Title: Dies Irae

Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.

Pairings: Harry/Draco

Rating: R

Warnings: Rape (not in-story but described), creature!fic, angst, profanity, established relationship. Ignores the epilogue.

Wordcount: 11,500

Summary: An epilogue-fic to Veela-Struck. Startling news comes to Harry and Draco from Azkaban.

Author's Notes: This is a one-shot in answer to dameange's request—as well as the request of several other people—for a story set after Veela-Struck. Obviously, this fic has spoilers for the other fic. The title is Latin for "day of wrath," referring to the Day of Judgment.

Dies Irae

It was a grey letter, which came by a grey owl. Draco noticed it first when he came down the stairs from the bedroom in the Manor where he and Harry had spent the night. The owl sat dozing on a perch in the corner. It had laid the letter on the table.

Draco paused, his eyes locked on the bleak color of the paper, and found that he had extended his wings and moved them forwards without noticing. He always did that when there was a threat to his chosen. Of course, the letter by itself wasn't much of a threat.

But he had seen letters like that before, in the falling days when he and his parents were struggling with the judgment of the Wizengamot, and he knew what seal would be on the other side. And what news it had to contain. There was only one person he and Harry knew at the moment who was in Azkaban.

Well, better to say that Harry knew him. If Draco had ever met him, he wouldn't have been alive to receive news of.

Draco made his way carefully around the table and sank into the chair at the far end, his appetite gone, though he did pick up and peel an orange from the plate of fresh fruit that appeared a moment later. The task was made easier by the claws that had sprung from the ends of his nails. He had to be strong and focused for Harry's sake, and that task would be easier if he ate something.

Harry shook his head as he came down the heavy oaken steps that led from the bedroom Narcissa and Lucius lent him and Draco. Once again, he had tried to count the number of steps, and once again, his count had failed. Harry didn't know what it was about this particular staircase that was so baffling. After all, there had to be a limited number of stairs in it, and there wasn't even carpeting on them to blunt their edges and make the task of counting harder.

Maybe it was just a symptom of how big the Manor was. If one flight of stairs was treacherous or inconvenient, the Malfoys always had another one they could use.

And so did Harry, now.

Harry shook his head again and leaped off the end of the stairs, rounding the corner into the small dining room where Draco liked to eat when they were guests here. It was all pale shining colors, because Harry had made the mistake of looking at the old, gloomy colors that used to be here with an expression of distaste one day. Draco was a Veela. The distaste was enough to have house-elves redecorating by the afternoon.

Not that Harry didn't like the enchanted window letting in sunlight that danced on the birch-wood walls, or the paintings of aspens and curlicues of blue and gold on the frames. It was just—it was a reminder to him of the kind of power he held, how he had to consider what emotions he expressed because of how they might affect Draco.

Draco was a Veela, and Harry was still learning to understand everything that meant.

"Good morning," he told Draco, who was sitting with his head bowed over an apple in his claws, and cast a few charms on the food in front of him. His need to do that had become less in the last three months, since he and Draco had gone through the Blazing Season that marked their acceptance of each other, but it was more comfortable to do it than not do it.

Then he saw the grey letter, and fathomed what it meant for Draco to have his claws and his wings visible this early in the morning.

Harry drove one clenched fist into the table and stood there perfectly still for a few moments. He had to control his breathing and look and sound normal and natural. He could do that when the alternative was getting Draco upset.

Draco, of course, already knew what he felt, and was up and moving around the table. He studied Harry for a moment, who nodded. Draco swept his wings forwards and enclosed Harry in a wall of feathers.

Harry soothed the automatic feelings of nervousness that sprang up by leaning against Draco's chest and listening to his heart. Memories braided and bred in his mind like snakes. He knew what he would see if he closed his eyes, what he would see in his dreams that night.

Laurent, his old Veela ex-lover, shining white with power and passion as he drove Harry into the bed, broke his will with his allure, and then raped him.

Harry told himself that his back would not stiffen, and managed to keep that vow as he stepped around Draco with a small shake of his head. The wings shifted to keep up with him, but Draco let Harry reach the letter and pick it up. Harry glanced at the grey owl on the perch in the corner, which he hadn't registered before, either. The Manor was full of owls coming and going on matters of politics and business. "Have you read it?"

He knew the answer before his fingers found the uncracked seal, but he asked anyway, because he needed to hear his trust in Draco confirmed, and reaffirmed.

"No." Draco stroked Harry's arms with his claws curled in. Small, soothing shivers of mingled pleasure and arousal ran up to Harry's shoulders, and it was easier to relax after that. "I thought you'd want to read it first."

"Let's see," Harry said. He was glad the letter had come before and not after breakfast. He knew he would vomit if he read the news he fully expected to hear, that Laurent had been freed. That was just the way things were.

He slit the seal, which was a silhouette of Azkaban on its island, and drew out a single sheet of paper. At least they weren't going to befuddle him with nonsense about whose fault this had been, Harry thought. That made it more likely that this was news of an official end to Laurent's sentence rather than an escape—or an end to the sentence of "Henricks Copley," the false name they'd put Laurent into the prison under.

He turned the paper over.

Mr. Potter,

We were instructed to contact you as having an interest in the prisoner named Henricks Copley. We regret to inform you that he died during the night…

The letter slipped from Harry's fingers to the table. He blinked and braced himself against Draco. He'd been so prepared for news of Laurent being freed, he realized now, though the thoughts felt too clear and dizzy passing through his head, that he didn't know how to deal with anything else.

"Harry?" Draco's head rested beside his neck, and his voice had gone shrill and sweet, almost the croon that Harry didn't think he could stand to hear right now. "What is it? Is he coming for you?"

"No," Harry said. "He's dead." He stared at the wall. Of course he had known, based on the books about Veela that Draco had had him read since they started dating, that a Veela forbidden his chosen suddenly, rather than by a mutual parting, could die, but he had never thought that applied to Laurent. He had always pictured Laurent living just to spite him. And, of course, if he was ever freed, he would come after Harry to exact vengeance for his imprisonment rather than because he still cared for him. Even at the end, Laurent had never understood why what he had done was wrong. He wanted control over Harry, he didn't have it, so it was permissible to use the allure to get it. Harry could see him in the courtroom if he took the trouble to check his memory. Draco had never seen him in the courtroom…

Harry realized he was mentally babbling. He started to turn to the side, thinking he should be in bed if he was going to sound this mad to himself.

