Part 27: Dragon

The last two years had been quiet for the Wizarding World, considering everything. Voldemort had remained out of the public eye and his existence was mere rumors now. The vampire assassins had disappeared into the shadows and the Wizarding World was living peacefully. Dumbledore continued his work as Headmaster, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, and, of course, as leader of the Order of the Phoenix.

Narcissa was a wanted criminal, and Draco was being raised by the Head of the Malfoy family, Abraxus Malfoy. He was shaping up to be a real prince with the maturity and humility quite becoming of a young prodigious heir. Under Abraxus, the boy was quickly becoming a young man — a young man worthy of being his heir . . . a young man Lucius should have been. Abraxus had taken to bringing Draco along to parties at the Ministry and soon became acquainted with the Dumbledores, so much so that Draco occasionally played with Harry.

At first, things were a little strained between the two family heads, especially as it was Harry who had killed his son (Lucius). However, Abraxus had known for a long time his son had gone beyond the point of any honorable return, and he held no real grudge against the boy who had rid them of Voldemort (temporally) and many death eaters. And so, things quickly eased between the Leader of Light and himself, as they both saw the benefits of their silent alliance.

Another contributor to this alliance had been Anna Malfoy. Though she had not said much about the events leading up to her rescue of Draco, she had informed Abraxus of the part Dumbledore had played in saving Draco's life and alerting them to the Horcrux endangering what was left of his family.

It was not quite a life debt, but it had brought about a quiet understanding. Dumbledore was not attempting to eradicate non-Light families, but prevent the stain of the previous generation from spreading into the next, and Abraxus was more than willing to assist in that endeavor.

He did not want Draco to follow in the steps of his late son. He wanted him to be an heir worthy of the name Malfoy. He wanted the boy to become a man to be reckoned with, a family Head rich with honor, rather than trenched in corruption. He wanted to be able to die knowing the Malfoy name would rise above the mark Lucius had made and become a name his descendants would be proud to hold close and declare.

Remus Lupin and Elric Provo remained in England and began working with the werewolf community when it was clear the Dumbledores were no longer right in the crosshairs of the vampires or of Voldemort. In two years, they had begun training willing werewolves to control the beast within, and many were happy to devote themselves to Remus' ideals. However, not all was sunshine and daisies. Fenrir Greyback had been doing some recruiting of his own, dividing the werewolf community in two. Remus was sure, as he had told Dumbledore, that it would only be a matter of time before Voldemort used Greyback and his number in the brewing war. Remus hoped the brethren he had been able to befriend would keep their word and stick by him whenever the war began.

As for the Unspeakables, they had not been idle either.

Along with side projects, Seth and David had just finished creating a horcrux locator spell, as the location of the locket and the cup were still unknown to them (they had yet to discover the fate of the cup). Seth had named the project 'Seek and Destroy,' and they hoped the specialized locator spell would enable them to finish the job of destroying the horcruxes faster. With the destroyed horcruxes in their possession, they had been able to take the residual magic still on the items and tune the spell appropriately. It was really a work of genius and Seth had spent many nights doing the spell's arithmancy calculations, though David's luck had certainly helped prevent disaster.

Rita Skeeter continued writing articles for the Prophet, keeping on the lookout for anything that would indicate Voldemort making a move. Things were still quiet where she stood.

Curt and Colin were still hard at work studying the sword left behind by the vampire in the first assassination attempt. They hadn't been able to perfectly replicate the sword's characteristics, but they were closer to fully understanding the properties and Colin was more than happy to use the sword to test the limit of its abilities. With their research, they hoped to design a counter or at least something they could erect to decrease the strength of similar properties in the future. Curt was confident a ward, much like anti-apparation wards, specifically designed against such weapons could be created and used by them in the near future.

As for Anna and Jess, they were focused on the Dumbledores. Jess primarily worked on helping them develop and further control their chaotic magic, but also assisted Anna and Dumbledore in training Harry to become an animagus. They had yet to determine his animal, but he was well on his way to becoming the 'youngest' animagus in history.

