The man, who introduced himself as Captain Sutton, stood watch over them as dozens of people raced about Messoria's side and slowly peeled away part of the harness. Harry couldn't help but think that the harness was uncomfortable, wrapped about every part of the older dragon's body as it was. And the people leaping without care all over her body…did she feel it? Or did it only tickle, her being so much more massive than they were?
Captain Sutton gave Tom a suspicious look before bending down and looking Harry right in his eyes. His shadow fell over Harry's face and Harry opened his eyes a bit wider, fighting back the urge to sigh in relief.
"How old are you, Harry?" Captain Sutton asked.
Harry's eyes opened a little wider in shock before snapping his head so fast toward Tom that his neck muscles burned in protest. Telling the man that he was fifteen, soon to be sixteen, would not be a good idea. He didn't know how fast dragons aged. His size, if compared to Messoria, was that of a baby dragon, something that seemed confirmed by how he was addressed as a 'dragonet.'
Tom opened his mouth to jump in with what was likely a brilliant answer, filling Harry's heart with hope, before Captain Sutton interrupted. "I asked Harry, not you."
Tom raised his eyebrows and sighed. Harry turned his head back to Captain Sutton, closing his eyes as he raced through his possible options. The dragon eggs back in…their world had been rather large, but he looked bigger than that. He didn't know the speeds that dragons grew at… so maybe he would be believed if he confessed to being a month old?
"A month," Harry said, rearranging himself in Tom's arms so that he could strike out with his talons if necessary. Captain Sutton's eyes widened for a split second before his expression cleared, settling into a blank mask.
"I see. How long have you known your companion?"
"I've known Tom a month."
"Where did you two meet?"
"That is none of your business," Tom interjected.
Captain Sutton raised his eyebrows. "I do believe it is. Where did you get Harry? He is obviously a foreign dragon, but speaks perfect English, from what I have heard so far. You have come by him in the egg, which is a subject of great interest to us."
"I found him," Tom said, shifting his stance.
"Does he know any other languages?" Captain Sutton asked, looking into Harry's face again.
"Yes," Harry said without thinking. Parseltongue was a language, after all. Tom's fingers dug into his sides.
"Oh?" Captain Sutton said. "Would you please demonstrate?"
"Alright," Harry said, turning to face Tom. "Sorry? But hey, at least they have an explanation for the hissing we were doing earlier."
"You will be the death of us both," Tom sighed. "There is no doubt about it. What will our story be? We both know a language that nobody else on this world will be able to speak. They seem to believe that you are a month old but they think I was near your nonexistent egg. They think you are foreign. What if your species does not exist here?"
"Then," Harry said, feeling a bit sheepish, "perhaps we can claim amnesia?"
"That," Captain Sutton said, "is a language?" Behind him, Messoria's large head loomed closer and tilted in curiosity.
"Does it have a name?" Messoria asked.
"We don't remember," Harry supplied, tilting his head to match Messoria's. Her eyes narrowed as they fixed upon his head.
"Well," Captain Sutton said, "in that case, perhaps we should bring you to the Admiral. He might know what to do with the likes of you two."
Harry's eyes roamed around the clearing where he had woken up as Tom began following the captain. Messoria was lounging in a smaller harness in a clearing large enough to fit two dragons of her size. In the distance, Harry could see a stone wall. The sun was beating down with a nice, warming heat but its light was too strong for Harry's eyes to handle. Based on his excellent vision in the near-dark of the warehouse they had found themselves in and in the darkness of Tom's robes, Harry's new form boasted amazing night vision. The amazing vision didn't extend toward daytime, considering the extent that Harry had to slit his eyes now. He doubtless looked ridiculous.
Captain Sutton led them to a large stone building. Harry could see a series of open doors that opened onto the street. That was likely where Tom had entered. Perhaps he thought it was a park? If not for the irregular gouges in the dirt clearing, a product of Messoria's recent landing, it would appear rather similar to one.
"You're lucky that he's here right now instead of in Aerial Command," Captain Sutton said, eyes flicking back and forth from their path to Tom.
"I guess we are," Tom said. His hands squeezing tighter on Harry's sides were Harry's only warning that Tom had an escape plan cooked up. The feeling of something cold dripping down Harry's head was a familiar sensation, even in this new body.
"Don't make a sound."
Harry held his breath, wary of Messoria being nearby. It was presumable that her hearing was at least as good as Harry's. There was nothing that they could do about their scent but perhaps it would be difficult enough to locate amidst the stink of the city that they could slip out undetected.
Tom streaked across the grass to the opening to the city that Harry had seen earlier. There was a cry behind them as Captain Sutton discovered their unexplainable disappearance, followed by the cracking of tree branches as Messoria reacted. They passed the first door with lightning speed, Tom's feet flying across the polished floor. The city grew nearer as they traveled through the hall and –
The door closed right in front of Harry and Tom. Tom ran right into it with a yelp, falling to the ground in a mess of limbs. Harry felt the Disillusionment charm fade in time with the loosening of Tom's arms. It took one look at Tom to realize that Tom – previously Voldemort, the Darkest Lord the Wizarding World had seen in hundreds of years – had been felled by a door. Harry was on his own.
Harry wriggled free of Tom's arms and perched over his body, baring his fangs at the approaching people. Front and center was Captain Sutton, looking bemused.
"I didn't even see him disappear. Did anyone?"
"No, I didn't," said a young boy, looking about the age of a typical first year. "But I thought I saw something shimmer in the air? Like when it gets really hot and the air above the road looks all strange."
"He's a suspicious one," Captain Sutton said. "Harry, would you please move away from Tom over there?"
