“I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” Ron yelled one crisp February evening, sending Harry leaping to his feet. Draco, who’d been dozing against him and only halfway paying attention to the book in his hands, was thrown to the floor and spat several choice words in Ron’s general direction.
Hermione came bursting into the sitting room from the loo, still wiping her hands with a facecloth. “What? What’s wrong?”
“I finally guessed the password!” Ron exclaimed, beckoning them all closer. He’d been at the Wireless for weeks now, fiddling with the dial while he muttered nonsensical words and phrases under his breath. He’d claimed he’d run across a mysterious program once before, by pure chance, but hadn’t been able to find it again, as it was password-protected with the code changing daily. “It was ‘Albus’! Come on, sounds like they’re in the middle of a broadcast! The last time I caught it, it was around this time of day too.”
Ron brought the Wireless over from where it sat neglected in the corner into the sitting room proper and adjusted it so it faced all of them. He tapped his wand against the side of the device, and the volume rose. Harry sat down on the edge of the couch, leaning forward and staring at the tiny speaker, from which a rather familiar voice was issuing.
“…welcome all our listeners back and start off with a quick apology for our brief absence. No one enjoys a pop-in, least of all from a Death Eater, so we’ve been lying low of late and keeping our noses clean. But we’re back and ready to dive into another educational and inspirational episode of Potterwatch!”
“That’s Lee Jordan!” said Hermione, adding for Draco’s benefit, “He was a Gryffindor, two years our senior.”
“I know who Jordan is,” Draco groused, and Harry was puzzled by his mood until he recalled that Lee had once been Quidditch Commentator and had harboured a very poorly disguised bias against the Slytherin team, Draco included.
“I’m your host ‘River’, and as a treat for our regular listeners, I’m joined tonight by two of our regular correspondents, here to dish on what’s what in the wizarding world these days.”
“They’ve all got code names,” Ron explained. “But you can usually figure out who’s who, so it’s honestly not a very good system. Like, ‘River’ is Lee obviously, and then there’s—”
Hermione raised a finger to her lips meaningfully, then pointed to the Wireless.
“Before we get into the program proper, though, I’d like to take a moment to touch on a spate of recent deaths that the WWN and papers like the Daily Prophet have elected to ignore, for reasons we won’t speculate upon, being the upstanding, reputable program we are.” There was a beat of silence, during which Lee cleared his throat, and Harry felt his stomach twist itself in knots, going through the names of his friends in his head, everyone he knew, and praying he didn’t hear their names called. “We regrettably report the murders of Edward Tonks—or Ted to his friends and family—and Dirk Cresswell. May they rest in peace and be swiftly avenged.”
Harry’s stomach untwisted all at once, leaving him feeling nauseated and faint, and he slumped back into the couch cushions, staring ahead blankly. Hermione’s lips were pursed, and she was wringing her hands, and Ron had his head hung. Only Draco seemed unaffected by the news, though he looked uncomfortable in the face of their grief all the same.
“Murdered alongside Ted and Dirk was the Goblin ‘Gornuk’, our sources report—as the three were travelling together. Also in their party were the Muggleborn Hogwarts student Dean Thomas and a second unnamed goblin, though the whereabouts of these two are unclear at present. While they are presumed alive for the time being, if anyone has any information on their condition—even to report their death—Dean’s family is desperate for news.
“In an unrelated but equally tragic turn, a Muggle family in Gaddley was found dead in their home over the weekend. With no clear motive or means, Muggle authorities are reportedly attributing the deaths to a mundane gas leak, but members of the Order of the Phoenix report that magical residue found at the scene indicate the recent use of the Killing Curse. It’s unclear at present if this was the work of branded Death Eaters or ordinary wizarding folk indulging in cruel urges, so our listeners are urged to take care and consider keeping an eye out for the vulnerable Muggles around them.
