Disclaimer: I hold no claim over the 'Harry Potter' series. No monetary profits will be made.
Warnings: Slash, mature content, Alternate Universe and unbeta-ed.
Chapter rating: G
Author's note: I apologize if I unintentionally butcher the English language or the Harry Potter characters in one way or another. I'm just out to have some fun, really. The writing style is probably not something that you'll get to see in chaptered fiction very often and might seem choppy to some but it should be able to get the story across. So please read and enjoy. Comments are more than welcome.
The first time he laid his eyes on Jeremy Miles, Harry Potter thought he was an angel. A beautiful, avenging angel that halted his breath and made verdant eyes widen to the size of the pancakes he had made for Dudley in the morning.
"Harry?" The question was gentle, tentative even, and the dark-haired child could only blink and nod uncertainly from where he sat huddled against his cot in his cupboard under the stairs. For the life of him, he could not phantom why someone this beautiful was paying him any attention, much less calling him by his name. He had been told, on no uncertain terms, by his uncle that names were meant for the normal.
And Harry was not normal by a long, long shot.
"Come," the angel murmured, sad gray eyes searching his as he knelt in front of the cupboard door. "Let's get you out from that filthy cupboard."
Hands reached forward into his bedroom, fingers moving to curl about his shoulders and Harry could not suppress the flinch nor hide the way he tried to move back into the shadows, away from the touch of human flesh. The arms withdrew in an instant and the child could not help the flush of guilt that pervaded his mind at being responsible for the frown that marred the visage of the angel.
"Sorry," he mumbled, fingers seeking out for the baby blanket on his cot.
But the frown only deepened and seven-year-old Harry Potter averted his gaze from the figure kneeling before him, cheeks flushing hotly.
"I promise I won't hurt you."
"Uncle Vernon said to stay," Harry explained in a tone which was certain and firm in an odd, unconscious imitation of his aunt's voice.
A flash of anger lit up the pair of gray eyes like a flash of lighting across stormy heavens as low, harsh words spewed forth in a fierce litany. The angel stood and strode off into the general direction of the sitting room still hissing curses under his breath, and Harry whispered a sigh of relief. The child would not claim to understand tempers nor anger but it was something he was familiar with, at least.
A loud crash of porcelain impacting the tiled floor made Harry jump as he clutched the tiny rectangle of cloth to his chest. He eyed the open cupboard door warily, wondering if he should close it before his uncle could descend upon him like an angry hailstorm because he was incredibly reluctant to get into trouble on his seventh birthday.
He left it, though, if only to enjoy the cooler air that circulated in the house but not his room. There was also a whole lot of ruckus going on in the living room as the angel traded loud and heated words with his guardians. Yes, his uncle was too preoccupied at the moment to hurl verbal abuse at his nephew at the moment.
Perhaps someone had finally noticed the harsh treatment he was subjected to in this household, the boy hoped as he chewed on the insides of his lips. This, he knew, was a dangerous hope that had been dashed far too many times for the seven-year-old's liking. Yet, awaking to the soothing voice of the stranger had been like applying a soothing balm to his bruised soul and he was not so disillusioned with the world to have completely abandoned hope just yet.
There were times when he had come close, though.
It was the dark-haired child's turn to frown as traced the faded print on his old blanket until a large shadow obscured the light entering his cupboard. He swallowed nervously and audibly in the tiny space as he looked up into the puce-coloured face of his uncle. It was a beautiful shade that few could capture on paper and a sure indicator that his guardian wanted nothing more than to toss him into the nearest trashcan available. Or the furthest, depending on how one saw it.
"Good morning, Uncle," he greeted the man politely and respectfully, although he was not sure it had been audible over the heavy pants his uncle was issuing.
"Get out," the man snarled in response, flinging the door further open with so much force, Harry thought with a flinch that he might have wrenched it off its hinges.
"Out?" He repeated dumbly instead, fingers tightening on his hold of the blanket.
"Out, Harry," the angel, whose name was Jeremy, spoke up from behind his uncle, a forced smile upon his lips. "With me. Away from here. Would you like that?"
Harry eyed the blond stranger with a tilted head, an uncanny expression of open curiousity etched on his features. His gaze shifted back to his uncle, from whom he could detect a hint of fear even though he remained wholly unaware of the knife Jeremy held against the fleshy back. As usual, the child's probing eyes seemed to unnerve his uncle who gave a large twitch and let out a hissed curse.
Young Harry nodded and his Salvation smiled.
