Caught In The Act
Chapter One: The Game.
The corner of Oxford street was wet with the rain pelting from a gray sky. Perfect. It made Eurydice's mud-crusted hair look all the more pitiful. She looked up at Hadrian, who was crying out to passersby of a dog for sale.
"Lovely Irish Setter, abandoned and waiting for an 'ome! Loving and loyal, left alone to die! Come now, miss, give this poor dog a look…"
Most simply passed without a glance. Others slowed, sparing a look for the cardboard sign which read "Healthy Dog Seeks Home". Eurydice sat at Hadrian's side, shivering and whimpering for appearance's sake. She had half a mind to sneak off for a moment, to transform back into a human and get out of the cold. But if she did anything to compromise their cover, he'd probably leave her with whoever was thick enough to buy the sign and the shivering dog and never return. So she sat in her Animagus form, tail and eyes drooping pitifully. She hated being wet.
"Look 'ere mum, wouldn' t you like a nice dog to take 'ome? Sweet disposition, take it from me!"
A hopeful look lit Eurydice's eyes as the older woman took in her canine form. The jewels dripping from her wrist jangled as she reached a hand out to stroke the dog's ear.
"Is it female?" she asked. Hadrian said it was, and that they hadn't named her.
"Certainly a pretty dog, aren't you, sweetie?" The woman cooed in Eurydice's face. Eurydice fought the urge to sneer. More than rain, she hated the cooing. Instead, she nuzzled the woman's hand and began to wag her tail.
"She's not…diseased, is she?"
"No, mum. I tested her meself at the pound. The only damage is emotional, I'd say. Very sad, mum; please say you'll take her 'ome. You won't regret it." Hadrian smiled winningly at the lady as she herself nodded understandingly.
"Don't cost much. Profit's not the aim 'ere. Just fifteen quid to cover the shots we gave 'er."
The lady cast one last pitying look at the dog, and then reached for her purse.
"I'm an animal lover, you know. And I would very much like a companion. Here you are; does she have a lead?"
Hadrian handed her a worn rope lead which he buckled to the equally worn collar round Eurydice's throat. He also gave the woman a stick, which he said the dog loved to play fetch with. Step one, complete. He gave her one last pat, along with a wink, then picked up his sign and walked down the rainy street.
"Now what shall I call you, darling baby girl?" Eurydice rolled her eyes inwardly. Step two, initiated.
Five days passed. The old woman, called Mrs. Buckley, had already bought a lifetime supply of dog food, a brand new collar-and-lead, and had named her new pet 'Missy'. Mealtimes, which Eurydice dreaded due to the terrible food and constant cooing, were regular, as most of Mrs. Buckley's activities were. She tended to leave Eurydice alone to go to the salon at 5 o'clock, going straight to the grocer's and returning at eight. This was excellent. Tonight, as soon as Mrs. Buckley left, Eurydice would call Hadrian and be out of there by sundown.
"Missy-wissy-poo, do you want your num-nums?"
But it would be a long 4 hours till then, Eurydice thought to herself as she padded reluctantly into the kitchen.
Finally, 5 o'clock came and Mrs. Buckley was hoisting her fine leather purse onto her fur-mantled shoulder.
"I'll see you when I get back, Missy. Until then, be good my little pudding-pie." Missy grit her teeth and nuzzled the old lady's outstretched hand for good measure. Then she sat on the Persian rug in the hall as she watched her newest owner carefully close the door.
As the door clicked into its frame, Eurydice sprang into action. Running into the kitchen, she found the fetch-stick – her wand – lying beside her food bowl. Aiming it at herself as best as she could without her thumbs, she silently thought the incantation which would turn her back into her human form. A spark from the wand did it; she felt the familiar prickling sensation as her red fur fell away, along with a few pops and slight cracks as her bones shifted and realigned. Once fully human, she looked down at the gold watch on her wrist. Her thin fingers turned the face around, and the watch glowed for a moment. The charm which she'd placed on it matched that which she set on Hadrian's own; he would know that she was alone as well as where she was. Then he would come for her. Now all she had to do was pack.
Upstairs in Mrs. Buckley's room were a few suitcases along with various valuable trinkets and antiques. These she had found during her expeditions as a dog over the past 5 days. Quickly, she set about filling the suitcases with small bits of jewelry and art. She stopped when she heard a large truck pulling up to the sidewalk outside. Hadrian was waiting when she unlocked and flung open the door.
"Took a damn long while this time, Eury," he smiled as he entered the townhouse, "Enjoyin' the high life a bit too much?"
"Please," she rolled her eyes as they lifted the large grandfather clock from the sitting room and made for the door, "I've been dying to bite that old crone's hand off for days. All that fucking cooing…and I wish that we could somehow tell who'd give me table scraps and who wouldn't. I'm dying for some chips…"
Hadrian laughed as they carefully set the clock down in the back of the truck. The television was next. Then the silverware. Then the suitcases and perhaps, if they could lift it, the antique statue in the entryway.
When they were finished, the house was devoid of anything shiny. Bare walls and appliances were the only remains. It was fifteen minutes to seven; they'd made good time.
"Now to make a quick getaway," Hadrian grinned as he admired the loot. He had an arm wrapped tightly around Eurydice's shoulders. That familiar glow of accomplishment swelled in them both, and continued to warm their skin as they got in the truck and drove away. Mrs. Buckley's door was left wide open.
