“HARRY!” Hermione screamed as she watched Harry crumple to the ground like a marionette with its strings cut.

Malfoy whipped around, curiously pupil-less eyes gone a ghastly white, and he galloped forward with a banshee-like shriek, grabbing Greyback in his jaws and shaking him viciously before sending him tumbling head over heels into the scrub. His head cracked sharply against a boulder, and his arm twisted unnaturally behind him. He was covered in lacerations, and Hermione darkly hoped he bled out before they got around to dealing with him.

She quickly rounded on Harry to check for signs of life, helped not at all by Ron hovering over her in a frenzy. “Is he alive?! Is he—?!”

“Hush!” She pressed two fingers against Harry’s neck—there was a pulse, but it was weak and dangerously slow. She quickly cast the diagnostic Charms she’d been practising for weeks before they’d set off, praying she remembered how to parse the readouts. “Did you see what Greyback hit him with?”

“I—I saw, but I didn’t recognise it! I didn’t—it wasn’t green, though? I mean, he’d be dead if it was—”

“It wasn’t green,” Hermione said, mostly as a firm reminder to herself. No, Harry wasn’t dead—but he might be soon, if she didn’t keep her head. She snapped her fingers, pointing toward the tent. “Get me my bag—I’ve got a healer’s kit in there.” Ron raced off, nearly face-planting when he slipped on the icy ground.

Malfoy gave a whining groan and shifted back in a flurry of robes that Hermione wished she had the time to observe; she hadn’t seen him shift since those first couple of weeks of training, and though it pained her to admit it, Malfoy now seemed to have more fluidity in his transformation than she did.

He sank to his knees beside Harry, face even more pale than usual and eyes wide and frightened as he reached out with tentative fingers to brush Harry’s knuckles. Hermione’s eye was drawn to Malfoy’s arm, though: it hung limp and dead from his shoulder, dripping thick, dark blood on the leaf litter. Several fingers, she could see, had been nearly cleaved from the others down to the bone, though Malfoy didn’t seem to notice.

She swallowed thickly. “Malf—Draco… Draco, your arm—”

Fuck my arm,” he snarled, twisting away so she couldn’t see the gruesome damage Greyback’s spell had wrought. “Wake him up.”

“I’m trying, obviously.”

“Well try harder.”

Thankfully, Ron returned at that moment, distracting them from further arguments. He shoved the healer’s kit into Hermione’s hands, and she placed it on the ground, fumbling with the latches before simply rapping her wand on the lid so it popped open. She rubbed at her eyes, smiling gratefully up at Ron when he cast a Lumos to shed light on her efforts. She strained to read the delicate looping writing on the labels of the potion phials tucked into the kit—then quickly packed them away with a frustrated huff.

“We need to get him inside—it’s freezing out here and I can’t f-focus.”

“Right,” Ron said, sliding around to slip his arms under Harry’s.

“No!” she said, snapping the lid of the healer’s kit closed again. “Use Mobilicorpus! There might be internal damage, and we don’t want to exacerbate it!”

Ron nodded faintly, looking lost, and Draco leapt to his feet, shoving Ron aside with his wand brandished. “Weasley wouldn’t know a delicate touch if it grabbed him by the balls—I’ll handle this.”

“Leave it, Draco!” Hermione snapped. “You’ve only got the one good arm! Ron can do this.” She cast a glance over her shoulder at Greyback. “…Go put the fire out, or we’ll be burned to a crisp. Then make sure they’re all immobilised and chuck them in the Sanctuary until we can deal with them later.”

“My wandwork’s not good enough for Potter, but it’s good enough for them?”

“The difference is I really don’t care if your aim is off guiding their unconscious bodies!” Draco’s features screwed up in indignation, and he looked like he very much wanted to object. She cut him off at the knees before he could pitch a fit, adding, “And then come inside so we can clean you up, too. You’ll do Harry no good passing out from blood loss.”

She effectively ended the conversation by refusing to speak to him until he stalked over to the last of the wizards Harry had been dealing with, then she guided Ron as he levitated Harry’s unconscious body into the tent. They laid him out on the couch, shoving pillows under his head, and Hermione was reminded sickly of the state Ron had been in after he’d gotten Splinched during their escape from the Ministry.

