A/N: A three-chapter story inspired by Crayshack's comment on r/HPFanFiction about Harry having the Hungarian Horntail for a girlfriend.
Harry clutched his Firebolt with desperate strength as he ascended vertically into the clear skies. The wind in his ears drowned out the clamor of the crowd but not the thumping wingbeats of the monstrosity below him. He sat astride the fastest broomstick in the world, yet the Hungarian Horntail was still gaining on him. Narrowing his eyes at the bright sky, he kept his course, intent on luring the dragon as far away from the nest as possible.
A loud inrush of air made his blood run cold. He yanked the Firebolt left, and not a moment too soon: a pillar of white flames roared through the space he just vacated, so hot it singed his eyebrows from yards away. He swerved around a black leathery wing, avoided a swipe of a spiky tail, and dived toward the ground. The Horntail followed.
The spectators in the stands pointed and yelled. He had to admit to feeling a smidgen of glee as he directed the dragon toward the judges, causing them to scramble out of their venerable seats. At the last moment, when he was so close he could have snatched Madame Maxime's fur shawl if he wanted, he leveled out of the dive and zipped across the rocky arena.
There was a deafening thump and a gust of wind as the dragon braked. Harry steadied his Firebolt and peered through the ensuing cloud of dust toward where the golden egg gleamed tantalizingly in its nest. Leaning forward, he put on a burst of speed. Just a little further.
A powerful inhalation whooshed behind him, and he corkscrewed aside an instant before white flames filled his vision. Panicked, he yanked his broom with all he had. Dragon fire, blue sky, and rocky ground alternated wildly before his eyes; he had spun out of control. His elbow guard grazed the ground, and then he was rolling, rebounding, banging off the rocks over and over.
A short eternity later, he came to a rest on his back. His vision was blurry, and it took his rattled brain a moment to realize that he had lost his glasses. He wheezed in a breath and tried to sort out his limbs.
Rising screams broke through his daze. An enormous black shape darkened the sky, growing larger by the second. His eyes widened, and he fumbled for the wand he had tucked behind his Quidditch padding. He raised it shakily at the swooping Horntail and opened his mouth.
He would often come back to this moment to try and figure out what had happened. The main thought in his mind, he wasn't ashamed to admit, was Bloody hell, I'm about to be eaten! His mouth blurted out something like "Argh, g'way!" His hand, meanwhile, performed the swish-and-jab of Animate Transfiguration that he had intended to use to distract the dragon before he decided on flying.
And in a flash of light, the Horntail vanished. Harry didn't have the time to be surprised, because the next moment, something crashed into him and drove the air from his lungs. He groaned, raised his head, and froze.
Straddling him was a woman—a very fit, very naked woman with two horns upon her head and a smattering of freckles around her cheekbones. He met her eyes and flinched; they were golden and slit-pupiled, like the Horntail's in miniature.
"You fly well, for a human," she said in a sultry voice. "But I am the queen of the skies. Now I will chomp you for your audacity."
She parted her lips and bent over him. Her teeth grazed his neck; he yelped and twisted away. She growled and nibbled on a different spot. He grabbed her shoulders and shoved her away. Her dusky skin was hot as if feverish.
The woman did not resist. With a puzzled expression, she opened her mouth and ran her fingers over her elongated fangs. Then she jerked her hand away and stared at it as if seeing it for the first time. "By the skies," she said faintly, "how did this happen?"
The next half an hour was a blur. Dumbledore and some others rushed up and pulled the strange woman off him. There were a lot of insistent questions and yelling, not the least from him after he got tired of repeating that no, he didn't know what was going on, and could someone fetch his bloody glasses already?
Then he found himself in the hospital wing under the tender care of Madam Pomfrey—bruises and hairline fractures, almost beneath the notice of a seasoned Quidditch player. The horned woman was also brought here, which made sense because she clearly needed help.
"I'm ugly!" she wailed to anyone who would listen—or was forced to, in Harry's case. "I'm small and puny and soft like a Flobberworm!"
She demonstrated this by grabbing handfuls of her soft flesh, which Harry found quite intriguing, especially now that his glasses were back upon his nose—but Madam Pomfrey strode up, tutting, and erected a curtain around her bed with a swish of her wand.
"And what's this?" the stranger wailed on. "Is—is this hair? The same stuff that tangles around teeth and smells horrid when burned?" She was silent for a moment, then exclaimed in dismay, "Down here, too?"
