Chapter 10 Sirius Returns

Hermione met Ginny after supper.

"Ginny, I have been wanting to talk to you," said Hermione. "You've been busy. I couldn't find you."

"DMLE wanted to talk to my whole family, so Mum called my brothers and me home for a meeting," said Ginny. "We've been at home for a couple days. They wanted to ask questions about Ron's rat. Later, we didn't feel like coming back right away. The first thing they showed us was the picture from the Prophet. That's why you wanted it, wasn't it? Because of Harry."

"Sirius Black owled Harry," said Hermione, sticking with the story. "He said the rat was an animagus that Professor Lupin could recognize, so I took the photo to the professor. He mumbled something like 'It can't be, he's dead,' and took the photo with him. We didn't know if what Black wrote was real. I didn't want to say anything, if it was nothing. At least the rat was already gone."

"The rat was Peter Pettigrew," said Ginny. "DMLE has him now, and he is wanted for murder. A MURDERER. Mum learned the animagus revelation charm from Bill right away, and even used it on all of the chickens. Percy has barely said a word. He wants to act like it didn't happen. Ron went spare. He wants Bill to teach him the charm too. Can you imagine Ron wanting to learn something he doesn't have to? The twins, well ... they are the twins. DMLE asked us all sorts of questions, but we aren't in trouble, or anything. You said it could be a good story, but ... wow. A murderer, living with us for all those years. Thankfully, the Prophet didn't mention where the rat was hiding."

"How are you doing, Ginny?" asked Hermione.

"I'm OK," said Ginny. "After having Tom in your head, not much can top that. Bill spent some time with me, so that was good. Bill said I have a long way to go yet. I didn't expect to see him until the holidays. The nightmares haven't came back. Thank the gods I have Bill to help me. I'd hate to go to St. Mungos, and talk to strangers."

"You can talk to me anytime," said Hermione. "About anything. You know that, right?"

"Yeah," said Ginny. "You help a lot too. After Tom, homework is easy. Too easy, really."

"Don't sell yourself short," said Hermione. "Talking to you helps me too. You know how I like to study. If you want to learn stuff above year two, I can help."

"Not just yet," said Ginny. "I practice Bill's exercises ... a lot. I could teach you some of those."

"Not a bad idea," said Hermione. "Let's make a schedule."

Ginny just grinned.

A few days later, Harry was in the cave with Sirius.

"Harry, I'm not doing so good," said Sirius. "This place is good, but I've got to go. I need to be obliviated. I can't sleep properly. Nightmares are awful. Hell, day time isn't that good. I will probably need to go to the healers at St. Mungos in London. Before I go there, I want to find someone in Knockturn Alley to wipe my mind. I used to know some places to look for someone who might have the ability. Some people have a talent with memory charms."

"Lockhart said he had the talent," said the owl. "He wanted to do me. He won't get that chance again."

"Let me know if you want me to curse him for you ... git, think he will hurt my godson," said Sirius. "Anyway, I had a driving need to find the rat, but I don't have that any more. I am worried. The St. Mungos obliviators are good, but the aurors will get me first, and I promised not to say anything about you or this place. They will ask me an awful lot of questions about my escape, and some I don't want to answer. I want them to wonder how I got out of Azkaban for eternity. Best prank ever, that. To the point, I don't want anyone to know I am an animagus, and it works best when no one knows. They probably won't specifically ask that, but it will come up when I talk about how I escaped. Veritas serum works really good. I don't want to forget what Dumbledick did to me, or what the rat did, but I don't need to remember Azkaban to do that. I am going to leave tomorrow, I guess. Take me a while to find someone. I need to scratch some money up."

"I can help you with that," said the owl. "I've been cleared for Hogsmeade weekends."

"How can you help me?" asked Sirius. "I need to be obliviated."

"Maybe I will tell you some time," said Harry. "It's how I have so many friends, like these wolves and owls. I am rather good with minds and memories. Real good. You have secrets, I have secrets. They will be safe. Do you want to do this?"

"Yeah, my life is a mess now," said Sirius. "Just wipe out a dozen years. Hell, at this point, I don't even care if you kill me. Azkaban HAS to go from my mind. If they get me, they learn stuff I want quiet. If you do half a job, St. Mungos can do the rest. Just promise me one thing. If I'm a flobber worm after you are done, kill me."

"If you are sure you want to be obliviated, I can do it," said the owl. "I will need a couple hours."

