Harry watched his friends walk along the path in front of him, and sighed.
It wasn't that he objected to Ron and Hermione dating - if that's what you could call it - but being a third wheel wasn't exactly a lot of fun. And although he knew they were making an effort to include him, he also knew that the feeling of isolation would only get worse as time went by.
"How can you be so sure?"
"We're not in your cave any more"
"That is true"
"So where are we?"
Harry turned at the sound, wondering what could make such an unearthly noise.
What he saw made his mouth fall open in surprise.
"Do you think he might know?"
"Then I shall go ask him"
Hermione turned, then let out a slight scream. Ron span round instantly, wand drawn, then let out an exclamation of surprise.
"Language!" Hermione snapped automatically, without turning from the sight in front of them.
Harry raised his wand, even as his mind was telling him there was very little he could do about the dragon bolting towards him, but before he could think of a spell, he saw a flash of red hair, and heard a voice yelling "DRAGON! STOP!"
Ron and Hermione ran towards the unfolding drama, then skidded to a halt as a young woman, in what appeared to be a full suit of armour, walked in front of the dragon and yelled at it to stop.
A moment later, they both exchanged confused glances as the dragon came to a stop, then appeared to bow apologetically.
Harry stared at the dragon with a look of confusion on his face, then turned to his apparent saviour.
"I'm sorry about Dragon" She said "Sometimes he forgets that not everyone is as used to him as we are"
"That's quite alright" Harry replied, still confused "We?"
"Oh - sorry. Where are my manners?" She gave a majestic bow "My name is Lady Jane Turnkey, Knight Protector to the throne" She turned and gestured to where two other people - a young man with brown hair, and a girl with long, black hair - stood "This is my husband, Anthony Millerson, and her Royal Majesty Lavinia, Queen in Exile" She paused, then there was the sound of someone clearing their throat "And this overgrown lizard is Dragon" The dragon inclined his head.
Harry stared at them for a few seconds, then turned as Ron and Hermione ran up behind him.
"Harry? Are you alright?"
"I'm fine" He smiled reassuringly "This is Jane, Anthony, Dragon and Queen Lavinia" He turned back to Jane "My friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley" Ron and Hermione nodded "And my name is Harry Potter" He paused to allow time for them to recognise his name, but to his great delight they didn't seem to appear to.
"It's very nice to meet you, Harry" Jane replied "We've come a long way to find you"
"Me?" Harry exclaimed in surprise "Why would you need me when you can control such a magnificent creature?"
"Magnificent, eh?" Dragon beamed down at him "I think I'm going to like you, short-life"
"You'd like anyone who scratched your back and gave you a sheep" Anthony responded.
"That's not true!"
"Oh yeah - I forgot. You don't usually demand a sheep!"
"DRAGON! JESS!" Jane snapped at them "This isn't the time" She turned back to Harry "Sorry about that" She paused then smiled "We came to find a hero - someone we need to help us take back our kingdom"
"Your kingdom?" Hermione asked in bewilderment.
"Two years ago, the throne was usurped by an evil tyrant" Anthony said angrily.
"By who?" Harry asked. Jane, Anthony and Dragon all turned to face the girl who hadn't spoken yet.
"My brother" She said with a sigh.
Chapter 1 - Worlds At War
"Jane!" Dragon flew over the castle, then curled round and alighted on the wall "JAAAAANE!"
"Dragon?" Jane looked out of her chamber, then pushed the door open and walked out.
"There you are!" Dragon hopped over to her "The Royal Family is in trouble!"
"Where?" Jane's face became serious in an instant.
"About half a league out - Rusty Legs is with them"
"Find Sir Ivan and Sir Gunther, then get back here" She turned back and rushed in to her chamber, grabbing her sword and armour.
"After he found Sir Ivan and Sir Gunther, Dragon flew me out. But by the time we got there, it was too late"
"I'm going faster" Jane gripped on to Dragon's horns as they shot through the air like an arrow.
"We're never going to make it!" She looked down "Damnit!"
"Should knights really use language like that?" Dragon asked in a bemused tone.
"That isn't the time, green lips" She snapped, then, glancing down, she let out an exclamation "Down! Go down!!" Dragon dove down, ears flattened against his head. Jane drew her sword, preparing to leap off.
They broke through the cover of the trees, and Dragon levelled off, flying only a few feet above the ground.
A few seconds later, they reached the site of the attack.
"When I was fourteen, a pack of wolves attacked the market place at noon" Anthony said quietly "This was much, much worse"
"My god" Jane looked around, utter despair growing on her face. Dragon was flying in slow circles above her, keeping an eye out for Sir Ivan.
She continued to look around, then collapsed on to one knee when she found who she was looking for.
"Oh your majesties - I'm so sorry" She stared at the bodies of the King and Queen, tears running down her face "I'm so sorry, I failed you my King"
"No, Jane. The failure was mine" She jumped up, sword raised, then lowered it when she found herself face to face with Sir Theodore.
"My apologies, Sir Theo...." She started, but he waved her off.
"Your caution serves you well, and will continue to do so" The old knight was looking around at the bodies "Perhaps if I had had your caution, this could have been avoided"
"What do you mean?" She raised her sword again, glancing around.
"Through my carelessness, I lead my King in to this ambush" He sighed "They are dead because of my pride, young Jane, and there is nothing we can do to change that"
"Yes, Sir Theodore"
"Hey - Jane" Dragon flew over them "Ivan and Gunther are just outside the clearing"
"Thank you" She smiled faintly.
"It's what I'm here for" He nodded, then flew up again to continue his patrol. Jane and Theodore turned to see Ivan and Gunther ride in to the clearing.
"Sir Theodore - Dragon told us that..." Ivan trailed off as he saw the bodies strewn around the glade "Dear lord - what happened?"
"I will explain in a moment" Theodore turned to Jane "Jane - in your training, I have asked many difficult things of you"
"It is my duty, and my honour, Sir Theodore"
"That is as maybe, but I am afraid what I must ask of you now is the hardest thing I have ever asked" He paused "Ivan, Gunther and I will stay with the bodies, and prepare their Royal Majesties to return to the castle. You, Jane, must return to the castle and tell your father what has happened"
"I will leave at once, Sir Theodore" She turned to call to Dragon when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"There is one more thing I must ask you to do"
"I knew nothing about this, of course" Lavinia said "I was back at the castle, learning about royal protocol"
"Sounds exciting" Harry smiled.
"Then I'm telling it wrong" Lavinia returned the smile "Since I am the younger sister, it was to be my duty to serve my father, then my brother, in the role as King, while having no real power of my own" She paused "Of course, that was before my brother became King"
"Jester! Where is my father?" Jane jumped off Dragon's neck, and landed in front of her friend.
"I believe he is in the throne room...." Jester trailed off as Jane ran past him "....You're welcome" She glanced back over her shoulder, not stopping.
"Are you coming?" He stared at her departing form for a moment, then ran after her.
"FATHER!" Jane burst in to the throne room with Jester hot on her trail. Milton Turnkey span round in surprise.
"Jane - a little propriety, please" He admonished, then stared in disbelief as she ignored him, instead closing the doors behind her.
"Father.... Anthony...." She took a deep breath "Something terrible has happened. Something that will change everything" She paused "I'm afraid the Royal Party was ambushed on their return home"
"Ambushed?" Her father went pale "By whom?"
"We don't know" She realised she was crying again.
"Jane?" Jester walked up to her and took her hand "Tell us what happened"
"The King and Queen are dead" She replied quietly "Along with four of their knights, and two ladies in waiting"
"Oh god" The Chamberlain sat down heavily on the bench, while Jester merely stared at her.
"Sir Theodore stayed behind to escort the bodies back here, with Sir Ivan and Sir Gunther" She continued "He sent me back here for two reasons"
"First to tell you, Father. As Chamberlain it will fall to you to arrange things"
"I am.... I am aware of my duty, Jane" Her father replied in a faltering voice "What was your other task?" Jane wiped her eyes and looked up at him.
"To tell Prince Cuthbert and Princess Lavinia that their parents are dead"
"Princess Lavinia!" Adeline Turnkey glanced up to see her charge staring out of the window "Pay attention to your studies!"
"What's the point?" Lavinia asked "Unless Cuthbert gets vaporised by burst of dragon flame, I'm never going to need to know any of this"
"You will still be a princess of the realm, my Lady, and you will have a duty to support your father, and in the future, your brother, as they rule"
For a moment, Lavinia contemplated sticking her tongue out at her teacher, then she looked down at her book again. She read in silence for a few moments, then looked up as there was a knock at the door.
"Oh for heavens' sake" Adeline stood up, throwing her hands in the air in exasperation. She stalked over to the door and pulled it open, and came face to face with her daughter "Jane? What do you want?"
"Hello mother" Jane kept her voice under control "Father needs to see you in the throne room, right away"
"I am in the middle of a lesson at the moment, but I will....."
"Now, mother" She stared at Adeline with serious eyes. Her mother returned the look, then nodded "And don't worry, I'll be happy to continue the Princess' lessons"
"Swell" Jane managed a slight smile at Lavinia's comment.
"Just ensure she finishes the part on appropriate decorum - there is a ball in two weeks, and she has to be ready to take her place at court" It took all Jane's effort not to start crying again. Instead, she nodded as her mother breezed past her, then sat down opposite the Princess.