The diagnostics Charms revealed no particularly alarming vitals—there was no internal bleeding, no broken bones, he was just asleep, it seemed, and deeply so. She tried a Finite incantatem and a Rennervate, just in case it really was that simple, but to no avail. Seeing as it had been Greyback who had knocked Harry out, he’d probably used a Dark spell with some obscure counter unlikely to be found in any of their Standard Spells books.

She dragged her healer’s kit out again now that her hands weren’t numb from the cold and fear and began the arduous process of mentally running through the effects of the pre-made potions included in the kit—after which she’d have to consider potions to be made from scratch and pray she had all the necessary ingredients. She regretted sending Draco away now; he had been no slouch in Snape’s class, even without the favouritism, and given he had been raised in a wizarding family with what was likely a well-stocked potions cabinet, he might have some ideas she wouldn’t consider.

But he was too on-edge at the moment to be any good to them; who knew what harm he might unwittingly cause—to both himself and Harry—if she asked him to buckle down and concentrate on saving Harry’s life after the ordeal he’d just been through? On top of the physical injury Greyback’s nasty spell had inflicted, it couldn’t have been good for the bits of him that were more dragon than human seeing his mate in harm’s way. Experience had taught Hermione that Draco tended to be particularly tricky to handle when agitated, especially when Harry was the cause of his mood.

Which, she supposed, was certainly no new development, but the risk of uncontrolled shifts into a great big fire-breathing lizard that could destroy the tent and everything in it decidedly complicated matters.

She took a steadying breath and returned her attention to the potions. She considered the amber phial labelled Wiggenweld Potion—then dismissed it; this was spell damage, not a case of poisoning, and she didn’t want to dose him with anything more than necessary, worrying over cross-reactions.

The door to the Sanctuary slammed open, and Draco came marching back in with a murderous expression on his face. In no mood to endure more of his tantrums, especially at the cost of finding a way to rouse Harry as quickly as possible, she pointed to the nearest of Perkins’s armchairs and spoke with a tone that brooked no argument. “Sit. And take off your shirt.”

Draco pulled up short, forehead wrinkling. “Excuse me?”

“Take it off, or prepare to have it Vanished. Ron can’t disinfect your wound and wrap it like that.” She nodded to his arm, which Draco had curled gingerly against his chest. It looked no better than before, suggesting he hadn’t bothered to transform to start the healing process. She would have to do what she could to make him as comfortable as possible until he could finally be convinced to put his Animagus form to good use, which would take more time and energy than she could spare just now.

“I don’t need Weasley playing nursemaid!”

“You’re right; you need to heal yourself—but since I doubt anything short of Imperius is going to get you back into the Sanctuary to let the dragon heal its wound on its own, you’re going to let us patch you up, for whatever it’s worth. I’m not going to have Harry wake up and find we’ve let you bleed out while he was Cursed. Now sit.”

Draco hesitated another beat, just to be contrary, but he eventually slumped into the armchair, fumbling one-handed with the complicated buttons on his shirt and glaring daggers at Ron, as if daring him to so much as offer to help. Well, no worries on that end, Hermione thought.

Once Draco had shrugged out of his shirt, she directed Ron to find the bandages and tincture of iodine in her bag. Ron looked about as enthused as Draco with his task, grimacing baldly when he caught sight of the Dark Mark, but she trusted he could handle the simple task of wrapping Draco’s mutilated hand without incident.

“…Don’t see why you don’t just cast Episkey or something,” Draco grumbled, holding his arm out for Ron to disinfect. “Or surely you’ve got some Skele-Gro in that kit of yours.”

“Wasted effort. That was a Dark curse Greyback slung at you—no potion or spell is going to do any good fixing you.”

Draco straightened. “What?” he squawked—then hissed sharply as Ron brushed a cotton swab soaked in iodine tincture at the edges of the wound. “Watch it!”

“Don’t be a baby,” Ron said, grabbing Draco by the elbow when he tried to pull his arm away. “Can’t believe you’re not complaining about your hand being hacked in two but you’ll whinge cause the antiseptic stings a bit.”

Draco ignored him, eyes fixed on Hermione. She thought she saw tiny little embers burning in his gaze, but then she blinked and they were gone—the fight must have had her seeing things. “What do you mean it won’t do me any good? You mean I’m going to lose my hand?!”

