Title: Secret of the Shrieking Shack
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: All I own are dreams.

Author's Notes: Ah, this is my first HP fic. Ever. ;; But I've been a Dramione shipper since... er, Prisoner of Azkaban's movie came out (I ended up reading the whole series after that, and getting hooked!). BUT! I have been writing fics for over 10 years now, and I sincerely hope I do Pezi's request from the dmhgficexchange on LiveJournal some justice. I don't think I can necessarily kick the rating up to R without having my first DM/HG fic ever end up like a sad attempt at a Food Network flambé, but... well, you get the drift.

Sorry this is so late. I finished it before the deadline, but beta'ing and re-writing took time, plus I was on the road. But it's here! Happy Belated Holidays. :)

Spoilers? Spoilers up to Prisoner of Azkaban. This takes place during some unspecified time (either in 4th or 5th year), not exactly following canon continuity of those years.

Beta'd by: Kyra and Smoo (THANK YOU SO MUCH!)

Summary: An enchantment at the Shrieking Shack goes awry, and Draco Malfoy is turned into a helpless puppy. Hermione might be the only one who can help him change back-- if they can attempt to get along. Dogs might be a man's best friend, but not a witch's!

It was a bitterly frozen winter day, but that hardly stopped the crowds of Hogwarts students from rudging down the mud-covered path towards Hogsmeade. Each and every one of them had some sort of plan for what they'd do with this free time, with the Knuts or Sickles they'd saved up, with the first freedom they'd tasted in what felt like years.

Butterbeer, for some. Candy or jokes, for others. Fred and George seemed off in their own world, plotting something to do with the decimeters of snow piled just outside Hogsmeade's borders. Snowballing the sledders, perhaps?

Hermione walked listlessly alongside Harry and Ron, staring at the falling snowflakes and trying to see if there really were tiny little patterns on each flake. She half-wondered if she'd get in trouble for using her wand outside of class –just for fun. She wanted to summon a mass of flakes on her own, and shape them into the pretty designs she used to cut out of paper-- back before she was a witch, before she'd even heard of Hogwarts or Harry Potter or the four houses.

It seemed like ages ago; Hermione could hardly remember a time when she wasn't buried in some book, or hard-pressed to discover some new secret or challenge to overcome. And now here she was, in the thick of it all --friends with The Boy Who Lived, considered to be one of the smartest Muggleborn witches in generations, and...


That was part of the problem, then, wasn't it? None of them knew what was going to happen next, what to expect. They couldn't predict who would win the next Quidditch match, let alone figure out what was going on with Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Even lessons were a great big unknown, and to someone like Hermione Granger, who relied on books and learning to support her through the great unknown, all the variables and all the insecurity made her uneasy.

So her thoughts remained elsewhere, up until the trio came over the crest near the Shrieking Shack. They hadn't been near it... not since third year, when Sirius revealed himself as the great black dog that had been trailing Harry, and--

And a lot of other things, which made their whole situation all the more complicated.

That was when they heard it.

A desperate howling, echoing from far in the distance-- from within the Shrieking Shack.

"Didn't Lupin say he was the one that gave the Shrieking Shack its name?" Ron asked nervously, his gaze darting from Harry to Hermione.

"Yeah," Harry responded slowly, his gaze never leaving the Shack. "He did. Every full moon when he changed into a werewolf..."

"He's not there anymore though, is he? I mean--"

"No," Hermione said, the first words out of her mouth since they'd left Hogwarts. "Besides, the moon hasn't even risen yet, and it's not a full moon tonight anyway."

Of course Hermione would know these things. Hermione always knew some obscure fact that could help. That was just the way things were.

"Maybe someone's moved in?" Ron asked suggested hopefully. "And they've got themselves a pet dog or something?"

It was a ridiculous notion, to be sure. Worse though, was that no one could really counter it. If someone were to buy the dilapidated old Shrieking Shack, could anyone --in Hogsmeade or Hogwarts-- possibly stop them? There was the problem of the secret entryway leading from the Whomping Willow right into the house, but since so few people ever dared to venture near the tree, it probably wasn't a big deal-- so long as any new owners of the house were normal wizards.

'"Normal." What does that mean?' Hermione thought wryly. At one point, she thought herself the most 'normal' out of anyone at Hogwarts. But then the definition of normal changed, and Hermione wasn't so sure of anything anymore. It was rather scary, considering she'd built her whole personality and attitude on being sure.

Before Hermione could try and scrounge up a reasonable possibility from the depths of her brain, a bright white something came bounding down the crest at impossible speeds. Hermione barely had the chance to open her mouth before the fence separating the Shrieking Shack's land from the pathway to Hogsmeade shook wildly, and there was a high-pitched, yelping howl-- and then Hermione was flat on her back.

"What the--"

"Get off! Get off!" Ron was saying, but Hermione's hearing seemed to be muffled-- by the snow, and by something decidedly warm and fuzzy. Hermione
just barely had the ability to crane her neck upward-- and she came face to face with the muzzle of a bright blond puppy with a wet, pink nose. It looked at her in surprise, but then its eyes closed in what was unmistakably agony.

Hermione struggled to catch her breath and sit upright; the dog had fallen unconscious right on top of her, and even if it was a puppy, it was
still a rather large puppy, and it was crushing her rib cage to the point where her breaths were coming out in short little white puffs. Ron and Harry
successfully managed to ease none too gently, Hermione noted with irritation) the dog off Hermione's chest, and that was when Ron's voice came again, this time perfectly loud and clear.

"Hey, Hermione, you bleeding?"

"What?" Hermione asked in a daze. Perhaps the cold had gotten to her brain. What else would explain why she felt so strange right now? Aside from
the fact that she'd just been barreled to the ground by a puppy that'd appeared out of nowhere, that is. "No, I--"

That was when she spotted it. The puppy's right forepaw was bleeding, likely from barreling straight through the rotten fence made of sharp wires and
splintered wood. The ice crystals hanging off every bit of the old wood probably hadn't help matters either.

