Chapter 2 – The Juanth Darastrix

Hermione and Ron waited on platform 9 ¾ until all of the other students had boarded the Hogwarts Express, desperately looking for Harry. Finally, they boarded the train when a final warning whistle blew and moved to the compartment that Neville Longbottom had claimed.

The formerly round-faced and plump boy had grown over the summer, leaving his face leaner and his frame taller. He sighed loudly in disappointment when only Hermione and Ron came into the compartment. "No sign of Harry then?"

The lanky red-headed boy answered despondently "Nothing." He sat down quickly as the train lurched forward.

Hermione's voice was grave as she murmured "I do hope he is all right."

An amused voice answered her. "I think I am, but thanks for the concern 'Mione."

Leaning against the open compartment door was an elegant tall, dark-haired young man with brilliant green eyes. A pleased smile played on his lips at successfully surprising his friends. He indicated the compartment "Is there room for me then?"

"Oi Harry, get your arse in here! Where were you? Do you know how worried everyone was? I thought my Mum would have hysterics at the thought of you out and alone for the summer!"

Before Harry could respond, Hermione sprang at him and hugged him tightly. "Don't you ever worry me like that again Harry James Potter!"

Harry stifled a groan as the air was squeezed out of him by the ferocity of his friend's hug. "Good to see you too, Hermione" he gasped. "Air please." When the bone-crushing hug continued he added "Pretty please with a new book on top?"

A muffled giggle was heard from the front of Harry's chest where Hermione's face was buried, but she reluctantly loosed her grip. "Sorry Harry, but I really was worried."

"Looking good there, Harry" Neville added. "You had quite a growth spurt over the summer I take it?"

Harry chuckled as he stowed his trunk. "Something like that, Neville. It looks like you did as well. Looking good yourself, mate." He leaned back in his seat beside Neville, stretched out his legs and crossed his ankles, looking contentedly at Ron and Hermione across from him.

"I'm sorry if your mother was worried, Ron. That wasn't my intention. I deliberately sent you and Hermione a note to let you know I was safe for the summer. I'll write her a letter when we get to Hogwarts and apologize."

Hermione ran appraising eyes over her friend. He had gained several inches over the summer; perhaps more than that even. While he was shorter than her at the end of the last term, he was now at least four inches taller. He was dressed in a fitted black shirt and black trousers with black boots. The starkness of his outfit was only relieved by the large silver belt buckle of a dragon in flight with bright green eyes that matched his own. In fact, his eyes…

"Harry, you're not wearing your glasses!"

He smiled and she realized what an attractive smile he had. His teeth were straight and white against his tanned face, and the black clothes made his eyes stand out.

"That's one of the things I have to tell you about. However, I need to tell you that I'm under a Wizard's Oath not to reveal where I spent my summer or with whom." At his friend's mutinous expressions he chuckled and added "but my Oath included being able to tell you if you were willing to pledge to keep the information between just ourselves." He raised an eyebrow inquiringly before turning and casually casting a notice-me-not spell on the compartment.

"I can't even tell Mum, Harry? She'll skin me if she realizes I'm holding out on her, you know. Although I don't mind knowing something the twins don't know." Ron grinned mischievously.

Hermione looked troubled. "We can't tell anyone? Not the Headmaster or Professor McGonagall?"

Harry shook his head. "No, when I'm ready, I'll tell them. I can assure you though that I was safe and did nothing illegal or immoral during the summer." He gave her a playful wink.

Neville snorted and drew his wand, casting a locking spell and then a silencing spell on the compartment. He then held out his wand saying formally "I, Neville Franklin Longbottom, do solemnly swear to hold what Harry James Potter tells me about his summer in absolute secrecy until he revokes my oath. So mote it be." His wand flared as the Oath was made.

Ron drew his wand and repeated the Oath. The three young men looked at Hermione. She seemed to be weighing the options and then with a sigh drew her own wand and repeated the Oath in her name. "At least a Wizard's Oath isn't the same as an Unbreakable Vow where someone dies if they break it."

"No" Neville agreed. "Those that make a Wizard's Oath simply find themselves unable to speak of the topic when questioned about it."

All three turned expectantly to Harry. He smiled at his friends and took a deep breath. "It all started about eight days after I arrived at the Dursleys..."