"So Jane, what's the plan? Out for a flight on Dragon? A practice duel in the court yard?" Lavinia grinned.
"Sorry, Princess, but my mother has a point. You're not a child any more, my little majesty, and you have to start taking your duties seriously" She realised Lavinia was staring at her curiously.
"Jane - what's wrong?"
"You are hiding something, Jane. What is it?"
"Hiding something, my Lady?" Jane glanced at the door, wondering what was keeping Jester.
"Yes, Jane" Lavinia stood up and glared down at her "And as your Princess, and your friend, I am ordering you to tell me" Jane stared up at her, wondering what she could say, when there was another knock on the door, and a moment later, Jester and Prince Cuthbert came in.
"My apologies, Jane" Jester said "It took me a while to find The Prince"
"That's alright" Jane smiled at him, then turned back to the two Royal children, took a deep breath and sighed "Prince Cuthbert, Princess Lavinia - I am afraid I have some very bad news"
"At first I didn't believe her" Lavinia continued "I called her a liar, threaten to have my father banish her - did everything I could to deny the truth" She turned to Jane, who was smiling fondly "But Cuthbert just shut down. Which, on reflection, should have been a dead give away"
"You mean...." Hermione started, but Jane held up her hand.
"We'll get to that" The young knight said "But first...." She looked around "Should we go somewhere less..... open? It's going to be dark soon"
"There's Sirius' cave" Harry replied "It's in the hill just up yonder" He glanced at Jester and Lavinia "It might not be all that comfortable"
"We've spent the last six months hiding out in Dragon's cave" Jester smiled "So we're used to dark, dank holes in the ground"
"Hey!" Dragon's voice boomed "What you calling a dark, dank hole?"
"Your cave, lizard lips!"
"That's Mister Lizard Lips to you, Mister Floppy Hat"
"That's Mister, Mister Floppy Hat, scale boy"
"GENTLEMEN!" Jane raised her voice slightly, and both Dragon and Jester turned to face her "Once we rescue The Kingdom, you can argue all you want. But until then, could you keep your bickering to a minimum? For me?"
"Yes dear" They replied in unison, causing Harry and Lavinia to giggle. Jane rolled her eyes, then turned back to Harry.
"Can you take me to this cave?" She asked, and Harry nodded "Okay - Dragon will fly us there, then return for the others" She turned to her husband "Can I ask you to stay here with Ron and Hermione, hon?"
"Of course" Anthony nodded.
"Then Harry, Princess - with me" She turned and walked over to Dragon, who lowered his head and allowed them to climb on his neck "So, harry - you ever fly on a dragon before?"
"No" He replied, then added "But I did once fly circles around one to steal a golden egg" He smiled at the look of surprise on their faces "I guess I should explain....."
"Anthony?" Ron walked over to where the young man was staring at the departing dragon.
"Why did Jane call you Jess earlier?"
"Ah" Anthony smiled "It's her pet name for me" He grinned at the look of confusion on his face.
"You were a Jester?" Hermione asked, causing him to turn suddenly.
"I am" He bowed "But how...."
"My Min is one of the smartest witches in a generation" Ron replied proudly.
"Ron!" Hermione blushed, then turned back to Jester "So why did they call you Jester? Did they not know your name?"
"I was brought in to the court when I was seven, and became a Jester two years later" He shrugged "The Royal Family always calls me Jester, so all the other members of The Court got in to the habit" He paused "It wasn't until King Caradoc and Queen Gwendolyn died that she started to call me Anthony" He paused, then frowned "I'm sorry, but earlier.... did you say you are a witch?"
Jane looked around the cave, then turned back to Dragon.
"Do you think you can find your way back to the others?" She asked, then smiled at the look on his face "Sorry - silly question"
"I'm glad you understand" Dragon turned and launched himself out of the cave, leaving Jane, Lavinia and Harry facing each other.
"The only problem with the cave is it's not very defensible" Harry said, breaking off from gazing at the young Princess "And one or two others know about it"
"The Sirius you mentioned?" Lavinia asked. Harry looked up sharply, then shook his head softly.
"No - he won't come here" He said in a quiet voice "He died a few weeks ago"
"Oh - I'm sorry"
"Thank you" He sighed "It's a long story, but you've arrived at a bad time to ask for help. We - my friends and I - are in the middle of a war"
"A war?" Jane turned from gazing out of the cave "Here? But you're only children" Harry stared at her for a moment, then shifted his gaze to Lavinia, then back again. Jane followed his gaze, then blushed "I take your point"
"Sirius - my godfather - died during an attack on the school I go to about two weeks ago. So did a few others" He sighed "Since then, there've been a few more attacks round the country, and The Ministry, such as it is, is predicting it will get worse"
"Oh my" Lavinia reached out and touched his shoulder. He turned, and smiled appreciatively.
"Do you think we can help?" Jane asked "I mean - there's only four of us, but I'm pretty good in a fight, and both Jester and my Lady have learned to hold their own"
"And Dragon is.... well a dragon" Lavinia added.
"Thank you, but there's something else you should know before you get involved" He paused, then pulled his wand out of his jacket "The war isn't like any you've fought in before. Me and my friends are magical. The person we're fighting is magical" He waved his wand, producing an illusion of Dragon that flew around the cave, then vanished. He put his wand away, then smirked "I'm not turning down your offer, Jane, but I thought you should know what you might be getting in to" Jane and Lavinia exchanged glances, then turned back to him.
"We'll help any way we can" Lavinia said with a smile.
"Thanks" He grinned warmly at her, then turned to Jane "And we - Ron, Min and I, will do anything we can to return your kingdom to its rightful Queen"
"You can really do magic?" Jester asked as Dragon flew them to the cave.
"Yes" Hermione replied with a smile. She lifted her arm to get her wand, then - after a wobble - she grabbed hold of Dragon again "Though not while I'm flying 300ft above the ground"
"You don't like flying?"
"No" She shook her head "I had an accident during my first flying lesson - broke my leg - and I haven't been on a broom since"
"Because the cave is a long way, and we didn't want you going unprotected" Ron said "It's unlikely there are Death Eaters in the area, but you never know"
"Death Eaters?" Dragon asked.
"Once Dragon arrives, I'll have to go" Harry leaned back against the cave wall.
"I have to go back to school" He said with a sigh "Today was a Hogsmeade visit - the town we flew over - and it ends in about an hour or so"
"Okay" Jane nodded "Can you come back tomorrow?"
"Probably, yes" Harry smiled "The visits go on for a whole weekend"
"Then we will see you tomorrow" Jane replied, then stood up as Dragon landed on the cliff outside the cave.
"Yes - you can relax. I'm back" He smiled as the three passengers climbed off him.
"And we are all so glad to see you" Jane smirked, then turned to Jester "Nice trip?"
"Very smooth" He smiled "And did you know they were magical?"
"Harry told us" Lavinia replied "And he told us about the war"
"You told them?" Ron asked in surprise.
"I thought they should know what they're getting in to" Harry shrugged "And Princess Lavinia has offered their services, if we need them" Hermione smiled, and turned to Lavinia.
"Thank you, your majesty" Lavinia held up her hand.
"Just to clear things up, I am a Highness, not a majesty" She said "And to be honest, until my brother is taken care of, I am not really a Highness" She paused "So please call me Lavinia"
"Yes, Lavinia" Hermione nodded, then Lavinia turned to Jane.
"That applies to you three as well, my friend" Jane returned her gaze, then smiled.
"Of course, my little majesty" She replied, causing Lavinia to roll her eyes.
"Why do I bother?" She turned back to Harry "We'll see you tomorrow?"
"Yes, Princes..." He paused at her look "Yes, Lavinia" He glanced at Ron and Hermione, who also nodded "We'll let you know if something comes up"
"Okay" Lavinia hesitated, then reached out and gave him a hug. He blushed, but slipped his arms around her.
After a moment, they separated, and he, Ron and Hermione walked out of the cave. Lavinia watched them go, then turned back to the others, who were all smiling at her.
Chapter 2 - Discussions
"Mr Potter - the Headmaster would like to see you in his office" Professor McGonagall swept down the main stair case as Harry, Hermione and Ron walked in to the Entrance Hall.
"Of course he does" Harry sighed, then turned to Ron and Hermione "Not a word to anyone about this" They both nodded, and Harry turned back to the deputy Headmistress "Shall we?"
"Ah - Harry, do come in" Dumbledore stood up as Harry walked in to his office "Please sit down"
"Thank you, sir" Harry sat down opposite Dumbledore's desk, and waited for him to do the same. But to his surprise, the old wizard started pacing up and down behind him.
"Did you enjoy your visit to the town today, Harry?"
"Yes, thank you sir" He paused "Although we spent most of it walking in the fields round the outskirts"
"Ah - that would explain it"
"Explain what, sir?"
"Why the members of The Order, and the various professors, didn't report seeing you" Harry turned in his chair, frowning.
"You were spying on me, sir?"
"No Harry - not spying exactly"
"Then how do you know......"
"You are highly recognisable, Harry, and your absence is equally noticeable"
"And I bet they couldn't wait to come running to tell tales" Harry sneered "So - are you going to punish me?"
