April 21, 2035

10:02 PM

Somewhere in the wilderness of the Highlands, Scotland


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Torrents of rain spilled from heavy clouds, washing over the dark hills below like black ink upon a dark canvas. Biting winds lashed mercilessly at stubborn precipes, bending grass flat and burying small animals alive under flows of mud. No light, natural or otherwise, penetrated the gloom. It was a miserable night.

Most creatures were tucked safely inside their dens or burrows, waiting out the storm in the warmth of the earth. Those too big for tunneling took refuge in caves, or whatever cover they could find. Birds huddled on their nests or clung resiliently to the branches of trees or sheltered rocks.

Only one creature dared to remain out in the open. The storm had no power over him. Rain pelted his tough, scaly hide in vain. Strong winds barely hindered his movement. The darkness was no match for the glowing blue eyes which cut through it with ease, shielded from the rain's fury by the intense aura of heat they projected.

The creature was a dragon.

A dragon unlike all others.

For one thing, he didn't belong to any existing dragon species. His magnificent form was a hodgepodge of select features from several species, all blended together with some unique alterations. No other dragon boasted his size, or his coloration of a solid green body tipped with a bright yellow snout, toes, and blazes of gold on the last half of the tail. Indeed, no other dragon possessed the power to make its eyes glow at all, never mind project an aura of heat to vaporize incoming raindrops.

But this dragon was special.

Special because he wasn't really a dragon at all, but a warlock. A warlock named Draco Malfoy.

This form was one of Draco's favorites. In it he felt invincible. Powerful. Safe from all danger. He loved gliding over rivers and lakes, sailing through canyons and over vast expanses of pure, untouched wilderness. Sometimes on a clear night he would morph to dragon and fly up as high as he could go. So high that the ground below looked like a giant black blanket covered in tiny pinpoints of light, and the chill of the air stung his skin until he almost couldn't stand it. Then he would fold his wings and plummet back down, reveling in the feel of the wind in his face, thinking a thousand pleasant thoughts, longing for the moment to last forever.

Tonight was not one of those nights. It wasn't the weather—Draco could simply disapparate to a more agreeable location if he felt so inclined—but his mood that kept him from experiencing the bliss of dragon-ness.

After everything that had happened, he couldn't believe she was getting back together with him.

The 'she' in question was his daughter, Wicca, whom he'd given up all hope on ever persuading to make an intelligent decision. The 'he' was her fiancé, Tom Riddle, who fancied himself 'Lord Voldemort'.

Draco powered his way through the rain, flapping heavily against the wind. He needed something physical, something real to take his anger out on. Tom, of course, was out of the question, being more than double his power and notoriously ill-tempered. So he fought the storm, alone, while he tried to come to grips with the fact that Wicca was going to marry the very man who had been trying to kill her for the past seventeen years.

Why? Why was she doing this foolish, foolish thing? He simply couldn't wrap his mind around it. 'He has a full soul now' was the reason she'd given. Like one-seventh-of-a-soul Tom was really going to be any different than fully-ensouled Tom. Draco had tried his hardest to talk her out of it. He'd pointed out that having a full soul hadn't stopped Tom from ruthlessly murdering his own family. Hadn't stopped him from becoming an evil monster, one of the most vile warlocks in all of history. Wicca had taken everything he'd said, it seemed, with a grain of salt. Things were different now, she'd argued. Tom was different. She could see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice. Subtle little differences that made all the difference in the world. She was convinced he was 'better now' and would never turn on her again. Despite Tom's role in the death of their son. Despite the fact that he had very nearly killed her. Despite it all.

Draco had spent most of the day arguing with her. When he'd pointed out that Tom was not only the wizarding world's greatest enemy, but his as well, her response had been a definitive 'Don't worry, Daddy. I won't let him hurt you, Mum, or Drake'. When he'd highlighted the fact that Tom did what he wanted when he wanted, and no-one, including Wicca was going to be able to stop him, he might as well have been talking to a wall. His assertions that Tom was probably only interested in her purely for physical reasons, just as before, were met with the same results. Finally, at his wit's end, he'd considered Imperioing her, but had decided against it. Such a harsh refusal may prompt Tom to attack her, or else he would quickly catch on and lash out at the most likely culprit: him.

