Thank you again for all the reviews! This is the last part of Rejoicing in Their Strength. Thanks for reading along.
Draco felt a scream building up in his throat. He was never sure if he actually uttered it, because at that point, things moved outside him, and very quickly.
Harry and Hyacinth jumped at the same time, their bodies trailing small lines of black energy of the kind that Draco had felt build up around them earlier. They soared easily over the silver spearheads, and came down on the other side, much closer to Lucius, their mouths open so far that Draco could see the red lining inside their throats before they swept past him and at his father.
Lucius immediately raised a Shield Charm. Harry pulled up in front of it and dashed around to the side, looking for the place where the Charm ended and he could get through. Lucius whirled to face him, his wand dancing, his tongue curling around words that made Draco flinch just listening to them.
Hyacinth put down her head and bulled straight through the shield.
Sparks leaped around her, blue-white and devastating. But though Draco saw a fire start in her fur and smoke billow into her eyes, she never paused. She drove on, though her movement slowed for a moment as though molasses had surrounded her, and the foam dripping from her jaws turned as red as her fur. She roared, once, a sound that would have been at home in a lion's throat.
And the shield broke.
Hyacinth snapped her jaws open and closed them again in Lucius's calf. Draco knew she could have killed him without much fuss, knocked him to the ground and stepped on him or ripped his throat open.
She didn't. Instead, she opened a wound that went all the way through Lucius's leg and then jumped back, yipping contemptuously as he aimed his wand at her.
Lucius staggered, but caught his balance a moment later. His eyes were wide and clear and not at all frightened. Draco saw him aim his wand again and begin to speak a spell that would blast Hyacinth out of existence.
Then Harry bit his hip from the other side.
Draco wanted to laugh, though the only noise that came out of his throat was a bubbling one that probably didn't qualify as amused. He had forgotten that wolves were pack hunters. Lucius would never be able to face one of them alone. He would have to deal with two at the least, and probably more than that, the moment the rest of the pack could get into the house.
And it was all too obvious that Harry had told his packmates not to finish the prey off quickly.
Harry turned a flip in the air to avoid the spell that Lucius aimed at him, a zigzag Blasting Curse that dented the floor right near his paws. Next, he crowded in close, growling in a way that Draco thought was playful. Then he caught a glimpse of Harry's eyes, and suddenly the urge to laugh went away.
Hyacinth dodged in from the front, and landed a minor bite on Lucius's knee, forcing him to turn around again. For a few moments, in fact, Harry and Hyacinth kept him dancing, unable to confront them both at once or coordinate his efforts to hold still, the air full of their snarls and their wagging tails and his flying blood.
Then Lucius backed into a corner and set up a more powerful Shield Charm in front of himself. Hyacinth looked about to charge it anyway, but Harry held her back by laying a paw on her shoulder. Then he used a few heavy brushes of his body to beat out the fire in her coat and stood studying Lucius with his head lifted and his ears pricked. His tail waved slowly back and forth, as though he were trying to study the angles and decide the best way to come at Lucius.
Draco leaped free of his body again, so that he could see from above and warn them if Lucius did something especially clever.
His father had a bewildered, angry expression on his face, as if he could not comprehend how the universe could have turned so conclusively against him. Now and then his hand twitched around his wand, but each time, he changed his mind just as he was about to cast a coherent spell. His eyes kept darting back to Draco's body on the frame of chains. Harry noticed and stepped in between the frame and Lucius, his head lifted until he and Lucius were eye-to-eye, his growl deeper and more threatening still.
"Don't hold back on him for my sake," Draco called. "You can make his death as bloody as you like. I think it's the only way I'll ever truly recover."
Harry tilted his head to show that he heard Draco, and then moved away from the Shield Charm, still carefully blocking Lucius's spell access to Draco. Hyacinth remained where she was for a moment, snarling, but Harry tugged at her hind legs and she joined him. Both of them watched from their new position, apparently to see what Lucius would do. But Lucius remained still. His father was mad, Draco knew, but not such a fool as to challenge two consummate predators with great stamina by running.
Then Harry uttered two sharp yelps. Hyacinth sighed between clenched teeth, nodded her head, and loped over to the frame where Draco hung. For moments, she paused with the black flares of light coiling around her fangs, and then leaned up and bit through the lowest of the crystal chains that held Draco in place.
Lucius said something incredulous and garbled. Then he took a step out of the corner, and the Shield Charm vanished.
Harry came forwards like black wind, his body flattened almost to the floor, his eyes furious, his teeth bared and shining.
Lucius went down, but from his shrieks, Draco knew that Harry hadn't simply ripped out his throat and killed him. He was doing something else instead, and Draco adjusted his angle several times before he could see what it was.
