"One would think that students of your age and experience would know better than to aim a spell of this magnitude at another student! Mr. Weasley, your spellwork obviously needs more practice before you will be allowed to work on a living creature. And Mr. Malfoy! I would think you would know better than to use a spell of such Dark nature in my class! Especially one in a language you cannot pronounce!"
By this time both young men were cringing, though Ron was more obvious about it. Not only was Professor McGonagall's voice shrill, but it was obvious she was just itching to take a leaf from Moody's book and transfigure the both of them into something unpleasant.
"Thanks to your unintentional magical cooperation, it may take days or weeks to have Mr. Potter restored! In the meantime, twenty-five points from Gryffindor and Slytherin, and detention for you both!"
"But – " Malfoy protested, knowing he would be yelled at even more if points were lost.
"Professor!" Ron cried, horrified. He hadn't done anything deliberately!
"You, Mr. Malfoy, will spend those detentions brewing a Blood-Bane Draught to my and Madam Pomfrey's exacting standards. And you, Mr. Weasley, will be spending your time with me, learning the Transmorgrification spell correctly, and then you will assist Professor Hagrid with Mr. Potter's care." When both boys looked like they might protest more, especially Malfoy, she sharpened her glare and snapped, "And that is just the beginning. If we are unable to find a way to reverse this disastrous combination of spells, you will both be serving more detentions."
The doors to the infirmary swung open to reveal Albus Dumbledore, smiling as always, and before him the perpetually scowling Severus Snape, giving Minerva McGonagall the evil eye.
"I believe it is up to the students' head of house whether they deserve additional detentions for an infraction, Minerva." He sneered, though he looked none too pleased with Draco. "What is the damage this time? Where is Longbottom?"
"Mr. Longbottom was not involved," McGonagall said, crossing her arms and unconsciously mirroring his posture. "Mr. Potter was caught in the crossfire of two miscast spells," she glared at both teenagers here, "through no fault of his own."
Albus stepped forward then, breaking the thick tension between the two teachers, "I understand you have already tried removing the Transfiguration from Mr. Potter?"
"Yes, Albus, but – "
"Just a moment, then," Dumbledore chuckled at her, waving before he stepped into the separate room that Harry had been placed in. Seconds later he leapt back out, batting at the sparks on his mauve robes.
"I see he's awake again," Madam Pomfrey bustled over and toward the room. "Headmaster, if you will cast the Slumber spell at the same time I do, it should be sufficient until we can find something to placate him."
Snape peered curiously around Dumbledore's shoulder, wondering what had happened to Potter. He was shocked to see a small Drake in the room, straining and biting at the thick silver chain that was attached to the wall; its blue and green blending scales were offset by the gold belly and flashing, orange-gold eyes. It hissed once in warning at Dumbledore and Pomfrey, then opened its jaws and spat flame. …Or, it tried to. From the scorch marks on the stones and the smoldering bed, it was apparent the creature had used up a great deal of energy already and what would usually be a jet of lava-hot flame was only ashy sparks and smoke.
Pomfrey and the Headmaster both shot a powerful sleeping spell at the Drake, and the spells literally bounced right off; but the Drake's exhaustion was apparent as the impact made it stumble and fall, a pitiful little whine erupting from its throat. The flying spells rebounded off the stones and hit the creature again, this time connecting. With a flump the small dragonet collapsed boneless to the floor.
"As I was trying to say, Headmaster," said McGonagall snappishly, "Mr. Potter's form is extremely resistant to spell work, and on top of that, it was not a conventional spell that he was struck with." She pointed to the two seventh-year students who had been trying to fade into the background these past few moments. "Mr. Weasley was attempting the Transmorgrification spell but mispronounced the bridge, and Mr. Malfoy apparently decided my classroom was a place for independent study and attempted a snake-conjuring spell. Unfortunately, the spell is in Mongolian, which he does not speak, and instead of conjuring a snake, he attempted to conjure a dragon, yet hit Mr. Potter with the spell."
"You were working on the Animagus transformation, Minerva?" Albus asked, stepping into the private room to get a closer look at the Drake. He gestured for them to follow him; Draco and Ron wisely remained back. McGonagall, wrapping her hand in the edge of her robe, titled the Drake's head to show them the thin line of scar tissue hidden behind the skull cap, shaped like a very familiar lightning bolt.
Dumbledore eyed her hand in curiosity, "Are you allergic, Minerva?"
"No, Albus, but Potter's scales happen to be quite hot."
