AN: Sorry about the long wait, but things have been hectic. *Grovels* But I'm back now, so on with the show!
Chapter 15: Christmas
Romania: Dragon caverns
A procession of small dragons was making their way into the tunnels, leading into the caverns. Small, the largest being the same size as a small bus they were all black in various shades, with golden markings adorning them. The procession only numbered around twenty in total, a small gathering. A dragon the size of the large German shepherd, with bright amber eyes, led them.
These dragons were known as the outcasts, or the Zadanasun in the draconic tongue. They were part of the clan in the tunnels, but they were nomads by nature, wandering to a fro, only returning to important events, such as the lunar festival. Most were looking forward to relaxing and enjoying a bit of a party. One, however, was not. The lead dragon Snow had been summoned back and he was not happy about it. It meant something was happening and that something was quite big. He didn't like big things, as no doubt, they'd want his clan to do the dirty work and he was loathe to put his family in danger for the people who had declared them outcast in the first place.
"Answering the summons then Snow?" A musical voice asked "I thought you would've ignored them just out of spite" Jaziz spoke, stepping from the shadows.
The procession stopped as Snow flicked an ear in signal "I answered" he said sourly, his amber eyes boring into the spell dragon's form. "Tartarus" he said curtly, as another dragon stepped up to him "Take the rest of the clan back to the cave we used last year, I'll catch up shortly" He said. Tartarus gave a brief nod and led the rest of them off, leaving Snow and Jaziz alone in the tunnel. There was silence for a beat. "What do they want?" Snow asked harshly, his voice laden with scorn.
Jaziz cocked an eye ridge "Straight to the point then eh?"
"I don't like to beat around the bush" Snow replied tartly.
"I see" Jaziz said slowly, stretching her small form. "The heir has been found," She said bluntly. There was no discernable reaction from Snow, apart from a narrowing of his eyes.
"I see," He said finally, pursing his lips. "And what does that have to do with me and my clan?"
"I'm asking, and Grace is asking for you to attend council"
Snow laughed, long and loud, the sound bouncing off the tunnels walls. "Attend council? I'd be hung, drawn and the burned alive for defiling that place with my very presence!"
Jaziz sighed, "What's life without a little risk?"
"It's a risk when I've been branded a traitor and a murderer" Snow responded flatly. "The council doesn't like me. I was stripped of my title and my position after killing my traitor of a wife and friend." He said with a snarl.
Jaziz raised one claw beseechingly "I mean no harm Snow, but you are a warrior, an assassin. War is coming, make no mistake. We, as a race, need every advantage we can get."
"So you'd use my clan then? Spies, sneaks and assassins? No. We've been used enough as it is"
"I'm not asking for your services" Jaziz said calmly. "I'm just asking you to present yourself at council, give opinions on what can be done. I'm offering you a chance to re-enter our society Snow, don't you want that for your clan?"
"I hate you" The words were low and bitter "How dare you use my clan, the only family I have against me." Snow hissed, his eyes gleaming "Fine, fine. I'll come to council" he all but spat the last word. "I'll be there and we'll see what happens…"
Snow began to walk away and the turned, all Jaziz could see were his eyes, glowing faintly in the dark. "And if my clan gets hurt, I'll claim my payment, scale by scale from you spell dragon…"
Jaziz swallowed as he left. Snow was once a brilliant dragon, famed for his quick mind, logic and thinking. He was outcast, granted the powers of shadows and darkness when he killed his own wife, his former best friend and unborn child, when she left him for his long time friend. He did not repent or even plead guilty. In fact during his trial he only said five words.
"They got what they deserved"
Snow's threat was very real. If any harm came to his clan, Jaziz would pay. Trembling slightly, Jaziz made her way towards the council room, waiting for the meeting…
"What did she want?" Were the first words from Tartarus's mouth.
Snow sighed, looking at his small clan, who were making places to sleep, before the festivities began. "I've been summoned to council" he said softly, cursing under his breath.
"Council?" Tartarus blurted "but…"
"I know" Snow said "But I must still go… things are moving I need to see what will happen and how that will affect us as a clan. If I don't do anything now, we'll be press ganged for our services, send on suicide missions. I don't want that for any of us. If I can step in now, feel the flow of things, then maybe I can stop that. Or slow it down at least." Snow sighed "That dragoness is canny. She put me in a right spot and now I have no choice…"
Snow turned to leave and then at the exit looked at his right hand dragon "If I don't come back Tartarus" he said softly "Get them out of here, quickly, and far away. Understand?"
