Disclaimer: Harry Potter, his friends, enemies and all respective items and characters (beasts or beings) from the novels and novellas of J. K. Rowling are hers by moral right and legal copyright.

Ashes in Our Mouths

Chapter 1 - Exile

The Birdsville Hotel was quiet in the night. It had shut hours ago and the few patrons who drank at this remote watering hole in the middle of the Australian outback, had long ago left for their homes, except for a lone figure who made himself comfortable in front of the large television screen in the bar. He was there by special arrangement with the publican. His name was Nev Long and he lived on a remote property out in the bush some 500 kilometres from even this remote outpost. Once a year he came to town, if you could call it that, to watch a satellite broadcast of the Quidditch World Cup. In the years after the war, with the wizarding world no longer able to hide itself from the rest of the world, the Quidditch cup had gained a large enough general following to be broadcast on muggle television networks. It was Nev's only luxury in this hard life he had chosen for himself. He had no friends, no family and lived by himself in one of the most remote places in the world.

So it was a surprise when he heard a voice behind him that he recognised even after all these many years.

"So this is where you hide!" the dragon said.

"What are you doing here?" Nev said with the rage plain in his voice.

"Looking for the dead. You're quite macabre in your choice of aliases. First it was Dean Thomas in Europe, then George F Weasley in America and now in Australia, it's poor dead Neville Longbottom's name you have stolen." the dragon sneered.

"What I call myself is none of your business." Nev replied bitterly. He was going to have to move again just as he thought he was far enough away to avoid anyone finding him.

The dragon sat in the chair next to him, "What game are we watching first?" he asked.

Nev stared at his enemy with deep hatred and replied "South Africa verses England."

"Don't get your hopes up. England's a shower this year." The dragon said casually.

And so they sat there through the night watching game after game. Exchanging comments and observations and insults.

"Is it just me or do these guys seem to be flying at half speed?" Nev asked in the middle of the last game. "I could fly twice as fast as that back at Hogwarts."

"That's part of why I have been sent to find you." the dragon replied and he pulled a letter from his pocket and held it out to Nev.

Nev knew that neat small handwriting on the front of the envelope that simply read "Harry". He took the envelope and opened it. He read the short letter and then crumpled it up. "You could tell her you never found me." he said.

"I could," replied the dragon, "but I won't. You owe her."

Nev hated that it was true. No one had any call on him in the entire world except her and now she was calling that debt in. He had to go back. He owed Hermione that much at least.

"Alright Malfoy I'll go!" Nev replied.

The dragon was surprised hearing the name he had given up years ago but he merely nodded and returned his attention back to the game. It had been long years since he sat with anyone to watch Quidditch games. And if it couldn't be a friend, which neither of them had, well perhaps an enemy was the next best choice. "That wasn't a penalty! The refs blind!" he growled at the screen.

"You're the one's whose blind." Nev said back. Now that he had made the decision to go back, the weight he'd been carrying for years felt a little lighter.

In the morning after a few hours sleep Nev and the dragon walked out of the hotel.

Nev called out. "Draco, up on the back!"

The dragon was about to demand an explanation when a mangy old dog leaped onto the back of the 4x4 that Nev drove.

"Good boy, Draco!" Nev said as he gave the dog a pat on the head.

"You called your dog, Draco?" the dragon hissed.

"Yeah, he's a good dog but he gets a bit vicious." Nev replied smiling.

"Oh very funny, very funny." The dragon said as he climbed into the passengers seat.

They drove along the Birdsville track all the way to Adelaide where Nev found someone to look after Draco while he was away. They boarded the flight that would take them to Sydney to meet the international flight to London. Twenty-nine hours later they arrived by taxi at King Cross station. It was a little before nine o'clock in the morning of the first of September.