Draco caught him, crooning now, and held him back with gentle claws that could never hurt his chosen. His wings trembled, but Harry knew well enough how strong a barrier they formed, and he knew that Draco wouldn't leave him alone to think about this. He would have to think about it in company.

It was with a complicated mixture of gratitude, love, and resentment that Harry leaned against Draco's chest and felt his arms as well as his wings cradle him.

Draco hoped that Harry wouldn't expect him to feel sympathy or pity. For Harry, of course; nothing was too much for Harry. But not for Laurent. Draco would have torn him apart if he could, and as far as he was concerned, death was what the bastard deserved.

Harry had gone back upstairs without much of a protest when Draco urged him, and now was lying on a bed, napping with any luck. Draco knew they didn't always have that much luck, so Harry was probably staring at the ceiling and brooding on how he had caused Laurent's death. It worried Draco, but as long as Harry wasn't actively getting into trouble because of the brooding, then he thought he could set it aside.

Right now, he was reading the rest of the letter that the supervisors at Azkaban had sent to Harry.

We regret to inform you that he died during the night. Symptoms were consonant with those of a Veela in the thrall of disappointment over his chosen: extended wings that lost feathers, arched back, continuous coughing, internal bleeding. He said your name several times, but we do not know what this may be indicative of.

Draco sneered. He knew. Laurent had never got over losing Harry, because according to his warped view of the world, he shouldn't have lost him at all. Veela could make the choice to survive when someone rejected them or the choice to die, and the unsettled state of affairs from Laurent's point-of-view made death preferable.

Draco jerked his head to the side and controlled the urge to spit. His parents would hardly be understanding if he dirtied their floors.

The letter still had another paragraph, and Draco turned his eyes to read it.

He had asked several times about you, and about visits from you. We gave him no information, as per Azkaban's usual policy when dealing with prisoners. The questions grew more frantic towards the end of his life. We give you this news so that you may decide what to do with it.

Draco sneered again. His hands trembled with the urge to shred the letter; his claws could already feel the tearing parchment around them. Those were the details that would cut into Harry, that would make him stare at the wall and frown and question himself extensively in a way he should never have to. Laurent had picked his own fate. No one should have had to suffer what he did to Harry.

But for Harry, Laurent's Veela blood made it different—enough for him to be prejudiced against all Veela for a time after Laurent had raped him, enough that he was exquisitely careful with Draco even when there was no need to be. He would want to know what had happened. He would want the letter.

What Harry wanted was important, as long as it didn't actively endanger him. Besides, Draco didn't want rows over something that should, if their lives were sensible, be small. He reluctantly dropped the parchment back on the table.

"Are you all right, dear?"

Draco blinked and looked up. It was a rare day that he didn't hear his mother entering the room. She looked from him to the letter and then gave a complicated smile, one that stretched the scar on her face which she'd received in a murder attempt by people who thought she belonged in Azkaban. "Something you wish to share?" she murmured.

Behind her came the thump of Lucius with his cane, no longer an affectation after the attack that had marked them both. Draco hesitated, then stood up to embrace his mother and kiss her cheek. "News from Azkaban," he said. "Laurent du Michel is dead."

He heard his father pause in the doorway, but his mother was the one he was holding, the one who went stiff and still for a moment, then sighed and put her hands on his shoulders. "It is a blessing," she said.

"But Harry does not take it that way." Lucius limped in and sat down without removing his gaze from Draco's face.

Draco shook his head. He could feel his wings retracting into his shoulders and his claws curling and fading back into fingernails. He was no longer angry enough to take vengeance for his chosen, simply tired and frustrated. "I think the news itself startled him. The letter tells how Laurent died, in the usual manner of a Veela pining. I'm afraid Harry will take it personally and think he could have done something different."

"Mmm." Lucius looked at the letter, and Draco knew his thoughts. He shook his head again. If he had had even a faint hope that Harry would let him get away with destroying the cursed thing, then he already would have.

"Of course Harry will take it personally," his mother said, assuming the chair next to his father's. Lucius's hand brushed her shoulder, in what one could have taken as an absent gesture unless one knew them well, like Draco did. "He always does. The only thing we can do is offer him the support he needs."

Draco blinked. His mother didn't have enough of the Veela heritage to manifest it, but her common sense was sometimes better than his. "I should have thought of that," he muttered.

His mother's smile was brilliant and sweet and condescending. "Well, dear, you're still so very young, after all."

Laurent had kissed with a darting tongue like a curl of flame, sour and hot. He had pressed Harry into the bed and straddled his thighs with an insistence that made Harry's skin crawl, remembering it. He had swept his presence, his allure, in and out of Harry's body like a blade on a pendulum, driving him deeper into the spinning emotions that being Veela-struck evoked: the helpless longing, the worshipful adoration, the desire to please and fuck and kneel and crawl—

Harry opened his eyes and lay still, wrapped in the beat of his heart.

The fear and anger remained. He no longer vomited or had to work his magic to exhaustion every time he remembered Laurent, and that was Draco's doing. But the emotions were still beneath the surface, sharp as flaying knives.

They would be, Harry thought, until he let another Veela use his allure on hm. That was what Lucy and her chosen Owen King, the couple he had visited when he was trying to decide how to be close to Draco, had said. The memories were natural. So was the sense of shame and revulsion. But his emotions could not change and could not die because Harry was still affected by being Veela-struck.

Right now, Harry wished he'd had the courage to accept Draco's allure.

He rolled heavily out of bed and deliberately stretched, focusing on the emptiness of his belly before anything else. He had to eat something. He didn't want to faint. He would need his strength for the days ahead.

For the days ahead.

Harry paused and frowned. He was acting as though he would do something different than going to work as an Auror and being with Draco, his two most common activities. What else? He could hardly hunt Laurent down or fear his escape now, with him dead.

His mind was not long in telling him.

You have to research the way he died. You have to understand the full consequences of your decision to put him in prison instead of kill him. You thought it was the kinder thing and proved you were in control, but it may not have been kind.

Harry took a deep breath and held it, then slowly exhaled. He wondered what Draco would say if he announced that desire. Probably that it was unhealthy and Harry needed to let Laurent's death go. He didn't understand Harry's need for understanding.

It was always possible that a full measure of comprehension would exonerate him, after all. And if it didn't, still, at least Harry would accept the full consequences of his actions. During Auror training, he'd never been allowed to avoid knowing what would happen to someone he arrested, even if he didn't agree with the penalty for the crime. This was more of the same thing. He had arrested Laurent.

