Ally walked in the door, arms laden with grocery bags, and dropped her keys and purse on the small table by the door. She toed off her shoes, and with a bit of a bag jostle, made her way towards the kitchen, only to stop sharply and scream in pure horror, causing bags of produce to go flying through the air, at what she saw in her living-room.
The cost (and cause) of her scream, however, was that her wolf-shaped husband’s body, formerly sprawled on his back with paws akimbo in the air, woke suddenly and fell promptly off the couch only to yelp as he slammed his fuzzy head into the the top of the coffee-table as he tried to roll to his feet. He collapsed to the ground, whimpering in pain.
“MY COUCH!” Ally howled like a rising storm. “I HAVE DOG HAIR ON MY COUCH!”
Wounded, he may be, but the wolf in Jasper looked at her in affront. Dog? He wasn’t a Dog! Was the woman blind? Delusional? Stupid? He was an apex predator! A killer! A dangerous piece of the magical world!
“Oh, this is awful.” She ignored the wolf utterly, surprising since he was, as a were, a significant bit bigger than the average grey wolf. Ally swept right past him to examine the grey hair donning her lovely, relatively new, off-white couch. A shuddery sob rippled through her, as she swept a small (few) hairs off of the cushions. Another sobbed breath hitched as she spotted a wet-spot of drool, and she swung her gaze to the cowering wolf in front of her. “BAD Jasper!” She told him, finger pointing. “You know I don’t allow pets or shoes on my furniture – and I don’t care the excuse. You look like a wolf, a since a wolf is a canine, and therefore is akin to a dog which is in turn a pet – and to make it clear I won’t have dogs or WOLVES on my brand new couch! Do you hear me?”
She grabbed the wolf by the ruff of the neck, and dragged him from the living room, thru to the kitchen, and shoved him out the back door. For a smallish woman, Ally was surprisingly strong, the wolf thought, far too shocked to offer resistance.
“Stay there until you’re man enough to face me!” She yelled. “I’m going to clean up your mess!” The door, slammed shut with a bang, loud enough for the wolf to wince.
The werewolf heaved a sigh, head falling onto his paws, and he stared dejectedly at his house. It was official. His wife was a nutbar, she was completely lacking the common sense to NOT antagonize dark creatures. Merlin, he’d warned her, warned her so many times about what to do if he ever lost control of his transformation and she was about. But, Ally lacked all sense of self-preservation. First it was Prudence, well… okay, no, first it was himself. She’d looked at him like he had lost his mind when he’d confessed, on their third date, that he was a werewolf. And despite his efforts, Ally’d never taken his disease as seriously as any sensible witch, wizard or squib would. He should have had a clue then that his beloved wife had not a drop or lick of survival skill.
“Uncle Jasper?” Wee Harry’s voice sounded a mite confused, but he bounded over from the backyard of the Dursley’s home, behind the broken hedgerow defining and dividing the lot between the Dursley’s and Lockwood’s yards without a care in the world about his trespass. Jasper was reasonably certain that Edith Miller, who was his direct next door neighbor wouldn’t be thrilled with the way Harry traipsed through her gardens. Fortunately, she was practically blind, and tended more to mind her front window than the back.
“Uncle Jasper!” Harry lunged for the furry shape of his adopted Uncle, arms wrapping around the wolf’s neck and face burrowing into the very ruff Ally had so savagely grabbed and dragged through the house.
Immediately, the wolf (and Jasper) felt better, and though Jasper was self-aware while inside the wolf’s body, he recognized he was far more a passenger than driver. Wolf instincts and intellect ruled most of his body in this state, as exampled when his tail started wagging happily at having his wolf’s favorite human wrapped around him. “Arrooo.” The wolf part of Jasper howled to Harry.
“I thought you could only come out during the full moon!“ Harry scratched behind Jasper’s ear, and the wolf moaned in ecstasy. “It’s not the moon-time, Uncle Jasper. The sun is up!”
This was something Jasper was very aware of. In fact, his last memory before Ally had gone postal on him was settling down, as a man, on the couch to indulge in a wee Sunday afternoon kip. Waking up a wolf had been a bit of a shock. In more ways than one.
“But I’m really glad to see you!” Harry continued, having pushed past the whole daylight confusion, as only a newly achieved six year old could. Over a year ago, the lad’s birthday, a much celebrated thing in the wizarding world had almost passed unknown in the muggle. Ally and Jasper had yet again shamed the Dursley's, and insured their favourite lad had a proper birthday party in their bark yard. Complete with bouncy castle, and ice cream cake. Harry had been the birthday hit of his primary class.
