Siirus Interruptions. by Zenzao
Siirus Interruptions. by Zenzao
http://www.patronuscharm.net/s/584/1/

Sirius Black did not die the night he fell through the veil within the Department of Mysteries; he was cast through the dimensions into another world. Now he must adapt to wandless magic, the dangers of evocation, and learn to deal with the Warden assigned to watch over him, Harry Dresden.

Published on August 02, 2013
Updated on August 02, 2013
Action/Adventure / Crossover
Rated R
Work in Progress
18,439 words
5 chapters
Post-OoTP

Generated: September 20, 2017 at 1:14 PM Siirus Interruptions. at PatronusCharm.Net
Chapter 1: Stranger in a strange land.

Chapter 1: Stranger in a strange land.

18 June, 1996, Department of Mysteries

For a long moment, perhaps more and perhaps less, Sirius watched as his cousins body grew further away from his own and the rest of the chamber felt as if it were turning up, being stretched to a different angle than that of the floor and walls should have run along.

The sounds of Bellatrix' joyful crowing drew out into an almost hollow ringing and he realized at last that his body was tumbling backwards and toward the swaying, hauntingly-whisper filled veil near his back.

And than his vision faded to white just before a sensation not wholly unlike Disapparation enveloped his body, and both sound and sight abandoned him in equal measure for a longer moment still.

The waxy touch of something unseen creeping over his flesh followed before his thoughts fled into darkness.

~-~-~-~-~-~-~

May 2nd, 2006, Edinburgh

The first thing he noticed, as he came to abruptly, was the crack of bone meeting rough floor and the long groan that rolled off of the tip of his tongue as a result, running a limp hand over and cradling the sore lump now emerging from the back of his head.

"Bloody hell..." he complained as his other hand patted the area nearest for his wand in the hope of alleviating the headache pounding away therein. Thinking hurt in its own manner, but at least it distracted him from the stronger throb and distinct wetness around the fingertips.

Stone... stone... rough stone... polished stone... dammit, where'd the ruddy thing go? He thought miserably as his spare hand sought to no avail.

He turned his head to the side with a low gasp and took in the flickering and dim lighting slowly, making a note to question why down the road as his fingers at last closed around something firm and narrow enough to represent his replacement hawthorn wand.

With great care so as to keep his nearly unresponsive fingers from loosing it once again, Sirius brought the wand around and pressed it cautiously against the source of his woe, spitting out the field-level healing spell, "
Episkey..."

Split skin re-knitted itself together again and he let out a welcoming sigh of relief as the worst of the damage went away, allowing him to finally think about where he was and why it had been so quiet compared to the noise of the Department of Mysteries dueling.

A thick looking series of concentric gold inlaid rings ran the length of the wall at his feet, with numerable unknown runes flashing on and off in muted shades of red around the inside and outside of each ring save for the very innermost.

As he stared at it the two foot width seemed to grow darker and more focused as if gathering shadow toward it, but when he blinked the effect had faded. "Right. Time to get a move." He said uneasily and rolled onto his knees to push up.

He found a black cloaked and hooded figure carrying a dark staff looming a foot away in silence, and unsurprisingly he reacted with a startled shout that turned into a partially named spell at the probable-Death Eater.

For the second time that night his wand was torn from his hands as the end of the staff came up like as swiftly as snake and struck him along the muscles of the inner wrist; by reflex his fingers slackened again and the wand fell from his grip to clatter along the floor.

He swore more heavily when he felt the pain sink in a half second after the fact, and then that same staff had clocked him beneath the chin and sent the aged wizard sprawling on his ass in defeat.

"Aye, I think that will do." The mystery man said in a rich baritone of middle eastern flavor, and Sirius grimaced as he tried to blink away the stars flashing in his vision.

The faint crack of wood splitting reached his ears before a firm grip closed about his other wrist and for just a moment hesitated in mid-motion, then he was swung up to both feet. "Curious. And a
soul, no less." The same man said as if in surprise.

Sirius managed to look at him funnily as his vision returned. "What the hell does that mean?" he demanded as all thought of trying to verify what the probable cause of that previous noise was got pushed aside for now.

"That there is more to you than one might at first surmise, Mr. John Doe. It is a very good confirmation to be able to make considering your entrance
here, where most such things do not." The other man answered elusively.

His unease rose at that, but he forced out a wary laugh, "Hahah... you aren't kidding, are you?" the laughter died nearly as soon as it began as the grip upon his wrist intensified for a fraction of a second.

"No. You are fortuitous to still be breathing given how close you were to a flat death, for that is my duty; I am he who observes these Outer Gates, and he who executes those of which cross the boundary upon our dimensional soil." The other man explained in a manner that did little but confuse Sirius.

"You are unlike the majority of the soulless, inhuman and nonliving
things that occasionally breach these unlikeliest of bridges. I believe you quite human, in fact." He continued.

Sirius nodded. "Are you?" He asked warily, having no idea where he was except that it was no longer the domain he used to inhabit.

A short scoff met his question, "Of course. I am the Gatekeeper, but that is irrelevant Mr. Doe. Do you have a proper name or shall I continue to refer to you as such? It would be easier on you in the time ahead than to apply the equally as accurate title of
Outsider you now bear."

"... Black. And that's all I believe is needed until I have a better understanding of what the hell is going on, if you don't mind." Sirius told him.

The Gatekeeper nodded and said, "Very well, Mr. Black. Let us step out from here." With that he fell into silence for a time, hand still wrapped about Sirius' wrist to keep a firm idea of what would happen in the near future on his mind.

In time the hall they were in lead out into a large open and mostly barren plane, with a few other entrances scattered around. Despite the seeming amphitheater effect he felt from the place it was empty save for they two.

"Where are we going, then?" He asked the black cloaked man beside him. A good part of him desired to get back to the fight and finish off his cousin once and for all, though the fact that Dumbledore had just arrived about half a second before he was hit and was in fact the cause for his guard slipping, for his mad laughter in satisfaction, it did little to satisfy him
here and now.

"To your judgment, Mr. Black. I am afraid you have inadvertently broken perhaps the most dire of our Laws of Magic by way of arrival here." The Gatekeeper answered.

Sirius balked and came to a stop facing the other man, only then remembering that he no longer had his wand and, with a long glance back the way they had come, realizing that it was likely in two or more broken pieces behind them. "What?" He asked flatly.

"I think your soul will be enough proof that you are not here on ill intent. Do not worry unduly, I will vouch for you if you agree to submit to a basic examination to confirm a few things." the Gatekeeper explained calmly.

Sirius grimaced. "I've already been shafted by my own authoritarian system for fourteen years, and I happened to be both innocent and well aware of their laws, thank you very much. What kind of a prison will I end up in here if your trial doesn't pan out?" He demanded.

"... We don't give out prison sentences, Mr. Black. We exterminate the source of the trouble." The other man told him softly.

Sirius stared at him blankly for a moment before realizing what he meant. "Lovely."

~-~-~-~-~-~-~

Half an hour later and much had progressed. That isn't to say that Sirius was any happier about his situation, especially given the fact that he was liable to have his head chopped off anyway for unknowingly and rather unwillingly breaking a law that he had no control over, but that was the way of it.

He knew without a shadow of a doubt that the veil had shunted him on to his 'next great adventure', as Professor Dumbledore might have put it, though this was not a journey into death as the older wizard had probably meant.

He still had a hard time accepting that he was in another dimension, but given that the Department of Mysteries was full of unknown and terrifying magic, and the drastic alterations to everything he knew so far, the reality was becoming more apparent by the second.

Speaking of which right now he sat on a stone bench in the middle of the current amphitheater, his hands held in his lap rather than chained down, as several other wizards and a witch stood around him quietly murmuring to one another and, from time to time, shaking a hand or nodding a head.

A balding and fairly older looking man wearing typical farmers overalls and boots tapped a long black staff against the rocky floor thrice in quick succession and spoke aloud once the greetings were through, "This meeting of the Senior Council is now committed, so let it be writ under the supervision of the Blackstaff."

With that he turned toward the Gatekeeper and Sirius himself, eyes focused on the latter as he spoke to the former. "It wasn't easy getting here without Langtry knowing and your message didn't exactly give much room to slowdown for. What are we dealing with?" He asked.

"An
Outsider," the Gatekeeper began and paused as they all stood up a little straighter, focused a little more seriously upon the man before them. Sirius grimaced at the intensity of their stares and returned his gaze to the floor as instructed earlier on.

"As I was saying, an
Outsider in title alone. We know that humans dwell within distant reaches of the Nevernever even if they are, to a degree, altered by those realms. I have long suspected that the Outer Gates are merely a bridge beyond our reality, a theory this man is an apparently firm indication of." He told them.

"I have taken the precautions of testing his
essence," and here he paused to look at the American Indian, Injun Joe, who recognized the subtle request. "His blood is authentic, his flesh natural, and at the depths of his body dwells that which matters most; a human soul."

Joe peered closely down at the dirty haired and too-thin man and murmured almost silently to himself before going still. A long moment later he relaxed again and nodded. "Rashid speaks the truth. Those who lack our skill with the true sight may use a
soulgaze to reaffirm it."

"Hmph," grunted the oldest of the lot, "So we've an
Outsider in human guise. What do you propose we do with him then, Gatekeeper?" the Blackstaff asked with a wary nod to Injun Joe, deferring to their relative knowledge on the matter.

"Opening the Outer Gates again so soon is an unwise venture, and even if we could do so with relative safety it is impossible to thrust him back into that which he came from with any surety," the Gatekeeper answered, "and as such the choice becomes rather more limited; do we allow him to stay, when considering the
nature of a particular Warden available, or do we execute him in one smooth stroke?" He asked the others neutrally.

A wary silence descended upon the area at that. They had executed actual Warlockes for less, but the man before them had so far committed a violation of no intention or control of his own.

His innocence in the matter was not truly what was at the heart of their decision to make, then, but rather the threat he presented against the world. Humanity had never fared well under the presence of those from the
Outside, and it could not be risked to allow even one who, as Blackstaff McCoy had said, was in the guise of a human to go free without due consideration.

After another long few seconds one of them spoke up.

"You have confirmed he is of no threat toward humans? That this truly isn't some kind of elaborate trap?" questioned Martha Liberty at length, and at the Gatekeepers nod continued, "Very well. I see no point in execution as of this point, but I still believe a safety measure should be in place," she said. "It is quite apparent that assigning a permanent Warden is in our best interest, if only to be assured that all risk is minimized."

