Title: Save Me, I'm Lost
Summary: A secret that should have been carried away by dead men reveals Harry's unexpected, and undesired, heritage.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction based in the world created by J.. They aren't mine and I make no money from them. I just like to let them out to play.
Warnings: Creature!fic, a bit of bonding, Harry is not James' son storyline.
Author's notes: Written for the do_me_veela Valentine's fest. Harry is a veela hybrid. Thank you to my amazing betas: kannnichtfranz, megyal, _tehrin, cyn_ful.
Word count: Approximately 21,500
Harry's body chilled through at what he'd just been told. Truly, it could exit only in the realm of the impossible, something beyond even the cruel nature of the universe. It had to be a lie.
His gaze was trapped on the center of Snape's chest, the fourth button from the top a bull's-eye focus; the synapses in his brain had ceased firing.
"Potter. Do you understand?"
Did he understand? Did he understand the words, or the entire bloody concept? Words were simple things, sounds strung together. But the concept…
"You are Lucius' son. Not the son of James Potter. Your mother was—"
"Stop!" Harry shook his head wildly and drew away from Snape's aura of annoyance, his pity. "Don't… don't say it." His voice had become weak, a wispy thing.
His mother was raped.
"Potter, I know—"
He wasn't a Potter.
"Please," he said, the word drawn out with every ounce of pleading and pain suffocating his world. "Just stop… Just… stop, please." The strength leaked from his legs and he slumped against the edge of a desk.
Snape stood over Harry, the very harbinger of evil news. As the chilly tingle in Harry's limbs faded to numbness, Snape's arm twitched, but then the man checked himself. Snape had strafed him with the news in an unused classroom, enclosed within walls of large stone blocks covered by draping tapestries depicting serene forest scenes and victorious battles. The room was freezing.
Lucius had raped his mother. He was Lucius' son. A Malfoy.
A shiver of self-disgust ran its skeletal touch up his spine.
Like one of the castle's statues, Snape remained unmoving. His long robes rested against the flagstones, his hands hidden in his wide-mouthed sleeves. Harry didn't want to look at him. Couldn't look at him.
The first thing the man had done after his release from the Hospital Wing was to confront Harry about his true heritage. What a bloody sadist.
Too bad Nagini hadn't ripped open his scrawny neck; then the news would never have gotten out. Nobody would have known. Ever. The truth could have been buried along with the corpses of the two men who had known: Dumbledore and Snape.
Now Harry knew, and he wished he could simply Obliviate himself and go on living a contented life. He'd done his big deed. He'd defeated Voldemort. Everything from that moment forward was supposed to be a new life. Finally, he was going to lead a life that he'd chosen.
Instead, he found out he was Draco fucking Malfoy's half brother.
He buried his face in his hands and prayed not to think.
Stifling his third urge to check the time, Severus continued to stare down at the young man's head. That unruly hair, strong chin and nose. All Potter traits. The eyes, the cheeks… those were Lily's.
Severus puffed a sigh through his nose. He was positive that a half an hour had passed since he'd first dragged the boy into the classroom, informing him of his true heritage. All Potter did was gape about like a landed fish.
He was sorely tempted to simply cast the counter for Dumbledore's curse and be done with it. That meddling fool had told Severus he'd done it because of Lily's desperate pleas. A low growl rumbled within Severus' chest at the idea of Lucius with his filthy claws on Lily. He swallowed against the dry acreage of his throat. Potter remained unresponsive, a dribbling fool. Maybe he should yell at the youngest Malfoy, taunt him over his new found genetics—but to be honest, Severus had little energy for such vitriol while his body still struggled against the effects of Nagini's poison.
Damn it. Harry Potter was Lily Evens and Lucius Malfoy's child.
Last year Dumbledore had taken Severus aside and dumped the unexpected, and certainly unwanted, knowledge upon his shoulders. He should have realized then that Dumbledore knew he wasn't going to live out the year. Unfortunately, other things had been demanding Severus' attention at the time.
The doddering meddler had cursed the unborn offspring within Lily's belly with the Tegal Texi Charm. It was a spell Severus had heard of but had never seen in action. It tricked the genetic code of an embryo into thinking it had alternate parentage. A year ago—was it only a year?—Dumbledore had convinced Severus that the spell couldn't be left in place, that it would hamper his little hero's adulthood in unspeakable ways if it wasn't cancelled.
With a sigh, he continued to stare down at the bent head. Potter hadn't so much as breathed heavy in the last fifteen minutes.
Poppy Pomfrey had also been told of the curse and its counter. Unfortunately, the Healer wasn't aware of what poor, unsuspecting fool it had been cast upon. To Severus' relief, Pomfrey would be prepared for the changes Potter would soon be going through; he had only to deliver the potion, cast the spell and wash his hands of the mess.
The potion, a small vial of blue syrup, rested in his pocket.
He fingered the vial, bounced it against the tips of his ochre-stained fingers.
He stopped fiddling with it and took in another breath.
Hunched against the edge of the classroom desk, the brat still hadn't moved.
Severus wondered what changes would arise in the boy. Would it be instantaneous, or would it take time, months for fair Malfoy features to surface? He tried to imagine Potter as a blond. It wasn't a pretty picture. Maybe he would be a redhead like Lily. But that thought pranced the atrocious Weasley color through Severus' mind. Would he grow taller, lose some of his athletic build? Would his eyes fade from their sharp green?
He also wondered, as he stared down at his defeated student, if Lucius' veela nature would insinuate its unwieldy desires into the mostly asexual teenager. It had skipped Draco—for that Severus was extremely relieved; the boy was a handful enough—even though the traits were fairly dominant in Lucius himself.
Severus allowed a momentary sense of remorse for Potter. Not only was he not a Potter, but soon his entire endocrine system would betray him by flooding his body with entirely new hormones.
It would be easier to just leave him as he was. Easier for Potter, easier for Severus. But Dumbledore had made him promise.
How was it, even after fulfilling his damned duty to Dumbledore and all those ungrateful wastes of skin, that these situations were still thrust upon him? Well, this was the last time. The. Last. Time. He would cast the counter curse, poor the thick goo down the boy's gullet and be off. Let his friends deal with him and his screwed up life. It wasn't Severus' problem.
"Potter," he barked. He gripped the vial and lifted his wand. "I grow tired of waiting for you to come to terms with Daddy," he said with a sneer. "Drink this." He thrust out the potion on his open palm.
Potter looked up at the swirling blue, mesmerized.
Severus ground his teeth. "Fine." The word was sharp.
He plucked the cork from the vial and pressed it towards Potter, ready to curse him stiff if the need arose.
"What is that?" Potter finally asked. He looked up, his face pale with a thin sheen coating his upper lip. Every breath he took was a quick sip of air. Severus observed that if Potter kept on this track he'd soon hyperventilate.
"The potion you must to ingest to remove the curse that has been put upon you."
Potter's eyes squinted. "What curse?"
"Have you not wondered why you look like James Potter when you are not, in fact, his child? A curse that stifles your true genetic parentage was cast on you before you were born," Severus said. There was so much more he could say: a plethora of details with little worth. None of them would help Potter, only confuse him. Anyway, he didn't need any help with this decision. There was no decision. He would take the potion and Severus would cast the spell and it would be done.
Potter swallowed, his eyes constantly tracking every movement Severus made, a shift of his weight, the lifting of his hand as he offered the potion, the dipping of his Adam's apple when he cleared his throat. They looked everywhere but into Severus' own hard gaze. "This curse made me a Potter?"
"This curse camouflaged your genetics to have your body think it was a Potter. It is detrimental to your further psychological and physical development and should be removed now that no other pressing business is at hand."
Potter chuckled, a dry, self-depreciating laugh that flittered through the air, unbalanced and odd. "No pressing business at hand. 'Good job Potter, you killed Voldemort, now we're going to really screw your life up.' Thanks, but no thanks."
"There isn't an option here, Potter. You will take the potion. Dumbledore insisted upon it."
Finally, a spark ignited in the boy's eyes. "Who cares? I don't. I don't give a damn what Dumbledore insisted on. This is my life! Nobody else has any right to fuck with it anymore!" Potter had sprung to his feet, his hands fisted at his sides and those green eyes, just like Lily's, bore into Severus' with all the anger and frustration of a teenager who still had no control over his own destiny.
"Potter. You will start having physical difficulties. Your growth will modulate out of control. You might have emotional inconsistencies. Most likely, you will not be able to have children. At some point the curse will begin to weaken and fail, and the older you are when this happens, the more crippling the effects will be on you. Either way, then or now, the curse will break and you will become a Malfoy."
The two men stood facing each other. One much taller, his lanky hair a veil around his face, the other a bundle of tense nerves just aching to lash out at something.
"It would be easier to do this now." Severus held out the vial again. Potter flinched away, as if Severus held a small, spitting viper.
"Would it be better if we went to the Hospital Wing and Madam Pomfrey administered the cure?"
"She knows, too?" The knowledge seemed to embarrass Potter.
"She also knows the counter curse, yes. But not that you are the individual under the influences of the Tegal Texi Charm."
With his eyes huge and lower lip beginning to tremble treacherously, Potter slowly nodded, his gaze locked onto the vial gripped between Severus' fingers. Severus slid the cork back into the vial and turned to open the door.
"After you," he said, and Potter walked out into the hall.
The potion had tasted like blueberries and Harry wondered why it wasn't as nasty as all the past potions Snape had made him drink.
Pomfrey had assured him the potion would do exactly as Snape had promised. Through her professional veneer, Harry could see that she juggled between concern for him and anger at Snape. Really, as hard as it was for Harry to admit, it wasn't Snape's fault.
Secretly, he wondered if the odd things he'd been feeling were because of the curse. He felt down all the time, and really, he had no interest in sex, and wasn't that abnormal for an almost 18-year old? Lately, he felt clumsy and just two days ago he'd tripped up the stairs. Up the stairs. Luckily, it was just him and Hermione, nobody else had seen. He'd known Ron would have been reduced to tears, laughing so hard.
Now his two best friends were sitting in chairs beside his bed. He'd protested the bed, but Pomfrey had insisted, and honestly, he didn't care to argue anymore. He wondered if this was what despondency felt like.
At least with Voldemort he'd had a foe. Now he had nothing to fight against, only himself. His own genetic code.
Hermione was holding onto his hand, her palm clammy in his own, and Ron had his typical worried look that bunched his eyebrows up into fat caterpillars. At first they had argued it was a trick when he'd divulged Snape's news. Hermione had been ready to charge off to the library and Ron had furled his fingers into fists to fight by Harry's side. But Pomfrey had supported the git's story—and well, there wasn't much to argue anymore.
As they waited for the potion's affects, the only three in the large medical room within a mostly deserted castle, the shadows grew long, sliding across the tiled floor, the white-washed walls, until they crawled under Harry's bed and up into Ron and Hermione's laps. With a sigh, Harry exchanged hard looks with his friends. The air was thick when they finally rose to leave.
The dungeons were no longer passable and Severus looked upon the rubble blocking the entrance to his precious rooms with regret.
His skin crawled around his neck, like a living thing, and he resisted the urge to claw at it, peel the flesh away layer by layer until he no longer felt invaded by an alien presence.
The dust had long settled; it had been weeks since the final battle, and the reconstruction was already under way. Only a few inhabitants walked the hallways of the castle; most of the construction mages were housed in makeshift lodges in the grounds surrounding the destruction.
He considered his rare potions, stores of ingredients, precious books he knew he would be forever replacing. His thoughts rested on his half empty vial of phoenix tears and knew that they had already been soaked up by the thirsty floor, dribbling down into the tiny, porous capillaries within the stone.
His hand rose to trace the aching scar along his neck, and then he thrust it down to his side once again, letting the fingers twitch in camaraderie to the muscles around his throat. He regretted the loss of those tears.
With a swish of his robes, he swiveled around and returned to the staircase, taking the steps slowly as he mused over his future. He'd sacrificed everything he'd wagered on long ago… Not because he lost, but because he hadn't expected to win. Oh, surely the side of Light would win. Dumbledore and Harry Potter would win. He had no doubt. But he, Severus, wasn't supposed to survive. The bite from Nagini had been shocking—to be honest, he'd calculated his own assassination to happen later in the game—but it hadn't been unexpected. He remembered lying there after he'd delivered all those memories to that stupid brat, vomiting up his very soul so the boy could do what he had to do. Then the pain had gone and he'd floated in numbness. Nothing existed and he'd thought it truly was the end.
Then he'd woken up to Pomfrey fussing over him. Damnable woman should have let him die, then he wouldn't be in this predicament. And neither would Potter.
Severus would have felt sorry for him, if he wasn't already feeling sorry for himself.