"No," Harry said, digging his claws into Tom's shirt with a surge of possessiveness before he realized that such a movement was liable to end up injuring Tom. Letting go, he let out a threatening hiss.
"He's young," Captain Sutton said, looking over at Harry. He backed away and started talking with another one of the men there. Despite the hushed tones of their conversation, Harry found that he was able to hear it with amazing clarity if he focused on it.
"No harness," Captain Sutton said.
"Do you want me to make a makeshift one? I think we have some old ones around. Looking at him, he looks just out of the egg. They might fit."
"I know. I don't believe they've been together one month. Someone would have noticed by then."
"Do you think he'd allow himself to be harnessed? He seems attached to that boy…"
"I think you could manage. You would be a brilliant candidate. You're the most senior of my men. I'm sure the Admiral can agree that the earlier we separate them, the better. I'll tell one of the midshipmen to fetch some meat."
Captain Sutton turned around as the man left and called over another man, whispering instructions to get some meat. Harry perked up at the prospect of more meat – that was always desirable, he was coming to find – but Tom was important too. Tom could do wandless magic. He could be the very key to Harry being returned to his human form. Despite their previous animosity, Tom seemed to be alright when younger and lacking a multitude of bloodthirsty followers. He also seemed keen on keeping Harry nearby, something that Harry knew he should be suspicious about. However, since it matched his current wishes, Harry couldn't really find fault with Tom's weird attachment.
The scent of coppery blood wafted in through the open doors. One of the men had returned, holding a large pig. Another walked in, holding something leathery in his hands. The man with the leather harness grabbed the pig with one large hand before crouching and walking closer to Harry.
"Hello," the man said. He had brown hair and green eyes, looking in his late twenties. The pig in his left hand dangled, tantalizing drops of blood splattering against the shiny floor. Harry flicked out his tongue, taking in the flavors, but then let out a hiss as he realized that the man was a little over a meter away. He had drawn nearer while Harry wasn't paying attention.
Harry walked down Tom's legs, unfolding his wings with one rapid movement. He let his tail uncurl from his from his back leg, letting it lash in the air behind him.
"Don't get any closer." Harry's eyes dipped down to the pig before flicking up again, looking at the man's face. As if he was stupid enough to let that man tie him up like a common animal. Even…even if the man had food in his hands, which was calling to Harry's stomach, a monster that had again awoken, albeit with less intensity than before, Harry had heard all of their plans. From the way that they thought of things, it seemed as if harnessing was akin to possession. Maybe this world had magic after all? Perhaps the harnesses had some charms on them to confuse and subdue. Even worse, a variant of the Imperius curse, although Messoria's eyes had seemed clear.
"If you let me put this little thing on you, you can have this pig," the man said, shaking it a little bit so that more blood splattered the ground. "My name is Colin."
"That's nice," Harry said, "but I'd much appreciate it if you leave the pig here without any harnessing going on. I'm a bit attached to Tom, you see." He curled his talons into Tom's pant leg for emphasis, careful this time to only hook the fabric.
"I can't do that," Colin said, giving a sheepish grin. "But I'm good with harnesses and I can make it fast. You won't even notice."
"I'm sure I will," Harry said dryly. "I'll keep sitting on Tom until he wakes up or you try to drag me away. I assure you that I'm very good with all of these claws. Also, my teeth are helpfully sharp."
"There won't be any dragging away going on," Colin said.
"That's what you say but as I take it, you're not the one in charge."
"Would you rather someone else spoke to you?"
Harry gave a laughing hiss. "Tom's pretty good at talking. I'll wait for him."
Colin stayed there for about half an hour, cajoling Harry with the pig. By then, the floor around Colin had become liberally covered in blood. Harry almost pitied the floors – they were very shiny and nice. They were sure to stain. To Harry's delight, the blood had ran its way down a few lines in the floor and if he stretched his neck, keeping a wary eye on Colin, he could lap at it at his leisure. Colin sighed in disappointment and backed away, Captain Sutton looking quite upset. Next to him was another man who had a number of shiny medals pinned onto his outfit. Harry supposed that was the Admiral. He had arrived five minutes into Colin's attempted harnessing and watched without saying a word.
As Colin gave his report to Captain Sutton, the Admiral began walking closer. Harry, who had relaxed a bit, shot to his feet and spread his wings again.
The Admiral raised his hands. "I'm just here to talk."
"I don't think so," Harry said. "You all seem adamant that I let myself be trussed up and separated from Tom and I'm not planning to do that anytime soon."
"I admit that was a bit presumptuous of us. You look like a hatchling and the lack of harness made us assume that you were a feral of some kind."
"I thought I made it clear early on that Tom was my human," Harry said, fighting the urge to giggle – something he was unsure he could do – at calling Tom a human. He wasn't sure how long he'd been asleep but less than a day ago, Tom had been Voldemort, who had possessed a rather serpentine appearance himself.
"We won't separate you now," the Admiral said. "I just have a few questions. And for introductions, I'm Admiral Bowden. Are you citizens of Britain? Your speech is a bit strange."
"Of course we are. And I think your speech sounds strange."
"Captain Sutton mentioned that you speak some strange language? Both of you?"
"Ah that," Harry said, casting his mind about for an idea. "I always knew how to speak it. So did Tom." It was the truth, after all. Whenever Tom woke up, the lazy bugger that he was, he could figure out how to explain it. Harry felt a bit guilty for the slip but at the very least it was a good point he could argue in case they continued wanting to take Tom away.
"Could you demonstrate?" Admiral Bowden asked. "I'm a fair hand with languages."
Harry tilted his head but complied. "I think that the chances of you understanding what I'm saying right now are as big as a Blast-Ended Skrewt winning a chess match against Ron."