"Of course not" Dumbledore gave him a friendly smile "But perhaps you could explain why you didn't want to visit Hogsmeade?" Harry turned back to face the desk.
"It's less than a month since Sirius died, sir" He explained quietly "Since Hannah, Colin, Padma and Ginny were murdered" He paused, then turned to face Dumbledore again "Since they died defending me. So forgive me if I wasn't up for a day of fun and frolics"
"I understand" Dumbledore smiled kindly "But I would as you to consider your safety, Harry. If you are out in the fields, or the woods, you are an easy target"
"I can take care of myself, Headmaster" Harry snapped "I thought the last year would've proved that, if nothing else"
"Never the less, I would feel happier if you were to stay in areas we can protect you"
"And keep watch on me?"
"We can't protect you if we can't see you, Harry" Dumbledore walked round behind his desk and sat down "So - are you going to follow my advice?"
"Headmaster, I am as concerned about your happiness as you are about mine" Harry stood up "If I may be excused, I have homework to do"
"Very well, Harry - you may go"
"So, my Lady, what do you think of our Hero?" Jane asked. The three of them were lying against Dragon's belly to keep warm.
"He seems...... nice" Lavinia replied, glad that the darkness of the cave hid the red that flushed in to her cheeks "And from what he said about the war, he is a true hero, even if he won't admit it"
"Ron and Minnie said the same" Jester added "That despite the fact there are adult wizards who are far more powerful, Harry is the one leading the charge" He paused "And that the majority of the kids in the school are ready and willing to fight for him"
"And die for him" Dragon added, voice rumbling "Ron's sister died in the last skirmish"
"Oh my!" Jane exclaimed.
"And it does lead us to another potential problem" Jester continued "One that might stop him from helping us" He felt the two women turn to him.
"Are you going to tell us?" Lavinia asked.
"Yes, my Lady" He sighed "We've been dancing around the issue, but if Harry is going to help us, he's going to have to come back to the castle with us" He paused "Back to our time"
"And we don't know how the rune-spell works" Jester continued "If we take him back, he might not be able to return"
"You think he might say no?" Lavinia asked, sounding a little depressed.
"Maybe" Jane replied "But only because he has something keeping him here"
"The war" Lavinia nodded "You think he'll stay here because of the war"
"If he's leading the fight, I can't see him backing out - even to join our crusade" Jane sighed "I mean - would you?"
They sat in silence for a few minutes, then Lavinia let out a long sigh.
"So what are we going to do?" She asked quietly "Go home and live in exile for the rest of our natural lives?"
"We could always stay here" Jane suggested "Start a new life" There was a moment of silence, then she sighed "No - I didn't thin so either"
"Oh you short-lives. Sometimes I wonder how you walk and talk at the same time" Dragon's voice echoed through the cave.
"So you have a suggestion, O Wise One?" Jane asked.
"I do" Dragon replied smugly. When, after a minute, he didn't continue, Jane elbowed him, then yelped and rubbed her arm.
"I forgot how hard your stomach is!" She whined.
"I am what I am" He replied "But to answer your question, the answer is simple"
"Yes" Dragon grinned in the dark "You help him win his war, then he can help us win ours"
"What did our great and glorious leader want?" Hermione asked as Harry came in to the dorm.
"The usual" Harry flopped down on his bed, then rolled on to his side, to face Ron and Hermione, who were sat on Ron's bed "He wanted to know why I hadn't turned up in Hogsmeade"
"How did he..."
"Order Members told him" Harry replied, then grinned "Didn't ask about you two - I guess he doesn't care what you do in your spare time"
"The Hero Of The Light" Ron said in a sarcastic tone "But he doesn't know about Jane?"
"Apparently not" Harry smiled, then his look became one of confusion "Which, given we flew over the town three times is kind of strange" He turned to Hermione "I know I know the answer, but dragons don't usually fly over Hogsmeade, do they?"
"Not as a rule, no" She shook her head "And we weren't flying high enough to avoid being seen"
"I'm just guessing, but I think it's Dragon's natural magical ambience" Harry and Ron exchanged looks, then Ron turned back to his girlfriend.
"And for the languagely challenged, that means?"
"That Dragon is a magical creature, and this whole area is awash with background magic" She replied with a fond smile "And so his innate defences are probably a lot stronger than they have been before"
"So he can be invisible?" Harry asked, sitting up "Cool"
"Amongst other things" Hermione smiled at the expression on his face "Dragons have always been reputed to have a lot of powers - varying from species to species. And one of the key ones was their ability to hide themselves from humanity"
"Do you think he could teach it to me?" Harry asked with a slight smile.
"Probably not" She grinned "Unless you become a dragon animagus, and the last one of those was several centuries ago"
"Oh well - it was just a thought" He shrugged.
"So what's going on between Dragon and Jester?" Ron asked.
"Oh - Lavinia explained that" Harry smiled, then tilted his head to one side as both Ron and Hermione smirked "What?"
"Nothing" They replied in unison, then Ron continued "You were saying?"
"Dragon and Jane were best friends for a long time" Harry said, still frowning at them "Ever since they met - after Dragon kidnapped Cuthbert and Jane went to rescue him"
"Long story" He waved his hand "But they have been best friends forever, and Dragon thought it would stay like that"
"Then Jane fell in love?"
"With Jes... with Anthony" Harry nodded "And although he understood it, and was very happy for her, Dragon still looks at Anthony as a rival for his girl's affections" He grinned "I think they both just keep it up out of habit now, and although Jane acts annoyed by it, Lavinia thinks she secretly loves it"
"Oh Lavinia thinks so, does she?" Hermione smiled.
"Something you want to tell me, Min?" Harry asked.
"Tell you? Me?" She grinned at him "What makes you think that?" Harry continued to stare at her "Okay - it's just you seem somewhat...."
".....by the Princess" She continued "We think it's cute"
"Cute?" Harry blinked a few times "And smitten?"
"Don't get us wrong - we know you're still mourning for Ginny" Ron smiled "But you can't spend your life being alone because you feel guilty" He took Hermione's hand "She wouldn't want that, and would kick your ass if she knew you were doing it"
"But..." He paused "We only just met. What makes you think I like her? Or she likes me?"
"Just a feeling" Hermione smiled "And whether she likes you or not is not the problem"
"The fact that she is a Princess - a Queen in exile no less - and she comes from the ancient past is" Harry sighed, then glanced at Ron, who was looking confused "The Royal Court she described hasn't been in existence for nearly twelve hundred years"
"Could they be from another country?" Ron asked.
"Not with their accents" Hermione shook her head "They are English, but unless their entire story is an elaborate hoax, they are from the seventh or eighth century"
"But...." Ron started, then paused.
"How did they get here?" He asked "If they don't know about magic, how did they come in to the future?"
"And how do they expect to get back?" Harry continued.
"And do they think we are going to go with them?" Hermione finished.
"Do you think we should keep him in the castle?" McGonagall asked. An Order meeting had just come to an end, and Dumbledore had asked a few members to stay behind. So Arthur and Molly Weasley, Nymphadora Tonks and Remus Lupin sat in the office, along with McGonagall and Snape.
"We have no reason" Dumbledore said reluctantly "He hasn't broken any rules, and I suspect that if I try to force the issue, it will only drive us further apart"
"Just tell him it is for his own safety, and confine the brat to the castle" Snape snapped "I don't see what the problem is"
"The problem is that, ever since the May Day raid, Harry has been somewhat cold and distant" Dumbledore replied calmly "It seems he blames me for the death of his godfather, and is making his feelings clear"
"So? You are Headmaster, and he is...."
"Our only hope" The room fell silent at Dumbledore's pronouncement. After a few moments, Remus turned to face him.
"Our only hope?"
"About a month before he was born, it was prophesied that Harry would be the one to vanquish Voldemort and bring an end to the war" He looked around at the stunned faces "So, as you can see, it is imperative that we keep Harry on his path, otherwise the whole world will pay the price"
"We have to tell him the truth" Lavinia said firmly "It would be wrong to trick him"
"You're just saying that cause you fancy him" Dragon said with a smirk, causing Jane and Jester to snort with laughter.
"I do NOT fancy him!" Lavinia stamped her food, glad once again no one could see her blushing.
"Of course not" Dragon continued "That's why your heart is going like a drum, your temperature has increased and you are blushing like a school girl"
"How did you... I mean.... no I'm not" Lavinia exclaimed, but Jane and Jester only laughed harder. She shook her head "I hate you all"
"We know, your majesty" Jester said with a smile.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of, my little majesty - he is a very nice boy" Jane continued "And you are the same age"
"I'm not ashamed, and we are straying from the point, which is we have to tell him that if he, or Ron or Minnie, come back with us, then they might be stuck there"
"Even if it means he refuses?"
Chapter 3 - Future's Past
The next morning, after they'd finished their breakfast, Harry, Hermione and Ron walked down to the Entrance Hall, then stopped as they caught sight of Dumbledore standing at the main door.
"Do you think he's going to stop us?" Ron asked, glancing around.
"No" Hermione shook her head "There's no grounds for it"
"He's going to remind you to stay in the town, and not to wander off the path" She paused "Metaphorically speaking of course"
"And then he's going to have you followed" She continued, causing Harry to nod, and Ron to sigh.
