Chapter 7 : Playing With Fire
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There wasn’t a cloud in the bright sky, but the air was freezing and the ground beneath their feet was free of snow but from the pictures that Harry had been shown of the camp, that wasn’t always the case. “Harry, I’ll introduce you to Vlada, she sort of runs things around here,” Harry nodded agreement and followed behind both Charlie and Daphne. Harry pulled alongside the gaunt looking girl, while her features were certainly striking, there was an edge to her that he couldn’t quite place, the porcelain skin, jet black hair and blue eyes set amongst quite a striking face were hidden by an air of… something that he couldn’t put his finger on. “Did you two know each other in school?” Charlie asked of them, Harry shook his head negatively.
“Not personally,” Daphne dismissed. “Now Charlie, I assume that the accommodation here is protected against the dragons nearby?” she asked, and Harry inwardly groaned, he immediately switched off from the conversation and began to take in his surroundings while keeping a vague eye on Charlie so he didn’t get lost. There were the camp seemed to be set in a bit of a valley, with high trees surrounding it and occasionally interspersed through the camp, the mountains that he could see through the trees were capped with snow and seemed to be a mish-mash of sheer cliff faces and slow falling slopes. There was a faint smell of cooking meat in the air and his eyes began to search for the source.
The camp was made up of cabins, probably mostly for the people to sleep in, but there seemed to be a few that were established as common areas, as evidenced by the large numbers of people that were congregating around some of them. When he found the kitchen however, he didn’t find the answer to the smell, as the kitchen was quite clearly not operating, a long bench with stoves and cauldrons placed along it sat unused and quite clearly closed for business. Harry frowned and continued following behind Charlie as they weaved their way through the wooden cabins and eventually came to another clearing, Harry had a fairly loose idea of the layout of the camp. They’d arrived in the working part of the camp, where things were prepared for use day to day out in the dragon reserve, whereas here, where it was much quieter were the living quarters. The two areas were separated by what appeared to be the more communal areas of the camp, showers, a food area, outdoor tables and even what appeared to be a small Quidditch pitch where he’d seen a few quaffles lying unused.
“Harry?” he turned his eyes back towards Charlie, who had apparently been talking to him.
“Yes?” he prompted, casting a sideways look at Daphne.
“Leave your bags here and we’ll go into the office and say hello to Vlada,” Harry complied and dumped his bag on the ground and followed behind Charlie and Daphne into the wood cabin. The interior was much different from the exterior, in much the same way that the magical tents distorted the space within them; he shook his head at the many desks that were littered about the room, many with large piles of paper sitting unsorted upon them.
“Ah, my new dragon feed!” an accented husky voice boomed from somewhere in the room. “About damn time that you got here, Charlie.” Harry took in the sight of the large, broad shouldered woman who wore a military like uniform, long dress pants that were pulled high up her waist, fastened with a shiny black belt, and a smart shirt of the same colour tucked into her pants. She had very fair hair that was cropped short and slicked over to one side of her head, and her face obviously bore the scars of many years of dealing with dragons. Harry mused that her build was very reminiscent of that of Wormtail’s.
“Yes well, you can blame Neil and Terry for that, these two were on time,” Charlie informed his boss, Harry didn’t jump in to correct Charlie on point that he had been the last one there, though Daphne did offer him an accusatory glance.
“Well I don’t care about those two, I needed at least four sturdy hands, and you’ve brought me the cleanest bunch you could find,” she said looking appraisingly over the two of them, her eyes lingered over Harry’s scar and she smiled in a very patronising way. “Harry Potter,” she said matter-of-factly. “Mine are bigger.” she said before turning sharply on her heel to pick up some papers form her desk.
“Pardon?” Harry questioned, unsure of what she was referring to, a single glance at the woman told him that she probably had plenty of body parts that were bigger than his, a gut for one. But he bit his tongue and let her answer him, only Charlie interrupted before she could.
“I tried to explain to them their sleeping arrangements,” Charlie began. “However Daphne Greengrass here, didn’t seem to agree with them,” he said waving a hand at the slender girl. Harry placed his hands on his hips and kept a steady gaze with the overbearing woman, he didn’t go through everything he did so he could be pushed around easily.
“Well tough,” Vlada answered turning her gaze to Daphne, Harry followed it there. Daphne’s lips had been pressed so firmly together that they formed an incredibly flat line, and all colour was gone from them.
“That will not do, I would share with anyone, but it will not be him,” she said looking at Harry, who searched his mind for who this girl could have been during the last seven years, from the top of his head he couldn’t even place her into one of the four houses, there were a number of Ravenclaw’s and Hufflepuff’s that he didn’t know the names of. Almost regrettably, if a student hadn’t taken part in Dumbledore’s Army, then there was no way that he would’ve learnt their name.
