"Hmmmm Tom Cruise, Sean Connery, Alan Rickman," Alyx muttered as she hunched over her desk.
"What are you doing?" Bob asked mildly after deliberately sneaking up on her.
Alyx screeched and jumped into the air. As she did she pulled a hammer and a running chain saw from her pockets. She landed and faced Bob, ready for combat. (Note to readers, Alyx is a trained professional and is quite handy with her chain saw. Do not attempt putting a running chain saw in your pocket unless you have passed your Zombie apocalypse survival course.)
"Don't do that!" she snarled whilst waving the chain saw under his nose.
Bob buffed his nails against his shirt and looked at her for a moment. "Impressive, but all I asked was what are you doing?"
"Casting decisions, this isn't easy you know."
Bob's brows furrowed. "Casting? You do know you're supposed to be writing a disclaimer telling people we don't own Harry Potter or Dragon Riders of Pern."
"Yeah but this is more important. I'm going to use that start up website, kickintheballs, to fund a movie based on my great Who who epic. Right now I'm trying to pick who will play Snape," Alyx retorted.
Bob frowned. "Did you get kicked in the head by a llama again? You know Alan Rickman would never stoop so low as to play Snape!"
Alyx paused to ponder and steam whistled from the hole in the back of her head that was strangely shaped like a llama hoof. "Hey that only happened once! Or twice. Er I forget, but that's not important now!"
"No what is important is that the story is about to begin and you're wasting time on silly stuff. And really? Tom Cruise? Who would hire that midget?"
"Now you're being mean!" Alyx exclaimed with a trembling lip. "You're just jealous because I'm going to be a famous director and fabulously wealthy."
"Might I remind you of your other schemes to be fabulously wealthy, how many seeing-eye llamas did you sell? And you're still in litigation over those steam powered adult toys. Or the..."
"Enough!" Alyx screamed. "Just start the chapter and I'll be good. Jeez, I didn't think a wheel chair pushed by a llama would be a problem. I had to do something with all those seeing-eye llamas we had in the house!"
Bob turned to the audience and smirked. "Presenting book three in the Harry Potter, Dragon Rider crossover. Enjoy the story folks!"
Beneath Sovereign Skies
#10 Downing Street, London, August 15th 1996...
A buzzer distracted John Major from the report he was reading. He reached across his desk and pressed the intercom button on his phone. "Yes?"
"Baron Browne is here to see you sir," his secretary said.
Damn, Major thought, oh well, lets get this over with. I can't keep putting him off forever.
"Very well, send him in and then see we're not disturbed," Major replied.
Baron Edmund John Philip Browne was an independent member of the house of lords. As an independent he belonged to a small minority of Parliament that had not been brought to the Weyr back at the beginning of the year. The handful of independents had been left ignorant of dragons because it was felt that there was no one to keep them in line unlike the major parties.
Baron Edmund John Philip Browne was also the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of British Petroleum. A man who represented a company that stood to lose a lot if the dragons succeeded in powering the world.
The government had finally finished divesting itself of its interests in the company and Browne represented the first true CEO that held no ties to the government or the monarchy other than his own personal position as a member of the house of Lords. BP had control over much of the North Sea oil fields, and those were estimated to exceed the size of the Saudi oil fields by as much as twenty five percent. When it was discovered it was hailed as a boon for Britain, that is until people learned just how difficult off shore oil drilling could be in the North Sea.
Now many of the technical hurdles had been overcome, but it was still a difficult and dangerous place to drill for oil.
Major stood and smiled as the door opened. "Baron Browne, please do come in and sit," he said, offering a hand.
Browne shook his hand and sat down. It was obvious from his posture that he was not a happy man.
"Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for seeing me," Browne said. "I've wanted to meet with you for a while now..."
He trailed off when Major shook his head and held up a hand. "I know why you're here Baron. And I am going to tell you the same thing that President Clinton told the CEO of Exxon. The dragons represent a source of renewable, sustainable energy that has little impact upon the environment. It is the position of Her Majesty's government that their impact on the economy of the United Kingdom will far exceed the discovery of oil in the North Sea and it will last a lot longer than your oil fields will. We are not unsympathetic to the plight now faced by your company and others. But the government feels you are looking at this totally wrong."
Browne gripped the arms of his chair tightly. He was angry, his in-house analysts were practically gibbering in fear about the impact of the dragons on the company and he had this politician tell him he was looking at it wrong? Browne arched a single eyebrow and Major knew he was angry. It was Major's job to get the man to see reason and opportunity. "Oh?" Browne said tightly.
"Baron, BP is currently in a cash rich position and it will be many years before dragons have a significant impact on your balance sheets. We both know there will always be a need for petroleum products. And it could take two decades or more before a dragon powered car becomes a reality, so petrol isn't an issue. Lubricating products will be untouched by dragons, the same can be said for many plastics.
"So we are looking at dragons impacting oil that is used for power generation, and perhaps downstream petrol for vehicles."
Browne looked startled at that. No one had mentioned petrol to him, or even talked about hot rock powered vehicles.
"It seems to us, and the American government agrees, that now would be the time for you and Exxon to reposition your businesses while you still have the surplus money to make such a move. The dragons stand to affect a great many industries and right now there are only two groups taking advantage of that."
Browne blinked in surprise and leaned forward in his chair. He had come here to complain about what the dragons would do to one of the largest companies in the UK and the Prime Minister was clearly saying that things weren't as bad as he thought.
"What two groups?" he asked with interest.
Major smiled, welcome to my web my lord Baron, he thought. "The Weyr is producing hot rocks and a holding company that is currently jointly owned by the Weyr and the British government. Dragon Services Ltd is a research and development company as well as a patent holding company. Her Majesty's government will be selling it's shares of Dragon Services back to the Weyr until it becomes totally Weyr owned. In the meantime DSL will be licensing technologies and creating sub-divisions under the main parent company."
Major leaned back in his chair and looked pointedly at Browne. "The Weyr has the power source my lord Baron and they will take part in developing new technologies to utilize those sources. But they lack the industrial and manufacturing capacity to turn those technologies into a reality. It will be years before the Weyr has any significant manufacturing capability, if ever. They will need partners, partners willing to help them forge a new world."
Major extended a hand and pointed at Browne. "It seems to me that a forward thinking company with cash to spare might be enticed into examining new business opportunities that the dragons offer. Oil, sir, was the power source that fueled us through two world wars and a cold war. But the century is coming to a close and dragon power is going to fuel the world through the next century. Whole new technologies are going to be created or reinvented to work with dragon power."
Browne leaned back in his chair and considered what Major said. It was true that every oil company in the world took a very brief hit in their stock the day after the dragon-kind was announced to the world, but the stock quickly rebounded as investors realized that dragons represented a long term impact on the industry. The short term impact was barely noticeable.
"Do you truly believe that?" he finally asked.
Major nodded. "I do, and so does my successor."
"Successor?" exclaimed Browne.
"Mr. Blair is quite capable and even more enthusiastic about dragons than I am, if that is possible. I daresay one of his first moves will be to provide a substantial one time tax break for any company that is willing to invest in dragon power," Major said a bit wistfully. "Her Majesty has asked that I give the Weyr priority even over my own reelection."
Browne shook his head in amazement. The Prime Minister had all but admitted he was throwing the election at the request of the Queen.
"Prime Minister, my analysts are certain that we'll see substantial drops in oil sales," he said, trying a different tack.
"In the long run, yes you will, but I would bet you, you won't see any substantial drop in revenue for a decade at least. You're no fool Baron, you know power plants can't be built over night. Most countries will phase out the old plants over the course of a decade or two or longer. The real issue is knowing that eventually, ten or twenty years from now, you'll start feeling a pinch. Knowing that, what will you do to prevent it? I can put you in touch with the Weyr leadership right now and offer my own personal endorsement. But consider your options carefully Baron. It won't be long before my opinion will be only as valuable as any other private citizen."
Major leaned back and watched the man carefully. He wasn't about to brush the man off, but he couldn't allow a company that brought as much revenue as BP did to become complacent. Nor was he about to admit that the Weyr did place a high value on his opinion. It was something that Lord Mills had revealed to him and he considered himself honored by it.
Right now what he needed was for Baron Browne to do the smart thing and commit to expanding their business into areas other than petroleum products.
Browne stood abruptly. "Prime Minister, I came here with the intent to point out how much damage the dragons could do to British Petroleum, and in turn how much that could hurt our economy. Instead you put me on the defensive and then proceed to tell me how to run my company!"
Major shrugged at the man. "Baron Browne, all I did was lay out your own arguments and explained one way to avoid them. There are others, you could sink a lot of money into making oil cheaper but we both know that's only a short term patch to the problem and you'll never achieve cost parity with the Hot Rocks. You could increase your plastics production and I'm certain you will do that, but again, plastics alone won't ride BP over the rough spots."
Major paused and heaved a sigh, then he looked pointedly at Browne. "Good god man, right now you have a golden opportunity. I've pointed it out to you, Mister Blair will probably repeat the government's position when he assumes this office. If you fail to take advantage of the opportunity, then you have no one but yourself to blame.
