When she got home, Tally threw herself onto the bed, her vision blur from all of the tears in her eyes; she curled around one of the big pillows and wailed.
The ache in her chest expanded to her whole body, her eyes burned—it was this huge gaping hole, chewing its way through the muscles and bones of her body.
It was as if someone stood behind her with a canon and let it rip.
Her wounds were gushing all over the place, and these weren't wounds that a healer would be able to mend.
How was she supposed to heal?
She loved Iggy!
And he didn't respond.
The basis of their mental connection was for them—the first mated pair in the flock—to communicate! That's what Jeb said!
Maybe they weren't mated…maybe Jeb was wrong.
Maybe love didn't really exist.
It seemed like hours after Tally ran into her room breaking down that someone walked in, and she felt someone sitting on the bed next to her. She simply stared unseeingly out the window.
"It's over, isn't it?" she asked Draco.
There was a pause, as if he was thinking before replying.
"Yes. I believe it's over, Tally."
Tally rolled over to look at him, scanning her eyes over the planes of his chiseled jaw, aristocratic nose and gray eyes.
"But you're still here," she said listlessly.
Draco nodded, "Yes, I am still here… for you."
Tally sniffed, rubbing her hand across her nose to wipe away any leftover snot. "I guess its just going to be us for awhile, eh Draco?" she muttered in a bittersweet tone.
He didn't respond to the last question, merely laid down on the bed with her and stared into her eyes, lacing their fingers together.
It was insane the amount of pain that Tally was in.
To know that she had invested everything she had into a relationship, into someone she thought she loved and was going to spend the rest of her life with…
…Only to find out that life didn't really work out the way she envisioned it, most of the time.
She curled herself around the big pillow Draco had transfigured for her the previous night before he left her to go sleep in his room.
Which was all well and good, she didn't want him there to witness her breaking down again, she was a magical mutant, and she would be damned if she let anyone think she was a sniveling weak little girl for even a moment!
Though really, the way that she was curled up uselessly told a different story.
Nightmares had plagued her when she managed a few minutes of sleep after the tears stopped falling.
Of blood spattered on walls, bruises splattered across her body in angry shades or red, purple and blue, injuries left to fester and rot for the purpose of seeing her healing rate, of getting her wings ripped off and her voice removed.
Of being tied down and killed.
So, unable to find any peace in sleep, she woke up and hugged the pillow until dawn broke, a dusty orange over the horizon.
Tally was so enraptured by the mixing deep blues, oranges, and pinks that she wandered over to the balcony and pushed the doors open, the biting cold having no trouble infecting her body with only a silk nightgown to defend her.
But the sun felt delicious on her.
She stretched out her wings slowly, feeling the aching, unused joints in them give tiny cracks as they extended, the dark feathers flicking either side of the balcony as they passed over them.
Tally gave a wan smile and stretched her arms out to the side the sighed, the slight happiness granted to her by the sun and her wings seeping down her chest, hips and legs straight into the ground as she dropped and contracted her wings tight against her back.
She had to get ready for the day.
The Yuletide Ball would happen that night.
So Draco decided that they would escape to Diagon Alley while his parents managed everything.
"You are the most incredibly stupid human being out there," I snarled as soon as we had returned to Grimmauld Place. "Why the hell would you do that, huh? Do you even remember who it was you freaking assaulted for no freaking reason in the castle?!"
My anger was unending, especially since a) I had to look up at the apparent imbecile of my flock and b) since he was giving me this weird blank "I don't care look."
"She attacked me first," he answered simply, crossing his arms and looking at me defiantly with those blank, blind eyes.
The adults were swarming around us, the Flock though, wisely kept a safe distance.
"Oh yeah? When was that? Before or after you completely dismissed her at the castle? Or did it not occur to you that Tally has been insecure and needing to talk to someone but her apparent boyfriend is too stupid to notice! Do you even have a brain?!"
"At the castle—look Max just don't get mixed up in this, okay? Its none of your business!" he said, leaning forward, his face was flushing red.
"What's going on here? Why are you children fighting?" Severus Snape asked petulantly.
I scowled at him, "Flock matters."
Then I whirled back on Iggy who was looking around for a way to leave.
Oh no, I wasn't having any of that.
I marched up to him and grabbed him by the shirt, positive that my eyes were spitting daggers. "Look here, Iggy. You've been screwing up royally lately. And it may seem fine to you to mess with everyone like this, but I'm warning you now, you need to fix whatever freaking problems you have, and fix them soon, or I will kick your ass into next week!"
And with that I whirled around, breathing from my mouth: the tension was so thick, you could stick a knife in it.
London was completely and totally deserted when Tally and Draco started their trek through it the morning of the yuletide, bundled up to the neck in winter clothes, a warming charm thrown on top just to make sure they didn't catch their deaths as the snowflakes fell upon them.
