Lerafea Draconis Dominus Chapter 4
Standard disclaimers apply.
Chapter rating: PG – some death, angst and swearing. A rather heavy chapter.
Author's note: I do live. And I do intend to finish this. Apologies for the wait, and thanks for sticking around.
Shuffling feet, stuttered words and incomplete sentences, hands so wrung out, Harry was almost sure the man had cut off his own blood circulation once or twice. Rubeus Hagrid was indubitably uncomfortable. Highly uncomfortable. And emotional. And very, very earnest. Which, in turn, made the Boy-Who-Lived shift nervously where he stood as he sought an escape path with a darting gaze that went unnoticed.
"Yeh got to understand, 'Arry," the half-giant was pleading with him, looking entirely forlorn with huge eyes that were wet with tears. "We need yeh."
Carding fingers roughly through his hair, the green-eyed man shook his head slowly, finally crossing his arms over his chest and standing with his feet shoulder-length apart. It was a stance that spoke of firmness, resolve and a steely determination to not budge in his decision. Even in the face of such a pathetic expression.
"Yeh were so tiny when ah first saw yeh. Picked yeh up an' brought yeh to the headmaster himself after…"
Of course, body language seemed to be beyond the comprehension of this gentle half-giant. Hardly surprising, given his astounding lack of understanding of the English language and inability to take 'no' for an answer. With a loud sigh that went ignored by his visitor, Harry turned his gaze to the side and took in the beauty of the land he had fallen deeply and irrevocably in love with. The skies were clear and cloudless – a perfect day for flying and leaving behind all mortal worries.
As Hagrid rambled uselessly on, the dragon handler reached out with his mind towards his bonded, allowing her to draw him into her thoughts. The dragon suffered a minute of his whining before showing him an image of the cow she had been fed for breakfast, clearly unimpressed by the predicament he was stuck in. She could, if he so wished, roast the man for him. Or pick him up and drop him on the mountain range. There would be no repercussions for her, after all, and no prosecutor was going to turn up with court summons, accusing her of breaking the international laws that prohibited violence within dragon gates. It certainly was not her fault her gormless human was too polite to throw the man out. Or take up any of her suggestions.
"Jus' Hagrid is fine, 'Arry."
"Mr. Hagrid," Harry repeated firmly, batting away an image of a bloody bovine carcass from his bonded with a growl. "I'm afraid my answer has not changed. And is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future."
The half-giant opened his mouth, clearly ready to protest, but the dark-haired handler raised a gloved hand and cut him off before he had even uttered the first syllable.
"Time's a-wasting," he said. "Yours and mine. There are only so many hours in a day, and so many things to do. Every second we spend here listening to your futile attempts at convincing me to 'go home' is a second I'm being paid for to do nothing. By that logic, you are wasting my employer's time as well."
Hagrid's face fell, and damn buggery blast it all, a twinge of guilt surfaced in response to his forlorn expression.
Another heavy sigh was issued as Harry gazed skywards and murmured a short plea for help. There was an answering call of a dragon in flight, somewhere in the distance. Earnest. Harry could do earnestness with the best of them too.
"You told me that you love dragons," he said when Hagrid's sputtering and stuttering had died out. "I love dragons too. In fact, I live for dragons, Mr. Hagrid. Look around you. Take it in. Breathe in the scents and listen to the sounds. This is my life. This is where I belong. This is my home. I don't have to go anywhere to find it. What are you going to do? Drag me kicking and screaming away from it and lock me up in a house with four walls and a guarded door? And then claim that you were merely bringing me 'home', albeit against my wishes, which clearly do not matter?"
"No!" Hagrid protested. "I wouldna –"
"Good," the younger wizard nodded, digging the heel of his boot into the ground and turning sharply away. "Because you can't. Now, would you like a tour, or shall I show you to the entrance?"
It was almost amusing how torn his visitor looked, having failed at his mission yet still obviously desiring to take a gander about the place. But denying one's heart's desires was never an easy thing, and Harry soon found himself enjoying the earnest enthusiasm the half-giant had for his beloved beasts.
The right or the easy
"You look like shit."
"Well, you do," the man shrugged, swinging open the door to let him into his home with a completely unrepentant expression.
"It's been a long week."
Harry shot his mentor a baleful glare as he threw himself in an ungraceful heap on the couch, kicking off his boots and curling up on it. He was handed a cup of hot apple cinnamon cider a moment later before Jeremy joined him on the couch, depositing his feet on the younger wizard's lap.
