Ushujaa - Heroism, Bravery
Basic Premise: Harry Potter ends up in the era of the Napoleonic Wars- as a dragon animagus!
Warnings: Contains spoilers, obviously. And adult/upsetting subject matters, though it is not romance centered. Rather, the warning is for slavery, potential forced breeding, and violence.
umhlengi - savior/rescuer (zulu)
asante sana - thank you (swahili)
msaada - help
joka la hadithi - dragon
uhuru - freedom
shuja - hero
Background: Set in 1805 in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars, not long after the HMS Temeraire fought in the battle of Trafalgar in October- the same eponymous ship that the dragon (and book series) is named after. In 1807, Britain outlawed slavery, but the trade is declining somewhat from the wars already. It is still going strong in other countries, particularly the Americas though controversy there is already brewing. Louisiana has already been purchased from the French and Haiti won its freedom and declared itself independent a year ago (1804).
Temeraire the Dragon is about 20-30 or so tons at adulthood, a heavy-fighter class. The biggest Harry Potter dragon, the Ironbelly, in comparison is only 6 tons at most and would barely be considered a light-weight fighter, though the length I'd suspect would make it look like a larger dragon as I think J.K's dragons are slightly lighter weight than their Temeraire equivalent- even taking that into account though they'd still be small. Dragons below 6 tons are usually couriers and very looked down upon in the Temeraire universe. However, fire breathing is a very rare ability and one the British Side dragons do not possess. Oh, and they don't have magic either.
I do not really have enough history to write this out with as much attention as it might deserve, if it deserves any attention at all, so I will probably not write more than a one shot or a few chapters; certainly I don't think I'll write out a full 40,000+ word story. It is merely to settle my curiosity a bit on the subject and give me a little motivation to study history.
Thank you to the reviewer who pointed out the typo I had at one point where I wrote 1905 and skipped a century, whoops!
The battle against Voldemort didn't go well.
It was a tired saying, one that had been said many times, but it was true no matter how worn out it was. In fact, it was rather understated. The Lord of Death, Harry Potter, in a rather embarrassing incident died; Voldemort after killing him the first time decided to be cautious and pragmatic, and kill him a second. The entire gamble, to let Voldemort kill him the first time, had been rather risky and dumb in the first place he reflected, and in hindsight it really wasn't that surprising that his luck had finally run out on him. In particular, he'd relied on a wand who's ownership had changed hands many times via death of the previous owner. Why he'd expected even that to stay loyal to him after being killed with it by Voldemort he had no clue anymore.
Except, of course, in death he still seemed to be capable of thinking those words. That didn't exactly make a great deal of sense, unless something had actually worked, and the wand had recognized him as an owner. It had given him a second chance.
But that just raised the big question. A second chance where? Where was he? Was that the sound of waves crashing? There were voices. They seemed strangely familiar, although Harry was certain he'd never heard them before in his entire life. His wand was still in his hand, so he couldn't have been captured by Voldemort... what was that weird pain in his lungs?
His eyes fluttered open, and he was immediately bombarded by the sight and feel of tons and tons of water rushing all around him. He was choking, drowning on water, and frantically struck upwards towards the light of the sun. He seemed lighter and more buoyant than he remembered, but that was really the furthest thing from his mind as he spat out water and gasped for air, clawing frantically at the sides of a boat. Scratch that, make that a very large sailing ship. What were one of those doing in this day and age?
Shouting alerted his ears, and he looked up, exhausted, still clutching his wand for dear life- although, now that he thought about it, it felt like it had shrunk. Looking down, he saw huge black, scaly arms seeming to reach down in front of him, and freaked when he realized they were attached to a large winged shoulder that belonged to- himself.
Blimey. He was a dragon. A dragon!
Shouting caught his ears, and he saw rows of men staring at him in concern. Feeling embarrassed, and hoping they weren't muggles, he was surprised when he realized they were throwing out ropes and trying to help him get aboard.
"Where's your rider? Man overboard!"
"I don't see any straps. I think it might be feral!"
"Someone send a pigeon to the Aerial Corps! Immediately!"
Rider? Huh. He realized it wasn't actually him they were throwing ropes for, and they still were gazing at him with fear, none of them willing to risk going down near the water with him in it. He couldn't recall any groups of wizards that were dragon riders, nor any group that preferred pigeons to owls, but they most certainly had to be wizards if they were familiar with dragons. Rising up, the black dragon beat his wet wings with great effort and clumsily managed to clamber up on to the deck. It was ill-suited to his size, but at least he fit without knocking any men off.