"A side effect of having spells shot at him," Snape murmured, having moved behind the slumbering creature. He took hold of the delicate wing bone and, with the same care he would show to a vial of Phoenix tears, drew it out to show the fine, sea-green wing fully extended. By the time the wing was straightened, he was standing upright and nodded. "An appropriate size; each wing is two meters, compared to a body length of just over one meter." He lowered the wing and let go, watching it snap back into place in a natural groove of the Drake's body, making the wings barely noticeable. He pulled a pair of very thin dragonskin gloves from a pocket and knelt down, examining the body carefully. Madam Pomfrey appeared at his shoulder, chart in hand and ready to record anything he found.
"Severus, I didn't know you were familiar with this species?" Dumbledore said curiously, watching in amusement as the Potions Master checked the forelegs and claws.
"Headmaster, no one is familiar with this breed of dragon, except perhaps your friend Nicholas Flamel. The Drakes are completely extinct nowadays, only the full-sized dragons and the Occamy survive."
"He is a Drake, then?" the Mediwitch asked, quill poised, "Not a Wyvern?"
"Definitely a Drake," Snape muttered, putting the forelegs back down and examining the elegant neck and skull. "Wyverns are longer and more slender, and generally darker in color. This appears to be a juvenile Tian Drake, native to Oceana, known for their exceedingly hot flames and diving ability." Carefully, he pried the Drake's jaws apart and tested the fangs. "Their bite is not fatal, causing instead intense itching and hives but very rarely any serious complications. There is a potion, most often used on nesting female dragons, which can stopper or at least dampen their fire breathing ability, but it will take several hours to brew." Pomfrey scribbled all this down, and while Snape was examining the torso and hind legs, he spoke to Dumbledore. "I was fascinated by Wyverns and Drakes as a child, my first pet was an Occamy. This species has not been seen since the late fourteenth century, but I know they are generally even-tempered when not provoked. Wyverns are notoriously evil little things, but Drakes can be pleasant as long as they are kept fed and entertained."
"What do they eat?" Pomfrey asked quickly, snapping for a house elf. "Meats? Whole animals?"
"Raw liver and heart should be sufficient for one meal," Snape batted at the long dark tail, which was wrapping around his leg, "but he will need a constant supply of the Blood-Bane Draught. Young Drakes like this are basically Vampiric so I imagine once we can find a way to keep track of him, we could let Potter into the forest to feed. Also, Headmaster, you might wish to warn the Merfolk as Tian Drakes are quite fond of seafood."
"Any suggestions on what to do with him in the meantime?" Minerva asked, looking fondly at the sleeping creature, tail now flicking back and forth like a cat's.
"Set up a hammock," said Snape, removing his gloves as he stood. "Provide a pool, some things to climb on, and ideally room to stretch those wings. Basically, if you could conjure a small slice of the South Pacific, he should calm down. Certainly, this room is far too cold for a Drake."
"I think that should be manageable," said the Headmaster. "Minerva, might I ask you to contact the Experimental Charms department at the Ministry and get a second opinion? No need to name names." He twinkled at her, then turned to Pomfrey, "I will gather Filius and Minerva once she is done and set up a playroom for Mr. Potter down the hall in the old Nursery Wing, while you see if he will take the raw meat." Stroking his beard, the old man contemplated for a moment, "Severus, you seem to know the most about this. Perhaps you wouldn't mind coming with me and supervising?"
"After I have spoken to Mr. Malfoy and begun brewing the Smothering potion, Headmaster."
"Ah, yes. I suppose you could just put Mr. Malfoy in charge of brewing the Blood-Bane Draught for the duration of Mr. Potter's alteration as punishment."
Snape was about to protest, thinking that the noxious fumes and bloodroot – which would stain Draco's manicured hands – was too much of a punishment for one of his Slytherins. Then he stopped, realizing that if Draco didn't make it, Severus himself would be required to brew the nasty stuff. He nodded instead and went to tell Malfoy.
As soon as Dumbledore shut the door behind himself, the Drake formerly known as Harry Potter opened one eye and looked around. Gone. Raising his head cautiously, he looked around to make sure there were no more nasty giants around to harm him then got to his feet. Irritably, he gnawed on the remains of the hospital bed, but his visit to unconsciousness had not made the wood any more appetizing. He was hungry, sore and cold, and lonely! He wanted to play and fly, but the damned chain! He snapped at it a few times but the silver resisted his teeth and stayed just as heavy and cold around his neck. Tail lashing angrily, he paced to the edge of the chain's length, then back to the other side, grunting and snorting at the shackle in the wall that anchored the chain. Not only was that one also resistant to his teeth, but it sparked and hurt to bite it, so he left it alone.
