Summary: It’s well known that dragons
are extremely dangerous. But if you ask Isobel MacFusty the real dangers are
walking around on two legs.
I don’t own Potterverse. I just claim a Fanficcers right of way everywhere I
like to go
Muggles come to the Hebrides for a variety
of reasons: bird-watching, hill-walking, fishing, sailing, mountaineering,
golfing, or just admiring the scenery. Oh, and the whisky distilleries.
Witches and wizards come for the one
reason: dragon-spotting. The MacFusty clan, supervisors of the Hebridean
Blacks, the local dragon breed, organizes regular tours in the summer for a
reasonable price. Naturally, some wizards go alone. Most of them come back
disappointed, as they haven’t seen a single dragon. For all their size, a
Hebridean Black sitting still among the cliffs is very hard to spot. Some
wizards don’t come back at all, but the Ministry takes the very reasonable view
that they only have themselves to blame.
Mostly, dragon supervising is done from a
safe distance; casting, checking and strengthen various Fencing and Disillusion
Charms. Muggle binoculars are a great help too. But sometimes you have to get
This calm and sunny Easter Sunday morning
Isobel MacFusty had Apparated to the mountains over Staffing Bay to check the old brooding female there. The dragons are not given names, but Isobel
privately had named this one Minerva, after her Head of House. They had the
same way of glaring down their noses when Not Amused, although McGonagall only
breathed fire figuratively.
Isobel received that very look when she
appeared. Usually, you didn’t Apparate to a spot where the dragon could see
you, but with Minerva’s lair so perfectly placed in a small cleft by a deep
gorge it was either that or try descending the dragon track from the top of the
cleft. As dragons basically divide the world in things threatening, edible or
uninteresting, Isobel slowly sank to the ground so she lay flat on her stomach.
Things lying still on the ground are in the “uninteresting” category for most
dragons. Anyway, a brooding female is reluctant to waste her fire; she needs it
for her eggs. As she never leaves them, she can’t hunt, and fire-breathing uses
a lot of her energy. And Minerva was an old dragon, used to humans. They never
threatened her or her bairn. So after a short while she returned her
attention to her eggs, breathing a long jet of fire over them.
That was the signal for Isobel to crawl
forward to get a better view. No cracks on the eggs yet, but it had to be time
for their hatching soon. Poor Minerva was so thin she looked like a dragon
skeleton. Not only that, the ridges on her back were getting blunt, and her
eyes had paled from purple to brown. She had been in much better condition
when Isobel had seen her during the Christmas holidays. So, this was to be her
last brood before being turned into protective gloves, potion ingredients and
wand cores. Isobel was surprised it saddened her; but of course, Minerva had
been her special charge for some years now.
Minerva was busy with her eggs, rolling
them over, touching them with the tip of her tongue. Not for the first time
Isobel wondered if dragons, like snakes, used their tongues for smelling. Or if
the eggs tasted different the bigger the embryo inside grew? Or did she simply
check their temperature? She had of course read all books on dragons she could
find in the Hogwarts library, but none of them even mentioned this behaviour.
Of course, this was just one of many omissions. The authors had obviously
mostly studied captured dragons, not feral.
She really should Apparate back; she would
Floo to Glasgow for Dan’s birthday party about noon. His parents had wanted her
to come over early, so they could “get to know her”. To see if that MacFusty
person was a suitable girlfriend for their son, more likely, Isobel thought.
She could understand them in a way, especially these days. The Prophet
had printed several articles on “part-breeds” in the Wizarding world,
questioning if they would remain loyal to the Ministry “in the troubled times
we currently live in”.
The MacFusty clan didn’t think much of the
Ministry, that was true, but this had less to do with the clan’s Selkie blood
than the simple fact that they saw the Ministry as English. That was nothing
new. Being openly called “part-breed” was, however.
The sun was warm, here out of the wind.
