Between a Dragon and...well, another Dragon
Harry stood very still, wand in hand. He hoped the two dragons, glaring at each other, didn't focus on him. The sleek one with the silver tinge to its white scales was standing right over Harry, its legs braced protectively on either side of him. The other dragon, a squat, crocodilian thing, snarled at them from the other end of the vault's corridor; its green eyes considered them with an ancient malevolence.
His nose tickled, as it always did when he was trying to be very quiet. He tried to stifle the inopportune sneeze, and it forced itself out anyway; he sounded like an asthmatic cat.
At the sound, the other dragon snapped its long jaws, and lurched towards them with terrifying speed. Harry threw his wand-arm out, ready to toss the strongest spell he could think of. However, his guardian dragon leaped over him and threw itself at the attacking reptile, using its youth and strength to tackle it, drawing it away from Harry.
"Oh, good show!" Harry called out, pressing himself against the nearest stone wall. "Go for it! Ouch, don't let him get your tail!"
His dragon paused; it was barely holding the crocodile's snout shut with its forelegs, but it still managed to glower at Harry and then roll its eyes.
"I'll be over here!" Harry sang out. "Carry on!"
Honestly, this had been the most fun he'd had in ages.
Harry Potter's Life Most Ordinary
Potter. Harry Potter: Man of action, daring and unutterably cool.
That was before he woke up from his daydream, wiping a bit of drool from the corner of his mouth. He pushed his glasses up from where they'd slipped nearly to the end of his nose and pursed his lips, blowing out a groggy sigh. The runes he had been trying to figure out before he dozed off were still hovering over Dame Aldith's sad-looking jewellery-box. The lines of symbols flashed under the influence of the revealing spell, as if trying to tell Harry what they represented.
"Well, I know what you're about," Harry told the third series of runes from the left, gazing at their spiky shapes. "I see you every other day; you're An Incessant Plague of Maleficence. And you over there, you're A Pox To Sinke Into Thine Bones. But those other five… I've never seen you lot before." He looked down at his Minor Curses Manual for the twentieth time and sighed again. He manfully suppressed the urge to tear pages out of his Manual and then run shrieking through the halls of Gringotts; the goblins would probably drag him back and tie him to his desk. They'd probably use Tartouk's Rubberiest Rubber Bands on him instead of ropes, just to save money.
He'd thought that working off his 'debt' to the goblins would be more exciting, honestly. It was a bit embarrassing being charged with two years probation for Grand Larceny (Cup, plus Unlawful Freeing of a Trained Guard-Dragon), especially after the whole Saving The World thing, but Harry had insisted on it, paying for his crimes and so on. He wished he hadn't; he'd be in Auror training with Ron now, instead of stuck in the Minor Curses Office because the goblins didn't trust him out on the field with Bill. The Minor Curses Office was located on the same level as the rest of main banking area; Harry could never figure out why it lacked one of those tall, narrow windows that every other office sported. It was also roughly the size of a washroom, with a single light-bulb suspended morosely from the very centre of the ceiling.
Another wish: he shouldn't have shouldered the entire punishment alone. Damn his hero complex. They'd all three broken into Gringotts, he, Ron and Hermione, but he'd asked the court for leniency on their behalf. Honestly, in the back of his mind he'd thought that the Wizengamot would have ignored this request, just as they did most of his others, but they hadn't, not in this case.
"Aren't you finished with that manky old box yet?" a voice rasped from his right, and Harry turned to look at the source of the voice. It appeared to be a large pile of crumpled parchment, until the entire heap shuddered and went sliding to the ground, revealing a goblin seated at a desk almost as small as Harry's. Kratok's beady eyes glittered in the gloom, and Harry raised an eyebrow at him.
"I'll be finished by the time you get on your fiftieth drink of the day, thereabouts," Harry said and pointedly eyed the large brown bottle of cider Kratok clutched in one small, gnarled fist. Kratok wrinkled his nose and took a messy gulp; some of the cider dribbled down his chin. "Composed that ode to your wife yet?"
"You wouldn't understand the intricacies of goblin poetry," Kratok snarled. “Wizard.”
"What, you just grunt a lot and then throw rocks around," Harry said, unimpressed. "I've heard your poetry before. No wonder your wife hasn't come back to you ."
Kratok dropped his beloved bottle of cider, reached up and grabbed the pointy tips of his ears. He tugged at them ferociously, drumming his feet against the floor. Harry wrinkled his nose and went back to his tattered copy of the Manual (owned by Tashak of Chester before Harry and Gary Lee SimTak of Kensington before her). After nearly a year, he was well acquainted with Kratok's fits of rage.
"Are you done?" Harry asked over Kratok's high-pitched squeals, raising his voice just a little. "I could murder a cup of tea, you know."
"I did the round yesterday," Kratok said, ceasing his fit completely and trying to retrieve his cider from where the bottle had slipped and rolled across the floor.
"So you did." Harry closed his Manual, stroking the spine companionably. The Manual tittered to itself, fluttering its pages. It was really a good Manual, tried its best; pity it tended to be a little out of it sometimes. Or maybe Harry had just been procrastinating as usual, neglecting to check its index as thoroughly as he should; it's not as if he enjoyed Minor Curses, anyway.
"Make mine a builders'!" Kratok yelled as Harry pulled open the door to their office and walked down the cramped corridor to the kitchenette they shared with the Note Tellers, who tended to leave the place a right mess after they used it. With a few bored flicks of his wand, Harry set the water in the kettle boiling within moments; cups sailed out of cupboards with no doors (Harry's was a tall white monster which had HOORAY COFFEE sprawled in black letters on its side). He popped some round bags into the cups, sloshed some heated water over them and leaned against the counter, waiting for them to brew up.
If he hadn't turned his head at that moment, looking down into the main passageway which connected the front of the bank to the access shafts for the vaults, he would have missed Draco Malfoy, walking past.
"Malfoy?" Ron sipped at his fussy microbrew and then gave the bottle a long look, as if it had mortally betrayed him. Harry smirked; Ron had taken to drinking that awful brew since he'd found out that the Head Auror enjoyed a bottle now and again. Harry had tried it once; it was bloody nasty. Horse-piss might have better flavour.