He stormed through the halls, letting his fury overwhelm the growing self-pity spreading like a fungus through his thoughts. He'd only passed two other people, and they were charging by on their own business. It was a bloody blessing the castle hadn't crumbled around the tempest within.
He passed through the Hospital Wing doors for his morning treatment of anti-venom and cell reconstruction charms, when he pulled up short at the sight four beds down. At a bed aligned along the wall opposite the line of windows, Pomfrey was tending to her only other patient; her palm pressed to his forehead. Through the tall windows, the morning's white light washed over the young man and on him it looked like a halo, as if a godly being sat there in the hospital bed.
With a blink, Severus realized that was no creature from heaven, but Potter. Already losing the dark features of the Potter bloodline, his hair had lightened to a honeyed brown, and added length now tempered that maddening fluff. His strong jaw had relinquished the perpetual jut and even at the angle of his head, Severus could see his nose took on a perky upturn, almost giving him a snooty look. And something else about him seemed to glow, seemed to … sparkle.
The genetic transformation had undoubtedly triggered Potter's veela heritage.
Severus was ready to turn on his heel and charge out of there when Pomfrey looked over at him. Potter slowly lifted his head, his fingers pressed into his temple, and trapped Severus with his gaze. Severus stood there, unmoving, totally captured by those eyes, stark green, bright and shining and completely overwhelmed with worry.
Something in Severus' chest twitched.
"Severus," Pomfrey called to him as she walked his direction. "Shall we get you looked at now, young man?" She'd taken to calling him 'young man' since Dumbledore's death; it always made him feel guilty.
As she led him to a secluded examination area, Severus turned his head to glance one more time at Potter. Potter was sitting up, watching Severus until he disappeared beyond the privacy screen.
Stretched out on his back, eyes closed, Harry breathed slowly in and out from his belly like Pomfrey had told him to do. She wasn't sure why his head felt like a sledgehammer banged around inside his skull, but the pain killing potions weren't cutting it.
To his right Ron shifted in his own bed. They'd been assigned a small room in the north end of the castle that had received the least damage from the Death Eater invasion. Hermione had gone to retrieve her family from Australia, but promised to return within the week. Her room, across the hallway from Harry and Ron's, awaited her return.
With a soft snore, Ron rolled over and Harry stared at him through the dim lighting, highlighted only by the moon and stars shining down from the open window. A cool breeze shifted the draperies and carried in the scent of impending rain. His friends had been amazing with the news, supportive, helpful. They didn't freak out… well Ron freaked out a little, and Hermione jumped to research the entire situation, finding her own comfort in something familiar and organized.
Harry still didn't know what to think. The simple thought that he was a child of rape churned his stomach, sent him into cold shivers.
And then… he wasn't James Potter's child.
His whole life… his existence… it was just so fucked up. A small sob bubbled up through his chest; he curled over onto his side, pushing the palm of his hand to his forehead. In the spot right before his temple the sharpest pain picked away.
He felt so lost, confused, and there was nobody to explain why all this had happened to him. He had no father, no mentor, no godfather. His entire collection of role models, gone and ground to dust. Somehow, deep within his soul, he felt that his life should have been better than this.
More pain, aching and deep, stretched through his limbs, up along his legs, across his back and down his arms. Straight through to the center of his bones. Pomfrey had said that there might be some discomfort as that fucking rapist's genetics took hold. However, she didn't say it would feel anything like this.
Quietly, under the building clouds, Harry wept.
"Now, Severus, quit squirming."
"I am not squirming, Madam," he groused. He was sitting on the examination table impeccably motionless and the Healer had the gall to tell him to stop squirming.
"Not your body, your mind."
He shifted his gaze over to hers. Perhaps, since Dumbledore's death, Pomfrey was the only person on the planet who could read him like that. Lying just under her thick shield of professionalism, he could see the tiny crinkles at the edges of her eyes, the slight bunching of her brows. She was worried about him. Bitter, stodgy, unlikable Severus, and this matronly woman was worried about him.
He grunted and she poked him in the ribs with her wand
"Watch it." He found he could find neither the proper focus nor desire to flay the woman currently rubbing a thick ointment across the still gaping wound across his neck.
"I know you are worried about Harry Potter, Severus." She waved her wand over him and golden sparkles landed over parts of his body. She began diagnosing those areas with another charm.
"Harry Malfoy, you mean." He felt chilled sitting in only his trousers and shirtsleeves. A golden patch settled over his left knee that had ached him since before he'd become Headmaster the previous year.
"Oh come now. He will always be Harry Potter, Potter bloodline or not. He has more ownership to that name than any other Potter had claimed in many generations." She tapped his knee with her wand and warmth washed over it. "Don't you think?"
Severus only knew the one other Potter; that little bastard had certainly laid down a legacy.
He was about to respond as such when the double doors leading to the Hospital Wing burst open. Severus leapt to his feet, wand in hand. Tumbling in, panting like a marathon runner in the last two miles of his race, was Ronald Weasley.
"It's—It's Harry. He's—" Weasley, still dressed in brown and white striped pajamas, was leaning over to catch his breath, his hands braced against his thighs. "There's something wrong."
Weasley was actually squeaking, sounding like a boy balanced on the edge of puberty and true panic was etched into the lines across his face. Pomfrey promptly grabbed her medical bag, and she and Severus rushed through the doors with the young war hero leading the way.
During their brisk walk, Weasley babbled about Potter crying and screaming, about his complaints of pain in his back and head. "He tried to come see you," he said to Madam Pomfrey between pants, "but he couldn't stand."
Severus, first to the room, rushed through the door, only to have the scene stop him cold.
Blood. Blood everywhere. Coating the bed on the left side of the room, the sheets, duvet and pillow; everything was splattered. It dripped down the walls like spring rain, painted the windows. The metallic scent of it dredged up unwanted visions and memories, and for a moment Severus' vision swam.
Then he heard a whimper, a small noise that could have been dismissed as the sound of the wind or the scuff of a shoe. But he'd heard such noises before in his long history of working under the command of a truly evil man and he turned to peer into the corner of the room.
"Sweet Merlin, Harry!" Weasley's voice screeched at the sight of the blood, strained to the snapping point.
Drenched in pain and blood, hunched over like a beaten crup, was a form. Potter. His hair, that newly mutated light brown with honeyed streaks, was a closer match to the churned earth in a cattle yard during the rain. Pooling around his feet, a growing puddle. Severus marveled that Potter was still alive if all that blood had come from his body. He was gripping his legs, his head pressed between the wall and his right knee, burrowing it away from the morning light streaming in from the window.
And sprouting from his shoulders amid tattered T-shirt and shoulder flesh were two fully-formed wings, quivering and fluttering with the erratic motion of a twig caught up in a gale.
"Oh my," Pomfrey gasped, and hurried over to Potter.
At her movement, Potter's head lifted; his eyes reflected the light from the rising sun. Then he screamed, scrambling away from the Healer's outstretched hand, slipping in own life's blood.
From the doorway, Severus examined the young man flailing away from Pomfrey's soft cooing. He brought up his arm to block Weasley's blind rush to his friend's side. Pomfrey kept saying 'Harry, it's just fine now. Harry, everything is fine,' but the words were simply blown air.
"Madam Pomfrey, might I suggest a sedative and a pain reliever." Severus examined Potter's stark eyes, the flashing whites of an animal in panic. "I don't think he recognizes any of us at the moment."
While Weasley kept to Potter's side like a Siamese twin, Severus and Pomfrey discussed what had happened to Potter. Weasley clung to Potter's hand, entwining their fingers as if his very grip was the sole reason the Chosen One wasn't washed away into the unknown beyond.
"I've never seen anything like it, Severus. His wings, for one. Just ripping from his body like that." This woman who had seen every type of magical malady and disaster shivered. "It is hard to imagine the pain that must have caused him."
Severus had a very firm grasp on the amount of pain a set of wings spontaneously sprouting from one's back just might inflict, but he chose to remain silent.
The Healer shook her head. "And those are not veela wings, Severus." He had noticed that fact. They were sea green and scaled leather. It reminded him of dragon hide. "Are you certain that Lucius was half veela? Perhaps some other being's bloodline can be attributed—" she trailed off, pressing her lips together in frustration.
Weasley looked over his shoulder at them again. At times he looked hopeful, at other times it seemed all faith had been lost. "No. To my knowledge, the Malfoy's have the genetic strains of veela and human and that is it. Though, how far back one takes the search might reveal others—" He grew silent. Something quite preposterous had slithered into his mind.
"Severus? What is it?"
With a shallow nod, he continued, "Perhaps it isn't Malfoy's bloodline we should be researching."
Pomfrey's eyes widened at his implication. "But Evans was a Muggleborn."
"Yes, but she was still a magical person. Perhaps her magic came from something in her ancestry. Muggleborns do not have the ardent dedication to genealogy of wizarding purebloods. Who knows what might be mixed into her bloodline from generations past?"
Pomfrey nodded at this, mulling his new theory over. "Perhaps. I'll have my assistant research her bloodline. As it is, I will need to keep Harry sedated until we can find out something." She clicked her tongue in concern. "Not only about his wings, but this degeneration of his mind. That has me worried most of all."
Severus nodded. Though Potter never had been the brightest star in the sky, he still hadn't been a feral animal.
"And Severus, just to assure we are not missing something, will you speak with Draco Malfoy about what other magical bloodlines the Malfoy's might have. It could be Lily Evans, or it might not be. I want to cover every possibility."
"Of course." With Lucius incarcerated and Narcissa a bitter, old bitch, Draco was the most obvious choice for the inquiry. Unfortunately, he was certain Draco would want to know why and he didn't feel the information of Potter's true lineage would be welcomed with open arms.
Severus looked over to the hospital bed once more, to Weasley earnestly gripping that hand, studying Potter's face, slack with potions and spells, drool bubbling from his opened lips
It was insane, really, and Severus attributed it to the fact that he'd been watching out for and protecting the boy since he was eleven, but seeing Potter in such a state did something to him. It caused its own breed of anxiety.
It made him sad.
"And why do you need to know, Severus?"
He resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose. He knew that Draco would make this an inflated ordeal and… Damn it! The war was over, didn't he deserve a moment's peace?
"I've taken up genealogy as a hobby to fill my excessive free time, and I thought I would research one of the most prestigious wizarding families," he said in a monotone, his gaze boring into that of the twitchy Malfoy Jr.
Why did he twitch so much? It grated on Severus' nerves. He'd never called Draco on it before because Lucius had been one step closer to the Dark Lord's inner circle.
"Stop that incessant convulsing," Severus said. Draco stilled, a look of shock flittering across the young man's face. Even his expressions twitched.
"Thank you. Now give me your bloodline records." Draco stared at him, arms akimbo. "Please." Severus added.
The blasted man had the gall to raise his eyebrow at Severus. He'd taught him that trick, the little brat!
Severus glared at Draco, just daring him…
"Why do you want them?" So much for being a threatening figure.
"Don't ask questions." Then, as an after-thought, "I've a right mind to curse you into giving me what it is I want." He had neither the energy nor the time to sweet-talk Draco into giving him the information.
Draco scoffed. "You would not. You like me!" He announced it like a grand title.
Severus' surprised flinch caused Draco to chuckle. "I do no such thing," he said in affront.
"Alright, then," Draco said and began to pace the receiving room of the small estate he and his mother now lived in. It was the only property in Britain they were allowed to keep. The Manor and their other holdings had been sold off in a flash for reparations to war victims. Severus had inwardly laughed at the whole predicament, knowing that as Draco easily agreed to the sale, Lucius was cringing in his cell. Narcissa kept to herself, angry at the world. "So, you need my genealogy. Why would you need it?" Draco cupped one elbow in a palm and then pressed his chin into the other, tapping his cheek with his forefinger, raising his eyes up to the ceiling in a mockery of thoughtful contemplation. "Let's see… Could it be the Malfoy line is attached to another bloodline…" he trailed off and glanced over at Severus.
Whatever he saw in Severus' face caused him to drop his hands and grip them behind his back. The entire show would have amused Severus if the blasted blueblood wasn't potentially going to figure out why Severus wanted the information.
"Could be that my line crosses that of another person of personal interest to you… Or those you work for. Hmm, Professor Severus Snape. Death Eater. War Hero. Double Agent… For whom is it that you are seeking?" Draco stopped his pacing and looked Severus straight in the eyes. "Or is this search personal?" Oh, the cheeky brat.
Then Draco's eyebrows flew together in a moment of awe. "It isn't you, is it? Are we related?" Severus snorted, and opened his mouth to respond, but then with a toss of his fair hair, and a twirl on his heel, Draco turned away and began pacing again. "No, not us, because then you would just tell me, and it certainly would be something we'd know about. This has to be someone else. Someone of a certain importance who is not already close to the Malfoy line."
Then Draco stopped cold. His shoulders tensed and in those stiffened lines, Severus read that Draco had figured it out.
