Chapter 28 – Draconis Cave

Hey, I've finally found a bit of time to work on the next few chapters :) Thank you mandancie, SSS-love2read, Dixie.f.9, .9, blackangel150, ElizabethAnneSoph, Jayla728 and SAGGYHERMAN for reviewing the last chapter! I hope you enjoy this one :)

SS

Severus yawned and stretched. He felt well rested after a long and peaceful undisturbed sleep. He was pleased that they would be leaving the dragon sanctuary behind at the end of the day, that they're journey was over. All they had to do now was get the draconum lapidem ardentem and leave. Hopefully getting the stone would be no difficult feat; Severus didn't like the idea of coming face-to-face with another monstrous beast; yesterday's Horntail encounter had been quite enough. Not wanting to delay they're departure any longer, Severus peeled his sleeping bag off and extinguished the fire, only then realising that he was alone in the cave… Where were Draco and Harry?!

Noticing that they're packs too were gone, the realisation that they'd left for Draconis Cave without him hit Severus like a tonne of bricks. Or more accurately, he thought, trying to calm himself down a little, one boy had left and the other had followed… Severus knew Harry had been worried about putting them in danger, but he did not think the child would take off alone in the early hours of the morning to try and protect them. And Draco, no doubt, had followed Harry to try and stop him.

Shoving his sleeping bag in his pack and slinging it over his shoulder, Severus left the safe confines of the cave, praying that his theory was incorrect. Unfortunately though, neither boy was in sight… Only having one option at that point in time, Severus took off towards the menacing mountain in the distance, hoping to reach the boys before they arrived at Draconis Cave.

HP

Thinking that Snape and Malfoy were both sleeping peacefully, Harry silently crawled out of his sleeping bag and gathered his belongings. Sneaking out of the cave, he sat down by the nearest tree, pulling his seven remaining invigoration draughts out and swallowed them, knowing he would be in trouble if his plan failed. Not only would he have nothing to restore his rapidly depleting energy level, but he would also be in trouble with Severus. Well, whether he failed or not he was going to be in trouble; that was a given. He just hoped his guardian would still want him after this…

Harry didn't even want to think about that though. Right now all he needed was to reach Draconis Cave before Severus and Draco. If he got caught then he would not succeed. Harry pushed himself up, worried that Severus would wake soon. It was only a matter of time before his guardian realised he was gone. With that thought in mind Harry set off in the direction of Draconis Cave, unaware that he was being followed.

"Potter!" Came the harsh whisper from behind. Shocked, Harry spun around, his gaze meeting Malfoy's. "What the bloody hell do you think you're doing?"

"Going to Draconis Cave, Malfoy; don't try and stop me… I need to do this." Harry kept his tone even; he didn't want to cause an argument.

"Are you mental? Going there alone is suicide! Of course I'm going to try and stop you! What do you need to do that can't wait until Severus is awake?"

Harry was quickly becoming frustrated. It wasn't like Draco knew how he felt, how bad he would feel if he put Snape, and Malfoy, in danger. He would never forgive himself if he was responsible for anymore death, pain and suffering… He had already killed his parents and Quirrell, and put his friends in danger countless times. He couldn't let that happen again. "Rather me than anyone else," he whispered despondently to himself.

"What did you just say?!" Draco asked in disbelief.

Oops, he hadn't meant for Malfoy to hear that. Oh well. "I said I'd rather it be me than anyone else… If I had've waited for you and Snape, you both would've been in danger. I'd rather go alone and get the stone myself."

"And what, get yourself killed in the process?!" He needed to end this now. Draco was becoming louder and louder; if he wasn't careful they would wake their professor.

"If it comes to it, then yes." Draco's mouth opened and closed, but he didn't reply. He closed his eyes and shook his head. Harry turned away and began walking again, but Draco's next words stopped him dead in his tracks.

"Just imagine how Severus would feel if you were killed. Even just hearing you say that would break his heart. Would you really throw your life away like that when it's obvious how much he cares about you..? Would you..?"

