Chapter 15 : Race Against The Wind
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Race Against The Wind
“Do you really think we'll get there in time?” shouted Ron as they flew. Harry turned slightly.
“What do you think? We're going pretty fast, aren't we?” he responded.
They were, indeed, going very fast. They tore through the sky like bullets, almost a supersonic hailstorm of elements. They blurred through the sky, fire and water and sand and wind swirling around them in a forceful maelstrom of propulsion. Glancing back, Harry saw Hermione with a mask of water over her face. Of course, he thought. Wind shield! He quickly conjured a layer of air for his own face. Ron spotted him and covered his visage with a sheet of stone. Thus protected, they sped onwards.
After a little longer, he found himself struggling more and more against a rising wind. They began to slow. He fought harder to maintain speed, but was losing.
“Harry,” called Hermione, clearing the water a little to let her speak, “We need to speed up a little. The egg...it's really vibrating now!”
“We can try,” he yelled back. “But I think there's a storm somewhere! The wind...it's a bit strong for me!”
“Wind?” asked Eve suddenly. She looked around. “Pull back,” she ordered. Harry looked at her in confusion.
“Why?” he asked. “What's going on?”
“We're in dangerous territory,” she answered. She sniffed the air while the others floated idly nearby. “Yes, I can smell it.”
“Smell what?” demanded Ron. “What're you going on about?” A gust pushed at them.
“A dragon. A powerful one.” Eve looked at Harry. “I don't think we can flee it.”
“Why not?” asked Harry, concerned. If this delayed them long enough, they wouldn't make it to the cottage in time.
“It's a Gustmonger. And one of its greatest talents...” Eve trailed off, looking troubled.
“Is superspeed,” finished Hermione quietly. “And then it can paralyze its opponent's mind with a look.”
“Pardon?” said Ron weakly, looking ashen. Harry thought for a moment.
“If I have all the elements,” he said, “then I can match its speed.” He soared away from them. Hermione stared after him, looking frightened.
“That isn't a good idea Harry,” she said. “You don't have the experience to fight a dragon like this one.”
Gazing around, he said, “Don't worry about me. I have the Lega-” His words were cut off by a sharp roaring sound. He spun, looking wildly around.
“HARRY!” screamed Hermione, when he vanished. At the same moment, a mighty force pushed them all away. They tumbled through the air like a scattering of pinballs. Disoriented, the group could only struggle in a daze.
Meanwhile, Harry drifted. He was stunned, having been hit by an enormous weight, like a cement truck. One second he was watching for the dragon, then he was zooming away, pinned to a hard scaly surface. Then floating. He vaguely wondered what had happened to his friends, when he noticed a huge form in front of him. Gray-white and lithe, it hovered before him, calm and waiting. He blinked, and realized it was watching him with a malevolent gaze, undoubtedly wishing him a violent death. He tried to move, but his body wasn't quite ready to respond. Confused, he found himself staring at its eyes...drawn in, despite his efforts to keep focused...
...It can paralyze its opponent's mind with a look...
He saw the dragon raise a paw, clearly intending to strike him. Up the paw went, and his very spirit seemed to wilt in anticipation of the blow. He waited...The paw swung at him.
A sudden, invisible blow knocked Harry aside, and he glimpsed the dragon's head jerking sideways as though struck by the same type of force. Their gazes parted, and he swung his head to search for the source of the interference. He saw Narcissa gliding toward him.
“You won't be dying today, Potter,” she said coldly. “Not if I can help it.”
Harry slowly backed away as Narcissa approached the dragon. She clenched her fists, and Harry saw the air condense into two blocks of air. The Gustmonger ignored the chunks of wind and snapped at her. She let loose with two blows which rocked the beast. Its head was knocked first left, then right. Drawing back her fist, she punch at the air, and the block of wind slammed into the dragon, forcing it back. Strike after strike rained from her fists, in the form of pieces of air pummeling the monster into oblivion.
She paused to catch her breath, and the beast seized the chance to attack. It flew at her, but she vanished and reappeared on its other side. Harry stared for a moment as she did it again, then realized that she was flying at supersonic speed, literally vanishing from view as she soared. Watching her as she dodged for the dozenth time, he knew she was wearing down. He considered helping, but saw her suddenly wrap her hands around thin air. With a heave, she hurled an invisible bundle to the sky. The Gustmonger went soaring away, thrashing madly.
Turning, the beast roared and lunged. But Narcissa was ready. She used air to grasp the dragon's neck, then began to spin, swinging the monster around and around. Finally, she released it, and it was sent hurtling into the ground. The earth shook with a strength that would have rattled Harry's bones if he had been standing there.
