"What the hell are you doing?" shouted Bob. He stared at the huge blank spot in the disclaimer in dismay.
Alyx was busy typing something up at the top of the disclaimer, then every so often she'd shove the text down in a lurching motion that makes you sick to your stomach.
"I'm writing a disclaimer that you wanted. Since you didn't specify what color to use, I'm doing it in invisible pixels," Alyx replied happily. "Isn't it wonderful? They are all the rage because they use less power than regular pixels."
Bob looked at Alyx, then back to the huge blank spot. "So it's telling people we don't own Harry Potter or the Dragon Riders of Pern?"
"Thats right! It has everything one could want in a disclaimer."
Bob glanced back to Alyx, then back to the huge blank spot. His eyes narrowed in suspicion. "How do I know that you haven't written something about Snape and Draco again? I mean you spent the entire last book writing about them."
"Nope, it's all disclaimer," Alyx promised, then she showed the audience her crossed fingers.
Bob sighed and shrugged, then he walked away mumbling to himself, clearly unhappy that Alyx had finally done something he couldn't complain about.
Alyx watched him in amusement as he walked away then she turned to the audience. "Truthfully, I did write a disclaimer in invisible pixels, I might have added that I offered Snape ten thousand dollars from Bob's bank account for a bronze casting of his willy, and I did mention that Bob's farts smell like dead monkey balls, but who's gonna know?"
Alyx smiled and skipped off the stage as the chapter started to play while the audience didn't want to know how she knew what dead monkey balls smelled like.
Beneath Sovereign Skies
Intrigue and Farewells
Campbeltown Weyr, Mid September 2000...
Harry surveyed his new office with a sour look. After the Chapman's attack, his office had been relocated to another part of the building and a newer, more secure door had been installed that only a dragon capable of controlling their weight could open. Chekiath would simply stand on a special platform and increase his weight to several tons, that caused the platform to depress slightly, opening the door. The human switch had been removed and replaced with a key lock switch. Now all of the human switches to the dragon doors were receiving similar modifications but only Harry had the dragon pressure switch control.
His office was plush compared to his old one, with a fancy desk and chair and real wood paneling. Karen and Hermione insisted that his old utilitarian office just wasn't suitable for The Weyrleader even if he thought it was just fine. When he expressed that opinion Hermione told him that appearances were important and he needed to keep up appearances just like any other leader.
His wall was now dotted with photos of famous people that he had met, but mixed in among those photos were pictures of the people he considered family, May, bundled up in her winter coat with a light dusting of snow on her shoulders and a very red nose, Hermione, surrounded by books, even pictures of Sirius and Remus and of course, dragons.
And despite his comment about how pretentious he thought the office was, it was also a bit comforting to be surrounded by those photos of friends and family and it helped ease a deep rooted longing because he never appeared in any photo on the walls of his childhood home.
Sinking into the plush high back leather executive chair he flipped the switch to turn on his computer and started thumbing through his regular mail while the machine booted up.
His recovery from the attack had been brief, the headache had faded two days after he left the Royal Infirmary. His girls however had a longer recovery time. Both girls had been frightened by the attack and even though his injuries weren't life threatening, they needed some serious reassurances from Harry before they settled down.
May in particular found the whole incident very disturbing and it resulted in several nights of nightmares that woke up both Harry and Hermione. Chapman's actions had triggered a deep rooted anxiety which she had managed to suppress for a number of years. It was only in talking to May's mother that Harry learned of the difficulties she encountered after that boy attempted to assault her.
Harry didn't explain what he had learned to Hermione, but he did include her in a conversation that lasted well into the night. There were tears and many hugs all around before they finally settled down to sleep just a few hours before dawn. Harry wouldn't tell either girl, but he felt that Chapman's attack brought them all even closer together as a family. It was a silver lining on a very dark event for the Weyr and for Harry personally.
As for Chapman himself, he was still undergoing evaluation but it was looking more and more like he would spend his days in a hospital rather than a prison. The loss of his dragon had hastened whatever illness he had been developing. He was physically violent to the point of incoherence and dangerous. The doctors were strongly recommending that he be committed and it looked like the crown was going to agree with them.
When the intercom buzzer sounded he reached for the button. "Yes Janay?"
"Harry, Karen, May and Hermione are here asking to speak with you."
"Send them on in," he replied.
The door opened and the three women filed in. His smile slowly dropped from his expression when he noted the grim expression on the three women. "Is there something wrong?" he asked, and then he stood up.
Hermione walked around to his side of the desk and gently pushed him away from the desk, then she bent over and opened a bottom drawer. "Is this what you are talking about Karen?" she asked.
Karen's eyes narrowed, "That's them," she said with a touch of anger.
Hermione reached into the drawer and pulled out a fist full of checks and placed them on the desk. "Why aren't you cashing these Harry?" she asked.
Harry shrugged. "It's not like I really need money, the weyr pays for all our needs."
"Harry you're messing up my accounting," Karen said angrily. "Each year I have to set aside that money into a special account just for you because you're not cashing them. I don't understand why you aren't cashing these checks, everyone of us in the Weyr draws a paycheck, which I might add was something you approved."
"How much is in that account of yours Karen?" asked May.
Karen shrugged. "Close to three million pounds not counting what he hasn't cashed yet. Is that it?"
Hermione bent over again and pulled out another two handfuls of checks.
Harry winced. "What am I supposed to do with all that money?" he said defensively, "Before I came here I didn't have a penny to my name other than my trust vault."
The tension eased in the office as the three women realized he wasn't being deliberately stubborn about the money. "I have several riders who are studying business and investing and are helping others with their money. If you'll let me, I'll set you up with direct deposit and then we'll arrange to sit down and figure out what we can do with this money for you."
Harry opened his mouth when May jumped in. "No Harry, you're not giving it all away. Someday we're going to have a family and this money will pay for things that the Weyr doesn't cover."
Harry's brow furrowed and he glanced over to Hermione. She chuckled and shook her head. He was so smart in all the ways that mattered, but in other ways, little ways, he was totally lost. "Diapers, baby food, toys, vacations. The Weyr pays for a lot, but not everything that a family might need."
Harry nodded thoughtfully and then he sighed. "To be truthful it would be blessing to not have to deal with it. Every time I turn around I kept making notes to do something about it and then I would get busy and it would slip my mind."
Karen scooped up the checks. "I'll be back later with the paperwork for a direct deposit."
Just as she turned to exit the room the intercom buzzed again.
"Yes?" Harry said, pressing the button.
"Harry, Skip Taylor is here, he says its urgent that he see you right away," Janay replied. Janay was another new addition, a rider from the seventh impression, she hadn't wanted to go to university, but instead had considerable talent in administering an office. She had approached Hermione asking if Harry needed someone who could help him organize his day and within a week found herself as Harry's administrative assistant.
Harry glanced up at his clock on the wall and frowned. Given the time difference between Campbeltown and Condron, Skip was up very late. "Send him on in," Harry replied, then he stood and waited for Skip to enter the room.
"I guess we'll have to pick this up later ladies," he said with a wan smile.
"You bet we will," May replied. May was a very frugal person and had been shocked to discover Harry was sitting on so much money and doing nothing with it. She turned and followed Karen from the room.
Hermione paused at the doorway, "It's not a bad thing Harry, I just wish you had told us about it. We could have helped you."
He nodded and she smiled brightly at him, then she turned and exited the room.
A moment later Skip entered looking very tired and even more worried. Harry hoped nothing was wrong, but even without him speaking he could see there was a major problem somewhere. Skip was the co-leader of Condron Weyr along with his now wife, Kat, the pair had an interesting and tumultuous courtship followed by a wedding reception that left three Weyrs intoxicated.
"Skip, come in, have a seat," Harry said, and then he gestured to one of the chairs. "Something is wrong isn't it?"
Harry walked over to a table that contained coffee and tea and poured Skip a drink. They knew each other well enough by now that he knew how Skip preferred his coffee. After handing Skip a cup, he sat back on his chair and gestured, "Now then, what's so important that you need to come here when it's two in the morning your time?"
Skip took a sip of his coffee, then he placed the cup on his desk. "We have a big problem. One of my riders, Jared Wilkson, came down with an injury. At first it appeared to be some kind of burn on his leg, but then more symptoms appeared. I've been up all night considering what our doctor told me. I haven't even told Kat about it yet, she's off visiting her sister who just had a baby, so she doesn't know anything except that Jared got hurt somehow."
"And?" pressed Harry.
"Our doctor is beyond alarmed at this point, he says, and I quote, 'Jared appears to be suffering from acute radiation sickness.'." Skip said unhappily.
Harry sat up in his chair and leaned forward. "He's what?"
"That was my reaction as well, but Doc Wilson has some patients that require radiation treatments for cancer, so he read up on radiation sickness. Normally patients stop radiation treatments before they get too sick but Jared has all the classic signs. He first went to see Doc Wilson about a bad burn on his leg. Jared isn't being treated for any cancer, he wasn't sick at all. He just woke up one morning with a mark on his leg that hurt like crazy," Skip replied.
Harry blinked at him stupidly and Skip chuckled, then he stood and walked over to the spot where Harry kept the coffee and tea, next to that table was a tiny refrigerator. Skip bent down and pulled out a can of Coke Cola and held it up for Harry. "It's about as long as this and as wide, running along his calf. It's as if someone carefully traced the can on his leg and burned just within that spot. Damnedest thing ever, according to Wilson it has sharp edges."
Harry nodded grimly. "You're leading up to something Skip, what is it?"
Skip put the can back into the fridge and sat back down. He sunk low in his chair and wiped a tired hand over his face. "Jared told us about an Air Force Colonel that he had befriended. The man asked him to take some readings with a machine whenever he went Between. Supposedly the thing was smart enough to know when to take the readings and when not to. Jared said the Colonel had told him it was an approved experiment. It wasn't approved by the committee or by Doctor Standish. This was the first we even heard about it."
Harry glanced up at his large world map and let the silence draw out for several minutes. Finally he turned back to Skip. "Will Jared live?"
