Bob looked up and noted the readers had finally arrived, filling the theater. "Show time," he muttered to himself, then he quickly checked his outfit to make sure he was presentable.
His tux was flawless, his hair impeccable, and for once, his glasses were even clean!
He smiled, spotting Alyx in the front row looking supportive at this inauguration of a new story. She knew this disclaimer was special, this disclaimer was serious business.
Bob walked to the edge of the stage and smiled at the readers. "When we first started this story we were struck by what we thought was a wonderful idea. Neither of us had a clue that in the middle of writing this we would lose the person that first gave us these ideas."
"We humbly dedicate this story to Anne McCaffrey. She's gone between, but her legacy remains. She gave us a world of dragons, and now we give you a modified version of her dragons and Harry Potter."
"Finally we don't own Harry Potter or the Potter Universe, that stuff belongs to the surviving family of JKR who we know died before books 6 and 7 could be written, how else can you explain them being so terrible?"
Bob turned and walked off the stage. As he did it became apparent that someone had removed the back of his pants. It also became apparent that his butt cheeks were unnaturally hairy.
Alyx cheered and whistled from her seat in the audience, but she also knew Bob was seconds from finding out. So she activated her escape plan. Built into her seat were powerful rocket motors which she now fired. The chair lifted off at great speed and crashed into the ceiling.
From behind the curtain Bob smiled. He knew about her escape plan and had placed a plate steel over the hole she had made in the ceiling. "Enjoy the chapter folks," he muttered. "I'm going to go change, for some reason this tux is chilly."
Dragons are a class five beast who provide the wizarding community with considerable resources. It is our responsibility to preserve and protect these creatures so that we will always have them available for our needs. Dragons are excellent sources of enchanted leather, potion ingredients and heart strings for wands.
Excerpt from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them by Newt Scamander. Published 1927.
Hogwarts Quidditch Pitch, November 15th...
Harry sat in the tent listening to the roar of the crowd and couldn't help tremble a bit in fear.
"What am I doing here?" he whispered to himself. "I should have refused. Being without magic is better than being dead."
He recalled the Dursleys, then reconsidered his statement. Maybe being dead was better than the Dursleys. With no magic at all he'd have no protection from them. Without magic, he'd be expelled from this world and the Dursleys would have no reason to worry about what Wizards would think of how they treated him.
Life at school had become a living hell for him once his name had come out of that damned cup. Hermione was the only close friend who still spoke to him, and even she didn't do that very often any more. She had found herself caught between Harry and Ron and didn't like it. She had confided in Harry that she didn't want to be in the middle of their fight.
Harry had reluctantly agreed with her and watched in silent misery as she slowly started to distance herself from him. Her actions hurt him in more ways than he was willing to admit. He started to withdraw into himself.
Any competent muggle teacher would have recognized the signs and contacted the school psychologist, or the administration. Harry was becoming clinically depressed and presenting a danger to himself. But of course no such thing existed at Hogwarts. No one in a position to help was able to recognize that he'd been driven to the point where life had become more burden than blessing.
He looked down at the small model of the Horntail in his hand. He vaguely remembered hearing about them. The Horntail was one of the most dangerous dragons in the world and he was supposed to get past it? His body began to tremble as fear washed through him.
Maybe he could use it to his advantage. Maybe he didn't want to get past it.
The crowd roared outside and he glanced up. He bit his lower lip, realizing he would be called next. He could barely make out Ludo Bagman voice, as the spells on the tent muffled most of the noise.
Outside the tent, the judges cleared the display of their marks and then they waited. Krum had already gone to the medical tent to be checked, but they needed to wait until the Chinese Fireball and her nest had been removed from the arena.
A dozen men dressed in heavy protective clothing stepped into the arena. One of them glanced at the nest and noted most of the eggs had been destroyed during the task. He frowned and banished the nest with the one remaining egg still inside.
The dragon roared and strained against her chains. With a massive stretch, she managed to reach out and swipe at one man with a clawed paw. The man screamed and fell as his entrails spilled from his body.
Dozens of pain spells arced out from the remaining dragon handlers, while two medi-witches from St. Mungo's summoned the injured man to them rather than risk injury. The dragon roared and strained against the chains trying to break free, but the chain was too strong for the medium sized dragon.
The pain spells were the strongest known that didn't deliberately destroy nerves as the Cruciatus curse did. They needed multiple casting just to overcome the dragons inherent resistance to magic.
The wizards poured on the magic and finally the dragon cowered back in fear, whimpering under the onslaught of the pain spells. With the dragon submitting, one handler ran forward and released the chain from the locking ring attached to the stands. Several other handlers ran forward to join him and they pulled on the chain, leading the dragon out of the arena.
The dragon, still under multiple pain curses and thoroughly cowed by the handlers, let herself be led back to where they held the cages. She left the arena, head bowed, defeated.
The people in the stands waited patiently for the next dragon to appear.
Hermione sat with Neville, chewing on a fingernail nervously. The last few weeks had been especially hard on Harry. Lately she had started to worry that her reaction to Ron fighting with Harry had only made the situation a lot worse. She had distanced herself from both boys, trying to stay out of the fight. In doing so, she had hurt Harry even more. Now she was really afraid for him. The few times she had talked with him, he seemed emotionally cutoff and cold to her. And from some off hand comments he had made, she was becoming afraid her friend would do something rash.
Ron sat on the other side of Neville. He was still angry with Harry, but after seeing the dragons, he was suddenly afraid his room mate was being thrown to the proverbial lions, or in this case, dragons. He made up his mind that he'd forgive him if Harry came out of this alive.
A massive roar shook the stands and a wizard appeared with another nest containing the next dragon's eggs.
A huge Hungarian Horntail stomped into the arena, dragging the wizards who were trying to hold her by the chain. She had already killed three of them, and if she had her way she'd kill them all for what they've done.
When they came for her at the reserve she was certain it was her time to be culled, despite their rule to never cull a clutching dragon. Instead, they brought her and her eggs to this place.
Seeing her nest, she went over and nudged the eggs, but she already knew. All but one egg was dead, and the one probably wouldn't survive the trip back to the reserve. She reared up on her hind legs and trumpeted her anguish for all to hear.
People in the stands clapped their hands over their ears and ducked. Hermione stared at this monster in horror. Suddenly she was convinced that Harry was going to die this day. The dragon handlers didn't seem to be able to control the beast!
One brave dragon handler rushed across the open arena, risking his life to attach the chain to the locking ring, then he dashed back to his fellows, barely escaping a blast of fire. The fire shot forth right across the nest, setting parts of it afire. The dragon jerked back and the stands she was attached to shook alarmingly.
The nest and the eggs smoked and steamed and she bowed her head in despair. Her own actions may have killed her last egg!
Hermione turned white and felt she was going to be sick. The beast was easily twice as large as any of the previous dragons. She glanced over to Neville, who was as white as she was.
"Oh, Hermione. This isn't good," he whispered.
"And now our forth contestant, Mr. Potter, will attempt to get his egg," Ludo Bagman said. His voice carried to every corner of the stadium. With a flourish and a wave of his wand, the flap to the tent opened by itself, signaling to Harry that it was his turn.
Reluctantly, Harry stepped from the tent and looked around at the crowded seats and the many faces who seemed eager to watch him fail.
"I refuse to participate," he said calmly. "But thank you for the means of rejoining my parents."
The stadium descended into shocked silence. Harry's voice carried easily to the stands, magnified by the spells in the arena.
The dragon turned to look at him, eying him warily. Harry calmly placed his wand in his back pocket and he slowly approached the dragon. A murmur swept through the crowd and Dumbledore stood up, alarmed by Harry's comment.
A small portion of the stands occupied by the Slytherins cheered Harry on, hoping to see him die a gory death.
"What is Potter doing?" asked Bagman in confusion, "He appears to be approaching the dragon and he isn't holding his wand!"
Dumbledore leaned over the railing, watching Harry and frowning. This wasn't right. He should have prevented this from happening. Harry Potter was calmly walking to his death!
Harry approached the dragon steadily, intent on one idea. If the dragon killed him, he'd be with his parents. That was better than being without magic and being sent back to the Dursleys. His fear drained away, replaced by a sense of calm acceptance as he moved closer. "It will be all over soon. It'll be quick," he said softly to himself, not realizing that the whole stadium could hear him.
"Harry!" screamed Hermione in anguish. She couldn't believe what was unfolding in front of her. Neville turned away, refusing to watch. Ron also looked away, his last glance was enough to cause him to throw up his breakfast. All around them, the other Gryffindors looked on in horror.
Harry stepped closer and the dragon decided enough was enough. She took a deep breath, intent on frying this upstart human, when a noise distracted both of them.
She turned to see her last living egg rocking back and forth. Cracks formed around the top as a snout pushed its way through. She turned and hunkered down close to the egg, crooning encouragement.
Unobserved by the adult dragon, Harry was also drawn to the spectacle. He moved closer, wanting a better view of the event. Something told him this was important, something about the rocking egg pulled at him.
The crowd started to murmur in confusion. Harry was ignoring the golden egg and the dragon was ignoring Harry. What was going on? A moment ago it looked like Potter was on the brink of death, now the dragon was ignoring him and he was ignoring the task's goal.
The egg rocked hard back and forth and suddenly it split wide open and out tumbled a dragonette the size of a full grown pony. The adult increased her crooning and the dragonette looked around, bleating helplessly. It took a faltering step and tripped, hitting its chin on the ground when it fell.