With a crack that sounded loud to him, suddenly there was a creature not much taller than he standing in the room. Head raising in interest, he wondered if this was for play? It smelled of magic, so he knew it would make a good thing to chase, but … what was that? Smelled wonderful, was it the little creature?
Hungry, he bounded forward and the house elf, newly arrived with a platter of liver, shrieked and popped back out of the room. The Drake stopped. It sniffed around, sneezing at the residue of magic in the air, then moved forward for the plate and bloody meat that had been left behind.
With a sharp jerk, he ground to a halt and growled. That chain! Grumbling, he reached out a clawed foot, then turned and tried to grab it with his tail, but the meat was still too far away. Whining now, he stretched out one wing tentatively and only managed to knock the overturned plate aside. The meat was too far away.
Sitting down with a thump, he wailed. The sound came out as a sort of warble, with an uncomfortable high-pitch and little hitches. This had only gone on perhaps thirty seconds when the door flew open with a crash and a black-colored giant burst into the room.
"WHAT is going on in here!" Snape demanded, his head already pounding from listening to Malfoy complain when the little beast started shrieking and only worsened the blooming headache. He opened the door to see the Drake sitting at the furthest reach of its chain and some feet distant from the liver Pomfrey had ordered. Wanting to snap at something, he nevertheless observed the Drake carefully before taking out his wand and levitating the liver closer.
Harry-Drake eyed the giant warily in return. He knew this scent already – this was the one who had gentle hands and a soft voice, and did not shoot painful bolts at him – but he did not think this one was for play. He whined again, shifting uncomfortably on the cold, stiff ground.
As soon as Snape moved the meat toward the Drake, all attention was on the liver. His head snapped forward quickly and snatched the meat out of the air, drawing it back and grasping the meat in between his forepaws. Resting on his hind legs and tail, the Drake looked like an overgrown, colorful otter as it worked at the meat, grumbling more pleasantly. Surreptitiously, Snape raised the temperature in the room and gave the chain more length, wanting to see what the Drake would do. Out of the creature's sight, he conjured several squashy, claw-and-teeth impervious balls and set them to rolling around on their own. He waited, unusually patient, by the door until the Drake was done with the liver, dropping the dry strip of meat – all that was left after he'd sucked all the blood out – on the floor and licking his claws clean. A bright red ball rolled by and the Drake froze for a moment. Then, lightning fast and without warning, he pounced and tumbled tail-over-head around the ball. As he had expected, from the brief experience and his reading, this Drake was quite vocal. He shrieked with delight at playing and, surprising Snape with his dexterity, bounced from one ball to another without ever touching the ground. The dragonet never came within three feet of Snape or the door, but seemed unconcerned with his presence just the same.
Dumbledore stepped into the room grinning and quite pleased with himself, and indeed with everyone when he spotted the playing Drake. However, as soon as the sea-colored creature caught sight of him it stopped playing and hissed.
"Ah, what a disappointment. He seems quite content to have had a good meal –" Dumbledore was forced to stop and duck as one of the conjured balls flew at his head, propelled by a rather violent little Drake. "And I see he has a good memory."
"Potter or not, Drakes are intelligent. Is the room ready?"
"Just waiting for your approval," said the Headmaster, backing out of the room as another ball – this one yellow striped, hurtled toward his head. "Shall we?"
Severus turned and sent the ball rolling back toward the hissing Drake before he shut and locked the door.
"Quite changeable, isn't he?" Dumbledore said with a little grin.
Severus rolled his eyes, "Think of him as a very large housecat, Albus. Or rather, as a large kitten at this point. His mood is subject to change at a moment's notice and don't forget that he has quite sharp claws when he feels he's had enough of humans around."
The Headmaster chuckled as they came to a set of doors that had once led to the Nursery wing when teachers and their entire families regularly stayed at Hogwarts in earlier centuries. Inside, a sort of buffer room had been cleaned and equipped with chairs and a standard hospital-issue Observation Quill, which would record the behavior and care of any patient it was tied to. Beyond the Unbreakable Glass that stretched from waist-high to ceiling, the previous nursery had been converted into a little paradise, complete with waterfall, native plants, and magically expanded. Removing his outer robe, Severus opened the door and stepped inside, nodding at the increased temperature and humidity. The room was approximately fifteen by fifteen meters with a sizeable portion taken up by deep blue waters where bright fish were darting around. Several trees provided shade and climbing space, and a hammock had been suspended between two of them. Snape conjured a few palm fronds and laid them inside the hammock, then glanced back where Dumbledore was standing.