"Fascinating," the Admiral Bowden said. "I'm afraid that we don't let dragons fly about Britain as they wish. From here on out, you have three choices. You can become a dragon of Her Majesty's Aerial Corps. With…or without your Tom. The other choice you have is to join the breeding grounds."
Harry's jaw fell open. Breeding grounds? A shiver grew in his neck and trembled all the way down his spine, his wing claws clacking against each other. There was no way that he would go anywhere named like that. He was a human! His draconic form was temporary. There was no way that he would permit himself to be used like an animal… for breeding.
Could he escape? Probably not. He was always hungry and the world appeared to be pretty modern. Modern enough to have little unexplored areas within easy reach where Harry could hole up with Tom until they fixed their current predicament. That left joining the army. The Aerial Corps, to be more specific. Well, Harry had been in the middle of another war back home. At least in this world he wasn't some prophesized chosen hero assigned to take down a single, terrible foe. And if he agreed to go with Tom, they might be able to make their escape or figure out how to get home in the meantime. When narrowed down to that, the choice was obvious.
"I think Tom and I would like to join the Aerial Corps, then," Harry said.
"Would you agree to let another, more experienced person be the Captain? Tom could stay on your crew."
Harry narrowed his eyes and gave his best dragon glare at the Admiral, who sighed. "Alright, he'll be your captain."
"Then we have an agreement," Harry said. "Could I get that pig now?"
Tom came to awareness in bits and pieces. The sound of voices echoed above his head, which radiated a horrible pain around his forehead. He felt his pants stick to his skin, wet. Next, when he cracked open his eyes, he saw a black scales and one Avada Kedavra green eye.
"You're awake. Finally."
"What happened?" Tom asked, sitting up and bringing a hand to his forehead.
"I wouldn't touch that if I were you," Harry said, late, as Tom let out a pained hiss as his hand touched the tender skin.
Tom glared at Harry who managed to look innocent, tail curled around his legs. "What happened?" he repeated.
"Your escape plan was going brilliantly until you, Dark Lord Extraordinaire, were defeated by the might of a wooden door."
"Brat," Tom hissed, looking around. They appeared to be in a large room. Tom was on a bed in one corner. In the corner across from him stood a wardrobe and a table; to the left was a door.
"It's locked." Harry said. "I might have snuck a chicken or two while you were sleeping away. I don't believe they expected me to know how to work doors. I'm not letting on that I can handle windows just fine as well."
"Have you always been such a glutton?"
"That is – that was – more Ron's thing. But I'm feeling hungry all the time right now."
"Care to explain the situation? Based on their insistence that I am a dragon thief, I expected to be somewhere different. Like a prison."
"Well," Harry said, ducking down and resting his head on his front legs, "I might have been coerced into joining the army. And you too."
Tom stared. Brilliant.
Harry shifted onto his belly, managing to make himself look smaller. "I may have reacted a bit when one of the options they gave me was a one-way trip to Britain's…breeding grounds."
"I was rather hoping that you could do some more wandless magic and get us out and free. The window isn't locked; I checked."
Tom raised an eyebrow at that. Well, they were in this ridiculous situation together. A human-turned-dragon and the almost-Dark Lord of all Britain, now forced to become soldiers. He might as well put his cards on the table if they were going to be forced to work together.
"It is a bit more complicated than that. I…do not have magic anymore."
"You're a Muggle?" Harry said, sitting up. His large green eyes widened until they looked very bug-like.
"No. I do not possess magic…but you do. And I can use it."
"What?" Harry stared at him. "I have magic? And what do you mean, I can use it?"
"When I touch you, I can feel magic flowing in. And if I gather enough, I can use it."
Harry flopped back down, shuffling his wings. "Ah. Is it because I'm a dragon and dragons are magical creatures? Or something like that?"
"That is likely, yes. It does not gather very fast, however. And," Tom said, thinking, "if we stay here until we can investigate the specifics, we can find out more information about this world."
"I didn't think about that. Also, I can hear someone coming." Harry said, flipping over onto his side.
Tom slipped off the bed, holding back a grimace when the wetness he had detected earlier turned out to be yet more bloodstains. There was a knock on the door followed by the clink of a key turning.
"Hello," a man said. "Oh, you're awake?"
Tom stared at him until the man laughed. "Of course you're awake. Anyways, Messoria has been cleared to ferry you two to the Loch Laggan covert. It's the best place to train you two up."
"Carry me," Harry said, stretching one wing and throwing an imperious look at Tom.
Tom raised an eyebrow. "Why would I do that?"
"It's only fair," Harry said with a flick of his tail. "I think that when I get bigger I'm going to be expected to carry you around."
Tom closed his eyes. It would not do to make a fuss now in front of an audience. He wasn't sure what would happen if they acted like enemies under a reluctant truce around people who they had convinced of their attachment to each other. He stood and picked up Harry, wondering why he was so light despite his sizeable bulk. Something related to his being able to fly? Tom made sure to express his displeasure at being a carry-mule by squeezing Harry in his arms tighter than he should have. Harry's tail slapped him across the face in response.
The man turned around and Tom followed him out of the room, walking through a long hallway and down a set of stairs until they reached the same hall that Tom remembered running through during his escape attempt. They walked through a set of open doors and into the first clearing, housing Messoria, the yellow and white dragon. She was covered with the same extensive harness again, people scurrying over her like ants.
Captain Sutton walked up to the man, who nodded and raced towards the dragon, leaping onto her foreleg. Captain Sutton looked at Tom, eyes wary. "You're not going to give us any more trouble?"