"You worked with the wolves and an owl?" asked Sirius.

"And more," said the owl.

"Get rid of Azkaban for me Harry," said Sirius. "Try, anyhow. You can't leave me much worse off than I am now. I just want to know when I went got into the boat going into Azkaban, and when I got out of it, making my hasty exit. Anything in the middle goes. That would be perfection. A dozen years gone. OK?"

"Azkaban will be gone, as will this place," said the owl. "They will want to know where you have been hiding. There is a Hogsmeade weekend in two days. Make any preparations you need to. I will meet you at the place I found you. The wolves will come with you, not that you would get lost necessarily, but why take a chance. There are other things in the woods that you don't want to find you. That will be the place you've been hiding since you were seen at Hogwarts."

"He should write himself some notes about anything important," said Hermione. "We can help him prepare."

"My friend Hermione will be with me," said the owl. "She suggests you make yourself some notes. I have removed some of her memories as well. She hasn't had any problems. Your memories will be easier to remove, since you want entire sections blanked out."

"You're starting to trust me?" asked Sirius.

"You won't remember how it happened," said Harry.

"Damn Harry," said Sirius. "You are only thirteen years old. No wonder Voldemort wanted you dead. That prophecy must have been something. Good thing he's gone."

"He's not gone," said the owl.

"WHAT!!!" yelled Sirius.

"He's some sort of wraith," said the owl. "Possessed a teacher my first year at Hogwarts. Dead again, for now, as far as I know. He means to kill me. He wants me as badly as you wanted the rat. Maybe worse. Wants Longbottom too."

"Frank's kid?" said Sirius. "Frank and Alice were the other couple Dumbledick wanted to protect. Bella got to them. I heard her bragging about it. Dumbledick works wonders."

"That prophecy you were talking about?" stated the owl.

"This changes everything," said Sirius. "Bloody hell, this changes everything. No wonder Bella used to talk about meeting her master again. Thought she was crazy. Well, she is, I suppose. Two days, huh."

"Where will you go, after Hogsmeade?" asked the owl.

"There is a public floo at the Hogshead Inn," said Sirius. "They don't ask questions. I will floo to the old home place in London. Don't really look forward to seeing Mum, but maybe she has a better opinion of me now."

"Oh my," said Hermione. "Prophet said his mother is dead. She died a few years after he went to prison."

"Paper said your mother is dead," said the owl. "She died a few years after you went to prison."

"Oh Harry, that's cold," said Hermione. "Maybe a bit more tact, huh?"

"No real loss there," said Sirius. "I'll tell you about it some time. Kicked me out, and I went to live at your Grandad's, when I wasn't at Hogwarts."

"His mother must have been a real prize," said Hermione.

"So, I get to see you back in the rocks above Hogsmeade?" asked Sirius.

"Yeah," said the owl.

"Now I can hardly stand the wait," said Sirius.

Sirius didn't say anything for a while. Harry wasn't real chatty.

"Can I ever come back here, Harry?" asked Sirius. "I like it here."

"Why not?," said the owl. "Who knows what the future brings? My life has changed so much in the last two years. You just can't tell anyone else about my valley."

Harry and Hermione walked up into the rocks about Hogsmeade. The wolves met them, and the owls were flying overhead. They walked into the crevasse to meet Sirius.

Sirius stood up, and didn't say anything. His jaw was slack.

"Mr. Black," said Hermione.

"Damn Harry," said Sirius. "You look just like James."

"Yeah, with my mother's eyes," said Harry. "I've heard."

"I've got so much I'd like to say," said Sirius. "When I wasn't thinking about the rat, or Crouch and Dumbledick, I thought about you."

"There's not really any time for that," said Harry.

"There is a blown over dead tree top outside," said Hermione. "I am going to bring in some wood for a fire."

"That your girl?" asked Sirius. "I started dating young."

"She's a good friend," said Harry. "We do most things at Hogwarts together."

"I had James, Remus, and the rat for that," said Sirius. "We were mates. Where there was one of us, the others were probably close. Bloody rat. Why did he do it?"

Hermione came back in, levitating enough wood for a good fire.

"Who are you, young lady?" asked Sirius.

"Hermione Granger," said Hermione, as she prepared for the fire.

"If we're going to do this, we may as well get started," said Harry. "You won't remember this."

"Harry, I want to thank you for your help," said Sirius. "I'm a free man, and the rat is caught."