"This is more than sufficient for Potter. I assume you will be removing the door handle from this side of the room and placing wards once the little beast is inside? Drakes are fairly dexterous and he would have little trouble escaping to explore."
"I will make sure that is completed before Mr. Potter is brought here." Albus looked suspiciously smug and Snape immediately began to prepare for something unpleasant. "I think spells to keep him from seeing out the glass will be appropriate as well."
"Why? He should not be disturbed by the Observation Quill, or Pomfrey when she comes to check on him."
"Well," Dumbledore shrugged. "A specimen of an extinct species, surely this is a chance we should not waste. I imagine Hagrid would love to see him and tell his classes all about Drakes and Wyverns."
Snape raised an eyebrow, resisting the urge to tell Dumbledore that was a very bad idea. "I suppose, so long as he cannot see himself being so closely observed. I should begin on that Smothering Potion, Headmaster."
"Well, could I impose on you to assist in moving Mr. Potter?"
Severus just resisted rolling his eyes. "I think the application of a harness and muzzle will ease that along, sir."
"And perhaps I ought to stay out of sight?"
It took another half an hour, and a second piece of liver, to coax the Drake into a harness and muzzle, though he wasn't happy about it if the lashing tail and twitching wings were any indication. With the Headmaster hanging far back, Snape led the dragonet through the halls, glad they were in a rarely used area where students never ventured. One hall down from the nursery-turned-habitat the Drake looked up eagerly, sniffing, tense in curiosity. Smirking, Snape tugged him once and continued on, ending up practically being dragged down the hall when the Drake got a good whiff of warm air and seawater in his nose. Releasing the harness and muzzle once they entered the nursery, Snape opened the door just in time as the Drake exploded forward and spread the enormous wings, gliding easily into the room.
Dumbledore chuckled softly and even Snape was hard-pressed not to smile at the series of chirps, chortles and happy shrieking that emerged from the little dragon as it cartwheeled in the air and flew around the room lazily. Finally, perched on one of the tall stones from where the waterfall began, the small Drake curled up and fell blissfully asleep.
A week later, they had come no closer to discovering how to get Potter back to his original form. The head Charms expert from the Ministry, a Simon Carruthers, along with Dumbledore and McGonagall couldn't fathom how to get Potter back into a human without leaving his human mind behind.
"He is," Carruthers sighed, standing outside the habitat, watching with the assembled head of houses and Headmaster as the Drake lay on the hammock with one of his conjured toys, swaying slightly and napping, "essentially a Drake, both in mind and body. Normally an Animagus is able to retain their full mind, though it is often simplified and secondary to the instincts of the animal form they take."
"But Mr. Potter wasn't an Animagus yet," McGonagall sighed. At Dumbledore's obvious cough, she amended herself. "Caeruleus isn't an Animagus." They had decided, except for Snape, to call Harry in his transformed state by the Latin word for sea-blue. "Even his friends, Weasley and Granger, admitted that they had been trying since their fourth year to become Animagi, and both of them succeeded where Potter did not. He simply could not grasp the Transformation."
"It is likely, even if – when – we return Mr. Potter to his natural shape, that he will not be able to attain his own Animagus form. The Transmorgrification spell has seen to that … the Drake is his Animagus form. However, since he was forced into the shift, his mind was not prepared and has retreated. He no longer knows that he is Harry Potter.
"And even if he did," the charms expert threw up his hands in exasperation, "Mr. Malfoy's contribution to this problem has caused a shift in the magic of both Drake and human. I cannot estimate for certain, as there is not an exact way to measure, but Caeruleus seems to be about twenty years old, which would be equivalent to a human of about twelve or eleven."
They all contemplated Caeruleus for a few moments. The past week had been a learning experience, especially for those who, unlike Snape, did not have experience with the history of the species. Drakes were far more sociable than their larger cousins, and Caeruleus didn't mind company so long as they didn't try to spell him with anything. He tolerated Pomfrey and Dumbledore, but whenever Snape, Hagrid or Flitwick came by, he was much more friendly. Indeed, even as they were talking and contemplating the fate of the Drake, he was waking up, stretching legs and wings at once. Snape left the others to their discussions, walking into the habitat and removing his robe. At once Caeruleus perked up, trotting over to Severus and head-butting his leg. He generally greeted his favorites this way, though he was more gentle with Professor Flitwick.