“You do not get that choice,” Vlada shot back, the look on Daphne’s face quickly turning to one resembling a scorned child. “Anyway, it is not just him, there will be a lot of other people in the room as well,” Harry was handed a wad of papers, he snatched them from Vlada’s grubby hands and he looked expectantly at her. “Sign these, so that if you die, it’s not our fault,” she said and handed him a quill, he placed them down on the table and began to read, a rather bland and generic sentence rolled into several paragraphs; the long and short of it being that once he signed on the dotted line, he was fully aware that he may die while working as a member of the dragon colony and that no one could sue or seek liability from the company who owned it.
Harry made sure that there wasn’t anything else to it, just in case there was some sort of clause that would require him to work there for any length, but the only text on the page was signifying he was the only one responsible for his death. Funny that given the last seven years of his life, no one had ever asked him to sign something like this before. “Charlie, take them to their cabin, and then show them where they’ll be working, the Ridgeback’s have been tearing the trees down again,” she said curtly, Harry noticed that Daphne had already signed hers and handed it back to Vlada, somewhat silently they left the room and back into the very cool air.
“She’s a strange one,” Charlie announced once they’d left the cabin, Harry nodded an agreement, still uneasy around Daphne, he felt the outline of his wand in his pocket with his hand pensively, it was a rather dull start to his adventure, but hopefully soon the he could get to actually helping out around the place.
“A vile, rude woman, you mean?” Daphne began. “I have never been spoken to like that in my life; she should remember that she needs me, not the other way around.” Harry rolled his eyes, Slytherin would be his first guess at where she was placed in school, a Ravenclaw would have more sense to say something like that aloud, even if they were thinking it.
“Well, she’s your boss now, Daphne,” Charlie returned, “you agreed to come here, and your boss at the ministry thought it was exactly what you need to get your career going. Remember who’ll be letting him know how you got on once we send you home.” She pouted and glared at Charlie, she looked as though she were about to say something else, but took a deep breath.
“So why is he here?” she asked jutting her chin at Harry, he looked squarely back at her, his face betraying no emotion. He didn’t want her to know she was getting under his skin; he wanted her to think that he didn’t care one little bit about her petulant attitude. Which he wish he didn’t, but it seemed that people who thought highly of themselves found it hard to believe that everyone else didn’t think the same way about them.
“Because he wants to be,” Charlie answered, Harry sighed and shook his head, he was going to enjoy his time here, and it wasn’t going to be undone because some girl had an attitude problem.
“Why would anyone want to be here?” she asked in an accusatory tone. “Can’t handle the life of a celebrity?” she asked turning to face him, looking at him properly for the first time since meeting.
“All you’ve done since we got here is whinge, give it a rest would you?” he returned and looked ahead to where they were going, the cabins quite some distance off.
“Whatever the great Harry Potter wants,” she said in a mocking tone, Harry’s fist clenched in frustration around his bag’s straps.
“Charlie, what’s with everyone’s voices?” he asked, just about everyone that they’d heard, and even Vlada’s voice had been husky and gravelly.
“It’s all the smoke,” Harry looked quizzically around. “Well it was all the smoke, it must’ve been blown away the last couple of days, the ridgebacks have been confused since they’ve gotten sick, and whenever they manage an escape, they tend to start burning everything they can, and in a forest, it is just about everything.”
“Sounds fantastic,” Harry said dryly, he smelled the air again, which was definitely clear of any smoke, yet there was the slightest hint of burnt meat that he had picked up on before, it was much weaker however. “And is every day barbeque day?” Harry asked, though almost wished he hadn’t when the placid expression on Charlie’s face grew sombre.
“That’s likely the dragons’ fighting,” he replied, Harry cleared his throat; it wasn’t a good image to have of dragon’s charring one another in a fight.
“Where are the dragons kept?” he asked. “And it’s a lot warmer than I thought it would be,” he mused, he was more or less just trying to keep the conversation rolling so that Daphne couldn’t interject with any more unintelligent offerings.
“They tend to roam, we do actually track them and have a team of response rangers on hand in order to bring them back under control,” Charlie began. “But when they’re sick like this we quarantine them from the rest of the population, especially when we don’t know what’s actually wrong,” he offered. Harry was intrigued by the sound of the rangers’ jobs. “And we moderate the environment in the camp, it’s an enclosed system, so it’s a lot warmer than the other side.”
“The rangers, how do they bring the dragons back under control?”
“The old fashioned way,” Charlie responded pointing skyward, a group of six blurs shot overhead, voices distorted by the wind and the speed at which they were travelling reached his ears, Harry smiled, “We muster ‘em.” Harry regretted greatly not bringing the broom that Nimbus had let him walk away with.
“Charlie,” Harry began slowly, turning his head to watch those that had zipped overhead until they disappeared past the tree line. “I think I know how I can actually help,” he stated, he knew not everyone was outstanding on a broom, and that surely if anything, it was something that he could do with some sort of confidence.
“What’d you think you were here for?” Charlie asked rhetorically in return. “We weren’t about to have the ‘next Charlie Weasley’ running around shovelling dragon dung.” Charlie said, Harry scoffed and was about to reply with his own retort when Daphne started up again.
