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Chasing Bravery by Pen2Paper
Chapter 1: Chasing Bravery
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Author's Note: Written for 2012 House Cup : Task One Challenge
Word count is 2454 exclusive of the list of prompts below:
- features your House’s Champion
- mentions at least 4 specific breeds of dragon
- mentions at least 1 Unforgivable Curse
- features a dragon
- mentions a Blast-Ended Skrewt
- mentions a Sleeping Draught
- mentions 2 (underlined)of the following types of magic: a transfiguration spell, a sleeping spell, the conjunctivitis curse, the summoning charm (accio)
- mentions at least 2 (underlined) of the following types of Dark Detectors: Foe-Glass, Sneakoscope, Secrecy Sensor, or Probity-Probe.
- mentions the details of your Champion’s Wand, as provided by your Head of House
I, Hannah Abbot, have the worst luck with best friends. First there was Ernie who just really wanted to be my boyfriend, then Lavender who ditched me for her Won-won and now Neville.
I know, what could Neville possibly do to annoy me, right? Well to fully appreciate it, here’s the backstory.
Neville was always considered somewhat of a wimp in school. I mean really, we thought that his bravest moment was when he raised his hand in DADA class and answered Professor Moody’s (well, fake Moody’s) question with: stammer… stammer… “Erm, the Cruciatus curse?”
We were wrong though. Very wrong. Under pressure and in the face of danger Neville stepped up to be a hero none of us could even hope for. He was a great leader, rallying up and protecting the students in Harry’s absence. We looked to him for strength and even though he had innumerable cuts and bleeding wounds from being tortured by the Carrows, his brow never wrinkled, he never winced, his bright eyes never lost their spark. The courage within shone through them and we followed him with trust.
He slayed Nagini, the vicious snake that happened to be a Horcrux. It was his defining moment. He stepped up against all odds and honoured his parents. He was a hero at last. But most heroes of the second war left behind what happened that night along with the rubble of the Hogwarts castle. It was a night they’d lost almost as much as they’d won. But not Neville.
I think from the moment he picked up Godric Gryffindor’s sword, he wanted to feel that courage and bravery forever. In the aftermath, with no war or battle to fight, Neville fell into boredom.
That’s where I come in. We both joined the apothecary lessons conducted by the Ministry. I wanted to be a Healer, he wanted to write a Herbology book. We shared a lot of interests: Herbology, magical creatures, a love for wizard theatre, even Potions. Although he was deathly afraid of Professor Snape at one point, he was naturally skilled in potions once his nervousness had disappeared.
Who knew crushing the Lavender Sprigs before adding them to the cauldron makes a Sleeping Draught more powerful?
We were instant friends, best friends, and then flat mates. And now here we are.
“No, absolutely not!”
“Hannah, come on! It’ll be fun!” Neville stuck his head out of the bathroom of our flat.
“You go then!”
“I don’t want to go to Sweden all by myself!” he whined. I rolled my eyes as I heard the tap running.
Neville came out into the living room with just a towel around his waist. I was getting the feeling we were too comfortable around each other. My eyes left the newspaper and swiftly ran over his broad shoulders and adamantly set jaw. He was close to pouting.
“We don’t have any classes for three more weeks! I know you’ve got nothing better to do, so come on!”
As I said, without any battles to fight Neville sought other means, however temporary, of feeling bravery: Thrill seeking.
Oh no, not anything that could poison your lungs, damage your kidneys or kill you over a long time, just the kind that could kill you INSTANTLY!
Once he was obsessed with Broom diving. A sport where you jump off a cliff and plummet to your death with broom held in hand and just before becoming a splotch on the ground you mount and ride out of the dive. Hopefully.
Neville’s idea of an exciting Saturday afternoon.
My definition: Death-wish.
Neville pushed back his chocolate brown locks and tilted his head to the side giving me his ‘puppy-dog eyes’, “Come on, what could happen?”
Urgh! I hate it when he hits me with those blue eyes. I gave him a look, “I could die! I don’t know about you but I actually want to make to Christmas!”
He walked into his room and only five minutes later walked back out in a red t-shirt and jeans.
“Hannah-Banana, listen,” he pulled the foot stool and sat in front of me with his hands on my knees, “this is an amazing opportunity! Come on, if there was something you really really wanted, you know I’d come with you!”
Oh wow, the guilt-trip. Nice one, Neville.
“You’re going to love it! I mean being up there, it’s the best feeling in the world! And on a-”
“No! There’s absolutely no way. Just… no!”
Forty-five minutes later.