After giving the Drake a single, long stroke from his head to tail, Severus Summoned one of the squishy balls and concentrated on it for a moment. The Drake watched with interest; so long as the spells were not aimed at him, he seemed fascinated by magic. Indeed, when Flitwick had conjured a flock of birds early in the week Caeruleus had gone completely mad, sounding his little trumpet call and chasing after each of the birds. Now Severus completed the charm he wanted on the ball, then set it down on the ground. Curious, Caeruleus looked from him, to the ball, and back again. Snape grinned.
Tentatively, Caeruleus put out a paw and batted the ball, which went zooming off, switching directions every few feet. Recoiling at first in shock, it was only seconds later that the dragonet dashed across the ground in pursuit. Severus took a seat on the hammock, watching Caeruleus try to pounce on the ball only to have it zoom away at the last moment as he fell on his belly with a thump. Severus laughed at the dazed expression, but it only lasted for a moment before the Drake was off again and chasing his new toy. It skipped out over the water and Caeruleus showed no hesitation in following. He was a talented, agile swimmer and could actually use his wings to propel him along in the water.
Snape knew very well that he was letting Caeruleus get to him; everyone from Albus down to one second-year Slytherin had commented on his improved moods. It was hard to resist, though; while Harry Potter might have been an irritating, rule-breaking brat, Caeruleus was as innocent and carefree as possible. It was difficult to remember that, with age and the right application of spells, this playful water sprite could grow into a fierce monster.
It was even harder to remember when the Drake, now dripping from his swim, trotted back to Severus and sat beside him, waiting. After a moment Snape recalled himself and dug into his pocket, revealing a vial filled with blood-red fluid. Caeruleus, knowing exactly what that was, stood up on his hind legs, forepaws on Severus' leg, and whined in impatience. Chuckling, Severus removed the wax from the lid and gave the bottle to Caeruleus, who neatly upended it and sucked down the Blood-Bane Draught in three pulls. Swirling his bright orange tongue around the inside of the bottle, he peered through one eye at the empty vial before belching.
Content, Caeruleus stood back up and pulled at Severus's hand until the normally dour Potions Master consented to lean over and haul the dragonet into his arms. It was lucky Drakes were made for flying and much lighter than their size would indicate, as otherwise he wouldn't have been able to manage. Balancing Caeruleus carefully, Severus sat down on the hammock and let it sway gently, leaning back into the weave. The Drake, warm scales as smooth as silk under his hand, made a little warbling sound of happiness before he tucked his green and gold head under Severus' chin and settled in for a nap.
An hour and a half later Flitwick strolled through the habitat, quite proud of himself at the little paradise they'd been able to conjure, though at the time it had been rather tiring. He moved over to the hammock where Severus Snape, feared Potions Master, lay snoozing with a purring Drake draped over his body, a warm tropical breeze ruffling the palms around them.
Caeruleus spotted him first, peering through one bright eye then looking up with a dragon's grin at seeing one of his favorites. This one made the most fun things to play with! Not that he didn't adore his black giant, but this one was his size – a miniature giant, perhaps? The Drake didn't know, and didn't much care, so long as they continued to play with him. He reached out with one paw, showing off three sharp little claws and batted the air as if asking to play.
Flitwick chuckled, "I'm sorry, little one, I'm only here to wake Severus for the evening meal."
One curious chortle later, Caeruleus had turned and nudged Severus awake, then lay back down and wrapped his tail around the Potion Master's thigh.
"Filius? What – ah, blasted little devil. I fell asleep?" He rubbed one hand along his face then stroked the Drake's head in response to a pleading little chirp. "What time is it?"
"Just coming to half-past six now," Flitwick said with a grin as he scratched Caeruleus' chin briefly. "And time for dinner, of course. If you don't mind me saying, Severus – "
"If you start out that way, I probably will."
"This little fellow is quite attached to you, isn't he? He hardly ever lets Hagrid or I pet him so often, not to mention the cuddling."
"I shall pretend you didn't just say that vile word," said Snape with a fake shudder, sitting up partway and attempting to shove Caeruleus to the side so he could stand. "Now that you mention it, he is a bit clingy lately. He usually dozes atop the waterfall after I've been in here a while."
