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Author's Note: This was written for the Task One Challenge of the House Cup 2012 for Ravenclaw.
- features your House Champion
- mention of 4 breeds of dragon
- mention of 1 Unforgiveable Curse
- mention of a Blast-Ended Skrewt
- features a dragon
- mention of a Sleeping Draught
- mentions two of the following: Transfiguration spell, Sleeping spell, Conjunctivitis Curse, Summoning Charm
- mentions 5 out of 12 uses of dragon blood
- mentions 2 of the following Dark Detectors: Secrecy Sensor, Foe-Glass, Probity-Probe, Sneakoscope
- features the theme of flourishing in the face of adversity
- mentions the details of your Champion's wand
Beautiful chapter image by Bobby Dazzler @TDA
Running. She was running. Feet pounding into the ground, a thin layer of dust rising up in protest as she passed. The wand in her hand shuddered, shifting, and she tightened her grip on it, knuckles glaring white.
Why had she been so stupid? How could she possibly have thought that this was a good idea? It hadn’t seemed so bad when the Secrecy Sensor had gone off, or when her Foe-Glass had come up blank - a welcome change from the previous swirling mist that had been ever-present throughout the last few years - but now… now it seemed very bad. And very stupid.
What person, after all, in their right mind, goes looking for dragons? Swedish Short-Snouts, to be exact, since that was the dragon which held all the memories, the one which had invaded her dreams for so long, nostrils flaring and mouth opening, emitting a torrential rain of flames down towards her. Towards the boy - man - on the ground, his face set with grim determination.
Cedric. They had been Cedric’s dragon, so she’d thought that facing them might help. Might banish those old demons. Might give her some kind of closure.
What she hadn’t counted on was that dragons generally lived in reserves. With other dragons. Including other types of dragon. Like Welsh Greens and Norwegian Ridgebacks and Chinese Fireballs (she’d thought she’d seen one of those infernal creatures Hagrid had created, those Blast-Ended Skrewts around, but had quickly passed it off as her imagination playing tricks on her). She had been so focused on learning the Conjunctivitis Curse, on practicing transfiguring rocks into deer and fowl and dogs and brewing herself batch after batch of Dreamless Sleeping Draught that she’d completely forgotten everything she’d ever learned about dragons. Everything she’d read about them. Everything that would save her in this situation.
Stumbling as her foot caught a stubborn rock, she cursed the fact that she’d chosen to wear robes - jeans or something would have been so much better. So much more suitable. Once again, it had been something she hadn’t thought about.
Hearing the thunderous roar of the dragon behind her, she felt her heart jump, skipping a beat before beginning to pound double-time. Her mouth felt dry, her palms sweaty. In her grasp, the wand slipped a little further.
She had barely got another pace before there was a pair of twin thuds, then the sound of something flapping in the wind, like a huge sail.
The force with which the dragon hit the ground shook the ground underneath her and her knees buckled, nearly sending her to the floor, nearly making her fall. Her hands shot out to stop herself, every muscle in her body screaming with the effort to keep standing, to keep her balance somehow. Anyhow. She barely registered the clatter of wood on rock as the wand hit the ground, more concerned with how she was going to get out of this one alive - if at all possible.
There was a soft whoosh of air, as though it was all being sucked up by a vacuum cleaner. The air felt thin now, devoid of oxygen, and there was only room, only time, only space for one thought in her head.
Dashing forwards, moving faster than she’d ever moved in her life, Cho flung herself behind a boulder just as the dragon unleashed its first burst of flames. Pressing her face against the rock, her fingers scrabbling silently to latch onto it for comfort, for safety, she screwed her eyes shut, the red-orange stream visible even beneath her eyelids. Her skin felt hot, sweaty; each grain of rock was warm and she knew when she pulled away the side of her face and her palms would be red.
Taking a breath, she swallowed, trying to remember something - anything - about dragons. Their skin was tough, it repelled most spells and charms. Their eyes were a weak point, an easy target if one was accurate with their spell-casting. Their blood was used in most poisons, inflammable and viscous and so used by Potions Masters in a thin film over more flammable ingredients to protect them, often used in fireworks because it burned a bright lime green, an excellent oven cleaner and… and… and it stained human skin green for approximately fifty-six hours. The goblins at Gringotts used it on some of their more secure vaults as a method of identifying intruders. None of that was particularly useful. She didn’t have the accuracy needed to aim for the eyes - she wasn’t close enough - and didn’t have an oven which needed cleaning either.
She was going to die. Cho couldn’t breathe, terrified it might somehow hear her if she did, sense her hiding place and roast her before she had time to even try and find a game plan. She was going to be burned alive by a furious Hungarian Horntail before she’d even reached her twenty-first birthday. Her parents would be devastated. Professor Flitwick and Marietta would cry for weeks. Cedric…
As her thoughts turned to the morbid and dramatic, induced by a slight loss of oxygen and the thrill of fear trickling down her spine, hand-in-hand with panic, she remembered Cedric. Remembered blushing whenever he passed her in the hallways. Remembered how she’d smiled when he’d asked her to the Yule Ball. Remembered how he’d taken her hand one day after class and how natural it had felt. Remembered the first time he’d kissed her - out in the garden, surrounded by pink and yellow and blue fairies, twinkling and twittering away about nothing. Remembered how she’d cheered for him in every task, hands clasped together, waiting anxiously. Remembered how he’d pulled her from the lake, smiling at her, asking her constantly if she was all right. Remembered how he’d ran into the maze, not looking back at her once. Remembered how Harry had returned, hours later, sobbing, broken, over Cedric’s motionless corpse.