Harry was eating into Lucius's belly.
He had his paws sprawled wide, his claws resting on the edges of Lucius's hips, his head bowed and his jaws opening and closing, chewing through ragged bits of flesh and skin. When he shook his head, blood flew around him, and Lucius let out a scream that had a disbelieving edge to it. He couldn't accept that such pain existed in the world, that scream said.
"Yes," Draco whispered, unable to take his eyes from the opening wound and the glimpses of dark red that he could see through it. "Yes, Harry, teach him to suffer the way that he taught me."
Harry ripped out one more bit of flesh, then turned around and lifted his leg. A splashing yellow stream hit the wound. Lucius convulsed and screamed again, and Harry leaped lightly from his body and whirled around to face him.
Draco drifted over to hover at Harry's shoulder. From this direction, he could see that the wound had stopped bleeding the moment Harry had urinated on it. The skin even had a marginally healthy color to it. What Harry had said about werewolf bodies possessing special properties to heal was true.
Harry didn't want Lucius to die too quickly.
He prowled a few more steps forwards, his body hunched in a way that suggested he was going to leap off the floor any second, his spine flat and his tail raised and stiff. The growl coming out of his throat didn't sound like anything Draco had heard before. He wondered if it had a special meaning, such as, "You are going to die with no chance to say your prayers."
Lucius, his face blank with the overmastering rage that Draco knew he was feeling, raised his wand.
"He'll go for an offensive spell!" Draco called. "He's too angry right now to think about defending himself."
Harry didn't seem to have heard him. He walked steadily forwards instead, his legs rising and falling as if they were the pistons of a machine. His mouth was open, his eyes so wide and so yellow that Draco found looking at them painful, like staring at the sun.
Lucius cast a curse that Draco didn't know the formal name of. He knew it stripped off skin and muscle in the same blow, and that it hurt more than most of the tortures Lucius had used on him. He flinched and put himself between the curse and Harry, not even thinking that his astral body wasn't physical and couldn't block the magic.
Harry growled softly and stepped through Draco, giving him a surge of tingles. Black werewolf magic was glowing around him, making his legs look larger than they should and his head seem to float on a sea of stomclouds.
The curse struck him.
Draco opened his mouth to scream—and paused. The curse blew apart in the midst of the dark werewolf magic, the red struggling madly for a moment against the black before it faded. Then only spinning red motes were left, and they drifted farther and farther apart from each other, blinking bitterly until they dissipated.
Harry stood there, his legs braced as though he'd done nothing more than meet a desperate charge from a deer whose neck he'd snapped, and looked at Lucius.
Draco understood then. Harry knew perfectly well that he could resist wizard magic when he really tried, and he wanted to show Lucius that he could. He wanted to inflict terror on him as well as physical pain.
Lucius dragged himself backwards. The movement opened the wound in his belly again, and it began to bleed. Lucius didn't seem to notice. His hand was shaking, and he couldn't look away from Harry.
Harry lolled his tongue in amusement.
Lucius slumped sideways as if he'd fainted, but Draco saw his eyes still fluttering open to stare at the werewolf in horror. Good, Draco thought viciously. I wasn't able to find escape in unconsciousness. I don't want him to be able to.
Harry lowered his nose to the floor and held it there, so that his face was closer to being at Lucius's level. Gradually, he pulled his tongue back inside his mouth and closed it. Then he, slowly, lifted his lips from his teeth.
Draco, standing to one side now so that he could see better, understood that gesture, too. Harry was showing Lucius the instruments of torture that would mean his death.
A thump came from behind them, and Draco looked over his shoulder to see that Hyacinth had bitten through the last chain and pulled his body from the frame. She stood guard over it on the floor, panting anxiously as she looked at Harry. Harry flicked her one glance that doubtless told her to stay where she was, because she settled down again, her fur almost flat now, one paw resting protectively on Draco's shoulder.
Lucius tried to use the moment when Harry was distracted to hit him with another curse. Harry didn't seem to need Draco's strangled shout of warning, though, since he whirled about neatly on his heels and ducked his head. His jaws met on Lucius's wrist.
In one chop, he bit off Lucius's hand and tossed it across the room, wand and all, and then turned his head to bathe in the spray of blood from the severed limb.
Draco felt a deep, savage contentment as he watched. Yes. This was the end. After this, he would be sure that Lucius could never hurt him again, in a way that he wouldn't have been if Harry had simply killed his father with a single bite.
Lucius collapsed against the wall and whimpered. Harry stalked forwards on soft paws, eyes wide, mouth bared, jaws dripping. He gave Lucius plenty of time to see that death was coming, and that he could do nothing to stop it.
