Wizard, Jake thought, hysterically, Harry is a wizard.
Well, there was a magnitude of infinitely worse things he could be. Jake attempted to list them off the top of his head: serial rapist, the third singer in a crappy indie band, a morally ambiguous murderer of kittens… about halfway into this list Jake thought he may have lost his mind.
It could be worse, Jake consoled, silently.
He sat beneath the breadth of a large oak tree, listlessly sprawled in its roots as if somehow the position might ground him when he felt as if half of him would drift away. It wasn't working entirely. Up in the distance the lopsided, dilapidated mansion Harry called home squatted on the apex of a grass knoll, and from here Jake could make out the indistinct figures of Harry's housemates loading—as Harry had predicted—a dragon into the back of a Ford F-1.
This was really his life.
Jake didn't know what else to do.
So he laughed.
Chapter Nine: Constant Conversations
"Tea?" Harry found himself asking, for the third time that day.
Seated on the opposite side of the kitchen, Draco Malfoy shook his head. "Pass." He said, wry. Normally this would have been a retort of great arrogance; but it appeared that Malfoy was not in his regular spirits. From the looks of him, Harry doubted he had been in some time.
As a result of not seeing the blonde in a good few years or so, Harry found he couldn't quite read the expression on the man's face. His head was titled to fixate his gaze in something indeterminable in the distance; probably the undoubtedly incredulous spectacle of Whethersprout and crew loading up the Ridgeback into the back of a pickup truck. Harry could hear their shouts of frustration from the open window: it appeared that they were having issues fitting the dragon in the truck's bay without its elongated neck sticking out over the top. Burgundy yelled something about perhaps a notice-me-not charm. Whethersprout returned that he'd never heard of a notice-me-not that could unnoticed the size of something like that.
Harry shook his head, and went about making his own cup. Mint, he decided with no small amount of deliberation. Mint and Chamomile. He had no idea how he was supposed to make it through the afternoon without something calming.
"Should I ask why you're here?" Harry asked, dry as bone, as he moved about his kitchen.
Malfoy continued to look out the window, profile thrown into grayscale light. The clouds outside stripped the world of color, leaving the blonde bare in shadows and brightness.
"Am I to take a guess, then?" Harry continued in the blonde's silence. From the looks of things, he should do up another cup anyway.
He set the cup and saucer in front of Malfoy with a great, conclusive thud. The worn china rattled ominously, but didn't spill. Belatedly, Harry noticed none of the cutlery he'd chosen matched in any sense of the word; all the plates, cups and utensils had been brought by various members of the house—each with their own and very significant opinions on patterns and colors. He expected a remark about that as well, but the blonde only gave a somewhat dismissive glance at both cup and saucer, before turning his attention back to the world outside.
"How's Ginny?" He changed tact.
Hit a mark on that one.
"Did she tell you?" He asked abruptly, turning sharply towards Harry.
"About…?" Harry fished, intending to get at least something out of Draco.
Malfoy did not elaborate.
Harry sighed. He could be stubborn about this; hell, it was clear as day that the Slytherin was coming for advice. And there was a small, vindictive part of him that intended to rip that out of him—that wanted to make him beg. The rest of him was too old and too tired to expend so much effort.
"The wedding? Or the baby?" Harry smiled, bland and devoid of any significant amusement. "Congratulations, by the way."
"This isn't a joke, Potter." Malfoy snarled.
"Yes, I imagine it wouldn't be very funny if it was." Harry agreed. He blew gently against the surface of the tea—watching the rivulets of air with great fascination.
"I—Potter!" He barked, when it became clear that Harry's attention had strayed.
"Ah, yes?" The brunette looked up.
It looked as if Malfoy had to physically will himself up for this moment. Harry found great satisfaction in this. "Did she say anything to you?"
"About either of them?" Harry returned, coolly. "No. Well, not really. She informed me of both events, and then left. If you were expecting any answers from me, I'm afraid you've been terribly misinformed."
Fortunately it seems this was the right thing to say: all the stubbornness leaves Malfoy in an abrupt swoop, leaving the blonde looking exhausted.
"They hate me." He sighed at length.
"That's not true." Harry was quick to respond. "The Weasley's are incapable of hating anyone." Well… maybe not Molly. Molly was terrifying. "What brought this on?"