“Well that’s great that he knows why he’s here, but what am I doing here?” she said, her tone grating to his ears, Harry sighed again and stopped to look at her.
“Just what are you doing here?” he asked her. “What on earth did you think this was going to be like when you agreed to come along?” he continued, as far as he’d gathered, it had been anyone that wanted to come, should, a volunteer offering of help.
“That is none of your business,” she told him, however she made it sound more like ‘ner ner, ner ner!’ than anything else. “I want to know what I will be doing here. And I certainly do not owe you an explanation.” Harry fell into step as she trotted off to catch up with Charlie, who had continued on ahead during their brief discussion, Charlie was talking to a woman that looked to be of the same ilk as Vlada, her hair cropped short and while not quite a uniform, her clothing was pulled on her body in an officious manner.
“Katinka will show you where you will be working,” Charlie told Daphne, his tone gentle and patient, “she will then take you to your accommodation.”
“Very well, hopefully she’ll actually be of some help!” Daphne replied and looked at Katinka until she received a cue for her to follow, Harry had been about to say something but a quick shake of the head from Charlie had encouraged him not to, once they were out of earshot Harry looked at Charlie expectantly.
“This is a career thing for her,” Charlie said with a shrug, “it’s a tree across her path up the ministry ladder, once she’s seen what it’s like here she will be able to handle her own Beast Handling team.”
“Ahh,” Harry said nodding, it seemed that if there was a strong will sent out to do something they didn’t want to do, then they were going to do their best to ensure that everyone else knew how little they wanted to be there, yet they were doing a bang up job regardless of how much contempt they had for the task “And here I was hoping that I was going to get the chance to enjoy myself.”
“Yeah, well I’m surprised mum let you out of her sight,” Harry shifted the bag around on his shoulder uneasily. “At least Ginny let you join us, how did that go?” he asked, Harry looked at him quizzically.
“I remember being told, rather emphatically not to let them know where I was planning to go, or what I was going to be doing,” he said in a slightly worried tone.
“You weren’t meant to listen to that, mate.” Charlie said laughing. “Knowing those two women how do you think it will go when you get back? You told someone though right?” Harry nodded in reply.
“George knows, and I ended up just writing a note to your dad before I met up with you, I didn’t have enough time,” Harry said, Charlie stopped and placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder.
“You’re not pulling my leg?” he asked and Harry frowned and shook his head. “You stuffed up,” he said with sombre expression. “We need to get you to a floo station so you can call mum and dad during dinner,” Charlie shook his head, “and I’ll find you a bucket of ink so you can write to Ginny,” he said laughing, Harry ran a hand through his hair and they continued on the tour.
Harry was introduced to a whole heap of people around the camp, some of the British citizens knew who he was before he was introduced and he managed to flounder his way through the conversation with them like he had with so many other people in the past. But it was much easier to get through conversations when the other person didn’t know who he was, well, most did know of him, just not the full story and they didn’t treat him like the others. He was able to actually ask things of the other person rather than being shot with a hundred and one questions in a single breath.
The camp was established and protected by a local group of mages, a term that Harry wasn’t familiar with, but apparently they kept the ‘inside’ seasonally warm, and a powerful bit of magic kept all creatures that hadn’t been within the magical barriers perturbed from heading towards the camp. “I’ve seen the spell stop a raging Fireball dead in its tracks while it was chasing a wounded handler,” Charlie had told him. Harry supposed it was similar to the magic surrounding Hogwarts, but it was more of a Hermione thing to get interested about. Harry liked that a lot of magic just worked, and he didn’t need to really understand it at the level that he participated in, rather he could just do things without knowing the work behind it, whereas Hermione would tear something apart to find out how it worked.
Several hours after settling in at the camp Harry sat at a table with Charlie, who was shaking his head with an amused expression at Harry, the flip call to Molly and Arthur went fine, it was the letter to Ginny that was currently causing him grief. What he was having trouble with was justifying why he had left without saying anything, well he knew why he didn't, but writing it diplomatically was the trouble.
Harry had a problem with the fact that he may have to ask permission to do something that he wanted to do, and what annoyed him even more was the fact that he hadn't popped up to the castle to see her before leaving because he knew it would cause an argument, or at least a disagreement. He didn't want to have to fight like he did while in school to get to do the things he wanted. The feeling of not being able to leave to go somewhere because someone else had decided it, like being unable to leave the Dursley's was a feeling he didn't want to experience.
He made scrunched up the bit of parchment he was working and tossed it on the fire nearby, "I'll work on it tomorrow," he said, Charlie nearly shrugged.
"I'm still unsure as to why you left without at least sending a note," Harry bristled and sat up a little straighter, Charlie held up his hands defensively. "I know why you didn't, but as for actually not, that's a little cowardly." Harry had to laugh, it was better than flying off the handle.