Jeremy Miles was no angel despite his blonde hair and gray eyes and overall too-beautiful-to-be-true appearance. For one, he lacked the customary large, feathered appendages that people associated with the heavenly messengers. For another, he highly doubted that angels were meant to wrestle with juvenile dragons in muddy paddocks as though he were one himself.
Cheering filled the air as the blond was pinned by the triumphant hatchling, with smoke huffed out at the silly human whose chest it had pinned. Harry Potter smiled fondly at the scene as his classmates called out encouragements and friendly jibes at his grubby mentor.
"Is Elijah hungry?" He called out, voice carrying from where he leant against the fence as he coo-ed at the young dragon. "Would Elijah like to have a meal, mm? Doesn't Jeremy look good enough for you to eat, darling?"
Laughter rang out as Jeremy sent a glare his charge's way, easing claws out of his dragonhide vest and untangling himself from the preening dragonling.
"Hungry, Harry?" He leered, sending his teenage audience into a fit of snickers and coughs as he approached the group, dusting off his clothes with little results. The raven-haired youth flushed lightly, but returned the taunt with a gamely smirk.
"Not for you, certainly, pedast."
"Why, you cheeky little brat," Jeremy growled, flicking mud at him and the rest of the graduating class. "Don't think that just 'cause you're Dominus that you can get away with back-talking a member of the faculty."
"We're graduating, sir," a girl reminded him and he shot her a devilish smirk.
"You'll be fair game then."
Mock groans and challenges were directed at the man then and Harry chuckled, agilely leaping over the fence as he headed back towards the castle of Animalis Academia. His classmates followed his lead, surrounding him as they chattered excitedly with exuberance only teenagers could have, tossing goodbyes and waves at their teacher alongside reminders not to skip his dinner.
It was common knowledge that Harry had a whole category of affection reserved solely for Jeremy. This resulted in continuous jibes and innuendos sent his way that went ignored and unchallenged because he could not bring himself to bother very much. It was not so much the twenty-odd years that separated the two that made him raise his eyebrows in silent incredulity, but that he simply could not even imagine being even remotely romantically involved with his angel, attractive though he may be.
Jeremy had been the one to retrieve him from his childhood guardians and days of horrible manual labour and neglect. That alone was reason enough for him to love the man. Although Harry later learnt that he was under the orders of The Academy's headmistress to offer him a place in the school, it did little to alter his perception of the man. Call it blind hero-worship if you would, the green-eyed wizard could not care less.
And yes, Harry Potter was a wizard.
The Academy, or the Animalias Academia, was a school that specialized in the handling of magical creatures. It accepted wizarding children from the age of seven and the curriculum spanned the length of ten years. Traditional classes of Reading and Writing, Mathematics, Languages, Etiquette, Charms, Transfiguration, Magical defense, Care of Magical Creatures, Combat and Potions were taught for the first five years before specialization set in.
Then there was the reptilian faculty, the avian faculty, the humanoid faculty, the mammalian faculty and countless of other sub-divisions that Harry never did get around to remembering. Needless to say, The Academy was hardly a typical wizarding institution.
It hosted students from around the globe, and its location was largely unknown and left for speculation. What truly made the school special, however, was that each and every single student had an innate affinity for magical creatures. Some had emphatic abilities and others, like Harry, had the ability to communicate with some creatures. This accounted for why schooling started at such a young age. Abilities had to be honed and it was necessary that students felt comfortable around such creatures before any prejudice could set in and take root.
Harry loved it. He loved the magic and the creatures and his classmates and his teachers. He loved being 'abnormal' and often wished that his uncle could see him in such a setting; see how he had failed to 'beat the magic out of him'.
He had grown from the quiet and uncertain child to a brilliant and sociable young man whose magical abilities and an infinite capacity to love had gone a long way in forging friendships and earning respect from his peers. It also helped, of course, that he was the Boy-Who-Lived although the school soon learnt that Harry was not fond of fawning. In fact, it annoyed him very much. There was not, he declared, enough time for such rubbish.
True enough, it was ten years filled with learning and hard work as the teachers and mentors sought to fill every nook and cranny of their minds with facts, lessons and knowledge. This, coupled with the mere fact that teenagers often had their minds occupied with one thing or another, left little time for any fixation on the child saviour.
But those ten years were rapidly coming to an end.
Even if his nights were filled with painful nightmares that split the skull and chilled the bones of those that heard his screams. Even if he knew that out there, somewhere, there was a destiny with his name on it waiting to be fulfilled. Even if he hated himself for the reluctance he had to face up to what laid ahead of him. Even if his innocence was on the verge of being dashed like an egg upon granite.
