Disclaimer – I solemnly swear that JKR owns everything Harry Potter. Whether or not I am up to no good with her characters is for you to decide.
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Harry Potter: Dragon Whisperer
Chapter 2 – The Speaker Has Come!
Tuesday, 25 July 1995
Romanian Dragon Sanctuary, Romania
Laughter. Snickers, full-bellied and barking. All three different types were in abundance above him as Harry lifted his head, spitting out the dirt and grass from his rough landing.
"What the bloody hell was that?" Harry snarked.
"Portkey. I did warn you," Sirius replied, still laughing.
"At least you didn't throw up, eh, Harry?" a vaguely-recognised voice said cheerfully.
Harry looked up and around even as he pushed himself to his feet. The man who'd spoken was mostly hidden in the glare from the sun directly over his shoulder. What the sun did highlight, though, was his red hair, making it appear as though his whole head was ablaze.
"The one and only," Charlie Weasley said, stepping forward, grasping Harry under his arm and hoisting him to his feet.
"That was some impressive landing, son," the owner of the great belly laugh said. "Don't rightly think I've ever seen anyone spinning that fast from a portkey ride and throw themselves near ten metres away to land face first in the dirt."
"I'm glad that I could entertain you, Mister Velios," Harry replied sarcastically before immediately regretting speaking that way to his new boss.
Thankfully, it seemed to have been taken the right way as, once again, Alexander Velios, the Head Dragon Handler of the Romanian Dragon Sanctuary burst out laughing again.
"Alexander, Mister Potter, call me 'Alexander'. We're going to be working together quite closely for quite some time."
"In that case, call me 'Harry'," Harry replied with a smile, shaking the offered hand.
"Mister Black," Alexander said, shaking Sirius' hand as well.
"Sirius," he corrected.
"Right, well, we'll get the two of you settled and then Charlie here can give you a tour before lunch. Afterwards, the four of us'll get together and go over a few things," Alexander stated.
"Sounds like a plan," Sirius nodded.
"Thanks," Harry agreed before turning to Charlie.
"Come on, this way," Charlie grinned, throwing an arm out in the direction of a cluster of small log cabins.
Before he'd even gone two paces, Harry thrust his hand into his pocket, letting out a sigh of relief that firstly, his miniaturised trunk was still there and secondly, that it hadn't been damaged in his fall. Mind you, with the plethora of spells, charms and enchantments on the thing, Harry would have been quite surprised to discover otherwise.
"Now, you two said that you don't mind sharing, right?" Charlie asked.
"Yep, we're good," Harry replied, having glanced at Sirius.
"Good. Only, there's a rule here that a cabin can only be assigned to a dragon handler, or at least, someone who works for the Sanctuary," Charlie stated. "Any family or visitors have to stay with the worker that they 'belong' to."
"I'm just happy that I've been allowed to tag along," Sirius said. "And technically, 'family' does cover it, although I'll also be one of Harry's tutors."
"I know all about that, but that's something that we'll discuss later," Charlie replied.
As they talked, Harry's eyes stayed fixed on the cabins that they were approaching, taking them all in.
Most of them – maybe two dozen in all – appeared to be a simple one-story building. Not only the walls but also the roof were made of rough-hewn logs which, considering the thick forest that Harry could see surrounding the Sanctuary, made perfect sense. There were two small windows in the side and a tiny porch over the door.
Harry knew woodworking. He knew design and was quite good at eye-balling dimensions. And these cabins, he could tell, were tiny. Definitely far too small for a single person to live comfortably in. They looked far too small for there to even be anything more than a simple open-plan room inside with the bedroom – or at least bed against one wall – living room, dining room, everything, all in the same space. He just hoped that there a separate bathroom in there: he'd hate to have to traipse from the cabin to a communal shower block in the middle of winter, especially this far north.
"This one's yours," Charlie exclaimed proudly. "I'm right next door if you need me and the big building at the end of the lane," here Charlie pointed down the stone-lined gravel path to a log building that reminded Harry of something that he'd seen in a book once of a Viking Great Hall, "is where most of the work that isn't with the dragons gets done. There's offices at one end and the mess in the other."
Harry merely nodded, again, not quite seeing how everything that Charlie was describing could fit in the building despite its larger size.
And then Charlie opened the door to their cabin.
"Ah," Harry said in understanding, his jaw dropping.
Magic, of course. How had he forgotten magic?
Just like the trunk in his pocket, the cabin was much smaller on the outside. Inside, the dimensions resembled that of an ordinary house. A rather large house at that.
The front door opened into a rather large open-plan room. Much of it was a living room with a couple of large double-seater couches and single armchairs placed around a low coffee table. A fireplace built of large stones, including the chimney which he could see jutting out from the wall dominated one side of the room. The floors, as expected, were a deep, highly polished reddish-brown wood – Rosewood, Harry identified it as – which complemented the soft, cream walls quite nicely.