The little dragon bellowed in pain and Harry stepped forward to lift its head from the ground. As he did, their eyes met, and the world fell away.
"Hello, Harry! I have been waiting to meet you. I'm Chekiath," said a voice in his mind.
Harry reeled in surprise and his eyes grew as wide as saucers. "Did you say something?" he whispered to the little dragon.
"You know I did. Please don't be sad anymore, Harry. I don't care what the others say. I love you. I'll always love you. You are my rider," replied the little dragon.
Harry's legs gave out and he sat down heavily, staring into those huge expressive eyes that seemed to sparkle and twirl with amusement. His eyes filled with tears. For the first time in his life he experienced love and it was a love so intense and unlike any human love that he felt overwhelmed by the experience.
"I'm yours," he whispered. "We'll always be together." The depression, the longing for someone to care for him fell away as the bond solidified.
"Chekiath?" said a hesitant voice, as if unused to speaking.
Harry blinked and both he and the dragonette looked up at the adult Horntail. She stared at both for a moment longer. The adult dragon's eyes glowed a soft yellow and twirled slowly as if greatly confused by what was happening.
"I heard that," Harry said in his mind. "I heard her call your name!"
Chekiath looked back at Harry and nudged him slightly. "Well, why not? It is my name, you know. What else could she call me?"
Momnarth reared back on her hind legs and froze for several moments. Harry's mind touching hers had triggered a cascade of racial memories that rushed outward to all of Dragonkind.
Momnarth shook her head as if to clear it, then lowered herself close to the pair and extended her wings protectively around them. The baby and his rider must be protected at all costs!
Around the world, all activity ceased in every dragon reserve on the planet. As one, the dragons turned to face the direction of a castle in Scotland. The racial memories swept through the world's dragon population and a long forgotten history, as well as many abilities, were once again remembered.
"A RIDER HAS IMPRESSED!" The exalted cry came from thousands of dragons across the globe.
In moments, thousands of dragons were bugling and flaming. Panic descended in every reserve as the formerly controlled beasts broke free in joyous abandon.
Confusion reigned in the Quidditch stadium. Harry helped a baby dragon as it hatched, then the adult surrounded the pair with her wings, blocking them from view. Something unprecedented was happening, but no one knew what it was.
Momnarth raised her head and bellowed at the top of the lungs. "Dragons!" she called. "Dragons! A rider! A rider has been found!"
Harry moaned and pitched to his knees as suddenly hundreds of voices filled his head. Momnarth's eyes widened in shock and she withdrew her wings, exposing the newly impressed pair. Harry writhed on the ground in agony and Chekiath bellowed in dismay.
"A rider!" exclaimed a voice.
"Where? Where?" exclaimed another.
"A rider! The old ways return," shouted another voice.
Harry howled as hundreds of minds touched his and his scar split wide open. Black pus oozed from the wound and the crowd in the stands reared back in fright over the apparition appearing over Harry.
"Nooooooo!" wailed the cloudy figure. "You cannot defeat me! I am Lord Voldemort!"
Alarmed by the sense of evil emanating from the form taking shape before them, Momnarth flamed the apparition. An inhuman scream rose from the thing as it began to burn, then wither. The scream became louder, more agonizing, before trailing off as the apparition burn to ash and was blown away by the breeze. She would defend the rider and his mate, even from a shade of evil.
Ludo Bagman signaled to the waiting dragon handlers and several started shooting pain curses at Momnarth.
Harry's eyes snapped open and he abruptly sat up. His head hurt terribly, but he had to protect the dragons! He turned to glare at the wizards and a number of them flinched under his glowing gaze. Blood oozed freely from his scar and it slid down his face, giving him a grim visage that alarmed some of the tough dragon handlers.
In Romania, Momnarth's entire reserve of dragons bellowed as one and leapt into the air. For the first time in nearly fifty millennia, dragons went Between.
Harry pushed Chekiath gently behind him, then he stepped in front of Momnarth. "Stay behind me, mother," he commanded softly.
"Potter!" shouted a dragon handler, "Get away from there!"
"You dare," hissed Harry in outrage. "You dare try to hurt the mother of my dragon?"
Dumbledore hurried down the stairs to join the dragon handlers in the arena. He had to stop this!
"He's gone nuts," exclaimed one dragon handler.
"Stupefy!" shouted another.
Harry shielded with an empty hand, then he whipped out his wand and slashed it violently down. The ground in front of the wizards erupted and they dove away. That was all he needed. Those few seconds were enough.
A terrifyingly cold blast of air hit the stadium and everything instantly frosted over. The skies were filled with hundreds of bellowing, flaming dragons.
Harry stumbled back into Momnarth. "The voices, too many," he gasped. Up close, so many minds were overwhelming him.
Momnarth carefully caught him and lowered him to the ground next to Chekiath. The little dragon snuffled at Harry with his snout and crooned piteously. He then looked at Momnarth. The dragons didn't understand that they were hurting his rider!
Momnarth bellowed again and the dragons settled on every available perch they could find, including most of the stands. The wizards panicked and most tried to hide in terror.
"Silence!" Momnarth commanded. "The Rider can hear all of us. The bond is new and we are overwhelming him."
Her command whipped across Dragonkind. Instantly, the sounds of so many voices diminished as the dragons recalled how to control their telepathy. And with that silence, Harry went limp. He lay panting and confused, trying to figure out what had happened.
A dozen Horntails landed around Momnarth and Chekiath, shielding them from the humans. As the guard formed up around the rider, another dragon flew off to find meat for the hatchling.
One ancient looking Horntail who still had a hint of bronze in his scales landed near Momnarth. The dragon looked carefully at the human on the ground, who was only semiconscious, then at Chekiath, who stood guard over his rider. Chekiath raised his head and stared down the ancient one as if daring him to deny what has happened. The ancient dragon easily out massed the baby by at least fifteen tons, but Chekiath refused to back down.
"Your loyalty does you credit, Chekiath, but you have nothing to fear from us. Your rider is our greatest treasure and we will die to protect you both if need be." Spath said, then he turned to Momnarth. "We cannot remain here. Much has been remembered and even now I can hear the others testing the humans nearby. There are potential riders here, but first we must gain control of this. We cannot allow impressions without consideration."
"Let Chekiath eat and the Rider rest first. The others all bespoke to him at one time and it overwhelmed him. This is new to us and we must be cautious. The Rider must be protected for the good of the Weyr."
Spath's eyes twirled with yellow stress and he nodded. "It will be as you say. I know of a place where we can rest in safety. Chekiath is too small to carry his rider or fly himself. We shall carry them to our new home."
A smaller dragon arrived overhead, clutching a terrified sheep in its claws. The Vipertooth swooped lower and dropped the wounded animal in front of Chekiath.
"Eat, Chekiath," said the Vipertooth. "You will feel better and so will the Rider."
Chekiath looked longingly at the beast, then at Harry.
"Eat, Chekiath. First hunger cannot be denied. We shall watch and protect your rider," Momnarth said gently.
The small dragonette pounced on the beast and started to feed. Almost immediately, Harry stirred and opened his eyes. The dragons had stopped trying to talk to him and Chekiath feeding was enough to rouse him. Despite the pain in his head, he felt better.
He sat up and put a hand to his head. "What a weird dream," he muttered.
"It was no dream, Harry," Chekiath replied. "Would you like to eat too? It might make you feel better."
Harry glanced over to his dragon and the bloody mess he was making. "Erm, thanks, mate, but I think I'll pass. I'm just glad your enjoying your meal."
"It's my first, and it's good," Chekiath replied, then he chomped down on a bone and it made a sharp cracking sound. Harry couldn't help but smile at the little dragon's enthusiasm. Nor could he ignore the joy and pride he felt from his dragon. They were together at last.
Albus Dumbledore was torn. The most important student ever to come to Hogwarts was currently surrounded by dragons. And the stadium was filled with the dangerous beasts. So many filled the stands that the students and guests were cowering in whatever shelter they could find, hiding and hoping someone would rescue them.
Casting a sonorus on himself, he spoke. "Attention all students, staff and guests. Remain where you are and do not attempt to cast any magic. We are working to resolve this situation such that we all come out of this safely. Remember, hold your spells unless you are in imminent danger."
Canceling his spell, he hurried down the last few steps and out into the arena. He looked around and fought the primal urge to soil himself. The beasts were acting very strange and he didn't understand what was happening. He was hoping that perhaps by speaking with Harry he could learn more about the situation.
He passed one dragon handler who was down on his knees, nearly gibbering in terror. The man had been nudged away from Harry and Chekiath by two dragons and was seriously unnerved by the experience. Several dragons eyed Dumbledore's approach warily, then a small opening was made in their line, allowing him passage.
Sensing the old man meant no harm, Spath ordered the dragons to allow him passage through their line. Spath knew the situation was extremely dangerous for everyone and he sensed this human may be the key to keeping it under control.
Cautiously, Dumbledore stepped through the line. He paused just beyond it and noted an ancient dragon had joined Harry and the dragon Harry had been assigned for this task.
Harry turned and spotted Dumbledore making his way closer. He scowled and stepped in front Chekiath, shielding him from the headmaster.
Realizing his predicament, Dumbledore showed his hands to be empty. "I am not here to hurt you, Harry," he said softly.
