The Sugar Quill
Author: birgit (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Domus Draconis  Chapter: Chapter 1: Lions and Elephants
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: For this story, I borrowed the wizarding world, as well as Privet Drive and the zoo in Little Whinging, from JK Rowling. Several characters were also created by her, but I am completely responsible for their actions in this story. The plot is mine, and once book 6 comes out, it’s going to be complete nonsense, but I will have had fun anyway.

Author’s Note: This is the sequel to Artists and Scientists and A New Home. I recommend you read those stories first, if you have not yet done so. Furthermore, I would like to thank my beta readers Delleve Miststone, Alistria and Arianrhod for their helpful comments and encouraging words.

Domus Draconis

by Birgit


Chapter 1 – Lions and Elephants


The corridor was dark and empty. It was as void of time as the pressing mass of water at the bottom of the sea, as lifeless as a graveyard by night, as silent as an underground cave. Or was it merely the calm before the storm?

Something creaked. As a door opened and the light from behind it illuminated the corridor, the void was shattered. A dark silhouette stood on the doorframe for one fleeting moment. Then suddenly everything turned dark again, and the silence was almost, but not entirely, restored. A shape crept across the corridor, slowly nearing its goal with every step it took. Another door opened noiselessly, allowing the dark shape to enter the area beyond.

Deep, regular breathing filled the room, mixing with the fast, excited breathing of the dark shape, which now had moved further in the chamber, nearing the opposite wall. The shape bent and picked something up from the floor. It moved the object high above its head and brought it down with all the strength it could muster.

“OUCH!”

“Wake up, Harry! We’re going to the zoo!”

“What? Blood– OW! Mark, get off!”

The light turned on and showed a widely grinning boy, satnding next to a bed and repeatedly hitting his occupant with a pillow.

“No! Stop, Mark! Stop! I’m getting up already. Where are my glasses?”

Mark threw the pillow on the floor and handed a pair of glasses to Harry, who quickly slid them onto his nose and looked up at Mark. Bright green eyes stared into sleepy, but equally green eyes.

“Good morning!” Mark said happily.

Harry glared at him. “How am I supposed to get any sleep in this house?” He couldn’t maintain the glare, though, and his eyes twinkled as the corner of his mouth twitched, finally turning into a true smile. “Zoo, did you say? I’m up!”

It was hard to determine which one of the two boys was more excited when they bounced down the stairs. But as all things, talking stopped when they sat down for breakfast.

“It’s amazing how much food is consumed between the two of you,” said Mark’s mother, who was trying to solve the crossword in the newspaper. She smiled warmly at both boys before scribbling down another word.

“You should see my friend Ron,” Harry said. “He eats three times as much as me.”

“Really?” Mark’s mother asked in a surprised voice. She shook her head in disbelief. “His parents must be poor.”

Harry swallowed another bite. “Well, yes, they are, but not only because of Ron. He has five brothers, and they all eat that much.”

“I didn’t know that Ron had more siblings,” Mark’s mother said, looking up from the newspaper. “You only told us about his sister. Are his brothers at school as well?”

“Not any more. The last two left last year.”

As Harry launched into a wild story about Ron’s twin brothers leaving school, Mark served himself a third helping. Harry felt at ease with Mark’s family, and Mark was very happy about that. He hadn’t been able to believe his eyes and ears when they had been visiting the Dursley family – even the fact that Mr Dursley had told everyone that Harry was a criminal hadn’t been able to prepare Mark for what happened. However, from the moment his senses had convinced him, he wished Harry nothing more than a loving family, like every child should have, and it seemed that wish had come true. When Harry wasn’t walking through the neighbourhood with Mark or talking about Hogwarts, he was helping Mark’s mother in the kitchen, or sitting on the sofa with Mark’s father, talking seriously at the beginning, but somehow always ending up in huge fits of laughter at the end.

