Chapter 1 : Dragon Tamer
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It had not always been that way. Her grandparents had been with her just moments ago, along with much of her extended family. They had all been enjoying a quiet day together, as they often did; the Bones family had always been very close. But then he had burst through the door in a terrible fury, his black robe flowing out behind him, and all hell had broken loose.
“Susan, hide!” her uncle had exclaimed, shoving her beneath the living room coffee table. An impractical hiding place, since the table was in the middle of the room with nothing truly concealing her. But somehow the intruder did not notice her.
Chaos reigned. Susan could only watch as her family was attacked right before her eyes; her limbs felt suddenly heavy, and the more she tried to move the tighter they seemed to lock into place. She tried not to hear the shouts of, "Avada Kevadra!” that filled the room; each one signaled a piece of her world breaking off, careening somewhere that she could not follow. Each one spelled certain death for those she loved most.
Why couldn’t she move? And why wouldn’t the curses stop already? Couldn’t he see that he’d killed them all, every last one of them? Her grandparents, uncle, cousins…they all lay dead in front of her. Her vision blurred green as she wept.
The dynamic changed. The hooded killer shifted and, impossibly, a Peruvian Vipertooth dragon stood in his place. Legions of the creatures materialized throughout the room, destroying the house as they moved. The green flashes were replaced with fire. All around her there was fire.
Susan gave another fierce, desperate struggle to move her limbs, but she was still inexplicably pinned down. There was nothing she could do but watch as a Chinese Fireball sent a jet of flame hurtling straight towards her. The table she crouched under was pulverized, but Susan felt none of the heat from the blow. She was not burned; in fact, she wasn’t even singed.
Something wasn’t right here; that fact was becoming more obvious by the second. This couldn’t be happening. Dragons did not just barrel through houses; fire did not touch a person and leave them undamaged. Bodies did not freeze into place without reason. Susan glanced around, and now that she was paying attention, the situation seemed to grow stranger and stranger. The walls (what was left of them) swayed crazily back and forth. Dimly, she registered a Weird Sisters hit playing in the background, the music distorted. And was that a Blast-ended Skrewt that skittered past her along the floor? Everything was wrong. If only she could stand and walk, or even move her limbs at all; then maybe she could escape.
But all thought suddenly flew from her mind as one of the dragons, a Hebridean Black this time, sauntered toward her. It held one great claw aloft, ready to strike. She stared in horror as the claw came down with impossible force—
Susan woke screaming. She found herself breathing heavily, and a cold sweat had broken out along her hairline.
Immediately, she swiped at a few lingering tears and started pulling herself together. Really, the nightmare wasn’t as traumatic as it probably should have been. Just a few deep breaths and she had shoved it far into the back of her mind, a skill she had learned to perfect over the years. This scene visited her frequently; although she hadn’t actually witnessed Voldemort killing her family, this dream felt as vivid as a memory to her.
The dragons were new, though. She was used to the screams, the psychedelic lights, and the general weirdness of it all, but dragons had never invaded the dream before. Susan supposed they were a product of her location. She had decided to spend the summer after seventh year in Romania with her brother. Bradley worked as a dragonologist, and he had invited her to visit every summer since he’d moved to the facility. Although she missed Bradley a lot when he was gone, the very thought of dragons had been enough to discourage Susan from taking him up on the offer.
Things had changed, though, after the battle. Voldemort had been defeated, obviously, and the long struggle was finally over for good. But the aftermath had left Susan with a burning desire to run far away from anything that reminded her of that dark time. Romania, dragons and all, had been the perfect destination.