Cho remembered it all. The glassy sheen covering his deep grey eyes, the expression of shock, of confusion, a spark of resilience and relief still lingering (it was supposed to be over, she could imagine him thinking, it was supposed to be over. It shouldn’t have happened). His hand had felt cold when she’d held it that one last time; cold and stiff as rigor mortis gripped him, making the horrible, terrible truth so abundantly clear.
Even now, so many years after, half a decade, she could feel tears pricking at her eyes, defying the heat, defying the sense in her body that she was completely dried out, like a grape left out too long in the sun. Blinking rapidly, she fought them back, pushing them away.
As much as she loved Cedric, as much as she wanted to cry and mourn and scream about how unfair it was, about how he should never have died, this was not the time for it. Later, once she was out of mortal peril, once the dragon was taken care of, she could relax and let the tears fall, let herself think of him, let herself turn back into her fifteen year old self for an hour or two.
But now, right now, she had a dragon to deal with. A very angry, brutal, dangerous dragon.
Resting her head against the stone, turning so her back was pressed against its rough surface, Cho patted down her robes, searching for the wand, for her wand. Cedric’s was still out there, out with the dragon, lying on the ground - a prize to be reclaimed. Her golden egg.
She fumbled with the material of her robes, withdrawing her own wand. It felt right in her fingers, thrumming gently in anticipation of the fight to come. Fig, unicorn hair, 10 inches, well balanced - she could rattle off the attributes of her wand without even needing to think about it, the words seared into her memory by Ollivander the first time she’d ever stepped foot inside his shop. Good for Charms, he had said, and he’d been right. She just hoped, just hoped, that it wouldn’t fail her now - that she wouldn’t fail now.
Brushing her hair over her shoulder, Cho considered her options. She didn’t have a broom - couldn’t swoop down, twisting and turning, to grab Cedric’s wand like Harry had - couldn’t put the dragon into a trance like Fleur Delacour had, and she knew that even with all her practise her Transfiguration wasn’t as good as Cedric’s had been.
She could hear, behind the rock, the stamps of the dragon moving about, restless, searching for her, for the prey which had evaded it. She knew it would find her eventually, would just destroy rock after rock after rock until it had made absolutely sure she was no longer anywhere near. She needed a plan, and she needed it fast.
In her mind’s eye, in her imagination, she could see Cedric and Harry, the two of them covered in dirt and grime and mud - the battle scars of boys who have defeated a maze - facing a glass and metal trophy, a soft blue and silver light filling it from within, making the sides shimmer, the tantalising prospect of eternal glory, a place in history, so close and yet so far. She imagined them leaping up once the Portkey had landed, imagined the hooded figure stepping out of the shadows, wand aloft. Imagined the soft whisper, the words a harsh breath on the wind, “Avada Kedavra!”, and she imagined Cedric falling in a flash of green light, his life wiped away in a matter of seconds, nothing more than a name, than a statistic, than a piece of the past.
Inexplicably, she felt an odd sense of determination building up in her stomach. She would not become another statistic, another name, another piece of the past and she would not let Cedric’s memory - because, really, she had known him longer and better than so many others who claimed to have been close to him - fade.
She was not going to die today.
Clenching her wand tightly in one hand, afraid of dropping it, letting her one lifeline fall like the last, Cho stepped out from behind the rock.
Instantly, the dragon’s eyes, yellow and unblinking, catlike, savage, locked onto her, focusing, concentrating.
She had to admit, terrified as she was, that he was a magnificent creature. Thirty feet long, from head to the spikes on his tail, his scales gleamed a burnished jet black, winking in the weak sunlight. The spikes and horns on his head, each one at least a foot long, were coloured bronze, looking metallic - strong and hard and so very deadly. His feet shifted on the ground, claws etching troughs into the hard earth, pebbles falling here and there underneath his weight. Behind him, his tail thrashed from side to side.
He looked like a cat watching a mouse, waiting for it to make the first move before unleashing its power, pouncing and giving the killer blow.
Holding her head high, Cho looked him straight in the eyes, and raised her wand, preparing to cast the spell.
His tail shot through the air, turning halfway so the spikes were pointed towards her head. It was all she could do to fling herself to one side, keeping hold of her wand, avoiding the blow.
The dragon was watching her, vertical pupils thinner now than they had been before. He didn’t want to play a game - he wanted her dead. His tail came crashing down again and this time she was ready for it, skipping out of the way of that one, and then the next crackle of flames as they shot past her, reducing a lone seedling nearby to cinders.
Beneath his stomach, she could see the wand. Cedric’s wand. Polished, of course, and pristine, as he’d always kept it.
She avoided another blow, another jet of fire, then a third. As the dragon, furious, spread his wings, flapping at the sky, unleashing another roar, sucking in another huge breath, Cho raised her wand.
“Accio Cedric’s wand!” she murmured, fearful of him hearing her and understanding what she was doing, that he was about to lose his dinner.
The wooden stick shot towards her, twelve and a quarter inches of ash landing in her hand with a comforting hum even as she began to turn on her heel, even as the dragon’s mouth open, even as his tail rose up in the air, preparing for the final, crushing assault.
But then she was gone, whisked away through a tiny tube, crashing down into a clearing some fourteen miles away from the dragon reserve, clutching her golden egg as though it were a lifeline, as though it kept her breathing. She had done it. However unintentionally, however stupid, however thoughtless she had been, she had done it.
One task down, she thought resolutely, two more to go.