Dragonriders, Part 1
Chapter 5, Hatching

Notes: I've been through three computers. I've moved twice. I've lost several dogs and gained a cat. My life is insane! But I never forget my characters and my readers.

About names: Male Dragonriders' names get contracted by their dragons into an honorific, so that's why the names are going to change. In the books, sometimes it was the Weyr who did the contracting and sometimes it was the dragons. The dragons' names all end in "th" because that's how they were in the books.

Please enjoy, and review!

The eggs were Hatching! "Scorpius, go unlock the stasis lockers. Hagrid, could you get Professor McGonagall, please? The rest of you get onto the sands. Cast a cooling charm on your feet. I'll shout for the Candidates who didn't hear me earlier."

Albus knew now why he had been so nervous and distracted. The dragonettes were ready to hatch and were getting restless in their shells! He went outside and cast "Sonorous!" His voice amplified, he then shouted, "All Candidates to the Hatching Ground! All Candidates to the Hatching Ground immediately! The Hatching has begun!" Then he nullified the spell and ran back into the Hatching Ground himself.

The Ground was chaotic, but they'd all drilled on this moment, and every Candidate knew what to do. Albus saw that first egg break open, revealing the ungainly form of a tiny bronze dragon. His head was almost the same size as his torso and overall he was about the size of a German Shepherd. His facetted eyes were swirling in a rainbow of green and yellow as he squawked and took an unstable step out of his egg, looking around expectantly, looking for someone to Impress on. His eyes finally lit on an eighteen-year-old graduate of Beaubaxton's named Samuel d'Lion. The youth looked back at the young dragon and said wonderingly, "He says his name is Toth!"

The absent Candidates came running almost as one into the Grounds and got into their places. Eggs were breaking left and right, and Impressions were quickly being made. It was going quickly, but thanks to the drilling, none of the Candidates were accidentally injured.

Albus continued looking on in wonder. The dragonettes were ungainly things, but they were beautiful as only the very young could be. The emotions of the room were pounding against his shields, but it was joyous, and he welcomed it. Moira McCanaly had happy tears rolling down her face, as she announced her Impression with the fourth of the young queens, Mandeth. And then, Albus felt an even more insistent pounding against his shields, one of intent and need. He looked down at his feet and saw a lovely young bronze. He looked into the creature's rainbow eyesラand then fell into them. Love and acceptance flooded across his shields as if they were nothing, and a voice sounded in his mind, saying, I am Seth. You are Al'us and I love you!

Al'us couldn't help but sink to the sand at the power of the little dragon's mind, and the power of his love. "Oh, Seth! I never imagined!"

Never imagined what?

"How big a dragon's love was."

It must be very big, then. Can we eat, now? His hunger from being in the egg began coloring his emotions.

Al'us chuckled. "Of course, Seth. Of course." And he led the young dragon to the meat bowls.

No one noticed him come into the Hatching Ground. He was curious, just like the rest of Hogwarts, and he couldn't help but sneak in and try to see what was going on. He saw the few remaining eggs, rocking and cracking, and he saw the baby dragons, wobbly and flightless. Then he saw the one who had got away from the others. He looked down and saw the little creature's smooth brown hide, the pair of wings that would presumably grow to a flight-worthy size, and the swirling, multi-colored eyes. Then he heard the voice, felt the emotions. My name is Saulth. I love you, Cord, and I always will!

From across the room, Potter shouted at him. "Zabini! What are you doing?"

Suddenly guilty, Cord nevertheless stood firmly beside his dragon. "I was just curious. I didn't knowラdidn't expectラMerlin! My father is going to kill me."

Saulth sat up on his haunches, his eyes whirling angrily. I will protect you!

Cord smiled fondly, despite himself. "It's all right." He sighed. "I know I owe you an apology, Potter. But I'm not really sorry that this happened. I'm sorry I ruined your work."

Al'us shook his head. He knew that Impression could change people, but he'd never have expected an apology from Cord Zabini. This was going to complicate things. "My father has always said that love is the most powerful force on the planet. I think we're all finding out how true that is now. For the rest of your life, you're going to have a true friend, someone who you'll never need worry that he'll betray you. But your dragon won't erase your free will or your personality. You're still you, and you still have choices."

Cord nodded. "I can see that." He turned to his dragon. "Well, let's get you fed, little one. How long do these dragons live?"