When Mark and Harry both had finished breakfast – no crumb was left – they helped clean up. Mark’s parents talked about the supermarket that would be closing, and other boring things. A few times, during moments of silence, Mark caught Harry opening his mouth and closing it again without saying anything. Finally, when Mark put away the very last plate, he heard Harry ask in an unusually timid voice: “What kind of animals are we going to see?”

“Whatever you like, Harry,” Mark’s father said. “Do you have any favourites?”

“Dunno,” Harry said. “I’ve only been to the zoo once.”

“Well, what did you like then? Or what did you not like very much?” Mark’s father asked.

“Can’t remember well,” Harry muttered. “I didn’t like the fact that my cousin was with me.”

Mark wasn’t sure what to make of that comment, but as his parents chuckled and Harry smiled, he allowed himself a grin as well. Harry had told only a few things about life at the Dursleys – he liked talking about Hogwarts and his friends much more – but it was enough to make clear that he really detested his relatives. That the loathing was mutual wasn’t much of a surprise, since Mr Dursley had locked Harry in a cupboard when Mark and his father had been visiting. Mark’s father had asked Harry once whether that happened often.

“Not any more,” Harry had said. “He took me by surprise this time, or else he wouldn’t have managed to get me in there. Before I went to Hogwarts, the cupboard was my room, but the Dursleys have been treating me much better ever since a couple of friends of mine threatened them.”

Harry had smiled viciously, and no one had dared to ask more.

“There’s one place in the zoo Mark definitely won’t go,” Mark’s mother said, pulling Mark out of his reverie.

Mark blushed and looked away. Why did she have to bring that up? He wasn’t sure how Harry would react to the silly fear of an eleven-year-old boy. Harry was always very brave.

“He’s afraid of snakes,” Mark’s mother continued, smiling. Mark glared at her.

“Oh, that’s all right,” Harry said quickly. “We’ll just skip the reptile house.”

Mark stared at him in surprise. That was the last reaction he had been expecting. Mark didn’t mind skipping the reptile house, of course, but why did Harry sound delighted? If he hated snakes too, he could have said that before. Besides, Harry never seemed afraid of anything, except maybe facing that evil man, Voldemort, himself.

Mark could make neither head nor tail of it, and he couldn’t stop wondering about the matter. During the drive to the zoo, he opened his mouth a few times to ask Harry about it, but he didn’t know what to say. The last thing he wanted was to attract attention to his own fear of snakes. He tried to put subtle hints in their talk while they were waiting to buy tickets, but Harry didn’t seem to notice. Finally, when they had entered the zoo and the reptile house came in sight, Mark summoned all his courage.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go in?” he asked Harry. “I can wait outside while you have a look at the snakes.”

“Er, no, thanks,” Harry said. Mark watched him closely. Was it his imagination, or was Harry getting a bit nervous?

“I’ve seen enough snakes in my life,” Harry finally said.

Mark opened his mouth to reply, and then it hit him. He mentally kicked himself. Why hadn’t he remembered? A giant snake had attacked people in Harry’s second year, Harry had told them, and finally he had defeated the snake himself. No wonder Harry wasn’t too eager to visit the snakes in the zoo. He would only be reminded of those terrible things.

“You know, you’d better not get Sorted into Slytherin,” Harry said pensively.

“Why not?” Mark asked.

Harry smiled down at him. “Because their symbol is a snake. Gryffindor’s is a lion. I like that much better.”

“Yeah, me too,” Mark said. “But I can’t do much about where I’m going to be Sorted, can I?” He hadn’t heard much about the Sorting. His father had refused to tell him anything about it, and Mark had tried to trick Harry into telling by saying his father had already told him, but Harry had discovered the cheat in time. The only thing he had let slip was that there was a hat involved.

“Well, that depends,” Harry said thoughtfully. “I persuaded –” He stopped and stared in the distance. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this – I have never even told Ron and Hermione.”

Mark didn’t know what to say to that, but his father chimed in.

“You don’t have to tell us if you don’t want to, Harry,” he said in a soft voice, “but know that we won’t tell anyone about it if you don’t want us to.”