"Any way round it?" He asked.
"Short of killing him?" Harry looked around, then caught sight of a dreamy blonde girl making her way through the crowd "I think I have an idea...."
Luna turned as she felt Harry approaching, then smiled at the look on his face.
"I'm glad he's found her" She thought to herself, then glanced over at the doors, to see Dumbledore watching them intently "Oh - that would explain it" She turned back to Harry, and - on impulse - she bounded forward and flung her arms around him "Honey! I thought you weren't coming!"
Dumbledore stared in surprise as Luna jumped on Harry, proclaiming her love for the young man.
Even more surprising was Harry's reaction.
"What are you doing?" Harry yelled at the top of his voice, attracting the attention of everyone in the hall.
"I told you - my heart belongs to Ginny!" He pushed her back, then turned and stormed out of the hall.
Dumbledore was about to gesture to Remus to go after Harry, when a piercing scream filled the air.
He spun round to the astonishing sight of Luna going bright red. A second later, waves and waves of raw magic began pouring off her, flooding the hall, and causing all sorts of chaos.
Remus watched in horror as the chandelier above the Entrance Hall started to shake. He ran forward, holding up his wand.
Professor McGonagall pushed her way through the crowd of students, and the ever more powerful waves of magic, to stand in front of Luna.
"Miss Lovegood! Control yourself!" She yelled "Please calm down!"
"Okay" Luna grinned, and at once the waves of magic vanished, the chandelier stopped swaying and she resumed her normal, dreamy disposition "Thank you for your advice" She turned, and skipped out of the hall towards the carriages, leaving a stunned Transfiguration teacher behind her.
Dumbledore watched Luna vanish out of the hall, then turned back to see Remus stood under the chandelier, wand ready to catch it. Then he looked around again, and realised Harry, Ron and Hermione were nowhere in sight.
"I must say, I'm impressed" He said to himself "But mark my words - you will listen to me, boy"
"I hope you plan to make it up to her" Hermione said as they walked along the road towards the cave.
"I do, and I will" Harry smiled, then shook his head in amazement "I must admit - I never realised she could be so.... inventive"
"I was just going to ask her to come with us, then cause a distraction on the way" Harry smiled "It never occurred to me that she would do it right there and then"
"It was effective" Hermione admitted with a grin "But...."
"How did she generate that much power?" Hermione stopped, and they turned to face her "That was some serious magic - enough to rock the castle if she thought about it"
"She's always been.... odd" Ron said "Ever since she was a child" He paused "But her... oddness, for want of a better word, did get worse after her mother died"
"She said that Mrs Lovegood died while crafting a new spell" Harry said softly "Maybe.... maybe there was a side effect on Luna as well?"
"It's possible" Hermione shrugged, then looked up "We're here"
"They're here" Jester looked down from the cave entrance "Should I?"
"Please" Jane nodded, then turned back to Lavinia "My Lady, you know I am your loyal subject, your knight protector and your friend"
"I do" Lavinia smiled, unsure of where Jane was going.
"And that your word is law, and I will follow it even unto my death"
"Then please understand how serious I am when I ask you to follow my lead in this, and to let me talk to them in my own way"
"You think I am wrong?" The Princess asked with an amused smile.
"Not wrong, as such, but we should change the focus of our plan"
"What do you mean?"
"If we tell him that he might be stuck in the past the moment he walks in, there's a good chance we'll scare him off"
"True" Lavinia tilted her head in acknowledgement.
"But if we can ease in to it, then hopefully they will be willing to consider it" Jane glanced over at Dragon "You've been pretty quiet, Dragon - which I have to say is a nice change"
"Thank you" Dragon rolled his eyes "And since you asked, I have to side with Lavinia"
"Dragon's aren't ones for subtlety, and tricks" He continued "We're pretty direct and we prefer that people are direct with us" Jane stared at him for a moment, then turned back to Lavinia.
"Very well, my little majesty" She said quietly "If you think it is for the best, I will tell him the truth"
"Thank you, Jane" Lavinia smiled, then turned to Dragon "And thank you, Dragon" Dragon shrugged, which was a pretty impressive gesture, then glanced at Jane.
"That's okay" Jane smiled at him "You just did what you think is right" She reached up and scratched the top of his head, causing him to wriggle with pleasure.
"Anthony - there's something we want to ask you" Hermione said as the four of them walked up the cliff road "Before we talk to Lavinia and Jane"
"What?" Jester asked.
"We were talking last night, and we came to the conclusion that you've been hiding something from us" She paused as Jester missed a step and stumbled.
"Hiding something?" Jester smiled faintly "What do you mean?"
"You all speak English" Harry said "Very good English. But there hasn't been a King Carradoc, Queen Gwendolyn or King Cuthbert in the UK for a long time - far longer than the twenty five years I'd guess you and Jane have been alive"
"So what are you saying?" Jester asked, looking straight ahead.
"That you, Princess Lavinia, Jane and Dragon are from the distant past" Hermione said quietly "And that if we are going to help you, we will have to travel back there with you" All three of them stared at Jester as he kept walking up the path. After a few moments, he stopped and turned back to face them.
"I know this might be hard to believe, but I'm not the smartest man in the world" He blushed as they smiled "My wife is in charge of this.... expedition, and if you don't mind, I'd rather let her answer any questions you might have" Hermione and Ron nodded, but Harry frowned "Harry?"
"If Jane is knight-protector of the throne, doesn't that mean she is a subject of the Queen?"
"Yes" Jester nodded "And while she is bound by her oath to follow Princess Lavinia, the Princess knows Jane is much better at this than she is, and so will generally listen to her counsel"
"Oh" Harry paused, then nodded "Just one more question"
"If Lavinia is the Queen in exile, why do you still refer to her as Princess?" Jester smiled at Harry's question.
"It was a request from the Princess" He said, still smiling "But I'm sure she will be happy to explain it herself"
"You need to talk to your son, Molly" Dumbledore smiled kindly at the Weasley matriarch.
"I will, Albus, but Ron isn't a child any more" Molly said with a sigh "And since Ginny's death, he is listening more to Harry than to Arthur or me"
"I admit I have noticed a change in his attitude at school" The Headmaster nodded "But Ronald needs to see that we - you, Arthur and I - only have his best interests at heart. His and Harry's both"
"I will try, Albus"
"There is another reason, Molly - other than the war" Dumbledore leaned forward intently "We live in a deeply divided world, Molly. The pureblood agenda has split the magical community down the middle, with the Malfoy's and their friends on one side, the muggle born on the other and the remainder are stuck in the middle"
"But once the war....."
"Even if we win the war, the hate and loathing that started it won't vanish. And worse - once the war ends, there will be a power vacuum, and the various factions will start vying to fill it" He paused "I fear that once Voldemort is defeated, a civil war will be inevitable"
"Unless we can stave it off" He smiled "Which is where Harry, Miss Granger and your son come in"
"Harry!" Lavinia jumped to her feet, and ran over to where Harry, Ron and Hermione stood. Jester sidled past them, and walked over to where Jane and Dragon were waiting "You came!"
"Of course, your...." He trailed off at the look of admonishment on her face "Lavinianess" He smiled as she giggled.
"I knew you would" She glanced back to where Jane and Jester were talking intently, then looked back at the newly arrived group "We have something to tell you - something other than the rest of the story about my ignoble glorious brother's rise to power"
"That's a coincidence" Ron said with a smile "Because there was something we have to as you" Jane and Lavinia stared at them, then turned, in unison to face Jester, who was staring very intently at the wall of the cave.
"Jester - is there something we should know?" Lavinia asked with a smile.
"Know, your majesty?" He asked with fake innocence.
"Don't play dumb, love" Jane smiled fondly "It doesn't suit you"
"Oh, I don't know...." Dragon started, but fell silent at a glare from Jane.
"They know" Jester admitted "They asked on the way up if they would have to come back to the past with us"
"And what did you say?"
"That they should talk to you and the Princess" he sighed "I didn't think it was my place" He walked over to Jane, head hung "I'm sorry"
"It's probably for the best, and to be honest, we were going to bring it up anyway"
"Yes" Lavinia said firmly "We are" She turned back to the group "So - come in, and make yourself as comfortable as possible" She smiled "We have a lot to talk about"
"We have a lot to talk about" Molly sat down opposite her husband in The Three Broomsticks "It seems we were right about Albus"
"Really?" Arthur sighed "That's a shame"
"I know" Molly shook her head "I really hoped we were wrong, but he just spent the better part of an hour outlining his plans for the future, and the role he expects The Trio to play in it"
"Will I be afraid to ask?"
"It depends on your point of view" She smiled "On the one hand, our son, his future wife and the boy we both look upon as a son will be set for life. They will never want for anything, and will live out their remaining years in luxury" She paused "Dumbledore wants to put Harry in as Minister Of Magic, Ron as Head of The DMLE and Hermione as Chief Justice of The Wizengamot"
"And use them as figureheads to unit the country" Arthur finished for her. He smiled weakly "I suppose, from a certain point of view, it makes sense" He sighed "They might be set for life, but they'll be utterly miserable"
"Ginny died saving his life" Molly said quietly "We owe it to her memory to ensure he gets to live the life he wants"
"I agree" Arthur nodded "So what do we do?"