"Yeah." Harry took a pull from his own bottle and covertly looked out of the corner of his eye at the bloke who’d been eying him all evening: slender, dark-haired and narrow-faced, like Harry himself. Hermione claimed that Harry liked to pull folks who looked him because he was damned vain. Harry agreed, sometimes.
"Oh yeah," Ron said and kept at his beer doggedly. "Got a memo in last week, he and some others were being sent on probation from Azky."
"Thanks for the warning, Ron," Harry said, keeping his tone flat. "Really."
"Sorry," Ron said, completely unapologetic. "He's got the bracelet on, in any case. He won't trouble you."
"Bracelet?" Harry tried to remember if he'd seen such a thing around Malfoy's wrist, but Malfoy had been wearing dark blue robes with a severely high collar and long sleeves. Harry remembered thinking that the robes were very fine, albeit a bit tighter than usual.
"Tracking thing, ‘round his ankle. Dampens his magic a bit, too. Still a pointy thing, is he?" Ron asked, glaring at someone who had sat down beside him and accidently jostled his elbow.
Harry stared at the plate of greasy chips they'd ordered. "No," he finally answered. "He's not. Filled out a bit."
A bit; that was an understatement, it was. Malfoy's robes were a bit tight across the chest because they'd been obviously made for a younger, smaller person; possibly they were robes that Malfoy had been wearing when he had been taken straight to Azkaban from the Wizengamot. Harry hadn't been there for his sentencing. He'd sent in his testimony to be read to the court, and had been assured that it would be taken into consideration. He'd felt guilty when Malfoy had been sent to Azkaban for a minimum of seven years, but at least he was out early on probation.
When Harry had seen him striding behind Boss Goblin Mekaton, Harry had gaped for a few moments before scurrying down the corridor and peering down the way Malfoy and the Boss had gone. Malfoy appeared…well-defined. Harry really couldn't make out his arms under the loose drape of his sleeves, but he was obviously miles different from the lanky, frightened boy atop the Astronomy Tower. Then, Malfoy had been worryingly skinny, with dark circles dominating the skin under his eyes.
The Malfoy which Harry stared after earlier today had been nothing like that; the rest of his body had apparently caught up to his height. They must’ve had brilliant gyms inside good old Azky, Harry thought. Tad unfair, that; Harry was working his fingers to the striking bone out in the Wizarding World, ruining his already questionable peepers by staring at those insane little runes all day, and Malfoy had seemingly just sat around lifting weights and building up his bloody Slytherin muscles; no doubt they were as sneaky as the rest of him.
Right before he'd turned the corner to the vaults after Mekaton, Malfoy had glanced over his shoulder at Harry, and then turned away as if he'd simply glanced at a stranger.
Ron's voice broke through his musing. "Where'd they put him to work?"
"Vaults," Harry said and then frowned. "Which is really a surprise. Got all the precious shite down there."
"They know what they're doing, I suppose," Ron said, but he sounded as doubtful as Harry felt. "D'you think he's breaking curses, like you?"
"No, Vaults are only for storage and protection. The only curses they've got down there are the ones the goblins want, and at different levels." Harry blinked. "I'm a bit sad that I know all that."
"You're turning into a little goblin yourself. So cute." Ron inclined his head at the fellow to the side. "What are you waiting for? Go over there."
Harry swallowed down the last of his beer, squared his shoulders and went over to the man. "Hi," he said to the bloke, leaning his hip against the table and trying on a wobbly grin. "I'm Harry."
"Hi," the guy said, slanting a sweet smile up at him. "I know."
"Um," the bloke said as he pulled himself out of Harry's hole. "That was...um."
"Not quite what you were expecting?" Harry mumbled, making faces into his pillow at the feel of ejaculate still inside him. He rocked to the slight jouncing of the bed as Bert got off.
"No! No, it wasn't that." There were shuffling, zipping noises as the guy, Bert, pulled on his clothes quickly. "It was great, Harry. Honest. We...could do it again. Sometime."
"Yeah." Harry sniffed and didn't move, even when Bert leaned over and kissed his ear. Harry mouthed the one wandless spell he knew: Hermione had taught him a binding curse, for anyone who felt the urge to spill their tumble with Harry Potter to the Wizarding press. Bert seemed like the nice sort, really, but Hermione would lecture him that looking nice meant nothing. There'd been enough exposés on Harry as proof of this fact.
It wasn't that the sex had been bad. It was good enough shagging, but Harry supposed that he held himself back just that little bit. He always did. He couldn't help it, he found. He wasn’t quite sure of all the right moves.
"Alright, then." Bert bestowed another kiss on his ear. "See you around. I'll let myself out, right?"
Harry lay in bed for a long time after the door of his flat was quietly shut. He lay there, naked and lonely, for a long time.
Kratok growled. Gravelly noises rippled through his throat. He hawked and spat.
Harry said, "Oooh, that line is mad brilliant, it is," as he wrinkled his nose at the new folders which had appeared on his desk that morning. "I like the way you told her that her eyes were like rotting eggs buried beneath a pile of dog poo."
"I did not say that," Kratok said, scowling. "You lie like a wizard."
"I am a wizard, git."
Kratok stared pointedly at the tilting tower of files. "Are you?"
"Hey," Harry said, pushing the files to one side, "What's Malfoy doing down in the vaults?"
"I don't know what a Malfoy is," Kratok said, but the tufty tips of his ears quivered, a sure sign that he was lying. "Would that happen to be a new brand of tea that’s just out?"
"You know, I don't think it's fair that I've been working my ass off all this time and I'm not allowed in the vaults like he is," Harry said, winding himself up into a right snit. "I'm going to talk to Boss Mekaton."
"I'm sure you like your lying wizard ass in one whole piece," Kratok said, and fired off another line of goblin poetry, nodding to himself as the last grunt hung in the air. "Don't go talk to the boss."
"I'm going to talk to the boss." Harry rose from his desk with a great deal of injured dignity and swept off in the direction of the fancy offices 'round the front.
Five minutes later, he came stomping back.
"What did the boss say?" Kratok was busy scratching more lines into onto his poetry parchment.
"He told me to go fuck myself and get back to work." Harry sat in his chair and scowled at the curse-marks scorched onto the cover of an old book.