"Hermione is the one who wanted to make sure you are free," said Harry. "I probably would have let you kill the rat. He was a wand carrying animagus living in my room. There are so many things unsafe about that. Further, you explained how he was responsible for the attack on me and my parents. I have no problem killing people who try to kill me. Stupid to let them live to try again. Hermione was worried about your well being."

"I also like the idea Pettigrew is in jail," said Hermione. "The truth is known, and justice is served. You were given a raw deal."

"Thanks, then, Miss Hermione," said Sirius. "You two have done so much. I hope I see you both again."

"You just get better," said Hermione.

"I will," said Sirius, "if this works out. Won't care about it, if it don't."

"Harry knows what he is doing," said Hermione. "He helped me out of some bad memories Voldemort gave me."

"There is a lot I don't know about you guys, isn't there," said Sirius. "Dark and Nasty messed with you too."

"If Harry doesn't hear from you by the summer, I will write to you, Mr. Black," said Hermione. "If you get to follow the list, you will write Harry. I will send the other letters when you are on your own."

"When you write, call me Padfoot," said Sirius. "So, you're Harry's social secretary now? My close friends call me Padfoot. Even if I don't remember you, damn few people know me as Padfoot."

"OK, Padfoot," said Hermione, with a small grin.

"I don't know if I would have been as successful finding the rat without you," said Sirius. "I stuffed up getting into Gryffindor Tower. The rat ran. I would have kept trying. You will write to me, won't you Harry?"

"Yeah," said Harry. "When you feel well enough to write, I will answer your letters. Hermione says it is important."

"Lily helped James pull his head out of his arse," said Sirius with a smile. "She helped us all, really. James kept after her all through school, and she finally went out with him. Too bad you never got to know her. She was something else. Damn, I miss them. Looks like guys need a good woman, though I never found one for me. After school, the war and work kept me busy. In school, I was ... well, I played the field and the fool. Something of a dumb arse, really, looking back. I've looked back, a lot."

"Mr. Black ... Padfoot," said Hermione. "Your life starts fresh today. Don't dwell on the bad things. It doesn't work. I know it doesn't."

"Me, getting advice from a kid," said Sirius with a chuckle.

"We better get started," said Harry, as Hermione worked the fire.

"Here are the letters I want you to send me, when it is safe," said Sirius. "Make sure you wait until next summer, just to make sure."

"I'll make sure you get them," said Hermione.

"What do you want me to do?" asked Sirius.

"Just relax, and make your self comfortable," said Harry. "It may take a while."

Harry entered his mind, and started looking around. He found Sirius' consciousness, and connected.

'Hey kiddo, this is different,' said Sirius. 'How is this done?'

'I find the section where Azkaban is stored,' said Harry. 'We will view some memories. It is a quick process, but you have a lot of memories. Memories play pretty fast in here, especially since we aren't going to study them, or organize them in any way.'

They found Sirius' childhood, and Hogwarts. They slowed down after Hogwarts.

'Harry, don't you want to see some memories of your parents?" asked Sirius.

'I can't avoid it,' said Harry. 'We have to narrow down where to start getting rid of the memories. I must admit, I am a bit curious. They are complete strangers for me. I remember a little, but not too much. I was really young. I dare not try this with just anyone. The Ministry would get me if word got out. I know it. Look how they treat an animagus. I haven't seen much of any good about the Ministry.'

'Smart move,' said Sirius. 'Believe me, I ought to know. Bloody Ministry.'

Harry saw memories of Sirius with his parents, and when Harry was a small child. Not only did he see the memories, but he felt Sirius' emotions with the memories. Sirius was dedicated to his parents, and Harry as well, as his godson. Azkaban was hell, and they avoided it as much as possible. They just wanted the location.

'You care about me quite a bit, don't you?' said Harry. 'I didn't know what to expect, but I didn't expect this.'

'I care about you, kiddo,' said Sirius. 'You are job one, now.'

'I can see what you are planning,' said Harry. 'I will send you an owl when you get out of the hospital. It will stay with you, and be yours. I know just the one. You are going to be busy.'

'Everyone has to have something to live for,' said Sirius. 'Or someone.'

'I know where to work now,' said Harry. 'You will go to sleep, and when you wake up, we will be gone, and so will Azkaban. You won't remember Hermione, me, or your time in the valley, but we will be in contact later.'

'Do it, kiddo,' said Sirius. 'Don't let me forget you and your parents.'

Harry came to, and Hermione was near. The fire was comfortable.