Don Kringle, through many-many months of careful intelligence gathering and occasionally slipping the Dark Lord 'vital' information, entered the inner circle and became one of Voldemort's lieutenants. It had been slow going, as it was clear the Dark Lord was exercising extreme patience and carefully maneuvering his followers to remain undetected by the Ministry, but Don had done it. He had convinced the Dark Lord he had a faithful spy within the heart of the Unspeakables and a diehard assassin at his beck and call. Don was really looking forward to throwing the truth in Riddle's face.

O

"He's a genius," Fredrick said, leaning closer to them over the table. He was in the library with five other Gryffindors and a few Ravenclaws.

"Of course he is, he's the Headmaster's kid," a Ravenclaw agreed, glancing at Harry who was hunkered over a table at the far corner, lost in his own little world, crayons all over the table.

"Shh, he'll hear you," another boy whispered.

"Well, are you going to ask him?" Fredrick asked the second year Ravenclaw, Kevin.

"It's not like he would know even if I did ask him."

"You'd be surprised. You know, through the years I've been here, he's helped students who've asked, even fifth years with their OWLs and seventh years with their NEWTs," Fredrick continued.

"Wicked," two boys chorused. They were twins and were first year Gryffindors.

"I wonder if—"

"He knows of any—"

"Secret passages."

"You know, it's sort of confusing to see you two do that," Fredrick said, amused with the two younger boys.

"You'll get used to it," they chorused again before turning to Kevin, expectantly.

Kevin sighed and rose from the table. "Fine, I'll ask him. I don't know what you expect to get out of this by trying to stump him, but whatever."

Kevin left the table, and, as he did so, Fredrick leaned toward the twins and whispered, "Watch this."

O o O

Kevin couldn't believe he was doing this. Sure, the kid wasn't too much younger than him, just three years, but still — he was nine.

Some of the claims Fredrick made about him were just too extraordinary, even when one took into account that the Headmaster was his Pops, albeit adopted. And sure, he had grown up in the school for most of his life, but that didn't mean he was as knowledgeable as a professor. Kevin was a muggleborn and had only been in the Wizarding World for a year, and ever since he had learned about Harry Potter, now known as Harry James Wulfric Potter Dumbledore — what a name, he had been struck by how mystified the public was with the kid, as well as with the Headmaster.

It was the Dumbledores this and the Dumbledores that. It really made him wonder what sort of world he had entered into.

Quietly, he approached the table where Harry Dumbledore was sitting. Kevin wondered if this table was specifically placed there to accommodate the son of the Headmaster. It seemed a little lower than the other tables so it would fit his smaller size. Coming to the table, he found it covered in parchment and crayons. There were many colorful scribbles of weird characters Kevin had never seen before on the parchment. It was rather dizzying. What was the boy working on?

Harry didn't look up at him when he approached, but Kevin got the feeling he knew he was there. He was probably used to this attention and had learned to ignore it.

What had he wanted to ask again? Oh yes, he remembered now.

"Um, Harry?" Kevin asked.

Harry looked up from his work, his bright green eyes taking Kevin by surprise.

"Yeah?"

"I was wondering if you could help me?"

Harry looked amused. "Sure, what do you need?"

Kevin shuffled his feet a bit, suddenly realizing how ridiculous he appeared. Well, he couldn't go back now.

"Well, I heard some older years arguing about something, and, seeing as you've been here longer than all of us, thought you might know."

Harry waited patiently for Kevin to continue until he realized he needed to prompt him. "Okay, and?"

"It has to do with spells and what type they are. Some of them were saying that a spell can only be one type, while the others were saying there are spells that are a combination."

"Like a transfiguration and a charm or a hex?" Harry asked.

Kevin nodded. "I was just wondering what you know about it."

"Well, it depends on how you want to define them, but in the end many spells can be classified as a combination."

"Okay, like what?"

