Disclaimer: I do not own "Harry Potter" or any of its characters, nor do I profit in any way from the use of said characters and situations in this writing.
Timeline: April-June, 2000
Main Characters: Draco Malfoy, Hermione Granger, Charlie Weasley, Harry Potter, Bill Weasley
Story Details: Post-Hogwarts-EWE (Epilogue? What Epilogue?) format. This is a Mystery, Romance, Drama, Angsty story with a happy ending.
Summary: A young dragon has claimed the ruins of Malfoy Manor for its lair. The once-fine estate has fallen into disrepair with its former masters having left England after the war (Lucius was sentenced to Azkaban for twenty years, and Narcissa and Draco moved onto the continent to hide from their social shame). Hermione Granger is sent from the Dept. of Magical Creatures to investigate with consultant, Charlie Weasley, and to hopefully capture the rare Opaleye for removal and re-release into its natural habitat. However, as she should know by now, all is not necessarily as it initially appears in the wizarding world.
Rating: NC-17 (explicit sexual situations – including snogging, petting, oral sex, masturbation, consensual sex-virginity loss; profanity; alcohol consumption)
Images to go along with this fic (characters, outfits, places mentioned in the story - remove all spaces to load the URL properly): http:/ / s905 . photobucket . com / albums / ac260 / RZZMG / Opaleye
OPALEYE: A DRAGON'S LOVE
CHAPTER ONE: Enter The Princess
"It's an Antipodean Opaleye!" Charlie spoke in whispered awe, his cerulean gaze as wide as saucers, his every muscle frozen on the spot.
Her heart pounding a mile a minute as the territorial, enraged dragon screeched in defiance at them, Hermione mimicked the expert at her side, her knowledge of the species having come merely from academic research, and not from actual life experience, as her friend's had. "I thought they were native to Australia and New Zealand," she murmured under her breath, her grip on her wand tightening as the sweat from her palms threatened her grip.
"They are," he affirmed, "and not usually this aggressive." Stepping back very slowly he kept his gaze on the dragon's every move, looking for that one cue – a facial tick, a claw retraction, a tensing in the shoulder muscles – that would indicate the beast was about to charge. "Back off, nice and slow."
Hermione followed Charlie's lead, but the moment her foot slid one step in retreat, the dragon's glittering, multi-colored eyes swung in her direction and zeroed in on her. For a moment, she could have sworn there was a strange, startled widening of the lids. Her body froze in response.
"He's a smart fellow, this one," Charlie admired in a low voice, but she wasn't really paying attention to her companion just then, as she felt the oddest sensation: her whole magical aura vibrated and was caressed. The sensation was fleeting, almost as if the dragon supernaturally tasted her essence to determine her identity and strength. Her impression was that it was meant to serve as an enchanted scenting of sorts – like animals greeting each other - but the aftereffect was that it left her body tight as a bowstring and breathless with pleasurable tingling.
None of her research on dragons had indicated that they were rational beings, merely animals. Each had their own brand of magic that they employed, but it was not as a wizard, a goblin, a house-elf or a centaur would use; more like a dementor or a vampire – it was part of their innate species talent, and was relegated to a specific purpose (like sucking souls or entrancing a victim through fear to stay put). In the case of most dragons, their magic was mainly focused upon detection spells, to hide their roosts, their young, and themselves from prying eyes. Some species, like the Romanian Longhorn and the Peruvian Vipertooth used enchanting spells to render their victims defenseless, much like cobras swaying back and forth, so they could get in close for the kill. The Opaleye, typically the shyest of all dragons, was said to avoid confrontation with humans as often as possible, and there was conjecture that it used its captivating, glittery eyes to lull a person into a trance before turning invisible and flying off, but no one really seemed to know the truth of that rumor.
"He seems to like you," her ex-boyfriend's older brother informed her.
That statement jarred Hermione from the enthrallment. She blinked, gasped at the realization of what had been happening, and took that step backward that she'd meant to take earlier. Moving too quickly, however, had the effect of making the dragon agitated. It shifted its long, sinuous neck once, shifting from left to right paw at the same time and growled. The sound was clearly a warning.
"Granger, stop," Charlie hissed as she made to move back again.