"The truth is, we just don't know" Jane said seriously "We don't know how we came here, or how to get back" She glanced at Dragon "We think the runes will pull us back, when we're ready to go, but after that...." She shrugged "We need your help Harry - we can't retake our kingdom without you - but neither can we, in all good conscience, make you come with us and get stuck twelve centuries before you were born" She glanced at Ron and Hermione "Nor can we do that to you, if you decide to help"
"Thank you for your honesty" Harry replied with a slight smile "And in an equally honest we, I should say I'm not sure if we can come with you"
"Voldemort?" Lavinia asked, and Harry nodded.
"I can't run out on the war - not after so many people have died for me" He said simply "Not even to save a kingdom" He paused "Look - I'm sure there is a solution to all this. Magic generally knows what it's doing, and if it brought you here, to us, it must have had a reason"
"I agree" Hermione added.
"But I am equally sure we can't going to get anywhere if we sit and think about nothing else" He grinned as they all nodded "So lets find something to distract us, and maybe the answer will come when we least expect it"
"What do you have in mind" Lavinia asked.
"How about the rest of our story?" Dragon suggested.
"Sounds good to me" Harry replied.
"Then, if you are all sitting comfortably, I'll begin" Jane said with a smile.
Chapter 4 - A Castle Divided
"While I was telling The Prince and Princess about the tragedy, my father had been busy" Jane continued.
Milton Turnkey stood at the gate to the castle, flanked by the majority of the staff, while Dragon flew circles overhead.
He felt his wife's hand tighten in his, and followed her gaze to where a mounted party was coming up the road. A party preceded by The King's Banner, flying at half-mast.
He heard a noise behind him, and turned to see Jester walking up to the gate.
"Jane is with the children, my Lord Chamberlain" He said with a bow "They are not talking it well"
"I can imagine" Adeline said softly, not taking her eyes off the the approaching group.
"If I may ask, what happens now?" Rake the gardener asked from behind them "I mean - who is to be King?"
"Unofficially Prince Cuthbert is already our King" Milton said "But, as tradition dictates, he will not be crowned until their Royal Majesties are buried" He took as step forward as the party reached the bottom of the hill "Now, if you will excuse me, I must great them"
"Of course" Jester turned, then - facing the rest of the staff - he raised his voice "PRESENT ARMS!"
"I'll never forget the scene as long as I live" Lavinia was staring into space as she spoke "Jane stood behind us as we watched my parents pass through the castle gate" She paused, wiping her eyes "The entire staff - all my friends - were lined up, saluting as they passed by. It was the most touching, moving moment in my life" She glanced over at Jester, who merely inclined his head in acknowledgement.
"Two days later, escorted by a full honour guard, King Caradoc and Queen Gwendolyn were taken to their final resting place, deep in the mountains" Jane continued, speaking quietly "And the day after, Prince Cuthbert took the throne. And for a while, the kingdom settled down again" She paused "But only for a while"
"Chamberlain, may I have a word?" Smithy asked as Jane's father walked across the courtyard, Milton stopped and turned.
"If you make it quick, Master Smithy - I have a lot on my plate at the moment"
"There have been a lot of complaints from various merchants in town" Smithy said carefully "They are unhappy with the new tariffs being applied to their businesses"
"Yes - I have heard there was some discontent, but I was lead to believe that it was only a few malcontents"
"Maybe it was at first, but....." Smithy paused, then took a deep breath "But the King's inaction has caused the discontent to spread" The Chamberlain turned to stare at the young blacksmith.
"You believe the King is in error?" He asked in a serious tone.
"It's not my place to say, My Lord" Smith replied "I am merely informing you of some of the concerns I have heard voiced" Milton stared at him for a few moments, then nodded.
"I will inform the King of these concerns, Master Blacksmith" He said "But mind that you remember your place in the future"
"Yes, my Lord"
"I'm guessing that The King didn't listen?" Ron asked.
"Not even for a minute" Jane replied with a sigh "But, luckily for Smithy, my father didn't say where these concerns had come from"
"Luckily?" Harry leaned forward "What happened?"
"My brother decided that his subjects were not showing enough respect" Lavinia said with a frown.
"It was about six months after the coronation, and it wasn't just the merchants who were feeling a little put out"
Jane looked up in surprise as Pepper stormed across the yard, stamping and cursing under her breath.
"Pepper?" She jumped up from the table she was working at, and ran across the yard "Pepper!" The cook stopped, and turned to stare at her friend. Jane gasped in surprise at the tears falling down her face "What's wrong?"
"The King banished me" She said in a halting voice.
"Banished?" Jane exclaimed in surprise "Why?"
"He overheard me talking to Rake about the market stall holders" Pepper continued, voice still thick with sadness "I said I thought they had a point - that perhaps the taxes and tariffs were too high - and without giving me a chance to say anything else, he told me that I was fired, and to get out of his castle at once"
"Oh my" Jane glanced over at the throne room, then back at her friend "Would you like me to have a word...."
"No!" Jane jumped back at the ferocity of Pepper's exclamation "He was really angry Jane - more angry than I have ever seen him, and I don't want you to get in trouble" She stared down at the ground "I'll be alright, Jane - I have friends in the village, and I can find a job" She smiled faintly "I'll be fine"
"If you're sure" Jane nodded "But if you need help, or somewhere to hide, go to Dragon's cave. He'll be able to protect you"
"Okay - thank you" Pepper smiled, then leaned over and hugged her "I'll see you soon, Jane"
"Over the next six months, things didn't get any better" Lavinia continued "Rake left the castle soon after Pepper - it turns out they were secretly engaged, and he left so they could marry"
"With both Rake and Pepper gone, life in the castle became decidedly less happy" Jester said "Their replacements were old and grumpy, and both very loyal to the King" He paused "Which, I suppose, is why he picked them"
"But as bad as life inside the castle became, it was nothing compared to what was going on outside"
"Bad?" Hermione asked sympathetically.
"We thought it was" Lavinia said "But we really had no idea"
"MAKE WAY FOR THE KING!" Ivan's voice echoed through the town square as he lead the parade. Jane was at the rear of the procession, sword by her side.
Earlier on, she had tried to entreat Dragon to join the parade, but for some reason he had point blank refused to even consider it.
She looked around again, then gasped as a tomato was hurled from the side of the road. She urged her horse forward, but couldn't stop a second from being thrown.
"HOLD!" Cuthbert's voice silenced the noise. He stood up in his carriage and looked around "Who dares assault their King?"
Jane watched the crowd, then drew her sword as an old man slowly hobbled forward and stared defiantly up at Cuthbert.
"You dare, old man?" The young King glared down at him "Do you have so little respect for your King?"
"You are not my King, upstart" The old man sneered "You are a pathetic shadow of your father, boy, and aren't even fit to speak his name, let alone wear his crown"
Jane glanced back and forth between the man and the King, then her mouth fell open in shock as Cuthbert nodded to Ivan, who dismounted, walked back down the procession then, in one swift, deadly motion, drew his sword and decapitated the old man.
"See the price of disloyalty" Cuthbert said in a calm voice "I am your King, you my subjects. You will act as such, or face the consequences" He sat back in his seat, then nodded to Ivan, and the procession started moving again.
"I couldn't believe it" Jane said softly "In my entire life, I had never dreamed the King would order an execution, let alone actually see it happen in front of me"
"Didn't King Caradoc...."
"Never" Lavinia replied firmly "He exiled a family once - for treason I think - but he didn't believe in executing people in cold blood"
"I take it Cuthbert didn't stop at one?" Ron asked.
"To say the least" Jane sighed "But as worrying as the executions were, there was something more worrying still"
"Jane - may I speak to you a moment?" Jane looked up, then nodded.
"I will be up in a moment, Sir Theodore" She replied, then turned back to Smithy "I know it is a lot to ask, but I really could do with it by Thursday"
"I will do my best, Jane, however Sir Ivan and Sir Gunther have also requested repairs, and are somewhat more insistent than you"
"So if I was meaner, I'd get it done quicker?" She smiled "I knew this kind, sweet demeanour would hurt me in the end"
"I will see what I can do" Smithy returned the smile, then looked up at the balcony on the other side of the yard "You should go"
"Thank you" She nodded, then turned and walked over to the steps that lead up to Sir Theodore's private chambers.
Jane - do you remember my lessons about your duty to yourself?" Theodore looked down at his former apprentice.
"Yes, Sir Theodore"
"And do you remember the most important thing I taught you?"
"That in the end, it comes down to me" She replied quietly "That I must be true to myself before I can be true to my King"
"Very good, young Jane" He paused "The King has decided that Sir Ivan is to be the Head of The Palace Guard" Jane gasped "I am to be allowed to retire, and train future knights. As apparently that is all I am fit for"
"But... but why?"
"It is the King's wish, Jane, and one we are both duty bound to follow" Theodore said firmly.
"Yes, Sir Theodore" She nodded.
"Good" He paused, then smiled "You were always my best and brightest apprentice, Jane, and I am more proud of you than I can express" He smiled as she blushed "But soon you will be forced to make a choice, my girl, and it will be the hardest decision you will ever have to make" He paused "But also, I believe it will be the easiest" Jane stared at him contemplatively for a few minutes.