Injun Joe nodded in agreement. "I already believe him to be no further concern, and with such a watcher in place there is little enough chance for him to slip up and break another Law by mistake."

"Very well," the Gatekeeper said softly. "And you, Blackstaff? LaFortier?" He asked.

McCoy looked over the relatively young man they were about to declare sentence on, and the same feeling of unease as he had felt nearly a decade previous weighed in on his shoulders. He exhaled wearily if a little impatiently and opened his sight for a moment to get something of a proper, if somewhat unsettling, view to aide his decision.

Whatever he saw in that moment was enough, and it was with a frown that he spoke up, "My opinion is the same. He not only should, but
must have a Warden assigned once he leaves these halls, to prevent capture or control; the way this war is going, we may need the assistance of an able-magicked wizard." He said his piece and leaned back on his staff to await the last two men to speak.

LaFortier glanced not for the first time at the doorway they had come through with unease at slipping around the Merlin and Ancient Mai like this, but he confirmed his decision quickly after McCoy finished up, "I concur. I do not trust him, and having one with control over his nature keeping guard would help me to sleep better at night; I would not appreciate the Red Court gaining an
Outsider under their thumb." He said with a pointed look.

Once more silence filled the area as each member reacted just a little differently from the other on that unhappy thought, and it was with a weighted tone that the conclusion to the meeting was met.

"A very good point has been raised. I, too, agree with the other Senior Council members." The Gatekeeper concluded quietly, his lone visible eye roaming over Sirius' tired expression.

"So it is said, so mote it be. Council meeting adjourned." The Blackstaff said, eyes staring heavily into the ravaged-looking man they had just spared the life of for the moment. "We'll be keeping an eye on you, boy," he added wearily and almost beneath his voice before he turned and strode toward the doors.

LaFortier followed, but the other two shared an unpleasant look with each other and then with the Gatekeeper. "Does he have the potential to threaten us if that should happen?" Martha Liberty asked the two of them quietly.

The Gatekeeper shrugged. "Any wizard has the potential to threaten us, or do we not execute Warlockes before they may become such? I am satisfied with what has been chosen this night, and my faith in our Warden of choice to keep him upon the right path." He said firmly.

Injun Joe hummed a quiet note of agreement before departing after the other two, and it was with an wary glance between them that she followed after to rejoin the rest of the White Council.

Some seconds later and only after they were alone once more did Sirius stir as if from a trance and exhale harshly before looking up at the Gatekeeper. The spell used to keep him calm and subdued for the meeting lifted at the other wizards command, and the emotions kept down rushed back to the surface as he was finally allowed to react.

"Bloody hell," he murmured after a moment. "I honestly did not expect this to end in my favor," he said heavily and then after silence from the other man asked with a note of concern slipping in, "it did end in my favor, right? Mostly? Kind-of-sort-of?"

"It has ended about as well as can be hoped for, and certainly as well as I suspected, Mr. Black," the Gatekeeper answered cryptically and placed a calming hand to his shoulder. "I advise you to rest for a time until your charge arrives to take you out of here. He will finish explaining that which you must know."

Sirius doubted he could sleep if he wanted to right now feeling the unexpected rush of satisfaction at still being alive, but he felt his heart beat slow and a sort of haze descending upon his thoughts the longer he sat there. Wearily his eyes closed of seemingly their own accord and he drifted off.

There were, after all, certain things that had to be spoken of with Warden Dresden to affirm the younger wizard's co-operation.

~-~-~-~-~-~-~

Sirius stirred slowly from the haze surrounding his mind as he was lifted off of the stone bench and pushed outside of the circle unknowingly engraved in the floor around it.

He found a man standing over him, almost towering really given the height difference between the two of them, wearing a ridiculous looking black leather cloak of some kind beneath another more natural looking gray version and in the hand not gripping Sirius' left arm he carried a well worn wooden staff.

"Move it." The new guy said tonelessly despite the slack in his features. Sirius tugged free and spun around to face him fully, head still swaying from the magic used to put him to sleep.

"What happened to the other guy? The Gatekeeper?" He questioned warily, shaking off the leftover dredges of slumber clouding up his thoughts. "What about the trial? I can hardly remember anything after he pushed me down onto the bench."

The younger wizard scowled. "We'll talk on the way- I've just had to watch a kid get his head split off for black magic conviction, so I'd say the fact that yours is still attached means something positive at least."

Sirius grimaced as things began to return at that reminder of his narrowly avoided fate and followed as he was prodded along.

As they walked Sirius learned the others name was Dresden, and in snippets it was explained what was about to happen. "You've been convicted of violating one of our Seven Laws of Magic," he began, "and for once mercy has reared its unpleasant head and saddled you up to me, a Warden, to make sure you remain inline regarding the rest of them."

Sirius silently filed away the new pieces of information and reminded himself of the other critical points.
Seven instead of three, death instead of imprisonment except for exceptionally rare circumstances, and Warden instead of Auror. Great.

"Hey!" Snapping his fingers to get the foreign wizard's attention, Dresden carried on once Sirius blinked and stared at him.

"We're about to step into a tear in reality that any wizard worth their salt can materialize. Don't touch any
thing, don't look back at the eyes that gaze upon you from the foliage, and don't step off the path. I want you in front of me at all times." He instructed sharply.

"Excuse me for being ignorant, but why?" Sirius asked, and then clarified his question. "I mean why are we stepping into a tear in reality? Don't you have any Disapparation points? Or Portkeys by chance?"

"One, I have no idea what those are, and two this trip will take maybe an hour tops to go
international distances," he said as if that was all the explanation required, and a fairly good one at that.

Sirius just shook his head.

~-~-~-~-~-~-~

A lengthy and unpleasant trip through the Nevernever later and Sirius found himself seated on a threadbare couch as the other wizard rummaged around inside his fridge for a beer. "Dammit. I knew I was forgetting something." He grumbled before shutting the door harsher than needed and striding back to his charge empty handed.

"Alright, listen up. Things won't be pleasant for either of us for the foreseeable future seeing as I've been assigned to keep an eye on you, to guide you into the way of things here more or less, and help prevent you from earning the same fate that poor asian kid received an hour ago," Dresden told him, "so if you make a mistake once in a while early on, that's life and I'll make sure to do something about it, but go any further and break another Law?" he paused to make sure the other man was at full attention.

"You do that, and my title of Warden is coming into effect as I become your executioner, shitty though that is to hear. I'm not exactly pleased to be saying it." Dresden told his unwelcome guest.

Sirius grimaced. "I'm not exactly much of a threat to anyone without a wand." He responded neutrally, feeling as if he were walking into a trap.

Dresden dug out a similar but more rounded length of wood, and for a moment hope lit up the other mans eyes. "Something like this? We call this a blasting rod around here. No such luck for you until I know what you're capable of." He tucked it back beneath his leather coat and sat down on a lumpy armchair wearily.

"Rashid didn't give me much to work with, and neither did my mentor, but thanks to you I've got a lot more work scheduled in addition to being on the lookout for some idiot brewing up chaos in the area. So start talking. The sooner I can categorize your skill-set the happier I'll be." Dresden ordered tiredly.

Sirius stared back at him for a long moment, debating the merits of actually answering. With a quiet sigh he accepted that sharing at least
something for the moment was a necessity, then began speaking. He started with the most recent and, in his opinion, relevant piece of information available; the Ministry fiasco and his arrival here.

"I was dueling my cousin in a part of the Department of Mysteries, surrounded by part of the Order and the rest of her fellow Death Eaters, trying to keep my godson and his friends from being killed," he said slowly, closing his eyes as the battle replayed almost spell for spell within his mind.

"Things were going rather poorly. I wasn't supposed to be there that night, and I have no idea where the hell the Unspeakable's were at, but then Dumbledore arrived and for a split second, I let go my of guard. I screwed up and she hit me with something, but I think the worst of it missed since my only injury after falling through the veil was to land painfully and nearly break my head in half over here." Sirius told him.

"Harry shouldn't have even been there. None of us should have, but it all spiraled out of control. That damn prophecy has managed to bugger life up for me twice now." He muttered mostly to himself.

Dresden waited impatiently for him to continue, though at least he knew a little more about the others character from those details; he would risk his life for family. That much was fairly important if true.

Sirius seemed to be unwilling to go much further than that for now however as he remembered, and it was only at Dresden's irritable prod with the wooden staff resting nearby that Sirius blinked in his eyes open and began explaining things further.

He brought up Voldemort, and what had been done by the man to return to a living body, and the numerable atrocities committed by his Death Eaters in his name before and after. Sirius explained how the Order had been formed to defend wizarding and muggle society against them, and how he had joined up out of school.

He skirted the major issues, but made sure to elaborate on what he thought was important, ensuring Dresden received a clear enough picture of what life was like where he was from to drop the unpleasant if assuming tone.

After he was done with that he accompanied it with what he could do with a wand("Blasting rod." Dresden reminded irritably, earning a scowl in return) but kept his animagus transformation mum. When he finished up in roughly twenty minutes Dresden shuffled out of his seat and entered a back room for a time, then emerged with a set of pamphlets that he shoved into Sirius' hands.

One he saw was thicker than the others, almost a short book in its own right, and it was to the older wizards amusement penned by Dresden's hand. It looked like they all had been complied by him, in fact.

"Here, read up. Whatever magic you could do in your own world is apparently tied to your blasting rod," they both shared an unpleasant look at the simple disagreement on term, "so you may as well get acquainted with how we do things
here." Dresden said neutrally, rubbing the bridge of his nose with his eyes closed.

"When you're through get comfortable, because I'm going to bed and locking you to that couch until I can get used to this crap in the morning."

Sirius blinked in surprise and then stood up, but Dresden pushed him back down. "I mean it, old man. Stay put. I'm out of food so there's no point in digging around for something to eat and I can't just let you go wandering off now, plus I'd rather you didn't snoop around the place and accidentally set off a ward and wind up a bloody smear on my carpets."

The threat of further death didn't exactly unsettle him. "Bathroom breaks?" he challenged, "Unless you want a shit stain decorating them instead."

Dresden grimaced. "
Right. Change of plans, you're sleeping in the bathroom instead." He said sourly and pointed his charge toward said location. Under his breath he added something about the trouble of sketching a circle around that area compared to the couch.

Sirius took note and stood up again with a cushion extracted from the couch and tucked up under his arms, and found his path interfered with again much to the exasperation of both men. "Look, If I'm going to be in there, I'm sure as hell not going to lay my head on the floor. If you're so concerned I'll lean it against a wall." He protested flatly.