"No sir," Tom said, feeling like he had traveled back in time to his school years. Sutton could be Albus Dumbledore with the amount of disapproval he could feel in his eyes.
"Here," Captain Sutton said, throwing Tom a mass of leather. "Put the simpler one on yourself and the other one on your dragon. It's to keep you from falling off."
Tom looked at the captain, realizing that he was wearing a leather harness of his own. He put down Harry and put on the harness handed to him, sending a few covert glances at the other men bustling about to ensure that he did everything right. When he finished, he picked up the second harness and started buckling it onto Harry.
"I'm not happy about this," Harry called, turning his head in Captain Sutton's direction, who gave a grin before looking at Tom with a speculative look. Tom ignored him, making sure the harness was on and adjusted. When they finished, they both were directed onto the dragon and clipped onto the harness.
"Mind your claws," Messoria said before lifting onto her back legs and flapping her wings. Tom held onto the spike in front of him, a sudden distrust of the flimsy harness he was wearing flaring up.
"All lies well," Messoria said, landing on four legs again. Then, her back dipped into a crouch and her wings lifted. With the sound of snapping cloth, her wings were brought down and she jumped into the air.
Hours later, Harry noticed the sound of incoming wings. Captain Sutton began barking orders and a series of colorful flashes of flags was coordinated. He picked his way back to Tom, having stretched the leash of his harness as taunt as he could. The long flight had been brilliant and informative. Below Messoria, Harry had seen assorted small towns and a lot of countryside. It wasn't just London transported back in time and sideways into an alternative universe – it appeared to be all of Britain.
Harry had spent most of his time either talking strategy with Tom in Parseltongue, something that had been a subject of much interest to the other men strapped onto Messoria, or wandering forward to get a better view. He heard a vast amount of speculative talk from the rest of the crew. A big question was discussing what breed of dragon Harry was. One of the midshipman started a betting pool for which nation his breed belonged to. So far, the bets were on Chinese or a secret new French cross. From what Harry gathered, almost every country in the world had dragons in some form or another. When the betting winded down, another popular subject of discussion was Tom, who appeared to be causing jealousy of various kinds among the crew. Dragons, Harry found, were very valuable. Being a dragon's captain was a much desired position. Harry preened a little bit before realizing that under that logic, he belonged to Tom. That little thought had caused him to forsake Tom's presence for the time being.
"We're almost here," a nearby midshipman called. Harry climbed back into Tom's arms, filled with smug satisfaction that Tom hadn't even protested. Messoria tilted and Harry got his first proper view of Loch Laggan.
There was a large courtyard in which dozed several mounds of multicolored lumps that Harry discerned were actually made up of dozens of dragons. A series of buildings was scattered around it in a semicircular formation. A lake lay not too far from the courtyard as well. The ground was inclined, creating a large hill near the buildings. The whole vista was almost ethereal, lit by the silvery light of the moon. Night had fallen about an hour ago, allowing Harry to open his eyes without pain for the first time.
"You look like a bug with those eyes of yours."
"I am so hurt, Tom. If you'd thrown a comment like that in the graveyard, I would have surrendered on the spot."
"Your snark is not appreciated."
"Neither are your comments." Harry poked his head past Tom's neck, watching as the ground drew nearer. Tom's hands let go of him to grab onto a spike in front of him, leaving Harry to dig his talons into Tom's clothing again. His robe was a disaster by now, something that gave Harry a sense of satisfaction. It was all bloody and poked with holes. Even if touching it wasn't very nice, it must have been worse for Tom to be the one wearing it.
With a loud thud, Messoria landed upon the stones of the courtyard, folding onto the ground with a tired sigh. The crew jumped off, sliding down her sides to the ground. Captain Sutton dodged a few spikes and walked up to them, sticking out a hand to help Tom up. Tom took it, lurching to his feet. Captain Sutton ducked down and with a clink, Harry felt the leather of his harness loosen. A burst of excitement rose in Harry's chest and his wings fluttered. Harry bunched up his muscles and leapt off of Tom's chest, spreading his wings, which unfolded and caught the air with a smooth grace, as if Harry had always known how to fly. He glided down to the courtyard, landing with a bit of a stumble. Harry looked back toward Tom and hissed with mirth. Tom was out of sight and from the sound of the conversation, Harry's use of his chest as a springboard had caused him to fall down Messoria's side, saved only by his harness.
Harry walked a little away from Messoria, relishing in the heat of the stones under his feet. He eyed a nearby grey dragon, curled away from him, and flopped on the ground a few meters away from him. The urge to close his eyes and rest was overwhelming.
"Tom? Would you remove this bloody harness?"
"Not a chance in hell, brat!" came Tom's voice from the other side of Messoria.
Harry sighed and curled in a ball, stretching one wing over as much of his body as he could. It didn't take long for him to slip into sleep.
Tom ran through a whole litany of curses in his head, the urge to throw an Entrail-Expelling curse with the magic he had managed to collect from Harry tempting his patience. There were better uses for it. It appeared as if there was a limit to how much magic Tom could absorb at a time. There was enough for a few powerful curses or perhaps a dozen weak spells but no more. If he wanted to perform any complicated magic, he would have to be in constant contact with Harry. Tom scowled as his plan of sucking Harry dry of magic burst into flames.
Captain Sutton offered a hand. "Need some help?"
"No," Tom bit out, grabbing onto a few nearby leather straps and pulling himself perpendicular to the dragon's side. With a few careful changes of grip, he was able to right himself and unlatch his carabiner. He slid to the ground, noticing with shock how the ground appeared warm.
"Yeah, it's heated. That's why the dragons like it so much," Captain Sutton said, waving a hand toward a large collection of dragons, sleeping.
