattered blade penetrated only few inches and missed Harry's hand by a hair's breadth. Hiding behind the shield, he backed away from the vampire lord.
Then, as if things weren't already bad enough, they suddenly got worse. The light of his shield ring ebbed away and the electric blue screen separating him from Lord Raith vanished with it, dissolving into a cloud of dim sparks. Harry almost wanted to cry.
Swaying to his side, he somehow managed to avoid being skewered, and a swift jump backwards saved his entrails as the strike suddenly turned horizontal. Still, he was quickly losing and both combatants knew it. The vampire kept pressing on, not giving Harry time to Disapparate, and cut small slashes all over the wizard. The White King could have killed him many times already, but for some reason didn't. Harry didn't know whether he should be affronted or thankful for the fact that Raith was just playing with him...
Driven by desperation, Harry waved his hand and yelled, “Everbero!” Unsurprisingly, nothing happened and the vampire's lips curved faintly. The Bludgeoning Hex was simple magic, but Harry could count with his fingers the times he had managed to produce more than a few sparks without a wand. And that was not from the lack of trying...
“You must be a rather strong sorcerer to withstand those mines fitted with iron,” Lord Raith said as he leisurely drew a few more red lines across the retreating wizard's skin, “but it's not like you can penetrate the protections woven around me.”
While the White King was very wrong in thinking that Harry's spell failed because of some arcane protection instead of him just being terrible at wandless magic, it didn't exactly make his position any better. Then his back hit a wall and Harry knew he was about to die, killed by a vampire in some far away dimension. He had nowhere to run, no time to Apparate away, and no wand to cast a shield with. While he could practically feel his magic raging within him, it was of no use; like a bomb without the detonator or a handful of bullets without a gun...
Then everything fell into place and he suddenly knew what to do. He had no time to learn wandless magic but did have something to make it easier. He closed his eyes, trying his best to ignore the impeding doom, and reached towards the flame burning deep within his soul, his clumsy mental fingers fumbling to grasp it. For the first time Harry intentionally called upon the Summer's might and the fire came alive within him, writhing and growing, fanning itself into a veritable firestorm.
The wizard's eyes snapped open. “Infurnacio!”
What followed would plague Harry's nightmares for the rest of his life. His flesh boiled and sizzled as fire leaped from his outstretched hand. His glove was consumed in an instant and it took only a heartbeat for the shield ring to melt, red-hot silver falling down his blackened fingers that were soon hardly more than charred bones. All the while orange-gold flames, too bright to look upon, roared with unimaginable fury and surged forward to devour everything in their path. The spell wasn't controlled or focused ‒ not that it needed to be. The walls couldn't even hope to contain the sheer destructive potential of the tsunami of fire and exploded outwards in a shower burning shrapnel. And so did the next set of walls, and the next...
Harry dropped to his knees, fat tears falling down his cheeks, and cradled the burned hand against his chest. He bit his teeth, but that didn't stop a pained hiss escaping his lips. Shivers rocked his broken body and he collapsed on the floor. The wizard barely noticed how half the manor collapsed around him and almost buried him under a flood of burning debris. Hot smoke choked his breath and the resulting coughs expelled the little oxygen he had.
It took a few minutes, but once the suffocating clouds of grey dust and dark smoke cleared somewhat, he could see the blue sky above him and the burning mounds of rubble in front. With almost clinical detachment he watched as a hand burst out of one of the huge piles of debris, sending a few pieces of broken concrete rolling down the slope and eventually bouncing right next to him.
The bastard was still alive. The grasping hand wasn't even burned, sporting only a few scratches from the collapse. Apparently Raith hadn't been just bragging when he told about his magic resistance. Not that it mattered any...
Harry stood up and limped the few yards to his sword, moving with all the speed and grace of an epileptic rhino. Muneracchius exploded into bright flames as his fingers coiled clumsily around its metal shaft. The climb to the emerging vampire lord was slow and excruciating, his every muscle screaming in protest with every painful step. Blood loss was finally getting to him and he almost fell thrice due the increasing dizziness before reaching the top, just in time to see the vampire's head surface. Wasting no time, he unceremoniously thrust the flaming sword into Raith's face. Flesh sizzled and blood boiled as Muneracchius pierced the vampires skull with ease. Its tip protruded out of the White King's occiput, reddish steam bursting out of both wounds. Then, just to make absolutely sure that the vampire would stay dead, Harry twisted the blade until he heard the satisfying crackle of bones.