In the end Draco had had to resign himself to defeat. Storming off, he'd disapparated to the woods and assumed his dragon form, flying around aimlessly until he reached this place.

The rainstorm was refreshing. The cold wind and water calmed his nerves. Throwing his head towards the heavens, he opened his mouth. Let the rain slide down his tongue and into his throat. To his delight, it had that fresh, pure taste that only came from water falling over untouched land. He drank cupfuls of it before snapping those fierce reptilian jaws shut and realigning his head with his back.

Where to go?

A giant hilltop in the distance beckoned. Even in the driving rain, a small cap of snow remained on its top.

Draco beat his wings all the harder, silently uttering a spell that would increase his strength. The extra power took hold, and he sliced through the opposing wind nicely, doubling his speed.

Maybe Willow will be able to knock some sense into her. he thought hopefully. Willow was Wicca's mum and damn good at those heart-to-hearts. If anyone could convince Wicca she was making a huge mistake, she could.

Willow was out-of-country at the moment, but she was due back any day now, and if she didn't show up fast enough Draco knew where to find her. He loathed the idea of disapparating to L.A. and mixing with that lot again, but his daughter's future was worth spending some unsavory time in the company of super-strong muggles, two vampires with souls, a werewolf, and a millions-of-years-old 'pure' demon complete with blazing cobalt eyes trapped in the body of a skinny young woman.

Willow has a weird circle of friends. he reflected. Last time he was there the vampires had questioned his morality while the demon had tested his patience with stories of the ancient past when she had been god to a god and everything else had been muck. The closest he'd come to an engaging conversation was when one of Willow's dearest friends, a one-eyed muggle by the name of Xander, had started to mention the time he'd saved the world from Dark Willow. Regrettably, Willow had hushed him up before he could get any further than the part about her flaying someone alive.

Such a shame. Draco would have loved to have heard more about that.

Almost there.

Just for the fun of it, Draco brought his wings in closer to his body and curved the tips down. Rolled midair.

Hell yes! Fen powers rule!

For a few minutes, the world disappeared. At least, as far as Draco was concerned it did. Shoving all other thoughts aside, he gave in to his most basic desire and lost himself in the dragon.

With mighty wing-beats, he regained lost altitude. Climbing higher and higher into the air, he opened his mouth and let loose with a roar befitting a creature of his stature, a roar even the gale of the storm could not fully contain.

Power!

Control!

He was the master of the skies, the lord and ruler over all above and below. All other creatures trembled in his presence. No one challenged him. No one dared. Flapping fiercely in the wind, he positioned himself vertically for a second or two. Then his slender head shot downward, trailing the rest of his body behind it.

Down!

The ground rushed up to meet him, the wind raging against his body, washing the green, yellow, and gold scales in a spray of rain.

Faster and faster!

A herd of stray sheep caught out in the open looked up and broke into a panicked run several hundred feet below. Draco saw them as clearly as if they were bathed in light, his magically-enhanced eyes missing nothing, not even the numbers on the blue tags they wore in their ears.

An especially strong wind flared up, and, spreading his wings to full length, he used his momentum to swoop up and catch it, his path taking a 'U' shape.

Exhilarating! Why stop there?

Drawing his wings in until they were half-closed, he repeated the roll he'd done earlier, enjoying the sensation of a spinning, wet sky. He was an acrobat putting on the world's best aerial performance. Showy displays discouraged rivals and attracted mates—

What the hell am I thinking?

Wicca, Tom, Willow, his situation—it all came rushing back to him in an odious, ugly blur. He wasn't a real dragon. He was merely a warlock trying to forget his problems by temporarily taking the shape of a dragon. But it had been so easy to slip into that carefree dragon mind, so tempting to stay…

While Draco was beyond animagi in the fact that he could transform into just about any creature he wanted—mythical or otherwise—without losing his mind, and choose any color pattern he pleased, he was no more immune to the presence of the animal mind than they were. Skilled and powerful as he was, it was usually a simple matter to clamp down on the animal instincts bubbling up beneath his own psyche. But, as with animagi, it was possible to retreat into a small corner of the mind, allowing the animal conscience to gain control and dominate outward actions. This loss of control could be either deliberate or accidental.