"Thems're terms of endearment, coming from old Mekkie. He really likes you." Kratok tossed something on Harry's desk. Harry picked it up: it looked was a flat piece of white plastic.
"Passcard. For the vaults. I figured you'd nose around and get into trouble anyway you put it. I'll save you your job, yeah?"
Harry stared at Kratok for a long time, at a loss for words. The goblin frowned in return.
"Er…I thought keys were used for the vaults? Like, there's a golden key for mine, and--"
Kratok rolled his eyes. "What is this, the dark ages? Just don't try to get into any of the vaults." Kratok squinted at him."Idiot wizard," he muttered, just to balance out his previous amiability.
"Thanks," Harry said as he went to the door. "And I do like that part about her ears, you know."
Kratok grunted dismissively, but Harry could see the side of his face before he slipped out, and he was smiling.
A Dragon with a Silver Lining
Harry hadn't even noticed the small cardreader which had been discreetly installed on the wall near the vault entry. There were curse-runes marked all around it too, but these were fairly standard ones. At least, these were ones he could easily recall from the Manual. He looked around to see if he was being watched, but it was two in the afternoon, and everyone was either dozing before the evening rush, or off for lunch. He hadn't felt this excited about something in so long; as he crept down the top hallway of the vaults like a thief, he had to stifle his gleeful cackling.
A few trolleys were waiting, and Harry made his way to the farthest one, looking around for the controls. The handle was on a raised section between the seats, and he clambered up to where a goblin driver would usually stand, kneeling down and wrapping his fingers around the cold metal grip. He took another glance around, ready to trek down to the vaults.
On a nearby column, he noticed a neatly lined paper pasted to the worn stone and squinted at it in the gloom. A kind of duty-schedule, obviously, with the goblin names for the days of the week across the top row, and three names occupying eight-hour slots: Draco, Tuxi and Ahanadi.
Goblins and their weirdly cute names for the days of the week, Harry thought, eyeing words like Wenny for Wednesday and Eris for Friday. Today was Thursday, that was 'Thori'. Goblins operated on the twenty-four hour clock; according to this table, Draco was at Depth 2 from 9-16. Wonderful.
How one got to Depth 2, Harry had no idea.
Soon enough, he puzzled out that the Depths were level-divisions in the vaults; there were small plaques on the walls at regular intervals, indicating the Depth as he sped along the tracks in his trolley. Depth 2 was horrendously far down, and it seemed rather warm. He pulled the brake at the proper Depth and opened the trolley's short door, clambering onto the platform. He armed some sweat off his forehead with a sleeve of his robes as he looked about. Air slipped through unseen openings high above his head, but it wasn't enough to budge the stifling heat.
The trolley made loud, clicking noises; the metal was cooling down. Still, he heard a scraping sound behind him, way down the opposite end of the corridor, and turned around to face it.
"Malfoy?" he called out, but there was no answer.
There was another rasping noise, coming from a narrow hallway which branched off from the main. Harry backed up towards a nearby column, his pulse hammering in his ears. Very slowly, he let his wand slide from an inner pocket of his sleeve and into his palm.
He was looking at the doors of the closest vaults, when that eerie scraping sound came again. From around a corner, something began to slide into view, gleaming palely in the gloom: a large white snout, edged with silver scales.
The snout of a dragon.
Harry held his breath, hoping that it wouldn't spot him when it fully emerged, but as soon as the massive head cleared the wall, the big eyes fixed on him, slitted pupils opened wide in the murkiness.
The dragon considered him for some time, with an air of distinct bemusement. Harry remained perfectly still. He wondered where Malfoy was and what he might be doing down here….and with that great bloody dragon lurking about?!
Harry dared to take a step towards the trolley; the dragon's eyes narrowed and it wound out from where it had been tucked into the corridor, coiled in tight about itself like a snake. It moved fearfully fast, sidewinding almost hypnotically. Before Harry could even think about another step, it had flashed around him to block his way to the trolley. It was so much bigger now that it was looming right over him. Its teeth weren't on the small side, either.
"Now, dragon," Harry said, trying to sound reassuring and calm. He gulped when the dragon growled. "Now--"
The dragon's tail twitched, an agitated movement. Harry caught sight of one of the dragon's massive back feet (those claws were absolutely insane). A chain was looped around the scaly ankle; it looked oddly delicate on that powerful leg.
Harry felt his mouth drop open almost to the level of his chest. If he wasn't mistaken, that looked like it might be a tracking anklet, magically increased in size.
"Malfoy?" Harry whispered and looked up into the dragon's face. The dragon sneered at him and backed away, its eyes burning as it went. "Wait, Malfoy!"
The dragon stopped and inhaled. Because Harry wasn't as stupid as he looked, he hurriedly threw up a Protego before the fire engulfed him.
"I was only trying to say hello, you great tit," Harry said when he managed to locate Malfoy in the nicer kitchenette after his shift, the ones that the tellers got to use as they mingled with the top-tier staff. This kitchenette had a bleeding couch on one side, fucking massive and L-shaped. With a coffee table.
And strike him, was that a telly in the corner, near that jungle-like collection of potted plants? Damn, he was going to have to come all this way to catch a bit of Man City versus Benfica tomorrow.
Malfoy sipped at his tea, sparing Harry a flat look from the corner of his eye. Without a word, he put the cup in the sink and walked out.
"Was that the Malfoy guard-dragon?" Boss Goblin Mekaton said as he strode into the kitchenette through the other door; he didn't like anyone making his tea but himself. "Rude little prick, isn't he?" Mekaton's beady black eyes gleamed at Harry, and he stroked the heavy W-shaped medallion which hung on a thick gold chain around his neck, as was his wont. "I quite like him."
"You've hired him on as a guard-dragon?" Harry stared down at Mekaton with surprised dismay. "Are you serious? I'm…sure there's some kind of rule against that."
"What's it to you if there was?" Mekaton said in a rather nasty tone of voice as he gathered his tea-things. Harry knew this meant that he was only mildly curious about what Harry was saying, and so paid it no mind.
"Well…I mean, it just seems a bit wrong." Harry frowned. "And I'm quite sure I've heard that there's no such thing as a dragon Animagus."