"Doc Wilson thinks he will, but he also said that there's a fifty fifty chance of him developing bone cancer in the next twenty years. He recommends annual screening to check for that," Skip replied. "Treating Jared is a problem for Wilson, he's an old country doctor that only visits the Weyr a few times a week. He has had to look up how to treat radiation sickness, it's not something doctors see every day."
Harry let out a breath he didn't know he was even holding and he nodded. "Alright, next question, what do you think we should do?"
Skip looked pained. "Harry I'm not really sure. I came here tonight without telling Kat, she's going to be pissed as hell at me but I needed to talk to someone. I suppose I should have waited until she got home, or called her, but I thought you should know about this immediately."
Harry leaned back in his chair. "Very well, let's try it their way first. Inform Jasper Brady and Doctor Standish that I want to speak with them. If you can, bring along your Doctor Wilson as well. Tell Doctor Wilson to email everything he can to Doctor Sheppard here. Issac is by no means an expert, but I'm sure we can find someone who can look at it and give us another opinion.
"As to Jasper and Milton, I want to gage their reactions to this. If this is some kind of trick to bypass our ban on weapons research they may give themselves away by their reaction," Harry said tensely, then he waved towards the map. "Minnewanka is due to open after this next hatching. The Canadians have finished building the physical plant, now it's just sitting there idle. If necessary and we have to make a point to the Americans, we'll evacuate Condron to Minnewanka, it's an option under clause fifteen of our treaty with the Americans."
Skip winced. "I don't really want to leave the states," he said quietly.
"And I don't want you to either Skip. But our primary responsibility isn't to do what we want, it's to do what is necessary to safeguard the lives of our riders and dragons," Harry countered. "You know we must remain neutral and be seen as to be above national interests. Dragons helping any country with weapons research will ruin that image. If it became public knowledge that dragons were helping military units in matters other than humanitarian, there'd be chaos and the Weyrs would probably end up being taken over."
Skip flushed slightly and nodded. He did know that and he believed it with all his heart. It was just that he never expected his own country to endanger his dragons like this. A rider was injured, perhaps severely and it was done by a representative of the US Military.
Harry's Office, Campbeltown Weyr...
Three days later, Skip returned with his wife and co-Weyrleader Kat, they brought with them Doctor Standish, Jasper Brady and the Condron Weyr doctor, Ed Wilson.
Harry sat in his chair watching the group enter his office. Jasper was the only one to seem surprised that Harry did not smile or get up to greet his guests.
Harry waited until everyone was seated, before he began. "I asked Skip and Kat to escort you here today because I am facing a big decision, one which I am struggling to deal with."
"Harry?" said Brady worriedly. It was clear from Harry's tone that something big was in the works and it was even more clear that he was angry about something.
Harry held up a hand, then he turned to Milton Standish. "You are aware by now that one of Condron's riders has been severely injured? And that the rider claimed that he was told that he'd be performing an approved experiment. An experiment that I might add that was not vetted by our science and technology committee?"
Milton frowned and nodded. "Yes I know about Jared's injury, but if he was performing any experiment then it was something that didn't pass through my office Harry. You know that I funnel all research requests to Campbeltown. We barely have enough people to conduct the research we're already doing and I can't see anyone slipping something on the side, we're just too busy."
Harry nodded, satisfied with the answer. He knew Milton well enough by now to know the man was a dedicated administrator who had personally turned down several projects as being too dangerous to a dragon or a rider.
He glanced over towards Doctor Wilson and smiled at the man. Unlike Campbeltown's doctor, Wilson didn't live at the Weyr, he was just an old country doctor that lived in the area and was happy to help out. "Doctor Wilson, I am pleased to meet you although I do wish it had been under better circumstances. I do thank you for sending Jared's case file to us. We forwarded it on to Professor Scott at Cambridge. His email reply that I received this morning was very interesting."
Standish looked up sharply. "Scott? Professor Stanley Scott from Cambridge university?"
Harry nodded, then he glanced over towards Brady and the others who seemed confused. "Sir Stanley Scott is one of those rare scientists who straddle multiple fields. Officially he is a medical doctor and a physicist. He is one of the world's leading researchers in the field of human exposure to radiation. At my request, he gave a brief look over of Jared's case file which Doctor Wilson forwarded to us."
"And what did he report?" pressed Standish.
Harry picked up a printout. "He said that from the clean lines of the injury and from the radiological testing that it appeared as if Jared was exposed to a Gamma radiation source at close range. He then went on to talk about the possible source being something called a GRASER or a device similar in nature."
Harry frowned for a moment, then he ruefully looked up from the paper. "I have to admit that I had to look up what a GRASER was. I had never heard of a Gamma Ray Laser before, but Professor Scott says gamma rays are a particularly dangerous type of radiation, even moreso when focused via lasing. He went on to suggest that perhaps someone was hoping to find out something useful by exposing Between to a controlled gamma ray burst. He wishes he had been able to examine the device and says without it, or at least more information about the device he can't say for sure that his ideas are correct.
"Sir Scott added that he believed Jared didn't receive a full on exposure, but rather he was grazed by the beam, which explains it's unusual shape."
Harry paused and looked at the Americans for a moment. Standish looked thoughtful as he considered Sir Scott's ideas while Brady appeared to be confused by the information. "Needless to say I was surprised to discover that Jared had been asked to carry a device that could have killed him with a direct hit. As it stands he has an increased risk of developing cancer now and will need to be checked every year for the rest of his life. If he does come down with cancer and it kills him, then we'll also lose his dragon. The loss of Jared and Milth is unacceptable to the Weyr."
Harry turned until he was directly looking at Jasper Brady. "Which leads me to my next question. Mr. Brady, why is it that a high ranking member of the US. Military is handing out lethal hardware to one of my riders? Is this an officially sanctioned act by the US Government or something orchestrated by a single group without official permission or is this mysterious Colonel operating independently and covertly against America? These are the questions you need to find answers to."
Harry pointed up at the calendar on the wall. "I have spoken with the Canadians. As you know we were planning on opening up Minnewanka this coming year. As it stands they are willing to receive Condron's entire compliment of dragons should the need arise."
Jasper's jaw dropped and there was a sudden chilling silence in the room. Skip had forewarned Kat about what Harry intended so she controlled her reaction. "The Canadian government was delighted with the idea of adopting a fully staffed Weyr instead of growing one slowly. And I have the personal assurance of their Prime Minister that no military research will be carried out by the Weyr."
Milton Standish stared at Harry, then looked over at Brady expectantly. "Jasper? You know he's right. Someone slipped something past us and unless we can fix the problem it's all over."
"Not quite Doctor," Harry said softly. "You've been up front with us since we first met and I reckon I can ask the Canadians if they'd be interested in hiring you on as their research director, or barring that, Dragon Services would hire you on directly."
Standish looked at Harry in astonishment, then he shook his head. "I do appreciate the vote of confidence Weyrleader, but right now I do believe we need to hear from Jasper since he's the official government representative."
Everyone turned to look at Jasper who squirmed nervously in his seat. "Harry, let me say right from the onset that I know of no official policy changes allowing for any kind of unapproved research. When I first heard that Jared had been injured and someone from the Air Force might have been involved I asked around. This Colonel Michel doesn't seem to be attached to any unit I can find. I did discover that one of our researchers had been funneling information to Michel on a monthly basis. When I confronted the woman, she said she had been ordered to by her boss, who claimed he had been ordered to by his boss, right on up the line. A few days later I found out she's been transferred, but no one knows to where."
"So you don't know if this Michel is even a real Air Force officer?" Harry asked incredulously.
Jasper looked embarrassed. "I'm sorry Harry, but I've hit a brick wall on trying to find out more about him and who he works for. What I do know for a fact is he flies in once a month and he uses what looks like a real Air Force jet trainer. It's a modern jet and from a class still in service so I know its government property."
Harry eyed Jasper for a moment, then he nodded grimly and turned back to Skip. "Skip, if this man shows up again. Detain him, even if it means his pretty little plane gets broken in the process. I want answers and he has them."
Skip grinned evilly. "If we have to, we'll flame him down Harry. I want those answers as well."
"Harry you can't!" protested Jasper.
Harry turned back to Jasper. "Actually we can. The land grant for Condron specified that the land was always meant to be semi-autonomous from the federal government. Now we have either a very well equipped spy, or a true agent of the US government who is breaking the rules outlined in our treaty and endangering one of ours. You said you've hit a brick wall on finding him Jasper. I have no doubt in my mind that you are being honest with me. Chekiath would have said so if you weren't," Harry replied, then he jerked a thumb over this shoulder to where Chekiath lay in his bed. Harry turned towards Kat who sat silently throughout the conversation. "Kat, get one of your brewers making up a batch of veritaserum. When we catch this Mitchel I want to know his life story and then I want to know his parent's story as well."
Kat smiled knowingly. "I'll take care of it Harry."
"Veritaserum is a controlled substance in the states. And any confession you get by using it is not admissible in court unless he took the potion willingly."
Harry turned back towards Jasper and slowly stood. "You seem to think that we'll willingly follow the rules of a government that apparently has proven itself unable to hold to its treaty obligations," Harry growled. Still eying Jasper he said, "Skip if this Mitchel hasn't been apprehended before the month is out, you have permission to exercise at your discretion, clause fourteen of our agreement with the US Government. We will hold our option to exercise clause fifteen once we have a better idea of what's going on."
Skip paled and swallowed nervously; he straightened in his chair. "Of course Harry," he said softly. Kat reached out and grasped his hand in her own. A single tear ran down her cheek. No one wanted to relocate to another country but Skip had reminded her of Harry's words. Their responsibility wasn't to their wishes, it was to the safety of their riders and dragons.
The Condron Weyrleaders breathed a short sigh of relief. Clause fourteen outlined the legal options the Weyr could use to redress any issues concerning problems with the host country. Clause fifteen covered the Weyr severing association with the host country.