Draco's had been deliberate, but he hadn't meant to take it that far. Judging by everything he'd seen and heard, it could've been hours or even days before he remembered his true self, and anything could happen in that time. Much as he loved dragons, he had no desire to explore every aspect of their lives through their perspective.

Back on track, he flew to the top of the hill he'd spied earlier. Hovering over a select spot, he made his landing. The slushy snow caved in without the ghost of resistance under first his back feet, then his front. Digging long, sharp talons into the frozen ground, he steadied himself. Folded his wings.

This may not be solving my problems, but it sure feels good. If Wicca was deadest on marrying the bloody Dark Lord, well, there wasn't anything he could do about it.

So he'd have to resort to just wishing for the best.

Hopefully Tom had gotten over that whole I-want-to-split-up-my-soul phase now that he was immortal. It would make sense, being as how his lack of immortality had driven him to do that in the first place.

And, much as Draco hated to admit it, he had seen a difference in Tom lately. Not a big one, but one worthy of note. He seemed a little less passionate about hunting down his enemies and scheming against the other Fen.

Then a thought presented itself—if Wicca's statements were genuine, if Tom really had changed somehow when Rich had shoved the rest of his soul back into his body, then maybe Wicca was better off with him. Tom was capable of protecting her from any threat Draco could envision, and he'd definitely have the means to get her whatever her heart desired.

Too bad that I can't be sure it's genuine, or that he wouldn't hurt her if she were to upset him in any way. Of the many things Tom was known for, his willingness to forgive was not high on the list. This applied regardless of how much of his soul he happened to be in the possession of at the moment.

Draco let his eyes rest on a smaller hill not far in the distance. Mentally, he uttered the incantation to end his nightvision. Instantly everything plunged into blackness to the point where he could no longer make out even the smallest silhouette of the hill.

There.

That was more comfortable.

His head hurt from the stress of trying to figure out whether or not his only daughter, his little Wicca, was going to be okay.

On impulse spurred by frustration, he rocked back on his haunches, spread his wings, thrust his head skyward, opened his mouth as wide as it would go, and exhaled a thick jet of flame. He kept this fountain of fire up for almost a full minute, swinging his head from side to side to better admire the sparkling white-orange plume.

Take that animagi! Hah!

Animagi were so weak. Before he'd gotten a taste of true power he'd held a grudging respect for them, but now they seemed no different than the common witches and wizards. Not that there were many 'old-fashioned' animagi around these days anyway.

Snapping his jaws shut, he killed his flame and fell back on all fours.

The moment had passed. He'd had his alone time. Now he felt the urge to prowl the streets of Hogsmeade.

Yes…Hogsmeade sounded awfully inviting about now, what with its hapless citizens and numerous outlets for socialization. Firewhiskey would really hit the spot, especially after being out on a cold night like this. Draco could almost taste it. I think I'll visit the Leaky Cauldron. The folks there are usually up for a chat. I can spill my heart out to them, and take any unsympathetic gits out back where I will suck the magic right out of them. And…I'd better go now, before I start trying to claim territory or look for a mate or something.

That settled, Draco shut his eyes on concentrated on his true form, willing the magic to make the change.

The entire transformation took less than a second to happen—the large dragon shrunk and lost its wings, tail, and horns instantaneously while everything else on its body changed too swiftly for mortal eyes to follow.

Draco was human again. The wind tossed his white-blonde locks asunder and plastered his stylish black robes firmly against his back, causing the ends to flare forward dramatically. He held that position for a brief instant; then he vanished.


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A/N: This is a companion ficlet to my story A Riddle In Time. Check that out if any of this appeals to you. Reviews are the stuff of dreams!