"In a very short time the Weyr will be seeking partners that can turn their patents and research into real life products. Your decision my dear Baron is do you sit on the sidelines knowing that to do so would hurt your company or do you actively grab the opportunity the Weyr is offering?"
Browne nodded stiffly. He was unused to not getting his way and it wasn't helping that Major was pointing out a valid business path for BP to take. "I will consult with my own analysts and see what they have to say about this," he said curtly.
"I do hope you'll take this seriously Baron, there are other companies from the continent that are starting to sniff out these opportunities and frankly I would rather see them go to a British company," Major offered in a conciliatory tone, then to sweeten the deal he added. "I'll also recommend to Mr. Blair that any such British companies that do join forces with the dragons, be granted a tax break for the first ten years to offset research and start up costs."
Baron Browne nodded, somewhat mollified, but still not completely convinced. "I will contact you within a week no matter what we decide," he said, then he turned and left the room.
He's a stubborn one, Major thought, but in the end he'll come around. This is too important to his company and to the nation to let it slide.
Kitchen Hall, Campbeltown Weyr, 1996 November 1st...
A very relieved Harry entered the Kitchen hall. One very big problem was finally behind them. For two solid months the Weyr had been engaged in negotiations with British Petroleum, but that was past them now. BP had come to the Weyr near the end of August in an attempt to see where they could find opportunities. BP had gone away happy, they had decided to apply themselves to an area that was totally new to them, and very basic to all hot rock applications. They were going to do research and design into heat transfer chambers which are required in all hot rock applications. There was a clear need for transfer chambers ranging from boxcar size down to the size of a small toaster and no one was currently working on that.
That meant a substantial cash infusion to the Weyr which made Karen Khan happy. For Harry, it was an end to an ordeal which resulted in his being pulled into the negotiations several times a week. And that was something he had wanted to avoid. The press announcement of the deal between the Weyr and BP actually resulted in a small but noticeable rise in the value of BP's stock.
BP was officially on-board and still looking around at other possible opportunities to explore, but the initial hump was past and both parties now knew they could work together.
And now that BP was behind Harry, he intended to deal with another problem that had been adding to his daily stress.
His eyes narrowed when he spotted one particular person, but she wasn't the one he was looking for yet. No now he needed help that only two people in particular could provide.
Luna had barged in on him this morning when he opted to use the showers in the weyr locker room after his morning jog, rather than walk back to his quarters. She had been teasing him heavily lately, trying to get a rise out of him and he thought he had been doing well ignoring her antics. This morning however she had upped the ante and now he wanted a real payback in the time honored marauder tradition.
Seeing May and Hermione off to one corner, heads together, looking over some kind of catalog. He quickly filled his tray and walked over to them.
Sitting down he placed his tray on the table and leaned a little closer. "Loves, I need some help."
Both girls looked up in surprise. It was not something that Harry readily admitted and usually when he did, it was already a very dire situation.
"With what?" asked Hermione anxiously.
Harry leaned closer and glanced over at his problem, then back to the others. "Luna," he whispered.
Both girls frowned and glanced over at Luna who was in a deep conversation with Susan Bones. They knew that as long as Luna was distracted they'd be okay talking about her. But the minute she was free she would know someone was talking about her. Both girls knew that Luna had been teasing Harry about joining their little group, but neither understood just how uncomfortable it was making Harry.
"She stormed into the locker room this morning with some silly question that could have waited. I had just finished getting dressed, but had she been two minutes earlier, I would have been naked," Harry hissed.
"Harry," May said soothingly, "she's just teasing you. She probably knew you were dressed by that point."
"I know, but what about next time? Look she's always teasing that she's going to ask you two if she can join us. I don't want to hurt her feelings, but it's starting to make me uncomfortable. I think it's time to turn the tables on her," Harry said. "I have an idea to stop it. All I ask is you two just play along with me. I don't want to add anyone to what we have now."
May and Hermione exchanged a look between them, then they nodded. Both girls were interested in seeing what Harry had in mind. Luna was a devilishly hard target and if Harry had a plan, it was sure to be amusing even if it backfired on him. "Excellent," Harry said, then he pulled two small pads from his pockets and handed one to each of them. "Follow me and just play along with what I say."
Puzzled and more than a bit intrigued the two girls rose and followed Harry as he walked over to where Luna and Susan sat talking animatedly about Susan's design for the apartment block.
"Excuse me Sue, do you mind if we talk to Luna for a moment?" Harry asked politely.
Susan looked up in surprise. "No, not at all. Should I leave?"
"No. That won't be necessary," Harry said with a smile. "I'm sure this won't take long."
Luna looked up at Harry, May and Hermione and her eyes narrowed speculatively. "How can I help you three?"
"How tall are you Luna?" asked Harry.
She blinked and tilted her head slightly. By now the tables around them fell silent as people realized something was up. "I'm five foot four inches tall, why?"
Harry glanced at her. "Really? I didn't guess that tall," he murmured, and then he turned to Hermione. "Better write that down. We'll definitely need a bigger bed then, and maybe increase the size of the tub again. I don't think it's big enough for four."
Hermione pulled out the pad that Harry had given her and produced a pen from a pocket.
Luna stared at Harry. "What are you talking about?"
Harry smiled and reached out; he gently ran a finger down her cheek. "You've wanted to join our little group so we're trying to determine what we'll have to change to bring you in. Hermione here had a question. Oh yes I remember, would you say that during love making you can overpower a standard silencing charm? You do know they are graded by amount of sound they dampen, don't you?"
"Do you mind sleeping across the bottom of the bed Luna?" asked May, getting into the act. "I suppose we could rotate positions, but normally I've got the left side and Hermione's got Harry's right."
Hermione nodded and looked sad. "That only leaves the feet for you I'm afraid, but Harry's feet don't smell that bad, he washes them at least once a week. And Dobby does insist that he wear clean socks daily, although Harry could clip his toenails more often. May and I both wash our feet every night."
By now the hall was dead silent except for Sirius and Remus who were struggling to maintain their composure. All eyes were turned towards Luna's table and the three that were finally getting some payback on Luna.
"Silencing charms?" Luna asked weakly.
Hermione nodded. "Harry is quite good, I didn't think I'd need them myself, but he quickly proved me wrong. Normally we use silencio regina, but I suppose we could try a silencio imperato if need be."
May nodded. "Even with the charm in place the house vibrates. It's kinda sexy," she added dreamily, "makes me wish it were my turn."
Both spells were well known, but rarely used by anyone except under special circumstances. Most people found a simple silencio adequate for all human activities. The more powerful spells were for controlling the noise of large crowds or animals.
"Do you have any preferred positions? We might need a firmer mattress if you want something a little more exotic," May continued. "Sirius is always going on about doggy style, but our mattress handles that just fine."
"We did have to put a sticking charm on the bed to keep it from bouncing along the floor," Hermione observed aloud and then she blushed slightly.
"And cushion the ceiling with those spells when you wanted to try the weightless charms," May added.
Harry shook his head and smiled at the two girls. "I still can't believe we made a hole in the ceiling that one time. Good thing Dobby knows how to fix plaster. Anyway, with Luna joining in we might be able to use the ropes properly."
"Oh I hope so, I had rope burns in places no woman should have," Hermione murmured.
Luna stared at Hermione, and then turned to Harry. Her face turned beet red from the tips of her ears straight down her body. She wore a simple blouse with a small vee-neck and it was plain that her blush continued south well past that neckline. Harry leaned forward and gave her a bit of a leer. "You look like a screamer," he softly. In the silence of the hall his voice still carried and it was enough to push Sirius over the edge. He broke out in laughter and fell off his chair, which caused May to start giggling.
Almost immediately the whole hall was laughing and Luna was blushing even more heavily than before. Luna stared up at Harry, then looked around and she suddenly realized what was going on.
"Oh I get it. Payback," she said, then she smiled. "Be careful Weyrleader, paybacks work both ways."
"True," Harry said with a smile. "But I suppose I could always ask Trandieth to warn me about your plans. You know you can't hide anything from her. And while she's your dragon, she wouldn't hold anything back if I asked."
Luna froze and Harry knew she was having a quick conversation with her dragon. "Oh poo," she finally murmured. "Betrayed by my own dragon."
That sent the entire hall into another fit of laughter. Harry leaned down and kissed Luna's cheek, then he whispered in her ear. "I am very happy in my relationship. But I can always use a sister."
Luna smiled brightly. "A sister teases worse than a lover Harry."
He smiled back, "Perhaps but a sister also earns paybacks that a lover might not."
He straightened out and turned to his ladies. "Shall we go back to our table?"
The three left Luna sitting at her table, still blushing brightly; Susan was chortling merrily at her color. At another table Remus was trying to get Sirius back in his seat, he had fallen out of it and was still laughing on the floor.
At a nearby table Dan Granger had fingers in his ears and was humming loudly to the consternation of his wife. He didn't want to know about his daughter's love life.
Later that same day May flipped the switch that opened the huge hangar doors on the infirmary. Hagrid stood nearby, beaming a huge smile. Behind them stood Lornth, his eyes twirling anxiously, streaked heavily with black and yellow.