Harry turned back to face his peer. "No." He paused, carefully choosing his next words. "I won't be killed though; I have a plan."

"Potter..! That's it, I'm getting Severus!"

"Malfoy, no! Please don't… Please. I need to do this alone. I'll be careful, okay..?"

"No Potter, it's too dangerous! I'm not letting you go alone… If you really don't want Severus to go with you then I will." Draco sighed. "I'm giving you two choices Potter, you and me, or the three of us… Going alone isn't an option."

"I don't need you to come, Malfoy…"

"Well I am… Severus is going to murder us, you do know that right?"

Harry felt a little sick in the stomach at Draco's statement. Maybe he would actually kill them. "Yes, I do."

SS

Severus had been walking for close to an hour and there was still no sign of the boys.

Maybe Draco had convinced Harry to turn back, and they had returned to the cave and were safe once more. Or maybe they were already at Draconis Cave, being attacked by the dangerous dragon Arkanian. Severus realised that the second option was probably more likely, so he continued fast-paced in the direction of the cave. It wasn't long before he reached the huge stone wall…

The fifteen metre high wall of boulders stood as a barrier, nearly completely enclosing the dangerous, hollow mountain off from the rest of the sanctuary. Drawing his wand nervously, Severus took a tentative step forward towards the narrow opening, cautiously making his way through the rocky archway. Taking in his surroundings, Severus breathed a sigh of relief, and, with a pang of guilt, became infuriated at the sight of both Draco and Harry sitting on a large boulder with their packs at their sides.

He couldn't believe that Harry had been so foolish as to allow himself and his godson to be put in such a dangerous position. He should have turned back the minute he realised the blonde boy was behind him; he shouldn't have left at all.

Stalking angrily towards the boys, his appearance caught both their attention, and he took the time to assure his anger was apparent to both boys; he glared at them furiously in turn.

Draco was the first to move, sliding casually onto the ground and walking directly towards him, a guilty look on his face. "Severus, I'm sorry. I knew it was a bad idea but I couldn't stop him!" Severus turned to face his godson, who was now by his left side, unknowingly turning him slightly away from Harry. The younger of the two boys also slipped off the boulder.

"Yes Draco, it was a bad idea! A very bad idea! Why did you not come straight to me?!" Severus' attention was now completely focused on Draco; he had no idea that Harry was transforming into his animagus form Lorne right behind him. He continued to glare at Draco, waiting for an answer.

"He stopped me from getting you, he wouldn't let me leave. Potter would have taken off if I had turned back… I didn't want him to go alone either, which is why I volunteered to go with him." Draco knew he was going to be in big trouble.

Severus was fuming. "You did what?! Why would you do something so foolish Draco? I was under the impression you had more brains than that!"

"He didn't want you to get hurt; I didn't either. We're safe, you're here now. Besides, he had a plan to get into the cave. I must admit, it's rather good too."

Draco was being smart with him; what was going on? That was so unlike Draco. "He did, did he? Please tell me Draco, what exactly is this good plan?" His godson didn't answer, instead choosing to stare at something over his shoulder. Severus, annoyed with his ignorance followed his gaze, his black, greasy, shoulder-length hair whipping around his face. He was greeted with the sight of Lorne standing proudly before him, chest puffed out and emerald wings spread wide. Severus guessed at what this so-called good plan would be.

HP

It didn't feel like Harry and Malfoy had been walking for an hour when they finally reached the cave. Making their way slowly through the menacing archway, they spotted a few large boulders to the left, and decided to sit there for a minute. They climbed atop the largest of the three, and sat side-by-side, their packs beside them. Finally, for the first time since they had left Malfoy spoke, drawing Harry's attention.

"Potter, you realise that there is no visible entrance into the mountain..? So tell me, what exactly is this master plan of yours?" Harry's eyes searched for an entrance into the cave, confirming that there was indeed no visible way in…on ground level. Smiling slyly he turned back to his blonde companion.