“Finally, we report the passing of Bathilda Bagshot, vaunted magical historian and long-respected member of the magical community, as her remains were recently discovered in her home in Godric’s Hollow. Authorities report that she appeared to have been dead for several months, and while the cause of death is still being investigated, Dark magic is suspected to have been involved, and her home seems to have been the site of magical mayhem.
“These are dark times, dear listeners, and worries understandably abound, but we ask you to join us now in a brief moment of silence to mourn the passing of our magical brothers and sisters—and our cousins in the Muggle community—murdered by You-Know-Who and his followers.”
Lee fell into silence, the Wireless crackling with dead air, and no one spoke for a long beat. Harry could not shake the guilt that he had been responsible for those deaths. If he’d found the Horcruxes by now—or even the Hallows, he still maintained—then Voldemort might be six feet under, and certainly Death Eaters wouldn’t feel emboldened to go out and harass or kill Muggles, and Muggleborns like Ted Tonks could have safely returned to their families.
But for fits and bursts of activity, they really had just been camping in the wilderness all these months, and now Tonks’s dad was dead, Dean might be too, and innocent Muggles who’d probably gone their whole lives thinking magic was made up had had the life just snuffed out of them unawares.
Draco had settled his hand beside Harry’s own on the couch, and his fingers slowly inched their way over the faded upholstery until their fingertips barely touched.
“Thank you,” came Lee’s voice once more, and Draco pulled his hand back. “Now, let’s switch over to our visiting correspondents, taking time out of their busy schedules to fill us in on the latest news from the front. Royal, Romulus—take it away, gentlemen.”
“Thanks, River,” came a familiar voice—one Harry had not heard in quite some time, and he was immediately transported back to the last time he’d heard it: informing Harry uncomfortably that the dragon who’d torn down Gryffindor tower was Draco Malfoy, desperately searching for his mate.
Hermione gave a quiet gasp. “Is that Kingsley?”
“Unfortunately, attacks on Muggles are on the rise, though being ignorant as to the true nature of the culprits behind the incidents, they’ve taken to citing gang violence, transients, and mob retaliation,” said Kingsley. “In happier news, though, we’ve received notice of witches and wizards going out of their way to lay protective charms over their Muggle friends’ homes or warding whole Muggle streets against Dark incursions, risking their own safety and narrowly flouting the Statute of Secrecy to quietly protect the Muggles unwittingly drawn into this war we’re fighting. You urged your listeners before, River, to keep an eye out for nearby Muggles, and I too encourage those tuning in to take after these brave few by having a care and keeping an eye on the Muggles in your lives. Cast protective Charms when you can, ward their doors and windows against intruders, set an owl to keep watch at night—these simple, thoughtful acts will help us weather this storm together.”
“Inspiring words, Royal, but have you any words in response to those who think we ought to be taking care of our own before worrying about the fate of unfortunate Muggles targeted by Death Eaters?”
“Well, I’d say that’s a slippery slope; those saying we ought to be thinking of wizards first now might be inclined to think of Purebloods first later, and then we’re all marching around with masks on our heads and tattoos on our arms,” replied Kingsley. “We’re all human, some of us just happen to be a little more magical than others.”
“Hear hear, Royal,” Lee said. “We’ll include that slogan in our next merchandise run, how about it?” Kingsley chuckled amiably. “Now, let’s hear from Romulus next on our popular segment, ‘Pals of Potter’.”
Harry perked up—they were talking about him? He hoped it wasn’t going to be a repeat of poor Dirk Cresswell’s indirect dressing down, complaining Harry had gone to ground or abandoned Britain altogether and was hiding out on the Continent or in the Americas.
“Give it to us straight, Romulus: Is Harry Potter still out there, or has he been captured—or worse—by You-Know-Who?”
“It’s my firm belief that Harry is absolutely still out there, alive, and working hard at whatever task he’s been set,” came a new but no less familiar voice, and Hermione practically vibrated with excitement, releasing a squealed whisper of, “Professor Lupin!”
“Confidence! I like it.”