Almost immediately, Hermione's instinct --call it caring or motherly, but Hermione could never stand to see any animal in pain-- kicked in, and she righted herself to inspect the dog. No wonder why it had fallen unconscious. The laceration on its paw must have been the last straw, after the freezing
cold and the muddy fur clinging to its skinny form.

'His skinny form,' Hermione corrected itself. With the dog lying on its side like that, it was impossible not to notice the dog's gender, or the fact that, unlike most dogs Hermione encountered --back in the Muggle world-- this one wasn't fixed. But there was no collar or other identification on its neck, so that ruled out Ron's idea that it was a pet dog of some sort.

And after learning that Sirius was an Animagus, it was entirely possible that this wasn't really a dog at all.

Hermione blushed to the roots of her hair, remembering that she'd just been peeping at the dog's under parts. If it wasn't a dog at all, then--!

"Help me bring him to Hogwarts," Hermione instructed, having regained her composure. She gestured to the boys, hoping they'd help with the dog's rear paws while she managed with the front. Of course, that would mean the dog's injured forepaw and wet, icy nose would be nuzzled against her stomach, but no mind-- she had to help the poor creature.

"Hermione, are you sure about this?" Harry asked hesitantly.

"What if it was Snuffles?" Hermione bit out after a moment. "You don't know where this poor creature came from, and even if it was some Animagus
in disguise, or an agent of Voldemort, the safest place we could bring it --him-- is Hogwarts." Hermione defiantly ignored Ron's cringe; he hated it
whenever Hermione said the Dark Lord's name, but as far as Hermione was concerned, fear of a name was the most ridiculous thing in the world.

"But if it is a Death Eater or something, are you sure--" Ron began, but Hermione cut him off with an abrupt wave of her hand. Now that she
had found something to focus on, she was entirely positive of what she had to do.

"Of course I'm sure!" Hermione repeated adamantly. "Besides, Professor Dumbledore, McGonagall, Madam Pomfrey, and Snape are all there--"

"Snape?" Ron echoed hollowly. "That's a good thing?"

Hermione scowled at the redhead and eased the front half of the dog up so she could lift him. "As opposed to nobody helping us-- yes." And
that was the end of that.

As skilled as Madam Pomfrey was, her talents in veterinary medicine were somewhat lacking. Only five minutes after Ron, Harry, and Hermione levitated
the puppy all the way up to the medical wing back at Hogwarts, she shook her head and told them they'd have better luck asking Hagrid. She'd given them a few wraps for the dog's paw, but she warned them that any salve intended for humans probably wouldn't help the dog much.

Hermione sadly agreed, and re-cast Wingardium Leviosa before pushing the floating dog back out the medical wing door.

Luckily, Hagrid happened to be in his cabin that day, rather than drinking it up at Madam Rosmerta's down in Hogsmeade. But with the way he kept on poking at the dog like it was some sort of new species of magical creature, Hermione and the others couldn't help but doubt if Hagrid would really be of any help.

"Bit of a runt, i'n't he?" Hagrid said. Fang seemed to agree; the moment Harry, Hermione, and Ron had stumbled in with the unconscious dog in their arms, Fang pranced around them, slobbering over absolutely everybody and everything. It was no wonder; it wasn't as if anyone else had magical dogs for familiars at Hogwarts. Likely, this strange newcomer from the Shrieking Shack was the first dog Fang had ever seen! But Fang was at least twice the size of the puppy, and was more a danger to it than a friend.

Hermione briefly wondered why she'd never heard of plain old magical dogs. Why weren't there dogs as familiars? Everyone had an owl, and almost everyone had some sort of familiar if their owl didn't already count)-- Neville had his toad, Ron had his rat, and Hermione herself had rookshanks the cat. But why did no one at Hogwarts have a magical dog?

'Maybe...' Hermione thought with a measure of excitement. 'There had never been a magical dog before. Maybe this one is the first!'

True, it was a little far-fetched --wasn't there something about dogs with forked tails in the wizarding world?-- but once Hermione let herself get hopeful, her optimism wouldn't die down. She waited while Hagrid proceeded to tend its injuries, when there was a sudden, snorting sound from the dog.

All at once, everyone --even Fang-- became quiet and stared at it. Slowly, it's the dog's eyes opened-- eyes that were a startling shade of cloud grey. They seemed unfocused at first, but the moment the dog had blinked a few times, it seemed to realize that five very large heads --only four of them human-- were hovering over him, it yelped. It scrambled backward off the makeshift cot Hagrid had prepared for it, scattering a number of pots and containers along the way. It hadn't realized until too late that the use of its forepaw was limited, and in trying to get away, it created a ruckus that even Fred and George Weasley would have been proud of.

So horrible was the mess that it was practically impossible to get out of the cabin to chase after the dog, who had managed to nose open the door and was trying to scamper off back toward the Shrieking Shack. Hermione, determined not to let the injured and possibly magical dog get away, stumbled over canisters of spilled who-knows-what and dashed out of Hagrid's cabin, heedless of Ron and Harry calling after her.

Though in most cases, four legs are faster than two, when one of those four legs is injured badly, it doesn't do much extra good to have the additional
limbs. Such was the case for the blond dog, who was feebly trying to limp away as fast as he could. The whole affair had him more than a bit shaken up: he didn't like being covered in fur, he didn't like having four legs --one of them bum, too!-- and he certainly didn't like how everything was all wrong right now, starting with the fact that the Mudblood's face had been the first one he'd woken up to. That would have given anyone a heart attack.

For you see, the blond dog that Hermione was so relentlessly pursuing was no ordinary dog. She'd been right in thinking that it was magical, but it was no boarhound like Fang, no three-headed hellhound like Fluffy, and no harbinger of death like the mythical Grim. This dog, that for all intents and purposes, was a Golden Retriever with an unusual eye color was actually none other than Draco Malfoy.

But Draco Malfoy wasn't an unregistered Animagus. Quite truthfully, Draco was of the opinion that animals --magical or otherwise-- were lower life forms, and while it could certainly be useful to transform into one, it was also very degrading. Disgusting, even! So even if he'd had the ability to turn into an animal, a dog wouldn't have been Draco's first choice. The truth was that he'd gone and done something very stupid-- and he knew it.