The Opaleye once more blinked and the full force of its magical weight fell upon Hermione's aura. This time, it not only 'sniffed' her, it also entered her mind. Random images of her time at Hogwarts flashed through her head… First Year entangled in Devil's Snare, Second Year Polyjuiced as a cat, Third Year flying Buckbeak to rescue Sirius, Fourth Year dancing with Viktor Krum, Fifth Year fighting in the Department of Mysteries, Sixth Year looking down upon Dumbledore's crumpled body, Seventh Year being Crucio'd in this very ruin of a house by Bellatrix Lestrange and watching Harry defeat Voldemort in the Final Battle.
Interspersed throughout the flipping of her memories flashed the visions of those who had most influenced her: Harry and Ron, Ginny and Luna, Neville and Seamus, Snape and McGonagall, Dumbledore and Lupin, Molly and Arthur, the Weasley family, her parents, and even, to her surprise, Draco Malfoy.
In particular, the dragon focused on this last character - silky, platinum-blond hair, taunting grey eyes, and Slytherin green and silver robes. The memories slipped through her mental grasp like running water, mercilessly pulling her with them, reminding her of all the horrible things he had said over their time together, and of the year he had sat silently in sorrow, growing increasingly wane as the months progressed and how sorry she had felt watching the regression of his former magnificence.
Her recollections of the last twenty-three months were also routed: returning to Hogwarts for an eighth year to sit her very successful N.E.W.T.s, breaking up with Ron that first Christmas after the war ended and throwing her concentration into her studies to keep her sorrow under wraps, getting the offer letters from the Ministry soon after getting the highest test scores that Hogwarts had ever seen, choosing to work for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and split between the Being and Beast Divisions equally, taking on the additional task of assuring the care and management of dragons throughout the U.K. - that it was legally conducted and compassionately enforced. And just this morning, getting the notice that a dragon had claimed Malfoy Manor and volunteering to go out with Charlie on the reconnaissance, her curiosity about the place – and the fate of its owners – a large part of her reason for wanting the task.
Stumbling, she grasped her head as the dragon let the mind-magic go, slipping from her consciousness as easily as a good Legilimens. Her temples ached from the mental assault.
Charlie caught her around the waist before her knees could crack upon the broken marble flooring of what was once a grand ballroom, the gilded ceiling of which had caved in with the entrance of the dragon. "I'm fine," she shook her head, trying to clear it of pain. "It probed my memories." With a curious glance up at those shifting, chromatic lenses, Hermione felt her heart catch again. "Can they… do that? I didn't think dragons had the power of Legilimency."
Shaggy ginger hair shook. "I didn't think so, either." He gathered her close in brawny arms and slowly, they got to their feet again.
The dragon shifted its gaze wholly upon her now. It tilted its head in a queer human way, and lifted its left paw, then put it back down. It did this several times.
"I think we should go for now," Charlie offered, keeping her pinned to him and moving them towards the exit. This seemed to agitate the Opaleye, who kept lifting its left paw. It screamed at them as they reached the doorframe that led into the former Drawing Room, where they were to Apparate away. "I'm not sure how it flew all the way to England, but we'll get a team in here tomorrow to capture and subdue it. Then we'll see it transported back to its rightful home."
The voice in Hermione's head was pained, desperate. Was it the dragon speaking to her?
No… go. No go. NO GO!
Her head exploding in pain, Hermione gripped her skull and panted. Charlie guided them to a hidden spot and palmed his wand. "Granger, hold on. I'm taking you Side-Along."
Pressing her face into his spicy-orange scented shirt and slamming shut her eyes, feeling nauseous, Hermione held onto her friend's waist and tried not to vomit all over him.
Just as that familiar fishhook sensation behind her navel began, the dragon spoke to her again.
St. Mungo's discharged her with nothing more than a migraine potion and certified her clean of all charms, hexes and curses. After assuring Charlie that she was quite capable of taking the Floo home from the hospital's chimney, and promising to meet him by one o'clock the next afternoon at the Ministry to Apparate with the capture-and-release group he would assemble, she arrived back in her cozy, older London Muggle flat in a puff of green smoke around six o'clock that night.
Immediately, Crookshanks started meowing, wanting his supper.
"Fat cat," she fondly stroked his fur as she opened a can of his favorite ocean fish vitals. "Have you had a good day?" Crooks ignored her except for an occasional lazy wag of his tail, completely enraptured by his dinner.