"He really cares for me," said Harry, with a tear. "I didn't expect that. At least, not that strongly. I know he said it, but ... let's go. That was ... intense. He will wake soon."

Sirius woke up, and looked around. A fire was still burning. A letter was tied to his wrist.

Sirius, old boy, this is Sirius.

We spent the better part of a dozen years in Azkaban for killing the rat. Hopefully, you remember the rat. No one asked us what happened. No trial, nothing. Azkaban messed us up real bad, so you had to pay to get obliviated. I really hope you don't remember how bad it was, or you'll have to ask for your money back. I solemnly swear we are buggered up. Obliviation was the only choice. You might remember the stories they told at the academy. Understated. Believe them. Really bad there in Azkaban. We escaped, and turned the world upside down for a while.

We caught the rat, and we are a free man. Read the papers near you. You have a few hours until you need to leave. They owe us.

First things first. Don't trust Bird Club Dumbledick. He, with Crouch, let us rot in Azkaban. He got James and Lily killed, trusting everyone in his group without verification. Hopefully, you remember how well he handled the spy investigation, and how we planned to catch the spy. Bloody old sod. He did think to protect Harry from Death Eater revenge, thank the Powers. His incompetence may have been involved in Bella and her husband hurting Frank and Alice, I don't know yet. He may be a powerful wizard, but he's only fit to boss teachers and pontificate with politicians. Kick that auror disgrace Crouch in the stones if you see him. Those two cost you twelve years, and lots of PAIN.

Secondly, Mum is dead. Go straight to the old home place. Floo from the Hogshead just before closing time. They won't ask questions. Never have. We have a couple galleons on us in small coins.

Mum didn't trust anyone after Dad died. The Black wards should be intact. The papers haven't said anything about a Black heir, while we have been on the run. Maybe the old bitch didn't get around to disowning us after all. She probably liked the idea we were in Azkaban. Probably thought we joined Voldemort, and made her proud. Remember, she burned us off the tapestry. There should be some clothes and some money there. Should be able to find a wand that works.

Third, floo to St. Mungos. Paper said the aurors will pay for it, full ride. We need help badly. We are better than when we got out, but we are still skin and bones. Who knows how bad our insides are. It isn't just our mind that is a mess.

Fourth, give the auror's a chance. We need to be an auror again. It is important. Harry needs us to be an auror. That is all I will say on that. Not an issue right now, get well. You NEED to be an auror. Just do it. That sod Crouch was the problem.

Fifth and last, get well, and then write our godson. Get to know Harry. He's already bleeding thirteen years old and at Hogwarts. The rat was there. We sent the rat to Bones. May the rat rot in hell, after he rots in Azkaban. Rat gets a trial next week. Yeah, he gets a trial. We didn't. We got nothing but Hotel Azkaban. Bella got a trial, Malfoy got a trial, everyone got a trial, but us. Don't forget that.

You wouldn't like Azkaban.

Work through this list.

Long live the memory of the Marauders, minus the bloody rat.

Good luck, old buddy.


The fire was still burning. Sirius could vaguely smell some perfume. He changed into Padfoot, and the smells were discernible. Two people had been here recently. He changed back, and read the papers. There was a good stack of wood, and he stoked the fire several times while he read. About midnight, he picked up the best blanket, and wrapped it around him. He made a package of the papers and letter. He walked to the Hogshead Inn.

There were still a few patrons there at the bar. Sirius walked straight toward the floo.

"Black," said one of the patrons, reaching for a wand.

"Touch that wand, and I'll hurt you," said the bartender. "You know the rules."

"But that's Black," said the patron.

"Evening Abe," said Sirius. "Just passing through. Catch you again some other time."

The bartender just nodded, Sirius threw a coin in the pot, grabbed some powder, and was gone.

"That was Sirius Black," said the patron again. "I would have been in the paper."

"Free man, good kid," said the bartender to the few people left. "Next round's on me."

Sirius was glad the old home place accepted him. It would have complicated things, if it hadn't. He looked around. The place was a mess. There was the soft pop of an elf.

"Bad Master returns," said the elf.

"Kreacher," spat Sirius. "You still alive?"

"Kreacher lives," said the elf. "Rather have his head on the wall."

"That can be arranged later," spat Sirius. "I need a wand. Get several wands to choose from. Get me clothes. Take them to my old room."

Kreacher just grumbled, and popped away.

"Damn, I hate being here," said Sirius, to himself.