Feeling thankful for being rescued, even if it was only accidental and he'd mostly done the rescuing himself, he thought back to transfiguration. If he still had his mind in tact, that meant he was probably in an animagus form now. Not what he'd been expecting, and certainly not something he'd ever heard of happening in accidental magic, but theoretically he should be able to turn himself back into a man. Holding up his wand, he realized it was actually a piece of wood splintered off from the boat. Totally useless. No matter. Animagus practitioners didn't need their wand. Might have been nice for a complete beginner, though. He tried to shift- and instead felt his strange, unfamiliar but rather drab (for a dragon) body change to resemble a shape he faintly recognized. The horntail. Great. He'd managed to make the transformation more complete, rather than less. Just great.
"Do you have a name?"
He turned his head, to see the ship captain. Not sure if dragons could actually vocalize human sounds- maybe they were like birds- he gave it a tentative try. "I'm Harry Potter."
Hey, it worked. It seemed to greatly relieve the men aboard, too, although they still didn't seem to be happy about having a large dragon on their deck. "He's no feral," he overheard the captain say to another with cheer, before turning back to him. He guessed it was the captain since he was the one who originally addressed him and the one who'd shouted orders earlier to the men- plus from the way they were dressed. The man turned back to face him, smelling afraid to Harry's nose but putting on a brave face. "What happened to your captain? Were you headed on a mission?"
What? He was completely thrown and baffled by this conversation. "Captain? D'you mean Dumbledore? He was killed by Snape unfortunately. I was battling against the dark lord and I frankly can't remember how I ended up here or like this." He gestured with his claws to himself.
"Dark lord? Odd way to refer to Napoleon but I heartily approve." the man chuckled nervously, not really wanting to disagree with a dragon who could eat him in one bite. Actually, that was a bit of an exaggeration, Harry wasn't that large, it would take several bites. He could still nip the man's head off, though. "Snape, another dragon were they? Well, they aren't here now thankfully."
What? No. He was beginning to feel they really had to be muggles. Who else would not know who- wait, Napoleon? "What year is this?"
"1805. Nearing 1806 in a few months, if that was what you were worried about. It's the fine wane of October."
"And... where am I?" Great, he'd gone back in time.
"Eager to get back home, right?" the man said, himself looking eager for the answer to be yes. "We're sailing towards Britain from Africa's west coast as we speak. We'll be there in another two weeks, but I imagine you could fly there faster."
Oh. Well, that was better than a longer wait, he supposed. He shifted to examine himself, taking in his wings and tail. He did seem to a male Hungarian Horntail, around thirty feet long and around four tons. Not bad, he thought, though he was sure the female he'd fought had been larger. Come to think of it, he seemed to remember reading that the females were bigger in dragons in Magical Creatures and Where to Find Them.
"What?" Harry glanced at him.
"Aren't you going to leave?"
Harry felt embarrassed. He didn't really know how to fly, but didn't want to outright say so. "I don't know the way." There, that was true enough. "I might get lost."
The man looked frustrated, then thoughtful. "We don't have enough food on board for you, but, if we brought you back there would be a reward, yes?"
Harry nodded. "That can be arranged. I'll happily pay you for your service." Merlin knew he had enough gold rotting away in his vault. Losing a chunk would be well worth it, and they could haggle later. And he was sure his friends would chip in too. Oh, crud. He just remembered, his friends were all in the future. And what if there wasn't even a Potter vault back in this time? Still, he'd work out something.
"Alright, I think I have a solution." the man brightened. "Are you hungry now?"
"I'm a little." He yawned. Mostly exhausted, really. Resting on the wood was not going to be comfortable, he realized, but it beat having nothing. Once he was rested maybe he could try shifting back to human again. And getting a wand. He wasn't sure how the Ministry would react to a time traveler in the shape of a dragon to boot.
"Bring out one of the slaves! We'll feed the savage to the dragon!"
"Wait, what?" his green eyes widened. It was with sheer disbelief that he watched the sailors bring up from below deck a struggling, terrified black skinned woman. Harry felt sick. 1805, he vaguely remembered from school now, had been during the transatlantic slave trade. He was pretty sure slaves getting fed to dragons wasn't part of the history books, though. No matter what time or body he was in though, he refused to eat a human being.