"Ginny has a temper to rival your mums," he started in his own defence, "only she's a little quicker to lose it." Harry looked around their surroundings, it wasn't much after dinner and already people were leaving to go back to their bunks, or back to work as some of the airborne rangers were required to stay alert at all times. "When will I start?" he asked Charlie, now that he knew he'd be on a broom he was more excited to get going. Or perhaps it was nervous anticipation, either way he was keen to just get things underway.
"Tomorrow you'll get a crash course from the resident broom master," at that he stood and stretched his back, Harry heard the faint sounds of joints popping and cracking in Charlies back.
"Who's that?" He asked, wondering if he'd already met the man, or if there were more names to remember.
"Me," Charlie replied working his legs away from the table, getting up and down from the table was a chore as the bench was too close for comfort, so it was a wriggle and twist rather than just being able to push away from the table if it was a normal chair. "But I'm going to bed now, I'll get someone to wake you up early," he said as he wandered away from the table.
"Our day starts before seven," Harry wasn't too disappointed with that, it was earlier than he was used to rising since the war ended. But he was more than used to getting up around that time in recent years. Charlie left without saying anything more and Harry sat hunched at the table, his finger idly sliding over the surface, the bumps and grooves from years of use were smooth, the table was evidently well cared for.
He was looking forward to getting started, obviously the situation was not great, from his understanding there was some sort if fever running through the ridgeback population making them frightened and highly aggressive, especially towards each other. But it was the rest of the dragon population that those at the camp were worried about, already they'd found some remains of the more placid species (compared to the ridgebacks) spread over large distances. It was, apparently, hard to tell where one dragons body ended and the next began. So constant harassing and sedating of the ridgeback population was necessary, hence the tired workforce and the need for around the clock support.
The name of the camp was something that amused him, having never been named was referred to as 'The CON', which being used to worse abbreviations he had no problem with. He drank slowly at the ale he had in front of him, letting the drink warm his insides, the weather outside the camp was apparently a pretty strong storm. He looked around at a few of the figures nearby, many of the names, much like most people he was introduced to recently, had left him almost as soon as he'd met the next person. He ran a hand through his hair, it had gotten a lot longer since he left school, instead of being the unruly mess it had been, it was now a longer unruly mess.
He looked to the seat that Charlie had vacated when the sound of someone sitting in it drew his attention, with her eyes half closed Daphne sat opposite him; Harry swallowed a large mouthful of beer and looked at her expectantly. "Evening, Daphne."
"I'm not one of your fans," she slurred, and Harry raised his eyebrows.
"Then I won't sign an autograph for you," he responded, wondering what the cause was for her disdain. Perhaps her parents were Death Eaters, in which case he had no sympathy left for her kind if she was going to be bitter about it.
"I wouldn't want one," she fumbled her way through the small collection of words, he was sure it was meant to be a carving insult.
"Well everyone's winning then," he said with taking a sip of his drink, he looked around to see if there was anyone else nearby, he didn't want this descending into something without someone being witness of her behaviour.
"You killed my father, you did," she said somewhat casually, but the accusation was something he was sure he could defend easily, being sure that he'd not killed anyone he didn't know. But this type of conversation wasn't new to him, Death Eaters and their offspring, the group that had been to cowardly to face their fate had been the first to attack him in private. Whether it be in the toilet at an event or outside the earshot of others in Diagonal Alley.
"I'm sure I didn't," he countered, "and if I did then what was he doing fighting with a schoolboy?" he asked the girl, who shook her head and focused her eyes on him, which made her just look a little more dazed.
"What?" she slurred, he sighed and took another drink, a denier then. "No you killed him," she stated again, he shook his head and placed his drink on the table, his hands palm down either side of it.
"I know the faces of every person that died near me in the war," he said through clenched teeth, "and I've since been able to names to each and every one. Greengrass, was not the name of anyone that I know of," she shook her head; he nodded his to reiterate that she was wrong.
"You killed him because you didn't stop him like you were supposed to," Harry’s eyes narrowed in complete confusion, he had no idea what she was talking about, he started to doubt she knew either. "I was a Slytherin, I had to join up with Bulstrode's bitches, but when you left the school you were meant to stop the war, you didn't." Well that was a new one, as if he didn't have enough guilt already; his mouth had fallen open at the allegation. He closed it.
"And what was your father doing when he died?" Harry asked her, he was not going to feel guilty over her father, there was already a long enough list of people he was meant to save but didn't.
"He was walking home, from work at the ministry," she said as though that should have been obvious. "His skin had been torn to read a message about mudbloods. And where were you? Sunning yourself somewhere nice?" She accused pulling a bottle of wine from below the table where her hands had been. She took a long drink and, her hair tousled and messy, "I'm sure you're happy enough to take the credit, but I know that other people gave much, much more than you." Harry nodded, he never laid claim over having done the most for the cause, there was a large list of people, and some non-humans, that paid the ultimate price. He shook his head and pointed a finger at the girl opposite him, his elbow still resting on the table.