Sirius woke up in the morning, got dressed, and used the floo immediately to go to St. Mungos. He walked up to the check in station.

"Hello, may I help you ... S ..." began the receptionist.

"Yes, my name is Sirius Black," said Sirius. "The paper said I should come in for medical evaluation. Who should I talk t ...."

Sirius was stunned in the back. He woke up in a hospital bed, complete with a white walled room.

"Mr. Black, you are awake," said Amelia Bones. "The young auror who stunned you is on three day suspension. The staff already knows enough to realize you will be here for some time. Do you have any questions for me?"

"The paper said I should come in for medical treatment, and that the aurors wanted to talk to me," said Sirius. "I recognize you, Major Bones."

"I am now the DMLE Department Head, if you didn't know," said Amelia. "It pleases me no end that you trusted me enough to write while you were on the run. Major Shacklebolt will work with you for the next few days. You will have a guard posted around the clock, more for your protection than anything else. Not everyone believes you should have been cleared of all charges. We DO have some questions for you, and you need to be debriefed. I am sure you understand."

"I'll answer anything I can," said Sirius weakly. "Azkaban was terrible, and I paid to have myself obliviated. I wrote myself a note. I can only imagine how bad off I was, if I paid to have an obliviator take the memories of Azkaban."

"Who obliviated you?" asked Amelia.

"I don't know," said Sirius. "He may not have been all that reputable. I used a code in the note to myself that told me it was necessary. I woke up outside of Hogsmeade yesterday, and went to the old home place. I came to St. Mungos as soon as I woke up today. The rest, you know."

"May I see the note?" asked Amelia.

"I left it at home," said Sirius. "I don't want it posted in the Prophet, or anything, but you can see it."

"It will be part of the debriefing," said Amelia. "As far as I am concerned, you are still an auror, and on the payroll. The note may be important, and it is NOT for public consumption. You were apparently responsible for capturing Pettigrew, and that investigation is still ongoing. There is a lot of high level interest in Pettigrew's activity for the last several years. You are central to that investigation. Pettigrew has admitted to betraying the Potters to Voldemort, and framing you for his murder."

"Yes Ma'am," said Sirius. "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but I am having a hard time staying awake."

"They have given you several potions," said Amelia. "That is understandable. Rest easy, Auror Black. You have earned it."

"Madam Bones, I have never seen such a thorough obliviation," said the healer assigned to DMLE. "Usually obliviations leave some residual, and we can get something, but Auror Black has nothing at all of his years at Azkaban. Nothing."

"What of his mental and physical health?" asked Amelia.

"He is suffering from malnutrition, and the resultant organ and tissue damage," said the healer. "There is no quick cure for this level of damage, but I expect a complete recovery in time. Considering he spent a dozen years in Azkaban, his mental health is amazing, other than he is grieving for the loss of the Potters. It is as if he never went to Azkaban."

"You worked with Major Shacklebolt for his debriefing," stated Amelia. "Is there no indication what so ever of how he escaped from Azkaban?"

"None," said the healer. "He has no memory of ever being in Azkaban. He just knows that he was there. He remembers stepping on the boat, and then he was running, with the boat behind him. The last few weeks is sketchy as well. Our investigation has not uncovered anything else, nothing of his capture of Pettigrew. There was that note he left for himself."

"He summoned his family elf to retrieve the note," said Amelia. "I have seen it. There is nothing of relevance there. I understand how Dumbledore ... and his bird club, big secret that ... was helping James and Lily Potter hide from Voldemort. Auror Black ... is unhappy with Dumbledore and Crouch. Unhappy is a generous word."

"If there is nothing else, then may I go?" asked the medical officer.

"Yes, you may go," said Amelia. "Certain people are not going to like the results of your evaluation of Auror Black."

"Yes, well, be that as it may, it is of no concern of mine," said the healer. "Auror Black may be ready to return to duty in three or four months. His recovery is not a simple matter of healing injuries. His body and magical levels were devastated. There is very little to work with. I have no idea how he was able to cope with his ... debilitated condition, and still function well enough to capture Pettigrew. He may of course continue his remedial auror training, as you see fit. The physical training is not possible at this time."

"Yes, I know," said Amelia. "I wonder about how he did it myself. His service record notes his dedication to the job at hand. I think you will agree that he had a lot of motivation to capture Pettigrew. Thank you for your time, Mary."

"You are quite the enigma, Auror Black," said Amelia, to herself.