So far, it was turning out to be a good decision. Being in a brand new place was fun, and she was discovering that dragons were actually very interesting creatures (from a distance, of course.) And it was wonderful to see Bradley every day. He was several years older than her, and had moved away as soon as he’d finished school; Susan had been twelve at the time. He’d written home regularly, though, and the family heard all about his adventures at the training facility. Once he’d even sent their mum a bottle of dragon’s blood, which was apparently a great spot remover and oven cleaner. She also sprinkled it around the house as a gnome repellent and used it as spackling for tiny holes in the walls. And their father was a prime example of the substance’s ability to cure hair loss, a fact which amused Bradley to no end when Susan wrote him about it. She had enjoyed the letters back and forth, but she still missed having her brother around every day. He could always make her laugh like no one else.
As she tied her hair into its usual braid, it struck Susan as odd that she hadn’t seen Bradley that morning. He was an insufferable morning person, and he always came in by eight-o-clock to personally make sure she was awake. She never was; in her opinion, there was nothing to do at eight am that she couldn’t put off till ten. But Bradley showed his disagreement by jumping on her bed every single morning.
The clock on her wall currently read half past nine. And there was still no Bradley.
She knew there was probably nothing to worry about, but worrying came second nature to her. Her friends often joked that she needed to carry a Sneakoscope or a Foe-Glass with her, just like Professor Moody. Susan had just brushed them off; “constant vigilance” was a perfectly good motto, after all, and it could never hurt to be careful.
It was with this in mind that she left her room and went in search of her brother. She flagged down the first dragonologist she could find in the boarding house they all shared.
“Excuse me,” she said to the tall, burly man. “I’m looking for my brother, Bradley Bones? Have you seen him?”
The man shrugged and opened his mouth to speak, but just then a great roar shook the walls of the building. They both rushed to a nearby window, and Susan gasped at the sight. The biggest dragon she had ever seen was thrashing about violently, fighting against the half dozen men who worked to restrain it. Susan’s stomach dropped when she saw a very familiar young man in the most dangerous position of all, straddling the dragon’s neck and speaking directly into its ear.
“There’s your answer, sis,” the trainer said in a gruff voice. “That boy’s going to get himself killed if he’s not careful. Ukranian Ironbellies are no joke.”
The Ukrainian Ironbelly. The largest dragon species on record. And Bradley had jumped right onto the back of one? Stupid, stupid boy, she thought vehemently.
“They’ll be okay though, right?” There was a bit of a hysterical edge to her voice.
“Our men are the best and brightest, so if anyone could get the best of an Ironbelly, they could. But I’ve never seen one go berserk like this before.” He gave another shrug and rushed away, no doubt to go help his colleagues.
His words were less than reassuring to Susan; in fact, they gave her a panic she hadn’t experienced since the battle. But she could not just stand there in the relative safety of the house while Bradley wrestled a Ukranian Ironbelly, of all things. So—in a very un-Susan like move—she rushed out the back door and straight toward the action, all the while wracking her brain for some solution.
She wished she could simply use Accio and pull Bradley to safety, but she didn’t think Summoning charms worked on people. And she couldn’t just save her brother and leave the other men to fend for themselves. That left basically one option: to subdue the dragon. The trainers were throwing Stunning spells right and left, but they just glanced off the dragon’s steely scales. It let out another screech of rage, and Susan’s closer proximity made the sound even more ear-splitting. She craned her neck to look up at the massive animal, making sure to stay well out of the way of its thrashing limbs, and allowed herself a few moments of terror. The dragonologists looked so feeble and small in comparison; especially Bradley, who was clinging to its flailing neck for dear life. And it had the most eerie blood red eyes, glinting in the morning sun.
Plan, plan, think of a plan. Susan’s mind seemed to run in circles, with no useful destination in sight. She looked down at her wand, as if the sight of it would strike inspiration in her. About a foot long, made of ash, flexible and springy to the touch. Nothing special there, but could the dragon heartstring core be helpful? No, she decided, that didn’t make any sense.
One of the trainers had managed to throw a knotted chain around the Ironbelly’s neck, but it didn’t appear to be making any difference. It still thrashed violently, whacking a man hard with its tail in the process. The blow actually lifted him off his feet and sent him crashing into the dirt a few feet away. He stirred a little, but it was clear that he wouldn’t be getting up any time soon.
