Chapter 16 : Dawn Emerging
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They continued on for what seemed like hours, but was a little less than an hour. Harry kept an eye on Narcissa, who was looking rather weak, despite the fact that she was maintaining considerable speed. At one point, pondering Hermione's distress, Harry sneaked a glance at Hermione's face, and saw she had a preoccupied look on her face. Curious, Harry wondered.
Winds and rain battered heavily at them, as though trying to keep them from their destination. More than once, Harry feared another Gustmonger lay in wait as the source of the brutal gusts of air, or maybe a stray Waterstriker, but no dragon appeared to confront them. Thus, the remainder of the flight was uneventful. Suddenly, Ron pointed ahead.
“There!” he shouted, the wind tossing the words at Harry and whirling them away almost before he could hear them. “I can see the cottage!”
“Let's hurry then!” Harry called, and gasped slightly as the rushing speed stole his breath a little. He gestured to Narcissa and Hermione, who nodded and sped up. Within moments, the home of Oscar Strang came into sight, and Harry dived for it. He managed to hit the ground feet first, skidding slightly, and he ran full tilt for the door.
Reaching it, he slammed his fist on it once, and the door flew in, busted clean off its hinges. He gaped at the damage.
“What in bloody hell is goin' on here?!” roared Oscar's voice, accompanied by the sound of running feet. “Who're you and what're ye doin' breakin' me property-!” Oscar appeared, his face contorted in fury. He froze, staring at the bedraggled Harry. His jaw dropped slightly, the rage becoming astonishment.
“What on earth happened to ye, lad?” he demanded at last, grabbing Harry and pulling him in. “C'mon, let's get ye sorted out. And what happened to the others?”
“No.” Harry jerked his arm away. Oscar stopped and faced him. “They're out there. They're coming. And we need help.”
“Help?” Oscar eyed him. “What kinda help?”
“Big help, I'll wager,” growled Mad-Eye, limping into the room. His magical eye whizzed around; Harry guessed he was checking for danger and more damage. “Costly help. What's it this time, Potter? You didn't manage to haul back a few ornery dragons, did you? Because if you did, you're gonna go right back out there and take care of 'em!” He paused, turning his head this way and that, presumably checking the area surrounding the house with his magical eye, then said, “Well, it seems you didn't go all wrong, then. Otherwise, there'd be holy hell right now.”
“You're right,” said Harry brusquely. “What dragons we ran into, we killed.”
“Killed, eh?” Moody eyed him with some new respect. “Maybe there's dragon-hunter blood in your veins somewhere.” He suddenly turned to the gaping doorway. “And you aren't gonna fix that?”
“Just a minute,” said Harry, walking to the hole. He peered out into the downpour, freshly soaking his hair, then pulled back. “Here they come.” Steam rose from his head as the water dried due to the heat of his fire-enhanced body.
“What, you guys leave the door open all the time – oh,” Ron finished lamely, seeing the broken door. He raised an eyebrow at Harry. “Couldn't be bothered just knocking, mate?”
“That's how I broke it,” Harry said simply. Ron stared at him, then snorted in laughter, which he quickly choked down upon seeing Moody's expression.
“Funny, is it?” the Auror grumbled softly, glaring at the red-headed wizard. “Well then, seeing as how you find this so humorous, you can fix it. And mind you do it right!”
Ron, looking a bit sheepish, directed his wand at the door. He levitated it into place, then cast a repairing charm. Mad-Eye examined it critically.
“It'll do for now,” he said finally. Harry, seeing the door to be completely restored, knew that this was the Auror's gruff way of saying it was great. He looked at Hermione, who was still soaked.
“Oy!” barked Oscar, noticing the same thing. “Do I need to clean up after all o' ye? Get yerself dried, miss. That's the way.”
Hermione started, looking down at herself as though she hadn't realized just how wet she was. With a shrug, the water rolled off her in a wave that grew as it gathered excess water from her. She raised her arms, and the water lifted before her, shaping itself into a ball as she cupped her hands. She walked to the door, which Ron respectfully opened. With a fling of her arms, she hurled the ball into the storm.
She turned back to her friends. “Let's get the egg out,” she said quietly. Mad-Eye's eye zoomed to it as Harry helped Hermione extract the oblong object from the knapsack. Moody cursed quietly.
“That's what brings you back?” he snarled. “A...complication...comes up and the first place you think of is this place? A bloody wooden cottage?”
“What's goin' on, Alastor?” asked Oscar, watching the teenagers closely. “What're they doin' here?”