With a sigh, she threw off her coat, hanging it from the hook near the front door, and put her wand and the second dose of potion (just in case her headache returned within the next twenty-four hours, the Healer had argued) on her small dining table. Toeing-off her shoes, opting for her favorite, fuzzy slippers, she checked her answering machine. Her mother had called from her hotel in Sydney to let her know that she and her father had arrived safely and were fine. Her parents had decided to take this year's anniversary trip to Australia, and were shopping for a retirement home in the land 'Down Under'. Apparently, her mum was riding the high of good sex, too, because her voice was positively ecstatic. The woman even giggled as her father's voice came in over the line telling her that he had to 'take your mum away now.' It was clear what they'd done as soon as they hung-up a few seconds later.
Shaking her head, Hermione made her way into the kitchen to make dinner, trying not to ponder too hard on the reminder of how pathetic she was in the department of love.
Sitting on her couch later with a bowl of her favorite café-styled smorgasbord - chicken with rice, veg and cheese – she snuggled up under her soft, quilt throw and watched television. Immersing her senses in the dramatic woes of fictional characters on the screen helped her to forget her own melancholy for a while. It was inevitable, however, that the success of couples on her favorite prime time shows would only bring her down. Switching off the telly, she sat in silence, finishing her food, lost in thought.
She and Ron had given it a go after the Final Battle. They'd messed around some when there was time for them to be together, but it soon became apparent that their temperaments too willfully clashed for them to make a relationship work. Once the war was over, and school didn't continually force them into each other's presence, they'd gone their separate ways – he off to the Auror apprenticeship program with Harry, she off to pass her school tests. They'd never gotten back together after that separation, keeping up the façade by writing each other the occasional letter, but as the months drifted past, the letters became fewer and fewer, until they'd finally agreed by Christmas that some things were better left alone. She'd spent the next sixteen months after that dedicated to her career and occasionally appearing for Ministry charity events to raise money for one important cause after the other.
And in all that time, she still hadn't gotten laid. She continued her lonely trek along 'The Virgin Road,' as Ginny called it.
Even Neville had shagged, for Godric's sake! Hannah Abbott had been all over him after his rather brave stunt of cutting off Nagini's head – with no care as to the fact that they were in public, even. The world was truly an upside down place if her formerly socially-inept Housemate could find time for a good fuck and she couldn't.
As for the rest of her social circle, Ginny had Harry now, Ron had started dating Susan Bones, and Luna had met Rolf Scarmander. All of her closest friends from school had seemed to hook up with either each other, or Muggles, or people who had graduated before them by a few years, and she hadn't met anyone interesting enough to catch her fancy.
Of course, she'd gone out of her way to avoid entanglements after Ron, because truthfully, she didn't have the time to commit. She'd chosen the path of a career woman, and that meant there was no room for romance in her life. It was pitiable, really, because just then, she could have seriously loved to have a man between her legs. Just once, she'd like to know what it felt like.
Charlie had been right: if she wasn't careful, she'd end up an old maid, living with cats.
Sighing again, she went back into the kitchenette and cleaned up her mess. Then, she headed into her bedroom, shucking her clothes and throwing them into the hamper on her way to the shower. Adjusting the water temperature, she climbed in and scrubbed up, shampooing and conditioning her hair with her favorite honey-jasmine scented product.
Squeaky clean, she stood under the spray a few moments longer, closing her eyes and letting the warm water run over the back of her neck. Feeling adventuresome, she slowly let her hand drift over her left nipple, and experimentally plucked it, feeling desire vibrate down her whole body. Ooh, that felt nice…
Pearlized lids opened, and a pair of iridescent, glittering eyes stared at her from behind her closed, dark lids. They flared in recognition.
The voice was powerful, the magic behind the words extremely compelling.
Hermione jumped, leaning her back against the wall and looking about with a paranoid fear that gripped her heart, closed her throat. With a trembling hand, she shut off the water and strained to listen. Nothing moved beyond her glass shower stall. The steam-filled bathroom was eerily still. Opening the door, she moved to grab her towel and quickly dried off, tying it about her, and cracked open the door to her bedroom…
Crooks walked in as if the world was his personal stage, completely unconcerned for the heightened state of her dread.
Immediately, Hermione knew everything was fine. If it wasn't, Crooks would be hiding under the bed, spitting mad at any intruder - the big chicken! Reaching down, she petted her familiar with a huge sigh of relief and then made her way towards her dresser in her room, feeling the odd need to have clothes on, as if they served as a defensive barrier.
Her imagination, that's all it had been. She'd been stressed out for the past month, her work and charity schedule taking its toll. Coupled with this afternoon's exciting event and her earlier anxieties, it was natural for her to have fallen asleep on her feet and begun dreaming. She'd done it before, lulled by the comforting warmth of the shower. Yes, that's all it had been.