"Stars and stones... Fine.
Don't forget the reading material. I'll let you out somewhere past dawn!" Dresden told him shortly and, after Sirius had slid the door shut, promptly set to work on a makeshift ward to keep the other man inside.

Fifteen minutes later he realized he had to take a piss. "Dammit."

End Chapter One.

Chapter 2: Dawn of a new day.

Chapter 2: Dawn of a new day.

As Sirius leaned his head wearily against the stolen make-shift couch-cushion-pillow, he stifled a yawn and rubbed the exhaustion from his eyes with the back of one hand.

He was still reeling from the crossing into this strange and unwelcoming world, but his thoughts remained mostly upon his godson. What was Harry doing right now, back in their home world and realm?

What had become of the remaining Death Eaters, and the viciously resisting Order? Had Dumbledore's presence been enough to undo what hope their enemies had while bolstering themselves, as it had for Sirius, and if so to what cost had
they in all probability suffered for it?

But really, while he felt some degree of kinship with the other Order members, it was Harry's reaction that scared him. The
blame he must be feeling, the grief that could push a man to abandon all reason and settle their resolve solely upon vengeance toward those who were responsible for their pain...

If Harry somehow slipped free, if Voldemort showed up,
if, if, if... and there was nothing he could do about it. The misery of that knowledge made Sirius feel very, very old, older still than he had felt since escaping from Azkaban those early days and nights.

He regretted now that casual release of his guard and sensibility, forgetting once more the skill his bitch of a cousin possessed, skills that could only have grown once she took up the mantle of Voldemort's inner circle. His folly, as it were, came about from a mixture of personal arrogance and some degree of rekindled hope.

With a snort he muttered something about what good
that had done for him, then exhaled tiredly and stood up; he really did have to use the toilet while he was in here, after all, and as instructed carried the manual-unto-itself titled A limited history of the White Council to browse through.

~-~-~-~-~-~-~

Later that night Sirius stirred uneasily, the uncomfortable feeling of someone calling his name echoing faintly in his ears, but when he looked around blearily he could see no one else in the cramped room. A few moments later his sleep addled mind remembered he was locked in a bathroom on a foreign world, and he groaned and rolled back over with a hand over his ear to erase the unpleasant note.

The enchanted mirror still wrapped up and shrunken within one pocket of his worn out robes went unremembered, and the faint shouting of a desperate teenage wizard a dimension away finished fading altogether as the connection was severed with the destruction of the mirrors-twin.

~-~-~-~-~-~-~

A sharp rapping on the outer side of the door awoke Sirius once more, some hours later, and he reached for his missing wand by habit to send a silencer at the irritation.

"I'm coming in, so finish up anything you're doing and flush." Dresden's heavier tone called through after finishing pulling down his makeshift ward from the night before.

Sirius gave him a rude hand gesture and tried to get more comfortable against his misshapen pillow on the floor. "Hey!" the other man growled as he swung the door open and took in the sight of his couch cushion, "I knew I shouldn't have let you have that! The floor-" he paused in mid-complaint, remembering the deal he had with the fae and that the likelihood of the floor actually being contaminated with germs as slim to none.

Then he swore more quietly as he realized they would probably have to abandon said house keeping service so long as the unwelcome guest was lodging there.

A few grumbling minutes later nevertheless saw the two of them once more in the living room, Sirius leaning back into the couch as Dresden paced back and forth for a time.

The younger wizard seemed torn between two decisions, and after a long moment he spoke up, "The way things are right now, I've got business to attend to. I can't honestly afford to ignore it, not given the way things seem to happen around here, but on the other hand it's your neck on the line if I leave you alone and in the process you still manage to do something stupid." He sighed and sank down into the armchair, drumming his fingers along one of the rests to draw out more time as he thought.

"I already told you last night that I can't do anything without a wand. The few techniques that don't require one take too much effort or time to use worth a damn, potions included." Sirius retorted irritably, eyes still heavy with slumber.

Dresden examined him for another long moment, then suddenly looked into the other wizards grey eyes. Sirius returned his stare blandly without knowing the po-

A flat gray cityscape appeared before him, an unnatural winter chill in the air and fogging up most of the windows around. Here and there the streetlamps that dotted the area were lit not by light, but by a strange flame of white and red entwined together awkwardly and flaring in different directions.

Here and there unnatural-moving things crept along the edges of the buildings just out of sight, moving at a speed his eyes could not keep up with, but along most corners he could see what looked to be a faintly glowing star embedded within a circle sticking out, be it from a flag, a mailbox, or merely a newspaper vendor.

A faint wind fluttered and filtered through the near silent air as, at last, a single light came on within the nearest building and a shadow crossed before the window to depict an unseen figure looking out.

The light cast illumination proper onto that which trailed in the darkness, a mixture of flabby black demonic looking beasts that cowered and fled from it with rasping hisses and silent figures, mostly animal mixtures with four pale eyes of which the upper two glowed harshly, who stood challengingly against it.

A heavier presence farther away where the light could not reach dwelt perched along the edge of the cityscape, the ground crackling and breaking apart beneath its unseen weight but noticeably there nevertheless...

Sirius blinked and swiped at his eyes, the images he had just seen making no sense given that he had made sure his Occlumency shields were in place before making eye-contact, but whatever it was the feeling left behind felt as if it had been seared into his eyes and brain.

"What the hell did you just do to me?" Sirius growled, rubbing harder to try and get the imprinted images off his retinas.

Dresden's frown deepened and he murmured something softly beneath his breath akin to "Every damn time..." in partial dismay and partial confusion, then spoke aloud, "You saw a glimpse of my soul, just as I your own. It won't go away so soon so you might as well stop pawing at your eyes before you hurt yourself."

Sirius warily lowered his hand and stared through the stars left behind at the other wizard, scowling at the mention of his soul once more. "Just what is it with you people and barging in on someone else's privacy like that? Your Gatekeeper did it, those short tempered and grim old guys did it, and now
you have as well!" he complained sharply.

Dresden let him rant for another minute or so without interrupting, and at the end asked, "Feel better? Good. Humans have souls, most of the things that dwell on the earth aside from us
don't. Wizards developed ways of recognizing one another no matter the guise a thing may be using, and what we just did is the prime method," he paused to take a breath and gauge his wards reaction.

For the most part Sirius didn't seem to be taking that any better than he had anything else so far, and Dresden carried on to try and get the point across. "We're going to have to go over that shortly to make sure you don't get suckered into handing yours over to one of said
things. If it's any comfort, I'm sure whatever you saw didn't exactly explain much in a solid manner; you're pretty freaking lonely in there and you're haunted by death if the changing portraits were much to go by."

Sirius shrugged unhappily. "No, it really didn't. But I'd hazard you aren't too solid on friends either unless they were all in that building somewhere."

"... I've had a few here and there, but most of the time bad shits happened when I get them involved. I try to avoid it where possible." Dresden responded less than happily, but his expression was less harsh than it had been the night before.

He offered a hand to pull the older wizard up and grimaced around the edges of his frown when Sirius gripped it tightly between both of his own before rising. "Why the sudden talkative attitude and less of the sodding jerk tone you were giving me yesterday?" He asked in a mildly curious change of topic.

"I... saw something of my troubles inside of you. Besides, as long as I'm in charge of your well-being and helping you adjust to the world, you'll be less likely to do something stupid if I try and get along." Dresden answered slowly.

Sirius' eyes narrowed, reminded of Dumbledore's semi-annual condolence-and-scolding session regarding any attempt to escape from Grimmauld Place ahead of time. "Good luck with that," he said and released his death grip, gesturing toward the door. "After you."

~-~-~-~-~-~-~

They walked inside of a low-set pub, partially beneath street level given the way the stairwell sank down to a door roughly four feet lower than their feet.

Dresden paused him once again before stepping through, his eyebrows meeting in a frown. "This place is more or less a refuge from the dangers of the outside magical realms. Any bad guy or gal has to abide by the rules of truce therein, but that doesn't mean that they can't set up a mortal sniper from the rooftops across the street for when you step out," he explained.

"In fact, they could just wait for you to step outside and shut the door and rip your jaw out if they felt like being lazy, but that's beside the point," he added with a look of remembrance.

"Most of the humans in there are magical practitioners, but they don't have much oomph to their skill set, and if things start to go sour they're going to flee," he continued, "anyone you notice that looks like something out of a masterpiece painting
isn't human, and if they're exuding sheer confidence stay twice as far away."

"Don't look them in the eyes, don't gesture in the slightest, and do your damnedest to avoid drawing attention to yourself." Dresden warned him.

Sirius listened somewhat impatiently, but he got the message loud and clear. "Don't tempt the boogeyman, essentially." He stated, and Dresden nodded once.

"If you
do somehow end up on one their metaphorical dinner-plates, do not under any circumstance give your Name," Dresden added extra emphasis on the word, "because the moment they have that you are subject to their control. Use whatever the hell pseudonym you can reasonably keep to if it comes down to providing such, but avoid any actual title you may have. It'll still act as a minor noose they can use to weave into your mind and skullfuck you as hard as Krakatoa did the world."

"Alright already, I got it. I
did read your pamphlets last night." Sirius stated irritably. Dresden's features sharpened and he swallowed back his first retort, then with a grim slant around his mouth he opened the door and gestured for Sirius to walk in.

"Shut up and sit down at the bar. Order a beer and a steak sandwich while I deal with the soul-stealing individuals on the other side." Dresden ordered as Sirius paused to observe the place.

Flicking his gaze from the fans overhead to the pillars holding the roof up, to the oddly placed tables and along the other people inside, he found the bar at one end and approached it without question. The middle-aged bartender approached silently and raised an eyebrow.

"I'll take a beer and a steak sandwich?" Sirius suggested after a few moments of looking at one another. The other man nodded and dipped a hand beneath the counter, drawing a prepared bottle and twisting the cap off with one hand before setting it down and turning to a now-noticed wood burning stove.

He kept from looking toward the direction Dresden had marched off toward, muttering the whole way, and instead focused on the beer in his hand after the first sip set his taste-buds dancing. "What in Merlin's saggy left ball-sack did you put in this?" He asked, smacking his lips and swallowing another mouthful.

The bartender spared him a curious glance without answering as he grilled the steak toward perfection.

Five minutes later and the bottle was drained of its last drop, dropping down on the deck and brushing against the plain white plate the bartender settled beside it with a flat clink.