"Perhaps another stage in his development?" Flitwick pondered.
Severus frowned, mentally going over the volumes upon volumes that he had read as a child and again recently concerning Drakes. "I don't believe Drakes are known for unusually affectionate behavior, not even when they are young. I suppose … I suppose he may think of me as a provider, though. After all, I am the one to give him the Blood-Bane Draught and I'm usually here when he gets his meals from the kitchens."
"So, you would be like an adoptive parent, then?" said Filius, stepping back a pace when the dragonet gave him a rather unfriendly glance.
"Considering his age, yes. As a Drake, he is too young to want a mate and even as a human he is rather young, so he must identify me as a caretaker."
"Interesting, we shall have to mention that to Albus and Mr. Carruthers." Filius gestured to the door. "Shall we join them for dinner?"
"Of course," Severus gave the Drake a firm shove and stood, taking a moment to unwrap the sinuous tail from his leg. A moment later as they were heading out the door Caeruleus glided in front of them and stood, grasping at Severus' hand as he did when he wanted to be picked up.
"Later, Drake," Severus said, brushing off the Drake's paws, "after dinner I promise to return."
Caeruleus whined and did not seem satisfied with this idea. With a single snap of his wings he had jumped up and latched onto Severus' shoulders, tail winding around his waist for purchase.
"What on earth – " Snape grasped his little companion's body around the torso and pulled steadily, eventually wrenching Caeruleus free and setting him on the ground. Before the sea-colored creature could follow he stepped out of the room and shut the door firmly. Through the glass they could hear the soft whines that were quickly escalating to wails.
"I think perhaps it would be a very good idea to consult the Headmaster on this," said Severus, forcing himself to let go of the door and back away. On the other side Caeruleus was wailing as he clawed at the door and windows, scrabbling to find a way out of a place he had never before wanted to leave. Sharing a glance, Severus and Filius left quickly, the dark man ignoring the wrench he felt to leave the Drake behind, shrieking in misery.
Dinner had just begun when they entered the Great Hall and Snape, after a moment's explanation to McGonagall, took the seat next to Dumbledore and began describing what had happened in the Nursery wing.
"Strange. I had noticed a change in his behavior, of course, but Caeruleus has been slowly adjusting to everyone's presence since his arrival."
Severus shook his head, "Why do you insist on calling him by that ridiculous name? He is, after all, Harry Potter. He doesn't need a new name."
"I rather like the name," Dumbledore chuckled as he chose a spoonful of carrot slices, "and it seems rather strange to call a magnificent Drake something as plain as Harry."
"Be that as it may, do you have any advice on how to handle this new development?"
"Well, as I see it, and you have explained it, Caeruleus will not actually need to be in your presence much more often, will he? He will simply be more comfortable and trusting of you, he does not actually need to be near you any more than he did before."
"Of course," Severus agreed, but silently he was thinking that it was easy for the Headmaster to say that, he wasn't the one who had to hear that awful wailing when he left Caeruleus.
Snape looked up at the Headmaster's gasp, following his gaze to the center of the hall. Students were turning and talk swept the hall; some shouting and pointing while others screamed or jumped away.
Trotting down the center of the hall was Caeruleus, head whipping one way and then the other, letting out a lonely little cry every time he failed to spot anyone he knew. All of the students in Care of Magical Creatures had been up to the Nursery to see the Drake, but many others had only heard of what had become of Harry Potter. Dumbledore stood, pulling out his wand and ready to make a loud announcement to calm the chattering. However, his movement drew Caeruleus' attention, and from there the Drake instantly spotted Severus.
With a frightened shriek he launched into the air straight at the Slytherin, relieved when his giant stood up to meet him halfway. He was shivering from cold and the sudden presence of more giants than he had ever seen before, all noisy and stinking of magic.
Cursing, Severus performed a hasty heating charm on his robes before wrapping the outer layer around Caeruleus. The Drake was still crying softly but had calmed considerably. Every eye in the hall was fixed on the small triangular head poking from the robes and tucked against the Potions Master's throat, even the teachers'.
"Severus?" asked Albus, still standing as though ready to deliver a speech. "How did he get out…?"
"If I knew, I would have prevented it," Snape snapped, suddenly furious that all these gossip-mongerers and idiots were witnessing Caeruleus have a minor breakdown. The Drake shivered at his words and he gently rubbed his back through the robes, trying to be comforting as he glared at the staring faces.
