Wow, more cover art from Mary GrandPre--and it's fantastic, and baffling. Travis at Sword of Gryffindor posted something and there are quite a few comments there. I wanted to put my comments here as well, and will edit them as I have time to think more about the dragon, the trio and where they might be.
Absolutely amazing! It's beautiful, and curious, and I can't wait for the book. Apparently Arthur Levine (Scholastic) asked for this particular scene on the deluxe cover because he liked the scene so much. Levine said that this scene is at sunset, but I don't think that particularly tells us anything.
I was looking in Fantastic Beasts, which is where the quote about the Opaleye comes from. This seems to be the only dragon that wouldn't readily devour humans.
And I agree with others--could be Ottery St. Catchpole (and they are fleeing from a disastrous wedding at the Burrow), Godric's Hollow, Little Hangleton, or just the countryside as they leave the castle.
That last could have something that ties back to the school motto, which was never in the books, beyond a stray comment or two (that Harry would rather poke a dragon in the eye than to get caught stealing supplies from Snape's stores). The general translation, since I can't remember the Latin, is "Never tickle a sleeping dragon". And then I thought of the title of the second book--Chamber of Secrets". As others have pointed out on numerous forums, we only saw one secret, and if the basilisk was the only secret, then why was it plural? I've always wondered if one of the other secrets was a dragon.
And why are Ron and Hermione wearing robes, as they would at school, but Harry is not? Harry also seems to be looking straight ahead, with a determined, concentrated expression, while Hermione is looking up and is fearful. Of course, that could be because she doesn't like flying, as well as whatever they are fleeing. At first, I thought that Ron also was looking up, but then I couldn't tell.
Or instead of fleeing, they could be going towards something--though the tattered robes look more like leaving a bad situation.
I know that Rowling has recently tried to distance herself from C.S. Lewis, but I'm also reminded of the part of "Voyage of the Dawntreader", where Eustace turns into a dragon and then sheds the scales in his transformation into a new person, getting rid of the things that made him so horrid to others.
And there is something about the face of the dragon, with the little beard that also makes me think of the movie my girls loved when they were younger--"The Neverending Story--the one where they ride on a large dog-like creature (apparently just a movie thing), but whose face reminded me very much of this dragon, minus the horns.
Rowling has done such a good job of always setting up characters and beasts and events, so I imagine that the clue for this one has been right in front of us, and we've apparently all missed, or dismissed it, as one of those charming details that makes the story more interesting but isn't something we need to think about much.
Johnny, over at Sword of Gryffindor, beat me to this reference. I thought of the 12 uses of dragon’s blood last night as I was going to bed–which was very late. Also, there was the dragon’s blood that Slughorn spattered on his walls when he was hiding at the beginning of HBP. Clearly, Rowling hasn’t wanted us to forget about dragons, but all the comments have been so random and seemingly unimportant.
Was there also dragon’s blood in one of the crystal vials in the cabinet they were cleaning at twelve, Grimmauld Place? And they wear dragon-hide gloves in Herbology, and Fred and George have dragon skin boots or jackets once they have their joke shop going and are making money at it.
I think dragon references are everywhere. I can’t see how this fits in though, from a Christian pov, as dragons are usually associated with serpents. Not a particularly positive rescuer, if that’s what the dragon is doing. So maybe it’s not, and the dragon is strictly from the mythic themes of the books.
Oh, one more thing–Draco means dragon. Hmmm–a transformed Draco, helping the trio to get somewhere? Not likely, but…..