Pissed, and feeling not entirely himself, Harry rose growling, and launched himself at the ship's captain. Horned head snaking out, the captain only had time to register shock before the wizard-turned-dragon chomped down on him and shook. All around, the slavers screamed, and with a strike of his very not-human tail appendage, send them flying off the deck.
It occurred to him that as a human, he'd never have taken delight into biting into a man and killing him, but it seemed the transformation had more affect on his mind than he'd thought. The raw taste was pleasing rather than disgusting, and he had to force himself to drop the meat- err, man. Turning, he slaughtered the crew left and right, who fell helplessly against him. A part of him couldn't help but feel this was justice, or at least karma, for men who made their living brutalizing weaker people to die from someone stronger killing them.
When he'd finished the massacre, he was covered in blood and more red than black. Looking back at the one remaining human who was still alive, he realized she was terrified and not at all understanding of what was going on. She probably expected him to eat her, and shouted "Msaada! Msaada!" when he moved his claw near her. With a neat slice, he cut her bonds.
She stared, shivering and slowly rose up her hands, staring at them. "Uhuru?" she whispered, disbelievingly, then looked up at him and smiled, tears whelming up. "Asante sana!" she thanked him, crying out with joy and bowing at his feet. "Asante sana joka la hadithi!" she repeated over and over.
Then, still shouting, she ran down below deck. Harry craned his long neck and peered below. The conditions were deplorable. It smelled hideously, men and women standing in their own waste, welts from beatings bleeding on their backs, the sick coughing relentlessly. There seemed to be no hope in their eyes, only shock as the woman went to free them. He caught some words exchanged, "Umhlengi," "Shuja" repeated, and it seemed to his ears that there were different languages being spoken here. He couldn't imagine all the families that must have been broken up...
And now he was alone in this god damned time, he shuddered. Friendless, and lost as sea. And in a body with instincts and a mind that had made him slaughter men without, he realized with horror, the slightest feeling of guilt whatsoever.
The woman reached back to him, smiling and pat him on the leg, eyes shining.
Well, maybe not entirely friendless and alone.
Azizi and Chuma, a curly haired man, became his two new best friends in the lonely world. Only Chuma could speak English, but Azizi, the woman he'd rescued, confided using their translator that she had no family anymore. They were all dead, killed by disease, penalty for insubordination, or in the original conflict that had led to her capture.
The lack of enough food on board for a dragon meant Harry found himself, with some reluctance, eating rather than tossing over board all the corpses. It made many of the ex-slaves afraid of him, but Harry felt it was the pragmatic choice. At least this way he wasn't wasting meat.
He learned that they were all muggles, without any magic at all. Chuma was intelligent, and using his memory of the direction they'd been going and educated guesses from the letters and devices left on the ship, they tacked their way against the winds and headed towards Britain. They simply had not enough supplies to reach anywhere else, or to go back home. All were extremely nervous about what would happen when they arrived, and Harry learned from Azizi that it was likely all of them, including Harry, would be taken. Dragons were treated a little better than slaves, but the penalty for eating the white men was sure to be death. Harry felt he was probably a fairly large dragon, and so could fight another dragon off, but the thought of facing multiple, with guns and bombs strapped to them to boot, gave him pause. Deep down, he still viewed himself as a British citizen too, and didn't really want to kill any more of them, particularly loyal ones who would normally be fighting against the tyrant Napoleon rather than chasing down a rogue man eating dragon. Especially since, he thought with annoyance, one could be his alternate timeline ancestor or something. The subject matter was rather confusing, more for someone like Hermione to think through that him. He was no good at that timey wimey stuff.
He was not, however, going to let anyone be enslaved on his watch. That was just intolerable. Even if he died in the attempt, well, Harry had died once already. It really wasn't so bad. He was honestly just surprised to be alive.
With all his efforts, he focused on the one thing that could save all of them. He focused on turning himself back into a human. Focusing on his shape, he asked it to 'snap back' to its natural form. It fought with him hard, but eventually his magic flowed and responded to his frustrations. Scales shrank and his hide turned white, much to the horror of his black companions, and he had a lot of explaining to do once he suddenly popped into the shape of a man. Particularly one who looked like one of the 'white demons'.