The smell wafted up through the air like a small slice of heaven as his stomach rumbled in eagerness, and before he could even ask for a replacement beer it was set down beside the original bottle. Sirius smiled brightly for the first time since coming to this world and nodded his thanks appreciatively.

The bartender waved it off and went to serve another customer, and it was about that time that the door was blown in by a gust of arctic air.

Sirius paused in mid motion, his sandwich approximately two millimeters away from his tongue, and reluctantly turned his head in the direction of the freezing breeze.

For a moment he thought his eyes were showing him the first Gothic Veela in history, given the aura radiating off of the youthful woman... but was she a woman? She looked too young in the face to be an adult, but the skintight strips of cloth bound around her well developed nubile form proved that she was old enough in body and mind at least.

The varied colors of purple, blue, and green with her odd looking dreadlocks displaced him for a moment, and that was all the time he needed to reenforce his Occlumency shields once more and recall the warnings Dresden had given him; whoever she was, she definitely fell under the definition of a masterpiece painting come to life, and sheer confidence swelled out around her with every breath, not to mention the raw sex appeal clinging to her form.

He made sure to avoid eye-contact and turned his head back around to where his elbows were still pressed to the edge of the bar, the aroma of the steak sandwich once more wafting up to him pleasantly.

He pointedly took a bite, savored the meat and richness, and paused to take another swig of the mystery beer to wash it down with as the too-young Veela-lookalike swept by him deliberately closely- and a shock of cold passed through the back of his robes instead of the warmth he had been expecting, causing him to pause in the middle of the next bite for a moment at the unexpected result.

And then she was past him, carrying on to wherever else she had to go. Sirius reenforced his mental shields and concentrated on the taste of the meal.

It finished up sooner than he would have preferred, and after polishing off the second bottle he sighed internally in relief. He couldn't eat another bite if he wanted to.

To his surprise the bartender took away the plate and empty bottles without a word and didn't leave him a bill, though he would have fostered that off onto Dresden if it came to that, and in fact now that he thought about it perhaps the bartender knew they were together and would have put it on the other mans tab as a result.

With nothing more to do he turned toward the direction where Dresden had gone to only to find the other wizard standing up abruptly, something akin to irritation flashing across his features before he laughed quite openly in the Veela-lookalike's face.

The temperature in the bar noticeably cooled as her expression sharpened, but the other two and somewhat equally odd looking people with Dresden reacted in similar manners as a short conflict of frosty tones and quite warmer ones clashed in the following silence.

Dresden broke it by saying something too soft to hear from some a distance away and then turned to stride off.

The other wizard swept by Sirius with barely a word spoken, his smug attitude at the dismissal replaced by a hint of anger in the hard grimace etched into his features. "Let's go." He nearly growled out of the corner of his lips.

Sirius glanced back over to the trio he had left behind for a moment, catching the intruders eye and giving her form one more brief once over before turning around and pushing to his feet. She followed him with her own gaze all the way out of the door, thoughts gathering together for something most assuredly unpleasant.

~-~-~-~-~-~-~

Once in the ridiculous looking car again with its equally as so state of disrepair, Sirius couldn't help the question from slipping out, "Who was that?" He asked.

For a moment Dresden shot him a dirty look, then relented. "I'd scold you for looking, but hell,
I can't keep my eyes off her usual introduction and I hate being hypocritical." He said with a sigh.

"Her name is Maeve, one of the Sidhe High Court of Faerie. In particular, the Winter Lady, daughter of the Winter Queen, whose name I have no intention of repeating lest she be summoned..." he trailed off with an unpleasant look in his eyes. Sirius filed the information away, though he couldn't help but doubt any fairy could possibly look that damn good.

"She looked pretty human to me." Sirius responded into the silence that followed Dresden's last word.

"Of course she does, and trust me when I say she has all the required bits and pieces to make the form accurate to the millimeter, but she has no soul and quite literally no qualms about murdering those of us who do," Dresden answered. "She treated the former Winter Knight like a slave and it was only his binding contract that kept him from taking her head off for it." He responded neutrally.

"Those of the Summer Court are just as treacherous, even if they go about it with a wide smile and pleasantries while the knife turns inside your guts," he looked over to see Sirius staring back at the door to the tavern, and he raised his voice. "Listen to me, man. I've made the mistake of getting looped into Sidhe deals in the past, and each and every time without fail it has bitten my stupid ass hard enough to draw blood."

Sirius turned back to look at him. "Being hypocritical?" He suggested with a smile, somewhat more agreeable with a full stomach.

Dresden laughed flatly back at him, "Ha, ha. I mean it, old man. They're looking for a suitable replacement for Winter Knight, and I can't always be there to eyeball you. If they get their vicious talons hooked in you're fucked, no matter what the scenario may look like on the surface."

A thought occurred to him and some of the lines in his face relaxed more genuinely this time. "They have to tell the truth, but that doesn't mean they can't bend their words in anyway they can, and they have one very firm weakness that is abundant in our world; Iron." Dresden dug a fingernail into the back of his steering wheel and drew out a tiny nail embedded there, holding it out to the other wizard to take.

Sirius reluctantly did so. "Iron?" He asked dubiously, and Dresden nodded.

"It burns them something fierce. Get a band of iron locked around a Fae's limb and they'll gnaw it off at the joint rather than endure the pain it brings, and that goes for every race under the realm of Faerie, be it of Summer or Winter disposition.

Sirius still looked skeptical as he handed the rusted nail back to Dresden.

"Steel works fairly well if you have to use it, but raw iron does the most damage as a pure element. That said, don't count on utilizing a nail against a member of the Sidhe or one of their enforcers. Humans under their employ or control will snicker for all the pain it will bring them." Dresden explained further.

"So that sword you have in the golf bag, would that work nicely or would I be better off summoning a rail spike to impale them on?" Sirius asked in only partial jest, having noted the weapon in the backseat and beneath the bloody tarp when he sat down minutes prior.

Dresden grimaced. "
Any other sword. The one in that bag will be destroyed if ever wielded outside of very select clauses, and I nearly broke one of its twins in anger a few years ago even if it did save someones life. I've got a sword cane laying around somewhere in my apartment that I can loan you once we reach that state of trust." He said with a thin smile.

"Right," Sirius agreed equally amicably. "So where to now?" He asked after a moment.

"Now? Now we go visit Lt. Karrin Murphy down at the next SI- Special Investigations- case, as you'll see shortly. Something about a magical massacre downtown late last night, and hey, look at the bright side; you haven't broken any other Laws of Magic since we've been paired up." Dresden told him in false cheer.

Both men snorted, agreeing on where that sentence could shove itself.

~-~-~-~-~-~-~

"What the hell took you so long, and who is this?" demanded a diminutive and curly blond haired woman in a sweater-vest and slacks, her police badge gleaming in the morning sun. Both her arms were crossed and she had only now stopped pacing once she heard the distinct sputter of the younger wizards vehicle of choice.

Dresden smiled brightly at her. "So full of cheer this murder." He responded, but her withering glare drew him up short and he let the smile drop to be replaced by neutrality.

"Meet my part-time assistant, Black. I picked him up at wizard HQ last night and subsequently spent the better part of the night and morning thus far getting to both know and educate him on the finer points of our delicate existence in the world." Dresden spoke easily, careful to twist the actual series of events into half truths- if she knew the older wizard had no actual point in being there she would have probably arrested him for intruding on a crime scene.

Not to mention what she would have had to say to Dresden himself. Even still she eyeballed him warily, looking over the scruffy if somewhat raggedly handsome features and worn out robes. She "Hmphed," in irritation and slid her eyes over to the actual SI investigator.

"I presume you don't know what happened given your earlier jovial tone," she began, "but the survivors said that the movie monster literally tore itself through the screen and began hacking whoever unfortunately was nearest into all-too-real pieces."

Sparing Sirius another unhappy glance she ducked beneath the police banner stretched around the outside of the place and Dresden followed. "You can stay and wait or come and learn." He offered to Sirius.

End Chapter Two.

Chapter 3: Of Magic and Petrol

Chapter 3: Of magic and petrol.

Sirius returned his look for a moment before sighing and ducking down to follow after the other two, unsure why he felt compelled to do so. Dresden nodded to him and then turned back to catch up to the blond.

After a few minutes and working through numerable crime scene investigators the three of them came to a halt before a short haired man with five o'clock shadow messily spread across his face and a look of determination in his eyes.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Where do you think
you're going?" the man challenged Dresden and, by association, Sirius.

Lieutenant Murphy grimaced. "Move out of the way, Rudolph. Dresden and his... assistant, are here to check the original point of incident." She told him in a mixture of dismay and frustration.

Rudolph smiled somewhat flatly. "Contaminating the scene of the crime so these crackpots can look around and boost your credibility within Special Investigations? How quaint,
Lieutenant." He responded and leaned back against the closed doors.

A vein pulsed above Murphy's left eye. "Rudolph..." she began slowly, urge to physically remove the idiot rising.

He interrupted her, however.

"While I'd love to allow you in to muck around and drag your career even further through the mud, I'm afraid you don't have the clearance. See, this incident took place
last night, while you haven't arrived until almost noon today. Your precedent for first-look at things has been dropped so one of us actual units can look around and find out who did this." He told her quite smugly.

For a long moment Murphy seemed to not believe him.

Then she asked, "And who authorized this? I'm fairly sure I was supposed to get a warning before my unit was removed and replaced." She responded dangerously quietly.

"That would be me," spoke up another voice from behind the lot of them. Everyone save Rudolph turned to face the owner of the voice and found not one but two men in too-clean suits standing there. "Detective Sergeant Greene," introduced the first speaker before motioning to the taller man next to himself, "and Federal Agent Tilly."

The two of them stared at the group wanting access to the theater with differing mixtures of emotion, namely doubt and annoyance.

Rudolph smiled more genuinely as he said to the her back side, "Shame about that, Murphy. Next time you should try responding to the 911 calls when they happen, not twelve hours after the fact."

"Rudolph, shut up and get back to your assigned area. Where's the cop that was supposed to be here, anyway?" Agent Tilly questioned in a no-nonsense tone.

The younger man's smugness evaporated at the down-dressing. "He, uh, took a break. I'm filling in for him." Rudolph responded carefully. The Agent scoffed and pointed to the security cameras dotting the area.

"Right," he said dryly, "and he happened to take a break just after you came running up and begged him to scram so you could rub up your ego and try to humiliate your former superior-officer."