Around the lair the ground was burned and the air thick with the smoky,
metallic dragon smells, but further off the ground was green with spring. The
sea was calm, mirroring the blue April sky. Minerva was sunning herself,
bat-like wings spread out. Dragons could get some nourishment out of sunlight,
or so Isobel had been told. She hadn’t found anything in the books. Perhaps,
one day, she should write a new book on dragon lore as Kettleburn suggested?
That Dragon Research Centre in Romania sounded interesting as well. And
according to cousin Iain, the Prides were interested in her Keeper
abilities…but that was for the future, she had still the last term of her sixth
year left. She was determined to do her seventh as well, leaving school with
decent NEWT results, if only to spite certain people. “Part-breed”, indeed.
Better than inbred, for sure. Compared to the London Blacks, Hebridean Blacks
were soft toys.
Isobel was raising herself up carefully,
when she heard the telltale crack! of someone Apparating and immediately
threw herself down again, cursing under her breath. She knew it was no-one of
her family, and while it might be an adventurous dragon enthusiast, an egg
thief was the most likely. Dragon eggs were highly prized and there were always
idiots trying to get at them. Most of them didn’t live to regret it, of course.
But they upset the females, and had even caused some young ones to trample or
even desert their broods. When younger, Minerva had once taken out four thieves
in one blast – Isobel’s dad had watched from his boat- but now she needed to
save her energy.
Where was the intruder? From the sound of
it, he had appeared higher up, which meant he had to negotiate the steep
slippery track down to the lair. Or she, but for some reason, egg-stealing
seemed to be an exclusively male hobby. Minerva was watching the top of the
track intensely, but Isobel couldn’t see anything. Someone being under a
Disillusionment Charm? Good idea, if you didn’t know how sensitive dragons were
to magic. You might as well dress yourself in antlers and prance around as use
magic on yourself near them.
Isobel thought she saw something moving on
the track but wasn’t sure. She wished she could have brought Yevaud, with his
senses of smell and hearing he didn’t need to see anyone to point his nose
exactly at them. But he, being a true Skye terrier, had the motto “The bigger
they come, the harder they fall” and would happily attack any dragon. Yevaud’s
sire had actually ended his days as a small black smear on the ground, after an
unexpected meeting with one of Minerva’s grandsons.
Minerva stared at the track, crouching down
over her eggs, wings folded in. This worried Isobel, right now the thief ought
to be laminated to the ground. But Minerva seemed hesitant, even nervous. This
wasn’t easy to spot in a dragon, but Isobel had grown up dragon-watching. She
could see the small signs in the angling of the wings and tilt of the head, and
it just wasn’t right for a mature dragon. Young dragons meeting fully mature
ones, yes, but not an old female with a brood to defend. Was Minerva really
that weakened, or was there some dark magic involved? Isobel carefully started
to pull her wand from her jacket.
But before she had got a good grip on it, a
fireball flew from the hidden thief, exploding as it landed between Minerva’s
front paws, making her back away roaring, trampling her eggs, her left paw
dripping dark dragon blood, two or three toes missing. Isobel scrambled to her
feet, wand at the ready, cursing in English as well as Gaelic as a second
fireball smashed several eggs. And now, finally, Minerva flamed at the – no,
not a thief, what in all nine hells was going on? But she was weak, the flame
wasn’t the usual incandescent, but orange-red.
Hot enough, or perhaps not. A dark shape
that hadn’t been there the moment before crumpled forward on the track, and the
sickly-sweet stench of burned meat reached Isobel, making her retch. But that wasn’t
the worst. The worst was that the lump of burnt meat that just had been a human
moved, and Isobel couldn’t tell if it was the muscles contracting or if
it –he- was still alive.
Two hours later, she was having tea and
sandwiches with Dan and his parents. Isobel wasn’t good at small talk at the
best of times, and this certainly wasn’t one of them. On the other hand she was
good at controlling her mind, and she had pushed the memory of that burnt… thing
… as far back as possible.