Lucius tried to shield his face with an arm as Harry leaped.
Draco heard bones crack, skin shred, and a strangled shriek. The arm had done nothing to slow Harry down, though it had given him something else to bite through when he tore Lucius's throat out.
Harry shook his head as though he were killing a rat, and then turned and howled as the blood hit his neck and teeth. For long moments, he looked like all of Draco's more colorful fantasies of revenge, standing there and shining.
Then he lowered his head, shook himself all over, and trotted towards Hyacinth and Draco.
Draco drifted back with him and looked down at his body. His face was the only halfway normal thing on it, and even that bore the holes in the cheeks that Lucius had torn and widened the other day. The rest of his body…Draco shook his head. It looked as though he had been stripped to the bone over and over again, and covered with less replacement flesh each time. He knew there was no way he would ever be normal again. He could spend years recuperating in St. Mungo's and not be normal.
"I don't know how to heal that," he said, and turned to look at Harry. "I don't think that you can, either, even if you piss on me."
Harry's hind leg twitched, as if he was considering trying it, but then he shook his head. He glanced at Hyacinth. She gazed back at him, her eyes wide, her ears up, and whimpered slightly. Draco wished that he could tell what they were thinking. Fuck, he wished they could talk.
"I…" he said, and stopped, because his voice was wavering. Lucius was dead. He was only beginning to realize what came after that, though. He had his freedom, but it wasn't freedom to stand and walk away from the cage he'd lived in for so long. He had the cessation of pain, but that would only last until he went back into his body and someone started probing at him with healing spells. He had the license to use magic again, but that would depend on his being able to lift his arm.
"What am I going to do?" he asked helplessly, and turned to look at Harry, instinctively, as the one in the recent past who had offered him solutions to his problems.
Harry gazed at him with fear in his eyes. Then Hyacinth whimpered again, and lifted a paw, scraping it through the air in a line parallel to Draco's body. Harry glanced at her and showed his teeth. Hyacinth flattened her ears in the way that the other wolves of the pack did when submitting, but repeated the gesture.
"What is it?" Draco demanded. He knew enough to tell that there was an argument going on, though he didn't know what it was about. "If there's something you can do to save me, tell me what it is. I want to live. I know that it might take me years to live a normal life again, but at the moment, it doesn't look like I'll ever have that chance. Can you make it more likely?"
Harry stared into his eyes for so long that Draco wondered if he had forgotten what they were talking about. Draco swept a hand dramatically at his body. "We need to make a choice soon," he snapped. "Without the healing magic that my father regularly gave me, then my body will simply decline and die. I had the impression that you didn't want that to happen."
Harry blinked and lowered his head. Then, watching Draco closely, he opened his jaws and held them above Draco's shoulder.
He didn't have to do anything else to tell Draco what his argument with Hyacinth had been about.
Draco caught his breath and blinked several times. He expected to feel tears prick along the edge of his eyelids, but of course he wasn't going to feel that in his astral body. He expected to feel fear, even terror, but he felt only excitement.
"You could make me into a werewolf," he said.
Harry immediately backed away from Draco's body and tossed his head to show that he wasn't happy about doing this. Then he sat down like a large, tame dog and watched Draco with heartsick golden eyes.
Draco drifted towards the floor and sat down as best as he could when he knew that he would inevitably drift a bit above its level. His gaze went back and forth from Harry to his body. He looked at Hyacinth then, and she bobbed her head enthusiastically and scraped her paw along the floor. Draco knew that she approved, probably because she thought he made Harry happy and it would be easier for him to do that as a werewolf.
The rest of the pack, having sent up a single howl of triumph from beyond the wall when Harry killed Lucius, was silent. If they knew there was a possibility of this—and Draco thought they probably had—they didn't seem to have any objections.
Draco closed his eyes and began to reason aloud. "I would suffer the same discrimination from society that you do, even if I learn how to balance my human and wolf, because no one will believe that I can do anything of the kind. I'll be able to tell my secret to very few people other than the pack. I'll struggle with the wolf, the hunger, the physical need, that you told me about."
Harry gave a small growl that Draco took as confirmation. He opened his eyes and looked at the floor through his transparent fingers.
"You told me that the change takes away minor magical talents, too," he said. "Your Parseltongue. Celia's ability to become a Metamorphmagus." He could hear his breath quickening, and didn't care. This was the most important decision he had ever made. He was allowed to be a little excited about it. "I won't be able to astrally travel any more, whereas I might if I kept my own body."
Harry extended his head and bobbed it up and down in an exaggerated nod. Then he rubbed his nose against Draco's cheek, using enough magic to make the contact physical, before he pulled back.