As she stepped into her knickers and pulled them to her hips, her head started aching again. Closing her eyes against the minimal amount of light from the bedside lamp, as even that tiny bit of illumination hurt, she collapsed onto her bed, gripping her skull.
Come. Gran… ger. Come.
Crooks was on her in an instant, sticking his wet nose against her forehead and pushing. He meowed in concern.
This was no fantasy vision. The dragon, somehow, was talking to her. Deep inside, she knew it to be true.
Come. H… elp.
Clutching her heart, Hermione shivered on her coverlet, panicking, hiding her eyes in the coverlet.
Who are you? she asked with her thoughts, hoping to make a connection, but in doing so, she only made her head throb worse and no answer was forthcoming. There was, however, an insistent… need… for her to get up and go to the voice, as if she were being enchanted by a Vipertooth or Longhorn. She'd never heard of such a thing, as usually the victim had to be directly before the dragon for it to use its wiles. How was any of this possible?
Come. Help. Granger.
Her heart and mind tugged towards an unwilling conclusion – that the beast somehow needed her help – she made her decision. She would take the risk and go back to Malfoy Manor - but she would not be going unprepared.
Armed with a pre-dosed Wit-Sharpening potion, her wand and the little remainder of the migraine potion she'd sipped from earlier, as well as with some Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, just in case she needed to make a fast get-away, she Apparated back to the once-splendid manor house in Wiltshire.
As soon as her body settled in the Drawing Room, she felt him in her head again, magically calling to her, willing her to step through the door into the ballroom. Cautiously, she looked around the doorframe…
Sparkling, pupil-less eyes stared into her soul.
Keeping her back to the solid, weather-stained wall, she crept into the room the dragon had established as his home. The beast itself gave off no smell, as reptiles didn't scent of pheromones like mammals, and the area was clean of spoor. There was, however, the fragrance of charred wood and, strangely, roses. The rasping sound of scales rubbing together came as the dragon shifted from its crouch on the floor, adjusting its tail to rest near its front paws.
Overall, it was a splendid specimen, and for a moment, Hermione wished she'd thought to bring a camera, for Opaleyes were notoriously shy and there were only a handful of badly blurred pictures of them over the years.
"I'm here," she announced the obvious, keeping her shaking wand at her side, trying to regulate her fear, knowing that all predators could sense it and were aroused by the scent. "What do you want?"
Gryf… findor brave.
Thankfully, the potion combination she'd taken earlier was doing wonders to keep her head from hurting too much. "What. Do. You. Want?" she succinctly asked, a touch of anger simmering in her brain, understanding in that moment that the beast was smarter than even she'd given it credit for. She'd terribly underestimated its sentience, and felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, knowing now that she'd been lured here by a creature of deceit that was not quite as helpless as she'd assumed. "What help do you need from me?"
The dragon moved with sinuous grace to its feet and lifted its left paw again, its crocodilian digits flexing, revealing sharp, curved talons that Hermione knew could cut a cow in half with one easy swipe.
It turned the arm over, and there was the outline of something Hermione prayed she'd never see again.
The scar was shaped like the Dark Mark. Its white outline had no scales covering it, as if those protective coverings had been burned away by the evil spell. Had this creature been one of Voldemort's to call during the Final Battle? There had been a few dragons, she remembered.
"You were one of his," she acknowledged with barely concealed disdain. Meeting that weird gaze again, she challenged the dragon now. "Is that why you called me here - to save you from Ministry justice?" It was a well-known fact that any magical creature who had sided with Voldemort during the war was to be outright destroyed. The acromantulas in the Forbidden Forest had been amongst the first to be burned out, their nests destroyed, their numbers decimated to less than a dozen – and their new Queen, who had taken over after Aragog had succumbed to illness, had been warned never to interfere in the world of men again. The dementors had been next, followed by those dragons branded with the Mark. "I won't help you if you willingly aided him. You've been in my mind. You know that." She pointed her wand at the dragon now, bold in her righteous defiance. "Did you voluntarily aid him?"
The dragon turned its head again, measuring her. Its mouth split, and out came the oddest huffing sound – a chuckle.
"Oh... my God," she breathed, feeling all the air escape her lungs in one rush. Her grip on her wand almost slipped. She knew that voice. She knew that taunt. But it wasn't possible, was it? Had he transfigured himself? Maybe he was an Animagus?