He did not want to leave; there were things here he would sorely miss.
There was a hint of wistfulness in emerald orbs as Harry speared a potato with his fork, scanning his classmates across the table that they shared in the cafeteria. He would definitely miss the times they spent together, from getting into trouble and mucking out in the stables for detentions to the sharing of joy and understanding of new experiences. The intake for each year was small enough that most of the students across all ten years were acquainted with one another to varying degrees but Harry knewthat these people would be the ones to see him through life. The Academy's graduating class of 1997.
"The dinner table is not a place for introspection, H.J.P."
Harry turned to meet the reproving gaze of the sole Chinese in their motley group of animal-lovers and offered a sheepish grin to placate her. Enya Lim was the only other graduating Dominus in their year, which was hardly surprising considering her prodigal gift for anything avian-related. She kept him on his toes when it came to broomsticks. Complacency, he found, would only lead to her flying circles around his mop of messy hair.
"Oh, I'm not so sure I'm capable of introspection," he teased, flashing a charming grin at the diminutive girl. "It requires a brain, after all."
"And heavens know you haven't got one," she agreed cheerfully, breaking off a piece of bread and nibbling on it. "Want to go flying later?"
"Quidditch!" Leonard Maynack broke in, and the whole class was soon swept up in plans for a quick match before morning classes the next day.
He was really going to miss this.
A light breeze ruffled unruly hair and tickled at tanned skin, welcoming and welcomed as Harry stared up at the sight before him with something akin to awe. The atmosphere was almost palpably charged with a magical quality often described in fairy tales, beautiful and enchanting – the stuff dreams are made of.
The Romanian Dragons' Gate was an impressive sight to behold, towering at least a storey or two above Harry's lithe frame, iron-wrought and polished to shine in the high-noon sunlight. A dragon roar sounded in the distance and Harry smiled, eyes gleaming brightly in anticipation as he placed an open palm under the snout of the marble dragon standing guard by the side.
"Harry James Potter," he announced clearly, tilting his head to the side in interest as the statue's tongue flickered out, followed by a probing brush of magic. "With an appointment with Dominus Kelly."
There was a rumbling sound that resembled coughing from the stone and a large metal disc was spat out onto Harry's hand before the dragon resumed its original immobile state. The teenager blinked, before chuckling at his own stunned expression as he slipped past the Gate, which had swung open a meter to admit him.
The air within seemed even fresher, although Harry attributed it to his own excitement which bubbled like a merry brook that threatened to flood its banks. Green hills and pastures unfolded before him, stretching into the distance with no clear end in sight although mountains formed a formidable bracket at the far end. A cluster of tents stood off to the side but verdant eyes were more preoccupied with seeking out the majestic figures that soared the sky in lazy dominance.
It was manifested perfection. It really was. And it made Harry grin because it tugged strongly at a heartstring and allowed warmth to blossom and grow in his chest. This, Harry wondered, felt strangely and inexplicably like a sort of homecoming. He could spend an eternity here, where neither want nor whim would go unfulfilled.
There was no war here, no nightmares, no murders or tortures and no rampaging idiots with egos too large for the continent to contain. There was only Nature and Her children here; magic in its purest sense, and Harry would give his life without a moment's hesitation just to keep it that way.
Reprobate at the Gate
Draconis Dominus Edward Kelly rifled through the papers, which contained Potter's OWLs, NEWTs, teacher references, peer evaluations and whatnot. They were formal requirements for the job since people were expecting some modicum of intelligence from those handling dragons, which were dangerous creatures who supposedly do not take very well to idiocy when it came to their wellbeing.
However, not every single graduate in their midst were the valedictorians and Head Boys in their year. If memory served him well, Edward was sure that he had accepted an American Witch who had never made it past high school just a couple of years back. To put it plainly, dragon handling required more than just book smarts, which was probably the only thing testing grades could prove.
The real test, however, had yet to be taken. Few made it through the first week of training.
It was interesting, though, that the young man that sat before him was the Boy-Who-Lived; The boy who had the British wizarding community searching high and low for him a decade or so ago. Some thought him dead, others thought he would turn up some day like a knight in shining armour and off their dark lord like he was born to do so, and others simply shrugged their shoulders and went about their daily lives as the attacks grew in quantity and frequency.
Yes, Edward mused with a hint of a smile on his lips, Britain would definitely object to their boy hero working in the midst of dangerous creatures and so far away from them. They would object to his disappearance ten years ago, and they would object to his alternate schooling. Hell, they would object to the boy himself if they found reason enough to.
