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Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

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Published by Argetlam22
Harry wants to a normal life, but when he gets blamed for crimes he didn't commit, he begins to investigate. What starts out as a chase, becomes a desperate race as Harry learns of the wizards' true goal. A prize of great power, it can improve the world...or destroy it.
Harry wants to a normal life, but when he gets blamed for crimes he didn't commit, he begins to investigate. What starts out as a chase, becomes a desperate race as Harry learns of the wizards' true goal. A prize of great power, it can improve the world...or destroy it.

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Published by: Argetlam22 on Dec 04, 2009
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Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Harry Potter
And The Twilight Dragon

By George Straken

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Contents
Chapter One
Dark Intentions

Chapter Two
Tidings of Trouble

Chapter Three
Winged Beasts

Chapter Four
Godric's Fire

Chapter Five
The Edge of Knowledge

Chapter Six
Webs and Ghosts

Chapter Seven
The Talismanic Group

Chapter Eight
Education

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Chapter Nine
Draconic Tales

Chapter Ten
Broken Brooms

Chapter Eleven
The Prophet's Grudge

Chapter Twelve
The Missing Link

Chapter Thirteen
The Seeker's Inheritance

Chapter Fourteen
Potter's Ploy

Chapter fifteen
The Fall of Viktor Krum

Chapter Sixteen
The Flight of The Phoenix

Chapter Seventeen
Aquamancer's Rescue

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Chapter Eighteen
Nurmengard

Chapter Nineteen
The Price of The Heart

Chapter Twenty
The Throne of Dominion

Chapter Twenty-One
Draco's Demise

Chapter Twenty-Two
A Family Heirloom

Chapter Twenty-Three
Head of The Beast

Chapter Twenty-Four
A Hint

Chapter Twenty-Five
Legend of The Twilight Dragon

Chapter Twenty-Six

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

The Hidden Emerald

Chapter Twenty-Seven
Dragon Hunter

Chapter Twenty-Eight
Waiting

Chapter Twenty-Nine
The Sword's Secret

Chapter Thirty
Remnants of The Past

Chapter Thirty-One
Gift of Requirement

Chapter Thirty-Two
Horses and Butterflies

Chapter Thirty-Three
Dragongaze Plains

Chapter Thirty-Four
Aggression

Chapter Thirty-Five
The Way to Dominion

Chapter Thirty-Six
The Secret Guardian

Chapter Thirty-Seven
Legend of The Egg

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Chapter Thirty-Eight
Heritage Arisen

Chapter Thirty-Nine
The Battle of The Temple

Chapter Forty
The Descendants of Darkness

Chapter Forty-One
Resolution

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Disclaimer: Some of the characters, and the plot of the trilogy (of which this is the first story) are mine. The rest is the sole property of J.K. Rowling. I have simply used her created world as my playground and workstation, and the world's inhabitants as my toys and tools. And so, I have played, and built. This is the result. I hope you enjoy it!

Harry Potter and The Twilight Dragon by George Straken

Dark Intentions

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“It is almost time my lord,” a voice said. It came from a hooded figure, sitting at a dimly lit table, along with six other figures wearing the same type of hooded robe. One would have been unable to know for certain who the figure was talking to, but the hood’s angle suggested that he was looking at the person seated at the head of the table, a likely spot for the New Lord to be sitting. This person (it was impossible to tell the gender) gave no indication of having heard, but a voice that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere said, “Patience, Gauntlet. He will come.” The man codenamed ‘Gauntlet’ turned his head toward the empty chair directly across from him. A faint aura of concern emanated from the wizard, which was understandable; if the absent wizard didn’t arrive on time, the room’s enchanted door would shut him out. This inconvenience would be all the greater because he was supposed to bring some sort of “equipment”; without it, the purpose of this meeting would be moot. The others, however, had a more dangerous problem on their minds. They were facing toward the figure sitting immediately to the right of the New Lord. Despite the lack of identity, they were quite certain that this person was new; at least, they had never met. It wasn’t so much the presence of the figure, as the implications behind it, that held the members transfixed. The New Lord was insistent on the number of members in the group being no more or less than 13, including the Lord. This person was clearly an addition, as only seven members besides the lord were invited, and the seventh person was obvious. Thus, this extra figure could only mean one thing: a current member, one attending this meeting, would be eliminated. This threat created an atmosphere of unease, made worse by the missing wizard’s absence. All was still, except for the flickering of the two lit candles on the table. Time seemed to crawl by. Then suddenly, the door flew open, and another figure darted in. This was clearly the wizard that was carrying the necessary materials for furthering the mission that this meeting concerned. A second later, the door slammed shut, sealing the world outside and the group members within. Still motionless, the Lord said, “Good evening, Cutlass,” for ‘Cutlass’ was the wizard’s codename. “Good evening, my Lord,” murmured Cutlass. “You cut it closer every time,” a figure (a wizard by the sound of his voice) grumbled. “If you hadn’t made it …” “He made it, that’s what counts,” snapped Gauntlet. He didn’t know who Cutlass really was, but all the same, he didn’t want him to die. Sensing an oncoming argument from the complaining wizard, he added, “Drop it, Lantern.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Lantern fell silent, and Cutlass seized the opportunity to murmur to the New Lord, “Shall we…?” The Lord nodded slightly, then said, “The meeting is now begun.” A small pause. “Lantern, you have the information?” The Lord had sought four particular items, as they were rumored to give the bearer great powers when brought together. The Lord already had one; Lantern had been asked to locate the other three. “Yes, my Lord,” he said, but hesitated. “Speak,” his leader commanded, and Lantern obeyed. “Item one is in the possession of a collector with a penchant for showing off treasures. Item two is borne by a foreign athlete. And the third is held within the home of a pureblood family.” Silence. Then the Lord asked, “I assume you have names?” “Yes,” answered Lantern, and he gave three names. There were a few moments quiet, as everyone processed this news.

Finally, the Lord said, “the collector…Lantern, you’ll be our connection to that area. Your reputation and expertise will enable them,” the Lord’s head tipped toward the three figures sitting immediately to the right, “to access the…property.” No one questioned this choice of agents, as they knew that this operation required great skill, and these three people were very good at what they did. “The athlete will be easy,” one of them said. “We must frame someone else, a rival. The same can be done with the collector. And the pureblood home…we can penetrate that area.” “Great enchantments may guard it,” warned Lantern. “If it is anything we haven’t faced before, it will be a welcome challenge. I daresay we’ve been too inactive lately. This will be an excellent opportunity to…stretch.” “Well in that case,” the third spoke up, “why don’t we split it up? One heist for each?”All three nodded in agreement, and the Lord said, “You will require…” A nod toward Cutlass, who immediately withdrew a flask and a bag from his cloak. Shaking three vials from the bag, he poured what looked like mud into the vials, stoppered them, and handed them to the trio. “And now”, said the Lord, “on to the next order of business.” The hood’s opening tilted toward the table for a moment, before the Lord’s voice said slowly, “It seems there is a traitor among us.” There was a stir among the members, as heads turned this way and that, evidently looking at each other. “This disloyal member has been recruited by the Ministry as a spy, to glean what they could of our transactions and aims. They are suspicious of us, as always, and this has unfortunately penetrated the group. And as a cancerous growth must be excised from the flesh,” the Lord continued, with an air of approaching climax, “so the defector must be not only removed, but abolished as well. I leave it up to myself to execute this highly important sentence.” Suddenly, the head rose, and faced directly toward Gauntlet, whose face drained of all color. “Gauntlet, rise.” Gauntlet did as he was told; slipping his fingertips into his pocket (no doubt grabbing

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

his wand), he drew himself up to his full height. The New Lord, oddly, did not rise; simply sitting there, the hood stared at Gauntlet. Every one else in the room sat rock-still, barely even breathing. Without warning, the Lord whipped out a long, thin black wand. Pointing it at Gauntlet, two calm words were heard: “Avada Kedavra”. A jet of green let erupted from the wand’s tip, striking the wizard in the chest before his wand was fully raised. His lifeless body crumpled, falling to the floor to move no more. “Venomous, take care of the body.” When ‘Venomous’ had done so, the Lord continued, “Which brings us to our final purpose in this meeting.” Gesturing to the mysterious person on the right, the Lord explained, “We have lost one member this hour, which calls for another, preferably more talented, member. This is the member-to-be that I have chosen.” Turning to the figure, The Lord remarked, “I am not in the mood for ceremony, so this shall suffice.” Waving the black wand: “I now declare you an official member of this group, which entitles you to all privileges and obligations that apply. I name you ‘Saber’.” A burst of red and silver glitter swirled around ‘Saber’, and the Lord said, “I believe that concludes this meeting. All are dismissed.” Everyone stood up and filed to the door, which opened of its own accord. Turning alternately down either end of the hall, they walked through the walls at the ends, coming out at random, inconspicuous

locations. The new member made to leave, but the Lord’s hand touched their forearm. “If anyone discovers more about what we are doing than is safe, eliminate them wisely.” “Yes, my Lord,” spoke a distinctly female voice, and received a nod before being let go. Saber was soon gone, and the Lord returned to the chair at the head of the table, and sat staring into space, thinking, for the rest of the night. * * *

A pair of red-tinged eyes rose from a globe, and gazed thoughtfully in to the distance. They belonged to a man-like creature, with crusty eyelids and flesh. Its nails were still rather long, while the legs were thick, and strangely shaped. Its arms were small and weak-looking, and its teeth were pointy. Overall, it looked like a human suffering from a horrible, severe disease. Its thoughts, however, weren’t entirely concerned with its form; it was pondering the scene it had just witnessed within the crystal ball sitting before it. The leader had been impressive with its simplicity, intelligence, and skill, as well as its level of command, it thought. Looking around, it took in the dozens of old trinkets surrounding it. To anyone else, they would have

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

seemed like worthless junk, but the man-thing had seen these items in their newer, stronger state, and it still saw them as sources of power, although they were now drained of magic. The magic had been used to cast a spell that had been progressing for a little less than two months. The spell was almost complete; all that was needed was one more burst of power… This, the beastly animal knew, was a problem, as the power needed was very rare. But a solution had already been found. It just needed to be brought within reach. And that, it thought, will be fairly simple. Standing up, the creature strode across the room, its gate slightly awkward due to its shape. Stopping before a cage, a clawed hand reached into it, a finger gently stroking the beautiful creature imprisoned within it. The cage was a contraption of simple genius; it was made of a solidified phoenix ash coated with dragon blood. It was the only thing that could contain the creature’s prisoner. Opening the cage’s door, the creature removed its captured prize, murmuring to it soundlessly. Carrying it to the opening of the man-creature’s home, it pressed the back of a finger to the pet’s chest. The eyes closed, then opened: they were now glowing a soft red, a sign of possession. “A beautiful night,” whispered the creature, staring at the starry sky just barely visible high above. “Perfect for my plans.” It pause, then looked down at its hand. “Fly forth to do my bidding, and return with my reaping,” the creature commanded in a whisper, and lifted its arm. With a rush of wings, the newly released captive disappeared into night.

Tidings of Trouble
Harry was soaring high above a vast green field, purple and yellow cloak zooming back and forth beneath him. Recognizing his surroundings, Harry began circling the perimeter, faces in the audience flashing past him. Wind pushed his hair back as he scanned the field for a glint of gold… farther and farther into the sky he rose, and he noticed the field becoming frighteningly small. He tried

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

to push the broom handle dwn, but it wouldn’t budge; he had no choice but to continue to ascend into the clouds. Finally emerging above them, he looked around, and spotted the Snitch, hovering 200 yards directly behind him. Whipping the broom-handle around, he charged towards it. As though sensing his approach, the snitch dived straight downward, and Harry followed it without thinking. Snitch and wizard plummeted toward the ground far below, the Snitch straining for safety, Harry straining for the Snitch. Just fifty feet from the ground, Harry’s fingertips were inches from the glittering golden ball, when the other seeker appeared out of nowhere. neck and neck, they hurtled to earth. Just as they reached it, Harry’s fingers wrapped around the Snitch, and he yanked the broom upwards, so his speed sent him flying across the ground. Dizzy but ecstatic, Harry got up on his knees, but something grabbed the back of his robes and pulled him backward. Harry turned, and received a blow to his face. Sprawling, he saw his teammates rushing to his aid, but the other Seeker’s team intercepted them, and green jets of light started flying. Within seconds, all of his fellow players had fallen dead, and Harry was meanwhile suffering a series of punches and kicks. Suddenly, he was surrounded by Death Eaters, and looking up, he caught sight of his attacker’s face, and what he saw terrified him. Drawing a wand, James Potter aimed at Harry’s face, and there was a burst of green lightHarry’s eyes flew open, and he sat bolt upright, staring wildly around, before slumping. He wasn’t on a Quidditch field, he wasn’t surrounded by Death Eaters, and his father wasn’t standing over him, about to kill him. What a nightmare, Harry thought. It was confusing; his dreams were either visions, subconscious thoughts, or memories, but none of these applied to this dream. Harry glanced at the clock: 6:30. He was supposed to get up at 6:35, so he shut off his alarm, then got up and got dressed. Walking into the bathroom, he looked into the mirror and simply stared at his reflection, gaze roving over very familiar features before coming to rest on the greatest mark of all, one that had become his identity at the age of on: a lightning-bolt shaped scar above his left eyebrow. Ever since the age of eleven, he was reminded of his dead parents whenever the scar crossed his mind. They had been killed by Voldemort the same wizard that gave Harry the scar; in fact, they had died to protect Harry, inadvertently creating a charm that had protected him for years, since he was a year old up to his 17th birthday. But just months ago, he had finally managed to kill Voldemort, freeing him from the life of a hunted creature. But he knew there would always be more wizards trying to take Voldemort’s place. “Well don’t you look handsome,” a voice interrupted his thoughts. Harry turned to see George Weasley standing outside the bathroom door. “I love what you’ve done with your hair.” “It never changes,” Harry answered, knowing George was joking like always. He looked into the mirror again, giving his hair a brief once-over. It was true; his hair was hardly ever neat. It was particularly messy in the back, where it stuck up. And that’s the way Ginny and Hermione like it, thought Harry, his thoughts drifting away. Hermione was popping up in his thoughts more and more often these days. It was getting annoying; for one thing, he still liked Ginny. For another, he was pretty sure she like Ron, not him. He couldn’t forget the way she had kissed him when he’d voiced his

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

concerns about Hogwarts’s houselves during that last fight with the Death Eaters, and the way he had kissed her back. But despite his belief that Hermione was strictly off-limits, he couldn’t help occasionally switching mental gears, imagining that he liked Hermione instead. The dreams he had sometimes had… “…listening?” George’s raised voice startled Harry out of his musings, and he abruptly turned to face George. Looking for something else to think about, he caught, quite unfortunately, a recollection of the death of George’s twin, Fred. If Fred was still alive, he’d be standing next to George, and they would be taking turns cracking humorous comments. They sure could lift a gloomy mood… “What’s got you so off, Harry?” Not wanting to remind George of his brother’s death, Harry shook his head and said nothing. “Right, look here, I wanted to talk to you about something.” George looked over his shoulder, as though checking for something (or someone, Harry thought) then leaned closer and said quietly, “Quidditch tryouts for Chudley Cannons are coming up, and Ron reckons he might have a go.” This surprised Harry, as Ron usually wasn’t too keen on activities that he might fail at, as it would strike a blow to his ego, which was none too strong. “So,” asked George as Harry left the bathroom, “What do you think?” “Well,” Harry said slowly, “he was pretty good in 5th and 6th year…” “Yeah,” agreed Harry. “His only problem is his confidence.” “And that’s a big problem,” George pointed out, lowering his voice as they approached the kitchen door. Harry followed suit, whispering, “Any ideas on how to boost his ego?” “Can’t get it too high up, or it’ll be like an egg dropped from twenty feet in the air,” warned George. Harry winced at the image. “Are you two about done whispering behind my back?” Ron’s voice interrupted. “Behind a door, actually,” George said smoothly, “but why don’t we take this discussion to the kitchen? That way Ron will know exactly how we feel.” George pushed the door open wide, strode to the kitchen table, and helped himself to some toast.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Harry followed, taking a plateful of eggs and bacon from Kreature as Ron asked darkly, “You told him, then?” “‘Course I told him. He’s your best mate, d’you think I’d leave him out?” Ron stayed silent, moodily chewing on toast. “Well?” he finally burst out, glaring at Harry, “aren’t you going to tell me how stupid I must be?” “Actually, Harry thinks-,” George started, then stopped. Turning to Harry, he suggested, “You tell him. It’ll mean more coming out of your mouth. And,” he added, wheeling to face Ron, “I had no influence on his opinion. It’s pure Harry.” He glanced over his shoulder expectantly, and Harry obliged, “It’s a good idea. There’s just one problem-,” Ron snarled, “See?” in a gloomily triumphant manner, but George ignored him as Harry continued, “your confidence.” This stopped Ron. He stared, then muttered absentmindedly, “I wonder what Hermione would say?” “Hermione would say,” came a female voice as a slim girl with bushy brown hair entered the kitchen, “ that it’s a good idea, but Harry has a point. Your confidence is your only major weak point.” Ron said nothing, simply staring at her. Harry, looking her over, thought she looked pretty good in a red shirt and blue jeans, which clung to her hips. Her shirt hugged her contours, and Harry thought he could see the edge of a pink strap going over her shoulder. It mildly turned him on, and he slapped himself mentally. Take it easy, boy, he thought to himself. An owl flew into the room, followed by another. The first dropped a newspaper on the table, while the second dropped a letter in front of George. Hermione paid the owl, then picked up the newspaper and scanned the front page. She noticed Ron still staring at her, and she said impatiently, “If you want to let fear rule over you for all of your life, then stay where you are.” She paused, then added, “No one got anywhere in life without taking risks.” She half-glanced at Harry, then returned to perusing her paper. Ron caught the look, and knew what she meant. Seeing his face darkening once more, Harry could practically hear him thinking of all the risks that people (Harry for instance) had taken that had gone for the worse. George, meanwhile , was examining his letter. “Oh blimey,” he murmured, and he abruptly stood up. “What…?” Ron trailed off, and George answered distractedly, “The shop.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“What happened, did it blow up?” Ron asked, while Harry inquired, “Is it serious?” George shot Ron a nasty look, then tossed the piece of parchment toward Harry. Ron attempted to grab it out of the air, but Harry’s catching skills, honed by capturing Snitches, overcame Ron’s easily, and he succeeded in snatching the letter out of Ron’s reach. “Read it aloud!” Ron demanded after George vanished from the fireplace, but Harry ignored him. The first couple lines stunned him, and his bewilderment grew as he skimmed the rest of the letter. Finally, he returned to the top, and began reading: To Mr. Weasley and Mr. Jordan, Rumors that your shop, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, has been developing a substance that effectively manipulates targeted enchantments has instigated an investigation, and has been declared a potential Dark Material. This requires the immediate confiscation of the said product by the Ministry. Ministry action will be taken shortly, and the presence of either owner is needed, so as to allow access to the restricted area of the property. If you would like to discuss the particular points of interest in safety guidelines regarding your product, the Ministry recommends that you contact the Head of the Magical Products Safety Department. An appointment may be necessary, and we apologize for any inconveniences this may cause. If you wish to make the adjustments needed to satisfy the Ministry Magical Product Safety specialists, you may do so within a specified area, as designated by the Ministry, under supervision. All adjustments must be listed, and confirmed by specialists. If you make the required adjustments according to the guidelines, if approved, your product will be returned 1-2 weeks after changes are made, although the length of the interval is not guaranteed. Thank you for your cooperation. Donald Ramball, Department of Magical Safety Confirmation Head Harry looked up, his mind buzzing with what he had just read. “‘Mr. Jordan’? Who’s Jordan?” Ron wondered. “Lee Jordan, of course,” Hemione answered. “But why?” Ron asked, then said suspiciously, “Did George ever replace…?”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Exactly,” Hermione affirmed, never looking up from her paper. Ron’s chest swelled in indignation. “Why didn’t he say anything?” Ron asked furiously, Glaring at Hermione. “In his position, I wouldn’t blame him. Informing you of my financial decisions wouldn’t exactly be top priority, as it’s really none of your business,” Hermione responded casually, and forestalled Ron’s oncoming tantrum by saying, “Listen, both of you.” Harry looked up, and Hermione said, “There’s been two dragon attacks.” “Where?” Ron inquired, and Hermione said, “Durham and Blackpool.” “Can’t have escaped from Romania, then,” Ron stated. “They’ll still have to catch them, though, won’t they?” Harry said seriously. “Catch them? They’ll have to kill them. Dragons attacking people, you can’t let that go by. It’s too risky,” Ron corrected him. “They came from Scotland, no doubt,” Hermione mused, her eyes staring into infinity. “Why don’t they capture them? Aren’t they worried for our safety?” Harry asked, referring to the people of England. “There’s lots of dragons up there. They let them stay as long as they behave,” Ron informed him. “Any casualties?” Ron inquired, and Hermione said, “Just an old owl named Muglug. According to the family, it wasn’t much use anymore anyway.” She shrugged, the looked at her watch, before looking at Harry and saying, “Shouldn’t you be going somewhere?” “Huh? Where?” Ron asked as Harry jumped up, and Kreature immediately seized his dish and Ron’s, then Disapparated. “Harry’s meeting a friend at the Ministry. He has some sort of contact waiting,” Hermione answered.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“How come you know everything?” Ron asked, and Hermione replied, “You should know, Harry mentioned it last night when he was discussing his lessons for learning to be a DA teacher.” “I don’t remember that,” Ron protested, and Hermione said irritatedly, “That’s funny, because I distinctly remember you wondering if Valid was related to the one your dad knows.” Harry remembered this as well, but didn’t say anything. He approached the fireplace, followed by Ron and Hermione. “We’re going to the Ministry, right?” Ron asked, and Harry nodded. He made to grab a pot off the mantle, but Ron grabbed his arm, so Harry waited while Hermione retrieved some Floo powder. She turned and gave them both a questioning glance, but Ron nodded at the fire, and she obediently left in a flash of green flame. Harry looked at Ron and Ron dropped his gaze to the floor, while he muttered, “Erm…Harry, I’ve been thinking about what you and Hermione said…” Harry noted Ron’s omission of George, but disregarded it as Ron continued, “…I’ll try for Keeper, if you promise me something.” Harry, caught off guard, said, “Er…okay, I promise,” sure that whatever Ron asked him, it wouldn’t be too difficult. Ron, looking relieved, said, “I want you to try for Seeker.” Harry was stunned; of all the things Ron could have asked him, this was hardly what he had expected. Ron saw the look on his face and said quickly, with a note of panic in his voice, “You said you would!” “All right, all right…I’ll think about it,” Harry compromised, unwilling to make such a hasty decision. At the very least, he’d have to arrange matters for convenience’s sake. Ignoring the slightly disappointed look on Ron’s face, Harry took a pinch of powder, tossed it on the fire. With a shout of “The Ministry!” he was whirled away among emerald fire, his mind still struggling with Ron’s request.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Winged Beasts
Stumbling out into the Atrium, Harry looked around for Hermione. Spotting her a short distance away, he joined her, then waited for Ron to catch up. Once he had done so, they set off across the main hall of the Ministry of Magic, passing a desk where visitors’ wands were being weighed. Harry could remember having to hand his wand over for inspection, the day of his court hearing for underage magic. It all seemed so long ago now… His gaze roved over the rest of the Atrium. It hadn’t changed much since the death of Voldemort. The Fountain of Magical Brethren had been reinstalled, and the Magic is Might monument had been covered by nondescript tarp that was difficult to look at directly, as it had been bewitched with an Anti-Focus Jinx, since the statue had evidently been cursed to stay in place. Harry’s attention was caught by a red-haired person, and he adjusted his course slightly, heading for George Weasley. The person beside him was Levitating a box filled with jars. They had been speaking in low voices, but upon the approach of Harry and his friends, the man that Harry assumed to be the confiscator of George’s product fell silent, glancing pointedly at them. “Friends, this is Mr. Barnabus Beetem. He’s the bloke they sent to collect my product-in-progress. Mr. Beetem, this is my brother Ron, my friend Hermione, and you may not know who this chap is-,” George winked at Harry, who smiled back; he knew George was making fun of his fame, which was fine by him. Meanwhile, Mr. Beetem stared grimly at them. “Erm, this is con-,” “Oh, not to worry,” George interrupted impatiently. “They’re my confidants.” “We are?” Ron asked, bewildered. “Of course,” George said. While the others were caught up by this new development, Harry thought he saw the wizard waving his wand gently at the box, and the powders glowing faintly.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Er, George…You might want to watch that guy. He looks like he’s doing something strange to your stuff…” Harry said warily. “Oy!” George barked at the official, causing him to jump. “What’re you doing to it?” “A charm to help balance the box, as its contents are sliding around,” Beetum said smoothly. “That wouldn’t happen if the charm was properly cast,” Hermione said flatly, and Beetem shot her a nasty look. Here, gimme it,” George said, but Beetem shook his head and said, “Sorry, but I can’t give confiscated property back to its owner unless I have permission from higher up.” “Give it to Harry, then,” George said impatiently, and received another shake of the head. “No, I can’t give to any of your friends either,” Beetem explained. George rolled his eyes and muttered something about “bloody contracts”. “Beetem was just telling before you showed up that I just need to put enchantments on my stuff to prevent it from Dark uses.” They reached the lift as its gate opened, and people began to both pour out of it and into it. Harry and his companions joined the latter, Harry becoming wedged between Beetem and an old wizard carrying a tray filled with jars and jewelry. George turned and said, “He also suggested that I put special Defense and Dark Detection spells on a few jars of it, and donate it to the Ministry.” “Ahem,” Beetem cleared his throat pointedly. George ignored him. “Nothing wrong with a little bribe, you know-,” “Mr. Weasley, I’d prefer to keep our discussions private. It says in the contract that all information that passes between us, when dealing with a material this potent, must remain strictly confidential.” George opened his mouth, but Beetem interrupted, “Confidential, Mr. Weasley,” Looking grumpy, George grumbled, “Oh, all right. Could’ve sworn I said they were confidants, though.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

George turned his attention to a wizard standing at the back wall, holding a crate from which there came a scuttling noise. Harry noticed a badge on his chest identifying him as Eric Connors, Moderate Dark Confiscation Specialist. “What’s in the box?” George asked curiously, and Connors responded, “You wouldn’t want to know.” “I do want to know,” George insisted, but Connors simply shook his head, while the box trembled. “A Dark creature or device, I’d assume,” said Hermione, and George turned towards her, eyebrows raised. “That’s our Hermione, sharp as ever,” he said with a wink, grinning at her. “I should think it’d be obvious,” she said loftily. “Since it’s being kept in a box, it must be Dark, and only a device or creature would be moving so much.” “Dark it is, Dark it is indeed,” spoke the wizard softly. George eyed the box with a mixture of wariness and curiosity. Harry’s gaze was drawn to a faint glow coming from a pearl necklace dangling over the edge of the old wizard’s tray. George followed his gaze, and mouthed, Useless junk. Probably not worth much. A pair of wizards across from them were conversing. “Did yeh hear about the dragon attacks?” one asked. He was of medium height, with broad shoulders and a blunt face and squashed nose. “Who hasn’t?” responded his mate, a thin, bald headed man of equal height, his face seemed to droop slightly. “I’ll tell yeh sommat yeh likely haven’ heard. There be dragons in Romania goin’ bonkers as well.” “I have heard, but I thought that was because of bad meat,” The other said in a note of faint puzzlement. “Ar, thas what they’d have us believe, but I got me a buddy on the inside says there’s nothin’ wrong with anythin’ ‘cept the dragons.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

The thin wizard was clearly skeptical, so the bigger one continued, “O’ course ther gonna blab about spoiled meat. S’better than havin’ no reason fer the mess. People’d get worried, and when they get worried, the Ministry’s gotta step in. Could cut off their fundin’, they could. And where’d that leave ‘em?” He chuckled, then said, “They’d have to either send the brutes someplace faraway, or destroy ‘em. And the researchers love ther great scaly monsters, so they’d sooner keep them than let ‘em go. And killin’ their precious overgrown lizards is outta the question.” “Sounds like they’re in a spot of trouble,” his friend said. “Got that right. I jus’ wonder how long they’ll hold the wolves off…Was takin’ so bloody long? Shouda been out ages ago!” As though on cue, a calm female voice said gently, “Magical conveyance has encountered minor difficulties. Corrections will be made momentarily.” Everyone groaned, and some grumbled to each other. “Magical Maintenance must be slacking off a bit,” Ron muttered. And suddenly, chaos erupted. Connors shifted his grip on the crate, and with a thump, the lid flew off, a dark shape rose out of the box, and soared at Harry. Leaning out of the way, Harry watched it zoom past, and saw that it was a tarantula with bat-wings. Ron, in an effort to avoid the flying spider, jumped sideways, sending Harry crashing against the old wizard, then toppling, head slamming against the ground. At the same time, Ron’s flailing arm struck Beetem in the nose, causing his spell to falter. Both tray and tub fell to the floor; shards of glass and pottery burst into the air, dust spilling and mixing on top of Harry. Wary of the dangers of letting the stuff into his body, but Harry’s headache from hitting his head on the floor hurt greater when he held his breath, so he had no choice but to inhale. He began choking, the combined powders burning in his throat and lungs. Hermione reached for him, but shrieked and drew her hand back as the glowing pearl necklace slid across her hand. The pounding in his head intensified as he tried to get up, and he had to pause in a kneeling position, for fear of his wobbling legs collapsing beneath him. He felt hands grabbing his arms and helping him up, while the female voice said, “Magical Conveyance is now resuming.” Harry struggled to maintain his balance, his head’s throbbing steadily climbing, aware of voices around him but unable to understand what they were saying. The gate opened, a female’s voice sounding dimly in the background, and he stumbled out. He tried to say that he needed to go to St. Mungo’s, but he couldn’t tell if the words made it out. Peering through the haze of popping rainbow –colored lights, he

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

saw the old man rush past, and for the briefest moment, he thought the wizard glanced back at him with a satisfied smirk on his face. But then the wizard vanished, leaving Harry standing unsteadily in the hall. He tried to walk, but a wave of nausea washed over him, followed by a piercing pain that ripped through his skull, and his world was engulfed in a burst of blinding white light, which gave way to numbing darkness, into which Harry gratefully lost himself. George had to catch Harry as he collapsed in a dead faint.

Godric's Fire
Hope he’s okay…nasty bump on the head, he’ll have a headache for the rest of the day for sure, AntiAche Draughts have a history of spotty performance…and that dust...supposed to be an old remedy, but maybe it went bad after such a long existence, and mixing with George’s powder might have made quite a nasty product…won’t know for sure until he wakes up… Hermione’s voice sounded in Harry’s head as he struggled toward the surface of his mind. He mentally paused, confused as to why he was hearing Hermione inside of his dark, inner world of unconsciousness. He felt a vague sensation of something wrapped around his hand, but try as he might, he could not move it.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

And Ron with his spider-bite, they may not have been able to counteract the venom, the antidote Ministry-approved, don’t know what the poison’s side-effects will be… Harry suddenly realized he was hearing Hermione’s thoughts, and as her mind returned to contemplating his own condition, he noticed an underlying emotion that had been absent during her worries about Ron. It was right there in front of him; he couldn’t help but study it, as one would look at a scrawled-on bit of parchment lying before them. It took him a second to interpret the mix of emotions, but he finally identified them: fear, anxiety, and …concern? Affection?...Love!??? Shock forced Harry’s eyes open, and he immediately spotted Hermione on his left, face frowning heavily. A glance at his hand told him that it was her hand he was holding. This knowledge, combined with what he’d found in her mind, made him feel strange. It was almost as though she was trying to tell him something… “Harry? Are you all right? How do you feel?” Hermione’s concerned voice broke into his musings. Harry mentally shook himself and said, “I’m okay.” Then he added, “A little thirsty, though.” Hermione immediately grabbed a plastic cup from somewhere nearby and filled it with water from her wand. As she handed it to him, his eyes were drawn to her front, where her shirt was hugging her breasts. Arousal washed through him, and he shifted so it wouldn’t be so noticeable. Hermione, aware of his gaze, shifted, granting Harry a view of Ron. But what Harry focused on was Hermione’s other hand now holding Ron’s. All arousal vanished from his system, replaced by a cold, hard fury. The cup in his hand suddenly exploded, shards of plastic poking his hand. Hermione grabbed his hand and began picking bits of plastic from its flesh, frowning as she did so. He noticed as she looked closer, and knew she’d seen how the plastic had gone outward instead of inward, as it would have if his grip had crushed it. She was just throwing the pieces out, when Ron stirred, groaning. She hurried over to him, bending over him. Harry saw her hand tenderly brushing some stray hair out of his face. Such a display of affection caused his anger to rise, and an expanding wave of energy sent a nearby metal tray rolling, seemingly of its own accord. The force also pushed Ron’s bed, moving it a couple of inches sideways. Ron opened his eyes; they immediately locked onto Hermione (from Harry’s point of view). Smiling gently, Ron reached up and stroked her face. How dare he…?! Harry’s rage skyrocketed; a wave of force sent the tray flying into a wall, where it stayed pinned, off the ground. The windows shattered, and the open door slammed so hard, its glass pane went soaring out of sight. Ron’s bed started to flip; his eyes widened, and he launched himself sideways. Rolling like a log several times in midair, he twisted and landed on his feet, before dropping into a crouch. He ducked, and the bed flew over him. Harry didn’t remember moving or even thinking about it, but found himself on his feet anyway, slowly advancing on a wary Ron. “Harry! STOP!” Hermione’s voice broke through the haze of fury that surrounded his brain. He looked into her eyes, and suddenly saw himself covered in golden fire. A mixture of awe and fear

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

accompanied the vision, and he wrenched himself away from Hermione’s gaze to look down at himself. He only had time to think, amazing. Then his mind, instinctively protecting itself from anticipated pain, cut the flames off. He stared at his unmarked skin, then looked up at Hermione. She watched him nervously; she was clearly afraid of his previous combustion. Ron, meanwhile, did not straighten from his defensive pose. “Where are my clothes?” Harry snapped, unnerved by his friends’ reactions. For his closest friends to fear him… Hermione snatched up a bundle from the ground next to a toppled chair, and tossed it to him. He caught it and went into the room’s private bathroom to change. He barely paid attention to what he was doing; his mind buzzed with confusion and low-level panic. He had never done this before; he had never burst into flames, due to emotions or otherwise. This was completely new. Then Hermione’s words came back to him: …supposed to be an old remedy, but maybe it went bad after such a long existence, and mixing with George’s powder might have made quite a nasty product… That’s probably what happened, he thought. Thinking of Hermione made his mind wander over to her. Her thoughts began to pop into his head again. I know of only one person who use to burst golden flames… Who? He wondered, and realized too late that he had inserted the thought into her mind. Harry…? He found himself looking out her eyes, at a misty-eyed Ron whose hands were on her shoulders. “It’s okay, Hermione,” he was saying. She took a deep breath, and he pulled her close. She lifted her face to look into Ron’s, which was tilted downward as he looked back at her. His face began to lower…Suddenly, her mind shut him out, like a door slammed in his face. Harry was inwardly grateful that he had just finished getting dressed as he whirled, energy emanating from him once more. He didn’t even touch the door; it flew open as his power struck it. He charged from the bathroom, leaping at Ron. Ron spun to the side, taking his hands off of Hermione as he did so. Harry managed to catch Ron’s wrist, and planting his feet, he swung Ron around, right off his feet. Ron curled into a ball so as not to hurt himself as he smashed into the wall. He leaped to his feet, and Harry came at him. Ron kicked out, his foot slamming into Harry’s chest with enough force to break the bone. But all it did was drive him back a few steps. Ron swung his other leg up and around, his heel ramming into Harry’s temple. It might have been a tapping finger for all the effect it had. It did, however, clear Harry’s mind somewhat. He realized that if he didn’t get away from Ron, he would end up killing him. He spared enough time to think to Hermione, meet me at the Ministry. Then he vanished with a CRACK! He reappeared in the middle of some woods. He had chosen the first secluded location that occurred to him: the Forest of Dean. Energy flared within him, and Harry let it flow. He was engulfed in a pillar of golden flame, and he began to rise into the air. Glancing at his arms, he saw that he had wings instead. A quick peek over his shoulder told him he had a tail as well. Scarlet

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

feathers…an idea flashed into his head, but he didn’t want to consider it. It was too farfetched. Because, how could he be a phoenix? Without thinking, he simply raised his newfound wings and whipped them downward, sending him skyrocketing at an incredible velocity. He flapped twice more, and finally came to rest above the clouds. He drifted along, hiding in the clouds to watch a commercial airplane soar by. Then he had to circle around to avoid a flock of sparrows. After that, he simply hovered, peaceful. Wow, he thought as he floated idly, this is amazing…But he had told Hermione to meet him, and he wasn’t about to disappoint her. He deliberated for a few moments longer, then dived, streaking toward earth like a red bullet. It took him maybe ten seconds to land. A second later, and he was back to normal. He registered a lingering regret, as he wasn’t sure he could transform again. Maybe if I get really mad again…, he thought. Without further ado, he turned on his heel, Apparating to the Ministry.

The Edge of Knowledge
Harry emerged in the middle of the Atrium. Only a couple seconds later, he heard his name. “Harry!” He turned and saw Ron and Hermione coming towards him. Hermione seemed to be keeping a very slight distance from Ron, which pleased Harry. He lightly touched her mind, wanting to be sure she was okay. She was; even as he sensed this, she became aware of him. Reading my mind again, Harry? She asked. He averted his gaze, and was surprised when she thought, It’s okay, as long as he doesn’t know. She thought of Ron when she said ‘he’. She liked being linked to him! Harry was even more pleased. He realized that Ron was talking to him.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Hey, isn’t that Valid over there?” he asked, and Harry turned to look. It was indeed Valid. He was at the edge of a group of wizards and witches heading for one of the fireplaces. As Harry approached, with Ron and Hermione on his heels, Valid spotted him and said, “Harry! Where’ve you been?” “Here and there,” answered Harry. He really didn’t feel like discussing his personal problems with Valid. “I heard you went to St. Mungo’s,” said Valid casually, as though describing his shirt. “That Ron freaked out over a transfigured tarantula-,” Ron’s ears reddened, “-and knocked you over, you fell and almost conked out, and a bunch of powder or something fell on you.” “Er-” Harry tried to think of an response that would neither confirm nor deny the rumor, but it wasn’t necessary, as Valid switched his attention to Ron. “I don’t blame you for your reaction,” he said sympathetically. If a great flying spider came at me-” he looked up at the ceiling thoughtfully, “I’d probably take out my wand and start firing curses at it.” He grinned at Harry. “Imagine getting hit with a Reductor Curse!” They accompanied Valid to the fireplace that his group was using. “You missed our class this morning,” Valid commented. “Say, aren’t you in this one, too?” “Er…I’m not sure…,” hedged Harry. He didn’t really think he was in this class, but he didn’t have anything else to do, either. “Ah, its okay, you can come with us,” Valid made up his mind for him. “Just don’t expect the Professor to pay for your ticket.” “Ticket?” Harry asked at the same time Hermione asked, “Where are you going?” “The Carlton Museum of Magical History,” answered Valid, as the person in front of him vanished in a flash of emerald flame. Then he answered Harry, pausing with one foot on the grate. “And yes, you need a ticket. You can’t get in for free, you know.” He seemed slightly amused at Harry’s confusion. Then he turned and made to enter the fireplace, but was blocked by the witch standing beside it. “These are friends of yours, I presume?” she said formally, studying the trio with a stern eye.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Yes, Professor,” Valid responded politely, quite unlike his usually friendly and casual manner. “Are they disruptive or distracting in any way that might detract from my lesson?” she inquired; Ron snorted, quietly enough that only Harry and Hermione heard. Harry knew what he meant: of course a professor like this one would be very worried about a stray person’s effect on her (in this case) educational efficiency. “They are very well-mannered,” Valid reassured her, speaking as though they were merely pets. “You won’t even know they are there.” “I should most certainly hope so,” she spoke, then moved aside. She tossed some powder on the fire, turning it green. Valid stepped in, shouted, “Carlton Magical Museum!” and was gone. The Professor looked at them. “This is the Ministry’s Floo powder,” she murmured, “and I doubt they would mind just a few visitors.” None of them replied, as she seemed to be talking to herself. “Very well,” she sighed, and gestured. Harry, who was closest, stepped into the fire as soon as it was ready, giving the same address Valid had. After the usual tight whirl of motion, Harry stumbled out onto a tile floor. He brushed ash off himself, then stepped aside to make way for the next arrival. Once Ron and Hermione rejoined him (closely followed by the Professor), he walked over to the line of people waiting in front of a large desk. A long rope stretched between the desk and one wall, blocking the only pass leading beyond the hall. A guard stood next to the rope, evidently to control admittance to the museum’s main body. The first of the students was almost to the desk, so the Professor swept past Harry and approached the desk. When the last visitor before the class had received a ticket and moved away, the Professor said, “This is my class. We are here on an educational trip.” “How many?” the clerk, a blond female who looked to be in her late 20s, said tonelessly, as though mildly bored. “35?” “32, actually. Those three,” she pointed at Harry and his friends, “are separate. They are simply accompanying us.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Fine. That’ll be twenty galleons, two sickles and three knuts,” the clerk spoke, and the Professor quickly counted out the money. Tickets were distributed among the students, and they trickled through the guarded area. When almost all the students had gone through, Harry stepped up to the desk and asked, “How much for a ticket?” She glanced up and opened her mouth to answer, but stopped when she saw his face. She gaped for a couple of seconds, then whispered, “Harry Potter!” She then blinked, and seemed to remember where she was and what she was doing. “Mr. Potter!” she said. “What a sur—it’s an absolute pleasure to meet you!” she changed course in midsentence. “Never thought I would, but here you stand before me!” She offered her hand, and he obliged, but quickly let go. “I’m Denise, by the way.” “Er—hi, nice to meet--” Harry started was interrupted. “Potter?” barked a voice, and Harry turned to see that, even though the students were gone, their teacher had hung back. She held up a scroll, looked down at it briefly, then said slowly, “It so happens, Mr. Potter, that you are in my class. It is a good thing that the mistake was rectified in a timely, and convenient, manner. I don’t take kindly to laggards and wastrels, and you missing a day—the first day, nonetheless—without a sufficient excuse would put you in rather a pickle. And oftentimes,” she added, pursing her lips, “it takes quite a bit of extra effort to regain level ground with me.” She turned to Ron and Hermione. “As for you two…” “Mr. Potter’s friends are free, of course,” the clerk said quickly. Harry’s new teacher raised her eyebrows, and Harry knew that she disapproved; however, she didn’t say anything. “You’d better catch up with the rest of your class Harry,” Ron said in a low voice, and with Hermione right behind them, they went to the rope that spanned the width of the hall they were to go through. The guard watched them closely, his eyes narrowing as they drew near. When they were quite close, and still showed no sign of producing their expected tickets, he stepped in front of them and planted his feet in a wide-legged stance, and extended his hand. “Er—we’re free to go…” Ron said, and Denise suddenly called, “Oscar!” The guard looked over them, met her gaze, then nodded and withdrew, allowing them to proceed. The first thing Harry noticed when he reemerged on the other side, was the enormous size of the central hall. It went a long ways, with only slightly larger halls on each side, about a dozen halls per side. As he walked along, it appeared to Harry as though there were many large rooms leading off of each side hall. He spotted his new classmates and approached them. Scanning the crowd, he found Valid and joined him. “Oh, hi!” he said. I’m a classmate now, I think,” Harry informed him.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Valid’s jaw dropped, then he smiled. “I suspected it. I asked, but you weren’t sure.” Harry remembered. “That Professor…she’s a stiff piece of work,” commented Ron, his eyes on her. “The name’s Adellia. Professor Adellia,” Valid said. Before he could say anything else, Professor Adellia called, “Class, attention!” The silence was instant. Everyone’s focus was centered on her; it was clear that she had them trained. “A guide has been kind enough to agree to walk us through the history of Defense Against the Dark Arts. It will include…but I’ll let her tell you herself. Please pay close attention, as any information she gives you may be on a future test or quiz, and I may not tell you beforehand…” With this warning, Professor Adellia surrendered the students’ attention to a short brunette. “Hi!” she said brightly, beaming at them. “My name is Carol, and I’m going to be your guide today.” She continued to babble about the history of the museum as she lead the class to a particular side hall. “This entire hall,” she said, gesturing down its length, “is dedicated to the history of Defense.” She started down it and began to explain major events that happened long ago, and their relevance to the detritus scattered across tables and inside of showcases. There was everything from coins and necklaces to cups and knives, as well as little statuettes and figurines. Listening to Carol, he learned that Defense went back thousands of years, and that some very ancient enchantments had been surprisingly sophisticated, even inspiring currently existing methods of defense. After a while, he looked around, and his gaze landed upon a deep alcove set in the wall opposite him. What aroused his curiosity was the fact that while all the other exhibits were bright and populated, even if only with a couple of people, this one was rather dark, and completely devoid of people. He walked over to it. There was some tables on each side, and a glass showcase at the very end. Looking at the tables on the right, he saw medallions, some silverware, and (oddly) a couple of candle holders. Nothing interesting. So He continued until he was directly in front of the showcase. It contained a single item: a sword. Looking closer, he saw that it had a marvelously well-kept blade. It had a hilt the color of copper, in which there were sapphires embedded. As he shifted his head in his examination, he noticed scratches along the blade. A stray scrape? Leaning even closer, he tilted his head and could just make out some letters: There’s no sharper edge than that of knowledge. Something about this phrase sounded slightly familiar to Harry, but he couldn’t figure out what. He turned away to look at the other tables, and was soon absorbed in a pair of glasses.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Suddenly, he heard a small click. It didn’t really register with him, until he sensed movement nearby. He turned, and saw Ron standing there, holding something. In front of him, the glass case was open. Harry pushed past, staring. The case was completely empty. Slowly, realization hit, and he whirled, looking at Ron’s hands. Sure enough, there was the sword, held delicately in his fingers. “Ron,” he said slowly and calmly, “give the sword here. It shouldn’t be out of its case.” Ron simply looked at him, smirking. Then he put one foot behind him, deliberately, as though trying to give the impression that he was about to bolt. His fingers twitched on the sword, and Harry began to worry. What was Ron about to do? “Ron?” he asked, and when Ron didn’t answer, he reached out and grabbed the sword. He kept his grasp light, so he wouldn’t hurt himself on the blade’s edge. Unfortunately, this compromised the strength of his tug as he tried to remove it from Ron’s hands. He pulled harder, but stopped when a voice called from behind Ron, “What are you kids doing over there?” Ron turned to look at the voice’s owner; as he did so, he twisted in such a manner that the man who had spoken was given a clear view of the sword…and Harry’s hands on it. “What--?” Then he shouted, “ HELP! They’re stealing the sword!” Ron looked at Harry and said, loudly enough for the man to hear, “Distract him, and I’ll make a run for it.” Harry didn’t have a chance to reply. Ron pulled the sword away from him, running at the man. The poor man was sent sprawling; Harry, chasing after his friend, didn’t help him up or offer an apology. Ron ran very fast, and Harry couldn’t manage to draw any closer. But he still kept on his trail. Eventually, Ron turned and darted into a room. A sign next to the door identified the room as a bathroom. Harry sprinted to the door, just in time to hear a loud CRACK! inside. He opened the door— and Ron came out, looking slightly disgruntled. Didn’t even say excuse me,” he muttered, then saw the way Harry was looking at him. “What?” “What’d you do with the sword?” Harry demanded, confused. Ron wasn’t acting like a person who had just committed a major theft. “What sword?” asked Ron, then realization dawned on his face. He looked over his shoulder at the bathroom door. “Damn!” he said. “The bloke was that close, and I didn’t…” He shook his head. Harry’s mind worked furiously. This Ron had obviously not even seen the sword, which meant the