He might have to keep it secret, but it shouldn't be difficult to do that when Draco had books on Veela around anyway, including ones he had bought for Harry as gifts.

Resolved, Harry felt some of the odd sensations—shock and confusion—gripping him drop away. He was always at his best when he knew what he would do next. He went to wash his face and then go downstairs. Draco was probably frantic about him. He would have come up after him, Harry thought, but he knew that Harry needed some time alone.

Well, not right now. Harry found his feet urging him faster down the stairs towards the small eating room. Right now, he can hold me and coddle me and kiss me all he likes. I need that from him.

Draco knew Harry was up to something. The problem was, he couldn't prove what it was, or even that he was up to something.

Harry went to work as usual. He came home smiling and shaking his head at Weasley's jokes, as usual. He was calm and polite and deferential around Draco's parents; although he would call them by their first names, now, he had never got as far as treating them like parents, though Draco knew his mother would have welcomed that. He let Draco hold him and was enthusiastic in bed.

But there was still a lack that Draco only gradually defined. Sometimes, when speaking with Harry, he felt as though no one was home behind those luminous green eyes. Harry's mind went hunting in distant lands, and he couldn't follow.

When Draco first sensed it, he bit his tongue even as his nails curved into claws. Hadn't Harry learned by now that he shouldn't keep things from Draco? Draco would either tear them both apart trying to find out what it was, or he would have a screaming row with Harry and sulk in the corner of their bedroom until Harry tiptoed up to mend matters.

But Harry didn't seem to anticipate either a row or someone finding out his secret. On he went with his normal life, and if the times when his mind flickered away into the distance happened more frequently, it seemed that Draco was the only one who noticed. Harry's friends and Draco's parents, the others who saw him regularly, seemed relieved that no effect greater than a few days of disorientation had come from Laurent's death.

When Draco first had that thought, it was in the middle of a dream, and he sat up hard enough to ruffle his hair. He turned and stared down at Harry, who was curled up beside him. Harry stirred and gave a sleepy murmur of protest, but was deeply dozing again in the next moment, a strand of hair dangling in his mouth. Draco reached out and mechanically moved it aside, while his mind bounded along this new track.

Yes. That was the problem. He knew Harry should have spent more time brooding about Laurent's death. There should have been more moans of how it was all his fault, and how he had never wanted this. Draco had been looking forwards to the reassurance he would have to give, almost. It was another way to demonstrate that he was important to his chosen, meaningful in his life, and necessary to Harry in a way that Laurent had never been and that Harry had tried to deny for so long that Draco was.

But Harry had absorbed the death, accepted it, and then returned to normal life. He had done that so well that Draco hadn't even thought about the way it should go for more than a few minutes at a time since.

Has he finally grown up and realized that he can't play martyr? Draco draped his arms around his knees and studied Harry with a frown. Harry rolled into the spot of warmth Draco had provided and sighed out, as if that was enough to keep him comfortable and happy.

No, I don't think so. He's doing something else instead, something that he thinks he will staunch his guilt.

But here Draco ran up against another problem. Harry might like to think of himself as subtle and sly, but he wasn't. When he wanted to conceal a secret, he ended up making references to it in casual speech and then backtracking hastily to protect them—which was all the more conspicuous. Draco didn't think he had learned how to fool others any more than he had learned how to stop being a martyr.

What is going on?

Although Draco lay awake for enough of the night that Harry touched his face in the morning and frowned into his eyes, he couldn't come up with an answer.

"Are you sure that you're all right?" Harry lingered by the door that morning instead of going to work at once. He never stopped studying Draco. "You look stressed. I could stay home today if you'd prefer that. Kingsley doesn't have a case I have to work on right away, or at least not one that Ron can't handle alone."

"I'm fine," Draco said, and winced. His voice had croaked, a natural result of his worry. When he wanted to reassure his chosen, his voice grew high and sweet. Still, he could curse his Veela nature for making him sound like a frog with a sore throat right now. Harry took several steps back to him and rested a hand on his forehead, as if to feel for fever. Draco closed his eyes. Be honest with me, Harry. It would do me more good than all the medicinal potions in the world.

"You don't sound like it," Harry said. "Let me stay. I'll firecall Kingsley and tell him that I won't be in today. He can hardly fault me, when I haven't take any time off lately. Since the Blazing Season, in fact." He smiled at Draco, with only a trace of the wince he used to show each time he mentioned the season when Veela became most possessive of their chosen, and turned towards the hearth.

"No!" Draco snapped, provoked by the sight of Harry acting as though Draco was the one who needed extra worry and care. "I want you to tell me what's happening to you."

Harry frowned, looking over his shoulder with an unclouded brow. Draco's trust in his certainty wavered for the first time. Did he know that something was happening with Harry? Perhaps Harry had simply talked himself into acknowledging that he held no regret for what had happened to Laurent and that he could move on with his life. "Nothing. Did it look as though something was? I haven't been sick this week, and I'm serious about the lack of cases at work."

"Since Laurent's death," Draco said. "You haven't spoken about it. You've acted as though it didn't happen. Are you all right?"

Harry flinched, the same full-body motion Draco had seen him give before only when he was still touch-shy and Draco had caressed him, and his face flushed with color.

"I knew it," Draco said, and his voice was full of satisfaction, although he took no pleasure in being right. He stood up and prowled towards Harry. His claws were out, but he held back his wings for now. Harry didn't need immediate defending or immediate embracing, and Draco had no reason to show them as a sign of joy. "When are you going to start telling me the truth, Harry?"

"In this case," Harry said tensely, "I thought you would tell me that I didn't need to understand what happened to Laurent. And I do." He was braced in a stance that Draco didn't recognize but thought came up in Auror training.

And he probably doesn't even think I'm going to attack him, Draco thought with an aching sadness. This is just his usual response when someone confronts him. He can't distinguish between one kind of confrontation and another, the harmless and the harmful kind. Maybe that's something we can talk about next. Harry was doing much better than he had been, but he still wasn't completely healed.

"I would have supported you if you wanted to understand," Draco said. He kept his voice quiet and deliberate on purpose, and showed Harry his right hand and the nails that had once again replaced claws. "What more do you need to know, though? Azkaban doesn't give out extra facts on prisoners' deaths unless it's for criminal investigation."

Harry tensed again. "I've been reading the books on Veela that you got me," he admitted in a low voice. "I want to know what happens when a Veela dies without his chosen and without a good break from the chosen. The way Laurent acted at his trial, he didn't grasp that I'd rejected him, but we were still separated."