He'd broken into the Shrieking Shack on a dare of sorts. It was to prove once and for all that Malfoys had no fear, and that whatever stupid Granger thought she knew about all the magical places in the world wasn't true. She seemed to think she knew everything, including just how the Shrieking Shack got its name. She stubbornly insisted that it went further back than their parents' generations, but Draco refused to believe anything she said. She was just a Mudblood --a dirty, Muggleborn witch who thought she knew it all.

Draco aimed to prove her wrong and put her in her place for once. But of course, he had to learn the rather hard and painful and quite a bit embarrassing) way that Granger was always right.

Of course the Shrieking Shack had all sorts of magical charms and booby traps about it... and now he was stuck as a dog, for who knows how long! At least he knew one thing, though-- whatever spell the Shack had put on him to transform him into a dog lasted several hours at least, and it didn't seem to matter that Draco was on Hogwarts -and not Hogsmeade- grounds.

But the last thing he could possibly do was stay in the company of that imbecile Hagrid, the annoying Weasel, The Boy Who Lived, and the Mudblood. If
any of them found out what had happened to him...

No, there would be simply no walking away from it. He would shame his family for centuries. A Malfoy dog? How revolting. With this thought firmly in mind, he kept limping away, hoping that none of the band of three would be dumb enough to follow him. He chanced a glance backward just to make sure, and his heart leapt up --or rather, horizontally, considering he wasn't walking upright anymore-- his throat. Stupid Mudblood Granger was right behind him.

Draco the dog turned and tried to run faster; if he didn't focus on Granger and her scampering along behind him, maybe he could make it. Of course the best route would be to cut through the Forbidden Forest, but Draco had already had his fair share of scares in and around that place, and he liked to
avoid it if he could. But there was no telling when and it would be when, not if) he'd get back to being himself again, and he couldn't possibly be on Hogwarts where someone could see him when it happened.

"H-Hey!" Hermione called out. Draco the dog stumbled on his injured forepaw. He hated being a dog. Though his fur offered an extra layer of warmth
against the icy cold, he didn't like how everything was all in black and white, and how sounds and smells seemed to be stronger than ever before. It was all very overwhelming. He did his best to ignore Hermione, but the pain shooting up his leg eventually caught up to him, and he stumbled into the snow bank just ahead.

It didn't take long for Hermione to catch up with the fallen puppy, much to the dog's own dismay. But Hermione had words ready for the dog, snapping at it as though she expected it to talk back to her.

'Stupid Mudblood,' Draco thought distastefully. 'What kind of a person talks to dog?' Then again, the thought was rather saddening. No matter what Draco did, no one would think he was anything more than a stray canine. Assuming the charm that had turned him into a dog in the first place didn't wear off on its own and there was no telling when that would happen, if at all), then there was hardly any hope for him, was there? After all, he couldn't exactly hold a wand, or talk...

"Fine then, you want to run away after we made all that effort to help you out," Hermione was saying in a breathless voice. Draco looked up at her
with his cloud-colored eyes and realized that, despite his color blindness, Granger did look a little bit better in the winter frost. For one, the
cold and the fog caused her normally bushy hair to lay in loose waves against her shoulders, rather than in a great frizzy mess behind her head. And she seemed a bit flushed in the cheeks, probably from running.

Draco shook his head vehemently to rid himself of what he deemed utterly foolish thoughts. Side effects of turning into a dog, or somesuch. Wasn't there something about animals getting attached to the first human they saw? No, that was baby birds. But still!

"...At least let me take you back to the Shack, you silly dog," Hermione muttered. "You'll probably be safer there than outside in the cold, at any rate."

Draco protested this idea mightily, knowing that it was something in the Shack that had caused him to change in the first place. But... she was right. He
couldn't stay at Hogwarts, and there was nowhere else for him to go. At the very least, if he was cautious enough, he might be able to find out whatever it was that had changed him in the first place, and figure out how to get it to transform him back!

The growl that had started to burble in Draco's throat died a quick death, and he settled for merely glaring at Hermione as she approached. He was in far too much pain to really growl or even nip at her, and if he did that, his best chance at getting out of this blasted dog's body would be shot to hell. Even Draco had to admit it-- Granger was one of the better students in their year, knowing charms and spells far more advanced than the rest of them. Maybe, just maybe...

Hermione only continued to surprise Draco. For starters, she hefted him up entirely on her own. She managed to walk across a good portion of the Hogwarts grounds before she carefully put him down and looked thoughtful. When she produced her wand from her robes, Draco whimpered involuntarily, but Hermione's smile disarmed him. And then the spell was cast.

"Wingardium Leviosa!" Draco struggled for a moment as he was magically lifted up off the ground, paws dangling every-which way. Hermione was still smiling at him after she put her wand away again and started rubbing her arms. After a moment, she sighed and merely said "Come on then" before pushing Draco the dog along by his hindquarters. Draco fumbled and protested with this arrangement at first, but considering he wasn't wearing a collar, there seemed no better way of doing it without hurting him further.

And Granger seemed too caring to hurt a 'poor, defenseless animal,' so Draco felt the slightest bit assured that she wouldn't intentionally harm him.

'Not as long as she thinks I'm a dog anyway,' Draco thought. If Hermione were to discover he was really her best friend's hated rival, well...

It didn't take too long before Hermione reached the Whomping Willow. Its branches weren't moving nearly as fast as usual because of the cold, Draco
supposed, but that hardly meant the tree wasn't lethal. Without any leaves on the massive branches, that meant getting hit would instantly knock the wind out of you-- or worse. There was nothing to cushion you against the brute force of the tree, which had been planted generations before exclusively to prevent people from taking the secret passageway to the Shrieking Shack to find Remus Lupin there-- as a werewolf.

Of course, Draco Malfoy didn't know about any of that, and the closer they got to the tree, the more anxious he got. Much to his astonishment (Hermione missed a rather amusing attempt on Draco's part to contort his new facial muscles into a mask of fear), she levitated a nearby rock and sent it hurtling toward a knot on the tree. The whipping branches abruptly stopped in their tracks, frozen.