"Chuma, please tell everyone that I am planning to go out to shore once we get there, and get us new supplies. Those who wish to go on land can, those who want to sail back to Africa can, and those who want to..." he paused, trying to think of what he wanted to do with his life. "go somewhere else can say so any time." He might have to steal supplies, he thought, but hopefully there would be enough money on board to purchase some basic necessities. For one, he seemed to still be wearing his robes- oh, wait. He was being an idiot. He could steal the dead crew's clothes and wear them. Well, that solved one problem.
Chuma spoke to the other passengers, but seemed to take an awfully long time about it, more than was necessary just to translate a basic sentence. Harry stared suspiciously when Chuma looked back, grinning. "Some of us want to stay with you, and help rescue more slaves. The rest will go back to Africa and try to reunite with their families." Azizi nodded in agreement to this.
Harry almost choked on air in surprise, then realized they must have thought it was something he'd planned to do the entire time. "Of- o-of course." he stuttered.
The Dread Pirate Harry Potter. Kind of had a nice ring to it. Hmm, if more freed slaves shared similar mindsets to Chuma and Azizi, he could soon have an entire fleet of stolen slaver ships... Though, come to think of it, this ship wasn't very well equipped for running down or fighting with other ships in any way. It didn't even have any canons.
So, scratch that last part. Make it the Dread Pirate Dragon. With fire breath, he could set any pursuing ships on fire with ease, though it would be more useful to sell them for money to buy better quality ships. Was any ship fast enough to avoid dragons? That was the one thing to fear at this point, other dragons and their human... captains, was it? Strange name, almost made it sound like they had multiple riders or could carry whole crews, but that thought was ridiculous. Harry knew he himself could carry maybe six people at most. That thought was fairly strange, considering back in his old life he hadn't been capable of lifting anyone up into the air and flying off except on a broom stick.
It would probably take time to find a way back home, if he ever managed at all. Heck, he'd died. For all he knew, maybe he'd reincarnated as a dying dragon or something. A feral that just happened to be flying across the sea, maybe blown off course from a storm and lost. Stranger things had happened.
When they arrived at port, Harry was nervous. He had no papers or anything, didn't even know it was needed, but it didn't take him long to find the ship's own papers. No one came to investigate them, to his relief when they arrived, and he went on shore and quickly made purchases. The different value of the pound, due to a lack of two hundred years of inflation, threw him at first. But he quickly adjusted. It was really the fact the only cargo and goods the ship carried being slaves that made things difficult. He couldn't sell the boat, but without anything to sell he couldn't possibly afford everything they needed for the first trip. In the end, he had to resort to thieving. He wasn't too good at magic without his wand, but he still could manage a few wandless accio's and apparation. The lack of Ministry of Magic popping down his door confirmed his suspicions that they didn't really exist here. At least, not in any form he'd recognize. He seemed truly and fully to be in an alternate world.
They spent over a week docked, and in that time Harry tried to learn as much as possible as he could about ships and their operation, bluntly asking questions of sailors as innocently as possible and buying a book on the subject. He was a little disturbed to realize Moby Dick, the only sea novel he could think of off the top of his head, hadn't even been written yet.
Ready to leave the docks with his last armful of packages, he returned to find to a strange, burly man standing in front of his boat with several armed men trying to board. The ex-slaves, who he'd thought had known better, were standing up on the deck in plain view with their swords. "Woah, woah, what's going on here?" he exclaimed.
The big burly man whirled, furious. "You tell me! This is my brother's ship, and he hasn't called, and I come and find a bunch of nigs swarming around it loose!" Then he turned. "Men, recapture the slaves! They must have killed my brother and taken the ship!"
"Aye!" the men shouted, and climbed aboard. Immediately, the people on board started fighting and trying to push the men off, not at all eager to become slaves again.
Harry thought of excuses, like 'you must be mistaken', but knew the man probably wasn't stupid enough to mistake another boat for his brothers. His only friends and his crewmates were in trouble. He had to do something, and he couldn't fight with a sword to, well, save his life. He didn't like to change in front of people who might spread the tale, so he quickly stepped out of sight behind the shadow of another docked boat and shifted. This time, the transformation into the horntail felt natural, more natural even than his own human skin. With discomfort, he wondered if he might count as a human animagus rather than a dragon one now, changed by the shift in realities. With talking dragons, 'wizard' dragons wasn't quite as far fetched as it might seem, though magic still didn't seem to be normal here.