Harry tossed and turned on his narrow bed in the small bedroom at Privet Drive. His eyes were rapidly moving behind his closed lids. Although asleep, he felt as if someone was shifting through his memories, looking at every aspect of his life. Memory after memory was unearthed and reviewed in his dreams. Harry sleeping in a cupboard, being told his parents were drunks and died in a car crash, being treated as a slave by his relatives, being called a freak and a waste of space, being the target of "Harry Hunting" and being beat up by Dudley and several others, punishments including going without meals for multiple days and being locked in his cupboard.

Harry twisted restlessly in his sleep at the glut of unhappy memories and beads of perspiration appeared on his forehead. Now he was waiting for his 11th birthday and being introduced to the enormous Rubeus Hagrid who told him he was a wizard and was invited to attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Seeing Diagon Alley and having things bought just for him. Receiving Hedwig as the first gift he remembered. Meeting Ron Weasley who quickly became his first friend. Being thrust unprepared into the wizarding world with no plan or attempt to integrate him into the culture. Being verbally abused by Snape who demonstrated a deep dislike of him at first sight. Fighting a troll let into the school. Becoming friends with Hermione Granger. Discovering the DADA professor was possessed by the spirit of Voldemort and nearly losing his life fighting the evil spirit.

Harry's now sweat-drenched body thrashed and a moan escaped his lips. Hedwig hooted softly from her covered cage in response to his movements.

Harry learning he could speak to snakes and being ostracized by many in the school for being the suspected Heir of Slytherin. Fighting and nearly losing his life to a basilisk as well as defeating another version of Voldemort.

Discovering that his parent's best friend betrayed them leading to their deaths, and that this man had escaped from prison, supposedly looking for him. Meeting and befriending that man, his godfather Sirius Black, after learning that he was unjustly imprisoned without a trial.

Being forced into the Triwizard Tournament and being accused by the majority of the school of cheating to enter the tournament, even by Ron. The eventual healing of the friendship only when Ron realized that Harry was in danger as a combatant. Being kidnapped with Cedric Diggory, who was callously murdered. Being bound and used in a blood ritual to revive Voldemort. Having only a handful of people believe him that Voldemort had returned.

Harry kicked his sheet off as he struggled against the unhappy memories flooding his dreams. A compassionate presence realized his distress and soothed him gently. Harry's sleep eased as he was now held apart from the memories as they continued to surface.

The Ministry of Magic going out of their way to publicize Harry as an unstable attention seeking liar and attempting to discredit Dumbledore. Umbridge foisted on the school as a DADA teacher and persistently harassing Harry. Being forced to use the blood quill as it cut and permanently scarred him, as well as being threatened with Veritaserum and the Cruciatus curse. Forming and leading the DA to help students practice their DADA spells. Snape's deliberate and cruel abuse while supposedly teaching him Occlumency. Receiving the false vision from Voldemort and the debacle at the Ministry leading to Sirius' death. Being left alone to deal with his grief over Sirius' death.

Gentle comforting sensations replaced the unhappy memories. New concepts and visions floated in his dreams, leaving him reassured and intrigued. Finally, the dreams released him and Harry floated back to consciousness as dawn began to break on the horizon. He got up quietly and took a shower before any of the Dursley's woke up. They frequently refused to waste the cost of soap and water on him, so he bathed while they slept. He uncovered and released Hedwig, holding her close and stroking her feathers gently.

"What an odd night, Hedwig. I feel as if I relived my entire life." She hooted and nibbled his fingers gently. "It wasn't Voldemort, though. There was nothing devious or evil." He frowned slightly and scratched her behind her neck where she couldn't preen easily. "It did feel as if there was someone there though. Someone...kind. Maybe even sympathetic. I wonder if I should say anything to the Headmaster."

"That is up to you, youngling."

Harry jerked in surprise, looking around the room. The voice was deep, melodious, as if it was made out of chimes, but there was no one in the room.

"Of course not, youngling. I would not enter your room without your consent. I am only accessing the most public part of your mind at the moment. However, I would like to come visit you with your permission."

"Who are you? Were you going through my memories in my sleep?"