It felt very weird for Tally to be walking around without pants on. But it had become custom for her to wear dresses around the Malfoy family. She had to look her best for them, if only to show how grateful she was.
And it wasn't even limited to how grateful she was that they housed her and gave her her voice back—they gave her an opportunity to live outside the flock.
And she would forever owe them for it.
"Where shall we go then?" Draco asked, looking around in a way that seemed as if he was nonchalant, but really she could tell he was freaked in a weird aloof way that they were out in Muggle London.
Tally looked around, white snow that had been trapped in her hair flowing down onto the floor. There was no one out, except for a few shops Narcissa said catered to wizards and witched only. She turned back to him, her gray eyes connecting with his own, "I don't know. I have no freaking clue where anything would be."
Draco's lips quirked up, "Mother said that there would be a café and a few shops that sold knickknacks and clothes, if you would be interested."
Tally beamed, pushing an errant lock of inky hair behind her ear, "Sounds great! Let's go!"
"I'm not particularly sure just what you are trying to achieve, Talon, but if it's looking absolutely ghastly then you have achieved it," Draco drawled, smirking at Tally.
She swooped around, the long cape and giant fox hat on her head, combined with big, bulging glasses. She unfurled her wings and hissed at him, "You dare insult the great Madam Buggy-Eye!?"
"Oh, no, not at all Madam. Please forgive me"—he gave a mock bow, his hand over his heart and light dancing behind his hand—"I've misspoken. I meant to say how positively ravishing you look, that rotting liver color really becomes you!"
They were in a strange store that sold clothes not even she would let see the light of day—the owners were setting up for a sale tomorrow but upon seeing "the Malfoy heir and his winged friend" they opened their doors and let them roam. It was a place piled high to the fifteen-foot ceilings with shelves and a ton of useless junk. They had found stuffed game, a few rapiers from the Middle Ages, what the owners had claimed were fossilized basilisk eggs and gnome parts floating in strange shimmering liquids.
Tally had been unsettled by the disorder and was about to turn tail and suggest they find somewhere else to go to when Draco gave her a pointed stare, a challenge in his eyes.
So she had risen to his dare and ran in headfirst, feathers blazing, to try and find something entertaining in the store.
So far, it wasn't the strange things in the store that was entertaining Draco, but Tally and all of her quirky jokes.
Tally chuckled, "All right then, Mister Kiss-Ass, help me get out of these 'ghastly' clothes and lets go find someplace to get food, I'm starving."
Draco could only chuckle and concede to her demands. He stood in front of her, removing the stuffed fox hat from her head and setting it down on a nearby claw-foot table.
Tally stared up at him, a content grin on her lips.
"Turn around, I have no idea how you fastened this cape—it looks lip it'll take fiendfyre to burn through this knot—hold on—quit flinching! It's your own fault, you know!"
Tally winced, "Hey! Be careful with the feathers! This stupid crap wasn't made for wings, how was I supposed to tie it? All I did was a few square knots? OW! Draco, watch it!"
"Oh, shut up, will you?" he said, finally setting her free. "I've finished. Turn around again."
Tally did as she was told, and then began to make quick work of the shoulder length gloves and then looked up at him, "Do I look okay now?"
Draco's eyes raked her up and down, and then he chuckled and approached her again, placing his hands on her hair. "No, you're hair looks like a haystack. Mother will think I did something inappropriate with you if we go back and you look like this."
He smoothed it down, admiring the thick, soft strands. Then he made the mistake of looking in to her spitfire eyes.
He smiled at her, and slid his palms from the crown of her head to her cheeks, tucking her hand behind her ear.
Tally's breath caught when she saw the look on his face, the smile that lit his face up stunning her.
Then a wave of heat engulfed her face and she slipped away from him.
"We should go! I'm freaking starving!"
Draco stood there for a moment after she sped away, his hand still up in the air. Then he shook his head and slid them into the pockets of his jacket, following after his feathered companion.
As it was, on a huge magical and Muggle holiday such as Yule, most restaurants were closed. So Tally and Draco spent about half an hour searching for an open diner to the musical styling of Tally's growling stomach.
At last, they found a tiny diner tucked away between two huge buildings. It was a Muggle establishment, so Draco was frowning and trying to tug Tally away when she gave him a disapproving scowl and kept tugging him into the diner.
It was tiny, cozy places, with big red leather booths, clean looking tile and homey warm colors. Almost as soon as they walked in, they were being offered frothy peppermint hot chocolate with marshmallows.
The waitress was a kind elderly lady with a frilly apron who didn't even think it odd when Tally ordered a startling amount of food.
