Lisa was really hyper the following morning. She fidgeted with everything, talked too much, giggled out loud, and she had an extra spring in her steps. “I’m too excited. I mean, there’s a possibility that we’re going to see a real dragon in thirty minutes,” she told me when I told her that she made me dizzy.
“There’s a possibility that we’re not,” I replied, trying not to shudder. “Just don’t get too excited yet.”
“Easy for you to say,” Lisa said. “You’ve seen a dragon before. This is nothing new to you.” I bit back a sharp answer and merely shrugged. Lisa didn’t understand, and I didn’t know how to make her understand. Yes, I have seen a living dragon before. When I was five, Dad decided I was old enough to meet one. If it had been a baby dragon, I would’ve been fine. But no, Dad took me to meet an adult dragon, who happened to be in a very grumpy mood that day. Just thinking about that day gives me the creep.
“Come on, this is our class,” I told Lisa, gesturing to the room to my left. Other students were already filling up the place, chatting loudly to one another. I drew a deep breath and walked in.
I can’t tell you how relieved I was to find nobody was staring at Lisa and I. Correction, no one was staring at me. Some guys stopped talking and nudged each other when they saw Lisa. I chuckled while Lisa rolled her eyes uninterestedly. Allison and Dawn waved at us, gesturing to the empty seats behind them.
“Do you know who’s going to teach us?” Allison asked, her grey eyes filled with nervous excitement. I shrugged, my eyes roaming the room. There must be about thirty five students in the class. I’m going to embarrass myself in front of thirty five people, I thought gloomily. This is just splendid. I could only pray that whoever teaching us would only give us the theory today.
Pushing my thoughts of dragon to the back of my mind, I began to observe my classmates. By then I had learnt that SCU was pretty much an international school: witches and wizards from all parts of the world went there to study dragons. Allison, for example, was Australian. Yet I was still surprised by how diverse we all were. I could hear some American and British accent, and I was pretty sure the raven-haired girl sitting on my right was Asian. A guy introduced himself to Lisa and he said he was from Egypt. A momentary excitement replaced my nervousness. I always wanted to learn different cultures from different countries. Now I would be able to.
My stomach did an anxious flip-flop when a tall, brown-haired man strode into the classroom at the same time the bell rang. “Sit down, please,” he said loudly. Everyone hurried to their seats, gazing curiously at the man. I remembered him vaguely from yesterday’s assembly, where they introduced all the professors to us. The professor was tall and lanky, and he was wearing a navy blue robe. He looked like he was still around his thirties, but he looked very professional. He waved his wand, and his name appeared on the board. Professor Louis DeMonte. He gave the class a friendly smile. “Welcome to Basic to Dragons,” he began. His voice was dripping with the local accent, yet it was loud and confident, keeping all of the students’ attention on him. “My name as you can see is Louis DeMonte, and I will be your teacher for the rest of the year. In this class, you will be taught all the essential facts about dragons. If you can’t pass this class, don’t even dream about becoming a Dragon Keeper.” My heart sank at this statement. Already I knew I was going to fail.
“Ninety percent of our lessons will be done outdoor and not in this classroom. I will take you up close and personal to a living dragon instead of simply giving you the theories. Theories would do you no good in my class.” Lisa grinned widely, and a couple of faces lightened up as well. This was getting worse by the second.
Professor DeMonte waved his wand again, and a brown, thick textbook with Compulsory Guide to Working with Dragons written in silver across the cover appeared on everyone’s desk. I grimaced at the name of the author. Ignatius Connelly. I should’ve known. I mean, who else would write a textbook about dragons if not the best Dragon Keeper in the world?
My friends turned to look at me the moment they saw the author’s name. Their expressions were mixed looks of amusement and awkwardness. Now that I think about it, they probably didn’t really know how to react to that piece of fact. I only smiled and shrugged, not knowing how to tell them this wasn’t amusing at all. At least when I was in Hogwarts, Dad’s fame wasn’t so apparent. Most of them were new to the wizarding world and the existence of dragons was still shocking to them. My classmates knew my father was famous, but they didn’t look up to him. However, some of my new classmates worshipped him. Ask me how I know. When I introduced myself to Dawn, she immediately went on for ten minutes about how my father was her idol. She was probably not the only one.
After making sure everyone had a copy, the professor took a clipboard. “Please raise your hand when I call your name. Juanita Andorra.” A pretty girl with a long brown hair raised her hand. I groaned inwardly. I hated it when the teachers called us like that, especially if I was new. I waited as Professor DeMonte went through the Bs. In my head I started to picture how my classmates were going to react. However it would be, it wouldn’t make my day any better.
And then my name was called. “Irene Connelly.” The noises died down immediately. As I raised my hand slowly, I could see everyone exchanging surprised glances when they heard my name. I couldn’t help but smirk. Obviously they hadn’t expected to have a famous person in their class. Then all eyes were on me, and their looks changed. Some looked even more surprised, some hopeful looks turned into disappointment.
“That’s the girl they’ve been talking about?”
“What’s her name again?”
“She doesn’t look like a Dragon Keeper.”