"Yes, I was discovering your history. I am Aironth and you are part of my extended family. I no longer live in your realm and the last time I opened the portal between our domains, your mother was carrying you. When I came again to ensure the health and safety of your family, I discovered that you were orphaned. I recognized that you were in a blood relative's home, but still searched your memories to confirm your well-being. To my dismay, I discovered that you were abused instead of loved and sheltered. You are still a youngling and deserve to be protected and cherished, but your memories show you being placed in harm's way repeatedly. I am struggling to understand how sentient beings could so mistreat a youngling, barely over the hatchling stage. Harry, will you permit me to visit? You may keep your wand pointed at me until you find me trustworthy"

"Why? Why do you want to meet me? Why did you check on my family?"

"One of your ancestors was adopted into my Clan. We open a portal between our realms every generation to ensure our adopted son's descendents are healthy and protected. I would like to introduce myself to you and share your family's history with the Clan. You are family, Harry."

Family? Could this be a trick? It didn't feel like Voldemort, but that didn't mean one of the Death Eaters couldn't have found a way to contact him mentally. But the idea of family had a strong appeal. "Where do you want to meet?"

"Where ever you select. I will appear where ever you are at the time of your choosing. If you prefer to speak quietly in your room, I am amenable. If you prefer that I meet you at another location, I will acquiesce."

Harry considered thoughtfully. Voldemort and Death Eaters couldn't pass the wards on Privet Drive. "You say you can appear to me here in my room?"

"Yes, youngling. While I perceive the magical wards surrounding your location, they will not prevent me from entering the dwelling or your room. You may keep your wand aimed at me and I will depart the moment you indicate your desire to have me leave."

Harry looked outside at the sunrise. The Dursleys wouldn't stir for another hour. He slid out of the bed and placed Hedwig on the top of her cage. He moved to the loose floorboard near the foot of his bed, withdrew his wand and returned to the bed. With a deep breath and wondering just how stupid he was he said "OK, you can visit for the next hour."

Immediately, the air shifted in the room and Hedwig hooted softly from her position on her cage. A golden light appeared and quickly solidified into the form of a man. Harry aimed the wand at him but took no other action as he evaluated the man.

His first impression was of a golden-skinned demi-god. He was tall, well over two meters with golden blonde hair and high cheekbones. He had unusual almond-shaped eyes with the honey-colored iris leaving no white showing, while the pupil was vertical rather than round. "Cat eyes" Harry thought. But as striking as the face was, it was the forehead that drew his attention. A large V-shaped bony ridge began at the man's hairline and extended down to the bridge of his nose. "Not quite human, then" he thought to himself. "But not a species I've read of, either."

Eventually Harry examined the remainder of the face. The nose itself was straight and narrow, while his lips were thin, but pleasant. He was dressed in golden brown leather trousers with a buttermilk colored fitted silk shirt. His form was lean, but muscular with long arms and legs.

Harry realized he was staring and flushed slightly. "Aironth, you said?"

A warm smile transformed the face, although it also revealed rather sharp canine teeth. "Yes Harry. I am Aironth, also known as Aironth Flamebringer". He laid a hand over his heart pointing to his left shoulder and bowed slightly, keeping his eyes on Harry. "The day's blessings to you. I am very pleased to greet a member of my Clan."

"What Clan is that? And why do you say I am a member of it if it was an ancestor that was adopted?"

Aironth nodded approvingly. "An excellent question that permits me to explain both my history and your own. My people, the Juanth Darastrix were among the first inhabitants of this realm. We developed a close familial society as well as oral and written languages."

"As humans began to develop, we found pleasure in their thirst for knowledge. We took them under our wing and helped them thrive. Some of us even adopted humans who became dear to us, creating close-kin – those who are bonded by blood and magic. As time progressed, we realized that with the prolific natures of humans, we would eventually compete for territory with them. We were also concerned that cohabitating might lead them to become dependent on us; we recognized that they needed to grow and mature on their own."

"We met as a Clan and debated our course of action. Our decision would impact not only us, but our close-kin among the other races. Ultimately, we made the decision to remove ourselves from this realm. All close-kin were invited to join us, but some chose to remain here. In due course, we opened a portal to another realm and the Clan entered into a new world."

Harry interrupted "What about your close-kin who were left behind?"

Another smile lit the golden face before him. "You are indeed a quick-thinking youngling." Harry tried not to blush at the praise. "Every generation, any who left close-kin behind returns to check on their descendents. We consider the close-kin as Clan for one hundred generations. Your father's family is descended from my adopted child and I have watched over you for over one thousand years."

Harry blinked. "One thousand years. old are you?"