"Oh no. Do not tell me."
Severus didn't. He crossed his arms over his chest and waited.
Draco whirled around like a miniature typhoon and came bearing down on Severus. "Don't tell me—"
"Fine. I will not. Now kindly get me the genealogical records I have requested."
"Who? Who is it? I already know about those idiot Weasleys being related, and not to mention Potter. Oh, please don't tell me it's Filch." Then Draco paled. "Oh Merlin. Not a Mudblood."
Interesting. Even Severus hadn't known about the Potters and Malfoys. More importantly, Draco hadn't figured it out after all.
"Are you ready to hand over—?"
"Severus. Please." The little snob was begging. "Please promise me it isn't Granger. Please."
Severus rolled his eyes. "One of the most intelligent and magically inclined witches of this generation and you are whining about possibly being related to her? Oh, Draco. Do grow up."
That pulled Draco out of his fit, if momentarily. "Fine. I'll take you to the library—" Severus turned to the door, ready to begin so this fiasco could be concluded in all due haste. "—but really, you have to tell me who it is."
He stepped around to face Draco, who'd dropped the contemplative visage, as well as the sniveling begging act, and he looked, for once, like a normal human being.
His thoughts turned to Potter, bleeding and huddled in fright. "It is nobody of your concern, Draco."
There was a flash in Draco's eyes, defiant and burning with just a touch of enmity, but then it was gone. If he was anyone other than Severus Snape, he might wonder if it had actually been there. But even with a near fatal snakebite, he knew what he'd seen.
"Very well. I'll take you to the hall."
With a spike of adrenaline, the teenager lurched to his feet and nearly fell off the bed he'd been lying on.
In two blinks of his eye, he scurried underneath it, and then held his breath, listening for whatever it was that had jolted him from his dreamless sleep. The room was dark, but he could see the outlines of other beds in the long room. On the air was the scent of something familiar.
Then he heard it. Breathing. The soft breathing of sleep.
But that wasn't everything. There was something else on the air. The tang of bitterness, the sharp hint of musk. The hum of anticipation.
He took in a slow, deep breath, then held it. Listening.
There it was. More breathing, hidden, masked by that of the person asleep on the bed next to his. There were three people here. He, and the familiar, and another. Also familiar, but something about the other sent his wings shivering.
He tried to still them, tried to hold onto his anxious nerves and muscles, but they seemed to control him more than he controlled them. Right now they hurt, ached with the need to spread out, to move, and flap and …
Reaching out a hand, then a leg, he frog-walked out from under the bed. The room was dark, but he could still see shadows and shapes. He blinked. His eyes felt dry, grainy.
His wings quivered against the tight constriction of the cotton that surrounded their base. Like a cat, he stretched, pulling his hands into claws against the floor, his fingernails catching against the grout between square tiles as his back arched up.
Then he lifted his face and sniffed. Short, quick inhalations that brushed air against the receptors in his nose. There it was again.
Earthy. The scent was earthy.
He crawled forward again. One palm against the floor, followed by another, then a quick step of his feet. He was silent as he crept forward, catching the scent, eyes wide to collect every spark of light in the darkened room.
Keeping close to the line of beds he slunk as low as he could, slipping from under one bed to the other, hidden in shadow. He didn't have to go far before he found the other.
Three beds from his, across the isle, the other sat in a chair. It was a man, older than the one that was sleeping next to him. This man also slept; his breathing near silent.
With careful exertion he rose to his feet, hunched over in a squat, and stepped towards the sleeping man. Standing before the man in the chair, his wings almost purring they were vibrating so quickly, he studied the form all wrapped up in dark clothing, dark hair. He leaned forward and inhaled again.
Ah, that was it. Musky, earthy, and strong.
Now his wings did purr, a faint hum but loud enough that the man's eyes slowly opened.
Neither said anything as they shared time and space. The man remained stoic under the examination, until finally the teenager settled on the ground and placed his chin on the man's knee.
Soon, he fell asleep.
Slipping over the lip of each window, the rays of morning sun crept into the Hospital Wing in a silent stride. With a flutter of his eyes Severus awoke, and a cramp in his lower back roared to life as his awareness took stock of his surroundings. Half of Potter covered Severus' lap, the other half spilled onto the floor like one of those rag doll cats. Though the whelp was soundly sleeping, a soft buzzing noise emanated from his leathery wings and Severus could see the minute vibrations of the taut skin.
The very situation was strange and creepy. The fact that Potter had snuck up on Severus was enough to shock him. But that he was here, head in his lap, limp hand wrapped up in Severus' robe, was enough to send even the most stable man to the St. Mungo's wards. And Severus wasn't the most stable man.
A groan from across the room alerted Severus to the impending explosion due from the young man's best friend. Severus inwardly cursed, but dared not move or talk or do anything in case Potter awoke and jumped to the ceiling in panic.
A groaned out yawn, the sound of bare feet slapping against the floor, and then Weasley emerged from beyond the privacy screen centered on Potter's bed—the bed that the genetically confused brat was not sleeping in. Weasley saw Severus, with Potter draped across him, and stopped with one foot still in the air.
Both Severus and Weasley looked down at the honeyed head as it rose and then Potter blinked myopically up at Severus, then over to Weasley. Then he yawned, stretched, and set his chin back on Severus' knee, looking up at him with curiosity and peace.
"S—sir," Weasley stuttered. "What's going on?" Potter shifted and looked over at Weasley. A leathery wing stretched long up to the ceiling, shivered a bit, and then relaxed. Then the other. Weasley and Severus watched. Potter sighed.
"As is quite obvious, Mr. Weasley, Potter is resting on me." Severus' back ached. He shifted slightly, and Potter lifted his head again and looked up at Severus. "Go fetch Madam Pomfrey."
Weasley trotted off as the two men continued to contemplate each other.
Soft footsteps revealed Madam Pomfrey's arrival. "Hello, Mr. Potter," she said in warm greeting.
Potter recoiled and practically crawled into Severus' lap. Pomfrey had spoken in her most soothing voice, but something about it frightened the flappable young man. Pressing his head into the small gap between Severus' side and arm, he tried to bury his way into the thick fabric of his robe.
"Oh," she said with a disappointed sigh. Then, "Severus, please see if you can get him to drink this."
He reached for the cup the Healer held outstretched. The contents were clear and cool. Looking from the glass to the form half-burrowed in his lap, he returned his attention to the two observers.
"It might be more beneficial if you two were to remove yourself from his sight at this time. He seems to… be uncomfortable in the presence of too many individuals." And comfortable with him. Wasn't that a wonder?
Pomfrey grabbed Weasley's upper arm and dragged him away; the entire trek to Pomfrey's office, Weasley watched them over his shoulder, practically stumbling over his uncoordinated feet.
When they were gone, Severus reached up with his right arm and tentatively touched the back of Potter's head. Potter's entire body shivered and then he pulled his head away from the safety of Severus' armpit and glanced up into his face.
Those eyes. So green.
"Drink this." Severus held out the glass. Potter looked at it, his head tilted to the side. Then he looked back up at Severus. All of the young man's actions were intentional; no movement was wasted. It was eerily similar to that of a bird, or mantis.
With a sigh, Severus sipped from the glass, then held it out to Potter. Slowly, the young man leaned forward and set his lips on the rim of the glass. Severus tilted the glass and watched the overhead light reflect off the silver stream of liquid as it slipped into Potter's open lips.
Once the cool liquid touched his tongue, Potter realized what it was. Eagerly, he gripped the glass in both hands and Severus released it as Potter guzzled down the water. When he finished he looked longingly down into the glass, then up at Severus.
"Would you care for more, Potter?" Potter looked up at him. "Harry?" Something in those eyes sparkled, glowed.
He used to worry about inconsequential things, like the plight of good over evil and his own mortality, but now he found himself focused on one person entirely. And it wasn't a soothing realization.
Potter nodded, and Severus said, "Well, I will have to rise to get it for you."
Those eyes, brilliant and oddly trusting, were uncomprehending. Slowly, Severus moved to stand, letting the broken man slip from his place on his lap. Like a lithe ferret, Potter slipped to the floor, resting on one hip as he looked up at Severus. The way he was sitting, almost demure with those amazing wings vibrating, caused Severus' breath to catch in his chest. He was beautiful, but too vulnerable after everything that had happened to him.
Too vulnerable to have Severus staring at him like that.
"Come on now. Nobody will hurt you."
Severus turned away and began walking towards the sink. He heard nothing behind him, but his attuned perception caught the sense of an adjacent presence, and he knew Potter had followed. He put the glass under the faucet and filled it. Slowly, he turned and Potter was right there. Mere feet away.
He held out the glass, and Potter took it, once again with two hands, and emptied the glass.
Then he looked up at Severus again. Something pure in those eyes, like adoration.
Potter jumped in the air and quickly dove behind Severus for the safety provided by the sink. Pomfrey and Weasley stood off to the side. Severus glanced over his shoulder at the huddled man and reached out his hand.
"It is fine. They will not hurt you."
Potter looked at the outstretched hand, then up at Severus.
"I will not let them hurt you, Harry." The entire world floated eons away.
Slowly, inch by inch, Harry unfurled himself and crawled out from under the sink, his hand firmly gripping Severus'.
"I think he's taken a shine to you, young man," Pomfrey said with enough joviality to make Severus cringe.
"It appears so."
"But why?" Weasley barked. Harry stiffened and gazed at his friend with huge eyes. Weasley grimaced and said more quietly, "Why does he trust Professor Snape. No insult intended, sir."
Oh, certainly not, Severus thought. "I've no idea," he said.
With a strong hold on Potter, Severus pulled him forward and walked him towards Pomfrey and his best friend. Both stood still, apparently understanding the fragility of the moment.
"Harry." When had he fallen into calling the Golden Boy by his first name? "This is Ronald Weasley. He is your friend. You trust him with your life." Though the gods knew why. Potter tilted his head, examining Weasley like he had the glass of water, then he lifted up his hand, reaching halfway. Something grew bright in the red-head's face and he gently touched Potter's hand.
Ron grinned like a boy riding his first broom.
"This," Severus said, "is Madam Pomfrey. A Healer. She has been helping you for years. You also trust her with your life."
Again, Potter looked up into Severus' face, then over at the older woman, like he had to check first with Severus. He then reached out for her, and she touched his hand, unshed tears building in her eyes.
"Harry. My sweet boy. We're going to help you. We will."
Potter dropped his hand from hers and reached back behind him. Embarrassed, Severus took the hand and held it. It was warm and soft and felt right in his own.
"Come with me, Harry." He led the man to his bed. With a pounce, Potter landed on the mattress, adjusting his wings to hang over the far side as his legs hung over other. Relieved and excited, Pomfrey began her diagnostics.
With an eye for subtlety and subterfuge that had been honed during the Dark Lord's occupation of the Manor, Draco knew that Severus was hiding something fascinating. After Severus had left following hours of research, Draco himself had dug through his ancestry records. Nothing was much of a shock, the worst of it realizing he was related to that imbecile Fudge four generations back. His eyes traced over the fine scrawl that listed his great great grandfather Marci Rendoran, a full-blooded veela. Draco knew he wasn't fully human and had been disappointed when none of the veela traits had developed in him. It was actually a point of honor for the Malfoy clan. There was the expected twining of most of the pureblooded families in Europe with each other. But nothing else jumped out at him.
He wasn't surprised he'd found nothing. He'd had no idea what he was looking for.
Draco didn't know where else to look, but the mystery interested him enough to plan a visit to Hogwarts, where he knew the old family friend was residing with a few other professors and individuals who were working to rebuild the castle.
Walking through the deserted halls, some of them crumbled and impassable, brought a sense of loss and guilt to Draco. This place held some of his most important memories: his first kiss, his first fuck, showing up that infuriating Potter. The power of being on the Inquisitional Squad. He stared down at his feet. Not to mention the feeling of panic and desperation trying to fix that blasted cabinet. The Death Eaters swarming the halls. So much had happened here in his seven years of residence.
He'd discovered that the passage to the Slytherin common rooms, and therefore Severus' old quarters, had collapsed. Keeping to side passages with his eyes and ears wide, he walked the length of the castle, hoping to find the man and maybe some hints as to what got his cockles in a bend.
He was walking down a northern hallway covered in dust. As he approached a major intersection, he heard footsteps approach and ducked behind a moth-eaten tapestry.
"… And he barely even lets me touch him!"
It was the Weasel. Why was he there?
"It's… bizarre the way he's so attached to Snape. It's obvious this whole… change has had major implications on him. I think we just need to give him time."
"Yeah, sure. By then he'll be…"
Draco strained his ears but couldn't hear the Mudblood and Weasley anymore as they turned around a corner. Why were they even there? And where was the stupid Hero? And wasn't that cute… Weasley had a crush on a boy and his love was spurned. Draco chuckled. He couldn't wait to spread that rumor around.