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

other was an impostor. That explained the strange behavior. And they must have used a Polyjuice Potion. It wouldn’t have been exactly difficult to obtain a piece of him… Harry heard running feet, and he spun to see the man who had seen Harry and the impostor with the sword. There!” yelled the man. “They did it!” A pair of grim looking guards strode forward and grabbed Harry and Ron. “Where is the sword?” asked one guard, and Ron snapped, “I don’t know!” “Don’t lie!” snarled the other guard, and Harry said, “The guy was an impostor. He ran into the bathroom and Disapparated.” “A likely story!” said the man. He looked at the guards. “Take care of these two.” Then he marched away. “What are you doing?” asked Ron as they took his wand. Harry, remembering the Elder Wand, handed his over. “You’re both under arrest,” answered one of the guards, “for the theft of the Sword of Ravenclaw.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Webs and Ghosts
“Will we stand trial?” Harry asked Ron as they were marched down a hall leading from the room they had been transported to by Side-Along-Apparition. “Oh sure,” he said softly, glancing guardedly at the wizards who accompanied them. “But it won’t be for a day or two.” “We have to wait?” Harry asked, his heart sinking. The longer their trial was delayed, the less of a chance Harry had of convincing the…well, whoever was judging them that he and Ron were innocent. “Yeah. But that’s not the worst part,” Ron said glumly. “It looks like we’ll have to wait in Azkaban.” Oh no! Harry’s heart sank to his toes and beyond, because Azkaban meant…Dementors. He always fainted around them unless he could produce a Patronus in time. And that was just the effect of one Dementor. Azkaban had dozens. “What am I going to do, without a wand?” Harry groaned. Ron glanced at him sympathetically. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“What’s the matter? Worried ‘bout the Dementors?” The guard grinned. “Shoulda thought of that before you stole the sword.” “We didn’t steal the sword!” Ron said angrily. The guard grunted. “Whatever. Doesn’t matter anyway.” He smirked. “You’re in for a hell of a night. Maybe two.” Harry scowled at the floor. He didn’t like the way the guard had disregarded his proclaimed innocence. But one thing the guard was right about… He had hell to look forward to. * * *

They flew on brooms to Azkaban. Despite the fairly quick speed at which they traveled, it took over an hour for them to reach their destination. About an hour after takeoff, the clouds began to darken, even though it was still light out. Harry glanced around nervously, hoping they wouldn’t have to fly through a rain storm. A few minutes later, lightning illuminated the sky. Harry grew more edgy by the second, having no wish to be battered around in midair by stormy winds, or even hit by lightning. As the lightning flashed, increasing in frequency, Harry spotted a black shape in the distance. A couple minutes brought them close enough for him to realize that it was a triangular building, like a stack of huge triangles. Dozens of black dots soared around it, and Harry’s blood froze in his veins when he suspected what they were. Sure enough, two of them came zooming towards Harry, soon recognizable as Dementors. They came to a very brief halt in font of the group, which slowed a little; then they swerved to each side, apparently satisfied with the group’s validity. They kept pace as Harry and the others swiftly descended, landing on a stone dock. They dismounted and headed for the front doors. The Dementors glided alongside them, their frigid aura just grazing his mind. Harry gazed at the prison, looming above them like the shadow of doom. Unable to bear the sight of it, Harry lowered his eyes, then noticed a glimmer near his waist. Looking down, he saw that his skin was glowing a faint silver, which shimmered slightly. Strange, he thought. He concentrated on it, and found that he could make it brighter. Suddenly, the Dementor beside him shifted, increasing the distance between them by a few inches. He dimmed the light, and the Dementor

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

immediately drifted closer. It occurred to Harry that the glow was very like the glow that surrounded Patronuses. He quickly put two and two together. Wow, he thought, Patronus Skin. Abruptly fearing that the guards would notice his illuminated flesh, Harry dimmed his skin once more, keeping just a slight shine, enough to hold the screaming at bay in the back of his mind. The doors were guarded by a single Dementor, which hovered to one side of the doorway. Sensing their approach, it darted along the door. Silently, the doors opened, and the prisoners were herded inside. Harry craned his neck to look upwards. The ceiling was very nondescript; a chilly dampness seemed to linger everywhere. The Dementor next to Harry swerved closer to him, and he immediately flinched away. He accidentally stepped on Ron’s foot, and Ron stopped, throwing Harry a confused look. “Sorry,” Harry muttered, and Ron shrugged, as thought to say, Big deal. “Y’know, they’re more aware than usual,” the guard behind Harry remarked. “Huh,” the other said. He yanked Ron to a stop, then stepped around and waved his wand in front of Ron’s face. Ron pulled his face away and snapped, “What’re you doing!?” “You’re right,” the guard grunted to the first. “You aren’t feeling anything?” Harry’s guard asked him. “If you mean ‘am I being overwhelmed by guilt’, the answer is no,” Harry said sourly. “As I said before, we’re not guilty.” The guard didn’t say anything. They continued down the hall, to the door at the very end. One guard pushed a button next to it, and the door slid sideways, allowing them onto the triangle-shaped platform within. Once inside, the guard went to a key pad that had been inscribed in the wall. Pressing a button that had the number 8 on it, the guard stepped back and waited as the elevator began to rise. After a short while, one of the two other walls slid open, and the prisoners were steered along another hall. They turned a corner, continued a little further, then stopped. One cell was unlocked and opened, and Harry was pushed in. He heard the cell door close behind him; a key rattled in the lock, securing his confinement. Listening, he could discern the racket of another cell door, before the sound of footsteps faded, to be replaced by the moans of restless prisoners, and a very faint trickling sound coming from somewhere.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Harry stared at the wall, trying to think what to do. Was there any way out of this? He recalled Hermione’s reaction when she had seen them being taken away: Harry? She had asked through her mind. We’ve been framed, he said. She simply stared for a moment, then said, I’ll take care of this, and hurried off. Harry sighed and slowly shook his head. She was their lifeline; he could only hope she’d be fast enough. Abruptly, he remembered Ron. He turned and walked to his cell door. “Ron? Are you okay?” he whispered, afraid that something may have happened to his friend already. Silence. Harry’s heart seemed to freeze. “Ron!” he hissed. “I hear you,” Ron’s low voice came. From the sound of it, he was in the cell next to Harry’s. Harry sighed in relief. “What are you doing?” he asked, just to talk, and to hear Ron’s voice. Anything friendly in this hole was a blessing… “Mmm” was Ron’s response. “Er…what?” Harry said, confused. Ron sounded rather preoccupied—like he was doing more than just sitting around… “Mmm…It’s kind of hard to explain,” Ron murmured. “Give me a try,” Harry said; he had nothing better to do, and besides, he was curious. “Well…I’m kind of on the ceiling,” Ron said slowly, and Harry said blankly, “What?”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“I’m on the ceiling,” Ron repeated. “Don’t ask me how.” He paused, then added, “It’s pretty cool. Too bad you can’t see me.” Yeah, too bad, Harry thought to himself. He pondered the matter, but his mind soon turned down other paths. After a little while, he noticed something nagging at the back of his mind. He focused, and a small voice became clear. He listened. He turned to the wall that stood separated his cell from Ron’s, and placed both of his hands flat on it. Fade out, he thought at it, fade out. A section of the wall shimmered, slowly becoming transparent. Harry withdrew his hands in astonishment. He could soon see through the wall into Ron’s cell—which was apparently empty. He walked forward, into the wall; it was like walking through a wall of water. He emerged from the other side and looked around. “Ron?” he said, puzzled. Then he remembered Ron’s words, and he looked upward. Ron was crouched on the ceiling, staring downward at Harry, mouth open in amazement. “What—How—You—?,” Ron stammered, then stopped, frowning. Harry shrugged and quoted Ron. “Don’t ask me how.” Ron snorted, then said, “Harry, look at this. I’m sticking to the stone!” “Er—any idea why…?” Harry inquired, and Ron said thoughtfully, “Before I passed out, the Healer told me that the antidote they gave me for the venom was unapproved.” “You drank an unapproved antidote?” Harry asked in disbelief. “Well, the Ministry is still reviewing it…from what the Healer knew, it was a pretty effective treatment.” Harry noticed something whitish-gray from the corner of his eye; turning, he saw a web on the wall. “Did you do that?” he asked Ron. “Oh yeah,” said Ron, eyeing the sticky creation. “That’s another thing I can do. Watch this.” He reached out with one hand, fingers spread wide, and aimed his palm at the wall. The skin at the center puckered, forming a small crevice, and a rope of gray-white material identical to the mess on the wall burst from it. It struck to wall, then pulled taut, as Ron’s fingers wrapped around the near end. He pulled lightly, but the webbing didn’t give.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“And…” Ron muttered, and let go of the rope, then aimed his palm at the wall again. This time, a wad of sticky material shot out, expanding into a perfectly made web, which landed on the wall. He looked at it for a second, then said, “I can do this, too.” He shot a string of web, wiggling his hand as he did so, and he drew a spiral on the wall. Then a curving line appeared, followed by two spots, form a smiley face. Harry smirked in spite of himself, and Ron chuckled. “Hey,” Ron said suddenly, “I want to try something.” He paused, then added, “you might want to back up.” Harry backed away a couple of steps. Ron suddenly dropped, somersaulting in midair so he landed on his feet. He did so with incredible speed and grace. “Try to punch me,” Ron commanded, and Harry halfheartedly struck out at him. Ron dodged easily, and shook his head. “Not good enough. Put some effort into it.” Harry threw his fist at him again. Moving so fast he was a blur, Ron sidestepped him and grabbed his arm. The next thing Harry knew, he was lying on his back, staring at the ceiling. “Oops, did that kind of hard, didn’t I?” said Ron, his face appearing in Harry’s line of sight. He held out a hand, and Harry took it. Ron pulled him to his feet, then backed up a step and said, “Now try to kick me.” Harry, wary now, kicked, and Ron moved so fast that Harry instinctively tensed. An expanding wave of force burst from him, slamming Ron against the wall. Ron was then pinned there by little strips of golden flame; he gaped at Harry. “You’re full of surprises,” he said finally. “So are you,” replied Harry, cutting off the magic. “My strength and reflexes have been…improved, somehow,” said Ron. “I think that the antidote might have changed the venom so it helped me, instead of hurting me.” He saw Harry’s expression and said quickly, “It’s the only explanation I can think of.” A rumble came from the wall, and they both turned to look at it. “Probably thunder,” Ron muttered, then shrugged and turned back to Harry. He opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by an even louder rumble. “That thunder’s getting too close,” Ron said.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Then the world exploded. Rocks flew everywhere, and Harry was falling…all of the stones went wide of him, undoubtedly pushed away by his magical defenses. However, one small chunk hit his hand, digging into it, then fell away. He was falling, falling… He jerked to a halt, dangling, with rocks plummeting past him. He was confused for a moment, until he realized that his cloak seemed to be caught on something. Twisting, he looked up—and saw a line of white attached to his robes. His eyes followed it upward, until it ended in a hand—Ron’s hand. Ron was hanging by another rope of webbing, and wiggling nimbly to avoid the last chunks of stone that were still airborne and swiftly dropping. Ron suddenly hauled on Harry’s line, yanking him upwards, and snagged Harry’s collar. He then kicked out, causing him to swing forward, and let go of the webbing. He shot another line of webbing at another spot, swung and let go again. He finally lifted Harry onto his shoulder, then dropped. As soon as he landed, he set Harry back on his feet and asked, “You all right, mate?” Harry nodded, and they began to descend, jumping from one rock pile to the next; Ron demonstrated an extraordinary degree of balance and grace, as well as strength, as his jumps were twice as long as Harry’s. Upon reaching relatively flat ground, they turned to study the damage done to the prison. A great gaping hole had been blasted into the wall, and they could torn and broken bodies lying here and there. “Blimey,” Ron murmured, his face very pale. “What d’you think…?” “Lightning, maybe?” Harry suggested; it was the best guess he could come up with. “We heard thunder…” “Lightning that just happened to strike the prison, right where we were?” Ron wondered aloud. “You think someone was trying to attack us?” Harry asked. “Well, chances are, this place is enchanted against lightning strikes, so for a lightning bolt to hit, it had to be both strong and intentional,” Ron explained. “But hopefully, whoever—or whatever—did this is satisfied, or didn’t stick around.” But even as he spoke, there came a crackling sound from overhead. They both looked up to see a figure hovering high above, and it was wielding something that was lit up: another charge to throw at them.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Ron Seized Harry and threw himself sideways, but Harry’s incredible, newfound strength enabled him to resist. He fought free of Ron’s embrace and stood, staring at their attacker. Ron made to grab him, but stumbled back as a blistering heat struck him. Flames rippled across Harry, his skin emitting a furious glare, energy pulsating from him. Ron stared in disbelief. Whoa, thought Harry, feeling the power rushing through his veins. In the back of his mind, he registered an awed, joyful amazement that he had actually tapped into this power at will…he was still staring at the figure, and he raised his arm to point at their assailant. A blazing bolt of blue lightning burst from his finger, burning a fiery path through the sky, to collide with the other lightning bolt midway. There was a great flash of white light, and a second later, a huge CRACK! crashed into their ears. Harry saw Ron flinch, but he himself remained unmoved. After a couple of moments, the sky cleared. The good news: the figure was no longer in sight. The really bad news: there were dozens of Dementors swooping toward them. “Harry!” screamed Ron, and Harry dashed over to him and grabbed his arm. Stay next to me!” Harry commanded, then he let go of Ron. Raising his hands, he spread his arms, and turned his Patronus Glow way up. But as more and more Dementors began swirling around them, slowly Harry’s Glow dwindled to nothing. Abruptly, ice-cold air slammed into him and Ron, pitching them to the ground. Mustering all of his strength, Harry sat up, flung out one luminous hand, and roared, “EXPECTO PATRONUM!” To his utter astonishment, a white stag burst from the light surrounding his hand, and began to canter around them at a rapid pace. The frigid aura smothering them faded, and Ron slowly got to his knees. “Thanks, ma— ” he started, his voice hoarse, but stopped as Harry’s Patronus flickered and dissolved, becoming a rolling tangle of sparks. The sparks were soon gone, and the Dementors closed in once more. We’re doomed, thought Harry faintly, as mists clouded his mind. He was sinking into cold darkness, when he became aware of a someone standing over him. Who…?” he mumbled and the person bent over. “THE BLOOD OF GODRIC GRYFFINDOR RUNS IN YOUR VEINS, HARRY POTTER,” a deep, echoing voice said to him. Harry looked closer, and saw that this figure was a broad-chested man, with brown hair and eyes. “LISTEN TO ITS VOICE,” the phantom continued. “LISTEN TO ITS VOICE, AND YOU WILL NOT FAIL.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Harry struggled to keep his eyes open, but was slowly losing. His head started to sag, and the ghost of Gryffindor said, “REST NOW, HARRY POTTER. YOU ARE GREATLY WEAKENED.” Harry noticed movement to the side, and turning his head, he saw a few blurred shapes emerging from the chaos that surrounded him. He tried vainly to protect himself, but failed. As he was sucked into a blank nothingness, he saw a shining cat leap at him, and though his lips refused to move, he cried out in his head, Don’t let me die! FEAR NOT, HARRY POTTER,” Gryffindor’s voice said gently, and Harry knew no more.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

The Talismanic Group
Harry was surrounded by black, demonic creatures, a writhing fury of flesh. Their screams and howls drowned out his own terrified thoughts as he cowered in the middle of a small clearing, the only free space amid the churning tangle of bodies. His panic climbed as the gap shrank, losing a minute inch with every second that passed. He was almost ready to turn and lash out with bare fists, anything to keep the beasts away—but he was too late. Snarling creatures heaped themselves on top of him; he was soon well-buried beneath mounds of these…these things. He was on his hands and knees, keeping up only by means of seemingly superhuman strength; yet it wasn’t enough to throw them off. He started to sway, the stack of monsters moving with him, and the mesh of limbs shifted just enough to allow him a narrow view of a section of the open air. Even as he gazed through, a tall, black, slender figure rose from the mass of activity, gliding toward him. Harry stared in a newly rising terror, certain that this was yet another horror come to add to the assault on Harry’s mind and body. It drew closer and closer, until it was right next to the heap that covered Harry. And suddenly, it exploded. Nay—it burst into light, the sudden brightness giving the impression of a flaming eruption. Where the figure had stood, a gleaming angel shone with a magnificent brilliance, whiter than any white Harry had ever known. Everything was thrown off of Harry, and as he watched in stunned disbelief, all of the demonic creatures rolled away from him like and expand, ebony wave, surging away from the being that stood beside him. Gazing at his savior, Harry was struck with an impression of a majestic shard of Heaven, a pillar of ultimate glory. He realized that the figure was offering its hand to him, an extension of luminous perfection. He immediately reached up, but even as he did, he felt a great weight pressing on his body, as though an invisible force were trying to push him down. And succeeding. Harry knew he wouldn’t be able to grasp the miraculous image before him, but just to touch it would be enough for him, would last a lifetime. Their fingertips were scant inches apart… Snap! The loud, unexpected sound broke the fetters that bound Harry in his swoon, and his eyes flashed open. He was instantly sitting upright, finding himself on a recliner. His first instinct was to locate the source of the sound. It wasn’t hard; there was someone standing behind him, to the left. Kingsley, holding a large chunk of chocolate, presumably what had made the sound. “’Bout time, mate,” said a familiar voice, and Harry turned to see Ron sitting in an armchair nearby, holding a paper. How…How long have I been out?” asked Harry.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“You arrived about half an hour ago,” a quiet voice said from behind him, and Harry knew without looking who it was, because he could sense her mind. It was very tense, and when he looked around, he saw that she was staring at him with an anxious expression. “You okay?” he asked, concerned. He didn’t like her tension… “She’s been worried sick about you, Harry,” Ron answered for her. Was that a hint of bitterness in his voice? “No need to worry, Hermione, I’m all right,” Harry reassured her. Reaching out with his mind, he showed her that he felt okay. He sensed a small gush of relief, but her expression eased only slightly. “What happened back there, Harry?” Ron asked, throwing the newspaper he held onto the Minister’s desk. Seeing Harry’s confused expression, he elaborated, “You cast a Patronus without a wand, then it sounded like you were talking to someone.” “I don’t know how the Patronus happened,” said Harry, “and the person I was talking to—” He stopped and glanced warily at Kingsley, who was listening closely, then decided to continue. “I saw Gryffindor,” he said, and described the whole encounter. Ron, stunned, said, “You were visited by a—a—?” “Wraith,” said Hermione in a matter-of-fact voice. “Gryffindor…that explains some things. And casting a Patronus without a wand…that indicates a lot of power, but it drains people horribly…” She looked sharply at him, seeming to search his face for something. “You’re sure you’re okay?” “I feel fine.” “I’d still feel better if you ate some chocolate,” Hermione said, glancing at Kingsley, and he stepped forward, saying, “I have some chocolate here. How about some wine as well?” Harry suddenly realized that his throat was very dry. “Yes, please,” he replied. Kingsley handed him a chunk of chocolate, and pulling out his wand, he murmured, “Vinum!” Three goblets of wine appeared. He handed one to Ron and Harry, then offered the third to Hermione. When

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

she shook her head, he took it to his desk and sat down, sipping from it. Harry bit a chunk from his chocolate, then realized that they were watching him. Casting around for a distraction, his eyes landed on the newspaper Ron had tossed aside. From where Harry sat, the text was upside down, but he could still make out the words Dragon Attack. “There was another attack, then?” he asked casually. Ron followed his gaze, and scowled. “Yeah,” he answered, “not far from the Burrow. Dad’s friends with the witch who lived there, and she lost almost everything in the house. Stupid over-sized lizards!” “What are you doing about that?” Harry inquired, looking at Kingsley. “There’s not a whole lot we can do, Harry,” the Minister replied gravely, wearing a deep frown. Harry simply stared at him expectantly, so he continued. “So far, we have the Magical Creature Capture and Containment team patrolling England, but that’s about it.” “They have Dragon Control Specialists in Romania,” stated Hermione. “Have you contacted them?” Kingsley almost smiled. “Yes. And as far as I know, one of our own specialists is still there, maintaining the flow of reports.” “And there’s nothing new?” prompted Ron hopefully. Kingsley sighed. “All we can do,” he spoke to all three, “is watch and wait.” Silence fell, and Kingsley seemed to notice that Harry’s chocolate was gone. He immediately began talking. “Well, Harry, I’ll admit that—although I spoke with the museum guards and the museum’s manager—I still don’t know nearly as much about this situation as I would like.” He sighed. “I’m sorry for taking so long getting to you. Hermione was very fast in informing me of your demise. I would have retrieved you sooner, but even I have to take certain mandatory steps before releasing anyone from Azkaban. And while I was busy, I narrowed the explanations for your behavior down to two. One, the unfavorable answer, is that you went off your rocker and nicked the sword, and somehow bullied Ron into assisting you. But,” he continued, raising a hand to forestall Harry’s protest, “knowing you, I immediately discarded that thought. The other explanation was that you didn’t steal the sword, that it was Ron, who was either under the Imperious Curse or being impersonated. Is that what happened?”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Yes!” agreed Harry. “That’s what I keep trying to tell everyone, but they won’t listen!” “Ahhh, that’s unfortunate …and things are more complicated by—well, have you any idea who the culprit might be?” “Not a clue,” Harry said. “As I said, that complicates the situation. People always want someone to blame, and you just happened to…and that’s another thing. Did you ever wonder exactly why that particular object was targeted?” “No,” answered Harry, confused. “I wondered why it had to be me.” “But you were told during your arrest that the sword was once Ravenclaw’s?” “Yeah,” replied Ron slowly. “Well, that artifact has a very special history behind it,” explained Kingsley, looking at Harry. “It has seen some very rare events. And the past isn’t entirely faded from it. But I don’t know enough to give you an accurate summary. So, I took the liberty of inviting an expert to speak with you.” “An expert?” Hermione questioned. “An expert in—er, dragon-history,” Kingsley elaborated. “He should be along any time now.” Right on time, the flames in his fireplace turned emerald-green; a shape could be seen spinning in the flames, and a second later a tall, thin man with black hair and a lined face stepped smoothly out onto the hearth. “Minister,” he said quietly to Kingsley in greeting. “Hello, Mark,” replied Kinsley. “Have a seat.” Another armchair appeared out of nowhere, and Mark sank into it. Kingsley then waved a hand at Harry and his friends, saying, “These friends of mine would like to hear the story I mentioned to you before. After all, you know it much better than I do.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Very well,” said Mark. “First of all, my name is Mark O’Brea—,” Harry sensed a small shift in Hermione’s mind, but didn’t eavesdrop on whatever she was thinking. “— I’m a Draconic historian. In other words, my area of expertise is all the European history that is related to dragons, and a good deal of dragon-oriented history from elsewhere.” he scanned their faces. “How much do you know about draconic talismans?” Ron’s face brightened in recognition. “My dad has mentioned some…you mean like talismans made from parts of dragons?” “No,” corrected Mark, “I mean like talismans enchanted, or rather improved upon, by dragons.” Ron’s response was: “Oh!” then “But that’s impossible!” O’Brea’s eyebrows rose. “How so?” “Dragon’s can’t—they aren’t—I mean, you’re talking about dragons casting spells, right?” Ron said, clearly bewildered. “Mmm, not so much casting spells as influencing them,” Mark said. “Dragons can augment, twist, or renew enchantments. The case I speak of, involves augmenting.” “But they can’t! They aren’t smart enough!” Ron objected. “They once were,” said Hermione softly, and Mark’s eyes flashed over to her. “But—But my dad never said—” stammered Ron, and Harry almost smiled at his confusion. “That is because the particular case I speak of was a very rare one, and all but forgotten over the years. A few scattered people may tell of the tale, but as far as they know, it is simply a story told for amusement. After all, the vicious creatures we call dragons could hardly be intelligent, could they?” He smiled. “Everyone wants to believe that true intelligence results in benevolence of some sort. Unfortunately, Lord Voldemort’s achievements provided quite an argument against that.” “What about your story?” prompted Hermione, watching him intently.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Ah, yes, the story,” said O’Brea, as though he had forgotten. “Well, it is basically about four people who encountered a nice dragon. Apparently, it had concerns about the human-level intelligence of dragon all over. Because with intelligence, comes deviance and cruelty, and such cunning makes it even harder to keep the world reasonable. Add tremendous strength, sharp claws and teeth, immense size, and fire power on top of it, and you have quite a problem. Multiply that by a hundred, and…well, you can guess how things go from there. In short, this particular dragon decided that to solve the problem, the dragons’ intelligence should be eliminated entirely, reducing them to the wits of a wolf.” He paused to let this sink in, then continued. “However, this dragon knew that the spell wouldn’t last forever. So it gave a large amount of power to an item belonging to each of the travelers, creating a total of four talismans. These talismans are said to now have powerful enchantments enabling the wielder to fend off dragons…or subdue them. And perhaps even assault wizards as well. And one other power is said to be available, according to the dragon. A great and mighty power that we can hardly guess at, and can hardly afford to have fall into enemy hands.” He sighed, then said, “The sword of Ravenclaw is rumored to be one of those talismans, and there is much evidence supporting that theory.” “So who is trying to gather these talismans?” Hermione asked slowly, staring off into space. “Have you ever heard of the Talismanic Group?” asked O’Brea in reply. “No,” answered Hermione, as Harry and Ron shook their heads. “It is a group of treasure hunters who have developed a taste for a specific type of treasure. Old, powerfully enchanted treasure, to be precise. Then, not long ago, some influential person gathered them together for a purpose that appealed to their hearts: obtaining and uniting a special collection of talismans, the talismans from the story I just told you.” “And what do they plan on doing with them?” inquired Ron, looking nervous. “They could do a lot of damage, from the sound of it.” “That’s what the Ministry would like to know,” replied Kingsley “Hold on,” said Harry quickly, perking up. “The Ministry’s involved in this?” “It could very well become a matter of national security, so yes, the Ministry is involved. Due to speculations by various professionals, it seems we can hardly afford not to be involved.” “Are you making any headway?” Hermione asked, her eyes narrowed.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“We had an inside eye, but we lost contact with our, er, agent, a few days ago. I believe that, somehow, he was found out and eliminated permanently. From what information we’ve gotten, their leader seems quite…intelligent. Very cunning. Too cunning to sensibly risk further efforts at spying.” “Who is their leader?” Harry questioned. He could sense the discussion drawing closer to the part that involved them in it; or more accurately, the part that involved the solution to their predicament. “A man named Gaspin Ruthright,” answered Kingsley bitterly. Harry wondered briefly what Gaspin Ruthright had done to deserve such emotion. “He is a sly man, as he keeps himself from being directly connected to anything.” The Minister sighed. “So…what are we going to do?” Ron asked impatiently. “I should warn you that lack of solid evidence in your defense will result in both of you having this situation in your criminal background,” Kingsley informed them. “And Harry, I’m sorry about this, but your teacher sent an owl about an hour after your arrest, expressing her strong disinterest in teaching you further. In other words, she has kicked you out permanently. I must ask you not to hold it against her. She is a very strict and smart woman; but her pride…I don’t blame her for her endeavor to maintain the wellbeing of her reputation by cutting off all ties between you and her. It would be a very difficult position…” Kingsley grimaced, then said, “Mark may have something to add…?” His statement ended as a question, as he looked at O’Brea. “All I have to say is suggest that you read further about this matter. See the various versions of the story I told you. You might learn more. I want you to understand this matter fully, and that includes the history behind it.” “Er—okay,” said Harry. He really hadn’t been looking for assigned reading, but if it helped him… “It may prove an interesting read, and rewarding in ways you wouldn’t have imagined,” commented O’Brea, looking at them meaningfully. “Well,” said Ron, “we really won’t have much else to do, besides me practicing—” “We’ll be sure to check it out,” Harry assured the expert, then rose. “You guys ready?” he asked Ron and Hermione. “Yeah,” said Ron, and they both got up.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Harry? I’d like you to find out where the other talismans are, and I want you to report any new developments,” Kingsley requested. He seemed to sense Harry’s lack of commitment, for he added, “Remember, the sooner we figure this out, the sooner we can nail the people responsible for this, and the sooner we can clear your names.” Harry merely nodded, then headed for the door. He opened it, and stepped aside to let Ron and Hermione through. “Er, before you go…where are you heading off to?” The minister asked. “I think,” said Harry slowly, “that I am going to go look for a new teacher.” “Wait,” Kingsley commanded, and Harry turned to look at him, eyebrows raised. The Minister sorted through the papers on his desk, before holding up what looked like a memo. “The teachers are meeting in the conference room in the Department of Magical Education. You should go there, while they are all gathered. Good luck.” “Thanks,” Harry said, and turned and walked out, letting the door close behind him. “Harry?” asked Hermione as he rejoined them, and they strode along. “What’s that on your hand?” Harry paused, then raised his left hand and stared at the back of it. “What…?” he murmured, for where there should have been smooth flesh, was a scar. He vaguely remembered being cut by a bit of stone, but this…this didn’t look right. Rather than a simple slash in his skin, Harry now bore an oddly shaped mark on his hand. A mark like a…G. “G for Gryffindor,” whispered Hermione, and Harry looked up in surprise. “How do you know?” he demanded, and she shook her head. “I don’t.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Education
They reached the lift just as it was closing, and Harry broke into a jog, reaching out to grab the edge of the gate. It drew back immediately, allowing them to board. There was a wizard and a couple of witches already there, and their eyes widened in recognition, before narrowing warily. Harry winced inwardly, sure that they were thinking of his earlier accident on the lift. He noticed Ron scanning the other people before turning to Harry. “Are you really going to look for another teacher?” he asked in a low voice. Hermione watched them, listening. “Course I am,” Harry answered. Why wouldn’t he? Ron seemed to sense the question, and shrugged. “It just seems that going to classes isn’t exactly a fun pastime.” “I plan on becoming a DADA teacher. I won’t let one reluctant instructor throw me off,” Harry replied. “What’re you going to do for a career?” “Dunno,” said Ron, frowning. “Maybe I’ll join Broomsticks Regulations.” “You’re interested in something with brooms, then?” asked Hermione, eyebrow raised as she eyed him critically. Ron reddened and looked down, mumbling, “Well, yeah, it’s the only thing I know much about and am good at.” Hermione continued to study him for a second, then declared, “I think you should consider being a Flying instructor.” Ron gaped at her, while Harry blinked in surprise. Now that she mentioned it, it made perfect sense. A cool, female voice suddenly spoke, announcing their arrival on the fourth flour. Exiting the lift, Ron said, “Y’know, that sounds really good.” “You’re welcome,” she answered. “Although,” he said thoughtfully as they walked along, “I’m not sure I want to spend all day yelling at novices who don’t even know how to mount a broom properly.” “Well, obviously you’re supposed to teach them that,” Hermione snapped. “And besides, Broom Regulations is bound to have some unappealing aspects too.” She suddenly stopped and gazed at a picture on the wall. Harry, peering closer, saw that it was a map of

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

the floor they were on. “Hmmm,” she murmured, “if we’re here—” she tapped the map in one spot, “—and the room’s there —” she tapped it in another spot, “—then we need to take a left, take a right, take another right, and go down a little ways, and we’ll be there.” “Look!” Ron said, studying the map. “According to this…Broom Regulations is right at the back of this floor!” “You could go check it out while I’m busy with the teachers,” Harry suggested, but Ron shook his head. “Maybe I’ll talk to the teachers too,” he said. “That teaching job…” They were just rounding the corner while turning right when Harry’s eye met an unexpected sight. “Malfoy!” He exclaimed. “Potter,” Draco Malfoy said in turn, appearing only slightly surprised. “What’re you doing here?” Ron demanded, his annoyance clear. “I just finished speaking with the teachers,” Malfoy replied calmly. “What?!” Ron snapped. “You? A teaching career?” “What post?” Harry asked gently, as though Ron hadn’t spoken. “I’m considering Defense, but I’m not sure yet. Potions is another option,” Malfoy answered, his mood cool despite Ron’s outburst. In fact, he hadn’t even looked at Ron. But then he switched his attention to Ron. “Defense?” Ron exclaimed incredulously, looking to Harry then back to Malfoy. “Yes. Apparently, a vacant spot just appeared, and I’m thinking of taking advantage of it.” Harry was inwardly seething. He had been kicked out and almost instantly replaced with…Malfoy. “Why not pass my skills to the next generations?” he said. Ron scoffed. “What skills?” he asked. Malfoy’s eyes narrowed. “What I already know, and what I’ll learn in further training.” Ron snorted and shook his head. “Potter,” said Draco, turning his attention back to Harry, “or shall I call you Harry?” “‘Harry’ is fine,” Harry answered, and Draco immediately said, “I suppose it isn’t any of my business, but did you really steal an ancient sword?” “No!” snapped Harry and Ron at the same time. “If that’s what you’re—” Ron started furiously, but Draco interrupted him, saying, “I can’t help it that I hear things. And in any case…,” he turned to glare at Ron, “I didn’t believe it. After all, there seemed to be no reason for you to do such a thing.” “You believed that I was innocent?” Harry asked in disbelief. “Right,” Ron laughed sarcastically. “Unlike you, Ronald,” Draco said slowly and calmly, though his eyes glittered menacingly, “I have left behind the childish manners that plagued me in school, but it seems you still struggle with that

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

particular obstacle.” Ron’s ears turned beet red, and Harry was quick to cut him off. “So, you’re saying that you’re my friend now?” he asked doubtfully, watching Draco’s face carefully for any sign of second thoughts or deceit. “I am neither friend nor ally. However, I am perfectly willing to lean towards ‘ally’” Draco replied quietly. Harry said nothing, but his mind was working furiously. To all appearances, Draco was being completely honest. This confused Harry greatly, as he did not know whether or not to take Draco seriously. “I don’t know if I’ll see you again, Potter,” Malfoy said softly, making to walk past him, “so I’ll say good-bye, and good luck.” “Same to you,” Harry returned, causing Ron to gape at him. Malfoy was soon out of sight, and Ron snapped, “Why are you all of a sudden nice to him?” “I’ll take friends where I can get them, because I may need them all soon,” Harry replied. They continued on, letting Hermione get ahead of them since she knew the approximate location of the teacher conference room. Coming to a halt outside a doorway, Harry could hear some voices talking within. He hesitated, then knocked softly. The voices cut off abruptly, and another said loudly, “Come in.” Harry opened the door and took one step into the room before pausing, while Ron and Hermione stayed just beyond the door. “Mr. Potter!” exclaimed a heavy set man with a grayish-brown hairstyle similar to that of a monk. A quick glance around the room showed Harry a dozen teachers sitting at a semi-circular table, all of whom were looking at him curiously. The man approached him and offered his hand. “Welcome, welcome. My name is Robert Goodwill, but you can call me Robert. I must say, this is a surprise. A pleasant surprise, but a surprise nonetheless. To what do I owe this delight?” “Well…” began Harry slowly, his eyes darting along the row of teachers until he found a particular one. Professor Adellia stared at him intensely, and her pursed lips told him she knew what he was doing. “Yes?” prompted the man, and Harry looked back at him. “I don’t know if you heard, but I was recently kicked out of a Defense Education class, due to a…” Harry glanced at Adellia again, before saying, “… misunderstanding.” “I did hear…and you’re here to find another teacher?” Goodwill asked, and Harry nodded. “Very well, then…” Goodwill turned to look at the teachers. “Any one willing…?” Before they could respond, Adellia said, “If I could add something? It’s rather important.” Goodwill waved for her to continue, and she said, “The reason I dismissed him from my class is that he was arrested for the theft of a highly valuable artifact. I was reluctant to keep him under my responsibility after such crude behavior. After all, he was in class when it happened.” Goodwill and all the teachers looked to Harry for his response. He kept it simple. “I was framed.” Ron cleared his throat slightly, and Harry corrected himself. “We were framed.” The teachers raised their eyebrows, and a witch asked, “Oh? And by whom?”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Harry asked in reply, “Have you ever heard of the Talismanic Group?” She said, “I’m somewhat familiar with the name.” Harry glanced at Goodwill, who answered, “I’ve come across the term once or twice. Are you blaming the fiasco on them?” “Yes,” Harry replied simply, and Professor Adellia asked, “Why do you blame them?” Before Harry could explain, Hermione stepped forward and asked, “Do you know what the Talismanic Group is concerned with?” A blonde wizard said, “Draconic talismans, correct?” Hermione nodded and continued, “Since the sword of Ravenclaw is widely believed to be one of the four famed Draconic Talismans, it is logical that the Group would be behind the theft.” “And what arguments have you for why these two—” The witch waved her hand at Harry and Ron, “— wouldn’t have done it?” Hermione’s eyes narrowed and she asked, “Why would they have done it?” “As a favor for a friend? Perhaps they were hired…or they could have done it for themselves…” the witch suggested. “Gold? You actually think that money is enough to win Harry’s favor? He has enough to live comfortably for the rest of his life without a days work. As for Ron…” she looked at Ron, then back at the teachers, “Ron may not be rich, but he has a good heart, and he’s not stupid.” They all looked at her, then at Harry and Ron. Finally, a wizard spoke up. “Well, it certainly makes sense…” he said, and another wizard finished, “…but you still have to prove it. You don’t have any solid evidence.” At this, a witch looked at Harry sharply and asked, “How are you handling this? Do you plan on investigating?” “Er—maybe. Why?” asked Harry. “It would be an impressive sentiment for you to endeavor to correct a wrong in the world,” she replied. “Goodness knows, we need responsibility somewhere, and we can’t just depend on the Ministry.” “Ah, Magda, as wise as ever,” chuckled the blond wizard, and the teachers looked at each other, nodding. So…” said Goodwill finally, and the teachers looked at him. “What’s your decision?” “We’re afraid,” the witch answered, looking at Harry, “that we’ll have to forgo your education.” She raised a hand to forestall Harry’s protest, and said, “Let me explain, please.” “We will forgo your education of teaching Defense, in favor of your education in Draconic Talismans. You’ll need all the help you can get, I’m sure of it.” Harry was greatly irritated by this, but knew he had no choice. If he was fighting fate…he looked at Goodwill, who shook his head slowly. “I’m very sorry, Mister Potter, but if they feel that way, there is very little I can do. I respect their decision, and so must you.” Harry sighed, then looked at Hermione and Ron, both of whom simply shrugged. There’s nothing for it,

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

he thought, and sighed again. “Well, thanks anyway,” he said to the teachers, and he turned and left the room. He paused just outside, looking back at Ron. “You going to talk to them…?” he asked, and Ron hesitated, then returned to the room. Harry waited patiently, until Ron emerged from the room once more. “They’ll send me an owl,” he murmured in reply to Harry’s look. Harry nodded, and all three of them walked away. “So, where off to now, mate?” Ron asked. “Home. But, Hermione?” Harry said, turning to face her. She looked at him. “Can you go and pick up some books on talismans and fairytales?” he asked, and she nodded. Harry said to Ron, “We may as well start on this investigation.” Ron didn’t say anything, and they went home.

Draconic Tales

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Harry woke abruptly, and stared blankly ahead of him. For a moment, his mind was empty, then everything from yesterday came back to him. He sighed, knowing that he was in for a load of reading, once Hermione bought the books he wanted. He slowly realized that something seemed different; but upon looking around, he saw nothing out of place. Harry shook his head and chalked it up as his imagination. He rolled over, intending to get some more sleep, but spotted what the difference was. Hermione lay next to him, curled up and sleeping. At first, Harry was touched by this simple sight. But confusion returned. Bewildered, Harry hesitated, then reached out to tap Hermione’s shoulder. She slept on. He nudged her again, harder, and this time Hermione stirred, opening her eyes. She saw Harry and instantly sat bolt upright. An arm darted to her sleeve, before whipping through the air. “Flippendo!” she yelled, and with the bang from her wand, an astonished Harry was hurled across the room, where he slid to the floor. Hermione was beside him in seconds, crying. “I’m so sorry, Harry, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to, I thought I was in danger…” she sobbed, and at this point, Harry wanted very badly to tell her he was okay. But not only would his voice not work, he wasn’t sure of his health yet himself. He experimented, shifting his arms and legs slightly. They were sore, but they worked. His voice refused to cooperate, so he used the mind-link between them to communicate that he was all right. Calm down, I’m okay…just give me a second, he thought. After gathering himself, he slowly climbed to his feet, growing more confident as he encountered no difficulties. “What…what were you doing in my bed?” he asked, studying a distraught Hermione’s face. “I’m not sure,” she mumbled, and sniffed. “I mean, I don’t think…I thought…wasn’t it a dream?...not much of a sleep walker…” Harry watched her thinking aloud, bemused, before saying, “You could try a complete sentence. I’m not getting any sense out of you.” Hermione sighed, then said, “I had this dream, where I got out of bed, came to your room, crawled into your bed, and…” she blushed furiously, before adding quickly, “and there it ended.” The blush remained, and Harry guessed that there was more to the dream, but figured it was private. “And you don’t sleepwalk?” he asked, and she shook her head. “Not since I was four years old.” Harry wondered at that, but his still-extended mind detected someone approaching. He sensed the person to be Ron, and knew that Ron must not know what happened here. He grabbed Hermione by the arm, and Disapparated, reappearing in her room. She looked around, then walked to her bed and sat down, but her demeanor suggested to Harry that she wasn’t about to sleep. “Er—I think I’ll go back to my room. Or the kitchen. Chances are I won’t be getting any more sleep.” She nodded, and he started to turn, but she said, Oh—and take these.” She took some books from her night table and handed them to Harry. He frowned at their weight, but said nothing. You should probably stay here for a while before coming down, to make it look more natural,” he said, and she simply opened another book and began reading. He turned on his heel, enduring a second of crushing blackness before emerging in the kitchen. He pulled a chair out and sat down, examining the books he held. Dragon books. He sighed at the inevitability of the situation, and opened the book on top. He discovered that it was a book on dragon fairytales, and was partway through one story when Ron walked in.