A melodious and low laugh erupted from Aironth. "Ah youngling...would it bother you to know that my kind lives thousands of years? I have witnessed over twenty-eight centuries." He chuckled at Harry's shocked expression. "That is why tracking one hundred human generations is not difficult."

"What do you want with me then? I'm nothing special. I'm just Harry."

Aironth leaned forward and met Harry's green eyes with his own intense golden orbs. "You are very special, Harry. You are kin. You are part of my blood and my Clan. My kind has few young and each one is cherished and protected. You deserve much more than you have been given." He shook his head. "I know you cannot understand without knowing the Clan and our History, so you will not comprehend how powerful the instincts are that are screaming at me to protect you and heal your mind, body and spirit. We treasure our young. Even the most ill-tempered Clan member will lay down his life without hesitation in protection of a child."

He took a deep breath as if to calm himself. "Youngling, what I genuinely desire is to become a part of your life. I would like to share our history with you and help prepare you for your life. I am willing to accept however much you are willing to give me. If it is the occasional mental discussion, then so be it. If in time you are interested, I would be pleased to have you spend time with the Clan. Perhaps you might consider joining us for part of the summer before you return to your school this autumn. That would give us time to introduce you to your cousins, teach you about the Clan, as well as restore your health to the way it should have been had you not been subject to the abuse of these human relatives."

Harry heard a stirring down the hall and recognized that Aunt Petunia was waking up. Had they talked for a full hour already? He glanced briefly out the window and realized that more time than he had thought had passed. He looked back at the golden man. "My Aunt is getting up. I will think about what you've said. I would like to talk to you again, but it will be much later tonight before I'm done with my daily chores."

Aironth smiled. "Just open your mind and think of me when you are ready to speak again. I will hear you and respond." He laid his hand on his chest again, repeating the slight bow he had given earlier. "I thank you for permitting me to speak with you and look forward to speaking again soon."

Harry tried to mimic the action, placing his hand over his heart and bowing from his seated position on his bed. "Thank you for looking for me, Aironth. I look forward to talking with you again."

His emulation of the other's bow produced a smile of delight on his visitor's face, causing his golden eyes to glow with pleasure. A moment later, the tall man's form shimmered and disappeared.

Harry took several deep breaths as he tried to convince himself this hadn't been a dream. Hearing his Aunt moving downstairs, he quickly put it aside and dressed. He needed to be downstairs in the kitchen before she arrived or he would be on the receiving end of a thirty-minute rant.

Harry went downstairs and made breakfast for the Dursleys including a rasher of bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs and toast with jam. When he was done with the clean-up, he was allowed half of a grapefruit and a slice of dry toast for himself.

"Boy! Come here!" Vernon Dursley stood at the door, briefcase in hand. He was anxious to be on his way.

"Yes Uncle Vernon?"

"I want the lawn to look like carpet when I get home tonight. Mow, rake and edge it. Then trim the bushes and weed the flower beds. Be sure to finish weeding your Aunt's vegetable and herb garden in the back. It's supposed to rain tonight, so you don't have to wash the outside windows, but be sure those are on tomorrow's list. Don't let me down, boy."

Harry nodded, grateful that at least he didn't have to wash the windows two days in a row. "All right, Uncle Vernon."

Twenty minutes later, he was getting ready to mow the lawn. "Mowing wouldn't be so bad if he would just buy a motorized mower" he thought for the hundredth time. But Uncle Vernon had no reason to spend his hard earned pounds to make Harry's life any easier, so he only had a push mower that meant he had to go over the yard several times. He spent the first hour using a grinding stone to sharpen the blades on the manual mower, trying not to think about how easy it would be to keep the grass at a uniform and consistent height with magic.

Once the grass was at a respectable height, he cleaned and stored the mower in the shed and used a rake to clean the clippings until the lawn was smooth. His muscles were already feeling the effort by the time he was finished raking. He decided it wasn't worth listening to Aunt Petunia complain about him getting a drink from the kitchen, so took a long drink out of the hose before moving on to the weeding. The front and side yards took until past noon.

In previous summers, he was limited to one meal a day when he was permitted to eat at all, but after Mad Eye Moody's "talk" with Uncle Vernon at the train station when he returned from Hogwarts, he was reluctantly permitted an apple and crackers for lunch. He listened at the door and heard Aunt Petunia on the phone, so quietly took two apples and a handful of crackers to eat outside.