The blood drained out of Rudolph's face and his eyes widened. "Get out of the way, man, before I send you home for the next few days." Agent Tilly ordered and Rudolph more or less fled looking as white as a sheet.

After the fact said Agent rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly. "Alright you three, it would save the two of us a good deal of paperwork if you stepped into the make-shift office nearby and filled you in on the details rather than allow you to trample across the scene."

~-~-~-~-~-~-~

Agent Tilly strode through last and shut the door tightly, flicking the lock to be sure no one pushed it open. It was a fairly small storage office and as such various supplies were stored around lockers, though a couple of new items including a fold-away desk and coffee machine were set up.

Sitting on the desk rested scattered pages regarding what they had gathered from witnesses and the blurry security footage. "Lets cut the crap and get straight to the point here," he said before Greene could.

"You say you're a...
special investigator among special investigators, a private detective of things that don't normally make a lick of sense to the rest of the SI units. I'm willing to extend the olive branch and take you at face value," Agent Tilly said in a moderated tone.

The other man assigned to the task gave him a wary side-long glance, his lips silently moving as he chewed over his own verbal response to Murphy introducing the two outside-sources to the crime scene.

Dresden had purposefully kept Black's presence marginalized in the follow up extension in order to keep them from peppering him with unhelpful questions, more or less obstructing the other wizards view of they and they of him for one of the most common elements of sleight-of-hand; out of sight and out of mind.

"However, I would appreciate a simple demonstration to prove we aren't wasting anyone's time. I'm sure you don't mind, do you?" Agent Tilly continued.

Dresden silently mulled the request over for a few moments, and then nodded. "Alright, I can do that. Got a cheap cellphone?" He asked suddenly.

Agent Tilly blinked at the strange question and reached a hand within his suit slowly, hesitating. "Why?" He asked in return.

Dresden smiled, showing his teeth, and with an innocent look crossing his features said, "Don't you trust me? Of course, if you have something more advanced these days, by all means," and under his breath, "
I just hope you don't have a two year contract..."

Agent Tilly turned to his partner as he reluctantly pulled his relatively old Motorola flip-up out of an inside velcro attachment. "You too." He ordered, and Sergeant Greene frowned as he stuck both of his hands in his coat pockets stubbornly.

"No, thank you. I'll wait to see what he has intended." Sergeant Greene stated flatly. Agent Tilly stared at his defiance for a long moment before letting it go for now and facing Lieutenant Murphy and her investigators.

"Here," he said and held it out for Dresden to take. The supposed-wizard shook his head no and rolled up the sleeves of his leather duster, revealing the shield bracelet around one wrist, and explained.

"Technology and magic don't seem to agree with one another in this century, and we often don't have to do much more than give it time before the little chips and micro-electronics fry themselves. Don't know why it does, but I've been keeping a minor spell in place that localizes my own magic behind a moderate veil to shield anything in here- like your cellphones." Dresden told them.

"All I have to do is stop focusing on it and we'll get a nice meltdown of anything more advanced than a tin-can. Alternatively I could just cast a spell at it if you want a more immediate showing," he offered. Agent Tilly looked conflicted between skepticism and concern for his phone.

"Just do something already so we can get past this holdup." He finally said after a few seconds, and Dresden nodded.

"You got it.
Hexus." He intoned shortly and waved the hand without his shield bracelet vaguely in the other mans direction.

The cellphone nearly exploded, or imploded to be more accurate, and singe marks in the outline of the device along with faint traces of shrapnel bit into the upper layers of soft flesh in the federal agent's palm.

To his credit he hardly flinched and the yelp came out more a disgruntled note of pain than surprise or fear. He dropped the charred remnants to the ground and slowly raised his bleeding hand up toward the lights to see what the worst of the damage was.

Sergeant Greene took a couple of steps back with an unpleasant look in his eyes by comparison, and he pushed his own device back inside deeper as his spare hand fell onto the butt of his gun.

"What the hell was that?" Greene demanded. Dresden spared him a condescending look.

"Did you miss the part where I said technology and magic don't mix? That was a mild example. If you want a good look at things going wrong, try checking in on Larry Fowler's show from last year when he had me on." Dresden told him.

"That's enough, Greene," Agent Tilly said before his partner could say or do anything more, looking up at Dresden with a mostly blank expression on his features.

"I'll accept your word for now on the matter, Mister Dresden. Lieutenant, please carry on with your own investigation and let us know if you turn up anything troublesome, the rest of the notes we've compiled are in the top left cabinet. Come on." The last part he directed at the other man and, when Sergeant Greene did not budge, stepped into his line of sight and promptly turned him around by the shoulders.

"
Move it. I need to get this checked out and you aren't doing anything for us blocking the way," he added with a little more emotion trickling through around the surprise and suspicion still rolling around within his mind.

Dresden exhaled warily once they had departed and turned back to face his friend and assignment. "Alright, gang, lets get this rodeo back on track. Ten minutes with what's left of the trampled crime scene?" He asked her.

Murphy shrugged with a frustrated look on her face. "You'll probably be able to get something better than I could at this point, so take half an hour if you need to." She said, as if the words were a physical illness.

"Right. Black, lets go show the lady and gents why we're wizards." He responded after a moment.

~-~-~-~-~-~-~

"Alright, old man, here's your first look at the ways of magic on this side of creation," Dresden told the older wizard as they approached the yellow police tape and ducked under it, and the double doors were pushed open easily enough with the overbearing staff he had picked up again from out in the hall.

The scent of blood and faint decay hung about the room like a physical wall, enough to cause the other wizard to recoil at first and place a hand over his nose, eyes half squinting.

"You alright?" Dresden asked him after a moment. His own nose was scrunched up unpleasantly, but he certainly hadn't stepped back like a wounded man. Sirius grimly nodded.

"I've... seen and smelt a lot of blood in my days. And in this magnitude... it's nearly as bad as his first reign, when the giants were involved." Sirius explained, covering the fact that as a dog animagus his natural sense of smell was heightened after all these years even in his normal state.

Dresden didn't really question it, though he silently filed a note to find out the definition of 'giant' by Black's standards, and instead said, "Normally there won't be a lot to work with on a scene like this- all that blood pooling together could be from so many different sources that it isn't worth performing a tracking spell on, not unless you wanted a wild goose chase across any major hospital, and we can't exactly wander in for obvious reasons."

"No, what is done in this instance is to take a solid
look at the points most likely to bear leftover spiritual residue. Case and point, the movie screen Murph said the problem tore through." Dresden explained in turn.

Sirius looked at it fairly solidly through non-squinting eyes for a good three seconds, then shook his head. "Right. It looks completely unharmed." Sirius told him blankly.

Dresden blinked and, sparing him an undecided glance, opened his own third eye and nearly recoiled as much as Black had moments before. When he was done reeling, he shut it off and rounded on the older man.

"What the hell do you mean it's completely unharmed?" he demanded. "Don't look with just your natural vision if that's what you were doing. I wouldn't think you should have any trouble with the true sight!"

Another grimace spread over Sirius face. "More magic, I suppose?" He asked back, "I told you before-
I can not perform magic without a wand!" He repeated himself.

Dresden scowled even fiercer. "This is becoming ridiculous by now- you're telling me your kind of wizardry doesn't even enable access to probably
the second-most easily performed act of magic in the rulebooks? Your third eye, man?" he questioned.

Sirius chewed on the inside of one cheek before answering. "We've got ocular modification spells and charms for that sort of thing, thank you very much! Unfortunately..." he trailed off, and the message was completely clear what he intended it to mean.

"Right," Dresden finally said, exhaling heavily and than repeating the motion to get his temper in check. "Next lesson: We're going to work on drawing out any latent talent you possess in regards to that. For now, then, just let me do what I usually do and take careful notes of my..." he paused, trying to figure out how to explain it.

Nothing came to mind. "Dammit. Just try to pay attention." He said instead.

"Well?" Murphy asked as the two of them stepped back into the hall ten minutes later. Dresden shook his head grimly without answering, and even the older man beside him looked unhappy.

"Can't tell you much, Murph," he began and held up a hand at her impatient snort. "I
can tell you that it's on our side of the fence, and whatever it is, the same yahoo who pulled it up is currently on the Council's radar- I was told, almost forewarned really, that Black Magic was happening around here before we left headquarters." He explained to her.

Murphy's fingers curled up into tight fists at his words, and she actually reached up to slug him in the shoulder, hard. Dresden stumbled back and blinked at her, rubbing the area of impact- it had hit his bullet-resisting coat, but
damn did she pack a punch!

"What was- ah..." he trailed off in mid complaint.

"If you knew this shit was going to happen ahead of time, than what the hell took you so long to respond to my call, Dresden? This could have been contained! Those people who died might still be alive!" she hissed out between clenched teeth.

"I didn't say I knew
what was going to happen or when, just a localized note to keep an eye out for trouble," Dresden responded with more than a hint of irritation at her attitude rising in his voice.

Sirius watched and listened as the two of them argued back and forth to a degree over the next couple of minutes, spreading accusations and general biting comments for both why and why not it could have been stopped, and he noticed as they did so that the diminutive female seemed to actually hold this incident against Dresden personally, that she was truly angry and feeling betrayed by his lack of coming to her with information.

Staying cooped up with very little human attention will do that to a fellow- allow them to start picking up on slight signs necessary for continual endurance and survival. Azkaban had only been part of it, and Grimmauld Place hadn't helped any great degree either, what with the taint about the house and Kreacher and his dear mum's endearing portrait...

Shaking his head to get it off of old and wearying subjects, Sirius flicked his attention over to the younger wizard to see what he could read off him.

Unsurprisingly, the frustration was just as apparent and only rising, and the markings on his staff were beginning to faintly glow, and glowing runic symbols on a magical conduit under high duress from the wizard or witch in question often meant highly unpleasant events were short to follow, in his own limited view.

He cut in before things could take a turn for the truly worse. "If this lovely investigation and conversation has managed to-" whatever he was about to say faded beneath the pain of being punched in the nose, knocking him flat on his back as Lieutenant Murphy stared down at him sharply, one arm extended still.

"
Butt out of it." The other two intoned at roughly the same time, dredging up old feelings of mistrust from the earliest days of their relationship to go with the other high-strung emotions.

Sirius scowled as the broken cartilage spewed blood down his shirt, and not for the first time he wished he still had his wand on hand.