It lay flat for a moment, breathing heavily. Then, it slowly rose, lifting its head. Glaring at Narcissa, it opened its maw, but she vanished. Its head jerked back, and she appeared at its throat. Magically grasping it, she twisted hard. The beast resisted, straining to keep its head straight. They fought against each other in a contest of might. Without warning, she reversed direction. Caught by surprise, the dragon wasn't quick enough to stop her, its head twisting one hundred eighty degrees, then three sixty, and around again. With a sickening snap, its neck finally gave, and the Gustmonger's body went limp.
Narcissa stared at its corpse, completely still. Looking closer, Harry could see her expression was utterly blank. She gazed at the dragon, then turned and floated back up to him.
“Thus, I prove my worth,” she said softly, weariness clear in every part of her.
“And Mad-Eye didn't trust you,” responded Harry. “Guess he doesn't know everything, magic eye or not.”
Narcissa smiled faintly. Harry could see that the dragon had taken a lot out of her. “Are you going to be okay?” he asked, surprising himself. He hadn't thought he would care about Narcissa Malfoy's condition...
“I think so,” she replied. “I just need to rest.”
“We need to get to Oscar's place first,” he said. “Then you can sleep.” She nodded, then turned as Eve approached.
“Well done,” the dragon said. “It is not an easy task, slaying a dragon. And for one without such talent as the Legacy, it is even more difficult. Unfortunately, it appears that the dragon did not have a rider.”
“And?” asked Harry, not understanding.
“This means,” Eve clarified, “that the dragon was acting of its own accord. Dominitus is mobilizing his forces without the help of your kind, Harry Potter.”
“Oh no,” whispered Harry, Eve's words sinking in. “You mean that Dominitus can keep his own agenda without us knowing it?”
The Twilight Dragon nodded. “Precisely.” Her eyes regarded him sadly. “Therefore, we have even less time then I had believed. We must hasten; Dominion must be delivered to the Temple.”
“Then we should get go-” Harry said, when Narcissa stirred and looked past him. Her eyes widened, causing Harry to turn.
Another Gustmonger hovered not far from them, its movements agitated. It eyes roved among them, cataloging them with a fierce determination. Harry knew that this one was in a rage, and that Narcissa was in no shape to stop it.
It was up to him. But how would he beat this one...? Get to the one place where it couldn't follow and attack him. That would give him some time to figure out how to kill the dragon.
The dragon, coiled itself in the air, then hurled itself at them. Harry pushed Narcissa back, before launching himself straight at the dragon's jaws...and into them.
Its jaws had opened to administer a dreadful bite, but he slid neatly into its jaws. Sprawling across the blanket of monstrous flesh that was the dragon's tongue, he waited for the literal jaws of death to close. The beast's maw snapped shut with an audible clack, cloaking Harry in a smothering, wet, smelly darkness. He twisted on its slimy tongue, crawling further down the gullet stretching before him. Pulling some air in so he wouldn't suffocate, Harry squirmed along, causing the tongue to twitch and jump, forcing him toward his destination.
Finally, he slipped out of the tube of flesh, emerging in a sac of tissue soaked with a mysterious liquid. So this is what it's like to be in a dragon's stomach, Harry thought, Not that he had ever wanted to find out. It was all wet and dark...At this thought, he drew his wand.
“Lumos” he muttered. The wand lit up, and he wedged it in a fold of stomach next to him. “First troll bogeys, now dragon stomachs,” he said in disgust, then sighed, switching trains of thought. He eased forward, then sat, thinking. He would probably die soon if he didn't get out. He doubted food lasted long in a dragon's belly, and even if he survived, he would be making an unpleasant trip through its digestive track, eventually coming out...He shook himself from his musing, thoroughly disgusted by the thought. Glancing down, he saw that the mysterious (and undoubtedly dangerous) liquid was oozing from the section of stomach upon which he rested.
“I have to get out of here,” he muttered, his voice muffled by the drenched material surrounding him. “But how...” He thought of ways to free himself. He could use a Severing Charm, or a Blasting Hex, or a Tunneling Spell...he wondered how dragon hunters had won past the dragons of their day. They'd used spells, and magical swords, probably.
“Wait,” he said suddenly, straightening. His eyes widened as he remembered something. “I have a sword! But how do I get it?” He thought hard. “I called it out of the Sorting Hat, and Neville did that too. But the Hat isn't here. No hats at all, for that matter. But...I'm the heir, so can't I call it no matter where I am?”
He focused. “Come on, sword,” he said softly, trying very much to ignore the liquid now pooling around him. “I need you...” he raised his hand and concentrated on it, willing the blade to appear in his hand. Nothing happened. He reached deeper inside himself, straining to touch that most inner core of power. He mentally commanded the sword once more, and a light manifested around his hand. Slowly, hesitatingly, it grew, then shaped itself into a vague outline. He thrust his mind into the core of energy, and abruptly, there was a flare of light. He felt a weight materialize in his grasp, and as the light faded, it revealed the Sword of Gryffindor in his hand. It sparkled in his hand, glittering in the glow he had conjured.