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“So she got to you too, did she?” he asked, nodding at the book Harry was reading. Ron held up his own pile of books. “So much for a pleasant day today,” said Ron, sitting down. He looked around. “Say, is there any breakfast?” Harry blinked. He had forgotten. “Kreature?” he said, and with a crack, the ugly elf appeared. “What is Master Harry wanting, sir?” he asked, bowing. “Don’t bow,” Harry said automatically, then asked, “How about some breakfast?” “Right away, sir!” the elf croaked, and vanished with another crack. Ron glanced irritably at the books he had brought with them, and said, “Y’know, I really don’t want to start my day off this way. Maybe some Quidditch practice…” He was interrupted by a tapping at the window, and as he went to open it, Hermione entered the kitchen, yawning. She scanned the table and said, “No paper yet?” Harry shook his head, but then a tawny owl glided in through the window. It landed lightly on the table and dropped the paper it carried n its beak. It waited patiently while Hermione dug for a Knut, then tucked it into the pouch on the owl’s leg. It took off, disappearing through the window. Ron stood there with a piece of parchment, reading. “Well, they turned me down for the Flying course,” he sighed, “but they’re willing to have me in Broom Regulations.” “That’s great, Ron,” Harry responded, while Hermione said absently, “Wonderful.” Ron stared at her. “What’s got your attention now?” he demanded. “Oh, there’s been a few more dragon attacks,” she answered. “Luckily, no one has died. Although there have been some injuries, and several very close calls.” “Will it never end?” Ron asked, raising his eyes to the ceiling as though asking the gods. “Do dragons ever stop?” Harry asked in return. Ron shot him a look of dread and said, “Let’s hope so.” “And speaking of dragons,” Hermione said loudly, “we have some stories to read.” “Right,” was Ron’s answer. “And thanks so much for having the presence of mind to deliver a third of your payload to me. I am so touched.” “We all need to pull our weight,” Hermione said sternly. “And there’s no use balking at it,” she added, seeing Ron opening his mouth. He shut his mouth and sat down, just as Kreature appeared with their breakfast. “A lovely day we have ahead,” Ron grumbled, and Harry snorted. Hermione, however, simply remained silent. All three bowed their heads and began reading. * Several days and many books later… “Hey, you two, listen to this,” Hermione said for what seemed like the twentieth time. “Would you quit asking us to listen to you telling stories?!” Ron exclaimed. All the extra reading was * *

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

clearly wearing on him. “You need to hear this one—” Hermione insisted, but Ron interrupted, “It’s just another story, Hermione. You’re way too enthusiastic about this.” “What do you expect?” asked Harry, looking up from the story he was reading. Ron glared at him, evidently resenting his input. “This story is different,” snapped Hermione. “It doesn’t have the generic fairytale ending to it. It sounds like a riddle or a clue…” Harry and Ron stared at her, hooked in spite of themselves. “Well?” Ron finally demanded, and Hermione allowed a small smile as she turned to the story she had just finished. “It’s a fairly short one,” she commented, then silenced Ron with a look. “No interrupting,” she added. Then she began to read. A long time ago, in a land where beasts were clever and mages were many, four adventurers roamed the lands, keeping peace wherever they went. One day, they happened upon a rugged dragon, and after some hesitation, they approached it. When it spotted them, it spoke. ‘Travelers, I have foreseen your arrival here,’ it said. ‘Why are you in such a sorry condition?’ asked the adventurers, and the dragon answered, ‘A battle with the king of evil dragons has left me wounded, weary and weak. But it is a small price to pay, as my foe has been driven off. This allows me time to make the magic needed to protect the land from the wrath of those vile beasts.’ One of the adventurers, a man, was grim. ‘These dragons seem to be a danger to our people. Something must be done. Dragon, is there anything we can do to aid your precautions?’ ‘Why stop at simply assisting this dragon?’ said a second wizard. ‘Why not seize control of all of them? We have no guarantee that any spell cast now will hold as long as we would like it to, and it would be less complicated.’ ‘Because that would be, in short, enslaving the dragons’ said another wizard. ‘Merely controlling them would escalate into putting them to uses that please us. Man simply isn’t strong enough to resist the temptation.’ This wizard addressed the dragon. ‘What do you suggest?’ The dragon responded ‘Give me an item from all of you’. Upon collecting four objects, it made the things glow, before returning them to their owners. These items are now enchanted to enhance the strengths and powers within each of you, that you need to fend off the other dragons. And only while all four are united can you open the way to dominion.’ Hermione looked up. “That’s where it ends,” she said quietly, and Harry and Ron just stared at her dumbly. Suddenly, Harry spoke. “That does sound like a clue.” He paused, before adding, “That ending makes it sound like the combined talismans will unlock a fifth power.” Hermione nodded. “That’s exactly what I was thinking.” She glanced at Ron. “That’s why I wanted you to listen.” Ron scowled silently at her. “It would be great to know what this fifth power is,” he said, and Hermione smiled ruefully. “That,” she declared, “is our next objective.” Ron blinked at her. “Huh?” “We have to identify the power,” Harry said, and Hermione said, “Exactly.” Ron frowned. “Well, I can wait for a bit. I’m in no hurry to investigate this new mystery. Besides, I need to practice my Keeper skills.” “Oh, that’s right!” exclaimed Hermione. “Tryouts are just around the corner, aren’t they?”

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“And I need to be fully prepared,” Ron said nervously, heading for the stairs. Harry sighed and stared after Ron. “Just one more thing to worry about,” he murmured to himself. “I would say not to fuss, but Ron still has some confidence issues,” said Hermione softly, “and that nags at me too. I don’t have to be a Quidditch fan to appreciate the difficulty of performing before a large crowd.” “The sad part is, he can do it,” complained Harry. “The potential is there, he just needs to drag it out and fluff it up.” “There’s only so much you can do, Harry,” Hermione said in a soothing tone of voice. “Mostly, it’s just Ron. He has to help himself before others can help him.” She paused, then added, “Maybe, if he wants the position badly enough, he’ll slip past all his self-restraints.” Harry sighed again. “We’ll see…”

Broken Brooms
I don’t feel at all ready for this,” Ron moaned as they stood in line. It was a surprisingly long line; Harry wouldn’t have guessed the number of people willing to try out for the Cannons. But as one wizard told him: “Yuh gotta start somewhere.” It didn’t take long for them to reach the desk. Without looking up, the grubby wizard grunted, “Name?” “Er—Ronald Weasley,” Ron answered. He shot Harry a strange look, then looked back at the wizard, who was saying, “Continue to the locker room, just down the hall on my right, sixth door down on left.”

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Ron walked off as instructed, and Harry made to follow, but the grubby wizard said, “Hey, who’re you?” “Er, Har—” Harry started, but was interrupted as the wizard snapped, “Get back here! No one goes in there without registering!” “He’s with me,” said Ron, and the wizard squinted at him, then glared at Harry and growled, “Get going, then.” Harry quickly joined Ron as he made his way to the hall. They walked in silence for a moment. “Blimey, that bloke was rude,” commented Ron, and Harry shrugged. Rudeness was nothing new to him. “I mean, he had to have gotten a good look at your face.” Harry realized Ron’s confusion, and wondered himself; many wizards and witches had wept with joy after Voldemort’s downfall, and nearly everyone was eternally grateful to him. Still, there was the occasional oddball… They spotted a small desk ahead of them, behind which a tall redheaded witch with a creamy complexion and a bored expression sat. To her left was the door that Ron had been directed to. Ron reached for the door handle, but the witch said, “Wait. I have to check the brooms of all potential players before they go in.” Ron frowned and glanced at Harry, before wordlessly handing over his broom bag. It reminded Harry of a guitar case, except the bag was shaped more like a broom than a guitar. She briskly unzipped it, before pulling out a strange object like a tuning fork. As she began poking it around inside the bag, Harry asked, “What is that?” A Spell-Searcher,” Ron murmured. They’re used in lots of places, although you have to take a small course in how to use them. They detect all the spells that are on whatever object they Search. It’s for the safety of the competitors and the moral of the competition.” Harry continued to stare at the witch as she worked, then asked, “How long does it take to check a broom?” “Well, there’s several brooms in that bag…” said Ron, and the witch, without looking up, said as casually as if she’d always been part of the conversation, “Which puzzles me. Surely you don’t need that many brooms to try out?” “I’m sharing the bag with a few other people,” explained Ron nervously, as he shot Harry a quick glance. What? Who?” asked Harry in confusion. “George, for one…and here he comes,” Ron answered, turning around. Speak of the devil, and he shall appear,” George stated. He peered around them at the witch, and inquired, “Has she finished checking the brooms?” Ron shrugged, so George walked over and asked, “Are you done with mine yet?” “Which one is it?” she asked in reply, and he went around the table to stand next to her. He gazed into the bag, then quickly reached in and pulled out a broom. When Ron saw it, he demanded, “Is that a Gleam 3?” George ignored him as the witch tried to withhold the broom. “I haven’t scanned it yet!”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

She said. She waved the Searcher around the broom, then frowned. After making a second pass, she shook her head slightly. “There’s something there, but I can’t tell what it is.” “No worries,” replied George, pulling the broom from her grasp. She kept looking at it, and he added, “My neck, not yours.” Her expression lingered for a moment, then cleared a little, as she nodded. But just as George tried to escape, Ron asked, “A Gleam 3?” George threw him a look that clearly told Ron to drop the issue, but Ron went ahead anyway. “Where’d you get it? And what happened to your SwiftStrike 500?” George said irritably, “I sold it. And the Gleam came from a supportive customer.” His eyes alternated between Ron and Harry, and Harry thought he saw George’s gaze linger on him just an instant longer than it should have, as though trying to tell him something. He felt his own brow furrow, as he had no idea what George was on about. George’s eyebrow rose the tiniest bit, then he turned to Ron and said breezily, “Well, I’d better be going—” “Wait,” said Harry. “What position are you trying for?” “Beater,” answered George. “What else?” Oh, duh, thought Harry “Beater?” the witch echoed. You might want to prepare, you’re up in—” she picked up a piece of parchment and scanned it. “Fifteen minutes.” “Right,” said George. “Seeya later.” And he walked off. “Okay,” announced the witch, zipping up the broom bag and holding it out to Ron. “It all checks out.” “Brilliant,” Ron said, reclaiming it, before turning to enter the locker room. But before Harry could follow, she said, “I’m afraid you can’t go in there, as you aren’t trying out.” “Oh,” said Harry, disappointed. Ron, who had been holding the door open for Harry, stepped back out and looked at the witch. “Seriously?” he asked. “I’m afraid so,” answered the witch. Ron looked at the locker room door, then at Harry. “Ah, I can do this later,” he said finally, then walked past the witch. “C’mon, Harry.” When they reached the end of the hall, it stopped and continued left and right. Ron looked down both ends before turning to the left. “The door down here looks like it leads outside,” he muttered. Harry agreed; he could see sky and grass through the windows of the double-doors. They exited the building. Ron looked around, before turning to Harry. “Why don’t you have a look around?” he offered. “I have to find Flebble, I want to talk to him about something.” “Flebble?” asked Harry. “Abe Flebble. He’s captain of the team,” explained Ron. “Oh,” said Harry, understanding. He walked off, leaving Ron to his business. He wandered around, before coming to a stop at a vendor selling some very poor brooms.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

He was mournfully examining a rickety broomstick whose name was too faded to read, when he heard a familiar voice from behind him saying, “Harry, you aren’t really thinking of buying that, are you?” He whirled to see Ginny approaching him. “No,” he said quickly. “I was just looking.” “Good. I’d hate to think that your taste was really that bad.” The vendor, a stocky wizard with messy red hair and a blunt nose, glared at her, with no effect. “I wanted you to meet someone. I think you’ll be interested,” Ginny said, and Harry immediately dropped the broom onto the table. He followed Ginny as she wove her way to the crowd. Catching up to her, he asked, “Why are you here?” Ginny flushed. “I’m actually trying out for Seeker.” She gave him a glance that Harry suspected was supposed to go unnoticed. Why does everyone keep looking at me like that?” Harry complained. Ginny smirked. “I’m sure you’ll know all about it by the end of today.” She paused, then said absently, “I guess it depends on whether or not Ron makes the team.” “That really doesn’t help, you know,” grumbled Harry, and Ginny simply shrugged. Harry’s eyes drifted across the crowd, and fell upon a large cluster of people bearing broomsticks. What had attracted his attention was almost immediately clear. He would have recognized that shiny black hair anywhere… What is Cho doing here? he wondered. He was still staring at her when a series of snaps and cracks filled the air. A second later, the group began yelling and wailing. One girl burst into tears, and a couple wizards threw to the ground some pieces of wood. Harry was bewildered; then he realized that the wood splinters were the remains of their broomsticks. Ginny glanced back, before continuing away from them. Moments later, they arrived at another small group of witches and wizards. “Harry, I’d like you to meet Tony Rombic. Tony, I think you know who this is.” Harry shook hands with a man of middle height, curly black hair and dark brown eyes. Harry noticed that one of his legs seemed to be crooked. “Ah, Harry Potter,” said Tony, his eye keen. “I’ve heard that you have quite the skills.” “Tony played as Seeker for the Falcons,” Ginny informed Harry. “Over twenty years.” “Those were the best twenty years of their career,” Tony stated. “The Seeker they have now is an embarrassment.” “When did you stop playing?” asked Harry curiously. “Oh, about ten years ago,” answered Tony, his eyes staring off into the past. “Thanks to my bloody leg.” “No, your leg had nothing to do with it!” Ginny contradicted him, before addressing Harry. “His leg was hit by a Bludger, and it broke his bone. He was so eager to get back in the air, he rushed the mediwizard. The healing spell was faulty, so it healed improperly. But,” and she turned back to Tony, “that happened when you were 27. It didn’t stop you playing for fifteen more years. You could still be playing.” “BEATERS, PLEASE ASSEMBLE BY THE RED POST NEAR THE QUIDDITCH PITCH!

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

BEATERS, PLEASE ASSEMBLE BY THE RED POST NEAR THE QUIDDITCH PITCH!” blared a voice. “Let’s go watch,” suggested Ginny. “Good idea,” answered Harry, and they began to walk. Suddenly, Ginny looked over her shoulder. “You coming, Tony?” she asked. “Yep,” he answered, and followed them. Looking around, Harry noticed a bunch of people wearing ugly orange robes gathering together. He spotted George among them, and waited for him to turn his head, intending to give him some sort of encouragement. But his plans faded as George, upon seeing him, made a beeline towards him. “Harry, can I have a word with you?” he asked when he reached Harry. Confused, Harry said, “Er— Sure,” and followed George a few feet away. George spun on the spot and grabbed Harry by one arm. “Harry,” he began, “y’know this broom?” he held up a broom that Harry immediately recognized as a Gleam. “Yeah. Isn’t that the one you got from a customer?” Harry replied, earning a strange look from George. “Funny you should say that,” he said. “When I got this broom, a letter came along with. Wishing me a good try today.” He paused, and Harry asked, “Why are you telling—?” but was stopped by George’s upheld hand. “But the part that gets me now, is the signature.” Harry waited, then asked, “What about the signature?” George looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Harry, it was signed with your name.” Impossible, thought Harry, but he asked, “My name?” “ ‘Harry Potter’, it said,” George clarified. Harry stared at him, then felt a rock-hard blob of apprehension fall through his stomach. “George, I don’t think you should use that broom. It could be…” his voice trailed off in his reluctance to enumerate all the grisly accidents that might be in store for George. George, however, had no such problem. “Cursed?” he finished for him. “Hexed? Maybe, but I’m not switching brooms, not now. First of all, I doubt anything truly horrible is wrong with the broom. Second, I’m not going to compromise my chance at the team with a shoddy old spare broom.” He turned away, saying, “I just wanted to clear that up.” Harry watched him walking away. Just as he started to go after Ginny and Rombic, George called over his shoulder, “And thanks for your concern!” That, Harry thought, was the icing on the bloody cake. He felt truly afraid, for the first time since Voldemort’s death. Nothing he had gone through compared to the dread that now threatened to permeate his body as he searched for his friends. When he found them, something must have showed on his face, because Ginny asked quietly if he was okay. He reassured them, then focused on the Beater tryouts, trying to suppress the icy butterflies in his stomach. All too soon, he saw George take off. George did remarkably well at the first test: hitting the Bludger toward targets. His aim was excellent. But then came the hard part; he had to defend a dummy against the Bludger. George made a mistake, ending up on the wrong side of the dummy. In a desperate attempt to defend his charge, George leaned over it in a dangerous pose. If he didn’t hit the Bludger, he would get a bloody nose at the very least. He drew back the bat, ready to swing with all his might—the Bludger came at a mad speed—George

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started to swing his arm…and fell, dangling beneath a rocking broom. Above him, the Bludger smashed into the dummy’s head and ricocheted, zigzagging away, but no one was paying attention to it. Every eye was on George, who somehow managed to pull himself back onto his broom. Turning, he glimpsed the Bludger, which had come around for another shot. Unfortunately, it seemed to have chosen George as a target, instead of the dummy. George tried to turn out of the way, but only succeeded in rolling over, and the Bludger zoomed by just over him. George, completing the roll, came upright. Evidently deciding he’d had enough, he directed his wobbling broom toward the ground. Everyone could see the strain in his face, as he forced a reluctant broom handle downwards. Only Harry saw the crucial factor. Even as George approached the ground, the middle of the broom was bending, and the broom began to tremble. Harry, preparing for emergency action, drew his wand, before pointing out the bend to Ron beside him. With a jerk, and an audible groan, the curve became more pronounced, and people all around began murmuring. Harry suddenly felt many eyes land on him, and his peripheral vision showed several heads turning toward him. Then he realized that they were looking at his arm. Focusing on it, he saw nothing wrong; then it registered. His hand, holding his wand, pointing into the air… Directly at George. Oh no, he thought. No, not this, not now, not more…he didn’t need anymore enmity between him and the general public. Especially as it concerned a close friend…Abruptly, Harry looked back up at George. Just a few more seconds and he’d be on the ground. But even as the thought crossed his mind, the broom gave one more heave, straining upward even as George pushed down; then, with a frighteningly loud crack! The broom broke in half. George sat, stunned, looking at the half that was in his hand. What happened next, occurred so fast that Harry, fighting the need to blink, almost missed it. A dark blur came from the side, and George, distracted by the splintered broom, didn’t see it coming. There was no time; with a sickening thud, the Bludger collided with George’s head. He was sent flying, and landed roughly on the ground, coming to a halt face-up. Harry was one of the first onto the field. When he reached George, he looked up with a bloodied face and choked out, “Harry—that broom—you?” before passing out cold. Harry looked around, and the expression of the mediwizard next to him told him clearly that he had heard George’s last question. Then Ron was beside him, asking, Harry, what was he talking about?” Harry turned just in time to see understanding dawn on his face. “You gave him that broom?” “No, I didn’t,” Harry said brusquely, then lowered his voice and said, “Not now, later.” Ron glared at him, but kept his mouth shut. “Next up, Keepers!” Someone shouted. “Keepers, get ready!” Harry turned to leave, but stopped when Ron grabbed his shoulder. “Hey, wait. Aren’t you staying to watch?” “No,” answered Harry, his tone and expression sorrowful. “I can’t. It’s too hostile here.” “Harry,” started Ron, but Harry snapped, “Just let me go, alright? I don’t want to deal with this!” Ron stepped back from him, his face the image of severe disappointment. Not wanting to see that look any longer than necessary, Harry walked away quickly. Hermione passed him, heading toward Ron. Harry looked around and saw her kiss Ron’s cheek and say, “Good luck Ron.” Harry immediately reached out with his mind and sent a large question mark to her. I boosted his ego,

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

she responded. He’ll need it, especially after what you just did. That last remark stung, but she soothed the bite with a sense of understanding. Harry wandered around for several minutes, lost in his thoughts. He was distracted from his brooding by a voice calling, “Harry!” He looked up to see none other than Ludo Bagman approaching. “Harry!” he said again as he reached him. “How good to see you again. Still hanging in there?” Caught by surprise, Harry could do no more than nod. “That’s good, that’s good,” Ludo said cheerfully. “Look, I wanted to make you an offer.” Harry blinked. How many more surprises could he take today? “I’d like you to join the Wimbourne Wasps. You know, my old team,” Ludo said. “They’re kind of slowing down, and you’re just the guy they need.” He examined Harry’s face. “How about it?” Harry cleared his throat, trying to stay calm. “Er—I don’t know,” he answered. “Ah, come on Harry. Just try it out for a couple of weeks, and if you don’t like it, then you can return to the Cannons.” “Excuse me?” Harry said, not sure he’d heard correctly. “The Cannons?” “Yeah. I heard from old Flebble that you’re supposed to be trying out for Seeker.” Ludo was now eyeing him nervously, all cheer gone. “And who told him that?” asked Harry coldly. Ludo raised his eyebrows at Harry’s tone. “Ron, I believe.” As though on cue, Ron popped up. “Harry, I—Oh, hi,” he said to Ludo. “Were you talking to Harry?” He caught sight of Harry’s expression, grimaced, then asked, “You heard, then?” He shot a venomous look at Ludo. “Thanks a lot, Bagman!” “Hey, it’s not his fault,” Harry said sharply. “I don’t think it was him who set me up for tryouts.” “If my memory serves me right,” Ron said slowly, “you actually promised me you would do this. That’s partly why I agreed to try out myself.” Harry’s anger faded, to be replaced by dread. “I don’t know, Ron…Becoming a professional Quidditch player was never my course of action.” “But you’d be brilliant!” Ron protested. “You’d probably break records and make World Finals!” “I wasn’t planning on this,” Harry said firmly, “so I don’t think—” “I’ll quit, Harry,” Ron snapped. “I’ll go straight to Flebble and tell him it’s off!” “Oh don’t do that!” a voice said from behind them, and Harry wheeled to see a man with a gray buzz cut and goatee striding toward them. “Don’t back out now! I think you were the best one out there!” He looked Harry over. “I believe you would be Harry potter?” “Yes,” said Harry curtly. The wizard offered his hand, and Harry reluctantly shook it. “I’m Abraham Flebble. You can call me Abe.” Harry felt his heart drop. This was one man he had no desire to speak to. Abe was studying him. “I’ve heard quite a bit about you, Harry—may I call you Harry?”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Harry nodded, and he said, “Yes, You’ve come to my attention many times. Plenty of stories.” “Good ones?” Harry asked nervously. As much as he wanted to avoid the captain, it wouldn’t hurt to make a good impression. Abe roared with laughter. “Harry, we’re talking about Quidditch here! How could you be anything but good?” Harry sighed in relief, then became annoyed at himself; he had the impression that he was standing in quicksand, and was about to get sucked into the Quidditch business along with Ron. “After all,” Abe continued, “I do believe that your father—James, I think?—was asked to join the Falcons. I think Rombic was ready to step aside for him. But he turned it down. No idea why.” He shook his head sadly, then squinted at Harry. “I’d consider it a shame if you didn’t at least try out for Seeker for my team. And a promise is a promise. You gotta be a man of your word.” Too much, thought Harry. It was all too much. “My father was asked by the Falcons?” he asked, trying to buy time. Abe nodded, but kept silent, watching him expectantly. A promise is a promise…”Fine,” said Harry. “Fine, I’ll try.” “Good man. I’ll see you at the pitch.” And Abe walked away. “Oh, Ron. What have you gotten me into?” moaned Harry. “A bloody good investment,” answered Ron. “After all, Hermione’s the bookworm, not you. You need something worthwhile to do, so…” “Yeah, okay,” Harry said wearily. He heard someone yelling, “Chasers are finished! Seekers, you’re next!” “That’s you, Harry,” Ron said softly, and Harry turned and set off toward the pitch. He had the bizarre and absurd hope that he would be far too late by the time he reached the field. Ron seemed to sense Harry’s mood, because he grabbed Harry’s arm and pulled him so he was forced to speed up. Abruptly, he stopped. “Oh shit!” he swore, then changed direction. “Er—Where are you taking me?” asked Harry, worried. “The pitch is that way.” “One,” barked Ron, “you need a set of robes. Cannon robes,” he clarified, seeing Harry’s clueless expression. “Also, you need a broom. Your broom.” “What? But I lost the Firebolt—!” Ron grinned broadly. “Just you wait and see.” He lead Harry to the locker room. The witch outside it saw Harry and said, “Sorry, you can’t—” “Yes, he can,” Ron corrected her. “He’s trying for Seeker.” She looked at Harry in surprise, then said, “Oh, that’s right! You were Seeker at Hogwarts, weren’t you? And your father too!” Ron took Harry into the locker room, and snatched up a set of stained, ugly orange robes. “Here,” he said. “Put these on.” As Harry removed his black robes and redressed, Ron strode over to a locker. He turned a knob on the combination lock and said, “Chocolate frog.” A latch appeared, and he opened the

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

locker. He noticed Harry’s look, and said, “They got the idea from Muggle combination locks. These require you to turn the knob to the right symbol, then you have to give the password.” He reached into the locker, and pulled out his broom bag. Unzipping it, he dug around inside before emerging with a broom. “This,” Ron said, smiling, “is yours.” Harry stared at the broom. It was scarlet, with a gold stripe on the top and bottom, running its length. The twigs in the broom tail looked like they were made of pure gold. Looking closer at the handle, Harry saw that Firebolt III was written in an elegant script similar to cursive handwriting. The name was in white. “Firebolt Three?” Harry said. “Just decided to skip the Firebolt Two?” “Don’t ask me,” said Ron. “Ask George, he’s the one who bought it for you. And anyway, the Firebolt Two came out in fall of last year, while this came out about a week ago.” “Huh,” was all Harry said. Ron stood there for a moment, then said quickly, “Are you ready then? Come on!” He left the locker room through another door, leaving Harry standing there. He was still studying the magnificent-looking broom he held. Suddenly, he saw something out of the corner of his eye. Turning, he spotted the ‘something’: himself. Ruling out the possibility of a mirror, he knew what this was: an impostor! He immediately sprang for the impostor, but it fled through the same door Ron had used. Just as Harry reached it, the door was slammed in his face, breaking his glasses. He drew his wand and repaired them, while at the same time opening the door and bursting through. Staring wildly around, he glimpsed himself walking quickly away. He ran to catch up—and found himself at the edge of the Quidditch pitch. Barely registering the two flyers soaring above him, he saw the impostor, raised his wand…and stopped in disbelief, as the flyers were flung from their brooms in an unnatural fashion. Again, spectators seemed to focus on his raised wand. A mediwizard rushed forward to examine the two Seekers. After a moment, he looked up and made a gesture, and the announcer shouted, “Both Seekers are incapacitated! Next!” Harry felt someone nudge him. He looked, to see Tony Rombic standing beside him. “Go on!” he whispered to Harry. “You gotta be assertive. They’ll like that.” Harry sighed, then mounted his broom and kicked off. Ah, he thought, in the air again. He missed flying, hadn’t flown in a long time. He did a quick lap around the field, made it in record time, then turned his broom to face the referee. He noticed someone flying toward him, and he looked at them. Ginny?! He felt ready to panic. He wasn’t ready to compete against her, his former girlfriend… She gave him a thumbs-up as she passed, then she looped around and came to a stop a few yards to his left. He stared at her. “What?” she asked. “I told you I was trying out.” “I forgot,” Harry said honestly. “Pay attention now,” she commanded, and he immediately turned to focus on the referee. The referee was standing next to a box. He reached down and said, “Ready, set, go!” On the word ‘go’ he swung the lid up and a tiny glint of gold rose, then vanished. Harry wheeled his broom around, and he sensed Ginny doing the same. He did a couple of quick laps, his gaze scanning the field. This shouldn’t take too long, he told himself. The Snitch was probably old; nobody used a really good Snitch for tryouts. He took his broom higher, and was flying through one goal hoop for fun when he spotted

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

the little speck of gold high above. Banking on the belief that Ginny’s broom was much slower than his, Harry turned and dove in the other direction. He managed to angle the dive in such a way that he could still see the snitch out of the corner of his eye. Just as he had hoped, Ginny came pelting after him. He waited until she drew close, pushing her to her fastest. Then he turned, almost on the dime, and with only a slight drop in speed he tore across the field. It only took him a couple of seconds to get close. As though sensing his ferocious approach, the Snitch soared upward. Following after it, Harry was strongly reminded of something…Not wanting to detract attention from the Snitch, Harry concentrated, and was able to react almost instantly when the Snitch reversed direction without warning. It plummeted, and he dropped with it. Ginny appeared out of nowhere. Neck and neck, they hurtled straight at the ground. Glancing over, Harry watched as her eyes went curiously blank. Inexplicably, she veered to the left, past Harry, and off into nowhere. He would have pulled up just then, but instinct caused him to reach down toward the Snitch. And on impulse, his fingers closed around it, feeling that familiar brush of feathers against his fingers as it sought freedom. He became aware that the ground was coming up at him at a frightening speed, and knew that he couldn’t stop in time. To save himself, he pulled a crazy and potentially deadly stunt. Fifteen feet off the ground, he sprang from his broom, flying sideways. Upon hitting the ground, he continued to roll, expending his inertia. He used the remainder to swing upright, staggering before regaining his balance. There was absolute silence. Then, he was almost deafened by cheers; apparently, the spectators loved his feat. He raised his fist, so they could see the wings (the body was obscured by his hand). After a long moment, he put his hand down and walked to the referee. “Here,” he said, and shoved the Snitch at him. The referee took it from him, and Harry walked past, merging with the crowd. He found Ron there, and Ron gave him a huge and excited smile. “That was bloody brilliant!” he exclaimed, and was about to say more, but he paused and looked over his shoulder. Harry looked as well, and saw a man in dirty orange robes jabbing his finger in Harry’s direction. The referee beside him appeared uncertain. “He wants to face Potter!” someone called, and the announcer yelled, “This Seeker is making a request…” he quieted for a couple seconds, then continued, “He wants to compete against Harry Potter!” Someone pushed harry forward, and he twisted to look at Ron, who simply shrugged. Harry was pushed further, until he was in front of the crowd, no longer a part of it. Harry, watching the referee, noticed a strange, blank expression cross his face. The referee then nodded absently, and the wizard walked away. The man came toward Harry, and when he was close, he said, “We’ll see who trumps this time!” “ ‘Trumps’?” echoed Harry, and the man seemed to overhear, and grin. Harry thought for a moment, then realized that this wizard had meant ‘win’. “Let’s get going!” shouted the referee, and Harry immediately mounted and kicked off. For the second time, he hovered facing the referee, his opponent beside him. Again the referee released the Snitch, and Harry took off. He scanned the field, while keeping an eye on the other guy, who was circling high above like a hawk. Harry was making a pass over the center of the field, when he turned his head and glimpsed the Snitch far behind him. At that moment, his adversary came zooming down from out of the blue, and Harry spun and threw himself forward. The other wizard had leveled off, and they were soaring towards each other at a mad speed. If I don’t react fast, thought Harry, we’re going to mash together. He strained forward against the screaming wind, and reached out with a hand that stung in the rapid-moving air. They were almost there…he met the Snitch an instant before the other man, and the

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

other just barely managed to swerve out of Harry’s way. Harry slowed, and was just heading for the ground when he felt a searing-hot blaze of energy, and saw a bolt of white light passing by his face. He reacted instinctively: turning, he looked at his adversary, who was facing him. He saw the tip of a wand up his sleeve, and the energy roiling within Harry burst out. His broom gave one massive jerk, then stilled, much to Harry’s relief. The other guy, however, wasn’t so lucky. When the wave of blue energy surging from Harry hit him, his broom shattered, and he was thrown from it, whirling and twirling through the air. The sight was funny…until he landed on Ginny. Harry immediately dove down, jumping off his broom once it was close enough to the ground, and ran to Ginny. The semi-conscious man was being pulled off of her, and she was being very careful not to move her arm. No tears were shed, but her face was very pale. Someone examined her arm, then said, “Broken.” That same person directed their wand at her arm, and with a gentle glow of pink light, her arm healed. She twitched her arm to test for pain, the slowly stood, with a couple of people assisting her. Swaying slightly, she focused on Harry and said weakly, “Harry, you can have the position.” Harry stared, then turned and walked away, his mind numbed. People parted for him like a ship prow at sea. He headed straight for the locker room, Ron joining him quickly. About halfway there, they were intercepted by Flebble, who said, “Well, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that you both made it. Although you,” he looked at Harry, “made it partly because everyone backed out after seeing what you did up there. You’re the only one willing…” He shook his head and departed. They made it to the locker room without further mishap. Ron silently put their brooms back in the broom bag. Finally, he spoke. “Well,” said Ron as they changed into their regular black robes, “at least we made the team!” “Yeah,” replied Harry dully, “but at what price?”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

The Prophet's Grudge
Upon exiting the locker room, Harry immediately became aware of a noise. It was similar to the sound heard when a celebrity gets out of a limousine, or a favored performer walks out onto a stage. It was the sound of people…many people. The press. Harry looked around at Ron, who was also staring in the direction of the noise. He looked back at Harry and shrugged. “Wish I could do a Disillusionment Charm,” he said apologetically, and Hermione’s voice answered from behind them. “I can do it.” She jogged up to them and aimed her wand at Harry’s chest. “Dissimulo!” she commanded, and Harry felt the dripping coldness that he remembered from Moody’s charm engulf him again. Ron looked him over, or tried to. “Well done,” he commented appreciatively. “Now you should be okay,” stated Hermione, moving past them, “provided someone exceptionally observant doesn’t notice and cast a Revealing Charm on you.” They quickly approached the entrance of the hall. Coming into view of the waiting reporters, Harry came to a momentary standstill. There are so many…, he thought to himself. There were perhaps twenty reporters, but it seemed like a lot more to Harry. Hermione edged past him and whispered, “Grab my elbow, so I know where you are.” Harry obeyed, and she led him cautiously along the edge of the crowd. They were about halfway through, when someone yelled, “Revelio!” Harry could tell from the crowd’s reaction that he was now clearly visible. “Did you really think that you could sneak by us?” a nearby reporter sneered. “If you two,” this was directed at Ron and Hermione, “are here, then he is too.” The other reporters began shouting out questions. “Are you two now Seeker and Keeper for the Cannons?” someone asked.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Ron held up his arms for silence, and the media quieted. “Yes, we are now on the team as Keeper and Seeker,” he answered. No sooner had he finished than they started hurling questions again. “Did you jinx the Beaters broom?” “Why did you curse the hopeful Chasers’ brooms?” “What did you do to the other Seeker?” Harry wasn’t surprised to hear that they already had some knowledge about the accidents that had occurred. However, he was disgruntled to hear that they were already pointing fingers at him, saying not only had he caused the mishaps, but he had also caused them intentionally. “—explain the competing Seeker’s demise?” “—know what happened to the Chasers’ brooms?” “—in league with whoever sabotaged the Beater’s broomstick?” The reporters had closed all around them, leaving no room for escape. Feeling slightly claustrophobic, Harry was just about ready to scream at them to shut up and leave him alone. But someone beat him to it. “Enough!” someone with a heavy accent shouted. “That is enough! Be gone! Shoo!” he could see people shifting as someone plowed through. Seconds later, a very familiar face emerged. “A noisy pack, aren’t they?” he commented, and Harry could only grin wryly in response. Viktor Krum face smirked, before darkening a little as he turned to face the crowd. “No more questions!” he said. “These people haf had enough excitement for a day, and vant to go home and rest.” He began to shoulder his way through the reporters, and glanced over his shoulder. “Follow!” he commanded, and Harry and his friends obeyed. They managed to get to the back of the crowd, and would have walked away if a voice hadn’t caught Harry’s attention. “Harry!” called the voice, and Harry’s heart sank as he recognized it. He turned to face none other than Rita Skeeter. “Long time no see,” she said, smiling sweetly. “There’s a reason for that,” answered Ron rudely, and Harry asked brusquely, “What do you want?” The smile on Rita’s face had faded slightly at Ron’s reply, but fully returned as she heard Harry’s question. That smile, Harry knew, could mean nothing good. “What is your relationship with Hermione Granger?” she inquired, and Harry had to stop himself glancing at Hermione. Ron continued to glare at Rita, as Harry responded, “She’s one of my best friends. She was with me to the end.” “Best friends, eh? Do you love her?” This time, Ron’s eyes darted to Harry, then back to the reporter. Harry said in an icy tone, “Of course I love her. She’s like a sister to me.” “A sister?” echoed the blond reporter, a malicious glint in her eyes. “Hmmm…Are you sure it isn’t something more?” Making an attempt at imitating confusion, Harry asked in what he hoped was a bland tone, “What do you mean by that?” It came out a bit sharper than he had intended, but he didn’t think it was noticeable.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“There isn’t something deeper between you two?” This time, Harry couldn’t resist looking back at Hermione, and she stepped forward. “Harry and I are close friends,” she said firmly. “Nothing more.” For some reason, Harry felt a pang in his heart on hearing those words, even though he was sure she was lying. Harry could tell from the look on Rita’s face that she shared the same suspicions. Still, he wasn’t prepared for her next question. “Are you lovers?” she asked casually, and every noise around them went silent. Harry’s breath caught; then he was right in her face. “Care to say that again?” he asked quietly. Rita showed no sign of fear. “Touched a nerve, did I?” she said, then raised her voice. “You didn’t answer my question.” “Ask it again, and maybe I’ll answer,” said Harry softly. “Are…you…lovers?” she said slowly, as though talking to a slow-witted person. Harry inhaled, then noticed his hands were balled into fists, and shaking. “You have some nerve,” he murmured to Rita, then took a step back. He turned to leave, but she spoke again. “Do you kiss?” she pressed. “Do you share loving touches?” Harry stiffened, then wheeled to face her, his every demeanor emanating outrage. “What kind of question is that?” he hissed. The air around him began to simmer. A small breeze picked up, and Hermione shuffled her feet nervously behind him. She was following every sign…and knew something was about to happen. “A very good question,” answered Rita smugly. “And I notice that you still have not answered my questions.” Fury was building up inside of Harry, and he didn’t try to suppress it. Hermione stood next to him and whispered, “Cool it, Harry. She isn’t worth it.” He took a deep breath, looked at her and nodded. He started to step away, then looked back as a hand gripped his arm. “Answer my questions,” Rita demanded. Harry growled. Would she ever quit? “Let go of me,” he snapped, and she released him, but quickly added, “Do you sleep together?” Harry gaped at her. She was toeing his line of restraint, and about ready to cross. He leaned toward her, until his face was only inches from hers. The air around him glowed a faint golden sheen, and he thought he could detect a sudden rise in temperature. “Don’t—ever—ask—me—that—again,” he said slowly and deliberately. She smiled. “What’s the matter, Harry?” she asked mockingly. “A coward, are you?” then she glanced at Ron, who was watching them intently. “Or are you a liar as well?” That was the last straw. A wave of golden energy exploded from him, hurling everyone backward except Hermione. There was a series of flashes as reporters began taking pictures. They want proof of this, Harry thought, and his anger surged again. His abruptly-enhanced sight, as he looked at a camera lens, showed him that his eyes were blazing with a golden light. There was another flash of light as the camera took his picture, recording the image and its illuminated gaze. Irritated beyond belief, Harry focused on the camera. Rita, noticing the object of his concentration, said quickly, “Shield the camera!” Her cameraman immediately pulled out a wand and said, “Protego!” just in time. A second later, there was a series of loud cracks as cameras everywhere either exploded or were crushed. Rita looked around, then spoke to Harry with a mischievous smirk. “Thanks for your time.” She grabbed her

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

cameraman’s arm and Disapparated. A movement caught his attention, and he spun to see Hermione slowly backing away, her eyes wife with fear. As though this sight were a switch, his rage vanished. H e spun again to face the damage he had inflicted. Reporters began vanishing, Apparating to other, safer places. “Er—sorry,” he said belatedly, and a couple of nearby camera people threw him disgusted looks before disappearing. “Come on,” Hermione said impatiently, approaching him from behind. When he didn’t move, she sighed grabbed his hand, and pulled. He finally walked along behind her. Musing, he glanced down at his hand, his fingers in Hermione’s grasp. Without thinking, he slid his hand further into her grip, then intertwined his fingers with her. She immediately stopped pulling, turning to look at him with a confused expression on her face. “Harry—what—?” she asked, and Harry promptly let go of her hand. “I’m sorry,” he blurted, running his hand through his hair. “I—I—,” He was so distracted by everything, he wanted to stop thinking and just fall asleep, shutting the whole world outside. Well, maybe he’d let Hermione in… “I just—I dunno —it felt right,” he finished lamely, then realized, too late, that Ron was right next to him. He stared at Ron, who broke the awkward silence with : “Are you feeling alright, mate?” Harry laughed mirthlessly. He was having one hell of a day… “I’m not sure,” he admitted, and Ron inspected his face closely. “With everything that’s gone on today, I suppose you have the right to go bonkers,” he muttered, then looked away. Harry followed his gaze and found that Krum was standing a little ways away, an amused expression on his face. “That vos sumthing, Potter,” he commented, and Harry wondered for a few seconds before realizing that Krum was referring to his episode with the reporters. “That doesn’t freak you out?” Harry asked with a shaky grin. “It takes a lot to make me… ‘freak out’, you would say?” He paused then added, “Such effects, they impress me. That vos a defensive reaction, a very strong vun, and I admire that.” He looked at his watch, then said, “I should go now, I must meet my father. I vill see you at the match.” He started to walk away, but Harry called to him, “What match?” Krum looked back at him, and raised an eyebrow. “Our first match of the season. You did not know?” Harry shook his head, then asked, “Why are you facing us, instead of a better team?” Krum chuckled and answered, “Because this isn’t for competition, it is simply for pleasure!” “Viktor,” Hermione, Is that a new ring?” There was indeed a ring on the middle finger of Krum’s left hand. He looked down at it, and his face darkened. “Yes and no,” he answered, and as he looked at Hermione, there was a brooding look in his eyes. “It is my first time varing it, so it is new to me. However, as it once belonged to my fallen brother, it is also old.” “Your brother…is fallen?” asked Hermione, her voice thick with emotion. Ron threw her a dark look, but the film of tears in her eyes prevented her from seeing it. “I’m so sorry…” “It is done and gone,” Viktor told her gently. “Veep not for him.” He looked at Harry. “Until the match, then,” he said, and walked away. Harry was staring after him when someone called, “Harry! HEY, HARRY!”