But his love interest was attached to Snape? That was Draco's first impression; though he knew it wasn't wise to make such assertions based on only a few words overhead. He would have to find out more… Once he'd figured out why Snape was researching the Malfoy bloodline.
He stepped out around the corner and headed the way those two had come.
He met nobody in the halls until he came upon the Hospital Wing. At the door to the Wing he overheard more voices. Pressing up to the door and opening it a crack, he listened. Severus was talking.
"I know the flavor is lacking, but you must eat." There was a pause, then, "One bite and I will let you have more water. But you have to eat."
Draco swallowed on a snort. Severus was feeding someone? Was it a baby or toddler? Could it be a foundling? Maybe Severus thought it was a Malfoy. Draco cracked the door open a bit more.
"What is it?" Severus spoke as if he were talking to a little firsty. "Come back here! Potter!"
But Draco didn't have much time to process that thought because the door was slammed open and Draco was mauled by someone, the force enough to practically launch them through the air to crash into the other side of the hallway. In the brief moment before his head cracked against the stone he saw the face of someone familiar, but it certainly wasn't anybody he knew.
Severus felt like a rat gnawed at his belly, and the sympathetic twitches churned under the length of his neck. The gnawing came from watching Potter clinging to a comatose Draco Malfoy, and the twitch came from the snakebite that caused Severus to take stock in his near misses.
He glared across the aisle at Draco's pale form lying underneath a starched white sheet, wishing his gaze alone had the power to vaporize his victims. Pomfrey had administered a potion to pull the boy into consciousness, but it took time, so Severus insisted on watching the privileged wanker lie there while Potter clutched onto his hand.
What was he thinking? He was acting like a jealous teenager when his favorite girl smiled at the school Seeker.
The last few days with Potter clinging to him, relying on him, had initially confused Severus, but it also had the added effect of softening something cold and hard within him. Ever since the curse had been removed, Severus realized his eyes kept being drawn to Potter. And though he felt stupid even thinking this, it was like Potter had an inner glow that held precious promises. Logically, he knew it must be the entrancement powers uncontrolled by the fledgling veela, or a mix of whatever it was that Potter also had hidden in his bloodline. Logically, he knew that in Potter's current state, the teenager couldn't control his reactions to outside stimulus. Logically, Severus knew he was as old as Potter's father… both of them. Logically…
Oh, screw logic. Severus wanted him. Wanted to take care of him. Protect him. Wanted to wrap him up in his arms and carry him far away. Wanted to burry his nose in that soft acorn-colored hair.
Merlin! Severus wanted to hide his face in his hands, hide away from his improper thoughts and school boy impulses. Instead he watched Potter stare into Draco's face. Every so often he would reach out and run his finger along the upturn of Draco's nose, and then do it to his own.
Then he would smile.
And the darkness in the room would cease to exist.
Severus stood to leave.
The scrape of the chair against the floor startled Potter, and he looked over at Severus. Severus stopped and realized that as Potter glanced from Draco to him, a worried, fretful jerk to his mannerisms, he couldn't just leave. In five strides he was by Potter's side, and the nails digging into his arm as Potter pulled him close to his side were a comfort.
"You don't want me to leave."
Potter looked up at him from under a mask of anxiety, holding each man by one of his hands, stuck in the middle like an iron link.
"Fine." Severus lifted his wand and summoned his chair. He sat down next to Potter on the side of Draco's bed.
It wasn't terribly long before Draco woke up; Severus was in a light snooze. A Nancy-like squeal jolted him to complete alertness. Draco was jerking on his arm, trying to pull it free from Potter's grasp, but Potter kept hold of it, his frantic gaze switching from Severus to Draco, a low whine filling the air.
"Draco. Calm down," Severus said in an even voice.
"But… Wings! Who…? What…? Gah! Make it let me go!" He continued to tug and flail in the bed and Potter continued to hold fast, on the edge of a complete terror attack if Severus could read the man correctly.
"Draco. Stop this instant."
Draco stilled and looked from Severus to Potter. Then his eyes landed on Potter's face and he looked, really looked, and his mouth fell open.
"Potter?" he asked in a squeak.
Severus observed the longing in Potter's eyes, though for the most part his face was completely unresponsive to Draco speaking his name.
"Yes," Severus said. "This is Harry Potter…. Harry Malfoy, to be exact, but we've decided not to change his name."
It took three heartbeats and then, "What?" Finally, Draco had managed to pull his arm free and Potter was on his feet, his wings held stiffly away from his body, giving him the impression of being poised for flight.
"Fucking Morgana's tits!" Draco said as he scrambled to the other side of the bed. Severus heaved a heavy sigh.
"Potter." No response. "Harry," he snapped. Potter turned and looked at him, his wings performing their odd little hum as he faced Severus. Then he glanced back at Draco, reaching out for him. In the incandescent lighting, Severus saw his eyes glistening.
Thought played no part in Severus gently holding onto Potter's elbow and guiding him close to Severus' chest.
"It's okay, Harry. Draco isn't running away." Severus wasn't sure why Potter had become attached to him; it made a little more sense for him to want to be with Draco. Perhaps, something in his blood called out to his brother, and wasn't that a barrel of jokes?
Draco panted, using the hospital bed as a shield against Potter, currently being held by Severus. Part of Severus felt silly. A larger part didn't give a damn how this might look.
"Draco, why don't you sit down and I will explain."
Draco remained standing. "So this," Draco gestured towards Potter, whose wings quivered as he stared hard at Draco, "Is why you needed to go through the Malfoy records?"
"What…" He swallowed whatever it was he was going to say and refined his question after a cleansing breath. "What has happened to him?" The worlds trailed off into something small and full of pity.
"His genetics have kicked in." Draco looked at him curiously. "Do you want the succinct story or the long drawn out epic?"
Draco did a quick shake to his head. "I don't care. Just tell me what's going on."
"Fine. Draco Malfoy, meet your half brother, Harry Potter. He is the progeny of an unwilling tryst between your father and Lily Evans." Draco looked like one of those mutated goldfish with bulging eyes and constant gaping mouth. "His genetic code had been masked until he fulfilled his duty to defeat the Dark Lord. Now that concealment is no longer needed his genetics have been allowed to revert to their natural state. Unfortunately, the Malfoy veela gene and something possibly inhuman from Lily Evans' genetic line have somehow… affected each other. He doesn't appear to know who he is and the only people he seems to truly trust are me… and apparently you."
There was a moment of silence, and then, "What?"
Severus raised one eyebrow. "Well, I had assumed you wanted the short version."
After a long drawn out conference with Draco, at times attended by Pomfrey, Severus convinced the Malfoy heir that Potter was in fact his younger half-brother, that he was a partial veela, and that his brain had gone Neanderthal.
That last part hadn't been a hard sell.
Draco's gaze rarely left Potter, and Potter appeared more relaxed when under the scrutiny of his brother. When Severus had finished, Draco stood, his face hard. "This is ridiculous. He might be my father's son, but he is not my brother. I am the Malfoy heir, and no mixed breed son of a Muggle will ever be equal to me." With a last look of disdain, he turned away from Severus and Potter, and rushed out of the Hospital Wing.
Potter cried out, reaching after the retreating man.
"I can't see why it matters to him. I mean really, it's Rat Face! Why does he care about what Rat Face does?"
"Ron, quit being so insensitive. From what Professor Snape said, it really affected Harry when Malfoy left the room."
Surrounded by Potter do-gooders, Severus felt strangely integral to the energetic crowd. Though he had planted himself far off to the side, away from the teenagers and Pomfrey, he still felt cemented by a common cause. One that—as odd as it seemed—he had actually chosen himself. Potter, thankfully, was drugged and sleeping peacefully in a bed nearby.
"But... Why would..." Weasley continued to struggle against the concept that somebody, anybody, would be inclined to spend time with Draco, let alone his closest friend.
"I believe," Severus interrupted Weasley's vague attempt to put multiple words together to complete a sentence, "that Potter, in his current state, recognized Draco as blood."
Granger looked up at Severus and he saw that she'd long ago come to that conclusion and the little know-it-all had a pile of other questions she wanted to ask that Severus sorely wished she wouldn't. But stars and wells had never worked for him before.
"Excuse me, sir." She was being overly polite. Severus steeled himself for the inevitable. "That explains his connection to Malfoy... Draco. But, it doesn't..." she stopped and Severus silently dared her to continue. "Well, it doesn't explain his interest ... well, to be blunt, attraction to you."
The two held each other's eyes. Her audacity was par for the course. "No. It does not."
He lifted up his tea cup and took a sip, everyone's attention on him. He didn't have an explanation for Potter's... attraction. He did have an assumption to his own interest in the young veela, recently sparked with the changes his genetics had undergone. He would never act on it... To give into a veela's charms was purely a symptom of a weak mind and will, either of which Severus most certainly did not have.
"It appears to me," Pomfrey said as she flipped through a sheaf of papers on a clipboard, "that he finds you comforting, Severus. Whenever he is in close proximity to you, his heart rate decreases and his breathing evens out. The only odd symptom is the fluttering of his wings, which only seems to happen near you. But it appears to be a soothing reaction, not one of agitation." She scribbled something towards the edge of one page, the feather of her quill dancing with her sharp strokes.
Granger stirred in her chair, the movement drawing Severus' gaze. She was staring right at him. Damn, the girl had no subtly. For a moment their eyes were connected, but then she looked away. Good, maybe this time she would hold her tongue.
"I have alerted Professor McGonagall to Potter's current situation," Pomfrey said. "She expressed interest in returning from the Hogwarts redesign meetings in Edinburgh, but I told her to stay put, that unless she was an expert in creature bloodlines, she was more useful at the meeting."
"Good. The place is already overrun with eager Potter lovers."
"Hey! He's our friend, you're just--"
Weasley shot his gaze towards Granger, then glowered at Severus. He sat back down, but Severus could practically see the steam rising from the teen's ears.
"Well, sir," Granger turned her attention to him. "As you said, we are all eager to find a way to help Harry. Obviously, we can do nothing about the genetic anomaly he's currently coping with. We know he's got veela genes from Malfoy. And something else from his mother, something... dragon?" She pursed her lips, resembling McGonagall in one of her contemplative moments. "I've done some research but without a full ancestor lineage, I can't really tell what else he might be. But these two genetic bloodlines are rampaging through Harry and if we can offer him any comfort, then I say we offer it." Though her voice was even through her entire speech, Severus could hear the crackle of anxiety tempering each word.
Severus dipped his head. "And I will offer what I can," he said. Granger and Pomfrey nodded while Weasley looked like his head might fly off his shoulders at any minute.
Severus hoped it would, he needed a little mindless entertainment.
Movement drew Severus' attention away as the two continued speculating and bickering. Close to the ground, Potter was slinking up to them, walking on all fours like a gecko clinging to a wall. His movements were slow, calculated, but enough that eventually Granger noticed him.
"What are you looking at?" she said. "Hey, Harry!"
Potter lifted his head, his eyes sparkling; then he giggled, burst from behind the desk he was creeping around and launched himself at Severus.
In less then three seconds Severus had a lap full of cheery, winged Potter. With open innocence Potter looked from his friends to Severus, a contented smile on his thin lips.
"Hello, Harry," Severus said. This close to Potter, Severus felt the skin across his arms and face tighten, the beat of his heart increase. Like the reactions of adding a potion ingredient to a bubbling cauldron, Severus cataloged his body's changes as well as the shifting of Potters weight as he leaned forward and saw exactly how this recipe was about to explode. It was out of his control. Like a mouse trapped by the gaze of a swaying python, Severus froze as Potter leaned forward and kissed him gently on the corner of his mouth.
Silence settled upon the room like it did upon the dead.
With his wings purring like a damned cat, Potter wrapped his arms around Severus and rested his head on Severus' chest right above his thudding heart.
With a force of will, Severus looked up at his three companions. He saw horror and resignation, neither was unexpected.
Snoozing in the afternoon light, curled up next to his person on a short sofa they'd moved to the big room, he thought about the other, the one who smelled like he did himself. It had been days since the smellalike had run away, and he wished he would return.
He understood there were many things he didn't remember, including something about the smellalike, and that brought its own special sorrow. His mind was like a vast, empty room, walls lined with safes, each one tiny and charmed tightly shut, holding within it one experience from his life. There was no ceiling and the room stretched on forever; there were uncountable safes. He knew all this, and yet he also knew he didn't have the proper password.
In his doze he twitched, thinking of flying with his person, holding onto each other as they soared high into the moist clouds, then diving together into the lake, swimming with the fishes. His wings fluttered. Then a touch to his head, soothing fingers massaging his scalp, and his wings began to purr.