“If we die, I’m blaming you!” I muttered mutinously to Neville as we walked along a dirt road following the many other people who had arrived for the event. Neville simply laughed and put his arm around me which did nothing to reassure me.
Large bursts of fire rocketed to the sky periodically from the distant forest like ominous volcanos.
We walked in through a large stone archway with the words “Kopparberg Drake Fristad” above it.
“Welcome! Welcome, to the Koppaberg Annual Dragon Race,” a tall man dressed in alarming shades of purple and lime-green was greeting the crowd.
Most of the people were around mid-thirties or forties. Several had multiple scars and looked menacing. One person smiled at me and I realised he had about six teeth missing. I gulped noticeably as Neville towed me over to the ‘Sign-up’ desk.
The man seated at the desk looked very bored as he handed me a paper to sign confirming I was over seventeen years of age.
“Welcome to the Kopparberg Annual Dragon Race. We hope you enjoy the experience!”
I looked to Neville who hastily signed four different forms with a wide grin. What an idiot.
I turned back to the man in front of me.
“Oh right,” I signed the form and handed it back. He handed me several more and I signed them too.
Neville and I then moved to the next desk.
“Wand, please?” smiled a small balding man with a walrus moustache.
Neville handed his over.
The small man examined it closely through his monocle, sniffing it twice and listening to its tip. I watched trying to hold back my laughter.
“Hmm… It’s one of Ollivanders if I’m not mistaken. Mahogany, Phoenix feather, 13 inches, inflexible, good for Defensive spells. That’s your wand, sir?”
“Indeed it is!” Neville said cheerfully accepting it back. The small balding man nodded curtly and turned to me.
“Wand please, madam.”
He repeated the ritual on my wand, “Another of Ollivanders! Rosewood, Unicorn tail hair, 12 ¼ inches, nice and supple, best for Charms?”
“Yes, that’s my wand.”
“Very good, please proceed.”
I pocketed my wand and shuffled over to where Neville stood waiting.
“I’m already regretting this!”
Neville laughed again. I elbowed him in the ribs.
“Dragons! Really? Are you mental?”
“You’ll thank me later," he chuckled.
“For what? Losing my arm?”
He just ignored me shaking his head and pulling me along.
“Sonorus” a sharply dressed tall man at the front of the gathered crowd pointed his wand to his throat.
“Welcome prospective riders! We hope you have a great experience today at the races. You are almost ready to proceed to the grounds. We’ll be instructing you about the rules of the race and you will then be allowed to pick a registered dragon.”
“I thought dragons weren’t allowed to be kept at pets,” I whispered to Neville, “and why are they allowed to race, isn’t it dangerous?”
“Dragon rearing costs a lot of money especially when keeping them confined to certain grounds. So they find sponsors and charities that offer money to take care of specific dragons.”
“And they allow the most temperamental and obedient of dragons to be reigned into races because keeping them grounded in small islands and enclosed land doesn’t give them much freedom to fly around, some of them can go into depression. So they are allowed to enjoy the ride. It’s just as much of a thrill to them as it is to us,” Neville smiled at me.
“You and your thrill!” I gave him a dull look as the announcer spoke again.
“All riders, please be aware that carrying any sort of weapon or magical device, apart from your wand, that can attack a fellow rider or dragon is prohibited. No charm maybe used to unseat a fellow rider from their dragon, nor to transfigure a fellow rider’s harness or protective gear. And lastly, after last year’s catastrophic turn of events,” he closed his eyes gravely at a terrible memory, “the use of the Conjunctivitis curse on any dragon, is strictly prohibited!”
Some of the riders in the crowd exchanged solemn looks. However I was pleased to see there were some young faces that looked as clueless as I felt.
“Who are they?” I pointed to several men in grey robes patrolling through the crowd.
“Detectors,” whispered Neville, “See that?” he pointed to a belt on one of them, “that’s a Sneakoscope, and that,” I looked at the probe-like object in his hand, “that’s a Secrecy Sensor.”
“What do they need those for?” I asked confused.
“Detect any suspicious activity. They just want to ensure the races aren’t being rigged!”
“Oh, I see.” I’d also seen two of them at the gates with Blast-Ended Skrewts. Probably the equivalent of attack dogs.
“Alright!” clapped the man up front, “Please proceed. Good luck to all riders!”
“Ok, so people don’t actually die from this do they?” I asked nervously.
Neville simply shrugged, “Occasionally.”
I felt my jaw drop open. He turned to me and laughed at my expression.
“I’m kidding! Come on, you’ll be fine.”
