He'd stood up too fast to see the Ice Dragons. Harry heard a high thin whine as his vision went again, and sat back down. It was more a controlled collapse.
Spots were flashing in his vision as the blood rushed back to his head. A claw turned him onto his back. <sunonice>, he guessed, and the Ice Dragon wasn't being awfully gentle in the way he was digging the point of that claw into Harry's ribs.
Harry blinked and looked up to see that <sunonice> had grown. A lot.
He blinked again and reached to readjust his glasses. No, that wasn't <sunonice>. The eyes were a smoky green rather than silver-blue, and while <sunonice> who was the size of a minibus was pretty big, this was massive.
Harry sat up. "We did it?" he asked, hoping there would be someone there who understood human speech.
A nervous <sunonice> picked him up and set him on his feet. <yes>
"Oh. Good." Harry didn't feel good. He felt like he'd been run over by a stampeding herd of hippogriffs. His eyes were grainy and his mouth tasted like something disgusting had crawled in there and died. He wondered why they hadn't been crushed by the falling ice, but when he looked around he saw that there was surprisingly little on the arena floor. What was in large amounts were the huge Ice Dragons, stretching their wings and eyeing him in a way he didn't like. No, not at all. The air vibrated with muted anger -- maybe he couldn't hear them growling but he knew in his bones that they were. And <sunonice> was keeping so close Harry could feel the ortho's unique magic through the back of his parka.
<sunonice> thought back something non-committal which, Harry was learning, meant he was wondering about telling Harry something important.
"It... is good, isn't it?" Harry asked as the enormity of what he'd done began to sink in.
Let's see... he'd come to the South Pole or something approximate, metaphorically given the fingers to a bunch of Aurors and the Ministry of Magic, and unleashed a large number of horrendously powerful creatures who had been trapped for centuries by wizards. Harry looked around at the Ice Dragons. They were all staring at him, but none of them had that friendly glint of curiosity he'd seen in <sunonice>'s eyes at their first meeting.
These were a people with a grudge and they weren't looking upon him as their saviour. They were looking at him like he was the aperitif to a banquet.
The main course would probably involve Hogwarts.
"Oh shit," Harry said quietly. And Snape had destroyed all the spells... the wizarding world was about to be demolished unless he could say something to explain to the Ice Dragons how their anger was no longer necessary.
The two biggest Ice Dragons (he guessed they were about fifteen feet tall from ground to shoulder) growled in unison.
There was a worried chirp from <sunonice>, who drew Harry back against him.
The growl subsided but Harry wasn't reassured by the looks of contempt on the face of one, and horror on the other. The contemptuous one was slightly bigger and Harry mentally labelled this one King. The other, silver with violet eyes, had what Harry could only describe as a feminine edge to the ortho-magic emanating from its aura and Harry decided she was Queen.
The King sniffed at <sunonice>, who shrank back. The King snorted as if he'd smelt something nasty and glared down at Harry.
<<FIRE & CORRUPTION! WHAT VILE WIZARD TRICK HAVE YOU DONE TO THIS ONE?>> he bellowed into Harry's mind.
"I'm sorry, I don't understan-"
<<PHOENIX REEK! PURITY OF ICE CONTAMINATED BY YOUR FOUL MAGICS!>>
<sunonice> tried to say something but even Harry nearly blacked out from the King's roared order to be silent. Anger filled the arena and when the King turned back to Harry he felt that anger like a hammer.
"We came here to free you," Harry said, trying to sound respectful. "Look, I can show you --"
<<BAH! WIZARD TRICK>> The King flicked Harry's feet out from under him with a claw. When Harry tried to sit up, that claw jabbed at his chest and pinned him to the ground.
Harry lay there and tried not to think of pins and butterflies.
The King leaned down and slowly drew back his lips to show row upon glistening row of teeth.
<<I HAVE HAD LONG YEARS TO THINK UP TRICKS OF MY OWN, WIZARD>>
Harry forced himself not to squirm. His eyes widened as he realised the King was about to --
With a growl, <sunonice> pushed the King back before the King could snap Harry's head off. He stood between Harry and the King, his teeth bared, a growl vibrating the air. It was like seeing Crookshanks go up against three-headed Fluffy.
For a moment the King froze, shocked, the spines around his neck bristling in astonishment. In that moment <sunonice>, his own spines rattling, threw flurries of images like pamphlets around the arena in Harry's defence. Harry caught a few of them and saw a heroic version of himself defending the frightened and helpless baby Ice Dragon.
Well, it wasn't quite like that, Harry thought, and <sunonice> looked back over his shoulder and winked.
While it didn't lower the level of anger, Harry could sense a slight wavering in its direction. There was no longer the same degree of accord the Ice Dragons had had when he'd first unleashed -- uh, freed them. There might just be room for diplomacy.
After a brief discussion between the Ice Dragons that went completely over Harry's head and baffled <sunonice>, the King said grudgingly, <<YOUR MOTIVES MAY BE... NOT UNFRIENDLY AFTER ALL. AND ... WE ARE FREE BY YOUR HAND, PHOENIX WIZARD>>
It sounded like something Harry shouldn't presume to take advantage of. Maybe Harry hadn't done this for gratitude but a little wouldn't have gone amiss. "I am Sunonice's friend," Harry said quietly. "I'm here because he needs his family and because you should never have been trapped as you were. I should be pleased to be your friend, too."