"Jasper," Harry said in a softer tone, but his glare was no less. "The problem here is that a crime has been committed that can seriously shorten the life span of a rider and his dragon. What I fail to understand is why you seem unwilling to recognize that fact. Doctor Wilson says that Jared's exposure to the radiation has increased his chance of contracting a cancer by as much as fifty percent. And we don't know what might happen to Milth. If that device had been hanging from my harness, Chekiath's shoulder joint would have taken a direct hit. Milth is a smaller dragon, but it still could have hit him in the wing. That he hasn't shown any symptoms is due to mere luck."
Jasper sighed and shook his head. "I acknowledge the crime Harry. I'm just stymied by my own government. The current Secretary of Magic considers himself a patriot Harry. He firmly believes that the government must sometimes bend the rules for the sake of the country. The problem is that as much as you want to catch this person, breaking the law only gives the new administration an excuse to bring stronger elements into play against you."
"And doing nothing implicitly tells them that they can continue to risk our dragons in violation of the treaty. Risk our riders and dragons and we'll ignore it? Hardly, this needs to be firmly addressed so that it never happens again." Harry retorted.
Jasper leaned back in his chair and his shoulder's slumped. He had worked tirelessly for the dragons and for the Weyr since he became the liaison, but now he was up against his own government and not at all happy with what was going on. He felt torn between trying to explain and excuse something the government might have done and his own personal need to protect the dragons which he truly believed were good for his country.
"I know I know," Jasper admitted. "Honestly I don't like what you and Skip plan, but I can understand it as well. I'm afraid the new administration won't take too well to the Weyr giving them a black eye when the press gets wind of your lawsuit."
Harry nodded and turned back to Skip and Kat. "Skip?"
"We'll catch the bastard," Skip said bluntly and Kat nodded in agreement. "If he doesn't show up in the next four weeks we'll try your idea and file a suit in every federal court we can as well as going public with it."
Harry smiled grimly.
Jasper winced, the Weyr in America had retained the services of Newman, Freidman and Mako, a ruthless firm that knew where a great many bodies were buried in the federal government and weren't afraid to use their knowledge for their clients. They were among the top five percent of the law offices in the country and had successfully completed more law suits against the government than any two other offices combined.
Harry glanced again at his calendar, "We'll meet again near the end of October. I'll inform the other Weyrleaders so they can attend. The Americans are the ones steering this mess. We'll try it within their system, but if it happens again I want you out of there. With the other Weyrs helping we can move everything in short order."
"But the law suit?" protested Milton Standish.
"Doc you can't really expect us to sit around and let things continue as they are while we wait a couple of years for a case to grind through the courts?" Skip replied mildly. "Right now it is one incident. But Harry is right, if it happens again, we'll move out and let the courts churn along at their pace. I doubt we'd ever return if we're forced to move."
"No, not really, I guess I just expected..," Milton said, then he trailed off. He shrugged in his seat as he suddenly realized exactly how serious the Weyrs were taking this situation.
Harry turned back to Jasper. "Jasper, I don't like putting you in the hot seat like this, but you Yanks make a big stink about treating everyone equal. Now is your chance to prove it's true."
"Harry," Jasper said slowly, "I will do my level best to try to get this resolved," he said fervently.
Harry eyed him for a moment longer, then his expression softened. "Yes I can believe that," he replied.
"It scares you Rope Neck, but you shouldn't be scared," Chekiath announced into the silence. "The Weyrs have people helping them around the world that aren't riders. If Condron can't find a place for you and your family, many other Weyrs, including this one, will find a place for you."
Harry nodded, he was about to speak but Kat beat him to it. "Of course we will," she asserted as if insulted by the idea. "Jasper has done far more than your typical government employee. He's part of our family just like Harry's godfather or Mr. Lupin."
Skip nodded in agreement and Jasper blushed deeply. He knew they expected his help and support, but also understood that he was working with people that might not wish to cooperate.
"One final note, I've arranged for Jared to see Professor Scott. Inform Jared that he's temporarily reassigned to Campbeltown for as long as his condition requires it," Harry said firmly. "He'll be returned to his home Weyr once he's cleared medically. Doctor Sheppard is arranging a special air ambulance to transport him. Please make sure you arrange a suitable escort for his dragon. Sue Bones is already setting up his housing assignment according to what Issac thinks he may need."
Skip and Kat looked surprised, then nodded in acceptance.
After a few more minutes of conversation the Americans left his office and Harry pulled a fresh pad of paper from one of his cabinets along the wall, then he sat down and started to write down a plan for evacuating Condron if necessary.
"Do you really think it is that bad Harry?" asked Cheki.
Harry placed his pen down on the desk and closed his eyes. "I don't know mate," he admitted silently. "What I know for certain is that a rider has been injured and there is the possibility that his life span has been significantly shortened. Wizards do not get cancer like normal people do so we can't even apply a magical cure for Jared. If he gets sick it will be because of that device he was exposed to.
"If we can't come to terms with the Americans, we'll have no choice but to relocate. We'll know for certain by then that the Americans don't really value the dragons and their riders like some other countries do."
Harry sighed and rubbed at his temples. His head throbbed uncomfortably and it felt like his shoulders were one giant knot. He flipped a page on the pad and continued to write. As he wrote he started to understand that he wasn't generating a plan for relocating Condron, he was creating a generic plan that would apply to any Weyr.
Three hours passed in silence except for the occasional noise from Cheki. Harry was so intent on concentrating on what he was writing he never heard the door open.
Hermione and May slipped into the room and watched Harry for a moment before giving each other a knowing look. Chekiath had summoned the pair, asking that they come and make Harry relax for a couple of hours.
Hermione handed May a basket which contained two chilled bottles of wine, then she turned and walked over to where Harry sat, hunched over his paperwork. She reached out touched him lightly against the back of his neck. He started slightly and then relaxed, he knew only two people that would touch him like that.
"Cheki told us you need a break," Hermione said softly. As she spoke she continued to rub his neck and shoulders. "Since it's a Friday, May and I have decided to do something different."
May stepped around to the front of his desk where Harry could see her. She held two baskets in her hands, one containing their food, courtesy of Dobby, and the second basket containing two bottles of their favorite wine. Harry had promised Albus that he would avoid strong drinks, but Hermione had shown him that a glass or two of wine once in a while wouldn't make him drunk.
Harry's head drooped down; he was enjoying Hermione's ministrations too much to put up a fight over it. When he learned just how good Hermione was at giving a massage he asked her and discovered that she had learned it when she was nine and had to help her mother after she injured her back in an automobile accident.
"Is everything all right with Condron?" May asked.
Harry lifted his head and looked at her for a moment, then he shook his head. "Hardly. I had to put a lot of pressure on Jasper Brady which I didn't want to do. Cheki told me he's honestly frustrated by the situation."
Hermione took the small break from easing his muscles to pull chair closer to his. "And what are we going to do about it?" she asked as began to rub his shoulders again.
"Short term, we'll file a law suit against the Federal Government, and possibly evacuate Condron to Minnewanka. I've spoken to the Canadians and they say they are all ready to accept riders to man their Weyr," He replied.
"So what are you working on now? It seems that most of the work falls into Skip and Kat's lap, not yours," May said.
Harry waved one hand towards a pile of papers. "I started out working on a plan to evacuate Condron, but as I worked I suddenly realized the plan would apply to any Weyr with some minor changes only. I did some searching on the net and discovered what I was doing was one piece of a what is called a disaster recovery plan."
Hermione moved a bit closer and turned his writing pad so that it was face down on the desk. "It's a good idea, but one that doesn't need to be done right away. Right now you're taking May and I on a picnic, then we'll head over to Joensuu Weyr for a three day weekend."
Harry looked up at that. "Joensuu? Why?"
"Because Harry my love," May said softly. "The Finnish Government built too many buildings and Ismo had several converted into resort style cottages as a way to entice other riders to visit his Weyr. I've already called ahead and Ismo has reserved his best cottage for us for the weekend."
Joensuu still produced hot rocks and they had a small research facility that was currently trying to come up with a form of asphalt that could be mixed with low temperature hot rocks. Just that alone would save millions per year in snow plowing costs for the northern European countries.
Harry slowly nodded. Ismo Sippola was Weyrleader of Joensuu, and descended from a long line of Inn keepers. He approached the running of the Weyr from an entirely different angle and asked Harry if Joensuu could concentrate on providing tourist services rather than setting up another large research station.
There were six manned Weyrs at the moment and Harry quickly realized that not every Weyr had to be modeled after Campbeltown with its large research facility and slowly growing manufacturing plant. Maziang in Tibet spent most of their energies in magical research, looking for magical treatments of dragon ailments. Condron spent it's initial efforts in base lining dragons and then switched to the material sciences. Campbeltown led the way in physical application research, that is, finding new applications for hot rocks. Campbeltown also led the effort to develop treatments for a variety of dragon ailments using mundane techniques. May had a team of zoologists and veterinarians from the royal college helping her lead that effort.
For Finland and Joensuu, they were interested in trying to develop a very narrow form of tourism targeting riders and their dragons. There has always been a small group of riders that wanted to offer dragon based tours, but Joensuu had taken that idea a step further by planning to open up a resort that would allow riders to relax and still offer luxury accommodations. In short they wanted to attract other riders instead of the general public. With the numbers of riders Harry had in mind for the future, there was a need to have a place where riders could get away, free from the public eye and the press.
He nodded and gathered up his papers, then he placed them in his desk drawer. "Sounds good to me, I could use a break," he murmured.
Both girls shot him bright smiles. In the beginning of their relationship he had fought such moves like this impromptu trip. It wasn't until Dan Granger pulled him aside and explained that the girls were just looking out for him like he did for them that he stopped fighting with them over his workload.
Harry stood and stretched for a moment, then he reached out and pulled Hermione into his embrace. He kissed her deeply, and then, without looking reached for May who had moved closer for her turn.
Cheki rumbled from his place in the office and watched them contentedly. Tonight he would cover both of his consorts while Harry, May and Hermione enjoyed their own time together in their fashion.
There had been some changes over the years between the three of them. While neither girl was interested in having sex with the other present, neither girl was against the idea of joining forces to please Harry. Harry wasn't sure how they managed it, but there had been several sessions in which both girls had gotten involved in a serious groping session with Harry and then when his attention was fully distracted, one would vanish from the room.