All three paused in surprise when the doors opened to reveal most of the riders and the dragons of Campbeltown standing silently, waiting for them.
Harry stepped forward. "I know this is only a simple test you're conducting May, but we wanted to be here. For Lornth."
Lornth sucked in a loud breath and several nearby dragons crooned encouragingly. May nodded and walked Lornth up a small ramp to a platform about six feet high. They had been extensively exercising his wings since August and this would be the first attempt to use them in a flight condition, even if it was a simple glide. Lornth would have a running start and then leap off the platform to glide to the ground. Or that was the plan.
Harry climbed the platform behind May and Lornth and he went over to the large dragon and spoke quietly with him for a few moments. As he did Lornth's anxiety lessened and green started to replace the black and yellow lights twirling in his eyes.
Harry stepped back and nodded to May. She stepped forward. "Alright, Lornth, lets do this just like we talked about."
"Alright Weyrhealer May," replied the dragon. Lornth then slowly extended his wings. Harry examined the dragon's wings with a critical eye. He could tell they weren't one hundred percent straight but May had managed a masterful job of healing the wings. Lornth had been seriously injured during the attack on the Hogsmeade school and had spent months in the infirmary attached to a traction frame while his wing bones healed.
Lornth flapped his wings a few times and his front paws lifted off the ground. "Lornth," May cautioned. "Let's do this slowly please?"
The dragon settled his front paws on the platform again and looked at May and nodded. He didn't want to spend any more time in the infirmary. "I'm ready to try this Weyrhealer May," he said.
"Alright, remember this is just a short flight to get a feel for your wing strength. If I see you attempt anything other than that I'll have you back in your stall for another month," May said sternly.
The large dragon bowed his head and nodded again.
Lornth extended his wings again and ran along the short platform. It was barely a full dragon length long but it was long enough. He flapped his wings a few times and then lifted his legs so that he was airborne. He glided off the edge of the platform and flapped a few more times to continue his glide for about one hundred feet. From Harry's position it was obvious that he was straining and growing tired. Finally he came to a landing. He stopped and turned around to look at May and Harry on the platform, then he reared up on his hind legs and trumpeted his happiness to the sky! He was well along the road to flying again and the whole Weyr knew it.
The dragons joined with Lornth bellowing their joy, then twenty riders converged on Lornth, carrying buckets of warmed oil and stiff bristle brushes. Harry jumped down from the edge of the platform and then he turned and helped May get down. The pair walked over to Lornth who was practically moaning in delight over the rubbing down he was getting.
"Very good Lornth, I told you you could do it," May said happily.
The dragon turned to May, his eyes heavy drowsiness. "I couldn't have done it at all without the Weyr's help. Without you and your sire I would have gone Between."
May blushed slightly, but she pushed that aside. "How are you feeling?"
"Tired and my wings ache. I see why you have been making me exercise so hard now."
"Yes, you still have more work to do. But now you know you can fly again, you just have to work at it. I want you to stay in the infirmary for a few more days, but by the weekend you can return to your regular bed in Hangar five. Your primary duty until I say so will be to return to the infirmary everyday so we can exercise those muscles."
"Yes Weyrhealer," Lornth replied.
"He will work at it," Harry said firmly. "He is a Campbeltown dragon and they are the best dragons in the world."
Around them the other dragons thrummed in approval. Harry turned towards where Spath and Chekiath sat. "Spath, please pass the word to the others. Let everyone know that we will try to heal any dragon. We won't always succeed, but if the non-bonded dragons know, perhaps they won't be so willing to jump Between."
Spath looked at Harry, then he glanced over towards Lornth who was nearly asleep from the brushing he was getting then he turned back to Harry. "It is a difficult thing Weyrleader, but I will tell the others. Perhaps it will save some. Our memories tell us that between rider and dragon there was a great bond. But you have introduced a new bond of family. It is an alien idea, but one which I like."
"You are family Spath," May said firmly. "You might not have a rider, but all of us love you like we love our dragons."
Spath turned his gaze to May, his eyes were heavily streaked with green. "I will pass the word among the dragons," he replied a bit bashfully. These humans were different from the Pern humans. They were more open about their feelings and willing to include all dragons. Pern humans were more reserved and they would defend and protect all dragon kind but would rarely acknowledge any sort of bond between themselves and another dragon other than their own.
Spath looked around a bit wistfully, these humans were changing dragon attitudes about a great many things and he approved of the changes that he saw. Unfortunately his time was growing shorter with every passing day and he knew it would not be long before he would have to make the trip Between. It saddened him to know he would not live to see the Weyrleader bring mankind and dragon-kind together, but he was certain Harry would succeed.
Chekiath, sensing Spath's melancholy turned and crooned softly to him. Spath eyed the big dragon and pulled his ears back in a dragon version of a smile. Chekiath didn't know what was bothering the Elder dragon, but he'd try to talk to him later about it. Right now the Weyr wanted to celebrate Lornth's recovery.
Harry's Office Campbeltown Weyr, December 1st, 1996...
Harry looked up from the textbook he was reading when Major Atkins knocked at his door. "Harry, I'm sorry to disturb your study time but do you have a moment for some visitors?"
He smiled when he saw Alejandro Croaker and Arthur Weasley standing behind her. Weasley looked a little uncomfortable, but that could have been because there were two armed men escorting them.
"Yes, come on in," He said, then he placed a marker in his book and closed it.
"I didn't know your wards were adjusted to redirect apparations," Croaker said a bit gruffly.
Harry smiled thinly. "Apparations and portkeys still work, they just arrive in our security office. Interest in the Weyr is considerable and Draco wanted to learn about warding as part of his job handling the magical security of the Weyr under Sirius. He and Remus Lupin adjusted the wards so that all apparations appear in our security office. Portkeys as well. You can apparate from anywhere within the Weyr, but everyone arrives via the main gate where they can sign in, including our magical visitors. Since then Draco has been learning warding from Sirius Black and a tutor we hired via Gringotts."
Draco understood he was at a disadvantage when it came to muggle schooling, so he had spoken to Harry and it was decided that they would arrange for him to train under some of Gringotts best warders after he had taken his A levels and NEWTs. In the meantime Sirius and Remus would help him as he worked under Black, examining the wards and improving upon the original work that Albus and Remus had put in place. If Harry had his way, Draco would oversee the implementation of wards for every Weyr in the world, manned or unmanned.
Harry had dropped a few hints to Draco about warding as a possible career choice and he had leaped at the opportunity.
Croaker grunted sourly and nodded. He didn't like the Weyr restricting access like this. He made a note to himself to see about sending someone out to perform a covert analysis on the wards. Before the old ministry fell to the muggles, his department routinely analyzed wards around the country covertly and he felt that understanding the Weyr's wards might someday benefit the ministry.
"Arthur, how is Percy?" Harry asked.
Arthur smiled broadly. "He's mostly recovered and back to work Harry, thank you for asking. He's been stepping out with Penelope Clearwater. Molly expects them to announce their engagement soon."
Harry nodded, he was glad to hear Percy was doing better. "Good, good to hear about that Arthur. So gentlemen, how can the Weyr help you?" asked Harry, getting down to business.
Arthur and Alejandro exchanged a look, and then Arthur looked at Harry. The elder Weasley was decidedly uncomfortable with the topic he was about to bring up. "Harry, we've had some complaints."
"Complaints?" Harry echoed mildly. In his stall, attached to Harry's office, Chekiath opened his eyes and watched intently.
"At first we thought it wasn't a problem, but the Weyr helped themselves to twelve students this past October; eight of them from a single hedge academy. The situation at that particular academy is now acute, they are unsure there will be enough students for them to continue operating. They were a small school to begin with; with less than forty students, but this year you've taken nearly half their students," Arthur said uncomfortably.
"One moment," Harry said calmly, and then he turned to Chekiath. "Cheki would ask Karen to come here to explain her population analysis?"
Harry turned back to the two wizards and his expression turned serious. "I'm afraid that your problem runs much deeper than anyone at the Ministry of Magic realizes. Last year I asked a few questions that Albus couldn't answer, so I had Karen Khan look into it for me. With help from Albus and help from the Americans we put together a picture that is rather disturbing. The only reason why we haven't told anyone about this is we weren't sure who to tell. We were going to inform Albus, but well…"
Harry trailed off for a moment and for a brief instant he deeply missed the old man. He shook from his pensive mood and continued speaking. "Karen Khan is a bit of a genius when it comes to mathematics. I know this might sound confusing at first, but I'll ask you to listen carefully to her."
"Mathematics?" Croaker said uncertainly. He knew what math was, but he couldn't see how it related to the Weyr depleting the wizarding society of their young.
The door opened and Karen stepped into the room. Croaker frowned to himself, the girl was clearly Asian in descent and from her dress, he suspected, a muggle, not even a squib!
"Yes mathematics," Harry replied. "I know Albus was working on some population initiatives, how well is that going?"
Arthur looked pained. "It looked really promising for a while, but then interest in the idea seemed to wane. We realize that we need more people but a number of departments within the Ministry are balking at some of the proposed solutions. And several department heads point out that we have many thousands of wizards in Great Britain. It will be a long time before this is a problem if ever. Given that, we tabled the initiative in favor of other, more important projects."