"We went to that—" He swallowed whatever insult he was about to spit out; Harry could respect him for the attempt, at least. "Uh, we went to their house. We wanted to tell our families, y'know? About the wedding."
Harry snorted. He could imagine how well that went down. "Not the best idea."
"No." Malfoy agreed. "That was… rather overly ambitious of me." Harry cracked an involuntary smile at that—surprised by such humility coming from a tenant like Malfoy, however sardonic it may be.
"Well, they weren't too pleased." He replied. "Though, neither were mine. But I so rarely speak to my parents these days: it was more perfunctory than anything. But Ginny cares about what her family thinks… she didn't take their response too well."
Harry's brows raised. "You're calling it off?"
He shook his head. "No. Well…" He frowned, thoughtful. "It's on suspended hiatus."
And Harry could be a judicious, obstinate little fuck about this. But the fact of the matter was; he and Malfoy had been obstinate little fucks for way too long at this point, seven years too long, and he actually held quite a bit of sympathy for the guy. He could remember his first time meeting the Weasley's—and that was as a friend of Ron's, and as the Chosen One. His encounter hadn't had any of the history or any of the stigma that Malfoy's undoubtedly had, and even then he'd been rather overwhelmed by it. He could only imagine how much worse Malfoy's meeting had went.
"They'll come around." He said, putting his tea down. "I'm not saying it will be easy, but you definitely went the hard way."
And, to Malfoy's confused expression, "Terrible timing." He elaborated.
"Give it time." Harry reasoned. The Weasley's were still reeling from the vicious end of him and Ginny. He knew in his heart that they all expected him to end up with her forever: in a lot of ways, he had assumed the same. But in the end, the only ones whose opinions mattered were his and Ginny's—and they were both in pretty staunch agreement that they would never be anything but catastrophic. But the Weasley's needed time to reconcile that. He could see it when he was dragged to dinners with Charlie, could see the fading sparkle in Mrs. Weasley's eyes when Ginny never showed.
"Also," Harry added. "Start with… just start with one of them at a time, right? It gets overwhelming meeting them all at once."
"Like who?" Malfoy snorted. "Ron?"
It was fairly safe to say Ron would rather shoot himself in the foot than sit in a room with Malfoy for more than a few minutes.
"Yeah no, not the best idea." Harry agreed, a smile blooming on his face as he thought of an idea. "Do you have shoes?"
Malfoy blinked. "I'm sorry?"
"Do you have outdoor shoes?" Harry repeated. "Also, how do you feel about a trek through the muddy shit show that is the Olympic Peninsula?"
Malfoy blinked again. Hard.
This was how the afternoon found him and Draco Malfoy trekking up the side of a large hill, mostly out of breath, looking for the Ironbelly stakeout. He'd apparated them into the rolling fields—but that was really all he could do without specific coordinates. Unfortunately, he had forgotten how large the reserve was. It was to their infinite relief that the stakeout crew had lit a campfire, and the clout of smoke rising into the dreary sky was discernible from some distance.
"Where the hell are we, Potter?" Malfoy cursed between breaths.
"The Olypmic Dragon reserve." Harry returned, just as out of breath. How he wished for a broom right now.
Malfoy grunted. "Perhaps the better question to ask would have been—why?"
"Give it a bit." Harry returned, as they cleared the hill and the valley below them sprawled out to all four corners of the earth.
He could have collapsed to his knees and rejoiced at the sight of Charlie Weasley center stage in front of the fire, undoubtedly reenacting some attempt to grab the Ironbelly's eggs—at least, he hoped that was what the redhead was supposed to be miming, If it wasn't, Harry wasn't sure he wanted to do know what it was.
"Charlie!" He called, jovial with relief.
The redhead was caught in surprise, accidentally dropping the frying pan he'd been brandishing over his head. It fell from his grip and slammed into his forehead, much to the uproarious amusement of his fellow tamers.
"Oh Merlin." Malfoy muttered at the sight.
As they approachced, the group's merry laughter drifted into cheers at the sight of Harry.
"Harry Potter!" Doris leapt to his feet. Harry noted his eyebrows had finally grown back from their run in with the Ironbelly. "Haven't seen you this far out in a while!"