"Come on, then," Hermione repeated, pushing Draco once more. His eyes only widened further under his furry eyebrows as Hermione nudged him toward an opening near the base of the tree that Draco had never known existed. He made it a point to discover as many secret passageways and paths in Hogwarts as possible, but he'd never known about this one!

The passageway under the Whomping Willow was dank and dirty.. It didn't look like it could collapse on itself anytime soon; the massive roots of the Willow grew in such a fashion that they supported the tunnel and the kilos of dirt surrounding it. It only took a few moments before the tunnel curved upward and a faint light shone down. The disgustingly familiar smell of dust and decay assaulted Draco's finer senses, and he very nearly sneezed.

They were back at the Shrieking Shack.

Hermione only glanced up the dusty staircase once before sighing deeply and turning in the other direction. She kept Draco hovering in front of her up
until they reached a dank living room. It looked familiar enough, but Draco was having a hard time remembering just where he'd been when he realized something strange and horrible was happening to him. And of course, that meant that Granger was right—the Shrieking Shack did have some great mystery behind it, but stuck as a dog, Draco had little to no chance of finding out what that mystery was.

Hermione didn't seem to mind the dust half so much as he did, as she went shuffling about looking for something. At last she returned with an ancient and tiny cauldron in one hand, her wand in the other. Draco half wondered what she planned to do with him, if she had no idea just who he was. To his surprise, Hermione didn't even look at him as she murmured "Aguamenti!" and a fountain of pure, clear water gushed from her wand tip.

'T-That annoying mudblood! That's NEWT level magic!' She was such a show-off. Draco hated admitting there was anything he couldn't do or didn't know, and that arrogance was what had gotten him into this mess in the first place.

Hermione waved her wand again and the stream of water stopped at once. The cauldron was filled about three-quarters of the way up, and Hermione hung it on the dowel in the nearby fireplace. It probably hadn't been used in ages, if the soot and grime covering the grate was any indication.

'Granger's not like other girls,' Draco noted. Not like Pansy, who would have refused to even set foot in the Shrieking Shack for all the legends about the place-- not to mention all the dust and dirt. Hermione didn't seem to mind in the least getting her hands dirty, even if it was to help an enemy.

'But she doesn't have to know that,' Draco reminded himself. If she did know, she'd probably be more disgusted with herself than if she inadvertently touched a dead rat or something. And then he'd be piss out of luck, with no one to help him get back to his normal form. There was simply no way Draco could just wait all on his own, to see if the charm wore off in time.

Draco felt the slightest bit guilty upon realizing this; Hermione was his only hope, and if he messed things up in the slightest...

"Incendio!" Hermione waved her wand again, and a roaring fire burst to life in the fireplace. The flames tickled and licked the base of the auldron until tiny bubbles appeared within the water. Hermione carefully removed the cauldron from its place and took a few mostly-clean rags she'd found lying around and dipped them in the warm water. At last, the rags were grime free, and Hermione moved toward Draco.

He growled softly, but Hermione only chastised him with a Look. Truth be told, The Look was something Draco recognized all too well, because he'd seen it on both his father's and mother's faces. It was the kind of expression that reprimanded him without words, the kind of wordless way of saying "You
have made a GRAVE mistake." So Draco silenced himself and allowed Hermione to rub the warm cloths up and down his fur, removing the bit of grime and blood that had gotten stuck in it since his first escape from the shack.

The fire continued to roar and glow brightly, even as the cool winter sun outside set below the horizon, inviting the darkness. All the while, Hermione
talked to him about various things-- mostly her wondering aloud about 'magical dogs' and why this was the first time she'd seen any sort of a dog anywhere in Hogsmeade, let alone near the Shrieking Shack. She seemed to stop herself at one point to add "Well, except for Snuf-- but then, I suppose he didn't really count." Draco had no idea who or what 'Snuf' was, and he wasn't altogether curious. In fact, Hermione's ministrations were actually quite pleasant...

"I guess I can't keep calling you Dog or Pooch, then. In the Muggle world, people give all sorts of names to their pets, but then, that's true of the Wizarding world, too. Then, I've never heard of anyone naming an owl 'Rover' or anything..."

Draco crossed his injured forepaw over his uninjured one, and rested his head on the juncture. He was feeling rather nice at this point, and almost
forgetting about being stuck as a fur-covered fleabag. But of course, Malfoys didn't have fleas! Not even accidental Malfoy dogs!) He just wanted Hermione to keep rubbing him with those warm cloths, not talk to him...

'How about you call me by my name, you stupid girl?' Draco thought to himself.

All at once, the warm rubbing stopped, and Draco opened his cloud grey eyes. He turned his head to the side, and saw Hermione no longer sitting beside him, but standing up with a look of pure and absolute rage on her face.

"Did I say that out loud?" Draco wondered. It came to his astonishment alone when he heard his voice --his own voice-- distinctly coming from a throat that was still covered in fur.

"Yes you did, Malfoy," Hermione responded viciously. She drew her wand and was pointing it at him, but if the way her hand was trembling was
any indication, she was so surprised that she had no idea what to do.

"H-Hey," Draco protested, stumbling as he tried to rise to his four feet, "You don't have to hex me or anything."

"Y-You... all this time...!" Hermione stuttered, her face growing even redder. She plunged her wand back into her robes and turned around to
leave the way she'd come, but Draco's voice stopped her a millimeter from the Whomping Willow's passageway.

"Wait! Come on now, Granger, I didn't mean it!"

"Didn't mean it?" Hermione echoed hollowly. "Didn't mean it?"

Draco walked up to her and tried to look as irritated as a dog could. "I'm the one stuck in a dog's body, and you're getting a little irritated over a
silly name?"

"SILLY?" Hermione shouted, to the point where dust fell from the rusty hall chandelier above them. "So you think calling me names is silly? That maybe the next time you call me a disgusting, filthy spawn upon wizarding society, I should just laugh and walk away?"

"What, you mean 'Mudblood'?" Draco asked quizzically. Hermione didn't even bother with an answer; she just let out a frustrated growl and started
marching back into the darkness.

"I won't ever call you a single name ever again, Granger!" Draco shouted. "Come back and help me--" He was sure she was already well and gone by now, and he was stuck in this dank, dusty house with fur all over him. "Please."