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He turned and spotted Cho Chang hurrying toward him. “Guess what, Harry?” she said excitedly. Harry was pretty sure he knew, and said, “You’re on too?” She nodded and squealed, “Yes! Can you believe it?” “Oh,sure,” answered Harry. He knew she was an excellent flyer, but he really didn’t want her on his team. Their friendship was rocky at best, and he didn’t think it would be in the team’s best interest to share it with her. But they had both made it, so there was nothing he could do. And she was a good flyer… “So…,” Cho said, trying to fill the silence. Harry wasn’t in the mood for idle chatter, so he cut her off. “Er, Cho, I gotta be somewhere,” he said, then embroidered on the lie. “I’m late as it is, so I better go…” “Oh, okay. Erm, see you at practice then,” she said, sounding slightly disappointed. Harry started to feel bad, but Ron nudged him and whispered, “Let’s get going, we’ve hung around long enough.” Harry allowed Ron to lead him away. “When’s the match?” Harry asked suddenly. Ron looked at him. “In two weeks.” Harry’s heart sank. “Oh no…” Ron shrugged. “Well, I can only say practice, practice, practice…” *** The next morning, Harry was met with a nasty surprise. In the wee hours of the morning, Harry was jolted awake by the sound of knocking. As soon as he had surfaced from his dreams, the sound faded. After listening for a few seconds, he decided it was his imagination and put his head back down to doze. A second later, he heard knocking again. Groggily rising, he put on his slippers to protect his feet from the cold and shuffled downstairs, hurrying when the knocks resounded earnestly. Trying to shake the last of the sleep from his head, the job was done for him when he opened the door to find no less than six Aurors standing on his doorstep. Before he could find words, the nearest spoke. “Mr. Potter, we’d like a word with you. May we come in?” “Er, sure,” said Harry completely bewildered. He stood aside and let them file through, then lead them up to the kitchen. “Can I get you anything?” he inquired politely, and the same wizard who had spoken below said briskly, “No thank you. Have a seat.” Harry went cold at these words. Politely refusing a refreshment was nothing in itself, but the manner in which the wizard spoke, combined with the airs of the Aurors along with him, told him that their business here was very serious indeed. What’s—?” he began, but was interrupted by a feminine voice from behind him. “Harry?” asked Hermione; then she spotted the Aurors. “What’s wrong? What are they doing here?” “Ms. Granger, I presume?” asked another Auror, a witch with straight, long black hair. Hermione merely nodded, and the Auror stepped forward to shake her hand. “Hi, I’m Auror Katie

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Alome. And this,” she nodded to the burly first Auror, “is Mac.” “And you’re here because…?” prompted Hermione, and Alome’s face fell. I’m afraid the matters that bring us here are very dark.” “Meaning?” asked Harry, thinking inwardly, Not again. “Mr. Potter, take a look at this picture.” Alome handed him a photograph. He looked at it and was instantly repulsed. There was Rita Skeeter sprawled in a chair with an incredible amount of blood on her torso. The source was obvious: her throat was cut open from ear to ear. Harry tried not to gag. “Dark Magic,” he muttered, offering her the picture. “Correction, Mr. Potter,” said the first wizard tersely. “That was caused using a muggle weapon.” “You mean…?” Harry began, but the wizard continued, “And we found this as well.” He drew a wand. Harry recognized it at once. “Isn’t that—?” he asked and shoved his hand into his pocket. He quickly pulled out his real wand and looked from it to the copy in confusion. “Someone duplicated my wand?” he asked finally. The wizard reached for Harry’s wand. May I?” he asked, and Harry handed it held the wands side by side and extended them so they could be compared by all. There was no discernibla difference between the two. Mac then rubbed the other one and sparks flew from the end. “All the appearances of a true wand, and this one, to boot. Why is that?” he turned his gaze upon Harry, who shrugged uncomfortably. “So if the killer had a wand, why didn’t they use magic?” wondered Harry aloud, and looked at Hermione. She, unlike him, seemed to know a bit about what was going on, for her face had gone white, her lips thin, and she was slowly shaking her head. “You recognize this design, Granger?” asked Mac. “Not Harry,” she said. “Not Harry. Never Harry.” “Your confidence is touching, Granger. But it may be in vain,” murmured Mac. He then focused on Harry. “As I said, it has all the appearances of a real wand.” He held up the fake wand. “But, in fact, it is not.” He grasped one end and slowly pulled. A second later, to Harry’s astonishment, the wood began to move, revealing an unmistakable glint of metal. His surprise turned to ice-cold fear as he realized what he was looking at, and its further implications. The display came to a head in about two seconds, when the cover came free of the hidden blade. “An assassin’s blade,” stated Mac flatly. He looked at Harry with a grim expression. “That’s why he didn’t use magic.” “Why do you say ‘he’?” asked Hermione sharply. She glared at him. “You’ll see,” he said shortly. “So now is the point at which we begin to ask questions,” said Katie, looking from Hermione to Harry. “Starting with ‘who’.” She began to pace. “We figure out who by putting together what we know about them from looking at the situation. One, they used a muggle-style weapon. Two, they used a muggle technique.” She turned to face Harry. “Now, who do we know that has the know-how to effectively choose and use a muggle weapon?” He offered nothing, so she went on. “Also, the murder weapon isn’t a generic design. It was crafted to imitate another model. And of all models to look at, why was yours chosen?” She looked him in the eye. “We’re assuming that every factor of the weapon and procedure was calculated, having no evidence to the contrary.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Harry finally spoke. “You’re accusing me?” he asked. His mind raced, searching for any purchase for argument against their case. “We’re investigating you, Mr. Potter. There’s a difference.” “You, the ministry, actually believe Harry Potter took out that woman?” came Ron’s disbelieving voice from the doorway. “You would be Ronald Weasley?” “That’s right.” He walked in, his eyes going from face to face. “Cunning and skilled? Smart enough to outfox Death Eaters and bring them in? Specially trained by the Ministry to be the best? And you seriously believe that Harry Potter went and slaughtered a poor defenseless woman? She was a witch, but Harry isn’t heartless. Is this how you look at the savior of the wizarding world? She’s written loads of rubbish on him, and never has he done a thing. He hasn’t so much as sent a responding owl to her. So the question for you is: why now?” The Aurors shuffled their feet. “Mr. Weasley, we aren’t so eager to prosecute Mr. Potter as you make us out to be,” protested Mac. “We searched very carefully for any evidence that discounted Harry, but only found more reasons to look at him.” He pulled out a couple more pictures. Fingerprints and footprints match,” he said, showing the comparisons. Harry glimpsed the photo of Rita again, and an odd thought occurred to him. Which hand was that done with?” he asked, pointing to the gash in her neck. If I were to guess,” said Katie, studying it, “I would say it was done from behind, and with the left hand.” “I’m right-handed,” Harry proclaimed, raising his right hand. And, he added, peering at the footprints, the distance between those prints makes it look like the stride was much smaller than mine. Almost as though someone with a different size, but using my body, did this.” Mac cleared his throat. “Are you suggesting someone used Polyjuice Potion and masqueraded as you?” he asked. Harry nodded. Mac frowned, then said, Well, these are interesting points, but not enough. So, Mr. Potter, if you would—” “No!” exclaimed Hermione, standing so fast that her chair fell over backwards. She ignored it, while Ron and Harry gaped. “Please, no. Just accept that he is innocent!” “Unless you have something else to contradict…” said Katie, and Hermione faltered, then visibly steeled herself. “I do. But it’s a personal account—” she didn’t need to say more. Mac looked toward the other Aurors, before searching his robes. “Ah, here’s some Veritaserum,” he said finally, pulling out a small bottle filled with liquid. Hermione eyed it apprehensively, then sighed in consent. Here,” and she took the bottle. Pouring a few drops on her tongue, a blank look crossed her face. Mac focused his gaze on her face, and asked, “Hermione Jane Granger, you have evidence that proves Harry Potter did not kill Rita Skeeter?” “I do,” she answered, then continued, “I know he did not kill her, because it would have been impossible for him to do anything overly active without my knowing.” “How so?” asked Mac. “I have been watching him lately using a branch of mind magic called Advigilency—”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

she suddenly slapped her hand over her mouth, and Harry wondered what she was hiding. After a moment of watching her, Mac asked, “And you were watching him all of last night?” “Subconsciously, because—” Again she slapped her hand over her mouth. Mac’s eyes narrowed. “Ms Granger,” he said, “would you please remove your hand from your mouth.” Hermione stared at him. “She gave you an answer,” Ron said angrily, but Mac ignored him. “Remove your hand,” he repeated. Hermione flushed, and her eyes begged him to stop. Harry felt sorry for her, and suddenly, he reached out with his will and neutralized the potion within her. Hermione’s eyes cleared. Mac noticed, and asked, “Are you okay?” “Mac,” said Katie, “she’s given you her answer. I think we can stop now.” Mac gazed at Hermione for a moment, before turning away. “Very well,” he said, and pulled out another bottle. Abruptly, he paused then looked at Hermione. “Ms. Granger,” he said tensely, “Are you still under the influence of Veritaserum? Because if you aren’t…” he gestured with the bottle. “This is highly toxic to anyone who doesn’t have Veritaserum in their system.” Both Hermione and Harry looked at the bottle in fear. Mac offered the bottle to her, and she hesitated, then slowly reached out to take it. Harry suddenly remembered the rporters, and their cameras. He didn’t want to draw any more attention to himself, but Hermione’s life was on the line… Hermione’s fingers were a couple of inches away from the bottle when it exploded. She was able to snatch her hand away quickly enough that she was unharmed, but Mac wasn’t so lucky. Looking disgustedly at the cuts in his hand, he shook the glass from it, then pulled out his wand and aimed it at the maimed member. It healed instantly, then asked the room at large, “Anyone else with an removed her hand for a second and said, “We have some in the pantry I think.” Mac looked at her closely and said, “All right. I think we can go then—” But Katie turned to Harry and said, with emotion shining in her eyes, “Harry, you may not believe me, but I’m glad that you guys were able to cast some doubt upon this case. It’s not our fault that we have to do this. “We don’t discriminate; we look wherever the evidence directs us. That’s what the Ministry pays us to do.” “That’s easy enough for you to say,” said Harry. “You realize that this is the third time I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit?” “Which brings up another point. Even though you’re innocent, that means that there’s still a criminal out there somewhere. People want us to eliminate their fears, and settle scores. To have no one to blame…well, that’s very uncomfortable. You have to understand, Harry, they’re only human. We’re only human.” “And you have to be human at my expense?” Harry asked pointedly. Katie frowned, and opened her mouth to argue further, but Mac said, Kate, we’ve got to get back and fill out some papers on this.” He looked at Harry. “We’ll take everything you have said into consideration. Quite frankly, I think there’s really no case against you anymore.” He headed to the door, and allowed all the other Aurors to file past him. He faced Harry and his friends. “Mr. Potter, Ms. Granger, Mr. Weasley…good day.” And he left. Hermione waited, then slumped. “Thank goodness.” ***

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Wonder when they’ll close the case?” murmured Harry over his glass of orange juice. Ron swallowed a mouthful of toast and said, “It’ll take a couple of days. That’s what Dad says.” “Well, they better not search for more evidence to stick you with,” Hermione said crossly. She looked at the window. “Owl incoming.” She got up and went to open the window. “Oh. Fabulous. The Daily Prophet.” “Give me that.” Ron held out his hand. Hermione flipped through the paper before depositing it upon Ron’s palm. “Oh,” said Ron, glancing at the front before flipping through to another section. As he scanned it, his face darkened, and he said, “Well, they don’t treat you too kindly in this, mate. Full of pictures. Makes you out to be some sort of berserker-type dealie.” “Worth a look?” asked Harry, and Ron said, “Nope.” Do they mention Rita’s murder?” “Er—” Ron turned to another page. “Yeah.” He began to read. “Do they mention me?” inquired Harry, but Hermione shook her head. “There’s nothing definite, and there’s considerable doubt, so they won’t have put your name in. Suspects, yes, but no names mentioned.” “Right,” said Ron distractedly. He returned to the first article, and then a look of shock and anger crossed his face. “What’s up?” asked Harry, and Ron glared at him fiercely. “You gave George that broom?” he growled through clenched teeth. “How the hell did they find out about that?” Harry spat. “Then it’s true?” “No! The person just signed the note with my name.” “And did he know that?” questioned Ron. “I told him, but he went ahead and used the broom anyway,” stated Harry. “Who would want to do that to George?” wondered Ron. “I don’t know. I’m as upset as you are about his accident. But I didn’t cause it.” “Yeah, I got that already.” “Well, since we’re getting nowhere with this, I’m going out to get more books,” announced Hermione, getting out of her chair. She headed for the door. “Do you have to…?” whined Ron. “I’m going to, regardless,” said Hermione. “I’ll see you two later.” And she was gone. For several moments, silence filled the room. Then Harry broke it. “So, are you still mad at me?” he asked, looking at Ron. “No, not now that I know you’re not the git who tricked my brother,” Ron reassured him. “So the next question—” Harry finished for him, “— is…who?” Then he answered his own question. “The Talismanic Group,

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

maybe.” “If that’s the case, then you have yourself a dangerous enemy,” Ron said. “Right,” replied Harry. “Just add that to the top of my people-who-want-to-do-me-in list.” “Pretty long list, eh?” asked Ron. He didn’t really expect an answer, and he didn’t receive one. “Another you can add, is the Prophet. That’s the icing on the bloody cake.” Harry looked at him. “What do I do?” “I have no idea, mate. No idea at all.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

The Missing Link She was gone for several hours. Harry and Ron waited, but after half an hour of growling stomachs, they grew impatient. They were just sitting down to lunch when she returned.
“Hello!” she called up, and Ron immediately stood up and walked to the door. She came in and, using her elbow to clear a space on the table, she deposited a stack of books upon it. Ron examined the pile. “Did the shop run out? I expected you to get at least a dozen more.” She shot him an annoyed look. “No, the shop didn’t run out. I’m just changing our focus a little.” “How?” inquired Harry. “Well, I’ve looked for several books concerning various authors…” “That explains the rubbish titles,” commented Ron, looking through the books. “‘Ancient Scriptors’? ‘Authors of Old’? Who reads this stuff?” “Ever since I found that story with the clue at the end, I’ve been interested in finding out more about its author,” said Hermione, ignoring Ron. “Who’s that?” asked Ron, still looking at the books. “The Dragonbard.” She said it with an air of mystery. “The Dragonbard?” echoed Ron, looking up. “That’s easy. The Dragonbard was Lofons. I forget his last name…” “Lofons…Lofons…” Hermione muttered. “You’ll have a hard time chatting with him, he was alive centuries ago. Unless he shared immortality with Flamel, he’ll be dead by now,” Ron said dismissively. “Not necessarily—” and she suddenly rushed out of the room. Ron stared after her. “What’s she thinking this time, d’you reckon?” he asked, turning to Harry. Harry shrugged. “No clue,” he answered. Hermione came rushing back into the kitchen. She was holding Nature’s

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Nobility: A Wizarding Genealogy. “If he lived that long ago,” she said breathlessly, “then he will have been pureblood. And that means,” she raised the book, “that he’s in this.” She opened the book and began turning pages. “Hmmm.” She stopped suddenly. “Here.” She studied the page. “Well, I know it’s him because it says ‘Lofons’. Unfortunately…” she peered closer. “Well, it seems to be blurred. His last name, I mean…” she pulled out her wand and pointed it at the text she was reading. “Dilucidus!” She waited a second, then tried again. “Dilucidus!” Finally, she set the book down with a thud. “That really disappoints me. I wish I could read it…and the thing is, the name ‘Lofons’ sounds so familiar…” “I’m not surprised,” said Ron. “You probably read about him in one book or another…” “No doubt,” Hermione agreed, rubbing her temples. “It’s just so frustrating!” She sighed, then picked up another book. “Well, let’s look through these and hope we can find out some more about our mysterious ‘Lofons’, shall we?” “How about not?” suggested Ron hopefully. “Yes, we will,” Hermione insisted firmly. “How else are we going to make headway on this investigation?” “Don’t remind me,” Ron groaned into his hands, which he had used to cover his face. He raised them high above his head, stretching his arms. He yawned, then said, “Well, if we have to do this…” Harry sighed, then all three of them immersed themselves in the books.

THE SEEKER'S INHERITANCE

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“My Lord?” A voice asked from the door. The owner of the voice belonged to a hooded figure wearing dark green robes. he glided forward, coming to a halt just behind the New Lord’s easy chair. The lord remained motionless, but a voice sounded. “You have good news?” it asked. The figure paused before answering. “Good and bad, milord.” The New Lord gave the slightest shift before saying, “The bad news first, then.” The follower took a deep breath, then said quickly, “We failed to collect the next item.” The Lord’s head turned slowly. “Why?” hissed the voice. “Before its master…departed, the item was passed to another.” I wanted it as soon as possible, I told you,” came the snarled reply. The figure gave a small nod. “You did tell me.” “This is a severe disappointment,” continued its master, as though its follower had not said a word. “It is important that all of the objects be brought together quickly. Every day lost may be more than we—I —can spare.” A moment’s silence. Then: “The good news?” The figure immediately straightened with a faint air of relief. “There is still a chance that the item may be obtained.” The Lord waited, then said cautiously, “There is more?” “Yes. The item can be obtained in such a manner as to cast the blame squarely on someone else, someone with a history…” The Lord nodded. “Ah, yes. Harry Potter. Another stumbling block in his path to discovery? That is good. Anything that hinders the boy is a blessing. He must not find us, and he must not find the talismans either…” Another moment of silence. “Will there be more deaths?” Had the figure’s hood been down, one could have seen a sinister smile on the face hidden within. But it would have been as nothing compared to the delighted expression buried in the Lord’s hood when the answer was heard. “Yes.” “Good. Very good. And this conversation brings another matter to mind. I must speak to Saber…” and with that, the Lord rose and swept over to the door. Upon reaching it, the head angled back toward the figure standing stock-still beside the chair. “You may go now.” And the Lord vanished. The figure stared at the door, troubled. It wasn’t natural for this person to be bothered by such things, but the recent changes in the New Lord’s temperament were rather disturbing. Plans were more vague and mysterious, negative emotions were sharper and more frequent, and increasingly violent tendencies were emerging. Normal Darkness was of negligent importance to this person, but changes that were unexplained weren’t preferable by any means…shaking off these thoughts, the figure stopped its brooding and departed, focusing on more pleasant thoughts. Thoughts on what was to come, wrought by its own hand…

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

POTTER'S PLOY

The days between Harry and the match seemed to dwindle much faster than he would have liked. He felt a sense of duty toward Hermione and their research. But his fear of losing at Quidditch made it increasingly harder to balance his time reading with Hermione and flying with Ron. Despite his efforts, he found himself more and more often on a broom, and less and less often with his nose in a book. He assuaged his guilty conscience with promises that he would focus on the research once the match was over. But, deep down, he knew it wouldn't be that easy. Suddenly, the day had arrived, and he was sitting in the Cannons locker room, thinking. Ron sat beside him, brooding. After several moments’ silence, Ron said thoughtfully, “Harry, I’m starting to wonder

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

whether I really ought to be here or not. I mean, I made it onto the team, but with all that happened, it was a fluke, wasn’t it? It’s a fluke I ended up here.” “Does it matter?” Harry asked in surprise. He had expected Ron to have second thoughts, but to have these concerns launched at him… “Of course it matters!” Ron said, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. “If people ask me how I ended up as a Cannon, I can’t say it was my skills, can I? Because it wasn’t…it was chance, mostly. And if I say that, imagine what people will be saying about me. ‘He didn’t really deserve to be on that team, it was just pure luck!’” “Er…” Harry said, trying to think of a way to both comfort Ron and be truthful at the same time. “How about we don’t worry about that right now? If no one says anything, we’ll wait until after the match, when you’ve proven you should be on this team.” Harry stopped, hoping he wouldn’t have to say any more. “Yeah,” muttered Ron without conviction. “Maybe.” He was silent for a couple moments, before sighing deeply. He stood up and wandered over to one wall, where a long, one-way window showed the milling throng of spectators streaming along the broad hall. He stared through. “Blimey!” he said in wonder. “Look at them come!” He turned toward Harry. “Come and look!” Harry really wasn’t in the mood for observing the crowd, but he didn’t want Ron to be put out with him, so he stood and walked over, joining Ron in gazing through the pane of glass. Hundreds were pouring in, it seemed like… “So many,” Ron breathed. He glanced sideways. “What d’you think, Harry? As many as the World Cup?” Harry shrugged and muttered, “Could be.” But Ron was no longer paying attention. “Hey,” he said. “I think that’s George!” Harry scanned the throng, but didn’t see anything. “Are you sure-?” he began, and then noticed Ron was no longer beside him. Looking around, Harry saw Ron striding toward the locker room door. “C’mon,” Ron tossed over his shoulder, and Harry hastened to catch up to him. He reached the door in time to slip past, plunging after Ron into the crowd. Standing up to peer over the many heads around him, Harry glimpsed a spot of fire, and another spot making it’s way toward it. He hurried, and finally manged to reach George. “Ah,” yelled George upon catching sight of him. “There he is!” He threw his arm around Harry’s shoulders, then asked, ‘So, how does it feel to go from whiz-on-a-broom to professional flier?” “Not much different” Harry said. “Rubbish,” George said, smiling. “Nerves would be in order. You're a bloody brilliant Seeker, granted, but Krum's a fair match.” Harry blinked. “It isn't important.” George groaned. “And here I thought we had you bloody well trained!” Shrugging, Harry said, “I'll take what comes.” “A healthy attitude, Harry,” commented Mrs. Weasley, and answered George's scowl with one of her own. “After all, it's just a game.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“ 'Just a game',” George echoed softly enough that only Harry heard. He caught Harry's glance and rolled his eyes, turning his head slightly so Mrs. Weasley wouldn't see “And what about me?” asked Ron. George turned to him. “What about you?” he responded. Ron's face darkened. “I was a good player, wasn't I?” “Hell yes,” he answered, winking at Harry. “Kept playing at being a Keeper. Disgrace astride a wooden stick, more like.” “I helped win the Cup in fifth year!” protested Ron indignantly. “ And bloodied a girl's face, if I remember correctly.” George smirked. “That was an accident!” Ron snapped, his ears red. “Easy, brother, I'm only fooling with you,” George said calmly, patting Ron's shoulder. Ron looked as though he wanted to throw George's hand back at him, but held still, albeit stiffly. Instead, he looked at his mother. “Mum,” he asked, “Where's Bill and Charlie?” “Playing hooky,” George said, ignoring Mrs. Weasley's scathing look. She paused, then answered Ron's question. “Charlie was injured on the job. A dragon went into a rage, almost killing three of his colleagues. As for Bill,” she sighed, “Bill is dealing with some troublesome goblins.” “What d'you mean?” inquired Ron, frowning. “Oh, it was just a misunderstanding-” she began, but George said loudly, “A couple goblins got in a tussle, and he just had to run off and settle things down. He's still tied up, negotiating.” “A dragon got angry?” asked Hermione, looking worried. “Why?” “Dunno,” replied George. “Can't see that it matters. Temperamental, those beasts. But still, he didn't look too bad, considering.” “What, you saw him?” Ron said. “ 'course we did,” George replied. “Can't expect me not to visit a wounded brother. Although...” “George...” Mrs. Weasley said wearily, but George talked over her. “All I'm saying is it would take more than a handful of nurses and a few burns and a whacked leg to keep me from Harry and Ron's first match.” “Don't start, George,” she snarled. George cringed. “Charlie is in no condition to be up and about! And Bill needs to do whatever it takes to get out of his bind safely! It's a very irresponsible attitude you have right now!” “All right, all right, keep your hair on!” George muttered. Ron glanced uneasily at his mother, then turned to Harry. “Think the rest of the team is here by now?” he said to Harry, who shrugged. “Speaking of which,” said George, peering around across the hall, ,”If they were here, where would they be?” “Er,” Harry answered uncertainly, “Locker room, maybe?” It suddenly occurred to him what George was up to. “You're not going to-?”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Why not?” responded George airily. “Might not get another chance. Once the Cannons win a few games, they'll be on the way to the top, and security will only get tighter. Better to strike while there's only one guard. I assume that is the guard?” he said, nodding to the wizard standing behind an apparent ly bare stretch of wall. Only the members of the Chudley Cannons could see the door, Harry knew, and was wondering how to get George through when George touched his hand and said, “Take my hand, Harry, and guide me.” No sooner had Harry done so than the guard stepped forward. “Sorry,” he said. “Cannon players only.” Harry looked at him and opened his mouth, but George spoke out of the side of his mouth, “Allow me,” and he approached the guard. “Say,” he said, as he got close, his eyes widening, “aren't you Barry Milmeiger?” The guard frowned. “Er, no-” George interrupted him. “Barry! Never thought I'd actually meet you!” He grasped the very befuddled guard's hand, and Harry rather thought he saw George using this maneuver to press a small but bulky pouch into the guard's palm. “A hard job, but it has its rewards, if you know what I mean.” He winked at the guard. “By the way, do you have time?” George glanced at his own wrist, then looked at the guard, who was peering at the back of his hand, although his eyes kept darting from his wrist to his fingers. Harry shot George a questioning glance, and he murmured, “A ruse that allows him a good look at how much I gave him. It's an added bonus if his watch is in his pocket, because that allows him to stow away the gold without arousing suspicion.” He looked back at the guard, who smiled and gave him a confident nod. Without further ado, Harry seized George's elbow and pulled him to the door. Pushing it up, he nudged George through, and waited as Ron passed as well. Then he stepped inside and looked around. It looked as the the entire team was there. Harry watched as Zach Draeli slowly rose and walked toward them. “Well,” he said, eyeing George, who gazed at him evenly. “Looks like someone got lost and wandered in here.” He raised a hand and pointed to the door. “That's the way out.” George didn't move, and Zach's eyes narrowed. He reached out again, this time to push George, but George put up a hand. “Isn't your cousin Ethan Gyber?” he asked, and Zach stopped, looking puzzled. “Yeah,” he said suspiciously. “What of it?” “How'd that Sewage-Spill Soap work out for him?” George asked, causing Zach to blink and squint at him, re-evaluating. “Custom-made, it was. A pretty good bit of work. Did it take care of that bloke who was getting on his nerves?” “You...you're George? George Weasley?” Zach asked in return, and when George nodded, he grabbed him by the shoulders and exclaimed, “It worked brilliantly! Now, whenever Gary sees Ethan, he fairly sprints the other way!” He roared with laughter, then whirled to face the other team members. “Mates,” he announced, “this is George Weasley. He's a friend of mine.” He turned back to George. “Want some autographs?” he asked, and the Cannons crowded around him. Harry watched, until the door burst open and Abe Flebble walked in, examining a sheaf of parchment in his hand. He looked up. “Who the bloody hell are you?” he snapped. “And what the bloody hell are you doing in here?” Zach beamed, saying, “This is my friend, George Weasley.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Flebble glared at George, who smiled back innocently. “Friend, eh?” growled the captain. “Be that as it may, you are not wearing Cannons robes, and I sure as hell don't remember hiring you to play on this team. Therefore, you don't belong in here. Get out, before I have the guard come in and forcibly remove you!” He waved his free hand toward the door. George sighed and approached the door. “Don't be a stranger! You're welcome to come see me any time!” called Zach, and George replied, “I'll remember that.” He looked around at Harry. “See you later.” And he walked out. Flebble scowled after him, then riffled through the parchment in his hand. “Blast it!” he muttered. “I'm missing the...” He looked around. “I'd better not comeback and find that flame-haired rascal in my locker room.” “Don't worry, Abe,” answered Zach. “You won't.” “Right,” murmured Abe, and he left. There were a few moments silence. Then: “So, Ron, do you plan on staying long?” “Er, I guess,” Ron said uncertainly. “Why?” “We were hoping,” Andrew Gach said slowly, “that you would stay on a while. When you're here, we actually stand a chance of winning.” “Yeah,” Ron murmured, “you don't want to end up at the bottom of the League again, do you?” “There's a reason for that, you know,” Zach remarked quietly. “Yeah?” replied Ron, raising an eyebrow. “Well, it's based on money. We get these really shoddy players, right? And we train them. Then, when they get to be fairly decent, othe teams buy them off. And no way we can keep them. After all, we don't pay enough, because we don't have enough gold, and because we don't have enough gold, we can't bind them with contracts.” He leaned forward. “Now, since we don't pay a lot, we can only hope you both will stay here. And face it, the reason you're here,” he pointed at Harry, “is because he's here.” He pointed at Ron. “Well,” Ron said slowly, “I don't think I'm going anywhere. As I've said before, you're my favorite team.” Zach smiled. “Good.” He pulled out a grubby bag and drew from it an old Quaffle. “Time to practice!” The Quaffle spun from player to player, with Harry watching in amazement. The dexterity with which they handled the aged ball stunned him. Zach caught him satring and smiled. “Good, eh?” Harry nodded, then asked, “If you guys are so good ad that, then how come you keep losing?” Zach frowned. “Well, then other teams are usually better, and we haven't had a decent Seeker in years.” He looked sharply at Harry. “That's why we need you.” Harry nodded. Zach gazed at the Quaffle bobbing along from hand to hand. Harry looked at it, and was startled by a little ball darting past him. He was caught way off guard, but somehow, his hand manged to zoom out and snag the orb with his fingertips. He held it up, examining it in confusion. “Nice one, Harry,” said Zach appreciatively. “None of the other Seekers got it on their first try. I think you really will do well at this match.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Flebble appeared. “Game in five,” he called, then entered his office. “All right,” yelled Zach. “You heard him. Get dressed, so we can get this game on!” The team immediately donned their robes, and soon, they were lined up before a pair of double doors. “AND NOW,” came the announcer's voice, “THE CHUDLEY CANNONS!” Their names were called out, and they swooped out, lapping the field before landing in a line at the center. Directly opposite, ten feet away, stood the Bulgarian team. Krum looked at Harry, but said nothing. “THE REFEREE FOR THIS MATCH,” yelled the wizard commenting on the game, “WILL BE JOHN LOOF!” Loof looked at both teams sternly. “Now,” he said, “I want a good game. Play fairly, but competitively.” One of the Cannons Chasers, Lenny Krane, muttered, “Now there's a pair of opposites, eh?” The the players standing on either side of him chuckled softly. Loof glared at him, then said, “Up and away!” As Harry mounted, he watched Loof toss the Quaffle up, then kick off into the air, allowing the box to open, releasing the Bludgers and Snitch. For just an instant, Harry glimpsed the spot of gold; a second later, it vanished. I'll find it soon enough, Harry thought. Harry took off and rose quickly, scanning the field. Glancing behind him, he spotted Krum soaring a bit above and behind him. Come on, leave me alone, Harry thought, and a moment later, krum turned and flew in the other direction. Harry pulled up on his broom handle, causing the broom to rise. No sooner had he done so than a knot of Chasers came hurtling toward him. Why in the world are they way up here? wondered Harry as he veered away. He cut across the field diagonally, and circled the goal hoops supported on long poles. He darted through one hoop, then spun and flew through another, before turning and...he saw, floating a couple feet ahead of him, the Snitch. Harry practically flung himself forward, but there was a whistling sound. To Harry's astonishment, and utter and complete anger, a Bludger shot in front of him, and was gone, the Snitch with it. Wanting to escape that infuriating moment, Harry pulled up, skyrocketing. He was a fair distance above the field when he finally slowed to a halt. Abruptly, a voice caught his attention. “That vos very unfair to you, Potter,” the voice said, and Harry whirled his broom around to face...Krum. “You have my sympathies.” Harry wanted to say that he didn't need Krum's sympathy, but felt it would be a childish thing to say. Instead, he made a better comment. “Er, thanks.” “It vos one of my Beaters,” Krum continued, his gaze wandering toward a nearby Chaser. “If he were on a different team, I vood have one of my own pay him in kind. However, he is one of my own. And in any case, two wrongs rarely make one right, and an action done in anger is one best left undone. My father taught me that.” “Your father is smart,” Harry replied, and it occurred to him that, opponent or not, Krum was a smart, strong, and very skilled person. One worth knowing. Before he knew it, he was speaking. “We should get together sometime and have a butterbeer,” Harry said, and Krum nodded. “Yes, ve should.” Harry decided that he had said enough, and he turned and flew away. Cutting across the field, Harry swooped down, and was just turning to go back across when he heard the spectators give a collective gasp. Looking around, he noticed Krum speeding toward him...and, about fifty feet in front of Harry,

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

the Snitch. Harry leaned forward, and his broom zoomed toward the tiny golden ball. Krum was so close, and Harry was so far away...They hurtled toward each other, and as they drew near, Harry realized they were going to collide, and hoped that Krum would swerve. Almost there... With a jarring jolt, they slammed together, trapping the Snitch between their bodies. Harry's broom slid along Krum's, and Krum shifted his leg so it wrapped around Harry's as well as his own, locking the two brooms together. Their combined weight caused them to plummet, but Harry ignored the falling and focused on the Snitch. He attempted to squirm his hand to the golden ball, but their chests were too tightly mashed together. He struggled to reach the Snitch, and Krum said, “You want the Snitch? Then have it!” Harry felt a round object dart into his hand, felt a feathery brush, and he grinned triumphantly. Drawing back, he pumped his fist into the air. There was a roar from the crowd. Then the announcer cried out, “I don't believe it! He's waving that fake like it's the real thing! It's a...a Potter's Ploy!” Krum thrust his hand skyward, and Harry saw a pair of wings protruding from Krum's clenched fingers. Enraged, Harry shouted, 'You lied to me! You lied! That isn't fair!” Krum looked down at him, his eyes blank. “But, Potter, hasn't anyone told you? Life isn't fair. Never was, and never will be!” Harry stared at him. “You lied.” Krum smiled. “Nap time!” And Harry felt like the fist of a giant had struck him with full force. He crumpled, barely registering the brutal weight of Krum landing on top of him. The announcer was speaking again, but his words echoed meaninglessly in Harry's ears, as Harry mentally continued to drop, falling gratefully into a great inky darkness, which swallowed him as completely as though he had never even been there. And he was gone.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

THE FALL OF VIKTOR KRUM
“Mr. Potter? Harry? Can you hear me?” A wizard's voice came from beside him. “Might not be awake yet, Sandy,” commented another wizard from farther away. “Lord knows, he hit the ground right hard. And with a big Seeker on top of him, no less.” Harry struggled toward the surface of his mind, the wizards' words making no sense to him. Trying to lift his head, he panicked for a second, believing he had gone blind. But then he realized he hadn't opened his eyes yet. Opening them, he was confronted with a very blurry world. “Say,” said the nearby voice, “I thought you wore glasses?” Suddenly, Harry was immersed in a terrifying scene. Grayback stood before him, and he could hear others moving about. He heard the other voice called out, “I found glasses!” The horror was complete. With terror came fury and courage, and Harry thrust out blindly with one hand. It struck skin, and he immediately reached in that direction. His fingers closed around a thick, fleshy stem, and he heard gagging sounds. “Not again, Death Eater!” he hissed menacingly. “I don't care what your master put you up to, but he's as good as dead!”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“What- you- talking- ?”Adrenaline cleared his vision slightly, and he saw a bald man in blue robes. His face was a mask of fear. Wait...this wasn't Grayback's face...and he never wore blue robes! “Let him go! Let him go, I say!” came the other voice. “Please...don't...hurt...me...” begged the wizard in Harry's clutches. Harry forced his hands to relax, and the mediwizard fell to his knees. His colleague immediately pulled him away, glaring at Harry. Harry stepped toward them. “I'm sorry,” said Harry. “I'm so sorry. You were talking, and your words-” “I don't care!” snapped the bald wizard's friend, halting. “You stay away from us! And especially Sandy! You could have crushed his throat!” “Your words triggered a backflash. I thought I was back in the hands of the Death Eaters!” Harry cried, desperate to make them understand. Sandy's eyes widened. “So that's what you were talking about!” he exclaimed hoarsely, and he walked up to Harry. “My boy, you have my sympathies. What a horrible experience it must have been!” “It was,” agreed Harry, and he took Sandy's hand. “Can you forgive me?” “I suppose, this time,” answered Sandy, smiling sadly. “Oh, and here's your glasses.” “Thanks,” said Harry, and watched as the two mediwizards retreated. He heard the announcer shouting to the world, “It seems that those fellows managed to survive Potter's assault! They probably talked him down! They'll be talking about this for weeks to come! Just imagine, attacked by the Boy Who Lived!” Harry glanced scathingly at the announcer's box, then shook his head and left the field. He wandered down hall after hall, finally noticing a sign for a bathroom. On it, it read 'Out of order', and Harry smiled. Just the place for some peace and quiet. He needed to think... “Harry!” Ron's voice shouted behind him. Harry ignored him, opening the bathroom door. Once inside, he walked over to one of the sinks. He grasped each side, leaning over it. Looking up, he eyed himself in the mirror, and was reminded of a couple years ago, the day he had walked in on Malfoy crying in Myrtle's bathroom...He saw the door open behind him, heard footsteps, then saw Ron's head appear over his shoulder. “You feeling all right, mate?” he asked. Harry glanced at him in the mirror. “What do you think, Ron?” he answered darkly. Ron grimaced, rubbing his head. His hand moved down, passing over his face, and he said, “Look, Harry, I don't believe you tried to pull a fast one on that field.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Harry turned and stared at him. “What do you know about it?” Ron scowled. “Next to nothing. Want to hear my theory?” Harry frowned. “I've got some of my own, but go ahead.” Ron took a deep breath. “Don't ask me how, but I think Krum had the real Snitch with him the whole time. In the end, he pretended to race you for the other, even though it was a fake, then allowed you to grab it before pulling the actual Snitch and waving it for all to see.” He waited expectantly. Harry gazed at him, then shook his head. “Ron,” he began, “are you telling me that the whole time, I was chasing a phony?” Ron shrugged uncomfortably, and Harry continued, “it was the real Snitch, I know that much.” Ron narrowed his eyes, telling Harry that he wasn't convinced. Harry decided to spill. “You want to hear my thoughts?” “Sure,” said Ron, “let's hear it.” “I think that Krum had the fake the whole time, and when I was trying to get the real one, he distracted me, then popped the fake into my hand. Then he seized the opportunity and grabbed the real Snitch.” Ron gaped, then began stomping around. “Something is seriously wrong with him!” “Yeah,” replied Harry, “something was wrong with him all right.” Ron abruptly spun and gave him a confused look. “What d'you mean?” “I mean,” Harry said, “that he was Imperioused.” Ron simply stared incredulously, causing Harry to grow frustrated. “Fine, don't believe me. But I was there! Inches from him! I saw the look in his eyes!” “What are you saying?” asked Ron slowly, looking Harry in the eye. “Krum had help. Someone cursed him, and someone gave him the Snitch. He probably didn't know until the moment came that he even had it. Which means...” Harry gased up at the ceiling, thinking hard. He continued softly. “That there may be as many as three people involved in this setup.” “And why? Why would they do this?” Ron asked. Harry looked at him. “Better to ask whoever Imperioused him.” “Oh, what a fabulous suggestion. It's convenient that they aren't here, if they even exist!” Harry looked at Ron hard. “Trust me,” he said quietly. “I know what i'm talking about.” “Are you sure?” whined Ron. “If what you're saying is true, then things are getting a lot more complicated.” “Yeah, it is getting complicated, isn't it?” murmured Harry. He looked up. “Just talking about it isn't proving anything.” He went to the door. Ron followed. “Where are you going?”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Harry turned to him. “To find out for sure.” “Are you sure you want to do this?,” Ron asked nervously. “How else will we learn the truth?” Harry asked in response. Ron looked at him, and saw that Harry couldn't be moved. “Fine,” he sighed at last. Harry opened the door, turned right and strode swiftly down the hall. He walked around the corner so swiftly that he almost collided with Flebble, who was coming the other way. All three froze. “Potter!” Flebble barked. “Wrong way. The locker room's that way.” he pointed behind Harry. Harry hesitated, and Flebble's eyes narrowed, going over Harry's sweaty face and determined expression. “Just where were you heading off to, anyway?” he asked suspiciously, and Harry swallowed. He would have to step carefully, as Flebble had every right to deny him passage. “I was going to find someone,” Harry answered, then seeing the captain's raised eyebrows, he added quickly, “To talk to him.” “This person's a 'him', eh?” inquired Flebble, and Harry cursed himself for letting the captain catch on. He realized that if he tried to hide his objective, it wouldn't help any. “I'm looking for Krum,” Harry confessed. 'I need to talk to him about the match.” “The match is over, Potter,” snapped Flebble. Harry refrained from giving an exasperated sigh. “It's- I mean- I need- I have to talk- I just want to talk, all right?” he finally spit out. Flebble looked him over. “Killing doesn't get you anywhere,” he said. “Excuse me,” Ron put in, “but this is the guy who killed You-Know-Who, you know. So who are you to say-” Harry raised a hand to silence his friend. “Do you really think I'm off to kill Krum? Bloody hell, it was just a Snitch!” True enough,” answered Flebble. He sighed, then looked Harry over once more. “Well, you don't exactly look like you have murder on your mind, so I guess I'll let you go.” He gave them directions to Krum's personal room, and Harry set off again. “And you'd better not have me regret this!” Abe called after them. “You'd better not make me regret this either,” Ron said to Harry. “Don't worry,” Harry said back. 'The worst that could happen-” “Don't even say it!” Ron snapped. They turned a corner, and there ahead of them was a door with the name Krum on it. And something else as well...

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Holy bloody hell!” gasped Ron quietly, staring at the pair standing before the door. “Is that- us?!” “Impostors, it looks like,” Harry said just as quietly, watching as the doubles waited. He reached for his wand...and felt nothing. Peeking down, he realized that his wand was missing. He searched his other pocket, with the same results. He glanced over at Ron, and felt Ron's expression mirrored his own. Their eyes met. “Yours too?” Ron asked. Harry nodded, and after a quick moment's thought, he started forward. “What are you-?” asked Ron harshly, and Harry said, “If we get there fast, we can stop whatever they're planning to do. I f you want to back out, be my guest,” he added, 'but I'm going in.” “You think I'm letting you jump in on whatever's going on by yourself? Right,” Ron snorted. “But what will we fight them with?” Harry held up his hand. Ron looked at it. “Well, I'd take wands over fists any day. I mean, they'll probably curse us before we can even hit them.” Harry noticed a plump witch standing nearby with a broom. She gave them a frightened look and walked quickly away. Harry ignored her and looked at Ron. “That's not what I meant,” said Harry, as they reached the door. “You remember Azkaban? How I cast that Patronus?” Ron's face brightened. “Blimey, Harry, if you could do something like that again, we might stand a chance!” “I intend to,” Harry replied, and he held up his hand. “Everbero!” The scar on his hand flared with scarlet light, and the door shuddered, as the air around them light up redly. He repeated the spell, and with another great shiver, the door swung inward, and they leaped into the room. First thing Harry saw, was himself and Ron standing in front of him; he looked down, and noticed Krum lying on the floor, bound with rope. “Please, vy are you doing this?” asked Krum. “I don't understand.” “You caught the Snitch, Krum,” Harry said coldly. “That Snitch was mine!” “But I don't even remember catching it!” Krum yelled. This confirmed Harry's suspicions, and now he spoke. “That's because you were Imperioused, Krum,” explained Harry. “And by the way, that,” he pointed to the false Harry, “isn't really me!” “What!” exclaimed the impostor. “Who are you? Why are you capering around as me?” “Stop pretending you're the real Harry Potter,” commanded Ron. “I'd know the real one anywhere. And you just don't fit.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“I agree,” said Krum from behind the phony pair. “I can tell you aren't the real Potter. So vy do you vant to kill me?” 'Harry” looked around at the three glaring faces, then turned to Krum and said, “I'm afraid you'll have to die without that answer.” And with that, he flicked Harry's wand over his shoulder, and there was a rush of orange light. Harry felt a rain of blows hit him, and reeled against the wall. Gasping for breath, he watched Ron crumple when the other Ron struck him in the stomach with his elbow. Without hesitation, the fake Harry raised Harry's wand and snarled the two fateful words: “Avada Kedavra!” Krum, knowing his moment was at hand, looked at Harry and said, “Thank you for coming.” Harry howled as the jet of green light met with Krum's face, and then he lunged the phony Harry. The other waved his wand, sending Harry flying, while 'Ron” kicked the real Ron in the face. Finally, Harry set his rage loose, and a blaze of golden light filled the room. The fake Harry seized the fake Ron and looked at Harry. The false Harry's face bubbled, and he lingered just long enough for Harry to catch sight of blond curls framing a familiar face... “See you around, Harry” he said, and with a CRACK! they disappeared. With dry rattles, Harry and Ron's wands fell to the floor. Harry numbly picked them up, and set Ron's on the floor next to him. It rolled a few inches and stopped. Harry walked over to Krum's body, knelt beside it. He stared into Krum's dark, blank eyes, before closing them with two tender fingers. Spotting something out of the corner of his eye, he found Krum's wand. Picking it up, he rolled it slowly, rubbing the slick wood. He was still in that position when there came shouts. “Look! The door's been blasted open!” “He must be in there!” “Get behind me, Flebble! Behind me!” Suddenly, the door flew open. Several wizards burst in, then aimed their wands at Harry. “Drop the wands, Potter! Drop it! Now!” Harry instinctively tossed both wands onto the floor, then raised his arms and put folded his hands behind his head. The wizards looked quickly around the room, examined Krum, then the wands. “Well,” one said, “Krum's dead.” “Wasn't that his wand Potter was holding?” asked another, and when a fellow nodded, he turned to Harry, his eyes stern. “Why were you holding his wand?” Harry, still numb with shock, said, “Well, I just picked it up, I guess- I didn't kill him, if that's what you're thinking!” A stout wizard by the door chuckled. “First thing out of his mouth, he denies killing Krum! How predictable!”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

A tall wizard looked at Krum, Ron, the wands, the cracked walls, Krum again, and then finally Harry. He directed his wand at him. “Get Weasley up off the floor,” he commanded a witch standing nearby, and waited patiently until Ron was standing and peering blearily at him. Then, the wizard spoke. “Harry James Potter,” he said, “and Ronald Bilius Weasley, I am placing you both under arrest for the murder of Viktor Krum.”

THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“I can't believe this!” Ron exclaimed as they were marched down the hall for the second time in his life. “You can't charge us with murder! You haven't got enough proof!” “Oh,” said the tall wizard, staring straight ahead, “I-we have more than enough proof. From the state of that room, it's obvious that Krum put up a struggle-” “That was from the real killers!” snarled Ron. “Actually, Ron, that was me, remember?” Harry corrected, and the wizard smiled. “Memories failing, now are they?” he asked smugly. He looked at Harry. “You claim that the explosion occurred without you wand, which I find hard to believe. And if it is true, then the fact that your wandless magic is so powerful is a potential threat to the Ministry. I'll have to discuss this with the Head Auror.” He glanced at Ron, and continued. “ 'Killers', you say? How do you know there were more than one? Because they were you?” “We saw them,” Ron answered grimly. His captor's eyes widened. “You saw them? And yet you can't give me a proper description?” “I told you, they had taken Polyjuice Potion!” Harry snapped. His patience wearing thin. “And as I told you, Mr. Potter, there's absolutely no proof that a potion of any sort was nearby!” “Did you check the entire building?” asked Harry, and received a hissed, “Don't tell me how to do my job, Potter!” “It's no use talking to him, Harry,” Ron said quietly. “We can talk to the Minister. He'll be able to sort this out.” “Oh, I wouldn't be so sure about that,” breathed the Auror, grinning menacingly. “There isn't much that blasted fool can do now.” Harry looked at him sharply, and was irritated when the Auror chuckled at the fear on his face. “Shacklebolt's grip on the Ministry is slipping. Soon, he will be powerless. And when that happens, we will greet a new era. The wheels are already set in motion.” “What do you mean?” asked Harry through gritted teeth. The Auror smirked. “Let's just say that another is rising, and shall outshine that uppity Auror. Then everyone else will begin to see the light, and triumph will be theirs.” His eyes met Harry's. “All for the good of the wizarding populace. The world will be far better this way.” His eyes bored into Harry, who stared back as though hypnotized.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“And there is nothing you can do to stop it.” * * *

“Explain,” Kingsley commanded, his dark blue robes sweeping out behind him as he strode back and forth across his office. “We were-” Ron started, but Kingsley interrupted him, whirling to face him. “Let me guess,” he growled quietly, “you were framed again, were you?” Ron frowned. “Well, yeah! Do you think we killed Krum? He was a balmy git, but I don't have that in me.” The Minister rubbed his face. “You realize how this looks, don't you? You realize you've put me in a bind?” He looked at both of them carefully. “I can't keep digging you out. People will start complaining, and those who scheme behind my back won't hesitate to bite!” “We know,” Harry responded grimly, and Kingsley looked at him slowly, curiously. “We were told you were in trouble.” “Oh,” muttered Kingsley, “I'm not in trouble quite yet. But I can see it coming.” Ron glanced nervously at Harry, who said, “Look, just one more time, Kingsley. Don't give in to the people. That's what they want, whoever did this to us. Once we're out of the way, who knows what they will do?” Kingsley gazed at him wearily, then sighed. “I might be able to-” His door swung open, and a the short wizard from Krum's room stood there. “Ah!” he said, eyeing Ron and Harry. He then looked at Kingsley. “Good day, Minister. Just thought I'd stop by and offer my assistance.” “I'm handling them well enough on my own, Seymour,” answered Kingsley heavily, and Seymour nodded. “Of course.” The Minister turned to Harry and Ron. “This,” he waved to Seymour, “is Seymour Kilpine, Head Auror. He is...helping...with this investigation on the Talismanic Group.” “Even though there is little evidence that this supposed organization, even if it exists, is active. My Aurors have found nothing, Kingsley.” “Keep looking,” answered Kingsley. “I know they are out there somewhere.” “A chase after a wild mongoose,” spat Kilpine, his face contorting in a scowl. “And as for these two...”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Surely they get a trial, Seymour?” Shacklebolt asked lightly. Kilpine smirked. “Oh,” he said easily, “The Wizengamot has decided there is no need for a trial. Everything is clear enough. All that needs to be done, is take them to Azkaban. Which,” he turned slowly and smiled at Ron and Harry, who stood with their jaws hanging open, “has been arranged. You will be leaving shortly.” “Would you mind explaining to me, Seymour, exactly why these two would kill Mr. Krum, besides for the Snitch? After all, Harry is fairly wealthy already, and Weasley doesn't strike me as hungry for gold.” The Head Auror grinned triumphantly. “The ring.” “The ring?” Ron echoed dumbly. Harry, however, remembered seeing the ring on Krum's hand. In fact, he realized suddenly, Krum had said that ring came from his dead brother. “The ring,” pronounced Kilpine slowly, “Viktor Krum's ring, a family heirloom of high value, is missing. And you, Mr. Potter,” Kilpine looked pointedly at Harry, “look as though you know what I am talking about. According to my Aurors,” he turned away and began to pace about the room, examining the walls and the objects scattered about, “you were discovered kneeling beside Viktor's body, an excellent position from which to take that ring. After all, you took his wand; why not an antique, as well? You could sell it and give the money to your good friend Ronald Weasley here, in return for his aid in killing Krum!” Ron let out a roar of rage, and Harry jumped into his path. Ron managed to restrain himself, and instead stared at Seymour Kilpine with loathing in his eyes. Seymour looked at him, amused. “Such a temper,” he said softly. “I wonder if that's the last thing Krum saw before he died? But that wouldn't be right,” he murmurred, turning as studying the floor. “After all, the curse is proven to have come from Potter's wand!” “Enough, Kilpine!” snapped Kingsley, glancing uncertainly at Harry. “You are doing no good here. Have you any more business?” “I-” began Kilpine, but a female voice rang out in the room. “Minister,” it said, “A Miss Hermione Granger is requesting entrance. Shall I-?” “Yes,” said Kingsley gravely. A second later, Hermione burst into the room. “Miss Granger!” said Kilpine. “You very nearly missed-” But Hermione ignored him. She spotted her friends, and gasped, “Harry! Ron!” She grabbed them and hugged them tight. “I was so afraid,” she whispered, “That I would get here and you two would already be gone.” “Don't worry, Hermione,” Harry whispered, running his hand up and down her back. “You made it.” “You'd best say your goodbyes. You may not see them for the next five years or so,” said Kilpine snidely, and waited expectantly as Hermione looked at him. She watched, and he nodded and said, “I'll be waiting outside, then. And no funny business, you two!” he directed this at Ron and Harry.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Seymour-” said Kingsley, but the Head Auror cut him off, saying, “And you had better not assist them in getting up to any trouble. We overlooked your ill-made decision regarding the number of signatures you pushed past the Ministry for their release from Azkaban, but if you do anything else, I can assure you you will regret it.” “Don't you even think of threatening me, Seymour. Head Auror you may be, but-” “I am simply telling you how things stand. You would do well to listen.” Kilpine glanced at the trio. “Make it quick.” He then walked out. Hermione buried her face in Harry's chest, and Harry felt moisture soaking into his shirt. Ron watched darkly. He's probably thinking she should be crying on him instead of me, Harry thought. Like I enjoy this at all. Although, truthfully, he was a little touched that she had chosen him to let go on. She sniffed and pulled back, her watery eyes meeting Harry's. Ron seemed to notice the way they were staring at each other and looked at them curiously. “I promise you,” she said, her voice wavering, “I will find a way to get you out of this!” Harry had to admire her courage, but common sense told him the futility of her promise. It'll be me who's the one to...he thought, then felt his eyes widen as the truth of that personal comment hit him. A confused look crossed Hermione's face. “Are you all right, Harry?” she asked, reaching to his face with her hand. He caught her wrist, kissing it gently. He met her eyes. Don't worry, he thought to her. I'll think of some way to take care of me and Ron. He leaned forward and kissed her cheek, whispering, “I love you.” Her eyes widened; her lips parted; then they moved forming the words, “Love you too.” He barely nodded, before turning and walking to the door. Ron walked out before him, and Harry looked back. Met Hermione's eyes. Then he walked out. * * *

Cold air pushed against Harry's face, whipping his robes out behind him. He wriggled his hands, which were bound together at the wrists by a clear yellow cord. He gave a tug, and the guard sitting behind him shouted over the howling of the wind, “No use trying to break free boy! That sort of cord is imbued with a spell similar to that of Spello-tape!” Harry hunched over, straining to keep his balance. There had to be some way out of this...Unbidden, he remembered the swarm of dementors surrounding Azkaban, and he diverted the oncoming rush of despair by focusing on his happiest memories. FLASH! CRACK! “Hold on!” Ron's guard called across. “This could get bumpy!”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Harry gripped the broom with his thighs. Glancing over at Ron to make sure he was all right, Harry glimpsed waving red hair...like blowing fire... Fire...flight...Harry jolted, his eyes wide. That was it! He looked around at Ron. As though sensing his gaze, Ron turned, and their eyes met. Knowing this would be a lot harder than when he connected with Hermione, Harry focused hard and thought into Ron's mind, Stay alert. Ron seemed to understand immediately. What, you're going to escape? His mind asked without thinking, and Harry said simply, Yes. He paused, then added, Just hold on. And he severed the connection. Concentrating, he caused his hands to burn slightly. The flames were a litlle stronger than he intnded, and although the cord around his wrists wouldn't yield, the guard noticed. “What are you doing?” he yelled in Harry's ear, and Harry responded, 'Nothing! I think it's the lightning!” As though to prove his point, a bolt of lightning flashed past, and a wave of heat washed over them. Harry could hear his guard cursing, and he had another try at burning the bonds off. Again, it didn't work. He mentally shrugged. Well, there was nothing else for it. He ignited the fear and hope and determination within him, and he burst into flame. The guard screamed in surprise, but his voice died away as the flames diappeared, leaving nothing in their place. Harry's magical cord fell through thin space, vanishing into the darkness below. The guard looked in all directions, seeing nothing of his prisoner. Then, flames exploded several feet away, and a scarlet bird flew over to Ron. Ron gave an almighty tug, and finally his own cord snapped. Ron hurled himself off the broom, Harry diving after him. Ron swung both hands upward, clasped them upon Harry's long tail, and with a last burst of fire, they both disappeared. They reappeared, breathless and stunned. They looked at each other, wind whipping their hair about. A moments silence, then exultant whoops broke the air. “Harry, mate, you did it!” Ron exclaimed. “We escaped!” “Yeah, and it was a hell of a ride,” Harry said, grinning. “My stomach is still jumping!” Ron suddenly looked down. His face went pale. “Harry, what-look what you've done!” Harry stared beneath him. “How -How could I not have noticed that?” “Never mind that!” bellowed Ron. “What are we going to do about it?” Harry was speechless. The good news: they'd reached the destination he had had in mind. London. The bad news: they were miles in the air, both completely human, and falling toward the earth like sacks of rocks.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

AQUAMANCER'S RESCUE

Harry stared down, then looked at Ron, who was wearing an expression of terror upon his face. Suddenly, his face cleared, adopting a determined expression. “Harry,” he said, “climb on my back.” Harry looked at him in disbelief. “Climb on my back,” Ron repeated. “I can carry you.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Harry thought about Ron's abilities, and remembered his own. “No, Ron,” he said slowly. “You save yourself.” “Harry-” started Ron, but Harry said, “Ron, I can do this myself. Trust me. Do what you need to do, and I'll do what I need to.” “Are you sure?” asked Ron, and Harry nodded. “Take care of yourself,” he shouted, and Ron replied, “I'm keeping you in my sights.” “Do that,” said Harry, “I may need your help later on. And we don't want to be separated.” Ron glanced down at the rapidly approaching city. “Well,” he said nervously, “here goes!” The first of the rooftops shot up past them, and Ron shot out a line of webbing, causing harry to suddenly drop below him. Harry watched as Ron swung away, then looked down, listening to a voice in his mind. Screwing up his courage, Harry positioned his legs just right, saw people staring up, pointing at him, screaming, running around. The ground flew up, and with a mighty jolt, Harry slammed into it feet first, before crumpling. He opened his eyes, and found that he was in a crouch, completely unharmed. The concrete around him was cracked, and as Harry looked around, he saw policemen sprinting toward him. And behind them, more men... Men in cloaks. The Ministry. Harry sprang to his feet, and began running. All around him, popping could be heard. Straight ahead, an Auror appeared out of thin air, and Harry swerved, heading down another street. Magic began to pour through his veins, his strides growing longer and longer, his bounds extending to dozens of feet. Noticing a shadow passing by, he looked up and spotted Ron swinging high above. Ron saw Harrry's gaze, and nodded. Harry nodded back, before returning his attention to the road before him. Turning a corner, he came to a halt, facing a line of wizards. He ran forward, and leaped. Soaring over them, he sensed a spell coming, felt it graze his ribs. He fell, rolling across the cement, then got to his feet. Examining his side, he saw a patch of scorched, smoking fabric, although the singed flesh beneath was already healing. He turned, glaring at the Aurors around him. They raised their wands, and his anger exploded, a wave of golden light washing out from him. The Aurors were sent tumbling, while more leaped forward, and Ron swept down, clinging tightly to a rope of sticky goo, his hand outstretched. Harry gladly seized hold, and was pulled onto Ron's back. Ron swung from building to building, Harry clutching him, and Harry's eyes were drawn to the sky. If only he could transform again...Harry tried, but something was holding him back. Deciding he wasn't concentrating hard enough, Harry focused hard. Still nothing. His frustration mounted, but Ron's voice interrupted it. “Harry!” They had stopped. “Ron?” asked Harry, and Ron answered, “We're in a bit of trouble, Harry.” Harry looked around. They were in a dead end, clinging to a wall at the back of the alley. Glancing up, Harry saw Aurors standing on top of the wall. Aurors stood silently below them.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Take us down,” Harry said quietly. Ron hesitated, then leaped. He somersaulted, then landed neatly on his feet. The Aurors raised their wands. “Surrender, both of you,” one called. Racking his brains for a way out, Harry thought of Hermione. Hermione, I need you, he sent out telepathically. Ron and I are in danger. We need you to come help us. Silence. Harry, glanced sideways at Ron, who was watching the Aurors carefully. “Harry,” he said softly, “if you have a plan, do it now.” “I already have,” responded Harry. “It's up to Hermione now.” “Wait. You called on Hermione for help?” “She can do it,” Harry returned. “I know she can.” “This is your last warning,” said the Auror who had spkoen before. “Get on your knees, or we will curse you!” “Any plans of complying?” asked Ron, and Harry said, “Are you crazy?” Ron snorted, then shifted his stance as the wizards took aim. Just as they fired spells, there was an explosion of blue light, and a fine mist tickled Harry's cheek. He looked around, and saw Hermione standing before them. “I heard your call, Harry,” she said quietly. “I came as fast as I could.” She sent out another wave of water, knocking more Aurors off their feet. She turned and looked at Ron and Harry. “You two ready?” “Thanks, and yes, we're as ready as we're going to be,” said Harry, and Hermione grabbed his arm and Ron's. The Aurors immediately sent a dozen Stunners at them, and a second later, the jets of light converged on the trio. Harry fell backwards into darkness.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

NURMENGARD
Harry lay still on the ground, listening for some clue as to what was going around him. He mentally felt himself over, concluding that he was unharmed. He cracked an eye open, and while he couldn't see anything clearly, he didn't think he could detect any Aurors. But that didn't make any sense...he sat up. “Hermione?” he asked quietly, in case there were indeed Aurors about. A movement caught his eye, and he turned to see Hermione lying on her side, stirring. Her eyes fluttered open, and she quickly got to her feet, remaining in a crouch. “Harry?” she asked. “Are you all right? Did you get hurt?” “I-I think so,” said Harry, and Hermione hugged him. “Thank goodness we made it,” she whispered. “I wasn't sure we would. I'm new to this, after all...” “New to what?” Harry wondered, but Ron called out, “Sure, don't bother checking on me, I'll be all right. Might be missing an arm or a leg or both, but it's nothing magic can't fix, right?” “Well, are you missing anything?” Hermione inquired, and Ron shook his head. “Nothing except my next meal.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Typical,” Hermione muttered. “Forever hungry.” “But why are we here?” asked Ron confusedly. “Why aren't we on the ground Stunned?” “We are on the ground,” Harry answered. “Although I'm wondering that too. What happened back there? I thought we were goners for sure.” Hermione sighed, looking down at her hands. Her hair obscured her face, so Harry couldn't see her expression as she answered. “I managed to get us out of their just in time,” she said. Ron waited, then asked the obvious question. “How?” he said, and she looked up at him. “My new powers.” She turned to Harry. “That's what I meant about being new to this.” “I don't understand,” said Harry. “You have new powers?” “Yes,” she responded. “I can control water, just as you can control fire.” She lowered her gaze back to her hands. “I can't help it. I think it has something to do with this scar.” She raised her left hand, showing the 'R' shaped scar on it. “R for Ravenclaw, I think.” She hesitated, then peeked at Harry. “Wow,” he whispered, and she smiled slightly at the wonder in his eyes. He reached for her hand, lightly touching the scar with his fingertips. Their eyes met again, and they simply stared, until Ron cleared his throat, making them jump and release each other. “Where are we?” he asked, as though simply trying to get them on a different train of thought, but upon looking around, he leaped to his feet. “You have to get us out of here!” he cried, staring wildly at their surroundings. “What were you thinking, taking us to a dragon's stomping grounds?” Harry realized that they were standing in the middle of what looked like the scene of an explosion. It looked oddly familiar... “This wasn't done by a dragon,” Hermione said slowly. Harry shook his head. “It was me,” he stated simply. Ron turned and stared at him, while Hermione looked disapproving. “You realize that if Muggles had found this, you might have gotten in trouble?” she asked. “Wait a minute,” said Ron, holding up in his hand. “What d'you mean, you did this?” “Remember when I become a phoenix?” Harry prompted. “I set the area on fire during my transformation. I was kind of upset, you know.” Ron's face cleared slightly. “Oh, this is where you went from St. Mungo's?” Harry nodded. Hermione frowned. “But why the Ministry hasn't discovered it yet, I don't under-” “Oh, the Ministry discovered it,” corrected another voice. They whirled to see a young woman standing

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

a hundred yards away. She was slim, with long blond hair and blue eyes. Her gaze was wandering all over Harry, making him extremely uncomfortable. “And what's more,” she continued, “we traced it to Mr. Potter here.” She looked at Harry. “You really shouldn't have returned.” She smiled. “My name is Valerie. Valerie Turnsdale.” Harry looked at her closely. “By 'traced it', you mean you followed the magic to me?” She grimaced. “Not exactly. I got a reading on the signature, then waited, hoping the culprit would return. And so he has.” She smiled again. “I've already compared the signature against yours.” Her smile widened, and Harry's heart sank. “A perfect match.” “So what now?” asked Ron nervously. She continued to stare at Harry. “I am waiting.” “For what?” asked Harry, afraid of the answer. “Well, I could have sent a message to the ministry via Patronus, but I haven't. You see, I have a proposition for you.” Her eyes gleamed. “I've heard from various sources that your powers have grown tremendously. Seventeen years old, and already producing wandless magic. And a Patronus, no less! Not to mention Gryffindor's ghost.” Harry's eyes widened. “You don't know what you're talking about.” She laughed, her blue eyes ablaze. “Oh, don't I?” She stabbed a finger toward him. “There is virtue in modesty, but don't pretend you are weak. I know better than that. After all, the Minister heard it straight from your mouth. And I doubt he's lying.” “What's your proposition?” asked Harry, seeing no other way out of the situation. Hermione, meanwhile, was looking around. Valerie spotted her. 'There's no escape for you,” she said softly. “And there's no need to worry about the ministry finding you here. I've placed an Undetectable Undetectability Jinx on this area. An invention of my father, the former Guy Turnsdale.” “Former?” asked Harry. Valerie nodded, her eyes beginning to sparkle with tears. “That's the reason I've come to you. You see, my father studied dragons, trying to find a way to domesticate them. Just think, tame dragons! Or maybe not so much tamed, as controllable. No one in their right mind messes with dragons. Then increase their powers, and you've got some great guards. Or transports. But the dragons he was working with went crazy, and he was so badly burned he died within a half hour of the attack.” She looked Harry in the eye, blue meeting green. “Harry, I want to you to hunt down that giant lizard and destroy it.” “But that could kill me!” Harry protested. She shook her head. “I don't think so.” he opened his mouth but she cut him off. “No more objections. My father must be avenged.” Valerie pursed her lips. “The way I see it, you have two choices. Either agree to help, or I notify the Ministry of your position. They would be here in about ten seconds. Maybe less.” Harry stared into her eyes, but didn't see any sign of uncertainty. It seemed he had no choice... “All right, then,” he sighed. Maybe, just maybe, he could do this. He would definitely need Charlie's help

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

though. “Uh, Harry,” said Ron, “if you're thinking about Charlie, remember he's injured?” “Damn!” hissed Harry. But it was too late. Valerie had pulled out something flat, oblong, and shiny. She tossed it to him, and his Seeker skills allowed him to catch it easily. He examined it, and discovered he was holding a dragon's scale. “Memorize its magical scent,” she instructed. “It should help you track the dragon down.” “And where will you be?” asked Harry. She smiled yet again. “No need to worry about that.” “Then how will I find you when I'm done?” “You won't need to,” she responded. She held up a second scale. “I have imbued this with strong spells. The second that beast dies, I will know.” Harry gulped. Now that route of action was gone. As though sensing his thoughts, she said, “And, you have three months to do this for me. I know that you have no experience in killing dragons, even if you did outfly one. So I will give you plenty of time. If you fail to comply, I will trace you, and give the Ministry your location. That entire region for fifteen miles all around will be swarming with Aurors in moments, and I doubt you could escape that. Think upon that before trying anything desperate.” She appeared to think, then said, “Well, I think that is all. I'll be going now, before my colleagues begin to wonder where I am. Best of luck, Harry. You'll need it.” She turned and walked away, then called over her shoulder, “You'd best be going, too. You never know when the Ministry will show up, with or without my help.” She disappeared into the trees. Harry stared after her, before turning to his friends. “We have to leave,” he said, his mind working quickly. “Er, sounds good,” said Ron. “Except for one problem. Where do we go?” Harry smiled. “I have an idea.” * * *

A couple moments later, they stood before a black fortress. “Are we where I think we are?” Hermione wondered aloud. “Where do you think we are?” asked Harry. “Nurmengard,” she whispered. Harry looked at her and said gently, “You would be right.” “How'd you get us here?” asked Ron, Looking at the massive structure. “I mean, it's not like you've

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

ever been here before. And I don't think pictures from books are enough for Apparition. Besides, isn't there an Anti-Apparition ward on this place?” “I have seen this place,” answered Harry. “Through Voldemort's mind.” Ron looked at him warily, and Harry started toward the fortress. “I don't know what you two plan on doing,” he said, “but I'm going in.” A couple minutes later, they were in a cell near the top. “Home sweet home,” murmured Ron, looking distastefully at the walls. Harry, however, was looking at the ceiling. He walked out of the cell, and spotted an old staircase by one wall. “Harry?” Hermione had followed him out. “What are you doing?” “I'll bet those stairs go up to the highest tower,” said Harry. “Grindelwald's up there.” “But isn't Grindelwald dead?” asked Ron. “What do you plan on doing with a dead body?” “I'll bury it,” Harry replied, starting toward the stairs. Ron grabbed his arm, and Harry spun to face him. “He was a Dark Wizard, Harry!” Ron stated. “And his last act was to protect the wand, and maybe Dumbledore with it,” Harry explained. “If that isn't a sign of repentance, I don't know what is.” “Maybe he was trying to save his own skin,” said Ron. “Maybe he thought that if Voldemort got the wand, he would come back and deal with him later.” “Whether he had told him or not, Voldemort still would have killed him before he left the tower,” Harry explained patiently. “That's the way he works in those situations. He talks, then he kills.” Ron thought, then shook his head slowly. “Whatever, mate. Whatever. Do what you're going to do then. I...I might stay down here.” He glanced behind him, then said, “On second thought, I'm coming with.” Harry turned and went to the stairs. Heading up them, he wrinkled his nose at the smell of decades-old dust, rat dung and moldy bricks. Finally, he reached a thin door. Pushing, he found it was fairly easy to open. “Funny,” grunted Ron, darting uneasy glances up at the ceiling. “You'd think they'd have protective enchantments on the door or something.” Harry slowly entered the tiny chamber, looking carefully around. He saw the shriveled body lying beside the cot. “There he is,” he whispered. He approached the corpse. “We're going to need our wands,” suggested Ron, and Harry looked at him. “Right,” he said, and concentrated. Bring us our wands, he thought. Bring us our wands...He visualized the sticks of wood, and thought he saw the images growing clearer...opening his eyes, he was just in time to see his wand

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

appear in his hand with a small pop! He raised it, and saw Ron do the same, smiling. “Anything else you can do that you haven't told us, Harry?” Ron asked, grinning. “Why didn't you do that earlier?” “Didn't think of it,” answered Harry, grinning back. He turned to Grindelwald's body. “Hermione, if you know how to get him down to the ground, now's the time to talk.” As he spoke , there was a wild rushing sound outside, and all three went to the crack which served as a window. “Can't see anything,” said Ron. “Maybe the wind?” “That didn't sound like the wind,” Harry said simply. “Actually, it was a wind. A magical wind, designed to serve as a distraction.” The trio whirled to face the speaker, but found no one. “Where's his body?” demanded Harry. “That's what I want to know,” said Ron, but Harry growled, “Grindelwald's, I meant.” “With me,” said the voice, and they looked toward a large spot of shadow. From it emerged a figure, holding up a quill. “You turned him into a quill?” asked Harry in disgust. “That is...” “It makes things easier,” replied the figure. Harry shook his head slowly, and Ron spat, “Demented.” “Oh, don't think I'm without compassion for the dead,” said the stranger. “I would have waited, but I wanted to take care of all this...myself.” It stepped forward. “And the next order of business,” it continued as it advanced toward Harry and his friends, “is you.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

THE PRICE OF THE HEART
All three raised their wands. The figure stopped. “You are afraid of me?” it asked. “Well, I suppose that is understandable. This outfit really doesn't help.” “No,” Ron agreed. “It doesn't help at all.” “I am not here to hurt you,” assured the stranger. “I just want to talk.” “Oh really?” said Harry disbelievingly, raising his wand higher. “What about?” “What do you know about that Quidditch fiasco?” asked the person in response. “Someone set us up,” Harry replied immediately. “What do you know about it?” “Think about it,” said the stranger. “Who do you know that is after you?” “The Talismanic Group,” said Harry. The figure nodded. “The sword, the match. They keep trying to set you up.” “But why?” asked Harry. “Why do you think?” the figure returned. “To get you out of the way. They know that you are a potential threat. They know that you are on the hunt for the truth, and they'll do whatever it takes to keep you from getting it.” “Do you know who specifically keeps doing this stuff?” asked Ron hopefully, and the person shook their head. “Suspicions, but nothing more.” “Who are you, anyway?” demanded Ron, and the figure bowed its head. “I can't tell you that.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Can't, or won't?” Ron asked, and was answered with, “I only came here to reveal the obvious, and make sure you're all right.” “What's your interest in us?” wondered Harry. The figure turned its head toward him. “You'll learn that eventually,” it said softly. “And now, I think it is time for me to go.” “You'll bury him, won't you?” called out Harry. The figure faced him, but Harry couldn't see anything inside the hood. “Of course. What do you think I am, demented?” and with that, the figure dissolved into smoke, which flew out the window. They were silent for a few moments; then Ron said, “Well, that was revealing.” Hermione slowly slid down to the floor, her eyes starting to water. “What do we do next?” she whispered. “Er-” Ron muttered. “I'm not sure how much longer I can take this.” Her lip quivered, and a tear rolled down her face. Suddenly, Harry was kneeling beside Hermione, wrapping his arms around her. He kissed her forehead, then the tear on her face. “Don't worry,” he whispered gently. “We'll get through this. We'll get through.” She sobbed. Neither of them noticed Ron walk out, leaving the two of them alone. * * *

Harry opened his eyes. He must have fallen asleep. Hermione lay culred up beside him. Harry couldn't help but smile; she looked so sweet, despite her face being red from crying. He looked up suddenly as he detected the sound of glass breaking. “Strange,” he murmured. “I didn't know there were windows here.” And even if there were, why were they shattering...? “Ron,” he whispered, and being careful not to disturb Hermione, he got to his feet and descended the stairs. The crashing sounds got louder as he emerged onto the next floor, and he realized that it was one more floor down. He slowly made his way to the next staircase, watching for any signs of wandlight, or perhaps a flickering shadow. He went down the steps carefully, waiting on a hair-trigger. Peeking through the doorway at the bottom of the stairs, he could see nothing out of the ordinary. He cautiously stepped through, when something in the back of his mind screamed of an incoming object. He dived sideways, rolling and leaping to his feet as sharp bits of something pelted his back. Feeling crunching under his feet, Harry glanced down and saw that the floor was covered in pieces of glass.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

"Oooh, close one, Potter," came Ron's voice, and Harry spotted him approaching from a particularly deep shadow. "Fancy another?" Ron asked, holding up a bottle, and Harry realized that the object which had shattered against the wall had been a hurled bottle. "Where'd you get that?" he asked. Ron sneered. "Conjured it," he answered. He smiled nastily at Harry's surprised expression. "What, astonished I can do that?" he asked darkly. "Suppose you wouldn't expect that I could levitate things either, or start a simple fire, eh?" He swigged from the bottle in his hand. "And while you and Hermione were up there makin' out, I was down here drinkin' myself into a stupor. Tryin' to drown my misery. And I was practicin' throwin' bottles at that door, waitin'. Can you guess for what, Harry? Go on, guess!" Harry hesitated, disturbed by this new side of Ron. This pause didn't please Ron. "SAY WHAT, DAMMIT!" he bellowed. "What?" obeyed Harry quietly. "I can't hear you!" said Ron obnoxiously. "What?" repeated Harry a little louder. "For you, Harry. I wanted - no, make that needed - to give you a faceful of broken glass. Cause I needed to make you pay for causin' this misery." "Look, Ron," Harry said slowly, gently. "I know being on the run again is difficult-" "Being on the run?" said Ron. "That I can handle. After all the time I've spent with you, running is nothing new to me. No, what I can't handle," he looked Harry straight in the eyes, blood-shot blue meeting green, "is you taking my girl." "What?" asked Harry in surprise. "Oh, don't pretend that isn't what happened," snarled Ron, advancing. "She goes to you for support!"

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

"You have it backwards, Ron," Harry replied. "I went to her." "Same thing!" snapped Ron. "Are you trying to tell me you don't care about her?" "I'm not saying that," said Harry softly. "Then say it!" demanded Ron. "Say that you refuse her! That you'll give her to me!" "I can't do that," answered Harry, and he saw Ron raise his wand. "Ron," he begged, "please don't do this." "You're the only one who can convince her," Ron whispered, a glint of madness in her eyes. "So do it." "I can't, I can't," replied Harry desperately. "It's her choice, not mine." Seeing Ron move his wand, Harry said, "There has to be another way." Ron's eyes wavered. "Maybe there is. You could stay out of this, until me and Hermione settle things." Harry shook his head in denial. "STAND OUT OF THE WAY!" Ron shrieked. "SO I CAN TAKE HER!" "No," Harry declared firmly. "Then I'll make you!" hissed Ron, and Harry chose then to act. He pushed out with his mind, so that Ron's arms flew wide, keeping him from firing either web or spell at Harry. Harry's next move was reflexive.

“Germino Setae!” Harry shouted, tracing a diamond shape on his chest with his wand. A tingly sensation spread on his hands and feet. Where did I learn that spell? Harry wondered, as Ron shot another Stunner at him. Harry, without knowing why, simply leaped up...and hit the ceiling with his hands and feet. He braced himself to fall, but to his surprise, he stuck where he was. HARRY POTTER, said Gryffindor's voice in his mind, THAT SPELL, GERMINO SETAE, CAUSES

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

THE GROWTH OF THE SAME HAIRS THAT ALLOW FLIES TO WALK ON WALLS AND CEILINGS. I take it I got the spell from you, then? thought Harry. YES, answered Godric. IT WOULD BE A SHAME FOR YOU TO FALL BENEATH YOUR BEST FRIEND'S WAND, NOW WOULDN'T IT? Thanks, Harry said mentally, then began a series of cartwheels across the ceiling. A dozen various spells darted past him, and when he reached the wall, he sprang from it in a headlong dive. Zooming by Ron, he reached out and yanked on Ron's leg, pulling Ron's legs from beneath him. Ron, however, managed to curl into a ball, spinning to land on his feet in a low crouch, arms spread for balance. He then slashed his wand through the air, the curse missing Harry by an inch. Harry sped toward the wall, flipped, and struck the stone feet first, leaping from it at the floor. He rolled across the ground, forcing Ron to jump. As Harry passed beneath him, Ron cast a spell that nicked Harry's shoulder, leaving a deep gash. A flash of golden light erupted from Harry's body, sending Ron soaring. He hit the wall, before promptly firing a curse at Harry. It whizzed past him, struck the stone wall and bounced back at Ron, who dived aside. The curse blasted a hole in the wall, the explosion catching Ron and smearing him along a stretch of rock, resulting in a bunch of cuts and bruises on his arms. Ron swore and held up a trembling hand. Before their very eyes, a particularly nasty cut was reforming into an 'H'shaped scar. “No,” muttered Ron. “No, not me too.” He looked at Harry with drink-reddened eyes, and his lips spread to reveal a bestial snarl. “You!” he hissed. “You! Everyone always gets hurt around you, don't they? Even Hermione, whom you supposedly LOVE!” He raised his wand. “Sectum-!” “Expelliarmus!” cried a female voice, and Hermione stepped forward to catch Ron's wand as it flew away from his hand. “Hermione-how dare you-why?” stuttered Ron, sinking to his knees. Hermione sighed and crouched beside him. “You're not thinking clearly, Ron,” she said softly. “Wait until the alcohol's out of your system, then we can discuss this.” “You choose him again, don't you?” mumbled Ron, his eyes boring into hers. She looked away. “Ron, now's not the time...” “Then when, Hermione?” demanded Ron, staggering to his feet. She shrank back, clearly regretting ever confronting Ron. “When? You have to decide! You can't have us both!” She looked at him fearfully. “Who do you love? Him or me?” asked Ron, his voice quieting, but still intense. “Tell me, Mione. I have to know.” “Don't call me Mione,” she whispered. She turned to Harry. “Harry...”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“You choose Harry?” Ron asked in a dangerously soft tone of voice. Hermione bit her lip, tears spilling over, and Harry could see her struggling to make a difficult and very painful decision. Then he saw her decide, and he turned away. “Yes Ron,” she said. What?” asked Ron loudly. “I can't hear you!” “Yes!” she snapped clearly. “I choose Harry! I love him! I always have. You...it just wouldn't work out. It never could.” “Hermione,” said Ron slowly, “we can discuss this-” “No,” she said firmly, her eyes becoming steely. “It's over. I've chosen. I'm Harry's.” She looked at Harry, who had finally looked at her. Their eyes met. “If you'll have me,” she whispered. Harry gazed into her beautiful eyes. He was aware of Ron staring at him beseechingly, but he ignored him. “Of course I'll have you,” Harry murmured. “I want you, and always will. Forever and ever.” “And ever,” she whispered back. They stared into each other's eyes, lost in emotion. The moment was broken when Ron let out a maniacal howl and lunged at Harry. Power surged through Harry's veins, and he struck Ron so hard that he was sent flying through a wall. Golden light rippled out from Harry as he walked toward Ron. “That's enough, mate,” he said, picking Ron up by the arm. “We're not safe with you around. Time for you to go somewhere else.” He looked at Hermione. “Ron's wand?” She threw it to him, and he caught it. “I'll be back in a moment.” He turned into that suffocating inky darkness, reemerging a second later into a forest. He released Ron. “Take a couple days to cool off, then send me a Patronus or something, so we can tell you where we are. I don't care how you do it, just make sure you come back.” Harry dropped Ron's wand a few feet away. Ron jumped on it, but by the time he turned around, Harry was already gone. Ron looked around to make sure he was alone, then spit out a few of his favorite swear words. He fell silent, then began to walk, wandering without direction. * * *

“This is surprising, you know,” Harry said matter-of-factly to Hermione, who was curled in his arms. “I know,” she answered. “Had you told me a couple years ago that this would happen, I would have scoffed.” “Yeah,” agreed Harry. He looked down at her. “But when did you start feeling...?”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Well, there were several moments,” she said thoughtfully. “The look on your face when you first saw me after I was cured by that Mandrake Potion. When you tried to help me out during my struggles with Ron. And when I was watching you with that dragon during the first task, I started to realize that was I was feeling went beyond friendship. But I was too cowardly to say anything, so I just waited for you say something. And I remember thinking, what would a big, famous hero like you want to do with an over-smart bookworm like me?” “You never really gave me a fair chance, though, did you?” asked Harry quietly. Hermione frowned. “I'm sorry for that. Can you forgive me?” “Are you joking? I love you. I can't help but forgive you.” Harry hesitated, then said, “Something's bothering me though. The way you kissed Ron at the Battle of Hogwarts...” “It was just the excitement,” explained Hermione quickly. “I was in love with the idea of being in love, and for someone to actually want me, when I'd all but given up on you...it was too much.” “And I thought I just loved you like a brother would a sister,” said Harry. “Maybe that was secretly my loyalty to Ron working on me, as well as my belief that you wouldn't want me. I told Ron that was how I felt, so I suppose that only made this revelation that much worse. After all, incest isn't the sort of thing you want to be best mates with.” “Ugh,” said Hermione, wrinkling her nose, “don't even mention that sort of thing. Grooooss!” “Were you and Ron ever even officially together?” asked Harry. Hermione pursed her lips. “It was mostly secretive. I'm not sure, maybe even then I was a bit hesitant about me and him.” “And did you two ever, you know...” Harry wondered, bracing himself for a venomous glare. It never came. “No,” Hermione sighed. “He's not even that good of a kisser, why would I want to shag him?” “Because that comes with most relationships,” answered Harry, then realized what he'd just implied. Hermione's eyes gleamed. “Are you trying to tell me something?” “Er, no, not really,” harry said, trying to think of some way to change the topic before one thing led to another. But it was too late. Hermione pressed herself against him. “Mmm,” she murmured, pressing her lips to his before he could stop her. “Wasn't our first kiss supposed to be a bit more...romantic?” he asked, his words muffled by her mouth. She seized the opportunity to thrust her tongue into his mouth, ignoring him. “Something in your pocket, Potter?” she asked, glancing at the bump protruding from the front of his

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

pants. “Another wand, perhaps?” “Can't help it,” Harry panted, his heart racing. “You're pure magic.” She smiled and ran her tongue over her teeth seductively. “You're gonna make me burst my zipper,” Harry groaned, and she laughed. “Let's get you out of those clothes then.” Within moments, they were in nothing but their underwear, and those were about to come off too. “Say, if we're going to do this, isn't rock a bit uncomfortable?” “Rock isn't always permanent, you know,” Hermione replied, and with a flick of her wand, a nearby pebble became a king sized bed, pushing them into a corner. Hermione looked at him, her back against the wall. “Oops,” she said. “Actually, this could do just fine,” Harry said, and Hermione pouted. “I made a bed for nothing?” “Just once?” asked Harry, and Hermione gaped. “I didn't say you could shag me twice!” “You don't want want to?” asked Harry, disappointed, and Hermione smiled impishly. “I didn't say that either.” Harry grinned and ripped the rest of their clothes off. And so the hours were loved away.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

THE THRONE OF DOMINION
A breeze blew across Harry's face, startling him awake. His eyes flew open, and he reached across the bed, but felt only empty bed covers. He sat bolt upright, panicking. “Hermione?” he called, hoping she had only wandered downstairs, but there was no response. “HERMIONE!” he shouted, and still he heard nothing. He leaped out of bed. HERMIONE! He yelled with his mind. He heard a pop! And turned a round, to find himself an inch from Hermione. She stood on tiptoes and kissed him, then frowned. “You stink.” “Good morning to you too.” Harry kissed her. “Where were you?” “Getting some books on myths,” she answered. “I think I finally figured out what they're after.” “And?” Harry prompted. Hermione gave a triumphant smile. “I think they're trying to get a chair.” “Really,” said Harry, confused. “Not just any chair,” Hermione added. “A special chair.” “A chair?” Harry asked doubtfully. “Well, it's more a throne, actually,” Hermione corrected herself. “Getting better,” muttered Harry. “And it's called Dominion.” Harry frowned at her. “You're beginning to remind me of Luna,” remarked Harry, and Hermione protested, “I have a pretty

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

good reason to think this is what they are looking for!” “Show me,” commanded Harry, and Hermione said, “Remember that legend, about the four talismans?” “Er, yeah,” answered Harry. “Well, remember what that dragon said? 'Only while all four are united can you open the way to dominion'. Dominion, Harry. Dominion.” “So what's so special about this 'Dominion'?” asked Harry curiously. “Dominion, to skip all the history behind it, basically enables whoever sits on it to control the world.” “The world?” Harry said. “Yes, the world,” Hermione replied impatiently. “I know, it sounds like Luna or her father, and quite frankly, I can't really defend the tale. Besides the definition, and the few small stories I found, there is no solid evidence that it even exists!” “Probably could have told you that,” Harry said, and she smacked him on the shoulder. “A little support please!” “Okay,” said Harry, “so what do we do now?” “Report to Kingsley.” “With what?” asked Harry. “You just said you didn't have any proof.” “We're making progress. That's what we're going to show him.” “He's not going to be happy that we lost all the talismans, Hermione,” Harry warned. “We didn't lose them all,” Hermione said. “There's one left. And that's the other thing I want to talk to him about. He may know a bit about where it might be.” “We'd better get going then,” Harry asserted. “When are we going?” “As soon as I figure out how we can get in without getting caught.” “I can do that.” Harry held out his arm, and Hermione took it. He turned on his heel, pulling them both into the crushing darkness. A few seconds later, there was jolt, and they emerged from the darkness, landing on a carpeted floor. Looking toward the Minister's desk, Harry saw Kingsley staring at them. Hermione flicked her wand at the door and uttered, “Iunctum ianua per parietis!” The door suddenly melted into the material around

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

it, becoming a blank stretch of wall. “A very nice spell, Miss Granger,” said Kingsley. “A smart one, too, assuming that my secretary discovers you are here. My Aurors, however, won't hesitate to blast a hole in that wall.” He stood and approached Harry. “In any case, I'm glad you're here, Harry. You would have learned sooner, except my owl could not find you.” “Learned what?” asked Harry. “Your arrest has been suspended for the time being,” stated Kingsley. “A witch who was nearby during the incident at the match finally confessed that she saw another Harry and Ron enter the room before you two actually did. And she says that the first Harry was holding your wand in his left hand. That struck me as rather odd, since you are right-handed. So, while the Wizengamot reexamines the case, you are a free man.” He smiled. “It helps that I discovered a law that says that, if a witch or wizard is wrongfully accused of three consecutive crimes, all charges are dropped until new, irrefutable evidence is produced against the said witch or wizard. Congratulations, Potter. Your records are clean.” “Great,” said Harry. “But we have news for you as well.” Kingsley walked back around his desk and sat down. “Does it concern the talismans?” “Yes,” answered Harry, looking at Hermione, who added, “Sort of.” “Go on,” ordered the Minister. “Well,” began Harry, “we think we know what they are looking for.” Kingsley looked up, his eyes keen. “We think they are going after a throne called Dominion.” Kingsley nodded. “I've heard of that. But there's no proof it exists.” “And maybe they think it does. It's not what we think that's important to them, but what they think,” Hermione put in. “Well, since the throne has yet to be found, let alone captured, that leaves the last talisman.” “Yes, about that,” said Harry, “do you have any idea where it might be?” “No,” replied Kingsley. “I only know that it is a shield.” “That narrows it down,” Harry commented, disappointed. “Actually, it does narrow it down. But I wouldn't recommend going around asking. You never know who might be listening.” “Well, I just thought we'd stop by and let you know how things were going,” Hermione said, and Kingsley smiled.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“I appreciate you keeping me updated. Progress is always good, when it's on our side. But please, get that talisman! We can't afford to lose another. They may not get the final prize, but the powers of those relics are still formidable in the wrong hands.” He raised his wand and pointed it at the wall where the door had been, and with a pop, the door reappeared. “No thanks,” said Harry, taking Hermione's hand. “I want to go to Diagon Alley,” she said gently, and he nodded. With a CRACK! They vanished, leaving Kingsley to stare at the spot where they had been, bemused. He looked at the newly restored door. “That witch has quite the talent,” he said to himself. “In a few years, I'll have to offer her a job. Can't let her go to waste.” He sorted through some papers, then resumed his work.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

DRACO'S DEMISE
“I'm going to Flourish and Blotts,” announced Hermione as soon as they arrived. “I want to see if I can find more books about that throne.” “Okay,”said Harry, kissing her. “I think I'll have a look at the newest brooms. Can't remember the last time I went.” “You never change, do you?” asked Hermione, smiling. “I could say the same about you,” said Harry. He kissed her again. “I'll catch up to you later.” “Sounds good.” She gave him alingering smile, then walked away. It didn't take him long to get to Quality Quidditch Supplies. Harry walked in, and was greeted by the owner, James Longo. “Harry! Back again, I see!” “Yeah, great to see you again,” Harry said. “What's your latest stock?” “Well, we've got the Black Bow, Flashhead 1550, Zag 8, although that's for kids only...” Longo led Harry to the back of the store. “The Jumpcloud Ultra, which is a pretty impressive model, I must admit...the Birdwand 5...It's a stupid name, I know, but it flies great.” He glanced at Harry, then moved closer. “I think I know something that will really get your attention.” He strode off, Harry following. Stopping by a door marked “Employees Only”, he said in an undertone, “What I'm about to show you is for your eyes only.” He opened the door, and took Harry through, past a series a shelves, before walking down an isle and taking a folder off a nearby shelf. He flipped through it, then held it out. “Look at this beauty,” he whispered, and Harry looked. It was broom, the shape of which was very familiar. But the decoration on it was different. It was red, with a golden spiral running around its length. The title read FIREBOLT IV.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“It's just a prototype,” said Longo quietly, “but it should be out in a month or so.” “Excellent,” said Harry. “The design on it isn't the best, but...I can hardly wait.” “I knew you'd appreciate it,” said Longo, smiling. “You're a man with a good taste in brooms.” Harry nodded, then said, “Well, I'll be going now.” “Be off then. But don't be a stranger!” * * *

“Next, Weasley's Wizard Wheezes,” said Harry to himself, but just then, he noticed a sound from an alley. He walked down it slowly, listening carefully. The noise became clearer. He turned down another, much larger alley. “We will give you one last chance,” said a voice. “Make the right choice. Take us to it .” Harry's heartbeat picked up. What was going on? “No,” said another voice, and Harry stumbled in shock. Draco! “Ask me once, ask me twice, ask me a thousand times, but my answer won't change. Leave me alone!” “Pity,” said another voice, a female one. “I admire your courage, but it won't be enough. Tell me, how do you react to the Imperious Curse?” Draco gasped. “You wouldn't! My father-” “Your father has already serviced our leader, Draco. And if he were here, he would tell you to help us.” “No.” Draco sounded adamant. “It is a family heirloom. He loves it far too much to give it to you buffoons.” “That's it, you bloody brat. You've had your chances! Spargo Vesica!” Harry turned a corner and saw three people advancing on Draco Malfoy, who was raising his wand, a knife shooting past him. “Aurum Ebullio!” he cried, and a stream of yellow globes floated from his wand. His opponents looked up, distracted, and he seized the opportunity to wave his wand, launching them backwards. One wizard immediately attacked. “Humus Tumultus!” he shrieked, and the earth beneath Draco rose in a geyser of broken rubble, taking him with it. He flailed, his wand falling to the ground, as the other wizard yelled, “Funis Occupo!” Strange rope-like strands of material reached out from his wand and wrapped around Draco, restraining him. “Relashio!” he cried, but with his wand on the ground, the spell did no good. “You made a mistake in refusing us,” said the witch. “So first, we'll deal with you. Then next, your mum. How does that sound?” Draco shook with fear. The witch continued.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“And now...” Harry couldn't let it go on anymore. He raised his wand. “Libero!” he yelled, and the tendrils holding Draco released him. He fell to the ground, landing heavily. “Potter?” asked the witch incredulously. “Why are you saving him? I thought you were enemies.” “I've gotten over most of our differences,” answered Harry. “And he doesn't need to be used again.” “I'd say you could use a lesson in minding your own business, Potter!” hissed a wizard. “I'd be happy to oblige!” He pointed his wand at Harry. “Dentibus Laqueus!” A pair of jaws burst from his wand with a bang, flying at Harry. Harry raised a hand, and a ball of fire exploded from his palm, slamming into the jaws. They dissolved into smoke. Someone nearby screamed, and Harry caught a glimpse of a random witch staring at them. “Stupefy!” shouted his enemy, and a jet of red light hit her squarely in the chest. “Semoveo!” A large wall of blue green light surrounded them. “Now, there will be no more interruptions!” “Impedimenta!” Harry responded swiftly. “No!” snarled the wizard as he ducked, and Harry stomped one foot on the ground. A crack of fire zigzagged across the floor; upon reaching the wizard, a spout of fire blew up from the crack, hurling the wizard against another wall. His opponent lifted his wand and slashed it downwards. “Calx Culmen!” A column of rock dropped from the sky, forcing Harry to dive sideways. Again and again, the wizard cast the spell, bringing down columns of stone while Harry dodged back and forth. Abruptly, he reached up with both his hands. The next plummeting pillar slowed as flames grew on its bottom, licking up its sides, supporting it in the air. Harry could feel its considerable weight, but the magic now coursing through his veins meant he could handle it easily. He swung his arms down, and the pillar slowly toppled forward. The wizard screamed, leaping aside, and the stone landed next to him. He glared at Harry, then waved his wand and said, “Cornu Effervo!” The stone shattered, becoming a swarm of spikes. The swarm swirled, then charged. Right at Harry. Harry's feet burst into flame, and he took off like a rocket. He zoomed around in a broad circle, before turning, and brushing past Bordes. The cloud of spikes flew straight at Bordes, and Harry aimed his wand, muttering, “Fio Pugnus!” The rocks converged, forming a stone fist, and crashed into Bordes, sending him smashing into a wall. “Now stay down,” growled Harry, and the wizard didn't move. Harry landed, the fire on his feet dying, and noticed the other wizard and witch whipping their wands at the bubble of blue light surrounding Draco.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Deleo Tutela!” the witch screamed, and the bubble finally shattered. Draco screamed, shielding his face with his hand. Harry dropped his wand and reached out, his fingers closing around air. Then, he swung his hands to the sides, and the two assailants were thrown away. As they went flying, one managed to hit Harry with a Spinning Charm, and he whirled for a moment, before mentally nullifying it. He looked around, saw the witch aim her wand and cry, “Misfacio!” A jet of scarlet light whizzed over, and Draco scrambled to avoid it. It hit his shoulder, causing him to slump with a whine of agony. As Harry watched, cuts and bruises spread along Draco's arms, making him look like the victim of a car accident. The hairs on Harry's neck stood on end, and he jumped, soaring high into the air as voice shouted behind him, “Lethargus!” Yellow light passed under him, striking the witch in the stomach. She went limp, her eyes rolling back in her head. Harry landed lightly next to Malfoy, picking him up. He turned to face the other wizard. “Smooth shot,” Harry commented. “You hit your mate. That's not how team work is supposed to go.” “Shut up and stand still!” thw wizard snapped. “Only cowards dodge punches!” Harry shot a Stunner at him and missed as his opponent sidestepped. “What does that make you then?” he asked. “Eric Parch, the wizard who's going to bury you, Potter!” Eric snarled. “Now be STILL!” A blanket of black goo fell on top of Harry, causing him to drop Malfoy. It quickly spread over him until he was wrapped in a cocoon of the messy stuff. Harry strained to break free, but failed. “It's no use fighting, Potter,” said Parch, smirking. “That spell is a miracle-worker. Won several duels with it. It dries into a very resistant substance that is virtually impossible to break. Anything short of a giant, and you're as good as finished.” He chuckled, moving closer. “Well well, look at this,” he said softly, staring at Harry. “Helpless as a newborn babe. Not only are you unable to escape, but you're alone as well. That makes this all the more sweeter.” He raised his wand again, but stopped at a sudden sound. “He is able to escape, because he isn't alone.” Hermione raised her wand, and the tar around Harry shimmered, and became...leather. “Didn't think I'd ever need that spell, but it's a good thing I learned it,” she commented, smiling at Harry, who smiled back. Then he acted. Harry ripped free of the confining material, and lunged at Eric. His fist plowed across the wizard's face, while his other hand seized Eric's wand arm. He brought his hand back across, causing Parch's head to snap in the other direction. He drew his fist back and drove it into Eric's chin, felt the bone give with surprising ease. He kneed the man in the stomach, then the chest, before forming his hand into a flat, blade-like position, then brought it down on the wrist of Eric's hand, forcing him to let go of his wand. Finally, he kicked Eric in the side, launching him into the air. Eric spun before landing on his back. He quickly rose to his feet, touching his jaw. “Want me to take care of that?” asked Harry. He summoned his wand to his hand, then directed it at Parch's chin. “Osvigoratus!” Parch's jaw lost its misshapen shape, taking on a more normal curve.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Thanks,” said Eric. “Now give me my wand back.” “Promise not to attack me?” asked Harry. “Sure, sure,” he said impatiently. “Just give me my wand.” Harry sighed, then grabbed Eric's wand and tossed it to him. “Be a good boy, Eric,” Harry said, then turned away. Eric immediately spun and directed his wand at Hermione, but Harry said gently, “Specificus Obliviate!” the spell shot from his wand, which he had slyly pointed behind his back as he had turned away, and struck Eric in the back. Eric fell to his knees, making a choking sound as the spell he'd been about to cast stuck in his throat. “Bad move, Parch,” Harry said, stepping over to him. He looked at Hermione. “Mad-Eye said he hated people who attacked others when their back was turned, but would he mind so much if I attacked when my back was turned?” “It wasn't Mad-Eye that said that,” Hermione corrected him softly. “It was Barty Crouch Jr. in disguise. But in any case, doesn't Mad-Eye usually say 'constant vigilance'?” “Yeah,” admitted Harry. He looked down at the dazed-looking Eric Parch. “I'd say you're lacking on both the 'constant' and the 'vigilance', my friend.” Draco stirred, and Harry said, “C'mon, we should get him to St. Mungo's. I don't like the looks of those wounds.” “Yes,” agreed Hermione, “we need to get out of here. If the Ministry arrives, and we're still here...” Harry noticed the witch who had been stunned while passing by. “Should we revive her?” he asked, and she hesitated, then nodded. Harry did so. “That battle you saw a bit of?” he said to her, when she awakened. She nodded. “I was trying to save this man,” Harry informed her, nodding at Draco in his arms. “If and when the Ministry gets here, tell them that these people,” he glanced at the three assailants, “tried to kidnap Draco Malfoy, for ransom.” Not exactly true, but close enough. They needed to be locked up, and attempted kidnapping would do it. “Just thought I'd tell you, before they start smearing my name again.” The witch nodded dumbly. Harry turned to Hermione. “Let's go. And when Draco recovers, I plan to ask him a few questions.” “Why?” asked Hermione. “Well, this is all pretty suspicious,” explained Harry. “And who knows? It might lead somewhere.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