A brief nod was all Snow needed and he left, a voice calling to him "Be safe brother…"
"You too brother…" he whispered…
The council meeting had begun and Jaziz watched with awe, as mighty dragons, from far flung lands argued about what was to happen next.
Some thought she mad, others advocated caution, whilst others said to strike now. It was all fascinating chaos. Well, controlled chaos.
Until Snow stepped in. The first dragon to see him was one of the worst to spot him. The father of the dragoness he had killed. "YOU!" the bellow stopped all the arguing and heads swiveled on long necks to see the offender. The hall was silent.
"Yes… me" Snow said softly, walking into the middle of the floor, his dark, sleek head held high.
Murmurs erupted around the room. "What is he… this filth doing here" The words were hissed and dangerous.
"Because I asked him to" The heiress said daring any drake to look her in the eyes and hold in.
"Why? Why this murdering scum?" Razail, leader of the American dragons asked, pounding his claw on the hard stone.
"Because this murdering scum has a solution to your bickering" Snow retorted, his voice laced with acid. "You're all arguing like small children, and I for one, cannot believe I once partook in this"
Angry cries sprang around the room; oaths being sworn and calls for the traitor to die were being heard.
"SILENCE!" The heiress's massive roar caught the room's attention and every head turned in her direction. "Are we not hereto discuss, not argue like mindless insects? I say we hear Snow out. Although his crimes were and still are a wound to some, I say we listen. The were guild can wait." Her words were final and the heads turned back, resentfully towards Snow. "You may continue"
Snow swallowed, his nerves bristling. The talk of were guild had made him nervous. If some dragons wanted blood, they would try and get it. "I…I" He paused, gathered his thoughts. "You all talk as if he has already been found, marked. He may have already been so, I'm not that far up to speed with current events. Either way, I shall shadow him, divine his motives, and scout the enemy and assist him in anyway shape or form. I am aware someone has been assigned to the heir, to protect and track him but I shall shadow and aid him. A spy… an assassin if needed" There were murmurs of assent and nods coming from the various dragons.
"Then it is agreed?" The heiress said, looking at various nodding heads. "Then so be it" she fixed Snow with her amber gaze "Snow, you shall go with Jaziz here and monitor the heir. Whilst she is passive in her role, you shall be more forward in your role. Offer him training, stealth and combat, and put ANY threats against him down. You are authorized to use lethal force Snow. This is our life, our heritage, our culture on the line." She sighed and phrased her next sentence with care "Snow… any threat to him must be terminated. Do you understand?"
"Then go Snow, and do your duty to your clan and to your people" she said her gaze never faltering.
Snow dipped his head once in acknowledgement and vanished on the spot, the space where he once was shimmering like a heat haze.
"This meeting is adjourned. I'll see you all for the festivities tonight Drakes and Drakka" The Heiress turned and left, the other high ranking members of the council filing from their seats. The heiress turned as she came into her private quarters. "Well Jaziz… your reaction?"
"The council will follow your lead Grace" Jaziz said finally, her eyes darting to the side, were Zariss had just come into the room.
"Jaziz!" he said smiling, "The council went well, the serpents are happy with the news. I can't tell how some of them might swing though. Nagini's old clan are swinging towards the dark though in her absence. She might have been the leader of the venomers, but she could keep them in line at least" Zariss said, hanging his head.
"The venomers have always been one of the more extreme clans. Nagini kept them in line. But alas her disappearance has altered the balance of power. You did your best Zariss"
"Thank you heiress" Zariss said, dipping his head in acknowledgement.
Grace swung her head down towards Jaziz. "You aren't happy" she said bluntly.
Jaziz shifted and looked downwards guiltily. "I don't like the idea of Snow being around. He's dangerous…"
"The same could be said about Cynder, the drake you share your love with but some would say the same about him, like some would say about Snow. Snow is a bitter, twisted individual but a spark of nobility still burns within his dark heart. He will do what is right. It might not be in the right method, but it will be right. I to have more than enough reasons to hate him but when the heart is spurned, one can do many things both good and evil. You don't have to like him little one, but at least work with him. That is all I ask" Grace said her tone even and light.
Jaziz nodded once "Then that is what I shall do"
"Very well, you two go, enjoy 'Christmas' with the heir and his family and enjoy yourselves. I expect you to be back for the festivities though"
"I wouldn't miss it for the world" Jaziz said smiling. "Will mother be there?"
"Yes, Charity will be there" Grace said, a smile in her eyes. "Now go… enjoy yourselves!"