The dragon said nothing, merely blinked those huge eyelids.
She shook her head. "You left for Paris, with your mother-"
One word, and yet it had carried such anger and sorrow.
Her mind jumped about, putting together facts, making assumptive connections. "An escaped Death Eater did this?"
The great head bowed once.
"Who?" she demanded, knowing the list of names that had escaped justice. Working at the Ministry, she kept abreast of such things, constantly worried that she or her parents, or the Weasleys, or Ron and Harry would one day be marked and hunted down by one of the rogues. "Travers? Rowle? Nott?"
A low growl reverberated about the room, and she knew she'd found her culprit. "Theodore Nott Sr. did this to you?"
Another dip of pearl scales and glowing, fierce eyes.
She paused, considering the situation. "Was it a revenge taking on you, for turning traitor at the end?" A second growl shook her knees, but she locked them, refusing to cower before the likes of Draco Malfoy ever again. She tsk'd and snapped. "I'm only trying to discern the facts, Malfoy. Don't get grouchy with me."
There was a pause, and then that chuckle again.
Al… ways brave.
The dynamics between them suddenly changed, and she relaxed her guard. This was more familiar, this bickering between them. With more foolish courage than she ought to have, she stepped towards him, keeping her wand in her hand, just in case. "So, let me get this straight: you need me to figure out how Nott trapped you in this form and change you back?" Raising an eyebrow, she stared up at his hulking figure. "Did you plan this from the start? Coming back to England for this purpose?"
No. Did not… rem…em…ber.
Scratching her head, she started pacing in short strides of ten steps, up and back, trying to puzzle through his words to make sense of it all. "You're saying you acted on animal instinct and… what? Came home?"
It was said in a sort of sigh, as if he were annoyed with her for being so slow witted. Tsking again, she threw him an irritated glance. "And it was dumb luck I just happened across you today. So, what jarred your human memory?"
He silently looked down upon her, and then lowered his head. Hermione froze in mid step, turned and stared up at him. Malfoy or not, he was still a fecking huge dragon, and the species had a built-in mechanism of scaring the wits out of smaller prey. Her whole body started quaking as his snout - with a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth - hovered only a foot or so away from her throat.
Blinking in surprise, she swallowed down a thick lump in her throat. "Me?" It came out as a weird squeak. She took two steps back. "What did I do?"
He inhaled, and the physical drawing in of air pulled at her. He chuckled again, and the smell of cinders and ash permeated the air between them, coating her nose and tongue.
That made absolutely no sense, and she told him so. He laid his head down near her feet and stared at her in sudden despondency. She could feel it in the weight of his caress across her magical aura again.
Maybe she was just a sucker for lost causes; she was, after all, trying to help house-elves on the side, despite their recently-formed coalition to stop her. For whatever reason, she reached out and touched Malfoy's scales, drawn to do so by their pearly sheen in the moonlight filtering down through the hole in the ceiling. To her utter surprise, they were hard, but smooth, almost like dried, silken nail polish against her fingertips. "Alright, I promise I'll try my best, Draco."
"What do you mean the dragon is Draco Malfoy?" Charlie demanded his face as incredulous as the others in the room.
She'd called an urgent meeting this morning with her two bosses, the head of the Beast Division and the head of the Being Division, the Minister of Magic, Charlie (who was the head consultant on the case), as well as Harry (who was always informed any time a Death Eater issue arose, per orders of the Minister, and regardless of the circumstance) and his boss, Gawain Robards, so they could discuss their options.
"Just what I said," she relayed. "I went to see him last night. He made a magical mind connection to me yesterday, and last night, he called me to come to him. I went to find out what he wanted. It turned out to be Malfoy. He's been cursed or something – I haven't quite figured out what the spell is, yet. He claimed it was done by Nott Sr., who has also apparently killed his mother."
Harry hissed in honest fury. He always took any act by a follower of Lord Voldemort personally, as if it was his failure that he hadn't stopped all of the Death Eaters, simply because he'd destroyed their master. It was one of the reasons, she knew, he'd become an Auror – to make up for that perceived fault. "We should never have let them leave England," he reminded Robards again. "I knew it would be too dangerous with Death Eaters still running about."