"Please have Peter Pettigrew brought to Court Room Ten," said Amelia Bones. "I am going to take my place in the court room."

"Yes Ma'am," said the young auror. She soon returned.

"Ma'am!" exclaimed the auror. "The aurors guarding Pettigrew have been found stunned. Pettigrew is missing!"


Every exit slammed shut, while none too gently pulling anyone near them inside the building. The building's floo network shut down, as did the apparition portals. Pettigrew was long gone.

Harry took the news of Pettigrew's escape with a grain of salt. His security scheme would not change. The news stayed on the front page of the Prophet for days, and the DMLE took the brunt of the proverbial firestorm. It became obvious that it was a well orchestrated escape, and an inside job. No single department was to blame. The dementors did not return to Hogwarts.

Hermione was working on her own diary. Harry talked her into a Saturday with Norberta.

"What you did with Crookshanks is incredible," said Hermione. "She has said a couple words. I thought she was close to Kneazle before, but now they are inseparable. I believe they are making their own language. I can make out some of it, now and then."

"Yeah, they are," said Harry. "Removing Azkaban for Sirius reminded me I have been a little too busy. I haven't spent much time with Kneazle. None with Norberta either, really. I plan to spend time with her on Saturday. Want to go?"

"I'll take a break from the diary," said Hermione. "I have the basics started, but my diary won't hurt anyone. Every girl should have a diary like I am working on. Even Ginny is interested."

"Sirius had memories of me with my parents," said Harry. "He felt the same way about them ... him and me also ... as I do Kneazle, and well, you. They had a deep friendship. He will want to talk to me when he gets better. It's easy to get so busy that I forget other things."

"Busy has always been normal for me," said Hermione.

Harry and Hermione visited Norberta, and Norberta was happy for the visit.

"Dragons have two ways of talking," she told Harry. "We can make low sounds in our throat that carry easily through the water. It is good for simple words when hunting, like up, down, home, and the names of food, or a landmark. That one is easy to learn. The second language is completely different. When he gets here, listen to the big one speak it."

"Do you like it here?" asked Hermione.

"Yes, but the second language is boring," said Norberta. "I don't understand any of it. We spend hours on it. The old one has me try to copy what he does. Even though he seems pleased, I don't understand what we are doing. Here he comes now."

The old one started speaking.

"It is like singing," said Hermione.

"Yeah. They listen to shiny rocks sing, when they are not singing themselves," said Norberta.

"There is one thing I learned quickly on the hunt. These dragons actively avoid humans. If a ship comes even remotely near, the dragons pretend to be rocks on the bottom of the ocean. I do what they do. I have always hidden from people."

The old dragon had her mimic sounds, and she became frustrated. She was talking to Harry and Hermione mentally, and not really paying a lot of attention. Her command of the English language wasn't the best, but she could hold a conversation. She thought in English, since that is how she had communicated her whole life. She spoke the only language she really understood.

"Wish I knew what you're saying," said Norberta.

The old dragon paused, and gave Norberta a long look.

"Young one," said the old dragon. "How doth thou know the language of the English humans? 'Tis but one of the human languages I know."

"He speaks English!" exclaimed Hermione. "A bit out of date, though."

"Tell him how you learned," said Harry.

"My egg hatched in England, and he took care of me," said Norberta. "It is his language. It is the only one I know."

"The dragons the humans raise are little more than beasts," said the old dragon. "Dragons doth go wild most quick. 'Tis strange that you are not wild, young one. We see a wild dragon, from time to time. They usually go their own way. You can't imagine how surprised we are to see you."

"Wild?" asked Norberta.

"A beast," said the old one. "Dragons need to talk to the eggs in the clutch, to keep the hatchlings from being a beast, a relatively recent discovery for us. As soon as they hatch, hatchlings must have constant attention. They learn rapidly. An intelligent dragon as young as you should not exist, but you do. Most intelligent dragons are quite old. We have been involved with all of the known young ones. Now I find you dost speak English. You said it is his language. Who is this?"

"He protected me and fed me," said Norberta.

"Why were you where we found you?" asked the old one. "I can tell how young you are, from your scale patterns."

"I can't be with him all of the time," said Norberta. "I was having fun exploring."

"'Tis been a long time since this dragon trusted humans," said the old one. "Dragons are natural explorers. We struggle for our very survival. I wouldst meet this human that helped you. He must be a wizard. They are the only ones who know of dragonkind. I want to speak to the one who raised you. I may learn something important. As I said, we struggle for our very existence."