"Well, take Engorgio. It's classified as a Charm, but if you think about it, it could be a specialized and advanced kind of transfiguration. Some researchers are convinced it's a combo of 'charm' magic (for stabilization) and a transfiguration. Personally, I think it's solely a charm, but the combo is possible," Harry said with a shrug. "As for hexes, most of them are really just charms or transfigurations used in a mean way, but there are cases where true combinations exist, like the Bat-Bogey Hex. That's a very impressive combo-spell. It transforms your target's bogey's into bats -and- animates them to attack — a perfect balance of Charm and Transfiguration work."

Kevin blinked as Harry leaned toward him.

"So, why exactly have you come to talk with me? I know it's not really to get information about spell theory," Harry finished.

"Er . . . I was just . . ." Kevin began awkwardly.

"Curious?" Harry asked.

Kevin nodded, embarrassed.

"It's alright, you're not the first, and won't be the last," Harry said gently as he looked back down at his work, deciding Kevin had experienced enough embarrassment.

O

"Well, Harry, are you ready?" Jess asked, holding out a potion for him to take.

They were at the pit, the center of RDHPIT. For the past several months, they had been focusing on helping Harry become an animagus. They had finally felt confident Harry's mental discipline was strong enough to undergo the transformation and Jess had alluded to Harry needing a great deal of it to succeed in transforming into his animal.

She admitted to suspecting his animagus was fairly large and required a bit more focus to carry it out.

Harry wondered if it was an elephant or even something like a rhino. Though it wouldn't be conductive to stealth, it would be in combat. He wouldn't mind something like that.

"I'm ready," Harry said, taking the vial and glancing to Albus before swigging it down.

"Alright, now just relax as I cast the spell," Jess said, waving her wand over him as she circled him.

Harry felt the spell come over him as the potion began to take effect alongside the cast magic. His body suddenly felt numb and heavy, before a twisting feeling overcame him.

It was working.

A pressure began to build at his shoulder blades, his arms and legs morphing as he felt himself lean forward and rest on his stomach. His head and neck became tight as his entire body continued to change, and then it was done.

He lifted his head, suddenly finding that he was at eye level with Jess, Anna, and his Papa.

What was he?

He looked down at himself, finding his arms (front legs) and hands (now claws) covered in scales. He stood up and twisted around, finding a tail and a pair of large, dark red wings.

"Look here, Harry," Anna said, conjuring a large mirror for him.

Harry turned and gave a slight jump at the sight.

He was a dragon! His scales were copper and red, and his ridge-markings were black, along with his short horns. He wasn't all that big (for a dragon), and was about the size of Buckbeak.

"A Peruvian Vipertooth, the smallest species of dragon," Anna said, turning to Jess. "You knew all along, didn't you?"

"I didn't know that exactly," Jess answered. "But I did know that with his exceptionally strong core and penchant for wild magic that it would be a magical animal."

"Extraordinary," Dumbledore muttered, patting Harry's scaly shoulder in front of his wing.

Harry giggled, but it came out as a gruffy gurgle.

"So, youngest animagus ever, shall we get you back to human form and begin the real work?" Jess asked.

Harry nodded, eager to continue.

O

Narcissa glared at the new recruit. He quickly knelt, bowing his head. She wished he had stayed standing and defiant, giving her a reason to hex him. Instead, she curtly nodded and walked past him, clenching her jaw. Every carefully laid plan had gone to pieces. Two years ago, Abraxus Malfoy had informed her that her son was in his care and not leaving. After all, she was being hunted for invading the Ministry of Magic. He used his power and her status as a fugitive to take control of her vaults at Gringotts.

A dark voice whispered that she was better without Draco now, that she could follow her modified plans without him in the way. It was true that she didn't have to worry about him being in this place with these…people and…creatures. However, she wanted her baby. Needed him. He was the only reason she was doing all of this, to make his future secure as the next leader of the Wizarding World.

If she had to wipe out the entire Malfoy family to bring her son back, she would. If she had to destroy the world to bring him back, she would.

"All in time," the dark voice whispered. "Patience." She would wait.