The afternoon became muggy and oppressive with the incoming rain and he was glad for the hose and sprinkler. He removed his shirt and disconnected the sprinkler from the hose and then allowed the water to pour over his sticky body. He spent the next several hours on his hands and knees painstakingly weeding the herb and vegetable garden. His Aunt didn't particularly care for the garden, but it had become a point of pride in the neighborhood for each home to be self-sufficient with their herbs and vegetables, so Harry had to till the soil, plant the seeds, water and weed to be sure the Dursleys were meeting the neighbor's expectations. At least the mindless weeding allowed his mind to wander back to Aironth and his incredible tale.

By the end of the afternoon, he could feel every muscle protesting and longed for a very long shower to soothe his aching body. However, he satisfied himself with cleaning up with the hose as much as he could and then went into the house to finish the dinner his Aunt had started. She had baked the chicken while he was outside, but it was up to Harry to make the potatoes, green beans, salad and rolls. When the Dursleys were done eating, he spent the evening cleaning the dishes, wiping down the cupboards and counters and washing the floor and appliances.

By the time he slowly climbed the stairs to his room, he was worn-out and sore from all of the physical labor. He threw himself to the bed and sighed wearily. His mind returned to the extraordinary man who visited the previous night. Was his story credible or was it Harry's own burning desire for a caring family that made him want to believe the man? Was he even a man? The V-shaped ridge on his forehead, golden eyes and cat-like pupils said he was something else. But after meeting centaurs, mer-folk and veelas, what difference did it make?

He thought about Aironth and tried to "open" is mind as the other man had suggested. "Aironth?"

"Evening blessings to you youngling. How was your day?"

"OK, thank you. Um...did you want some more?"

"It would be my pleasure. Would you like me to come to your room?"

Harry no more than said "Sure" than the golden shimmer appeared before him and Aironth stood in the room, making it seem smaller than it had before.

The other man placed his hand on his chest and bowed slightly, a warm smile on his face. "Thank you for permitting me to visit again, Harry." His eyes raked over Harry and the smile slipped a little. "You are very tired, as if you expend more energy than you consume. Do you eat well, Harry?"

Harry shifted his eyes away from the intense golden eyes. "I eat enough" he replied finally. "More than last summer, so it's all right."

Aironth stared at Harry for several long moments and then smiled again. "Perhaps you wouldn't mind sharing an evening snack with me? It would be rude for me to eat alone." He waved his hand and a platter appeared with fruit, cheese and thickly sliced bread.

Harry eyed him suspiciously, but when Aironth picked up a pear and began to eat, he put some cheese on a slice of bread and joined him. "I wasn't sure if you did magic or not." He suddenly remembered his manners. "I would conjure a seat for you, but I'm not supposed to do magic outside of school for another year. Would you care to join me on the bed?"

Aironth tipped his head and decided not to encroach on the young man's personal space, but instead waved his hand again and a large leather-bound chair appeared. He sat down and continued "Yes, the Clan is familiar with many forms of magic. Much of our magic is elemental in nature; manipulation of the various forms of earth, wind, fire and water, but we are also competent with conjuration, transfiguration and charms."

"Are you...the Clan…what humans would consider magical creatures?" He blushed and hurried to add "I don't mean to be rude, but your features are a bit different than most humans and I was just curious."

Aironth chuckled, a deep sound that reminded the younger man of a laughing brass instrument. "I take no offense, youngling. The Clan is indeed made of what humans perceive as magical creatures. My appearance is only one of my forms."

Harry nibbled on a pear, not aware that he had picked it up. "What are your other forms?"

"That I will be able to show you if you choose to visit our realm. There are few places in this one that I can appear without raising an alarm. The Juanth Darastrix is the Clan name, but humans called us Elder Dragons." His smile broadened at Harry's stunned expression.

"You're a Dragon?" he squeaked.

"Not the type of dragon with which you are familiar. We are like to them as humans are to primates. There are similarities, but the dragons in your world are only beasts with limited intelligence and certainly not a complex oral and written language."

Harry realized he had a bite of pear in his mouth and slowly chewed it. He was sitting across from a Dragon if the man was to be believed. "Would you share more of your history with me?" he ventured finally.