Dan’s parents were really nice, and did
their best to make her feel at home. But she couldn’t help but notice that
while they were talking about Quidditch and school and the weather, they kept
glancing at her hands. Most people did, to see if rumour was true and Selkie
blood really gave you webbed fingers. It did. Nothing like a seal’s flippers,
just enough to make wearing a ring uncomfortable, but still webbed. But the
stealthy way they glanced, and then quickly averted their eyes was new. And she
couldn’t help but notice how they avoided the word “beast” when they asked
about the dragons.
It was a relief at first, when the other
guests were arriving. She knew many of Dan’s friends from school, even if most
of them were older than him and had left. At least they didn’t ogle her hands.
And some of them were her friend as well, like Marlene and Marion McKinnon.
They both hugged her, telling her it was unfair she already had a tan. Benjy
Fenwick who was lurking nearby quipped that it wasn’t suntan; Isobel had just
gotten in the way of a dragon’s blast. Isobel’s stomach made a lurch at that,
but luckily no-one seemed to notice.
James Potter and Sirius Black were among
the last guests to arrive. Sirius insisted that it was because James had spent
so much time in front of the mirror, giving his hair that carefree, windblown
look, and he had done quite a good job, hadn’t he? To which James said Sirius
was just envious, having such boring, ordinary, well-behaved hair. Sirius choose
to ignore that, he was busy asking Benjy if he’d brought his gramophone.
He had, of course. And a stack of records.
Both he and Sirius complained a bit over Isobel not bringing any of her
records, but she certainly wasn’t playing any of her vinyl records with a
needle more fit for tilling. Benjy’s records were scratched enough to show she
was right, she thought. Perhaps just as well, as James could go all dreamy over
Pictures of Lily without realising what that song really was about.
It would have been a good party, if Isobel
had been able to relax and enjoy it. The food was excellent, the booze
plentiful – not that she drank much, with Dan’s relatives watching her – and
there was music and dancing. Isobel loved music and dancing. But, another thing
everyone knows, so do Selkies. She felt people looking askance at her, more as
the evening wore on and the bottles emptied. Also, several of them gave her and
Dan very knowing looks, and one or two of his friends said something that made
him look slightly embarrassed but mostly smug. No doubt what kind of Selkie
stories they had heard.
Still, she could hide her bad mood from
almost everyone on the party, even from Dan, and she couldn’t decide if she was
grateful or insulted by that. After all, he was her boyfriend; he ought to
know her well enough to see through her. But what was really unsettling was the
searching, even slightly worried, looks Sirius was giving her. Perhaps he
noticed, because he wasn’t in his best party mood either. Isobel knew there had
been some big family dinner at the Blacks, so she wasn’t surprised. Not that
Sirius ever talked about his family, but Isobel had known him since he was
eleven and he and James had more or less adopted her for an honorary older
But she couldn’t really be bothered about
what a bunch of mainlanders thought. The memory of the burned intruder and of
Minerva’s ruined paw kept edging into her mind. She left as early as possible,
saying that she’d had a great time, but she had been up early all week checking
on the brooding dragons. That was just a slight exaggeration, actually. Dan
smiled and said he was glad she had had fun, and she laughed and kissed him
thoroughly, for the benefit of his staring friends. And for Dan’s naturally,
not to mention her own.
Next day was grey and rainy and fitted her mood. As she had
expected, Minerva had been put down, and the rest of her eggs destroyed.
Isobel’s Dad was in a foul mood. When checking out Minerva’s lair and territory
he had found a big gap in the Fencing Charm surrounding it. He guessed the
intruder had tried to chase her out where she could be seen. He was soon to be
proven right. At breakfast Isobel’s older brother Donald turned up in the
kitchen fire, telling them that Minerva’s two young grandsons had suffered the
same treatment. Their lairs were just north of Portree and having no eggs to
defend both had flown off to Muggle territory. It was sheer luck, or perhaps
ignorance from the intruders, that it had been Easter Sunday. This was the Hebrides after all, so most Muggles were at church and those few that weren’t skulked
indoors. One of the young dragons had caught a sheep and carried it back to its
lair, but the other one refused to be driven back to its territory. In the end,
that dragon had to be put down as well, and afterwards a nasty burn had been
found in its groin, so it was no wonder it had been difficult.