Harry had gone to bat for the Malfoys during their trial after the dust had settled, recognizing Draco's unfortunate situation and taking pity on his former rival, despite it all. Hermione was a lot less forgiving in that matter, but she'd understood her best friend's generous nature. Too many people had died in the war, and he honestly believed that Dumbledore would have wanted him to act with honor to try to save the young Slytherin from his own folly. It was the same with Lord and Lady Malfoy. Their switch of allegiance at the end had helped turn the tide of the battle, as Lucius had outright killed four dementors, a giant and three giant spiders in his quest to reach his son in the castle. Harry had convinced the Wizengamot that lives had been saved because of those actions, and thus the man had avoided a death sentence, being sent up to the newly-repaired Azkaban prison for twenty years instead. The-Boy-Who-Conquered had done what he could to prevent the couple from being raked over by the fanatically-avenging court system.
Robards considered the political ramifications of the situation more than the moral, Hermione knew from exposure, and she could practically smell the wheels turning over in his head as to how to avoid a public relations backlash. After all, it was his suggestion not to spend his department's budget on the protection of 'turn-coats,' as he'd openly named the Malfoys. "Sir," he turned to Kingsley, his boss. "I believe we should dispatch Aurors to the last known location of the Lady Malfoy to determine if there is truth to this claim. If so, perhaps it will allow us to back track the location of the elder Nott." Everyone in that room knew how dangerous the man was, having been one of Tom Riddle's first supporters. His capture would bring in much-needed positive publicity to the Department, and possibly greater donations to the Ministry coffers from thankful citizens.
It was all cleverly unspoken, but it was there in Robards' weasel gaze - and the Minister, it seemed, understood and agreed. "Very well." He turned to Hermione. "Miss Granger, since you seem to have a rapport with this creature-"
"Draco," she insisted, not wanting any of these men to get used to the idea of considering the dragon as just another beast, seeing the potential for Malfoy's doom down that path. After all, would anyone care about the injustice if he - a former Death Eater who had escaped punishment - remained as a dragon and was shipped off to Australia, never to be heard from again?
Kingsley gave her a polite smile. "Yes, Mr. Malfoy. Since you have an established connection with him, perhaps you could retrieve information regarding the attack he claims to have fallen victim to, so we can send a team to investigate?"
Hermione considered the men before her and nodded once. "I'll go now."
"I'll come with you," Charlie offered with a friendly hand on her shoulder. "It's safer."
"I'd like to go along as well," Harry requested, looking to his boss for permission. "I know Draco well. If this is really him, he'll recognize me - and I'll recognize him."
Hermione huffed in frustration. "It is him, Harry. I know Malfoy."
Emerald eyes bore into her. "Do you?"
It was said so softly, she almost didn't hear. Almost.
The trio Apparated to the Manor's Drawing Room and Hermione took the lead, her wand in her hand, a barrage of spells on her mind and lips, just in case. "Hello, Draco," she called out as the dragon lifted its head off its paws, waking from a nap. "Charlie's back with me, and I've brought someone else. Someone you know. We think that together we can help you."
As soon as Harry came around the door jamb, the dragon shot to its feet, its wings spread as far as the wide ballroom could accommodate and its every muscle tensed. It snorted, and a small tongue of flame ejected, quickly puffing in and out of existence.
Harry froze, as did Charlie, both men with eyes wide and mouths gaping.
"Ho-ly shite," her crimson-headed friend gasped. "It really is Malfoy."
Hermione stood between the two men and the dragon, warily turning her head from one to the other, watching either for any sudden moves. "I told you it was," she tried to make her rebuke sound normal, but weakly failed on the last word upon seeing Harry's brows sink down in concentration.
The dragon squeezed shut its eyes, shook its head and roared, stamping its front paws with enough force to shake the foundation of the house, and Hermione understood what was happening. In an instant, she lunged for Harry and clamped a hand down hard on his shoulder. "Stop it. You'll hurt him with Legilimency," she shouted. "I tried it last night, and it's painful for him for some reason. He can only go one way with it."
Harry released the silent spell he'd spent the last few months perfecting, and glared at her. "That makes no sense."
"Unless it was part of the curse," she countered. "Think about it: Nott wanted revenge. If he went so far as to design a spell to force Malfoy into this form, knowing he'd be hunted down because of the Mark on him, wouldn't it also make sense that he'd cover all bases to assure Draco couldn't be identified as human in any fashion? Maybe he erased Malfoy's memories once he'd changed him and made it so that any mind probe would feel like a Cruciatus, causing the dragon to go wild. That would pretty much assure that we'd Avada first, and ask questions later."