Harry frowned and motioned towards Karen.
"Karen, these gentlemen arrived here today to complain that one of the hedge academies may be forced to close thanks to our taking eight of their students," Harry said, then he turned to his guests and his tone turned downright frigid. "And gentlemen, I will remind you that each student was asked if they would like a chance to impress a dragon. We carefully explained what that meant to their lives and what it meant in terms of personal relationships. I remember it quite clearly, we spoke with nine people from that school and one declined our offer. We did not 'help ourselves' to those students, they came of their own free will and have already impressed dragons, again of their own free will. No Weyr will take anyone against their will, not while I'm Weyrleader."
Harry stood from his desk and motioned to Karen to take his chair. "Karen please show our guests what you discovered about the Wizard population here in the United Kingdom," he added in a gentler tone.
Karen nodded and sat down. With a few deft clicks on Harry's keyboard she called up the appropriate spreadsheet from the file server and then swiveled the monitor around so they could see the screen. "You gentlemen might want to rethink your position in regard to your population. Your school is struggling not because we removed some students, it is struggling because your society is in a serious population decline that has been ignored for far too long.
"For years you've been chasing first born wizards and witches back into regular society or out of Britain entirely while at the same time your society's birthrate has not been keeping up with your death rate. Sometime during the mid fifties your population achieved a threshold called ZPG or zero population growth. That means the number of births equal the number of deaths. I can't say why you hit ZPG, but the numbers speak for themselves. For nearly five years your population stayed essentially static, then around 1960 there was a jump in the number of deaths while the birth rate remained steady."
Arthur and Alejandro looked at each other. "Voldemort," Croaker said.
Arthur closed his eyes and nodded unhappily. Everyone had lost family during Voldemort's rise to power.
Karen looked at the two men and Arthur motioned for her to continue. "With an increasing death rate and a flat birth rate your population started a decline from the pre-second world war high of roughly ninety two thousand. According to Albus, the war itself accounted for less than three thousand magical deaths, but most of them were young men and women. Additionally the numbers started to work against you. The number of people capable of having children shrank and the death toll continued to increase.
"Albus once told me that there were roughly seventy thousand wizards in Britain, which means a twenty three percent loss of population in less than fifty years.
"Harry informs me that most wizarding families these days only have one child. As a precaution I asked several of the other wizards we have as riders and most of them come from single child households. Right now your death rate out paces the birth rate. Within a century wizarding Britain could cease to exist if steps aren't taken."
Alejandro and Arthur leaned forward and eyed the figures on the screen carefully. "This can't be right," Arthur said. "We have plenty of children."
"Do you?" asked Karen a bit skeptically.
"Karen," Harry said with a bit of embarrassment, "Mr. Weasley has seven children."
Karen nodded. "Well my question still stands. Mr. Weasley may represent a statistical anomaly but how many other families have had only one child? Draco Malfoy is an only child, so is Luna Lovegood and Susan Bones or Millicent Bulstrode. This appears to be typical for Wizarding households. And then there are the first born children like Hermione Granger. How many more magical children would there be if you didn't chase the first born back into normal society or out of the country?"
Alejandro and Arthur leaned back in their chairs thunderstruck by the questions. They looked at each other and thought about the people they knew. Karen had dropped an angry kneazle in their laps and they didn't know how to respond to it.
"Is it like this elsewhere?" Croaker asked suddenly.
Karen shook her head. "I asked myself that same question. Now mind you I don't have access to a lot of records, but Jasper Brady of the US Department of Magic was able to get me data for the United States and I have seen similar data for Canada."
She tapped a few keys and the screen changed with new data. "As you can see the US and Canada are maintaining a steady growth rate of roughly one point four five people per death. It isn't a lot of growth, and it is lower than the mundane population growth rate, but it is growth whereas here in the UK we're seeing nearly two deaths for every child born."
Finally she called up a new chart. "This is the projected growth of the Weyr once we start having children of our own. You'll note that the number of magical children will eventually grow to represent a sizable minority of riders."
She turned and looked at Harry. "Our own Doctor Sheppard informed me his wife is pregnant again, that will make their second child. Doctor Sheppard is a wizard and his wife is not magical. So far his daughter is a witch and there is good reason to believe the new baby will be magical as well.
"Wizards have certain innate advantages over mundanes, but a wizard/mundane pairing will almost always produce more magical children than a pure wizard pairing and that's not factoring in the multiple partnerships like Harry has.
"Where normal society reflects a ratio of roughly one wizard in a thousand, our closed society will experience a gain in wizards so that we'll probably have higher percentage. That is largely due to the fact that we'll start with a larger pool of wizards to begin with and we have a smaller population with a greater wizard to mundane ratio."
Harry nodded, May had filled him in on this part, plus she had privately admitted that she hoped his magical genes would be strong enough to carry through to their children. She was a little envious of the ability and very grateful that none of the magical riders tried to make the others feel less than their equals. In that respect Harry had set a very strong example for the magical riders and they were following it very closely.
"I'll add that it is unlikely any of the magical children in the Weyr will be schooled at any magical school unless they specifically ask for it. We'll leave that option open to them, but I suspect that any Weyr children will want to stay at the Weyr and impress as soon as possible." Harry added.
"Given what we do know about the British wizard population, in the coming years we'll be searching magical communities other than the United Kingdom for our magical riders. We already have permission from the Irish and the French and we're in talks with Germany, Norway and Sweden."
"This is a disaster," Arthur whispered. "What can we do?"
"Raise public awareness about the problem and get the government firmly behind a program to fix it. And most of all, stop chasing out the new magical people," Karen said succinctly.
Both men looked at her in confusion and Harry chuckled. He placed a hand on her shoulder and looked at the two men. "Karen is best at what she does, but she is so used to working with numbers and explaining things to people that understand her. She often has to explain things three or more times before I understand her."
He smiled at her to soften his words and let her know he wasn't criticizing her then he turned back to the two Ministry men. "First thing you do is stop the bleeding, make it illegal to discriminate against first born witches and wizards and enforce those laws. Hire them at the ministry and treat them equally. Once the ministry is welcoming the first born you want to make other businesses do the same. You want them to stay in the wizarding world or at least be willing to straddle both worlds. Enact laws that punish any employer that discriminates against the first born and half bloods."
Arthur nodded, this was exactly what he was making happen in the Ministry now. They had made it illegal to discriminate by bloodlines, but hiring non-pure bloods even at the ministry had been slow going.
"And the next thing?" asked Croaker.
"This is going to be the really hard part. You need to tell the public what the problem is, but you can't do that and just expect them to start popping out more kids. No you have to make it worthwhile to have more children. Offer them an incentive, or decreased taxes for every child they have. The government makes education up to grade twelve mandatory, but what comes after that? Most countries have programs set up to help their young adults find careers and placement within their society. Only here in the UK are the new graduates expected to find their own paths without help.
"One of the most common complaints I hear is that your society is stagnant. When was the last new spell created by a British Wizard? When was the last new potion invented? This stagnation comes from an almost pathological fear of change. Change can be frightening, but no change is a sure fire disaster in the making. If you don't advocate change, then nothing you do will save you as a society. Eventually the pure bloods will die out and the only ones left will be half-bloods and first born who will owe no allegiance to your society because you gave them none."
"Set up an institute of higher learning that graduating Hogwarts or other school students can attend. Offer incentives to businesses that are willing to take on apprentices, or spend time and money researching magic. Encourage new ideas and spell creation. There are a whole host of things you can do if only you look around and see what some other countries are doing. Look at America or Germany or even Ireland and see how they have set up things to help their graduates become productive members of a magical society. Ireland for example has a society of Potioneers that actively researches new potions. What does Britain have? Nothing."
Harry leaned up against the side of his desk and folded his arms, watching the two wizards.
"You sound like Sir William," Croaker said. He was not entirely pleased with what he was hearing. He and Arthur thought they would be able to come here to tell the Weyr that they couldn't take anymore wizards and instead discover that their way of life was in danger because of their own complacency.
Harry shrugged. "I don't know Sir William very well, but my tutors in politics and diplomacy all come from similar backgrounds like Sir William's. Just because I sound like someone from Whitehall doesn't mean I do what they tell me."
Karen turned Harry's monitor back around and stood from his desk. He nodded to her and murmured a quiet thank you; then she slipped from the room. "Mr. Croaker, I am not your enemy even if you dislike the information I have given you. In the coming years the Weyr will be asking a small amount of British wizarding teens to join us."
Harry gestured to an oddly colored map that Hermione had placed on his wall. There was a sheet of clear plastic over the map which someone had colored different colors. "That map shows the countries which have manned Weyrs and the countries we expect to convert to manned Weyrs by the year 2000.
"Britain stands to fall behind the other Weyrs in terms of magical riders simply because we have so few viable candidates. This year we'll be searching Ireland and France for candidates, they have no dragon reserves to build a Weyr from. We'll be searching several of the European countries because there are no wizarding candidates to be had here.