"That would be an honor" the other man smiled, placing his hand on his chest and inclining slightly. "In ancient times, when humans were still living in caves and marveling at fire, the Juanth Darastrix was the most advanced race on Earth. I mentioned that we had a formal society and language already. We also share a genetic memory and a highly involved form of telepathy which is how I spoke with you originally."

"At hatching, our young are approximately one meter tall and two meters long and continue to grow throughout their lives. The oldest Juanth Darastrix is over 40 meters tall and 60 meters long. Our life spans number in the thousands of years."

"Clan members come in a various colors, ranging from the purest white to the deepest ebony, with gold, blue, red and green also being common. Our scales are impervious to most magics, although if we so choose, we may remove a scale for another use. Only the One whose scale it is can use magic to reform the scale's size or purpose, although we can gift it to a recipient and spell the scale to change to meet the recipient's wishes."

Aironth hid a smile as he watched Harry unconsciously consume everything on the platter as the boy listened with keen attention to the history.

"The Clan reproduces rarely and hatchlings are treasured. That is why I say you deserve to be cherished and protected Harry. Tens of thousands of years of history are demanding that I care for you even as I cared for your ancestor who was my adopted son."

Harry tried to hide the warm feeling he had at the words. "How often do the Ju-anth Darasticks adopt others?"

The other man smiled and gently corrected the pronunciation, as he sent the now-empty platter away with a careless wave of his hand. "Juanth Darastrix. It is a fairly rare occurrence for one of the Clan to adopt a member of another species, but there had been perhaps a hundred over the last two thousand years. These adopted children are considered close-kin, sometimes called dragon-kin and are awarded full rights and responsibilities of naturally born Juanth Darastrix. The Clan will watch the descendents of their dragon-kin for 100 generations, interceding as necessary to ensure their safety and the continuation of the dragon-kin's line."

"What about your laws and culture? Humans have so many countries and cultures; it's hard to work together at times. Just trying to learn the difference between how I was raised and the wizarding community is difficult."

Aironth looked pleased. "You ask discerning questions, youngling. The Juanth Darastrix have only three basic laws. The First Law is that no Juanth Darastrix shall carry out intentional harm to another sentient being, unless the other is acting with malicious intent towards a Clan member or sentient beings weaker than themselves."

Harry considered that. "So perform no violence towards others unless to protect others?"

"Yes, but even more than that. Our definition of 'no harm' includes physical, mental and emotional harm. While we may tease one another good-naturedly, we will not tolerate verbal or emotional abuse that has the intention of causing harm or pain." The older man's eyes narrowed and Harry suddenly realized the amiable man could be dangerous. "We do not tolerate unkind characterizations of others as 'freaks' or 'wastes of space'."

Harry stared at the other man in surprise. "That would violate your First Law?" At the deliberate nod he asked "what would the penalty be?"

"One who deliberately violates the First Law, especially in regards to a youngling, would be banished if they failed to repent and mend their ways. They would not be welcome in Juanth Darastrix communities; we would not trade with them, communicate or otherwise share hospitality with them. It is a harsh penalty, but one that has kept the Clan peaceful for millennium."

Aironth paused briefly. "That assumes there was no physical harm. One who deliberately injures or kills another is either mind-wiped or put to death, dependent on the wishes of the victim or their family." He looked at Harry and softened his expression. "That penalty has not been invoked in my lifetime."

Harry nodded and stashed the information away to consider later. "What are the other laws?"

"The Second Law is that all Juanth Darastrix will maintain appropriate courtesy and respect towards others, regardless of the topic under discussion or the species with which they are communicating. Juanth Darastrix culture has hundreds of idiosyncrasies; from courtesy within the smaller family, within the Clan and within the world at large. For example, there are various courtesies to be followed in greetings. The depth of the bow, the position of the head and hands..." he grinned at Harry "...or foreclaws indicate the relationship between Clan members and obligations."

Harry considered that. "So when you put your hand on your chest and bow slightly, that indicates your relationship to me?"

Approval shone on the older man's face. "Yes, a single open hand over the heart area indicated a friendly and respectful relationship while the degree of the bow indicated slight informality. Keeping my eyes on you rather than dropping them indicates a relationship of parent to child or peer to peer. If I had used a closed fist, it would indicate an unknown relationship such as potential combatants. Dropping my eyes would portray respect to an elder or one higher in rank."

"So I should drop my eyes when bowing to you?"