"There is an entrance, and it's perfect!" He stated confidently, earning a look of confusion from Malfoy. "I can turn into a dragon whenever I like Malfoy; I can fly. As soon as I reach that ledge up there," he said, pointing up to the rocky clearing at the entrance, "I will change back to me. I'll go in, get the stone, and fly back out…simple!"

"Oh no!" Harry thought that was a fantastic plan; why was Malfoy saying 'no'?

"What Malfoy?" What was he missing?

"And I'm assuming you want to be in there before Severus arrives?"

"Well, yes, that's how I've planned it. Why?" Why was he even asking that, shouldn't it have been obvious?

"I'd hurry then, because he's headed this way, and he does not look happy!" Sure enough, Harry looked up to find the sour potions professor stalking in their direction, looking absolutely furious.

"Quick Malfoy, you need to help me! Distract him or something! Please, before it's too late!"

Without another word the blonde wizard left his position on the rock, making his way over to the angry man. As soon as his back was turned, Harry too climbed off the rock, closing his eyes and concentrating on his dragon form, Lorne. Re-opening his eyes, he was now looking down on the other two wizards. Harry puffed his scaly chest out and spread his great wings, just as his guardian turned to face him. This was it; he couldn't back down, not now. Without a second thought, Harry reared back, his powerful hind legs launching him into the sky. Effortlessly, he sliced through the sky, landing on the ledge with great ease and elegance, transforming back to himself. He gave Snape and Malfoy one last defiant, apologetic look before stepping into Draconis Cave…

The inside of the mountain was dark and eerie, and was filled with the foul odour of rotting flesh. Harry swallowed the bile that had made its way up into his throat as he descended down the make-shift rocky staircase he had found, leading down into the heart of the cave. This is where the draconum lapidem ardentem would be; he knew it, he could feel its presence.

With each step that Harry took he became weaker, but he pressed on, knowing this journey would soon be over. Finally reaching the bottom, Harry looked out with squinted eyes, shocked to find the ancient bones and rotting bodies of countless dragons. It dawned on Harry that he was standing in an ancient dragon 'burial site', protected by the fierce dragon Arkanian. It all made sense to Harry now; the dragon guardian, the wall, the high entrance and remote location… It was all to protect and conceal the remains of centuries' of ancient dragons, and newer ones too.

Feeling understandably uncomfortable and out of place, Harry continued through the mass of bones, flesh and rotting tissue, trying to feel his way through the dark while dodging the large, pointed bones and ignoring the overpowering stench lingering in the air. The familiar clang of metal caught Harry's attention as he walked, preventing him from proceeding. He knelt down amongst the piles of dead dragons to take a closer look at what he was standing on. Harry was left speechless by what he had found.

Scattered all around him on the cold, damp floor was an unbelievable, stunning amount of ancient artefacts; swords, necklaces, rings and rune-carved stones. Eyes bulging, Harry carefully picked up the closest sword to examine it further. Harry realised that the perfect, pure black obsidian blade could only have been forged by the flame of a dragon, and the hilt was made up of countless multi-coloured, flawless dragon scales. Harry had never seen a treasure so beautiful in all of his life… He knew that never again would he see a treasure so perfect, leading him to the decision to take few of these precious items to gift to his friends. Just for the males, he decided gathering the finest-looking blades; Ron, Fred, George, Severus, Mr Weasley, himself…and Draco.

Harry had an idea.

Pulling the empty vials out of his pack, Harry cast engorgio on them, enlarging them to allow him to safely sheath the seven swords safely. Just as he was about to cast reducio on them, the gleam of beautiful golden rings caught Harry's attention; an emerald one was placed in with Draco's sword, and with Ron's, a studded gold and ruby ring. Delicately searching through the mound of treasure once more, Harry's eyes were drawn to the elegant ruby and sapphire necklaces laying haphazardly and unloved to the side of the pile. Scooping them gently into his hands, Harry realised they would be perfect for Mrs Weasley and Ginny…and Raven…

Harry's heart ached a little as he realised just how much he missed the abrasive little elf… He found that he couldn't wait to return home and see her… Shaking the thought away for later, he focused solely on his current task.