On the far side of the room was a small dining table with four chairs. Just beyond it, a servery sat at the bottom of a large rectangular opening in the wall. Shifting slightly to one side, Harry looked through it to see benches and cupboards and part of a stove which led him to believe that, even though most meals were most likely expected to be had in the communal mess of the Big Hall, the cabins were designed for people to cook their own food if they wanted.
"Feel free to rearrange the room if you want," Charlie was saying. "I know that you're going to have most of your lessons here, so you might want to make one part of the room more 'classroom-like'."
"I'll keep that idea in mind," Harry nodded.
"Bedrooms through here?" Sirius asked obviously rhetorically as he headed straight for the door-less opening set in the middle of the back wall leading further back into the cabin.
Quickly, Harry crossed the room after his godfather, interested in seeing the rest of this magically-expanded cabin.
He wasn't disappointed. Space expansion charms seemed to be some of the most amazing magic that Harry'd ever heard of. Instantly, he decided that he needed to learn how to cast them and then apply them to his woodworking creations.
There were five doors down the hallway, two to either side and the last at the very end. The first door to the left was already open and through it, Harry could see the kitchen that he'd thought he'd seen earlier. It was larger than he'd thought, but then, he considered, the fact that one wall was mostly not there allowing easy access to the dining area over the servery probably accounted for it.
Directly opposite the kitchen was a bedroom. While it wasn't super large, it was definitely a drastic improvement over what he'd once had at Privet Drive. A double bed was set against one wall with built in cupboards with sliding doors on the opposite wall. Between the two was a simple desk under the window and a bedside table beside the bed, leaving much of the floor space open.
A second bedroom, identical to the first sat next door to the door. And opposite that and beside the kitchen, was the bathroom. Harry was surprised to see that it even came with a bathtub as well as a shower. But then, if these were set up for families as well as the single dragon handlers, it made sense.
The final room through the door at the end of the hallway was a bit of an enigma. It spanned the length of the cabin but was only two metres wide. Currently, it was completely bare. Harry cocked his head at it, trying to imagine what it might be used for. The best that he came up with was either as a storage room or perhaps for kids to room in or play in. For now, he guessed that they'd simply leave it be.
"Which room you want, Pup?" Sirius asked.
Harry shrugged as he looked back to see his godfather lounging in the doorway of the first room.
"Doesn't bother me."
"Great! Then I claim this one! After all, it is closer to the kitchen," Sirius laughed before disappearing into his newly claimed room.
"I'll give you guys half an hour to get settled, then I'll be back and we'll take that tour," Charlie said.
Harry's eyes lit up at that. The tour. That would, without a doubt, bring him face to face with some dragons. Maybe even Ramaranth herself!
"Sounds great!" he replied.
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Tuesday, 25 July 1995
Romanian Dragon Sanctuary, Romania
The small settlement, if one could call the two dozen cabins plus the Big Hall and the half dozen extra storage huts as such, was placed a fair distance from the dragons themselves. To get from one section of the Sanctuary to the other required a bit of a hike up and over a hill, through a section of dense forest that helped to screen the dragons from the humans.
"The whole Sanctuary is warded quite heavily," Charlie was saying as he led Harry and Sirius through the forest. "It's unplottable, of course, and has multitudes of both muggle-repelling and even wizard-repelling wards in place as well. The only place in or out of the Sanctuary is right where you arrived and even that can only be done by registered portkeys."
"That reminds me," Sirius piped up. "I'm guessing that you'll want this back."
Charlie glanced at the dragon tooth that Sirius held out to him before waving it away.
"Nah, we've got loads of teeth as it is. Keep it."
"But the portkey …" Harry began before Charlie interrupted.
"Used. All our portkeys are one-time affairs," Charlie explained. "That's nothing now but a simple dragon tooth. And a small one at that."
"Here, Harry," Sirius said, offering him the tooth. "Put a hole in it and a leather thong and wear it around your neck."
Charlie nodded. "My brother, Bill, has a smaller one he wears as an earring."
Harry stopped, his hand on a pine as he blinked at Charlie.
"Exactly how many siblings do you have?"
"Six," Charlie replied with a grin. "You've met three of my siblings, yeah?"
Harry nodded, picturing the ones that he'd met at Hogwarts: the twins, Fred and George and Ron who was the same age as Harry himself. And then there was the youngest and apparently only girl, Ginny, who he'd never met but had only heard about as she'd died a couple of years before.
"Well, there's also Bill; he's the oldest of us all. Then there's me and my next brother down, Percy. He works in the Ministry. Bit of a stick-in-the-mud, to be honest," Charlie replied. "Come on, we're almost there and I'm betting that there's someone who's anxious to see you."