"If we develop a close relationship as I hope to do, that would be unnecessary. A child only drops his eyes to his sire if he desires to show his deference and submission."

Harry's heart seemed to clench a little at the term 'sire'. "Humans typically use sire as a term of address for a king, although the older meaning is a…father."

Aironth smiled and inclined his head at Harry's understanding. "I meant it in the later use. I adopted your ancestor and considered him my son in all things. You are the son of his line."

Harry blinked at the warm feeling in his chest. He wanted to believe this man so badly. "What about the Third law?"

"Ah, the Third Law is a bit different. 'Defense of one's Mate and Hatchlings supersedes all other Laws.' We mate upon finding a Juanth Darastrix with a matching aura, and we mate for life. Once bonded, the pair is inseparable until death. We are highly protective of and loving towards our Mates and offspring. If one half of a bonded pair or a hatchling is perceived to be in danger, then the other Mate may do whatever is necessary to ensure their health and safety."

Aironth chuckled lightly. "For all our size and power, we are an affectionate and compassionate species, fiercely loyal to family and Clan. You are part of my family, Harry. I want nothing more than to care for and protect you." He gave Harry a considering look. "You are tired, youngling. Perhaps you should sleep and consider my words. We can speak again tomorrow, although…"

Harry gave him a questioningly look at the pause. "Although?"

"Although I could share more information while you sleep if you would permit it."

"What kind of information?" While Harry felt remarkably comfortable with the other man, he wasn't sure about allowing unlimited insertions into his mind while he was asleep.

"Where and how we live. Perhaps it could help you decide whether you wanted to visit us or not."

Again the man alluded to an invitation to visit. Harry found it difficult to believe they could be so interested in a total stranger. He could be such a disappointment to them. But then, Aironth had already rummaged through his mind and explored all of his memories. Perhaps he wasn't a stranger to the other man after all.

"What would be your expectations of me if I were to visit?"

Aironth tipped his head and looked at Harry speculatively. "I would expect that you would allow me to heal your body of the abuse it has suffered. You were malnourished during your childhood, which led to your bones not developing properly. It also left some of your internal organs weaker than they should be. I would want to correct that, so that you reach the height and weight you should have been at this age and allow your internal organs to last a normal lifetime."

Harry blinked. He wouldn't be the shortest boy in his Year? He would perhaps be his father's height at this age? Merlin, that would be brilliant! He realized Aironth was still speaking and tried to pay attention.

"Other than that, I would offer you the opportunity to meet your Clan cousins. If some of them have abilities that interest you, you could learn those abilities as well. In your dreams I can explain how we follow one of three paths; the way of the Guardian, who include protectors as well as healers and growers; the way of the Artist, who are the builders, poets, musicians; and the way of the Academic who are the scholars, researchers and historians."

The young wizard considered all he had been told. The man wasn't wearing glamour, and his story seemed much too elaborate for a hoax. If Harry was a Slytherin, he would probably remain suspicious and skeptical, but he was a Gryffindor and they bravely took risks. He took a deep breath and nodded at Aironth. "If you can share that information with me as I sleep, I would be interested in seeing it."

He received a warm and pleased smile as if he had given the older man a generous gift. "I will not betray your trust, sia'deevdru." After a moment's pause he continued in a gruff tone of voice. "To bed and to sleep then, Harry." Aironth waited until Harry was under the covers, then laid a hand on his chest and bowed slightly, keeping his eyes on the boy. "Nightly blessings and the sweetest of dreams, sia'deevdru."

Harry sat up slightly and returned the gesture, meeting Aironth's eyes. "Good night to you as well, sir. I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me so much."

"It is my honor and pleasure to do so, youngling." With a golden shimmer in the air, the Juanth Darastrix disappeared.

Harry shook his head to dispel the memories and looked at his friends. "After he visited me several more nights and shared some of his memories, I agreed to go visit for the remainder of the summer. I sent Hedwig off with the letters, wrote a note to the Dursleys and didn't look back."

"Everything he told me was true; the other Realm, the Clan, their history, their culture." He ran a hand over his torso. "They corrected the effects of my years with the Dursleys, leaving me looking like I should have looked. I was tempted to stay with them even longer, but agreed to return for several reasons. First and foremost were my friends and how they would have felt if I never returned." He smiled at them and Ron nodded vigorously. "Secondly, I want to finish my Hogwarts education." Hermione smiled approvingly at that.