O

Voldemort sat at the head of an ornate mahogany table, Narcissa Malfoy at his right hand. Bartimus Crouch Jr. was on his left. Twelve other masked, human followers sat on both sides, and five vampires sat in places of honor, their leader exactly opposite Voldemort's position. Fenrir Greyback and two of his faction stood against the wall, refusing the human comfort of chairs.

Voldemort drew in a deep breath. This was what it was all about. Power. Exterminating mudbloods was the means to that end. Once the trash was removed from the earth, Voldemort's vision for the Wizarding World could succeed. There would be room for the pure to breed and grow, with no stupid statute of secrecy to get in the way. Of course, some mudbloods might be retained as slaves, on the same level as house elves, perhaps. That is, if he was in a generous mood.

Voldemort suppressed his good mood. It wouldn't do for his minions to see him grinning from ear to ear. No, not at all. He cleared his throat, even though no one was talking. He had their complete attention.

"My followers, today is an important day," he began in a level voice. "Today is the day we, the leaders of our future world, will begin our rise to power."

All nodded at his proclamation, but no one cheered or spoke. They knew the time for that would come.

"For two years we have been laying plans, forging alliances, and gaining confidences," Voldemort continued. "Waiting in the shadows. Some have called us cowards." Here he eyed each being, mentally daring them to repeat that sentiment. They would be dead before they finished the thought. "But we have been biding our time. Today, we celebrate the new undersecretary, Bartimus Crouch Jr." He gestured to the unmasked man next to him, who rose and bowed, then resumed his seat.

"With this position secured in the Ministry, others can be gained. We already have a few tentative allies, who only need a slight push to fall in with us." At this, Voldemort smirked. Having Narcissa by his side, someone who kept up to date with others' dirty secrets, was invaluable in this task. Of course, she wasn't able to go out in public without a disguise, but she knew enough long term secrets to make her useful.

"Thus, the time to act is now," Voldemort said. "Each of you has submitted candidates to fill our ranks, and I want you to start working on those people, luring them to the Cause. Eventually all will follow, follow or die." He paused and again intently gazed at each person. "You are my inner circle, my trusted ones. Through you, I will conquer." He pulled his gaze back and surveyed the group as a whole. "Now, I have a few items of business to bring forth. First, the prisoners in Azkaban. . . ."

O

Arthur Weasley finished off another cracker loaded with his wife's wonderful spinach dip. He glanced at her and winked. Molly smiled back and patted his hand, then turned her attention back to Albus. Arthur squeezed her hand, and then refocused on the meeting.

Albus had been calling Order meetings once a month since he had last been attacked by the vampires, two years ago. A mix of old and new members, the Order had been collectively puzzling over the vampires' motives, as well as the rise of Voldemort.

So far, there had been nothing in the papers about Voldemort's return. Unless one counted the Quibbler, of course, but no one really did. There had been no attacks, no mysterious deaths, not even a harsh word that could be traced back to the self proclaimed Dark Lord. And it wasn't that Arthur doubted what Albus said, it was that there was no proof.

Although, he supposed it was fine to be prepared in case such a thing happened. If Voldemort did come back, Arthur wanted to be ready. As for the vampires, they had been a real threat. However, there had been no more attacks after the failed second attempt.

Because of this, Arthur and his wife thought of these meetings more as social gatherings. They listened to any items that were brought up, of course, but generally they used it as a time to get away from the children and share Molly's cooking with friends. Mostly friends, anyway. There were a few who were aloof, like the expert on chaotic magic and Severus Snape. But really, they were among friends.

Albus didn't seem to mind that more chatting was done about the price of beef or bestselling novels than current dark wizard affairs. In fact, he seemed to encourage this sort of talk. However, he always brought it back around to Voldemort or vampires.

Tonight, though, Albus pushed them to serious discussion very soon after everyone had arrived. "Today, a new undersecretary to the minister was selected," he began. "Bartimus Crouch Jr." He paused as if expecting a response. Remus Lupin coughed, but that was all.