A FAMILY HEIRLOOM
The waiting room of St. Mungo's was fairly empty. Harry saw a man surreptitiously trying to wrestle with his tongue, which was coiled around his waist. The witch beside him was repeatedly glancing at him as though he had three heads, which in Harry's opinion was ironic, since she had a small maple tree for a nose. On the other side of the room, a man with hugely enormous, wiggling ears sat trying to balance his head. A wizard stood before the front desk, scribbling madly on a piece of parchment with a battered quill. The witch read aloud from the parchment, and Harry's powers enabled him to hear her clearly. “ -'an annoying infestation of gnomes, and I bought this thing that Muggles use, called a gum-” “Gun,” Harry corrected to himself, too softly for anyone but Hermione to hear. The wizard continued scrawling on the parchment, with the witch reading. “-cast an Eruption Jinx on it. My first time, so it backfired. Now, I open my mouth, and a blast of wind comes out'.” She looked up. “Show me.” The wizard shook his head, and she raised her eyebrows. He shrugged, and opened his mouth a little. A jet of air rammed into her, toppling her over. She stood and brushed herself off. “Name please?” He wrote something else down, and she nodded. “Fourth floor, Mr. Timothy Mith,” she said. Timothy Mith hurried off, and she picked out an envelope, before holding her wand tip in front of her face. The tip glowed pink. “St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, Laura Shaperer speaking,” she said gently. “A Misuse of Muggle Artifacts, by the name of Timothy Mith, has just walked in. After purchasing a Muggle item, presumably illegally, he miscast an Eruption Jinx. The said jinx backfired. He now expels considerable force from his mouth. Is currently receiving medical attention. Will be detained until Ministry arrival.” She put the wand tip in the envelope, and when it came back out, the tip was normal again. She closed the flap, then slipped the envelope into a tube. There was a rushing sound, then nothing. Laura looked up and saw Harry. “Can I help you?” she seemed to realize who she was talking to, and said, “Mr. Potter, why am I not surprised to see-” she noticed Draco, and gasped. “Who is that?”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Draco Malfoy,” answered Harry. “He's-” “Injured, I can see that,” interrupted Shaperer. She looked more closely. “A Maiming Curse,” she murmured. She looked Harry over. “You did this? Dueling, were you? You realize that the Maiming Curse is Dark Magic?” Harry narrowed his eyes at her accusation. “I'm not surprised that it's Dark. And no, it wasn't me who cast the curse. It was actually me who saved him.” “Saved him, eh?” she asked. “From who?” “You'll find out soon enough, if the Ministry gets there in time,” said Harry. “They'll probably get off though. After all, they're bound to be working for someone in the Ministry.” “Well, you'd better get him up to the fourth floor,” she sighed, then headed back to her desk. Harry walked to a lift. Looking back, he saw her pick her wand up, its tip pink again. “Great,” he said. “She's notifying the Ministry.” “Hopefully they send Kingsley,” Hermione muttered. “After we talk to Malfoy, we may need to talk to him too.” They emerged onto the fourth floor. A Healer rushed over, flicking her wand. “Levo Corpus,” she said, and Draco was lifted from Harry's arms. She walked away quickly, with Harry and Hermione following behind. The Healer entered a room, but when Harry tried to come in, she turned. “Subsisto,” she said quietly, and Harry froze, forced to a halt. “Let me in,” he said, and she shook her head. “Unless you're his family, which I suspect you are not,” she said slowly, “I can't allow you inside this room. “But we're on assignment!” lied Harry desperately. “By the Minister himself!” “Well, we'll just wait for him to confirm that, won't we?” she said smoothly. The door closed in Harry's face, and he was released. He turned to Hermione. “Yeah, he'd better come,” he said, then slumped against the wall, his eyes closing. “Harry?” asked Hermione. He opened his eyes. “You know that rushing sound we heard at Laura's desk?” “Yeah,” said Harry wearily. “Did it sound familiar at all?” Harry thought for a moment, then remembered. “At Nurmengard!” he exclaimed, and Hermione put a hand over his mouth. “Not so loud!” she whispered. He nodded, and she continued.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Well, I think I know what it was,” Hermione said. “A Tunnel-Transport Charm.” “Sorry?” Harry muttered. “A Tunnel-Transport Charm,” repeated Hermione. “It creates a tunnel through space. Anti-Apparition wards weren't designed to block it. The thing is, it is quite difficult to do, so no one attempts it. Apparently, Bonham Mungo was fairly skilled at Advanced Charms. And so was our visitor.” “Well, that answers that question,” replied Harry. They waited for several minutes, then Hermione said, “How about we speed things up a bit?” She raised her wand. “Expecto Patronum!” A sliver otter burst from her wand, swam down the corridor and around the corner. “What, you sent a message?” Harry asked. “To the Minister himself,” said Hermione. A few moments later, the Healer came out. “You are still here?” she asked in apparent surprise, but they were spared from answering when a gleaming silver lynx appeared. “Allow Harry Potter and Hermione Granger access to Draco Malfoy, by order of the Minister of Magic,” it said in a deep voice. Kingsley's voice. The Healer blinked. “All right, then,” she said, and stepped aside. Harry walked past, striding to Draco's side. Draco lay sleeping. “Draco,” he said clearly, and Malfoy's eyes opened. He looked at Harry, Hermione, then Harry again. “Have I died and gone to hell, then?” he croaked. “Not yet you haven't,” Harry answered. “You look like you mean business,” Draco observed. “What were they after?” asked Harry. “It sounded important.” “Straight to the point, Potter? Okay, then. They were after one of my family heirlooms.” “I heard that much,” said Harry. “What is it? Describe it.” Draco sighed. “It's a silver shield. Supposed to be magical, but I haven't gotten it to work yet.” “What did they want with it?” asked Harry, trying to gauge how much Draco knew. Draco seemed to know this, for he grinned. “They told me their version of its history,” he explained. “But I really don't believe much of it. Dragons are just really ugly brutes, is all.” “I seem to remember you saying that about a certain hippogriff, as well,” commented Harry. Draco grimaced and waved his hand. “Let bygones be bygones, Potter. Let me finish my story. That's what

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

you came for, isn't it?” Harry remained silent, so Draco went on. “I asked to be a part of their big scheme, but they said the only part I was getting was the part they were asking me to do. So I said no. If I couldn't have a bit of the power, why should they? The shield's heritage isn't even rightfully theirs!” “What shield?” asked Hermione, but Harry said, “Draco, you need to give that shield to us.” Draco scowled. “Not you too!” “That shield is in danger,” Harry growled. “The people those thugs who jumped you were working for, they will stop at nothing to get it. Chances are, they already know by now, and are jumping over you to your mother. From there, it's a short step to the shield. They may get rid of her to do it. Is that what you want?” Draco hesitated, his face the very picture of torn desires. Harry went on. “If you give the shield to us, you and your mother will no longer be the target. They'll be after us. And we can protect your heirloom better than you, because we have the Ministry on our side.” Draco's eyes widened, then narrowed. “The Ministry has been infiltrated. That's what my mother told me. And I believe her. And for all I know,” he sat up with an effort, “you two are working with the traitors as well!” He leaned forward, snarling into Harry's face. “Well, you can forget it. You will never get that talisman!” “Draco, grow up!” Hermione snapped. Draco turned to her. “Shut up, you greedy, nosy little Mudblood!” Harry's temper broke. He swung, breaking Draco's nose. Draco screamed, and the Healer burst into the room. “Extraho!” she cried, and Harry was snagged by an invisible hook, which pulled him across the floor and out of the room. The Healer stood over him. “Just wait until the Minister hears about this, Harry Potter!” she said fiercely. “No more visiting Mr. Malfoy on my watch!” She marched away, calling over her shoulder, “And mark my words, the Minister will hear about this!” “Come on,” Hermione said, helping Harry to his feet. “We're going to the Minister. He can give us a warrant to search Malfoy Manor.” “Right,” Harry responded. “Knowing Lucius Malfoy and his pride, that's the only place it would be.” “So where do we find him?” Hermione asked. Harry smiled. “His office, of course.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

HEAD OF THE BEAST
Pop! A pair of figures appeared out of thin air in the center of an office. One, a male, slowly looked around, before turning to the other person, a female. “Do you see him?” asked Harry. Hermione shook her head. “No,” she answered. “Thought he'd be here,” Harry muttered thoughtfully, peering at the Minister's paper-strewn desk. “I wonder where he is.” “I think I know how we can find out,” offered Hermione. Harry glanced at her curiously, and saw her gazing at the door. “Oh right, the secretary,” said Harry, striding over to the door. Hermione grabbed his arm. “Don't you think we should Apparate back out and come in the right way?” she asked. “That way, we won't give the wrong impression.” “I'm not too worried about giving the wrong impression,” Harry informed her, pulling out his wand. “In case you haven't noticed, we're kind of short on time at the moment.” He waved the wand, and the door opened. Harry walked out, Hermione right behind him, and he stopped in front of the secretary's desk. The sign on it said “Sandra Mabel”. Looking behind the sign, he found himself looking at a red-headed woman with icy blue eyes, gazing at him intensely. “Did you just come out of-?” she began, but Harry interrupted her. “I could use some assistance,” he stated flatly. She blinked, then asked, “How may I help you?” “I'd like to know where the Minister got off to,” Harry inquired calmly. “He's at a meeting in Romania, discussing with the Romanian government the rampages that we're suffering from.” “But-we just contacted him barely fifteen minutes ago by Patronus!” protested Hermione. Sandra nodded. “And you caught him just as he was about to leave. That is why he didn't go to you,

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

and sent another Patronus instead. He would have gone if he could have, you know.” “Well, can you help us?” asked Harry. “It depends on what you need,” the secretary replied. “We need a warrant,” Harry said nervously. She pursed her lips. “For what, exactly, may I ask?” “For search and seizure,” responded Harry. “And what are you-? Never mind.”Sandra shook her head. “Mr. Potter, I'm afraid I can't help you.” When Harry opened his mouth, she quickly added, “I said I can't help you. But I know someone who might be able to.” “And who's that?” demanded Harry. “Rachel Shelley, of course,” was Sandra's response. Harry stared, then looked at Hermione. “Rachel...?” he echoed, and she nodded. “Also known as the Accusatory.” * * *

“So,” said Harry, as they headed along a corridor, “what exactly is an Accusatory?” 'The wizarding equivalent of a Muggle prosecutor,” panted Hermione, who had been progressing at a fast walk. She grabbed at her calf, wincing. Catching sight of Harry's concerned expression, she explained, “My legs are starting to hurt.” “Then slow down a bit,” Harry suggested. “We don't have time,” Hermione said, stopping beside a door. She opened it, allowing Harry to walk through. Harry went straight to the desk, and the witch sitting there looked up. “Hello, my name id Rachel Shelley,” she informed him, seemingly automatically. “Can I help you with something?” “Yeah,” answered Harry. “I need a warrant.” “Indeed,” she said. He waited, then continued.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“For search and seizure,” he added. “And what exactly do you wish to seize, and from whom?” Shelley asked. “An artifact, from the Malfoys,” Harry replied. The woman next to Shelley glanced up sharply. “Is this a Dark Artifact?”Shelley inquired, and Harry shook his head. “Not that we know of,” Harry said. “Then why,” she asked, looking down at the papers on her desk, “do you wish to remove this artifact from the Malfoys' possession?” “They may be in danger because of it,” Harry responded seriously. Shelley tipped her head. “And do they know of this danger?” “Thay don't seem to care,” Harry asserted. “And whether they want to handle their well-being responsibly or not, I feel that action should be taken.” The woman nudged Shelley ever so slightly, causing her to hesitate. Then she spoke.“Without concrete evidence that their lives are in imminent danger from this object,” she explained, “I'm afraid that there is nothing we can do.” She looked back up at Harry. “I wish I could help.” “But,” said Harry desperately, “we really need that warrant!” “I'm afraid my hands are tied in this matter,” she returned wearily. Hermione snapped, “I'm sure there's more you can do.” Shelley didn't take her eyes off Harry. “My hands, Mr. Potter,” she said slowly, “are tied in this matter.” She darted a quick look sideways at the woman beside her, and Harry was struck with a sudden suspicion. “Are you sure there's nothing you can do?” he asked carefully. “Some words of advice, maybe?” She looked thoughtful. “That, I think I can do.” She considered, then said, “You could let matters run their course. If this object truly is dangerous, then it will reveal itself in time, prompting the Ministry to action.” She paused, then nodded. “That should do.” Harry waited, but she raised her eyebrows and said, “You may go now. Think well upon what I told you.” “I'll be sure to do that,” Harry muttered, disappointed. He turned to leave, when Shelley spoke behind him.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Candice, dear,” she said gently, “Can you get that Makro file? I think I may have mislaid it.” Harry turned, confused. Shelley was writing on something, appearing to concentrate fiercely. “Remember,” she muttered, “Sometimes the best solution is to attack the head of the beast.” Harry gazed at her in befuddlement. She glanced up at him pointedly. “Attack the head of the beast,” she repeated, and suddenly, Harry understood. He smiled, and mouthed the word thanks at her. She nodded and ducked her head, just as Candice returned with a file. “Thank you,” said Shelley, then remarked to Harry, “I think you have somewhere to be.' “Yes,” said Harry. He turned and left, dragging Hermione with him. “What was that about?” she asked. “Attack the head of the beast...think about it, Hermione. What beast would we attack?” Hermione slowly shook her head, then her eyes widened. “The problem!” she exclaimed. “The beast is the problem we're facing!” “In other words, the Malfoy family,” Harry said confidently. “And the head of the beast would be the head of the Malfoy family.” “Lucius Malfoy?” asked Hermione uncertainly. “I don't think we can convince him to-” “No,” Harry interrupted, “our best chance is Narcissa Malfoy. She isn't as bad as Lucius is, and she's probably loads wiser than Draco. She may understand the situation she is about to deal with. Yeah, I think we'll have to approach her.” “Well then,” said Hermione impatiently, “what are we waiting for? Let's go!” Harry nodded and grabbed her arm, and they Disapparated.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

A HINT
“Okay,” said Harry, staring at the maze of hedges. “So we walk up, knock on the door, and if and when she answers, we ask about her well-being, mention the weather, and-” “No,” said Hermione. “She'll see right through it. Every nice word that comes out of our mouths will make her more suspicious, and less likely to help us.” “Okay,” said Harry, backtracking mentally, “we go Death Eater style, then? Break down the front door, grab Malfoy and say 'Give us the shield or we'll curse you'?” Hermione sighed, and entered the hedges. “Do you have to go to extremes?” “What's your idea, then?” asked Harry, following her. “we knock on the door, and when she answers, we inform her that she's in dnager, that her son is already in St. Mungo's suffering from an attack, and that she's likely next. Then we tall her that we, and the Ministry by extension, can protect her. All she has to do is give us the shield so we can defend it properly, and then we can take her to the Ministry and figure things out from there. If things go well, they'll show up here, do a quick inventory of the house, see the shield isn't there, and leave.” “Wow,” remarked Harry in awe. “You ever think of becoming an Auror?” “I considered it,” replied Hermione. “And the answer is no. It's too dangerous for me.” “Danger is nothing new for you,” pointed out Harry. “Well, I must admit, it would have its perks,” said Hermione coyly. “That is, if you joined...” “Oh no,” responded Harry, holding up his hands in a gesture of refusal. “I'm going for DA teacher. I've had enough of the really serious stuff. Or I thought I did.” “And that,” stated a cold voice from the side, “I'm a bit confused to see you here, Potter.” Harry and Hermione turned to see Narcissa Malfoy standing several yards away. Hermione cleared her throat. “Why are you here?” Narcissa demanded, looking between the two. “What do you want?” Hermione swallowed, then offered feebly, “Er, nice cloak.” Narcissa shot her a scathing glance, then turned to Harry. “Maybe I can get more sense of you, Mr. Potter,” she suggested.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Mrs. Malfoy,” Harry said calmly, “you're in danger.” Narcissa raised an eyebrow. “Oh am I?” she asked. “And from who?” “I'm not sure,” admitted Harry. “All I know is that Draco is in the hospital because of them, and-” “I know my son is in the hospital,” Narcissa snapped stiffly. “I have a friend who works there who became aware of Draco's arrival, and informed me soon thereafter.” she glared at Harry. “I heard that it was you who brought him in.” “Madam, I saved his life,” snarled Harry. “If it wasn't for me, your beloved son would be crippled right now, or worse, dead! And you might be next!” “Why would they come after me?” she demanded. “I've done nothing wrong!” “Draco didn't give them what they wanted,” Harry replied tersely. “And the only other person who can give it to them is you!” “But what could they want so badly?” wondered Narcissa. “The shield,” said Harry simply. She laughed. “A shield? What could they possibly want with a shield?” “It's one of the talismans,” Hermione explained, and Mrs. Malfoy looked sharply at her. “That shield,” she whispered. “I see.” she looked at Harry. “And let me guess,” she said darkly. “Now you want it.” “It's for your own safety Mrs. Malfoy,” Harry tried to convince her. “We're trying to protect you.” “I don't need protecting,” she hissed. “My home can do the job just fine.” “Hm,” said Hermione, and she swept away into the Manor. Narcissa stepped after her, but Harry moved in the way. “Out of my way, Potter!” Narcissa commanded. “Let me by!” “Fat chance, Mrs. Malfoy,” Harry replied, planting his feet. “You don't know what she'll do in there!” she spat. “Nothing too illegal, I'm sure,” answered Harry. “How do you know? She's a nosy know-it-all, and a Mud-” She suddenly stopped, looking at the wand that Harry was ointing at her throat.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“That nosy know-it-all is my girlfriend,” Harry snarled. “And you would be smart to think before calling her a Mudblood in front of me.” “Will you curse me, then?” she whispered. Harry gazed into her eyes, which were cold with a touch of fear and – respect? He lowered his wand. “Just watch your mouth around me,” he muttered, as Hermione came back out of the Manor. “Protected by all sorts of enchantments,” she announced. “We can't get it without her help.” “What were you expecting?” sneered Narcissa. “That it would be lying out on the dining room table? Not likely. It's a family heirloom. And it was once Slytherin's, no less. It is a personal testament to the fact that we are the-” Wait,” Harry interrupted. “Slytherin's?” “That is what I said,” she responded testily. She paused. “Do you actually mean to tell me that you don't know the story of the talismans?” “Well, I – we – I mean, tell us the story then,” Harry finally got out. “Why don't you ask the Dragonbard?” Narcissa suggested snidely. “But the Dragonbard is dead!” said Hermione. “The rank passes from father to son, Ms. Granger.” “Then who is the Dragonbard now?” asked Harry. Narcissa looked at him. “That would be Mark O'Brea.” Hermione slapped her forehead. “Of course!” she cried. “That's why the name 'Marcobi' sounded so familiar. I wonder if it was a clue for future generations?” “I think it's time we paid someone a visit,” said Harry. Hermione looked at him. “I agree.” Before they left, Harry turned to Mrs. Malfoy. “Don't think this is over yet,” he warned.”We'll be back.” Narcissa Malfoy watched them go, then whispered, “And if you do come back, you may not like what you find...”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

LEGEND OF THE TWILIGHT DRAGON
“Harry,” Hermione said when they arrived at their destination, “I want one of these.” She was staring at O'Brea's home, which took the form of a two-story cottage. It was the color of warm chocolate, with beige trim and door, and a small porch. “Maybe later, if we survive the next few years,” Harry answered quietly, adjusting the cloak to cover her more properly. Hermione looked at him. “Are you expecting us to die?” she asked. Harry was saved from replying when the door opened. “Why don't you come in?” asked a familiar voice. Harry seized Hermione's arm, keeping her in place, both of them barely breathing. “You may as well not pretend you're not there,” O'Brea called persuasively. “I know you're there, and I suspect you have some questions for me. So do come.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Harry relaxed. “C'mon,” he murmured to Hermione. “It's just O'Brea.” They approached the doorway. O'Brea eyed them as though he could actually see them. Standing aside, he held the door open for them as they came through. To Harry's bewilderment, he seemed to know the exact moment they were inside, because as soon as Hermione was over the doorstep, he made to close the door. It stuck, and he pushed a couple of times before it relented, swinging closed with a bang. “Hm,” he muttered. “Usually moves as smoothly as a blade across ice.” He turned to Harry, and reached for the cloak. “May I?” he asked, and at Harry's nod, he removed it and hung it up. O'Brea lead them toward a doorway, asking, “Tea? Coffee? Pumpkin juice?” “Tea please,” said Harry, and Hermione added, “Yes, tea would be wonderful.” “All right then,” O'Brea said, and summoned a teapot from another room. “Where is Ron, by the way?” he asked. Harry glanced at Hermione, then answered, “We had a bit of a run-in, and we all decided he could use a break.” O'Brea scrutinized Harryt closely, but Harry said no more. “Well, then,” Mark finally sighed. “What brings you here?” “Who was your father?” asked Hermione. O'Brea looked at her. “Mark O'Brea the first,” he responded. Hermione frowned. “And your grandfather?” Harry inquired, thinking quickly. Mark O'Brea smiled. “My grandfather's name was Marcobi.” “The Dragonbard,” Hermione breathed. She studied Mark. “So now you're the Dragonbard?” “Yes,” Mark replied, smiling gently. “I have inherited my grandfather's title, and his stories.” “So that means-” started Harry, but O'Brea leaned forward. “Any progress on the talismans?” he asked, cutting Harry off. Harry blinked. “Er, not exactly,” Harry responded slowly. “We were just attempting to obtain the shield...but the Malfoys are being very stubborn about it.” “And why are the talismans being sought?” asked Mark. “We're trying to save the world,” stated Hermione. “Not you, the Talismanic Group,” said O'Brea.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“They're not trying to save the world, they're trying to conquer it!” exclaimed Harry, and Mark shook his head. “You misunderstand me,” he said gently. “I was asking why the Group was trying to get the talismans.” “Oh,” said Harry, and Hermione explained, “We think that they're after a throne.” O'Brea stared, then burst out laughing, causing Hermione to frown at him. “You think,” he asked, “that they're after a chair?” “A throne,” Hermione corrected him. “It's all the same to me,” he sighed, then said, “You have a good reason to believe this, I trust?” “The last line in the story we read,” Hermione told him. “ 'Only while all four are united can you-'” “ 'Open the path'...yes, I know, I read it too,” said O'Brea. He smiled. “Leave it to an intelligent witch like you to come up with another myth out of a clue. Most people never even heard of the throne called Dominion. Although I must admit, I understand you jumping to that conclusion. However, it is wrong.” “Then you tell us what it is,” Hermione demanded. O'Brea shrugged. “I myself am not certain,” he informed them. “But I have suspicions.” “Suspicions are better than nothing,” said Harry. Mark cast him an amused glance. “A rather ironic statement,” he commented casually, “coming from the wizard who had suspicions that the prize is a magical chair.” “Are you going to tell us-?” asked Hermione. “The prize, I believe,” O'Brea began, then paused, his eyes wandering around the room, before continuing. “We will find out eventually.” Harry and Hermione let out exasperated sighs. “Is there a purpose to this evasiveness?” asked Hermione angrily. “All in due course,” “Oh yes,” said O'Brea, beaming. “The four travelers mentioned in the legend were none other than the four founders. Of course, it wasn't sheer coincidence. You see, their fathers went before them, and stumbled upon the dragon, known as the Twilight Dragon because of its purplish hide, and its powers supposedly being at their best at twilight. The dragon spoke to them and...well, you know the gist of

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

that conversation. Unfortunately, they didn't quite complete the pact when-” “Wait a moment,” interrupted Harry. “Who were their fathers?” “Hmmm, let's see,” mumured Mark, gazing upwards. “I think their names were Geber Gryffindor, Salamis Slytherin, Ramiah Ravenclaw, and Hadar Hufflepuff. Great me, they were. Quite powerful, by the documents that have been discovered concerning them.” He looked at Harry and Hermione, who were watching him expectantly. “Anyhow,” he continued, “they weren't quite finished when the greatest of evil dragons arrived. Apparently, the dragons servants had informed it that a spell was about to be wrought, a spell that would rob the dragon – Dominitus was its name – of most of its power and wits. So, it and the Twilight Dragon battled. The four adventurers, knowing what was at stake should the Twilight Dragon fail, did what they could, but couldn't save both themselves and the dragon. Thus, they fell.” O'Brea shifted in his chair. “The townsfolk noticed the disturbance. Lit up half the sky, it did. The four founders were aware that that was the general direction in which their fathers had gone. So, they quickly grabbed a few items which they believed would help them in the battle they were sure they were about to face, and they set off to find their parents. It didn't take long, for them to arrive on the scene, finding their fathers grievously wounded. The Twilight Dragon was also wounded, but twilight was fast approaching, and so the dragons wounds were healing quickly enough. It told the four that it had just survived a battle with the Dragon of Darkness, which is the dragon I mentioned before, by the name of Dominitus. It was also known as the Dragon of Dusk.” Harry nodded impatiently, and O'Brea smirked. “It is important that you hear all of this, Mr. Potter,” he said in mild admonishment. “Anyhow...” “It told them of the spell it had been about to cast with their fathers, and why it was wise to place the enchantment. It said that all that was needed was four willing sources of power. After it asked them if they would comply, they conferred, then agreed. And so, the spell was cast.” He looked up at Harry. “And now comes the part about the talismans.” he took a deep breath and continued. “It asked them to present four tokens of power, one for each wizard and witch present. So, they held out their talismans, and it told them it would enchant tht objects with spell that would allow them to defeat the dragons again when the time came, since the spell wasn't permanent. And it told them to remember one thing. 'Only when united can the path be opened.' Then, it told them to take good care of the talismans, as they would be the keys to the country's salvation one day. Then it left.” “So...” said Harry slowly, thinking. “That's how the talismans came to be?” “Yes,” answered O'Brea. “But I'm beginning to think things aren't as they appear.” “What d'you mean?” asked Harry in a bewildered tone. “Think a moment, Harry,” O'Brea said, looking at Harry. “If the talismans are really the keys, why don't

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

they show any superior magical abilities?” “Because there wasn't any need?” suggested Harry, but Mark shook his head. “No,” he said, “it's because they aren't the keys. I'm almost certain now.” “But what else could they be?” asked Harry. “The four founders took talismans with them. The thing is, it didn't mention how many. It turns out that they each took two.” “Two? Why?” Harry wondered. O'Brea shrugged. “Who knows? The point is, the Group is probably after the wrong ones. Which gives us time to snag the talismans before they do.” “But,” Harry protested, “if they're going for the wrong ones, and don't know what the real ones are, aren't the talismans safe?” “For now,” replied Mark. “But give it some time, and see if they don't realize the truth. And if that happens, would you want to be in a position where you're helpless to stop them? Or do you want to have the upper hand?” “And how do you suggest we do that?” Harry asked. “Find the talismans,” said O'Brea. “Secure them. And get the treasure.” “Why the treasure?” asked Harry. “Do we need it?” “Things are brewing,” muttered O'Brea. “Things greater than you know.” “Er, what?” asked Harry. “Later,” Mark responded. “When we've dealt with the current situation. Just believe me when I say that the treasure could prove to be life-saving.” “Okay, then how do we get the talismans?” wondered Harry. “What exactly are they?” “Harry,” said Hermione in an odd tone of voice, “We know them. We've handled them before. The talismans...they're the Horcruxes!” Seeing Harry's doubtful expression, she insisted, “The Horcruxes are the talismans. Rowena's diadem, Hufflepuff's cup, there'll be Gryffindor's sword, and Slytherin's shield.” “But – those were – we destroyed them!” objected Harry. “What?” asked O'Brea, looking dismayed. “They're ruined?”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“They got all mangled, yeah,” confirmed Harry. “It was the only way to kill the bits of soul inside.” “Voldemort's soul, I take it?” asked Mark, and Harry nodded. “well, that explains that part of your confrontation...” He looked at Harry closely. “Was it just the metal that got damaged?” “I think so,” said Harry. “Does it matter?” “It does indeed matter,” O'Brea declared. “Since metal is a rather inconvenient vessel for such great spells, it makes better sense for the gems to be enchanted instead.” “You mean...the gems are the actual keys?” asked Hermione. Mark nodded. “The...Horcruxes, you called them?...had gems in them, right?” “The cup had a yellow gem, the diadem had a...” Harry paused, thinking. “Sapphire,” Hermione put in. “It had a sapphire in it.” “Yeah,” said Harry. “And the sword has a ruby in it, and the shield...well, I don't know about the shield, because I've never seen it.” “Harry,” wondered O'Brea, “Slytherin had a locket, as well.” “The gems in it are too small to be the key,” Harry said “Really,” muttered O'Brea. He sighed. “Well then, it'd time we picked up a shield.” “We already tried that,” said Hermione. “With me with you to explain things,” explained Mark, “she may prove more easily convinced.” “We'd better get going then,” Harry declared, standing. He set his half-full teacup down, and walked over to the door. And froze. “Mark?” he asked worriedly. “Where's my cloak?” “What?” came O'Brea's voice. “Isn't it there?” Harry stared at the hook where his invisibility cloak had been hanging, the hook which was now empty. “Not that I can see,” he called back. Mark appeared. “Oh dear,” he said. He looked at the door, which was open a crack. “This gives a new meaning to that door's stubbornness earlier.” O'Brea shook his head. “Well, there's nothing to be done now. We'd better get over to the Manor right away.” He held the door open for Harry and Hermione. As Hermione walked past, she turned to him.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“And you won't tell us what this treasure is?” “As I said before,” O'Brea answered, “you'll find out.”

THE HIDDEN EMERALD
“I’d have been much happier if we could have done this the first time,” sighed Harry as they approached the hedges of Malfoy Manor. “But we didn’t do it the first time, so now we have to do it a second time,” answered Hermione wearily. “Right,” said Harry, as they entered onto the property. “Who is that?” asked O’Brea, pointing. Harry looked ahead to see a blond figure advancing on the front door. “Draco,” he breathed, and called out just as Malfoy reached the door, “Just a moment, Malfoy.” Draco froze, and slowly turned. “Potter,” he said, his eyes narrowing as he took in Harry and his friends. “And a few friends, I see.” “Listen, Malfoy,” Harry said slowly, “We need to get that shield. If we fail, and they succeed, the entire country could fall.” He wasn’t sure this was technically true, but he had to convince Draco.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Yeah, nice try, Potter,” Malfoy sneered. “Maybe if I hold a bargaining chip, I can make my way into this thing.” “And then they’ll kill you first chance they get,” Harry retorted. “Besides, you really don’t want to do that. You’re just scared of what you don’t know, and aren’t sure of.” “I’m not scared,” snarled Draco. “Why would I be scared of you?” “Not of me,” replied Harry, taking a step forward. Draco tensed. “You’re afraid of what I’m planning, what the Ministry is planning. And I’m telling you, don’t be worried. We’re not the bad guys.” “I don’t care!” snapped Malfoy, baring his teeth. “You’re trying to take one of my family’s valued possessions! It’s power is mine! Mine!” “For the safety of our community-,” started Hermione. “I-DON’T-CARE!” screamed Draco. “You’ll never get it! NEVER!” He turned, yanked open the door, and lunged inside. Harry shouted Draco’s name, leaping forward, but the door slammed shut. Harry crashed into it, pounding on it with his fist. “Draco!” he yelled. “Let me in! You don’t understand!” There was no answer. Harry turned to Hermione. “Hermione?” he asked, but she shook her head. “The defenses are too strong,” she explained. Harry frowned and glared at the door. “Then I’ll have to do it,” he declared. He held out his arms, and flames began to swirl around him. Hermione gasped, and O’Brea simply smiled. Harry raised his arms, and the flames flared bright red and gold. He drew back a fist, sent it plowing into the door, which shuddered. He struck the door again, and this time it burst asunder, littering the front hall with splinters of wood. Harry stepped into the house, turning his head this way and that as he tuned his sensitized ears into the sounds around him. Hearing movement, he whirled and walked down a hall, then turned a corner and spotted Draco diving through a door way. Harry Ran after him.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Malfoy!” he shouted, emerging into the room to discover Draco holding a large sivler shield with a snake carved into it. “Stay back, Potter,” Malfoy cried. “You can’t have it!” “Be reasonable, Draco,” Harry pleaded. He noticed he was still covered in flame, and with a thought, he quenched the fire. “Please,” he continued. “Fat chance,” snapped Draco. “Last chance,” said Harry. “You can take your chances and shove them-“ Harry jumped at Draco, grabbing the shield. This triggred a tug-of-war match between them. Back and forth the shield was hauled, until both were sweating and panting. “Just – let – go!” grunted Harry. “No,” Draco grunted back. “Angry wild dragons couldn’t make me let go!” “HARRY!” Harry’s sensitive ears heard Hermione screaming. “Dragons!” “To hell with that!” Draco yelled, and he pulled his wand, aiming it at Harry. Harry ducked, lifting the shield, and the spell rebounded, glancing off another nearby shield and hitting Malfoy’s arms. Malfoy released the shield, and as Harry pulled it to him, he heard a roaring sound. He realized what was coming, and without thinking, he threw the shield to Draco, who sprang to his feet and ran toward Harry. Harry slowly backed up, his eyes on the ceiling, Draco raising the shield to cover his himself. “Oh god,” Harry whispered, his voice lost in the growing noise. A second later, the ceiling above them exploded, fire tearing through it like a rock through paper. Harry dodged away, and the fire rammed into Draco’s shield, bowling him over. An aura of green light covered Draco, and the fire curled away from him. Harry stared in surprise, until another blast of fire confronted him. Harry raised his arms, tensing, and a bubble of golden light appeared around him. The fire hit the bubble and stopped, although Harry felt as though a huge hand were pressing upon him. The force of the dragon fire sent him flying. He went through two walls, then a third before emerging outside. He landed hard, the bubble flickering and vanishing.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Hermione rushed over to him. “Harry? Harry!” she yelled. Harry groaned and rolled over onto his back. Hermione looked down at him with a terrified expression on her face. O’Brea stood bhind her, his expression tense. “I – I th – thought for s – sure y – y – you were d – dead,” she stuttered. “’M okay,” he mumbled. “Maybe not for long,” Mark muttered, looking up at what Harry assumed was the Mansion. Suddenly, O’Brea yelled, “Incoming!” Hermione glanced up, screamed and waved her wand. All three were lifted into the air, and she shouted something like an incantation before dropping them. Harry fell into liquid, O’Brea landing on top of him. Struggling to get out from underneath, Harry was grasped by a pair of arms which held him still. He rolled, placing Mark on the bottom, and gazed up. They seemed to have fallen into a sort of pond, which Harry now knew was a good thing, judging from the flames rushing by overhead. They abated, then began anew, and Harry could tell from the obscure air that steam was rising from the water. Bubbles teemed at the surface, mesmerizing Harry. He heard a roar, causing the water to vibrate. Slowly, the water began to calm. Harry waited until his lungs were practically bursting, then rose to the surface. Hermione emerged as well, followed by Mark a second later. They climbed out, surveying the remains of Malfoy Manor. There was only some charred foundation, scorched frame, and ashes lying everywhere. “Looks like they’ll have to find a new home,” commented Harry as they walked. “Oh, Harry,” sighed Hermione tearfully. “It isn’t funny in the least.” “I know, I was just stating a fact,” Harry said. He headed to a spot and stopped. “I think this is where we were,” he murmured. He looked around. “Hey,” he said slowly. “Where’s the shield?”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Gone, it looks like,” answered O’Brea as he took from his pocket what seemed like a magnifying glass. “What’s that?” asked Harry. “Oh, a Super-Sight Scope,” he said casually. “Made it myself.” He looked through it, turning to look around the surrounding area. “Hmmm,” he said. Finally, he looked at Harry. “Well,” he announced, it seems that our young friend has run off with the shield. He ran in that direction, and Disapparated at that point.” Harry growled in disgust. “Think we should go before Mrs. Malfoy gets here?” A cry reached his ears. “What happened?” Narcissa ran to them. “What happened to my beautiful mansion?” She glared at Harry, Hermione, Mark, then at Harry again. “You!” she snarled, drawing her wand. “You've done this to my home! I'll make you pay for it!” “Narcissa!” O'Brea said sharply. “It wasn't him.” “And why should I believe you?” she asked, turning on him. “Because I've no reason to lie to you.” “You're with him in this,” she hissed. “There's plenty of reason for you to lie for him.” “He's perfectly trustworthy,” said Hermione. “Stay out of this,” Mrs. Malfoy snapped. “I have yet to deal with you...” “If you won't believe our words,” began Harry, focusing, “then let's try this!” He projected his memories into her mind. She gasped, staggered slightly, then stared blindly at the sky. “Draco...” she whispered, then fell to her knees.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Oh, my poor baby,” she moaned softly. “My poor, poor baby...” After a moment, she looked up at Harry. “You are a telepath, then?” she asked. He nodded. “It all fits,” she murmured. “Everything makes sense.” She looked around at the three people. “Well, the shield's gone, apparently.” “Unfortunately,” answered O'Brea. “Now we'll never get to the treasure.” Narcissa looked down at the ashes and splinters of charred wood around her feet. “Such a terrible thing has happened...” she said, then froze. “Harry,” she said quietly, “what is that by your foot?” Harry looked down to see a glint of...green. “What the-?” he said, kneeling. He brushed some of the ash aside, revealing...a jewel. “An emerald,” Hermione whispered. She looked at O'Brea. “The key?” she asked. “There's a way to find out,” O'Brea responded, drawing his wand. He directed it at the gem, which twinkled faintly, then dimmed. “Nope,” said Mark, disappointed. “That isn't the key.” “How can you tell,” asked Harry. “Because that spell detects the presence of the founders spirit,” O'Brea replied. “There was no indication of Salazar's spirit in that jewel, so it can't be what we're looking for.” “And that's that avenue closed off,” muttered Harry. O'Brea peered at him. “Harry,” he said, “can I see that locket?”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“What?” said Harry. “But the stones are too small-” “I'd like to see it anyway, please,” O'Brea insisted briskly, holding out a hand. Harry hesitated, then sighed. “I don't see why not,” he said. He glanced at Hermione. “I think she has it.” “Ms. Granger?” asked Mark, turning to her, and Hermione immediately dug in her purse, before pulling out a pair of mangled pieces of metal hanging together by a twisted hinge. O'Brea took it gently, examining the three small jewels still embedded in the 'S' shape on the outer face. “Hmmm” he murmured, pointing his wand, and the jewels closest to the end twinkled and dimmed. The middle one, however, lit up, and continued to glow as they gazed at it. “Bingo,” said O'Brea, and he conjured a silver knife. He set the tip into the notch encasing the stone, levering it back and forth, but to no avail. Finally, he gave up. “Harry,” he said, “you try.” “Why me?” asked Harry, surprised. “Because I think you can do it,” answered Mark. “Now try.” Harry took the knife and locket from him, looking at him closely, before wedging the knife tip beneath the gem. With a wiggle, there was a small tink! and a green glint went flying. It grew larger as it soared, before hitting the ground as a medium sized gem. “Salazar put some effort into disguising his stone, I see,” said O'Brea, picking up the emerald. He looked at Harry. “Excellent job, Harry,” he said. “Thanks to you, we now have the first key.” “First key?” echoed Narcissa. “You're not telling me you actually believe that fairytale!” “We all believe it, Narcissa,” stated O'Brea. “Until we are proven wrong. And hopefully, we'll get the chance to find out.” He turned to Harry and Hermione. “You two know where to find the other keys?” he asked

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Hermione nodded. “The diadem and cup were destroyed at Hogwarts,” she informed him. “Chances are, the gems are there. The key of Gryffindor is in the sword, I think, and the sword is at Hogwarts too.” “Then our next stop is Hogwarts,” O'Brea declared. “And what of me?” asked Narcissa. O'Brea considered her. “You're welcome to join us, if you wish.” “My son is out there somewhere, and I'm guessing the only way I'll find him is through you people.” She sighed. “I'll come with.” Mark nodded. “Then we'd better get going. But before we head off to Hogwarts, I need to stop by my house and pick something up. Something that should help later on...” As they departed the ruins of Malfoy Manor, they didn't notice the invisible observer who was watching from a fair distance away, using a pair of binoculars. “Well,” she said. “I guess Muggle stuff does have its uses.” She continued to stare until the figures in the distance were gone, then turned away. “Time to report,” she sighed. “The others will may be getting suspicious by now.” And she Disapparated.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

DRAGON HUNTER
Draco looked around, panting, his heart racing. It had been a close one, he realized. He'd almost been roasted. If it hadn't been for the shield, and a nearby window...he wondered if Potter had made it. I hope not, he thought, his eyes narrowing in anger as he remembered The Boy Who Lived flying out of sight in a gold bubble. Oh well, at least he had the shield. The jewel that had been the serpent's eye had been knocked out, presumably when Draco had accidentally banged the shield against the window sill, but the shield would still work, wouldn't it? He slowly walked forward, still gazing around. He remembered his father taking him to a shady bar, and that's where he was going now. Continuing, he finally caught sight of the dirty, squat building. The Hag's Nose, it was called. Where all the low-lives and criminals and occasional runaways came. His father had landed more than one transaction there, and settled plenty of personal disputes. The best part was, Draco knew with a smirk, that if someone died, as long as you had enough clout, no one would say a thing. Sure the dead witch or wizard's friends or colleagues might pursue you on their own time, but the Ministry wouldn't find out anything of real use. Secretive and subtle, that's what this place was. And that was why Draco was going there. Reaching the door, he put up his hood and hunched to diminish his height before nudging open the door and slipping inside. A few heads turned, but seeing as how qa number of people inside were wearing hoods, and a couple had humped backs (his hump was formed by the shield on his back), they soon lost interest. Draco made his way up to the bar. “Black Harpy Vodka,” he growled what he tried to make a mildly menacing voice. The bartender, by the name of Grud Jones, gave him a disgusted look, before taking an abandoned glass on the counter, dumping out the dregs of unknown fluid still in it, then pouring it half-full with the requested alcohol.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“I'm not drinking that,” snapped Draco. Jones glanced at him, then grabbed the half-clean glass he had been wiping and poured the half-glass full of alcohol into it. He held out the new glass, and Draco pushed it away. “Don't you know who I am?” Draco demanded. Jones snorted. “Sure I do. You're a pushy runt with an attitude that needs fixin', that's who,” murmured Jones, leaning forward. A nearby figure suddenly took a seat a couple stools away. Draco stiffened, his face contorting in a snarl. “That's not who I am,” he hissed. “Care for a look?” He pulled his hood back a little, and Jones jerked back, his eyes widening. The stranger beside them grabbed a candle and held it toward Malfoy's face, but Draco struck it from his hand, yanking his hood forward. “This isn't for your eyes, fool!” he snapped, then turned back to Jones. “Master Ma-?” he began, but Draco seized his throat, choking off the words. “Yes, that's who I am,” he growled; this time his tone really was menacing. “No get me my drink!” Jones nodded, causing Draco to release him. The bartender groped beneath the counter top, pulling out a clean glass. He poured a fresh round of vodka, handing it to Draco, who took it without complaint. “So, sir, what brings you here? Your father's not with you, I see,” commented Jones. Draco gulped down a couple large swallows of the liquor. “My father...is missing,” said Draco. “I'm sure he's taking care of himself. As for what I'm doing here, I'm on the run.” He thought this might impress Jones. It seemed to work. “You've got the big boys after you?” asked Jones, raising an eyebrow. Maybe he doesn't believe me, thought Draco. “Yeah, apparently there's some sort of artifact that they want, that I have,” explained Draco, drinking some more. “Really,” said Jones. “Really,” answered Draco. He saw Jones's expression. “You don't believe me?” he asked. “Have a look.” He pulled the shield out and laid it on the counter. The silver gleamed in the candlelight, as Draco and Jones bowed over it. Jones ran a finger over it, whistling softly in admiration. “Something used to be here?” inquired Jones, fingering the hole in the serpent's eye where the gem had been. “Got knocked out in my getaway,” said Draco.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Hope you don't run into your father carrying this thing,” Jones said quietly. “He might curse you on the spot.” “I'm not worried,” replied Draco, his words slowed with the alcohol. “I'm fairly sure that he won't show for a while.” “If you say so,” said Jones, while Draco pondered the shield. Neither noticed a man approach the stranger, give the shield a good look, shoot the stranger a meaningful glance, then walk away. Draco stayed for a couple of hours, enjoying several more drinks, before going to the toilet. After finishing his business, he looked around, and figure he'd been around long enough. Taking in his surroundings, he spotted a sidedoor. Pushing it open, he stepped forward...and was blinded by a flash of red light. “Ha! I got's it!” said a raspy voice. “How yeh feel now, eh? Yer disarmed and helpless. Like a baby!” the voice cackled As Draco's vision cleared, he made out a spidery man standing in front of him, holding a wand in each hand. “Thah was a dirty trick,” he slurred. “Shed up!” spat the wizard, jabbing his wand. There was a bang, and Malfoy clutched at his face. When he pulled his hand away, he revealed a bloody lip. Draco looked at the blood smeared on his finger, then lunged at the wizard. There was another bang, and he was thrown against the wall, where he stuck. He struggled to free himself, but it was no use. “Thought yeh'd avoid trouble comin' out another door, eh, lad?” asked the wizard, and raised his wand again, but a shadow detached itself from the wall and grabbed the wizard's arm. “Easy, Ryan,” rumbled a voice from the shadow. It turned toward Draco, and raised a wand. Draco twitched sluggishly, but the figure simply said, “Dissipatio Umbra!” The shadow melted away, revealing the wizard that had been sitting by Draco at the bar. “I apologize for such a measly introduction,” the wizard said, “my friend here,” he glanced at Ryan, who scowled, “isn't so adept as manners.” “I can shee thah,” Draco mumbled. “Yeh got a mouth on yeh, don' yeh?” snarled Ryan. The other wizard lifted a hand. “Enough, Ryan,” it commanded. “Aw, c'mon,” Ryan whined. “Please, Matt? Jes one more spell?” “No!” snapped Matt. “For the last time, our goal is not to bloody up the boy.” Matt turned his attention