"Would you like to talk about it?"
"Not particularly." The verdant-eyed man draped the arm holding his mug over Jeremy's calves and propped his head up on the other. "Just British wizards dropping in one by freakin' one, totally unannounced, to try to talk me into 'going home' and 'joining the cause'. And of course there is Charlie freakin' Weasley who oscillates between avoiding me like the bubonic plague and prying into my personal space and life as though he is entitled to it."
The Boy-Who-Lived huffed and downed half his cider, expression stormy as he recalled their most recent run in with one another. The redhead was so infuriating.
"So what are you going to do about it?"
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing," the teenager declared, eyes bright with a surprising amount of vindictiveness as lips were thinned into a straight line. "Who are they to demand that I return to England to fight a war for them? What makes them think that I will roll onto my back and present my belly to them, and agree to every suggestion that trips from their lips? What right do they have to impose an owed duty on me?"
"You knew this would happen someday," Jeremy reminded him placidly, his tone as calm as an autumn scene, unaffected by the bubbling magma of his ex-student's mounting agitation. "You knew you couldn't hide forever. I thought you were okay with that – that you wanted to help."
"They want to bring charges against you!" An incredulous look was leveled at him, but Jeremy merely arched a brow in response to the sudden non-sequitor. "For kidnapping me! How bloody ridiculous is that? It's blackmail," Harry hissed, slamming his mug down on a table, stray magic rattling the lamp by the couch and causing the light to flicker.
"It's blackmail because it's true." The blonde withdrew his legs from Harry's lap and sat up, regarding the younger male with a steady cerulean gaze. "You know this, Harry. I knew it might come down to a criminal charge when I pulled you from your relatives' care with consent obtained by duress. I'm more than prepared to face the ICW and make my case. If it comes down to it, I will face the necessary consequences."
"No. You shouldn't have to." Having worked himself up into a furious state by now, the Boy-Who-Lived was glaring at his companion. "And they shouldn't be using you as leverage against me to do their bidding. Oh, don't get me wrong, Jem. I'll do it to protect you if I have to. But this is wrong."
"Harry, you grew up knowing that someday you would be expected to do something about your past. So don't go using me as the reason you finally go out there and step up to whatever it is they are asking you to step up to."
"I know! I know," the younger wizard insisted, agitation making his lips curl into an unattractive sneer. "But the more they push me into doing this and treat me like I'm some kind of foolish, simpleton child, the more I want to wash my hand off the whole affair."
Jeremy shrugged, and the pair fell silent.
"You'll do the right thing," Jeremy said after a tense silence had settled between them, standing and withdrawing his wand as he ducked around to the dining room. A swish and a jab and the ingredients for their dinner began to dance out of the larder and cupboards. "For the right reasons. I'm not telling you what you should or should not do. I've never had to and I shouldn't have to now."
"Are you guilt tripping me?"
"I don't need to guilt trip you," the blonde shrugged. "The decision is yours to make without outside interference. You know the difference between what is easy and what is right. You were brought up better."
Jeremy had brought him up better.
Wonders of the world
Squatting, the dark-haired child eyed the green buds peeking from beneath the ground, poking at them with childish curiousity and asking would they reeeaaally become tulips and what colours would they be and could they come back and look at them when they have blossomed?
His angel laughed in response, dropping a wooly hat on his head before picking him up in his arms. They would go to Amsterdam to see the tulip fields in spring, he promised. For now, however, did Harry not think that Petra was an amazing sight to behold? The rose-red city was half as old as time, a stunning historical, geographical and architectural wonder against a backdrop of mountains in which passages and gorges were hidden like lost treasure waiting to be found. Kings of old had been buried in these magnificent tombs carved out of stone, all without the aid of magic and with the sheer ingenuity of non-magical men.
Nine-year-old Harry gave his mentor an unimpressed look, pointing out that the donkeys, camels and horses were a lot more riveting to his mind and could he not get a ride from one of them? In fact, why were little boys his age plying their trade to them? Should they not be in school? Or were they on their winter holidays too?
Clearly, the little one was much more interested in living things that moved and breathed than a dead city uninhabited by people. Clearly.
Then Jeremy apparated them to the highest point in the city, and the verdant-eyed boy fell silent, staring out across the vast Jordanian land as he took in the breathtaking view.
Magic, he told his angel, and small tentative smile spread across his face. The land was not dead. There was magic in it and he could see it. Magic in the red stones and the towering mountains in the distance. There was also, he informed Jeremy with the solemnest face he could muster, magic on the cliff they were standing on. Blood magic and sacrifice. Was he not right?