The girls had learned that their man had enough stamina for both of them and they took advantage of that fact. May jokingly referred to it as three-way foreplay and the name stuck much to their amusement.
Department of Magic, Washington DC, USA...
"Mr. Secretary, Jasper Brady is here to speak to you."
Lyle 'Ducky' Jackson looked over towards the speaker-phone and frowned, then he reached for the phone so he could talk privately with his secretary.
"Mary, this Brady? Do I know.. oh wait, isn't he that holdover from the last administration, the dragon guy?"
"That's correct sir," Mary replied.
Jackson frowned deeply. When Brady asked to speak with him Jackson had done some checking in regard to Brady's interest and found that some of his inquiries run into the bureaucratic stonewall of a DOD 'Black' project.
Black projects were steel reinforced, titanium plated secrets that only a handful of people knew about. In many cases even the president didn't know about them. They obtained their name from the fact that the DOD was required by law and congress to publish their budget and each year they would include lines where the only item listed was the money spent for an unlisted and unidentified project.
Jackson was relatively new to the job, having replaced his predecessor who was, at best, only a temporary secretary. The man before that had been arrested and was now serving a life term in federal prison for treason. Because of that the current administration had searched deeply among the American wizards looking to find one that had deep roots to the country. Jackson represented the current republican administration who took the idea of deep roots and loyalty to an extreme. Jackson's family was one of the few candidates with such a connection and close ties with senior administration officials.
Whatever Brady wanted, he was not going to get it. Jackson firmly believed in the right of the government to research whatever it needed in order to protect itself. The law was bendable when it came to issues of national security.
"Alright, send him in," Jackson said, then he placed the phone back on the cradle.
The door opened and Jasper Brady stepped into the room.
"Ah Mister Brady, do come in and have a seat," Jackson said with a politician's smile. "How are things in New Mexico? Have things settled down yet?"
"Things are tense Mister Secretary. I am here at the direction of The Weyrleader and Condron's Weyrleader, looking for a clarification upon the matter which I emailed you about. It seems that a member of our military convinced a rider to take a piece of unidentified equipment with him every time he went Between. Now the rider is seriously ill with radiation sickness. As you know, the life of the rider and the bonded dragon are linked. Should the rider die, then so will the dragon."
Jackson leaned back in his chair and eyed Brady for a long tense moment. This wasn't news to Jackson, Brady had emailed him several days ago explaining the problem in detail. "You say the equipment this rider carried was unidentified?"
"Yes sir, the only thing we know for certain is that it was supplied to Jared Wilkson by a Colonel Michel. I have tried to track down this Colonel who had been, until recently, visiting the Weyr at least twice monthly but I can't even find out where he is stationed," Brady replied. "Sir I can't stress this enough, the Weyr is very unhappy about this. By their reasoning, this Michel is either a very well equipped spy, or is working with the approval of this government. Considering that he usually arrived in a Air Force jet trainer, the evidence points to Michel being a real Air Force officer."
Jackson leaned forward and waved one hand as if dismissing Brady's comments. "But as you said, the equipment that was allegedly carried by this young rider was unidentified. You have no way of knowing for certain that this mysterious machine was responsible. For all you know, he could have gotten exposed in another manner and the Weyr is just blaming Colonel Michel as a convenient scapegoat. In fact we only have one person's word that Colonel Michel was involved at all, isn't that true?"
Brady winced slightly, the Secretary's point was valid. The machine Jared carried was unknown, they just assumed it was the source of the deadly radiation.
"Sir, Jared's dragon confirmed that he received the device from Michel. You know dragons are incapable of lying," Jasper said softly.
"What I know Mister Brady is that we have one person's word against another. And mind you there is no accepted court precedent that acknowledges dragons being incapable of lying," Jackson countered.
"Mister Secretary, Jared Wilkson has offered to give testimony under veritaserum, which does work on muggles," Jasper said in rebuttal.
Jackson failed to hide the flinch.
"Surely it is in our own best interests sir to try to resolve this as quickly as possible. We should seek out this Colonel Michel and have him step forward and explain his actions as well as explaining the device. There is no doubting the fact that he lied to the rider by telling him it was an approved experiment," Brady replied. "Michel explaining to Doctor Standish and Skip Taylor would put this matter to rest easily enough. It would be a great relief to Condron's Weyrleader and would mean that they would only have to concentrate on helping Jared recover."
"I'm afraid that is simply out of the question," Jackson said flatly. "When you first requested this meeting I did some discrete checking and found myself up against a security stonewall. Tell me Brady, what do you know about the black projects run by our military services?"
Jasper blinked. For years he had worked as a high level manager in the Department of Magic, specifically in Muggle Educational Liaison. His exposure to the muggle military complex was non-existent.
"Nothing sir," he said with a slight stammer.
Jackson nodded and waved his hand to an unobstructed office window. From this top floor corner office it was possible to see the White House several blocks away. "Our government is charged with protecting the people. Two hundred and eighty million people, including nearly a million wizards and witches. Because of that mandate the government oft times needs to perform things hidden from the general public. Things that would ordinarily be considered illegal to some people on the hill.
"The general public never heard about our covert strike into Quebec for example. A single night and fourteen elite bomber crews flying the most advanced airplanes we own; prevented a uprising which would have plunged our northern neighbor into a civil war. Only a handful of people on both sides of the border know about the aborted cheese rebellion of 1990. I was there myself and damn proud of it! I did my duty without question. I only tell you about it now as an example and because your oath will ensure that the secret doesn't spread.
"My point is that sometimes our government will have to do something distasteful, something borderline illegal. And that is what I think has happened here. I tried to find out about your mysterious Colonel and was told that he is attached to a black research department. When I asked for clarification I was bluntly told that I had no need to know and I wasn't cleared to be briefed on the project. And mind you Brady, I have one of the highest security clearances in the Department of Magic."
Jasper slumped back in his seat and wiped his face tiredly. "Sir with all due respect, the Weyr will not accept being stonewalled by a mantra of national security. The Weyr is prepared to seek legal action and is considering other options if they can't get a guarantee that this won't happen again and they want this Colonel Michel punished. I know for a fact that The Weyrleader has told Condron that if Michel returns to Condron again, they are to detain him by any means necessary."
Jackson's eyebrows rose to meet his hairline. "Does the Weyr feel they are above the law Mister Brady?"
"Sir, the Weyr feels that their priority is to see to the safety of the riders and the dragons. They hold no allegiance to the United States or it's government. They would like to consider the country and the government to be their friends, but right now that issue is up for debate. The Condron Weyrleader, Skip Taylor, is first and foremost a dragon rider. While no Weyr has made an issue of it, the simple fact is from the moment of impression, the rider has relinquished their citizenship in whatever country they are from. They have joined a small, elite community of dragon riders that supersedes national borders and national patriotism," Brady replied fervently. "The riders give their loyalty to their dragons, their Weyr and The Weyrleader. For all intents and purposes they are truly a separate nation within our borders."
"And that is exactly the attitude that you have to combat Brady!" snapped Jackson. "This Taylor for example, he's a good home grown Texas lad. His wife, Katherine comes from a long line of Boston witches predating the Salem trials. These are good home grown American kids who should have more respect for their country than they do. Its your job to remind them of all that the country has done for them."
Brady winced in understanding, he knew the Secretary would never see the rider's point of view. The man had been chosen for his position because of his loyalty to the country first. He was a wizard, but he considered himself a patriot even above being a wizard.
Jasper sighed, he knew that explaining the Condron Weyr had already paid for the construction of it's facilities and was quickly becoming an economic powerhouse with the country would fall on deaf ears. "Yes sir," he said softly. He was caught between a rock and a hard place and had few options open to him.
Weyrleader's Council Meeting, Campbeltown Weyr, Late October 2000...
Harry leaned back in his chair and watched Skip Taylor with no small amount of amusement. Skip was one of those people that absolutely needed room when he talked. He had moved to stand in front of the table where the Weyrleaders sat so he could give his report. He started off small, with a simple shifting of his feet, but within minutes he literally stalked from one end of the table to the other, gesturing as he walked.
From the glances around the room Harry knew he wasn't the only one amused by Skip's behavior.
"I've spent the last two weeks in contact with the Weyr's lawyers. They have amassed a huge pile of documentation on Jared's injury and are contacting some specialists for additional opinions and testimony. On the down side, there has been no sign of this Michel character, nor of anyone acting in his place," Skip said. "He normally visited at least once a month, spending time with Jared and time in the main research building. Doctor Standish has tried to find out who he might have visited there, but no one was willing to admit it. The one person that Jasper talked to was transferred suddenly."
"I might be able to shed some light on this Michel business," Jasper offered from his seat. He sat in among the rows of riders and others that were here to witness this meeting.
Harry nodded towards the man. "We'll get to you in a bit Jasper. I am anxious to hear what you have to say, but first let's let Skip finish his report."
Jasper smiled weakly and settled back in his chair.
"Go ahead Skip," Harry ordered.
"Well there isn't much more to say. Doc Wilson has been working with Sir Scott who offered some surprising treatment options that we weren't aware of. Finally Sir Scott spent a couple days looking over Jared's injury personally. He's refined Doc Wilson's original estimate. It's still not perfect, but he thinks that there is a thirty five percent chance of Jared contracting some form of cancer in the next twenty years. Sir Scott has been treating Jared and he's been responding well to those treatments. Doc Wilson told me that Sir Scott's efforts are more advanced than anything he could have provided, or Jared could have gotten locally. There are a few hospitals in the US that could have provided Jared with the same treatments that Jared is now getting.
"He also started Jared on an experimental test that Jared could do at home on a monthly basis for detecting any cancers. Sir Scott expects that in another month Jared can be released back to Condron and he's willing to recommend a specialist he knows in the US that can continue monitoring his condition."
"Well that's better news but still..." Lobsang murmured. The Maziang Weyrleader had worked long and hard to improve his English and had succeeded for the most part. It was only when he got excited that he slipped in old habits.