Arthur wasn't sure why this was very important. Crouch Jr. was known simply because he was the son of Crouch Sr. An average wizard, perhaps, though probably attuned to detail if he managed to snare the undersecretary job.

"It is not publicly known," Albus continued, "but he was a part of the Death Eaters. He hadn't yet taken the mark*, which is why he wasn't put in Azkaban when he joined the ministry, but he was an active member at that time and, I believe, now."

Several people started murmuring, while Alastor Moody demanded, "How do you know this, Albus?"

"I had some sources inside Voldemort's camp," Albus answered, with a glance at Severus Snape.

Severus didn't respond except to raise one eyebrow in the slightest of motions.

Alastor cursed.

"Language, please," Molly said, though with less venom than if one of their children had said it. Arthur smiled, despite the grave nature of the news. He again squeezed her hand.

"If he never took the mark, then that might mean he has rethought that decision," Alice Longbottom suggested hopefully. "After all, there are questionable people in every job in every area who were never part of Voldemort's group. And there were full members who realized their errors after the fact." She also glanced at Severus.

Albus seemed to ponder this, rubbing his beard as he did so. "While that is certainly true," he answered, "it would do us well to watch this young man. It could be that he is atoning for past mistakes, but it could just as easily be that he is a plant by Voldemort."

"Surely the Ministry has steps in place to weed people like that out," Arthur's oldest son, Bill, said.

"They of course check for dark marks," Frank Longbottom answered. "But the current laws only allow so much. If we were to ask about every belief that a Ministry worker holds, that would be a breach of privacy. If someone were to openly support a dark lord, however, that would be another matter."

Even though it seemed a bit far-fetched that the improved security on the Ministry would allow a former death eater, Arthur determined to watch the new Undersecretary. Being in a minor department did have its benefits when it came to going unnoticed, after all.

O

Severus Snape waited for Albus Dumbledore after the Order meeting. He had followed the implication that he was the spy who brought Albus his information while in front of others, but now he had questions. He knew Albus would not have used him as an excuse if he didn't absolutely have to.

"Severus, my boy, how are you tonight?" Albus asked after the others had gone. His eyes twinkled as if he knew exactly why Severus had stayed behind.

"Well enough," Severus answered shortly. "Perhaps you would like to share with me any more information I have supposedly given you?"

"Yes, I thought you might have some questions," Albus said in that maddeningly way he had of avoiding the issue.

Severus arched one eyebrow, waiting for the answer to the question he had already asked.

"Lemon drop?" Albus asked, his infernal eyes twinkling even more brightly.

"No," Severus answered curtly, folding his arms.

Albus chuckled and popped one of his famous candies into his own mouth. "Severus, the manner in which I acquired this information is not one that I can share, even with the Order. By implying that you brought it to me, I was able to focus people on the information itself, rather than the source."

"I understand why you did it," Severus answered with a great deal of patience. "I am merely trying to determine if there is other information that I am supposed to have given you." And where you got this bit, you tricky old man.

"Not that I am aware of at the moment, my boy," Albus answered. "However, that may change in the future." He paused, and his face grew grave. "If I could share with you what you truly want to know, I would. Alas, it is not a secret you need to be burdened with keeping."

Severus knew the old man was sincere. Very well, there were other ways he could pursue this. "If that is the case, Albus, then I will leave you be. I have several cauldrons awaiting my return." He threw floo powder into the fireplace and with a last look at Albus announced his home.

"Goodbye, Severus," Albus said softly as Snape stepped into the Floo.

O

Jess Kringle settled in to her desk after the Order meeting. Her communication ring vibrated, and she twisted it, allowing a connection to form. Unspeakable Seth had come up with the unusual form of communication some time ago, inspired by various muggle shows as well as something called a "walkie-talkie."

Ah, it was her husband. The Death Eater meeting must have ended. "Don, how is everything?" Jess asked.

"So, funny story, true story," Don began.