Edward wondered if Potter was even aware of the perceived significance of his own existence.
Then again, as an American and as the overseeing Dominus of the Romanian Dragons' Gate, it was quite simply none of his damned business.
Glancing up from the more-than-adequate NEWT scores, Edward eyed the young man seated before him. He looked strong, powerful and comfortable in his own skin. Though perhaps he had to be if he had achieved the Dominus status before graduation.
The title was something that was never given lightly since creatures rarely submitted themselves wholly to a human and many never achieve it in their lifetime. Some argue that it is all a matter of luck or chance to prove their worthiness, but being a Dominus himself, Kelly knew better than that. The title was only granted by the creatures when the human first submitted to the creature. There was inexplicable trust involved, aptitude and a deep understanding between them.
It required respect.
"These," he told the teenager with a quiet smile, "would more than suffice."
"Oh," Harry blinked, straightening in his seat as he fought down a blush. His mind had wandered while the Draconian Dominus leafed through his portfolio as he was obviously not someone who took well to sitting around and waiting. "Thank you."
Edward chuckled and stood, slipping the papers back into the folder before heading towards the opening of the tent and indicating that the youth should follow him. In his hand he held the disc that the marbled dragon had given Potter, magically punching a hole near the perimeter of it and looping a leather thong through it.
They walked in silence, although the emerald-eyed teen had trouble taking in all the sights in his veiled excitement. It made Edward smile, although he said nothing on the subject, because it spoke of a love that Potter had for his chosen career. It was pleasing and a little heart-warming if he were to admit to it.
Reaching the nursery within the half hour, Edward glanced at the teenager who had hardly broken out into a sweat and nodded with silent approval. It had been some time since he had seen a graduate from The Academy, but it looked like their standards had not fallen in the years.
He handed the teen the necklace and told him to tie it around his neck until they got round to making his formal identification.
"Inside this tent you will find a number of dragon handlers who work around the nursery. They will be assessing your performance and reporting of it directly to me. As of now, you are considered a 'trainee'," Edward paused and drew a gaze along the length of Potter's lithe figure. "Although I fully expect you to rise through our ranks rapidly, Dominus Potter."
"Yes, Dominus," the teen murmured with quiet acquiescence, a small smile tugging at the corners of his lips before it turned sheepish and he averted his gaze. "Although, please do not tell them about my title."
"As you wish it," Edward shrugged carelessly, the aged wizard having never intended to do so. The answering grin caused his lips to quirk upwards, unbidden, as he reached out to place a hand on a shoulder. "You will find, Potter, that few really care about such formalities here. What matters are the dragons and each handler's ability to handle their tasks."
"It is exactly as I wish it," the Boy-Who-Lived agreed fervently, enchantingly green eyes alit with an emotion that Edward would identify with passion.
He would fit right in then.
Beauty of the Beasts
He was sprawled atop a rock, gaze locked upon a dragon in flight above him as dark strands of hair threatened to slip from the hold of the band that held them in place. He had divested himself of his shirt due to the heat and the position he was in placed a lightly muscled chest with a beautiful tan on display for anyone who had the luck to pass him by.
Unrestrained laughter rang out like wind chime in a summer breeze as the Scottish Hornback landed a few paces ahead of him, its formidable neck swinging downward to nudge him in the face with its snout in a show of open affection.
It was an amazing sight to behold, one that made breaths catch in throats, hearts to flutter wildly in chests and eyes to widen to impossible dimensions in half fear and half awe.
But fear did not seem to belong in the man's dictionary as he threw his arms around the horned neck without prohibition and smacked a kiss atop the beautiful scales before scooting back on the rock and allowing the draconian beauty to rest its head on the rock. It was as though they were communicating, albeit silently since there was no audible noise from either beast or man.
There they sat for hours on end, until the sun sank behind the mountains and the Hornback raised itself off the rock and off the ground, soaring towards its nesting mate and leaving the dark-haired figure smiling from where he sat.
It was a scene out of a fairytale; a picture that could not be captured on canvas.
Charlie Weasley had no qualms of telling the other handler so.
He had not been at work very often these couple of weeks as the war in Britain escalated and a younger sibling had gotten injured in a death eater raid. Hence nothing, not even the stories of a gifted trainee, had prepared him for the face that turned towards him as he approached.
The other man was stunning, his lithe body half-exposed as it was. Ebony-hued hair, stringy from a day spent in the sun, had come unbound some hours ago and it framed a verdant gaze that seemed to stare straight into his soul as Charlie gasped.
No, it could not be…