The wizard cocked his head at his unlikely charge, and nodded, equally solemn. They were standing on the place of high sacrifice where rituals had been done in the past and many animals had been sacrificed to numerous deities and gods.
Too many deaths, young Harry observed quietly. The Grand Canyon had more life. The Aurora Borealis had spirituality and other-worldliness. This was a beautiful place, the child agreed. But a very cold one too, where destructive waters flooded the lands and strife ravaged its people. Jeremy had taught him that without death there would be no life. He understood that. Appreciating that and enjoying it were, however, two disparate things and he very much preferred to enjoy the beauty of life.
And could they ride a donkey down the steep incline instead of apparating, please?
Jeremy laughed, pressing a kiss to Harry's forehead, acquiescing easily to young one's request. Heaven knew his little wise man made too little of those.
As the second child in a brood of seven, Charlie knew how easy it was to fade into the background. He also learned from a young age how easy it was to push the blame to someone else and to shirk one's responsibilities for someone else to pick up the slack. Granted, he had not made a habit of it, but the temptation was always there. Hiding behind Bill's leadership, taking advantage of Percy's uptight nature, laughing at the twins' raucous behavior he only made a half-hearted attempt to stop, and easily dismissing his littlest brother's sulking as a bid for attention. Ginny was the precious one, but their mother coddled her enough for all of them.
At the end of the day, however, Molly Weasley had brought her children up well. With her lovingly strict hand, the matriarch had instilled in them the general principles of what it meant to be a good person. She taught them with stories and children's tales, with history books and wizarding fables. Every child she raised knew what it meant to do the right thing, and that it was right to be upright, honest, brave and light.
When Charlie had first spotted that lightning-shaped scar on the forehead of the lithe Adonis, his pounding heart had done a wronski feint toward his stomach as a stunned expression settled on his chiseled features. After all, one did not meet the stuff of legends or the hero of one's baby sister's favourite bedtime story every day.
The rage that had followed swiftly after startled even him, coursing through the blood in his veins until his temple throbbed something fierce.
For most of his young adult life, wizarding Britain had been a chaotic mess. An incompetent ministry fighting against a brilliant and psychopathic manic while a secret order was forced to operate below the radar or face legal consequences. It was why Bill had left for Egypt, urging his younger brother to do the same and follow his dreams to Romania. Yet the oldest two of the youngest Weasleys did so with a large amount of guilt weighing down on them. It had felt too much like selfishly running away in spite of their parents' encouragements and Albus Dumbledore's reassurances.
So the both of them carried a portkey each, to pull them back to their motherland the instant they were sought out and news of another Death Eater attack reached them. It was not as good as permanently staying on the frontlines of battle, but it went a long way in assuaging their guilt for abandoning their family and the fight.
The redheaded dragon handler fingered the phoenix pendant portkey he wore around his neck even as his other hand raised a glass of whiskey to his lips, a heavy frown creasing his forehead and curling his lips downward.
Harry Potter was not who – or what – Charlie had expected him to be. Missing. That was his official status in the British wizarding registry. Kidnapped, Albus had explained, worry creasing that age-old forehead. To be found at all costs.
Because without him, the wizarding world would soon be lost to the dark clutches of the Dark Lord Voldemort.
Yet there he was, hale, healthy and far too strikingly handsome for his own good as he worked behind the relative safety of the Dragons' Gate.
Curiously, what was most attractive about him was not his smooth, tanned skin or toned physique. It was his zest for life, his love for dragons, and his free spirit, warmth and generosity. It was his strength in spirit, patience and humility.
A man like that was obviously good and obviously light. But it remained an undisputed fact that he was aware of the situation with Voldemort and still chose to remain hidden away, oceans away from his homeland and the imminent crisis it was facing. Not only were the British facing death, they were also facing the increasing risk of discovery by the muggles – something that would no doubt endanger their ways of living and perhaps even their survival.
Did he not care?
The whiskey burned a pathway down his gullet and into his roiling stomach.
And yet again…
"Why me?" The younger wizard had asked one evening when they were alone, camped on the ledge of a cliff to wait for the hatching of a clutch of ironbelly eggs. Earlier in the day, Andromeda Tonks had stopped by to convince her little god-cousin to go back home with her. Inky strands fell across his face, tousled by the wind and damp from the clouds. He looked forlorn, and a little lost, unfocused gaze cast across the darkening distance. Almost like a child that needed reassurance that he was still loved and not alone, Charlie remembered thinking. "Why do you need me?"