Draco closed his eyes. He knew the details Harry was asking about, and they were nothing that would make Harry feel better when he found them out. Of course, he thought dismally. Harry hunted down the knowledge that would hurt him and ignored what wouldn't, as though it was somehow cheating to learn facts that would put what he had done into perspective.

"Harry," he said quietly. "You wouldn't like what you found. You didn't precipitate the break from Laurent. You didn't run away and leave him one morning without any chance to change. He raped you." He opened his eyes in time to see Harry flinch from the word. "Yes, he did. I don't remember you, when we first started dating, expressing any emotion but hatred and disgust for him because of that. What changed?"

"I learned more about what he was," Harry said quietly. "How he was different from a human lover. How he was like you." He studied Draco with wide eyes that managed to hold quite a remarkable level of discomfort.

Draco winced in turn, but he was determined to hold on to his superior position in the conversation, a position based on fact and concern for Harry. "We're not exactly the same," he said. "I told you that before, remember? How two Veela react to the same circumstances will differ. Yes, we have a few traits that we share in common, the way that wizards share certain traits with each other. That doesn't specifically control our reactions. You can—Harry, you don't need to see my face on his body when you envision him dying."

Harry frowned further and stared at the floor. Then he murmured, "Draco, I have to understand. I just want to know."

Draco decided that the best thing he could do, then, was go ahead and give Harry what he said he needed. His mother had said it: all any of them could do was support Harry and deal with the consequences of that.

"You haven't been able to find the facts in the books yet," Draco said casually, leaning against the wall. His wings wanted to flare out, but he still kept them under control. "Or you wouldn't have kept looking." And I probably would have had to rescue you from nightmares, he wanted to say, but he held his silence on that, too.

"I—no." Harry twitched his head from side to side in what looked like nervousness for a moment, before he settled for a stare at Draco. "It seems that the authors are reluctant to describe what happens."

"Of course they are," Draco muttered. If too many ordinary wizards learned those important facts, they could attack Veela through their vulnerabilities, and too many Veela had grown up with a hideous first-hand look at what wizards did to magical creatures they considered ugly, dangerous, or valuable. The only accusation Veela would ever be completely safe from was the first one.

"What?" Harry asked.

"Never mind," Draco said. He leaned in so that Harry started as if he wanted to back up, but then firmed his stare and held his ground. Draco approved. "I'll tell you what happens. I know from the lore that's been passed down in my family, and in others, where the Veela inheritance was carried along with normal wizard blood."

"All right," Harry said. He had enough sense to be cautious, but that stubborn, curious expression on his face said that he wanted to know anyway.

"The Veela begins to go mad not long after the separation," Draco said. He had to close his eyes, but he managed to keep his voice detached. That would make it all the more horrible for Harry, and he thought Harry needed horror right now, whether to feed his guilt or for some other reason. The explanation he had given for wanting to know more about Laurent made no sense to Draco, not really. But he could only do what his chosen wanted, whether he comprehended it or not. "He would have his wings and his claws out constantly, and he would croon and call and sing for his chosen. He wouldn't grasp what had happened to him, when the madness advanced far enough. He would see light where only darkness was, and images of his chosen in every direction. He would begin to bite at his own flesh, to sniff it and claw it, because there might be a taste or scent of you left on it."

Harry gagged. Draco opened his eyes and made himself face his chosen. He had to lick his lips to maintain the coolness of tone when he saw the ragged state of Harry's expression, but he couldn't go back on this now, not when he had already made the compromises that he thought necessary for Harry's good.

"He would tear off his wings, ultimately. What good could they be to him, when you weren't nearby to protect? He would imagine all sorts of different things that could have happened to you, because it would be beyond him to think that you might have left of your own free will. He would shriek for revenge against his enemies until his voice was gone, and he would fling himself at the wall and try to dig through it. That would break his claws. But he would still have enough fingernails left to dig out his eyes."

"His eyes?" Harry whispered. "Why?"

"Because they couldn't tell him the way to you," Draco said. Perhaps he was being too cruel, to use the personal pronoun instead of talking about this as if it was any ordinary Veela and chosen, but Harry had wanted to know. "He would do the same thing with his nose, which was useless for finding the trail, and with every feather that grew on his body, since it wasn't sheltering you. Then he would tear open his chest and go after his own heart. Ripping it free would hurt less than to have it beating alone."

Harry turned away and took a few steps towards the fireplace, as if he would Floo out after all. Then he sagged against the wall, made helpless by his shuddering. Draco folded his arms and fought back the urge to go to him at once. He thought Harry needed a few more moments of experience alone.

"Why?" Harry whispered. "Why did it have to end that way? I thought I was sparing him when I didn't murder him, but it seems that I only spared him for a more terrible fate than he would have had without my mercy."

The only part of that rambling little monologue Draco agreed with was the notion that it would have been better to murder Laurent at once. But he didn't intend to allow Harry to beat himself up about it. He stepped forwards, and then his wings were out—with only a slight sigh from his shirt, which was modified to allow that—and wrapped around Harry. They were joined by his arms a moment later.

Harry stood unyielding against him, but the influence of the wings was hard for even an angry wizard to deny, and Draco knew that Harry wasn't angry at him. His rage was directed against himself, as always, even though it didn't have to be. He melted against Draco's chest and closed his eyes.

"I wish there was some way out of this," he whispered.

"Some way out?" Draco kept his voice calm and gentle, whispering his fingers through Harry's hair in the meantime. He could think of alarming interpretations to put on Harry's words, but until Harry actually said something that was alarming, Draco would hold himself back from making too many suggestions.

"Yes," Harry said. "I feel bad about killing Laurent, but I couldn't have done anything else than put him in Azkaban. I didn't know what would happen, but my conscience says that's no excuse. And I still hate him for putting me in this position." The last words were a passionate snarl. His fingers curled into claws of his own against Draco's chest.

Draco shut his eyes, enormously relieved. He was thinking that Harry's guilt might have destroyed all his normal feelings about Laurent. The last thing Draco could have put up with was moaning about how Harry was sorry Laurent had raped him—not because it had happened, but because Harry should have given him what he needed. Draco had barely held back the impulse to rejoice at the news of Laurent's death most of the week. He would go into a jealous rage if Harry started looking wistfully back on his last Veela lover.