"Why would he do this?" Albus murmured, sitting slowly back down. "Is there anything wrong?"
"We can discuss that later, in my chambers," Severus said, standing with a firm grip on Caeruleus. "This is not the place for him."
Before Albus could think up a plausible reason for him to stay, Snape had swept out of the room and back to his own quarters on the main floor. As soon as the door shut behind him he called, "Dobby!"
With a pop! the strange house-elf appeared in his parlor, looking quite ridiculous in a pair of 'Kiss Me I'm Irish' boxers and a shrunken tank-top. "Sir? What can Dobby be helping with?"
"I need you to raise the temperature of these chambers to thirty degrees Centigrade, and bring Harry Potter's dinner here instead of the habitat."
"Yes sir!" Dobby saluted, eyes never leaving the wide, darting eyes of the Drake wrapped around Snape's chest.
Once the elf was gone he strode over to the fireplace, lighting it with a flick of his wand as he lowered himself and his little bundle onto the couch.
For several long, tense moments the room was silent but for the crackle of flames on wood and their breathing. After a while, Caeruleus lifted his head and looked around with a curious chirp, shifting as if he was planning to explore now that there were not hundreds of nosy little giants staring at him.
"I don't think so," said Severus, reaching out to turn the Drake's head toward him. For a moment they stared at each other, before Caeruleus chortled softly and licked at Severus' face. "You never make anything easy, do you Potter?"
With an almost shy look the dragonet glanced down, his forepaws moving restlessly.
"You do realize no one will like this, your friends and Dumbledore most of all, nor will this make anything easier on either of us. Dumbledore might even try to fight it."
At this, Caeruleus hissed and spat a tongue of flame out, looking rather fierce for being only three feet tall.
"Harry, I know you're aware of all this. You have to change back into your human form now."
The Drake cocked its head slightly, as if asking, 'Why?'
"Because I need your answers to some very serious questions, you daft creature, and you can't answer me satisfactorily in this form. Change back, Potter."
While Caeruleus didn't seem to like being called by his surname, Snape could see he'd won the battle when the dragonet closed its eyes and huddled in on itself. To a Muggle, nothing seemed to happen; to Severus Snape, the magic currents in the air were obvious and getting more so with every second. He was half ready to call a stop to everything when, with a sinuous twist, the creature on his lap was no longer Caeruleus, but Harry Potter. Only, the Harry Potter Severus thought he knew was gone, in his place was an unbelievable being smiling shyly with his arms now around his professor's neck.
Wondering, Severus gently ran a finger over the pale blue-green scales over Harry's eye, tracing the curve where they darkened and lined his cheekbone. The green eyes were slitted now, their iris so large it almost blocked out the white, with a ring of blue then gold around the startling green. His skin was paler than Severus remembered, and it seemed his black hair was even wilder than before, moving as if there was a constant breeze in the room.
"Severus," Harry whispered, and there was a definite hiss in his voice as he twisted his hands in the ebony hair behind Snape. With a gentle tug he brought the Potion Master's mouth down and kissed him, shamelessly rubbing his body against the taller male.
Gasping, Severus pulled back and stared at the ethereal creature on his lap, trying to ignore the way Harry licked his lips and stared at his mouth. "Harry, you don't know what you're doing … do you even remember who I am? Your greasy old teacher, who happens to work for the man trying to kill you – "
Harry put a finger to his lips and Severus noticed absently that his nails were rather long. "I know you, Severus. You are gentle hands and good voice … and you care for me even if we hate each other before…." He frowned slightly at the difficulty he was having with his words. "I have all memories, of you, of friends Ron and Hermi'ne, of Voldemort," he spat the name, eyes flashing gold for a moment. "I know all that. I can deal with them. But I want to stay with you, want to be with you … if you want me to stay?"
Severus couldn't believe he was being given this sort of choice: things like this did not happen to him. It was far more likely that he would be given a choice between torture or obedience, not the choice of whether to live alone or with this gorgeous creature. He considered for a moment that this would cause far more problems than was healthy, and no doubt both Dumbledore and Voldemort would be furious.
But in the end Severus was an admittedly selfish man, and the rest of the world didn't matter so much when faced with a nimble, young, aroused Harry Potter sitting on his lap. He brushed a hand through the silky, wild locks and titled the young man's head back.
"Are you sure of this, Harry? I am a possessive man, and it will not be pleasant if you should decide a year from now you would rather have someone else."