Harry raised a hand and he stopped. "Tell you what, Headmaster. Why don't you put your wand on the ground right there and you can pick it up when we're done."
Dumbledore glanced around and noted the large number of dragons that were watching him intently from their positions in the stands. He also knew they had an entire school at the mercy of wild beasts that Harry could somehow influence.
Nodding, he carefully removed his wand and placed it on the ground to one side, then he turned back to Harry. "I am unarmed, Harry."
Harry nodded and motioned for him to approach. He waited for the old man to come to within a few feet of him. "You lied to me," he spat. "Why?"
Albus blinked. "I'm not sure what you mean."
"You said I would lose my magic if I didn't compete. Now here I am, the task in ruins and I still have my magic," Harry said.
"Harry," Dumbledore began, "it was explained to me that there was a binding magical contract. If I had known that there wasn't, I would have insisted that you not participate. I honestly thought that making you compete was the only way to protect your magic."
Harry frowned and took a step backwards, crossing his arms in obvious disbelief. Then he did something which astounded Dumbledore. He turned to stare at the ancient dragon for a long moment. The dragonette crooned softly at Harry and Harry's expression softened.
"Spath says you are telling the truth. He also tells me that you're too forgiving of people, but that you hold no malice towards me," he said, after turning back from the dragon.
Dumbledore expression grew into astonishment. "You can understand the dragons?"
He nodded. "I don't know why I can hear them, but I do know that the wizarding world is wrong. Dragons are not mindless beasts. Chekiath," he said, then paused and looked at his little dragon with intense affection in his gaze. "Chekiath is my dragon and I am his rider. We are meant to be together."
"Harry, it is time for us to leave this place. More men are coming," Momnarth warned. Some of the dragons, still airborne, had noted the large group of Aurors assembling nearby.
Harry glanced up at the big dragon and nodded, then he turned back to Dumbledore. "I'm sorry, sir, but it's time for us to leave. Momnarth tells me that more wizards are coming. If we don't leave now, this task will go down in history as the greatest disaster ever at Hogwarts."
Harry paused and looked pensive. "For the past few years you have given me shelter from the Dursleys. And while my time at Hogwarts was by no means perfect, it was better than the time spent with them. I thank you for that."
"But what about your schooling, your magic?" exclaimed Dumbledore in dismay. Potter leaving was a disaster! He wasn't too concerned about the prophecy. After all, if Harry was meant to confront Voldemort, fate would ensure that it happened.
Harry shrugged. His priorities had changed the moment his gaze met Chekiath's. "Who needs magic when I have my dragon?"
Chekiath thrummed approvingly and all the other dragons took up his call.
Dumbledore glanced around nervously. Harry's answer had all of the dragons thrumming. The sound could literally be felt in the old man's bones. The situation had thrown him for a loop. Harry Potter had walked out into the arena with one purpose clear in his mind, then it was derailed instantly by what appeared to be a bonding of some sort. It was almost too much to wrap his mind around.
Harry reached for his wand and held it out to Dumbledore. The old man shook his head, his eyes glistening with tears, "No, my boy, keep it. Tomorrow I will send Fawkes to you with some books so that you may keep up with your studies. I know our world will not take well to discovering dragons are not mindless beasts. They will need someone who knows our ways and who can protect them."
"Hold your wand out, Harry, and I will dispel the tracking charm on it," Albus said.
Surprised, Harry did just that and the headmaster muttered something under his breath before waving his hand over the wand. It glowed a soft pink, then faded back to normal.
"Thank you, sir," he said.
Albus smiled at the boy who seemed to have grown up tremendously in just the past hour.
Harry frowned for a moment, thinking. "Will you send Hedwig to me, sir?"
"I will. And I hope you will continue to use her to stay in contact. I'm sorry I haven't always done my best for you, but I will try to do better."
Harry nodded. "I will stay in touch, sir, When I know more about what's going on, I'll do my best to explain it to you."
Momnarth gently nudged Harry, then lifted a massive leg. "Climb onto my back, Harry," she said.
Harry looked at her in surprise, then he did as he was told. Spath watched for a moment longer, then he took Chekiath into his front paws and sprang aloft.
Harry slid into position just in front of Momnarth's shoulders and she reared back on her hind legs. "Dragons to wing!" she called.
Not quite understanding the need, Harry raised his fist and pumped it in the traditional command to order the wings aloft. Momnarth leapt into the air gracefully, ever mindful of the human sitting on her back. It seemed like the place where he sat was designed specifically for that purpose and it felt very, very right.
Dumbledore stood alone in the empty space and watched with a touch of awe as nearly 500 dragons sprang aloft, swiftly rising above the stadium. Suddenly, several dragons swooped down on the stands. He watched in alarm, thinking they were attacking, but then he noticed they were looking at a single student and making no aggressive moves. In a few cases, the dragon reached out and touched the student before rejoining their fellows in the air.
Albus staggered back as a massive blast of cold air rocked him and all the dragons vanished.
There was a moment of dead silence in the stands, then the panic set in. People jumped to their feet and ran for the stairs. In a few cases, they were so crowded some people were injured in the crush.
Albus quickly picked up his wand and cast a sonorus on himself. "Students!" he shouted. "All students are to assemble in the Great Hall. Prefects and staff are to take attendance once everyone is assembled. Go calmly to the Hall. The danger has passed."
Feeling more tired that he thought possible, he turned and trudged towards the school. Ludo Bagman spotted him heading for the exit and made to intercept him. "Headmaster! Headmaster! What happened to Potter?"
Dumbledore turned to glare at the man. "You told me there was a binding magical contract when there obviously wasn't. Why did you lie to me?"
Bagman took a step back and he looked guilty. "It was Barty Crouch's idea. He said we'd get more media interest in the tournament if Potter were made to compete."
"Did you charm the cup to spit out Harry's name?" demanded Dumbledore.
Bagman shook his head. "No! I just assumed Barty did something to it, but I didn't cast anything on the cup. To be honest, I'm not sure I could."
Dumbledore stared at the man for a moment longer. Bagman was right about one thing, he wasn't a very strong or a very good wizard. "I'm an old fool," he muttered, shaking his head.
"Where is Potter?" asked Bagman again.
"He's gone, Ludo, gone from this school and gone from your tournament. And come tomorrow, I will ensure that everyone knows what you and Crouch did," Dumbledore replied tiredly, then he turned and trudged away.
Hogwarts Great Hall...
Millicent Bulstrode sat at Slytherin table with her fellow Slytherin, but unlike them, her mood was more pensive than it was panicked. She had hidden herself in the stands as best as she was able, but when the dragons took flight she crawled out from her hiding spot and looked around in bewilderment. It was at that moment that it happened. A dragon swooped down and reached out with a viciously clawed paw and touched her shoulder.
A shudder ran through her at the time, but it wasn't a shudder of fear. No, this was something different and she couldn't put her finger on it.
Looking around she could see prefects and staff from all three schools dashing about, taking down names and looking for people. Dumbledore had been the last person to enter the Great Hall and she was shocked to see how old and haggard he appeared. It was as if he had aged a hundred years in the walk from the Quidditch pitch. He also appeared to be very, very angry.
Dumbledore walked up to the staff table and waited while Minerva McGonagall consulted with staff from the other schools. Finally, she turned and walked over to Dumbledore and began to whisper to him intently.
Millicent looked around and she couldn't help noting that some of the other students were looking around like she was, as if they were looking for something.
"If I may have everyone's attention please," called Dumbledore.
Those in the hall slowly settled and all eyes turned to the Headmaster.
Dumbledore sighed heavily and he stroked his long beard for a moment. "I wish to apologize to everyone here today. I truly believed that the tournament was a good thing and would be a boon to the students to take part in such a momentous event. Alas, I did not realize that I had been lied to."
He paused and peered at the students, then he waved a hand, encompassing everyone in the hall. "We have all been lied to," he said gravely. A murmur arose and he waited for it to subside. "I was told that the cup represented a binding magical contract. So when Harry Potter's name came out of the cup, I felt I had no choice but to make him compete. From what I understood at the time, I thought I was protecting Mr. Potter and his magic. But, alas, I was not. Because of that lie, I helped force a fourteen year old student into a competition he was unprepared to compete in."
He paused again and peered over his glasses. "Let me state this right now so that there is no mistake by anyone. Mister Potter did not willingly enter his name into the cup. The cup was ensorcelled to spit out his name. Someone who had very dubious motives decided that Harry Potter should compete in this tournament.
"Why this was, I do not yet know, but I intend to find out," he said, glaring over at Ludo Bagman and Barty Crouch.
"There is nothing worse than an old fool and I have been a very old fool. I allowed a student to be entered into a tournament he was ill equipped to participate in. And I allowed him to be publicly mocked and ridiculed by both the students and the staff. I was willing to ignore your behavior despite the damage we were causing to a boy who had done nothing to deserve such cruel treatment.
"In my old age I thought that by being lenient I could guide many of you who are leaning towards a darker path, back to the light. I have allowed bullying to take place in my school when I should have prevented it. That ends today."
Dumbledore turned towards Slytherin house. "Mister Malfoy, due to the lack of a house cup competition this year I cannot deduct points, therefore you will serve detentions four nights a week until the end of the year. And the next time you think to mock a student, I will personally expel you from this school, never to return."