He nuzzled his face into Harry's neck and whispered, "I know. Why not firecall Kingsley, tell him that you're taking the day off, and then come up and rest in my arms for a little while?"

Harry began to pull back. "I have to go in. I need work—work distracts me—"

Draco held him still, which he was easily able to do, and murmured, "Not now. Work was your only way out of those confined thoughts when you didn't have me. But now you do." His fingers pressed gently against Harry's shoulders and then on the back of his neck, urging him to reconsider.

Harry swallowed and whispered, "Everything you said was true?"

"Yes," Draco said slowly, trying to figure out where Harry's mind was going. If he thought of staying with Draco only to spare him Laurent's horrible fate, he shouldn't; it was not as though Draco would die from a day's separation. On the other hand, he might want to be away from Draco altogether until the images stopped dancing in his head. Draco could understand that impulse.

"I—I'll have to think about it," Harry said. "But yeah, let me firecall Kingsley, and then I'll stay with you."

Draco stroked the back of Harry's neck and his hair and his cheek in approbation, and then kissed him. He would have liked to do more, but Harry pushed him away with a gentle, weary smile and stepped up to the fireplace. Draco stayed and listened, too anxious not to, but Harry didn't spring through the flames as though he wanted to get away. He told Kingsley he was dealing with personal stresses that would keep him away from the office, nodded a few times, arranged for someone else to work with Weasley, and then came back into Draco's arms.

They ended up sitting together and talking about nonsensical things for most of the day, and then taking a nap in the late afternoon. Draco woke up as the sun threw reddened light over them and watched Harry's face. His mouth was pinched shut, and the lines of stress remained around it. His confession didn't seem to have done much to help them.

Draco's wings flared up before he thought about it, but he managed to control himself with a deep breath and a shake of his head. He lay down next to Harry again and listened to his breathing, sorting out the normal sounds from the strained ones.

What would help Harry, now that he knew the truth? Draco had satisfied the immediate need for information, but he didn't yet know how he would resolve that deeper need, which he thought Harry had healed at least a little bit by now.

And that hurt.

"Mate? Mate, are you all right?"

Harry jumped and came back to himself. He'd been sitting behind his desk in their office, staring at the ceiling, and he had known where he was, enough not to react violently when Ron touched him. But his arse still left the seat, and he sagged back with a groan, rubbing a hand across his face.

"Mate." Ron was standing in front of him, and he had the expression on his face that had more than once caused Hermione to compare him to a mule, though she would always add that a mule was more handsome. "You're not dealing well with whatever this is. You shouldn't have come in today. Go home."

Harry drew himself up and cleared his throat. He felt bad enough for taking one unanticipated day off last week and sticking Ron with many more cases than Ron had thought he would have to handle, but he wasn't going to leave early now. That would carry his obsession over Laurent from the category of "I can handle this" to "I can't handle this and it's hurting other people." "Listen, Ron, I don't know what Draco might have said to you, but I promise that I'm fine. No one's wounded him or me."

Ron's eyes only grew darker. "It isn't the best sign that you immediately try to reassure me instead of shrugging off my concern," he said, steel in each word. "Harry. Go home. We only have a few hours left."

"And how many times have we been called out during one of those hours on cases?" Harry held his gaze.

Ron sighed. "Do it for me, if not for yourself," he said. "I can hear the scolding that Hermione and Draco would both give me if they saw you like this, but I don't want to."

Harry summoned up a ghost of a smile, although he thought he had probably paled. "That bad, huh?"

"You could use three days of sleep and someone to talk with about whatever's bothering you," Ron said, and then stared at him expectantly.

Harry sighed. "I can't, not yet. Sorry, Ron."

"Then talk with Draco, at least," Ron said stubbornly, and grabbed his arm, hauling him to his feet. Harry went, blinking. He forgot at times how strong Ron was. "Like I said, I know he would suffer if he saw you like this. You forget, his health depends on yours. Go home and talk to him. Git."

Somehow, while Ron was talking, he had managed to haul Harry most of the distance across the office, and Harry found himself at the door. Now Ron tossed several files at him that were probably the most urgent ones—Ron was better about keeping those things organized than Harry was—and a stack of reports. Harry caught them without spilling anything, but had to clasp them to his sides in the next moment because his hands were shaking so badly.

Ron met his eyes. There was no humor in his face, now, and Harry thought he might actually have drawn his wand if Harry had tried to come back into the office. "See," Ron said quietly. "Go home."

Harry nodded, sheepish and sheep-like, and walked down the corridor. No one passing gave him a second glance. After all, it was hardly unusual to walk through the Department of Magical Law Enforcement with large stacks of paper.

But he couldn't escape the feeling that he should have stayed. What was wrong with him, anyway? So now he knew how Laurent had died. He had borne witness to his death, in a way, because he hadn't remained in ignorance and he had a reason to have nightmares for the rest of his life. What else could he do? What else, Draco would demand, could even the spirit of Laurent ask of him?

All the way home, Harry thought about that. And when he stepped out of the fire in Malfoy Manor and heard Draco clatter down the stairs to meet him, smiling in delighted astonishment, his hands covered with some glittering powder from the potion he'd been brewing, he thought he knew what the problem was.

He was caught halfway between the response that he would have had, once upon a time, tormenting himself with guilt over Laurent's death and writhing in pain and fury, and the response he wanted to have, where he acknowledged that Draco's love meant more to him than Laurent's death. When he swayed towards the first, he remembered Draco's love and was ashamed. When he swayed towards the second, he remembered the sheer horror of Draco's recitation and thought he was obliged to feel some guilt, because no one deserved to die that way.

He needed a bridge. He needed to make a leap and become the second person fully. It wasn't his commitment that was wanting, or at least he didn't think so. Something else was holding him back.

He handed his files to Draco, kissed him—an open-mouthed kiss that went on for some time and had Draco panting and grinning by the time they pulled apart—and took a step into the darkness, trusting that the bridge would be there. It was the way he had always worked, and this time, as he had felt before, a firm sense of rightness guided him.

There was only one thing he had allowed Laurent to do that he hadn't allowed Draco to do, though there were many that were the other way around.

"Draco?" His Veela looked up, alert and ready at the tone of need in his voice, and Harry nodded. "I want you to use your allure on me."

Harry frowned at him from the other side of the room. "Why do we have to speak with them about it?" he muttered. "I would have thought it would be our private decision. Unless you think I'm mad."