Remus chuckled. “Well, I say so, if only because his death would be proclaimed by Death Eaters far and wide if it had come to pass. It’s no great secret that the loss of the ‘Boy Who Lived’ would strike a deadly blow at the morale of the resistance, as Harry remains a symbol of everything we’re still out here fighting for: the triumph of hope in the face of so much hate, the power of conviction in one’s beliefs and a willingness to stand up for others, and the need to hang in there and keep resisting those who would destroy everything we hold near and dear, no matter the cost.”
—No matter the cost.
Harry wondered how Tonks was handling her father’s murder, for Remus’s words were painted with an achingly personal brush.
“‘A willingness to stand up for others’—is that what they’re calling your Saviour complex these days?” Draco snorted, drawing his legs up onto the couch cushions and letting his knees butt up against Harry’s thigh.
“Without his ‘Saviour complex’ you’d still be rotting in the Ministry, you realise?” Hermione reminded pointedly, though her lips weren’t pursed quite tightly enough to disguise a wry grin of amusement.
“Any words of sage advice to our Scarred Saviour, then, if he’s out there listening?”
Remus paused for a long moment, then said, “Harry. I don’t know where you are, I don’t know what you’re doing—but I know you’re out there, and I hope you’re safe, and the only thing I can say to you at this point is: trust your instincts—they’re good, and nearly always right.”
“Nearly always right?” Draco said. “Doesn’t know you very well, does he?” Hermione released a watery, warbly laugh, and even Ron inclined his head as if to say He’s got a point, mate.
“And failing those—trust your friends, who are also good and generally more right than you.”
“There, that sounds better,” Draco said, settling back with his arms crossed over his chest and rank superiority in his expression. Harry didn’t mind; Draco had just indirectly admitted they were friends, and he didn’t hate that.
“You heard him, Harry Potter: Instincts first, friends second—and everyone else can suck on it.”
“I didn’t say that—” Remus began, but Lee barrelled on.
“Now, speaking of Harry’s friends, have we any news on those who’ve been a bit too vocal in their support for the Boy Who Lived and paid for it?”
Remus sighed. “Well, it’s no great secret it’s a dangerous thing to be openly rooting for Harry these days. We’ve recently received word that Xenophilius Lovegood, whose paper The Quibbler was encouraging its readers to do whatever they could to help Harry if they ran across him, has been apprehended by Ministry authorities and sentenced to Azkaban for quote, ‘Fomenting insurrection’; insurrection against whom was not specified.”
“More than he deserves, trying to turn Harry over like that…” Ron grumbled, and Harry silently agreed but told himself he felt relieved Lovegood was still alive.
“And I can’t divulge sources, but word is mere hours ago, Rubeus Hagrid—gamekeeper and Care of Magical Creatures professor at Hogwarts School—narrowly avoided being arrested and sent to Azkaban himself for daring to host a ‘Support Harry Potter’ supper at his home on the school grounds, attended by several students from the school itself.”
“You say narrowly avoided—so they let him go?”
“I expect whoever showed up to take him away didn’t have much choice, as Mr. Hagrid has a very over-protective Giant half-brother. I believe he’s on the run now and probably better off for it.”
“Perhaps the rest of us ought to invest in Giant half-brothers ourselves, in that case!”
Remus chuckled, then added gravely, “I would advise our listeners to keep their heads in the midst of all this madness. While we here at Potterwatch applaud Harry’s efforts and wish him a whole cauldron of Felix Felicis’s worth of luck, we won’t be doing him any good getting ourselves needlessly into trouble with frivolous parties, a decidedly unwise luxury in which to indulge under present circumstances. Let’s save the celebrating for brighter days ahead.”