"It is better news," Issac said from his seat, then he stood. "I have been monitoring Jared's case carefully like so many of the doctors attached to the Weyrs. I know it doesn't seem like much, but a reduction of odds from fifty percent to nearly one third means more time for Jared. More time in which any problems can be caught early, more time for science to advance new treatment options. Yes Jared was dealt a crappy hand, but Sir Scott's numbers are good news."
Harry smiled softly and nodded to Issac in gratitude. "Thank you for clarifying that Issac. I take it you are impressed with Sir Scott?"
Issac blinked in surprise and nodded vehemently. "He is tops in his field and is a real scientist Harry. He's the kind of man I can admire. His treatments for Jared are just short of cutting edge and more effective than I originally thought they would be. As for Jared, he's still officially grounded, but I see no reason why he can't return to Condron at the end of next month like Sir Scott suggests and continue with the treatments under Doctor Wilson."
Harry leaned forward and placed his elbows on the table. He glanced around, then zeroed in on Issac. "Thank you Issac. For the record, Sir Robert March has told me he intends to retire at the end of the year. I was wondering if we might convince Sir Scott to take over his position."
"Harry, Stanley Scott is more of a scientist than an administrator," Issac warned.
Harry shrugged. "I know that Issac, but we do need someone and now that I've met the man I think he would be a good candidate to head up our research team, we can always hire someone to do the administrative work. I've spoken with the man personally on several occasions now and he seems intensely interested in trying to figure out what Between really is."
Issac nodded, acknowledging the point and sat back down.
Satisfied, Harry turned back to Skip. "Thank you Skip, have a seat and we'll hear what our American liaison has to say."
Skip turned and moved to sit next to Kat while Jasper moved to stand in front of the table.
Jasper looked around a bit nervously and then he sighed. "I am personally pleased that Jared's chances have improved. My news is mixed at best. I met several times with the Secretary for Magic and I think I have a clearer picture now of what is going on. I have discovered that Colonel Michel received administrative punishment and has been forcibly retired from the Air Force for his role in this affair. Officially the reasons for his discharge were for inappropriate use of an Air Force aircraft which he used to fly around to various locations."
"But that doesn't have anything to do with what happened to Jared," protested Kat Taylor.
Jasper glanced over at her and nodded. "No it doesn't," he admitted ruefully. "I can tell you that Michel was attached to some top secret research project. Apparently the US Government funds some research that is so secret even the president doesn't know about them. The Secretary for Magic told me that Michel worked for such a group and told me point blank that the US Government never ever acknowledges the existence of such efforts. Any attempt to sue them in court will bog down in motions concerning national security."
"So you're saying that it's a waste of time to sue them in court," Harry asked.
Jasper nodded. "I think so, but I would strongly urge you to continue with that effort anyway. You might get lucky."
Kat leaned forward in her seat. "Jasper, off the record, what do you think?" she pressed.
Jasper sighed and rubbed the back of his neck for a moment. "What I think, off the record mind you, and as a private citizen that likes dragons, is that there is a group in my country's military that is willing to break the law and put people at risk all for the name of patriotism and national security. If Michel has been canned like the Secretary of Magic says, then there is a good chance he's still being protected and is still untouchable.
"In the meantime we tighten up Weyr security and make sure everyone knows not to accept any device without an approved work order from Doctor Standish or one of his people."
"What about privatizing the research group. Pull it under DSL as another research branch?" Harry offered. "I'm certain we can easily match or exceed the salaries of the researchers we want to keep."
Brady looked up at Harry in surprise. It was something he hadn't considered. "Honestly I don't know what kind of reaction we can expect from the government Weyrleader," he replied. "But it seems to me that if you want to be one hundred percent certain of the research activities going on at Condron, privatization is the road to take."
Harry nodded and then looked around. Spotting Karen he turned his attention to her. "Karen can you and Kat sit down and put together a plan to privatize Condron's research facilities. I'm going to suggest in this case to build a new lab and then fence off the old one to isolate it from the Weyr. In the meantime, inform Doctor Standish that from here on all work involving the direct participation of a rider or dragon needs a written work order signed off by either himself or someone he designates or the Weyrleaders. Tell him that I trust him to see to the safety of the dragon and the rider."
Karen nodded as she typed furiously into her laptop, finally she looked up and smiled. "Got it Harry, I'll speak to Kat after this meeting to set up a meeting to go over the details."
He glanced over to Kat who smiled in agreement, then he turned back to Jasper. "Thank you Jasper, for both your honesty and your diligence. I want to make it plainly clear, the Weyrs understand the difficult position you find yourself in and should it come down to a decision between your conscience or your job, the Weyr is ready to hire you if need be."
"I hope it doesn't come to that," Jasper said softly.
Harry chuckled, "So do I Jasper, we need you where you are. In the meantime I think we have a feel for our options. Skip we'll proceed with the law suit for now. Karen and Kat will work up a plan and budget to build our own research facility at Condron. Finally before everyone goes, Hermione has a document which I wrote for each of you. I'm going to ask that you review it and suggest any changes. When the possibility arose of evacuating Condron, I started to write up a list of what needed to be done. The more I wrote the more I realized it was a general document that any Weyr could use. Please read and submit your comments via email to Hermione. She's coordinating putting this together as a standard item for all Weyrs."
Hermione smiled from the table where she had been taking the minutes of the meeting. Next to her was a large stack of booklets. Evacuating a Weyr was a complicated process!
Harry's office, Campbeltown Weyr, October 2000...
Hermione and May entered the administration building nearly simultaneously. Both girls were well advanced in their studies by now and had been surprised that Harry had asked them to meet with him today. As far as either knew, there was no Weyr business that involved both of them at the moment.
"Have you any idea what this is about?" Hermione asked.
May shook her head. "No, but he's been planning something for over a month now. I mean with all the hoopla going on over Condron and Jared's condition, he was still busier and a bit more secretive than usual. I tried to talk to Janay about it, but she didn't have a clue either."
Hermione snorted in amusement. When Janay was first placed as Harry's office assistant she felt a bit jealous about it. Hermione had been trying to help Harry with his office, but she found she didn't have enough time in the day to manage her law studies, work with Margret Sheppard in the Weyr's legal office and still help Harry. Surprisingly it was Harry that came to her and told her that while he would always need her, it was all right for her to spend her time on more important matters than what got filed where. Janay, he explained, wanted to help run the office and had taken courses in school covering all the skills she needed.
Harry then gave her a smile that caused a thrill of desire to shoot through her and he leaned closer. "You are too important to me to be filing and typing," he said in a low tone. "Let Janay run the office and never fear your place in my life."
Hermione had since learned that she had even less to worry about. Janay had turned out to be having a serious relationship with a boy from Svartvatn weyr. She loved working for Harry and was on friendly terms with everyone, but she only had eyes for her Jholson.
Hermione pushed the door open and Janay looked up from her desk. "Oh good, now he'll stop asking me if you two are here yet. Go on in," she said with a broad smile. She didn't know what was up, but she knew something was going on.
May laughed and grabbed Hermione's hand then pulled her towards the entrance to Harry's office.
Harry looked from his desk and smiled widely at both women, then he waved them in. May and Hermione took several steps into the room and then skidded to a halt. Sitting on Harry's desk were two identical ring boxes, both bearing the Gringotts logo.
"Harry?" May said in a surprised whisper. Harry laughed and waved for them to enter and sit down. Cautiously both girls took the seats in front of Harry's desk. Both of them had their gazes glued on the ring cases.
The trio had discussed marriage, or at least the handfasting ceremony that the Irish Druids offered, but they hadn't come to any real commitment yet.
Harry glanced down at the ring boxes and then up at his girls. "Last week at the Weyrleader's meeting, I couldn't help but notice Karen wearing her engagement ring. Skip and Kat got married and then had a party that I doubt anyone will top. Lee and Mariah are married already also, in fact of the first riders only eight of us haven't settled down yet."
Harry played with the boxes for a moment and both women knew he was carefully considering his words. "I'm ready," he said finally, then he looked up at both of them. "I'm ready for us to be a real family with all that implies. That doesn't mean that I want you both to start having babies, no what I'm ready for now is learning how to be a good husband and hopefully a father in the future."
He leaned back in his chair and ran a shaking hand through his hair. "I consider us a family already, but I want it to be official."
"Official? Official how?" asked Hermione.
He looked up at her. "If someone asks, I will not deny what we have. I will not hide ourselves like it's something to be ashamed of. You know I've had Margret checking into some laws for me. It turns out that it is illegal for a man to have two wives."
"We know that Harry," May replied unhappily.
Harry smiled at her. "Ah but legally that law only applies to a man and woman who has filed a proper registration. The Druid service isn't recognized and legally since we aren't filing any registration with the government, we aren't married in their eyes. Hence it's not illegal for us to use the handfasting service and call ourselves married. And if someone decided to object to what we have and dragged me into court, I would toss a monkey wrench into the whole affair by introducing the dragons into the mix. It also means that any child we have will be a Potter."
May blinked in surprise and looked over to Hermione. "You're studying law, that can't that be right? Can it?"
Hermione bit her lip and thought furiously for a moment. "The legal definition of marriage requires the formal declaration filed at the registration office. If there is no registration, then legally there is no marriage. Most polygamy charges stem from someone trying to cheat the government out of money either in avoiding taxes or other means. Since Harry isn't trying to cheat on his taxes there's no reason for charges to arise from that arena.
"Harry could call us wives and we call him husband and while the government might not think so, they also have no power to stop us from calling him that. Nor could they arrest him for polygamy since we're all consenting adults and there is no attempt to defraud the government," she said slowly. "Plus if Harry did manage to bring dragons before the bench the law would stutter and break down because there are no provisions for dragons yet. The PM's office has only begun looking at revising existing laws to account for dragons and their relationships with their riders."
"What happened to Chapman drove home the point that treating a rider apart from his dragon could have devastating consequences," Hermione concluded.
Harry's smile broadened even more then he gestured to the two ring boxes on his desk. "That's why I asked you here. I want to formalize what we have, and maybe even make some plans for our future."
"And so these are our engagement rings?" May asked with a small smile.