“I mean spells and potions won’t fix it, like I said. The damage done by Dark curses can’t be restored.” She looked at Ron, and he frowned; they were both remembering poor George and his lost ear. “…Not by traditional magic at least. But your Animagus transformation evidently healed the damage done by Harry’s Curse before—” She waved at his chest, smooth and flat and scar-free. “—so I expect the dragon’s remarkable abilities will be able to restore your hand as well.”

“Then what’s the point of this?” Draco jerked on his arm, trying to shake Ron off. “If all I’ve got to do is transform, you should have said so—”

“Because it wasn’t you that got hit, it was the dragon; it’s the dragon’s body that’s been damaged, this is just a reflection of it. So you’ll need to let the dragon heal itself—in that form.”

“I’ve got to stay a dragon?!”

“Long enough for it to heal itself, yes.” He really was entirely too slow on the uptake; clearly he’d been neglecting his reading of Men Who Love Dragons Too Much.

“And how long is that?”

Hermione shrugged. “However long it takes. I’d say at least several days.” Draco’s expression went slack, leaving him looking more than a bit lost as panic flashed over his features. She could see the indecision warring within him as he confronted the reality he might have to choose between saving his hand and being here for Harry. She pursed her lips, a swell of pity overcoming her good senses: “…You don’t have to go right away, if you can stomach the pain. It might be better if you don’t, even; I’m sure we’ll need your help to stabilise Harry. You’re not hurting yourself by delaying a shift, only healing exponentially more slowly than you will in transformation. Once we’ve got Harry settled, then you can go and tend to yourself, how’s that?” Draco swallowed thickly, then nodded, just once. “Good—now stop being a prat and let Ron bandage you properly or it’ll heal crooked and you’ll be flying in circles for the rest of your life.”

She expected more lip, but Draco ducked his head and dutifully held his arm out, no longer fighting Ron’s touch. While Ron finished up the wrapping, Hermione fished out the phial of Blood-replenishing Potion she’d prepared back when Ron had been Splinched and diluted a dose in a mug of warm water.

She passed the mug to Draco, making sure he downed it all. “I’ve got some Dissolution of Murtlap too, for the pain, if you’d like?”

“I’m not a First-year who needs to have his every cut and scrape kissed better, Granger.”

Ron pinched his bicep with a glare. “Who are you trying to impress, seriously? Take the damn stuff and shove your martyr complex.”

Draco reluctantly allowed Hermione to place three drops of the Dissolution on his tongue, grimacing at the taste. Murtlap was usually applied topically, but it worked more quickly as an analgesic when administered orally.

She sealed the bandages with a spell to make them waterproof, and after extracting a promise he would return to the Sanctuary to mend himself at the very earliest opportunity, they all three turned their attentions to rousing Harry.

Draco pulled his shirt back on and demanded a run-down of what she’d learned in her preliminary appraisal while he’d been dealing with their uninvited guests. “The trouble is, I can’t see anything physically wrong with him—he just won’t wake up. His pulse is still weak, but it’s steady; whatever Greyback hit him with, it seems to work like a Stasis Charm, perhaps to keep him under until they could bring him back to You-Know-Who—oh!” She brought her hand to her mouth, a thought striking.

“What?” Draco asked.

“Maybe you could try touching him?” At his dubious frown, she clarified. “It’s only, when we found you in the Ministry, none of our spells worked to wake you until Harry touched you.”

Draco’s expression brightened with hope—and then fell. “…I already touched him, outside.” He firmed his jaw, though, and tried again anyway, laying his palm against Harry’s shoulder and giving a gentle nudge. “…Wake the fuck up, Potter. My arm hurts.”

Ron stood behind them, arms crossed over his chest. “…Don’t suppose you know what spell it was they used on him?”

“Just because it’s Dark magic doesn’t mean I know it,” Draco growled, and Hermione tutted at them.

“Can we not be at each other’s throats at least long enough to fix Harry, please?” She sighed, easing to her feet and crossing over to the bookshelf. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter what spell it was. The fact alone it was Dark magic means we can’t prise the Counter-curse from Greyback.” She sighed. “…In which case I suppose we’ll have to do this the old-fashioned way.”