"Your father’s death is not my fault," he stated, his jaw barely moving, his lips pulled taut over his teeth. "I didn't even know what I was meant to do," he said, how else could he explain to her that it was as simple as merely getting into a scuffle and beating Voldemort?
"You were meant to be our defender!" she said, her voice slightly raised, Harry looked around, there were a couple of people nearby that had started to pay attention to their 'discussion', but the majority weren't close enough to hear.
"I was meant to be a kid," he replied, he still was pretty much, his eighteenth birthday only just having passed, he didn't feel like he was meant to be responsible to anything just yet.
"Some people, because of you, never will be." Harry stood up, his legs not fully able to straighten due to the bench digging into the back of his knees.
"And many others," he said leaning over her, his hands placed on the table with fingers splayed, "have the chance to be," he continued, a slight sweat breaking out on his brow, "because... of... me," he said slowly, through gritted teeth. His eyes not wavering from hers, something seemed to happen and her glare moved from his eyes, slipping down to the table top. After another swig of wine she placed the bottle between his hands.
"If that's what you need to tell yourself," she said and got up from the table, "I'm not going to start thanking you," she spat, she stood and worked her feet out from under the table, and Harry fought the urge to give her a shove to help her on her way. Even greater though, was the urge to pull his wand and tear the camp apart, he settled on picking the bottle of wine up and throwing it against the ground, the wine splashed out and over the ground nearby and the shards of glass sprayed around his feet.
The people nearby turned away while those that hadn't been paying attention were looking over in his direction. He look at the retreating form of the girl that had riled him up, several expletives came to mind, but all that calmed him was the fact he knew that he didn't have the ultimate power, he wasn't able to bring any of them back. As saddening as it was, he knew there was no way he was responsible for everyone that had died during the war.
He sat back down at the table, resting his arms across its surface and looked out over the clearing, the outdoor dining area was quickly emptying of the people that had still been up, it was late and tomorrow would be a long day, but there was no way he'd be able to sleep after that.
Harry watched the sun rise, luckily the valley ran east to west so he was able to watch the sun rise at its proper time, rather than when it popped over the top of the surrounding mountains several hours later. He sat up, the bench had been hard on his back, but at least he'd gotten a couple of patchy hours sleep during the night. He sat up and rubbed tiredly at his eyes, "Well that was shit," he stated, he swing his legs onto the ground and started to walk toward the cabin that they'd put him in, musing that wooden housing might not have been the best idea at the dragon camp, but he supposed that was the confidence that the workers placed in the magic protecting them.
He saw a bundle of clothing lying in the bushes between his cabin and the one next to it, he deviated slightly from the path and when he saw the pale skin and jet black hair of Daphne Greengrass he snorted and continued on his way. To say that he was unimpressed with her was a monumental understatement, to say that he was really, really angry was also a gigantic understatement. He shook the memory from his mind and went inside, he made his way as quietly as he could to his belongings and got his towel out, and went and had a cool shower, trying his best to make himself alert for the coming day. He stepped out of the shower several minutes later and quickly dried off, wrapping the towel around his waist he exited the bathroom to get changed, drawing the curtains around his bed, the room reminded him greatly of the hospital ward at Hogwarts.
He got dressed and planned to head outside, he exited his 'private room' and headed towards the door, when he was several steps from the door it swing open and revealed the very dishevelled Daphne, in from the bed she'd made for herself in the bushes outside. They looked eyes and Harry clenched his jaw, she wore a saddened expression and opened her mouth to speak.
"I want to-" he heard her start before pushing past her, his shoulder roughly bumping into hers; she lost her balance and almost ended up on the ground.
"You speak to me again; you better pray Merlin can hold me back," he grumbled, combining the lack of sleep and his anger at the conversation with her itself made for one very unforgiving Harry Potter. He didn't miss a step and quickly he was outside in the warming sun, he headed back to the outdoor dining area to look for Charlie. The cabins lined the path, which was almost as wide as Privet Drive had been, and they were for the most part accommodation, but the cabins that were different were easy to tell; they were slightly raised and had half as many windows. The blue paint of the door and window frames had faded after years of neglect, the red guttering still retained a stronger collie however.
Low trees lined the path and made the place a little more pleasant, so too did the garden beds outside each of the buildings. After several minutes he found himself in the outdoor dining hall and he didn't see Charlie anywhere, he sighed and looked around, a few were eating breakfast and he made his way over to the Chef's Row to fill his plate with the fairly decent food. After filling his plate with scrambled eggs, bacon and mushrooms, Harry filled a glass with orange juice and made way for a vacant bench, easy to find this early in the morning.
He'd not gotten the first mouthful to his lips before someone sat down opposite him, considering how it had worked out for him last time, he inwardly groaned and looked up to see who it was. The face that greeted him was not one that he recognised, a man with cropped blonde hair and a tanned, weathered face looked back at him, and Harry would guess him to be the Muggle equivalent of 40.