Harry blushed slightly and then he cleared his throat. "Yes, I'm afraid that when I picked up the rings and had them in my hands I realized I had a problem. Sirius told me that my father had a really romantic way of asking my mother to marry him. I wanted to do the same thing, but I had to come up with two different ways."
He sighed and shook his head. "For the past six months I've been wracking my head and couldn't come up with any especially romantic that was good enough for both of you. Frankly I'm tired of trying to think of something."
Both girls looked shocked to hear he had been holding onto the rings for six months without letting them know.
Harry opened one box on the desk and then he pushed it towards Hermione. He repeated the process with May's ring, then he stood and walked around the desk until he was standing between them, facing the open ring boxes on the desk. He placed a hand on both girl's shoulders and they tore their gaze from the rings to look at him. "I love you both so much I lack the ability to express it properly. I would be deeply honored and blessed if you would both consent to become my wives," he said softly.
Hermione's eyes glistened with tears and she looked over to May who was staring up at Harry in astonishment. She chuckled and leaned forward to pick up the ring box in front of her. "Harry it's been a fantasy of mine since you jumped on the troll's back, now you've made it a reality and given our situation I think you managed to find a suitable romantic way to propose."
Harry reached down and gently pulled the ring from Hermione's fingers; she offered him her hand. He slid the ring onto her hand and then he kissed her wrist lightly. She shivered and glanced over at May who still seemed stuck in her pose, staring at Harry in astonishment.
"May?" Hermione said softly, trying to suppress a snicker. The two had spoken frequently about this moment and both had been eagerly awaiting Harry's proposal. To see May paralyzed like this was striking her as very funny.
May blinked and opened her mouth. "Harry!" she squeaked, then she clamped her mouth shut and shook her head as her cheeks blushed a bright red.
Harry laughed in response and pulled the ring from her case. "Will you?" he asked her.
Not trusting herself to speak she nodded and thrust out her hand. He repeated his actions with May's ring and she bit back a moan. The glance she threw at Hermione was understood immediately, both of them were going to see to some private time with Harry today.
Harry straightened up and walked over to a couch where he sat down. Instantly he was bracketed on the couch by both girls. Once they were seated he brought up the other topic he wanted to talk to them about.
"There is one other matter I wanted to discuss. I know we've talked about this in the past, but I haven't done anything about it. Considering that we're now looking to get married I asked Eddie Took to accept me into her faith," he said softly.
"What about children? What will we do?" asked May worriedly.
Harry shook his head and wrapped his arm around the girl, pulling her closer to him. "We'll be smart about it. You and Hermione each attend a different church, if I joined one of yours, the one I didn't join would have felt pressured to switch even if no pressure was applied. So when it comes to children, we raise them to ask questions and make decisions for themselves. Let the children see and be a part in all three religions and when they are old enough, they can choose for themselves."
Hermione cuddled into Harry's side for minute, thinking about what he had said. It was true, she and May had differing beliefs and both had been hoping Harry would join their church. Harry however saw to the heart of the problem and picked an alternative that would cause the least friction. "I think that would work," she said quietly. "Besides, the situation may change someday."
The other problem Hermione had struck to the heart of her faith. Harry had brought up some important points the last time he had this discussion with the both of them. May and Hermione hadn't reached an agreement just yet, but both were starting to lean in favor of Harry's position. The simple fact was that neither faith would readily accept the relationship the girls had with Harry.
"It may," Harry offered. "I never was any good in divination, but I do know that things rarely remain unchanged."
May poked him in a rib and he jumped. "Oh you and your diplomatic training! Only you would think of a practical compromise."
Harry laughed and kissed her lightly. Both girls cuddled in closer.
Some days its good to be me, Harry thought happily.
Stuttgart Germany, December 2000...
Carlos the Gerbil fished a key out of his pocket and he glanced around before using it to open the door.
The man behind him frowned deeply. "Muggle filth," he muttered in a heavy accent.
Carlos chuckled and tossed the man the key. He caught it and swore violently in German before dropping the key on the ground. He held his injured hand and glared at Carlos. The key glowed a dull red and hissed in the light covering of snow on the ground
"My friend, we're in a muggle neighborhood, but the key is charmed so that only I can open this door. Any unlocking spell would result in the caster dying from a lingering painful organ expelling curse," Carlos said, then he gestured to his companion's injured hand. "That burn will heal normally once it's treated."
Carlos bent down and scooped up the key and placed it in his pocket. "I know you disdain muggle methods my friend, but sometimes we must use them to avoid the muggles learning about us. Your group wants to disrupt the dragons, come, let me show you what I'm managed to acquire for you."
Carlos held open the door and gestured to Brent Mittergath to enter the room. He had known Mittergath for years and occasionally had jobs that his organization could do. Mittergath ran a small group of pureblood extremists that existed on the fringe of German wizarding society.
Pureblood extremism had been stamped out in Germany after the end of World War Two and the fall of Gellert Grindlewald. Those few groups that did exist had to hide very deep like the muggle Nazi revival movements. Neither the muggle nor the Magical governments had any tolerance for the bigotry those groups preached.
"Brent my friend, I know these methods are distasteful, but they have the added bonus of being untraceable to your Aurors," Carlos said. He then flipped on a light switch and the large room flooded with light. Inside the cavernous area were two large piles of muggle explosives, provided by Carlos' Russian contacts.
"Over the next two days I and some of my people will instruct your people how to use these devices. They are simplicity itself, but quite dangerous, even to wizards. You know what targets I need for you to strike at, mix those targets up with some of your own and no one will understand the connection between them," Carlos added.
Brent reached over to a pre-made bomb and he fingered the pull cord that would have armed it and set the timer running. Carlos gently reached around Brent and grabbed his wrist, holding him immobile. "Gently my friend, if you pull that cord too hard, you will blow up the entire district."
Brent released the cord as if it were boiling hot and he took back a step. "It is that dangerous?"
Carlos released his wrist and shrugged. "The muggles are very good at killing my friend. You would do you and your movement some good if you studied their methods. One can admire an enemy and still kill them."
"But they are muggles, we are the superior beings!" Brent protested.
Carlos shrugged again, then he gestured towards a table a good thirty feet from the deadly piles. "Come, let us have a drink and make some plans my friend. We have much to do."
Mittergath allowed Carlos to lead him over to the table where a bottle and two glasses sat. He knew Carlos from way back and there was something close to a mutual admiration between them. Both men knew the other's measure.
Godric's Hallow Cemetery, December 5th 2000...
"Another year," he said softly, then he knelt in the damp earth to clean the base of the tombstone and banish the leaves and dirt that had accumulated since his last visit.
He conjured some flowers which he laid at the base of the headstone, then he climbed to his feet and conjured a chair to sit on. A chill wind blew through the trees in the graveyard, but Harry didn't feel it. He was kept warm by his flight suit and the huge wind break that Chekiath provided without even trying.
"I know it's been a year since I last visited. I try to come more often but you won't believe how busy I've been," he said softly. "Eddie tells me that she thinks you're here, watching and listening. She honestly believes that, and she thinks that when the time is right you'll be reborn again. Druids are all about renewal, birth, life, death, it's all a great cycle and you know what? I find that rather comforting."
Harry chuckled and shook his head. "Did you know she even said it was possible that you could be reborn as my own children? Wouldn't that be a kick?"
He leaned forward in his chair and smiled. "Don't tell Hermione and May this, but honestly, the idea that everyone hangs around until the final resurrection seems crazy to me. The world is overcrowded as it is. Where would we put billions and billions of people and still turn the world into a paradise?"
He leaned back in his chair and laughed softly. "Proposing to May and Hermione was the scariest thing I ever did," he admitted. "Maybe in a couple of years I'll be able to bring a grandchild or two when I visit."
Harry paused and looked around the graveyard. The graveyard around him was showing the typical signs of Autumn with leaves and other debris piling up. It was only around his parents graves that the area was clear of leaves. He frowned and quickly cast a few charms that gathered up all of the leaves into a large pile in one empty area of the graveyard.
The small family cemetery contained Potters going back to the tenth century. It was a connection to his family that he discovered well after he had impressed Chekiath. The Potters, unlike some families, weren't ashamed of the few squibs they had produced and included them in their burial plot.
Satisfied he leaned back in his chair and looked back at the headstone marking his parents grave. "I'm not a very good wizard. Everyone wanted me to take my NEWTS or work for wizarding Britain," he admitted. "A lot of people had expectations of me that I haven't lived up to; they don't see that I had more important responsibilities. I hope that doesn't disappoint you."
"I don't see how they could be anything but proud of you," said a voice from behind him.
He looked up to see May and Hermione standing nearby. Nearby Comaloth and Trath settled next to their mate and watched their humans with some amusement. Dragons had universally accepted the Druid vision of death after Spath had died, so they thought that cemeteries were a weird custom.
Hermione looked at him and shook her head in frustration. "Harry, you are the only one that doubts your abilities. Your parents might have been initially shocked when you decided not to be an integral part of the wizarding world, but your Mum would have understood and made your Dad understand that you are destined for something greater."
Harry conjured two more chairs for the girls to use, then he gestured for them to sit. "It's not easy for me Hermione," he replied.
"We know," May answered for her. "But we see you differently than you see yourself. We even see you differently than the other riders do. It is a shame that the others can't know you like we do. Most see The Weyrleader, but only Hermione and I see Harry for who he is."
Hermione nodded, then glanced around. "I always wondered where you had been disappearing to each year around this time. Usually you asked Chekiath to not say anything and then Remus pointed out that your Mum seemed to especially enjoy this time of the year, just before Christmas."
"I forgot to ask Cheki to keep quiet about where we were today. To be honest Disko is crawling with people and I wanted to get away to have a few hours of quiet," Harry said in reply.
Impression number twelve had occurred only seven days earlier and Disko island was crawling with people and dragons. The island had some eight hundred construction workers who were building a world class hotel and apartment blocks for visiting riders. The family guests had returned home the day after the impression feast, but that still left the riders that were there to help train the Weyrlings, the Weyrleaders and over one hundred people from the media who observed the impression and now were watching some of the initial Weyrling training.