Malfoy looked up at Dumbledore. Strangely, he didn't not protest. He simply nodded, then looked down at the table as if he were ashamed of his actions.
Snape stood and Dumbledore shot him a hard glare that clearly told him to hold his tongue. Cowed by the Headmaster, he slowly sat down, fuming to himself.
Turning back to the stunned students, he couldn't help but smile slightly as many of them pulled the "Potter Stinks" badges from their robes. The sound of the badges hitting the tables or the floor echoed in the hall and seemed to be a testimony to their shame.
"You might have noticed that Harry Potter is not sitting among his house tonight. Mister Potter learned something truly exciting and astounding. As a result of this new knowledge and your actions toward him this year, he has withdrawn from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It is unlikely that he will ever return to these halls again."
His statement received stunned silence.
Ron and Hermione shared an anguished look between them as they suddenly felt the guilt for what they had done to Harry this year. They had abandoned their friend when he needed them and now there was no way of mending that breech.
Dumbledore continued, ignoring the pained looks at the Gryffindor table. "Mister Potter today discovered that dragons are not mindless beasts like we had always assumed. I spoke with him briefly in the arena, and while I was there, I witnessed him speaking with the dragons and they with him."
A murmur swept through the hall and even the staff looked stunned by this revelation.
"One of the dragons told Mister Potter that more wizards were approaching and he decided he would leave with them. I tried to talk him out of it, but he told me that magic wasn't important to someone who had a dragon."
Dumbledore looked around and his shoulders drooped a little. "Today we sit a little bit wiser and a whole lot sadder. A student has left the school and we are left pondering what it all means. For myself, I find that his decision to leave was prompted by his forced participation in the tournament, the total lack of support from the staff and the overwhelming animosity that you showed a fellow student.
"Harry Potter was hounded from this school by cruel badges and mean words. We saw a young wizard with a promising future pushed to the very brink of suicide, and if not for the intervention of a dragon, I am certain we would be mourning his loss right now.
"I have much to atone for with regard to Harry Potter. He left because I failed to support him as I should have and I deeply regret that. He also left because his fellow students failed to support him and I find that utterly heartbreaking. You have expressed a measure of cruelty on a fellow student that drove him to make a life altering decision and each of you will have to come to grips with the fact that you will be forever known as the generation that drove Harry Potter to abandon the magical world.
"I am ashamed. I am ashamed of my own actions and of yours. Our actions brought Hogwarts much dishonor this day."
There was a moment of silence, then all of the house banners rolled up and vanished. It seemed as if the school agreed with Albus. Today was a day of shame. House crests on every uniform robe in the hall turned black to remind people of dishonor. Even the founders would not support such behavior.
Dumbledore stopped and looked around the hall. A few were glaring at him, openly defiant, but a great many were staring at the tables in shame. He nodded to himself, then he walked out of the hall without a single glance back.
Hermione looked at Ron and her lower lip trembled. Suddenly her actions of the past month seemed utterly reprehensible to her. She'd had a close encounter with a dragon and instead of feeling terror, the dragon looked at her with sadness and a terrible sense of disappointment that only served to magnify her guilt.
At the Hufflepuff table, Susan Bones watched the scene unfolding in the hall, but her mind kept going back to the dragon that flew down to her and touched her. For a brief moment she felt something stir in her that she couldn't explain.
Now, she felt a loss. She hadn't been close friends of Potter. In fact, the house had rallied around Cedric and she had proudly worn a button against Harry. She suddenly realized that she had been wrong and Harry now had something that she wished she had.
Among the other students there were others who felt as Susan did. They had been touched by something special and they didn't understand what it meant.
Luna Lovegood at Ravenclaw felt only excitement. She was sad for Harry, but a dragon had touched her and suddenly she knew that her life had a bigger meaning than life as a picked on third year. She knew somewhere out there the other half of herself was waiting for her and she hoped they'd meet soon.
Minerva shook herself from her shock and stood. "Students, please return to your common rooms. Dinner will be served at its normal time."
Silently the students filed from the room. The Headmaster had publicly exposed their shame in front of several high ranking Ministry members and the other two schools. The students left feeling like they were two inches tall and not very pleased with themselves.
Disko Island, Greenland, November 15th...
Momnarth landed gently, then lifted a leg to give Harry something to climb down.
He slid from her and patted her flank fondly. "Thank you, Momnarth," he said softly. The trip between had caught him by surprise but it had been over very quickly. It had been bitterly cold and had it lasted longer he was sure he would have suffered frostbite.
Spath alighted next to her and he lowered Chekiath to the ground. Harry immediately went to his dragon, checking to make sure he was all right. That task completed, he looked around. A cold wind swept across the ground, but not far away he could see small ponds that steamed and bubbled, heated by the magma below the surface.
"This is a good place to weyr," Spath said. "The waters and caves are warm."
"Is there food nearby?" asked Momnarth.
Spath looked towards the sea in the distance. "Sometimes. The waters around this island have much life, but there are no flocks here. I learned of this place from my elder. It was a place to come when we needed refuge. He said that it took many days to come here. Going Between makes it much faster."
Harry looked between the two dragons. "I'm sorry, but could we back up a bit? Let's start by explaining what has happened. How can I suddenly hear you in my mind?"
Spath turned to Harry, his eyes slowly twirling. "Rider, there is much we must talk about."
Harry held up a hand and Spath went silent. "I know I'm only a kid, but please, just call me Harry."
"You honor us, Rider. Only your dragon should call you by such familiarity. However, if it makes you more comfortable, I will do so when we are alone," Spath replied reluctantly.
Harry nodded and looked at Momnarth, who bobbed her head in acknowledgment.
Spath moved closer to one of the steaming ponds, then he lowered himself to the ground on the warm rocks. Harry followed Spath closely, with Chekiath following by only a few feet. Momnarth settled herself in a position that shielded Harry from the bitter wind that swept down off the cliff top.
Harry welcomed the warmth of the rocks and the steam rising from the waters. After the cold of Between, he needed to warm up. I'm going to need a jacket or something if we're going to be doing a lot of that, he mused.
"Once, many turns ago, this mountain burned and spat fire," Spath said. Harry closed his eyes and in his mind he could picture the image. "Much has been forgotten over the turns, but some few of us remembered pieces. Then you, young rider, you came along and impressed young Chekiath. In doing so, you have awoken our memories. We remember now what we once were."
Around them the other dragons settled on the cliff face or among the rocks. Spath lifted his head and took in the sight of so many dragons. "Listen, o' kin, hear then the tale of who we once were and who we can be again."
Spath turned his attention back to Harry. who sat on the rough rocks facing him. Chekiath had curled up behind him close enough to be touching. Harry smiled at his dragon and leaned back against him. Chekiath rumbled softly and his eyes twirled with pleasure as Harry absently scratched around his ears.
"Long ago, across uncounted turns, we lived on a world that had a terrible enemy. The wise men of that world didn't understand it until it was too late. It wasn't until the menace was upon them that they realized how poorly prepared they were to handle this foe.
"We were created to help men combat that enemy and for many turns we did just that. Each dragon had a rider and together they were a bonded pair, living one for the other. The men of that world honored us and we honored them. We protected them and they helped care for us. We were partners and with our human riders we were the Dragon Riders that protected Pern."
Spath look up again, his old gaze taking in the rest of the dragons. "There was no greater force than the love between dragon and rider."
Harry could easily believe that statement. In a single instant, his life had altered radically and what he felt for Chekiath was unlike anything he had ever felt before.
The bowl full of dragons hummed in approval and Harry could hear the soft murmur of many voices in his mind, and with them came images of men and women and their dragons rising up on great wings to flame and sear the enemy from the skies. He marveled at the imagery and found it difficult to comprehend.
Spath turned back to lock his twirling eyes on the new Rider and his dragon. "The enemy attacked in falls lasting 50 turns or more and then there would be an interval lasting even longer where no thread spun out. During the interval, man would nurture and protect the dragons and we would be safe until needed again.
"Then some twenty turns before the pass would begin, the queens would rise and dragons would grow in number. Great clutches would be laid and the Weyrs continued to prosper, as all Pern prepared itself for the coming pass.
"During one such turn, a great queen met a tragic fate. Heavy with egg, an accident befell her rider. She was a young queen and her anguish at losing her rider cannot be described. Like so many of our kind, she decided to leave by taking the endless jump Between.
Spath paused and the dragons in the bowl keened. As one, they honored that queen by lowering their heads to the ground. She was their ultimate ancestor.
Sensing the mood, Harry also bowed his head. In his mind, he could see the huge golden queen, her belly bulging with eggs. He could hear her bellow her anguish echo across a volcanic bowl, much like this one, and then she leapt aloft and winked out of existence.
He was struck by the shocked looked on the faces of the people who watched the queen realize her rider was forever gone.
"Sidraneth was her name," continued Spath. "She thought she was going to the great sleep. Instead, she came here, to the home world of our creators, in a time many turns ago. She is the mother of our kind on this world."
Harry sat up suddenly. He had picked up an image of a badly exhausted golden dragon appearing from Between over a plain covered with bison and wooly mammoths.
"She went into the past?" exclaimed Harry out loud. "Our past?" He was no expert, but even he knew the wooly mammoth existed many thousands of years ago. That meant that she had come across space and time, and from a planet man wouldn't even find for hundreds, if not thousands of years in the future!