"Another Calming Draught, I reckon," Madam Pomfrey muttered, retreating into her office. "Where's Dumbledore when you need him the most?"
Harry glanced warily at the curtain, not at all eager to be left alone with the madwoman, but she appeared to have quieted down. He was beginning to relax when something on the other side rustled, and her horned head poked through the curtains.
"You!" Scowling, she staggered toward him, naked as the day she was born. A black scaly tail wobbled behind her back as she struggled to keep her balance. "Now that I think on it, you made me this way, did you not?"
"E-excuse me?" He tried to scrabble away across his bed, only to remember that Madam Pomfrey had spelled his legs immobile while the Skele-Gro worked its magic.
"Don't play dumb." She lurched forward, caught herself on the edge of his bed, and clambered on. Her golden eyes seemed to glow as she crawled toward him. "I changed the moment your spell hit me."
The back of Harry's head bumped the headboard, but it was the revelation that made him freeze. "You mean—you—the dragon?"
"What else could I be? Do not mistake me for one of your puny kind." She raised her head proudly, but quickly deflated. "I admit defeat. It was truly powerful magic, to penetrate my scales."
Harry gaped. Her horns were indeed bronze and tapered like the Horntail's. The long hair she was so upset about gleamed the same deep black as its scales. What he thought freckles on her cheekbones were delicate diamond-shaped scales, and there were more below, a smattering on her shoulders and a faint line down her ribs—he swallowed and lifted his gaze.
"Restore me to my true form, wizard," she said, looking him in the eye. "Our contest is over, and you have punished me enough."
"This isn't a..." He shook his head. "I don't know how. It was an accident."
"An accident," she said hollowly. Suddenly, her face was an inch away from his, her fangs bared in a snarl. "Tell me you're lying! Undo your curse, and I shall leave and have no further quarrel with you."
There was nowhere left to retreat. He took a deep breath and met her eyes. "I'm not lying. I'm sorry."
For what felt like minutes, she searched his face. Then, as abruptly as she had lunged at him, she sat up and sniffled. "You—you're telling the truth? Am I going to stay like this forever?"
"I don't know," he said. "Maybe Dumbledore—"
"But I'm so hideous!" she cried. "I'm squishy all over—and how am I supposed to hunt with this flat mouth?"
He floundered for something to say. "Er, you still have a tail."
"Puny like a fledgling's!" Curling the tail around, she hugged it to herself. "Wouldn't even crush an Acromantula!"
"And your claws—"
"Tiny! Worthless!" She raked her long nails across the sheets, slicing through to the mattress underneath, and blinked. For a moment, Harry dared to hope that the destruction would mollify her, but then she only wailed louder. "My old claws would've smashed this bed apart with a single swat!" She buried her face in her hands and broke into tears.
Harry looked around in a panic, but Madam Pomfrey was nowhere in sight. He was beginning to suspect the Calming Draught had only been an excuse to get away. Horntail's—it would take time for him to get used to thinking of her as such—tears rolled down her cheeks. Screwing up his courage, he reached for her scaled shoulder.
"There, there," he said, patting her awkwardly.
She lowered her hands in surprise, then sobbed and launched herself at him. Gripping his shirt, she bawled into his chest. He stiffened before patting her back. Consoling the dragon that had tried to eat him not an hour ago... This day couldn't get any weirder.
Dumbledore, naturally, chose this exact moment to arrive—he and Madame Maxime, Headmaster Karkaroff, and Professor McGonagall. Harry spied Ron and Hermione peeking through the closing door, their mouths agape, and driven by some mad impulse, gave them a grin and a jaunty wave.
"I am relieved to see you in high spirits, Harry," Dumbledore said, striding up to the foot of the bed. Behind him came the other three. Horntail swiveled around, hunched low, and hissed. "Ah—pardon us, young lady, we're quite a crowd."
It only took a raised hand from Dumbledore for everyone to retreat a few steps, although Madame Maxime did so with an indignant huff. Some tension drained from Horntail's shoulders, and her previously rigid tail wavered slightly. Harry blushed and raised his gaze to somewhere safer. As Charlie Weasley had said, her back end was as dangerous as her front.
"I do apologize about the delay, Harry," Dumbledore said, tactfully avoiding looking at Horntail. "Your display has caused quite a stir and left us in a quandary as to how to grade your performance."
Harry stared at the judges. Who cared about points when there was a naked dragon-woman on his bed?