"Harry," he said holding out a hand, the man reached out and shook it enthusiastically.
"I know mate," he was told dismissively, "I just wanted to say g'day. Name's Daniel." Harry nodded, he wasn't too good with accents, but he would place it in either New Zealand or Australia, he was not willing to risk offending his new acquaintance by guessing and getting it wrong.
"Nice to meet you Daniel," Harry said to be polite, still slowly waking up. "What do you do here?"
"I work with Weasley, I hear you'll be joining us today?" Harry nodded.
"So I'm told," he replied, "I was a little worried I'd not be able to help, but if there are only two things I can do, it's fly on a broom and use my wand," he said and then waved his cutlery around to dismiss what he'd just said, Harry noticed that the man’s breakfast was piled about twice the height Harry's was, the broad shoulders and large cheat on the man made him look like it was a light meal for him.
"Good to hear," Daniel stated piling his eggs onto a piece of toast to make a sandwich, "I hear you're decent in the air which is handy for this job, just stick close to Charlie, he'll look after you," he added reassuringly, they were lulled into a silence by their appetites before Daniel made a strangled grunt.
"I just remembered," he said suddenly, "it was why I came over here to begin with, but a mate from back home said that he's been helping a couple of your friends," Harry perked up, Australia it was then, interested to hear what Daniel would have to tell him.
"Where abouts?" Harry clarified first, wanting to make sure he knew where Ron and Hermione were.
"Adelaide," he stated, "but my mate said - he works at the ministry by the way - that Weasley and his missus came in to get a bit of a hand tracking down doctors or something, ones that had got in the country in the past year." Daniel shook his head, "Now he wasn't able to help them find who they were after, but they got help at least," he finished with a shrug, Harry nodded and was a little disappointed.
"How long ago?" he asked Daniel, wondering if it had happened before or after the DARE gala.
"A couple of days?" Daniel said, with an expression that clearly said he wasn't sure exactly how long ago he'd heard the news, but it was recent at least. Harry smiled and nodded his thanks.
"Any news is good," he said with a small smile, "At least I know they're still going, and getting closer," he added, they continued on in silence bedew Charlie came and sat next to Harry, he had a much smaller breakfast on his plate than Daniel.
"We'll get going when I'm done here," he said before beginning to eat at a quick pace. "The rumour grape vine thingy is just abuzz this morning," he said to no one in particular.
"Well it's not my fault," Harry protested, he'd not been the aggressor in any way.
"No," Daniel offered, "we heard that's what you told her too." Charlie snorted through a mouthful of food and Harry glared at the newcomer.
"Well it explains why she wasn't overly polite yesterday," Harry said, not really keen to get too into this conversation.
"It does, yes." Charlie stated, "just be careful with that one Harry," he offered. "Not everyone here is English, so if they hear that you've been arguing with her over crap like that they'd likely get the wrong end of the stick." Harry nodded and put the last of his breakfast into his mouth, he shook all thoughts of last night from his mind.
"Come on," Daniel said as Charlie finished up, "let's get you into the interesting stuff," he finished and the two older men led Harry through the camp once more, though the walk was shorter than what the one from his cabin to the dining area had been. They stopped at what could only be described as a beaten up shack, for whatever reason, the building did not look like it received the attention that the rest of them did.
"Welcome to our humble home," Charlie said opening the door for Harry, they stepped through and there was a sight that took Harry's breath away. Row after row of broom, more than he'd ever seen in a single spot outside of the Nimbus factory.
"Why are there so many?" He asked, Charlie and Daniel shared a quick look before Daniel answered.
"Brooms are a bit easier to recondition than a person after a tussle with a dragon," he said, Harry nodded, a little sombre at that but nevertheless anxious to get going.
"Now it's up to you to take your pick," Charlie added, Harry wishing Charlie had told him before leaving what he'd be doing so he could bring the broom Nimbus had given him. "They're all top brooms, I'd recommend one of the Russian ones, they might not look as flash as the others but they'll do twice the job." Daniel nodded his agreement and Harry stepped forward and began to browse the racks. He came to a small row where the lettering soon gave way from the recognised alphabet he knew and turned into that of the symbols he associated with the Russian language, he picked up a small broom, turning its weight over in his hands and was happy with the distribution. However it was a touch light for his tastes.
He plucked the next one from the rack and replaced the first, he was much happier with weight of it, and heeding Charlie's advice went with his second choice. "How'd it feel finding the last broom you'll ever ride?" A new voice asked from the doorway, Harry saw that there were two figures that were entering the shack.
"Harry this is Deep and Ali," Daniel introduced them as they came closer, Harry could see that the taller of the two, Ali he presumed, was a woman, while Raul had a similar build to Daniel, only Daniel was a bit taller.
"So this is it for today's watch?" Ali asked Charlie as Deep approached Harry, they shook hands and Deep leant towards Harry.