They came in all kinds of colors. There was a small one with orange and blue, a bunch of yellow-white ones like Messoria, and a smattering of brown ones splotched with purple. Tom could see other shapes in the dark, some of them so large that he couldn't believe that they were dragons. Tom eyed one of the more distant shapes, realizing that it was much larger than any dragon he remembered from back home.
Hearing Harry's question behind him, Tom scowled and snapped out a reply. Impertinent brat. If he wanted his harness off, he could do it himself.
"I'll escort you to the captain's quarters," Captain Sutton said, walking toward one of the nearest buildings. "Now, you'll have to be given rank. I want to warn you that many people won't be happy with that. I'll do the best I can but you can expect several people to try to win Harry's favor."
"That will not be a problem."
"If you're sure," Captain Sutton said, pointing out rooms as they walked by. "The mess hall…the kitchens…"
Tom filed away the information, ignoring the inquisitive looks from the few people that were still awake.
"You'll have to be put into classes, of course. Both Harry and you will have to take flag classes – they're essential for communication mid-battle. Tomorrow, I expect you'll be started on some of the basic educational classes. To make sure you know your numbers and letters; the necessary calculations and the rest. Celeritas will start with Harry and put him through his paces. To get an idea of his flying style, you see. Since we don't know Harry's breed, we'll get a few people to come by as well to take his measurements. To make sure that we have everything correct…he's not a month old, am I right?"
Tom's lips thinned. "No. Hatched today." That was accurate enough, he supposed. Their travel had ended today. He didn't know how long they had been en-route and when the change had occurred... but it mattered little. The captain had admitted to not knowing Harry's breed anyway.
"You won't be on active duty for a while. Harry will have to grow a bit before he can even carry you. I suspect that in a few months you might be in shape to carry out patrols, at the very least."
"Yes. The French have been right irritating lately. Sending Fleur-de-Nuits across the channel to scout. Your dragon looks like a night-flyer, with those big eyes of his. He would be helpful for keeping watch. Might even be sent on scout duty sometimes to return the favor."
The captain stopped and opened a door at the end of a long hallway. "Here are your quarters. We'll come by for you in the morning and we'll get you started. Assign a crew as well."
"Thank you," Tom said, the words feeling bitter on his tongue. It had been years since he had spoken them to anyone with any level of sincerity.
"You're welcome. Good night," Captain Sutton said, turning around and striding back down the long hallway.
The lightening of the sky caused Harry to wake. As the sun eased out from behind the surrounding hills, rays of light began to dance in Harry's eyelids. He tried to ignore them, extending his wing even further for shade, but the light wasn't muted enough to provide relief. After adjusting the position of his wing a dozen times, Harry gave up on sleeping and got up, shaking again on new legs.
It was still early morning but the courtyard was active, people running around carrying all sorts of materials and dragons curled around each other, in conversation. Harry looked next to him where he had fallen asleep during the night and found that the grey dragon he remembered was gone. He looked around, feasting his eyes on the great variety of dragons now visible through slitted lids. A large dragon, red and burnished gold, was off in the distance, a veritable mountain of Gryffindor colors. The courtyard had a number of dragons much like Messoria as well as a decent number of brown and purple ones, much smaller in size. Harry also saw a dragon covered in a mass of spikes that reminded him of the Hungarian Horntail he'd fought the year before in the Triwizard Tournament.
"Hello there! Who are you?" called a cheerful voice.
Harry turned around and saw a small brown and purple dragon walking toward him. "I'm Harry. And you are?"
"Oh, I'm Parvus," the dragon chirped. "Are you new? You're so small. Did you just hatch?"
"Yeah, I'm new," Harry said, shifting his weight as a few dragons turned their heads.
"I've never seen a dragon like you before," Parvus said. "I'm a Winchester."
"To be honest, I don't know what I am either."
"That's alright," a new voice said. A small blue dragon with orange wingtips walked up, long wings trailing on the ground. "I'm Lily. I hatched a little while ago too. I'm not the youngest anymore!"
"Is there any food?" Harry asked. His stomach-monster had made a reappearance.
"Yeah, any minute now," Parvus said. "But since you're the smallest, you might have to wait a little bit."
"Wait?" Harry said. "That's not fair."
"Can't do anything about it yet," Lily said. "I can get a place in the middle because I can spit acid. I can't wait until I'm larger."
"Easy for you to say," Parvus said, huffing. "I'm not going to get any bigger."
"Can you do anything interesting?" Lily asked, tilting her head. "If you can, you might be able to get your food earlier. Can you breathe fire, maybe?"
"Not sure," Harry said. He took a deep breath and then blew it out with as much force as he could muster. To his dismay, the only projectile he could claim was a large glob of spit.
"Tough luck," Lily said. "Oh, we can go eat now."
Parvus and Lily lifted their wings, waiting for Harry. Harry lifted his wings too and leapt into the air, relishing the feeling of the wind. He had always felt at home on a broom but now…it was somehow better. He was his own broom. He wasn't relying on charms. Nothing but his own power.
Parvus and Lily winged ahead, tilting and turning past the lake. Harry followed them, seeing several large dragons swoop down over a field, plucking up cows and pigs with ease before flying back. Lily dove down along with a few yellow-white dragons, snatching up a large pig. Parvus turned in circles, watching the feasting dragons.
"All the nicest food gets taken," Parvus complained, eyes dancing around the field. "Come on, we can go now."