With an excited grin, Harry pushed off, quickening his pace up the final part of the hill and reached it right alongside Charlie. At the sight before him, Harry stopped dead, his jaw slackening as he took in the awesome sight before him.
If he'd been asked what he expected a dragon sanctuary to look like, he wouldn't have been able to answer. Even in his wildest dreams, he doubted that he'd pick this. What he saw before him had him itching for a brush in his hand and a canvas before him and he knew that, before too long, he'd be here, painting the sight.
The first word that sprang to mind was that it was valley. That, though, wasn't quite right. Canyon, might be closer. It was long, easily ten or fifteen kilometres long before it jerked sharply to the right and Harry lost sight of it. Deep, too. Currently, they were standing on the edge of a cliff that dropped a hundred metres down steep rocky cliffs at its shallowest and twice that at its deepest part. The bottom of the canyon was wide as well, easily a few hundred metres across, allowing for a bright blue river to meander through the middle of it.
All around the clifftops were the only source of green that Harry could see: forests of pines, beech, oak and elm were easily identifiable, as well as half a dozen others that Harry wanted to get a closer look at later. To the very right, however, through a sparser patch of forest, Harry thought that he could see forests of grass on rolling green hills dotted with something white.
Movement down below caught his attention and he focussed on it.
And then he saw one.
The distance made the dragon look smaller than Harry knew it to be. It had a deep bluey-grey hide making it hard to see against the cliffs. The fact that it'd emerged from a darker patch – a cave, Harry realised – hadn't helped. But now that he'd seen one, he began to see dozens, both dragons and caves, most often, together.
"The dragons live in caves," Harry noted.
"Good eye," Charlie nodded. "Come on, this way. We'll make a quick stop at one particular cave before we head back for lunch and your meeting with Alexander."
"Um, how dangerous is it to be going down there?" Sirius asked as Charlie led them to an obviously well-trod path that snaked its way down the side of the cliff.
"Ordinarily, very," Charlie replied, glancing back. "It's very rare that you'll ever find a dragon handler approaching the dragons by themselves. And we'd never go into the canyon without at least five others; normally, we monitor them from brooms, well above the canyon and we're ready to get out of there at the first sign of them taking to the air."
"Then what are we doing?" a clearly startled Sirius asked, stopping dead in his tracks.
"Well, I'm betting on something that we've never had before," Charlie replied over his shoulder.
"What's that?" Harry asked.
"You," Charlie grinned at him. "You can talk to them. I watched you at the First Task; a bunch of us did, actually. We still can't get over what happened that day. That single event taught us more about dragons than we'd learnt in years of working with them. And that's why you're here, Harry. Now, get up here and lead the way; I want you ready to tell them that we mean them no harm if they don't like the fact that we're here."
Quickly, Harry changed places with Charlie before setting off down the track.
It wasn't easy going. The path was steep and there were patches of loose scree that occasionally had their feet slipping out from under them. Harry kept his head down almost the entire way, watching his footing, thus, he was surprised when the ground suddenly flattened out.
As he stuttered to a stop, he looked back and then up, past Charlie and Sirius who were both still picking their way down the path. A low whistle escaped him as he saw exactly how far down they'd come. Instantly, he knew that he wasn't looking forward to climbing back up there. He was glad that, back in his trunk, he had his Nimbus for future trips.
"Harry!" Sirius' sharp, fearful, whispered warning was barely loud enough for Harry to hear.
But hear he did and immediately, his eyes darted to Sirius' face. What he saw there was pure terror, directed at something over Harry's left shoulder. Slowly he turned and instantly swallowed. Hard.
The very ground shook slightly as the sixty-foot-long, six tonne mass of metallic grey dragon stalked towards them. Its wings were currently mostly furled, only standing slightly away from its body, increasing the look of its bulk. But even with all of that mass of muscle behind it, it was the Ukrainian Ironbelly's head that had Harry's whole focus and really, why would it not? It was, after all, larger than Harry was himself!
A pair of jet-black eyes stared at him even as its lips curled back, showing teeth that were decidedly yellow and immensely sharp.
"Harry! Talk to it!" Charlie hissed. "Tell him we mean them no harm."
§Um, hello? My name's Harry, Harry Potter. We're sorry for disturbing you, we mean you no harm§.
At once, the dragon stopped, its long sinewy neck the only part of it that kept moving as it snaked towards him.
§You are a Speaker§! the Ironbelly observed, clearly surprised.
As with Ramaranth and the other dragons that Harry had spoken to back at Hogwarts during and after the First Task, he noted that the dragon had a distinct accent. This one was especially hard to understand because of it but by listening carefully, Harry was able to make out what the dragon was saying.
§I am§, Harry replied. §Do you know Ramaranth, by any chance? I met her a number of months ago and I was hoping to see her again§?