They’d not made the same mistake this year, and bypassed the Dursley's utterly. Ally and Jasper had taken the lad and a few classmates up to Windsor, and celebrated Harry’s sixth birthday at Legoland. Certainly, to the other patrons of the theme park, it had looked odd, what with four young children, and eighteen adults surrounding only one child at all times, but really it could have been far worse. After all, the whole pack had wanted to be in attendance so they’d resorted to a lottery for the rights to go with. Harry had picked the names from a witch's cap to avoid accusations of favoritism.
“Arrooro?” The wolf didn’t really care what Harry wanted, it was just elated that the lad was happy to see him all furry.
“The Dursley's have gone up to the specialist in London, for Aunt ‘Tunia’s appointment with her car-di-ologist.” He said the word carefully, sounding it out. “They took Dudley long too, but kicked me out so I wouldn’t make a mess.”
The urge to bear teeth was strong, but Jasper reminded the wolf he wasn’t annoyed at the lad, but rather at the Dursley's. And really, biting them was pointless. Two of the Dursleys were all fat, the other was all bone. Not really appetizing at the best of times.
“I think they plan to get dinner in London, and won't be home ‘till late.” Harry confided. “But, there’s this strange man poking around the house, and I’m not sure what to do.”
Strangers, sadly, were very much the norm in Privet Drive. Anton had done the numbers, at some point, and in the past twenty-three months there’d been an influx of one hundred and five werewolves (of which eighty were employed by Howl Construction), thirty-seven vampires, a Hag, and one establishment wherein thirty goblins now lived and operated a local Gringotts bank.
The human population was moving out in droves, and the local primary was in danger of closing if the population continued to drop. Which meant that Harry would have to be bussed to out of area. No one had liked that effect of the evolution of Little Whinging from a non-magical community to magical.
Fortunately, they had a long-term plan in the event that happened. Dudley Dursley could be bussed out of area; actually everyone was really keen on that idea. Harry, however, would be privately tutored. Judas had proved useful for once in his creepy life, putting forward an education fund for the lad in the event it was needed.
So, strangers? Not new. Something about Harry’s magic just drew strangers in. They might come initially to visit, but invariably, they stayed.
“He’s wearing this dark robe -- and all I can see as bones for his wrists and hands. It’s like he’s a skeleton. Or!” Harry paused, and eyes grew wide, “I know…. Maybe he's the grim reaper!”
Jasper would have rolled his eyes if he were in control of the body. The grim reaper was five years too late where the lad was concerned, and a damn good thing that was. Still, teaching Harry to be wary of strangers had been ruddy hard. The lad’s open and cheerful nature, coupled with his curiosity, made it difficult for him identifying strangers and keeping to the rules of stranger-danger.
“Do you suppose he’s here to take Aunt ‘Tunia? Should we let him know when she’ll be back?” The child wondered aloud.
Jasper rose to his feet, shaking off the boy. Turning around, he went through the path Harry had initially taken to get into the yard, trotting casually through the Miller’s vegetable patch (the bunnies were obviously reproducing again based on the state of the lettuce), and into the Dursley’s yard. Invariably, Harry was on his tail.
He prowled around the Dursley’s back yard, through to the front yard, and down the far side, which neighboured onto the Lovett’s place. It was behind a mulberry bush that he found Harry’s ‘stranger’ bent down, a staff with a glowing green stone mounted in the mouth of a silver skull at the pommel touched the foundations of the house.
What was interesting was that Harry’s description had been bang on. Their pup was getting better at observations, it seemed. Only, this wasn’t the grim reaper. This was a creature far more dangerous than just ‘death’. Jasper pushed Harry behind him, hackles raising and lip curling away from his teeth.
The Lich, for that was what this creature was, turned, it’s skull eerily shadowed by its hood studied the wolf for a moment. “You do know, werewolf that not only is it daytime, but the moon is a waning crescent at present?”
Jasper added a good “Grrr” to his imposing stance.
“And you’re defending a dark lord against me.” The Lich continued. “I freely admit, I am terribly fearsome. It’s not often one faces a six-thousand year old immortal sorcerer such as I… But be that as it may, I’m not a Prince of Darkness, just his lowly student. And, I strongly suspect that Death himself would gather me to his bosom were I to touch that lad with intent to harm.”
Okay, sure, the Lich was saying the right words, but… LICH!
“If you persist in attacking however, you will not survive.” The Lich wrapped a skeletal hand around the middle of the staff, setting the silver clawfoot of it on the ground. “And that, my dear werewolf, would likely upset the young prince.”
It didn’t matter if he would be exposed and vulnerable -- hello, mere werewolf against a Lich. But, words were necessary. That was something both wolf and man were in agreement about. The shift happened awkwardly, some bones lengthening, others retracting, his hips reshaping, his maw shrinking. Behind him, Harry demonstrated his understanding that the situation here wasn't safe, and ran off to get help.