"You're a wizard," Mekaton reminded him in the kind of tone a person would use when they discovered dog-shite on the sole of their shoe. "There's no such thing as 'no such thing.' Besides, he's cheaper than a normal dragon. Do you know how much those buggers eat a day?"
"Four cow carcasses, each meal-time. Twelve in one day. That's a great pile of Galsies, you know."
"How much?" Harry asked, just to see if Mekaton would know the exact amount.
He did. "Forty-two Galleons, thirteen Sickles and four Knuts. That's before tax, mind." Mekaton's tufty eartips twitched. "Times that by two full-grown dragons, three times a day, and you see what I'm talking about. Malfoy doesn't eat quite as much as that. We just sign off on his probation documents, and he goes on his way."
"Lucky I took one of them off your hands, then, eh? Eh?" Harry laughed. His laughter petered out to awkward chuckles at Mekaton's ferocious glower. "Er."
"Suebell was my favourite dragon," Mekaton said, his words curling around a snarl.
"Looked like the plumpest one, though." Harry was just guessing at this point, really, but then he hazarded an even greater speculation: "Is that why you didn't go back for her, then? Ate too much?"
"Suebell was a he." Mekaton suddenly showed all his teeth in a sly grin. "And yes, that's why."
"You're a real Knut-pincher, you are." Harry had no qualms with being viewed as insubordinate. He was always trying to get himself fired. It was a pity he'd gotten into the habit before he realized that goblins liked such displays of disrespect.
Mekaton appeared pleased. "Why, thank you, you treacherous little beast." He stared at Harry for a fairly long time before saying, "When you go visit that Malfoy boy, kindly do not let Tuxi see you. She's about to give birth to a litter, you see, and is well miserable."
"I'm not visiting Malfoy," Harry said quickly and then thought for a moment. "Wait, what about Ahanadi?"
Mekaton laughed his greasy little laugh, which Harry had hated those first few weeks of working here, since Mekaton had been constantly amused over Harry's blundering. Harry still hated it, but the feeling had morphed into a fond kind of dislike.
Mekaton said, "You could probably get yourself away from Tuxi. But, Ahanadi is fast, like a pixie on drugs. He sees you, you're as good as dead." Mekaton's wrinkly face gained a soft air. "I do love that one." He narrowed his eyes at Harry. "Get to work, lazy, thieving human."
"All right, all right. I'm going." Harry stopped and then turned back. "So…what do you pay him, then? Malfoy, I mean."
"I pay him back his pride," Mekaton said, gently. He was nodding with Dumbledorian wisdom, his wrinkled jowls near quivering with self-assurance. Harry wrinkled his nose.
"That makes no sense, cheapskate."
"Get your arse out of here, you little piss-pot."
I'm Not A Dragonologist, Harry
Ron said, "So a vampire walks into a bar and takes out a used tampon, right, and--"
Hermione threw a handful of peanuts at him, making sounds of disgust. "That's a nasty joke, Ron. Absolutely vile."
"It's the only vampire one I know!" Ron picked a few peanuts out of his hair. "Seamus asked if I knew any."
"So I did," Seamus agreed soggily from where he was slumped over next to Harry. "Banging a vampire. Need to tell her funny things to distract her from my sweet, sweet blood."
"There are so many things wrong with that sentence," Ginny said from his other side and Harry laughed, nearly choking on his drink. He looked over at her, but she didn't meet his gaze over the top of Seamus's messy head. Harry sighed internally, sipping his beer. He wondered if she'd really forgiven him after he'd told her that he was bent. She said she had, but there was always that rueful feeling that soaked the air between them. He'd let down a lot of people, he thought to himself, staring at the beads of condensate inching their way down the side of his bottle. Should've been an Auror-in-training; should have been in a steady relationship with Gin.
He should have done more to help Malfoy; more than sending letters from home, hiding from everyone, and letting the berk's entire future rest on a bit of parchment with his small handwriting cramped up on it.
His life was full of 'shoulds'. He might have been cursed with them, for all he knew.
Hermione's voice broke through his self-flagellation, and the low conversation around them. "I don't think dating a vampire is such a good idea." She leaned forward so that she could shout down the length of the bar at Seamus. "And telling her Ron’s horrid jokes is not going to take her blood-thirst away."
"Not dating," Seamus grumbled. "Shagging. And she's got a well-developed sense of humour, that one."
"Ron's idea of a joke would kill that, I’d think," Gin said, and they all laughed, drunkenly.
"Harry, give me a bit of space, let me get that," someone said, trying to reach past him to retrieve two drinks that the bartender had prepared. Harry tilted his head to one side, squinting at the interloper in their midst.
"Rolf!" He reached out, grabbing onto the lapels of Rolf's robes. Rolf was Luna's newest bloke, and she'd been with him the longest so far. Steady fellow, really quite ordinary; everyone vaguely wondered how he and Luna ended up together, but never bothered to ask either of them. Luna would probably blather on about star dust and Rolf would more likely give a dry account of some blind date or what not. Rolf nodded at Harry, trying to extricate himself from Harry's grip while also trying to escape with the drinks, but Harry was suddenly quite determined. He…he could fix something. He could make something better, yeah?
"Rolf, hang on there." Harry reeled him in a little, like a fish. "You know about dragons, right?"
"Er, um. I'm not a dragonologist, Harry, not my specialty at all. Luna's waiting on this, so--"
Harry held firm. "Just a few questions, man. Sit right here. Budge over, Shay."
Seamus and Gin dragged themselves one stool over and Rolf perched uncomfortably next to Harry; he'd always appeared slightly ill-at-ease around Harry, and even more so around Hermione. At least Ron's earthy charm seemed to appeal to him.
"You're a magic zoo-person--"
"Magizoologist," Rolf corrected, and made apologetic gestures over Harry's shoulder, apparently to Luna at a waiting table. "Unicorns, centaurs, anything with an equine component, that's me."
Harry giggled a little at the word 'equine', tickled by it. Rolf's dark eyebrows wrinkled towards each other and Harry sobered up…well, sobered up as much as he could, considering the little blood he had running through his alcoholic-stream.
"Rolf," he said, very seriously.