Still, it could have been worse. Selling
the carcasses of two grown dragon plus several dragon embryos earned a neat sum
of money for the clan. No human was harmed, and no Muggle had noticed. And,
even better from Isobel’s point of view, was that Dan turned up in the fire
just before dinner, saying he was sorry for some of his relatives’ behaviour.
Isobel’s Mum promptly invited him for tea, and as the rain had stopped Isobel
took him to see Minerva’s remaining grandson. The young dragon was still
digesting his sheep, lying in a most undignified pose with his head hanging
over one rock and his tail over another, but Dan was still impressed.
Tuesday, they learned that one of the young
males had paused at a nearby golf course, drinking from a pond, leaving scratch
marks and a couple of burns. Some Muggles said it must have been a UFO, others
didn’t know what it was, but were just as certain it wasn’t a UFO. So
everything seemed to be under control. The MacFustys knew very well that while
some Muggles happily believed in ships from other galaxies, no-one believed in
dragons. Naturally no-one informed the Ministry as it wasn’t any of their
business anyway. According to the MacFustys, at least.
But presumed UFO sightings make the Muggle
newspapers… and although not many witches or wizards care to read those, there
Wednesday, “RUNAWAY DRAGON UPSETS MUGGLE
SOCIETY” took up most of The Daily Prophets front page. Inside, there
was a long, mainly untruthful article about how “several” dragons had been seen
over the Isle of Skye. There were also some, not so subtle, hints that the
MacFustys had neglected to keep up the Fencing charms.
Thursday an “alleged Death Eater attack”
outside Bristol dominated the headlines, but as two winged horses had been
turned loose during the tumult The Prophet somehow managed to combine
that with free-flying dragons.
Friday, all hell broke loose. Normally, the
Ministry’s Beast Division handled what they called “The Dragon Question”. That
meant the MacFustys telling them to keep their noses out off the Hebrides, and the Beast Division grudgingly agreeing. But this time, it was taken out of
the hand of a mere sub-division and left to the Department of Magical Laws
Enforcement. Its Head, the well-known –to some, notorious- Barty Crouch came
storming to the island with a cowed secretary witch in tow. He demanded to see
the MacFusty Head of Clan immediately. And no, he didn’t need an
interpreter, wasn’t it known that Gaelic was just one of the many languages he
Not that Mr Crouch’s Gaelic was bad, but
when the Head of Clan, Isobel’s grandmother Oighrig MacFusty, finally agreed to
see him it quickly turned out that while he certainly would have no problem in
ordering a beer at the pub, his language skills were sadly lacking when it came
to heated discussion. Or as it quickly deteriorated into, a flaming row.
Basically, Mr Crouch accused the MacFusty’s of being careless with their dragon
safekeeping charms and hexes, or perhaps even deliberately ignoring them. He
didn’t go as far as accusing them of being in league with Voldemort, not quite.
Oighrig became furious. The situation wasn’t helped by several other MacFustys
crowding into the room and joining in at the shouting. Poor Madam Greatrakes,
Crouch’s secretary, hid behind her heavy oak chair at one point. In the end Mr
Crouch Disapparated in fury, leaving Madam Greatrakes behind. It turned out she
wasn’t very good at Apparating, especially when nervous. In the end she was
given a cup of tea with a big splash of whisky before Duncan, Isobel’s other
older brother, side-alonged her back to the Ministry.