“What do you want?” Jasper rasped as soon as he was able, hoping the help Harry fetched was Anton and not Ally. Ally would skin him for wandering about naked.
“Judas spoke of the little prince, and the blood wards. I came to see for myself. Judas has been known to sip drugged-up bloods on occasion, after all.” The Lich seemed to lean his weight onto the staff, though Jasper was sure a skeleton didn’t have much weight to need supporting.
“That doesn't explain what you want.” Jasper realized he was being stupid, standing outside the Dursley house all naked, no wand, and facing an immortal sorcerer of the darkest sorts. With his luck, a patrol would come by and arrest him for public indecency. Oh hell, what if Harry called for the constabulary? That would be fabulous; the Lich would kill the cops, and he, Jasper, would take the fall for it.
Today was shaping up to be a dreadful day all around.
“What do I want,” The Lich sounded almost conversational, which made the hair at the back of Jasper’s neck stand up straight. “I swore nearly five thousand years ago, that the next dark lord that rose…”
Oh fuck, he was going to kill Harry. Or, he was going to TRY to kill Harry. The pack would jump in front first.
“...that I would have a hand in shaping him, ensuring his sanity did not crack like the last one.”
Wait up… That didn’t involve homicide. “The last one?”
“He’ll be along shortly, I’m sure. Just to find out what’s so damn interesting about ‘Little Whinging’ that caused me to relocate here too.” Weariness seemed to pour from the Lich’s body. “Just lock up the goats when he comes.”
“Excuse me?” Jasper couldn’t help his confusion. How did we go from evil super-ancient sorcerer Lich killing Harry to locking up goats.
“You’ll see. I give it eight months, tops.” The Lich sighed, the green gem in his staff flickering, and then going dark. “In the meantime, would you happen to know what hack set up these blood wards?”
Jasper blinked. “Err. Albus Dumbledore, I assume. The wards were there when me and my wife moved into the neighbourhood. And I’m reasonably sure we were the first, or I was, at least, the first dark creature to move into Little Whinging.”
“Ah.” The Lich tapped his staff against the side-wall of the Dursley’s house. “He’s an idiot, then, this Dumbledore. These wards depend on the love and stability of a family, a magical family. The wards have been starving for some time, so they hooked into a magical child. From what I can see, the wards have developed a limited sentience, and became aware they were harming the very person they were designed to protect, so they began siphoning wild magic, but they couldn’t directly use wild magic, because they are blood attuned wards.”
Jasper groaned, with sudden understanding. “So, rather than take Harry’s own innate power to fuel themselves, the ward fed the wild magic through Harry first, and then harvested it as blood-attuned. All the while, exposing him to wild magic.”
“Precisely.” If the Lich could beam, Jasper had a feeling he’d just earned a gold star. “Now, the interesting part, the little prince’s connection to death, which seems to be linked to the sacrificial magic I can find in this ward. Had wild magic only gone through a magical child with no connection to death, then no harm, albeit a stronger than usual neutral magical child with a propensity for higher ritual magic. But, the lad is touched by death, which is a primordial force of order. Order is…”
“Dark. Still. Structured. You get a Dark Lord.” Jasper rubbed a hand through his hair, feeling a headache coming on. “Bugger. The lad’s the sweetest kid. Kind, thoughtful, a bit shy… How do we get an insane serial-killing Dark Lord out of that?”
The staff came bopping into his skull, and therein was the headache in all it’s aching glory. How did the damn skeleton know exactly where he’d banged his head into his coffee table? Ow.
“The mortal self-labelled dark lords that you wizards have had crop up from time to time are no more a dark lord than I am a dryad.” The Lich told him, scathingly. “And since I’ve never had an urge to climb a tree, I think we can rule them as false dark-lords. I doubt any of them could actually do a necromantic ritual if it would save their lives -- they certainly lacked the power for it. There have been TWO, and only two true Dark Lords, at least to my knowledge in the past eight-thousand years. The first, well, he’s a hormonal teen of an estimated twenty-thousand years with a propensity to cheat at cards. The second is that young lad that just ran off.”
“Harry’s going to grow up to be a card-shark?”
“Are you brain damaged?” The Lich leaned forward, peering at Jasper a little too intently. What with the glowing green that seemed to emerge from vacant eye-sockets, Jasper was seriously creeped out. “Seriously? Are you even paying attention to a word I’m saying? I have had students give up their souls for tutelage with me, and you’re getting a free discourse, and this is the kind of shite you produce?”
“I’m a construction worker.”