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

back on Draco. “Let's get to the point, shall we? We want that delectable item you carry with you.” Draco stared at him blankly. Matt sighed. “The shield, boy. The shield.” Draco scowled weakly. “Ne'er ends, does it?” he muttered. “This's ezzacly whah I's tryin' to ezcape from.” “Shouldn'ta bin showin' off that beauty, then,” said Ryan. “A momen' o' weakness,” growled Draco. “Call it what you like, we still want it,” stated Matt, stepping forward. “So, will you be peaceful about this? Or will you do it the hard way?” “That shield i'nt leavin' me,” said Draco. “Hard way 'tis, then,” cackled Ryan, rubbing his hands together. Draco was suddenly released, and Matt seized his robes. Ryan reached up and dragged out the shield. “So beautiful,” whispered Ryan, stroking it. He glanced at Draco. “Too bad yeh didn' work with us,” he rasped. “Yeh woulda bin in a lot less trouble.” “Whah are ya gonna do ta me?” asked Draco fearfully. “Sell you as a slave,” answered Matt. “It'll bring in even more gold.” “Can' have enough gold,” chuckled Ryan hoarsely. “Ya can' be serious!” gasped Draco. Matt moved to look him in the face. “I'm afraid I'm dead serious,” he replied. “Of course, if you had cooperated, this might not have happened.” “Please,” begged Draco as they pulled him to his feet. “Don't do this...” “Bit late fer that, lad,” said Ryan, grinning. Suddenly, Matt raised his hand for silence, concentrating. He spun. “Slavetraders, huh?” asked another voice, as a tall figure loomed out of the shadows. A face tilted down to study Draco. “I'll take him,” the stranger said. “What's your price?” “Thirty galleons,” responded Ryan immediately.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Ten,” returned the stranger. “Twenty” offered Matt. “Ten,” repeated the tall figure, and Draco was annoyed that this bloke thought he was only worth ten galleons. “Fifteen,” threw out Ryan, and Matt gave him a sharp look. But the stranger tilted his head. “Fifteen?” he echoed. “And three Sickles,” added Matt. The stranger hesitated, then nodded. “The boy's yours, then,” said Ryan, shoving Draco to the figure. Draco peered up fearfully, but couldn't make out his purchaser's face. “The shield too,” said the stranger. “That'll be extra,” answered Ryan eagerly. The stranger sighed. “I'll pay twenty-five for the whole deal,” he said. Ryan smiled, and Matt held out a hand. So did the stranger. “Exchange at the same time,” he said, and Matt held out the shield. The stranger pulled out a bulky pouch which clinked as he hefted it. They held out their respective objects, and when the stranger took hold of the shield, Matt yanked at the pouch while letting go of the shield. Matt opened the pouch and peered into it. “Gimme my half!” demanded Ryan, and Matt emptied some of the pouch on top of him. Ryan picked up a coin and examined it. Matt was rubbing one coin when it erupted in a flash of green light, and he fell over. “Oy!” yelled Ryan. “Oh, my apologies,” said the stranger in a surprised tone. “Did I kill him?” Ryan threw the coin he was holding at the tall figure, but he stepped aside and said, “It kills the last person who touches it.” Suddenly, the coin burst into green light, and an emerald jet arced over to Ryan, who tried to scramble aside, but was hit in the leg. He dropped dead. “Who...who are ya?” Draco asked in terror. “You can call me, Hunter,” said the man.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Uh, okay,” said Draco. He got to his feet, then stumbled against Hunter's legs. “Sorry,” Draco apologized. “I'm kinda drunk.” “I can fix that,” Hunter told him. He pulled out his wand and pointed it at Draco. “Sobrius!” Draco stood straight, and shook his head experimentally. All inebriation seemed to be gone. “Thanks,” Draco said gratefully. “But why did you buy me?” “I'm going to need help on my next trip,” answered Hunter. “Trip?” echoed Malfoy. “What kind of trip?” “A special knid of trip,” said Hunter. “You see, I'm a dragon hunter, and I'm seeking a very special type of dragon hidden away in Greece. I'm not sure I'll be able to do it alone.” He gazed at Draco. “And you look like the sort who can assist me. Are you willing?” “Uh, yeah, sure,” said Draco, stunned. A real dragon hunter? Asking for his help? Hunter began to stride off. Draco quickly darted to his side. “But what kind of dragon exactly are we hunting?” Hunter smiled. “The Dragon of Dusk, of course.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

WAITING
“Argh,” said Jake Grismal, pacing back and forth. “Where is she?” “Easy, Jake,” said a female named Tara Connor. “Calm down. She'll be here soon.” “She should have been here hours and hours ago!” Jake snapped. “It takes time to gather information without being found out,” she stated. “And how do you know she hasn't switched sides on us?” he barked, turning to glare at her. “I have NOT switched sides. But maybe I should, considering the trust you show,” said a new voice, and they all turned to see their informant approaching through one of the arches of the temple they were all camped out in. “Take that back,” hissed Jake, advancing on her. “Or you'll never leave here alive.” “Oy, Jake, back off there!” called a wizard, Steve Blass, who was leaning back in an easy-chair transfigured from a rock. “No wonder she doesn't like you so much. You got a thing to learn about subtlety.” “Would you really kill me? Me, holding the knowledge you so badly want?” the girl asked softly. “Whoa,” said Albert Frost. “You got something for us?” “Of course,” she said, looking at him. “What do you think took me so long?”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Well, if you listen to what he says...” Frost jerked a thumb toward Jake, who growled. “Yes, but no one is listening to him,” replied Tara impatiently. She turned to the informant. “Tell us what you know.” “Well,” she said, “you people have the wrong talismans.” “What?!” exploded Jake. “What d'you mean, the wrong-?” “I mean,” she said slowly, “that there is a completely different set of talismans. Same origins, different forms.” “Great,” muttered Blass. “So where are these other talismans?” “One's at Malfoy Manor,” she answered. “Which you may be pleased to know burned down.” “Burned...down?” repeated Frost. “By a dragon,” she confirmed. “Bless that dragon,” called Blass. “That cowardly bunch deserved it.” “So the shield is destroyed?” asked Tara. “No,” she said, shaking her head. “Draco has it.” “Then why didn't you chase after him?” demanded Jake. “Take the shield from him!” “Why don't you chase someone after they Apparate?” she snapped back. “And besides, it isn't the talismans that open the door. It's the gems in them.” “I was wondering how exactly the talismans were supposed to fit with their funky shapes,” commented Blass, rubbing his chin. “And how did you find all this out?” asked Jake suspiciously. “Let me worry about my methods,” the informant responded. “And then we're left to worry about how we're going to open that door,” Frost grumbled. “No need,” she said. “They're coming here after they get all the keys.” “Well now, that simplifies things,” said Jake, grinning. “We just wait here, until they come.” “Yeah,” agreed Blass. “They won't be getting in without us.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Sounds like a plan,” Tara said. She turned to the other girl. “You'd better get back to...do you know where they're going next?” Their informant nodded. “I do.” “Then get moving. We need eyes on the situation, in case something goes wrong. And if something does go wrong, let us know immediately.” Again, the girl nodded. “Of course.” She turned to leave, but Jake spoke. “And if you are a traitor, trust me when I say you'll pay,” he said. “We've come too far for a sprout like you to ruin this for us. Don't think I'm joking, either.” She looked back at him and smiled. Then left.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

THE SWORD'S SECRET
As they stood at the gates of Hogwarts, Harry couldn't suppress the feeling that he was home once more. He could smell the familiar grass, tress, the lake, and a tinge of magic...powerful magic. “They must have used Reformers,” whispered Hermione. “Reformers?” asked Harry, turning to her. “Yes,” she answered. “Reformers rebuild broken structures, primarily important historical landmarks that have suffered severe damage through one means or another.” she paused. “And it looks like they did a marvelous job.” Harry had to agree. The school looked just as it had during his years of attendance. All signs of there having been a huge battle were gone. “Er,” said Harry, “maybe you ought to send a Patronus to McGonagall.” “Right,” answered Hermione, and she raised her wand. “Expecto – Expecto Patronum!” she said forcefully. Mist poured from her wand, swirling. She screwed up her face in concentration, and the mist coalesced into a silver otter. It hovered for amoment, then swam toward the castle. They watched it fade from sight. “Hermione,” Harry said, “maybe you should start working on your Patronus Charm.” “I know,” she sighed. “It will improve, hopefully.” They waited, then spotted a tiny light bobbing toward them. It grew, becoming a wandlight, sported by Professor McGonagall herself. The aged witch wore a stern expression on her face.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“I might have received notification that you'd be coming,” she said irritably. “As it is, you've caught me by-” She froze. “Mr. Potter?” she asked in surprise. “Ms. Granger? And Mark? What are you doing here?” “I'm pleased to see you, too, Minerva,” said O'Brea cordially. “I only wish more pleasant circumstances could have united us here.” “What are you going on about?” inquired McGonagall, frowning. “Perhaps Harry here should explain,” offered Mark, waving his hand toward Harry. Harry swallowed. “I don't suppose you're here to complete your seventh years? School only started about a week ago,” the teacher said. “No,” answered Harry. “Actually, I need something.” “I surmised as much,” she stated dryly. “But I'm still having trouble figuring out exactly what you need.” They headed off across the vast lawn. Harry took a deep breath and said quickly, “The sword of Gryffindor.” “The sword?” exclaimed McGonagall. “Why on earth do you need that sword for?” “It has its uses,” explained O'Brea, but she silenced him with a look and asked Harry, “What exactly do you want with that sword?” “One of its rubies is a key to a door,” said Harry. She blinked. “What door, may I ask?” she asked, leading them through the doors into the Great Hall. “A door,” replied Harry, “that leads to a...treasure.” “Indeed,” said McGonagall. She took them to a stone gargoyle. “Whiskers,” she told it, and it sprang aside, revealing a moving spiral staircase. She let them through, before joining them on the stairs, which raised them to a door. She opened the door, and they followed her into the office within. “You know where the sword is,” she said simply, pointing to a glass case. “And I trust you know what you're doing.” “I think I do,” Harry answered. He approached the case. “You'll need me to unlock it,” his old teacher said from behind him, and he turned to see her holding her wand. She waved it, and the case sang slightly.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Thanks,” Harry told her, and he opened the case. Reaching inside, he withdrew the silver sword from within, gazing at the rubies adorning its hilt. “How do we find out which one?” he asked. “Allow me,” suggested O'Brea, and he directed his wand at the rubies, one by one. When he reached one that sat on the center of the cross guard, it flared brightly. “Found it,” said O'Brea. He conjured the knife again and handed it to Harry. “You got the last one out,” he explained, “you can do this one too.” Harry obliged, digging the knife tip under the gem. With a jerk, he popped it free, snatching it out of the air. “Ta-da,” Harry said, presenting it to O'Brea, who took it. “Now, Mark,” began McGonagall, “how are you so certain that this is a key, and not an ordinary gemstone?” “May I show you something, my dear headmistress?” requested Mark, and when she waved for him to go ahead, he handed the stone to Harry and said, “Now, Harry, concentrate on the thought of Gryffindor.” Harry complied, focusing his thoughts on Gryffindor's shred of being within him. Abruptly, the gem burst into flame. A small thread of fire rose from it, growing into an image of a man's face. “That...that's Gryffindor!” exclaimed Professor McGonagall. “Godric Gryffindor!” She looked at Harry, then O'Brea. “How did he do that?” “Harry is the heir of Gryffindor,” answered Mark, as Harry extinguished the flames. “Combine that with Godric's stone, and you have a trans-projector, of the magical sort.” “Trans...?” asked Harry. “It means that the stone allows you to communicate through different spaces of existence. Alternate universes, if you will. Primarily, the afterlife, so as to allow you to communicate with Gryffindor himself,” responded Mark. “I don't need the gem for that,” scoffed Harry. “I can use my mind.” McGonagall's face took on an astounded expression, while Mark merely blinked. “Why am I not surprised?” he wondered aloud. “Is that all, then?” inquired McGonagall. “Oh, no,” replied Mark. “There's still two more stones to collect.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“And where are these stones?” she asked. “I think I know,” put in Hermione. “Then lead the way,” said O'Brea.

REMNANTS OF THE PAST
“Goodness,” said McGonagall. “The Chamber of Secrets?” “That's where we were when the cup was ruined,” said Hermione in explanation. “Chances are, the gem fell out down there.” When McGonagall looked skeptical, Hermione added, “It's my best idea, and the most likely place, so don't throw it out right away.” The teacher sighed. “Must I go with?” “No,” answered Harry. “Stay here, go to your office, do whatever you want, but as for us...we're going to the chamber. We got a rock to grab.” “Very well,” she said. “I hope you succeed. And I hope, for your sake, that nothing else has taken residence in that chamber.” “Oh, don't even say that,” complained Hermione, shuddering. “Well, I've some chores I must complete,” said McGonagall. “So if you will excuse me...” she walked out. “Trouble is,” muttered Harry, his attention on the sinks, “I don't know if I can still speak Parseltongue.” “I think,” advised O'Brea, “that with the help of Slytherin's stone, Narcissa may be able to speak it.” “Well,” Narcissa said uncertainly, “I can try...” She stepped forward. “Where is the entrance?” she asked. “That sink right there,” said Harry pointing. “And you'll need this.” he held out the green gem. She took it, nodding her thanks. Staring at the stone, she appeared to focus. “Imagine that that snake carved on there is alive,” suggested Harry. “That always helped me.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Her eyes narrowed, and she bowed her head. They waited. Suddenly, she raised her head, opened her mouth, and a bizarre hissing noise issued from her lips. The sinks immediately shifted, revealing a hole in the floor. “Who's going first?” asked Hermione. “Me,” answered Harry. Without another word, he jumped in. The way down seemed rather shorter than it had all those years ago. He flew out of the end of the pipe, managing to hit the ground feet first. He looked around remembering. Peering down the tunnel, he saw a pile of stone, the result of one of his old teachers' backfiring charms. He was interrupted in his reverie when he heard movement in the pipe behind him. He turned. “Eeeeeee!” shrieked Hermione, whizzing out into the open. Harry easily caught her. “Thanks,” she said breathlessly. He set her down gently, and she lookmed around. “Now this is just where I wanted to go,” she commented. “A creepy sewer.” “Imagine being twelve years old and landing here,” Harry told her. “and having to kill a Basilisk too.” Hermione was distracted from answering by Narcissa Malfoy floating out of the pipe. She landed softly, giving the dripping walls a distasteful glare. O'Brea quickly followed after. “That's everyone?” he asked, standing up and brushing himself off. “Let us be off, then.” Lighting their wands, they walked along, crawling through the gap Ron had cleared in the cave-in years ago. Eventually, they reached the vault that lead to the actual chamber. “Narcissa?” prompted Harry, and she hissed again. The vault door swung slowly open. “Ugh!” exclaimed Narcissa. “Does it always smell this bad?” She pointed her wand at her nose. There was a small flash of green light, and she sniffed experimentally. “Ah,” she said, satisfied. “That's much better.” “Well,” Harry spoke, “I don't think that the Basilisk's corpse helps much.” They clambered over the lip of the vault, stepping into the chamber beyond. “Behold,” announced Harry. “The basilisk.” He gestured at the serpentine skeleton before them, its skull missing a tooth. Harry noticed it lying nearby, surrounded by dark stains. Harry stared at the spot where he had defeated Riddle in his second year, shuddering slightly. “Memories brought on by remnants of the past?” inquired O'Brea. Harry merely nodded, his thoughts glum. “Does basilisk flesh usually deteriorate that quickly?” asked Hermione.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“I don't think so,” said Mark darkly, moving closer to examine the boney remains. “And it doesn't make sense for something to eat it,” mused Hermione. “I'd thing that snake would be too poisonous for digestion.” “I do believe there is one creature that may devour a basilisk without fear. That is, once it's dead,” responded O'Brea. “The thing is, it is very rare for that sort of activity to occur, seeing as how it is very difficult to kill a basilisk. Nonetheless, spiders have quite a taste for fallen basilisks.” “Spiders?” gasped Hermione, while Narcissa looked swiftly around. “Spiders,” confirmed Mark. “Next question is, where did they go? And how long will they stay out of our way?” “I think I can answer that,” came Harry's voice. They turned to see him standing next to a sizable crack in the ground, stretching from one side of the chamber to the other. “They're in that crack,” he said, pointing. They cautiously approached, peering into the crevice. “My god,” whispered Hermione in a frightened tone. The crack was filled with spiders. As they came nearer, many spidery eyes were turned their way, glinting in the wandlight. Harry looked carefully around, searching, then asked O'Brea in a low voice, “Is it just me, or do you get the feeling that the gem is somewhere in that hole?” “Clear that space and find out,” said Mark. Harry nodded and raised his hand, which burst into flame. He aimed, and a jet of fire poured into the crack. In their frenzy to escape, spiders overflowed onto the edges of the crevice, but tongues of flame snapped out and wrapped around them, turning the struggling bodies to ash. Hermione and Narcissa staggered back as gouts of flame rose from the stream of fire writhing in the crack. Squinting to see into the inferno, Harry saw a glint of yellow. He turned dow the flames a little, then reached in. The flames caresses his hand, obeying his gentle sweeping motions as he pushed them away. Beneath the fire was a thick layer of ash, all that remained of the spiders that had stripped the basilisk of its dead glory. And buried in that ash...was an odd lump. Harry poked it, and found it to be hard like rock. Blowing on it, he cleared the topmost layer of grime, revealing a tiny patch of smooth, shiny surface. A yellow surface. Harry seized the lump and lifted it free of the dirt and filth that now filled the crack, then stood. He shook the object, wiping away the ash, while the others waited patiently. Finally, he gazed at the item resting in his fingers, before slowly smiling. He turned to the others and held it up. There was a golden gem in his hand. “Well done,” O'Brea complimented him. “You're really turning them out.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Well, now that's done,” said Hermione, “can we please leave this awful place? With spiders and skeletons and all, it really gives me the creeps.” “I quite agree,” murmured Narcissa. “I'm used to Darkness, but this is a bit much.” “What did you expect,” retorted Harry, “flowers and paintings? Perhaps a decanter of wine and a welllaid table for our enjoyment?” “Well, there's no need to be snarky about it,” snapped Hermione. “Can you blame me for feeling weirded out?” “She's right, Harry,” O'Brea spoke up. “We really should leave before there's any more trouble.” “Yeah, okay,” said Harry. He started toward the vault door, then turned back to Hermione. “And the last place?” he inquired. “Let me give you a hint,” said Hermione. “It involved Fiendfyre.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

GIFT OF REQUIREMENT
“Room of Requirement, eh?” asked O'Brea, as they walked along the fifth floor. “Hermione, do you really think that the room survived Crabbe's stunt?” wondered Harry dubiously. “The castle is capable of healing itself if it really wants to, I think,” Hermione said. “And somehow, I'll bet that this room is of great importance to it.” “I guess there's only one way to find out,” sighed Harry. He began to walk back and forth in front of a blank stretch of wall. “I'm sorry, but I'm still not sure what this Room does, exactly,” said Mark. “Would you enlighten me?” “Basically,” explained Hermione, watching Harry, “the Room transforms to accommodate whatever it is you need. All you have to do is walk in front of it three times, focusing on what you need.” “And Harry's asking for...?” prodded O'Brea. “I'm asking it to give me the gem,” answered Harry as Hermione opened her mouth. “Ah,” said Mark, and then said “Ah” again as a door appeared in the wall. “Harry walked over to it and grabbed the knob. Opening it, he stepped aside and said to Hermione, “After you.” She smiled sweetly and sauntered past...and stumbled. Harry grabbed her elbow, steadying her. “What's wrong?” he asked, but she simply shrugged him off and attempted to stride straight through the doorway. Only to stagger back yet again. She huffed in annoyance. “Harry, you try,” she commanded irritably. Harry stared at her, and she nodded impatiently. Turning to face the entrance to the Room, Harry braced himself...and stepped forward. And was thrown out. Or not. Harry opened his eyes, glanced quickly around, and realized he'd imagined being kicked out of the room. He noticed a pillar in the center of the room, with something lying on top of it.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Stop freaking yourself out,” he told himself. He looked back, and saw Hermione looking incredulous. “Er,” called Harry loudly, “can you guys hear me?” “Of course we can hear you,” snapped Hermione, clearly upset at Harry's success. “No need to shout at us.” “I didn't know if the barrier blocked sound or not,” Harry explained sheepishly. “It is interesting that it blocked Hermione but not you,” O'Brea said thoughtfully. “Do you know why?” Asked Harry hopefully. “Why it let you in, when it should have let her in instead? I suspect you'll find out eventually,” Mark replied with a cryptic smile. “What d'you mean, it should have let her in?” demanded Harry. “Well, since she is the heir of Ravenclaw, it only makes sense to let her in,” explained Mark. “But as for you...” “You mean, I really am the heir?” Asked Hermione excitedly. “That's why..I mean, the scar...Ravenclaw was an aquamancer too...” O'Brea nodded, and she gaped. “Are you telling me...I'm...?” Harry couldn't complete the thought. It was too preposterous. Mark just smiled and shrugged. “You'll find out,” he repeated. “Someday.” He turned to Hermione. “And as for you,” he said, “maybe I can help you through that barrier.” “Really?” asked Hermione brightly. “How?” “Concentrate on the knowledge that you are an heir of Ravenclaw,” Mark commanded her, and her eyes narrowed in focus. “Know that her blood flows in your veins. Know it, and the barrier will know it too. It will be forced to acknowledge it.” Hermione nodded, then walked straight at the door, and the invisible barrier. She met it...and slowly slipped through. She blinked, gazed around, then through herself at Harry. “I did it!” she squealed. Harry hugged her tightly, grinning. “I take it you're pleased to be Ravenclaw's heir?” he whispered in her ear. She pulled back and looked at him. “So?” she asked. “I got in.” “So you did,” Harry replied with a smile.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Any time you're ready, that gem would be nice,” said O'Brea calmly. Hermione jolted, then turned toward the center of the room. She approached the pillar, and Harry, looking over her shoulder, saw that the object was not really lying on top of it, but was rather embedded in it. And...it was blue. “It's...it's a sapphire,” she said in awe. She spun to face Harry. “It's a sapphire!” she repeated. “Ravenclaw's stone!” “Okay then,” Harry said, “grab it!” “Okay, okay,” she said. “Okay, okay, okay...” She reached out tentatively. Her fingers came within an inch, then stopped, before starting forward again. Her fingernails scrabbled across the smooth surface, searching for purchase. “I...can't...” she grunted. Then she smiled. “I have it!” she said, and tugged. A confused expression crossed her face. “It's stuck,” she murmured, looking at Harry. “Harry, I can't get it out. It's stuck!” “Calm down,” Harry said. Hermione looked worried as she looked back at the stone. “Ravenclaw,” called Mark, and Harry nodded. “Right,” Harry answered. He focused on Hermione. “Hermione,” he said, “look at me.” She looked up at him anxiously. “Your heritage,” he reminded her. “Think of your heritage.” Her eyes widened. “You're right!” she said. Her eyes landed on the gem again. “My heritage,” she whispered to herself. “My heritage...” She once again grasped the stone. And this time, when she pulled, the stone clicked free. “Yes!” she said. Harry was smiling when she faced him. “We have it!” she cried, and he kissed her. When he pulled free, she beamed at him. “Great job,” he told her. “Thanks to you, we now have all four keys.” “Time to come on out of there,” called Mark, and Harry took hermione's hand and pulled her from the room. As they left it, the door melted away, becoming blank wall once more. O'Brea examined it curiously before turning away, shaking his head. Harry and Hermione watched him expectantly, Hermione still clutching the stone in her hand. “And now,” announced Mark, “on to the next stage of our mission.” “We have to find...” started Harry.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Mark finished for him. “...the door.” “The door that opens the way,” whispered Hermione. Mark nodded. “Exactly.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

HORSES AND BUTTERFLIES

“So,” said Harry as they walked down the stairs toward the Great Hall, “we're going to find the door now.” “Yes,” answered O'Brea, looking back over his shoulder. “Now that we've finally got the keys.” “I take it you succeeded, then?” asked McGonagall's voice from below. “Yes,” Harry called back triumphantly. “All four keys are now in our possession.” “I admit,” McGonagall said, gazing up at them, “that I feel better knowing that these keys, wherever they lead to, are in your hands.” She looked at them closely. “And you won't tell me what these keys unlock?” “Power,” Mark said simply. “Power that must not fall into someone else's hands. Power we may soon need.” “Need?” she asked sharply. “What do you mean, 'need'?” “I mean,” he replied, smiling sadly, “that the world, being what it is, holding what it holds, is never truly safe for long.” He sighed. “Power is alluring. Not everyone can resist it, and that is why we must be there to protect it, and if necessary, guide it.” McGonagall stared at him. “You are beginning to worry me.” “Don't be worried,” Harry said quickly. “We'll take care of it.” “That is most meaningful, coming from you, Potter,” said McGonagall quietly. “Considering what you have done.” Harry averted his gaze, embarrassed. “Harry, we need to go,” O'Brea reminded him. “Time is most important.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Right,” said Harry. He started toward the doors, when a two silver creatures came rushing through it. A horse and a butterfly came to a halt before them all, and began speaking a confusion of voices “Caught-” “-spy-” “-Ginny-” “-Lav-” “-COME HELP ME!” finished the horse, and it dissolved. The butterfly quickly followed suit. “Patronuses,” said Hermione. “Yeah,” agreed Harry. “There's something going on out there. It sounds like someone named 'Lav' is in trouble.” “And there's only one person I know of who's name begins with 'Lav',” Hermione said grimly. “Let's go!” They all ran toward the doors. Emerging onto the Hogwarts grounds, they spotted two figures in the distance, lights flashing between them. As they drew closer, Harry saw one person was Ginny Weasley. The other... “Lavender Brown?” he exclaimed in surprise. Ginny glanced at them. “Hel-” she started, but Lavender interrupted. “You got here just in time!” she said. “I found Ginny sneaking off! I think she's a spy!” “Ginny? A spy? I don't believe it!” snarled Hermione. She looked at Harry. Use your psychic powers, she sent mentally. Harry nodded, and probed Lavender's mind. She was too focused on dueling Ginny, however, so he triggered her thoughts by asking, “Lavender, what are you doing here?” “I – uh – I - “ she said, and Harry received a series of thoughts that cleared everything up. Incensed, he pointed at her and declared, “Traitor!” Her eyes widened, as she dodged a stunner from Ginny. “What are you talking about? I'm – I'm an ally! She's the traitor!” Lavender stabbed a finger at Ginny. “Don't lie!” snarled Harry. Lavender scowled. “How dare you accuse-?”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“For your information,” Harry growled, “I'm a telepath.” Seeing her balnk expression, he added, “I read minds.” Her expression became terrified, and she sent a curse at Ginny that caused Ginny to roll across the ground. She was immediately back up on her feet, but Lavender was already in a headlong flight toward the gates. Harry lunged after her, but got caught by an Impediment Jinx. The others were similarly hindered, and Harry stared after her, fearing that she would succeed in escaping. Then some thing streaked past him. A blur flew at Lavender, and a pair of silk threads wrapped themselves around, causing her to fall to the ground. She cut herself free with a spell, but was tackled, then pinned, before a sticky net was cast over her. Her wand was taken and thrown away. Now helpless, she lay struggling, while the person on top of her sprang aside and crouched several yards away. Harry got a good look for the first time, and gaped in shock. Lavender had just been captured by Ron Weasley. “Ron?” asked Harry. “But – why? How come you're here?” “Look, mate,” said Ron. “I'm really sorry about all the rubbish I said before. I was messed up, and I shouldn't have said any of it. I just thought-” “Now's really not the time,” Harry said awkwardly. “I thought Hermione was meant for me, and seeing you with her drove me bonkers...believe me when I say I'm sorry. I can't believe I was so stupid-” “Not now, Ron!” snapped Harry, keenly aware of the people around him, particularly O'Brea, who was watching with great interest. “Blimey, mate,” said Ron, “I just thought you'd like some sort of explanation or apology-” “Maybe later, Ron,” growled Harry. “We're in a bit of a situation right now.” “Oh,” Ron said, looking around at the people. “Right.” “Now,” Harry said to Lavender. “Explain yourself.” “Why don't you, Mr. Psychic?” retorted Lavender petulantly. Harry frowned. “You've been passing information to the Talismanic Group,” he stated. “You've been working for them as a spy!” “What?” said McGonagall. “But why would you do such a thing? What did they offer you that you simply couldn't refuse?” “It wasn't gold, if that's what you're thinking,” answered Lavender, glaring at the teacher.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Then what?” demanded Hermione. “Revenge,” Lavender replied. “Revenge for what he did to me.” She shot Ron a venomous look. He looked astonished. “You – you wanted to get back at me?” he asked dumbly. “Yes,” she snapped. “You just walked away from me like I was nothing!” “That isn't true!” Ron said. “I was torn by our breaking up!” he spun to look at Harry. “Tell her, Harry! Tell her how much it hurt!” Harry wanted to deny it, to teach Ron a lesson for abandoning him, but couldn't bring himself to do it. “He's telling the truth,” Harry confirmed quietly. “Why do you think it took him so long to do it? He cared so much about you...it was never easy.” “Then why did he do it?” she shrieked, half sobbing. “Why did you do it?” “I – I thought – I thought I loved Hermione,” Ron admitted. “Hermione?” Lavender cried. “Even though she never showed any interest in you?” “I thought she was being difficult!” Ron cried back. “Playing hard to catch, maybe!” Hermione snorted and said softly, “Hardly.” She froze at a look from Harry. “I never stopped loving you,” said Lavender, tears pouring down her face. “And yet, you insisted on chasing after her!” “Ron,” Harry spoke gently, “you thought you loved Hermione?” Ron seemed to understand what Harry was trying to say. “Just like you thought you loved Ginny,” he replied. “But you only loved her in a sister kind of way after all, didn't you?” “Yeah,” responded Harry. “That's exactly how I feel,” said Ron. “Too bad I didn't realize that before.” He stared at Harry. “Can you forgive me?” “Maybe,” said Harry. “And what about me?” demanded Lavender. “How do you feel about me?” “Can you forgive me?” asked Ron gently.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Maybe,” she said quietly. “Does this mean we're back together?” “Hold on,” barked Harry. “You're in huge trouble. You've messed with us, and that's not a good thing.” “You sound like a Death Eater,” she whined. “And you act like a Death Eater,” Harry snapped back. “If I wanted, I could get you arrested for this. Is that what you wanted?” “No, no!” she cried. “Please don't do anything to me! I swear I'll be good from now on!” He stared at her, thinking quickly. McGonagall stepped forward. “Back away from her, Harry,” she said. “The Ministry can take care of her.” “No,” said Harry. His teacher stopped. “What? But, why?” she asked. “Because,” answered Harry, “I'm taking her with me.” “Potter-” she started, but Harry cut her off. “She's a part of the problem, so she can help fix it. Also, she may give us an advantage. At the very least, knowing that their snitch has been captured will unsettle them. We'll take anything we can get.” “Mark?” asked McGonagall, turning to O'Brea. He nodded. “It makes sense. I don't see anything wrong with it.” She sighed and faced Harry again. “If you're absolutely sure about this...” “I am,” said Harry. “Very well then, take her with.” She turned away. “Ms. Weasley, please take yourself up to the castle.” Ginny started to obey, but O'Brea said, “Ginevra, your mother is descended from the Prewetts?” “Yeah,” she replied, confused. He nodded, and threw the stone of Hufflepuff to her. She caught it, and it began to glow. “Thought so,” he said. “Professor, I think I'll be taking her with as well.” “What?” she asked, surprised. “But why?” “She's the heir of Hufflepuff,” he informed her.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“What?” Ron said. “But I'm her brother! Can't I do it instead?” “With her being female, Hufflepuff is stronger in her veins than yours.” He addressed McGonagall. “It is necessary, Professor. She must come.” “Fine!” she exclaimed, throwing her hands up into the air. “Take her! But have her back in the next couple of days! Or I'll have the Ministry after you, and everything else I can muster up.” “I'll keep that in mind,” he said evenly. “Now go! You have what you came for.” she walked away. Then whirled. “Well? Haven't you somewhere to be?” “Quite right, madam,” answered O'Brea, barely concealing a grin. He turned to the others. “Come on,” he said. “As she so well put it, we have somewhere to be.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

DRAGONGAZE PLAINS
Since it was a long way to where they intended to go, they traversed the distance in several jumps, Apparating from spot to spot. First to a hill, then a lake, a forest, lumpy ground dotted with rocks, and finally a vast plain. Harry stared, trying to see what was on the other side. “This is it?” he asked doubtfully. “No,” answered O'Brea, smiling. “Our destination is a little ways away on this plain.” Harry nodded. Before they had begun their journey to this area, Harry has asked about the location of the door, and Mark had told them that it was in the Temple of Twilight, which was located in scotland. Harry had conferred with Lavender, who described a plain. O'Brea immediately agreed with this. And so, they had gone. “What exactly is this place?” asked Ron, looking around suspiciously. Harry thought he knew what he was feeling. A sense of exposure, like anything could attack them. “Well,” said O'Brea, “centuries ago, the temple was guarded by dragons. Those dragons would spend their time watching these plains...gazing at the ground. Thus, it's name. The Dragongaze Plains.” “I'm getting a bit nervous here,” muttered Ron, and Harry replied, “We're all nervous, Ron.” “I'm going,” Ron announced, and made to step forward. Mark grabbed his arm, stopping him. Ron yanked his arm from O'Brea's grasp. “What do you think you're doing?” he spat. Mark raised his eyebrows. “Walk too far on that land,” he commented, “and the dragons will be awoken.” “Why haven't they woken up yet?” asked Harry. “After all, the Group is there already.” “They probably Apparated straight into the temple,” responded Mark. “Then maybe we should too,” suggested Ron. Mark shook his head. “And place ourselves directly at their mercy? I think not,” he stated. “Then what's your idea?” inquired Lavender.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“I have something with me,” said O'Brea. He took off the backpack he had brought with him. Opening the flap, he pulled out several floppy objects. “Here,” he said, throwing some to Harry and his friends. Harry picked his up and shook it out. “A hat?” asked Ron, frowning. “We're trying to outrun dragons and you give us bloody hats? Protecting us from a nasty sunburn, are you?” “Those 'bloody hats', as you so delicately call them,” said O'Brea, “are enchanted to create illusions of antelope over whoever wears them.” “Even better,” muttered Ron. “A gourmet course!” “These dragons are spelled to pursue intruders, Mr. Weasley,” Mark informed him. “They do not require sustenance.” “What else have you got in there?” asked Lavender, peering into the bag. “This,” replied Mark. He pulled out a small box. “And that does what, exactly?” wondered Harry. “It will cast an illusion of a dragon,” he said. “Flat-out guilt amplifies seeming innocence, so the dragons should ignore us completely.” “So...when do we go?” asked Hermione. “As soon as I set this up,” responded Mark. He put the box on the ground. Drawing his wand, he began tapping the box and muttering various incantations under his breath. At last, the box began to glow slightly. He straightened. “All right,” he said. “When I say go, start running that way.” He pointed. Then he turned back to the box. “Go!” he said. They immediately ran. Harry looked around, and saw his friends becoming enveloped in transparent images of antelopes. Seeing the way Ron was looking back at him, he guessed that it was happening to him too. He began to run the faster, the others speeding up too. When he heard a roar overhead, he knew that the dragons had noticed them. Looking up, he saw a pair of them approaching, lowering. “Dodge!” he yelled, and he and his friends scattered. The two dragons split up, swerving to cut them off. One dived and barely missed Lavender, who jumped aside with a cry. Ron immediately nabbed her with a line of webbing and swung her away. Harry searched for the others, and saw them at various points, racing along. Harry felt a coolness, and noticed he was in a shadow. He glanced up...then dived

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

sideways as a descending dragon tried to snap him up in its jaws. “Mark!” shouted Harry. “Now would be a good time!” O'Brea waved his wand over his shoulder, and a hundred yards behind them, the little box erupted, releasing an image of a large red dragon, roaring and breathing flame. “What's that smoke at its base?” shouted Ron, looking at it. “The scent of a full-grown male dragon,” answered O'Brea. “That should have it convinced for a few moments.” “Is a few moments long enough to get us there?” called Harry. “I hope so,” yelled Ron. “If we move fast, then yes,” Mark called back. They picked up their speed, racing across the plains. Looking ahead, Harry spotted a tiny spot in the distance. He turned to Ron. “Is that what I think it is?” he asked. Ron stared at it. “It's a building of some sort,” he said loudly. He squinted. “Yeah, I think that might be the temple.” “Excellent,” said Harry. If it really was the temple, then that meant safety was in sight. Suddenly, Lavender screamed. Harry whirled, and saw her running back. “What the bloody hell d'you think you're doing?” bellowed Ron. He sent a strand of sticky goo, but she dived, causing the line to miss. “My necklace!” she cried. “My grandmum's necklace!” She skidded to a halt, stumbling onto her hands and knees as she scooped something glinting silver up off the ground. She clambered to her feet, but froze, staring at the sky. The dragons had discovered the truth of the illusion and were now circling around toward Harry's friends. Lavender, being closest to the giant lizards, was in the most danger. Lavender screamed again and tried to run, but her ankle twisted beneath her and she fell. “She can't run,” shouted Ron, an anxious expression on his face. “Narcissa!” yelled O'Brea. “Do something!” “Like what?” she asked in an exasperated tone. “Your powers!” he called back. “Salazar was an aeromancer! His stone can help!”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Narcissa gazed at him in astonishment, before drawing out the emerald. “Wind!” yelled Hermione. “Use wind!” Narcissa looked at the gem as though confused; then her face cleared. Her fingers clenched around the rock, which began to glow gently. Spinning, she pointed at Lavender, and dust rose into the air, swirling as Lavender was lifted by an unseen force. Narcissa raised her hand, finger guiding Lavender over to the others, where she softly settled on the ground. Narcissa released her. “Now,” shouted Mark, “run, as fast as you can!” Everyone except Lavender, who was picked up by Ron, started sprinting, heading toward the temple, pumping their legs with all their might. Ron was easily able to manage Lavender's weight with his enhanced strength, and even with the extra pounds, he was pretty fast. He was soon in the lead. “Ron!” yelled Harry. Ron looked around, and Harry called, “Stay back! They don't know how much more skilled you are!” Ron nodded, understanding, and he slowed. “Here,” offered Harry, holding out his arms. “Godric's blood makes me stronger, so I think I can handle her.” Ron handed Lavender over, and Harry took her in his arms. The unexpected weight triggered a rush of magic in Harry's veins, and she suddenly seemed as light as a feather. “Mark!” cried Hermione, and they all looked to see the dragons closing in on them. O'Brea frowned, and he hurled something on the ground between them and the dragons. There was a bright white flash, and a wall of blue-green light appeared. The dragons slammed into it, causing it to shimmer, but it held. “That should keep them for a while,” said O'Brea. “But let's not test it any more than we have to.” Harry nodded, and they jogged the remaining distance to the temple. Upon reaching its steps, Harry set Lavender down upon her good foot. Hermione walked over and pointed her wand at Lavender's ankle, and there was a faint pink glow. “It should be better now,” Hermione said. Lavender tested it and nodded. “It is much better,” she answered. “Thank you.” Hermione merely nodded in response. Harry noticed Ron studying the pillars at the top of the steps. Ron looked over, saw Harry watching, and winked. Then, he lowered himself to the ground and crept up the steps, crawling over to the base of one pillar. He swiftly scaled the column of stone, before becoming still, crouching. Harry smiled, knowing that this gave Ron the advantage over the Talismanic Group.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Well then,” came O'Brea's voice. “Are we ready to enter the temple?” “As ready as I'll ever be, I guess,” said Lavender nervously. Harry, glancing at her, saw her fearful eyes lingering upon the stone structure. “Let's do it,” declared Ginny decisively, her fingers twitching in anticipation of upcoming battles. “Let's go then,” said Harry, and they advanced up the steps. Reaching the top, they quickly glanced around before starting forward. They passed the first row of arches, when Harry caught sight of stirring shadows by one arch ahead of them. He froze. “They're here, aren't they?” whispered Ginny. Lavender gave the slightest nod. “Keep going,” ordered O'Brea. They continued forward, finally getting to the second row of arches. After a pause, they stepped through...and stopped. Staring at the several wands pointed straight at them. “Hello,” sneered a voice from behind one of the wands. “Welcome to the party.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

AGGRESSION
“I told you she was a bloody traitor, didn't I?” demanded a growling voice. “Diffindo!” The curse came flying at an alarming speed, and Harry's head spun as his eyes followed it. It soared past him, whizzed over Ginny's shoulder, missed Hermione as she ducked, and struck Lavender square in the throat. The spell cut cleanly through the flesh of her neck, releasing a spurt of blood. Her head went rolling as the force with which she was hit was sent her decapitated body toppling. Blood spattered the floor and pillars, causing Ginny to leap forward, cursing. Hermione screamed. “Shut up!” snapped the wizard who had cast the spell. Harry recognized him as Jake Grismal. “I didn't kill her just to have you shrieking your head off!” He looked down at the body. “Take that as a lesson, any of you who want to try running.” Harry, with his psychic powers, could feel Ron practically vibrating in fury. Calm down, he sent to him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hermione glance toward in Ron's direction. As the wizard looked toward Hermione, distracted, Ginny's hand twitched to her wand. The reaction was instant. “Infligo!” he snarled, slashing his wand, and her head jerked to the side. She slowly turned again to face him, barely suppressing a venomous glare. “Next time,” he said, “it won't be so gentle. In fact, next time,” his lip curled in a snarl, “you may end up like the little snitch there.” Hermione whimpered, and he pointed his wand at her. “Next sound out of you, and you'll be gutted and hung to die a slow death.” Her eyes widened in horror, as she slumped in defeat. He smirked, before looking at Harry. Harry stared back. “So is this what you've been doing during you free time?” asked harry. “Playing around as part of the Group?” “You won't be so cocky when we have the keys and the final treasure,” said Jake. “Speaking of which,” spoke up another wizard; Albert Frost, Harry realized, “you have the keys, we believe?” The entire Group leaned forward, their wands still trained on Harry and his friends, their faces eager. “Er...what keys?” asked Harry, feigning ignorance to buy himself some time.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Jake jabbed his wand at Hermione wordlessly, and a cut opened on her cheek as though by an invisible knife. Harry's heart stopped beating for a moment in horror. “Ahhh,” he said, “the keys, the keys...the keys of the founders...” “The founders?” asked a wizard the Harry identified as Steve Blass. “You mean, the actual talismans belonged to the founders?” Harry felt O'Brea's mental grimace. “Yeah, I guess,” Harry answered. “That does not matter!” spat Jake. “What matters is where he's keeping the keys!” He jerked on his wand, and Hermione was yanked to him. He grabbed her and spun her around, placing his wand tip against her throat. “Tell me,” he whispered, “or she dies.” Harry hesitated, looking back at O'Brea, who pursed his lips in tension. Harry turned back to Hermione, who had tears in her eyes. “Don't, Harry,” she said quietly. “Don't give in.” Jake's grip tightened. “Tell him to give us the keys,” he growled in her ear. “Tell him. Now!” “No,” she squeaked. His gaze darted to Harry. “You have three seconds to talk,” he said. “Or her throat will be slit from ear to ear.” Harry bit his lip, thinking desperately for a way out of the situation. “Do you really want to see her blood pouring down her body and onto the floor?” asked Jake. Harry sighed, then decided. They had to get in somehow...He slowly reached into his pocket, and drew out the ruby. Jake's eyes landed on the gleaming stone, while the Group's eyes lit up. “Now,” Grismal growled. “The other stones.” Harry didn't dare look at Ginny or Narcissa. Hopefully, they would be able to decide on their own... “You have three more seconds,” snapped Jake. “Don't make him do something stupid,” called Frost. “Just give him the rocks.” Narcissa scowled, and pulled the stone of Slytherin from her cloak. Ginny glanced over and and followed suit, revealing the stone of Hufflepuff. Her hand trembled slightly as she raised the gem for all

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

to see. Jake shifted, but Tara said, “Isn't there one more gem?” Harry suddenly smiled; he had the chance he had been waiting for. “The last stone,” he said darkly, “is in the possession of Grismal's hostage.” Jake suddenly looked down at Hermione. “Which pocket?” Hermione, however, wasn't giving in so easily. She smiled a mischievous smile, and was engulfed in a cyclone of whirling water. Grismal was thrown back, and Hermione stepped back over to her friends. Frost and Blass stepped forward, but Ginny proclaimed, “Let us keep the gems. Only we can use them.” “Rubbish!” spat Grismal, leaping forward, but was knocked back again by a blast of sand. “If we have to,” hissed Ginny, “we'll tear our way through the whole lot of you.” The Group was silent for a moment, looking at one another. Finally, Tara spoke. “Fine,” she said. “but the first attempt to escape will result in one of you losing a limb. And nothing will stop us from keeping that promise, elemental powers or no.” She pointed toward the inner wall. “The door's over there.” “Stand aside,” said Ginny, and the Group parted. Harry and his friends proceeded to the wall. Examining it, Harry saw that the wall was covered in carvings. On one narrow section, there was a flock of birds, with one of the birds sitting on the shoulder of what seemed like a goddess. Harry noted several human figures carved on the wall, but none as regal as the woman. “I think...” whispered Hermione, “that that might be Ravenclaw.” “So where's the keyhole?” demanded Harry. “Notice how the beak of that bird protrudes from the stone slightly?” asked Ginny, pointing. “I think that might be where it is.” Harry peered closer and saw that the beak did indeed poke out a little. “You mean like inside it?” Ginny shrugged. “Maybe. If so, how do we open it?” “Maybe,” he said, “it's like the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. You have to command it to open.” He turned to Hermione, who immediately nodded. “Open,” she said firmly. They waited, but nothing happened. She frowned, then her eyes widened, and she slapped herself on the forehead.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Of course!” she exclaimed. She looked at the bird again. “I, Hermione Granger,” she said, “heir of Rowena Ravenclaw, command you to open.” The bird's eyes lit up faintly, and the beak moved as it began speaking.“If you are truly the hair of Rowena Ravenclaw, then you will be unafraid to risk your flesh by placing the key within my throat.” Hermione gulped as the bird's jaw opened, revelaing a depp, dark hole. “I hope this works,” she said pulling out the blue gem. She gripped it in her hand... ... and plunged her hand into the jaws.

