This is actually the only way I could think to phrase my question without the question itself being a spoiler (for several of the later books after Proven Guilty), so bear with me.

In Cold Days, when Mab is explaining her actions towards Molly to Dresden, she interprets his actions, and I get all of them except for this line "You made her curious about what you could do, and nurtured that curiosity with silence. Then when she went to explore the Art, you elected not to interfere until such as she found herself in dire straits- at which point your aid placed her deep within your obligation.

Now, I know that the Winter Queen is manipulative, but usually, there's some kernel of truth in the deceptions that the faeries perpetrate. But for there to be any kernel of truth, there would have to exist something that I haven't seen before.

Harry would have to have the ability to sense a practitioner that was not actively using their powers. In the instance that Mab points to in Proven Guilty, it seemed that Dresden was totally unaware of the fact that Charity is gifted, let alone Molly.

So was Mab outright lying totally to Dresden? Or can Wizards detect each other without using the sight on a level that would have exposed that knowledge instinctively?

  • 1
    You're uh wizard 'Arry. – John O Dec 6 '12 at 4:34
  • Upon a touch, Harry can detect the tingle of magic in another wizard. – Force Flow Dec 6 '12 at 4:57
  • @ForceFlow - Reference? – Chuck Dee Dec 6 '12 at 6:34
  • It was in one of the novels (possibly "Proven Guilty"?). I don't recall which one, which is why I only posted a comment, not an answer. – Force Flow Dec 6 '12 at 14:48
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    It's explicitly stated several times, and is a major plot point in the book where Harry works on the set of that movie - the main female antagonist made sure her hands were full so he wouldn't recognize her as a practitioner. – Mark Allen Dec 8 '12 at 4:07

There is truth and truth in the faeries eyes. They can never tell a lie about things they have directly experienced or know themselves, but they can and do interpret events however they like. Harry feels guilty about the events of Proven Guilty, Mab knows this and is offering an interpretation that could be valid based on outside observable events. We as readers know that Murphy was fighting faeries to resolve a problem that affected the citizens of Chicago, but it was just as valid to say that she deserted her post in the face of the enemy to run off with a friend. We know that Harry didn't really entrap Molly since we know his thoughts as the events went down, but that doesn't mean that he isn't carrying some unresolved guilt about not picking it up earlier. From an outside perspective, the great detective and wizard Harry Dresden could never miss something so obvious right under his nose. Whenever what the Fey are saying is opinion or conjecture, they can basically say whatever they want.

Wizards can absolutely tell other talents. If they touch a practitioner with skin on skin contact, they get kind of a static spark or electric current. The strength of this is dependent on the strength of the talent, so full bore mages give off enough and minor talents like the paranetters give off a very little. Butcher explores that in multiple books, particularly Summer Knight, Side Jobs and Cold Days. Dresden also picks up the Skinwalker in Turn Coat just through the emanations of it's power, which were so strong he felt them through a veil.

As for Charity, she willed her ability to do magic away and thus gave no spark to Harry. She basically used the off switch to remove it from herself but she couldn't remove the ability from being passed on to her offspring. That off switch is evidently available to anybody with magical power, although once flipped it can never be recovered.

EDIT This quote from Side Jobs sums the whole thing up fairly concisely

“Murdering someone with magic? It leaves an odor, and there isn’t a body spray on earth that can hide it completely so soon after a kill. If Harry got close enough to sense a whiff of black magic on her, there wouldn’t be any way she could pretend to be a damsel in distress.”

“He’d still be able to tell she was a practitioner.”

“Only if he actually touched her,” Bob said. “And even then, if she’s significantly different from a normal human, mentally, it’ll alter the sense of her aura. Besides, sensing a little tingle of magical potential in a client is a whole lot different from realizing that she’s spattered in supernatural gore.”

  • Charity did a lot more than 'flip a switch' to remove her relatively minor talents - she's described as completely giving it up for a long time, coupled with a determination to eliminate it from herself. Consequentially, sometime between Molly and Daniel being born, she did completely eliminate her talent (though Molly was conceived and born before this happened). – Jeff Jan 31 '13 at 14:55
  • I'd disagree that he explored it- in fact, the electric contact was never mentioned again- quite the oversight as it would have helped Harry out a few times. Active magic (and magical beings) yes... but practitioners, not so much. – Chuck Dee Jan 31 '13 at 21:41
  • @jeff I know, but I felt delving into it would be a rather long off topic tangent outside the scope of this answer. – sarge_smith Feb 1 '13 at 0:16
  • @wraith808 I can't think of a single time that Harry wasn't aware of somebody who could use magic once he touched them. You have a few cases where people went out of the way to not be touched but none that I can think of where he learned later that somebody was able to use magic. Do you have any examples? – sarge_smith Feb 1 '13 at 0:30
  • @sarge_smith the big one I can quote is the one in the spoilers above. Before the incident in which it was revealed to the reader, Harry never mentioned it. Even when the trouble was in full force- it was never a real point. This could be obscuring the mystery by not having Harry mention it, but it really stood out to me after the quote by Mab. – Chuck Dee Feb 1 '13 at 0:36

As sarge_smith says, the fae can't lie, but they can bend the truth to nearly breaking.

The biggest tip off that Mab is full of it is how she implied that Molly gained her magical powers because she was exposed to Harry at a young age. Everything in the series has said nothing of the sort, and heavily implied (if not said it outright) that magical ability is a genetic trait. So we know Molly gained her ability from Charity. We also know (since the books are told from Harry's POV) that he doesn't think about Molly at all other than being another kid at Michael's house.

So basically, Mab is just trying to get to Harry, yet another way to try and gain control of her Knight.

Oh, and to answer the actual question. No, they can't detect them, but I'm pretty sure they can identify a practitioner from a mortal, but it would require using the Sight.

  • They can also detect magical ability by physical contact, which most greatly prefer to the Sight. – Jeff Jan 31 '13 at 14:56
  • To be fair, even before her power became apparent, Molly was a more significant character than the other Carpenter children. There was that scene in the treehouse in Death Masks. – KRyan Jan 31 '13 at 17:01
  • Thats true, she was more significant at the time, but I chalk that up to her being older. – Corwin01 Jan 31 '13 at 17:32

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