Harry just clasped his arms tighter around Severus' neck and smiled, "I'm sure, Severus. I don't want anyone but you touching me that way."
Letting out a breath held in anticipation, Severus bent down and kissed him hard, gasping at the heat inside Harry's mouth. When his partner's wriggling and twisting became too much he stood, lifting Harry with him, and strode toward the bedroom.
Albus Dumbledore was terribly amused. He had calmed down the students, all of whom were telling each other fantastic theories about why the changed Harry Potter (whose identity had been spilled through a rather loud fight between Mr. Malfoy and Ms. Granger) would go flying toward Snape, of all people. He had gotten quite a few chuckles out of some of their ideas, but what he was really interested in was the Drake's escape from his habitat. He had wandered up there after dinner, giving Severus time to hopefully calm and feed Caeruleus before he made an entrance. He was, to say the least, surprised at what he found in the Nursery wing. He had been expecting a shattered door or hastily destroyed ceiling, perhaps, not the melted glass that now surrounded the habitat. There was a large hole in the walls, the edges still warm to the touch, where an anxious Drake had obviously put his flames to good use in escaping.
Dumbledore was still smiling and shaking his head when he arrived at Severus' chambers. He knocked only briefly and let himself in, glancing around to see if there had been any damage done to the professor's quarters. He stopped in his tracks.
"Harry? Great ghosts, you've reversed the Transformation!" Dumbledore strode forward, grinning, not registering just yet what he was seeing. But when Harry, whom he had expected to jump up and celebrate with him, just blinked lazily and murmured, "Headmaster," Albus stopped and reassessed the situation. Severus was lying on the couch in a pair of trousers and unbuttoned shirt, and draped across him, Harry was wearing only a bathrobe. The black terry cloth had slid down his shoulders partially where two thick bands of blue and green scales marked his shoulder blades. Severus was holding a book in one hand and had apparently been reading aloud to his personal warming blanket.
"Harry, are you feeling quite all right?" Dumbledore asked, frowning a bit. "Now that you've returned, you should see Madam Pomfrey…."
"I can assure you, Headmaster," said Severus, his own tone rather amused, "Mr. Potter is quite healthy."
"I see," said Albus, hesitating. He was nothing if not intelligent, and he could see something drastic had changed, though he really hoped it wasn't what he expected. "Perhaps we can discuss this in the Infirmary? I'm sure you're ready for dinner, Harry, Severus and I would like to hear how – "
"Headmaster," Harry turned partly on his side, facing the older man and revealing that his bathrobe was open to display the faint lines of scales along his collarbones and sternum. "I don't need to see the nurse. I am not going to return to Gryffindor Tower, tonight or ever. This is my home now." He pointed at Dumbledore, "You will not question me or try to change my mind. You will keep any reporters or Howlers from entering the school concerning this. You will also officiate our Bonding in a week, with no complaints."
Albus was surprised to hear Severus laugh at this; he was even more surprised when Harry turned and chirped at him, far too much like his Drake form, then lay back down on the Potions Master. The Headmaster watched, feeling off-balance and unsure, as Severus carded his fingers through Harry's hair and smiled.
"I think it would be wise not to argue, Headmaster." Snape was actually grinning. "He's impossible to disagree with."
And that was how Severus Snape and Harry Potter ended up being engaged and bonded within a week, shocking every one of their friends. People of course assumed there was something nefarious going on but they learned not to mention it after Ginny Weasley, who had pestered Harry for days about his reasons for marrying Severus Snape, pushed a bit too far and asked if Snape had raped the Gryffindor. In a flash she was faced with an angry Drake and bitten, spending three days in the Infirmary thereafter covered in agonizing hives.
Everyone tried to attend the bonding itself. Dumbledore and the other professors were run ragged keeping people out who had not been invited – a very large number – and getting in the people who had been invited – a very small number. Of course, everyone's favorite Slytherin heir had heard of the bonding and was not about to let it go by without his traditional trap-Harry-Potter-and-try-to-kill-him routine. He, like Miss Weasley, discovered that Harry had no qualms shifting into his Animagus form when threatened … only, there wasn't much time to ponder the revelation as about three seconds after arriving Voldemort was decapitated by means of lava-hot flames and then burned to ash.
Harry and Severus took all of this in stride. Problems with students, the bonding, and megalomaniac sorcerers aside, they really didn't care what others thought. So long as they could go home at night (and whenever Severus had a particularly frustrating class) and shag each other into the mattress, the rest was incidental.