The crowed hurried through the second pair of gates to an open ground where several dozen men in blue robes were sitting at desks waving heartily at riders they recognised. Neville pulled me hurriedly over to a desk.
“Mr Longbottom! I didn’t know you were riding this year?”
“Yes, it was very last minute! What have you got?” Neville asked enthusiastically.
“How’s your experience?”
“Riding? Well, I would say-”
“None!” I interrupted loudly.
“What? I’m not letting you die just because you won’t admit you can’t tell the head of dragon from its tail!”
“Whoa! Right pistol isn’t she, you’re girlfriend?” a large beefy man with cherry-pink cheeks chuckled next to me.
“Hello, Mr Murtaugh,”
“Neville! Good to see you! Your grandmother would have me in a fix if she knew you were here!”
“She needn’t know,” Murtaugh and Neville shared a laugh.
“How nice,” I butted in, “also, I’m not his girlfriend!”
“Of course not! Is this your first time?”
I raised my eyes at Neville, “Have you been here before?”
“No! Absolutely not!” I couldn’t tell if it was a lie.
“Neville! I’ve got a brilliant Chinese Fireball for you! It’s just lovely and you know, one burst of that canon-ball fire and no one will come near you!”
“Thanks, but I think-”
“Oh come Neville, Common Welsh Greens are steady fliers but they don’t win medals! How about I get you a young stallion? A six-year-old Hebridean Black?”
“Sounds tempting, but I’m going to go with the Norwegian Ridgeback.”
“You won’t place, son.” Cherry-cheeks said sadly.
“It’s not about the money, Mr Murtaugh,” Neville smiled and patted him on the shoulder.
“Oh well, good luck! Now, what will you be riding?” he asked turning his large belly toward me.
I honestly had no idea. I’d happily plant myself on the ground if that was an option but now that we were here I felt responsible for Neville. With a dignified look I approached one of the desks.
“What’s your level of experience?” the blue-robed man asked me at once without even looking up from his paperwork.
“Well, I was just curious, what’s the safest thing to ride?”
The man looked up at me with an extremely dull expression as if I was deliberately wasting his time. He then pointed over my shoulder and I turned to look.
Tethered to a pole behind one of the other desks was a donkey. It brayed loudly for great effect.
I bit back several clever retorts that came to mind.
Neville rested his elbow on my shoulder, “Hmm… that might take a bit longer to ‘hee-haw’ to the finish line!”
“Oh, shut up!”
In the end I ended up getting a Swedish Shot-snout. Agile flying meant I didn’t have to worry about directing the dragon. So that’s a win.
In a few short minutes we were given protective gear to put on and were helped onto our specific dragons. I was thoroughly intimidated by mine. She was beautiful with scaly silvery-blue skin that sparkled like diamantes and several short silver spikes on her crown. She sat on her hind-legs for balance and occasionally flexed her large wings. I could feel her loud breathing vibrating through my own body. Her sapphire-blue eyes wondered serenely watching the gathering. As scared as I was, I realised a small part of me was enjoying the unknown adventure. My heart hammered in my chest with each huff of warm breath the Short-Snout issued. She seemed calm and collected, everything I was not!
Neville was next to me atop his Ridgeback. Its waxy green skin stretched over three ridges on its back. Neville was perched between two of them. He tested his harness and reigns several times before looking over at me and giving the thumbs up.
Honestly, he looked like he was ready for a ride in a theme-park!
We were all gathered at the grounds at the edge of a cliff. There were over a hundred dragons with their riders ready to go. When the whistle blasts we would take off from the edge and ride these dragons to the finish line a million miles away! This is it.
“Yeah?” Neville said next to me wrapping the leather reigns around his wrist.
“Promise me something. If I die, you will go to my mother’s and tell her we were married and I was happy!”
“What?” Neville looked at me both alarmed and amused, “Did you just ask me to marry you?”
“No! It’s just… Arrgh! I’m not dying young, dateless and pathetic!”
Neville laughed hysterically.
“What’s so funny?”
“You!” he said sobering up and wiping away a tear. I clenched my jaw.
“Ok how about this,” he said leaning over as close as possible, “Let’s live and when we get back, maybe you and I can go on a date sometime...?”
My eyes grew in surprise and my head snapped back to him so fast it almost cricked my neck. I could feel my cheeks flushing. He smiled warmly at me. It made me blush even more.
Impending doom, always a great time to ask someone out.
“Ready?” he asked with a lop-sided grin pulling up the reigns.
I couldn’t help but grin back at him, “Ready.”