Bronze horns shining in the sunlight, he roared and took flight. To his satisfaction, men quickly scattered at the sound and at the sight of him swooping down on them. With a vicious crunch, he downed the burly man, once again not feeling nearly as much guilt as he expected to. That was two members of that family he'd murdered now.
A brave man swiped at him, managing to draw blood on his thick hide, and was quickly 'rewarded' by Harry swiping back at him with his own blade-like weaponry, his claws. With a sweep of his spiked tail, he impaled and threw men far through the air. Seeing all the remainder fleeing, he quickly flew back on the boat, wings cleaving the air with a bit more skill than when he'd first drawn himself out of the water half drowned a few weeks ago. "Quick, unanchor the boat!" he ordered. "Go!"
Azizi and the others, terrified and just as aware as him that they'd soon have more pursuers, complied quickly. Satisfied they were getting the ship out of the bay right, he beat his wings again, and rose. For the first time, he really soared through the air with mastery. Quidditch simply did not compare.
He could feel the wind cradling him, pressing against him, and the way the shifts of his body commanded it to turn him this way or that. This required real skill, not just the ability to urge a magical object to move how he willed and respond to command. It was with curiosity that he tried a few Quidditch moves, however, diving low and pulling up at the last instant, seeing how his body responded.
It was so easy to get lost in the joy, he almost forgot what he was doing. Keeping low to keep everyone from the whole country spotting him, he stooped and plucked valuables he spotted on the ground- barrels of clean water and beer in particular caught his attention. Turning, he went and dropped them on the boat. Ruthlessly, he went back and forth, reveling in his speed and confident in being able to return any time he wanted, grabbing all the foodstuffs they might need and keeping an eye out for new company. Sure enough, the alarm was being sounded and navy ships with actual guns were heading to intercept his ship. Speeding back, he dropped the last back of grain on the ship and flew to harass and distract the interceptors.
Maybe convince them to leave well alone, perhaps. These were not slavers, after all, but men who probably just thought there were a bunch of dangerous psychopaths with a dragon on the loose. Or at least, he hoped they weren't slavers. It would be extremely disappointing if everyone he met who looked like him kept slaves. Downright depressing, actually. He knew the situation would get better eventually, but, not very strangely, he found himself unable to wait. He didn't even know the date Britain stopped keeping slaves, his history lessons a fuzzy memory in his mind, not helped by his experiences of them being boring and stuffy and one of them being an undying ghost obsessed with repeating the Goblin Wars over and over again.
"Bug off!" he roared, hovering in the air for a moment above one ship, causing men to duck for cover in fear of being killed by a plume of fire or plucked from the air. "We-" when did it become a we? Oh well. "suffered at your hands, lost our homes and families, and we've taken our retribution. Be lucky it is so little. Leave us alone and we'll never come back to this port again!"
"The fell beast talks English! Maybe it is one of ours gone rogue!"
Not the reaction he'd been hoping for. With a huff of disgust he ripped their sails with his claws, but stopped when they aimed harpoons at him and shot bullets. Oh crud, they had actual anti-dragon weaponry. One bullet hitting him in the leg, he was forced to retreat, but was glad he'd at least slowed them.
He knew Horntails could breath fire, but as of yet hadn't figured out the mechanism for it himself. Maybe because humans couldn't breath fire. He sincerely hoped he didn't accidentally set the boat on fire after a sneeze or some such thing. Flying back, wincing in pain with every movement, he landed and cradled his injured leg.
Harry watched as they sailed away, even with the sails of their opponents ripped, barely escaping with their lives. Canonfire rocketed around them, but soon it grew more and more quiet, and less and less effort seemed to be made to grab them.
Victory. He closed his eyes, and licked his leg. Injured women and men nursed each other around him, and one crew member had died.
Well, more of a narrow draw, Harry supposed.
From there, their rain of terror began. Sailing back towards Africa, they mercilessly slaughtered the slavers on the boats they encountered, freeing many people. Volunteers to help the effort increased, and they did indeed keep most of the boats they captured, as well as the money and goods that were on board. Most, however, were returned back to Africa's shores, and a lot of goods were used up simply in maintenance. The food the slavers had for slaves were not very good, a kind of awful gruel usually, sometimes force-fed to their unwilling subjects. Harry was feeling pretty glad he'd, even if he hadn't planned to, started this effort. At a shifty port, they sold some of the ships off and made a good deal of cash at last.
Hey, being a pirate didn't pay so bad, especially being a successful pirate.