"If he was Obliviated, then how did he remember you?" Charlie asked, taking the opportunity to get a good look at the Opaleye – a species she knew he'd only ever seen in books, too.
Hermione looked back at Draco. "I'm not sure." She sighed. "I think the Opaleye species has innate mind and aura manipulation magic, because he easily used it on me to read my mind and pick through my thoughts. I think that helped him to remember his higher self."
"Huh," Charlie expressed surprise. "I suppose it's possible, since we don't really know all that much about Opaleyes to start. They're very shy and mysterious."
Hermione met Harry's gaze. "Just talk to him. He can answer in your head."
Her best friend stared at her for a long minute, before turning to Draco. "Sorry, Malfoy."
The dragon snorted, shook its head again and then opened its eyes to stare down at the group. Hermione could practically see the sneer she knew would grace Slytherin's former Prince's face in the beast before her.
Whatever he mentally said to Harry in response, the wizard suddenly grinned. "Yep, it's Malfoy." He nudged his chin at the creature. "So where the bloody hell have you been?"
Men! Hermione sighed in disgust and stood back to take a seat against the far wall, allowing the conversation to commence without her input.
After half an hour of questioning, Harry offered a goodbye to Draco, while Charlie asked if the beast was hungry. Apparently, he was, for the dragon-tamer offered to have a cow prepared for him and Apparated over in a few hours. As the two turned and Harry helped her to her feet, she looked over at Draco, whose attention had turned upon her.
I guess this is the end of our grand adventure, Malfoy, she glumly thought. It was clear that Draco's telepathic ability was growing now that he had control of his dragon self and his memories had been stirred, and so there was no need for her to act as any sort of mouthpiece for him. Honestly, she was a little sad by the revelation, having rather enjoyed all of the excitement. It had been too long since she'd been in the field, doing something that mattered. She'd miss this.
It was a command, not a request. Glancing at her two companions, she realized neither of them had heard Draco's charge.
You. Al…one. Please.
"'Mione, you all right?" her best friend asked, concerned.
She thought up a quick excuse to justify staying behind. "I'm going to try more spells on him. See if something can change him back, or if I can figure out what curses were used to make him like this."
Harry shrugged. "I can stay, too, if you need."
It was a nice offer, but she didn't want Harry's interference. This could be her task to accomplish. Maybe she could help save Malfoy and do something brave, important and useful for once since the war had ended. A small part of her inside needed this. "No, thank you, Harry. I think I'll be fine here, and you need to get to work finding his mother," she reminded him, forcibly looking away from those compelling, starlit eyes and back at her friends. "And you, Mr. Weasley, need to find him some food, before I end up on the menu," she joked.
It took some huffing and shooing, but eventually, both men left, and she was alone once more with her dragon.
They spent hours trying all sorts of spell combinations and discussing his memories of the attack. At some point, Charlie returned with the carcass of a butchered cow. To her relief, it took only a breath of fire by Draco to roast it, but she did leave the room and cover her ears as he ate, the crunch of bones making her quite ill. He laughed at her with that weird snuffing-chuckling noise when she came back in, passing her ex's older brother on the way out with a wave goodbye.
"Oh, do stop teasing," she warned, dragging one of the wooden, sitting room chairs in behind her. She plunked it down in front of Draco and sat, crossing her arms and legs and huffily stared up at him. "It was positively disgusting seeing- Oh, Merlin! You have a bit of… Oh, yuck!" She pointed to her upper right canine tooth. "Cow skin, lodged right there."
With amazing dexterity, Draco's right front claw removed the offending piece of meat and he swallowed it without thought. Hermione shuddered and looked away. "That was positively vile."
Malfoy chuckled again.
"Well, I see your vocabulary is improving," she snapped, refolding her arms. "Maybe you can use it to tell me more about how you ended up in this situation to start, hmm?"
Dusk came, and twilight crept upon them. It wasn't until she realized that the last rays of the sun were disappearing across his broad, scaly back that she understood that she'd spent more than six (arguably enjoyable) hours with Malfoy. She'd talked about their time at school together at his request, hoping to unlock more of his memories. When she got to the end of second year, and she confessed about her duplicity with the Polyjuice Potion to him, the dragon laughed again.