"As long as their rider. We've got a lot of learning to do, all of us. My imagination about the dragons influenced their creation, but that doesn't mean that I know everything about them. For instance, the thing that the dragons in the books were meant to fight doesn't exist here, so they may never reach the numbers that those dragons did. Also, to produce fire, they have to have phosphine-bearing rock to chew, which they don't do until they're two-and-a-half to three years old. We don't have that stone here. I've been thinking of trying to concoct something in the labs. But there's time enough for that." He sighed. "Our biggest problems are going to come from the rest of the Wizarding world. The dragon-breeding laws, you know. We're going to have to work to get our dragons separate status under the law, or we're going to be hunted."

Cord's eyes narrowed at the thought of someone hurting his dragon. "Has anyone spoken with Rolf Scamander yet? He's just been made the head of the Dragon Research and Restraint Bureau. If anyone is likely to be convinced of the difference between a sentient and non-sentient dragon, it would be him, not to mention that he needs to be informed of the new species."

Al'us nodded. "You're right about that. We haven't talked to him yet. I'll see about getting us an appointment, myself and several of the others who have read the Dragonrider books. Thanks for that." He saw the little brown dragon's eyes returning to a more normal orange red; the color of hunger, and he grinned. "Come on, let's get this little one fed."

The Hatching complete, the new Dragonriders took stock and counted themselves. Four queens had Hatched, giving the species a decent start. Six bronzes, seven each of brown and blue, and eight greens made up the rest of the Hatching, and the riders were literally from all over the world. Of course, a large number were from Europe, but there were people from every continent. Those Candidates who had not Impressed were welcomed to stay in the temporary Weyr in their current quarters if they wanted to stick around and help out with the young dragons.

Al'us owled several Ministry officials, including Rolf Scamander, Oedipus Fowl as Head of the DRCMC, and Minister for Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt, inviting them and their immediate subordinates to come and meet the weyrlings. He also owled Hermione again, and his parents. He wanted his family to meet Seth. The little bronze dragon, now asleep in his dragon bed with a very full belly, had suddenly become the most important thing in his life, and the rest of the family needed introducing.

With a smile on his face and awe in his heart at Seth's beautiful, innocent mind, Al'us drifted off to sleep.

Al'us? The young wizard woke hungrier than he'd ever felt in his life. What-? Al'us? Can I eat now?

Al'us cracked an eye open and glared balefully at Seth, who was sitting on his haunches beside his rider's bed. "I just know the sun isn't above the horizon yet, silly little monster."

Am I too much trouble? Seth's mental voice was anxious.

Al'us rolled his eyes, but smiled anyway. "No, Seth. I'm just grumpy in the mornings." He sat up slowly and stretched, knowing now that it was not his own hunger but that of his dragon that he was feeling. "Let's go get some breakfast." And coffee, definitely coffee, he thought.

Al'us went over the events of yesterday's Hatching in his head while he got Seth's share of the raw meat out of the stasis boxes and fed his friend, and as he retrieved his own breakfast from Guney in the kitchen. He wondered at himself taking the honorific so quickly, and realized his personal thought of what his name was had changed the moment Seth had called him Al'us. He wondered how many of the others had changed their names.

Cord walked into the kitchen, just as bleary as Al'us had been. "How long will it be before they stop just eating and sleeping?"

He chuckled. "They'll grow personalities in very short order. They'll be able to fly themselves to hunt within six months, and at one year they can fly with us. Say, did Saulth change your name?"

The Slytherin rider looked at his former enemy in surprise. "He calls me Co'd. How'd you know that?"

"Seth changed mine to Al'us. It was traditional in the books for all the male riders, and I guess it's going to start here." Al'us had a thought. "Um, I made sure that all the Candidates read at least Dragonsdawn before standing on the sands, but I know you've never read it. You're going to have to get caught up with the rest of us, as well as all the learn-as-you-go that we're all doing. The book will give you an idea of your dragon's native environment, and the purpose he would have had in that world. That ultimate purpose doesn't even exist here, so we're going to have to figure out what to do with ours. They aren't pets; they need purpose as much as we do."

Moira grinned at her beautiful Mandeth as the little queen swam around in the shallows of the lake. The giant squid had yet to try messing with any of the weyrlings who went swimming, so it was considered safe enough if someone kept watch. Mandeth was chasing fish. They are slippery!