I felt my cheeks burn up. I hated whispers, I hated being stared at, and most of all I hated being judged by my name and look. I mean, how exactly should a Dragon Keeper look like anyway? Did that person make that comment just because I’m blonde? So what if I’m blonde? That didn’t mean I can’t be tough. Wait a minute, what am I saying? I don’t care what they think, I’m not a Dragon Keeper!
“Quiet please,” the professor ordered, and everyone shut up. I silently thanked him for not commenting any further. Instead he went on listing the students, and I endured the staring for five more minutes. When he was finished, he addressed the class once more. “Now, please gather your things and follow me.” The screeching sound of chairs scratching the floor filled the room as the students stood up. I dropped the book inside my book bag before I followed. Everyone was whispering, some with anxiety, some with anticipation. We had no clue what he was taking us, but many suspected that we were heading to the forest. The said forest was a very huge one, ranging from behind the university all the way to the mountains. It stood between the campus and Romanian Longhorn Dragon Reservation. Dad told me it was very helpful in hiding the dragons and providing them with food. With unease I recalled him saying that the professors often used the dragons in the reservation for the students’ practicum.
“Irene?” I looked up and met Lisa’s worried gaze. “You looked rather pale. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” I replied, smiling as cheerfully as I could. “Perhaps I’m still a bit, uh, jet-lag.” Lisa grinned and nodded, satisfied with my answer. Then she cocked her head to one side to stare at me.
“You know, there’s a party tonight at the sophomores’ hall. Wanna come?” I raised an eyebrow.
“We can’t get into the sophomores’ hall,” I stated, baffled. “And I don’t think we can crash their party. They’d kill us!” Lisa waved her hand dismissively.
“Don’t be so hyperbolic. They certainly won’t kill us. Gavin personally invited the two of us, and Gavin is pretty influential.” She said it so easily as if that solved the problem. But crashing a sophomores’ party sounded a bit… wild for me to do on the first days of school.
“No thanks. I’ve had enough attention already,” I replied. Lisa’s hopeful face fell.
“Come on Irene, just this once. It’d be fun! I promise you we’d lay low. Besides, no one would recognize you as long as you don’t mention your last name.” Then she lowered her voice. “Charlie will be there too, you know.” I perked up immediately at the mention of Charlie’s name, and immediately blushed, realizing how obvious I was. Lisa grinned. “I knew that would work. So, what do you say?” I bit my lower lip, thinking. It still appeared as a risky thing for me. I didn’t want the sophomores to think I was some stuck-up girls trying to catch the eye of the older guy. No, that definitely wasn’t the image I was going for. But then again, it would only be the second day of school. I didn’t suppose we would have loads of homework, and a party would be a good way to get to know my surroundings. I hesitated, but before I could answer, suddenly the group halted, followed by a collective gasps. Lisa grabbed my hand and hastened to the front, trying to see what everyone was gasping about. When I saw what it was, my heart momentarily stopped beating.
There, only three feet away from us, a dragon was tied down in his cage. His scales were an amazing colour of deep jade with sharp golden horn on his head. The dragon was standing quite still, staring down to us with a fierce look in his eyes. He didn’t rampage and he wasn’t firing flames out of his mouth, but I felt like I was going to faint. It was all coming back to me, the memory I didn’t wish to remember. “Daddy, where are we going?” I asked, clinging affectionately to Dad’s big, rough hand. When I was five, my dad was still the flawless hero in my eyes. He would’ve remained so if he didn’t take me out that day.
“You’ll see,” he answered airily with a twinkle in his coffee coloured eyes. I looked up excitedly to my mother, who was holding my other hand. She smiled down to me, giving my hand a light squeeze. If Dad was the knight in shining armour, Mum was the lovely queen. Before I was born, Mum was a teacher in Hogwarts. She gave up her job to devote her time taking care of me. We were very close, especially because Dad was rarely around.
The trip was a monthly event for our family. Dad would take us to Wales, Scotland, Romania, or wherever he was working at the time. It was something I looked forward to, for it was a chance to see Dad and really had fun with him. He never took me to the reservation, though he always told me how much he wanted to show ‘his dragons’ to me.
We were in Wales at the time. Dad told me he couldn’t spend a lot of time with me this holiday because he was taming a newborn dragon. He didn’t lie; in the week I was in Wales, that was the only day he spent with me. I was too delighted to care where we were going.
Our car slowly halted. I pressed my face against the window in curiosity, wanting to know what the big surprise was. We had stopped in what looked like a parking space, and around that parking space were as many trees as a five year old could imagine. The trees were tall with thick leaves, huddling close together. It was almost like they were there to hide something, and as I hopped out of the car, I began to wonder what it was. Because the minute I stepped out of the quiet car, a loud roar greeted my ears. I gave a jump and took my mother’s hand as a protection. She put one arm around my shoulder to comfort me.
“Don’t be scared, honey. It’s not going to hurt you,” she consoled, throwing a displeased look at my father. “I really think this is a bad idea.”
“Nonsense,” Dad replied as he took my hand. “She’d love it.”