“Good point, Romulus,” agreed Lee. “Now, one wizard we certainly won’t be wishing any luck to is one who’s proving just as difficult to track as our Mr. Potter: the Chief Death Eater, the Muggle Maimer, He Who Must Not Be Very Bright—yes, it’s You-Know-Who. But how can our listeners be sure that the news they hear about You-Know-Who sightings is to be trusted? Is he really lurking in your back garden? Was he actually spotted taking tea with the Minister for Magic? Here to give us the latest information on some of the more…we’ll say creative rumours swirling about these days concerning You-Know-Who’s whereabouts, let’s turn to our newest correspondent, Rodent!”
“‘Rodent’?” came a new voice, bright with offence. “I told you I wanted to be ‘Rapier’! I’m not doing this if you’re gonna make me go by ‘Rodent’!”
Ron gave a gurgling yelp, then shuffled forward and cupped his ear to hear the broadcast better. “Fred?!”
“It’s not George?” Hermione asked.
“I think it’s Fred—I remember he went through a pirate phase just before he started at Hogwarts. ‘Rapier’ sounds up his alley.”
“All right, all right, fine—Rapier it is. Can we get on with the segment? Our listeners are surely on the edge of their seats with curiosity! What’s You-Know-Who up to these days?”
“Well, you can’t turn around lately without running into some new bit of gossip on him, can you? He’s woven quite a web of mystery for himself, which it’s plain to see has worked well in his favour. Between the bogus reports of his many amazing abilities and the sightings of him everywhere from here to Timbuktu, no one would be liable to credit a genuine run-in. He’s keeping to the shadows himself, letting his underlings do his dirty work.”
“So you’re saying he’s actually sat in front of the fireplace with his bunny slippers on, plotting and scheming between tuning in to episodes of WestEnders on the Wireless?”
Fred snorted. “Well I wouldn’t say he’s having himself a lie-in while this is all going on—but I’m fairly confident he’s not quite as ubiquitous as the nineteen or so notices I get by owl a day might suggest! I know we’re all on edge these days, waiting for the worst to happen—but we can save ourselves a lot of trouble by practising just a bit of good sense. Like just the other day, my mum was suggesting that he and his Death Eaters had learned some new spell that let them kill with a glance. Anyone who’s been around Hogwarts in the past few years will remember that’s a Basilisk, though you’d be forgiven for mistaking the two based on looks alone.”
Harry bit his tongue, still not in the mood quite yet to laugh but struck by the urge all the same. He missed the twins; their sense of humour would have been a blessing in the midst of all this insanity.
“So be alert—but don’t be stupid,” Lee said, and Fred grunted his agreement. “Then if he’s not lurking in back gardens or taking tea with Ministry folks, where is he? Any truth to the rumours he’s been sighted abroad?”
“Our last registered sighting of him was in Majorca, where reports are he’s working on his tan and making the most of the beach-ready body he paid an arm and a dash of Harry Potter’s blood for,” Fred said, and Harry finally gave in, muffling his laughter with a hand slapped over his mouth. “Is he in Britain or isn’t he? Is he lurking around the next corner or isn’t he? We can’t be sure, honestly—but just because there are rumours going about that he’s gone international, that’s no excuse for us to let our guard down here at home. His Death Eaters are nearly as bad as the Noseless Ninny himself, and if he’s stepped away for a bit, it’s only for that—a bit. He’ll be back in rare form soon enough, so check your Charms, watch your wards, and stay safe, everyone.”
“A ‘stay safe’ coming from you certainly means something. Thanks for your commentary, Rapier,” said Lee. “And that concludes this episode of Potterwatch! Thanks for listening, and we’ll be back with another broadcast just as soon as it’s safe to hit the air again. Keep your Wireless tuned! The next password will be ‘Mad-Eye’. Stay safe, stay alert, and keep the faith. Good night, all.”
The Wireless’s dial whirred in a blur, and then the lights behind the tuning panel faded. Harry felt suffused with warmth, in far better spirits thanks to the latter half of the broadcast than he’d been in the first half. Hearing these familiar, friendly voices piping into his ears over the many miles was a balm to his soul. Out here on the run, with only Hermione, Ron, and Draco to confide in, he’d almost forgotten that they weren’t actually alone in this fight. Others were resisting Voldemort in their own way—and not just the Order, but ordinary folks too.