"Do you want to tell him you are with Norberta now?" asked Hermione.

"What would it hurt?" asked Harry. "What do you want to do, Norberta?"

"I would tell him," said Norberta, to Harry and Hermione. "They have been nice to me."

"OK," said Harry. "Tell him what you want to."

"He is here with me now," said Norberta, to the old dragon, pointing to her head. "He visits me sometimes."

The old dragon snorted in shock. "In your mind?" asked the old one. "Most passing strange."

"He has always been able to do that," said Norberta.

"This wizard controls you?" asked the dragon suspiciously.

"No, never," said Norberta. "He helps. We help each other. We lived together for a while. Now, he lives with the others. I can't be with him, because others fear dragons."

"Wizards use dragons for their body parts," spat the old one. "For a while they used dragons for protection, and war, if they could find one intelligent enough. Goblins still do. A few have been friendly to dragonkind, but then they die. Our group has nothing to do with humans, though this one in your mind may be an exception to the rule. Dragons have little need for humankind. I am not comfortable with him knowing of us, but 'tis too late now."

"He won't hurt you," said Norberta.

"Hast he a strand of a young dragon's heart in his wand?" asked the old dragon.

"NO!" said Norberta quickly. "He did use some of my discarded scales, from where I slept."

"Oh young one," said the old dragon. "They have nearly destroyed us more than once, since the great disaster. They believe dragons like us in this place are little more than myth, and we dost keep it that way. The non magical humans are an even larger threat, and they dost not even know of us. The other dragons will not be pleased. One wizard is not a danger, but their numbers can indeed harm us. Wizards don't rest easy with the idea of intelligent dragons."

"They won't learn anything from me," said Harry.

"I won't tell anyone either," said Hermione. "We can make an oath."

"He will say nothing," said Norberta. "He ... he will promise. Make an oath."

"That is small consolation, young one," said the old dragon. "What dost this wizard of yours do? How came he to help you hatch?"

"Hagrid won your egg in a game of chance," said Harry. "He wanted you as a pet, even though it was illegal for him to have you. Tell him I am a student."

"He is a student," said Norberta. "Another one was given my egg, and I would have been a pet. I hatched where that one lives. I couldn't stay there, and Harry helped me."

"Harry is the name of this wizard then," said the old one. "I lived in Britain several centuries ago. I protected my humans. I suppose they were MY pets, really. They betrayed me. I was lucky to escape with my life."

"Harry would never betray me," said Norberta.

"He will die of old age soon enough," said the old one. "Then, what would you do? My wizard would not have betrayed me either. His great great grandchildren did the foul deed."

"What do you mean?" asked Norberta.

"Dragons live much longer than humans," said the old one. "According to the stones, humans live a much shorter time than before the disaster, since the stones tell stories of the same human living for hundreds of years. The stones do not say why this happened. I was happy with my humans for several of their generations. Their short life span is a huge disappointment, but they can be interesting. I enjoyed talking to them, since dragons like us have been so very rare. I lived with them in their buildings for a while. I won't risk that again. I met my wizard, quite by accident. We also helped each other. I mourned his death for a long time."

Hermione would have been bouncing, if she was standing in the cave.

"Ask about the great disaster," said Hermione.

"What was the great disaster," asked Norberta.

"A huge flaming stone fell from the sky," said the old one. "It struck Atlantis, and nearly wiped us out. We lived peacefully with magical humans before the disaster. The whole world was in dark, cold storms. It was not the first time a stone has fallen from the sky, but this one hit in a bad spot. Dragons, dwarves, elves, and humans alike struggled to simply survive the disaster. Dragons fared better than humans, for a while. Countless dragons were killed during the strike and the earthquakes that followed. Dragons like living in caves, and it may be the death of us. I was little more than a hatchling, far away from Atlantis, learning the ways of the ocean. Clutch after clutch of beastly dragons were born, some more ... stupid ... than others. We reverted to the time of old, when large reptiles walked the earth. Dragon history is very old. Everything was lost, until I found this cave a hundred years ago. I believed dragonkind doomed to extinction. This was a private retreat for one of the old dragons of that time. He must be long dead. He had history stones here, among other things. Dragonkind may not become extinct, if those of us like me are careful. There are six distinct surviving species of dragon that I am aware of now. We are learning what we need to do to return to the way dragons once were."

"I will get to learn that?" asked Norberta.