"I'm sorry, Sir Theodore, but I don't understand"
"I don't expect you to - at least not yet" He turned back to his desk for a moment, then turned to face her, looking serious "Changes are coming, my friend, and they will come sooner than you think" He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek "Take care, my child, and be safe"
"The next morning, Theodore had vanished" Jester said quietly "No one knew where he had gone, or when he had left"
"Ivan and Cuthbert were furious" Lavinia continued with a slight smile "Every member of the Castle staff was questioned, and threatened with banishment if they hid anything" She grinned "It was the most fun I had had in ages" She glanced at Jane "With one exception, it was the only fun I've had since my parents died" Harry, Ron and Hermione turned to look at Jane, who blushed.
"She's talking about my wedding" Jane blushed again.
"Do tell" Hermione leaned forward, while Ron and Harry rolled their eyes.
"As much as I'd like to avoid it, our wedding" She glanced at Jester "Is a part of our story"
"Do you, Anthony, take this woman to be your wife?"
"I do" Jester smiled, and Milton returned the smile then turned to his daughter.
"And do you, Jane, take this man to be your husband?" Jane looked across at Jester, then turned back to her father.
"I do" Father and daughter exchanged smiles, then Milton turned to the assembled group.
"As Lord Chamberlain, it is one of my duties to marry happy couples - a duty I have performed a dozen more times" He paused, glancing over at his wife "But never has performing this duty given me as much pleasure as it has today" He turned back to the two people in front of him "It is with great pride and surpassing pleasure that I present for the first time Mr and Mrs Anthony Millerson"
"You took his name?" Harry asked with a slight smile.
"More or less" Jane returned the smile "I kept my last name for Knightly Duties, but for all other purposes, I am proud to be Jane Millerson"
"And I am proud to be married to Lady Jane Turnkey, first female Knight-Protector" Jester grined.
"Oh you two!" Dragon smiled "They've been like this ever since they were married" He rolled his eyes "Get to the good bit!"
"You mean where I accidentally walk in on Jane and Jester when they are...."
"NO!" Lavinia laughed as Jane, Jester and Dragon all yelled in unison.
"Oh - you must mean later that evening then" She continued with a smile.
Dragon flew into the castle, and, after looking around, alighted on the wall next to The Royal Garden.
"JANE! JANE!" He bellowed.
"What?" Jane's voice came back, tinged with anger. A moment later, she strode up to him, looking as annoyed as she sounded.
"You need to come with me"
"Dragon - I'm at my own wedding party"
"I know, but someone's burning the docks" Jane stared at him in disbelief.
"What did you say?"
"I flew over the docks, and four of the boats are on fire - we have to go!"
"Just give me a moment to inform Sir Theo.... Sir Ivan" She started to turn, but stopped as Gunther walked out of the shadows.
"No need to interrupt the festivities, Jane" He said with a smile "Sir Ivan is already aware of what is going on, as is the King"
"And are they doing something about it?" She stared at him in disbelief "Are they going to stop this?"
"Why would they?" He smiled patronizingly at her "It was King Cuthbert who ordered it done"
"A number of traders had been refusing to pay the taxes my brother had implemented" Lavinia said with a frown "The night of Jane's wedding was the sixth night of the protest, and apparently one night too long, because it was the night my brother sent a goon squad to the docks to...." She turned to Jane "How did he put it?"
"To convince them of the depth of their folly" Jane smiled "Though I suspect it was Gunther's father who came up with the phrasing"
"Magnus is a great supporter of the King" Jester added.
"I gathered" Harry smiled.
"Anyway - they torched the ships of the protesters, and returned to inform King Cuthbert what they'd done" Lavinia continued "Who was, obviously, delighted"
"The next few months saw the protests increase, in both intensity and frequency, and the King reacted with equal intensity" Jane said "And then...." She paused and glanced at her husband.
"I never blamed you, my love"
"I know" She smiled fondly at him, then turned back "Then I was forced to make the choice that Sir Theodore had warned me about"
"They asked you to kill" Ron said quietly, and Jane nodded.
"I gave you an order, Jane" Sir Ivan stared down at her from his horse. She stared back at him, then turned back to face the villager who was on his knees in front of her "You are a Knight Of The Realm - duty bound to serve the King"
"I am aware of my duty, Sir Ivan" She snapped, then she drew her sword. She stared at the villager - a young man who had refused to pay the most recent tax rise.
"Then do it" Ivan's voice was firm and commanding. Jane glanced at him again, then turned back to the prisoner.
"You've been...." She trailed off, then put her sword back in to its scabbard and turned back to Ivan "I can't, Sir Ivan"
"I beg your pardon?"
"I can't execute him, sir" Jane refused to look him in the eye.
"It's your duty as a knight, Jane - you don't have any choice"
"With all due respect, Sir Ivan, it is not my duty to kill a helpless prisoner. In fact, my duty as Knight forbids such an act"
"You serve at the pleasure of your King, girl, and you will do your duty or face the consequences" Jane looked up and faced him.
"Then I take the consequences"
"I was banished the day after" Jane continued her story "While the King knew I was very good friends with the Princess, he said that he could not have a knight who would not obey his orders" She sighed "I think my friendship with Princess Lavinia stopped him from killing me"
"Dragon and I both went with her - I wasn't willing to stay in the castle, and Dragon's first and - up until then - only loyalty was to Jane"
"It still is" Dragon replied "Though I must admit I would take it badly if the Princess gets hurt" He glanced across at Jester with a smile.
"I love you too, lizard lips" Jane smiled at them, then her face turned serious.
"The only member of our little group that was left was Smithy - the blacksmith" She said "I mean - my parents were still in the castle, but I refused to put them in danger"
"She refused to put Smithy in danger as well" Jester smiled "But, thankfully, as it turns out, Smithy was made of stronger stuff" He glanced across at Lavinia "And it was him who, four days ago, told us that the Princess was going to die"
Chapter 5 - A War At Home
"They're not here, are they?" Arthur looked down the main street "Do you think Albus is right? That they might be in danger?"
"They're not in danger, Mr Weasley" Molly and Arthur span round and found themselves face to face with Luna Lovegood, who was smiling serenely at them.
"Luna? Do you know where they are?" Molly stepped forward.
"Not exactly, no" The young girl shook her head "But I can lead you to them"
"Please" Arthur nodded, but Luna held up her hand, her face becoming unusually serious.
"Can you tell me, here and now, that you are only looking out for Harry's best interests?" She asked, face still solemn and serious.
"Yes" Arthur replied.
"Even if those interests include letting Voldemort win the war?" Molly and Arthur exchanged glances, then both nodded "I'm sorry, but out loud please"
"Yes" Molly repeated "We promise"
"Good" In a flash, Luna's dreamy disposition returned. She pulled out her wand "Expecto Patronus!"
A small, silvery dragon appeared in front of them.
"Take them to your father" Luna said softly, then, with another wave of her wand, it vanished and re-appeared a second later. She beamed at it, then turned back to the Weasleys "Mister Fuzzyboots will lead you to Harry. Only you can see him, so don't worry about attracting attention" The two adults stared at her, dumbfounded. The silvery dragon blew a burst of flame at them, then turned and flew down the road a few yards. With a last glance at Luna, they turned and followed it down the road, leaving Luna staring after them.
"I love it when a plan comes together" She said happily, then slapped herself on the forehead "Patronum, damnit!"
"So - here's the problem" Jane said, facing the three wizards. They had been listening to a recent history of the wizarding world, and more specifically the war "You are fighting this Voldemort guy......" She trailed off when Harry let out a laugh "What's so funny?"
"I'm sorry" He grinned "But almost the entire magical world quakes in fear at the mere mention of his name" He shrugged "Hearing you say it in such an off-hand, dismissive manner just struck me as really funny" He smiled again "Anyway - you were saying?"
"I was?" Jane furrowed her brow, then nodded "Oh - yes. You are fighting this Dark Lord, so we all understand that you can't risk coming back in time with us while the war is still going on"
"It's not that we can't" Hermione said quickly "It's just that....." She glanced at Harry, who nodded "It's just that he is evil incarnate, and evil must be fought - regardless of the cost"
"Something we agree on" Lavinia said softly.
"And we don't have any faith that, if we leave, anyone else will carry on the fight - or if they'll just surrender" Ron added.
"And if wasn't for the fact we have to fight and most likely die in any number of horrible ways, we would be happy to come back with you and..... fight and most likely die in a number of horrible ways" Harry finished, then grinned "That didn't come out exactly right"
"Don't worry - we get what you mean" Lavinia grinned at him "But we have an offer for you" She turned to Jane.
"We want to help"
"Where the bloody hell is this thing taking us?" Molly muttered under her breath. Luna's dragon had been leading them through the town and surrounding area for twenty minutes, and she was starting to wonder if it actually knew where it was going.
"You want to help?" Harry stared at them in confusion "Really?"
"Why is that so surprising?" Jane looked at him curiously.
