Who: Katie Bell, Gwen Montgomery-Higgs
Where: Gwen’s veterinary clinic
When: 5 May 2002, early morning
Katie wasn’t really one for dramatic entrances, but sometimes they were necessary. Apparating into the middle of the waiting room at Gwen’s veterinary clinic, a blanket-wrapped bundle clutched in her arms, she cast one look around and immediately spotted Gwen putting up a poster on the noticeboard. Thank Godric she wasn’t busy.
“Clear all your appointments for the morning,” Katie said, her voice steady despite the unusual events of the past couple of hours. “This could be a tricky one.”
“Well hello to you, too,” Gwen said, arching an eyebrow. Still, she quickly set aside her notices and cast a sterilizing charm on her hands as she crossed the room to her friend. Katie’s demeanor screamed serious. “What have you got for me?”
“Not entirely sure,” Katie answered, pulling the blanket back so that Gwen could see what she was carrying. “It’s definitely part Welsh Green, but it’s anybody’s guess as to the other parts.” As if to confirm her words, a blunt green snout poked out, followed by the rest of the head. “His breathing’s kind of rattly and he’s shivering, but I don’t know if it’s pneumonia or if he’d just prefer to be warmer.”
“Oh,” Gwen said, her eyes going wide. Poor little thing. It was so cute. She gently shifted the bundle out of Katie’s arms and into her own. “Hello, little one,” she murmured in soothing tones. “Where did you come from? Let’s get you warmed up, okay?”
“You don’t even want to know where it came from,” Katie said as she followed Gwen out the back. “Let’s just say that the Obliviators are going to be busy today.” She wasn’t really a fan of Obliviators — there was something creepy about the thought of having your memories taken away — but you couldn’t really let a group of Muggle hikers get away with seeing a half-dragon hybrid wander into their campsite.
Gwen groaned sympathetically. Dealing with the Obliviators when it came to magical creatures was never, ever fun.
She summoned a basket full of blankets and cast a warming charm on it before settling it under a sun lamp and easing the creature into it. “Is that a bit better?” she cooed and the little creature trilled at her. “Are you going to warm-up and uncurl enough so that I can get a look at you?”
Turning to Katie, she said, “It’s a she. She’s a hybrid, you said? You’re right about the Green pedigree — her markings are too distinct for anything else. But she’s too mature to be a newborn, she’s more like a week old, and she’d be much bigger by now if she were full-blooded Welsh Green.”
Who the fuck was messing with dragon genetics?
“Yeah, definitely a hybrid. You’d think people would’ve realised by now that there’s a ban on experimental breeding for a reason.” Katie tugged her hair out of its ponytail and ran her fingers through it. Her first experience of experimental breeding had been Hagrid’s Skrewts which, while lethal, seemed to thrive. Since studying to become a dragonologist she’d learnt of examples involving dragons, none of which had had a positive outcome. It seemed dragons just didn’t take well to cross-breeding, which was why she was so worried about this one.
“The DMLE checked back in with us right before I came here,” Katie said quietly. “They’d used locator spells to determine where this little one came from, and… it looks like it was the only hatchling to survive.” Better to be honest about the creature’s chances now, though she wished she had better news.
“People are fucking idiots,” Gwen grumbled. The little dragon made a noise at her, as if it was chiding her for her language, and she couldn’t help grinning. “You’ve got quite the personality, little one.”
She turned her gaze to Katie, looking determined. “We’re going to make sure this one lives, but I’m going to need your help. You up for it?”
Katie smiled grimly. “Always.” For the first time since arriving, she dared to feel hopeful. Gwen was the best at what she did.
“Great,” Gwen said. “I’m going to need to run some diagnostics so that we can figure out what exactly we’re dealing with here. Don’t want to treat her like she’s suborder Iguania if she’s actually suborder Gekkota, you know? So I’m going to have to get a blood sample.”
She hoped the little one hadn’t inherited her big family members’ very tough scales. Or fire breathing habits.
Summoning a tray of tools, she picked up a syringe and sterilized it with a quick charm. She looked at the little dragon with an apologetic expression. “You’re not going to like this, I’m afraid.”
She looked at Katie. “Can you stroke her and talk to her? Try to keep her calm?”
“Sure.” Katie moved round to the front of the little dragon and bent over so that her face was on a level with it. It met her eyes with an inquisitive gaze. “Hey there,” she murmured, holding out her hand for the little dragon to scent before moving it over its head and stroking down its back in one firm motion. “You led everyone on a merry dance today,” she continued, keeping her voice low and melodic, using two hands now to rub circles over the dragon’s shoulders and sides, ready to grab it and hold it steady if necessary.