Disko was becoming a madhouse and it was the primary reason why the Weyrs only left people behind to help the Weyrling masters instead of staying to help train the Weyrlings.
It was during this time that the Weyrleaders handled some of the more complex issues they faced, like requests to transfer between Weyrs.
May sat down and looked at him, "I can understand that, but it would have been nice to ask us to come along," she said. She glanced around taking in the graveyard. "Remus told us that you come here alone at least once a year since he showed you the place."
Harry dropped his eyes and refused to meet her gaze. "Yes, at Dumbledore's funeral. I'm sorry but I didn't think anyone but me wanted to come to visit a cemetery. Sirius visits maybe once a year and Remus too, but they don't go together and seemed they want to be alone when they come here."
"No one wants to visit a cemetery Harry," May said softly. "We would all wish that our family was alive, but a cemetery connect us to our roots in ways the living can't. Your closest relatives are here, my, our future in-laws are here. Someday they will be grandparents just like my parents or Hermione's parents."
"May is right," Hermione asserted. "You honor their memory by coming here and we can do no less. In a way I feel cheated that I will never have the privilege of meeting your parents. I know it pales in comparison to what you must feel Harry but there is still a feeling of loss."
Hermione gestured towards the headstone. "May I?" she asked.
Harry nodded in confusion, he wasn't sure what she intended, but he trusted that she'd do no harm.
Hermione turned slightly towards the headstone. "Mr and Mrs Potter, I'm Hermione Granger, one of Harry's ah... fiancées. I know it sounds strange, but we are his family. I always hoped that someday I would get to know my in-laws and love them as much as my own parents. I'm sorry that couldn't happen, but May and I love your son very much and he tries very hard to do his best for us. I wish we could have known you two, but I promise I'll do my best to make Harry happy."
"Me too," May echoed fervently. "I don't know if it's important to you or not, but I couldn't be prouder of Harry. He leads us and protects us, he's smart and kind and loving. I think Hermione would agree that what we have works because of Harry. Any other man would cause our relationship to fall apart."
Harry blushed and glanced over to Hermione who was nodding in agreement to May's words.
Suddenly all of their attention was diverted skyward, Norendrath popped out of Between and bugled in alarm. Harry sighed and stood. "What now?" he muttered. "I hope things are all right at Disko."
Norendrath circled and Sirius waved from his spot. Sirius couldn't claim to be a rider, but Norendrath puzzled everyone when he claimed Sirius as his rider. The pair lacked the telepathic bond, but there was a deep bond of friendship between them that most assumed was the reason why the dragon claimed him.
Sirius clambered down from his spot as soon as Norendrath landed near the other dragons, then he hurried over to where Harry now stood with May and Hermione.
"Harry, I'm sorry to interrupt your time here, but we have a problem," Sirius said tensely.
"Problem?" echoed May.
"Something wrong at Disko?" asked Harry worriedly.
Sirius shook his head and handed Harry a newspaper. The front page depicted a scene of absolute devastation.
"A late night explosion rocked a small town of Asemwald, south of Stuttgart Germany," Harry read without comprehension. He looked up at Sirius in confusion, then he read some more. He noted that traces of explosives had been found that proved they came from the lucrative black market for former soviet military hardware.
He glanced up at Sirius finally, waiting for some kind of explanation.
"Asemwald is where the first German dragon power plant is being built," Sirius explained. "Only one person, a night watchman, was killed, but millions of pounds of damage has been done to building equipment and the site. And the night watchman wasn't killed by any explosion."
"How was he killed then?" demanded Hermione.
Sirius shrugged. "The muggles don't know why he died. The German Magical Ministry snuck into the morgue with a forensic healer who determined he died from a killing curse. Also the site security cameras failed just moments before the explosion, which all points to wizards behind this attack."
"Wizards wouldn't care about a dragon power station. Even if they were trying to disrupt their ministry, blowing up a power plant wouldn't have much of an effect on them," Harry said slowly. He moved away from the others and put his hands in his pockets. One of his feet toed idly against the thinning grass. The others were silent, watching him as he thought it through. Finally he looked up at them. "Wizards would not care enough about a dragon power station to destroy it. They might have used explosives, but someone asked or paid for them to attack that target. The key question would be have any wizarding targets been attacked using muggle explosives? I think the odds are very good that someone paid them to do their dirty work and any other targets are just to sow confusion."
Sirius stared at Harry in astonishment and Harry glared back at him. "What? Four years of politics and diplomacy tutoring shouldn't shock you that I can think things through. If someone is deliberately targeting dragon power stations, and or their construction sites, then we need to figure out how to protect them. Those power stations are our key to making dragon-kind a crucial resource for humanity," Harry said with a touch of anger.
Sirius took a step backwards and held up a placating hand. "Easy Harry, I think you're right, I'm just surprised you came to the same conclusion as both the PM's office and the German magical ministry. And you had less information to work on."
"So what do we do about it?" asked May.
Harry shrugged. "We could post dragons at the construction sites like we used to post them at the schools. And we may still do that, but I think for now, the smartest move would be to ward the sites to prevent portkeys and apparations."
"Maybe they could be tied into some kind of alarm that would alert us to send in some riders to investigate or we could alert the authorities," suggested Hermione. Despite her attending muggle university, her second favorite hobby was tinkering with spell creation. Had she stayed in the wizarding world Harry knew she could have become one of the greatest spell creators of all time. Now it seemed she was destined for her own greatness in the legal arena.
Harry nodded absently, then his head turned to face his dragon. "Cheki, are the other Weyrleaders still at Disko?"
"All of them but Maziang Harry," Cheki replied. "Lobsang left early because his wife's father is ill."
Harry nodded, Lobsang had married the daughter of one of the village elders who then later impressed her own dragon. Lobsang had worked wonders with Maziang, bringing in trailer homes to replace the mud and wood huts the villagers once used, and now they boasted two of the largest portable power stations which provided power for the tiny community. Unfortunately the one thing they didn't have was access to modern medicine unless they flew it in.
Four of Maziang's riders were attending university in Japan with the intention of becoming doctors, but for now, they relied on magical healing which could do a lot, but not heal everything. Unfortunately in this case, Lobsang's father-in-law had an illness which resisted magical treatment.
"Very well, please inform all Weyrleaders and their seconds that we need to meet tonight at twenty hundred Disko time. I'll send an email to Lobsang after the meeting outlining what we discussed and what decisions we came to," Harry said.
There were two operational dragon powered power plants now in China and another six under construction. The Chinese quickly realized the value of such plants and we putting them up as fast as they could divert the materials and manpower from other projects. Harry would have to warn the Chinese that the construction sites and operational plants would need protection.
The Special Committee for State Security, The Kremlin, January 3rd 2001...
"This new president of the United States makes claims to being a militaristic hawk despite his lack of actual combat experience. Unlike his father, this president is untested and unproven in combat. I suggest caution in dealing with him. It had been months since his election and we still don't have a good idea of how he'll react, so for now I will say his actions will be unpredictable," concluded the Minister of Foreign affairs.
The men around the table listened intently to the Foreign minister. These men thought they were the true masters of Russia, among them were leaders in politics, banking, and government. The group had been assembled shortly after the final collapse of communism at the behest of Mishka Danakov. Individually each member was very wealthly, but their real power lay in the control they exercised over the Russian government. And Danakov controlled the President of the committee, who also held the title of Prime Minister of Russia.
"Excellent briefing Dimitri," said the President Putin. "Does anyone have anything they wish to add on this topic?"
"I ask that we increase our intelligence gathering staff in Washington and New York to find out more about this new leader," said the Minister of Foreign affairs.
Mishka Danakov nodded in agreement, his Federal Security Service had only gotten stronger and more effective thanks to his inclusion of a small group of highly trained wizards. Sending a few wizards to dig out information about the new American president would be easy, and best of all, no one would ever remember speaking to anyone about him.
"I will see to it," Danakov said softly.
"I have one other item I would like to bring up today," offered the Foreign Minister.
"Go ahead Dimitri," replied the President.
"As you know we have been talking with select nations who belong to OPEC about the threat the dragons pose to our economies. Iran and Iraq have openly said they would fire upon any dragon that enters their airspace. Saudi Arabia hasn't made any such public declaration but they are openly unfriendly to the Weyrs and have asked that no dragon overfly their territory. I am told they have started to collect intelligence on the closest Weyrs to them. Regretably there are no Weyrs that they can easily reach without help from another nation. Publicly they are opposed to any dragon involvement in thier affairs, locally or internationally. The Weyrleader has placed them on their prohibited list, like us."
Several of the men around the room chuckled at that. Russia didn't need dragon products and survived for centuries without them, so being placed on some list meant little to them.
Dimitri paused and took a deep breath. "I can't say for certain, but I am starting to believe that some among the Saudi government are in favor of a premptive strike against the Weyrs."
"That is madness," exclaimed the Energy minister, "they will bring down the wrath of the other western nations on them."
"No, they won't," replied the foreign minister calmly. "The Weyrs have claimed that they are above national politics. An attack on a Weyr is not an attack on the nation that it resides in. They are automonous territories. Still, an attack on a Weyr is something that would need to be handled most delicately. It would be perhaps best if we can draw the beasts into international air space rather than risk an escalating conflict with thier host nation."
The President of the council rapped his knuckles against the table to catch their attention. Once they were silent he turned to the Foreign Minister. "Dimitri, just what is it you are proposing?"
The Foreign Minister looked around the room. "At the moment nothing except to wait and watch. However, if our situation continues to worsen and we expect that it will, then perhaps an attack against the Weyrs by several nations would be prudent. After all, the Saudis lack the ability and reach that we have. They might be able to covertly hit one or two Weyrs that are rumored to be in North Africa, but that's it. If it came down to attacking the Weyrs, shouldn't Russia lead the way? We can reach many more Weyrs than the Saudis can, and we have many allies that would allow us to overfly their territories."
Danakov scowled heavily he knew an attack on the Weyrs would most likely embroil the wizards who still needed the products that only the Weyrs could provide.
"Mishka? You disagree?" asked the President.