For Hermione, he collected a gold and amethyst ring and necklace, and a couple of the stones carved in ancient runes, knowing just how much his brilliant friend enjoyed the subject. Finally, he was left to find something for Remus and his godfather, Theodore and Zapphira. Unsure of what they liked, Harry collected a handful more of the jewelled rings, deciding that would be the safest option.

Although he was ecstatic and in awe of his priceless find, he couldn't help but feel as though he owed Severus more. He searched frantically for something precious and unique for his guardian, before the obvious smacked him in the face… Potions ingredients!

How did he not think of that to start with?! Dragon parts were among the most precious, rare and useful potions ingredients. Harry thought back to his potions lessons with Snape… What were the useful dragon parts? Blood, liver, heart, horns and claws, he recalled. But how was he going to collect them..?

Another idea came to mind, one that Harry wasn't very fond of…

Bending down and picking up another sword, Harry searched the massive area for a moment, locating the remains of a dragon that had not long been dead. Making his way over with a sick feeling in his stomach, Harry scrunched his eyes tightly shut, holding the sword in an offensive position. He tried not to think of what he was about to do, unable to comprehend why it bothered him so much. He had slain a live basilisk in the same manor, after all.

It was almost as though he felt connected to her…

Without another thought Harry stepped forward, forcing himself to plunge the sword deep into the stomach of the lifeless corpse. Leaving the blade in place he reached into his pack, retrieving three of the enlarged, unfilled vials. With the first one in place, Harry retracted the sword, allowing the thick, red blood escaping from wound to seep freely into it, filling it up. Harry repeated the process for the other two vials, replacing the stoppers and returning them to his bag.

Next, was the heart and liver. This was the part Harry was looking forward to the least. Wanting to get it over and done with as quickly as possible, Harry brought the blade up to his head over his right shoulder, swinging it forcefully down towards the beast's belly with a grunt, slicing it open side-ways. With a powerful wrench Harry had successfully opened it up enough to collect both organs at once. The sight and stench had him retching, but Harry continued his disgusting, self- appointed task…

Harry made quick work of locating the heart and liver, slinging them out and letting them fall down into empty vials.

Finally Harry moved to the top end of the small sapphire beast, delicately sawing off three of the horns from its head, and four of the claws from its front foot. It was almost a shame that such a beautiful dragon had died so young. Harry was picturing it flying elegantly around Sanctuary Valley. The size and shape of the dragon reminded him of Lorne… Moving to the unopened side, Harry moved his arm towards its head, allowing himself to run its hand down the length of its body, feeling the smooth scales beneath his skin. Not watching where he was going, Harry tripped on the beast's unmoving tail, falling down to his hands and knees.

And there, just inches away, were four undamaged, light grey dragon eggs. This dragon was going to be a mother… Scooping the eggs gently into his arms, Harry realised that the young dragons that would hatch from these eggs would not survive without their mother. It was likely that they had stopped growing anyway, due to the loss of warmth the mother would no doubt have provided. Also, he remembered they were yet another valuable potions ingredient… Had he believed the hatchlings living inside these eggs would have continued to develop, Harry would have let them be, but knowing there was no chance of survival, he allowed himself to take them.

But only because he knew he wasn't taking a life, multiple…

He knew these eggs were precious, and didn't want to break them. To keep them safe, he wrapped them in the jumper that Malfoy had given him to wear, before tightly packing them safely in one of the vials, laying it, completely hidden, in a side pocket in his backpack.

Realising just how much time he had wasted, Harry continued forward, moving towards the opening to yet another huge, dark room. Hopefully the draconum lapidem ardentem would be in here; he wanted to be out soon. And hopefully he didn't have to face the dangerous dragon guardian Arkanian…

I hope you liked this chapter! I really tried to put a lot of effort into it. Thanks for reading!

AsSafeAsSnape