"But you appear to have handled the situation splendidly in the meantime," Dumbledore continued with a twinkle in his eye. "And now that all the concerned parties are present—"
"Wait just a minute, Dumbly-dorr!" interjected Madame Maxime. "Zis is totally inappropriate. We must dress ze poor girl before any further discussions."
"Hear, hear," muttered Professor McGonagall.
"I was about to offer that suggestion myself," Dumbledore said. "If you would do the honors, Madame Maxime—I am told my sense of fashion is violently outdated."
Madame Maxime sniffed. "I would be 'appy to."
She stomped closer and drew a large wand from her sleeve. The dragon-woman watched apprehensively. At the first twirl of Madame Maxime's wand, matching underthings covered her nudity. Before Harry got much more than a glimpse, a white slip followed, hanging off her shoulders and pooling over her folded legs, then long-sleeved outer robes; not only they fit perfectly, there was even a hole for her tail.
"What is this?" Horntail gasped and clawed at her collar. "You dare restrain me?"
Madame Maxime caught her wrist. "Zis is finest French silk. Stop flailing!"
"Let go!" She freed her hand and tugged at the buttons. "Ugh, it's clinging to me everywhere—take it off, take it off!"
"Keep still," boomed Madame Maxime. "All zese men, staring—on a boy's bed—inacceptable!"
Harry flinched as the tip of a scaly tail swatted his cheek. Horntail was struggling against the much larger woman's hold, and to everyone's surprise, succeeding. Spurred by the danger of his bed becoming a battlefield, he suddenly had a brilliant idea.
"But you're so squishy," he said. "Wouldn't it be safer to wear clothes?"
Horntail abruptly ceased struggling. She contemplated him, then her clothing. "So that's how your kind deals with its inadequacies," she said in the tone of someone who had an epiphany.
Madame Maxime slowly stepped back, while Harry sagged with relief. He grinned faintly at the approving look Dumbledore sent him.
"Why didn't you say this was for protection?" Horntail rounded on Madame Maxime. "Give me more!"
The Beauxbatons headmistress stepped up to the task and conjured a winter cloak and a pointy hat that accommodated her horns. Then she lured her off the bed with a pair of socks and shoes, allowing Harry to sit up more comfortably. Dressed head-to-toe in fine clothes, the dragon-woman looked more like a dragon-lady, but she still appeared unsatisfied, pinching her robes and poking at her stomach.
"Maybe something thicker," she said, looking around warily. "What if there's a manticore? It would surely chomp me now that I'm small and pathetic."
Professor McGonagall spoke up. "You won't encounter manticores at Hogwarts, I assure you. Albus, perhaps now that Miss Horntail is presentable, we could get on with the matter at hand? Countering Miss Granger's and Mr. Weasley's attempts to transfigure gaps in the door so they could listen in is wearing on me."
Harry snorted and glanced toward the door.
"Right you are, Minerva." Dumbledore drew his gnarled wand but did not point it at Horntail just yet. "If you will permit me, young lady, I would like to examine you magically. There will be no discomfort to you; I daresay you will not feel a thing."
Horntail stood stiff, only the tip of her tail whisking side-to-side.
"It's all right," Harry said in an undertone. "Professor Dumbledore's brilliant. If anyone can figure out what happened, it's him."
Horntail took a shuddering breath. "Go ahead," she said, looking the headmaster in the eye.
"Thank you," Dumbledore said, seemingly addressing her and Harry both.
The gnarled wand swished through the air, leaving motes of gold and silver in its wake. Horntail squeezed her eyes shut, but as time went on, her tense countenance relaxed. The golden motes swarmed around her horns and tail, while the silver built a shimmering bridge toward Harry. Dumbledore appeared startled and made a brisk gesture. The motes vanished.
"The young woman before us is indeed the Hungarian Horntail that Mr. Potter faced off against," he said, lowering his wand. "For now, that is all I can say with certainty."
Karkaroff, who had done nothing but skulk in the background, muttered darkly under his breath.
Dumbledore looked almost amused. "I trust you will withdraw your petition to disqualify Mr. Potter, Igor? We now know that there was no outside interference except our own. Had he been allowed to continue, I do not doubt that he would have collected the egg with little difficulty."
Karkaroff nodded curtly. "To transfigure a dragon at the age of fourteen... One has to wonder where Potter learned such spells." His eyes gleamed as he appraised Harry.