Harry folded his wings in and dove to the ground, eyes fixed on a pig that looked similar in size to the one he had yesterday. The wind rushed against him, a strong force, but Harry angled his wings a little more and his speed increased. He was just a few meters away when a young Winchester, much smaller than Parvus, swooped in low and plucked the pig right from under Harry. Harry gave a snarl that rumbled through his chest, adjusting his flight so that he was flying underneath the Winchester. His wings strained against the sharp change but held and his heightened speed allowed him to speed by the Winchester, and, with a twist, to grab onto the pig and rip it free of the Winchester's claws.
The Winchester gave a squawk of confusion followed by an angry bellow. Harry saw the Winchester's eyes lock onto his form, planning to give chase. Harry's heart raced in fear. The Winchester, while not full-size like Parvus, was still three times bigger than him. Slitted eyes searched out a copse of trees at the far side of the field. Destination set, Harry began pumping his wings at a frantic pace, gaining as much altitude as he could while weighed down by a pig his size. The Winchester behind him was just a little bit faster. In a matter of seconds, Harry was at the end of the field. Clutching the pig tighter in his claws, he dove for the trees, seeing a small gap through which he could fit. He pulled the pig closer to his belly, giving a wince when one of the pig's legs kicked him in the stomach. He angled his body as flat as he could and the wind began whistling by him as the gap in the trees grew nearer. The second his body passed the gap, Harry's wings snapped up and he began an aerial dance to avoid the branches in front of him. Behind him, he could hear a muffled curse as the Winchester crashed through the gap in the trees.
Flitting through a narrow gap between two trees, Harry brought his wings forward and crashed onto a tree branch. The pig gave a squeal that echoed through the forest. Harry hissed in irritation, biting at the back of its neck. The squealing died so Harry began tearing into it, eyes wide in the shade as he kept an eye out for the Winchester. It took no time at all for Harry to finish his meal. It was a bit surreal, killing for food. While some of Harry's dragon instincts were brilliant, like the ones that gave him instinctive understanding of how to fly, the other ones were a bit off-putting the more Harry thought about them. His fascination with blood was unnerving once his hunger had abated.
The feeling of blood slicking its way along his scales, cooling in the chilly air, prompted Harry to contort his long neck into fantastical shapes in an effort to cleanse it. The forest remained quiet, the Winchester long gone in search of easier prey. Harry arched his neck with pride. He had managed to best that Winchester despite it being many times his size. It appeared that his skill in flying was so far unrivaled, much like it was in his own world.
The air whipped at Harry's scales, which felt cool with his drying saliva. It didn't bother him much but he found himself humming in anticipation of the strange warm stones of the courtyard, however they were powered. His eyes raked the forest cover for an opening large enough to accommodate his wingspan and when one opening proved viable, Harry launched himself into the sky, flying much steadier now that he wasn't carrying a pig in his claws.
As Harry's eyes slitted again with the abrupt change from shady forest to sunny morning, he could hear Parvus calling out.
"That was brilliant!" Parvus leapt from the ground and flew over to Harry, circling. "You're nothing but a hatchling but you showed him up!"
"I know," Harry said, feeling proud. While he was never the best in magic – a title that belonged to Hermione – he could always count on himself to shine when it came to the air. It was the one point where he could excel, besides Defence. He wondered if it was possible to transfer his skill in Defence to this new, draconic body. According to Tom, he had magic in abundance. If only Hermione were here. She would have jumped at the chance to work it out.
"If only I could do that," Parvus said. "That dive was incredible! It must have hurt your wings."
"A little," Harry admitted, a mild ache twinging with every down stroke of his wings. After the adrenaline from the encounter had faded and his stomach began to warm, he was feeling the strain in every joint of the spines of his wings.
"Harry!" Lily called. Harry's head swerved, looking for the source of her voice. To his irritation, he was unable to pinpoint it.
"I'm right here!" Lily said, swooping lower. "I can't believe you did that."
"Well, I was hungry," Harry said, thinking back on how he had an unnatural talent for committing tasks way out of his range in age and skill. It was helping him even now – after the initial disorientation, he was adapting to his new body at an accelerated speed. Maybe he had always been intended to have wings.
Another voice broke in, wise and tinged with humor. "If you two inflate this hatchling's ego too much, he might never touch the ground again!"
"Celeritas!" Lily said, dipping her head. "We didn't notice you."
"It's important to be observant," Celeritas said, angling to the side. "Follow me, you three. My schedule is cleared for today and I want to look at you more closely, hatchling."
Harry followed after the golden yellow dragon, eyes roving over the pale green streaks across his wings that faded to white. The dragon flew with a steadiness that seemed as fluid as the sea, compared to Parvus's excited flapping and Lily's shaky glide. Harry turned his head and looked back at his wings. They also lacked the steadiness, although they were not as erratic as Parvus's. Watching the yellow dragon's smooth flying, Harry couldn't help but be reminded of Professor Lupin, who had exuded a similar calm air.
Celeritas glided to a landing on a rocky ledge that jutted out a several meters above the ground, at the back of the largest buildings in Loch Laggan. He turned to face them as they approached, but his eyes were fixed on Harry.
Lily glided in first, her large wings carrying her forward like the airplanes Harry had witnessed the few times the Dursleys had driven near the airport. When she was a few feet from the ground, she snapped them closed and touched to the ground. Parvus was similar, although his descent was more parabolic. He tilted his body back and touched to the ground with his back legs before dropping onto all four legs.
Harry realized that he was faced with a bit of a dilemma. The jump he had made off of Messoria's back was a glide at a slow speed from a tiny height that felt more like going down a few stairs than actual landing. His landing in the tree was more of a crash than anything, the pig feeling the full brunt of the damage. He had never made a proper landing and for once, his instincts seemed to desert him.
"Aren't you coming down?" Lily asked, folding her wings tighter to her body and shuffling away from the edge to give Harry a greater landing area.