Harry smiled. He was getting slightly better at his inherited abilities now. Raising the sword, he looked at it. “What should I do?” he asked, and the blade seemed gleam in response. He sighed.
“Only one way to find out.” And with a grunt, he thrust the sharp implement into the stomach beside him. It sank in with surprising ease, blood welling up around the metal. He grimaced, then tugged. The weapon slid back out, and he paused before shoving it once more into the tissue. He began to saw through the flesh, moving the blade back and forth, forcing it along. There were jolts and crunches as the blade broke bone after bone, and Harry worked faster, panting. Greenish gray blood flooded from the gaping wound, mixing with the digestive essence that Harry knelt in. He had realized the way out, and the way to kill the dragon, and he was now hard at work making it happen. Soon, he had sawed through the bottom, side, and top of the stomach, and was making his way down the other side. Sweat dripped down him, mingling with with blood and stomach acid. Ichor dripped from above, pelting his head and running down his face and neck, but he ignored it. His hands were cramped around the hilt of the sword, but he refused to acknowledge his discomfort. He shifted hi stance for greater leverage, and redoubled his efforts as he saw how close to his goal he was coming. Finally, with a last wrench, he severed the remaining flesh. When nothing happened, he groaned in frustration, and gave a mighty heave with his mind. The stomach around his shivered, then stilled. He heaved again, causing the tissue to shift , before slumping. He closed his eyes and leaned back, resting, listening.
Then he heard it. He heard a wet ripping sound, of meat parting reluctantly. Grinding, as splintered bone rubbed together. Tearing, as hide split away. Suddenly, the mass on one side of him moved, more and more. With a violent lurch, it fell away, dropping out of sight. Harry felt the remaining half of the dragon's body plummet. He tried to get up, but his feet slipped, and he had to grab hold of the stomach in order to stop himself from falling face first in the acid. Slowly, he stood, then planted his feet as best as he could. The he made his move. Acting quickly, he grabbed his wand, wiped it on his robes, then stuffed it in a pocket, before pulling free of the belly, and leaping out into the air. He looked down to see the first half strike the ground, soon followed by the other half, and he grinned. He sniffed, and cleaned himself with a gust of wind, which rubbed the sickly evidence of his struggle from his body. He rose to meet his friends, who were watching with tear-streaked faces.
“My god, Harry,” Ron muttered. “You couldn't have warned us? We thought you were dead!”
“You would have stopped me,” answered Harry calmly, as though he were completely relaxed. And, he realized, he almost was. “And as you can see, I'm fine.”
“Yeah, but I might not be,” said Ron. “My heart failed, I think.”
Hermione swallowed hard, gazing at Harry with reddened eyes. “Never do that to me again, Harry,” she stated quietly, wiping her face. “Or I'll kill you myself, never mind dragons.”
Harry heaved a deep sigh, then frowned. “I can't promise that, Mione.”
Hermione looked down. “I'm not sure I can go much further then...” She shook her head. “I couldn't live if I lost you. I've told you this before.”
Harry looked at her desperately.. “I have to do this. I don't think anyone else can.”
“Well, if you die, you can't fight!” she snapped, looking at him sharply, her eyes sparking with a combination of anger and sadness.
“And if I don't fight, I'll eventually die,” he retorted. “Is that what I'm supposed to do? Because I'm not doing it!”
“Fine!” she snarled. “Then take the egg and go! Maybe Dominion can take my place!”
“Dominion can never take your place, Mione,” corrected Harry. “And I want you with me. No matter what.”
“I don't want to be there when you die,” she pleaded, her eyes flooding with tears. “I'd rather die than go through that.”
“The last thing I want to see before I die,” Harry said softly, gliding over to her, “is your beautiful face. Can you give me that?”
“I don't want you to die,” she whispered. He looked into her face.
“If I die fighting for our friends and family, then I'll die gladly. Isn't that a good enough cause?”
She nodded slowly. “I suppose.” She seemed to realize there was no arguing with him. She sniffed. “Shall we go now? The egg will hatch soon.”
“Yeah,” agreed Harry. “We don't want to be out in the open when the baby comes out.”
“Well then, let's get a move on!” called Ron. Harry smiled, and they resumed their journey, heading for safety, and the arrival of new life.
Well, things are about to get interesting...stay tuned! Please review, and if there's anything you'd like to say, don't be afraid to say it! Just keep a gentle edge on it, please! Thanks!
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