She pulled down every book she could find on Potions and Curses, from Apothecariat to Zodiac Zolutions. It was well past midnight by now, but she doubted any of them would have been able to sleep, despite being exhausted, and so for the next several hours, they settled in as if this were just another evening of research around the magicked fire. Draco curled up at the opposite end of the sofa from Harry, his long legs drawn up to his chest so that his toes just brushed Harry’s. She wondered if the gesture gave him any comfort at all, or if it was merely instinctual by now.

The night wore on, and Hermione came across nothing of note in Herbal Remedies and Potioneering, nor in Cures for a Cursèd Fate nor in Magical Draughts and Potions. She tried not to think about the Half-blood Prince’s copy of Advanced Potion-Making and how it had saved Ron’s life before but had now likely been lost forever.

Ron, too, came up empty, though Hermione’s heart swelled to see him so diligently poring over the texts when she knew how much he hated research. He brewed tea for the three of them around sunrise, and she gave his hand a grateful squeeze when she took her mug from him, earning a shy, boyish smile in return that was rather fetching indeed.

“Find anything yet, Granger?” Draco bit out waspishly. “Or can’t you tear your cow-eyes away from Weasley long enough to actually read?”

Hermione jerked her hand back, cheeks colouring. “Of course I haven’t found anything; you think I’m just sitting on the solution for dramatic effect?”

Draco slammed his book shut. “I think it’s been nearly ten hours and he’s still not awake. I think the longer this goes on, the worse our chances of bringing him back. I think some of us are putting in more effort than others because their own lives depend on his, and maybe that suits you just fine.”

“Malfoy…” Hermione warned; she’d been trying to practice Harry’s gesture of outreach, confident that if they started treating Draco like a friend, then perhaps he might become one along the way, but he was trying her patience very hard right now.

“Hard to believe you managed an ‘Outstanding’ in Potions!” Draco sneered. “One wonders if you didn’t put in a bit of extra credit—”

She was on her feet in a flash, wand drawn and tip jabbed into Draco’s neck as he pushed her to her limit. “Pull that forked tongue of yours back into your mouth and be quiet. I know you’re worried, and I know you’re feeling particularly helpless right about now, but if you don’t shut your damn mouth right this instant and let us handle this—since you’ve evidently got nothing of value to offer—then I’m going to have Ron knock you out and chuck you into the Sanctuary with the others.” She was breathing hard, and she made herself take a beat before she continued, if only to keep her blood from boiling over. “Either offer some constructive aid or piss off into the Sanctuary and use this time to heal yourself.” She dropped her wand, taking a slow, steadying breath. “Harry needs you—but if you can’t get ahold of yourself long enough to actually help, you’re only dragging us down.”

Draco’s face went paler than usual at the threat, and he looked like he might sick up; perhaps he’d lost more blood than she’d thought—it was probably time for another dose of the Blood-replenishing Potion anyway.

He quickly looked away, evidently chastened, and guiltily grabbed the next book from her pile—Moste Ancyente and Magicke of Cures—and settled back onto the sofa to read, always with one eye on the slow, shallow rise-and-fall of Harry’s chest.

She sighed, slipping her wand back into her pocket, and tried to find where she’d left off in her text.

Morning seemed to crawl by at a glacial pace with no change, and after she’d tried reading the same passage three times without comprehending the words on the page, Hermione was forced to admit that their exhaustion was going to cause them miss important clues that might lead to Harry’s cure. After much grumbling and grousing, they eventually agreed to take watches and sleep in shifts. It spoke to how sapped he’d been by the fight and his injuries that Draco agreed without more than a cursory protest to spend his sleep shift resting in the Sanctuary in transformation so that the dragon could heal itself.

It almost pained Hermione to send him away, with the way he’d stood sentinel the whole night, but Harry would have wanted him to do the same and been far less kind about it.

After only a couple of hours, though, Draco stumbled back in, looking little better than before. Hermione convinced him to let her change the bandages and re-wrap his hand, and she winced when she saw the raw, inflamed skin and sticky film of pus and exudate. Beneath the gruesome sight, though, she could tell that he was already on the mend after his brief stint in transformation. The muscle was beginning to knit back together, and the fragile, tiny bones of the hand that had been cleaved in two by Greyback’s spell were peeking out from the tissue beds like little white pea shoots.