The two youngsters needed no more prompting and promptly left in a flurry of wings and feathers. Grace watched them go and smiled at the exuberance of youth…
Snow returned to the outcasts temporary lair, and quickly summoned Tartarus. "Tartarus, I'm leaving. I've been given a charge and I'm following it." Seeing his second open his mouth, Snow overrode him "Grace herself charged me with it, and I have no intentions of letting her use the rest of the clan. This is for the best Tartarus. I don't like it but I'll do it. For the clan"
"For the clan" Tartarus echoed.
Snow snapped his head towards the rest of the clan. "Verity!" he yelled as a smaller dragon looked in his direction and came over to him.
"Yes sir?" She said, standing ramrod straight.
"don't tense up" Snow said, "I'm not going to rip your throat out" he said. Verity relaxed a touch as Snow looked pensive for a moment. "Do you remember that raid on those iron dwarves we carried out a year ago?"
"Yes, I remember that, made a tidy profit" The dragoness said.
"Hmm, we did." Snow said "we also retrieved some strange ore. Do you still have it?"
"Yes" Verity said "But I don't have the tools to work it…
Snow sighed "Then take two others, as protection, and go to that lava dragon your friendly with." Verity opened her mouth and Snow sighed "Don't. I know your friendly with him. I don't mind."
"Then what do you want with the metal?"
Snow considered for a few moments. "Forge it into a weapon, a weapon a human can use…"
"A human? You mean…"
"Yes, I mean the heir has been found. Go, forge something powerful, so that we may no longer be outcast. GO!" Verity spun on her heel, barking something at to younger but larger dragons and they got their gear and hustled into the tunnels at a fair lick. Snow watched them go. "The clans under your command now Tartarus…" Snow vanished on the spot, his voice coming from further back in the cave "And brother…if I don't come back… you know what to do"
"Aye brother I do"
"Good. Then I shall leave…"
"God speed brother" Tartarus whispered as the light footfalls of Snow left down the tunnel. "God speed…"
"MERRY CHRISTMAS!" The hands covering Harry's eyes vanished as they spoke. He blinked once, his eyes adjusting to the light filtering back in once more. Harry looked around, his mouth agape. Remus, Tonk's, Charles, Charlie, Jasmine and Thalron were all standing in an opulent hall way, Christmas trees, lights, tinsel, mistletoe and holly all in a vibrant explosion on the senses. Harry turned and looked at the grinning Hermione and Sirius.
"Did you do this?" Harry asked.
Hermione laughed and Sirius smiled. "No, I hired Remus to do the place up. It was in a awful state, age and disrepair. Paid well for it too"
"What?!" The werewolf cried? "I WAS PAID!?!"
"Yes paid" Sirius said with a wolfish grin. "just shy over twenty thousand galleons. Merry Christmas Moony"
Remus fainted with a bang on the floor. "Twenty thousand?" Tonk's asked, looking at the prone werewolf.
"Isn't that a little bit excessive?"
Sirius smiled "Not for one of my best friends who sometimes had less than two knuts to rub together." He pointed his wand at the werewolf and muttered a quite spell, soaking the werewolf with a jet of water. Remus came to, sputtering water and looked at Sirius as Velvet stepped into the room, giving Sirius a kiss.
"Lunch is ready" She said, smiling as the group looked at her as she led them into the dining room.
Outside Snow watched the humans (and two dragons in disguise) and snorted. It had been easy, too easy to find the heir. All he had to do was follow Jaziz, who was now acting as 'Jasmine'. Laughing to himself, he watched the humans make merry and laugh and eat. Memories surfaced, bittersweet memories that he no longer wanted. Shaking his head he tired to forget them, only to slide into another memory, one that would be forever engrained with him.
Somewhere in eastern Europe, seventeen years ago.
It was raining. Not light rain, it was as if the floodgates of heaven had opened up, soaking Snow to the bone. The rain had washed the scent trail away, but Snow knew that they were nearby. He knew.
The end was near for the traitorous pair, they would pay with their lives for their betrayal. Either way, it mattered little to him, for even if he didn't find them in time, no doubt the ikkela, the hunters, would find them and… 'judge' them.
They would be dead either way.
Snow followed the path leading up the mountainside, the rain now interspersed with rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightening. His blood boiled as he remembered finding an empty cave, going to see his best friend only to comfort his distraught wife. It was beyond forgiving.
His blood boiling his eyes flashed darkly, his heart pounding as he turned one final, sharp corner.
There they stood, drenched to the bones as well. Zzask his one time friend, a bulky dragon, larger than him, moss green in colour, with friendly brown eyes and there, next to him, smaller in stature, a light blue in colour was his ex-wife. Ceeli. Delicate, but beautiful, her pink eyes were constantly darting around. They saw Snow, and the blood drained from her face. "Zzask!" She cried. "The ikkela have found us!"