“All things die, eh?” Harry questioned the dead king, teetering at the edge of unconsciousness. Scarlet dribbled down the wizard's chin and his voice was as unusually raspy and weak. “I guess we are doomed all right. But still, what a pathetic excuse...” He coughed, spitting up blood, and half sat, half collapsed next to the head now decorated with the silver brand. His numb fingers worked furiously to wrench the iron ring out of the vampire's fingers and it took only moment to secure the Seal.
Harry vanished with a sharp crack and a flicker of golden flames.
His eyes fluttered open. It was painfully bright and so he quickly closed them again. Mumbling something incoherent, he simply turned over and decided to not wake up just yet. He was just so damn tired and wanted nothing more than to sleep for at least a week more.
Harry shifted under the soft duvet to find a more comfortable position and his hand slid to the pillow. It was surprisingly solid and warm. Something tickled his nose and he sniffed. For some inexplicable reason the pillow was also scented. He mmm'd appreciatively and lazily rubbed his cheek against the pliable cushion. It was a nice flowery smell. In fact, the perfume reminded him of the Summer Lady...
His sleepy thoughts came to an abrupt halt as the realisation hit him and his eyes snapped open. It was as Harry feared ‒ there was no pillow. His head was resting on Aurora's lap and he would have jumped to his feet had her fingers not been idly toying with his raven hair.
“Good evening, Harry,” she said, peering down and smiling warmly. Her nimble hands never stopped their play and it felt nice and strangely relaxing. In fact the whole situation was very...domestic, although he was understandably hesitant to use that particular word in conjunction with the Summer Lady. Perhaps he was just getting paranoid but the situation felt more than a bit staged. It was simply too storybook-ish; a beautiful princess personally nursing her victorious champion back to health... “You really made a mess of yourself this time. For a moment I feared the worst when you collapsed to my feet. Despite your debt and the Summer Fire you have absorbed, your very essence still rebels against the intrusion of my power, making healing you a very tedious affair. I barely have enough strength left in me to light a candle.”
He was so immersed in his thoughts that he had barely heard her. “Huh?”
Harry followed her gaze and his eyes widened a little. His hand was still clutching what had thought as a pillow but really was the Summer Lady's knee. The fire-consumed hand was renewed; what had been tatters of charred meat clinging to blackened bones was flesh and blood once again. Sure, he had apparently lost most the feeling in the fingers, and yes, the skin was raw and covered by an ugly patchwork of scars, but it was far better than the alternative. He flexed his damaged fingers with some difficulty. It was as if he had suddenly acquired a severe arthritis.
She evidently saw the face he made and she was quick to reassure him. “Don't worry. The neural damage isn't permanent and the scars will fade with time.” Aurora leaned over and her soft, white hair fell to veil them both. Harry could feel her warm breath on his face and when she gently kissed his forehead, he inhaled sharply. It was just a little peck, but he could still feel the moist heat of her lips lingering on his skin. “You did well.”
“Your thanks, while appreciated, are not necessary. I look after my own.”
“Still, it's the polite thing to do,” Harry said, smiling.
She laughed and the young wizard's heart skipped a beat. Then her expression suddenly turned serious and the charming smile was replaced by a girlish frown. Totally cute. “You lost your foci in the battle. What resources do you need to build another?”
“Build another?” Harry murmured before snorting loudly. “I didn't even make my old one. I don't know anything about the charms and potions involved in crafting a wand ‒ those are a wandmaker's family secrets. All I know is that the wood must come from an old living tree that has grown in a magical location and that the core material has to be taken from an intrinsically magical creature.”
“What was your previous wand made of?”
“Holly and a single tail feather from a phoenix.”
“A Phoenix?” Aurora questioned. “I have only heard of the Phoenix, and unfortunately she won't gift you with any of her feathers. This particular Wyldfae stays strictly neutral in everything concerning the Faerie Courts. She won't aid an ally of the Summer Court.”
“Then I will just have to use some random ingredients. By the way, I would like to get up, and so if you could‒”
“No,” she interrupted sharply and her nails dug against his skull. “You were poisoned and lost a lot of blood. You need be rested and look your best when we go to meet my mother.”
“Poisoned?” Harry half stated, half asked. “So his blade was both enchanted and envenomed too... I should have guessed. And what do you mean by meeting your mother?”
“Did you really think that the Summer Queen wouldn't feel the massive burst of Summer Fire you used to demolish the Château Raith?”
He blinked. “I didn't even think about it.”
Aurora just sighed and Harry felt vaguely insulted.