"America and Canada combined have nearly a million adult wizards and three hundred thousand magical children. Meanwhile you struggle to fill less than twenty schools. Hogwarts is running at less than half capacity and no one thought to say anything about all those empty class rooms? That alone should have been grounds for alarm.
"You can take the information we showed you and go back to your ministry and do nothing. But you know where that will lead you, or you can take the information we have, examine it for yourself and do something about it."
Croaker nodded sullenly and glanced over at Arthur who smiled encouragingly. Arthur turned back to Harry. "Will you share that information with us?" he asked.
"Of course," replied Harry easily.
Arthur reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card which he passed to Harry. "Have Miss Khan send me her information. My email address is on the card," he said proudly.
Harry took the card with a smile and carefully pocketed it to give to Karen later, and then he turned back to Croaker.
"Mr. Croaker, I know that you don't like the idea of one of Britain's few mages not participating in your society, but I believe that I'm doing something very important here. Important enough that it will benefit the entire world, not just one tiny piece of it. Like it or not, Britain's wizarding society is only a small fraction of the wizarding world, which in turn is a small fraction of the whole world. I'm trying to help the whole world and I am not your enemy," Harry said softly.
Croaker sighed and tiredly wiped at his face. "I know, it's just that I see so much potential."
Chekiath lifted his head in his stall and craned his neck so that his huge head entered the office. "I saw Harry's potential from the moment I met him, and he is trying to help everyone. Harry could have been a famous wizard, but as Weyrleader he will be someone that the whole world will respect and remember. His potential will benefit everyone, not just wizards."
Arthur chuckled lightly and glanced at Croaker in amusement. He didn't really understand why the man got so on edge whenever the subject of the Weyrleader came up. He wasn't bothered by dragons, but whenever the Weyrleader was the topic he seemed to simmer with resentment. "You can't argue with that endorsement Alejandro," Arthur said, "and when you consider it's the largest dragon in the country saying it, well I'm not going to argue with him. He could bite me in two."
"We don't eat our friends sir," Chekiath replied. "And Harry does think of you and your family as good friends."
Harry raised a hand and Chekiath moved his head so his rider could rub his eye ridges. "Mr. Croaker are we good now?"
Croaker nodded and stood. "We should be getting back to the office. We need to verify your information."
"I'll have Karen email copies of her data to your office," Harry offered.
Croaker grunted in acknowledgment and turned to the door. Arthur moved to follow him, then he stopped and turned back to Harry. "Harry, perhaps you'd come and visit us over the holidays? Ron and Ginny will be there, so will the twins. Bring both of your girls, you'll be welcome."
Harry smiled gently at the man. "I'll speak to Hermione and May about it. We have a scheduled meeting in New York later this month and I know we've been invited to a Boxing Day celebration at Buckingham Palace. Perhaps around New Years?"
Arthur blinked in surprise, then he nodded. He and Molly would also be attending that celebration at the Palace, but he hadn't known Harry would be there. "Just let us know, we'd be happy if you'd join us for dinner one evening. It won't be anything fancy, just family."
"Thank you Arthur," Harry replied with a smile. "We'll let you know."
Arthur turned and left the office and Cheki moved back into his stall. "I like him, but his mate growls a lot in her head."
Harry chuckled, "She does at that mate."
United Nations Building, New York City, December 15th, 1996...
Campbeltown Weyr popped from Between and slowly circled over the streets more than a thousand feet below. It was impossible to miss the sound of car horns and the bustle of everyday traffic from Manhattan even at one thousand feet.
"It's a good thing we didn't come out over there," Chekiath announced, then he adjusted his flight and the World Trade Center swung into view.
Harry gulped. "I'll say," he sent back, "Ask Comaloth to have Hermione remind me to put a note in my list about checking for tall buildings when jumping to a city please."
"Done. Now she's going to nag you about it," Cheki said smugly.
Harry smiled at the idea. Hermione had near perfect memory and if she reminded him, he'd remember to put in a note about checking building heights in areas they wanted to appear in. He didn't mind and it was one of the little ways he used to remind her that he needed her.
Besides, her nags had become very gentle compared to her strident comments about doing his homework when they were younger.
One more wing appeared as Condron arrived and Harry waved to Skip and Kat. Maziang appeared a bare two hundred feet behind them a second later.
He was pleased to see Jasper Brady sitting behind a rider and looking none too comfortable. He liked the American liaison who worked as hard for Condron and dragons as James Mills worked for Campbeltown.
Jasper had already smoothed over a few bumps that Condron had run into and Harry hoped every Weyr could have an advocate like Mills and Brady.
Harry squeezed his knees and leaned left. Chekiath banked to the right and Harry pointed. "There, in front of the building. Do you see the large open area they have cordoned off?"
"I see it. All Wings, follow me in wing order," Chekiath replied, then he started a gentle spiral downwards. The clear area was empty, but all around the police barricades were thousands of people and news cameras waited for their arrival.
Seven wings dragons, five from Campbeltown and one each from Condron and Maziang, joined Harry and Cheki in their downward spiral. Chekiath was deliberately turning their arrival into a spectacle for the cameras and the crowd. Campbeltown boasted seven wings now with the November impression, but those two wings were still in Weyrling training and had been left behind at Campbeltown.
As Harry had predicted, the number of magical riders from those two news wings was a mere fifteen people. Magical riders would always be a part of the Weyr, but for the next few years they would be a substantial minority.
The last few months since the unveiling had been a trial for the Weyr. Offers had flooded in from every industry and country wanting to meet dragons or film them. But as was often the case, with the good came the bad. A substantial number of people believed dragons were demons. Christian and Muslim extremists condemned them, some countries claimed that they were animals, cleverly trained animals, but animals nonetheless. Still other groups claimed them to be soulless demons.
It was a rare day that someone wasn't in front of the Weyr gate protesting the existence of dragons or hoping to get a peek at the dragons. For the most part they obeyed the law and were little more than a minor nuisance. But Harry also knew that sooner or later they would attract the attention of a more dangerous protester.
The Weyr finally had its outing in Brighton, much to the delight of the city council and the local press who managed to score an exclusive interview with the Weyrleader. To Harry's intense embarrassment a photo of him in his bathing suit appeared in nearly every paper in the country the following morning. Harry looked at the photo and cringed. He never saw the powerful upper body mass he had built up or his large leg muscles from gripping Cheki. In his mind he always saw the skinny kid that he was before he impressed. Equally baffling and embarrassing were the offers from several magazines for him to do a nude photo-shoot once he turned eighteen.
To make matters worse, when he turned down that offer, both May and Hermione asked if he would be willing to do a private photo-shoot just for them.
The non-magical riders were finally able to return home and not have to hide themselves or their dragons. Unfortunately they had to learn the same painful lesson that the magical riders had learned. They were forevermore dragon riders and there was no real going back. Family would still be family, but there was no common ground anymore between them and their old friends. And worse, sometimes there wasn't even common ground between the rider and their family.
Chekiath came to a gentle landing and slowly furled his wings. He was nearly two feet taller at the shoulder than the next biggest dragon. His landing caused the crowd to fall silent for a moment then the children started cheering as they recognized the most famous dragon on the planet.
From his vantage point on Chekiath, Harry lazily surveyed the crowd. It was the usual, a large group of people and their young children clamoring to see the dragons, a much smaller, but louder group carrying protest signs, usually of a religious nature. And a large group of press and the merely curious that came out to see a dragon in their lifetime.
He smiled and waved to some of the parents and their children, causing their excitement to ratchet up a notch then he turned in his position on Chekiath and lightly dropped to the pavement.
One by one the Wings landed. Most of the dragons remained on the ground long enough to allow their rider to dismount, then they launched skywards again to find a place to perch and watch the spectacle.
This was an event they had planned for and everyone knew what they would do. Lee and Mariah, followed by their dragons, walked over to where the press were anxiously waiting and hoping for a chance to talk to the riders. Hermione, Luna and a handful of other riders walked over to where the parents and their children seemed to be thickest.
Hermione had come up with an idea that Harry wholeheartedly approved of. She and the others each carried a large flat box containing a hundred posters. Each poster contained the ink print of a dragon paw. In the corner of the poster was a photograph of the dragon and the rider along with some information about the pair. Currently they only had posters of Chekiath and the first riders, but plans were in the works for a book compilation similar to a school year book listing dragons and riders.
Skip and Kat had authorized similar posters for Condron's first riders, and several riders from Condron were also present handing out posters to the children and parents. At some Weyr outings they would hand out over a thousand posters and still not be able to meet the demand.
Finally several of the larger Ironbelly and Horntails walked over to where the protesters stood shouting slogans and hurling insults at the riders and their dragons. As they approached, they increased their weight until the ground under their paws trembled. And like usual, the protesters shrank back from the fearsome looking dragons. The dragons then tried to talk to them and explain that they weren't a threat; which was ignored by most of the protesters. It did have a positive effect on the press who quickly realized that the dragons weren't really trying to terrorize anyone. They could hear the dragons trying to explain, and the protesters refusing to acknowledge even the fact that the dragons were talking to them.
The Bulstrode effect was not well known outside of scientific circles, thus a sixty foot long dragon looked like it should shake the ground when it walked.