"Not one of my more brilliant moments, I know," she admitted to having gotten the wrong hairs for her own vial. "But it got you to tell us what we needed to know." She stretched and stood up. "In any case, I need to leave now, Malfoy. I have to feed my cat and myself." Sighing, reluctant to leave, she looked up at the hulking creature. It was an odd feeling, knowing that inside, this was Draco Malfoy, and yet, outside, it was like he was a complete stranger to her. "I guess I don't need to come back either, since you can obviously talk to others now. I will pass on everything I know about the spell and what we've tried to the assigned witch or wizard to your case, though."
Draco quickly stood up and stomped, causing the house to shudder.
No! No one else.
Taken aback by the imperiousness in his tone, she put her arms on her hips and glared up at him. "Now see here, Malfoy - you can't order me around! I've got a job I have to go back to."
A small puff of flame escaped his lips. No!
"They may need to bring in a Curse-Breaker on this case," she fought back, "and I'm not trained-"
He stomped his back foot this time. NO! Only you.
"Why?" she shouted now, exasperated. "I can't do much more than research at this point."
That floored her. He wanted them to talk? But why? Unless… "How long have you been like this, Draco? How long since you were turned into a dragon?" she asked, sudden insight blowing her away.
The beast turned its back on her (albeit with some difficulty, as its bulk made it hard to gracefully move around in such an enclosed space).
She did something then that was absolutely crazy: she walked up to his tail and slapped it. She nearly broke her hand as his scales were so hard. Shaking her wrist out, she huffed. "Don't you turn your back on me, Draco Malfoy! You answer! How long?"
The stubborn son of a goat kept his silence, refusing to look at her, but she understood what he did not say: he'd been this way for so long he couldn't remember. It had to have been several months at least – time in which he most likely hadn't spoken with a soul.
"Draco, are you… are you lonely?" she asked.
The dragon snorted, but did not reply.
She considered it, fought her compulsion to stay and be a part of this larger story versus the need to be rational and responsible to her regular duties. "But… I'm already a month behind on the budget for the Being Division," she weakly argued. It wasn't one of her favorite parts of the position, but it was part of her job description, being the junior on staff. "So even if my boss in the Beast Division could convince my boss in the Being Division that you're the find of the century, the budget would take precedence." She reached out and touched his tail again, this time smoothing her hand over the lovely scales. "And… well… couldn't someone else who knew you better help you jar your memories faster? What about Pansy Parkinson, or Blaise Zabini, or Gregory Goyle? They're your friends. I could call one or all of them to come."
He did not reply, but she did sense a strange defeatism in his posture as he lowered his head into his paws. A queer thought passed through her in that moment.
"They are still your friends, aren't they?" she required, working her way around to the front of him, needing to see his reptilian face for its expression. "Draco?"
He turned aside and hid, and that's how she figured the truth: he'd been abandoned by those he'd once thought his allies. And if it were true that his mother was dead, then he really was all alone in the world.
With a deep sigh, she capitulated. "All right, I'll do as I promised I would at the start of all of this and give it my best shot." She tapped him on the snout and he peeked open his pearl lids to dazzle her with those pretty eyes of his. "Somehow, I'll find a way to convince my boss to let me stay on your case so we can try to turn you back to normal. I may have to bring in help, just so you know, and I expect you to behave if I do." He huffed, and the force of such a simple reaction nearly knocked her back a step. She poked him in the shout and stared him down. "And if you insult me or do something despicable, I'm walking and you can just stay like this forever as far as I'm concerned. Got that, ferret-boy?"
He blinked, looked at her a little longer and then sighed in what sounded like relief.
She nodded, and they had an accord.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Antipodean Opaleye: According to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, "The Antipodean Opaleye is a breed of Dragon native to New Zealand, although it has been known to migrate to Australia in search of territory. It resides in valleys, which is unusual as dragons typically reside on mountains. It is generally considered one of the most beautiful dragons with pearly scales that line its body, and glittering multi-coloured eyes that have no pupils. The Opaleye's eggs are pale grey and been known to be mistaken by Muggles as fossils. Its flame is vivid red, and the Opaleye is not particularly aggressive, rarely killing unless it is hungry. Its prey of choice is sheep, but it has been known to attack larger animals. In the 1970s, several kangaroo killings were thought to have been caused by a male Opaleye that had been ousted from its territory by a dominant female." Because of this quote, I have made the Opaleye a shy creature that would rather hide than fight for this fic, because I needed to explain why dragon-Draco would be hiding in Malfoy Manor's dungeons, and because I knew it would help its case for not voluntarily being a part of Voldemort's army (which would prevent dragon-Draco from being outright slaughtered by the Ministry). It all worked together nicely in this case.