She was still staring at the motionless trainer when her brother’s voice, magnified with a charm, bellowed out across the grounds.
“I need a diversion!” he shouted over the chaos. He was clutching the chain with one hand, and waving something in the other. It was hard for Susan to get a good look (since Bradley was far away and the Ironbelly constantly moving), but it looked like a syringe. “Now, would be nice! And Susan, get back in that house!”
Bradley never ordered her around. The fact that he was actually trying to exercise authority over her worried Susan more than anything else (and that was saying a lot.) Well, she had no intention of leaving him now. Even though she was scared out of her mind, she refused to watch another family member get hurt.
She had a plan. It wasn’t a particularly good plan, she knew; the risks were huge, and she hated to make the situation even more volatile. But it was the first plausible idea that had crossed her mind, and she had no choice but to run with it. The other dragon trainers certainly didn’t seem to be taking much initiative, so it was up to her. Taking a deep breath, she waved her wand at the chain adorning the Ironbelly’s neck, and the links became feathers. Her wand had always been great for Transfiguration, and Susan made a mental note to feel proud of this spell later, when her brother was well out of danger.
She had learned a lot of dragon facts from Bradley, and she knew that they were all highly ticklish. If everything went as planned, the distraction of the feathers would give Bradley some time to get the syringe into its skin. But if he missed his chance, Susan could only imagine the havoc the dragon would wreak.
Not to mention the biggest breed of dragon in recorded history. Susan shuddered.
The Ironbelly froze, just for a moment, when the feathers touched his skin, and Susan held her breath. Please, don’t screw this up.
Quick as a flash, Bradley jammed the needle in behind the dragon’s ear, and Susan dropped to her knees in sheer relief. She wasn’t sure what was in the syringe, but the effect was instantaneous; the Ironbelly relaxed and sank to the ground in a heap, breathing steadily.
Bradley slid off the dragon’s now-motionless neck, and jogged toward her. Before Susan could get a word out, he picked her up off the floor and swung her around in a jubilant circle.
“Susie, that was amazing! When did you become such a daredevil?” He was winded, but his face was lit up by a wide grin, as if he hadn’t just risked his life on a dragon’s back. She smacked his arm.
“When you decided to get yourself killed! What was in that syringe?”
“Sleeping Draught, industrial strength,” he said. “We went in this morning for feeding and something spooked her. I’ve never seen one get so out of control. Thank goodness you were here, though. You make a great dragon tamer, sis.”
“No I don’t. It was a crazy thing to do, tickling that dragon. I could have made everything worse.”
“But you didn’t. You made it better.” He pushed the ends of her mouth upward into a theatrical smile, something he always used to do to cheer her up. The fond memories were enough to bring a real smile to Susan’s face. “Stop worrying for once and be proud of yourself.”
He couldn’t stay much longer, as there was still a lot of work to be done, and the Ironbelly’s antics had them way behind schedule. Susan smiled at her brother’s retreating back, and decided, for once, to take his advice.
Susan Bones, dragon tamer. She liked the sound of that.
A/N: Here are the prompts:
Features champion (Susan)
Mentions Unforgivable Curse (Avada Kevadra)
Details of wand (12’, dragon heartstring, springy, ash, good for transfiguration)
Mentions a blast-ended skrewt
Theme of flourishing in the face of adversity
Features a dragon (Ukranian Ironbelly)
Mentions at least 4 types of dragons (Ironbelly, Chinese Fireball, Hebridean Black, Peruvian Vipertooth)
Mentions transfiguration spell and summoning charm
Mentions Sleeping Draught
Mentions 5 uses for dragon’s blood (oven cleaner, spot remover, gnome repellent, spackling, hair growth)
Mentions Sneakoscope and Foe-Glass
Word count on chapter: 2372
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