"I look forward to flying with you," he said. Harry nodded unsure of what to say, he was saved by Charlie calling everyone to follow him, so they walked, Deep and Daniel talking to one another, and in front of them were Ali and Charlie who seemed to be having an argument, though Harry couldn't hear them from the back of the group. He gripped the broom and lifted it on to his shoulder, as the feeling of excitement grew in his stomach he'd wished he'd brought an apple or banana to settle the nerves. They walked towards what Harry could plainly see was the edge of the magical protection around the camp. Outside he could see the snow piled up against it, he was worried his clothing, an old pair of jeans and sweater weren't going to be enough. The others, however, weren't wearing much more so he refrained from asking about, sure that his question would be answered in due time.
They continued until they reached the edge of the barrier, a small shack, much more worn and weathered than those in the camp proper, sat guarding the perimeter alone. Harry looked around curiously and waited for some guidance as to what was going to happen. Charlie flung open the door and began handing out cloaks to the others, Harry collected his and put it on like the others.
"Weather-proof," Deep said, Harry smiled gratefully, well that was that worry taken care of, "make sure you keep the hood up, it won't blow off, and it will protect your eyes from wind, rain and snow." Harry nodded again and started to get restful with nerves, anxious to get underway.
"Harry, make sure you stick with Daniel," Charlie said, his normal jovial voice taking on a rather serious tone. "Don't question what he's doing just do it, if you get separated go for height, especially if dragons are around." Charlie leant forward, "Once you're safe, land and Apparated back here, don't try to fly back if you're alone, ever." Harry nodded again.
"What are we going out for today?" Harry asked looking around at the group, the expression reminded Harry of those he'd seen around Grimmauld Place during the war.
"We're going to try and get used to flying with a rookie," Ali offered, laying down the challenge.
"I'll be sure not to upstage any of you," Harry tried, but the lack of smiles from anyone but Daniel told him humor at this stage was not on.
"As I said," Charlie continued on quickly. "Do as Daniel does, and ask questions when we get home, don't think, just go." Harry nodded and they began towards the barrier, they stepped through one at a time until Harry was due to go. He took a deep breath and stepped through to the other side.
What was waiting for him was much more of a shock than a sudden portkey, the cold whipped the air from his lungs and made the skin on his face sting, he took a few steadying breaths wondering how anyone was meant to fly in weather like this.
"Keep it tidy!" Charlie commanded, they each stepped over their broom and Harry took off after Daniel, the acceleration was on par with no other broom he'd flown on, he tightened his grip and moved in just behind and above Daniel. He cast a quick eye around the terrain, looking out for dragons but quickly found the flyers in front of him going through some rather complicated manoeuvres. He managed to keep track of Daniel, and didn't lose any ground on him either, the broom was performing excellently, tying his every thought to responding so that the broom was doing what he wanted almost quicker than he could physically get it to.
Eventually, they split up and Daniel dived, Harry followed and they were speeding past a cliff face, ducking and weaving through rocky outcrops at blinding speed, his heart pumping as quick as it ever had. In a moment of pure adrenaline he let out a whoop of excitement.
Daniel looked back and placed a finger over his lips, Harry nodded in understanding but just as Daniel began to turn back to face forwards, a dragon dove through their path, Daniel rose over the beast easily and then turned away from the cliff face. They were putting as much space between themselves and the cliff face as possible, however they'd already attracted the attention of several large dragons. Harry gripped the broom as tightly as possible, Daniel pointed skyward and he leant back, pulling the tip of the broom up pulled alongside Daniel.
"Clouds!" Daniel shouted to him, Harry nodded and they climbed higher and higher, breathing began to become difficult the higher they rose but before too long the dragons had given up chase. Apparently they were satisfied with the distance they'd forced the intruders from the nest.
"Don't do that again," Daniel said, a wicked smile flashing across his face, Harry nodded, not quite sharing the other man’s excitement. Despite the cold a thin layer of sweat that had made its way onto his forehead.
"Let's go," Harry said, Daniel nodded and dived, Harry once again followed suit and the fear of a moment ago was washed away with the adrenaline as they went closer and closer to the ground.
They continued their whirlwind tour, skimming past cliffs and around the sharp rocky outcrops, Harry was happy he was able to keep up again. But all too soon it was coming to an end, the sun was sitting high in the sky and it mist been quite some time that they'd been in the air. Harry could had kept a tough track of the directions things were, and the particular mountain at his back, and the two in front of him he knew the camp was somewhere, in the general direction, in front of them.
They landed and were joined almost immediately by Deep, who nodded at Daniel, they stepped through the barrier back into the camp, Harry took his coat off and looked around at the others.
"Made some friends, Harry?" Deep asked, Harry only nodded, the experience, while filling him with more excitement than he'd felt in a long time, it was still a terrifying experience.
"They just really wanted to say g'day I guess," Daniel added, "Deep, where were you today? Normally we bump into each other." Deep nodded.