Zzask whipped round and placed himself in front of Ceeli. "Run love. I'll protect you"
Snow laughed, a high bitter sound, one that bounced round the area. "Love?" he asked sneering "Shouldn't traitor, or deserter, or oath-breaker be a better fit?"
"Snow…" Zzask whispered, looking at his friend. "Is… is that you?"
"Of course it is" Snow said, taking a step forward a sick grin on his face. "Just with a few… changes…" he said sniggering.
Ceeli gasped from behind Zzask's bulk. "You… no, oh you didn't…" Her voice sounded almost pitying.
"I DON'T NEED YOUR PITY!" Snow roared, spittle flying from his mouth. "I just took a leaf from your book… darling" he spat. "I just forsook my own oath… to my element"
Zzask and Ceeli took another step back. "You… you betrayed your own element?"
"Why should I be loyal when all it has done has bring me pain! If I wasn't who I am, I would've been normal, not pressured by my grand-dam, or things… things I can't do expected of me? All I ever wanted was a family…" There was a pause for a minute, the rain disguising Snow's tears. He looked back up at the pair his voice low and deadly.
"And you took that dream away from me!" That was all the warning they got, as he leapt at them, leaving a gash on Zzask's back as he leapt at his former wife, his fangs and claws bared to tear her throat out. Ceeli's eyes widened as he drew nearer, at the last second, Zzask intervening a vine erupting from the ground, wrapping around Snow's hindquarters and yanking him away.
Rolling across the floor, Snow savagely tore the constricting vine away from his legs, grinning as Zzask flinched. "Hurting?" Snow asked, a feral grin on his features, as the two circled each other, each trying to find a weakness. Snow was nimbler, Zzask could just crush him with his build.
Zzask just shook his head. "Snow… we're friends! Why this madness, this anger?"
Snow snarled "wrong. We were once friends. You know I had to comfort Alin? SHE LOVED YOU AND YOU LEFT HER!"
Zzask flinched "Love can hurt, and I'm sorry that I hurt her… but…"
"BUT NOTHING!" Snow roared "You betrayed your oaths, the most sacred ones to our kind! You don't deserve anything, much less life! Even if I don't kill you, the ikkela will"
"You'd kill me Snow? After all those years spent together as friends?"
Amber eyes met brown for several seconds "Aye" Snow said "I would" and then he moved, darting through Zzasks legs, tearing at his hamstrings as he passed through. A screech of pain and a thud as Zzask's bulk hit the floor. Snow stood over him, Zzask's blood running from his mouth, staining his black scales. "And now it ends… a pity that you fell for empty promises and flirty looks" Snow snarled and raised a paw, his claws extended for the killing blow. A blur intercepted his movement, Ceelie tackling him to the floor.
"RUN ZZASK!" she screamed as she wrestled with Snow, she lifted her head, her golden ridge of scales shining in the sun for the briefest moment as she cried to her lover…
Her throat was torn out in a gush of crimson, spilling on the wet floor, being washed away by the downpour, rivulets of red running off the mountainside. "NOOO!" Zzask's anguished scream echoed round the small plateau, as his love slumped to the floor, he elegant throat torn out. Snow stood, her blood all over him, staining his face a dark crimson. Snow smiled darkly, "She always was a bit impetuous" He spared a look back at his ex-wife's corpse, now rapidly cooling in the rain. He looked at Zzask, who was weeping in the dying rain. Snow strode over to him. "No final words" He said softly "There's only one person you want to say them too and you can't…" he said, pouring salt in the proverbial wound. Zzask looked at him and Snow smiled once. "Goodbye".
And he tore Zzask's throat out too. Blood covered and soaked to the bone, Snow turned to leave. "Mama? Papa?" a small voice asked. Snow turned, to find a dragon, a mere hatchling, that looked like a cross between Ceeli and Zzask. He had Zzask's muscles and stature but Ceeli's hue and element. Snow felt the bile rise in his throat. A hybrid. They had broken another law. The hatchling looked at Snow, covered in blood, and the corpses of his parents on the floor. Understanding dawned in the little ones eyes as tears flowed "Why?" was all he asked as he looked at the corpses.
"Because they betrayed me little one" Snow said as turned and took flight, leaving the hatchling alone, cold and hunted by the ikkela. He never looked back, even as the wails of the hatchling reached him in flight. He did nothing… just left it in the cold to die…
Snow shook himself out of the memory and smiled grimly. It was done now and held no regrets…
Not a single one…
Now that lunch was over with the group trooped into the living room, finding two familiar portraits, smiling at them. "Mum! Dad!" Harry said, smiling widely. The portraits smiled at him as they held each other in the frame.