He pressed his nose deeper into the scratchy fabric; he was relaxed and felt so safe. The feeling of safe held value beyond belief and he wanted to clutch it tight and keep it close.
"I know you are awake."
Like sun-warmed honey, the words of his person coated his skin, dipping into his pores and invading his very cells. They caressed him entirely from the bottoms of his feet to the ends of his wings and his core soaked them up like chapped earth. His entire body shivered. Still buzzing from the feather light brush of every syllable, he looked up into those black eyes.
And his breath caught.
His person was so lovely. His scent, the feel of his skin. That voice. But he knew that beyond all of those observable aspects was something more magnificent. His person was a well of protection and caring. His person overflowed with power and capability. His person loved him beyond all else.
With a slight shift of his body, he lifted and kissed the man. He tried to be gentle, because he could sense his person was off balance. He started by simply pressing their lips together, softly. Then another peck, and another. Nothing could stop each precious touch of lips; his heart swelled with joy and he kissed him again and again, rejoicing as his person's arms encircled him, and began kissing him back. Soon their mouths lingered, loath to be torn away and as his lips parted his wings grew stiff, stretching high, reaching for the ceiling.
"Severus Snape, should you be doing that with Mr. Potter?"
His person stiffened, his lips stilled, and though he growled in protest, he pulled away.
Looking up into those dark eyes, he could see they were shimmering, wide with disbelief. Those thin lips glistened; he leaned forward to capture them again.
His person pulled away.
The words pierced the balloon that had been inflating within his chest.
Again, he leaned forward.
"Harry. No." Gentle hands held him away. "Stop."
His person shifted his eyes from his face to something over his shoulder. He turned to look. The kind woman with the white headdress stood here, a full glass in her hand. He turned back to his person, unsure.
Did he do something wrong?
Did his person not want him?
His wings lowered, slumped until their tips hit the tiles of the floor; all that pent up energy evaporated. He let his gaze slip from his person's rigid frown to the center of his chest.
Tightness filled his chest this time and he struggled to keep his eyes lowered, not wanting to see hatred or disappointment or… disgust. Memories of those things flared up in his mind like flames and he withdrew from their heat.
"Harry…." The voice was low, and a hand ran through his hair. "I didn't mean to alarm you. But… Ah, well… We can't be acting in such an inappropriate manner." A swallow intersected the words. "It's not that—"
"Oh Severus, you're giving the lad mixed signals now."
The petting stopped. He lifted his chin and searched those eyes. He knew something was in there. Something he needed to see, or know. The truth.
So he pushed his gaze, injected his thoughts into the other man's. His person's eyes flew wide and with a sudden release, his mind was flooded and the doors of a million little boxes all slammed open, and with that, all of his experiences and life spilled into every crevice of his mind and with that knowledge, he promptly blacked out.
Draco had refused to wait amongst the gathering of his peers. Like wretched character witnesses waiting for the final verdict that would shunt their wrongly accused benefactor to his well deserved prison, they wrung their hands, shared worried looks and generally dirtied the place up with their concern.
It was funny, with moments like these, how some people pulled together. Draco remembered standing by his mother's side as his father's sentence was announced to a room full of hatchet men. Nobody there had worried, had gripped each other's hands fretting about fairness. They had drooled like rabid beasts, waiting for the victim to fall.
Severus had intruded on his quiet dinner and dragged Draco back to Hogwarts because his brother had collapsed after some unintentional Legilimency. Severus himself had been overwhelmed by the event and had also briefly lost consciousness. He wouldn't tell Draco what had happened in that snap of time where their minds had melded, but Draco could tell by the man's stiff set to his shoulders that it had affected him more than he would let on.
Since Draco was Potter's next of kin—the thought nearly bringing about a fit of giggles—he was brought to the Hospital Wing and quickly extricated himself from the small waiting room to wander the familiar halls.
"Don't go far," Severus had said… threatened, really. Draco knew that tone of voice. Merlin, the whole fucking situation was laughable. That Potter had pierced Severus' shield was enough, but the fact that they had called him in because he was next of kin. Now that… that was priceless. There had to be more to it, like they would need blood transfusions or magical compatibility tests, but just looking at the little freak—famous scar and green wings!—it was obvious to see that there was no compatibility there.
Draco paused his pacing and looked up to see Severus standing in the hall. He looked paler than usual, which was something of note. The snake bite still hadn't healed, and for that he felt sorry for the man.
"He has awakened and I think it would be beneficial—" Draco was already walking towards the Hospital Wing, brushing past Severus who spun around to follow behind. The sooner he joined the little party, the sooner he could get out of there.
On a bed near the entrance sat the winged freak smothered by his fans. Over Granger's bushy hair he could see Pomfrey waving her wand over Potter's head, and next to Weasley stood his older brothers, if the hair was any indicator.
At the entrance Draco stalled. Potter looked like hell. Discounting the mutation sprouting from his back, he'd gone pale, starkly white, and he had this defeated kind of hunch that Draco a few years past would have rejoiced at, but now, Potter just looked depressing.
The moment Severus stood by Draco's side, Potter looked over at them. If Draco had lived his life in a bread box without any human interaction, even then he could see that stark longing on his old rival's face, bald and flashing like a neon sign. Then Potter tore his eyes away, gaze planted on something near the foot of his bed and nodded as if he'd actually been listening to anything his friends were saying.
Granger turned and faced them. She took a deep breath and approached.
"Can I speak with you two?"
"You are doing so now, Granger," Draco said.
She rolled her eyes. "Cut the crap, Malfoy." She grabbed Draco and Severus' arms and pulled them out into the hall. Neither put up a struggle.
In the hall, she stood facing away from them, her head tilted down, her shoulders stiff.
"He remembers almost everything now." She spoke as if speaking in a funeral home, surrounded by mourners and their dead. "He says he knows who he is, what he's done—" She turned around and faced them. "But now… he says he remembers what he used to think about certain things, how he used to feel, but he doesn't feel it anymore." She leveled her gaze at Severus. "He doesn't know what is real and what isn't. It's like there are two different halves warring inside him."
Draco harrumphed. "Oh come on. Poor, poor Potter. He's all confused. Give him a potion and send him on holiday to Jamaica. I'm sure soon enough he'll be right as rain."
He waited for Severus to scoff, to mock Potter's weak mental abilities, maybe include some remark that now with two halves he might add up to a complete idiot… but his mentor was silent. Draco glanced up at him. The man's lips were a charcoal line across his face, his nostrils held in a mid-flare.
"Sir," Granger said. "Please… could you talk to him?"
To Draco's shock, Severus nodded and returned to the Hospital Wing.
Once again, Harry hated his life. Hating it had become such a regular thing, that he took little notice of its coming and going anymore. Like a chronic rash that kept appearing and disappearing at random intervals, stupid, crazy shit kept happening to Harry Potter.
He could sense his most despised teacher (his person) standing just beyond the double doors. He knew the man stood there. Not all that far away.
His wings began to vibrate.
"Damn it," he said under his breath, reaching back and batting at his own flesh, alien and unresponsive to his desires. A ping rang from a monitor by his bed, it'd been doing that a lot, pacing Harry's thoughts, the beat of his heart.
The doors opened.
Harry tucked his hands back into his lap, buried them in the folds of the blanket. It was suddenly very warm.
Loud, almost echoing, the footsteps approached. Clack. Clack. Clack. Harry didn't want to look up, see condescension in that face, or worse, some sick amusement. He'd been hanging all over the man for the past couple weeks. Cuddled him.
Oh Merlin. How could he face that down?
His wings stirred.
Overwhelmed by a feeling that he'd sum up to 'what the fuck,' he looked at Snape.
Snape's face rearranged itself from something almost human, to a completely stone façade. "Potter. How are you?"
He swallowed, and then said, "Fine."
"Your memory has returned?"
Silence now took up residence between them, slipping from the ceiling down between the flagstones. Flooding their ears, coating their tongues.
To his astonishment, Snape looked away first. "Harry," he said again, his voice low and even. Harry's wings vibrated.
"Fucking hell," he cursed, twisting around to bat at them again.
Snape had the audacity to laugh at him. Only it wasn't a mocking laugh, but something warm and shockingly welcome.
"It appears your wings tend to hum whenever I am in close proximity to you."
Harry gave up on stifling his wings' actions and let them build to a purr. He faced forward again and slumped where he sat on the bed. "I know."
"Harry, this is certainly something you can work through."
He glanced up through his lashes at Snape. His throat had grown tight and he had to focus to push the words out. "Why are you calling me Harry?"
Snape stood straighter and his eyes darted from Harry's, but were back before he was certain Snape ever looked away. And then he knew: the man was nervous. "I've grown accustomed to it." It rang like defeat.
Harry laughed, it was harsh and self-deprecating, almost a bark, and Snape frowned.
"You shouldn't be here," Harry said, his voice rough, grating like two stones running against each other. He began to fiddle with his thin blanket, a soothing blue, and the bed sheet pooled in his lap.
"And why not?" Snape asked, his frown growing more grim.
"I'm sure you've better things to do. More important places to be." Harry began rolling up the edge of the bed sheet against the plane of his thighs. Soon he had a tight, little, cloth tube.
"Harry," Severus said. The word, his name, was a dense entity hanging in the air. Finally, Harry looked up. "I'm exactly where I need to be." Harry swallowed, and so did Snape. "Where I want to be," he amended. Harry let go of the sheet and it raced to unravel.
"You—What…?" Everything around him had gone pale: the black of Snape's robe, the magenta of the monitoring screen, the bright tulips Hermione had brought earlier that day. Everything was muted and so, so far away and the air was filled with an odd humming and then, like speeding backwards through a long train tunnel, Harry's world again went blank.
Years ago he'd shared a conversation with Albus that made little sense until now. It was after the first fall of Voldemort, and for three years he'd been attempting to impress the precise delicacy of potions upon the thick-skulled children at the school. At times he and Albus would share a quiet moment by the fire, savoring a bottle of wine. He didn't remember if it was winter break or summer break, if the wine was a zinfandel or a pinot noir. He didn't remember what exactly had brought them to discuss the future and the especially trite subject of happiness, but he did remember something the man had said that he'd then dismissed as optimist's drivel.
The exact words had long ago unraveled, but the true essence of the tale he remembered well. Albus had said, when happiness crossed your pathway you had two choices. You could hang onto dignity and pride and turn away from the possibility to remain independent and in control. Or you threw away dignity. You threw away the need to control every aspect of your life and you opened that door, letting both chaos and hope in.
It was so … Albus. That man and his wingdings and widgets. His blind and defying optimism. That fierce expectation that if you just put your faith in people they would pull through for you.
Severus had fallen into that trap a long time ago. Albus Dumbledore was not someone anyone wanted to let down. Just his faith in you gave you super powers.
Severus shook his head, stirring up the memories and ache that had settled on his mind.
He remembered Harry crawling across the floor. He remembered the feel of his cheek pressed against his chest. Whenever Harry smiled…. Just the sight of it constricted his cantankerous heart; dutifully pushing the blood through his body without realizing its more romantic calling. He held his breath, awed at the feeling, the utter loss of his own destiny, loss of control of his soul, because right now, that smile held the ownership of that heart.
And just like that, Severus no longer regretted throwing away his dignity.
"Snape admitted he wanted to be with you?"
"Ew! That's grosser than barfing up slugs…"
A few hours after he'd regained consciousness, Harry had been released from the hospital. Now he sat in the kitchens with Ron and Hermione, the house-elves scurrying around to make sure they were wanting of nothing.
Hermione's eyebrows were performing extensive calisthenics all over her forehead. They went from high on her head in concern to scrunched up and low in annoyance, bouncing up and down, up and down, depending on if she spoke to Harry or Ron. Now she was scowling at Ron and the usually unflattering and disrespectful things he was saying about their Professor. Any other time, before… everything, Harry would have laughed along with his friend, now it was all he could do to keep eye contact and swallow past the log jam that had caught in his throat.
"Harry?" Hermione said, and he tore his eyes away from the zit on Ron's forehead he'd been using as a focal point to her upturned nose. "Ignore Ron. He's an idiot." His throat was dry and he wanted to drink his tea, but he couldn't seem to make his hand lift his cup. He continued to stare at Hermione's nose.
"Oi!" Ron spat chewed bread on the table and Eppy the house-elf quickly wiped it away.
Ignoring Ron, Hermione continued. "Harry, how do you feel about Professor Snape?"
He'd been wondering that himself. He shifted on the stool and his wing caught a passing house-elf who squeaked and trotted away.
Ron swallowed and shot a queer look at Hermione. "Obviously Harry thinks he's a right git, with stringy hair and skunk breath."
Hermione pushed her nose higher into the sky. "Ronald, stop trying to put words in Harry's mouth. And drop the insults, we already know what you think about Professor Snape."