He didn't reveal the third reason. The Juanth Darastrix had absorbed his memories, but wanted more information about wizarding and muggle cultures, the cultures and status of all other magical creatures, and technological advancements. Harry had gained a desire to learn from Aironth and was willing to be their liaison to their original realm for a time.

"There are a few other important items to convey, but none of them need to be shared right now and I'm sure Hermione has a lot of questions." He grinned at the young woman, but Ron spoke up first as his mouth finally caught up to his mind.

"Elder Dragons, Harry! Bloody hell, mate, that's huge!" He ignored Hermione's muttered "Language Ron." "I thought they were only the stuff of legends. They haven't been seen in over a thousand years, maybe fifteen hundred! There are dozens of stories I grew up with about Elder Dragons."

Hermione shook her head in wonder as she tried to absorb all aspects of Harry's story. "I wonder if I can find corroborating histories for you. You would probably find the human perspective a good complement. But Harry, why is it a secret? Why don't you want to tell Professor Dumbledore?"

Neville spoke up when Harry paused before answering. "I'll bet I can guess, Harry."

At Harry's raised eyebrow, Neville continued "You don't expect to be believed about it; you might be considered delusional. Or if you were believed, you thought either the Headmaster or Professor McGonagall would consider the Juanth Darastrix untrustworthy and try to keep you from them. You don't think they would trust you to evaluate the situation and make your own decisions."

Harry looked at Neville in surprise. "How did you know that?"

Neville shrugged. "You've never been believed about important things, have you?"

"But wouldn't Dumbledore..." began to protest Hermione.

"No, Neville is right 'Mione," Ron interrupted. "We couldn't get anyone to believe us about someone being after the Philosopher's Stone in First year. Most of the school didn't believe that Harry wasn't the Heir of Slytherin in Second year. The Ministry and most adults didn't believe him about Sirius in Third year. Hell, even I didn't believe him at first about the Goblet of Fire in Fourth year." Here Ron looked with shame at his best mate. "Many people didn't believe him about how Cedric died or that You-Know-Who was back. They didn't believe he had been attacked by Dementor's at his trial until the squib testified. Certainly not the Ministry when they allowed Umbridge to get at him in Fifth year, and who believed or protected any of us from that Toad?"

Neville added softly "How many people in a position of authority have ever believed Harry? Or been there for him? Snape never believed any of us that the Slytherins sabotaged our potions or else he thought it served us right. It doesn't surprise me that you would keep something this private a secret until you've decided how to handle it in the long-term."

"But don't you think Dumbledore should know about this" Hermione whispered, her face showing her internal conflict between respecting authority and recognizing the truth that Ron and Neville spoke.

Harry sighed and voiced the thoughts he had considered repeatedly over the long summer as he tried to explain and rationalize his life to the Clan. They had never accused the Headmaster of anything, but they asked a great many questions.

"The Headmaster chose to drop me off at a home where I wasn't wanted and where I was abused for the next ten years and never checked on my safety or well-being. While the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, the Headmaster allowed an innocent man to be sent to prison without a trial, without even looking at his Pensieved memories that could have proven his innocence. The Headmaster hired Quirrell and even though Dumbledore is one of the most powerful wizards alive today, he never noticed Quirrell was possessed by a dark wizard's spirit. The Headmaster hired Gilderoy Lockhart, who was obviously unfit for the role without ever testing his abilities and we all lost a year of training besides having our memories threatened. The Headmaster hired Mad-Eye Moody and even though he knew the man for years, he never noticed that the Auror had been replaced by someone using Polyjuice."

Harry took a deep breath as Hermione's face looked more and more uncomfortable in the face of these facts. "The Headmaster has made a number of poor choices and decisions over the years, whether out of a misguided belief in his own decisions, whether because he's spread too thin to give attention to the particulars or for other unknown reasons. I'm willing to assess this very private situation about my family history on my own. I'm willing to evaluate a summer's worth of actions and the consistent behaviors of the hundreds of individuals I met to make my own judgment call. I owe and will give the Headmaster the due respect for his position and his accomplishments. But I will make my own decisions about my own life from now on."

Harry looked at the three students. "The question is...are you willing to support me?"

Juanth Darastrix - Elder Dragons

Sia'deevdru – my son