"I try to stay as far away from man-eating dragons as possible." Harry enthused, returning the man's ecstatic back clapping. "Contrary to popular belief—I do have some self preservation!"
"Eh?" Doris cocked his head, turning to Malfoy. "Har, who's this?"
Harry had to privately agree that Malfoy did, indeed stick out like something of a sore thumb and someone was bound to call attention to him. He had on a white button down he'd rolled up to his elbows that looked as if it had been cleaned at some point in the week—and if that wasn't a blatant sign he wasn't a dragon tamer than Harry didn't know what was—and a pair of spotless khakis. Harry had transfigured his incredibly expensive looking shoes into a pair of kicks, much to the blonde's displeasure. He hadn't been complaining once they'd started up the hills, though.
"Uh, a… friend of mine." He bit out, feeling uncomfortable at the very word. From Malfoy's expression, he was just as uncomfortable. "We're here for Charlie, actually."
The redhead in question stopped attempting to conjure ice for his bruised head (the ice might work for his temple, but it wouldn't do much for his ego) and looked up. "Me?"
His expression turned into complete beffudlement when he noticed Harry's companion.
If possible, Malfoy looked even more awkward.
Harry, who was out of element in human interaction on the best of days, stuck his hands in his pockets. "Ah… right. Yeah. So. Would you mind showing us the Ironbelly? We were… curious."
If anyone felt the need to call him out on the blatant lie—they did not act upon it.
Charlie gave him a rather pointed look—which, okay, he deserved, because he'd been protesting adamantly how he'd never come back up here unless his life was on the line—but shrugged regardless. "Sure! She's a beaut, y'know, but she's in a bit of a temper at the moment."
He sent a sidelong glance towards Doris. "I wonder why that is?"
Doris harrumphed, looking terribly offended.
Harry did not want to know.
He forcibly dragged Malfoy up another hill, this time Charlie in tow, the rowdy sounds of the other tamers muted by the distance. Harry didn't think the silence all that calamitous though—Charlie appeared to still be in rather jovial spirits, and he didn't even seem all that encumbered by Malfoy's presence. Harry counted this as a win.
"There she is!" Charlie halted their journey abruptly. Harry squinted into the distance.
He didn't see anything.
Charlie grabbed his head, and turned it with his hands. "No, you silly twit, over there."
Harry blinked. "Oh. Oh."
He felt a bit foolish for so blatantly mistaking the Ironbelly for another one of the rolling hills. Fortunately he did not seem to be the only one, as Malfoy sucked in an audible breath.
Charlie must have noticed their blatant terror, as he laughed merrily. "Oh, don't worry, we're not nearly close enough to warrant her ire. Wouldn't get too much closer, though…"
"Right." Harry swallowed. "Good idea there, mate."
The Ironbelly lifted its long neck, uncurling its head from where it had been tucked near its feet. It looked a combination of lazy and supremely bored. This did not relieve Harry at all, though. He was a lost cause though. Ever since the Tri-wizard tournament he'd never been overly fond of dragons. And anyway, just because it didn't look interested didn't mean it wasn't. And the reptile was absolutely enormous—enough to look like a small mountain, at any rate.
"How many do you have?" He heard Malfoy ask, faint.
Charlie shrugged. "Eh, hard to say. There were three last I checked."
"Sure." Returned Charlie, airily. "They're herding dragons—a few have flown over from the Ukraine."
"They'll migrate that far?"
"For females?" Charlie replied, incredulous. He snorted in laughter. "Always."
Malfoy turned back to the large dragon, shuffling about the hills. She flapped her enormous, leathery wings and in the interim the tiny forms of her hatchlings could be seen tottering along with her. One sneezed, while the other tripped over its own feet and face planted. Another appeared to be dragging itself on it's mothers foot, and on top of it was a fourth hatchling, piggy-backing on its sibling and somberly breathed out little puffs of fire.
Harry shook his head.
Dragons. They might look cute, but they'll take whatever opportunity to fry your hair off they can get.
Malfoy turned quickly to Charlie. "Do you think we can get any closer?"
"Well," Charlie drawled "I really should say no. But if you're up for the adventure I'm happy to oblige!"