"No, not entirely, but I do urge caution. This is a dangerous path and it should not be taken lightly. A slight misstep and we'd be involved in a world war," he replied. He wasn't against the idea, but he wanted more time to consider the risks and figure out if it was worth doing.
The president nodded. "Caution yes, I think we need to move slowly and carefully. I am uncertain we are able to mount an offensive wouldn't lead to a larger conflict," he said, then he turned to the defense minister.
The heavyset man swallowed and took a sip of his tea, the medals on his jacket clinked together as he moved. He looked around slowly, meeting the eye of all twenty members before continuing. "Comrades," he said, startling them by using one of the 'forbidden' words. He smiled slyly, "We all know the reason for our special committee. Returning Russia to the Soviet way has always been our goal and I for one will at least, here, use proper language."
He paused and took another sip. "So Comrades, our military is still very strong, but are we strong enough to take on NATO or the Americans? No, not today. Give me a few years to build up forces and get them trained and you'll be able to attack these dragons with inpunity."
"So," said the President. "Several years from now, assuming we can find the money to build up our strength. I suggest we warn our Saudi friends to be cautious and patient for now. They are not alone, but if they move precipitiously they will be on their own. If they want our help, they will have to wait while we prepare."
The Foreign minister nodded.
"Mishka, how fares your efforts?" asked the President.
"We have managed to cause delays at several construction sites. Rumor has it that the construction sites will soon be guarded by dragons. I have instructed our people to find other ways of slowing their construction. We have also infiltrated several trade unions and hope to add to the disruptions by causing tension among the workers."
Danakov paused and lit a cigarette before continuing. "Most of Europe still have communist parties that we have been able to influence at least to a small degree. Unfortunately when we changed ah... governments they came to view us as traitors to the revolution and no longer fully trust us."
"Yes, a daunting task indeed. Please keep at it Mishka," said the President, then he turned back to his agenda for this meeting.
Danakov nodded to the man who he was secretly controlling. No one on the committee knew it, but the Prime Minister of Russia was merely a puppet for the Russian Ministry of Magic.
Campbeltown Weyr, Kitchen Hall, January 10th 2001...
The hall was packed to overflowing! One long table held Harry and all of the Weyr council, plus a few special guests. Around the room members of the kitchen staff and the elves were running a steady stream of food and drinks out to those present.
The girls of the Weyr had taken to decorating the hall for this special occasion. It hadn't been easy but they had managed to locate many photographs of Sir Robert throughout his lifetime. Now those photos hung from one wall along with a hand drawn timeline spanning nearly fifty years of scientific accomplishments.
After the final course had been served, Harry stood. He glanced at the group of Weyr musicians who were setting up in one corner and figured they needed about ten more minutes.
Harry waved to catch the hall's attention and he nodded to Dobby who signaled the elves to make sure everyone had a full glass. The hall fell silent as the elves rushed around to refill thier glasses.
"This is a special moment," he said to the silent assembly. "I do not want to see Sir Robert leave us. He was key to getting the British government to accept us. Unfortunately time stands still for no man, and Sir Robert wants to spend his retirement working on his memoirs and relaxing."
Harry paused and glanced towards the elder scientist. "Sir Robert, I know that you have only spent a few brief years with us, but I am going to be biased and say that I think the years you spent at the Weyr were the most important."
Harry turned to Remus. "Remus, if you will?"
Remus grinned and stood up. He reached under the table and pulled out a large plaque that contained a bronze casting of a dragon in flight.
"Sir Robert in appreciation of all that you have done for us, the dragons decided that you should be enrolled in our lists as an honorary dragon rider. Your name will be entered in our roles and we want you to know that you can call on us anytime, anywhere. You are one of us."
Remus passed the large plaque to Sir Robert who was grinning widely. Then Remus handed him a small envelope. Curious, Sir Robert opened it and read the small note, then he looked at Harry in astonishment. "Really?" he exclaimed.
Harry stood back up and nodded to Sir Robert. "For those of you that do not know, we have just told Sir Robert that his youngest great grandson has been found on search and if he wants, he will be presented at impression after he turns fifteen in two years."
The hall broke out in cheers and Sir Robert looked down, moved by the unexpected response. James leaned closer to Sir Robert and said, "What did I tell you? They may not all understand you, but they all appreciate you."
Sir Robert used his napkin to wipe at his eyes. "I must have some dust in my eye," he muttered. He was pleased and surprised when he was told that the Weyr wanted to hold a dinner in his honor, but he never expected this kind of response.
Harry held up a hand and waited for the hall to quiet down again, then he raised his glass. "Sir Robert, we hate to see you go but we hope you have a long and peaceful retirement. And I won't mention the betting pool that has you taking up some kind of research within the first week," he said, then he glanced at Lee who was running the pool.
The hall broke up into laughter and Sir Robert smiled. "Actually dear boy there are a few things I wanted to look into now that I'll have some free time."
Harry chuckled and raised his glass. "To Sir Robert, rider, dragon friend and citizen of Campbeltown Weyr!"
Over five hundred people stood and raised their glass. "To Sir Robert!" Outside the hall a thousand dragons trumpetted in approval for the Master Smith.
Harry took a drink and glanced over at Sir Robert who was wiping at his eyes once again. He waited until the hall settled down once more. "As we say farewell and good flying to Sir Robert, we also welcome Sir Stanley Scott who will take over for Sir Robert. One of Sir Robert's last duties to his Weyr was to explain to Sir Stanley about magic which no doubt came as quite a shock."
Harry motioned for Doctor Scott to say something and the man slowly rose to his feet. He was a tall man with a medium build and grey hair at his temples. He was younger than Sir Robert by decades but his own scientific record was no less stellar.
"Thank you Weyrleader," he said, looking a bit uncomfortable. "Filling in the shoes of Sir Robert March is by no means an easy task and I admit that when you first offered me the position I thought I wasn't qualified or capable of replacing Sir Robert. It was Sir Robert himself that convinced me that I could contribute to the Weyr and dragonkind. He made me see what unique opportunities exist thanks to the dragons."
He glanced over at Dobby who stood nearby watching Harry to see if he needed anything. "Sir Robert introduced me to Chekiath, and his good friend Dobby. Never in my life had I expected to interact with another intelligent species let alone two species, so you can imagine it was a very interesting first conversation."
Dobby turned a darker green with his blush. His conversation with the scientist was one he'd never forget. The man was nearly as curious about elves as Harry was.
"I can't say for certain that Sir Robert is right in his assessment that I can fill his shoes, but I will try my best to do right by the dragons and the Weyr. I hope that each of you will take time in the coming months to visit with me so that we can learn about each other. And to Sir Robert I'll add my own best wishes for a restful and happy retirement."
Sir Stanley sat to applause from the riders and Sir Robert leaned closer to him and shook his hand.
Harry leaned back in his chair and mentally checked off several items from his list. Sir Robert leaving the Weyr was a loss, but one that they could weather. Sir Stanley would be a chief scientist and Harry had promised him that the Weyr would help fund his personal research.
Unlike Sir Robert who had been on the government payroll all this time, Sir Stanley assumed the position of chief of Research for Dragon Services Ltd. It was just minor step in Harry's grand plan to wean the Weyr off government reliance.
The only real surprise was Narcissa Malfoy sliding neatly into the slot of execute assistant to Sir Stanley. In a way Narcissa had found the power and respect she had wanted, via a muggle scientist and the dragons. Narcissa had found her place and it wasn't one that Harry was going to deny her because it was a role that needed to be filled and one that she had earned.
Author's notes and Mockeries:
* Well we've reached that point in the chapter where we pull out the tazer and zap people. Unfortunately last chapter left people in two distinct camps. We heard from the people unhappy about Kirteth, and people wondering what Michel was up to. You guys didn't leave me with much material to mock I'm afraid, but I will anyway!
* Guest215, no, we will not equip the dragons with sidewinder missiles. Now go away.
* Lianis181 I too am puzzled by the people that seem compelled to spit back canon at people so you're not alone.
* Stargater69, thank you for that image. The idea of putting Carlos the Gerbil into a hampster ball was funny. Sadly we have other plans for Carlos and they don't include a people sized hampster ball.
* For those who asked, Chapman was not under any kind of spell. Since the ICW flexed its muscles and cause the fall of the Italian and Greek ministries, few countries want to openly risk encurring their wrath. Even Russia, as seen here in this chapter is reluctant to act by itself.
* And that brings us to another issue. Russia is one of the agressor nations in this tale. Suck it up and live with it because it's not about to change at this point. That isn't to say there won't be others, but they will be leading the parade. So do not complain to me that your country would never act out against another nation because I do believe there are a number of people in the Ukraine that might disagree with you.
And strangly enough, I picked Russia long before they started acting up. Maybe I should take over for Slyvia Brown?
* Joshua the Evil Guy left a HUGE review with a ton of questions and then he fell on his sword by admitting that he skips the disclaimers. At that point I felt it was okay to skip his questions. :) Sorry Josh. I will also add that Josh probably skips these author's notes because I have answered some of his questions already in previous author's notes.
* A few people questioned why Kirteth suicided. What some fail to understand is that the bond between rider and dragon is so intense, someone like Chapman, who was having a break of reality would have totally scrambled his dragon's thought processes as well. It was well known on Pern that very few riders survived the death of thier dragons, and something like a mating flight could cause totally irrational behavior on the part of the rider. That's canon and not something I pulled out of my hat.
* KB0 has a wonderful little cross over called Harry Potter: Telly Tubby... er, no, that's not right. Harry Potter: Avenger. Look him up in the search and give it a read. Tell him I sent ya over and that I said he needs to bring back Sirius if for no other reason than to annoy Fury. Sirius could be Agent Furry!
"Director Fury! Agent Furry is calling!"
Sorry, but sometimes I crack myself up.
* Finally I would like to warn people that Colonel Michel is not a big bad guy. He is a cog in a machine so don't obsess too much over him. The fact is we won't see him again. Michel is a symptom of a larger problem that hasn't been revealed yet.
* And finally, finally (For real!). Shadow315, please return to your car, you left the lights on!