Harry glared in response.
Dumbledore clapped his hands. "Now that that's taken care of," he said cheerfully, "perhaps you would care to return to the arena and announce the outcome to the audience, Igor, Madame Maxime. I shan't be far behind."
Madame Maxime looked down at Karkaroff. "Meester Karkaroff, I find zese 'allways perplexing. Would you escort me outside?"
Karkaroff wrenched his gaze away from Harry. "It would be my honor," he said perfunctorily, and offered her his arm.
Harry waited for them to leave with what he thought admirable patience, but the moment the hospital wing door shut, he rounded on Dumbledore. "Please, sir, what's going on? How could this happen?"
"I rather hoped you would tell me, Harry. It was your spell that so dramatically transformed—Miss Horntail, was it, Minerva?" Dumbledore looked at the dragon-woman. "Excuse me, but how should we address you?"
She jutted out her chin. "I am She Who Soars Under Stormy Skies And Reigns Victorious Over Her Enemies."
"A name after my own heart! Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, delighted to make your acquaintance." He extended a hand, which she scrutinized from every angle and settled for slapping it. Dumbledore just smiled. "Your name is a direct translation from dragon into English, I presume? Most fascinating. The general thought is that dragons do not have anything resembling a language."
"Hmph," she said, crossing her arms. "Just because we don't yap on and on doesn't mean we can't communicate."
"Why English?" Harry asked quietly. "Why not—I dunno—Hungarian, or whatever?"
Dumbledore fixed him with a piercing gaze. "As usual, Harry, you have the knack for cutting to the crux of the matter. Miss Reigns-Victorious-Over-Her-Enemies speaks English because you speak English. I cannot fathom how this occurred, but your spell has linked you at a profound level. As the caster, you were the one to impart your traits to her, but the link persists and may very well go both ways." He smiled reassuringly at Harry's alarm. "Of course, this is mere speculation. Do inform me if you start breathing fire."
McGonagall cleared her throat. "Albus, this is hardly the time for jokes. What are we going to do about this?"
"Why don't we ask those involved?" Dumbledore said. "Miss Reigns-Victorious-Over-Her-Enemies is a sapient being and has the right to decide her own future. I spoke with the dragon handlers, and they assured me that they hold no interest in a dragon that weighs under a ton and isn't covered in scales."
Horntail pouted at the reminder of her inferior squishy state but quickly set her jaw in determination. "I wish to soar through the skies and bask in the sun after a good hunt. I wish to be changed back."
"I am afraid I cannot do that," Dumbledore said, his face clouding. "Not only are you and Harry linked so inextricably that I dare not interfere, transfiguring something as large and magical as a dragon is beyond my power—which is not inconsiderable, if you'll forgive my boasting."
"But..." She ducked her head, trembling. "What shall I do? Where shall I go?"
"If you wish," Dumbledore said kindly, "our school, Hogwarts, is open to you. You could start learning magic with our first-years."
She raised her head slowly. "I can do magic? Like your kind?" A brilliant smile spread across her face. "Then I can learn how to turn myself back!"
"Indeed, that is a possibility, if you master Transfiguration to a sufficient level," Dumbledore said, omitting that such a level would be beyond even his. "Professor McGonagall will accompany you to Diagon Alley to be fitted for a wand, once things calm down."
She inclined her head. "Thank you, patriarch. I accept."
"Just 'headmaster' will do, my dear girl," Dumbledore said, chuckling. "You will also need to be Sorted into one of our four houses. There will be space for another bed in the first-year dormitories, I am sure."
"So there will be others in this lair," she said slowly. "Are we to fight until only the strongest is left?"
"Good heavens, no!" McGonagall said. "Your house is like your family within Hogwarts. You will sleep in your dormitory with the girls in your year and spend time with everyone else in the common room."
She bristled. "How can I sleep with those not of my kin? There's no telling when one of them might decide that I'm easy prey!"
McGonagall looked ready to argue, but Dumbledore spoke first. "Then perhaps alternative housing can be arranged. I shall task Hagrid with constructing a house out in the grounds, where Miss Reigns-Victorious-Over-Her-Enemies can stay until she is better accustomed to the human lifestyle."
McGonagall considered Horntail, who had hiked up her robes to scratch her leg, and sighed. "That might be for the best. Lastly, her name..."
"What's wrong with my name?" Horntail demanded, straightening up.
Dumbledore's beard twitched. "I must confess, I don't see the issue either."