Harry imagined that by adventure he really means running for your life as a monstrous dragon chases you off from getting too close to her young. This does not sound at all like Harry's idea of 'fun'.
Malfoy nodded, though, looking as if his Slytherin self preservation had completely left him. "Let's do it."
"You two have fun with that!" Harry threw his hands up in surrender, backing away. "I'm just gonna stay here and… and enjoy staying alive."
"You do that!" Charlie saluted, before he grabbed Malfoy by the arm and hauled him down the hill.
Well, Harry supposed, watching both Malfoy and Weasley attempt to sneakily get in range of the hatchlings, this may or may not have been a successful idea. On the one hand, he'd figured that Charlie would be amiable for anything involving dragons. But on the other—Charlie is undoubtedly the most relaxed of the Weasley siblings. Well, that was debatable as George and Bill were also rather easy going, but both had played their part in the war, and Harry wasn't sure how they felt Malfoy fit into that.
It seemed both like yesterday and a millennia ago that Harry was ducking through the castle, on a hunt for the last horcrux before his entire life came crashing down, his friends around him fighting for their survival. In a lot of ways, he hadn't grown out of that moment.
He was getting there though, he thought.
Harry trotted to a safer distance away from what was undoubtedly going to be an outraged dragon and a lot of singed hair; the winter chill cut through the hills in visible patterns, and he huddled closer into his jacket. He was still in a lot of awe over everything that had happened in the span of the last two hours, but his mind kept wandering to the looming mountains in the distance, and all the legends Jake had to say about them. It'd been about one hundred minutes or so, and the warmth that he'd felt standing beside the boy and a numbing indifference had besieged him once more.
His phone erupted cheerily from inside his pocket, and Harry fished it out of his jeans to find Jake calling him.
He blinked, pondered, and then answered.
"Harry, hey." And after a pause. "Sorry I sort of ran out of there."
Harry smiled briefly. "If memory serves correctly, I believe I kicked you out."
"It was a voluntary surrender." Jake refuted, and Harry though he could hear the laughter in his voice. "Anyway, I was wondering when you think you'd be free?"
"Oh. Oh, okay." Harry didn't think he was imagining the pleased tone. "You wanna meet me back at your house?"
It sounded as good an idea as any. "Sure."
Jake wasn't there.
Harry peered into the temperamental sky, and then averted his gaze back to the world around his house. No sign of him. Harry squinted down the drive way. Come to think of it, no car either. How exactly had Jake managed to get here in the first place?
The brunette sighed, folding his arms around him, leaning against the door frame.
Maybe Harry had beat him here. That wasn't all that surprising: Harry did have the capacity to teleport, where as Jake did not.
He pulled out his phone, about to call the boy again when a snuffling sound from his left roused his attention.
A large, burly wolf sat on its haunches at the base of the hill, keeping close to the tree line. Harry blinked at it, hackles raised. It was… a very big wolf. It reminded him a lot of a werewolf, actually—except a hell of a lot fluffier. He wondered if he'd be able to just backtrack into his house, lock the door and call it a day. That's what you did with bears, right? He had no idea.
He remembered a similar encounter with wolves that day on the beach, and gave pause. Maybe this was one of those friendly wolves? Wait, was that even a thing?
Well, Harry supposed, he could always just stun it.
The wolf trotted closer, without any beckoning from Harry. He watched it apprehensively. It… didn't look angry? But then again, Harry wasn't exactly well versed in wolf expressions.
"Well, hello there." He greeted, hesitantly, as the wolf drew close. It wagged its tail.
Harry took this as a good sign.
It stopped briefly in front of Harry, peering up at him with luminous eyes, before it butted its head into Harry's side.
"Oh!" He blinked. "Huh, you're a friendly one, then?" Definitely one of the tribe's wolves.
The wolf gave what was undoubtedly a whine, and Harry unfolded his arms to drop a hand onto the wolf's surprisingly fluffy head. This appeared to be the right response, as the wolf turned its head under his hand, and began to lick its way up his wrist.
"Wow." Harry smiled. "Really friendly." It's tail wagged at a rapid rate.
The boy knelt down to eye level of the wolf, still scratching behind the ears. "So, where are you supposed to be?"
It was a wolf, so, well, it didn't have an answer for him. Not a legitimate one, at any rate. It did, however, lick his face in response.