"I don't think…" Harry tried again.
"Of course I'm not putting words in Harry's mouth. We both know what Harry thinks about that bloody bat. How anyone could…"
Hermione rose from her seat, throwing her napkin on the counter. "But things are no longer the same, Ron. If you hadn't noticed, Harry's mind was a blank… And look at him!" She gestured wildly towards Harry. "He's almost blond and has wings."
"Way to point out the obvious, Hermione…."
Harry watched the two arguing his position without the slightest idea of what he really felt.
Their words battled midair and he grew frustrated with the sound of their voices. His pulse throbbed in his temple and he could hear the pounding of his heart in his ears. With tenacious dedication his thoughts continued to return to Snape, of how he'd held Harry, of the way he made Harry feel with just a look. Safe. Like nothing in the world could hurt him ever again. Resting on the man's lap—and how will he ever live that down?—had given Harry a comfort that he'd never before felt. And his wings… Every time his wings did that vibration thing, he felt it to the center of his bones; it stirred his blood. He grew hot simply evoking the memory of the feel of it.
He'd felt nothing like it before. Like elemental phosphorus flowed through his veins.
Harry jumped to his feet. His friends dropped their half-spoken sentences as he stole their attention. Both were panting, but they caught their breaths at the sight of Harry standing tall, his wings stretched out and a nimbus of power stirring his hair like it was caught in a soft breeze.
"Actually," he said, his voice steady like stone. "I think I like Snape. There's something…" He shook his head. "He makes me feel safe." And randy. "I don't know what's happened, but things aren't like they were before."
Ron grimaced. "But he's old, and unclean, and ugly as hell and…
"… and he's not very nice," Hermione interrupted.
The house-elves had all gone still. Not even the clatter of wooden spoons on bowls could be heard. "I know…" he said to Ron, then he faced Hermione, "…but he is to me."
At the edge of the great lake, nestled between two patches of evergreens, Harry found some peace. Between Hermione attempting to hammer her version of sense into his brain and Ron flying off the handle every time he took a breath, Harry hadn't had a moment of quiet for three days. Every instant of every day, one of them was by his side. Every instant of that, Harry wished he could escape.
It was the arrival of McGonagall and Sprout that helped in his break away from his friends. The Professors and other school employees had discussed the arrival of more construction mages and a pack of volunteers who were going to begin the major clean-up of the castle. She gave Harry the once over, didn't even comment on his wings, just told him she was happy he was safe and again expressed her appreciation of his 'stalwart determination to see it all through.'
She'd asked Hermione to help her arrange the work schedule of the volunteers, and Ron had followed along. If he weren't so annoyed with them, he'd be amused. Actually, he was jealous. They were normal. They didn't have to smother recurring urges to go cuddle up with dirty, old men.
And speaking of dirty, old men—he hadn't seen Snape the whole time. Though he tried to shove the man out of his mind, he couldn't help his ever-watchful survey of everyone who passed by, of searching after every sound that creaked around him.
The July sun blazed above him and a gentle wind ruffled the edges of the lake, stirring up sparkling embers. Since his change, the water called to him. The water and the sky. He looked up and saw a bird soaring on an updraft. It was a feeling in his bones; he should be up there with it.
He glanced around. Nobody else was near the lake.
Right after Harry'd regained his mind, Hermione had modified all of his shirts with an ingenious charm, so that a single phrase caused a seam to split down the back and he could pull it on over his wings. It would seal again at another phrase. He really was lucky to have such a brilliant friend. He spoke the phrase and his shirt seam split and he slipped it off. Raising his wings, he flapped.
It was so freeing, like running around naked. First, drawing his wings up high over his head, then snapping them down, he stirred up a draft that caused the tall grasses to dance. Another flap, another, repeating the motion over and over, but no matter how hard he tried, he didn't lift off the ground.
Maybe he needed to jump off a height, like the Tower, or cast a Lightening Charm on himself.
It didn't take long for him to exhaust himself, and streams of sweat slid down his chest and between his wing bones. The July heat had toasted his skin and the lake gave off a cool radiance. With a quick inspection of the hill above the lake to assure he was still alone, he slipped off his trousers and shoes and then leapt into the water.
"Holy shite!" he cried out as he broke the surface for air. The lake was cold, even as the end of July approached. He treaded water as he caught his breath, and then inhaled deep to dive back down, for once pleased his wings weren't angelic. Underwater, he found that he could propel himself in sharp spurts. Flap, flap, he raced through the water, then surfaced for air, and down he went again. The water slid over his skin and the sensation soothed some genetic agitation. It was suddenly obvious to him; in the water, he belonged.
And as he cruised through the depths of the lake, startling the merfolk and grindylows, Harry's thoughts kept returning to Snape. Something about that man belonged, too.
From the shadows of the trees Severus watched Harry. He couldn't help but stare at the young man. His body was toned, long and lanky. And his wings, like those of dragons, broad and powerful as Harry flapped them in his attempt to fly. Severus had always thought Lucius a handsome man, but that pompous nature always had a sobering affect. But Harry. Right now he was innocent, pure, and for some reason had innately chosen Severus.
Harry had been under for a long time and Severus began to worry, but a boiling over the water's surface announced the arrival of the strange young man. With the power of a geyser, Harry burst from the embrace of the water. As he erupted from the water, his body glistening and stretched taut, his wings fully thrust downward, Severus caught his breath in awe. Nothing on this earth held such beauty as Harry Potter.
With a splash he landed in the water again, and like a porpoise, he dove in and out, laughing as he caught his breath, then down he would go again. Watching, Severus emerged from the trees and step by step drew near to the water's edge, completely and totally enthralled.
He wasn't quite aware of standing on the lake's bank until the young man emerged from the water, dripping and totally naked. And staring at Severus.
"Uh… Hello." Harry ran his hand through his hair, then as if in afterthought, shrank back into the water. "I'm… uh… naked."
Severus chuckled. "I realize."
The wind rose and pulled at the tips of his hair, causing them to cross his field of vision so that at brief, unwanted moments he couldn't see Harry.
"You must be cold. Why don't you come out?" Severus inwardly cringed. Where had that come from? He sounded like a child molester offering candy to little boys. But, he reminded himself, Harry wasn't a child. In about a week he would turn eighteen.
Severus pulled off his summer robe, and lifted it in Harry's direction.
Severus waited, he'd always been good at biding his time, and it wasn't long until Harry moved towards him. Harry's progress cut a wake in the water's surface paralleled by two smaller clones created where his hands trailed in the water along his sides.
As he emerged, Severus allowed his eyes to roam over that body again and he swore Harry stood straighter, as if presenting himself for inspection.
And soon, the wings began purring. Tiny droplets sprayed through the air.
"Damn," Harry said, looking away from Severus as he took the robe. He studied it, and then draped it over his front like a chastity garment. "I don't know why they do that."
"It is because something innate within you is attracted to something innate within me." And what that something was, Severus wasn't sure. All he knew was that it was unexpected and completely welcomed.
Unsure of what the next step was, Severus knew that Harry laughing wasn't it.
"Yeah," he said with a chuckle. "I guess you're right. I'm like a cat who purrs when petted. I can't not purr when you're around."
He looked at Severus then, and offered up one of his shy smiles.
Suddenly, the world was spinning and Severus took a step to steady himself.
"Snape, are you okay?" Harry asked, grabbing for his elbow.
Harry was standing right next to him, and Severus reached out to capture his waist with an arm. Pulling him close, he brushed the length of his nose up along Harry's shoulder, along his neck, dipped it into the sensuous curves of his outer ear. The perfume of Harry's scent saturated the air.
Harry brushed his hand along Severus' spine. Up and down, soothing. "You okay?" he asked again.
Severus pulled away and faced the young man in his arms. He was smiling up at him, those eyes completely unguarded and brimming with emotions that Severus himself had long ago snuffed out. Or thought he had. That person he was, that he'd built to withstand a life defined by bad choices and even worse tattoos, was long lost and Severus realized he had no regrets.
"Yes." With feral instinct he pulled the shorter man tight to his chest. Burying his nose in the pillow of soft hair he hmmed. That scent, it held romantic notions like hope and happiness. Forgiveness.
Merlin. Was it even possible?
Then Severus felt something wrap around him, and he opened his eyes to see the two of them encased within a cocoon of leathery wings.
They fit. Perfectly. Like the crazy DNA swimming in Potter's genes, an entwined double helix. He was no longer hopeless, no longer homeless. Perhaps he had finally been found.
Harry sagged forward and rested his head against Severus' chest; he was shivering like a scared kitten. So close, he was touching him. It seemed impossible that he couldn't feel Severus' heart racing like a bird's, ready to burst from his chest at the fear, the excitement, the need.
"Snape… Severus, I—" Harry swallowed, his hands roving up Severus' chest to grasp onto the thin fabric of his shirt. "I can't stop this anymore. I can't—" Then Harry's face tilted up. In the filtered light, murky through the membranous layer of skin, his eyes were huge, frantic and of the deepest green Severus had ever seen. The scent of him tantalized Severus' nostrils, bombarding him with veela pheromones, and something else completely unknown. Suddenly, he was dizzy. Then a shudder ran through Harry's body, along his arms, his torso, down his legs, like an earthquake, and the tremors passed on into Severus' own bones. "I need you."
He held Harry tighter. "I'm here, Harry. I'm here."
And then, Severus kissed him.
Completely bored and out of sorts, trapped in the small manor he and his mother shared, Draco decided to join the volunteer crew repairing Hogwarts. Merlin knew that his final year at Hogwarts had been a waste and McGonagall had informed the seventh years that if they returned to volunteer, they could also receive class instruction. Draco didn't lie to himself, he knew that replacing his disastrous final year would require hiring magical tutelage. However, he'd become quite handy at basic household furniture repair. He figured he could teach the rest of these plebeians a thing or two.
There were about twenty-five students from his year who chose to volunteer for the lessons. Only six of them were Slytherin, including himself. Most were Ravenclaw, and wasn't that a shocking revelation? Most volunteers had arrived by the Express, including the non-students. People who needed to work off community service, people who just wanted to help. Draco thought that that breed needed to find a day job.
En masse, the group left the train station and began the trek over the hills to Hogwarts. Lovegood and Smith smiled and waved at him. Draco nodded in return. Back in school, where he'd been Prince of his kingdom, he'd often walked this road, spurning the carriages that most of the students took. The path was lined with beech trees, and in the early spring he knew where a patch of snowdrops would sprout every year. His mother had grown snowdrops.
She'd been so good to him when he was younger. Her words were sacrosanct, her touch could heal the plague. He respected his father, even after all his irresponsible mistakes, but he loved his mother. Now his mother held a chip on her shoulder the size of Gibraltar and she hated the world.
She'd supported his father till the end, and Draco harbored the assumption that she resented her husband for how it had all turned out. She'd lost everything. Her husband, the manor, the respect she'd earned as well as the deference to her bloodline. The only thing she now had left was Draco.
He hadn't yet told her about Potter. Breaking his mother's heart wasn't high on his list of things to do. Though he knew he'd have to tell her eventually, before the tale of the great winged freak got to the presses.
Which wouldn't take too long to happen, Draco thought as he scanned the pack of volunteers and the few reporters jockeying to get the heartwarming story of a community pulling together to move forward after the evil atrocities of the Dark Lord and his followers. Draco snorted, and then shook his head as he saw another glare aimed his way. Old and young, most of them knew exactly who he was. Amidst this crowd, he walked alone.
They were greeted at the school gates by none other than Granger, hair pulled back into a long braid with a clip board in hand. Though she wasn't dressed in school robes, she still had that prim look of a Prefect.
"Thank you everyone for coming to aid in the rebuilding of the most prestigious wizarding institution in Great Britain. Every one of you is invaluable…"
Blah blah blah, Draco thought to himself. He ignored her and stared over at the castle. The south wall was pretty bad, and he already knew the area around the Room of Requirement to be practically devastated. A huge chunk missing from Ravenclaw Tower brought back memories of the giants throwing trees and boulders through the sky, aiming for targets the comparative size of toy poodles. And of course the dungeons were impassable. There was so much to do, and Draco would admit that much of it was his fault. But only to himself, and only on those days when he couldn't face a mirror.
"Isn't that Draco Malfoy? Wasn't he a Death Eater?"
"I thought so. So was his father. Why is he here?"
"Shouldn't he be in Azkaban?"
He turned an icy glare on two women, both dressed in Muggle jeans. Their whispers grew louder and louder until the entire crowd was listening to them instead of Granger. A large doughnut of empty space had widened around Draco.
"Is there something wrong over there?" Granger called out.
"Yeah!" the woman on the left said, middle aged with of a line of ducklings printed on her shirt. "Why is a Death Eater here?"