“Yes. Menial labor is probably best for your limited intellect. Don’t ever change trades.” The Lich took a deep calming breath in, and blew it out. “Your boy is in no danger of becoming an insane serial killer, well, assuming he doesn’t suffer some major mental schism or an incredibly trauma, he shouldn’t become a serial killer. Environmental factors can not be predicted. What is guaranteed to happen is that the will be a Dark Lord. A guardian, defender and master of the wild magics. Possibly a necromancer, if he’s not too squeamish - it happens. Definitely capable of killing in defence of his dark creatures.” The Lich huffed suddenly. “The education system in magical Britain is really poorer than I ever suspected. I thought it sucked, I apparently had no idea how badly. That lad can’t go to school here. It would be an embarrassment of epic proportions for a true Dark Lord to be so poorly educated and delusional about what dark magic was.” He sighed. “No choice, for it then. I’ll have to start tutoring him now, and enroll him into Scholomance when he’s older.”
Oh, fuck… Ally would lose her shit at the thought of sending wee Harry to demon-school for a hundred years, with his soul being the cost. Assuming, at minimum, that she didn’t erupt at having Harry tutored by a skeleton. Jasper had the sudden urge to retreat into his wolf form and stay that way for at least the next decade.
“He’s already in school.” Jasper tried to interrupt the Lich’s planning carefully.
“No, seriously, he’s in primary. And, the muggles get weird about pulling children from the school system.” Logic, Jasper prayed, could be his friend. Lord knows, it was rarely his friend, though, when he talked with his wife.
The skull seemed to emerge from the hood, rather like a tortoise from it’s shell. “As if I would have problems dealing with muggles.”
Oh Lord. There went all the muggles. Dead, dead, and deader… Oh, that would include the Dursley's. And the vampires would have to move if their food supply suddenly dropped off. Huh. This was looking up.
“Oh, my stars! Look at that fine tight pale arse!”
It was the most unwelcome voice in all of Little Whinging. Jasper cringed instantly.
“When Harry told me you were out here all naked and shit, I scarce believed it. But lookie here! MmmmMmm.” Judas sashayed between Jasper and the Lych, red eyes sweeping up and down Jasper’s naked body.
Jasper’s hands came in front of his privates immediately.
“Oh, now let's not be shy.” The grin on Judas’ face was unholy. Seriously, unholy. It was manic, with fangs exposed, and way too wide. “I truly had no idea you had a thang for bags of bones. Clearly I wasn’t thinking this through. I mean, canines, bones… It’s a given. I just didn’t realize you wanted to hump the bag of bones. Darling, I can provide you with something far superior to hump -- maybe I’ll even hump back.”
“Seriously, Judas?” The Lich sighed. “I thought you were the straight one. Can you not let the poor man be? He’s a werewolf. They don’t transform like animagus -- you KNOW this.”
Judas waved his hand dismissively at the Lich. “Later! I’m busy!” He sang.
“Apparently, I’m the only one who doesn’t think with his dick.” The Lich muttered.
“You don’t have one, darling. Hardly an issue for you, in that regard, so I doubt you can speak with any degree of authority on the subject.” Judas replied cheerily, taking a step closer to Jasper, and watching Jasper take a step back. “Now, now….”
“Where’s Harry?” Jasper asked defensively, looking over his shoulder for signs of the lad, of Anton, of anyone who could help extricate him from this situation.
“Oh, I sent him off to tea with Pru.” Judas smirked. “He’s much too young to watch me seduce you. Where’s the wife, sweet-cheeks?”
The whimper, this time, was debatably Jasper’s. He was pretty sure the Lich whimpered too. Likely, for many widely different reasons.
“Judas. Let the wolf be.” The Lich ordered.
“No-can-do,” The vampire’s grin hadn’t relaxed an inch. “Why, even his wife is on board with me getting a leg over this big hunk of a wolf.” The smirk was dangerously epic. “She wants to watch,” He said in an aside over his shoulder to the Lich.
“You poor mutt. Your wife too?” The ancient sorcerer said with a shake of his hooded head. He levelled his staff at Jasper. “Honestly, I recommend you run for higher ground.” And with that, he cast at Jasper.
A bolt ripped through him, and suddenly Jasper had four paws again, and a tail firmly tucked between his back legs. He bypassed marvelling, and went straight for running straight through Judas’ legs, tripping the vampire and hearing him fall on his ass. He didn’t stop to look, the sound was comfort enough. He ripped through the Miller’s garden, spooking a bunny mid-nibble, jumped the dying hedge to land back to his own yard, raced up the three steps, and skid through the dog-door that led to the kitchen.
It was far better, he reasoned, to face the wrath of Dark Lady Ally at the muddy paws he was leaving on her kitchen floor, than the seductive wiles of an alarmingly bi-sexual vampire.