That was when Charlie realised: He did not know.
Blood of the innocents
It happened so quickly, no one could have been completely sure what had happened. One moment the men were talking stiffly but cordially in the nursery, and in the next, duelling spells were being flung across the enclosed space. Before the all hell broke loose, there had been shouting from the tall redhead and a gruff caution from the wizened auror. Then Harry turned his back to them, clearly dismissing them, and the younger visitor had lost the last vestiges of his cool.
A curse cast to the back of a retreating wizard. A cutting curse easily dodged by a trained, retreating wizard. A cutting curse that struck the neck of a week-old dragonling, far too young to have developed its armour.
The spilling of innocent blood happened in the nursery that night, and Harry could only bite back his anguish and curb his fury.
International laws of peace meant nothing in the face of retrieving the Boy-Who-Lived, it seemed. Treaties could be broken and a murder and a kidnapping performed in broad daylight in front of witnesses. It was with a good deal of bitterness that the dragon dominus glared down at the cowering redhead on the ground, a furious snarl and a curse curling his lips.
"Did you know that it is forbidden to cast offensive spells within a Dragon Gate, Mr. Weasely?" He asked, but never gave the other wizard the time to reply. "Do you know the repercussions of doing so without any perceived danger to your life? And do you know the consequences of killing a protected species, Mr. Weasley? You are a rash, inconsiderate, thoughtless, fucking son of a bitch, Mr. Weasley, and I will see to it that you pay and you pay dearly for this crime you have committed."
"Potter. Let Ron up," the other guest ordered, though his tone had softened considerably from the previous demand he had made of Harry. "You cannot be the judge, jury and executor here. And if you attack the lad, you too will be in breach of the peace treaty."
A burning verdant gaze met his unflinchingly, not even fazed by the eye that spun in a socket.
"You have no place to speak here, Alastor Moody."
The length of wood in the slighter wizard's hand was swept up and snapped forward, a single hissed spell banishing both Moody and Charlie's youngest brother to Dominus Kelly's tent to await their fate. Because it was either that, or the sickly green glow of the killing curse right then.
Ramifications of the heart
His tears had dried, leaving behind unseen tracks of grief that tore at weary heartstrings. In his arms he cradled the weight of the little dragonling, a creature so fragile it was hard to imagine that it would have grown into a ferocious beauty capable of razing villages to the ground; its scales were not yet even hard. Silently, fingers traced the places where the natural protective armour would have first formed around budding wings, down the silky back to a tail that bore the first beginnings of a spiked tip.
Harry could still hear the angered screams of the baby's mother, painfully loud and piercing, ringing in his head and across the plains behind the Gate. She had had to be sedated with Dominus Kelly's help and the older wizard was still tending to her just meters away from where the green-eyed keeper sat heavily on the grass. He could not bring himself to react to anything. All he could do was sit there and wonder about things – the frailty of life, Kelly's skill with their scaly companions, the sheer audacity of wizards, the destruction wizards (and mankind) were able to inflict… Yet it was as though he had cleaved rational thought from emotions.
He knew he was pained and angry. Furious, even. But still the wizard sat there, a silent figure on the ground, nimble fingers tracing patterns on leathery skin with the gentlest of touches.
A cold snout pressed insistently against his side, drawing a heavy verdant gaze from the lifeless body in his lap to the bright, curious eyes of the dragonling's brother. Even then, Harry said nothing, merely lifting his arm to allow the young shortsnout to clamber onto his lap. Like his younger sibling, the infant dragon was a dull grey that would blend perfectly into the rocky terrain to which they were native to.
The young dragon keeper bore their combined weight without complaint, it being a mere fraction of the boulder that had settled itself on his heart.
Kelly was striding towards him, his expression neutral as he regarded his employee. Whistling a short pattern, the man opened his arms and caught the dragonling that bounded into his arms, ignoring the series of fragmented thoughts that the infant shoved demandingly into his mind. Harry heard them too, though he took the other Dominus' cue and let the creature's wordless questions go unanswered.
"Come. She's ready to receive the young one."
Wordlessly, the Boy-Who-Lived rose to his feet, not once jostling the precious burden he cradled tightly to his chest. Together, the two men approached the waiting dragon and faced the reproachful gaze she pinned on them, shouldering the blame that could easily be attributed to another of their kind. With both hands, the dark-haired wizard offered her baby to her.