Talking to the protesters was a powerful piece of counter-propaganda and it had been something Harry came up with. The net result was that the conservative religious groups were finding it hard to justify their actions when they were the ones looking like idiots. Very often the press would follow the dragons who would answer their questions very politely. When the press tried to ask the protesters why they refused to respond to the dragons with anything but shouted slogans and curses; they had no excuses to offer.
It didn't help that the more moderate religious groups were refraining from commenting about dragons entirely. The only religious figure to do so, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that he welcomed the dragons and hoped to meet with them personally someday soon. That was his public statement, but thus far his actions hadn't reflected his public comments.
Campbeltown Weyr now hosted several religious figures, but only Eddie Took was actively trying to convert the riders and dragons. The others had been sent by their superiors to investigate the dragons. It seemed that the presence of intelligent beings other than humans was giving mainstream religions a conundrum that they had no answers to. For the most part, the clergy visiting the Weyr were doing so mainly for fact finding. Few seemed genuinely interested in dragons enough to make any sort of effort.
Harry nodded in greeting to Lobsang. Lobsang was considered a great mystery by the world press. There was intense speculation about the man that wore a Weyrleader's beret, but didn't represent any known Weyr. It caused Maziang no end of private amusement when Lobsang stoically ignored the shouted questions from the press.
His name wasn't known, nor the country which he represented. The only thing known about Maziang was that it was located somewhere in Asia. The Chinese understood that the third Weyr was somewhere in their territory, but they were keeping silent on the issue. The prospect of cheap power was too tempting for them to press the issue about the Weyr on their lands.
Harry and the Weyrleaders stood around talking quietly for nearly a half hour before they were interrupted.
Harry turned to see a very nervous looking young man in a blue blazer with the UN logo standing nearby. He was trying to catch Harry's attention without getting too close to Chekiath. "Yes?"
"If you and your group will follow me please?"
"Ah they said you'd show us the freight entrance and maintenance tunnel that accesses the assembly chamber," Harry offered.
The young man blinked. "I'm sorry, yes I can show you that way. I had thought that my boss was pulling a joke on me," he blurted out.
Harry chuckled. "I can imagine, but seriously, Chekiath cannot fit through those small doors," he said, pointing to the front entrance.
The man stopped and turned to stare at Harry incredulously. "You mean to bring a dragon into the general assembly chamber?"
Harry grinned at the man who was now sweating bullets. "Oh my my," he muttered to himself, then he turned and dashed off towards a freight entrance around the corner.
Harry motioned to the others and the other three Weyrleaders as well as Campbeltown's Wingleaders fell in behind him. And behind them all, Chekiath rumbled with amusement and followed his rider.
Most of the riders made their way into the building using the regular entrance, but a handful from each Weyr remained outside to keep an eye on the dragons and the people.
The Weyrleaders followed the, by now, very nervous young man who led them through a large maintenance tunnel and out into the large assembly chamber. Harry and the others moved to one side so they could stand beside Chekiath instead of in front of him. Harry was determined to see that his dragon was treated just like any other visiting dignitary.
As soon as they entered the chamber the soft murmur intensified greatly. The room was filling up rapidly and Chekiath's presence sent a ripple of shock throughout the chamber.
"Harry, the Lord Holder is here," Chekiath announced brightly. "I like him."
Harry smiled. "There are a lot of lord holders here mate, not just Prime Minister Major," Harry murmured in reply.
Prime Minister Major looked up from his seat and smiled at the pair and nodded in greeting. Chekiath looked around, the large chamber and spotted another Lord Holder he knew, Condron's Lord Holder. "This is an important meeting isn't it? I know you said it was important, but I didn't think so many Lord Holders would show up."
Harry nodded nervously; he also felt his own inner tension ratchet up enormously. Instead of addressing mostly UN Ambassadors, he and his dragon would be speaking to heads of state. This was a special session called by the Secretary General of the United Nations and he had personally invited every country's leader to attend.
The chamber wasn't completely full, several countries were boycotting the meeting in protest, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Argentina and Iran were just some of the countries boycotting the meeting. Others wouldn't have been welcome even if they were present. Both Iraq and North Korea called dragons a hoax. Then they said that if they existed, they would shoot down any that entered their airspace.
Harry glanced up towards the visitor's gallery to see his riders filing into their seats. Their dragons were listening via their bond from perches outside the building. Lee smiled and gave him two thumbs up, letting him know that all went well with his talks to the press. Hermione and May sat next to each other, watching him and the people down on the main floor, they had special permission to join Harry once he had spoken but for now they would watch from the VIP gallery. Their pride in Harry was evident in the looks they shot his way, but Harry knew they were quick to keep his feet on the ground. He also knew that one of them had a potion to settle his stomach. There was something about talking in front of a television camera that really bothered him.
The lights flickered and a great many people sat down and reached for a pair of headphones.
"What are they doing?" asked Cheki.
Harry chuckled, "The headphones will let them listen to a translation in their own language. They don't understand that they will hear you in their native language, but they will learn soon enough."
The room fell silent except for Chekiath who continued to rumble at the various people that seemed afraid of him. The huge dragon sat in a position just to the left of Harry and the other Weyrleaders and Wing Leaders. His eyes were spinning rapidly, flashing a mix of blue and green at an alarming rate. Harry and the others knew it meant the dragon was generally happy and finding himself amused by everything going on around him, but the color shifting had a disturbing effect on some of the diplomats who shrank back in their seats.
The lights flickered one last time and then the staff closed the doors. The Secretary General entered the chamber from a side door. He was a short wiry man with gray hair and a bushy mustache. He stepped up to a large podium in the front of the room and spoke for a few minutes in a language that Harry didn't know. Harry looked around frantically for a spare headset with an English label, then Skip handed him one and he placed one of the ear pieces to his ear.
"And so I welcome you all to this extraordinary session of the United Nations as we bear witness and give welcome to the first ever non-human intelligent life to address this body," the secretary general said, then he paused and grinned. "For the past century we have looked to the stars and wondered are we alone. And the answer to that question has been living side by side with us for hundreds of centuries.
"In the five months since the world learned of dragon-kind and their human partners, they have made a huge impact on the world. No doubt you have seen the images of dragons visiting schools, or showing up at the beach in southern England. And no one can claim to be unmoved by the video of the dragon sitting and humming to a group of preschoolers on the English coast."
Harry smiled at that. During their day trip to Brighton Luna and Trandieth had wandered off looking for sea shells. Luna had happened upon a day care center outing where one of the adults was trying to teach the children a song. As she sang, she saw the large dragon curl up in the sand behind the children and the dragon started to hum along with her.
Luna sat down; leaning against her dragon and the children turned around and spotted her and the dragon only feet away. Luna motioned for the woman to keep singing with Trandieth while the children seemed enthralled by the sound.
The local news photographer managed to capture a short video clip of the children humming along with their teacher and the dragon and the video ended up being the lead story for many news organizations that night. Thanks to the Internet, the clip was one of the most watched videos of all time.
Harry glanced up again to the section where his riders were and Luna winked at him. Harry had managed to firmly put Luna in her place with the help of his girls, but she still continued to tease him whenever she could but for now she refrained from suggesting she join his triplet.
"...Including dragon kind into our societies is not without its challenges," Harry heard over the headset. He chastised himself for not paying attention to the Secretary General. "But it is also a rewarding experience for any nation that does so. I have personally met with dragons both from Campbeltown and from the American Weyr.
"And I have been assured by both Weyrleaders and the American government that the only reason why the American Weyr's location still remains a secret is because the facility is still under construction. President Clinton has assured me that sometime next year its location will be revealed.
"I have toured the American facility and like Campbeltown, other than a small guard force, there is no significant military presence, no training of dragons for military purposes."
The Secretary General paused and looked hard at the representatives from several nations. "I have been assured by the dragons themselves that they are forbidden to participate in any weapons research or military actions that are not humanitarian in nature. The Weyrleader has made it perfectly clear to me that the dragons will reach out to help anyone, but will not join any nation's military. I find his attitude refreshing because it extends beyond nations and politics and reaches out to people. As the Weyrleader told me, 'Dragons do not see Americans, or French, or English. They only see people.'
"It is an interesting and refreshing take on global politics that I think we'd all benefit from adopting it. We all know that the Weyr helped the British rescue one of their naval vessels and its crew. We have all seen the television interviews with the crew members and their families. But there are still other stories to tell. Of the dragons that appeared and rescued a fire fighting crew that became trapped by a wild fire in southern California. Or the Irish fishing trawler that was plucked from the North Atlantic, rescuing all on-board and saving the ship.
"A famous Chinese proverb says 'May you live in interesting times.' it is meant to be a curse, but these are very interesting and very positive times if you ask me. And so we come now to a very historic occasion. This is the first time the United Nations will be addressed by an intelligent being other than human.
"The Weyrleader and his dragon will both have something to say. For those of you watching these proceedings on television, you will be provided his comments via your closed caption system as well as a voice over. The dragon's telepathy cannot be picked up by a microphone, but our translators will hear the words and rebroadcast them for you at home.
"For those present in the chamber today you will have the unique experience of hearing the dragon in your own native tongue. The dragons are without a doubt the greatest translators the world has ever seen."