Her companion nodded, her voice haughty. "He could be here to kill us all."
"I don't want to be working with him."
Granger lifted her wand and a shrill whistle louder than the Hogwarts Express shocked the dissidents from their pre-mob frenzy. As one unit, they turned to look at her.
"Draco Malfoy has gone to excessive lengths to pay back society for the crimes of his father." He was intrigued, and thankful, that she didn't mention the cabinet. "As many of you might be aware, he willingly sold off much of his ancestral family holdings to help cover war victims medical costs and to pay for any damages his family's participation with Voldemort's—" half the crowd shivered, "—attempted coup might have incurred. He has helped many people. Do not hold a father's actions attributable to his son. Now, I would like to split everyone up based on…"
Draco followed Granger's orders and went with a quiet crew out to the greenhouses. The riotous women were shuffled off to work in the dungeons. He passed Grander with a lift to his chin and she offered a simple nod.
People teemed all over the school and Harry's only sanctuary had been whittled down to the north side of the castle. Hiding in the north side had many downsides. The kitchen was to the west, and though not damaged, the main corridor to reach it was heavily trafficked. He had to avoid a small section near the Hospital Wing in the mornings due to the planning meetings held in those classrooms.
And perhaps the most important, Severus apparently did not come to the north side of the castle.
After that moment on the edge of the lake, after Harry's own embarrassing pronouncement, after the taste of Severus had implanted itself into his tongue, he found he could not get the man out of his mind. Severus lived in his dreams and waking moments. Harry spotted him in dark corners and in the faces of paintings. Sometimes he swore he could smell him, that earthy scent that tugged at long dormant parts of his brain. And every time he thought he glimpsed the man, his wings would begin to tingle along the membrane and across the bony outer ridge, but nothing further would happen, and the truth of that let him know it wasn't Severus. He wasn't hiding in the shadows or somehow slipping through the castle via portraits.
He remembered those words. "I'm here, Harry. I'm here." He remembered the meshing of their lips. Had something changed?
The part of his mind that controlled his body during his mental trip to La La Land, a real and solid part of him now, had curled up and was withering. He couldn't describe it exactly, but his non-human mind wanted Severus. To touch him, be near him.
No, that wasn't right. He didn't want Severus.
Severus was vital. Like air, like food. He needed the man for the pure joy of existence.
Standing outside on a small stone balcony drenched in shadow, Harry leaned against the wall, pressing the back of his head against the cool stone. He'd been trying to find ways to deflect that ache. With Hermione and Ron organizing the volunteers, he couldn't even use them as distraction. It had only been two days, but those two days had been drawn out thin with loss.
Memories of the lake returned like spring flowers. Severus. His embrace. The afternoon light seeping through his wings. Flying through the water. Pondering Lightening Charms or jumping from a height to take to the air.
Then he thought he could try that again. At least it would take his mind off Severus. His person.
He stripped off his shirt, tossing it to the floor and shivered as a crop of goose bumps sprang up over his skin. Gripping his wand, he climbed up onto the edge of the balcony, the great rounded stone railing that fenced in the small area. Then with a twirl and chop of his wand, he cast a Lightening Charm.
He felt his body warm, then nothing. The breeze brushed past his body, ran gentle fingers through the edges of his honey colored hair. The scent of the open air sparked a song within him that rejoiced. He looked up at the sky.
He was ready.
Or at least he thought he was. Steeling himself with a breath, he looked out over the northern hills.
One flap, two. Harry flared out his wings, a span of almost twelve feet, and stepped off of the balcony.
Immediately, the air beat against the thin leather, pressing into it, forcing him to stretch his wings to his maximum reach until the tension kept them firm against the bracing airstream. With alarm he noticed the ground coming up at an unexpected rate, and at the edge of terror, he began beating his wings.
Flailing his arms, his body tensed to maintain his wing motion, Harry screamed as the earth raced to great him. He'd had worse falls from a broom, but something about falling from his own actions, of his wings failing him, brought him closer and closer to panic.
Then, with a twist of his wing angle, a gush of air filled the membranes and like a kite, he began to glide slowly downward, the ground now flowing under him until, with a stumble and terribly ungraceful fall to his knees, he hit the ground.
He made it. He'd flown and lived and Harry rolled over onto his back, wings spread along the grass over his head, and laughed out loud.
"Oh my gods, did you see that?"
Harry stopped laughing, and sat up to see a gathering of people by the greenhouses. He glanced back over to the balcony. Had he flown that far?
"Is it a beast?"
"It looks like a man. A man with wings?"
"Must be something Dark. You-Know-Who used Dark creatures to invade Hogwarts, you know. It could have been hiding!"
The cries and screaming grew muddled, one twisted accusation after another building upon each other until the crowd churned itself into a mob and rushed towards Harry, wands and tools business ready.
"What?" he cried out. "Wait! I'm not a Dark creature!"
The mob didn't seem to care.
Wearing floral blouses and work robes covered in patches, men and women, some older and others on the young side of twenty, people his own age, charged towards him, faces twisted by violence and hate.
He didn't want to fight them. They weren't the enemy. He'd already fought that battle and he wss so tired of fighting. He jumped to his feet, wincing from his scraped knees and sprinted for the castle.
He pulled his wings in, keeping them close to his body and despaired when he realized the pack was closer to the castle than he was and would easily cut him off. He lifted his wand, preparing to cast his Patronus, but a stone zipped through the air and cracked his wrist, disrupting his spell.
"Stop it!" he screamed, stepping away from the tidal wave of men and women. A small piece of lumber struck his chest, then a hammer sailed inches over his head.
Holy fuck, he was a dead man. He tried to cast again, but his wrist flared in pain, mucking up another spell. Still within the Apparition wards, he couldn't escape that way. He turned towards the people, lifting his hands up high in surrender. A Stinging Hex sizzled at his feet, driving him to the ground.
"Stop! I'm a wizard, like you!" Disbelief transformed into terror at the cruel faces looking down at him.
"Chase it away. Kill it!"
Harry threw an arm over his face, waiting for the next blow, scrambling away as best as he could.
Then a loud bang crashed through the sky and the crowd began screaming, words beyond ken as their anger morphed into fear.
Over the frantic din a voice rang out, enhanced by a Sonorus Spell and Harry looked up to see his unlikely savior.
"You will stop this imbecilic, mindless behavior this instant."
Draco Malfoy stood towards the rear of the crowd, a silver robe of fine material fluttered around his heels. His chest was heaving and unadulterated fury shimmered off of him in waves. His brother. Harry's brother had come.
"Stand back," he said again. His voice was stiff with false calm. "Touch this man and I swear the Cruciatus will seem like a tickle compared to what I shall do to you."
The mass of people milled about, shuffling around, making a wide berth away from Draco. Many looked dazed, seemingly shocked to discover that they weren't by the greenhouses but out here in the northern field. Others still snarled at Harry, feral ferocity turning their faces into something of a mad animal's.
"But, it's not human," one wizard said, pointing his wand at Harry. His jowls rocked as he shook his head in disgust.
"Of course he isn't, you fool." Harry could just hear the eye roll. A chuckle bubbled in his chest, tinged with the madness of relief.
"What is it?" another woman asked, more curious than violent. Her large sun hat had slipped from her head and dangled around her neck from a string. A sick urge to strangle her with it sprouted in Harry's head.
Draco came forward to stand next to him. Harry looked up and Draco seemed a giant from his angle on the ground. The two men looked at each other. All the fear, the loneliness and worry, were gone now. Draco, his enemy, his brother, was there, and would save him.
He turned away from Harry and proudly said to the crowd. "Obviously, he's my pet."
At that, Harry busted his seams laughing.
Realization of what had almost happened sobered up the crowd and they quickly filed away. Harry's giggles kept him off balance. It was too preposterous. His wrist had to be broken, his knees ached, the adrenaline of near death surged through his veins, and yet Harry was most relieved at the simple fact that Draco Malfoy was near him. The only thing that could have made this even better would be Severus, but Harry tried not to dwell on that.
"Are you quite finished?"
With a swipe at his eye, Harry shook his head. "No. I don't think so."
Draco gave up and sat down in the grass next to him.
With a swallow and hiccup, he turned to Draco, still grinning like a fool, and held up his arm. "Arm's busted."
Draco glanced at it and nodded. "Looks like it."
Draco shrugged. "Well, you'll need some training up, but you might do."
Harry's laughter could be heard by all the would-be murderers and a formidable silence inhabited the crowd.
Weasley and Granger sat directly across from Draco and Potter, a table of food between them. "You saved Harry?" Weasley asked as he grabbed for a roll. His face had gone so pale his freckles stood out like flecks of pepper on a mound of mashed potatoes.
Everyone was watching Draco, and he preened a moment like a great, egocentric peacock. "Of course, I couldn't let a mad mob of commoners get away with doing injury to a Malfoy." He grabbed a strawberry and popped it into his mouth. It was sweet and juicy, perfect fruit for the time of year.
"Then you admit it?" Granger interrupted. "Harry is your brother."
With a pained sigh, Draco nodded. "It is apparent that he is indeed my brother." He glared at Potter. "A little brother, mind you. Don't be getting uppity."
Draco expected some back talk, a 'stuff it Malfoy' or something, but Potter only smirked with amused nonchalance and a little bit of adoration. Obviously blind adoration, but it was adoration nonetheless, and a little off-putting.
"Really, Potter," Draco forged on. "It's nothing but pitiful to be taken down by a small gathering of such cattle armed with sticks and stones."
A mad grin burst upon his face and Potter said, "But they did break my bones." He held up his healed arm and Draco just shook his head. The craziest things seemed to come out of Potter's mouth.
"Why didn't you use your charm? You are a veela after all." Though Draco had to admit, he never felt any of the affects of Veela Charm coming from Potter, nor did anyone, other than Severus, seem to be affected by the changes in his brother.
Potter's eyebrows bunched and a tiny frown pulled down the left corner of his mouth. "I don't know. I don't think I have any charm like that. It's like the veela part and the other part from mom have cancelled each other out or something." He stared down into his cup; tiny flakes of tea leaves floated on the surface.
After Granger had documented the incident, gotten names and descriptions of the perpetrators from Draco, Potter had insisted that he join them on a kitchen raid.
"Harry, we can't let these people get away with this. They must be reprimanded now," Granger had insisted. But Potter had argued he just needed a break, a little time before he had to deal with reprimands and picking out people from a line-up. The idea of a kitchen raid had surfaced fond memories for Draco of he and Blaise commanding the house-elves into cooking fillet mignon and duck a l'orange at 2 a.m. during end of term exams. Brain food, they'd called it, and it was the house-elves duty to provide the proper nutrients for them to pass their tests.
Now he was here with the Gryffindor Trio and it wasn't as awkward as past history would have dictated.
"Malfoy." Weasley drew his attention from mulling over then and now, his features serious, and Draco wanted to inform the redhead that the look seemed a tad silly on him. "Really, thanks."
The air grew too heavy to breathe. Draco looked away. "It was nothing." Then, a half shrug and eye roll allowed him to inhale again. Briefly, he wondered what it would have been like with these three as friends. Then chuckled to himself. There was no chance that such a thing could have happened, the breeding grounds had been all wrong for such friendships to grow.
"By the way," Draco said, looking over at Potter. He still couldn't believe the change that had taken over the once gawky teen. He was downright handsome now, though not as good looking as Draco was. "I saw Severus outside the Hospital Wing when were you guzzling down Skele-Go." He didn't include that as soon as Draco had told Severus what had happened, and that Harry wasn't on death's door, the Professor had charged off down the hall. Draco wondered how many of the volunteers would be left tomorrow after Severus and Granger had their ways with them.
Potter perked up like a puppy. "Really? He's still here?"
"Yes. He's been around the entire time. Anyway, I have a message to give you."
"What? Why didn't you say something earlier! What did he have to say?" Potter had leapt from his stool and had grabbed onto Draco's arm, clutching it as if breaking Draco's arm would speed up his response. "Well?"
Potter's wings shivered and Draco leaned back to take a good look at the man, carefully prying his arm away. The force of Potter's focus on Draco and the knowledge he held threw him off like a curving Bludger. Fire danced behind his eyes, flashed around the black of his iris. And Draco recognized the same blaze in Severus' own eyes just a few hours earlier.
"He said that he would see you on Thursday."
"Thursday? Why? Why not until Thursday?" Harry looked to Granger, his utter faith in her ability to solve his every problem a crutch Draco would have to disarm him of someday.
"Harry." It was Weasley who spoke up, grinning. "It's your birthday, you idiot. The big eighteen."
Draco's brows rose at the news and Harry let go of his pent up fervor, seeming smaller at its release. "Oh." At first he seemed disappointed, but a ripple of thoughts and emotions chased over Potter's face until he settled on confidence. It looked good on him. "I can wait for three more days."