THE WAY TO DOMINION
They all waited, the Talismanic Group impatiently, Harry and his friends nervously, and Hermione anxiously. She suddenly grimaced. “What's wrong?” asked Harry immediately.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Nothing,” she answered uneasily. “It's just...I think something in this statue's throat is licking the gem, and my hand as well, that's all.” “A taste before the bite,” muttered Ginny, and shrugged when Harry glared at her. Hermione's arm jerked, and she shifted it, before pulling it out, her hand now empty. She looked at her vacant palm sorrowfully. “It took the gem from my hand,” she explained. Harry frowned. Would they all have to give up their stones? He rather wanted to keep Godric's, but if releasing the gems was the only way, then they'd have to do it. The bird's eyes flared once. “Proceed,” it commanded, and the section of stone slid sideways. They peered through the new doorway into the darkness within. Hermione raised her wand, causing Tara to move threateningly. Hermione cast her a scathing glance, before lighting her wand and entering the passage. The others started to follow, but Blass jabbed his wand. Three rods of flame appeared across the doorway. Harry slowly turned with his eyebrows raised. “Do they go in before or after us?” Blass directed this at Tara. “Neither,” she said. “They go alongside. We can't have them turning on us, now can we?” Jake grabbed Harry by the arm. “If I can't have your little girlfriend in my hand, then I'll just have to have you,” he hissed in Harry's ear. Harry was too busy sending his thoughts to Ron to reply. Ron, he thought, stay out here. We need the element of surprise. You will be a great help when we get back out. Right, thought Ron. I'll be waiting. Just try to stay alive, will you? Why wouldn't I? asked Harry, before he was pushed to the door by Grismal. Blass waved his wand, and the fiery rods vanished. After seizing his friends, they marched into the narrow hall. Not far beyond the doorway, there was a long flight of stairs. Harry gazed down them. Hermione was already halfway down, so Jake quickly started after, pulling Harry behind him. After what seemed like a half an hour, they got to the bottom of the steps. And a few paces past the last step, was a door. This one, however, seemed to have rodents rather than birds. And the human looked a bit shorter than Ravenclaw, yet unmistakably female. Her expression was gentle and firm at the same time, as she gazed off into the distance. Her arm was held out slightly, with a medium sized animal resting in the crook of her elbow.. “I'd bet my wand that that's Hufflepuff,” said Ginny from behind Narcissa. “And which of you is the heir of this founder?” asked Frost.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Me,” Ginny answered. “Then get up there!” said Blass from next to her. Tara let go of her shoulder, allowing Ginny to approach the door. “I, Ginny Weasley, heir of Helga Hufflepuff, command you to open,” she spoke. The badger's eyes glowed, and it's jaws shifted, speaking. “Prove it. Offer flesh and stone for inspection, by placing the key within my throat.” Ginny took a deep breath, and shoved her hand, holding the gem, into the badger's gaping maw. Her hand disappeared up to the wrist. Ginny held still, then squirmed. “It's licking me too,” she gasped. She yanked her hand out, now lacking the stone. “You may now proceed,” stated the badger, its eyes flashing, and the door slid upward. They all filed through, finding a long hall. Squinting, Harry couldn't see far enough to make out the door. “Go,” commanded Grismal, and Harry and Hermione strode forward, with shadowing Group members close on their heels. Soon, the far wall came into view, showing a door with a man carved on it. All around the man were snakes of all sizes. Harry's attention was drawn to a snake wrapped around the man's waist. “Salazar Slytherin,” breathed Narcissa. She stepped forward. Frost blocked her, causing her to glare at him. “I am the heir of Slytherin,” she informed him haughtily. “I must do this.” He frowned, but stepped away, and she walked up to the door. “I, Narcissa Malfoy, heir of Salazar Slytherin, command you to open,” she demanded. Listening to her, Harry thought he would have taken her word for it, there was such authority in her tone. The snake eyes became illuminated. “Isss that ssso?” it asked. “Well then, if you are ssso sssure of yourssself, you ssshould have no difficultiesss allowing me to tessst your flesssh, and the ssstone. Ssshould you fail, you will lossse your hand, and the ressst of your body will become ssshriveled with dissseassse. You would do thisss?” “Why does that hostility not surprise me?” sighed Hermione in disgust. Narcissa ignored her. “Of course,” she snapped. “I have nothing to fear. Lord Salazar's blood runs in my veins.” “Then offer forth your flesssh, and the key, if you will,” hissed the serpentine carving. Narcissa obliged, scowling in disgust as she was presumably licked as Ginny and Hermione had been. She pulled her hand away, free now of the gem.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Continue,” hissed the snake, and the door parted in the middle, letting them pass. Harry gazed through, and saw a spiral staircase. A rather dangerous one. The stairs ran along the wall, with a medium-sized small, frightening amount of empty space in the middle. This space continued down to the floor, and then far below, creating a deep, deep pit in the center of the stairwell. Harry and every one else cautiously made their way along the stairs, holding the wall for support. It was slow going, but Harry eventually got to the bottom. Since this next door was only a foot away from the stairs, Harry was forced to stand there with everybody else still standing on the steps. Harry stared at the door. On it was carved a lion, with a man riding on its back. The man gazed sternly at Harry, his frozen eyes forever determined. Harry could easily imagine this man having the courage to face down death itself. He cleared his throat. “I, Harry Potter...” he began, then stopped as something occurred to him. Just maybe... “I, Harry Potter,” he said again, “heir of Godric Gryffindor, command you to open.” The lion's eyes blazed. “Then surrender your flesh and stone, that I might determine for myself the truth of your claim.” Harry hesitated, before turning. His eyes met with every one's, lingering upon the gazes of his friends. Their faces brightened slightly, and he turned back around before allowing himself a small smile. He raised the stone in his hand, reaching toward the lion's yawning mouth. “Now...” he murmured. And then it happened. Narcissa raised her arms, and the Group members stiffened as the air around them solidified. They struggled furiously, but could not move enough to do anything. Narcissa smiled, waving her hand, and the Group's wands were plucked from their hands by gusts of wind, and replaced within their robes, “I'm not so cruel as to render them completely defenseless,” she said. She gently rose from the stairs, her robes flapping in the wind that supported her, and she floated down to land beside Harry. Hermione conjured a series of water-blocks, which she used as stepping-stones to walk down to Harry. He smiled and kissed her softly. “Glad to see you're all right,” he whispered, making her smile faintly. Ginny created a pad of sand, which she stepped onto. It rose and carried her over to Harry and his friends. Half-way, however, her control slipped, and she fell. “GIN-!” cried Harry, fearing the worst as she dropped toward the apparently bottomless pit in the floor.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

But sand abruptly materialized, swirling around her and hugging her body, then carrying her to Harry, where the sand put her down. She straightened and brushed herself off. The sand dissolved into nothing. “Well,” she said shakily, “that was an adventure in itself.” Harry shuddered, trying not to imagine what could have happened. He turned to the door, and inserted his hand between its fangs. A moment later, something wet and rough brushed past his fingers, rubbing the gem. His fingers instinctively clenched, so the tongue couldn't help but continually brush against his skin as it examined the stone by taste. It then ran over his hand briefly, running up to his top knuckles, then back down. Harry grimaced in disgust. Glancing over at Hermione and Ginny, he saw them watching him anxiously. Narcissa merely looked bored, studying the frozen Group. Without warning, the tongue darted between Harry's fingers and pried the gem from his grasp. He strained for it, but it was gone. The lion's jaws relaxed the tiniest bit, and Harry yanked his hand free. “Go on,” said the lion. “You are expected within.” “Expected?” whispered Hermione. “By whom?” wondered Ginny aloud. “No idea,” answered Harry. “But I guess there's one way to find out.” As though on cue, the door slid aside, revealing a dark chamber beyond. Harry stepped toward it, but there was a flash of yellow light behind him, and he spun to see the Talismanic Group break free of Narcissa's spell. “Your part's over, Harry,” called Tara. “Now please move away from the door, or we will kill you.” “To hell with that!” snarled Jake, advancing. “I'm killing them now. We've no more need for them, and they are nothing but a nuisance!” “Through the door!” shouted Harry. His friends didn't need to be told twice. They dived into the chamber, and Harry leaped after them. The Group shouted at them, but he payed no attention. “Close!” he yelled. The door shut shut just in time, as a flash of blinding green light illuminated the stairwell. “That,” said Ginny, “was far too close.” “Well, at least we made it,” responded Harry. “And no foul company along with, either,” added Hermione. “Where do you suppose we are, anyway?” asked Ginny.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“I don't know,” replied Harry honestly. “D'you think that the treasure is hidden somewhere in here?” Ginny inquired, looking around. “Well, let's have some light,” suggested Harry. He waved his hand, and several small fireballs flew from his hand and hovered in various spots about the chamber. “From what I can tell,” commented Harry, “there's nothing but a big statue.” “A statue of a dragon,” murmured Hermione, kneeling beside it. “Doesn't seem very powerful to me,” remarked Ginny, peering at it. Harry stared at the walls. “Do you think there could be secret doors here, Hermione?” There was no answer. “Hermione?” He turned to her. She was staring at the massive stone figure on the floor. “Harry,” she said, “I'm not so sure that's really a statue.” “What?” asked Harry, thoroughly confused. “I think...I think it might be something else,” Hermione said. Harry gazed at her. “Hermione, you aren't helping me much.” She aimed her wand at the statue. A ball of dark gray energy appeared on the end of the wand. Then, it turned light purple. “Yes,” she said, “I was right. It isn't a statue after all. It's some sort of creature. And it's alive. Alive...and sleeping.”

THE SECRET GUARDIAN
“Sleeping?” asked Harry. “How do you know it isn't dead?” “Because,” explained Hermione, “purple means it is in an extremely inactive state, but still alive. Blue would mean peace and awareness, red would be turmoil, orange is anger and rage, green would be vary much alive and healthy, white would mean-” “Okay, okay, so the colors of that spell told you,” said Harry, interrupting her. “And if it's asleep, that

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

means it can't bother us.” “Don't know that it could bother us in any case,” spoke Ginny. “Seeing as how it's encased in solid rock.” “Well, as long as it is asleep...” muttered Narcissa, looking the statue over with an appraising eye. “Come help me see if there are any hidden doors,” Harry instructed Hermione. She walked with him to a wall, and they began running their hands over it. “You won't find any doors that way,” said a female voice suddenly. Harry and Hermione spun around, looking all around the room. “Narcissa,” asked Hermione, “did you say that?” Narcissa was gazing at the walls with wide eyes. “No,” she snapped; her voice made it clear she was frightened. “And it wasn't me, either,” Ginny said quickly as Harry's gaze landed on her. “No,” said the voice. “I am not one of you five.” “Then who are you?” demanded Harry. “Show yourself!” “But I already am showing myself,” the voice stated. “It would be rather difficult to make myself more out in the open. I suppose my makeshift shell doesn't help, but I can't fix that alone.” Shell? Harry thought to himself. Hermione seemed to realize something, however. She slowly turned and stared. “It isn't you talking, is it?” she asked in a quivering voice. Harry followed her gaze and felt a supreme shock. She was talking to the stone dragon. “Very good,” the dragon said, sounding pleased. “By the way, my name is Twilight. As in, the Twilight Dragon.” Hermione gasped. “You've lived all these years?” Twilight chuckled. “I'm much more than the average dragon, you know. The simple fact that I can speak should tell you that.” “But then, the treasure must be somewhere nearby!” exclaimed Narcissa. “It would be wherever you are!”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Is that so?” asked the dragon. Harry thought it was simply trying to confuse Narcissa, but he wasn't sure. “And in any case,” it continued, “the treasure, as you so ignorantly put it, can wait.” Narcissa opened her mouth, then closed it, looking pained. “Tell me,” said Twilight, “what you think the so-called 'treasure' is?” “Well,” answered Hermione hesitantly, “we came up with a story about a throne...” “A throne?” Twilight said. “No, I'm afraid it isn't a throne.” “Well, Mark wouldn't tell us...” Harry defended Hermione and himself. “Mark?” the dragon asked sharply. “You mean that injured man over there?” They all turned to see O'Brea slumped by the wall, unconscious. Harry rushed over and saw that Mark was bleeding from the ribs. “A couple broken ribs, I think,” Hermione said, crouching next to Mark. “Spell damage. Might have punctured his lung slightly.” She waved her wand, and a bunch of bandages appeared around O'Brea's torso. His eyelids flickered. “Did I pass out?” he mumbled, squinting blearily at Hermione. “I'm terribly sorry. Of all times to leave you to fend for yourself...” “We handled it just fine,” Hermione assured him. “And besides, we found someone we definitely weren't expecting to see. Someone who might be able to help us find the treasure.” “Oh really?” he asked. “And who would that be?” “Oh, just Twilight,” hermione said, and Twilight chuckled at her forced casual tone. “Otherwise known as the Twilight Dragon.” “I'd actually prefer Eve, though,” Twilight said. “A much more elegant, beautiful name.” O'Brea's eyes flew wide open. “It can't be!” he muttered. He leaned forward for a better look. “You certainly don't look like the stories my father told me.” “Your father?” asked Hermione sharply. “How would he know?” “His father's ancestor was there when the spell was forged,” explained Twilight. “He was part of the binding. As long as his blood lives, the spell wouldn't fade. Unfortunately, there were other factors I didn't count on.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Twilight paused, then asked curiously, “You didn't tell them what the prize was?” “I didn't know what it was,” Mark said. “But you suspected,” Harry reminded him accusingly. “It is quite all right that he didn't tell you,” Twilight said calmly. “If you had known, you might have let something slip, and that band of ruffians outside the door would have learned. That might have turned events for the worse. Do you understand how things might have been ruined had such knowledge been spread farther than necessary, sooner than necessary?” “I guess,” Harry muttered grudgingly. “But does that mean you are going to tell us what it is now?” “Maybe,” Twilight responded. “But first, you have to guess where it is.” “Great,” Harry moaned. “More questions we have to answer. It would be so much simpler if you could just give us the answer!” “Very little in life is freely given,” Twilight said gently. “And the reason I ask you to answer, is because you already know the answer. You just have to, shall we say, 'dig it up'.” Harry shook his head. “I doubt it,” he replied. Twilight sighed. “I think the heir of Ravenclaw can help.” Hermione, Harry saw with surprise, was actually smiling. “Harry,” she said, “think about Fluffy. Remember the room on the third floor corridor.” Harry recalled Hagrid's giant, vicious, three-headed dog. He also remembered the series of challenges they had had to go through to get to the sorcerer's stone. But Hermione was talking about the room Fluffy had been in... “The door to the next room was beneath it...” he said slowly. “It was standing on the door.” He looked at Twilight, then the ground under it. There was definitely room for a trapdoor there. “I think,” he said, “that the prize, whatever it may be, is beneath you.” “Excellent,” Twilight spoke, and Harry could hear the smile in its voice. “I knew you could do it. And I don't mind taking you to the prize, since I am convinced you are the heirs of the four founders. But there is one problem, one that will allow you one final test to prove that you are the heirs, since I'm technically supposed to test you. I'm am frozen within this stone. You must free me for me to allow you to pass.” “And how do we do that?” asked Harry.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Use all of your powers on me simultaneously,” answered Twilight. “The combined elements should put sufficient strain on the rock to allow me to break through.” “But we need our gems to generate that much power,” objected Hermione. “You will find your gems by the door you came in,” Twilight informed them. They promptly walked to the door. Sure enough, there was a hole in the wall. On the bottom of the hole was four niches, in which the four stones rested. They grabbed the stones and returned to the dragon. “Attack the rock with all four elements at once,” instructed Twilight as they arranged themselves. “And don't hold back.” They braced themselves, then each raised a stone in one hand and aimed with the other. “Just call on them,” the dragon advised. “Fire, I call on you!” Harry shouted, and a stream of fire poured from his hand. “Water, I call on you!” Hermione shrieked, and from her hand issued a large river of water. “Earth, I call on you!” Ginny cried, causing a torrent of sand to gush from her hand. “Air, I call on you!” Narcissa yelled, and a strong jet of air rushed out of her hand. The four elements struck the rock, and intermingled with each other, forming a strnage white energy. The energy began to pulsate, growing more and more intense. “What is that?” asked Harry. “Brace yourselves-” said the dragon. Harry barely had time to flinch when the energy exploded. All four were hurled back by the blast; bits of rock showered everywhere. Harry sat up. “Did – did it work?” he asked. “Yes,” came Twilight's voice from among the drifting dust. “I am now free.” There was a small coughing sound, then a sneeze. “Perhaps,” mused the dragon, “I should clear away this dust...” There was a loud flapping sound, and Harry was buffeted by several gusts of wind. The dust faded away. “Ah, that's much better.” A large dragon approached Harry, looming over him. Looking up, Harry marveled at the dragon's beautiful purple-blue hide. Her golden eyes peered down at him in curiosity. “It has been a while since I've seen a human,” she murmured, lowering her head.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“You saw Mark,” Harry pointed out. “You're the one who told us he was hurt.” “With my true eyes, I meant, not my inner eye,” she amended. “Harry?” asked Hermione, stumbling toward him and Twilight. “Harry? Are you okay?” “Yeah, Mione, I'm fine,” Harry responded. Hermione looked him over, then threw her arms around him. “I love you,” she whispered. “I love you too,” he said back. “So the dragon is free, then,” observed Narcissa from nearby. “Shall we fetch the prize now?” “Quite eager to obtain power, are we?” asked Twilight. Narcissa merely raised an eyebrow. Twilight sighed. “I did agree to take you, didn't I? Well, I suppose we'd better proceed.” She crawled over to the space where she had been lying. It was noticeably less rubble-strewn than the surrounding area. She cleared away the chunks of stone, then dug a claw into the floor. With a yank, she pulled up a slab. “Er...isn't that a bit small for you?” asked Ginny, examining the hole left in the ground. “I can change size easily,” Twilight answered. “Now down you go.” “Ginny,” said Harry, “we could use some steps.” “Right.” Ginny waved her hand, and a ladder was molded into the side of the hole. Harry and the others climbed down into a dungeon of sorts. He immediately noticed a faint glow from one side of the dungeon. He walked over, and was surprised at the source. “Don't tell me this is the treasure?” he asked doubtfully. “It is indeed,” replied Twilight, dropping through the trapdoor as a dragon the size of a golden retriever. “But,” protested Hermione, “it's...it's an... “Precisely,” said the dragon. “Children, behold...the egg.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

LEGEND OF THE EGG
“An egg,” Harry repeated. “How's an egg going to help us? What's it supposed to do?” asked Ginny. “Not just any egg,” corrected the dragon. “The egg.” “You aren't making any sense,” said Harry. Twilight looked at Hermione. “You did not find any other mentions of an artifact named 'Dominion'?” Hermione's mouth twisted. “Well,” she said uncertaninly, “there was one...but I only found a single mention of it, and there's no evidence to support the reference!” “Tell us,” commanded the dragon. “Or rather, tell them since I already know the story.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Er,” Hermione began, “Dominion is said to be an unhatched egg...the egg of a very powerful, Dark dragon.” “Dominitus,” clarified Twilight. “The lost egg of Dominitus.” “What?” exclaimed Ginny. “We came all this way to rescue the egg of a Dark dragon? Who's to say it won't be dark as well?” “Actually,” Twilight said. “Dominion isn't the spawn of Dominitus. Not purely. In fact, he-” “He?” interrupted Ginny. Twilight looked at her, and she cringed. “Right,” Ginny muttered. “Continue.” “He,” Twilight went on, “is the product of an illegitimate relationship with Amora, the mate of the king of dragons.” “Adultery?” murmured Narcissa. “I'd have thought at least dragons of your level of intelligence would have some manner of respect.” “Since when do Dark creatures have respect?” retorted Harry, looking at Narcissa meaningfully. She raised her eyebrows, silently conceding the point. “Well,” the dragon continued, “Amora found Aequitas, the king of dragons. She was instantly smitten with him, and couldn't resist her heart. She left the egg with Dominitus when she paired up with Aequitas. Stung by her rejection, Dominitus decided to keep the egg, so that when it hatched, he would train it to be the most fearsome creature the world had ever seen. And when it was ready, he would use the dragon to destroy Aequitas, and take back Amora. “Unfortunately, waiting was Dominitus's mistake. What he had'nt counted on, was Amora's attachment to the egg. She never forgot about it, and finally, she admitted to Aequitas what had happened. He thought about it, and came up with a solution.” Twilight smiled, with a surprisingly pleasant effect. “as it turned out, since Amora was now his mate, the egg was now his.” Twilight snorted. “That came as quite a surprise to Amora, and that surprise grew when Aequitas declared a rescue mission. What she didn't realize until later was that Aequitas wasn't the sort to let any spawn that wasn't evil, suffer at the hands of Dominitus. So, he stormed the Dark dragons lair, and needless to say, he succeeded. Making Amora quite happy, and Dominitus quite angry.” “Served him right, that egg was no egg of his,” muttered Ginny. “Yes, well, Aequitas decided they would need help protecting the egg,” Twilight said. “So he and Amora hid the egg, then approached me. They asked for my help, and I agreed. They then made me swear an oath to see that it reached the appropriate hands, as they were convinced that they wouldn't live to see it happen. No sooner had I sworn, than we were ambushed. Amora and Aequitas sacrificed themselves to let me live. I escaped.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Harry and his friends listened avidly, knowing that this tale was very important. Hermione's eyes darted from dragon to egg, while Ginny's eyes never left the egg. Narciss was looking at the gg as well, but Harry could tell she wasn't really seeing it. “I knew that I was next,” Twilight said. “So I did the best thing I could think of. I went out in search of wizards strong enough to create an enchantment, one that would reduce dragons to the only-mildly clever beasts they needed to be. I happened across four wandering men.” “The fathers of the founders,” said Hermione. Twilight nodded. “Just so. But it didn't really work out at first, as Dominitus learned that I knew where the egg was. He found me, knew I was out to weaken him, and fought me. We battled, and the four men were badly wounded. They died, but not before their children arrived.” Twilight paused, then continued. “And so, the children finished the spell with me. I enchanted the gems in their talismans, and returned to the eggs hiding place. In my weakened state, I failed to realize that Dominitus had hung around, and was following me. We reached the building where the egg lay, and I settled down and waited. He flew off and brought a large band of dragons to face me down. Again, we battled, most of his followers falling as a result. Eventually, I collapsed, and he searched me, and the surrounding area, not knowing that during the battle, a hole had broken in the floor. The egg had fallen through to the cavity below. A rock then fell onto the hole, and he didn't think to shift that rock. So, the egg remained hidden. I rose back up, ready to kill. Believing the egg to be somewhere else, and he himself being too weak to beat me, he fled, and I destroyed the bodies left behind. “Once I was finished, I refined the cavity into which the egg had fallen, then crafted a door, as I had planned to before. I lay myself on top of the door, and formed a layer of stone over my flesh as a disguise. And there I waited, for the four heirs that would one day come along to retrieve the egg.” “And that would be us,” stated Hermione. Twilight nodded. “And once you have the egg, it will be your duty to defeat Dominitus, the Dragon of Dusk, for the last time. And this time, he must die.” “What happened last time?” asked Harry. “He fled,” said Twilight simply. “And are we supposed to bring him down together?” asked Narcissa. “Of course,” answered Ginny. “We've done everthing else together. “Survival to the end isn't guaranteed,” cautioned the dragon. “You may not make it to the last battle.” “But then again, I might,” responded Ginny.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“True,” said Twilight. There was silence. “And now...” said Harry. “The egg...?” prompted Narcissa. Twilight nodded. “It is time for the egg.”

HERITAGE ARISEN
“Let's grab our egg,” said Ginny, and she started toward it. Twilight leaped in her way. “No!” the dragon exclaimed. Ginny froze, staring at her. “First,” the dragon explained, “you must connect with the egg.” “Why?” asked Narcissa. “It is only an egg. Unless,” she added, her eyes narrowing, “there is another, outside magic protecting it?” “No,” answered Twilight. “But touching it will trigger your full powers. Your entire heritage will soon be in your grasp.” “Good enough for me,” responded Harry. He stepped up to the egg. “What do I do?” he asked. “Wait for your friends to gather around it,” said the dragon, as Hermione and the other took their places around the egg. “Now,” commanded the dragon, “place your hands on the egg. One hand each.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Harry and his friends looked at each other, then slowly laid their hands on the pink object. Harry felt a faint tingling, but other than that, nothing happened. “Well?” asked Ginny. “What next?” Suddenly, the egg began to glow. A whitish light surrounded it, outlining their hands. Squinting, Harry saw the light throbbing faintly. The scar on his hand began to shine with a red glow, causing Harry to gasp. Glancing at Hermione's, he saw that her scar was lit up with blue light. Narcissa, standing next to him, gaped at her own scar, which was flaring green. A sharp pressure against Harry's hand drew his eyes to it, where he beheld an astonishing vision. Three more scars, identical to those of Hermione's, Ron's and Narcissa's. Together, the scars formed a pentagon shape. The shape began to glow white. “What...” he said in surprise, “what's happening?” “My goodness...” whispered Twilight, staring at his hand. “That can only mean one thing...” “What?” asked Harry, confused. Twilight looked him in the eye. “You are the heir of not only Godric Gryffindor,” she stated, “but the other founders as well!” “How do you know?” demanded Harry. This possibility had occurred to him before, but he had refused to believe it. And now, the dragon was telling him that his suspicions had been correct... “Those scars would only appear on your hand for one reason,” Twilight explained. “You have the blood of all four founders in your blood.” “But how is that possible?” wondered Harry. Twilight sighed. “Various descendents of the founders have interbred. And since all the pureblood families are inter-related,” she peered curiously at Harry. “Tell me, were either of your parents pure blooded?” “My father was,” answered Harry. “There you go then,” she said. “Your father's blood had some of the founders. I believe your mother was a descendent of Ravenclaw.” “My mother was muggle-born,” protested Harry. “She was the grand-daughter of a squib,” said Twilight. “And last of all, your connection to the late Dark Lord left a trace of Salazar's essence within you.” Harry sighed heavily. “So i'm descended from all four?” he asked.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Twilight nodded. “Indeed you are. There is no other explanation for the scars on your hand.” “And that means I have their powers?” asked Harry. “You have to train up first, but yes, you have the potential,” confirmed the dragon. She gazed at the egg, which had dimmed somewhat. “I do believe the connecting process is finished.” Just then, the entire place trembled. There came a very faint roaring from overhead. “I think that your friends may be in a spot of trouble at the moment,” observed Twilight, eyeing the ceiling. “You should grab the egg now, so that we may deal with the dragons above.” They drew back from the object. Hermione seized it. “I have a back pack to carry it in, so I'll take it,” she said. They nodded in agreement, watching as she gently pried it from the pillar, and slipped it into her pack. She was just fastening the straps when the stone shook again. Little pebbles and sand fell. “We'd better go fast,” Harry told them. Twilight nodded, and soared up through the trap door. Harry ascended on flames, Hermione on a jet of water, Narcissa riding a geyser of air, and Ginny atop a pillar of sand. They ran to the door. Harry turned back to Twilight. “Go!” she commanded. “I'll be there when I am needed!” Harry hesitated, then nodded, whirling to face the door. “Open!” barked Harry. The door slid open. They quickly climbed the stairs, to discover the door open. “Makes things easier,” commented Ginny as they rushed through. The other doors were open as well, allowing them to emerge in the upper temple in short time. Harry poked his head through, and saw all sorts of spells whizzing back and forth. He pulled his head back in. Hermione looked over his shoulder. “That looks too familiar,” she said. Ginny nodded. “Reminds me of the Battle of Hogwarts.” “Except this is the Battle of the Temple, it seems,” said O'Brea, who had followed behind them. Harry watched the havoc raging outside. “Okay,” he said. “Please, be careful, don't get hurt, but take as many of those blokes down as you can. Got it?” His friends nodded grimly. “And now,” he said, raising his wand, “we have a battle to win!”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

THE BATTLE OF THE TEMPLE
Harry stepped through the doorway, the others close behind him. “Protect Mark!” he called over his shoulder. A spell hit the wall, causing the area to shake. O'Brea fell over, clutching his side. “They're back!” yelled someone. “Comatosify!” A jet of dark purple light flew between the children and struck O'Brea in the side. He toppled over, unconscious. A second later, a couple of pops sounded, and wizards appeared on either side of them. Harry cast a quick protective charm over O'Brea, then placed his invisibility cloak on him. Hermione and the others Apparated away, leaving Harry standing there. He started toward Blass, who was dueling another witch, when he heard a pop from behind him. Whirling, he found himself face to face with Jake. “Die!” Grismal roared, and grabbed for Harry. Harry, however, knocked the reaching hand aside and seized Grismal's throat. Concentrating, he caused tendrils of flame to sprout from his hand and wrap around Jake's bod, making Jake's eyes widen in fear. A tendril wound itself around Grismal's wand hand, causing it to spasm open, releasing his wand. Harry smiled. “Narcissa!” he shouted. “Hermione! Use the elements to beat them!” Hermione suddenly shot a blast of water from her hands, knocking two Group members backwards. Ginny surrounded herself with a sand storm, while Narcissa battered her opponents with powerful gusts

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

of wind. Jake suddenly wrenched Harry's fingers opened, then punched him in the stomach. Harry doubled over, gasping, before lunging into Grismal, knocking him down. Harry landed on him, and began to choke him. Jake fought hard, lifting Harry off the ground twice, but blacked out, and Harry looked up. Hermione was dealing fairly well, blocking spells with globes of water, and Narcissa had a whirlwind going around her, making pieces of stone intercept the curses coming at her. And Ginny... Ginny was crouching, making a stubby wall of earth rise in front of her, but the wizards dueling her kept blasting chunks of it away. Even as Harry looked, one spell tore half of the wall away. Without thinking, harry picked Jake up, and with one heave, he hurled Grismal at the wizards attacking Ginny. One ducked, and Jake flew over him to knock over the other wizard. The first aimed his wand and cried, “Erupto!” The ground on which Ginny crouched exploded upward, launching her airborne. Both wizards renewed their assault, sending several spells toward her. She screamed, and Harry simply pointed with his finger. The first spells were forced away by a wind, and as the rest approached her, he focused. The rock chunks surrounding her came together to form a hollow sphere of stone, with her tucked inside. He turned to stone to marble, and when the other spells struck, the sphere shattered; however, it still managed to deflect the curses. Ginny dropped, and Harry created a ball of water beneath her, and she bounced off of it, landing on her feet. She shot Harry a smile, before turning her attention to the wizards who had attacked her. “That was a bad move,” she growled menacingly, and they gulped. She raised her hands, and their hands and feet were encased in rock. “Nice one, Gin,” commented Harry. Hermione had trapped her opponents in pillars of water, while Narcissa had cocooned some wizards in solidified air. They struggled to break free, but it was no use. Harry and his friends had won. Or so it seemed. “STOP!” came a bellow, and everyone stopped. A barrage of green jets flew all around Harry, and he instinctively cringed. A moment later, something rope-like wrapped around Harry's neck, and his powers were forced down. He tried to pry the rope free, but to no avail. Wondering who had done this, Harry looked around and saw three cloaked figures walking toward them. “Like my Cords of Conditioning?” the middle figure said. “It inhibits magical abilities.” Harry glanced around and saw that Hermione, Narcissa and Ginny were similarly trapped with Cords. Ron was nowhere in sight. Harry realized that all the Group members were lying dead on the floor. Harry looked back at the figures. “Is that typical behavior for you?” he asked. “Killing your fellows?”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“A necessary sacrifice,” the first figure spoke smoothly. “And what I see here is quite disgusting, really...We never should have left them the chore of collecting the treasure. What was the treasure, by the way?” “That is none of your concern,” Harry responded evenly. “No matter,” the figure said casually. “Once you and your friends are dead, we'll see for ourselves this powerful object...” The figures' heads turned from Harry to his friends and back again. “You know...it is so very good to have you in our grasp at last, with no one to interfere,” said the second figure. “Indeed, it will give us great pleasure to first torture, then end you,” said the third cloaked person. “It is so interesting to toy with you.” Harry's eyes narrowed. “Are you the ones who kept setting me up?” he asked. “Correct,” the middle one growled. “And what fun it was, too,” cackled the second. “You killed Krum,” Harry snarled. “That was me,” said the middle. “Who do you think Imperioused him? And then my brother and I imitated you and your friend...as for the museum, that was was my other brother impersonating your friend.” “Not to mention,” said the third, “I cast a few Imperious curses and other spells to get you through the tryouts. You didn't think those disasters were random, did you?” “All a part of the master plan,” spoke the second figure. “Who are you?” demanded Harry, incensed. “The very ones you should fear, Harry Potter,” the middle figure said slowly. “For we are the sons of the greatest Dark wizard ever.”

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

THE DESCENDANTS OF DARKNESS
“No!” murmured Harry. “It can't be! You can't be Voldemort's-” “Fool!” snapped the figure. “We aren't the spawn of that foul scum! We are the sons of the grand Dark Wizard...Gellert Grindelwald!” “What?” said Harry, astonished. The figure pulled down his hood, revealing curly blond hair and blue eyes. “Yes, indeed,” sneered the wizard. “He,” the wizard gestured toward the wizard who had Hermione, “is Grin. My other brother,” the wizard pointed at the figure holding Ginny, “is Del. And I, am Wald.” Wald smiled. “Grin. Del. Wald. Our father named us in such a fashion, so that as long as we stood together, we'd always remember our heritage.” Ginny snorted, causing Del to yank on her hair. “Shut up!” he hissed in her ear. Wald glanced over. “Imbecile,” he growled. “Our father was a magnificent man. Clever and powerful. A little over-ambitious, maybe, but it does not matter.” “It doesn't matter?” echoed Harry. “Tell that to the families of the people he murdered!” “You're one to talk, murderer!” snarled Grin. “Silence, both of you!” said Wald, eyes sparking. “Our father was the greatest, Potter. And you killed him.” “Me?” asked Harry. “I didn't kill Grindelwald! Voldemort did!” “Because he sought a way to defeat you!” declared Wald. “If you had just given up and died years ago,

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

Grindelwald wouldn't have died!” “Don't blame me for Riddle's actions!” Harry said. “Are you denying that if you had fallen before, our father wouldn't be alive at this moment?” Not knowing the answer, Harry said, “Your father died for a just cause.” “A just cause?” Wald laughed. “Is that what you call yourself? More like a bloody waste of good will! So many people gave their lives for you, and you aren't even worth it!” Ginny shifted, and Wald screamed, “Stay still, you sodding wench! Or my brother will curse your blasted head off!” “You sound just like Voldemort,” Harry said darkly. Wald glared at him. “I do not.” “Yes you do,” harry stated. “And no wonder, you are so much like him...” “There are many differences between me and that clumsy, bumbling fool,” hissed Wald. “And one difference is, I shall succeed where he failed. I shall kill you, as my father was killed!” Harry knew this was it. If he didn't act soon, he would die. And he didn't come this far to be killed by a raging madman. “I'm not sure about that,” Harry said doubtfully. “You see, there is one problem...” “And that would be?” inquired Wald. “I wield the Founder's Legacy.” And with that, Harry sent a surge of Gryffindor's power through his body. With a snap, the cord around his neck broke as fiery energy pounded from his flesh. He raised his hands, and the cords on the necks of his friends also broke apart in flames. He jumped, somersaulting toward the wall. He hit the wall feet first, then jumped off, straight into Wald. “Nooooo!” yelled Wald as Harry crashed into him. They soared into a pillar, and Wald immediately raised his wand, aiming it at Harry. Harry grabbed the arm, and used it to swing the wizard around, slamming him into the pillar again and breaking his arm. Wald dropped his wand with a gasp. Harry heard Ginny screaming, and turning, he saw her on the ground, Del kneeling before her, spreading her legs. Del began to remove strips of her robe with his wand, and Harry realized what the wizard was about to do. “NOOO!” he yelled, and he grabbed Wald, throwing him on the ground. Wald grunted in pain. Harry spun, and spreading his arms, he transformed with a burst of fire. He teleported as a phoenix, reappearing behind Del, and snagged Del's robe with his claws. He hauled backward...

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

...and was hit by a Reductor Curse. He went sprawling, smashing into a wall. He slumped, stunned, as Del stood and aimed his wand at Ginny. “Say good bye to your little friend, Potter!” he cackled. Ginny raised her hand and threw Ravenclaw's gem to the ceiling. “Ron, have the gem!” she cried. “And its powers too!” Harry realized what she was saying and reverted to human form. “GINNY! NOOO!” he bellowed. Even as he cried out, a beam of jade light erupted from Del's wand and struck Ginny in the chest. Infuriated, Harry leaped forward with all the speed and force of a bullet. Ron, however, was closer, and he reached Del first. Landing beside him, he shot out a rope of web, lassoing Del's neck. He swung in a circle, sending Del flying. “Abigo Araneafacultas!” cried a voice, and a jet of blue-green light flew at Ron, hitting him in the shoulder. “Argh!” Ron shouted, dropping to his knees. A Stunner arced toward him, and he jumped to the ceiling, disappearing into the shadows. “What was that spell?” wondered Harry. “It's a spell to eliminate his spider powers!” called Hermione. “It takes a while to work, and it can be fought off.” “Great,” muttered Harry, turning to see where Del had gone. “Stop, Potter,” said a voice from behind him. Harry whirled and spotted Grin. Grin aimed his wand at Harry. “It's time for you to die, Potter,” he said. Harry tensed to fight, but just then, the ground began to rumble. “Ginny?” asked Harry, before remembering she was dead. Then what was causing the earth to shake? Grin stared down, when suddenly, the rock beneath him exploded upward. Grin hurtled into the air, accompanied by chunks of stone. An oblong shape emerged beneath him,surging toward him, then split down the middle. “Aaaaaaahhh!” shrieked Del, before being enclosed within Twilight's jaws. Twilight lowered her head, and flames shot from her nostrils. Harry heard a single faint scream from inside her sealed maw; then, she swallowed.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“And now that fool is taken care of,” she said. Abruptly, a couple jets of green light zoomed at her. She ducked, allowing the curses to pass over her, then crashed through the stone floor, bulldozing her way toward Del, who had cast the spells. Del dived aside, then ran past her. He turned and started to fire a spell, when a line of webbing caught the back of his robes, whipping him backwards. Del landed in a web. “Gah!” gasped Del. “Who did this?” “Me,” replied Ron, lowering from the ceiling on a strand of sticky material. “And I believe I owe you for something.” With that, he punched Del in the face, hard. “That's for trying to rape Ginny, you sick bastard!” He punched Del in the gut. “And that is for cursing her!” “You cared a lot for her, I'm guessing?” sneered Del. Ron gazed at him coldly. “She was my sister, you bloody madman. You murdered my sister!” Del laughed. “Then you'll be happy to join her, won't you?” he raised his wand, but Ron whipped his wand through the air at him. There was a bang, and a burst of red light. Del was hit by a spell of such strength that the web broke, and he shot backward into a pillar. There was a strange snapping sound as he landed, his neck twisting. Ron breathed heavily. “Guess I broke his damn neck,” he growled. “Good thing for him. I would have given him bloody hell otherwise.” “There is one left...” said Twilight, and Harry turned to see Wald backing away. “Leaving so soon, Wald?” asked Harry. “It isn't over yet, Potter,” he snarled. “Your day will come.” “No,” responded Harry. “It is over.” And he raised his arms. A strip of stone swung up behind Wald as though on a hinge, smacking him on the back. Wald was thrown forward, as another strip swung up on the side, launching him against a pillar. He lurched forward, but was engulfed in water, which pinned him against the stone column. A gust of wind wrenched the wand from Wald's hand, casting it away. “I told you, Wald,” said Harry. “The Founder's Legacy is the problem you didn't count on.” “Ha!” snapped Wald, struggling. “I may die, but the New Lord is on the rise! And even your so-called Legacy will find him a challenge!” “Who is the New Lord?” demanded Harry.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

“Is it Gaspen Ruthright?” asked Hermione. Wald's eyes flew to her. “What do you know of him?” “Some,” answered Harry. “And you are going to tell us more.” “Not a chance!” Wald laughed. “You just wait! The New Lord will come to power, then you will die, just as your little Ginny did!” Ron made a movement, and Harry yelled, “Ron, no!” before covering Wald in water to protect him. Ron's curse struck the Dark wizard in the chest, the force of it shaking the pillar. The stone trembled, and with a crunch, a chunk was dislodged from above. The rock plunged, landing atop the watery mass that contained Wald. It bulldozed through, bursting the water and crushing the wizard beneath it. “Ron,” said Harry, “that's what Wald wanted. Now he doesn't have to face justice.” “Death is justice enough,” Ron spat. “And there is always hell for people like him.” “True,” sighed Harry. He turned to Twilight. “Twilight-” he began, but she interrupted him. “Please,” she said. “Call me Eve. It is a much more elegant name.” “Okay, Eve,” said Harry. “What do we do next?” “There is a task I must do,” she said.

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

RESOLUTION
She headed out side, and they followed. There was still the wall of light that was blocking the dragons. The dragons sat at the foot of the wall, looking thoroughly peeved. Eve canceled the spell with a glance, and the dragons immediately coiled to spring at Harry and his friends. “No!” commanded Eve. “You will not attack them. They only did what had to be done.” The two dragons lowered, gazing up at her. Eve spoke. “Have you done your duties all these years, as you were ordained?” To Harry's shock, they answered. “We have, mistress.” “Do you wish to fulfill the purpose for which you were enchanted?” “Always, mistress,” they responded in unison. “The Fallenwings are rising again. They must be stopped. You understand this?” “Yes, mistress,” they replied. “Then you must also understand what it is you must do.” “Yes, mistress.” “Search out the remaining Rightwings, and find where they have hidden. We will need all we can find.” “Of course, mistress.” “As many as you can find, loyal dragons. We are at war now.” “Very well, mistress.” And with that, they flew off. “Do they understand all that happened here?” asked Narcissa. “Yes. I gave them a psychic message explaining everything. They know that you are the four destined

Harry Potter and the Twilight Dragon

to wield the egg in saving the world.” “Saving the world?” Harry asked. “Wield the egg?” repeated Hermione. Eve smiled. “Do you know who the Fallenwings are?” “Those are the dragons that were so evil before,” said Hermione. “Precisely,” agreed Eve. “And those that were on our side, were called the Rightwings, the exact opposite of leftwings. And just as we were powerful, so were the Fallenwings.” She looked at Harry. “Yes. You are destined to save the world again. Or at least try. And besides your formidable powers, that egg is your only hope.” “And what am I supposed to do with it?” asked Harry. “The next step of your journey is taking the egg to the Temple of Dawn in Greece. There, the egg will be dealt with accordingly.” “Are you coming too?” inquired Hermione. “Of course,” replied Eve, smiling. “I could hardly leave you lot to go off adventuring without me, could I?” “I'm glad you'll be coming with, Eve,” said Harry. “We'll probably need you.” “No doubt,” answered Eve. “Do we have time for rest?” asked Ron. “For tonight, you may take a break,” she said. “But beware. This battle may have been won, but the war is far from over.”

To Be Continued In... Harry Potter and The Dragon of Dawn

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