"Yes?" Jess asked. She knew whatever news he had would be big, and most likely bad.

"Apparently, Bartimus Crouch Jr is working with Voldemort and the new 'Master.'" Don explained. "He's just been appointed Undersecretary to the Minister. And we've just sent vampires to attack Azkaban and rescue prisoners. So everything's well on its way to destruction. I don't have any more time, baby. We'll talk later."

Jess said good-bye as Don cut the connection. That was more than bad, that was disturbing. She picked up a memo form and wrote out a memo to Amelia Bones, head of the DMLE, warning her of the attack. She checked the box marked 'URGENT' and sent it on its way. That needed to be dealt with now. The other information, she could think on for a bit. At the very least, she needed to let Albus know that his fears about Crouch Jr were correct.

O

The dementor floated along the parapet, absently absorbing the bland soul energy from the prisoners. Most dementors had grown lazy and fat on the weak fare, but this one was constantly on the lookout. If the barriers that kept them contained were removed, this one would search for new, spicier souls. This one would enjoy the hunt, and the flavors of fresh souls that had never before been fed on.

Consequently, this one felt it when outsiders approached. They were far beyond the barrier, enticing but unavailable. The dementor moved closer in case they approached the barrier itself. As it moved, it felt the energy of the intruders more clearly. They were not human.

Soon the dementor was at the edge of the barrier, sensing what was occurring outside. The non-humans were not soul feeders, but neither were they the soul carriers that made up the dementor diet. They had the feel of both living and non-living. Such an intriguing puzzle had never before presented itself to this one.

And they were hunting. This one felt the sudden disappearance of the few soul-carrying guards which patrolled outside the dementors' barrier. Though their souls had not been consumed by the new creatures, they were torn from the body, just the same. The creatures then did something the dementor had never before sensed. They placed a curse on the body, forcing the soul back inside and lashing it in with magic. As they buried the bodies, the dementor could sense the trapped souls slowly rotting.

The creatures then came toward the barrier, floating as part of the wind. The dementor felt them seep through, and eagerly tried to feed on them. Any new food, even if enigmatic, was welcomed in this tasteless place.

What it received in return was disgusting. A soul, if it could be called that, rotten, far more rotten than those buried outside. The dementor ceased feeding and moved aside, letting the mist that the creature had approached as congeal into three human-sized beings. Even the dull fare it normally endured was better.

One of the beings looked at the dementor, and this one felt true pleasure from it. Now it was even more interested. No one looked at a dementor with happiness, because happiness was the first emotion to be consumed.

"You are free, soul-feeders, provided you come to our aid when we call," the being said in the strange tongue of the humans. "There is a village not too far away to the east which will feed you."

Freedom. The dementors readily agreed. At that, the beings worked to remove the barrier, releasing those who had been trapped for so long. The dementors fled, hungry for better souls. However, curious, this one took one last moment to see what the beings did with the dementors' former food source.

Magic flowed over the being, and its voice rang out over the whole prison. "We give you one choice! Serve the Dark Lord Voldemort, or die!"

A human, yet not quite a human, entered through what had formerly been the barrier. "My followers! Swear your loyalty and I will remove you from this wretched place."

As many came forward, the one who was not quite human branded them with a magical form of servitude. Those who refused were killed, and the other beings cursed and sealed their souls inside the bodies, just as they had for the guards.

Curiosity satisfied, the dementor left the dismal prison, relishing the thought of the hunt.

O

*In the HP Wiki, it says that Barty Crouch Jr took the mark. We're saying that he was going to, but didn't get the chance before Voldemort was defeated for purposes of this fic.

A/N: We know, it's been well over a year and a half, but being at practically opposite ends of the country has made it very hard to collaborate, even with the internet :P

We are very close to the end of the story and both want to finish it, so it will be done, eventually. We both apologize for making you all wait such a ridiculously long time, but please remember we are writing this for free and for our own enjoyment just as much as for the enjoyment of others. Thanks for sticking with us, and with any luck, the next part will be finished sooner than this one was ;)