With one claw, she unburdened him, leaving in her wake a long gash upon his arm as she shakily took flight, the sedatives still running their course in her veins. The infant dragon keened aloud, and tried to take flight, but Kelly quelled his complaints with a tap of his fingers against the still-harmless snout, his solemn gaze following the path the dragon had taken in the skies.
Only when she was a speck in the horizon did Kelly hand the remaining dragonling to Harry, patting him on the back in a show of understanding and solidarity before leaving the nursery's field. The young creature nosed at the gash on his arm, earning him a wince from his human keeper.
"Do you miss your sister, Rodwen?"
The shortsnout whined a little, its forked tongue darting out to get a whiff of the coppery substance dripping from open flesh. It was too young to form proper thought but Harry managed to glean the idea of confusion from its developing mind, drawing a sigh from him.
"It is my hope that you'll never have to understand, little one."
As if in indignation, the infant dragon wormed its way out of Harry's loose grasp and went off in search of its kindred companions. The wizard watched him leave with a dispassionate gaze, absently smearing blood between his thumb and pointer finger even as crimson droplets dripped intermittently to the ground.
"You should get that looked at."
"You should stop telling me what to do."
"Potter, I – "
"Don't need to hear it," Harry hissed, abruptly turning on his heel to face the redhead who had been the cause of almost all of his problems since his arrival at the gate. Green orbs burned fiercely with ire and a good deal amount of frustration as he took one step and then another towards Charlie. It seemed that the older Keeper brought the worst of emotions out of him at all times.
Anger. Fear. Judgment. Jealousy. Unbidden, even if he wished it would stay behind its occlumency barriers until he was ready to deal with it. In about a century or five.
If his wand had not been broken in the fight, Harry just knew that it would be in his hand, bloody or not.
"You've done enough, Weasley. I don't want to talk to you."
"I'm sorry." And he looked like he was. But it would take a lot more than bloodshot eyes and a tear-choked voice to evoke sympathy from Harry. His grief for the killed dragon was not solely his own. It was shared by the community and Charlie was no exception. It did nothing, however, to abate the heated blood that pumped rapidly through his veins.
In fact, underneath his tan, the wizard was probably rather pale, given the amount of blood that had slipped from the deep gash in his arm.
Jerking back and away from the healing spell from Charlie's wand, Harry felt it whizz just inches from his skin. Powder blue eyes met his own, regret shining from within.
"I just want to –"
"Potter, I never meant for it to get this far. I had no idea they would react this way. I know apologies mean nothing right now but…"
It was drivel. And like the meaningless words that they were, they fell inconsequentially upon Harry's ears. It had been said that the path to hell is paved with good intentions, and the British wizard did not doubt that Charlie had the interest of many at heart. But that meant nothing to him.
Roughly shouldering past those broad shoulders that he had stolen glances at many times before, the younger wizard left the nursery, pausing only to gather gauze and potions from the supply before retreating to his tent where he could like his wounds – both figurative and literal – in private.
For years Harry had struggled with the notion that he was the wizarding world's unwitting savior. He had brooded, debated, mulled over and sometimes fought over what he had to do about it. What iduties/i he had as the acclaimed defeater of the dark lord. When the news of Voldemort's theft of the Sorcerer's stone and his subsequent resurrection had reached the school, he had even wondered if he should return to England – a notion swiftly killed by his friends and guardian. He did not owe his life to anyone but himself and his parents' sacrifice. Those that abandoned him to abusive relatives certainly had no claim over him and he most decidedly did not owe obligations to them.
He was, after all, but a child.
And in many ways, he still was a child, clinging to his safety blanket of anonymity and hiding behind the fortress that his many protectors had formed around him.
Harry did not want to be the Boy-Whose-Parents-Died-For-Him. He wanted normalcy. His friends offered him that and he had had hopes that he would, one day, find a person generous enough to offer him that and much more. Like a lifetime of happiness. There was no need for a handsome man or gorgeous woman to sweep him off his feet with roguishly good looks and devastating charm. Only a yearning for someone to gaze at him without judgment and without demanding that he live up to his destiny.
It seemed, thus, that anyone British would not make the cut. And he was angry enough that he would do more than simply curse the dragonling slayer should he ever lay his eyes upon his face again.
Methodically sewing up the wound, the verdant-eyed dragon keeper sighed, and pushed his depressing thoughts behind mental barriers again. His bonded was calling for him, and the desire to drink himself into oblivion was winning over his need to sleep.
Everything else could wait another night.
To be continued...