"Well - and don't take this personally - but this is a magical war. We three are mages. Voldemort and his band of merry men are mages. The students who follow me...." He stopped Jane held up her hand "Well - you get the idea. And while you three" He paused as Dragon coughed "Sorry - four have many fantastic qualities, I am guessing being mages isn't amongst them"
"You're right" Jester nodded "But you're forgetting something important"
"They've got me!" Dragon grinned at them "And trust me - I'm very useful in a...." He trailed off, then suddenly stood up and turned to the entrance "There's someone out there"
"I think it wants us to go in there" Molly and Arthur stared in to the darkness of the cave entrance. Arthur turned to his wife, but before he could speak, they heard a rumbling voice.
"There's someone out there" They glanced at each other, then Arthur took a step forward.
"We're looking for Harry Potter" He said in a calm voice "We have something important to discuss with him" There was a moment of silence, then the rumbling voice spoke again.
"Come in, but put your wands in your robes, and your hands over your heads" The adult Weasleys looked at each other, then did as they were bid, and walked in to the cave.
As their eyes adjusted to the light, Molly's mouth fell open in surprise.
"A dra... a drag...." She stared at the giant reptile in front of them.
"Mum, Dad - may I introduce Dragon" Ron walked out from behind the green lizard "Don't worry, I'm almost certain he won't eat you"
"Ronald!" Hermione slapped him on the back of his head "Sorry, Mrs Weasley. As Ron was trying to say, these are our friends Jane, Jes.... Anthony, Dragon and her Royal Majesty, Princess Lavinia" Molly and Arthur stared at assembled group in disbelief. Hermione paused, then grinned "I'm not kidding"
"Okay....." Arthur nodded hesitantly, then turned to Harry "Are we interrupting something important?"
"Yes, but don't worry - we can use a break" He smiled "How can we help you?"
"We had a meeting with Dumbledore earlier today, and...." He paused, then glanced over at Dragon, then turned back "And why is there a dragon in the cave again?"
"It's a long story" Harry replied.
"They've come from the distant past to ask if we can go back with them to rescue the Kingdom from Princess Lavinia's evil usurping brother" Hermione said quickly.
"But apparently not that long" Harry continued "We were just trying to work out a way to help them"
"Oh" Arthur paused "What about the war against You-Know-Who?"
"That's our other problem" Jane walked forward to stand next to Harry "We know that Harry has to finish the war here first, and we're all willing to help him do that, but - as Harry reminded us - we're not exactly suited for a magical war"
"You're not mages?" Molly gasped in surprise "But how do you control the....."
"MOLLY!" Harry yelled, causing everyone to jump, then he turned to Dragon "My apologies, Dragon - she meant no offence to you. But the vast majority of dragons that wizards encounter are wild and feral, and it takes a lot to keep them under control..... and you are staring at me as if I am talking crazy"
"Vast majority?" Dragon asked.
"Meaning more than one?" Jane bounded over to stand next to Dragon, staring at Harry intently.
"Well - yes" He glanced across at Hermione, who shrugged.
"So there's more than one dragon in the world?" Dragon asked hopefully.
"The most recent census says the number is around two thousand" Hermione said, still looking confused. Confusion which only deepened at the looks of shock, awe and disbelief on the faces of the time travellers.
"Two.... two thousand?" Dragon said after a moment, still staring at Jane.
"Princess - what are we missing?" Harry asked quietly. Lavinia glanced over at Jane and the dragon, who were still staring at each other in awe, then turned back to Harry.
"Ever since he was born, over three hundred years ago, Dragon has been alone. He's never seen another dragon, let alone met or spoken to one" She smiled at her friends "So, as you can imagine, the idea of two thousand dragons takes some getting used to"
"To say the least" Jester walked up next to the Princess "But, setting aside the surprise and shock, I think I have an idea how to win this war" This got everyone's attention, and he blushed slightly as he realised they were all staring at him.
"How?" Jane asked.
"Well" He continued "It's like this....."
Harry and Lavinia stood outside the cave entrance, under the cover of a masking spell.
"Do you think it could work?" He asked quietly, staring out over the town.
"It could" She smiled "And if anyone can figure it out, Jane and The Dragon can - I've never met anyone with the grasp of strategy and battlefield planning that they have"
"I think Ron could rival them" Harry grinned "He's the one who fought off the Death Eaters a few weeks ago" He sighed "Without him, I think we'd all be dead"
"But you still lost Ginny" Lavinia said softly.
"Sadly, yes" He sighed again "She jumped in front of a curse meant for me - she saved my life"
"Did you.... did you love her?" She asked.
"I don't know" He admitted "Maybe I could have, but I guess we'll never know" He paused "I always got the feeling her parents wanted something to happen"
"We did" Harry and the Princess both turned to find Molly and Arthur stood behind them, smiling "But" Molly continued "Only if it was meant to be"
"I'm sorry she died" Lavinia said sympathetically.
"Thank you" Arthur returned the smile "But we came her for another reason"
"Yes" Harry clicked his fingers "You said you'd met with Dumbledore - I'm guessing it was about me?"
"Sadly, yes" Arthur outlined everything Dumbledore had told them, from the Prophecy to the future the Headmaster envisioned for the three children. When he finished, he glanced at his wife, then continued "We don't know if there is anything you can do to prevent this, but we thought if you knew about it in advance...." He shrugged "Perhaps it can be forestalled" Harry turned and walked to the edge of the cliff, staring out over the town.
A few minutes later, Lavinia walked up beside him, and slipped her hand in to his. He turned, and gave her a brief, soft smile. Then, together, then turned back to face the Weasleys.
"Damn right it can be forestalled" He strode up to the cave entrance, with the others following.
"Where are we up to?" Harry stalked in to the cave.
"We think it will work, but we have one minor problem" Ron replied.
"The trip to Romania is going to take about two days, each way, and unless Anthony and The Princess want to go with them, they are going to need somewhere else to stay"
"Oh - we can solve that" Harry turned as Arthur and Molly walked in "Molly - do you mind having two house guests for the next week or so?"
"No - of course not" She beamed "Since Ron and Ginny...." She trailed off, looking slightly sad "Since Ron is away at school, the house seems to have grown" She turned to the rest of the group "Anthony, Princess - would you like to stay with us?"
"Of course" Jester nodded.
"Only if you call me Lavinia"
"But your majest..." Molly started, but Lavinia held up her hand.
"My Kingdom, should I manage to retake it from my brother, came to an end over six hundred years ago" She smiled "I am just plain old Lavinia"
"Not that old" Harry said under his breath, then blushed when the Princess looked his way and smiled. He shyly returned the smile, then turned back to face the others "Then we'll call that settled. Jane and the Dragon will set off to Romania tomorrow, and until she returns - with or without help, Anthony and Lavinia will stay with Ron's parents"
"Yes, sir" Lavinia saluted him, while the others nodded and smiled.
"Once we know whether we can count on any assistance, we can plan the attack and, hopefully, have this war over within a week" He grinned "Won't that be nice?"
"Lavinia!" Harry called out as Lavinia walked down the path with Molly, Arthur and Jester.
"Yes?" She turned back with a smile.
"I have.... a present for you" He pulled a small, silver mirror out of his jacket, and handed it to her "It's a magical mirror, that can let you keep in touch"
"Do I need magic to work it?" She asked, turning it over in her hands.
"No" He grinned "I cast an activation spell to allow anyone to use it" He reached out and turned it round to face her "All you have to do is tap the front, and say 'I solemnly swear I am up to no good' and it will activate"
"Wow" She stared at it, awe struck.
"Once you're done, say 'Mischief Managed' and it will shut off"
"Thank you" She hugged him, then kissed him on the cheek "I'll call you later?"
"I'll be waiting" He grinned, then turned and bounded back to the cave.
Chapter 6 - Allies And Enemies
"According to Molly, Jane arrived in Romania this morning" Lavinia said, staring at Harry's face in the mirror "She met Charlie and they were going to introduce Dragon to the others"
"Cool" Harry grinned "Any idea when we'll hear something?"
"Not a clue" Lavinia replied, causing Harry to burst out laughing "What?"
"Two days with the Weasleys is improving your 'modern language skills'" He smirked "Pretty soon you'll be ready for the 20th Century"
"Swell" She laughed "Just in time for my return to the eighth"
"Maybe you'll start a whole new trend" He smiled "So - aside from language lessons, how are you enjoying life at The Burrow?"
"Miss Lovegood - the Headmaster would like to see you" Professor Flitwick stood next to the Ravenclaw table during the evening meal.
"Can't he see me from here?" She asked, then leaned back in her seat and waved up the hall to where Dumbledore was sat behind the staff table.
"I mean, he would like to see you in his office"
"Oh no - that will never work" Luna shook her head "His office is three floors away - he would never be able to see me from there" She paused, then tilted her head to one side "Unless he can see through walls, but that seems like a lot of effort to go to when he could just look at me here" Professor Flitwick rolled his eyes as there were a few laughs from the far side of the Gryffindor table.
"Miss Lovegood - when you finish your meal, you will go to the Headmaster's office, where he will have a chat with you"
"is that what he wants?" Luna shook her head in amusement "Why didn't you say so?"
"She is a wonder" Hermione smiled as Luna walked out of the hall "And I am willing to admit I was wrong about her"
"Should we...." Harry gestured to the door Luna had just walked through "I mean - should we let her talk to him alone?"