"They are wet." It had been a week, and as predicted, though the weyrling dragons still ate huge amounts of meat, they weren't eating as often as when they had just hatched, and they were starting to hunt a little on their own in situations like this.

Al'us walked up beside her. "Morning. How is Mandeth this morning?"

"She's just fine. Apparently, fish are slippery."

They chuckled together at the little comment. Then Al'us moved on to business. "The date's set for the Ministry people to come in and have a gawk. Tomorrow at noon."

Moira nodded. "Do we expect much trouble out of them?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. I'm getting prepared for it, just in case. My parents are coming this afternoon to visit us and several others."

"Your brother and sister?"

"And Professor Longbottom, and Professor McGonagall, and Hagrid, and even Guney. But especially Seth. This will be the first time they meet him. I know Dad supported what I was doing in keeping the dragons alive, but I really want him to like Seth, you know?"

Moira smiled at the sixteen-year-old's nervousness. "I don't think there will be any problem with that. All the dragons are thoroughly loveable, and they're much prettier than they were when they Hatched."

Al'us chuckled. Pernese dragons weren't born beautiful-they had to grow into it.

As they finished taking, Mandeth climbed up out of the lake, and Seth caught up to his rider. S'ius and A'lio came with him and their dragons, brown Joreth and blue Rilleth, respectively. Humphrey the owl also winged in from the direction of the castle with a note in his beak. He dropped the letter to Al'us and then landed on a nearby tree limb. The note said that his parents had arrived. Well, he thought, here goes nothing. "Hi, guys. D'you want to come with me while Seth and I visit with my parents?"

A voice from above them on a broom said, "Don't worry about that. We're already here."

Al'us looked up and saw both his parents flying in on their Firebolts. Both loved flying, and honestly, so did Al'us. He couldn't wait for the year to be up so he could fly his dragon properly! "Dad! Come on in for a landing!"

Harry landed next to his son, and the small creature that had just become the center of that son's world. Seth looked nothing like any other dragon he'd ever seen. He remembered Norbert very clearly. The Norweigan Ridgeback had been very small at his hatching, but he had been a fully functioning dragon, needing very little help from his excitable human caretaker. This little creature obviously needed Albus, at least right now. Already about the size of a Shetland pony, his head was quite large, though one assumed more normal proportions would come as he grew, triangular and adorned with two knobs, like a giraffe, over his eyes. His bronze hide was not pebbled or scaled, but smooth and soft. His wings were also still very small, again more a sign of his youth than anything else. His forked tail was of a proportion one would expect with the rest of his body. His eyes were the one thing that truly set him apart from other kinds of dragons. They were faceted, like an insect's eyes, but they also had three lids, the usual two and a nictating membrane that blinked more quickly than the outer set. Those eyes were currently swirling in shades of blue and green. Mesmerizing, really.

Albus kneeled down to scratch Seth's head knobs. "Seth, this is my father, Harry Potter. Dad, this is Seth, my dragon."

Harry didn't find any of the expected unconscious seeking of approval that usually colored Albus's speech when he was introducing a completed project. He seemed much more confident, and Harry could only approve of that. "Pleased to meet you, young dragon." He turned to his son. "How are you doing, Albus? I know this can't have been easy for you."

"It's Al'us now, Dad. And we're doing alright. All of us are still getting used to our dragons, and of course they're constantly changing." He paused, then changed tracks. "We've had a lot of problems with the Ministry, though. That's why we've called this meeting today. We're hoping to get things settled down so we can build a Weyr in peace, or even just let the riders go home once their dragons are old enough to travel without worrying that they'll be attacked by the DCRMC."

Harry nodded, agreeing with the preemptive move. But-"Why the name change?"

Al'us smiled tenderly at his dragon. "It's how he wants it. All of the male riders have changed their names that way."

Harry didn't understand, not completely, but he nodded. "As long as you're happy, son." He changed the subject entirely. "Do you want me at this meeting?" He asked the question carefully, not wanting to bruise his son's independence.

But his new confidence in himself had erased that need to prove himself that he'd gained from his father. "You'd be welcome. I don't think we'll need your political clout, but better had than needed."

Harry grinned and let Ginny fuss over her youngest son. He was going to be alright, and that was all that mattered.

In Loving Memory
Anne McCaffery
4/1/1926 - 11/21/2011
Our Dragonlady will be sorely missed.