Harry didn't think it was possible for the Ironbelly's long neck to stretch any closer to him. He was wrong. As the dragon's neck came within two armlength's of Harry, it turned its head slightly so that Harry could all but see his own reflection in the great eye.
§You are The Speaker§!
Harry blinked. Even with the great voice of the massive dragon, it was easy to hear that the dragon had all but whispered the statement. Not to mention the capitalisation.
Before Harry could respond, the Ironbelly reared back onto his hind legs, stretched his neck and snout high into the sky and trumpeted. Instantly, Harry clapped his hands over his ears at the deafening sound. The great bugle went on and on for an incredibly long time, not unsurprising considering the lung capacity that a dragon that size would have.
And then, interspersed throughout the great trumpeting, Harry heard it: §The Speaker has come! The Speaker has come! Ramaranth's Speaker has come§!
Even before the Ironbelly's trumpeting had finished, they started arriving. Most came by air, soaring down the canyon, their wings spread wide, their necks extended. Others lumbered along the rocky ground, causing the very earth to shake and rocks to tumble down the cliffs. And then there were a few who simply appeared at the mouth of their cave, their great heads turned in their direction, watching.
But it wasn't just the appearance of dozens of dragons of all sizes and breeds bearing down on them that unnerved not just Harry but the two men behind him. No, it was also the sound that accompanied them. More and more dragons joined in with the Ironbelly's trumpeting, making a great symphony of bellows that echoed up and down the canyon, making the very rock walls sing with their music.
For it was music, Harry decided. The dragons were happy, celebrating. He wasn't sure exactly how he knew that, but he did. He was certain of it.
It didn't take long for Harry's entire field of vision to be filled with dragons, dozens of dragons even. Looking about he found three more Ironbellys, as well as Norwegian Ridgebacks, Swedish Short-Snouts, Romanian Longhorns, Hungarian Horntails and even a lone Portuguese Long-Snout. And every single one of them was staring at him, trying to edge out their fellows to get closer, weaving in their long necks to see him.
Glancing back, Harry found that both Sirius and Charlie had retreated. Already they were nearly halfway back up the cliff and if didn't look as though they were likely to stop anytime soon.
A hissing from the back of the 'crowd' had dragons big and small shuffling sidewards, creating an aisle amongst them. And through this corridor, a Horntail strode, looking quite majestic and pompous. That was until she saw him and all pretence left her as she lumbered forward before coming to a sliding stop in front of him.
§Speaker, it is truly you§.
§Hi, Ramaranth§, Harry grinned. §I did promise that I'd come visit you one day§.
§You did indeed, Speaker§, she replied. §How long will you stay§?
Harry looked around at all the dragons and could see the eagerness in all of them. It was their eyes, he finally decided. While it was impossible to read a dragon's body language, their eyes were the most expressive. He was sure of it, not that he knew how he knew it.
§I have agreed to live here for quite some time§, Harry told not only Ramaranth, but all of the dragons. §The two-legs who look after you would like me to teach them about you and you about them so that you can all get on better§.
§You speak truly, Speaker§? Ramaranth replied and Harry wasn't sure if it was a statement or a question.
Nevertheless, he decided to answer her anyway.
§I do. I will even eventually be visiting all the dragons of the world where they live, to meet them and to learn about them as well§.
§But you will spend most of your time here, in our canyon§, the Ironbelly that Harry had first encountered said, and again Harry was unsure if it was a question or statement.
§Yes§, Harry replied. §I'm sorry, I do not know your name. It was very rude of me not to ask§.
The Ironbelly seemed to puff himself up, standing taller, his head lifting as well
§I am Grouleth§, he said.
Harry inclined his head. §It is a pleasure to meet you, Glouleth. It is a pleasure to meet you all§.
All at once Harry was bombarded by dragons talking to him at the same time.
§Speaker, Ramaranth has told us of 'painting', can you show us§?
§Speaker, you must come see my cave§.
§I am Damrath, Speaker, we are all happy that you have come§.
§Speaker, my hind foot has been aching, can the two-legs help§?
§Speaker, make the two-legs feed us more often§.
§Enough§! Ramanranth bellowed, lifting herself up onto her rear two legs.
At once, the thunderous dragons stilled, their heads turning to look at the great Hungarian Horntail. And it wasn't just the dragons that were watching her. Far above her head, on the cliffs above, it looked to Harry as though the entire complement of dragon handlers of the Romanian Dragon Sanctuary were lined up, staring down at a sight that they had never seen before.
§The Speaker will come under my wing§, Ramaranth stated. §I will escort him to my cave where he will meet my fledglings. Afterwards, I will show The Speaker our canyon§.
Instinctively, Harry knew that there would be only one correct response.
§I would like nothing better§, he replied with a bow.