"Yes, indeed," said the old dragon. "Females are most important. Hopefully, in a few hundred years, you will have your own clutch of eggs. Sooner, if we are fortunate. Your knowledge of English will help in your education immensely. I thought I had to teach you, as if a fresh hatchling, and you are no hatchling. Hatchlings learn language rapidly after hatching, according to the stones. That is the problem of dragons. There is a very short time period to keep hatchlings from going wild. The old one teaching me and my clutch mates did not know the crucial information to rear proper dragons. He, and my siblings are long gone. That is why you are so remarkable, young dragon. A natural dragon of your intelligence is born once every few thousand years. We know now how to improve the chances that hatchlings are not beasts. Even Atlantis produced beasts. Wild dragons are producing more clutches than when I was hatched, but they are still too few for comfort."

"How will you help hatchlings like me?" asked Norberta. "I have no idea where the rest of my clutch went. My brothers and sisters."

"Dragons must speak to the clutch almost constantly, as I said earlier." said the old one. "Hatchlings can not be left alone at all. Young dragons still learn rapidly for the first year or two. No other intelligent creature grows as fast as a dragon. The young ones need constant attention. Knowledge of this was lost during the disaster. The few young dragons were always reared on Atlantis in the nursery on ancient nesting grounds, and only a few dedicated dragons were involved in raising our young. Atlantis and Lemuria were the historic homes of dragons. This wizard of yours must be remarkable. I want to meet him."

"You need to sing to the eggs?" asked Norberta. "I can remember Hagrid talking, when I was in the egg."

"You could say that," replied the old dragon. "Who is Hagrid?"

"The one who first had my egg," said Norberta. "He is good too."

"What happened to my brothers and sisters?" asked Norberta. "I haven't even thought about them."

"If they are not on the reservation, then they are probably in wizard potions, wands, and such," said the old one. "Your siblings are likely beasts, if they live at all. The reservation can only hold so many dragons, and doth a profitable business. Wizards, in their own way, have helped ensure our survival. This is just the way things are. Your siblings could be with the goblins. We may approach the goblins, since they are honorable. As a species, humans are without honor, among themselves and others. They survived the great disaster because of their high birth rate and intelligence. They, themselves, were little more than beasts for several centuries after the great disaster. The last few hundred years has seen great change in their ... accomplishments. I wish I had found this cave earlier."

"Oh Harry," said Hermione. "This is terrible. Just when I think I know the worst of our world, I learn something else. My wand has a dragon heart string."

Norberta didn't say anything for a while.

"Harry, I don't want to live longer than you," said Norberta.

"Don't worry about that," said Harry. "We can't change that now. Let him know I will help you, anyway I can, any time you want."

"Harry wants you to know he will help me, when ever I want help," said Norberta.

"Sounds like my wizard," said the old dragon. "He promised a place to live as long as I wished. At the time, I thought I was one of the last intelligent dragons."

"What can we do?" asked Norberta.

"We have a couple dragons in the European reservation," said the old one. "There are reservations in Himalayas and the Andes that have been infiltrated. Goblins have a few dragons. Wizards make the assumption that the reservation will draw free roaming dragons, for purposes of mating. The wizards actively pursue the rare wild dragon that makes itself known. Wild dragons are wary. Wizards handling dragons are good at what they do. There was no difficulty getting in. Problem dragons are terminated, and we have no problem with that. Most are lost to us anyway. Our hope is with the eggs and the young dragons. One free born clutch was nurtured near here, and I teach them. Work on the reservation is promising. The beasts get culled, and docile dragons are kept for breeding stock. One day we will leave the reservations. They will not learn of our intelligence, if we can help it. This world is large, and has more ocean than land. There is no place dragons can not thrive. Dragons that want to stay hidden, stay hidden."

"I want to learn," said Norberta. "I will be your student."

"How long will your wizard be in your mind?" asked the old dragon.

"He doesn't want to interfere with what you are doing," said Norberta. "He goes to school, and now I can too. He can come back later."

"Back to your education then, young dragon," said the old one. "We can change the way things are. You have so much to learn. Every dragon who can learn, must learn as much as they can. Never again will just a few dragons know how to survive a disaster. Never again will dragons be carefree vagabonds, content to eat, sleep, and entertain themselves. Time and secrecy are the friends of dragons, until our numbers increase. Maybe your wizard will learn something, as well. I hope to have you learning with the others soon, now that I have a place to start. You must learn our language. Repeat, after me."

The old Norwegian had their attention.