"So much to sacrifice," Draco whispered. Then he reached out and laid a hand on the forehead of his physical body, though of course he couldn't feel it.
"But I've been sacrificed for so many reasons already," he said, "reasons that were none of my choosing. My father stole my peace and my body. I won't sleep without nightmares for the rest of my life. I'll always have scars. I'll always have disabilities. And I don't know that that's something I could put up with, when I've got used to the freedom from pain that my astral body gave me."
Harry moved a step forwards. He growled again. Draco nodded to him. "I know that there will be the pain that comes from changing into a wolf," he said. "But that's nothing compared to what I've already put up with."
He smiled, and lifted his hand to touch Harry on the head. The fur was soft against his palm one way when he stroked it, rough the other, and stiff and matted in some places because of the blood. Harry watched him all the while as if Draco was the one with the power to rip out his throat, his body shaking slightly.
"I'll be with you if I'm a werewolf," Draco whispered. "How could you ask me to make any other decision?" He leaned heavily against Harry. "Bite me, please."
Harry was quivering as he took a step forwards and lowered his head. Draco clung to him as long as he could, then leaped back into his physical body. He didn't think it would be a good idea to be caught outside it when the change came.
Agony assaulted him from every direction. Draco fell back, writhing. He wanted to scream, but he didn't think he had the strength. He could feel the life leaving his body, no longer dammed and held at bay by Lucius's healing magic.
Harry's jaws crunched down and through his shoulder, only another note in the symphony of pain.
And then, something new happened.
Draco felt searing warmth radiate away from the bite. With the heat came the sensation of another mind forced through his body, a new blood transfused into his veins, and a second being awakening within him.
The new being did not like the fact that the body it shared was in less than peak physical condition. It rolled over twice, gathering power, and then Draco cried out in wonder as grey clouds engulfed him.
He felt his bones taken and molded in godly hands. His body quivered, stretched, and relaxed. He bent and flowed into anguish again, but it was a new kind of anguish, blinding white, and he seemed to ascend steadily towards the sun as it swept through him. His back arched and lengthened, his face responded with its own lengthening, and he shuddered and kept on shuddering, the tremors traveling to the ends of his limbs, or what was left of them.
New knowledge dropped into his mind. These were the ways to hunt; these were the ways to leap and change direction in midair; this was the secret of running on four legs. This was the link to the full moon, and this was the way he would relate to other werewolves. Draco stood under a waterfall of secrets, and felt them transform him into a new person mentally as well as physically, giving him a replacement for the spells he had forgotten as he sustained brain damage under Lucius's tender mercy.
The new being found the brain damage inside his skull, and burned it out, cauterizing the wounds and raising new channels in their place. It was the most awe-inspiring thing Draco had ever felt. He cried out again, and this time the sound emerged from a new place in his throat and with a new depth to it.
He shook his head and stood up on shaky legs. He looked around, sniffing, his eyes appreciating new shades of color, and then tottered forwards so that he could see himself in the shattered remains of the glass vials Lucius had set out.
A lean silver wolf looked back at him. He was only a few inches shorter than Hyacinth or Harry, but the aura of power he carried within himself was more compressed. His eyes looked like the yellow light that sometimes covered the sky before a storm. The fur along his ruff and streaming back towards his flanks was grey tapering to white. His ears lifted and lowered with deadly grace; he showed his fangs, and they were whiter than his fur.
He took a step sideways, eyes on the reflection, and it did not hurt to walk.
Draco knew that, usually, victims of a werewolf bite did not change immediately; their first transformation would come with the next full moon. But the magic had probably seen no other way to spare his life than by taking him immediately into his new body. Meanwhile, at least if Draco remembered the magical theory behind werewolves right, his human body was resting in what was essentially another dimension, and would heal of its wounds by the time the sunrise came.
He was free.
And he had—
He turned his head to the side, and Harry was already there, slamming into him with a shoulder and rocking him on his feet. Draco lifted his head, and, for the first time, their tongues twined together in the open air.
Harry was looking at him as if he were the center of the universe.
Draco knew there would be problems to come. Among other things, there were the questions the Aurors would ask when they found Lucius dead, and the hunt they would surely launch for werewolf packs. Harry's pack would have to be careful to attract no attention for a time and leave no trace of themselves that could be linked to the killing. Draco knew they probably already had arrangements set up for when they became human again and could cast spells, but if not, he would suggest it.
For the moment, he did not care.
He was free, and he had Harry.
He lifted his head and howled, the sound rising chill and pure and whole from his toes. Hyacinth joined him a moment later, her voice smug.
Then the rest of the pack sang from the base of the wall.
And last of all came Harry, his voice surrounding and captaining and chasing the rest of theirs, thick with strength, thick with rejoicing.