"Merlin, you eat like a starving hippogriff," Draco murmured, having barely even touched his soup—Muggle food had a weird after taste.
Tally glared at him, her cheeks blown out and a spoon hanging out of her mouth. "It's not my fault you starve me!" she exclaimed around the spoon, then coughed a bit when she choked and focused on chewing.
"Three square meals a day, plus snacks and dessert, is not starving you," Draco said. "Was it entirely necessary to order one of everything on the menu?"
Tally shook her head vigorously, pointing her fork at him, a cherry tomato impaled on it, "Duh! Do you know how little I usually get to eat? Humans really take for granted what it is to eat regularly—not me. Nope! Food is just to freaking awesome to not appreciate it! I mean you have your savory dishes, your salty ones, your light ones, your spicy ones, sweet-and-sour ones—there's no end! And when you get tired of one country, fly on over to the next country and start over!"
Draco found himself rolling his eyes again. "If you'd stay in the magical world then you would be able to enjoy this whenever you wanted."
Tally paused, processing what he said.
Then she grinned evilly and hopped up from her seat to lean directly in front of Draco, her breath fanning across his face. "Oh, is the mighty Draco Malfoy telling me to stay in the magical world?"
Draco scowled and opened his mouth to give a witty retort, when they heard a loud bang and snarling.
Tally whipped up from where she was sitting and looked outside the window of the diner.
Draco frowned, because in the next two seconds, all color drained from Tally's face.
Erasers. Flyboys. Looking at her from outside the diner with those demented half-snarling wolf snouts and beady red eyes, their suits all torn up and bursts at the seams from where they had given way for the bulging muscles.
She clamped her hand around his wrist painfully and had jumped off the booth they were in, dragging him behind her.
"What the hell is the problem, Ghost?!" Draco yelled, stumbling behind her, vaguely aware of the humanoid figures that had run through the door, little chiming bells announcing their entrance.
She slid across the tile and swung him in front of her through the double doors of the kitchen, the clamor of kitchen utensils, boiling water and chefs speaking hitting his ears.
"Don't ask, just run! We're being chased!"
The wild-eyed look in her eyes was all he needed to nod and keep running.
Tally was freaked out.
How could she have forgotten?
How could she have forgotten that wandering into the Muggle world could mean that the Erasers and Flyboys would try and get her again?
She spared a quick glance back, the metallic shine of the Flyboys giving her enough indication.
She glanced forward to make sure that Draco had swung around the kitchen staff of the only diner that had been open, and then skidded to a stop, throwing her hands open in front of her, exploding the double doors she and Draco had gone running through.
Then she twisted around again, nearly falling to her hands and knees on the slippery tile, then she launched herself through the exit, spotting Draco at the end of the alley.
"Draco! Featherlight charm on yourself!" She yelled, her thighs pumping up and down and increasing in speed as she prepped her wings. She had little space for a take off, and she would be damned if she left Draco alone to fend for himself.
She had no time to make sure that he had followed her directions, her ears picking up on the insane growling and roaring of the robotic werewolves. She simply hooked her arms underneath Draco's and stroked her wings down hard.
"What in Merlin's saggy—"
"Shush, Draco. Can't you see you're flying?" Tally said, her face flushed shining with sweat.
He could see her determination, as she adjusted him in her grip and angled her wings, and then he looked down when he finally felt his hair whipping around him in the wind.
They were high above London, those metallic werewolf looking things nowhere in sight.
"Ha, Draco?" Tally yelled above the roar of the wind.
She looked down at him, a sheepish smile adorning her lips, "Do you think you can tell me how to get to the Manor from here? I have no idea where we're going."
He barked a laugh, "Yes. Just keep flying, Talon."
When they finally landed, Tally glanced at Draco nervously, pulling her wings in tight against her back and crossing her arms underneath her breasts.
"Look, Draco, can we not mention this to your parents?" she asked hesitantly.
Draco stopped, "Why wouldn't we? Talon, those things were chasing us for no reason at all!"
Tally bit her lip and looked up at him, "No. They were chasing me. They had a reason."
Draco froze then grabbed her upper arms. "What do you mean they were after you?"
She took a shuddering breath, "Those things. They were after me. They always have been. It's just that when I'm in the magical world, they can't really find me—look, I'll tell you more later, okay? Just—not now. We have to get ready for the ball."
Ice filled Draco's veins, and he let go of her.
Well, if she didn't want to tell him, then why bother?
"Fine, Ghost, then let us go get ready for the ball," he said stiffly, strode ahead of her.
The air whooshed out of Tally's lungs as she watched his back as he sauntered away, looking every bit like the cold Prince of Slytherin, frigid and unbending.
She shook her head, letting the emotion slip off her face and rising up to her full height.
Two could play at that game.