"I can hardly enter that mouthful into the school records," McGonagall said firmly. "By human conventions, it is too unwieldy."
Horntail scoffed, "I thought your kind was supposed to be clever."
"Alas," Dumbledore said ruefully, "you will find that we're not without our foibles."
McGonagall stared them down in turn. "Our kind's failings aside, merely calling upon you in class would prove a challenge. Please shorten your name to two or three words."
"Two words?" Horntail asked incredulously, but McGonagall did not back down. Her tail wilted. Furrowing her brow, she hemmed and hawed. "Rock-Melting Flame! No, wait—Skull-Cracker!"
McGonagall pinched the bridge of her nose. "I don't recall any of that being in your full name. Besides, your second creation sounds like it belongs to a goblin."
"Goblin," she growled, splaying her claws. "Are there goblins in the school?"
"Not since a few centuries ago," Dumbledore said, raising an eyebrow. "Minerva, perhaps it would be best to avoid Gringotts during your upcoming trip."
"Quite," the professor said dryly. "But returning to the topic..."
"How about Victoria?" Harry suggested. He shifted a little as everyone's eyes focused on him. "Because you're, er, victorious... Just a thought."
Horntail's slit-pupil eyes studied him with unnerving intensity. At last, she nodded. "The name does not fully convey my might, but it will do. I must fit in with your tribe so they don't ostracize me until I learn what I need."
"Then allow me to welcome you to Hogwarts once again, Victoria Horntail," Dumbledore said brightly. "Now, I really must be going. I shall leave the rest in your capable hands, Minerva, Harry." He winked and swept off in a whirl of brocade robes.
Harry raised a hand. "But I still don't understand—"
"The more I learn about magic," Dumbledore mused as he walked, "the more I realize how little I know. This is your mystery to solve, Harry. If you put your mind to it, the answers will come in time."
Harry's hand sagged to the bed, the myriad of questions on his mind left unasked. He exchanged a commiserating look with Professor McGonagall. It rather felt like the headmaster had dumped the whole mess into their laps.
McGonagall sighed. "Well then, Miss Horntail—while the headmaster is entertaining our foreign dignitaries, why don't we drop by his office and get you Sorted? Mr. Potter needs some peace and quiet to heal."
"So that's why he isn't moving," said the newly christened Victoria. "He's hurt!"
"Precisely," McGonagall said, "which is why we should—"
"What if a troll tries to crunch his bones?" she asked, looking him over. "He's so feeble, it could crush him in one hit!"
Harry frowned and pushed up against the headboard. He reckoned he could take one hit. Maybe two on a good day.
"There are no trolls at Hogwarts," McGonagall said. "Except that time three years ago"—she pursed her lips—"but that was an exception, a freak incident that won't happen again."
It was too late to backtrack. Victoria tensed and scanned the rows of empty beds as if expecting a troll to pop out from under the blankets.
"Really, Miss Horntail, Hogwarts is perfectly safe," McGonagall said exasperatedly. "The hospital wing in particular. Please follow me and leave Mr. Potter to recuperate."
"It's true," Harry said. "Even when the basilisk was on the loose, it never attacked the hospital wing." He grinned cheekily at McGonagall's chiding look.
"Basilisk!" Victoria cried, her pointed ears flattening backward. "I don't think I can fight it with these flabby limbs, but I'll try. I still need Harry to turn me back if I'm unable to do so myself."
McGonagall glared at Harry as if it was somehow his fault that the school's sewers had had a basilisk infestation. Then she eyed Victoria, and her lips twitched with amusement. "Were you already Sorted, I would award points for bravery, misplaced as it is. Very well, I shall pick you up when Mr. Potter is discharged. Watch over him and see that he doesn't sneak out until then."
Victoria bobbed her head. "I shall protect him with my life."
Harry gaped as McGonagall beat a swift retreat. It was almost as if the staid professor had decided to have a bit of revenge for his earlier cheek. Traitors, the lot of them.
The door creaked open, and Hermione rushed in, Ron trailing a step behind. He wouldn't meet Harry's eyes but still approached resolutely. Despite himself, Harry smiled; he had missed him over the past weeks.
A sharp hiss resounded, and Ron and Hermione halted a dozen steps away. Victoria ducked behind Harry's bed so that only her horns peaked above and glowered at them, a wisp of smoke escaping her lips.
Harry slapped his forehead. This was going to be a long day.