Harry stared at Spath who rumbled with the dragon version of laughter.
"Our creators gave us a great many abilities, young Rider," Spath replied. "Sidraneth thought she was jumping to die. Instead, she came here and became the mother to our race. She was badly sickened by the jump and when she recovered, she was too heavy with egg to try again. Once she laid her eggs, she knew that, without man, she would have to care for her offspring."
"It was a crime against our creation, for we were not meant to be without riders. For countless turns, we existed, changing from what we were. And in those turns, we lost ourselves. But locked within each of us was the memory of what we had been and what we could be again."
"You, young Rider," added Momnarth, "gave us back our memory and our heritage. Now, we dragons are pledged to protect you, as you will protect us. With your help, we can break free from the wizards who kill our kind."
Harry's expression darkened. "Wand cores, blood for potion stocks, hide for armor," he murmured angrily. This could not stand! He stood and paced back and forth a few times. "This can't be allowed, but how? I'm only a kid," he exclaimed plaintively to Spath.
"We must rebuild the Weyr, young Rider," answered Spath. "Only then can we address the other issues. As Sidraneth was the first of our kind, you must be the first of your kind. You must be the First Rider. You must be the Weyrleader."
Harry stared at Spath in awe as an image of a great volcanic caldera teeming with people and dragons filled his mind. Then he looked around at the cliffs surrounding this place, noting the many caves and the dragons perched at the mouth of each of them. Their eyes shone in the deepening gloom and he was stunned to realize they there counting on him to help them.
"You can do it, Harry," said Chekiath, "And I will help you. We'll rebuild the Weyrs together and it will be good."
Headmaster's office, evening time, November 15th...
Minerva and Severus entered the Headmaster's office. Both were worried, but for different reasons.
Dumbledore stood in front of his shelf full of charmed trinkets.
"Albus?" Minerva said softly.
He reached out and touched the small spinning disk that puffed smoke. "For years now this device has been tied to the well being of Harry Potter," he said softly. "I knew every time he was hurt by his relatives. I knew every time he was unhappy because they locked him up or failed to offer a kind word to him at Christmas. And I did nothing about it."
He stopped the disk from spinning, breaking the enchantment, then he turned to face his teachers. "Professors? Please, be seated."
Once each had done as directed, Dumbledore turned to Snape. "I am not unaware of your treatment of Harry Potter, Severus. I had hoped that you could put aside your hatred for his father and treat the son fairly. Things are going to change in this school. You will either agree to abide by my policies or you will find yourself looking for work."
Snape blinked and looked at Albus in surprise. "Sir?" he said reluctantly.
Dumbledore looked at him hard for a moment, then he nodded. "I will no longer condone any bullying by anyone," he said firmly. "I don't care who their parents are. This school has had a code of conduct for its students for over nine hundred years and we will enforce it. I have instructed the school to reactivate the Code of Conduct."
Minerva nodded, looking vindicated, then asked the obvious question. "Albus, what about Harry?"
Dumbledore looked at his trinkets once more, his expression very remorseful, then he looked at her. "Today I learned that creatures we feared and thought to be nothing more than mindless beasts, are, in fact, as intelligent as we are. I also watched Mister Potter communicate with those creatures, using nothing more than his mind."
He walked over to his chair to sit, then he looked at his senior professors. "In all of the magical world, mind speech is known to exist only in the very rare soul bonds between two people. I can only assume that Mister Potter somehow bonded to that newly born dragon, and through that new connection, he was able to communicate with the adults."
Seeing her incredulous look, he stood and went to his pensieve. Extracting the memory, he then played it over the bowl for both of them to view. The conversation between Harry and the Headmaster played out in miniature over the bowl and both gasped when Harry freely offered his wand to the Headmaster.
"That's not normal behavior for Potter," muttered Snape.
Dumbledore glanced over at the dour man, but he realized that he wasn't making one of his usual snide comments this time. He paused the playback so he could reply. "No, it wasn't normal behavior, but then, all the records on soul bonded couples also note that the individuals involved had their own personalities change after the bond established itself."
Snape nodded thoughtfully and motioned for the Headmaster to resume playing back the memory.
"Look at that," whispered Minerva in awe, "He just looked at the beast and knew that the Ministry Aurors were assembling nearby."
Dumbledore nodded, then he added a new memory to the bowl. "What you've just seen wasn't the only unusual thing to happen today. This happened shortly after Mister Potter interacted with the baby dragon."
He played back the segment where the shade was expelled from Harry's scar and the dragon blasted it apart with dragon fire.
The two teachers stared at the images in horror, then Dumbledore ended the playback and returned the memories to his mind. Sitting back down, he stared at his desk for a moment before speaking again. "When Harry was checked out by Madam Pomfrey shortly after the attack that killed his parents, the scar resisted her attempts at healing. Unhappy with that, she called me in to check it out and I found the scar was heavily imbued with dark magic containing the signature of Lord Voldemort. I later taught Poppy the detection spells I used and she told me that his scar still contained the same signature when he came to school ten years later. And now, that," he said, pointing towards the pensieve. "The bonding process must have forced the dark magic from him."
Minerva looked pale from viewing the image of Lord Voldemort being blasted by dragon fire. "But, Albus, his schooling! Where will he go? What will he do?"
Dumbledore sighed. "Minerva, if we assume that Harry had indeed bonded with a dragon much like the soul bond, we could not separate him from his bonded. You know the Ministry would never allow a dragon to stay here at Hogwarts. He left with the other dragons. I will collect his trunk and his owl tomorrow and send them to him, via Fawkes. He will go wherever the dragons go. I feel certain that his fate and his future are firmly tied to theirs."
Minerva bowed her head, realizing that she, too, had failed a student, one of her lion cubs. "I shall miss him," she whispered.
Snape snorted and she shot him a glare.
"Yes, we shall," agreed Dumbledore.
Disko Island, Greenland, November 15th...
Harry sat in the small cave, deep in thought. Nearby, Chekiath snoozed lightly. He knew Harry had a bit of a problem, but right now they really had no way of solving it. To put it bluntly, Harry was hungry.
There was no wood for a fire, and nothing to cook even if he could make a fire, so he sat in the comfortable cave and thought about the problem for a long time before it suddenly hit him.
"Dobby?" he called out loud.
Dobby appeared, looking happily at Harry, then he took in his surroundings. In a blink, Dobby was climbing Harry, trying to get away from the dragon that was looking at him with interest.
"Dragons, Harry Potter, sir! Dobby will..."
"Dobby!" Harry shouted.
Dobby blinked and looked down at Harry Potter. He was sitting on the boy's shoulder, trembling in fear.
"What is that, Harry?" Chekiath asked curiously. "Can I eat him? Is he tasty?"
Harry turned to Chekiath. "No, you can't eat Dobby. He's my friend and friends don't eat friends."
Dobby whimpered and shivered on Harry's shoulder.
"Oh," Chekiath replied, sounding disappointed. "He does look tasty, though."
Dobby whimpered at Harry. "Dragons eat Dobby, Harry Potter, sir?"
"No, Dobby, he's not going to eat you. I want you to say hello to Chekiath. He's my friend. You're my friend. I'd like you both to be friends."
"Dragon no eat Dobby?"
Harry shook his head. "No, Dobby, Chekiath won't eat you. He'll be your friend, if you want."
Dobby eyed Chekiath fearfully for a moment longer, then slid to the floor and clutched at Harry's robe, carefully keeping some distance between him and the little dragon. "Dobby is happy to meet Cheki dragon."
Harry smiled. "Dobby sometimes has problems with names," he replied.
Dobby glanced up at Harry, then at the little dragon again, his brow furrowing. "Harry Potter can talk with Cheki?"
"I can Dobby, but before I start explaining everything, do you think you could pop back to Hogwarts and bring me my trunk and maybe something to eat? I've not eaten since breakfast."
Dobby nodded so fast his ears flapped for a moment, then he vanished with a small pop. A moment later he returned with Harry's trunk and a platter of sandwiches and several bottles of Butterbeer.
Harry's eyes lit up seeing the food and he eagerly reached for a sandwich. Dobby looked around curiously. "Harry Potter, sir? Where is your bed?"
Harry grinned around his sandwich and he swallowed before answering. "Well, I don't think we're at our final spot yet, Dobby, so we are just going to have to do without for the time being."
Dobby frowned. "Harry Potter can'ts be sleeping on hard stone floor. Oh no, sir, thats will never do."
Dobby vanished again and a moment later he returned with a small bed that looked like he had taken it right out of the Hogwarts Infirmary.
Harry eyed the bed for a moment. "Did you take that from Madam Pomfrey's ward?"
Dobby nodded happily and Harry sighed. "Oh well. It's not like she can yell at me for it, and I know the bed is comfortable."
Dobby snapped his fingers and a large pile of blankets appeared. Using several, he marked out a small corner of the cave for himself. "Harry Potter is going to need Dobby, so Dobby will sleep here."
Dobby looked at his little nest in satisfaction, then he eyed Chekiath for a moment. "Is Harry Potter sure dragon won't eat Dobby?"
Harry glanced over his sandwich towards the little dragon who looked at him for a moment, then Chekiath turned to Dobby.
"Harry has asked me to be your friend, Dobby," Chekiath said. "Like he said, we don't eat friends."
Dobby blinked in surprise at the voice in his mind, then he smiled shyly at the dragon. "Dobby would like that Cheki."