He paused and smiled at the cameras. "Let us welcome to our assembly, the Weyrleader of the dragons, Harry Potter and Chekiath, his bonded dragon."
The assembly broke into a restrained applause and Harry placed the headphone on the table and pulled a microphone closer to him. Chekiath shuffled forward a bit so that his head could rest just over Harry's right shoulder. Due to Chekiath's great size, there was no room for him on the stage where the podium was, so they had set up a table nearby with a microphone for Harry's use.
Harry glanced at a technician who nodded to him. The man had just finished placing a microphone in front of him. He took a deep breath and waited for the chamber to settle down.
"Mister General Secretary, members of the assembly, honored guests and to everyone watching no matter where you are, on behalf of the dragons of Earth I thank you for your most gracious welcome," Harry paused and looked at Chekiath.
"We are honored to be here and hope that we'll be able to meet with many of you in the near future. A long time ago we came to this world by accident and we managed to survive. What we can remember from that time is painful to us because for all of our intelligence we were created to be partners. A crucial part of us was missing and like a puzzle that was missing a piece, it was incomplete for many turns. Our intellect suffered because of that lack. We dragons call it the 'Time of the Beasts'. We were locked into our own minds unable to understand or be understood by other dragons or people.
"And then by purest luck I found my Harry. Or perhaps it would be best to say we found each other. There are no words in any language to describe what Harry and I share, or what any rider shares with their dragon. Harry is unique in that he can talk to all dragons and that is perhaps why our bond exploded around the world awakening dragon-kind to what we once were. I know I could not have done that, it was because of my rider.
"Perhaps if Harry had been just an ordinary rider, the dragons would not have awoken to their heritage and we would not be here today. None of us can say, but we believe only the Weyrleader could have broken us free from that prison.
Harry blushed and fought the urge to roll his eyes.
"He gave us back our memories and promised he would try to make our world better. We didn't know it at the time. Even I, his bonded dragon, didn't understand that when he said 'our world', he was speaking of not just of a world for dragons, but a world where dragons and humans lived side by side, peacefully, helping each other so that both species may prosper.
"The past year has been difficult as both riders and dragons had to learn new ways and new things. And the learning continues every day. The Weyr, to survive, must reach out to people and show them that together we are stronger than apart."
Chekiath paused and looked at Harry, his eyes twirling with nearly a solid green. Harry reached up and gently rubbed Chekiath's head, then he turned back to face the cameras. "Stronger together than apart says my dragon. Humans in partnership with dragon-kind will benefit both groups. That is our goal and our mission," Harry said in a loud voice.
"In the coming year, the United Kingdom, Holland and the United States will break ground on the first commercial 1000 Megawatt power stations run entirely by dragon power. Next year more power stations will be built in the People's Republic of China. The Weyr is licensing the design and currently in negotiations with several countries that would see many more stations constructed in the coming years.
"Campbeltown Weyr has also begun a new research effort to bring smaller and less expensive power stations to developing nations. I have been told that our Slow Decline Thermal Sources or Hot Rocks as they are popularly called, can be used to make a much smaller power station, small enough to fit on the back of a lorry and still provide adequate power to a small village or hospital in a developing country.
"Efforts are being made to reinvent steam engine technology and it is very possible that inner city transportation such as buses and commuter trains will be able to take advantage of smaller and safer steam powered engines. The savings in fossil fuel costs would be considerable.
"The Weyrs will continue to reach out to help with humanitarian efforts. To that effect, Campbeltown is looking to partner with the International Red Cross to provide disaster relief and closer to home, the Royal Coast Guard has joined with the Weyr to utilize dragon riders in search and rescue efforts.
"Several countries are talking to us about bringing a Weyr to their country and we hope to open at least one Weyr in 1997, perhaps more. And while the Weyr has made great strides, there are still things we can do to improve. I wish I could say that dragons are welcome everywhere, but that isn't the case. The countries of Iraq and North Korea have publicly stated that they will attack any dragons they find in their territory or airspace. I will say this and hope it is understood by all. We will respect the wishes of any country that doesn't want dragons to overfly their territory or be on their lands. On the other hand the Weyr reserves the right to do business with only those countries friendly to us.
"The dragons have a saying, 'May you find peace and shelter under our wings'. This is at the heart of what we are and what we represent. Peace and protection. It is our defining characteristic by which every Weyr and every rider will function. We will help our friends when asked, we will do our part to protect both dragon and mankind."
Harry took a half step back and Chekiath moved slightly forward. "It is our hope that we will be here to help humans for a long time to come. May you always find peace and shelter under our wings."
There was a moment of shocked silence then Prime Minister Major stood and started to applaud. The movement spread among the delegates like wildfire. Harry nervously looked around at the world leaders who were normally more sedate that this and he shuffled the handful of index cards that contained his speech.
Harry glanced meaningfully at Ronan who stepped forward to intercept people trying to get to Harry. He turned and stepped from the room and made a beeline for the nearest bathroom. A few minutes later he stepped from the bathroom and wiped at his mouth with a piece of paper towel. May and Hermione were waiting for him. In Hermione's hands was a small single dose vial of a stomach calming potion. Harry reached for the potion when he froze.
"I don't like this," Chekiath announced suddenly. "First you get sick, now I feel like my breakfast cow is still moving in my belly."
Harry opened his mouth to reply when the huge dragon blinked out of room leaving behind a puff of super chilled air.
"Did he just jump Between without going airborne?" exclaimed Hermione.
Harry clutched at his stomach and grimaced as he felt a wave of nausea wash over him from his bond. "No he jumps slightly before he's..."
Harry's vision faded and he gagged again. Suddenly he had a brief impression of a terrified man leaping off a pier, then he was back in his own body looking at Hermione.
Hermione paled and shoved the potion into his hands. "Drink that," she ordered, she didn't want to consider what a dragon throwing up would be like. Nor did she want to know what it would be like to experience that via her bond.
"Cheki are you alright?" May asked worriedly.
"I am now, but I think I scared a fisherman, he jumped into the water when I appeared. I plucked him out of the river once I was done revisiting breakfast," Chekiath replied in relief. "I don't like doing that Harry. I don't think I want to speak to the world again maybe I should leave that to you."
Several people passing by looked at them as if they were odd. Chekiath had left the building and there were several city blocks of noise between them and the river. What only a rider understood was that the dragons could hear through their riders just like their riders could see through their dragon's eyes.
Harry recapped the empty potion bottle and shoved it in his pocket, "I hear that mate, but we can't avoid it entirely. I'll try to make them few and far between I promise."
"Harry are you alright?" asked Prime Minister Major.
Hermione turned and put a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Post speech jitters Minister, he and Chekiath will be fine in a moment."
Harry nodded. "I'll be fine sir, just give me a minute and I'll rejoin you in the general assembly chamber."
Major smiled knowingly, Harry wasn't the first famous person to get sick after giving a speech. "Very well, I'll let everyone know you and Chekiath are fine."
Harry watched him walk off and then he kissed Hermione's cheek. "Thank you for the potion. I should get back inside. May would you grab a few riders and send them out to escort Chekiath back into the building? He can't open those doors without breaking them down."
Hermione nodded and May laughed quietly to herself. When May rejoined Hermione a few minutes later she saw Hermione glaring down a bunch of young women, most of whom were either were part of the press corps or were part of the United Nations staff.
"What's got your wings flapping?" she asked.
"Them," Hermione said, jerking her chin towards the ladies who were staring at Harry as if he were a meal and they were starving. The fact that the youngest among the women was at least six years older than Harry didn't seem to bother them at all. It was only the fact that Harry paid no attention to them that kept Hermione from going over there. It also surprised her just how possessive she could be to other females, except for May and wondered what that meant.
"Oh," May said unhappily, taking in the scene. May agreed with Hermione in this case, most of the women were older than they were and more attractive in her mind. It didn't help that both Hermione and May could understand the attraction. Harry was powerfully built despite his short stature, and if that wasn't enough, he literally exuded a confidence in public that astounded both girls.
"You do know you're both being silly. Worrying over something that can't happen," said a familiar voice.
They turned to see Susan Bones standing behind them, her arms crossed under her breasts and eyeing them disdainfully. "What do you mean Sue?" asked May, embarrassed by being caught.
"Your dragons are the consorts of Harry's dragon. That automatically makes you more appealing to Harry than any five of those women combined. Then on top of that Harry loves you two, look at him, has he given any indication that he even knows they are there?"
Hermione shook her head. Harry was far too busy talking with representatives from Peru, Britain and China. He never noticed the cluster of females standing nearby. They didn't get too close because of Chekiath, but this wasn't the first time May and Hermione had seen the effect of their Harry on other women.
"Of course he hasn't," Susan answered for her. "You have far more to worry about from Luna and me than you do from those girls and honestly, Luna and I don't stand a chance. Every female rider knows Harry's untouchable, and well Luna does too even if she gets a kick out of getting a rise out of Harry."
Hermione and May exchanged an amused grin. Luna had cut way back on her teasing of Harry. She would still do it, but after Harry decided to fight back Luna decided that playing with fire just might get her burned.