Rolf answered, just as gravely, "Yes, Harry."
"Rolf, what do dragons like?"
Rolf closed his eyes briefly and then nodded to himself before he opened them again.
"They like to have something for their own to protect, as far as I remember," he said, sounding resigned to his fate of being pestered by a soused Harry Potter. "They love shiny things, too. Pretty things, more like."
"And cow carcasses?"
Harry had conjured up a crooked blue quill and was industriously writing all this down on a napkin. (The next morning, he'd find the crumpled napkin in the pocket of his jeans and understand no more than one word out of six.)
"I think they like gifts, most of all. Saw that the last time I skimmed a dragonology text." Rolf tapped the side of his cheek and Harry squinted at his long, narrow nose. Malfoy had a nose like that, he thought. A sight nicer, was Malfoy's nose. Except when he was a dragon; then that nose functioned as a roof for some pretty heinous chompers.
Rolf asked, "Why do you need to know about dragons?"
Harry drew himself up (wobbling a bit), raised his chin and announced, "I'm going to befriend one."
Rolf laughed. "Oh, are you? That's actually quite funny, Harry, never knew you were…so funny…" He had been glancing around, probably expecting everyone else to join in on the joke. They all looked back at him. "Oh, he's not joking, is he?"
They stared at him with vague interest.
"Right." Rolf rounded up his drinks. "I'll just--" He didn't even finish his sentence in his haste to escape back to Luna's relative normalcy.
"Look here, leave me alone, you stupid prick," Malfoy said, striding into the tellers' kitchenette. Harry was practically snuggled into the corner of the sofa, staring at some Muggle footie on the television and sipping on his tea.
He looked around at the sound of Malfoy's voice just in time to catch the box of double-chocolate biscuits that Malfoy tossed at him. Instantly, he tossed it back and Malfoy snatched it out of the air, frowning at him.
"Nice catch," Harry said, keeping his voice mild. "Don't throw that back, all right? Tuxi nearly singed off my eyebrows when I went down to find you."
"Potter." Malfoy's tone was heavy, and Harry looked up at him out of the corner of his eye. "Do not bother me."
He turned on his heel. Harry scrambled up out of his comfy spot and chased after Malfoy, rounding 'bout him to block his exit. He’d always been pretty fast, sprinting-wise, and Malfoy stared down at him when Harry popped up in front of him. Malfoy had a few inches on him, but he still managed to make it appear as though the totality of Harry's height culminated somewhere at the level of his ankle.
"Wait, Malfoy, just listen. Please." Harry widened his eyes just a little and kept their gazes locked. Malfoy held the box of biscuits at chest-height, like a shield. He was standing very still, just looking right into Harry's face. Hermione had once told him that his eyes were his greatest asset, physically. They were so lovely, she'd exclaimed one day when she'd been in a particularly chummy mood; and they were even prettier when in conjunction with his dark hair and his unfairly long lashes (Harry didn't think they were long, but even so, he'd gotten enough remarks from women about them.)
"The biscuits. Um. Well." Harry sighed, biting one side of his lower lip. Malfoy's gaze lowered to the action before instantly snapping up to focus on Harry's eyes again. "I just wanted to be…friendly."
Malfoy murmured something, a small, breathless word. Harry blinked rapidly at him; he'd said--
"Friendly," Malfoy snapped now, and his top lip curled up in a sneer. Harry was still a bit stunned over that other word from before. "Friendly? Potter. Do you think one fucking box of biscuits is just going to make my time in prison all better?"
"I was going to take two boxes," Harry said, a bit mournfully. "They're right expensive, though, those biscuits," he joked, but Malfoy only glared at him.
"Potter, I walk past your bloody vault every Monday and Thursday," Malfoy snapped. "I can sense the gold in it. Didn't know you were such a skinflint."
"I work with goblins, comes with the territory." Harry smiled at him and Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Look, I'm sorry about the whole prison thing--"
"I kept expecting you to come save me," Malfoy broke in, and Harry felt his mouth hang open. Malfoy's laughter at his expression was sharp and hard. "Pathetic of me, wasn't it? Me, waiting on you. How I wanted you to swoop in the courtroom like you did in the Room of Hidden Things. But you didn't."
"I sent a letter." Harry felt his insides squirm at the scornful look Malfoy threw at him.
"They didn't read it, Potter." Malfoy held up his hand, cutting off anything Harry might have tried to say. "I don't need your explanations, not now. But, I was reminded of facts that I should not have forgotten. Don't wait on people to save you. Don't depend on anyone." He glared down at the box in his other hand, and then held it out to Harry again. "So take back your bloody chocolate biscuits."
Harry looked at them, and then gazed up at Malfoy again. "Please keep them, Malfoy," he said, simply. "For me."
Malfoy made a contemptuous sound in the back of his throat. "Damn your eyes," he said, shoving past Harry and swooping out of the door with a whirl of his robes. Harry noticed that he kept the box of biscuits jammed under his arm.
What was more interesting was that first, soft word that Malfoy had breathed out as he'd been staring down at Harry.
The word had been beautiful.
Not Quite the Person You Used To Know
If there was anyone who deserved a doctorate in Malfoy-stalking, it was Harry Potter. He was good at it, lurking in corners and dogging Malfoy's steps with the tenacity of a trained hunting Crup. Malfoy would come in on his shift, striding down the marble-tiled floors past the disapproving tellers (as far as Harry knew, the tellers disapproved of everything, and they were even more annoyed at Harry since he began invading their kitchenette). Harry had memorized his schedule, and would be hovering conveniently near the entry to the vaults, there to greet him chirpily. The look on Malfoy's face was priceless when he did that.
"Aren't you supposed to be breaking curses, Potter?" he asked one day and Harry had held up the old jewellery-box as proof of his industriousness. He'd shown it to Mekaton when the Boss Goblin had stalked past him a few minutes earlier.
"I thought you'd made your way inside that already," Mekaton had said, scowling even as he stroked his medallion. "You're useless. Dame Aldith might have left her will in that, or so her children suspect." His eyebrows furrowed together. "Wynnfrith was a fine patron of this institution."
"She put loads of curses on it, so I wouldn't be surprised if it is in there." Harry said and to his pleased surprise, the boss had nodded in agreement.