His wandless magic blew aside from the Animagus transformation, and he wasn't entirely sure he felt comfortable risking an
Episkey at this point, but it would be a damn sight better than laying around gushing over the carpets.

Raising both hands as the two overhead and nearby continued to escalate their opinions on the subject, Sirius concentrated as firmly as he could on the feeling of using the spell only yesterday when he had very nearly cracked his skull open, and with his eyes shut to visualize the effect he clearly enunciated the healing spell.

A long and jarring
crack later saw the broken mess forcibly pushed back into position and the rush of blood reduced to a thin trail of rivulets steadily dripping from it instead.

The noise acted rather effectively as an alarm clock and both Murphy and Dresden turned with a start to look at him, as Sirius pushed up to his feet.

"Right, you two keep it up." He said irritably and backed up several more feet to keep a good distance between himself and the strike-now-speak-later woman.

"I'll be elsewhere so I survive the impending atomic meltdown." He added, flicking his gaze down to the now more brightly glowing and slightly smoke-curling runes.

Dresden followed the older wizards gaze reluctantly and nearly shouted in dismay as much as surprise, fingers loosening from the crushing grip he held over its upper length.

He spared Murphy a short and guilty look and then without another word to her hastily stepped over to follow Sirius, using his long stride to escape her before she could block his path.

Sirius nodded stiffly in approval as the glow faded away the further they paced, soon forced to a moderate jog to get away from the now-shouting cop at their back.

~-~-~-~-~-~-~

Once outside and in the comfort of the mangled-looking vehicle, puttering along at a weak thirty miles an hour down the road, Sirius decided to ask what Dresden was doing if he let his emotions rise like that so easily.

"What the hell is wrong with you? I thought you were supposed to be friends, at least. I haven't seen that much genuine venom since... seventh year." He adjusted his comment toward the end, reminded of the way James and Lily used to go at it before they finally started dating toward the end of school.

For a long while Dresden was silent, his hands clenched tightly atop the steering wheel as his gaze focused straight ahead, while Sirius waited with a strip of torn robe pressed against the drip of blood his spell hadn't managed to fully heal up.

It was only after ten minutes and having circled back to the same stop light twice in a row that the younger wizard began to speak.

"That shouldn't have happened," he began to speak, and then the car and world about them seemed to explode on itself.

They were rocked forward and then back in the seats as a heavy truck speeding up behind them crushed the majority of the back half of the car inward, shattering sections of the ancient engine as it flipped them over and very nearly pressing Sirius into the dashboard ahead as it most definitely pinned Dresden in place rather awkwardly against the wheel.

For a long minute a kind of dim silence hung about Sirius' ears as he tried to figure out why the sky was upside down and his torso and shoulders felt like he had been used as a tennis racket by a Giant, and then the smell of gasoline about his hair managed to catch ahold of his attention.

Realizing that fact made him groan.

"We're... accident... ow..." he mumbled out incoherently, blinking away the spots before his eyes and sniffing heavily to confirm there was indeed petrol fuel right beneath him.

Slowly and rather sloppily he managed to lower a hand beneath him and felt it sink into the wet fluids leaking out of the engine and such, and with the other hand he prodded Dresden's possible-corpse cautiously.

The younger wizards head lolled over to glance at him glassily, mouth bloody from biting his tongue, but he weakly stirred one arm and groaned far harsher than Sirius had, be it in pain or confusion or both.

The world shook again as the heavy rumble of the truck to collide with them backed up and spun around, coming by the drivers side slowly for a few seconds as if examining the end results of their collision, and Sirius caught a look of something that reminded him of Dresden's words earlier that day.

He just couldn't remember what those words were or where they had been said, and the pale man and woman in the truck barely spared him a glance before flooring it and leaving the wreck behind.

For all his aches and dullness of mind, Sirius did not miss the glint of orange and gold that came from the back window of the truck, and he processed the look of it very swiftly-
Fire.

The old fashioned lighter hit the ground nearby with a flicker of sparks and came to a stop only a couple of feet away from the steadily widening expanse of fuel crawling across the roof of the car, and if there was one thing Sirius also knew about petrol, it was that fire and fuel did not go together to make firewhiskey.

They made rather large booms, and he had lost his bikes engine to several of them in the earlier days.

A second after this remembrance and his fingers began to scramble at the belt holding him in, even as his mind finished making the connection between the past and his current situation. "Oh... Bloody Hell." His voice mumbled as he got the button to release and slumped down in the fuel, soaking up into his robes.

He repeated the prior comment and looked blearily to Dresden only to see that, even with the belt off, his long build had him trapped in place. Dresden flapped his arm faintly at the still-active lighter and the trail of fluid nearly upon it and his vision seemed a little clearer than before, given how his feet were kicking half-heartedly along the floor.

"Right..." shaking his head to try and clear it, Sirius placed one hand firmly over Dresden's, closed his eyes to further concentrate when the latter motion had only served to increase the pain behind his eyes, and rather desperately and silently hoped that he could still Apparate on this world.

End Chapter Three.

Chapter 4: Introducing a new thread.

Chapter 4: Introducing another thread.

With an agonized, crushing sensation, blackness descended over Sirius' eyes as he and Dresden were squeezed through a straw and pushed along a lengthy distance, reappearing several dozen yards away and the better part of a block from the burning wreck.

A moment later it exploded in a torrent of flames and petrol, sending out burning shrapnel and a mighty heatwave in every direction.

Dresden gasped down a breath as he rematerialized, and pain coursed through his already strained body at his first disapparation. Sirius merely laid down on the ground with more relief than anything else that he was still capable of the technique on this world, even though his skull felt like it was clenched in a madman's vice-grip.

The elder wizard stifled his groan and turned it into a low note of misery at the back of his throat, but at least the headache dulled to a rough throb when he shakily lifted a hand and used it to turn himself away from the glaring sun overhead.

Beneath the pain came a slow leak of relief in that,
yes, he could still apparate on the foreign world, and further still, that he had not splinced either of them in the process.

Beside him Dresden panted for breath, and his eyes were wide and filled with something akin to panic as he blinked them open and shut several times in rapid succession, apparently processing the unlikely survival and escape method to some degree.

After another few moments the rest of the city sounds began to bleed over through the sort of muted bubble that had formed around them on return, among the noises being foremost the loud blare of police sirens, the numerable and indeterminable voices murmuring at the accident, and the faint flicker of the burning parts that had come nearest.

"Bloody hell," Sirius finally spoke, sitting up slowly and glowering at the crowd for the increased beat behind his eyes. He spared Dresden a once-over and noticed the shock written into his features, even though his breathing had calmed to some degree, and he was shooting a dim look through the pedestrians legs toward the ruined car and back at them.

"Are you alright?" Sirius asked quietly. Dresden managed to frown at him and hunched over, pressing the fingers of one hand against his eyebrows and rubbing furiously.

"
Stars and stones..." he half-whispered hoarsely. "I was pinned down... and you..." as he spoke he looked up and met the foreign-wizards eyes, and something beneath the expression stood out; a low glimmer of fear, but next to it, some degree of wary respect.

Sirius watched his reaction in concern.

"You saved our lives..." Dresden trailed off as his eyes widened beneath a sudden realization, and his look seemed to go stark white. "
The sword!" shoving up to his feet a moment later, Dresden grabbed a nearby mailbox for support, hesitated a moment longer to steady himself, and surged forward and into the crowd in the direction of the burning wreck.

Sirius clambered up after him as the first emergency response vehicles drew up to the scene.

~-~-~-~-~-~-~

An hour and two separate denials regarding the need for a trip to the hospital later, and both men were sipping from mugs of slightly warm coffee inside of the police station, having signed all of the necessary forms to report the accident and, as best as possible, attempt to relay what had happened from start to finish.

Dresden was slightly better off mentally as the time passed, until he was close to his usual irritable tone, but it contained an underlying note of abject concern, and he only managed to disguise his occasional wince of pain behind his heavy getup.

By that point the machine that the worker behind the desk was taking notes on began to short out and falter with a groaning sizzle of smoke, drawing a frustrated tone from both her and him while Sirius sat back and watched in tired bemusement.

I don't know how valuable that sword was, but given his reactions so far, that scrap that was recovered by the police is driving him spare. He thought about the same time, and chuckled quietly as the muggle device gave up its drawn-out fight at last.

She spared him a look that could have curdled cheese.

"I'm telling you the truth," Dresden repeated for the eleventh time through gritted teeth, slowly rapping out a drum staccato with his left hand and capturing her attention again.

The woman managed to turn her glare at him for several more seconds before she finally stood up, gathering the papers into her arms and stepping through the door behind her desk without another word.

The younger wizard swore and shoved his mug onto the desk irritably, turning back to face Sirius. "Alright, explain!" He ground out at last, striding back over to the seats and dropping down just out of his reach.

Sirius shrugged, taking a moment to sip what was left from the bottom of his foam cup before answering. "I told you last night- it's called Apparation or Disapparation, depending on your perspective. And is this really the right place to be going over such a subject? I may not have believed you earlier when you said a mortal sniper might be situated outside of the bar, but given how close our collective bacon just came to being fried into a charred crisp, I'm more than a little paranoid about sharing information aloud." He answered over the course of a minute and several breaths.

Dresden scowled at his logic, but couldn't fault it. He remembered the flash of white that had collided with them, and faintly the outline of two figures, blurry though they were- and
far paler than could be considered healthy.

For a long moment he sat on his anger and suspicion and general dismay, before a voice he had not expected to hear piped up shrilly.

"
Harry!" A young woman called as the desk-worker returned, dragging the younger by one arm before thrusting her toward the cutout bar at the side, which was quickly vaunted over.

Sirius blinked at her choice of 'clothing', displaying as it was, while in the back of his mind he found the idea that Dresden carried the same name as his godson to be some kind of irony or very strange coincidence.

Dresden likewise blinked at the colorful outfit and hair style the youth was in, and he rose with a frown, recognizing the voice if slightly distantly.

"Molly?" He asked carefully, eyes wide at the changes she had undergone since last they spoke face to face.

Then he scowled, stood up, and shrugged out of his duster and swept it over her shoulders as she approached to hug him. "Stars and stones, girl, what are you doing in here and why are you dressed like that?"

Her expression flashed through several emotions quickly in response-
surprise, remembrance, anger, and finally settled on mingled annoyance.

"I'm here because you didn't answer my one phone-call last night!" She stated accusingly, stepping back but not slipping out of the heavy garment, despite the frown that accompanied it.