Harry flashed a grateful smile in his direction, but then looked away again, as if he couldn’t stand looking at them.

“I was almost Sorted into Slytherin,” he said. “But I didn’t want to. Most Dark wizards have been in Slytherin, and I met a nasty boy who was sure to be Sorted there, so I didn’t want to. I kept repeating ‘not Slytherin, not Slytherin’ under my breath, and it worked. I was put in Gryffindor.”

“So that would work for me too?” Mark asked. “I just should tell that – whatever is Sorting us – that I don’t want to be in Slytherin because I hate snakes?”

Harry finally looked in their direction again and smiled. “I’m not sure that would work for everyone, but it’s worth a try.”

The four of them had a wonderful morning. Mark’s father bought each of them such a huge ice cream that they decided to skip lunch. Mark’s mother tried to look disapproving, but finally had to give in to the pressure of the three men.

The most hilarious moment of the day came when they were visiting the lions. Mark’s parents were walking ahead, and Mark had been telling Harry he had once hypnotised an animal, and now Harry wanted him to show it.

Mark slowly walked to the fence, as close as he could get to one of the lions, and stared at the one nearest, which was sleeping in the sun. He concentrated hard and tried with all his willpower to wake the lion up. He heard Harry laughing faintly beside him, shut him out, and concentrated even harder.

The lion opened one sleepy eye, spotted Mark and opened the other eye. Mark kept staring, trying hard not to blink, although his eyes were starting to water. The lion got to his feet and took a few steps in Mark’s direction. Fascinated, Mark kept eye contact with the lion until they were as close as possible while both staying on their side of the barrier. Dust was visible in the lion’s fur, and the bared, pointy teeth were glistening in the sun.

“What are you going to make him to do?” Harry asked, still sounding fairly disbelieving.

“Maybe I can make him imitate me,” Mark muttered.

He took one step to the side, and the lion’s eyes kept glued on his while it also took a step sideways. Mark took one step back, watching fascinated as the lion followed suit. Mark allowed himself a big grin, and to his surprise, the lion opened its jaw, too. A loud growl came out of it, and beside Mark, many people jumped back.

“He’s just interested in you,” Harry said dismissively. “That’s not hypnotising.”

“Watch me.” Mark stepped back from the fence, and the lion also stepped back. Mark howled to the sky, ignoring Harry’s fits of laughter, and the lion tilted his head, too, and roared.

It was time for the final test.

Mark started to dance, very slowly. It wasn’t even a real dance, just a sequence of steps. Something Mark had learned when he was four and wanted to be a ballet dancer. The lion kept his hind legs firmly on the ground and imitated Mark with his front legs.

Mark slowly increased the tempo. He couldn’t help noticing that a lion doing a ballet dance was looking very ridiculous, and he started to laugh. It certainly didn’t help that Harry was roaring with laughter beside him, and soon, Mark’s stomach was hurting as he gasped for breath. He still desperately tried to keep eye-contact, but it was getting harder every second. The hopping was still much too slow to be a dance, but Mark supposed the lion wouldn’t be able to do it much faster, and he knew for sure that he wouldn’t be able to keep going if the lion would go any faster.

They managed about forty seconds before Mark doubled over in laughter. The lion stopped dancing, roared loudly and starting running along the fences, scaring people away. But Mark didn’t care, he could only laugh.

Harry came to his senses and grabbed Mark’s arm. “C’mon, Mark, get away from here.”

Mark managed to look up and was surprised to see someone a couple of yards away staring at him, their mouth slightly open. He turned his head a bit and spotted a whole family in the same pose. Mark felt his face flush, and his laughter died away. About three dozen people were watching him and Harry from the opposite side of the road, their backs pressed against the koala cage.

Mark shared one look with Harry, and then broke into a run. They kept running until they had found Mark’s parents, watching the polar bears.