"Keep at it, young fool." Mekaton walked off towards the tellers and then said, over his shoulder, "I hope you're not bothering my guard-dragons any more than usual."
"Perish the thought!" Harry called after him, but grinned mischievously as Malfoy approached him. "Just this one," he muttered under his breath and then said "Hi!" to Malfoy, in the brightest tone he could muster. Malfoy's expression was made up mostly of exasperation, with a slight trace of curiosity. Harry had no idea why he had been called the 'Slytherin Ice Prince' back in school; it had all been just snakey hype, as if he was some kind of uber-cool character. Harry found that he could read Malfoy's face quite easily; every annoyed flicker of his eyelashes, the quiver of his bottom lip when he was incensed. Harry reckoned that he could probably understand more of Malfoy's expressions than Ron's, and that was saying something.
Malfoy blinked at the jewellery-box when Harry showed it to him.
"Fascinating, Potter," he drawled in a manner which indicated that it was anything but interesting. "Really."
"I've only got the last set of runes to go," Harry told him, and shrunk down the box to place it back in his pocket. "Can't find it in my Manual, though. The first one's shaped like the horse-rune, that's the M one, but the serif isn't quite the same. Close, but no cigar, as the Americans say. And if I don't unlock that rune, the whole series is fucked." He inclined his head towards Malfoy, who seemed a bit dazed at Harry's quick recitation, and stepped towards the vaults' entry, digging Kratok's passcard out of his robe-pocket. "Come on."
"Excuse me." Malfoy's voice, when he finally located it, was a block of ice. "Where do you think you're going?"
Harry gave him a quizzical stare. "Don't you need an employee of the bank to escort you through the doors of the vault?"
"Yes," Malfoy said through his teeth. "That employee is usually a garrulous young goblin named Shonnik."
"Well, Nik's just gone on holidays with his new wife," Harry told him, and dropped his voice to confide: "Kratok helped him with the wedding poetry. People cried...in terror."
"...what?" Malfoy blinked at Harry and then shook his head slowly, as if he'd just discovered that Harry had gone round the bend. Harry wanted to laugh; a thoroughly bemused Malfoy was entertaining.
"I asked Boss Mekaton if I could take over from Nik," Harry explained, cancelling the minor curses and waving the passcard in front of the reader. It beeped, the steady red light flicking over to a blinking green. "He said I could, 'til Nik came back."
Actually, Harry had pestered Mekaton until the Boss had thrown a broomstick, two small figurines and a few moneybags filled with Sickles at him; Harry hadn't given up until Mekaton told Harry that yes, he could take up Nik's duties, releasing the teller which had been assigned with that temporary task back to her post. Getting Boss Mekaton to fold like that was one of Harry's greatest achievements to date...apart from the whole killing Voldemort thing, but Mekaton was really a tough nut, what with that creepy medallion of his that he was forever fondling.
"Since you have Kratok's passcard, and yes, I know you have it; I'm the bloody boss of this damned place," Mekaton had ranted, furiously stroking his medallion, "then go escort the Malfoy-dragon, and get out of my office!"
"I'd rather not have you escort me, Potter," Malfoy said now. Harry gave him a small smile, more of a sly thing, really; Malfoy didn’t return it; only held his body in a rather tense manner, shoulders in a stiff, straight line.
"Is it because you think I'm beautiful?" Harry asked, doing that opening-eyes-wide thing. Malfoy flushed roughly ten shades of red, none of them that flattering; Harry still thought it was kind of cute.
"That wasn't quite my doing, Potter, don't read anything into it." Malfoy looked at everywhere but Harry's eyes. "The dragon, he gets these funny ideas about things--"
"So the dragon likes me." Harry nodded. "Well, it's always good to have a dragon on your side, you know."
Malfoy's gaze landed on Harry's face, helplessly. "You're...different. From what you were like in school."
Harry tick-tocked his head from one side to the other, thinking long and hard before he nodded in agreement. "I suppose I am. But people do change. I thought you would have been more bitter, being in Azkaban and all."
"It's not the Azkaban it used to be, Potter," Malfoy said, dryly. "There are Mind-Healers that counsel you, you can finish your NEWTS and so on. Very modern. Dementors are not...they weren't located at my level."
"You got great gyms too," Harry said and blatantly gave Malfoy a slow once-over. "So prisons change like people, right?"
"Don't be ridiculous." Malfoy sneered as he said it, but it was quite half-hearted; wobbly, even. He went back to the blushing when he caught on to what Harry had been doing, giving him the eye.
"How'd you learn to be an Animagus?" Harry asked over his shoulder as they walked into the vault. "A bloody dragon Animagus too. That's really too awesome for a massive berk like you."
"I don't like it when you're so familiar with me. We're not friends, Potter. I don't like you," Malfoy informed him. Harry hummed in disagreement. "And if you must know, Professor Snape taught me, before--" He stopped, pressed his lips together; his nostrils flared.
"That was good of him," Harry said, breaking the silence that spun out, for moment too long "He was a good man."
"No, he wasn't." They'd stopped by one of the waiting trolleys; It was Malfoy's day for Depth 2 again, and he stared at the tracks which sloped away into the distance, flickering sconces lighting the way at erratic intervals. "But he tried."
"He did." Harry clambered into a trolley and patted the space beside him. "Hop in, then."
Malfoy gave him a long look. "I usually transform here and go to my assigned depth."
"Change is good for you," Harry said, cheerfully. "Come on, your shift is starting soon and I have a rune to unravel."
The trip down to Depth 2 was quiet, but not too uncomfortable. Harry stared at the side of Malfoy's face; Malfoy stared straight ahead, his pale hair whipping back as they travelled. At one point, Malfoy stole a look at Harry out of the corner of his eye and, when Harry grinned at him, Malfoy snapped his gaze forwards once more. Harry felt...he couldn't explain how he felt. Now that Malfoy was here, every moment was steeped in silver.
"Where do the other dragons go at the end of their shifts? And why's it so warm down here?" Harry asked when the trolley came to a halt at Depth 2 and they clambered out. Malfoy glanced in the direction where the end of Depth 1 met with the platform of Depth 2; he frowned a little, and gave Harry an impatient shake of his head when he repeated his questions.