To his surprise, his ears picked up the faint sound of steps crunching on old soil. He glanced up, and there amongst the shades of black and white and grey was Hermione Granger, staring at him coldly.

"Only because you said please," she uttered in a low voice. "And you'd better promise."

"I promise," Draco repeated. He hated promising anyone anything, least of all a Mudb-- a Muggleborn witch. But she was the only one here,
and the only one with decent enough intelligence who he might actually be able to trust to keep this secret once they'd solved this little problem of his.

"Do you really think I would just believe you, just like that? Give me one good reason why I should trust you, Draco Malfoy, after everything
you've said and done to me and my friends."

"Because loyalty isn't just a trait of the Gryffindors, you know!" Draco bit out before he could stop himself. Hermione's eyebrows raised in surprise and suspicion, but she didn't say anything. Draco dared to continue, "The whole point of houses is to foster loyalty, isn't it? Each house is loyal in its own way, and they'll each keep their promises if they make them. Slytherins just happen to be loyal to those that can help them-- and you can help me."

The way he said it sounded so arrogant and assured that Hermione was tempted to leave again. But then again-- he was sort of complimenting her. Sort of.

"What makes you think I can do anything to help you?" she asked. Part of her admonished her barely veiled attempt at fishing for compliments, but
coming from what would have otherwise been Draco Malfoy's foul mouth, Hermione hardly minded. Perhaps if the boy used honeyed words more often than vinegar-laced ones, he wouldn't have made such enemies out of everyone not in his own house.

"Because you're here, for one!" Draco barked (and there was a bit of a true bark in his voice) out. "And..." He looked away, almost embarrassed. He pretended he'd spotted a doxy flitting about, and refused to meet Hermione's gaze. "You're the smartest one in our year. You know more about this place, about spells and charms than most of the people at school."

Hermione was still quiet, and for a moment, Draco wondered if she'd stormed off again. But when he looked over to meet her, she was still standing there. Her arms were no longer crossed over her chest, and the frown on her face had been replaced with a knowing --and altogether smug-- smile.

"Flattery won't get you very far with me, Malfoy, but I will help you figure out what's gone wrong here. I don't know if I can fix it, but at
least we'll have a start. Then maybe we could go back to Hogwarts and--"



"No," Draco lowered his voice and hung his head. "No one can find out about this. Not the Weasel, not Potter, not anyone!"

"You promised not to call names--"

"If I promised not to call them names, it would be a little too suspicious, don't you think?" Draco pointed out wryly. Hermione acquiesced
this point, and started speaking again.

"I won't tell them, then. Besides, I was thinking of a teacher, like Professor McGonagall, or maybe Professor Snape--"

"No, no, no!"

"But McGonagall knows everything about Transfiguration, and perhaps if it was some sort of potion that changed you--"

"It wasn't. I-I think it was a charm or something, but before you say it, NO to Professor Flitwick, either. If any of the teachers got wind of this, someone from Slytherin would find out for sure, and if they did, my father would, and absolutely everything would be ruined. Think of my honor, would you, Granger?"

"Honor?" Hermione repeated. She shook her head. "You purebloods are something else."

"The same loyalty I have to those that help me, I have to my family, Granger. You can understand that, can't you? Isn't that why you always got so
offended at being called a Mudblood?"

Hermione was silent. She supposed Malfoy was right-- and that had to be a first.

"I can't let my family name be disgraced all because I did something stupid and got turned into a filthy dog--"

"You aren't filthy!" Hermione looked so offended, Draco half wondered if she thought he'd been insulting her attempts at washing him. He was about to
correct her on what he meant, but she spoke first, her voice still stuttering and her cheeks a decidedly unnatural dark color. "I-I meant dogs aren't
filthy. They're wonderful creatures. And it could have been much worse. You could have been Transfigured into a leech or a slug or something."

This time, it was Draco's turn to concede that Hermione was right-- again.

"They're stupid," he muttered, but Hermione still heard him.

"They are not! It's been proven that dogs are some of the smarter mammals on the planet, and they're friendly and sweet, and fun to cuddle with,

"So is that what you do when you go back to the Muggle world, is it? Spend time cuddling with a mangy dog when you can't be with the Weasel or

Hermione fixed him with a glare so icy cold, Draco would have sworn the fire in the grate had gone out. He muttered under his breath and tucked his forepaws together again, refusing to meet Hermione's gaze.

"Say that again?" Hermione asked.

"I said I'm sorry! Bloody git..." Draco growled. Hermione ignored the last comment and nodded proudly.

"Well then, that's a start." She got up and started looking around. "Do you remember where you first got Transfigured?"

Draco shook his head. "Can't really. Might have been this room, but--"

Before he could finish, Hermione started walking about all the rooms.

'Stupid girl! If she gets Transfigured into a dog too, there'll be no hope for me at all!' He rose to chase after her, but his front forepaw started
to smart with pain, and he fell back to the floor with a whimper. For several minutes, there was hardly any sound within the Shrieking Shack. No screams, no howls-- nothing like Draco remembered when he'd discovered what had happened to him. Likely the sound had terrified Crabbe and Goyle away from their waiting post outside the Shack, and they hadn't dared to speak of what they didn't know to anyone.

'Fools!' If at least they'd ventured to go into the house, Draco might have been able to let them know what happened to him... or something. On the other hand, Crabbe and Goyle were far from the smartest Slytherins, and if they had found out about Draco's transformation, it might have been worse before it got better.

In any case, there was nothing. And a few minutes after that, Hermione walked back into the room, still very much a human female. Draco never thought he would be so relieved to see her.

"Well, I didn't find any obvious charms. Whatever did it to you must be embedded into the walls of the house, and I suspect it only targets those with
Wizarding blood in them. This is a very old house, you know."

"Yes," Draco admitted under his breath. "I know." After all, it was his attempt to prove Granger wrong about the house that had led him here on a dare in the first place.

"What day is today?"

"Saturday," Draco responded irritably. "But what's that got to do with anything?"