Harry smiled at the pair. "It's like I said, Chekiath, Dobby's kind have been treated as badly as dragons. Yet he's still a thinking being, like you and I."
"It is different. Yesterday, all dragons considered everything that moved as food. Today it all changed when you became my rider," replied Chekiath. The little dragon raised his head and looked fondly at Harry, his eyes softly glowing and twirling with affection.
Harry finished his sandwich, then he went over to the large pile of blankets that Dobby brought. Selecting two for himself, he then took the rest and started to lay them out on the floor near his bed. Chekiath watched from his spot.
"What are you doing, Harry?"
He glanced up and grinned. "I'm setting up a bed for you, my friend. I know the cave is warm but the rocks aren't very soft. At least the blankets will add a bit of padding."
Chekiath snuffled softly and walked over to the little nest of blankets, then he curled up on top of them and gave a sigh. They were more comfortable than the bare stone.
This spot is much better, Chekiath thought to himself. It was close enough that when Harry laid down he could reach out and stroke his dragon's neck and scratch behind his ears.
#12 Grimmauld Place, London, November 16th...
"Any word yet, Moony?" asked Sirius. The wanted felon had returned from his warm tropical hiding spot to this deary house when Harry was forced into the tournament.
Remus shook his head. "No, and the paper hasn't been delivered yet."
Fawkes suddenly flashed into the room and both men started. "I've got it," Remus said, reaching for the scroll Fawkes offered him. The large bird sat on a trunk he had brought with him.
"It always scares the crap out of me when that bird arrives. I think he does it on purpose," Sirius muttered.
Fawkes turned to look at Sirius and the large bird hooted several times at him as if to say, "Yeah, I do, and it's always funny to scare you."
"Siri?" Remus said softly, then he looked up from the scroll. "Harry's left the school!"
Sirius jumped to his feet. "He what?"
"According to this, yesterday's task resulted in Harry somehow bonding to a dragon. Dumbledore thinks it's like a soul bound with mind speech and maybe other aspects. He doesn't know. What he does know is that Harry left the school with the dragons. He wants us to add to the trunk any books we feel Harry might be able to use to learn magic from. Fawkes will wait around and take the trunk when we're done with it."
"Does he say where Harry went?"
"No, it doesn't say."
Sirius pondered for a moment, then he nodded to himself. "Right then, you start looking over the books in the library and pulling what we'll need."
"You don't think we're going to let the son of Prongs run around without some sort of supervision, do you?"
"Yeah, but who's going to supervise you?" Remus asked pointedly.
Sirius looked smug. "That's why I'm bringing you along, Moony, my friend!" he proclaimed grandly. At Remus' frown he sighed and grew serious. "Look, we don't know whats going on yet. I'm going to write a letter to Harry, asking if he'd like us to join him. We'll put it on top of the books in the trunk."
Remus' frown lessened a little.
"Remus," Sirius continued, "I'm going stir crazy here! If Harry is someplace away from the Aurors, I'll jump at a chance to leave this dirt hole. Besides, he's my godson." He shook his head. "I lost him once due to my own actions. I won't lose him again if I can help it."
Remus nodded. "All right. Write your letter we'll see if Prongs Junior can use some old mischief makers."
Sirius nodded and Fawkes ruffled his feathers and honked in agreement.
Headmaster's Office, Hogwarts, November 16th, early morning...
Albus nursed a headache and tiredly rubbed at his temples. It wasn't even eight in the morning and already he had people in his office complaining to him. Less than an hour earlier, he had sent Fawkes off with a trunk half full of books and a quick note to Sirius and Remus. Now, he'd give almost anything to have his familiar back, just so he could make his own escape.
Minerva and Madam Pomfrey sat across from his desk and looked at him expectantly. Both were there to complain about things. Poppy was inexplicably missing an infirmary cot and some blankets. Minerva had come to report that all of Harry Potter's personal effects had vanished.
"Poppy, I understand your concern, but I don't believe for a moment that a missing bed means someone is going to come back for some of your restricted potions. If they could sneak into your ward and remove a bed without you knowing about it, they could have easily taken your potions already. No, I suspect a far more benign reason for your missing bed."
"And that is?" snapped an irate Poppy. She was a good healer, but like so many, she hated when her neat, orderly world was disrupted, and a missing cot disrupted her world.
"Yesterday a student left the school in the company of dragons, Poppy. I daresay he was completely safe in their company, but I can't see them going to the Leaky Cauldron for a room," he replied mildly.
"Harry Potter is no thief!" exclaimed Minerva angrily.
"Nor did I call him one. Although to be honest, Professor, even if he had taken the bed, I would not begrudge him a place to sleep. No, I think we must look a little farther afield for the culprit of this theft. When I went to retrieve Mister Potter's belongings this morning, they were already gone, as you had already discovered, Minerva.
"Curious, I found that Hogwarts has another missing individual this morning. I do hope this isn't a trend, or come Christmas I'll have no one left to pull crackers with," Albus said with a smile.
Minerva looked alarmed. "Who, Albus?"
"Dobby, the former Malfoy elf that I hired after Harry's second year, has gone missing. I'm sure you recall that Dobby was unusually devoted to Mister. Potter. I believe he has gone to join Harry and has been coming back here to help himself to items that he thinks Harry needs."
Both women exchanged a glance between them and they relaxed a little. The elf was known to worship Harry and both could see him helping the boy.
"I've instructed our head elf that Dobby is to be left alone, unless he does something to endanger the students. So far, I know he's taken the bed, blankets, and some food. Actually, I am comforted by the idea that Dobby is taking care of our missing student."
Dumbledore paused at the knock on his door. "Come!" he called.
The door opened and Snape stormed into the room in an absolute fury. "Headmaster! One of the students has broken into my private quarters and stolen my desk and chair!" he exclaimed. "I demand that you find the person responsible and expel them!"
The two women exchanged an amused glance. With a renewed headache and a heavy sigh, he began his explanation again, knowing fully that this person would not be as relieved by his ideas as the two women were.
Disko Island Weyr, Greenland, November 16th...
Harry woke to a feeling of intense hunger that he couldn't explain. He put his glasses on and turned to see Chekiath heading to the exit of the cave. "Where are you off to, Cheki?" he called.
"One of the other dragons brought a sheep for me, Harry. I'm sorry if I woke you but I did not have much of a meal yesterday," he replied.
Harry smiled. "No worries, mate. I was just concerned."
He looked around and noted that Dobby was gone from his little nest, so he reached for a sandwich still on the platter from last night. We're going to need so much stuff, he thought worriedly. How will we get any of it?
Suddenly he could hear the sound of dragons bellowing and underneath that, the terrified bleating of sheep. Curious, he stood up. The dragons didn't sound like they were angry or afraid of something.
Pulling on a heavy jumper he slipped into his shoes and rushed to the exit. Once there, he stopped in surprise. The bottom of the caldera was filling up with livestock. There had to be two hundred sheep and an equal number of cows in the bowl now. Dragons were circling the herd and every so often one dragon would swoop down to grab an animal.
Harry's brows knitted in confusion, then it dawned on him. "Dobby?"
Dobby appeared, looking at Harry anxiously. "You call for Dobby, Harry Potter, sir?"
"Where did you get the animals?"
Dobby looked ashamed. "Big dragons won't eat Dobby if they have something else to eat. Dobby knows they likes cows and sheepies. Bad old master would sometimes beat Dobby because a dragon stole sheepies. So I took bad old master's sheepies. His good friend Fudgies cows wanted to come here too." He looked at Harry fearfully. "Did Dobby do wrong, Harry Potter, sir?"
Harry sat heavily on the rocks and stared at Dobby in amazement. "You stole Malfoy's sheep and Minister Fudgies...er Fudge's cows?"
Dobby nodded again, looking worriedly at Harry.
"Dobby! That's brilliant!" Harry exclaimed, then he reached out and pulled Dobby into a brief hug.
Dobby glanced over Harry's shoulder and he took a step backwards. Spath had landed nearby and walked over to where Harry was talking with Dobby.
"Good morning to you, Spath," Harry said politely.
"And to you,Weyrleader. I have much I would speak with you about this morning."
Harry nodded. "Yes, I have some questions for you, as well. But first I'd like to ask, can you speak to all people or is it just wizards? Last night, Chekiath spoke to Dobby here."
Spath rumbled softly and positioned himself so the morning sun hit him fully. "We can bespeak to anyone, Weyrleader, but until your impression we had forgotten how."
Harry nodded and walked over to where Dobby stood, trembling. "Could you ask the other dragons to be nice to Dobby? He is my friend and he's frightened that he will be eaten."
Spath's eyes twirled in amusement. "Weyrleader, this is one of the things I wanted to speak of. You have a rare ability. Even in the time of the riders, only a very few could bespeak to any dragon. Yet we all hear you, as you hear us. And as Weyrleader, you can simply command us and we will obey."
Harry shook his head. "I'm too young yet to be a leader of anything, Spath," he said in protest. "But I will ask that Dobby and others like him are treated with dignity. His kind have been treated as badly as yourselves."
In his mind he could hear a gentle murmur of agreement and several Dragons turned towards Dobby and greeted him. Dobby looked stunned, then smiled shyly at the great creatures.
"All right there, Dobby?" asked Harry.
Dobby looked at Harry with awe. "Harry Potter is truly a great wizard to make dragons like Dobby."