“Well that was nice, wasn’t it?” Ron said, a huge grin on his face. “I’m glad I found it again; it helps to hear what’s going on, seeing as we can’t exactly go out and grab a copy of the Prophet or send an owl to our friends and family.”
“Yeah, that was brilliant,” Harry said.
“It’s so brave of them,” sighed Hermione, adoration thick in her voice.
“Brave? Merlin, you really are Gryffindors,” Draco sniffed. “It’s suicidal is what it is. If the Death Eaters wanted to, it’d be no trouble to trace the broadcast.”
“They mentioned before they never broadcast from the same place twice, though,” Ron said. “They’re always scouting out new locations to air from. Can’t trace what’s not there anymore. Plus it’s password-protected, you heard.”
Harry’s mind was racing, though, and the warm, pleasant feelings that the broadcast had instilled in him only served to fire his excitement. “Did you hear what Fred said, though?” he asked, licking his lips. “Lee asked if the rumours were true, and he all but confirmed it! Voldemort’s abroad—and there’s only one reason he’d leave the country now when he practically runs the place: he’s still looking for the Elder Wand!”
A loud scrabbling grabbed his attention, and Harry whipped his head over his shoulder. The Sneakoscope that sat on the table by the door had lit up and begun to spin worrisomely, throwing dazzling beams across the room.
Outside the tent, muffled by the canvas, they heard the whipcrack of Apparition, and several rough, excited voices traded garbled conversation just beyond the laced flaps.
“Come out with your hands up and your wands stowed!” came a rasping voice, cutting through the cold night air. “We know you’re in there, and you’ve got a half a dozen wands pointed square at you, so no funny business! We don’t give a rat’s arse who we curse!”
Harry turned back to the others, meeting three pairs of wide, white eyes. They’d been found out—but how?! Had Hermione’s wards failed? She’d cast them when they’d made camp that morning, hadn’t she? He tried to think back, then pushed the worry from his mind. It didn’t matter how whoever was out there had found them. What mattered was how they got out of this, because they’d come too far to just lie down and let themselves be marched back to the Ministry—or worse, depending on who was waiting for them.
He considered Summoning his Cloak from the bedroom, but it was too small to fit all of them, and they had all their research here, plus the sword of Gryffindor was sitting there leaned against Hermione’s armchair, where she’d been polishing the rubies earlier.
“You’ve got ‘til the count of three!” came the voice again. “One—”
They’d have to destroy the tent. Grab the sword and the Cloak, set fire to the tent, and Apparate away in the chaos.
He reached for Draco’s arm, drawing his wand with the other—
But Draco shoved away, jostling his shoulder to brush past him and crossing to the entrance in two strides of his long legs with his arms raised defensively. “We’re coming out!” he cried. “We surrender! Just—don’t curse us, please!”
“Get back here you snivelling little coward!” Ron hissed, but Draco ignored him, resolute as he swiped downward in a strike with his wand.
The tent flaps flew open, and with a sudden neck-snapping burst of speed, Draco dove out of the tent. Before he even hit the frosty ground on which they’d camped, he’d shifted into the dragon in a flurry of white, bringing chaos raining down in his wake as he unleashed a bone-juddering screech.
Spells came flying fast and loose from their attackers, but Draco threw his wings open to shield the tent, and they bounced harmlessly off. Dragonhide was, it seemed, just as resistant to spellfire as Men Who Love Dragons Too Much claimed.
Draco’s snapping and snarling and lunging distracted their attackers long enough for Harry, Hermione, and Ron to mount a counter-offensive.
“Reset the wards!” Harry ordered Hermione. “We don’t want them calling reinforcements.”
“We can’t let them get away now that they’ve seen us!” Hermione cried. “I’ll need to set an anti-Apparition field too!”