"The moon!" Hermione exclaimed in awe. "It's a full moon!" She flung away a moth-eaten old curtain from the window and allowed the bright
moonlight to stream in, ignoring the cloud of dust that burst from the folds with the sudden movement. Draco made a noise that was a cross between a bark and a cough and stared at her.

"I thought you dropped out of Divination. Since when does the position of the moon have anything to do with what's happened to me? I'm a bloody talking dog, not a werewolf--!"

"That's the whole point, Malfoy," Hermione snapped, though there was no true irritation or malice in her voice. Instead, she both looked and sounded triumphant, as if she'd solved the whole mystery already. "I don't know about the Shrieking Shack's whole history, but I know it was here during your parents' generation. And the Whomping Willow was planted during the year Professor Lupin came--"

"The werewolf? What--?"

Hermione ignored him and barreled on. "His transformation every full moon is what gave the Shrieking Shack its name. Transforming into a werewolf isn't exactly painless, I'm sure-- and a dog probably isn't much better, but at least it makes sense!"

"Makes SENSE?" Draco all but shouted. "How? I'm a bloody four-legged canine!"

"And if you were a bloody two-legged human, I'm sure you'd stand a much better chance against a werewolf, wouldn't you?" Hermione retorted sarcastically.

"W-What, you mean there's a werewolf here?"

"Of course not. Professor Lupin was the last one that I knew of, anyway. But if they brought in a magical tree to protect the passageway to this house,
it makes sense that they'd charm the house too, right?"


"And since humans don't possess the senses nearly as good as a werewolf's, whoever charmed the place must have decided on the next best thing-- creatures with extraordinary senses of smell and sound, small enough to escape through any openings, and quick enough to run from a werewolf, if it spotted them."

"So that's why I'm a dog?"

"It's better than nothing, isn't it?" Hermione asked. "And I suppose the only reason why you changed prior to the full moon is because the charm is getting old. Since the sun went down and the moon rose, you've been able to talk, so that's another clue that something's wrong with the charm."

"But if there's something wrong with it, who's to say that I'll change back once the full moon is over?"

Hermione cast him a guilty look. "Well... I don't know that part. It would make sense for the charm to wear off once the moon set, but it's possible that
something's gone wrong. You might be stuck until the moon wanes more fully, or until the night before the next full moon..."

"That's a whole month, Granger! I can't spend another MINUTE in this form, let alone a whole month!"

"Well if all you're going to do is complain about it, I have no reason for sticking around then, do I? Not like you calling me names is really incentive enough, is it? You can just stay here and lick yourself until you change back!" Hermione rose to her feet and started to walk out of the room, but
Draco barked her name pleadingly, and she stopped.

"Hermione!" Not 'Mudblood' or even 'Granger'... but 'Hermione.' And he'd said it with a genuine sense of urgency, need even.

She turned around on stiff legs and faced Draco. "If it weren't for the fact that my Muggle parents always taught me to help someone in need, I wouldn't be turning around for the second time."

Draco attempted to smile feebly and gratefully, but it is very hard for dogs to smile, and when they try to do so, they tend to look very awkward indeed. However, Hermione managed to spot Draco's attempt nonetheless, and she broke out into a fit of giggles. The smile disappeared from Draco's furry face, and he growled at her under his breath once more.

"Oh, that was funny!" Hermione laughed, her cheeks growing darker still. "You should really try to smile more often- Rover!"

"Hey! My name's Draco Malfoy, thank you very much, and you can call me as such!"

"Oh, of course, your royal DOGLINESS," Hermione mocked in a fake curtsy. As soon as her head bobbed up, she started giggling again.

"No, really, why don't you smile more often-- I mean, when you're... well, human?"

"I smile! I smile plenty!"

"I don't mean one of those arrogant 'I'm right and you're wrong' sort of smiles," Hermione clarified. "I meant a genuine, 'I'm happy, and it's not because someone else is suffering at my expense' sort of smile."

"What kind of smile is that, now?" Draco joked. Despite being a canine, Hermione seemed to detect the undertone in Draco's voice, and she smiled. Draco would have smiled in kind --just to prove that he could-- but the last thing he wanted was Hermione to be laughing at him again. He hated being
laughed at.

But for some odd reason, he did seem to like the sound of Hermione's laughter. It wasn't too nasally like some of the other Slytherin girls. It wasn't
snorting like Pansy's (when she thought something was particularly hysterical), and it wasn't screeching like Peeves's laugh. In fact, it was... quite nice.

Hermione seemed to be growing sleepy as the hours wore on. They continued to talk, occasionally interjecting what they knew of the Shack, Transfiguration charms, and other assorted things, but nothing ended up panning out. The moon had set. Hogwarts was likely abuzz with rumors of what had happened to the smartest Muggleborn witch the school had seen in generations, and Slytherin was probably busy spreading all sorts of rumors about where Draco had gone. Hopefully, no one put two and two together and decided that if Hermione and Draco were both missing, they must be together.

Draco dared to glance at Hermione, who had made a number of failed attempts to get comfortable. The old furniture was covered with so much dust, dirt, soot, or combination thereof that she didn't even want to try sitting in the nearby armchair; the floor was rotting and just as bad, and who knew about any sprites or doxies that might be floating about, ready to bite? Hermione had glanced once at him, completely sleepy-eyed and likely delirious, looking at Draco as if he'd make a fine pillow.

As he was, Draco might have been disinclined to disagree with her-- after he'd been thoroughly cleaned by Hermione's warm rags, he supposed his blond fur really was rather nice and soft, though the tip of his still wet, pink nose hardly offered the same sort of sensations as his once-human hands had.

He was about to fall asleep in front of the still-roaring and warm fire, hoping that he'd wake up the next morning in his own bed, in his own body, with all of this being a frightfully strange and stupid dream, when all of a sudden, Hermione bolted up, looking completely awake. She didn't look the least bit
startled, although her hair still managed to look a cross between her usual bushy and the damp-soaked tousled that Draco was finding he rather liked. She had the kind of hair he might like to tangle his hands in...

But what a stupid thought. And what a stupid look on her face!