Draco shook his head. There was the flash of challenge in Harry's face that he loved and also found exasperating, because Harry would go straight for the worst conclusion for no reason. "No. But I want Lucy to explain to you what exactly it means, to use the allure like this, the way I explained the way a Veela would die without his chosen. And I want Owen and Lucy both to see you and determine whether the allure is affecting your actions as much as you think it is."

"It's not the allure itself," Harry said. "I told you. It's the symbol of the thing."

Draco sighed, but didn't answer. He didn't think there were any words that would convince Harry of his viewpoint, and therefore, he wouldn't spend the time trying.

The door before them opened. Draco stood up at once. Lucy smiled at them from the doorway, that pale, pure, remote expression that Draco had begun imitating when he wanted to intimidate people, and behind her was Owen King, her chosen, his hair shining nearly as brightly as hers did.

"Come in," Lucy said, with a sweep of her hand. Draco noticed that she had her claws out. Well, the last time she had seen Harry, he was still riding the edge of destructive magic every time he looked at a Veela, and had only begun to heal and admit that he needed to heal. It was no wonder that she was a bit cautious.

They shuffled into one of the several beautiful rooms of Owen and Lucy's house. This one had a theme of mountains, with delicately painted silhouettes of them on the walls in lines of blue and purple, and the lamps on the tables bearing shades of green and blue. Draco shook his head. Owen and Lucy were the only ones he knew who could suggest landscapes without actually using glamours and illusions.

There were four chairs in a circle in the center of the carpet, facing one another. Draco sat down in the nearest and drew Harry along. Harry accepted the seat beside him, face set in a permanent frown.

"I wish to know why you came here," Lucy said. She did not sit, despite the fourth chair, but stood behind Owen, one hand resting on his shoulder. "You can hardly want our approval or help, considering that you have lived together for months now."

Draco knew the reason for the suspicion behind her bright eyes. Owen had retired from being an active Healer because of health difficulties, and Lucy was sedulous in making sure that he didn't overtax himself for the people who visited him now. Draco made sure to keep his voice soft and respectful, so that Lucy wouldn't think he was challenging her. "Harry thinks that he's ready to purge the memories of Laurent from his mind by having me use the allure on him."

"It isn't the memories he will get rid of if he does that," Owen said. He spoke more quickly than was his wont, looking from one of them to the other. "It's the unnaturally strong emotions associated with the memories, the rage that makes it impossible for him to let time do its healing."

Draco nodded. He had known that, but had misspoken. "Yes, sorry, that's what I meant. I wanted Lucy to speak with him and describe the allure."

Lucy and Owen exchanged a look, and Lucy asked, as if testing the waters, "You came here for my help? Not his?"

"Yes?" Draco framed it as a question. Perhaps she was busy? But he couldn't imagine that she would have accepted his query about whether they could come if she was.

Lucy smiled and moved around the chair. "Then I will be happy to help you. Owen has been stressed enough lately that I didn't want to expose him to the full pressure of a case as delicate and difficult as Mr. Potter's."

"I could have handled it," Owen muttered.

Lucy turned her head and gave him an exasperated look. Draco knew the feeling. He had done this all too many times with Harry. It seemed that Veela in general were often drawn to people who were Healers, Aurors, or heroes in some other way. The struggle to keep such a chosen safe and to preserve some of his energy for the Veela was incredible.

Owen looked at his hands, which was a good way of admitting that Lucy was right. She turned back with an indulgent smile that Draco knew was meant for her chosen and not them. "What do you wish me to explain?" she asked Draco. "Exactly? The normal reasons for using the allure, or the reasons for using it in a case like this?"

"A case like this," Draco said. "Harry already is immune to the allure, so he wouldn't feel it like someone else would anyway."

Lucy's smile faded. "Ah," she said, and examined Harry closely enough that he started to squirm. He had a trapped expression on his face, and Draco grew his claws and reached out to stroke Harry's arm. Harry relaxed. Lucy nodded, as though the gesture had been the answer to one of her questions. "It is good that you are able to relax enough to trust your Veela," she told Harry. "This would be impossible without it."

"I wouldn't be here without it," Harry said, avoiding her eyes. "I would never have started sleeping with Draco if I didn't trust him."

Lucy waited a few moments, seeming to absorb the force of that declaration, and then nodded and reached out. Harry flinched back from her hand, but, with Draco still touching his arm, managed to accept it. Lucy didn't press down, but lightly covered Harry's palm with her own. Draco had to look away to manage his jealousy, though.

"Normal allure is like this," Lucy said. "A call on the senses, though the senses used are not among the common five. You can feel it as a light touch." She pressed down harder. Draco knew she did because he had looked back, unable to justify turning away when someone else was touching his chosen. "The heavier it gets, the more you feel it."

Harry shook his head. "I never really knew the difference. I was just immune to it, and that was all. It made Laurent furious, because he wanted to control me, although I rationalized it to myself differently at the time." He closed his eyes. "And then he made me Veela-struck, and—" He stopped.

"Yes," Lucy said softly. "Imagine my hand reaching in to cup your heart and explore all the cells of your body. That is what being Veela-struck is like, as opposed to the dizziness and desire to obey that the allure conveys."

Draco showed her his teeth. She looked back, unimpressed and unexcited, and Draco reined in his instincts and nodded a hasty apology. He had to remember that she was trying to help. She wasn't trying to take Harry away. She had someone of her own, though, looking at Owen, Draco had to admit that he couldn't see the attraction as compared to Harry.

"Letting someone touch you with his allure, as compared to the ordinary touch, is like being Veela-struck," Lucy told Harry. "You will not feel the desire to obey, but you will feel it pass throughout your body. You will feel that he holds your heart in his hands—or something equally intimate. That sensation is the particular one I felt when I was being trained to use the allure," she added parenthetically. "You must be open, completely accepting." She paused and stared Harry in the face again. "Frankly, my belief is that your history makes it impossible, but I honor you for the desire."

Draco winced. There went Lucy, being blunter than he would have liked as usual. But—if she hadn't made that explanation, Draco knew he would have botched it, and Harry would probably have panicked about how openly he had to surrender. It was better that he have some idea of what he would be facing.

"It's like being Veela-struck." Harry's voice was small and chill, and Draco couldn't stand it. He got up and moved into Harry's chair, putting his body between Harry and Lucy. But, for the first time since Harry had truly started trying with Draco, he remained unresponsive to Draco's caresses. He had the expression of someone walking into hell.

"In the depth," Lucy said. "Not the effects. Since you are immune to the allure, it will blow through you like a cleansing wind. But can you surrender to that depth? I do not think you can."