“Do whatever you need to,” Ron said. “We’ll give you cover. Harry!”
Harry nodded, and carefully sidestepping Draco’s lashing tail, he and Ron used the cover of the dragon’s wings to fire off a volley of offensive spells while Hermione frantically cast every ward and protective Charm in her arsenal. Harry counted six pairs of feet stampeding around the clearing—including two pair that were trying to flank the campsite. He left Ron to guard their front with Draco and scurried around back to make sure they didn’t get hemmed in.
A Reducto nearly took Harry’s head off, instead reducing the tree just behind him to splinters. Harry belatedly threw up a Shield, and beyond the protective blue glow he saw a leering face he recognised from wanted posters: the werewolf Fenrir Greyback. He was a hulking man, and the Death Eater robes he wore seemed ill-fitting, stretched in odd places, like he didn’t take them off when he transformed. His matted grey hair hung in his eyes, and he had what looked like three days’ worth of beard growth on his face. He drew his lips back and bared yellow, pointed teeth at Harry; given it wasn’t yet the full moon, Harry suspected he’d filed his human teeth to look that way.
“Harry Potter…” Greyback growled, crooking a wicked grin at the scrawny wizard skulking at his side. “Well this is a pleasant surprise indeed.”
“Happy to give an autograph if it’ll send you and your friends on your merry way,” Harry tried, and Greyback released a bark of laughter—followed quickly by a Stunner. Harry’s Shield crumpled, and he dove into the low scrub, sending a Blasting Curse flying over his shoulder toward Greyback. Someone yowled in pain, but it didn’t sound like Greyback.
“Everyone’s looking for you, boy. They say you’ve abandoned your duty, that you’re hiding out like a scared little whelp, pissing yourself and hoping someone else comes along and makes everything better.” Harry slid down behind a thick tree stump that looked like it had been blown over in a storm, with Greyback prowling the brush. “People are dying out there, waiting on you. Why not give yourself up here and now? You’re really the only one we’re interested in; I’d be willing to let your friends go in exchange for you. What say you?”
If he’d had any faith Greyback might keep his word, Harry probably would have considered the offer—but as it was, the choice was an easy one. He popped out from behind the tree stump and cast an Incarcerous—but instead of Greyback, he only hit his weedy companion. The man went down, groaning in pain from what looked to be several nasty, deep-tissue burns thanks to Harry’s earlier Confringo, and Harry cursed under his breath. Greyback lifted his wand, expression twisted into a delighted rictus, and Harry summoned another Shield Spell, praying it held against whatever was about to come his way—
But before Greyback could cast, a massive white blur slammed into him, sending him flying like a rag doll into a tree trunk. Draco’s trunk-sized head whipped around, and he fixed Harry with a furious look—though he was a dragon, so really he always looked furious.
“I was watching our back!” Harry protested. “They were going to flank us!”
Draco didn’t seem to think this justified Harry getting separated from the group, and he cuffed Harry’s head with a wingtip, snarling at him in a way that said they would be having several words about this later.
The wizard Harry had hit with his Binding Spell had stopped squirming and simply lay on the frozen ground whimpering pathetically. Greyback was still wrapped around the tree Draco had thrown him into, unconscious; Harry hoped he stayed that way for a while.
Someone screamed—Hermione, by the sound of it, and Ron cried out, “Harry!”
Draco nearly trampled Harry in his rush to get back to the others, and Harry was hot on his heels. They raced back to the campsite to find Hermione and Ron duelling the other four wizards who’d arrived with Greyback. Hermione must have gotten the protective Charms back up, for she was now fending off a volley of Dark curses being flung at her by a burly wizard who looked like he might have some mountain troll in his lineage. Half the clearing was on fire from what Harry had to assume had been Draco remembering that he was in fact a dragon and could do rather a bit more than lash his tail and snap his jaws, and Ron was trying to use spellwork to direct the flames to corral the three wizards who were ganged up on him.