As Severus made his way through the volunteers, each one of them eyeing him with alarm, he made a splendid show of brandishing his wand. He'd had words with these people. Oh, he'd had more than words with a few and Pomfrey had given him quite the lecture on cursing the much-needed workers on the reconstruction project.
Until she'd heard what they'd done.
He found a certain amount of pride in the fact that none of them were dead. Perhaps this new world of peace and prosperity had a place for him after all.
After he'd gathered the suspects of villainy and impressed upon them the knowledge that they'd just attempted to murder none other than Harry Potter, he worked their own guilt into a frenzy. Following that, a few of the volunteers who did not partake in the violent gang had felt Severus had gone easy on the mob. One crone could cast a Marph Murlap Hex that put Weasley's Bat Bogey Hex to shame.
They'd tried to hurt Harry. His Harry.
It was more than any man with blood in his veins could take, and as he had been recently reminded, he had such blood. It burned with the passion of fury as easily as that of desire.
Now those who had been accomplice to breaking Harry's arm and threatening him with an early grave were all gone. The Ministry hadn't taken lightly to Harry Potter being attacked in such a manner and Severus had faith that Kingsley would push for strict punishments. Unfortunately, Harry could no longer hide here and Severus was impressed that McGonagall had kept the press at bay with such skill.
With a flick of his head, he cleared his rampaging thoughts. He barked at a young man loitering over the schematic of Greenhouse Two.
"Stop your dawdling and help prepare the ground for that foundation," Severus said. The man swallowed, nodded, and scurried off. The rest all found something with which to be busy.
There were only two things that had kept him from cursing those banished fools to within an inch of their life. The threat of Azkaban and what Harry might think of him. He wanted to be someone Harry would be proud to stand by.
Two more days. He kept thinking back to that kiss… well, those kisses. But the difference between the one when Harry had been a mental regressive to when he was an adult was night and day. Severus swore to himself he would wait until Harry turned eighteen. Only two more days.
He pulled aside the old crone with a knack for hexes. She squinted at him, one browned tooth lifting her lip in a sneer. "Excuse me, madam. I have a party to plan, perhaps you can help me."
Today was his birthday. Severus said they would meet again today. As Harry pulled on his charmed shirt, whispering the phrase to seal up the seam, he thought about last night. He'd stayed up until the moon was fat and high in the sky, talking with his friends and his brother. He was so thankful he had them, even Draco's snarky bark, but at least he didn't really bite. Well, not much. Harry refused to let any of his more bitter remarks affect him, it was just Draco's way.
Pomfrey had told him that there was going to be a special gathering in the Great Hall today. She wouldn't say anything more, but the Healer seemed giddy, like she enjoyed holding a secret of joy for once instead of the heftier responsibility of everyone's health.
Ron had snuck food up to their room, and Hermione had charmed a Muggle radio to play old Beatles tunes and some other band called Credence Clearwater and Revival that he'd never heard of before. At the top of their lungs they sang the lyrics to 'Who'll Stop the Rain' and Draco had formed a certain attachment to "It's been a hard day's night, and I've been working like a dog. It's been a hard day's night; I should be sleeping like a log." It was after they all flopped down on Harry and Ron's beds, panting and laughing, that he'd told them his plan.
"I can't stay around here anymore," he'd told them. Ron had yelled and cajoled, promised Harry things he could never offer. Hermione had just looked sad.
"Everyone will get used to you, Harry. You don't have to leave," Ron said.
But Hermione had nodded, and asked, "Where will you go?"
Harry didn't know. The press knew about him, and the world would know soon enough. People looked on him with fear and hatred. There was probably nowhere like it, but he dreamed of a place where he could fit in, where nobody stared and nobody knew who he was. He was so tired of being different.
But wherever he went, he hoped Severus would go with him.
"Good luck hiding with those wings, Harry. You can't really blend in with those." Even Draco didn't think his leaving was a good idea.
"I just need a break. It won't be forever. I'm just tired. I just want to rest for a while. I'm tired of feeling so lost. I'll come back, though. Before you even know it, I'll probably be back." He hoped they took strength in his assurances, and it wasn't like he wouldn't be able to talk to them. They could owl or Floo every month.
Now he stood outside the Great Hall and a low murmur from beyond the door could be heard.
"I'm not sure I want to go in there." Harry ran his fingers through his soft hair, now so easy to tame. His shoulders slumped as his worried gaze scoured the ceiling, seeking answers in the cracks between the stonework. Then his lips moved, though barely any noise came out. Ron had to lean close to catch the faint words. "People tried to kill me because I'm a freak. I don't want to be this freak."
"Harry." Leaning away, Ron studied his friend. Harry's eyes lowered, slowly, crawling across the ceiling, down the far wall and finally shifting to rest on Ron's face. "You are not a freak."
"Of course you're not, Harry. You are a Malfoy. Find some dignity."
Ron glanced over at Draco and as expected rolled his eyes. But he smiled too, and then returned his gaze to Harry. "Yes, Harry. Be proud of who you are. Two magical bloodlines! That's pretty damned special."
Harry smiled with an amused shake to his head. Ron, once he came to terms with everything, always stood by him.
Harry's wings shifted, the scaled leather glimmering sea foam green in the dim light of the hallway. He dropped his eyes again, this time to the floor, examining the same cracks once more. Maybe if he traced them from floor to ceiling, each and every one, he'd find the path to answers for the mountain of questions that had piled up in his head.
"Harry." The exasperated drawl of Draco saying his name pulled Harry out of his muddled thoughts. "Pull out of it." Draco squared his shoulders. "They aren't going to tackle you in there. I've had it on good authority that between Severus, Pomfrey and Granger, those mad idiots have been shipped off. Anyway, you've got me." He said this like it was some proclamation and that it should alleviate every insecurity marching in Harry's gut. "And, though I don't see how this could ever be anything desirable, you've got the Weasel here by your side, too."
For a brief moment the two young men wrestled in a glaring match.
Harry burst out laughing.
Ron and Draco turned away from each other, a mutual disarmament, and each in their own way shared Harry's joy. His laughter shook his entire frame and he couldn't control it even if he wanted to. It was reflexive, like his purring wings. He inhaled shakily, and wiped at his watery eyes.
"Ready?" Ron asked when Harry finally caught his breath.
He could do this. Nobody was going to attack him and his instinct told him that Severus would be in there. Clad in a face splitting grin, Harry nodded. "Yeah, I'm ready."
With Ron on his left side and Draco on his right, Harry marched towards the small gathering of people assembled in the Great Hall to commemorate his birthday. The first ever he hadn't spent alone.
He tried to keep his wings from fluttering, but he still couldn't completely control their minute movements. They would twitch any time he was excited or nervous. Any time Severus was near. By now their leathery flapping sound had become a familiar companion and it lent him an amount of strength.
His entourage pressed against the great doors and they swung open on silent hinges, well oiled from Filch's tender ministrations throughout the decades. Like a herald, Draco cleared his throat and Harry nearly tackled him to the ground, but he'd began his declaration before Harry truly registered what Draco was doing.
"Ladies and Gentlemen." The crowd grew quiet and Harry grew small. Most of the faces he knew, though some were total strangers. He relaxed when he remembered none of them from his most recent nightmares. He turned a glare at the side of Draco's head, but his brother stood regally, ignoring the heat of his glower. "I am proud to present to you this evening, my little brother, the youngest Malfoy heir. Mr. Harry Potter sin Malfoy." Draco turned to face him, his smirk converting into a grin. "Happy Birthday, Harry."
Everybody looked at Harry, stared at him, and then Hermione, standing closest to the door began clapping, then McGonagall joined in, then George and Charlie and Pomfrey and more and more of the crowd put their hands together for Harry. Luna slipped her fingers in her mouth and let loose a shrill whistle. Harry was just glad she wasn't wearing a roaring hat.
His eyes scanned the crowd and saw many faces of friends, people he trusted and some he loved. Then his gaze landed on a set of deepest black eyes, hooded by furrowed brows and his breath was practically stolen from his lungs. It was so overwhelming to be the focus of that much intensity.
Then Severus smiled, a small twist to his lips, and with a rush Harry's breath returned and suddenly, but not for the first time, he felt like he belonged.
"Harry—" he was torn away from that private place he and Severus had both been lost in, "—beautiful wings."
"Thanks Charlie." Harry lifted a wing to examine it. "Do you think I'm part dragon? They're still not sure."
Charlie shook his head. "No idea, Harry. But—" he held out his hand, "May I touch them?" Harry nodded and shivered as Charlie ran his fingertips over the thin leather of his wing membranes. It secretly unnerved him to have someone else touch him there. It was too personal. "Feel more slippery than a dragon's, so maybe not. I'm sure they'll figure it out." He pulled his hand away and nodded at Harry as he stepped away, making room for the next well-wisher.
After many 'Good Luck's and jolly 'Happy Birthday's, Harry needed some space. He'd still hadn't had a chance to talk with Severus and too many people he wasn't that close with had touched him. He needed to feel the breeze against his skin. With his intentions directed towards the doors, his escape was halted by the call of his name.
"Harry." Harry glanced over his shoulder, and saw Hermione hold out a glass and a small pile of papers bound by a rubber band. "I think you might need these."
He glanced at the top paper. It was a glossy pamphlet featuring a lush retreat in the Amazon. "Private," it stated in big, bold letters across the bottom.
"I did some research for you and found a few places you might like to go." A little dimple popped out in her left check as she smiled at him.
Overwhelmed, Harry leaned forward and hugged her. "Oh, Hermione." He couldn't express his gratitude.
He squeezed her tight, and then let her go. For a moment, she studied his face. "You are still you, Harry. Don't forget that. And remember, we will always be your friends. No matter what." A silver shimmer gathered in her eye and she quickly blinked it away. "You know, I'm going to miss you."
Harry nodded, his own voice caught up somewhere in his chest. Then, "I'll miss you too, Hermione."
He pulled away and made for the door again, needing some time. He didn't want to leave everyone, and at that instant, for stupid reasons, he felt incredibly alone. He had all these people. The loyalty and love of Hermione and Ron, and now his newly discovered brother. At the thought of leaving it all behind, an empty hole had opened in his heart.
It was dusk as he made his way beyond the gates of the main entrance, lined with the aging heads of flowers. Fine petals coated the round around the great winged boars standing sentry. He'd always thought winged boars very odd things, now he was odd just like them.
Harry watched as an eagle soared above the green fields lining each side of the road. Caught in an updraft it sailed higher and higher until it was only a speck, smaller than a bee eater. He lifted his hand and held it before the speck of a bird, reaching out like he could touch it, touch the sky.
Maybe an eagle in the sky was like a shooting star. Maybe if he could catch it with his fingers, then he could make a wish.
He looked to his left and saw Severus standing a few feet away. The man was practically buzzing, he was strung so tight. Harry smiled. Maybe he didn't need to catch the shooting star.
Folding his arms across his chest, Severus glared at him.
"What?" Harry asked defensively. His wings shivered, fluttered like they always did whenever Severus' intensity branded him. Harry felt owned.
"I've been looking for you," Severus said.
"Yeah?" Harry asked, then he too frowned, annoyed that he sounded so eager. Being this close to Severus was almost torture, when all Harry wanted to do was throw himself into those arms, capture those lips in his own. Every cell in his body, the siren command of his blood told him that was where he should be, that was exactly what he should do.
Severus cleared his throat. "Are you enjoying your party?"
"Yes, thanks. Though, where have you been?"
Severus' eyes flicked away, then returned. "I thought I would give you some space."
High overhead, the eagle cried. Harry wondered what it was that was crawling around the man's brain, because he didn't seem pleased. Finally, Severus said, "I don't like this."
Harry flinched, staring into his eyes.
"I don't like not having you in my arms."
Oh. Two strides and Harry was in Severus's embrace. His face swimming in the older man's scent, protective arms wrapped around him. Harry flapped his wings and a flurry of fallen petals at their feet caught the sky in their wake.
Then he looked up. That dark gaze met his own; something in it flared. "I'm leaving," he told Severus.
"I heard," Severus said.
Another flap and the breeze toyed with the petals again. For unknown reasons Harry's body was bunched tight, like he was ready to burst from the starting blocks for a quarter mile sprint. Then, he asked it. "You'll go with me, then?"
Severus nodded, then licked his lips. "I'll go with you."
He took a breath, and let it out. No other words could sound so good. He rested his head against Severus' heart and felt the thrum of the racing organ. Beyond, in the distance, he could see the lake. Tiny stars glittered along the surface of the water, bright and alive in the light of the setting sun. "I'm glad." His voice was barely a whisper.
As the sun dipped beyond the edge of the earth and the little stars blinked out, one by one, Harry shifted his head, chin propped on Severus' chest. "I know, Severus. I do, too."