"Yeah," May said with a slight snigger, "Luna learned her lesson. Push Harry hard enough and he pushes back."
"I've watched Harry when he thinks no one is looking, he watches you two intently," Susan said. "You can see a weird mix of emotions on his face when he does. Love, pride, surprise, even occasionally a look of hunger too. Not a single girl in the Weyr gets those looks from him, and Chekiath is the only other being he looks at with love in his gaze. If he's not going to look at the girls he deals with daily, he's not going to be aware of that pack of women. Its only your own insecurity that makes you doubt your relationship, not Harry."
Susan jerked a thumb towards the pack of women standing nearby.
May glanced back at where Harry stood, smiling for the cameras with Prime Minister Major on his left and the Peruvian President on his right. Harry was taller than the president, but not by a lot. He suddenly turned his head and looked at her, giving her a gentle smile that she rarely saw outside of the privacy of their home. "You know, I always thought I would go for a taller man, but," she trailed off and sighed causing Susan to laugh at her.
May glanced over at Susan who smiled brightly. "You forget I know how well he is built. He'll never be tall, but he does have an impressive set of chest muscles. Look May, you still have nothing to worry about. I knew when I went to him that he didn't love me. I'm still surprised at how things worked themselves out."
"Us too," Hermione added with a blush.
"If you three are finished gossiping, I would like a word," said a voice officiously.
All three girls turned to see a man in a three piece suit, standing there looking at them with a very unfriendly expression on his face.
"And you are?" asked Hermione.
The man flashed them a badge. "My name is John Reson, Agent Reson, United States Department of Immigration, customs division. Not a single one of you stopped at an approved customs inspection point before entering the country. None of you filed a formal customs declaration and since you haven't presented any passports I have to assume you're here illegally. I don't want to cause a scene, but I'm afraid you'll have to come along with me. There are buses outside waiting to take you all to the Manhattan federal building."
"And the fact that we came here to witness our Weyrleader address the United Nations today has no meaning?" asked May incredulously.
"Or the fact that you have no jurisdiction anywhere on this property?" Hermione asked archly. The UN building was officially neutral territory. The building and the block it stood on were not subject to any local laws.
Reson opened his mouth to reply when another voice cut across the floor from nearby. "You've got to be kidding me!?" exclaimed Skip Taylor who had been standing nearby talking with Lobsang. "Jasper! Jasper! Will you call off this pencil necked geek before I have a dragon dump him in the Hudson river?"
Jasper Brady hurried over and pulled out his identification. As Weyr liaison to the US Government he was placed into a position that put him as officially attached to the White House staff even though he was still working for the Department of Magic.
Harry knew there was a problem and Chekiath was slowly making his way over to see what was going on. He would have gone himself, but the President of France and the Ambassador from Ecuador both wanted to talk to him about opening a Weyr in their countries.
Ecuador had a much better chance of having a Weyr than France did. There were several south American Weyrs that were unsafe and needed to be relocated. But there were no dragon reserves in France and none in Europe that needed to be relocated. That meant that France would probably never have a Weyr of it's own. Or at least not in the near future.
Harry wasn't opposed to opening new manned Weyrs, but he wanted to limit the number of dragons who consumed large quantities of livestock. Too many dragons and they would begin impacting human food stocks. Right now he had a goal of ten thousand paired dragons beyond the non-bonded remaining dragons. Once he achieved that he would reexamine the situation and see if more dragon riders were feasible.
"What seems to be the problem?" asked Jasper. No one noticed the slight flexing of his wrist and his wand sticking out about an inch from the cuff of his suit jacket.
Reson looked at the offered ID and swallowed nervously. "I'm stationed at the Manhattan office. We got a call about these people just appearing, supposedly they are from the United Kingdom, but they never went through customs."
Brady shook his head and muttered something under his breath. Reson trailed off in confusion and Brady slipped his wand back into his holster. "Go back to your office and tell them it was a big mistake. It's all taken care of. All of the people in question are here by personal invitation of the President himself. Besides our office has duly noted their entry even if your office hasn't received notice of such."
Reson nodded and wandered away. Hermione looked at Brady with a touch of awe, he had cast a confundus hex on the man and she never saw him draw his wand!
"I hate doing that, but sometimes I think we breed idiots just to staff the bureaucracy. I personally sent a memo two weeks ago to the state department telling them to inform the local offices, it seems that someone forgot to pass along the memo," Jasper muttered, then he turned to May and Hermione. "You need to tell Harry that from now on every rider needs to carry their passport when they go out of the country. I'll clear it with immigration this time, but some countries can be really hard to deal with. You don't want to give them an excuse to arrest anyone."
"They won't need it if they come to Condron," Skip declared.
Jasper glanced over at him and smiled. "No Skip I suppose they won't. But it is a good habit to have and they would need it if they left the Weyr," he said, then he grew pensive. "I suppose this is one of the issues we'll have to bring up at an international level. Normally we track people because they enter or leave a country via a specific point. It's not usual for people to be able to arrive anywhere within your territory."
"We'll tell Harry," May offered. "To be honest it never occurred to me to bring my passport. We all have them, but I know mine is sitting in my top dresser drawer at home."
"Mine is in my desk, but look, Harry's free, I'll go speak to him now about this. I'm pretty sure he doesn't want this to cause any problems for anyone," Hermione added.
Jasper nodded and looked over to see Harry leaning against a wall, scribbling in his notebook. Hermione went over to speak to Harry and after a few minutes of intense discussion, she returned to Jasper with a rather impish grin.
"What's that grin for?" he asked warily. If there was one thing he had learned about dragons and their riders is that they enjoyed pushing things to the limit.
"Harry says that the Weyrs will happily conform to the laws, but he asked where can he apply for Chekiath's passport? Then he went on to rightly point out that at a very minimum, bonded dragons should have passports since the non-bonded tend to rarely leave the territory around their Weyrs, but a bonded dragon goes where their rider goes," Hermione said.
She didn't have the heart to tell Jasper that Harry had written a note in his book about the Weyr issuing their own passports instead of using one from the host country.
Jasper removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose for a moment. This was exactly the kind of thing that the riders were becoming famous for. As a whole they pushed for equality for their dragons whenever the opportunity arose.
So far, Condron Weyr had forced the American Federal Aviation Administration to issue waivers to dragon-kind exempting them from the need for standard "on-board avionics" and from VFR and IFR flight regulations and the riders were exempted from the need to hold a pilot's license. The FAA reluctantly issued a new classification since dragons didn't fall into the category of Ultra Lights, or private aircraft, no dragons were classified as biologicals. Skip suggested that the FAA issue a pilot's license to each dragon, but the FAA refused to even consider the idea.
These changes wouldn't have happened except that a dragon from Condron had landed at a regional airport to rest and get some water. The rider had been yelled at by Skip and Kat, but the damage was done and the local officials were upset that the dragon wasn't "flight certified".
Skip and Kat hadn't been angry about the boy landing his dragon at an airport. What concerned them was the fact that he had let the dragon become so exhausted he needed to rest at a public airport which happened to be handy.
The whole thing would have probably been ignored, but one of the airport employees was a member of a religious group that had been protesting dragons since they were announced to the world. Having a dragon land at the airport allowed for him to file an official complaint which got the FAA involved.
Jasper smiled, "The Weyrleader raises an interesting point, but I'm not sure customs agencies are ready to issue passports for dragons just yet. You can assure him however that I will raise the point with my government."
Dragons were proving to be a problem for most bureaucracies and it was an issue that Jasper and James Mills had to deal with nearly every day.
Hermione smiled and kept silent. Jasper might not think that the national custom agencies would be issuing passports to dragons, but the Weyrs might if Harry had his way.
Author's notes and Mockeries...
* The expected update schedule will be one chapter every two weeks. As I write these notes I have enough material for roughly 11 chapters.
* If this chapter left you dazed and confused, then you need to go back to the two earlier stories and read them first. In order, these stories are;
Part 1 - The Queen who fell to Earth
Part 2 - On the Wings of Dragons
If you have read those two stories and are still dazed and confused, it's not our fault. We told you to wear a seat belt and you refused! Besides, look at that bruise on your forehead and the way your nose is bent. Don't blame us bucko!
* To all the people that decided not to pm, or leave a review bugging me about this story, I thank you. Until the day comes when I can get paid for doing this, no one has the right to complain when real life interferes with something you're getting for free.
* To all the people that DID pm or leave reviews bugging me, I say only this. Bugger off! Er, no seriously folks, you're getting this for free, just be thankful you're getting it at all. Remember next time that fan fiction authors are just people like you and we have lives with our own personal dramas.
* As always, unsigned reviews are deleted. You could be Jesus Christ and if you don't log in to leave a signed review I'm going to delete it.
* As usual each chapter is roughly 30 printed pages. If you can't handle a mere 15K word chapter then I'm sure your local bookstore still carries the Dick and Jane pre-school readers. Honestly though, didn't you even once wonder why Jane insisted on hanging out with a Dick?
* This bullet point has been intentionally left blank.
* The above bullet point is available for rent and comes with a complimentary Llama costume and a part in Alyx's movie.