"Lovely Irish Setter, abandoned and waiting for an 'ome! Loving and loyal, left alone to die! Come now, sir, give this poor dog a look…"
Eurydice looked up from her well-practiced dejected look to see a tall, well-dressed man. He was wearing unobtrusive-yet-elegant black robes, and he carried a sleek cane with a serpent's head set at the top. He was a wizard. This changed things. Hadrian couldn't give her a wand; he'd easily recognize it for what it was. Instead she'd Floo all the loot straight to Hadrian's flat.
Still. She was less comfortable with male targets, ever since a man in Aberdeen had taken her home and made it obvious that the love he offered a dog was not at all platonic. That time, she'd had to transform back into herself early. Oddly, any sexual intent he'd had was lost as soon as he saw she was a person. She looked warily at the man, tall and steely, before her. She really didn't want to have to fight this one. He looked like he could handle himself, and well. She almost signaled a 'no' to Hadrian – just a scratch behind her ear would do it – but she reconsidered as she saw the jeweled signet ring and finely tooled leather shoes he wore. He looked far too rich to pass up.
"I am considering purchasing a new hunting dog. Is this one up to scratch?" he asked, scrutinizing her with his grey eyes. Hadrian gave her a questioning glance. She wagged her tail. Maybe having a run outside would be nice for a change. Sitting around doing nothing while waiting for a heaping pile of dog food was starting to get pretty bloody old. Hell, even if she had to sink her teeth into a deer's jugular…she'd done worse things than kill an animal. She knew all too well how people must have felt after returning to their homes, empty. She could guess the fear and worry they felt for their dog, too. They had no idea that their dog was the one robbing them blind.
This man would be difficult, she knew it. His demeanor was immediately apparent. This man would be hard to pin down. But she was up to the challenge. Anyway, she couldn't deny the man was good looking. Wouldn't hurt to get to look at him for a couple days, with no one the wiser.
"Well we found 'er out in the country, on hunting ground. Must have been a huntin' dog once upon a time. She's young and energetic. Only fifteen quid, my good man. She's 'ealthy, we gave 'er all the shots she was missin'."
"Alright, then. But I'll tell you this: if she falls ill soon, I'll be seeing you. Don't think anything different." Then the man grabbed the leash which Hadrian had offered him, dropped the 15 quid onto the sidewalk, and pulled a suddenly anxious Eurydice across the road. Oh yes, she thought, this one would be difficult.
She followed him through Muggle London until they came to the familiar Leaky Cauldron. His grip on the lead was loose; it seemed like he didn't even need to hold it to know that she would follow. Eurydice guessed that this was a powerful man. She would need to be careful.
When he tapped the bricks which marked the entrance to Diagon Alley, Eurydice felt a thrill of excitement. She hadn't seen the wizarding world in a long while. Immediately the sight of people in robes, buying owls and spellbooks and Instant-Sealing envelopes, brought back memories. Shopping for her first year at Hogwarts. Blowing up her mother's hat in her search for a wand. Being attacked by a large screech owl in the Owl Emporium. Walking along the street with boyfriends and schoolmates…wandering into Knockturn Alley three years ago.
Nowadays Knockturn Alley was far from the seedy center of dark magic that it once was. After Voldemort's defeat, there had been a major crackdown on all dark arts dealerships. That was what had put Hadrian Marble, Eurydice's boss, out on the streets.
She was tugged from her reverie by a sharp pull of her lead. Her new owner was now pulling her into Flourish and Blott's. She followed him into the bookshop, using her keen canine senses to enjoy the smell of musty pages and leather; both new and aged.
"I require a book on dog training," the man said simply to a book-keeper.
"Ah, Mr. Malfoy," the slight, older man acknowledged. So that was his name. He led Mr. Malfoy to an aisle on Care of Magical Creatures.
"Don't have many books on non-magical animals, but…aha," he smiled triumphantly as he pulled a thin volume from the top of a dusty pile.
"Are you looking for a beginner's guide? Or something more…specialized?"
"I have another dog," Malfoy said. Uh oh. A real dog might recognize her for what she was. She'd just have to brave it and hope that Malfoy left her alone relatively soon. While Eurydice was thinking fast, Malfoy continued to speak.
"…but I need to train this one for hunting myself." The book keeper nodded and handed Malfoy the book.
"This should do fine then. A whole chapter on hunting specifically, and the rest on slightly advanced conditioning. Come round to the till."
Malfoy paid for the book and left the store with Eurydice in tow. From behind him, she could stare openly at his broad shoulders and long, aristocratic neck. Wow, Eurydice, she thought, it'll almost be a shame to leave this one robbed blind.
Suddenly he stopped in an alcove and bent over. He gripped her shoulderblades firmly, and Eurydice noticed how cool and soft his hands were. Suddenly she felt like a bitch in heat. Before she could enjoy his touch more, she felt her navel pulling toward her spine and the darkening street swirled around as they Disapparated with a sharp crack.
When they appeared again, it was inside one of the grandest foyers Eurydice had ever seen. Black marble covered a huge expanse of ground, until they melded with twin staircases which curved as they ascended to the second floor. Spotless French windows revealed the now dusky sky. The only thing interrupting the field of black was an elegant fountain in the middle of the circular space, which looked as though it was made of clouded glass. The entire room moaned of opulence and luxury.
The familiar rumble of greed and anxiety swelled in Eurydice's paws and throat. This would do quite nicely.
Review, dear readers, for any author worth their salt – or not – is also worth their weight in vanity.