"Thanks." He said, dry. He wiped the wetness off his cheek with a grimace. "Do you even know what you do with that tongue?" He scowled. If possible, the wolf looked even happier, grinning viciously.
Harry sighed. "I'm assuming you don't have a collar…"
The wolf yipped, and then, as if ignoring Harry completely it trotted off into the house. Harry sat up, bounding after it. "Hey—hold on!"
This was how Charlie found him hours later, sitting on the floor churlishly watching reruns of House of Cards, an enormous wolf sprawled over top of him. He hadn't managed to a) get the wolf out of the house, b) get the wolf out of the living room or c) get the wolf out of his personal space, and instead simply gave up and settled himself in for the long haul, and had been channel surfing ever since.
The redhead stumbled inside just past dark, looking like he and Malfoy had, indeed, gotten too close to the Ironbelly and ran for their lives.
"At least you still have your eyebrows." Harry greeted.
Charlie grinned roguishly. "Hullo there Harry—how are you? What's with the wolf? And oh, you should have seen it! We got so close, Harry; the hatchlings were right there!"
Harry laughed. "It was a good time, then?"
Charlie nodded, turning around to wander into the kitchen. "It was!" He threw over his shoulder, over the rummaging clatter of pots and pans. "Malfoy has less self-preservation than I thought!"
"Apparently so." Harry mused to himself, before shaking his head. "And how was he?"
The Weasley maundered back into the living room, holding a large iron-wrought pan in one hand, and a large wooden spoon in the other. Harry squinted. It looked like… the macaroni leftovers from a week ago. Come to think of it, it kind of smelled like it too.
"Good." Charley replied, around a spoonful of pasta. "Good. I mean—he's an alright bloke, I suppose. Its still a bit strange at home and all, though."
"I'm sure." Harry snorted. Almost absentmindedly, he stroked the wolf as it began to whine softly. "What's everyone think?"
"We think Ginny's gone off the rails." Charlie retorted immediately. And then, to Harry's nonplussed look; "Well, it's a little true, innit?"
Harry shrugged. "I guess. I mean, I don't know. She didn't tell me much… but it sort of seems like they've… had something for longer than I would have thought?"
Charlie blinked, rapidly. "You think she was seeing him when you guys were…?"
"Oh, oh no." Harry returned immediately, much to Charlie's evident relief. "Ginny wouldn't do that. I remember her saying something about seeing him again, though. Last winter, maybe? She said he was alright these days—I hadn't really believed her."
"It's still strange." Charlie pointed out. "And it just… it seems soon, y'know?"
"Well," Harry mused, wry. "I think it was certainly unplanned."
Charlie chortled. "I'll say." And then, shaking his head, "I mean, I've got nothing against him. From the way Ron talks about him you'd think he was the biggest tosser on the planet, but he didn't seem all that bad to me. And if you can be alright with it, then who are we to get in the way of it?"
Harry smiled slightly. "That's good to hear, Charlie." He stopped petting the wolf, and it began to whine again. With amusement, he began the petting anew. "Now, if we could convince your brothers of this…"
Charlie eyed him critically; the austereness of the gesture was lost in the fact that his jacket's left shoulder was still smoldering, it appeared as if the dragon had managed to roll them both into the dirt, and he was eating week old macaroni out of the pan with a spoon three sizes too big.
"You might go a lot longer of a way in that than I could."
Harry blinked. "How do you mean?"
"Well, like I said, if anyone's got the right to be mad, it'd be you, right? And if you're okay with it, then well, it looks really foolish of us to be holding the grudge, no?"
"I suppose." Harry admitted, finally. He didn't know how accurate Charlie's assessment was; maybe in the case of Bill, Percy and Arthur, who didn't know much of Malfoy personally. He could see George coming around, provided Malfoy kept up this behavior. Ron though… And he shuddered to think on Molly's reaction. She'd always been rather protective of Ginny. Harry was fortunate to be, well, Harry, and she'd never minded him. Dean Thomas though…
The wolf beneath him yipped softly, moving its head to nip at Harry's jaw. Harry stirred out of his reverie, batting the animal away.
Charlie looked vaguely alarmed, pointing his wooden spoon at the wolf. "Is it… trying to eat you?"