They captured a military naval vessel, one with orders to capture pirates like them, and made it into their new ship of operations- the prisoners were treated fairly and released back at land. With some of the prize money from all the loot they gained from stealing ships, they soon bought a second boat. This he gave to Azizi to command, figuring her pretty competent. Her crew were composed of men who didn't share the Western taboo of no women on board. Chuma he respectfully asked to stick with him, since otherwise he'd have no way to communicate. He was learning bits and bits, but it was coming slowly. Somehow, he got the feeling dragons as old as him weren't very good at picking up a new language, and turning back into a man was starting to feel stranger and stranger to him. Admittedly, it was more comfortable on ship to be a man than a dragon, and there was more food for a man, but for some reason his old face didn't feel like his own skin anymore. He guessed that maybe he really had been reincarnated, for whatever reason, into a dragon.
Harry did one thing quite happily, though. He started learning to fish, so he'd never have to eat anyone ever again. Being a man eater was starting to unnerve him, even if it was the fact it wasn't bothering him was the thing that was actually bothering him... If that made any sense. The young man wasn't sure it did.
The War meant one good thing. Britain wasn't about to waste sending other dragons after a rumor of a dragon freeing slaves any time soon, particularly a rogue dragon that would probably kill many men in any attempts to capture 'it'. But as soon as it let up a little, even a little, he knew he might have to start to worry. And the War wouldn't last many decades, either.
Even now, he risked death every day from enemy ships. Bullets, canons, harpoons, and the mild irritation of pepper shots launched at him, were the anti-dragon weaponry he had to worry about, though a canon would only hit him if he were sitting on his ship and not in the air as they could not be angled up well. As a dragon, he could take quite a few more hits than a human and it took more to deeply penetrate his hide, but it still didn't make it any more pleasant.
"Captain Harry, we've spotted a ship. The HMS Reliant, and, this is less expected, a French Ship. The Amitie."
He considered this new information. "They must have captured it. They won't be in any mood to chase us."
"Let them pass?"
"Let them pass."
It wasn't like he'd come to rue that decision, after all.
Captain Potter was beginning to grow used to his life and the sea, and with his crew getting wilier at escaping authorities. They added more ships, and soon were a real band of pirates, though they often split up to be more affective in their marauding. Marauders, bizarre as it sounded, fighting and plundering for justice more than hard cash. He led his ship, which he named the SS Uhuru, or SS Freedom, and he himself was called by many of his companions The Great Dragon Captain Ushujaa. It was a rather flattering name, though less so when he realized it was because some of them felt uncomfortable with a White Man's name and that there might very well be a slaver Potter out there somewhere. The thought was not thrilling at all.
They were the only ones in the entire world who knew his secret, that he could turn into a man, though of late he hadn't felt the need or urge. There were plenty of shady ports that would happily trade with a black man or even woman, after all, and he felt comfortable letting Chuma or another handle it. They were good people, even if he didn't know them too well or their culture.
Trouble, however, seemed to really begin the day he first breathed fire.
They had been battling against another pirate crew, unaffiliated, and totally ruthless. One of his ships had actually been sunken, many lives lost, and in his rage he'd set fire to the other pirates. He'd started using the technique on other ships, and right after some survivors to tell the tale reached the shore, his life suddenly became nothing but constant trouble. More military vessels ganged up on his pirates than ever before, sinking his ships, and he found himself fighting a hard battle to try to keep those he'd begun to care about simply alive. More interested in sinking him than the ships though, they seemed to expend all their energies to try to, it felt like, kill him. Maybe the rumor had finally sufficiently spread, and the various European nations had decided they'd had enough. There was even one American vessel sent after him.
And shortly after that, came the dragons.
He managed to avoid them at first, fleeing before they managed to get a good look at him or he at them. He got the feeling some of the ships, skirmishing with him and then pulling away, had only been trying to pinpoint his location and distract him while the dragons got there. There was a lot, a whole lot of African Coast to sail on, and combing it for just a couple of pirate ships had to take more luck than effort. He had them split up, for everyone's safety. An unscrupulous fire-breather could take anyone out in minutes, he figured, setting the ships aflame.