It would be some time yet before the damage was wholly undone, and he would likely not be able to fly without risking reopening the wound for another few weeks, but he would live, scrappy little git that he was.

She brewed another tincture of the Blood-replenishing Potion and Dissolution of Murtlap, applying a thick layer of dittany over the wound before wrapping it securely and sealing it.

Ron did not require much convincing to take the next sleep shift, nor was he in any danger of rejoining them in the sitting room before he’d restored his energy reserves, and Hermione wound up having to use a Stinging Jinx to get him out of bed when it came time for dinner. Chagrined, he offered to make them all cheese toasties and sent Hermione off to bed with a plate and cup of warm chamomile, promising to wake her—without a Stinging Jinx—if he and Draco came across anything of note.

She was asleep after two bites.

Her own nap was what finally did it—and she roused just after midnight, wide awake and heart pounding. She threw off her blankets, sending the lamps flaring to life, and sank to her knees in front of a box she now used to store the books they had determined, in the course of their Horcrux research, were complete bunk. She had the cover clear in her mind, and in the middle of a stack of old alchemical almanacs and several of the more sentimental texts she’d brought along, she found it.

Ron was dozing lightly when she entered the sitting room, but Draco noticed something had changed in her demeanour immediately, rising to his feet from where he’d been sitting curled up on the sofa at Harry’s feet. “What? What’ve you found?”

Ron gave a snorting start when Draco spoke, blinking blearily. “Hr‘mione…?”

“I…I don’t know if it’s anything, really—I mean, it’s something, but it could be nothing, you know?”

“Spit it out, Granger,” Draco growled, scrambling around the sofa and snatching away the book she had clutched against her chest, frowning at the title. “Witch Weekly Readers’ Digest? What kind of housewitch drivel is this?”

“I told you, it could be nothing—”

Draco waved the book in her face with his good hand. “So help me, Granger, if you’ve had your fat nose buried in this tripe while—OW!” He jerked back, dropping the book and shaking his good hand in pain. He licked the back of his hand, which now sported several nasty boils from the Jinx Hermione had just slapped him with.

Ron bent down and picked the book up, glaring darkly at Draco. “Be grateful she just zapped your hand.” He was still limping a bit from the Jinx she’d cast on Ron’s rear to get him out of bed after his nap.

“If you’re through being unaccountably horrid?” she sniffed at Draco, taking the book from Ron with a small smile. She’d tired of wasting her breath arguing with Draco, especially when he was in one of his less-than-rare moods. He would learn not to be an arsehole to her the hard way: with a pound of flesh. “Now, I realise this is one of the…less professional texts in my library, but it included recipes for a few potions that other books didn’t because, well let’s face it, housewitches’ home remedies have long been derided by academic societies at large even though they—”

“Hermione, please,” Ron pleaded. “Save the lectures for after we’ve put Harry to rights? I mean, I’m sure he’d hate to miss them.”

“Right,” she said. “Well, you’ve both seen the readouts from my diagnostic Charms, yes? Harry’s physically fine, other than some bumps and bruises and a weak pulse; he’s just knocked out. We know it was a Dark curse that did this to him, and as Ron’s brother will attest, there’s no undoing the damage caused by Dark curses—not by conventional means at least.”

Draco rubbed at his chest with a frown. “…What sort of unconventional means have you been digging into, then?” He sneered, “Going to turn him into a dragon? I can vouch it’s no picnic.”

Ron brightened. “Wait! You said there was a spell—Draconifors!”

Hermione fought the urge to roll her eyes. She appreciated Ron’s enthusiasm—and was admittedly impressed he remembered the spell—but he was pulling her off topic. “Draconifors is only for small, inanimate objects, and if we tried to use it on Harry, there’s no telling—” She cut herself off with an irritated huff. “The point is that we probably won’t be able to rely on spellwork in this case. So we’ll have to stick to potions—and I don’t mean cure-alls.”

“Yeah, we kind of gathered as such, given we’ve been poring over dry old potions texts for the past thirty hours,” Ron said. “What did you have in mind?”

Hermione’s cheeks heated as she settled into one of the armchairs, the book open on her lap. “Well, I thought we might try really waking him up. If jostling him won’t do the trick, perhaps we just need to try something with a bit more of a punch.”