"I…I don't know how," Harry said, wondering if his embarrassment would show through the scales on his face. "I crash-landed once."
Celeritas tilted his head. "I forgot; you are a hatchling. Most dragons cannot execute a perfect landing for at least a month. And all dragons improve their flying skills throughout their lives. I am Loch Laggan's dragon-trainer and I promise you that if you are doing something wrong, I will inform you so that you do not crash. Is that alright?"
"Sure," Harry said, flying a few more circles. It would be so much more convenient if he could hover in place but alas, his wings did not permit that.
"Looking at your wings," Celeritas said, "The way Parvus landed would suit you better. You should endeavor to come in from a steeper angle and then land on your feet. You do not have a Longwing's wings. Increase the speed of your wingbeats as you get closer to the ground and tilt your wings as if you are trying to fly backward."
Harry ran a mental plan through his head before nodding his assent. He rose a little higher in the air and tilted down. Almost without his conscious approval, his wings snapped in to his sides much like in his dive after the pig. He began to slice through the air, speed increasing at an exponential rate. His mind was frantic, yelling at him to flap backwards, to bring his wings out and slow himself down, but at the same time, it was whispering to him that this was it, this was right. He could hear a distant yelp of surprise and a panicked shout but his eyes were fixed upon the ground that he could see through his slitted eyelids. As he got closer and closer, he was reminded of Quidditch and his risky dives to the ground. A Wronski Feint, he remembered, but chasing after a Snitch that was not there.
The ground was close and Harry's wing's snapped out and angled, once again feeling the strain in his joints at a lesser degree. With a few flaps to fix his balance, his tail flashing down, he hovered over the ground for a split second before dropping onto it and hissing in irritation as his wings protested.
"Harry!" Parvus said, staring at him with wide eyes. "Why did you do that?"
"I'm not sure," Harry said, remembering how his mind blanked out to nothing but reassurances and memories of successful Quidditch dives.
"You're a natural diver," Celeritas said, walking over to Harry, looming over his comparatively miniscule form. "You have a strange wing shape. Perhaps that enables it."
Harry hummed, looking at his black wings with their whitish splotches. "So you don't know what kind of dragon I am?" It would have been nice to know, as Harry had never seen a dragon of his like back in his own world. He remembered the dragons from the Triwizard Tournament but he didn't look anything like them in color or the arrangement of his horns and spikes. He didn't look like Norbert either. But with the strangeness of the magic that he had fallen into as well as the strange potions that had fallen onto them, he thought that whatever his form was, it was strange. Nothing good came out of the Department of Mysteries, from what Harry had seen.
Speaking of the Department of Mysteries…where was Tom? Harry hadn't seen him since he had woken up and hunger had taken center stage, then new friends demanding his attention. What if Tom had been taken away? What if Captain Sutton didn't believe that he wanted Tom near him? Tom had magic now, at least when he was near Harry. Magic that could bring Harry back to his other form or bring them back to their other world, although Harry wasn't very keen on Tom reassuming his position as the Dark Lord. Tom could fix everything. He couldn't lose him. In an ideal world, everyone that Harry cared about would come over here to this strange, funny world and forget about the wizarding war. Isolated like he and Tom were…it would be perfect. But it would only happen if he knew where Tom was.
"I don't know what type of dragon you are, but it is obvious that you are made for the night. While not a recognizable Fleur-de-Nuit – French dragons that can see in the dark – you have night vision, something that Britain sorely lacks. Looking at you, I cannot tell what size you will be."
"Maybe you'll be really big!" Parvus said with a flutter of his wings. "Or maybe you'll be my size."
"Maybe you'll also spit acid like me!" Lily added.
Celeritus hummed in amusement. "I don't believe so, Lily. He doesn't have the same bone spurs that you have."
Harry curled his tail around his legs and widened his eyes as much as he could, looking at Celeritus. "Where's Tom? I haven't seen him at all today."
"It is likely that he is being given a tour of the covert," Celeritus said. "You will see him later. Now, if you don't mind, would you fly in a large circle as slowly as you can?"
Tom was very sick of the strange looks he was getting. Rooms filled with talking, chatting people and laughter would turn silent as soon as people detected his presence. At first he brushed it off but the more it kept happening, the more irritated he became.
Tom settled down in the mess hall with a large mug of tea that he kept between his hands with religious fervor. He had settled next to some dark haired bloke with a beaky nose, the only one who hadn't immediately reacted to Tom's arrival.
"I'm Captain Little," the man said after a few minutes.
Tom glanced at him but Captain Little appeared to be studying his breakfast with faux intensity. "Captain Riddle, in that case," Tom finally offered, proffering his hand.
Captain Little shook it and his pale blue eyes roamed over Tom's face. "Pleasure to meet you. I don't believe anyone knows your full name here."
"Surprisingly," Tom said, spearing some egg on his fork, "nobody has asked."
Captain Little raised an eyebrow. "That's quite a lapse. I'll welcome you to Loch Laggan, in that event, Captain Riddle."
"I doubt you'll be thinking such thoughts for much longer," Tom said with a sigh. "Harry's a little horror."
"Immortalis used to be that way," Captain Little said with a fond smile. "It took a while for him to obtain much sense." Tom couldn't help but laugh after that statement. Harry Potter was what, almost sixteen? And without much sense, Tom mused, seeing as he had rushed off to the Department of Mysteries with almost no backup. Although he wasn't much better himself, back in the body of a teenager again.
Tom finished eating, Captain Little polishing off the rest of his breakfast with a few quick bites. "Anyway, I must be direct. Sutton asked me to show you to the classrooms."