“Their egg,” Moody said darkly. “Dominion, isn't it called? It's hatching.” He looked at Strang, who slowly turned his head to lock gazes with Harry.
“Yer egg...a dragon egg...is hatchin', and ye decide that this is the best place for it?” he asked quietly. “A place that'll go up like matchsticks?”
“Moody just asked that,” Ron muttered, then shut his mouth when Oscar shot him a look.
“Where else was there?” asked Harry. “We didn't know any safe havens in Italy, and Greece was too far. The egg is going to hatch any time now.”
“In that case,” growled Moody, both eyes on the trembling egg, “get it to a safe spot.”
“In a wood trap,” said Oscar gloomily, “what spot is safe, exactly?”
The Auror looked at Ron. “Weasley,” he barked, “grab that table by the wall and drag it over here.”
Ron, clearly nervous at being under the charge of the grizzled ex-Auror, levitated the table and hovered it to the center of the room. Moody nodded in satisfaction.
“Now Granger,” he said briskly. “Fetch the grate from that fireplace. Duplicate it, put the original back and place the copy on the table. Make sure it's cool, now!” Hermione obeyed, and there was soon a cold grate resting on the table. Mad-Eye looked the arrangement over.
“Aright,” he muttered, “now Potter, put that egg in the very middle of that grate. And it better be firmly set, too. Can't have the damned thing roll off on the floor. This whole blasted firebox will come crashing around our ears in a burning wreck.”
Harry complied, checked to be sure that the egg was resting solidly, then retreated. The egg shook gently.
“Right then,” said Mad-Eye. “Not long to wait now.” He looked at Hermione. “You lot gonna take it to Greece still?”
“We really haven't discussed it,” she admitted, glancing at Harry. “But I don't see a reason not to. After all, it's hatching doesn't change much.”
“You're liable for a live dragon now, Granger,” Mad-Eye stated flatly, staring at her. “Although it was technically live to begin with. But you take my meaning.”
“It can't cause too much trouble. Norbert – I mean,” she faltered as Moody frowned, “I've seen another freshly hatched dragon, and it wasn't that big or dangerous.”
“It was snorting sparks, Hermione,” Ron reminded her. “In case you've forgotten.”
“I haven't forgotten, Ron,” Hermione said haughtily. “I've a fairly decent memory, in case you've forgotten.”
“We'll take it to the Temple,” said Harry firmly. “I have a job to do, and I am going to do it.”
“Potter, you have no idea what you're taking up,” said Mad-Eye, his normal eye swiveling to look at him. “Regardless of its size, that dragon can cause indescribable trouble.”
“I'll take my chances,” Harry said. “And if I don't do it, who will? The world depends on it.”
“What o' that dragon that came with ye?” inquired Oscar, who was leaning against the wall, observing them with a keen eye. “Or did it ditch ye? Wouldn't have pegged it fer the type, but ye never know...”
“Yeah,” said Ron, looking around suddenly. “Where did Eve go?”
“I am here,” Eve said quietly, emerging from a shadow in the corner. “I was resting. Much has been taken out of me.”
“A talking dragon...” said Moody. “That really doesn't do much in the way of making me like you.”
“Is it required that you like me?” she asked idly, blinking sleepily. “Or is it required that you trust him?” She nodded at Harry. “He's the one that must make a difference.”
“He's already done that,” muttered Moody. “Or haven't you heard of You-Know-Who?”
“A new enemy arises,” responded Eve, lowering her head. “And this enemy seeks the egg. It seeks that which could be either its heir or enemy...”
“Heir or enemy?” repeated Moody. “Sounds like a ruddy prophecy.”
“Not a prophecy,” she answered. “Rather, a recognition of possibilities. And Harry Potter is the only one who can make possibility into certainty. He has done it before. It is up to him to do it again.”
Moody glanced at the egg, which was shaking. A very fine web of cracks spread across its surface, indicating that its time was drawing close. He shuddered, imagining what might happen if things went wrong. He'd had plenty of experience with such things in his lifetime.
“There's a problem,” Hermione said suddenly. They all looked at her, and Eve turned to gaze wearily upon the young witch. “Dragons bond with the first creature they see,” she said. “What if it bonds with one of us?”
“Whether that is a curse or blessing depends on what happens to the bondee,” Eve said gently. “Should the bonded person die, or fall into undesirable hands, the situation would get quite nasty. Handled well, however, and the result may be all we desire.”
“So, if we bond with it, that isn't a bad thing?” asked Ron uncertainly. Eve turned to him.