Draco’s eyes lit up. “You’re finally going to let me clock him?”

“Not that sort of punch,” she said, frowning. “…There’s a potion I found in this book—it was honestly the reason I chucked it away, because if the authors were advertising that sort of funny business, then clearly we weren’t going to find anything of legitimate use in here.”

“What sort of ‘funny business’?” Ron asked, and Hermione pursed her lips.

In a small voice, she said, “It’s a…well, it’s a virility potion.”

Ron’s brow wrinkled. “A—what?”

“A potion to make your cock hard, is what she means,” Draco said, rolling his eyes. “Are you serious, Granger? I thought you said you wanted to help Potter get up—not get it up.

“That’s not why I want to try the potion, obviously!” Hermione protested, and she knew she had to be blushing red as a tomato by now. She buried her face in the crisp pages of the book, inhaling the familiar scent of the glue in the binding. “I’m sure it’s hogwash for its purposes, but the list of ingredients suggests it’s a concentrated rennervation potion. It shares a lot of ingredients with an Invigoration Draught, a Vitamix Potion, Pepperup—”

“And, one assumes, a Swelling Solution.”

It did, but she wasn’t going to give Draco the satisfaction. “It’s the only thing I’ve found so far that sounds like it’ll have enough kick to pull Harry out of this stasis spell, all right? In fact, an overdose might actually overtax the heart and kill you, really, which makes this book highly suspect, but—”

“And you want to pour this down your Saviour’s throat?!”

“If you’ve got any better ideas, then I’m all ears, but you said yourself—and I agree—the longer Harry’s under, the less chance we’ve got of pulling him out, and this is the only potion I’ve found so far that I’ve got even half the ingredients for!” She drew herself up, defensive. “We have to try it!”

“Sure, why not?” Draco shrugged. “Worst-case scenario: his heart explodes.” He gestured towards the book in Hermione’s lap. “You’ve got all the ingredients, then?”

Hermione bit her lip. “Er—I can make substitutions for a lot of the missing bits, I’m sure, but there’s one primary ingredient we can’t do without…”

Draco narrowed his eyes. “Which is?”

“Well, the authors have chosen some rather exotic ingredients, I assume to make their potion seem particularly powerful even though most have pantry-standard counterparts that are far easier to come by and do the job just as adequately. The main ingredient serving as the base of the supposed ‘virility’ enhancement, though…is filings of dragon teeth.”

Draco snorted. “Suppose you don’t have that in your little healer’s kit then, do you?”

“No,” she said, looking at him pointedly. “I don’t. So…”

“So?” It took a beat for Draco to get her meaning, and then he sputtered. “What the fuck—you want to pull my teeth?!”

“I don’t want to pull them! The potion only requires filings!”

“Dragon tooth filings—for virility enhancement! Setting aside what a load of horse shit that sounds like, if the point of using this particular potion is simply to take advantage of its ‘invigorating’ properties, then I don’t see why you need—”

“You know perfectly well that leaving out any ingredient—especially the one that’s meant to be used to form the base liquor of the entire potion—could destabilise the whole thing! There’s no point in making the potion at all if we don’t make it right.” She crossed her arms. “If you honestly think this is a bad idea—for Harry’s sake—and that we should keep at our research, then…we can discuss it. But try not being petty for once in your life and consider that this might work.”

Draco stared at her for a long moment, lips pinched and looking like he was searching very hard for an excuse—but either he came up empty or he called it quits, for he gave a huffing growl of, “Let’s get this over with,” and stormed out of the room, making for the Sanctuary.

Ron watched him go with a concerned expression. “…You sure this’ll work?”

“Not at all,” Hermione sighed, grabbing an empty phial from her healer’s kit. “But what other choice have we got? If this doesn’t work, then I think we’ll have to seriously consider going for help; none of us has anywhere near the medical experience to deal with Curse damage…”

She hoped it wouldn’t come to having to Polyjuice Harry and bring him into St. Mungo’s or smuggling him into Hogwarts to see if Madame Pomfrey couldn’t revive him.