One of the wizards Ron was battling broke away to address Harry; curiously, no one seemed to want to take on the ferocious, fire-spewing dragon.
“Go help Hermione and Ron!” Harry yelled over his shoulder at Draco, who seemed reluctant to let Harry out of his sight now. “Go! I can handle a one-on-one duel, you know! I beat you, didn’t I?”
Draco whipcracked his tail next to Harry’s ear in a gesture that said he remembered their Second-year duel rather differently, then bounded off toward Hermione, who was being backed into a thicket of thorny bushes.
The wizard who’d marked Harry was nowhere near the duelist Greyback had been—and Greyback hadn’t been much of one either. Harry sent the man’s wand flying off into the dark woods with his favoured Expelliarmus, ignoring the words of Remus echoing in his mind, warning him they could not afford to hold punches at times like this. He threw a Body-Bind at the wizard and then rushed to Ron’s side, evening the odds as they took on one wizard each.
They had numbers on their side now, and Harry let himself have a little fun. Even mock matches with Draco and training with Hermione and Ron couldn’t recreate the adrenaline burst a real duel brought on, and Harry poured all of the frustration and desperation and irritation that had built up over the past six months into his Jinxes and Hexes.
He caught his wizard with a Leg-Locker Curse, sending him toppling forward to flail helplessly. Harry whipped around, scanning the clearing for Hermione and Draco, and grinned to see they had their quarry strung up by his legs and hanging from a tree limb. Draco beat the air with his wings to make the wizard spin in a dizzy whirl. Ron had his own opponent down on his hands and knees, retching violently and spewing up slugs. “Who doesn’t love a good Slugulus Erecto?” Ron said, brows lifting. His hair was in wild disarray, but his eyes were bright. He’d enjoyed the thrill of a good fight as much as Harry, it seemed.
“Is that all of them?” Harry asked, casting about for any they might have missed. “I guess Hermione got the wards back up, or else—”
“POTTER!” someone snarled, and before he could even turn around, Harry smelled the sizzle of burning ozone as a spell arced toward him.
Draco screeched in alarm, lunging forward to block the curse with his puffed-up body and widespread wings—and the spell fizzled into nothing when it hit him.
Greyback clucked his tongue in irritation, though he had a manic gleam to his eye, and he slapped his wand against his open palm as he slowly paced the breadth of the clearing. Ron had his wand trained on Greyback, but Harry stayed him; Greyback liked to talk, and Harry had questions.
“You seem to be outnumbered,” Harry said.
“Aye, that I do. Looks like all my men are still breathing, though.”
“We aren’t murderers.”
“Sure you are; everyone is. They just need an excuse.” He tugged at the collar of his shirt, revealing a hairy, muscled chest. “Go on, Potter. Give it a go. See what it feels like.”
Draco hissed in warning, baring his fangs—and Greyback returned the gesture with a growling, feral bark before chuckling darkly. “Pretty pretty pet you’ve got, Potter… Be a shame if it got hurt.”
Before Harry could ponder the threat, Greyback whipped his wand sharply and unleashed a Dark spell Harry didn’t recognise. Draco braced to take the hit again, and the spell sliced through the thin membrane of his wing like a hot knife through butter. He screamed in pain, a raw, piercing yowl that nearly burst Harry’s eardrums, and he had to duck into a roll to avoid getting trampled as Draco lashed out in blind fury.
He lost sight of Greyback in the confusion, and Ron and Hermione scattered as well. Draco pelted the clearing with belching streams of lava, heedless to Harry’s shouts of, “Don’t! You’ll burn the whole forest down!” Fuck, he couldn’t deal with an injured, rampaging dragon and a werewolf on his own—where had Ron and Hermione taken cover? “Ron? Hermione!”
A rustling from behind him caught his attention, and he turned—“Ron?”
The last thing he saw before everything went dark was Fenrir Greyback’s yellow-toothed grin and a flash of blinding, brilliant light.