"They go to the catacombs under Depth 3. And dragons like it warm. You should leave."
Harry opened his mouth to ask why, when a strange, rumbling hiss emanated from the end of Depth 1.
"Fuck," Malfoy said. "Ahanadi. Potter, don't make any sudden moves." With that, he rolled his shoulders, did a funny sharp move with his head, breathed out sharply and--
--and then he was gone, and the dragon loomed over Harry.
They Like to Have Something For Their Own to Protect
The fighting dragons crashed and rolled about, snarling and biting at each other. Harry kept his wand held out, wanting to help, but he realized he’d probably hit Draco if he threw a spell blindly. Ahanadi fought nastily, aiming its mace-shaped tail at Draco's soft underbelly. It also tried to rush at Harry now and again, but Draco would grab onto it and haul it back, roaring in challenge.
Mekaton was going to be so furious, Harry thought as he tucked himself into a damp alcove. Two of his guard-dragons were brawling it out down here and Harry still hadn't sorted out that last rune. The Boss Goblin was going to rub his precious medallion to a sliver.
At the mental image of Mekaton's gnarled fingers tracing over the golden shape, something clicked in Harry's mind. The click seemed so loud that he almost felt it in his teeth, as physical as the shaking which occurred around him every time one dragon flung the other. A W-shaped medallion, worn by Mekaton; an M-shaped rune, which wasn't really a rune at all.
A key...made by Dame Aldith. Wynnfrith. Hermione would have smacked herself on the forehead, exasperated at Harry's glacier-like reasoning skills. It had been right there in front of him, all along.
"I think I've got it," he said out loud and the two dragons paused in their lizard-like wrestling. "I've got it."
Ahanadi snarled, showing Harry all those scraggly, cone-shaped teeth. He tried to wriggle from where Draco had him pinned.
"I'll see you later, Malfoy! Thanks for the whole protecting thing! I'm your treasure, I know." Harry raced towards the closest trolley and hopped in, priming the handle for the return trip to the bank's upper level. As he zoomed away, he looked back to see that both dragons were sitting side-by-side on their haunches, staring after him.
With twin what-the-fuck expressions on their scaly faces.
"What the fuck!" Mekaton thundered when Harry ran into his office, slamming the door. "What the blast is going on down there?! The alarm-spells are tripping all over the bleeding place. Are you stealing another dragon?"
"Yes," Harry said, retrieving the tiny box out of his pocket and enlarging it. "But before I do, can I borrow your medallion?"
Mekaton's dark eyes went very wide. He touched the gleaming pendant. "You can't have it, human. It's mine."
"I know." Harry kept his tone very gentle. "I know. I won't steal it, promise."
Mekaton's top lip curled in disdain. "A human's word means nothing to me."
"Is that why you still wear the medallion she gave you?" Harry was just hazarding a guess, but from the way Mekaton's expression froze, he was on the right track. "Look, I just need it to open her jewellery box. I'll give it right back."
Harry held the box in one hand and chanted the spell to reveal the hidden curses, which hovered in rune-form above the box. All of them were darkened, meaning the curse was deactivated, except for the one starting with the M-shape. He looked at Mekaton expectantly, and the Boss Goblin sighed, grasping the heavy links of the chain and pulling it carefully over his head. He held it out to Harry.
"Maybe you should hold it," Harry said, watching the M flutter like a happy butterfly at the proximity of the medallion. It had probably been doing that all along when Mekaton was close by, but Harry wouldn't have known without the revealing spell activated.
It floated out of its sequence, and turned in the air, settling onto the W-medallion. It pulsed and disappeared, and that left the rest of the rune-marks free for Harry to clear. He worked quickly, much to his own surprise, banishing A Season of Appalling Luck and A Rash In Thine Groine with fair ease.
"Alright, then," Harry said, putting his hand on the carved lid. "All the curses are gone now, Boss."
"For a puny human, that was well done." Mekaton stared at the box for a long moment, then nodded slowly. "Open it."
Harry flipped the silver latch, and pulled up the lid. Instead of a rolled parchment, as Harry expected, there was a soft sigh from inside the box, and then a lovely voice began to speak.
"I, Dame Wynnfrith Abelena Lee Aldith, nee Burchard, of Feckenham, Worcester, do hereby make, publish and declare this to be my Last Will and Testament, hereby expressly revoking all wills and codicils heretofore made by me." There was a long pause, and Dame Aldith's voice continued. "I am fully confident that all the curses I've placed on this box have been undone by the employees of the Gringotts Wizarding Bank, and that the current managerial Head will carry out his or her sworn duties as my Executor, as properly defined in Article VI.
"I direct my Executor to pay my judicially enforceable debts, funeral expenses and the administrative expenses of my estate as soon after my death as practicable..."
The voice continued on, bequeathing to her remaining relatives. There was a surprising gift to one of Hermione's foundations and another to the Cat Familiars' Association. A few other quiet voices acted as witnesses, and then the box fell silent for such a long time that Harry reached out a hand to close it, jerking back when it spoke up again.
"Mekaton," the voice said. "It's me, Winnie. I know it'll be you, because of the medallion. I'm...I'm ever so sorry. I don't know if you know that. Father said he would disown me if I married you, and...oh, Mekaton. I've lived, but it's been an empty sort of life without you. Now, at the end of it all, I wonder what it would have been like if I'd just followed my heart.
"If I hadn't been afraid."
Harry peeked at the Boss Goblin's face. Mekaton was completely expressionless.
Wynnfrith went on: "I have always loved you. We've ended up such good friends, haven't we? But still..."
The lid of the box tilted shut by itself.
"I'll just go," Harry said, backing towards the door and opened it, quietly. Mekaton sat, staring at the jewellery box as Harry closed the door.
An Ordinary Life is Okay. Just Don't Be Afraid.
Malfoy shoved open the door to the Minor Curses Office just as Harry was trying to clear his desk as quickly as possible so he could skive back to the vaults for the end of Malfoy's shift. Kratok had taken his leave just a few moments ago, still practicing his poetry.
"Oh, I was going to escort you out," Harry said, blinking at Malfoy's pinched visage. "Who came for you?"