Tom nodded and stood up, following Captain Little out the door. They walked along a few twisty hallways before Captain Little stopped and gave Tom a curious look. "Much of the cadets are only a few years younger than you look to be. They will likely be most excited to hear of Harry."
Tom gave a half-smile. "Thank you for the warning but I believe I will manage just fine." It had been a few years since he had had to make significant use of his charm – something that was somewhat impeded by the rather frightening looks that he had developed – but it shouldn't take too long to dig up those smiles he'd perfected. With his words, Captain Little nodded and left, leaving Tom to his…lessons.
As warned, Tom became quite the sensation. Countless voices overlapped each other with increasing loudness as they battled to ask him a colossal number of questions.
"Is it true that your dragon is named Harry?"
"Do you think he can breathe fire?"
"Did they figure out what breed he was?"
"Where did you find him? Because I want to find one to-"
Tom gave hesitant smiles and avoided their questions until order was called. He settled down in an empty desk and prepared himself for the inevitable tedium. However, to his surprise, the lesson turned out to be fairly interesting as the types of dragons were discussed and their characteristics. The next lesson was in equipment management and the last one for the day was in flag identification. Tom quickly committed all relevant facts to memory. Despite the classes being filled with new material, he didn't particularly favor staying a student for long.
He left his last class feeling restless. Conforming to external plans was something he was unused to. Back…home, he made his own schedule. It was a bit disconcerting to have to play a role again. But the adjustment was necessary. Until he figured out what had happened to his magic and his wand, not to mention being stranded somewhere in a different world, he had to blend in.
After a quick dinner – lunch had been served outside during equipment management – he headed out to the courtyard where he had last seen Harry. Now would be a good time to investigate the curious way that Harry acted as a receptacle for magic. He spotted the small black and white form lying next to two fairly small dragons, one of them the brown-purple Winchesters, as he had learned, and an orange-blue Longwing. As he walked up to Harry, Tom noticed that Harry's eyes were once again slitted until little of their Avada Kedavra green could be seen. Tom glanced around, noting that it wasn't even all that bright outside. That was problematic.
"Hello, Harry," Tom said, sitting next to Harry and throwing an arm over his back. With the contact, he could feel magic slowly flowing into his body, almost as if reluctant to part from the black scales. "How was your day?"
Harry gave a full-body shiver. "I was flying practically all day. It was pretty horrible. My wings feel as if they're about to fall off. Anyway, that's Parvus and that's Lily." His head motioned to each of them in turn. One of his slitted eyes met Tom's and the mild irritation in it told Tom that Harry was putting on a show.
"Pleasure to meet you," Tom said with a smile.
"Hardly," Harry hissed under his breath. "You don't exactly have a great record with meeting new people. Don't they usually get a Killing Curse to the heart?"
Tom bit back the urge to form a Killing Curse with the magic he had collected. Instead he settled for digging his nails into Harry's scales.
"You're Harry's Captain?" Lily said, lifting her head higher and tilting it in curiosity.
Tom nodded, looking over the vast length of her wings. Although Lily was much larger than Harry was, it was immediately obvious that hers were significantly longer. Hers were also shaped very differently, suited for what Tom suspected to be very steady gliding. Harry's were shorter and much more pointed on the ends.
The Winchester shifted. "Do you know Nicholas? He's my captain. We're going to be going on courier missions soon."
Tom nodded again. "He was in my class today for equipment management."
"I wish he were here already," Parvus complained. "He takes so long to eat."
Lily snorted. "You're just impatient. Come on, let's fly for a bit while we wait." Her bright eyes regarded Tom and Harry with some undefinable emotion before she stood and took off at a small run, leaping into the air with wide strokes of her wings. Parvus leapt into the air from a standstill, speeding after her with a grumble.
"Will you pick me up again?" Harry asked, twisting his head around to look at Tom. "I flew over a nice lake earlier today. It's quiet enough that we can talk without other people hearing us. Us hissing all the time would be a bit suspicious."
Tom signed but acquiesced, catching note of the smiles and fond looks of the men on the fringes of the courtyard. If it was going to gain him significant goodwill…then he could suffer the indignity again.
Tom walked towards the lake glinting in the late sunlight, Harry sprawling in his arms. "We need a plan. We discussed this somewhat on the flight here but we need to be sure of our plans."
"I know, I know," Harry said, "But isn't it fairly simple? I play normal dragon. You play Captain. In our spare time, you figure out what's going on with our magic and how to get home."
Tom sighed. He whispered an incantation and conjured a black blindfold in his hand. "Don't move." He picked it up and affixed it over Harry's face, securing it around his silver horns until the large eyes were completely covered. Muted green eyes opened widely behind the thin covering.
"We need more than that. We need a story. How did I find you? Let's say that I have amnesia and you're unwilling to offer up information…we've always known how to speak Parseltongue. The first thing I remember is an empty warehouse. You hatched yesterday; I stole you meat and we stumbled upon the London covert. The best lies are mixed with truth, you see. We hide our magic and speak Parseltongue sparingly. Despite your apparent unusualness, we will be completely and utterly normal…and nobody will think otherwise. We will become part of the crowd and will disappear as best as we can. And once I figure it all out…then the Wizarding World will be on again, dearest Harry."
AN: Despite my best attempts, another chapter of MW was hard to push out. I worked on this instead. It's a monster chapter clocking in at just a little under ten-thousand words. It extended longer than I expected. I hope you enjoy it. The comments (AO3) and reviews gave me much food for thought that I will consider for upcoming chapters.
As always, your feedback is much appreciated. The Temeraire fandom is not very large so I treasure any reviews I get :D