"I was busy!" He responded irritably, waving his right hand at Sirius, "And you still didn't answer my questions; why were you arrested and trying to contact me instead of your
parents?" He paused to drag the edges of his duster a little closer over her revealing figure with a grimace.

"Please don't tell me it involves your current attire," he added almost as an afterthought.

Molly glowered at him and turned away to hide the faint blush, focusing on the desk worker- who in turn had gathered up the appropriate forms to release the girl into their custody, rather than continue the migraine inducing argument with the supposed 'wizard'.

"If its all the same to you, I'd rather we discussed that another time." She said toward the clock over the door she had come through.

Dresden marched around to face her, shuffling slightly on one ankle, but she turned toward Sirius and then stepped back as if just noticing him.

He smiled wanly and raised a hand in greeting, which piqued her curiosity, and something more, examining his rough-cut features and slightly haunted eyes for a moment, and the way the bridge of his nose was slightly raw, before trotting over to sit down next to him as she recalled what Dresden had said.

Said wizard growled quietly to himself and turned to face the desk worker and the additional paperwork she shoved toward him the moment they nearly-met each others eyes. "What is all this crap?"

"Release papers. Take her or leave her here." The woman answered flatly.

Dresden paused a moment to consider that, and her current state, and then snatched the pen up and began to scramble through the forms with a careful eye and muttering mouth.

"So who are you?" Molly asked Sirius curiously, inhaling the slightly burnt, faintly coppery-smell, and the odor of stale coffee that surrounded him with a crinkled nose.

"Wizard Black," he supplied lightly.

"Molly," she returned just as simply, sniffing again. "Is that gasoline?" She asked.

He smiled with fatigue around the edges, nodding. "A pleasure to meet you, miss Molly," he responded without any real desire- while the Veela-lookalike back at the bar may have seemed close to the age of consent, the girl before him now still
looked like a girl beneath all of the effects she had going on, even if she wasn't that far off from maturity.

Sometimes he really did hate how well developed his sense of smell was.

Molly settled back into the chair after that, occasionally giving him an appraising glance, while they both waited for Dresden to finish up.

"Alright, I've had about as much as I can take for the day regarding unpleasant surprises and the like," said younger wizard began as he dropped the pen down and marched back over to them, scowling.

"Black, we'll deal with what happened tonight or somewhere tomorrow; honestly, I could use a good nights rest before trying to wrap my mind around it. Molly- lets get the truth of the matter knocked out on the cab ride home, and I do mean
your home." He said firmly.

She shifted in her seat uncomfortably and tried to imitate the glare the desk-woman had been wearing. "
Now." Dresden added, and her defiant look wavered.

Sirius stood up and stretched. "If its all the same, perhaps a stop at the grocery for food would be welcome?" He interjected neutrally.

Dresden opened his mouth to deny it, but his stomach rumbled pitifully at the thought of going another night without a proper meal and betrayed him. Molly immediately latched onto the concept.

"I could use a bite to eat, too."

~-~-~-~-~-~-~

Some time later, pushing a creaking cart around with a furious scowl in place, Dresden led the three of them toward the cabbie parked out in the middle of the lot with his engine idling. His expression darkened once the few bags were stored in its trunk and he had squeezed into the back seat next to Molly, who was next to Sirius.

"Just how much are you charging a minute?" He demanded after seeing the meter. The driver flicked his cap up lazily and stared at him through the rear view mirror.

"You done moaning or you wanna add up the expenses some more, guy? Got a destination in mind?" The driver responded.

Dresden growled out an address, and Molly let out a barely concealed sigh of relief that it wasn't her parents'. A moment later and the gearbox groaned, the engine coughed and spewed out black fumes, and they were on their way.

As they rode the Warden directed his irritation onto the young woman. "Care to explain what happened to get you locked up for the night?" He demanded in a low whisper.

She attempted to shrug without success. "A misunderstanding regarding a friend," she stated the words she had prepared the night before and drilled herself on in the long hours since.

Dresden frowned, sensing more behind her message. Cops didn't usually lock people up for no particular valid reason, and though it had been a couple of years since he had last worked with Michael or really had a chance to see the Carpenter family, he rather doubted Molly would have gotten herself involved in anything truly illegal.

"And?" He asked.

Molly shot him a bland look. "And
what? They misunderstood the scenario, we misunderstood their intentions, and we all misunderstood one another and wound up causing a minor disturbance and resisting of arrest." She said evasively and rather quickly.

Sirius recognized that particular method from fourth year, and he smiled at the futility of it; none of the Professors had taken their excuse at face value, except for Professor Flitwick once or twice.

It had just as little effect of convincing Dresden as it did them.

Staring her in the eyes, his frown deepened when she turned her head away after a fraction of a second and focused on the view out of the window on Sirius' side.

"You can spill it now or in front of your parents, Molly. Do it now and I might find your side of things agreeable and stretch the truth of it," he stated, having no intention of lying to Michael but every intention of avoiding Charity and her sniping tones.

"What is there to stretch?" She challenged without facing him.

Dresden scowled at the back of her hair. "Have it your way."

End Chapter Four.

Chapter 5: A different path to take.

Chapter 5: A different path to take.

Shoving a fistful of dollars at the cabbie a few moments after they finally sputtered to a halt outside of his home, Dresden thrust the door open none too gently and stalked around the back of the vehicle as if it had done him a personal wrong, thrusting his wallet into a back pocket on his jeans.

He waited while the man behind the wheel counted every bill and held it to the light for authenticity before triggering the trunk's switch, by which point Molly and Sirius had emerged to find him quietly emitting steam from between his ears.

The glower he directed upon his assignment and Micheal's daughter turned after a long moment upon the bags of groceries, and he thrust his staff into the crook of one arm so that he could scoop up the nearest of the lot and march down to the stairs as if his stiff leg did not bother him at all.

Molly gave the elder wizard a questioning look behind his back, but Sirius only shrugged one shoulder loosely and bent over to grab the rest of the food. Beneath the rustle of plastic he did clarify, however. "Been something of a bloody terrible couple of days so far," he said.

She perked up at the term 'bloody'. "What happened?"

He glanced at her eyes without thinking, meaning only to evaluate if they had the kind of look that could handle even a fraction of the truth, but when she failed to break the connection a split-second later, the world fell away from them both-

A large cathedral-like room surrounded the same girl he had just been looking at - only now she looked more fatigued around the edges here, as if something unseen was eating away at her whether she knew it or not.

Stretching out along her back, her shadow trailed up to the windows, in which a small handful of reflections appeared. Each one displayed what seemed to be a different aspect of the girl, as if in different points of her life-to-come or her life-gone-past.


Happy moments stood beside paintings of sorrow and tragedy, blood stained hands and wry grins sitting next to gauntly thin limbs, while bland normalcy sat in the smallest and all-but-alone pane, as if trying to distance itself from coming to pass...


Shaking his head as his vision suddenly returned to her face, the older wizard remembered what Dresden had told him earlier that day, and blanched.

Bloody hell, now I can pull off this soul-staring madness? He thought, disgusted with himself.

There were certain lines even he respected, and he did not appreciate the intimacy such an act brought with it - he had
known things about the girl that he had no right to, just as he had understood aspects about the younger wizard he had no desire for, either.

Molly had gone pale even beneath her getup, but her expression was only one of mildly-horrified interest, with what might have been a hint of concern.

"What happened to you?" She asked quietly, distracting him from his self-condemnation.

He was distracted from saying anything by the arrival of a darting, white-shaped blur from behind a set of trash bins, which yowled warningly as it sidestepped the taxicab and clipped him on the side of a knee in passing, then bum rushed down the stairs and straight into a returning Dresden's knees as if it were an albino bludger.

Surprise lit up the younger man's face in the split-second he had before impact, and that was in turn replaced with a half-voiced protest and pitiful attempt to steady himself with the staff.

"Mist-
aarh!" whatever word that had been in his throat was changed to a low shout as his legs were bowled out from under him, throwing Dresden face-first toward the ground and dragging the wooden construct down with him.

Amid the jarring crunch of bone crashing into unforgiving pavement, a distinctly unpleasant
snap and fizzle of energy dissipating into thin air signified the magical foci's death.

Sirius had dropped his own bags by that point, but as he sniffed cautiously at the scent in the air where the thing had passed, it read, loud and clearly,
cat.

Musk and sardines filtered through the odor of damp fur, along with a faint trail of litter, though he would have placed that as at least a day or two old.

His suspicions were cemented when a very feline growl of dissatisfaction emanated out of the doorway, and a pair of heavy and slitted eyes turned toward Dresden as if down-dressing the wizard.

It was only at that point that he realized he had hunched over as if assuming his grim's charging position, still sniffing at the air by instinct, and that Molly was eying him now in more than just idle curiosity.

Merlin's balls, he thought, suddenly feeling embarrassed for some reason. He snatched at the bags he had dropped and hurried down the stairs to check on the other man, while Molly followed along in his wake with more interest in her eyes than before.

Dresden shoved up to his elbows by the time they finally approached him, staring down and wincing at the slight drops of blood where a few splinters had lodged themselves in his chin.

"First the
sword, and now my staff," he lamented quietly.

"Are you alright?" Sirius asked him. Dresden craned his head up a fraction, then sighed in a very tired fashion and slowly shook it.

"No," he said simply, but added after a moment, "and I doubt I'll get much better today. Hells bells, I hate it when there are days like these."

Molly stepped around them both to drop her bags off just past the door, staring around the dark room with its single candle glowing, then came back to take Sirius' for him, allowing the older wizard to get a hold up beneath Dresden's arms and haul him to his feet.

To add disgrace to his already battered dignity, his stomach erupted in a renewed round of growls.

It was a sign of Dresden's emotional state that he kept from cursing at it and allowed himself to be helped inside, but at the doorway he paused and half-heartedly dug around in his duster until he laid his hand upon the long and smooth wand he carried there.

"Take these for me," he said, turning and thrusting the remnants of his staff toward Sirius. The older wizard blinked in surprise and let him go in order to do so, shoving one underneath his left arm so that he could steady Dresden again.

"
Flickum Bicus," said wizard intoned quietly, waving at the ground where he had landed, and a few dime-sized flames burst to life wherever a spot of red marred the concrete.

Sirius couldn't help but wonder aloud what the point was, which earned him a bland stare rather than an irate one, as he half-expected by that point.

"Another gap in your education I need to cover," Dresden muttered as they stepped inside, and he added more loudly, "Help me shut the door before a ghoul shambles in."