"Your mate, Kratok. And for your information, you are not my treasure," Malfoy said, biting off each word. "Ahanadi has been mocking me for the entirety of my shift, thanks to you. Also, he says to tell you that you're quite the tasty-looking morsel, and if you happen to invade his areas again, he'll bite your head off."
"Noted. And I am totally your treasure." Harry got to his feet, jutting out his chin pugnaciously. "You protected me--"
"If I were to let another dragon eat the mighty Harry Potter on my Depth, that's not a terribly good probationary record, is it?"
"--and. You said I was beautiful."
"It was a mistake, damn you," Malfoy tried to say, but he found he couldn't speak clearly, as Harry had rounded his small desk quickly and backed him into a corner, kissing him fiercely and feeling up Malfoy's well-defined arms. Malfoy grasped onto his shoulders and held him away. His lips were reddened and his grey eyes were bright. "What the hell? You cannot be serious."
"Oh, I am." Harry shrugged off Malfoy's restraining grip and dived in again, licking at Malfoy's mouth and tasting the soft breathless moans. "I bet you were all hot for me in school, too."
"No." Malfoy was adamant in his negation, but it was undone by the way he was kissing Harry, ruthlessly, panting between the heated battles of their tongues. "I hated you, Potter. I still do. You let me down."
Harry fumbled with the front of Malfoy's robes, hauling them up so he could get at the placket of the man's trousers. "Are you still on that? I've let down loads of people, myself included, but from here on out I'm going to stop thinking about what I should have done. Now, I'm doing what I can."
"I don't want to--" Malfoy tried to say, but Harry claimed his mouth again. "We shouldn't--" and Harry kissed his protests away. "For fuck's sake, Potter, let me--" and then he gave up, shuddering when Harry's sweaty hand curled around his very much interested erection.
"Come on," Harry whispered, and gave it a few tugs, smiling when Malfoy's hips jerked towards him. "Maybe it'll be good."
Malfoy gave him a confused stare. "Maybe?"
"Potter, you're an idiot."
Better Than Maybe
It was far, far better than maybe. It might have been the fact that they were shagging in Harry's office and, even though the bank had closed for the day there were still probably tellers out there on the main floor, tallying their trays. Harry had cast a locking and silencing spell, but they weren't too much trouble for a goblin, should one really want to enter his office.
Or, Harry thought, it could have been that blazing, complicated mess of emotions that had always existed between them, which made every touch burn, every moan hang trembling in the air. Harry wanted to suck him off, and told Malfoy so.
"If you do that now, I'd come right in your mouth," Malfoy muttered, having managed to turn them both around so that it was Harry's back up against the wall. Harry's left leg was hoisted up, wrapped around Malfoy's waist, and they were grinding against each other almost frantically, hips thrusting in mimicry of what was bound to happen, right here in the bank. Malfoy had one of Harry's wrists in his grip, pinned against the surface of the wall, but he couldn't stop the other one from roaming over his broad shoulders, over his back and face, stroking every exposed bit of skin.
Harry pulled away from him, his loosened trousers slipping down. He couldn't think clearly, and very nearly cast a Duplication instead of a Lubrication charm. He recalled it, thank goodness, together with the sheath charm which mimicked a Muggle condom (Malfoy made a funny, strangled sound at that). He turned around and bent forward over his desk, shoving papers aside to brace his forearms on the wooden surface, his slippery hole ready and waiting.
"Fuck," Malfoy said behind him, grabbing onto Harry's hips. His hands were big; Harry discovered he had such a thing for big hands, but the thought flew out of his mind when Malfoy parted the cheeks of his bum, thumbs digging into the soft flesh near his cleft. He bit his lip and let his head hang down; Malfoy was staring at the glistening pucker of his hole, how it winked back at him invitingly. Harry could feel it.
"Are you just going to look at it?" Harry asked. As a response, one of Malfoy's hands left its possessive position on his hip, and fingers began the slow process of stretching. "Yes. Fuck, yes."
Malfoy's fingers worked him open, and Harry was trembling by the time Malfoy's cockhead rubbed against his hole. He tried to breathe and bear down when Malfoy pushed slowing inside him, but everything felt like too much: he was still too tight, Malfoy's prick was so large inside him, and his own erection began to flag. When Malfoy's sac brushed up against his, Harry had his cheek pressed against the top of the desk, hands gripping the edges, the both of them breathing as if they'd run a marathon.
"Wait," Harry said, daring to move a bit, arching a little so that the cock inside him could feel better. There, that angle was just fine and he writhed a bit, causing Malfoy's fingers to dig into his hips. "Okay. Now you can--ohhh," he said, because Malfoy had drawn back and pushed in again, a wicked slide of flesh. His cock glided snug and warm against Harry's inner walls.
Harry arched back some more so he could reach behind and sling an arm around Malfoy's neck, dragging him close for a sideways kiss. Malfoy panted against his lips, pounding into him and Harry clenched around him, eliciting a harsh cry. He was hard again, and when he reached down to grab his penis, Malfoy reached around and pulled his hand away, jerking him off clumsily.
"Potter," Malfoy groaned against the back of his neck. His mouth felt hot as his thrusts became sharper, more erratic. Harry cried out with every shove. "Potter."
He gripped Harry's cock as he went silent and still, and then came, spurting deep inside him. His body unlocked itself a few moments later, and his hand moved again over Harry's prick, mouthing incomprehensible phrases until Harry thought he would choke happily on them. Malfoy's softened cock was sliding out of him even as he was ramping up to his own orgasm; the feel of come dribbling out must have been a deciding factor in shattering everything in such a delightful manner.
"Office romances are so passé, Potter," Malfoy said, entwined with Harry on the floor, in the cramped area between Harry's and Kratok's desks. "I'll be trying to rebuild the Malfoy name when my probation is over. I really have no time for this."
Harry blinked slowly at him. These green eyes and long lashes were going to be exploited for a really worthwhile cause, or his name wasn't Harry Potter. "Another round in a few, Malfoy? I'm up for it."
Harry snuggled up to him and grinned triumphantly to himself when Malfoy's arms pulled him close.
"I am a treasure," he whispered and snickered at Malfoy's exasperated groan.