As expected, Saturday’s Prophet held
a long interview with Mr Crouch. He claimed the MacFustys, while not being
Voldemort supporters were ignoring the necessary precautions, wanting the
Muggle to find out about dragons, and in the long run, the Wizarding world, for
the clan’s own ends. The intruder he dismissed as an egg thief, absolutely not
a Death Eater trying to stir up trouble with the Muggles “as the MacFustys
The Editorial Column urged the Wizarding
world to stay united, while pointing out that certain groups “by blood” perhaps
was inclined to think more about their own interests than those of the whole
‘Had a nice holiday?’ Sirius asked
innocently when he and Isobel met on the Hogwarts train on the way back to
‘Can’t complain’ she said. ‘Not as nice as
He just grinned and shook his head, but
Isobel noticed he seemed even more tense than usual after visiting his family.
She wondered what his holidays really had been like, but knew he wouldn’t tell.
At least not her. She hoped he could talk to James about it.
Crouch’s secretary turned out to be the
mother of Tina Greatrakes, a fifth-year Slytherin. The fifth-year Slytherin
prefect Selena Hopkirk told Iphigenia Dearborn, the sixth-year Gryffindor
prefect, and Iphigenia told Isobel. Isobel was amused to learn that Madam
Greatrakes had found the young man who had helped her back to the Ministry so
very charming – and so handsome!
That was the only thing even faintly
amusing that week.
The reliable Hogwarts gossip also knew
that several students didn’t believe there had been an intruder at all, rather
the MacFustys had cooked up some story to hide their own shortcomings. Why
would Voldemorts Death Eaters go to some far-away island to throw fireballs at
dragons? What good would that do?
ran another long interview with Crouch where he strongly advised that the
Ministry took over “certain responsibilities” or at least supervised them
closely. Dragons were on top of that list. Crouch didn’t believe in any
intruder breaking Fencing charms, he accused the MacFustys being slack in
controlling them. The “egg thief” had just been lucky. He went to say that as
the MacFustys obviously overpriced dragon products the Ministry from now should
set the price. Incidentally, there were several other sources of potion
ingredients that ought to be supervised by the ministry as well. For the
benefit of the Wizarding society, naturally.
Slughorn cornered Isobel and Iphigenia
before Monday lunch, waving the newspaper and talking at length about what a
good idea that was, especially if Hogwarts got a special discount which he was
certain it should. What he really wanted was Isobel to talk her grandmother
into getting him some dragon ingredients – for a discount price. In the
afternoon Isobel had Care of Magical Creatures and Kettleburn said in passing
that it would be interesting to have some pieces of dragon hide and some
skeletal bones to show students, perhaps Isobel could mention it to her
grandmother? And just to make her day completely awful, she met Hagrid when
going to dinner, and he was very miffed that Minerva’s remaining eggs had been
destroyed. Why not let them hatch and try to tame them? Much better than making
potion ingredients from the poor little dears. She could tell her grandmother
from him that it was a waste and cruel to boot.
Isobel had no intention telling her
grandmother anything. Not long ago Oighrig could have been talked into giving
Kettleburn some specimen. One good turn deserved another after all, and if
Isobel wanted to work at the Dragon Reservation a recommendation from a
Hogwarts professor would come in handy. But today Oighrig would only see
mainland wizards acting in their own interest. She wouldn’t count on getting
any favours in return.
And she would probably be right. Today you
were as likely to get a Hex in the back as your favour returned. Why would
Death Eaters try to make Muggles see dragons? To Isobel the answer was obvious:
to spread more suspicion and distrust among the various groups of witches and
And the raid at Skye had been successful.
A/N 1 The
brooding females used during the First Task of the Triwizards Tournament did
flame quite freely because they had been fed by their keepers.
“Pictures of Lily” is a 1967 hit single by The Who. The BBC, having a less
scratchy copy realised that the pictures in question were early 20th
century porn and the song was about masturbation so they promptly banned it.
James was devastated when he found out.
A/N 3 As
usual, a big Thank You to Alkari for finding all my mistakes but still
finding things to praise. Also Big Thanks to Zia Montrose and TDU
for their comments.