They were barely over the threshold of the Sanctuary before Draco had transformed, flowing seamlessly from a glowering, pasty-faced whip of a man into, well, a glowering, pasty-hide whip of a dragon. Hermione allowed herself a moment to appreciate the creature; several months now of hearty meals and exercise and sunlight had done Draco good, and it showed as both a human and dragon. His opalescent scales seemed to soak in the light of the half-moon hanging above, giving him a glowing lustre that was difficult to stare at straight on. Ron put it nicely when he breathed, “Wicked…” perhaps forgetting for a moment just who it was lurking beneath those gleaming scales and raked fangs and razor-sharp talons.

She spotted a dark shape out of the corner of her eye and glanced over to see their attackers laid out neatly on the frozen ground, sedated and bound in thick magical ropes. She hoped wherever they’d come from, they wouldn’t be missed any time soon. They really ought to have moved camp the moment the battle had ended, but with Harry in such a delicate state, Hermione hadn’t dared. They had to hope their charms held this time—though how they’d been found in the first place was a worrisome matter in and of itself.

She shrugged off her mounting concerns for the time being, reminding herself she needed to focus on the task at hand.

The dragon had one wing crooked oddly, and Hermione winced to see the nasty rip slicing through the thin membrane, inflamed and oozing though likely in far better shape than it had been twenty-four hours ago. She itched to patch it—it might heal even faster if she could suture it closed, and maybe some dittany would help it along, seeing as Ron had hardly any scarring at all from his Splinching incident. She doubted Draco would allow it, though—at least not while Harry was laid up on the couch. It had been difficult enough getting him to let them wrap his arm at all. Perhaps once they had Harry back with them, he could help lean on Draco to get him to see reason.

Draco paced nervously, shaking his head with snorting huffs, and Hermione found herself rethinking how wise this was; she was standing not ten feet away from a male dragon just come into its prime worried sick about its mate—and she was about to ask it nicely to open its ripping jaws wide so she could examine its teeth. That sounded like some mad task Hagrid would have set them in Care of Magical Creatures, not something any sane person would ever want to do.

There was nothing more to be done for it, though, and she raised her wand and cleared her throat. “If you’re ready, Draco? This shouldn’t take more than a moment, and then we can start brewing the potion.”

Draco huffed again, fixing her with one of those eerie pupil-less eyes of his—a sludgy purple-brown now—then plodded over and settled down on his haunches. He curled his long neck into a serpentine ‘S’ so that she could reach comfortably and opened his jaws, exposing two rows of raked teeth slick with saliva. She tried not to stare into his gullet, fearful it would be the last thing she saw before a wave of lava came belching out.

She used her wand to carve away at some of the thicker teeth towards the back, talking to herself to keep from wondering how she was going to do magic if Draco clamped his jaws shut and bit off her hands. “I hope this potion isn’t species-specific. I bought the book in Diagon Alley, so they may have assumed any potioneers would be using teeth from a native species, like a Hebridean Black or a Common Welsh Green… Maybe for a Meridional breed I ought to stir in the opposite direction?” She groaned. “And that’s all assuming this will even work with ingredients obtained from an Animagus transformation!”

“Hermione, it’s a recipe you pulled from Witch Weekly Readers’ Digest; you really think it’s going to be that finicky?”

She threw a chastising look over her shoulder at Ron. “It’s precisely that sort of attitude that keeps tried and true spellwork and potions passed down from mother to daughter from enjoying the notoriety and acceptance those same spells and potions would if they were published by some stuffy wizard with a degree in an academic jour—”

Draco unleashed a menacing growl from deep in the back of his throat—and was she imagining it, or was there a faint glow just behind his uvula? “Sorry, sorry, I’m finished!” she muttered, quickly stoppering the phial and stepping back. She supposed they would have to hope that none of these issues greatly influenced the efficacy of the potion.

Draco transformed back, rubbing ruefully at his jaw. “You certainly took your time.”

“Well, my parents are dentists.”

Draco frowned. “What’s a dentist?”

“The potion, people?” Ron called; he’d given Draco a wide berth while Hermione rooted around inside his mouth, she noticed—some hero.

They bustled back into the tent, with Draco preparing the kitchen table for brewing while Hermione sorted through their ingredients. It was decided by unanimous vote that Ron would be in charge of reading off the instructions. She sought Draco’s opinion on the substitutions she was planning and was pleased when he gave short, courteous responses. He was either very worried about Harry, or his hand was still stinging from earlier—though there was no discounting it was a little of both.