"I wouldn't worry about her" Ron said "I can't imagine that anyone - even Dumbledore - could make her do anything against her will" He smiled "Although it might be fun to watch if they did" The other two paused to contemplate Ron's words, then Hermione turned to Harry.
"So the first contact went well?" She asked.
"Oh yes" He grinned "Apparently Dragon has been happier than a puppy in a field full of toilet paper"
"But they're going to help?" She persisted.
"Jane thinks so, yes" He nodded "But they've got another meeting with the elders later tonight, and Jane and Charlie will let us know"
"And then?" He paused, then let a feral grin cross his face.
"Then we go to war" He let the grin fade "And god help ANYONE who gets in our way"
"Miss Lovegood - can you explain what happened on Sunday before the Hogsmeade visit?"
"That's rather a broad question, sir - could you be more specific?"
"You and Harry had an.... altercation in the Entrance Hall. One that seemed quite passionate in nature"
"Oh - that" She smiled "I've been writing a play, and I wanted to try out a few scenes in public. I'm sorry if I disturbed or annoyed anyone - I can apologise if you've had any complaints" She paused, then let her face darken slightly "Sir - I have answered your questions honestly, and if you try to read my mind again, I will take it badly" Dumbledore leaned back, blinking rapidly "That's better sir. Now - do you have any more questions, or can I leave?"
"Thank you" She stood up and walked to the door "I'm willing to put your illegal attempt to use Legilimency against me as a mistake, and not mention it to anyone"
"But while one attempt at Legilimency can be considered careless, two would be unfortunate" She pulled the door open "I trust we're clear, Headmaster?"
"Why should we help you, youngling?"
"Because you know it is right" Dragon sat in front of the Dragon Elders "Because if Harry fights this war on her own, he will die, and then no one will stand in Voldemort's way"
"And this concerns us why?"
"I know the humans you are cared for by are.... sometimes annoying, but on the whole they are acceptable caretakers, are they not?"
"I suppose" The elder shrugged "They don't mistreat us, they feed us well and they take care of our needs"
"If Harry can't defeat this dark wizard, then Voldemort will expand his influence. His hold over the world will grow stronger and stronger and eventually he will reach you here" Dragon paused "I don't know a lot about dragons in this era, but I am not a slave. Jane is my friend, and that's why we are together. But when the dark mage and his men come here, they will enslave you. They will force you to serve them, or you will die" He stood up and spread his wings "You may think the world of humans has nothing to do with you, but here and now, the fate of everything living thing on the planet depends on your choice" He looked at each of the elders in turn "So - what's it to be?"
"Minister Fudge - thank you for coming so soon" Dumbledore gestured to the chair opposite his desk.
"You said that it was a major disaster, Albus, and that it involved Mr Potter" Fudge frowned "What choice did I have?"
"This past weekend was a Hogsmeade Weekend" Dumbledore said seriously "And Mr Potter, Mr Weasley and Miss Granger left the school bright and early on both days"
"And that's strange?"
"Yes and no" Dumbledore paused "Due to the security concerns, I've had staff and Order members patrolling Hogsmeade for the past few weekends. I know - it wasn't exactly official, but I thought it best"
"I understand, but in the future, I can provide Aurors if you need them"
"Thank you, Cornelius, however my point was that not a single one of my sources saw Mr Potter or his friends in the town"
"Not at all?" Fudge leaned forward, looking concerned "Could they have missed them?"
"I admit it is possible, but extremely unlikely" Dumbledore conceded "I'm afraid the only conclusion we can logically draw is that they three of them - Harry, Ron and Hermione - went somewhere else"
"But you don't know where"
"I'm afraid I have no idea" Dumbledore frowned "And it only gets worse. After they returned on Saturday, I asked Mr Potter where he'd been, and he refused to tell me. And after I suggested that he and his friends should stick to the town, he went out of his way on Sunday to not only disobey me, but also to ensure I couldn't protect him and to keep his activities secret" Fudge stared at him, trying to work out what Dumbledore meant.
"You believe he is up to no good then?" He said eventually.
"I can think of only three reasons for why he would want to conceal his actions from me" The Headmaster said calmly "The first is because he is plotting against me"
"Do you think that's likely?"
"More likely he is plotting against you, Minister"
"He has been very vocal about The Ministry in the past, Cornelius, and when he kills Voldemort he will be more popular than you can imagine" Dumbledore allowed himself a slight smile "But I am digressing - the third reason I can think of is the most unlikely, but also the most disturbing"
"And that is?"
"That he is conspiring with Voldemort - to ensure the war ends in a way that will benefit them both"
Lavinia walked in to the kitchen of The Burrow, then stopped dead in surprise at the sight that confronted him.
Jane and Jester were waltzing round the table, while Molly and Arthur were watching, with happy smiles on their faces.
"Jane?" She asked, and all four faces turned to look at her. A moment later, Jane bolted round the table and swept her up in a hug.
"Oh my little majesty!" Jane span her round a few times "They agreed! The elders agreed to help Harry bring an end to the war!" Lavinia stared at her for a few seconds, then she grinned.
"Does he know?"
"We thought we'd let you tell him" Jane said with a smile "Since you have become such..... good friends" Lavinia realised she was blushing, but she merely sniffed dismissively, turned and walked out of the kitchen.
"Mr Potter - you seem to be buzzing" McGonagall stared at her student.
"Yes, Professor" He replied "If I may be excused?"
"By all means" He stood up, and - after casting a quick look at Ron and Hermione, he walked out in to the corridor.
He looked around, then pulled out his mirror and tapped it with his wand. After a second, he beamed when Lavinia's face came in to view.
"Hello, Lavinia" He continued smiling "What's up?"
"Jane's here - she came back to tell us the decision of the Elders" Harry waited for her to continue, then - when he didn't - he shook his head in amusement.
"Are you going to tell me?"
"They said YES!"
"Yes" He heard Jane's voice "A flight of twenty younglings and five elders will join Dragon and me on our return trip. They will hide out - for want of a better phrase - in the hills north of Hogwarts until the final battle"
"Excellent!" Harry grinned at both the women in the mirror.
"I'm going back tomorrow" Jane continued "Dragon wanted to spend more time there, and I decided one night wouldn't do any harm"
"Plus now she and Jester can have some 'alone time'" Lavinia added, causing Jane to blush and Harry to giggle.
"Anyway..... we should be back on Friday night" Jane continued , still fighting the blush on her cheeks "So if you'd like we can hold a war council on the weekend?"
"Sounds like a plan" Harry replied, then looked up as the door to the classroom opened "I've got to go - talk to you later" He shut off the mirror and turned just as McGonagall walked up to him.
"Will you be joining us, Mr Potter?" She asked archly.
"Of course" He smiled "I'm sorry that took longer than I thought" He put the mirror away, and walked back into the classroom, flashing a thumbs up to Ron and Hermione as he sat down.
"Well - now that Mr Potter has consented to join us again, perhaps you can answer this question....."
"Mr Potter - please stay a moment" Harry nodded to Ron and Hermione, then walked up to the front of the classroom.
"How can I help you, Professor?"
"Who were you talking to during class?" She asked calmly.
"Is that any of your business, Professor?"
"You interrupted my lesson, not once, but twice. I'd like to know why"
"And if I don't tell you?"
"Two weeks detention, and being banned from all future Hogsmeade visits, plus confiscation of the mirror until the end of term" Harry stared at her for a moment, then shrugged.
"My girlfriend" He said softly "We've been writing to each other since summer, and after I told her the secret, I gave her Sirius' mirror so we could keep in touch"
"She's a muggle?" McGonagall raised her eyebrows in surprise.
"She's a young woman" Harry replied firmly "She lives opposite my Uncle, and we've been making friends for the last three years or so"
"What's her name?"
"I'd rather not tell you, Professor"
"May I ask why not?"
"Because you will tell the Headmaster, and he will feel compelled to tell The Order - so they can protect her"
"Would that be so bad?" She asked.
"I wasn't finished" He stared at her seriously "Since I started at Hogwarts, a large number of people - all under The Headmaster's employ - have tried to kill me, hurt me or otherwise do me harm. So forgive me if I don't trust him with my girlfriend's safety"
"Surely you can't blame...."
"Quirrell. Lockhart. Crouch Junior. And, of course, Wormtail - the one who started all of this" He shook his head "I don't think he would do it on purpose, but people who trust him to protect them end up dead, and I won't let it happen again" He turned and walked out of the classroom, leaving McGonagall staring after him.
"The army will be back on Friday night, and we should be able to talk to them on Saturday" Harry told Ron and Hermione "So if things go well, we can attack on Monday and wipe him out before he knows he's dead"
"And then we go back to help The Princess?" Ron asked.
"Yes" Harry nodded "Bill visited The Burrow, and with Jane and Lavinia's help, managed to interpret some of the runes that allowed them to come here" He smiled "They know how to get back, and how to return y... us to the present when we're done"
"Seriously?" Hermione asked with a grin "We can do it without getting stuck?"
"Honestly?" He paused "Like all magic, there are risks - we might not be able to get back, we might get lost in time - hell - we might even blow up before we can go anywhere" He shrugged, then grinned "Doesn't that sound like fun?"
"Albus - I have news" Dumbledore looked up as McGonagall walked in to his office "It's about Mr Potter"