Harry grinned. "No, but hopefully someday I'll be a good dragon rider," he replied, then he turned back to Spath.
"You're good enough for me," Chekiath said softly to him.
"I will try very hard to be more than just good enough for you," Harry answered back.
"Momnarth will be teaching your mate what he needs to know each morning. While that happens, it would be best if I shared my memories of life in the Weyr."
Harry nodded at the ancient Horntail. Dobby watched for a moment longer then he vanished. When he returned he brought a small desk and chair along with parchment and quills. "Harry Potter will need to take notes when he learns," the little elf said.
Harry blinked, then grinned at his friend. "Thank you, Dobby." He arranged himself at the desk and looked over to Spath, who seemed to understand his need for the writing implements.
Nodding to Spath, he dipped his quill into the ink.
"There is much that has changed about our lives, but in some ways we are still the same," began Spath.
Headmaster's Office, Hogwarts, November 16th, early morning...
"Thank you, Solly," Albus murmured, taking the potion from the little elf. He uncorked the bottle and was just about to drink from it when another knock interrupted his morning.
"Now what?" he muttered. He had just finished up with Minerva, Poppy and Severus and now here was another distraction. He glanced down at the headache potion in his hand with regret and he placed it to one side of his desk. "Come!" he called.
The door opened admitting Minister Fudge, Lucius Malfoy and Amelia Bones, who looked decidedly uncomfortable with the company she was keeping.
"Minister Fudge, what a pleasant surprise. Please, be seated," Albus said with a smile.
Fudge sat in a chair scowling at the Headmaster, "Just what are you doing to us, Dumbledore? You've let this tournament turn Britain into the laughing stock of the world! First you force Potter to compete, then you let him steal an entire reserve's worth of dragons!"
Fudge trailed off as Dumbledore slowly stood, clearly angry enough to let his tight control on his magic slip. "Minister," he said through gritted teeth, "your own people lied to me about a magical contract. I only made Mister Potter participate because I thought I was protecting his magic. Harry has left Hogwarts, He went with the dragons who, I assure you, will see that he is well cared for. He discovered yesterday that dragons are not the mindless beasts we thought them to be."
"Oh, really, Dumbledore! You've clearly slipped into your dotage if you are going to think that dragons have some sort of intelligence. Why, even if that were true, they couldn't be even half as smart as a house elf!" exclaimed Malfoy.
Dumbledore drew himself up to his full height. "This coming from a man that was bested by his own former house elf two years ago?" he asked with a hint of a sneer.
"Enough!" snapped Amelia, "We have enough problems right now without this fight."
She turned to Dumbledore. "Albus, what you don't know is that besides the one single reserve that has lost all of its dragons, nearly every other reserve in the world is in total disarray. We have had reports of dragon handlers abandoning the reserves entirely. Thankfully, there have been no deaths, but there have been hundreds of casualties."
Albus stood and walked over to his pensieve. He carefully removed and placed it in the bowl.
"This is my memory of the task from just prior to when Harry Potter emerged from the tent to the point where a Ministry employee admits to conspiring to force Harry Potter into the tournament. You might find it illuminating."
He let it play out and silently watched his three guests. Malfoy nearly had a heart attack seeing the shade of Voldemort destroyed. Fudge looked ill and Amelia looked ready to spit nails. He had no doubt that Ludo Bagman and Barty Crouch would soon be undergoing an interrogation at the DMLE.
When the scenes finished playing he returned the memory to his mind and turned to face the three. "You'll note that the dragons acted in concert, a behavior which we have never seen before. You'll also note a senior member of the Fudge Administration who confessed to me that he conspired with another senior member of government to force Harry Potter into the tournament for the publicity he would bring the tournament.
"I cannot say what is happening at the dragon reserves. However, if you assume they are mindless beasts, then nothing Harry Potter did in that stadium yesterday resulted in what is happening at the reserves. On the other hand, if you are willing to believe that they are not mindless beasts, and perhaps have a way of communicating with each other, then perhaps what happened to Harry involved all dragon kind."
Fudge shook his head stubbornly. "Impossible! They are beasts. They have always been beasts. I know what your heading towards, Dumbledore, and I won't stand for it. If the Ministries of the world agree they are as smart as house elves, then they would fall under the ICW Intelligent Species Protection Act. That would bankrupt us! Not to mention all of the potions we'd lose until substitutes could be found for the ingredients!"
"Minister," Malfoy said smoothly, "do not worry yourself. The Ministries would never make such a decision. We have only one small reserve, but other countries have many. The impact on the world economy would be greater on them than us."
Dumbledore shrugged. "Then do not blame Harry Potter for your problems. If they are beasts, nothing he did yesterday could affect reserves on the other side of the world."
Both Malfoy and Fudge looked sour at that declaration.
"I think we're getting far afield from our original intent for this visit. It's clear to me that Harry Potter was not entirely in charge of his faculties yesterday. Whatever happened with the dragons is not my concern. What is my concern is that two members of government committed a crime that resulted in a young wizard becoming willing to voluntarily give up his magic," Amelia said hotly, overriding the men arguing.
"It also didn't escape my notice that Harry walked out into that arena, his wand pocketed. He approached the dragon in a manner which clearly suggested that the only goal he had on his mind was suicide. If it weren't for the fortuitous hatching of that baby dragon, we would undoubtedly be discussing the death of an icon that our society can ill afford to lose."
Dumbledore blushed with shame and nodded. "Yes, Amelia that is true. For many years now, since my predecessor to be exact, Hogwarts has survived without using its code of conduct for the students. The Board of Governors at the time felt that the code of conduct was too old fashioned and demeaning to pure bloods, because it insisted that all students were to be treated equally."
Albus shot her and Malfoy an angry glare. "Thanks to that board, we have been unable to implement a new code of conduct or to return to the old one. Five times in the past ten years, as both you and Mister Malfoy can attest, I have presented an updated code to the board and it's been rejected.
"Yesterday, after Mister Potter left, I invoked Article 1 of the Hogwarts charter which states that the Headmaster can override and disband the Board of Governors if he ever finds the board to be working against the best interests of the school. Then I invoked the original code of conduct upon which this school was founded."
"You can't!" exclaimed Malfoy.
"I can and I have! And I have already warned your offspring, Mister Malfoy. One more transgression and I will personally snap his wand and bind his core!" Dumbledore shot back. "It was due entirely to the behavior of this school that we saw a student attempt suicide in front of the world press!"
Amelia pressed a hand to her forehead. The meeting was not going like she had expected it to. "Albus," she said softly, "don't you think you should have warned the board that you were considering such a move?"
She trailed off and cringed back from his glare, more than a little fearful. A small aura played about the Headmaster.
"You've had your chances. I have to live with the shame of not doing enough. But you? You have to live with the shame of doing nothing! Meanwhile, the greatest symbol of hope our society has seen in decades has left our school and I daresay he will never return. Merlin forgive me, but I will have to live with that image of Harry Potter walking up to a dragon hoping for a quick death, and so will each of you."
Malfoy tightly gripped his cane in one hand and his other hand twitched.
"Lucius, you can't beat me," Albus said softly. "You couldn't beat me when you hid behind your mask and your Master and you can't beat me now. Do not try me because I no longer have the patience I once did."
"I think we've done enough for today," Amelia said placatingly. "The world press is already calling for an investigation. I will have a small Auror team arrive later today to look into the tournament."
Albus nodded. He had expected such.
Fudge looked at Amelia in outrage, but Lucius leaned over and whispered something to the man which seemed to calm him, Nodding, he stood and Lucius followed him.
Amelia glanced at the pair and stood as well.
"Dumbledore," Fudge said curtly, then he turned to head to the door. At the door, he turned back to the Headmaster. "If I find out you had something to do with the loss of my cows this morning, Albus, I'll break you!" he snarled, then he exited the office.
Albus watched their retreating backs for a moment longer, then he reached for his headache potion. Cows? He mused. What did he mean by that?
Hogwarts Infirmary, Mid Morning, November 16th...
"I got your message, Poppy," Minerva said from the doorway of her office.
Poppy waved her friend in. "I just wanted to tell you that one of yours came to me today. She's in bed six, the one behind the curtains."
Minerva sat down and eyed her friend for a moment. "Miss Granger?"
"What's wrong with her?"
Poppy sighed. "I would wish it was a disease or an injury that I could easily treat, but I'm afraid it's nothing so simple. Miss Granger is suffering from the realization that her actions played a part in what happened to Mister Potter yesterday. She is suffering from both a sense of guilt and the loss of her best friend. She came in her distraught, with her magic flaring wildly. I had to give her a heavy dose of calming draught just so she could gain control of her magic."
Minerva sighed and shook her head sadly. "I wish it weren't the case, but a great many of my lions could use the same calming draught."
"Perhaps you could talk to her, Minerva?" asked Poppy.
Minerva nodded unhappily and stood, then she left the office and walked over to the curtained off bed. Slipping around the barrier, she found Hermione laying on her side, her arms wrapped tightly around herself and her face streaked with tears.
"Hermione?" she said gently, then she moved to sit in her field of view. "Hermione, I know you're hurting now, but even Harry knows you didn't intend to deliberately hurt him."
Hermione turned to look at the teacher she admired the most. "I know," she whispered. "But whatever the intent, I knew he was in trouble and he was hurting and I ignored his pain. He had no plan yesterday, Professor. I let my best friend down and now he's gone. I don't know if I'll ever see him again, or even if he's all right."