His newfound congeniality stretched into the brewing process too, where though he hovered over her distractingly as she poured in ingredients and stirred as directed, he did not seem compelled to make any snide remarks on her technique. Evidently he’d gotten it through his thick skull that if he interfered with the brew, it could by extension hurt Harry. She was surprised he hadn’t insisted he make the potion himself; perhaps he realised he was in no fit state mentally to give the brew the concentration required.

While the potion simmered for the required five hours, Hermione encouraged them to cat-nap and get their strength back. Draco refused to be chivvied off back into the Sanctuary this time, though, instead settling into one of Perkins’s armchairs with a mug of spiked coffee and keeping one eye on the bubbling potion and the other on Harry’s prone form.

“…Sorry for calling you a coward before, Draco,” Ron said out of the blue, breaking what had been nearly an hour straight of silence. Hermione blamed it on the ungodly hour—the skies outside were going grey with the approaching dawn, and clearly anything was possible when you’d gone over two days on a handful of hours of sleep. “Probably shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions. ‘Specially since you’ve kind of been saving our arses left and right lately.” He frowned at his own words, like he couldn’t believe he was saying them either.

Draco lifted one lacy white brow, still clutching his mug of coffee, though it must have long gone cold by now. “…Your thanks would be better expressed by not calling me ‘Draco’ like we’re best mates.”

Ron gave him a cockeyed grin. “Sorry, but keep pulling our bacon from the fire like that, and we’re gonna feel compelled to treat you like a decent bloke.”

“What a delightfully low-brow turn of phrase,” Draco grumbled, tapping his wand against his mug. Shortly, tendrils of steam began to billow up.

Ron rolled his eyes, then looked at Hermione as if to say Why do I even bother? though there was a distinct hint of amusement in his eyes. She supposed that there came a point where it was difficult to take Draco’s stinging barbs all that seriously, and she resolved in the future to stop letting his pricks and pokes get under her skin so much. Even if it was very satisfying to Jinx him when he mouthed off.

Hermione dozed off and on until her Alarm Charm trilled brightly, and with bated breath, she ladled a dose of the potion into a tin cup, as per the instructions, and spun around in a circle ten times while holding the cup firmly in both hands. Ron had to take her by the shoulders to guide her into the sitting room lest she trip and spill the potion in her dizziness, and Draco tipped Harry’s head back and prised his jaw open so that she could pour the potion down his throat. He swallowed it reflexively, sighing softly, and their collective shoulders slumped in relief.

Now they could but wait for the results—good or bad.

“How long is it supposed to take to kick in?” Ron asked.

“The potion’s instructions say it should be taken three hours before…erm, any amorous activities.” It spoke to how exhausted she was that she didn’t flush as deeply this time, only rubbing her eyes and stifling a yawn. Draco had shown no signs of weariness the whole night through, but fear and worry had done a number on Hermione’s nerves, and she could no longer keep her eyes open. “I’m absolutely exhausted, though… Shall we post watches again, in case he wakes and needs something? I’m happy to take one if it can please be second or third.”

“No need,” Draco said, sinking to his knees on the floor beside the sofa so that his head was level with Harry’s. “I’ll wait until he’s up. You both can sleep, if you need it.” His mug had been refilled, and he had Witch Weekly Readers’ Digest tucked under his good arm, perhaps intending to review the instructions to be sure they hadn’t missed anything.

Hermione glanced over to Ron, whose expression said something similar to her own thoughts.

An already complicated relationship seemed on course to become even more mucked up than it was, and really the last thing Harry needed right now was confusion and distraction. But there was nothing to be done for it now—the time for intervention had long passed. Besides, this ‘complication’ might well save Harry’s life in the end, so perhaps it simply needed to be managed.

There was little they could do for the time being except to be there for Harry when he needed them. They were quite good at that, at least—had six and a half years’ experience, even.

She recalled Lupin’s earlier comments on the Wireless, saying that Harry should trust his instincts, as they were nearly always right.

She just hoped this wasn’t one of the rare instances when they were wrong.


Men Who Love Dragons Too Much Copyright © 2018 by fencer_x. All Rights Reserved.

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