"No." Harry laughed. "He's just a really friendly wolf."
"I'll say." Charlie agreed. "And, where did you get him again?"
"Oh, he was out on the front porch."
Harry averted his attention away from the wolf in his lap, turning curiously to Charlie. "Yeah. Why?"
The redhead sputtered, waving his spoon around hysterically. "Harry! That's really dangerous! Who knows where that came from—and it could really hurt you!"
Harry gave him a deadpan look. "Charlie." He said, bland. "Are you really the person to be lecturing me on dangerous creatures?"
The redhead paused at that, growing sheepish. "Ah, yeah. Good point." He allowed. He rolled his eyes though, and pivoted back into the kitchen. "Just don't go crying to me when it gives you rabies!"
Harry laughed delightedly. "Oh please, Charlie—you're the last person I'd go to for any kind of medical attention."
The redhead couldn't say anything to that. He was, after all, the guy who thought that sticking a bandage on Whethersprout would fix his broken nose, and that an 'episky' could heal everything.
Harry shook his head, still grinning, as he heard Charlie trudge around the kitchen. The wolf in his lap stirred, peering up at him with its large, luminous eyes. They looked… strangely sentient.
Harry stared back.
The wolf… did not blink.
Just when it was starting to get rather disconcerting, it hopped up to its feet, and then… trotted right out of the room. Harry watched it go, sort of incredulous, before he leapt to his feet after it.
"Hey!" He called, after the puttering sounds of scraping claws on the floor.
He could hear the shuffling of paws against the wooden flooring, and followed it up the staircase and to the bedrooms. The wolf was roving in circles in the middle of his room, nose to the ground with a look of great consternation. Harry wasn't entirely sure how wolves could even make such expressions.
He hovered in the doorway as the wolf perused the scents in his room, scampering underneath his bed one way and then emerging from the other, his pile of laundry, the books on his desk.
Finally, after it appeared to see and smell all it wanted it turned back to Harry with a very nonplussed expression.
Harry raised a brow. "Had enough?"
It whined lowly at him, and Harry shook his head. Unfortunately, he didn't speak wolf.
And then, just as quickly as it had come, it dove between Harry's legs and darted down into the hall.
"Whoa—hey!" Harry called after the wolf, rushing down the stairs.
The front door was open a bit, and out of it he could see the gloom of night lurking outside. He burst through it, narrowing his eyes around the world outside. Nothing. He didn't quite know what he felt about that.
He didn't have time to feel anything; a few moments later Jake emerged from the trees, walking into the light of the front porch with a sheepish smile.
"Jake!" Harry blinked, smiling lightly. "I was wondering what happened to you!"
"Yeah, sorry about that…" He greeted, rubbing the back of his head awkwardly. "I meant to come and then I just…"
"No worries." Harry ushered him inside. "Figured you might just be held up with something."
"Yeah." Jake replied, noncommittal." Something like that…"
Harry moved out of the entrance, waving a hand. "Want to come in?"
He'd meant to be there as a human when Harry had mentioned he'd be free. He had, honestly. But something in him seized up at the thought of Harry—Harry the wizard—and he had reverted cowardly into his wolf.
It took him some few hours, and a truly heinous amount of petting for him to acknowledge that, no, that fact that he was a wizard didn't inherently change anything about Harry at all. It was bit foolish of him, honestly. Being a wolf didn't change any part of his personality; why would being a wizard change Harry's? He was still a nice guy, still funny, still strange.
Even though Jake knew he was a wizard, there was still so much to him that didn't make sense. There was a lot more to him than a special talent in magic.
He sighed, rubbing warily at his head.
Not to mention this Ginny person. It was clear from Harry's conversation with the redhead that whoever Ginny was, she'd been a cornerstone to Harry's world. He almost wanted to ask, but it seemed a bit too personal.
And the fact of the matter was—Harry being a wizard hadn't changed anything about their relationship… for good or ill.
They were still friends, they still got on well. And Harry still did not know he was Jake's imprint, he still kept his own secrets; he still turned pensive and thoughtful when he thought Jake wasn't looking. There was a certain sadness to the brunette; something like regret that stormed in his eyes when he thought he was alone.
Jake vowed to find out what it was.