Draco showed her his teeth again, this time in sheer annoyance with the way that she kept insisting on the hopelessness of the case. She looked back at him, clearly indifferent, and then nodded at Harry. "I think you are brave."

Harry closed his eyes. He was shrinking back into isolation, Draco thought. He had dealt with the rape alone for two and a half years; his friends had known, but no one else, not even his adopted family, the Weasleys. He was trying that tactic again.

But Draco was here now. He slapped Harry sharply on the arm, and Harry's eyes flew open, a protest in his expression. Draco quelled it with a harsh stare.

"We'll get through it," he said fiercely. "Because I refuse to let you fail, and you refuse to fail."

Harry's expression worked through several shades of angry, annoyed, and upset until he nodded. He leaned back in the chair and looked grim again, but his arm curled around Draco's neck. Draco crooned into Harry's ear.

Harry smiled at him, finally, and then looked over his shoulder at Lucy and Owen. Draco understood. It was impossible for Harry to forget about having an audience, even one who wouldn't interfere and who would completely understand. He stood up, half-spreading his wings so that Harry was sheltered within those feathers, and looked expectantly at Lucy.

"Go on, then, if you must," Lucy said, shaking her head. "As long as both of you understand that this will not be easy, then I have nothing else to explain."

"When has anything we've done been easy?" Draco retorted, and gathered Harry up to sweep him out the door. A glance over his shoulder showed that Owen was smiling at them both—he had hardly said a word during the conversation, but he didn't need to when he knew that he could leave things up to his Veela—and Lucy watching with an intense expression that might have had an edge of sweetness to it.

Harry could feel Draco's stare on the back of his head. They had come back from Owen and Lucy's, and had come straight up to their bedroom. Draco seemed intent on beginning Harry's exposure to the allure right away, and Harry had to admit, that was what he had wanted, too.


Except that the minutes seemed to drag, now, and Harry couldn't stop picking things up and putting them down in an orgy of self-consciousness. When he turned around, Draco's eyes hit him like a blow. He winced and looked aside.

"Do you want to wait?" Draco's voice was soft and solicitous, with music in the corners. Harry knew he would wait if Harry wanted to, despite what had to be his own impatience.

"I—don't know," Harry said. He sat down in the middle of their bed. It seemed incredible to him that they had four places to live, if they wanted to: Harry's house, Draco's, the Mabinogion House that Narcissa had given him as a gift, and these rooms in Malfoy Manor. They stayed in the Manor most of the time right now because the rooms were beautiful and Harry thought it was a place they could truly share. Harry's house still boasted wards and anti-Veela protections that he'd put up when nightmares of Laurent haunted him. Draco's house had been the place he discovered that Draco was (as he thought) trying to find clues about Laurent's place and false name in Azkaban, and Harry was reluctant to stir up any more bad memories than he had to.

This room was small compared to some of the ones they could have taken, circular, with a window that looked out on the lawns where the peacocks screeched and on the Malfoys' Owlery. Harry liked the huge, circular bed, and the soft pillows, and the way that Draco lay on it and cradled him in his wings, as if they were in a nest. He couldn't imagine a better place to suffer through the allure, if he had to suffer through it, than here.

He looked up at Draco and nodded imperceptibly. Draco's eyes widened, and he stepped towards Harry and then hesitated as if he assumed that coming closer was enough to ratchet up the tension.

Harry locked his hands into place on his knees. All he could think of at the moment was Laurent's face, staring at him in twisted adoration, as he released the allure that would strike deeper than the kind Harry was immune to and render him a helpless slave. He hadn't known what he did was wrong. Harry truly believed that. He had only wanted to keep Harry at his side, concerned with him and ignoring everything else.

The expression was different from Draco's. Harry had to tell himself that, or he would leap to his feet and run from the room.

"You're not ready," Draco murmured.

"I don't think I can be, not for this," Harry answered. "What matters is my willingness and your gentleness. I trust in both of those for the moment." He tried to muster a smile, but it must have been an awful effort, because Draco scowled at him. Harry breathed to calm himself and nodded. "Nothing will make this easier but going ahead, I think. Please, Draco. Touch me with the allure, and we'll see what happens."

Draco bowed his head, as if agreeing that that was the best solution. He seemed to concentrate. Harry closed his eyes to mute the screaming in his mind. It might be for the best if he didn't watch the expression on Draco's face as he worked.

The air around Harry filled with a clear lightness, like flames burning on the edges of his sight. He knew he would see nothing if he opened his eyes and turned his head. That was part of the point, that the allure conjured all sorts of effects without quite arriving at any one. It made an impact on the senses, but not a definable one.

Harry shivered. He wondered for a moment if Draco's allure was cold, an effect he hadn't noticed with Laurent, but realized that he had broken out in freezing sweat. That'll do it, he thought.

He heard a steady wingbeat and would have opened his eyes to see if Draco was rising off the floor, had he dared. Then the clarity of the allure seemed to turn and pour through him like a wind, and he realized that Draco was using his wings to channel it.

The wind was delicate, and soft, and sweet. He could smell a scent like the youth of roses, and a rocking motion enclosed his body. If he was in a boat on a sentient sea, or back in the womb, he could not have been rocked more gently.

Flashes of pain came to him, though distantly. Harry knew that he was clawing his knees up and ought to stop, but there was no stopping the sheer panic that would dance through him otherwise. Pain would counterbalance the other sensations, no matter how distant, and remind him that this was not Laurent. With Laurent, he'd had no choice. He simply fell back on the bed and spread his arms and legs in welcome—


His mind spasmed. His throat closed. Harry threw his head back and tried to scream, but he had no air.


Draco's voice was near his ear, shrill with Veela protectiveness, but human enough that Harry could understand it. He held his arms out; Draco seemed to understand, and moved into the embrace. Harry felt the quivering muscles in his back and the shifting glory of the wings.

"Can you look at me?" Draco asked, voice sounding as if it came from a tunnel now. "I think that might help."

"No," Harry said. He didn't know if his response was an answer to Draco's question or a simple denial. His throat was on fire now. No matter where he turned his head, he couldn't stop smelling the scent of the allure.

"I love you," Draco said.

The world rocked around Harry once and steadied again. Draco's love was real, unlike the confusing flutter of sensations that the allure tried to convince him were more than illusion but could never be anything but that. Harry huddled closer to Draco and swallowed the sob that wanted to emerge from his throat.