Sirius raised a cursory eyebrow even as he threw his shoulder against the weighty steel.

"What's so bad about ghouls?
Ungh, aside from that one in the toilet at dear old Grimmauld Place, I've never seen a ghoul go bad on its own," he challenged evenly.

"A little racket might even brighten this dungeon you refer to as a home up, regardless of if it does keep me awake half of the night," he added as the lock slid into place.

This time the look he received was far from thrilled, but the younger man at least spared Molly's innocuous-appearing form nearby a glance before retorting in a quiet, harder tone.

"Your world must be fairly nice and pleasant, given most of what I've heard from you so far. Ghouls are among the top three worst monsters I encounter on a regular basis, second to Vampires and third only to the Fae," he bit out, ignoring the pain shooting through his bruised jaw.

"If you say so," Sirius answered, but it was obvious he was only aiming to placate Dresden.

"Um, Harry?" Molly interjected neatly. He looked over to her dark outline again, shuffling his expression to a moderate attempt at neutrality.

"What?"

"I could really use some better light, because I can't seem to find your refrigerator anywhere in here, just a freezer."

A rough snort was followed by Dresden aiming his wand at the fireplace, and in a dry tone he repeated his prior spell with more strength to his voice, "
Flickum Bicus!"

A crackling flame burst up amid the logs there, blasting a wave of warmth and light across the room and closer to the kitchen area, but still hardly enough to work with. He repeated the motion with a more grandiose gesture, and every candle available suddenly flickered to life.

Molly blinked owlishly for a few moments and looked around. "You don't have a fridge?" She asked doubtfully.

"It's called an icebox, Molly," he answered.

She frowned and began loading up eggs, lettuce, and more besides inside of what she had mistaken for a rough freezer, but Sirius walked over and snatched up the cooling tray of fried chicken before she could touch it, glancing around to avoid meeting her eyes again.

Over one shoulder he espied the cat responsible for Dresden's misfortune, skulking nearby, and latched onto the opportune moment.

Sullenly reclined atop the bookcase now, it cast a reproachful glare as Molly loaded up the groceries without so much as a hint of dry or canned food shaking toward it, cycling from one of them to another as if an great injustice was unfolding.

"Your cat or an enemy's," he asked with a nod toward the furry behemoth; he had little doubt that it was every bit as large as Crookshanks had ever been, and perhaps rather more, as he compared them.

Dresden shoved his wand away and sighed, running a hand through his hair, then approached the couch and sat down on it.

"Mine. I forgot all about him last night. I'm surprised he didn't try to tackle me this morning."

Sirius' eyebrows slowly rose as he approached the couch. "So that's a normal, everyday occurrence for you?" At Dresden's impatient nod he only shook his own in return and popped open the plastic lid, licking his lips before biting into a drumstick.

"Bah, what are you, a dog person?" the younger wizard sniped. That earned a choked cough, turning into a wry, hearty chuckle once he managed to swallow roughly.

"Something like that," he returned, then gestured toward a sudden dewdrop of blood dripping onto the carpets. "You may want to clean that up."

Dresden glanced down and then ran his hand over his chin, wincing again.

Before he stood up, however, he leaned closer and said in a quick whisper, "I recognized the effects of a
soulgaze out there, Black. Be careful who you trade looks with for now on."

Sirius choked again, scowling at the reminder. By the time he could retort, however, the other man had already shuffled his way toward the bathroom door and stepped inside of it.

To compound matters, Molly finally pushed the last spare package into its place and began to compile her own afternoon snack, and as she did so she picked up where they had been interrupted earlier.

"What were those cloaked creatures? I still have a chill watching those people degenerate into them."

Bugger.

Setting his next half-chewed drumstick down, he sighed.
She's just a girl. Even if she believed my journey, I'm not going to haunt another soul with any more knowledge of the Dementor's than I have to.

"Darkness," he said after another moment of thought. "Just consider them darkness personified. Evil like all beasts that consume another by instinct may be considered evil."

The clink of her knife dropping to the plate was followed by a quiet intake of breath.

"They
ate your friends and family?" She gasped.

Sirius cursed silently and shoved the drumstick back into his mouth, right next to his right foot, and promptly began to chew at it vigorously.

"That's horrible! No wonder you look so haggard," she stated, picking the knife back up and continuing where she had left off a moment before.

Dresden emerged with a trio of bandaids strewn across his chin at that point, looking almost comical beneath his serious features, and with a growing blue blot shining beneath them where hints of red did not already stand out.

He stepped around Molly and drew out a slightly-cooler-than-lukewarm beer along with a pre-made deli sandwich from the cooler, then retreated for the other end of the couch, leaving her alone as she quartered the bread.

He sighed appreciatively as the first bite reached his taste buds and then less so at the bland beer, but in his own opinion, any brand was poor by comparison to Mac's.

By the time she joined them, half the sandwich and more so the bottle were gone.

Sirius slid as far to the left as he could go without sliding off of the arm altogether, giving her plenty of room by comparison to the cab ride.

"Are you going to continue yet or should I start fishing for other subjects," Molly asked him, staring him in the eyes again.

He firmly directed his eyes over her hairline as his fingers dug around the plastic bottom in search of another piece of unchewed meat, but finding just scrappy skin and bones, he futilely shoved most of a wing into his mouth to keep it preoccupied.

She huffed and cautiously turned her attention to Dresden instead.

He beat her to the punch on asking anything, however. "As I said earlier, care to explain in full why
I had to pick you up instead of your rightful legal guardians and parents?" His tone shifted toward a resonance of pain by the end, and he set the beer down to rub around the bandages irritably.

Molly bottled right up and leaned back into the couch, scowling down at her plate.

"Suit yourself. Black, hand me whats left of my staff," he said.

Sirius set the plastic down and offered up the two halves of wood, and Dresden shoved down the rest of his meal and knocked back the bland beer before standing up and working over to the phone.

She tensed up as he began ringing up a number, then exhaled slowly.

Several rings passed before an old, strong voice answered. "What is it, Hoss?"

"Something important has come up, sir," Dresden said.

A noticeable change suffused the other voice before it spoke up again.

"What happened?"

"Nothing to do with what we just discussed last night, not directly, anyway. I may need to take a vacation again, sir."

"A -
vacation, yes," the voice hesitated a fraction between responding, and most of the impact resolved itself back to a more natural tone afterward.

"Where and when did you have in mind?"

"The usual field of choice, and preferably by next Sunday."

"Be careful on the way, Hoss. Good traveling."

"Yes sir."

He hung up the phone and ran another hand through his shaggy hair, feeling the exhaustion of the day creeping up on him now more than ever.

"Molly, we don't have all day to try and get the truth out of you. I'd rather not call up Charity, but this is the middle of a magical murder mystery, and two more lives were nearly thrown onto the burning pile a few hours ago -
us," he said grimly, clenching his teeth against the pain.

Molly blinked, and looked back and forth between the two of them. "It's... it's complicated," she stated softly. "Can't I just stay here with you for a few days? Help out with your case somehow?"

Dresden scoffed and tried not to wince again. "I like your enthusiasm, Molly, but you're just another vanilla mortal. It's bad enough bringing Black into this, but if Murphy caught wind that I had dragged a civilian in, we'd
all be in the frying pan. To say nothing of what your parents would do when they found out, not if."

Her expression shifted into a grimace of her own. "I can do
some magic!" She countered.

"Can you now?"

"Yes. Nothing like yours, not if even half of what dad says is true," she swallowed a lump in her throat at the mention of her father, but she stood up. "But I can do some. Invisibility."

Dresden left his hand on the phone, but he gestured with his other for her to do that.

Her eyes closed as she concentrated, and the edges of her curly hair suddenly faded out. The effect rolled over her body from several different points, but within ten seconds she had completely camouflaged her form from sight.

An embarrassed laugh escaped her lips, but he shuffled around the couch to examine where she had stood from each direction. After three passes he exhaled and stopped where he had begun.

"That's one mean veil," he said softly, impressed. When she returned to visibility in much the same manner as she had vanished, he continued.

"If you're having trouble explaining your talent to Charity, I'm sorry. But a veil isn't going to be enough, Molly. Even if you could hide from mortal eyes, you couldn't mask your scent, or your tracks, or the carbon-monoxide you breath-" before he could go on, Molly's expression soured and she began blinking out of sight again, a little quicker than before.

Dresden sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"She doesn't have a scent." Sirius stated when he opened his mouth.

Dresden frowned at him.

"How do you know?" He demanded irately.

"It's not just the smell of blood that I grew acquainted with in my w-
times," he amended hastily. "I can't smell anything from her like before, not even the sandwich on her plate."

Scowling, Dresden let go of the phone again.

"Invisibility and masking her scent
might help, but there are things in the Nevernever that will still be capable of tracking her - and unless you can tell me she is masking even her heat emanation and blending it perfectly into the surrounding air, it's far too dangerous to bring her along!"

Sirius stood up.

"And how am I much more useful at the moment? As I've told you several times already, the limitations of my magic are bound to a wand-
blasting rod, then! The best I can perform is Apparition, and that has more risks without a wand than I feel safe performing again without one!" He argued.

Molly suddenly reappeared, fatigue stretching her features.

"
Stars and stones," Dresden said darkly, staring down at the broken staff still clasped in one hand and arm.

He turned to the fireplace and paced back and forth a few times, chewing his words, and then bent down to lean them against the nearby wall.

"Twelve hours, Molly. Followed by two more days and nights," he said flatly, finally turning back to face them both.

"There are things that Black and I have to discuss before we depart to carve out new staffs -
yes, Black, plural," he bit out. "If you can improve your veil, your endurance to hold it correctly by the time we return, if I judge it good enough... hell's bells, Michael is going to kill me if you get so much as a bloody nose, kid."

Molly stood up straight and blinked again, this time with a noticeable glint of moisture gathering in her eyes.

"This isn't a game. I can't even begin to tell you how many people died at the convention last night, and more besides will probably die before we can solve this. I'll do everything in my power to stop that, but I can't protect
both of you."

"Convention?" She asked.

"Some kind of horror convention, Murphy said. Lieutenant Karrin, to you," he amended.

Molly's face fell into the same kind of pale grimace as before, and she dug into her pockets until she had a folded up sheet. "'
Splattercon!!!' ?" She asked him quietly.

Dresden took the sheet and examined it a moment, then looked back to her face again. "Yes," he said.

"Oh, God," she murmured, dropping back down to the couch.

End Chapter Five.