"I was checking in on our families," he replied before turning to Harry. "Dragons breed whenever, and there's several families sitting on a rock shelf around the far side of that peak." He explained while pointing off to one of the mountains Harry had been zipping around minutes earlier.
"Where's Charlie and Ali?" Harry asked, looking back towards the barrier.
"They always take a little longer," Daniel replied, "or rather, Charlie and whoever is flying with Charlie. He has to keep track of where the population is living, see if the numbers are growing, but fewer and fewer people are coming to work, hence the longer shifts," he finished with a shrug, Harry shifted awkwardly.
"And what were we meant to be doing?" Harry asked, Deep laughed softly, his deep voice was belayed by a soft tone.
"The rest of us fly, and if we notice that something is out of place, then we return here," Deep said pointing to the shack that the cloaks had come from. "Ring that bell, and whoever shows up, report what was missing from where, and a search party goes out to bring the missing dragons back in." Harry nodded, Charlie and Ali burst through the barrier, their faces flushed and breathing heavy.
"Shit!" Ali spat. “Something whipped them up,” she said looking at Daniel, who shrugged in reply. They all began putting their things away, Harry began the walk back to camp with Charlie at his side.
"A few years ago," he began, "how tough was it moving the dragons to Hogwarts?" he asked curiously, the way they'd reacted to his shout he couldn't imagine any witch or wizard getting close to one, let alone restraining one.
"Dragons are somewhat reasonable," Charlie said, "believe it or not!" He clarified at Harry's patronizing look, "If you approach calmly on the ground, not posing a threat, they let you get quite close."
"And once you get it to trust you, you begin trying to restrain it?" he asked cynically, Charlie pulled a somewhat unappreciative face.
"Well if you put it any other way than that, it doesn't sound unreasonable, at least we're not killing them anymore." Harry nodded, "Tomorrow however, the real work begins, we're on response!" Charlie said in a way that had Harry worried, "I'll show you the more effective spells, don't worry," he said as though it should placate him, it certainly wasn't going to be a dull month, Harry had a small taste and wanted more.
Harry spent that afternoon with Charlie and Daniel, where they were going over several curses and hex that would encourage a dragon to consider doing something that resembled what you wanted it to. He had little trouble picking up the different incantations and wand movements, something after that seemed to happen after the war had finished, was that he was able to just about do any spell he tried, he had never been so good at cleaning before in his life.
Charlie and Daniel finished up the session and all Harry wanted to do was shower and go to sleep. But he knew if he went to sleep too early then he wouldn't get through the whole night, so he kept the water a little cool in the shower. When finished he was relieved to see that dinner was beginning to be served, the watch he'd bought was still an hour ahead, but he figured that merely remembering that was simpler than working out the proper way to wind it forward.
"The smell definitely doesn't reach the dragons?" Harry asked the cook as he filled his plate with roast pork, the large man sounded a booming laugh and shook his head.
"I'm not quite the cook they are I'm afraid," he said, then continued, "dragon fired beef is about the best thing I've ever had," he said rolling the words with a Spanish influence.
"I'll take your word on that," thinking of several things that would have to happen to even get a taste of that meat. He sat down with his large plate, the first meal he'd had time for since breakfast, the size of Daniel's plate at breakfast now making more sense.
He sipped at the lager next to his plate, if only to make the spiced vegetables a little easier to eat, the day had certainly been a long one, but he was convinced there were few parallel feelings to an experience of whipping around a dragon colony like at those speeds. The response team sounded interesting, however Harry wondered how sitting around waiting to rush off, was going to be more work than the multi-tasking required to stay alive while flying.
"Harry," a soft voice spoke up, standing on the opposite side of the table was Daphne. He ignored her and tried to eat as quickly as he could. "Harry," she said much more firmly this time, "are you listening?" she asked, he didn't lift his eyes from his food, he did briefly but it was to look past her, perhaps Charlie was around and able to pull him out of the upcoming discussion.
"Look, I don't care if you don't look at me," she began, he felt like standing and walking away, but perhaps if he let her talk shed leave him alone. "What I said last night-"
"Was a fucking embarrassment," he cut her off, his temper finally having a chance to be unleashed on the cause. "You're wrong, you know that don't you?" he spat, his tone clipped as he tried to keep his voice as low as possible.
"You don't understand!" she protested, her eyes widening, almost pleading.
"I think I have a good grasp on the whole thing," he said slowly. "You never had the guts to stand up to Pansy and her chums, and now you're so guilt ridden that you need to blame me." He watched a defeated expression spread over her features, he nodded, "About right from your kind."
"I'm sorry!" she choked, a tear building at the corner of her eye, Harry looked at the remainder of his meal, before setting her with a contemplative gaze.
"As you should be," he said as he pushed his plate away and stood up. "Enjoy your evening," he told her, a good day ruined at the last moment by someone who really shouldn't have a reason to have had a go at him like that. As he walked away from the table he shook his head, he was getting impatient for the day when no one gave a stuff about him. `
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