Gwen carefully listed the dragon’s limbs and felt carefully for a soft spot where gaps in her scales would make it possible for a blood sample to be taken. Those spots existed on the bigger versions, too, but they were significantly more difficult to get at without dying.
Finally, she found a good spot under the left front leg. She checked to make sure that the baby was distracted by Katie and then took the sample as quickly and cleanly as she could.
Which didn’t stop the dragon from squeaking and looking up at her with big, wounded green eyes.
“I’m sorry, kitten,” Gwen said, feeling significantly more guilty than she usually did when animals looked at her like that. “It had to happen so we can help you get better.”
She straightened and looked at Katie. “I’m just going to set up the diagnostic spells and then I think we should work on getting her cleaned up. It doesn’t look like they were kept in very sanitary conditions from the state of her and that could be significantly affecting her health.”
“Yeah, that looks like the start of scale rot on her tail,” Katie said, continuing to stroke the baby dragon with an animal lover’s affection and a dragonologist’s curiosity. It was fascinating, noting the differences between this little one and an ordinary dragon hatchling, and the creature seemed to enjoy the massage it was getting, making a noise that could almost be described as a purr.
“Let’s get you cleaned up then, hmm? From the state of your feet I’m not sure there’s any mud left in the Forest of Dean.” Katie turned to Gwen. “Did you know she walked at least two miles? No wonder she was so exhausted.” The dragon gave a rattly sigh, as if to confirm her words, and Katie grinned. “But what’s a bit of mud, right? Bet it was nicer than where you were being kept.”
“Two miles?” Gwen was impressed. “What a brave, adventurous girl you are, kit. I won’t say big because I won’t insult your intelligence.”
She summoned some swabs and disinfectant so that they could get the little one clean and make sure there were no other cuts or bruises that might need attending to along with the scale rot. The dragon made a suspicious noise at the sight of the bottle and Gwen stroked her head comfortingly. “It won’t hurt, I promise.”
As Katie helped Gwen clean and treat the little dragon, she said casually, “So… we don’t really have the resources up at the reserve to hand-rear this one. Especially since we have no idea what she was cross-bred with. And there’s no way I’m letting the Beast Division get their hands on her.” She dabbed a little antiseptic between the dragon’s toes and glanced sideways at Gwen. “How do you fancy a project?”
For a moment, Gwen studied the dragon (who was studying her back with those almost unnervingly intelligent eyes). There were a number of reasons why trying to rear a baby dragon-hybrid in her clinic and home was completely mental. Sure the creature seemed smart and charming, was absolutely adorable and an academic fascination, but there was no guarantee that she wouldn’t grow to be the size of a house (or at least a pony) and start breathing fire.
But then the dragon trilled at her affectionately and butted her hand with her little green head. And Gwen pictured Terence’s face when she brought this little kit home.
“I’d love a project,” she said before she even realized the words were forming.
“Brilliant,” Katie said in relief. “I mean, I’d have offered to take it on myself, but you’re probably better qualified. You know, in case there’s any problems.” She wiped her hands off and scratched the dragon behind the horns. “Hey, guess you’d better think up a name for her.”
“I guess I’d better,” Gwen agreed and then tsked at the dragon for making a grumpy noise about the ointment being applied to her tail. “We’ll have to wait and see what suits you, won’t we?”
She grinned a bit wickedly. “Maybe Ter will have some suggestions.”
“Oh, Terence is going to love you,” Katie told the little dragon, highly amused by Gwen’s wicked grin. She was almost disappointed she wouldn’t be there to see his reaction when Gwen arrived home with a baby dragon hybrid in tow.
“Well, I’d probably better head back to the reserve if you don’t need me here any more?”
“Sure,” Gwen said, having a hard time pulling her eyes away from the little creature who had now curled her tail around Gwen’s hand almost like she was holding it. “I’ll keep you posted on how she’s doing and on what the diagnostics say.”
“Please do. And if you need any help — with anything at all, day or night — you know where to find me.” But from the sight of them, it looked like Gwen was going to get on just fine with her newest addition. Feeling significantly better about the creature’s chances, Katie smiled and raised her hand in a brief wave as she turned to go, wondering if Terence had any idea what he’d unwittingly been signed up for.