Then it hit him. Port. Any slime bucket would sell them out instantly. If they'd got dragons stationed, even by chance at one of their favorite docks... they'd be screwed. But they hadn't a choice. One had to make land to drop off freed men and women, and make repairs. Supplies could be stolen at sea with luck, but that couldn't be counted on to give everything they wanted or needed. And no man wanted to live life without ever touching ground again. Since they'd chosen not to ransack the two ships from before, they were running a little low on water right now, ironic considering they were surrounded by sea. Also, some members were starting to show signs of scurvy. Vaguely remembering something about Vitamin C, Harry wanted to stock up on lemons and oranges. There were some benefits from being from the future after all.
It was with trepidation he had them make land on a British controlled African Island called Madeira, using a Haitian flag to keep them below immediate suspicion. It would explain why the company was made of almost nothing but free African men, and hopefully let them go without being to harassed. Things seemed to be going well.
Then, what should he spot but the military naval ship from before docked? The damned HMS Reliant. If they'd been spotted before, it was quite possible they'd be recognized. They had to leave- what the hell was that?
Flying right over the Reliant was nothing other than another dragon. A young dragon, by the babyish look of it, yet already impressively sized and carrying a full grown man on its back. The two stared at each other with astonishment for a moment, then, hissing, Harry turned and yelled for his men to leave immediately. With fear and annoyance, he realized Chuma was still purchasing oranges. Damn! He flew up, ready to rescue the man, when he heard the other dragon cry out to him.
The other's movements were clumsy, childish, no surprise considering he was probably far older, if a bit inexperienced at being a dragon. He had no problem avoiding the other and their attempts to catch up to him.
"I've never seen another dragon before! Please, why are you fleeing?"
That made him stop. Even if was just a trick, he didn't really enjoy upsetting children of any species, he realized. Beating his wings and hovering in the air for a moment, he turned around and landed, regarding them warily. His tail flicked back and forth like a mad feline's, feeling a little ticked and like eviscerating something might cheer him up.
"Who are you?" Harry asked.
"I would ask the same. I am William Laurence, and this is Temeraire." the man, a naval officer by the look of him, introduced them both. "I say, you don't seem to have a rider? Is that normal?"
What luck. They were complete novices. "Normal enough." he snorted. "I am Captain Harry Potter."
Temeraire, nearly Harry's own size, examined him with deep curiosity, looking over his horns and spiked tail before looking back up. "Captain? I thought only humans could be captain. And you aren't wearing any straps. Is that not a bit uncivilized? You're walking around naked."
Well, he'd never thought of it that way before. If he could have, he'd have blushed. Instead, he did his best to ignore it. "Well, I don't care what humans think. I own my own boat, and that's the way I like it."
Now Laurence was scowling. "You're a pirate."
Temeraire looked delighted. "You have your own boat, really? Oh, do you see many battles?"
The questions baffled Harry, seeming rather obvious but he nodded. To Laurence, he looked more wary. "Have you heard of me, perhaps? Then you know I only attack those who attack me or another human being first."
"I did, actually, though no one said you were a captain. They merely said to watch out for pirates with a fire breathing dragon on their side, and to capture if at all possible, delay and alert to the Aerial Corps if not. You're highly wanted, with at least several thousand pounds on your head." Laurence mused. "Actually, I'm beginning to wonder if this conversation would not be viewed as treasonous if it went on any longer."
Temeraire sighed loudly in protest, then perked up. "Are we going to fight then?"
"I would rather not. I don't fight children." As he said this, he rose his wings and pushed his back legs forcefully against the ground, lifting off into the air and giving them no time for a retort.
When he got back to Chuma, though, he was disgruntled to find the man, as well as his ship, had been grounded. There was yet another dragon there, an adult this time and around equal to him in size if perhaps a bit shorter and heavier built. It had a single rider as well, and seemed to be a courier. It baffled him that a beast of that size would be relegated to carrying letters and packages, but in any case, it was well sufficient to keep his crew paralyzed. And any of the guards were sufficient to kill Chuma or any of the crew they'd captured.
"Well, this has been a lucky week, hasn't it? Can't say I was expecting this. Two odd, unidentified breed dragons on the same day." the dragon rider mused. "Me and Volly must be off soon, but if you surrender now peacefully, I can assure you your crew and captain will be treated well."
Hells, why did they keep making that mistake? "I don't have a captain, I AM the Captain of the ship. Captain Harry Potter, not at your service. Let my crew go. We came to peacefully trade, we don't have a quarrel with you."
The man rolled his eyes. "Not a ship captain. In the Corps, we refer to the companion human or leader of a dragon as the captain. I'm afraid that you are in British Territory currently, and under law all dragons must be part of the Aerial Corps. Or at one of our designated breeding grounds."