“As I said, it depends. Do you believe you will live to see the end of the war?” She raised her eyebrows questioningly.
He stared at her in shock. “Well,” he said, finally finding his voice, “I bloody well don't intend to die!”
“None of us do,” she said. “But it isn't as easy as deciding not to. You should know that.”
“Well, you tell me,” he demanded, his ears reddening. “Am I going to die? Will I get killed?” Hermione and Harry eyed him sadly, while Narcissa listened silently with pursed lips, her eyes fixed upon the egg.
“I do not know. You can only live, and hope for the best.” Eve sighed and laid her head down. They all shifted and began to watch the egg. It was now rocking slowly. Back and forth. Back and forth. Harry's eyes widened as it bumped the edge of the grate and rolled back to the middle. It shook, bounced a little, and cracked. One crack appeared. Another appeared. They connected, then spread, reaching around the egg. With a crunching sound, a small section separated from the egg, revealing inky darkness underneath. There was a slithering sound, then the egg slowly cracked apart, until it lay in pieces. Lounging among the remnants of the egg...was a dragon. A slim, scaly, pink dragon.
“Oh,” gasped Hermione. “It's...cute!”
The dragon stirred, lifting its snout in the air. Its head waved drunkenly, weaving about on a very thin neck. Tiny spines ran along its head in a dotted line, going down its spine and tail before tapering off at the tip. It sniffed at the grate, then extended its head. It bumped its nose in the metal, and jerked back, shaking its head and snorting.
“Hah!” laughed Ron. “Did you see that? Bumped its head! Like it can't even see!”
Moody leaned forward, looking closer. He frowned. He peered around at the dragon's face. “Looks normal enough,” he muttered. Then his eyes widened. He drew back.
“Oh, that's fantastic,” he murmured. “That's just bloody brilliant.”
“What?” demanded Harry. “What's wrong?” He reached out to grab the dragon, but Moody slapped his hand.
“Don't touch it, you fool!” he snarled. “Have you lost your wits? Touch it and it might damn well bite you!”
“Then tell me what's wrong with Dominion,” said Harry, still staring at the baby dragon.
To Harry's surprise, Moody snorted, then chuckled. “Oh, there's nothing really wrong with the damn beast,” he growled, his magical eye wandering over to Dominion. “Not exactly. There's a certain...factor. Only trouble is, it's got its downside, as well as an upside.”
“Will you just spit it out?” Harry snapped. “Please?” he added quickly as Mad-Eye's eye narrowed.
The ex-Auror sighed. “Ah, you might as well see for yourself. As long as you stay back, you shouldn't get hurt.”
Harry crept around the table, watching as the dragon twisted and squirmed on the table, jerking its head this way and that as it responded to unknown somethings in the environment. Harry cocked his head, thinking. Moody had looked at its face...
Harry suddenly stepped forward, so he was right above the dragon. He looked down at the top of its head, and he thought it odd the creature wasn't looking up. “Careful, Harry,” whispered Ron, watching in fascination. “It might see you.”
“Not much chance of that, Weasley,” whispered Moody hoarsely, and Ron blinked. “Wha-” he and Harry asked at the same time. Harry stopped, and nodded at Ron to go on.
“What d'you mean, there isn't much chance of the dragon noticing him?” inquired Ron curiously. Moody shook his head.
“Did I mention noticing at all? Think about it.”
“I don't get it,” Ron insisted, looking thoroughly befuddled.
Mad-Eye sighed. “You see, that dragon there...”
But Harry was no longer paying attention. He had finally seen the dragon's face. It had looked up, sniffing, when he had spoken, and looked back down a couple seconds later. But it had looked up long enough for Harry to catch a clear view of its visage. He stood, stunned into silence, trying to comprehend what he had seen. He had always believed dragons to be the mightiest, most potent of creatures, except maybe for unicorns. But the dragon's face really didn't fit that idea.
He had seen its pink, scaled muzzle, with itty bitty teeth protruding. He had seen the small nostrils, flaring in search of more information about its surroundings. He had seen the brow ridges, quivering in an unceasing series of emotions. But what had drawn his attention was its eyes. Its milky, opaque eyes. The eyes which stunned, horrified, but most of all confused him.
Dominion, the Dragon of Dawn, was blind.
Wow. The dragon that is supposed to mean so much, is blind. I wonder what this means...the next chap will be...well, you'll find out. It's a bit of a stunner... Please review, and leave suggestions, that I might master this art of story telling.
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