“I’d love what? What’s not going to hurt me?” I asked, tugging at Mum’s hand. I didn’t understand what they were talking about, and it annoyed me. “Mummy, where are we?”
“This is where Daddy works, Irene,” Mum answered, frowning at Dad. “He wants to show you his newest little dragon.”
“Oh.” I can’t say whether I was afraid or excited. At that moment, the information didn’t affect me much. Dragons were never a part of my world. Sure, I always knew they exist and Dad worked with them, but it has never seemed real to me. Like the fact that Muggles actually exist. I knew they were real because Mum worked with them on daily basis, but I didn’t quite grasp the concept that people could actually live without magic.
‘Wales’ Redclaws Reservation for Dragons’ was written in bold red letterings above the main entrance. I glanced interestedly at the picture of dragons carved into the stone walls as I walked by, trying to decide if they looked friendly enough to me. But after a third roar, I was beginning to feel scared. And even as Dad started talking cheerfully about how friendly dragons could be when they’re tame, a nauseous feeling started to grow in my stomach and I began to wish I didn’t take the second omelette this morning.
The place was divided in several areas, like a zoo, but it looked a lot like a real forest. There were trees, rocks, and little ponds along the way, arranged skilfully to imitate the dragons’ habitats. But the decorations weren’t my concerns, the dragons were. Since the reservation was opened for public, we could see the dragons even though there were fences and other kinds of barriers between the visitors and the dragons. I remember that the first dragon I saw was a scarlet dragon with protruding eyes. It was lying down, but when we passed it lifted its’ head and glared at me. I jumped back in fright and tore my eyes away from it.
“Daddy, can’t we go somewhere else? The dragons are scary.” I pleaded.
“Now, now, Irene, don’t whine. Dragons aren’t scary, they’re actually tame. Well, at least the ones here are tame.” Dad picked me up-he always made me feel so feather-light when he picked me up like that-and gazed into my eyes. “It’s okay. You’re my daughter, you’ll handle a dragon just fine.”
“Oh. My. God,” Lisa’s gasp brought me back to reality. “That is so cool!”
“Glad you think so,” Professor DeMonte grinned at her before he turned to address the class. “This is a Romanian Longhorn, the native dragon. You’d be dealing with Longhorns a lot in the near future, so you need to know how to handle them first hand. Does anyone know where the habitat of Romanian Longhorn is?” Murmurs rose from my friends as everyone glanced around, predicting who would have the guts to raise their hands. I could see some eyes fell on me expectantly and stuck my hands in my jacket’s pockets. It was embarrassing, but I seriously didn’t know what the answer was. I didn’t want to know.
“Yes, you?” The Professor pointed someone behind me. I looked around and saw that a blonde-haired guy had raised his hand.
“They live in mountains and sometimes rain forests,” he answered confidently. DeMonte nodded.
“That is correct. Longhorns are often found in mountains, like the one across us,” he gestured to the mountains behind him, “and rain forests. See their green scales? They can hide between the leaves easily with those scales. Longhorns aren’t as temperamental as Hungarian Horntail, they are calm and won’t attack unless they’re provoked. However, once they’re angry, they could be very dangerous. That horn is there for a reason, and you don’t want them to use it on you.” A shiver ran up my spine as I glanced at the horn on the dragon’s head. No, I definitely didn’t want it to be used against me.
Lisa raised her hand. “What do they eat?”
“Definitely not human, Miss… Mackenzie, isn’t it?” Lisa nodded. “They eat wild animals, mostly deer. Speaking of which, that would be your first assignment.” Some groaned, including me. The first day and there was homework already? DeMonte held up his hand and the class fell silent again. “I know this is only your first day, that’s why your assignment won’t start today. It would start two weeks from now and mind you, this is not to be taken lightly. See those eggs?” He pointed to the cage. Behind the dragon, there were a couple of spotless green eggs. So it’s a female dragon. “You are going to work in groups to raise a baby dragon. Each group consist of four people and you are allowed to ask your senior for help, but I would know if you cheat, so don’t try it. Once those eggs hatch and the babies can be separated from the mother, they would be handed to your care. Each group will get one baby. The assignment would last for a semester and I expect a complete report at the end of the semester. This project is fifty percent of your grade, so don’t fool around with it.”
“You think we can do this?” I whispered to Lisa. There were so many things that could go wrong with that assignment, and I didn’t think I could handle a baby, especially a baby dragon. Lisa, however, seemed confident when she nodded.
“Gavin told me about this project. He could give us some pointers,” she whispered back. “This is going to be so much fun, don’t you think?” I looked at the dragon and she huffed. Small puffs of smoke came out of her nostrils as she did so. I pasted a faux smile on my face as I answered Lisa.
“Yeah, it’s going to be fun.”
A.N: First of all, I’m terribly sorry for the long wait. I’ve been really busy with school and whatnot, and I got a writer’s block. But I hope this chapter makes up for it. Just so you know, I made up some information about the Romanian Longhorn because there’s not much about it in Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them. I do hope it seems believable. Thank you for all your reviews, I love them all. Don’t stop reviewing!
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