A snort. The King sounded a little like Snape. <<MANY WIZARDS HAVE DESIRED FRIENDSHIP WITH ICE DRAGONS. THERE IS MUCH TO BE GAINED... FOR THE WIZARD. WHAT IS YOUR MOTIVE?>>
Harry looked at <sunonice>, who looked back at him. They both shrugged. "I don't know -- we just are friends. There's no why to it, it just is."
<yes>. <sunonice> nodded vigorously. His spines were still half-raised, giving the impression that he had a mane.
There was some shuffling of wings amongst the surrounding Ice Dragons. More debate Harry could only touch the edges of.
"Have there never been friendships between humans and Ice Dragons?"
<<WIZARDS AND ICE DRAGONS, NO>>
"Oh. Well, it's been a long time. Maybe it's time for it."
The King raised his head and growled.
<<I REMEMBER ANOTHER WHO CAME HERE... THE WALLS OF THE TRAP WERE DIVIDED FOR A MOMENT BY THE PECULIARITY OF HIS MAGIC. IN ALL THE TIME OF OUR IMPRISONMENT, HIS WAS THE ONLY MOVEMENT. WITH HIS GIFTS HE MIGHT HAVE FREED US THEN, BUT HE DID NOT AND WHILE OUR BODIES WERE FROZEN THIS THIEF SLIPPED AMONG US LIKE A SHADOW ON THE MIND AND USED HIS LIBERTY TO STEAL A CHILD. I SCENT HIM NEARBY>> And the King growled louder, shaking a small rain of crystals from the cliffs.
Oh, crap, thought Harry as the tiny specks of ice frosted the fur surrounding his hood and melted on the lenses of his glasses. That didn't sound good. It sounded like the King remembered Snape taking the egg. What must it have been like for the Ice Dragons, caught like living insects in amber, knowing what was happening and unable to fight it? No wonder they were so angry. "Wait, he's n-"
And the centre of the arena heaved up a whale.
Harry and <sunonice> had to jump back as the orca snapped into existence before them. The tail lashed as the whale writhed from instinctive fear of being beached, sending chunks of ice as big as Harry's head around the arena. Several Ice Dragons flinched, but none moved to help, and Harry ducked and stumbled back further, shouting, "Professor Snape! Professor! Please, don't panic... change back!"
A black-robed figure was lying on the churned-up snow. Water streamed off him and crackled in his clothing and his hair as it froze.
The King used one wing to tuck <sunonice> firmly back behind him.
"Oh, hell..." Harry sprinted forward, tripped on an ice boulder and only just managed to stop himself from falling on Snape. "Here," he muttered, "take your wand..." He tried to shove Snape's wand into the hand that had lost its glove, but the fingers were white with cold. Harry gripped the hand and tried to curl the fingers around the wand. "Come on..." It was no use. The wand dropped onto the ground. Snape was shaking so hard Harry thought he was having a fit. His face was grey and lips were blue. The only contrast to the awful pallor were his black hair and his eyes, and then his eyes unfocussed and rolled back. He stopped shaking.
It was even worse than the last time Harry had seen him. Changing into his Animagus form had merely delayed the inevitable. Harry clutched the brine-sodden cloak over Snape's shoulders and looked up.
"You have to help him!"
The King watched him as an entomologist might look at an interesting new beetle. But when <sunonice> tried to get to Harry and Snape, the King shot out one wing with a sound like a whip cracking, barring <sunonice> from his friends.
Harry caught the edges of the King's order.
He heard <sunonice> protest.
The King's answering roar was only echoed in his mind, but Harry saw <sunonice> tremble at it. Then when the young Ice Dragon tried to slip past the King, the King clawed at him viciously. <<YOU WILL OBEY!>> And, ignoring <sunonice>'s yelp of pain, threw him back behind him again. <sunonice> struggled but this time two Ice Dragons pinned him down. They ignored his screams of fury and dampened the frantic images the little ortho tried to send them.
And in the meantime Harry was praying the cold hadn't stopped Snape's heart. The man didn't seem to be breathing. "No..." Harry whispered.
No-one was coming to help them -- the King had commanded this.
Around them the shadows began to gather, seeping out of blue-veined cracks and pooling in the broken ice around Harry and Snape. There was the faintest smell of roses. Harry thought of death and shuddered. After one last howl of fury and despair, <sunonice> went silent.
In the fading light Harry lifted his own wand and looked at it. Well, if Snape was going to die anyway, he might as well go fast as go slow, and if he was as dead as he looked then it wouldn't matter if Harry stuffed up the spell... And unlike the time in Malfoy Manor when Harry thought Snape was dying, this time Harry was not held back by his own demons. His hands were steady and so was his mind. There was a slim chance he could save him.
He took a deep breath. "Ther-"
A hand came down on his and pushed his wand away.
Harry looked over his shoulder and up into the shifting, shadowy face of the daughter of Night and Death.
Harry. You cannot heal this. He is in my domain now.
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