"I've got it," Hermione said in a low whisper. Then her gaze turned to Draco, and the seriousness of it had his ears and tail twitching. He didn't like having a tail, but the odd look on Hermione's face seemed to incite something in him that made him want to jump. Damn it all, he was spending too
much time like this! He was beginning to think crazy things!

"The charm was only intended for a house occupied once a month by a werewolf, to protect pureblooded wizards who happened to find their way into the Shack. They'd get Transfigured into something that would allow them to hear and smell the wolf, and probably outrun it through a small enough space to go back to wherever they'd come in from."

"You already said all that before," Draco mumbled sleepily.

"The charm didn't work on me because I didn't break into the house like you did, Malfoy," Hermione whispered. "I'm sure there must have been
something about the charm to protect any Muggles that snuck in, because it wouldn't be fair if they got turned into werewolf food either, would it?"

"S'pose not."

Hermione rolled her eyes, but continued speaking. "But the whole point of the charm was that you would get changed into something you're not used to, to run away from something you shouldn't have seen. It's meant to scare you."

Draco didn't really understand where she'd drawn that conclusion from, but he supposed it made sense. Somehow. Perhaps in a world where things weren't black and white, and where dust didn't smell ten times worse than normal...

"Don't you get it, Malfoy? The whole point of the charm is to scare you from ever coming back to the house! If you're terrified enough, running away
fast enough, with a genuine desire to get away and to never come back... the charm will release."

"Are you sure?"

"Well... no," Hermione admitted. "But it sounds reasonable. And there's only one way to find out."

Draco let out a barking laugh. "And how's that? Neither of us are werewolves, and I doubt there's enough doxies in this house to scare me."

Hermione was silent a moment before she stood up, her back turned toward Draco. She seemed to be clenching her fists at her side, standing rather rigid and tall, but Draco couldn't tell in the dimming firelight.

"Promise me that you'll run."

"Granger, what are you going on about? There's not really a werewolf here anymore--"

"Just promise me!" She didn't turn around.

"All right," Draco said slowly. "I promise." He knew he was going to sound awfully stupid for what came out of his mouth next, but he couldn't help it. Probably more of the innate "dog brain" creeping into his behavior. "But what about you?"

Then, Hermione did turn around, and she wore a rather disturbing smile on her face. "I'll be fine."

"You won't even tell me what the hell's going on in your bushy head! How the hell am I supposed to know you're going to be fine?" Draco demanded.

Hermione was tempted to laugh, for all the expressions she was seeing on this supposed-puppy's face. A puppy with Draco Malfoy's voice, of course. ut now that she'd gotten an idea --now that she knew what to do to get them both out of this mess-- she was dead-set on seeing it through. But she couldn't tell Draco, because if he knew, he wouldn't be afraid... and he had to be terrified enough never to come back, if her theory was right, and this was to work.

"Why worry about me?" Hermione asked, still smiling falsely. "I'm a Gryffindor, remember? Friend of Weasel and Potter. Enemy of Slytherin and Mudblood Extraordinare."

It was very unnerving to have Draco's insults all parroted back at him. He realized now just how much it probably bothered Hermione to constantly be
ridiculed for one thing or another. He also realized that he'd been the one jeering her most of the time, and that each time, she'd controlled herself where he couldn't, never showing her anger and instead bottling it all up inside.

What a git he was!

"WHAT. ABOUT. YOU," Draco repeated harshly. He supposed that if he'd been human, he might have been clenching his firsts till his knuckles were
white, and gritting his teeth loudly. But as it was, only one of his forepaws had his claws extended, the other being too wrapped up and sore to even try.

"Tell you what," Hermione started in that same falsely bright voice. "When I come running and screaming 'Go!' you'll listen to me. You won't ask questions, and you won't look back."

Draco stared at her suspiciously, cocking his head to the side and trying his damnedest to raise his oddly-shaped doggy-eyebrows in order to get his
expression across. "Sounds all right enough..."

"Good, then I'll be off--" Hermione began, starting up the stairs.

"But what about you? What kind of stupid thing are you going to do to help me when I don't even deserve it?" Draco interrupted her.

Hermione wheeled around on the second stair, her movements so quick that a small cloud of dust erupted around her feet.

"Don't be giving me lip now when you were literally whining earlier about how horrid it is to be stuck in a dog's body! If Slytherins are supposed to have some redeeming features, then determination ought to be one of them, too!" Hermione looked flushed and out of breath again, but she kept on shouting. "I promised you I'd help you, and I'm not leaving here until you're back to normal-- and you promised me too! So promise me again --on your
pureblood family honor and loyalty, for all that it's worth to you! Promise me you'll do as you're told JUST THIS ONCE!"

Were her words magical, Draco supposed he might have stumbled backwards from the force of them, but as it was, his paws were firmly rooted on the dirty floor.

"Just wait by the Willow hole, and be ready to run no matter what."

Draco nodded silently and watched as Hermione disappeared up the stairs and into the grey. He didn't have too much time to wonder what the hell Hermione was thinking or why she'd go so far for him after all that he'd said and done-- more to Potter and Weasley, really, but...

Hermione reached the room and paused just inside the door frame. It was a crazy idea, but she hoped that it would work. She wished and prayed that it would work, because... well, it wasn't as though she was getting sick of Draco Malfoy's presence. Rather, he was actually somewhat interesting company, and he did make a rather cute dog.

But as she'd told him, she promised to get him out of this mess, and now that she had an idea, she wanted to see if it would work. There was no other way-- they couldn't go back to Hogwarts and tell the professors; they couldn't go into Hogsmeade-- there was no way of contacting anyone, because they simply didn't have the means. So they were stuck --alone, with only each other for company and ideas-- until Draco the Dog became Draco the Annoying Slytherin Git once more.

'He hasn't been all too annoying, I suppose,' Hermione amended mentally. But for all the promises she'd managed to extricate from Draco's lips, she wasn't sure how long she could believe in them. Part of her wanted to --desperately, actually-- but she couldn't possibly hold out false hope. He'd keep this last promise she'd had him make, that was for sure-- but after that, assuming all went well... then everything would just go back to normal.

'There's that word again. "Normal." What does it mean, anyway?' These were thoughts Hermione had entertained earlier, just before she'd gotten barreled in the chest by a dirty and paranoid Golden Retriever puppy. A puppy who'd turned out to be Draco Malfoy...