Breeding grounds? Harry gagged. They had to be joking. Yet, he couldn't in good conscious struggle back as long as his crew would be endangered by it...
Catching a look in Chuma's eye, he saw fiery determination, and the man silently nodded. The man would never live in or tolerate slavery again. Nor would he tolerate letting anyone go into it. The captain included. He would rather die.
Feeling deeply upset, but willing to respect that choice, Harry made as if giving in, nodding- then launched himself at Volly, the other dragon, fire launching from his lungs. There were screams on the air, and a cacophony of confusion. The next thing he knew he and the other dragon were biting into each other, rolling, scrabbling, breaking off and then rising into the air for an aerial skirmish, diving at each other and trying to kill each other. Blind hot rage set Harry into unreason, and therefore it was not so surprising that another managed to sneak up on him and knock him over from the sky.
Temeraire. Little brat. Twice now he'd decided to spare the child's life, and twice he'd regretted it! Yet together, the two dragons small as they were weighed more than he did, and could harass him at will from different sides. He flailed at them, making use of his tail, but the two drew back and there was a loud bang. Harry crumpled, side heaving and bloody. He'd been shot, and wheezed in pain. He stood up again, fire pouring from his mouth.
Shot, bang. Again, he fell.
"Give up! If you continue like this, you'll die!"
"Good." he snarled, before his legs gave out from under him, and the world went white, blood failing to reach his head when he rose it up. Moments after he'd muttered defiance, Captain Potter fell, unconscious, bleeding, and beaten.
When he woke again, he was on a boat. At first, he'd thought it had all just been a terrible dream, but then he noticed nothing about it was familiar, that he was bound and wrapped up, and that Temeraire wasn't far away from him.
"Hi." the other black dragon chirped.
With a snarl, Harry turned his head away, refusing to give greeting back. They'd taken his freedom from him. They'd taken and probably killed who knew how many of his crew, hung them for piracy if nothing else. Never mind if the cargo was their own families. With violence, he found himself loathing the past, and the old world, and everything these backwards 'civilized gentlemen' stood for. He was finding it hard to believe these were his own country men. In his own time, they'd never have done such things.
He saw there was food prepared for him already, but refused to eat it. The wizard would rather starve to death than be breeding fodder.
"Are you upset? I know I would be upset, if I lost Laurence. But I thought you said you hadn't a captain. Were the crew like a captain to you?"
Ugh. It was hard feeling angry at an inquisitive child, and he turned his head. "Yes, I suppose you could say that."
"What breed are you? They reckon I am an Imperial, from China."
"Hungarian Horntail." he replied, before realizing there probably weren't any horntails in Hungary. Or anywhere else in the world. "We were a feral population, I believe I am likely the last."
"Oh. I am sorry to hear that."
He sighed. "Tell me, why am I not to be executed? I've eaten men. I am to understand the penalty for that is death."
"That's disgusting!" Temeraire exclaimed, before remembering his manners. What little manners he had, anyway. "They say as the only fire-breather in all of Britain, you are too valuable."
Oh. The only fire breather? God damn it. If he'd known before fire breathing was that rare, he'd have kept a tighter lid on it. Then they wouldn't be in this mess. Well, too late now, he supposed. Perhaps he could at some point slip off, and turn into a human. Then they'd never find him. He couldn't help but groan at the thought of what he'd do with his life now. Go back to piracy? Retire? Die? All he could feel was despair, really.
A human he didn't recognize came by. "Oh, he's awake? Good! I was worried he might die."
"Pity." Harry muttered sardonically.
"Oh, don't be like that. Those at the Aerial Corps are prepared to offer you and your companions full pardon in return for helping in the war."
Full pardons? So they weren't dead? This was... as fantastic a chance as he could have hoped for, really. His crew wouldn't be prisoners, at least. Or, in theory. For all he knew, they'd sell them off in secret. "I will accept, provided I have proof and can check up on them periodically."
That gave a little pause, but finally a nod. "Agreed. We're not all bastards, you know."
Now that made him laugh. "Oh, really?" he joked. Perhaps it would not be so bad. A fighting dragon, squaring off against Napoleon? Sounded exciting. Not too bad, really. He was really only trading one war for another, he supposed. And another, and another. At least this time he knew he was on the winning side. Theoretically, if having dragons didn't mess everything all up, he knew how the future went.