"I can—I can get through this," he said. He wondered if he was talking to himself.

Draco nuzzled the back of his neck. "You can. It's the surrender and the openness that Lucy said you would have the hardest time with, and that's true."

Harry's heart heaved once. Lucy. There were other people outside this room. The world hadn't faded to him and Draco, the way it had seemed to fade to him and Laurent once before.

He would get through this, because he loved Draco too. He murmured that, and Draco said he knew, and stroked Harry's hair back.

"Can you think about the way that you gave in to me during the Blazing Season?" Draco whispered. "The gift you gave of yourself? You trusted me, and I didn't abuse that trust. I'm not him. I would never rape you."

Harry shivered a bit, partially at the word but more because he knew that, and he felt a bit pained that Draco should think he had to put it in words. "I know," he said. "I know so much about you, Draco, and I've got used to more. I think I can do this if I push myself a little further. But don't let me fall."

"You'll have the harder task," Draco said at once, his voice soft with eagerness. "I couldn't let you fall if I wanted to."

Harry held the words to himself until he truly believed in them and could feel them like separate particles of warmth brewing through his blood. That was different from the warmth that the allure created, he thought. He could trust it.

Then again, if he truly accepted the touch of the allure the way that Draco wanted him to, then he would be able to trust it, too, because it was under Draco's control.

Harry blinked away the confusion and looked up at Draco. Draco's eyes were enormous in the faint light of the room, and he leaned down and kissed Harry until Harry had to relax, because he wanted so much to open his arms, his legs, and his mouth to Draco.

"Lie back," Draco whispered, in that same deep tone Harry had heard a few times during the Blazing Season. "This will be easier if you lie back."

Harry nodded and lay down on the bed, spreading his legs wide. He felt his wariness retreat to the back of his mind. It was still there, curling his spine and stiffening his hands, but much less than it had been. Draco's smile was helplessly tender, his face not shining in the way that Laurent's had. He reached out and smoothed a hand that flickered with white flames down Harry's flank. Harry shuddered. He had a number of small sensitive spots there that Draco knew very well by now.

"Keep in mind," Draco whispered, "that you're the one in control here. You can tell me to stop using the allure at any time, and I will. I promise." His fingers were drawing small circles now, and his nails were claws, and his face was bright with hunger. He bent to kiss Harry, and, before Harry could answer, breathed in the allure through his mouth.

Harry breathed back, trying to expel it, but the allure spread through him, the steady, bright wind he had felt a few minutes before. This time, though, it was inside him, and it wouldn't leave. Harry closed his eyes and tried his best to enjoy the scent and the rocking motions, the feeling like a pair of hands cradling his heart. It was more intimate this time, with Draco on top of him and inside him in this way, and the fingers stroking his sides and the voice crooning in his ear all said that.

Relaxation came gradually, not suddenly. It seemed to start from the edges and work its way in. Harry could smell the scent of unearthly flowers without wanting to be sick when he remembered that those flowers grew in gardens Draco had tended. And if Draco held his heart, he would be much more careful of it than Laurent had been.

He does hold my heart. Harry breathed in again, and managed to exhale in a way that didn't make him sound as if he was about to have a coughing fit. I forgot that. Just because it's never been this literal before doesn't mean that it wasn't true.

"You smell better than the allure does," Draco whispered. "Let me in, Harry." Again he bent over Harry and breathed into his mouth.

Harry accepted it, even opening his mouth to get more. It wasn't the allure itself that soothed him—it couldn't affect him unless he let it—but the fact that this was Draco, Draco willingly doing something difficult and time-consuming for no better reason than that he loved Harry.

Down and down and down the allure traveled, creating spiraling corridors through his veins, tracking the remnants of anger and hatred and fear that rested there from his time with Laurent. Harry had never realized how deep those emotions ran. He had controlled the impulse to murder Laurent at the time, and that had seemed to get rid of them.

But no, there they were. Harry turned away from them, but the allure continued pressing forwards, and he could feel the moment when the allure touched those emotions, fixed into him by Laurent making him Veela-struck.

The light that passed through his body might only have existed on the back of his eyelids, but it was brilliant. Silvery as Veela wings, it beat and fluttered and soared into a higher, purer realm of existence, the one where Harry had dwelt since he and Draco came together. He ascended in light, and cried out softly in wonder.

Draco breathed into his mouth again. Harry experienced the allure as sunlight this time, burning and blazing deeply into his heart. It hurt as he watched the anger and hatred melt, but those unchanging emotions were going, and that was the important thing. He was banishing the black ice and welcoming back the spring.

He wouldn't dare say those things aloud. They were too soppy. But he thought them, and no one could take that from him. The sunlight was in his mind, making the atmosphere too thick and rich to contain such abominations as Laurent had tried to inflict on him.

Those dark snowbanks trembled, and then dissolved. Harry laughed aloud. He opened his eyes and saw Draco looking startled above him, before he smiled tentatively back and reached down to comb his fingers through Harry's hair.

"All right, love?" he whispered.

"So much better," Harry said. He hadn't realized how the weight of being Veela-struck clung to him until it was gone. He stretched, and he seemed to have gained the ability to reach a new yard of distance with each limb.

Draco slid off his chest and lay beside him, staring at him with hazy grey eyes, almost silver. Harry touched him on the forehead and nodded his thanks. He would have spoken it, but all the words still sounded wrong in his mental ears.

"This isn't going to heal you completely," Draco said. "It won't make it as if you'd never been raped."

Harry snorted, a bit insulted that Draco thought he needed to hear that. "I know. But most of the effects from that, like my distrust of food, are the ones I know are there and how to deal with. I had no idea how much this still affected me." He laid his head on Draco's chest and closed his eyes.

"Are you all right?" Draco whispered. "I could understand if you just want to be away from all Veela for a while."

"You're perfect," Harry said drowsily. "Let me hear your heart, and you'll be even better."

Draco was exhausted. Breathing the allure into Harry had taken more effort than he thought it would. Harry's natural immunity meant it was like pushing a rock uphill, rather than finding the immediate acceptance that the allure would create in most people.

But then he had seen Harry's face relax and glow. He had seen him irradiated from inside—something that he thought Harry had also felt or sensed, but which he didn't seem to want to talk about. Harry had extended his hands and fallen into the embrace of the allure, into the embrace of Draco's trust.

The effort had been worth it.

Harry always will be, Draco thought, and draped a sheltering wing over them both.

The End.