Minerva smiled sadly. "I know child, but I also know that he's not completely alone. The Headmaster has determined that Dobby has followed Harry wherever he went. That elf will see that Harry's taken care of. You know how dedicated Dobby is to Harry's welfare."
Hermione nodded, feeling a bit relieved knowing that Dobby would help Harry, but it did little to relieve her own crushing sense of guilt.
"Rest today, Hermione," Minerva said. "Tomorrow will come soon enough and no one really knows what the future may bring. You may yet see your friend again."
"I hope so," Hermione whispered fervently.
Minerva patted her hand and turned to go back to Poppy. She was saddened to see Hermione reacting so badly but she wasn't the only one feeling guilty for what had happened.
"How is she?" asked Poppy.
"As one would expect," Minerva replied unhappily. "She's realized that she helped drive Mister Potter away. She knows she hurt him and she feels guilty for it."
Poppy tutted and shook her head.
Disko Island Weyr, Greenland, Mid day, November 16th...
Harry looked away from Spath, breaking the connection they had shared for over an hour. He spotted the reason for his distraction and he smiled, seeing Fawkes sitting atop a large trunk.
"A fire bird!" exclaimed Chekiath. He turned away from Momnarth and trotted over to Harry.
"Hullo, Fawkes," he said, greeting the large bird. Fawkes trilled loudly and Harry shook when several nearby dragons took up a counter point to Fawkes' song. The dragons may have lacked the magic of Fawkes' singing, but it was still a stirring and powerful sound.
He looked around at the dozen or so dragons that were nearby, sitting on the rocks sunning themselves. "That was wonderful. Thank you," he said breathlessly.
Chekiath stopped next to Harry and stared at Fawkes in fascination, his eyes twirling with interest. Harry reached out and stroked his dragon and Chekiath snuffled with pleasure, then he leaned heavily against his hand.
"Fawkes, I'd like you to meet Chekiath, my dragon," he said softly. "Cheki, this is Fawkes, he is a phoenix who saved my life once."
"Thank you for saving my rider, Fire Bird," Chekiath said politely. "Welcome to our weyr."
Fawkes gave a startled squawk and turned to stare at the little dragon who just spoke to his mind. The phoenix had experienced dragons many times in his very long life, but this was the first time he had ever had one speak to him. Fawkes suddenly spread his wings and flashed to flame. Instead of vanishing as he usually did, he began to sing.
The magic present in the Phoenix song was much stronger in this form and all the dragons of the weyr turned to listen. Fawkes spoke to them not in a language of words, but a language of emotions and concepts. His song was of surprise and a wondrous joy to have met an intelligence he hadn't encountered before. The impact of his song was immense as the dragons took up a crooning reply.
Harry staggered over to his chair and even Dobby sat limply on the floor, stunned by the feelings Fawkes expressed.
Fawkes looked hard at Chekiath and it seemed a message passed between them before he flamed out to return to Hogwarts.
"Merlin," Harry said, clearly shaken by the incident. Chekiath came over to him and gently laid his large head in Harry's lap.
"The Fire Bird told me to take good care of you. He said he knew you were special, but I already knew you were special." Cheki's jaw dropped open in what could only be described as a grin. "And you're all mine."
Harry laughed and stroked his dragon.
"Harry Potter, sir? There is a letter for you attached to the trunk Fawkes brought."
Harry looked interested and he reached out a hand. The letter flew out of Dobby's hand and landed in his. He stared at the letter in consternation and Dobby clapped his hands. "Dobby knew Harry Potter was a powerful wizard! Only the most powerful can do magic without a wand."
Dobby smiled at the young master's astounded expression. Then the smile slipped away and he looked at the boy sternly. "Harry Potter must practice every day to become better with wandless magic."
Harry nodded. "Right, another thing to add to my list of things to do," he grumbled to himself. Shaking his head, he broke the seal on the letter and began to read.
Harry, old boy,
I'm hurt! You zip off on an adventure and you don't ask your old Godfather if he wants to tag along?
But seriously, Remus and I are worried about you. Dumbledore asked us to put together a package of books for you to read. Boring, I know, but you're going to need at least some of this stuff.
I don't know what you did, but Dumbledore seems to have taken it to heart. He sent Fawkes here to raid my family library, and that was after he raided Hogwarts! The trunk was half full when it arrived with Fawkes.
Remus and I are concerned, Harry. We don't know exactly what drove you to leave school, but we do know that you're out there somewhere by yourself. If you think where you are at is safe from Aurors, then let me know and I'll get there as fast as I can, and I'll bring wolfie along for the ride.
He turned to Spath. "Would it be alright with you if I asked some friends to join us?"
"Rider, you are Weyrleader. You decide who can enter the Weyr and who can not," Spath said with amusement in his voice. It seemed that while he had a vision of what the Weyrleader was supposed to be like, his Weyrleader was young and unused to commanding. It would take some time for him to come to accept his role.
Nodding to himself, he quickly wrote up a short note, then he turned to the elf.
"Dobby, do you remember Professor Lupin from last year?"
Dobby nodded and looked eagerly at Harry.
"Do you think you can find him?"
Again Dobby nodded. Harry smiled and held out a note. "Good. Take this to Professor Lupin, then wait and help them in any way possible. When they're ready, bring them here."
Dobby clutched at the note and vanished with a snap of his fingers.
"Momnarth says that in two weeks you and I will begin flight training, Harry. Not long after that, we'll be able to fly together. Soon, we can travel to get your friends," Chekiath said wistfully.
Harry smiled at his dragon and scratched around his ears. "I can't wait for us to fly. When I flew on Momnarth it was great, but I know it will be even better with you. We have so much to do Cheki and I can't do it without your help."
Chekiath looked up at Harry, his eyes twirling slowly at his rider. He was content, he had his rider and together they would shape the Weyrs of Earth.
Spath rumbled in approval at the pair, then another dragon landed nearby. Harry blinked and looked at the dragon, a Norwegian Ridgeback, who looked...
"Norbet?" he whispered in surprise.
The Ridgeback turned to Harry. "You remember me? My real name is Selanth."
"Yes! Yes, I do. I was one of the students who smuggled you out of the school so that they wouldn't kill you and put Hagrid in prison."
"Hagrid," Selanth said softly, as if tasting the name. "I never could quite hear his name and I don't think he could hear me."
"You impressed?" Harry blurted.
"Only partially," Selanth replied sadly.
Harry looked to Spath for an explanation.
"I am not sure of all of the details, Weyrleader, but Selanth reached out and touched this Hagrid like Chekiath touched you. Instead of the normal connection being made, Selanth got a very muffled reply from the man. It was nearly impossible for Selanth to hear him. It was almost as if his mind was hidden behind a thick wall. I think that because the impression was incomplete, it couldn't reawaken our memories like your impression did."
Harry nodded thoughtfully. "I like Hagrid and think he's a kindhearted person, but given his size, I'm not sure he's entirely human. I think there's some giant in his background somewhere."
He turned back to Selanth. "If I could convince Hagrid to join us, would you like that?"
Selanth's eyes twirled in anticipation. "Our bond exists, but it wasn't formed correctly. If he could come here, it may continue to form until until it's completed. Despite only a partial connection, I feel incomplete without him."
Harry nodded and reached for some parchment. "Right, then. As Hermione would say, it's time to make a list of things that have to be done."
"Thank you, Weyrleader," Selanth said, her voice tinged with hope.
Harry smiled at the dragon. "You're welcome, Selanth. But if I understand Spath properly, it's my job to take care of you. Your rider is missing and we'll bring him home to you."
Around the bowl, five hundred and three dragons hummed in approval and many bespoke to Chekiath, congratulating him on picking such a fine rider and Weyrleader.
The little dragon lay near Harry, watching him scribble on his parchment and hummed contentedly. Yes, Harry was special, and he was his.
Spath watched Harry for a moment longer, then he turned to eye Momnarth who he sensed was uneasy about something. "What troubles you?"
Momnarth relayed the images of just after the impression and the shade that was ejected from Harry's forehead.
Spath's eyes twirled in distress. "It is troubling. How such a thing is possible, I do not know. You sensed the evil and must pass that to the others. We shall all watch for such evil in the future. If we find it, we will destroy it."
Momnarth relaxed at Spath's pronouncement. The Weyrleader was no longer affected by the evil spirit, but there might be others out there. If the Weyrleader worked to protect the Weyr, then they would work to protect their Weyrleader.
It is an unusual feeling to be told that what you know is wrong. Thus, when the knowledge of the true nature of Dragons came to light, it was no wonder that the Wizards rebelled against the idea, pitting themselves against another intelligent species. Dragons were an economic resource that man was reluctant to give up without a fight.
Excerpted from The Weyrs of Earth by Remus John Lupin, published 2040.
+ Publication of chapters should be roughly one chapter a week unless something changes.
+ Dragon abilities have been altered to allow them to fit better with the story. This is AU folks, if you don't like the changes from dragon lore, or from Harry Potter, don't whine to me, instead go read canon.
+ No Horcruxes, no Hallows in this story. There was some magic used by Voldemort in his quest for immortality, but Horcruxes don't exist in this. What existed in Harry was a parasitic power leech that funneled power to Voldemort's shade. It was semi-sentient in itself.