"Son" They said in unison, looking at him, smiling gently. "Merry Christmas"
"Thank you" Harry said softly, smiling gently.
"Enough chit-chat!" James said, grinning widely, "Open the presents!"
Laughing, the odd family arranged themselves in various chairs, or on the floor. Harry sat between Hermione's legs, her hand tangling in his messy hair. Presents were passed around, various 'thank you's' and the like being passed around. Jaziz stepped forward and smiled "Thank you for inviting me Harry" She said, passing him a small present. "This was given to me when I was very young and I knew that I would never need it… but now I know that you do" She said. Taking the gift, Harry unwrapped it, revealing a small black box, like a jewelers ring box. Opening it, a small glimmering horn lay on black wool.
"What is it?" Harry asked, looking at the delicate horn.
"That" Jaziz said smiling "Is a dragons hatching horn. They use it to break through their eggs at birth. They're usually lost afterwards, getting scraped off as the hatchlings grow." Jaziz smiled fondly for a moment "The horn acts as a focal point for magic. Attach it to the end of your wand and your spells will be more powerful, more precise."
Velvet looked at Jaziz shrewdly. "You were given this? Why didn't you use it?"
"Because I was too young at the time and some part in me knew, that it wasn't for me. As I developed my gifts I knew what I was feeling was the beginning of my sight" Jaziz said smoothly. "Use it well Harry"
Thalron stepped forward. "I must make this short… Jaziz and myself have other obligations…" Coughing slightly, he reached behind himself and opened a small black case that stood up, becoming the size of an average doorway, and then opening across with a creak. "Now… my family name is Smith… Ring any bells Sirius?" He asked, as the animagus looked sharply at him. "Come all of you… step inside to my vault…"
The others followed him, somewhat carefully, into a room that was much larger than you would have thought. Magic was useful…
Racks and racks of weapons stretched before the eye, all sizes and shapes, dirks, claymores, broadswords, Damascus blades, rapiers, sabers and many more that couldn't be named. Thalron smiled broadly "This is where I keep heir loomed weapons and other special projects. Take a look around and if anything calls out to you… call me"
Still slightly dazed, the group split u into pairs, Velvet and Sirius, Harry and Hermione, Tonks and Remus, and Jaziz wandered with Thalron. "What are you playing at?" she murmured to him as they walked down the aisles.
"I could say the same to you my dear Jazz" He said "Gifting him with your hatching horn? That will give him a boost in power…"
Jaziz just punched him lightly on the arm. A yell interrupted any further conversation between the two. Tonks was holding a slim dirk, shimmering with many colors. "It… just feels right… it fits!" she said, turning the weapon in her hand.
"Ah" Thalron said, looking at the blade "A Black heirloom I believe, a weapon that suits you, with it's changing state" Nothing more was said and the pair walked on.
Sirius was holding an elegant saber, lean and graceful, like himself. "I know this sword, it was above the mantle piece in my old home. It disappeared when my father died…"
"And now it is reclaimed" Thalron said shortly, patting the human on the back. Velvet claimed a set of short, lethal looking daggers, whilst Remus found himself the proud owner of a bastard sword, edged with werewolf teeth.
Hermione, thinking how ugly most of the swords were, was quite content with just wandering the halls. The pair came upon a gap in the room, with a raised pedestal. On it, there were three blades. A rapier, elegant, smooth, deadly. To it's right was a half-length sword, that looked dull almost. It shined, clean, but it looked like it lacked the killer edge of the others. The last sword was a pair, blue in color, looking oddly similar to the rapier, but with it's own flair, with a pair of ravens decorating the hilts. She felt drawn to the one in the middle, and she, almost in a dream, took the long rapier down from the stand, and ran her hand over it. It felt… familiar.
"And my suspicions are confirmed…" Thalrons voice cause her to whip round, sword in the ready pose, before she even knew what she was doing. Thalron chuckled "And that confirms it even more. It appears that blade has found its mistress… treat it well…" he said, smiling mysteriously. Looking at Harry he asked "Found anything?"
Harry shook his head in the negative, and they walked out of the box, as Thalron looked at his watch. "Jasmine" he said, "We need to fly. The festivities start in an hour" Saying their goodbyes the pair left, leaving the new potters and blacks having a very festive, merry Christmas…
Sorry for the delay, but tings got on top of me. And I got addicted to WoW.
I don't like this chapter, but oh well.
Next chapter: Harry gets a hand from 'Neville' and Harry, figuring out the clue, begins to plot.