Well, 'Normal' for Hermione, she supposed, meant going back to her classes, studying fastidiously, staying with Ron and Harry and helping them with their schoolwork, for they would always fall behind in one subject or another, and Hermione simply couldn't stand to see anyone in distress --human or dog!) and... being called 'Mudblood' by Slytherin's finest.

"It won't bother me," Hermione smiled falsely, but since there was no one in the room to see her feeble attempt, it went wasted. Hermione herself
knew she was lying; she knew she hated being called names and labeled. But... she was strong. She could get over it in time. In time, she wouldn't even
remember all this.

So Hermione edged towards a great, dusty chest with a broken lock and peeling covering. The box shuddered as she neared it, and Hermione very nearly hesitated. But no, she had to do this-- she had to see it through. She pulled out her wand and positioned herself carefully-- in a place where she could open the box and still make a bee-line for the door in a matter of seconds.

'Please let this work, please let this work--!' And then she opened the chest.


Draco turned toward the sound of Hermione's voice --her scream, actually, as she came tearing down the stairs at breakneck speeds. One didn't need to have a superior sense of smell or sound to see how flushed she was, how she was beginning to sweat, and how her breath was coming out of her lips in short, quick puffs. She'd been running awfully fast, and from something awfully...

He never finished the thought. He could smell something far different from Hermione's distinct scent (though he didn't know just when he'd first smelled
her 'distinctly' and then gotten so used to that smell, as if it was something sweet and alluring) of dust and old parchment paper-- and whatever soap she must have used in her hair. No, this was an altogether different scent, something that was sending all the bells and alarms off in his head--

A werewolf.

"No time to ask questions, Malfoy, GO!" And then Hermione was at his side and they were tripping over fallen pieces of wood and discarded rags, a
snarling, panting werewolf thundering after them.

'How the bloody hell did she get a werewolf?' It didn't make sense, not a lick of sense-- but at least she was safe. At least she was running right beside--

"Don't slow down, you fool! Come on, Granger!" he barked at her, noticing that Hermione had started to fall behind. But she was only
human, while he was a dog. She didn't have the strength or the means to get away from something as fast and as terrifying as a werewolf. That was why the charm existed in the first place...

"I SAID COME ON!" Draco turned around and grabbed a portion of Hermione's robes with his teeth, urging her forward until she was running
alongside him again.

Why was this tunnel so long? He could have sworn it was so much shorter than this...! He could still hear the werewolf behind them, panting and snarling. It was bloodthirsty, hungry... and damn it all, Draco had no desire to be a werewolf for the rest of his life! A dog was bad enough, but a dark dog?

"No way in hell," Draco muttered under his breath. He could smell cold, if that was possible. Ice and fir and pine and damp soil-- Hogwarts! The Willow's entryway was just ahead, if they could just hurry...!

But his bones were aching so badly, and pain was shooting up his arm--

'Wait, my arm?'

Hermione had been right-- the charm worked exactly as she said it did. The closer they got to Hogwarts and the further from the Shrieking Shack, the more Draco the Dog had started to become Draco Malfoy the Human once more. But she was falling behind, and Draco still knew that werewolf was behind them...

He reached out one arm and groped in the dark until he'd captured one of Hermione's hands in his own, and they stumbled up the root-filled passageway that made such a steep climb back into Hogwarts grounds. Draco unexpectedly tripped, his feet not quite done transforming from paws back into his normal feet, and he slid down, crushing Hermione underneath him.

Draco expected Hermione to scream loudly in his ear and clutch onto him for dear life-- surely in dire situations Granger would act at least a little bit
like the rest of the female gender, right? But instead, Hermione sported the most determined, resolute look he'd ever seen on her face, and she whipped out her wand --so that was what she'd been holding in her other hand-- and shouted out "RIDDIKULUS!"

All of a sudden the werewolf stopped in its tracks and started to inflate and mutate into something that looked vaguely human-- Weasley, as it turned out. Draco craned his neck to see, and could barely muffle his own laughter as the boggart --for that was what it had been all along; how stupid was he not to have realized it sooner-- turned into a swollen, very red version of Ron Weasley's face, complete with freckles and a frustrated expression. His face kept swelling and swelling until it burst, and the boggart went flying back to the Shrieking Shack in the form of a balloon losing its helium.

Hermione smiled and let herself sink back against the dirt and the roots, not caring in the least about dirty robes now. When she opened her eyes, they
revealed a great deal of exhaustion, but overall, she looked-- well, happy. And somehow, the feeling seemed contagious.

"You're back," Hermione smiled, still panting for lack of breath.

Draco looked at his hands in the dim light coming down from Hogwarts --or was that the sky?-- and smiled. A real, genuine, 'I'm happy, and it's not because someone else is suffering at my expense' sort of smile. "Yeah. Guess I am."

Hermione stared at him, her own smile somewhat lopsided now, (because he supposed his own smile had caught her off-guard) still pasted on her lips.

Now that he thought about it, Granger really was rather nice looking. Strangely, it had taken a good deal of dirt, dust, and sweat on the both of
them for him to realize it.

"Not bad. Not bad at all, Hermione."

She stared at him with even wider eyes this time, the smile having transformed into a little 'o' shape.

"What? You want me to keep calling you Granger?"

"Only in front of everyone else," Hermione laughed softly. She squeaked in protest when Draco --still pushed against her-- pushed just a bit harder, this time lifting her away from the tunnel walls and into his arms.

"Does that mean I can call you what I like when we're alone?" Draco whispered in her ear. He might not have a dog's senses any more, but the dark
blush that swept over Hermione's glistening-with-sweat and dusted-with-dirt skin was impossible to miss. "Thank you-- Hermione," he added in a
slightly louder voice. "Now come on."

With his hand still grasping hers, he pulled her out of the tunnel and into the bright light of morning.

And so ends my VERY FIRST HARRY POTTER FIC. swallows nervously So what did you think? ; Was I insane for signing up for LJ's dmhgficexchange? Or was it "Mission: Accomplished?"

Let me know what you thought.