As Harry whispered to Mark that he had never had so much fun before, Mark’s father asked what they had done that could be so exciting, and both boys just smiled mysteriously. Mark’s mother berated them for running so soon after eating such a large ice cream, although she was smiling as well. Mark felt that the four of them formed an odd, but wonderful family.

The afternoon turned out to be just as excellent as the morning. When Harry wasn’t dragging Mark to see some other fascinating animals, Mark was dragging Harry, his parents trailing behind them. They decided around three o’clock that they needed some rest, but Mark and Harry just went on, not getting tired the entire day.

At the elephants’ cage, they encountered a zoo keeper. He looked older than Harry by a few years, and had just finished feeding the elephants. While he was carrying stuff from the inner side of the elephants’ home to his car on the outside, Harry and Mark tried to sneak in. Unfortunately, they were caught. Fortunately, the zoo keeper finally allowed himself to be persuaded when Mark put on his best adorable face to support Harry’s arguments. They were allowed inside the fence.

It was very exciting. There was still a trench between them and the animals, but they were a couple of yards closer than all of the other people, and the elephants seemed much more interested in them now they were close.

The fun only lasted a few minutes, though.

“MARK! HARRY! COME BACK AT ONCE!”

Mark cringed as he heard the clearly angry voice of his mother. They didn’t waste any time in getting outside, not even excusing themselves when they bumped into the zoo keeper at the entrance of the elephants’ home. Mark knew all too well that a delay of the tirade would only make it worse.

His mother yelled at them for ten minutes straight, completely ignoring the people around them, who were backing away with scared faces or were looking disapprovingly at the two boys. Then Mark’s father intervened.

“Now, Amy, I’m sure they haven’t done anything really dangerous,” he said in a calm voice, but that didn’t stop him from sending his worst glare at Mark.

“Not anything dangerous?” Mark’s mother shouted. “What do you think that fence is for?”

“Mum, there still was a trench, the elephants couldn’t reach us,” Mark tried.

“You have no idea how long those trunks are!” his mother yelled. “You could have been hurt!”

Mark just nodded silently, hoping she would stop. But she didn’t.

“And you, Harry Potter!” She now rounded on Harry. “You’re old enough to know better. How did you ever get it into your head to do such a thing?”

“I persuaded him to go with me, Mum,” Mark lied, oddly offended that she didn’t consider him old enough to know better.

“No, it was my idea,” Harry said. “You don’t have to protect me, Mark. She’s absolutely right. I should have known better.”

“You’ve been to a zoo only once before!” Mark said, surprised and a little hurt that even Harry considered him a little boy who couldn’t care for himself. “I’ve been here loads of times.”

Harry opened his mouth, then glanced furtively at Mark’s mother, and bent towards Mark.

“I’ve seen much more dangerous creatures than elephants,” Harry whispered in Mark’s ear. “But don’t let your parents hear that, or you won’t be allowed to go to Hogwarts.”

Mark smiled, and noted with some surprise that his parents were smiling too, although he couldn’t fathom why. Two minutes ago they had been glaring as if their lives depended on it! Bewildered, he decided just to smile back and be glad that the yelling was over.

A happy smiling family finally left the zoo at five o’clock. On the way back home, they chatted excitedly about their day. Harry, in particular, didn’t seem to be able to shut up about the zoo. When they were almost home, though, they were a bit quieter. Everyone was very tired.

Then Mark’s mother turned around in her seat.

“Harry, we’ve shown you the zoo,” she said, smiling, “and now you’ll have to show us Diagon Alley.”

Harry’s eyes lit up. “I bet you’ll like it! Don’t forget to take an extra pair of eyes, though, that could be useful.”

“When are we going?” Mark asked.

“Let’s say – next Sunday?” his mother said. “Then you’ve got a week to sort out everything before you go to Hogwarts.”

Mark quickly counted the days. Only five days left until he would enter the wizarding world for the first time, and then only seven days until he would go off to Hogwarts. Mark couldn’t remember ever having looked forward to something so badly. He was going to be a wizard.

//
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