AN: This chapter did not want to be written. At all. It's basically all filler for important bits later but I felt it was necessary to get this particular viewpoint out before that all goes down. Sorry it's been so long. School and work and a tumblr addiction just don't make for very productive writing time.

Standard disclaimers apply.


The crocodile glimmers in the torchlight. He tracks the slow blink and shutter of multiple eyelids and the low crooning noise throughout their lessons with the boy. The feel of Dust is thick and heavy in his mind and it lingers in the space between dæmon and boy. Tahmryis extends himself outside of his physical form and it lingers on him between forms and possibilities and his boy.

Harry doesn't seem aware of the Dust except for when he peers at Tahmryis and Julius can almost – nearly but not quite – make out the connection between them. He is aware they belong together the way all dæmons are aware but every so often Tahmryis is just –

He and Harry are –

They are –

It is unsettling.

When his girl strokes him and makes a soft noise of discomfort that night, he twists to press his face to her throat.

"Minerva," he whines.

"What's wrong?" she asks and her fingers thread through his fur like a comb. There is less gloss to his coat in their age and his joints ache sometimes but he lets their bond soak into his skin and mind and he sighs.

"I believe Kavieke will Settle this year," he says instead.

"So soon?"

"He belongs to a muggleborn." It is not certain, of course, but the general trend among muggleborns is to Settle fairly early and Kavieke's girl is almost a year older than her peers as it is. "Harry Potter is encouraging it."

"I haven't seen Tahmryis even interact with her dæmon."

"Harry Potter is encouraging it," he repeats with a heavy emphasis. It rankles to observe the wizard-boy. He is a dæmon; he observes the dæmons and reports to Minerva just as she reports to him about the children. It is a collaborated effort.

But Harry Potter and Tahmryis are resistant for all that they obey the rules.

"That bairn," she mutters darkly.

Julius purrs because she's usually very good about keeping the worst of their Scottish roots from showing and it amuses him that she's just as chuffed as he is. He ignores it when she tweaks one of his ears and she pretends that the tail he swishes at her face was an accident and not deliberate.

At breakfast the next morning, they spot Harry Potter and his dæmon sitting beside Draco Malfoy. The pair are given a fairly wide berth on either side and Svenia is still sporting the grey-green parrot form she's been using all week. Her boy doesn't look discomfited about that anymore and Svenia has her head turned to stare at Tahmryis.

It's an awkward thing for the dæmon to avoid contact with others with a form quite as large as his but Tahmryis exudes himself and the others avoid him. Julius is far enough away that he can't feel the difference anymore but he can see the dæmons shying away and pressing close to their humans. The fur on his back rises as if in sympathy and Minerva glances away from her conversation with Albus to fix him with a cautious look.

"Malchior," he says instead – ignoring his girl for now.

"Yes?" the other says politely and stops preening one wing to turn his head.

Minerva returns to her conversation but keeps a hand on his flank. Her fingers scratch absently and he purrs. "Have you talked to Tahmryis about his reason for that form?"

"Obvious, isn't it?" Malchior laments and dips his head in a gesture Julius has come to learn means he's annoyed or aggravated. "Slytherin through and through, of course, but so…loud."

"Minerva had to look the poem up," he agrees. "We think Kavieke is close to Settling if Harry Potter continues to meddle."

"Kavieke?" Malchior warbles and then clicks his beak. "Oh yes, he has Ms. Granger."

Julius doesn't nod but he does swish his tail and tilt his head in acknowledgement. Malchior is very good at remembering the Settled pairs but it is his ability to remember the younger years that consistently impresses Julius.

"You have talked to him, haven't you?" he asks again. It's one thing to understand independently what Tahmryis is doing and another thing entirely to have actually spoken to him.

"Albus spoke to the boy," Malchior says and his feathers rise a little and he preens them back into place as though he isn't nervous. Julius stares at him because the other dæmon might be impressive and untouchable most of the time but he's still a bird and Julius is a cat and he will have his answers one way or another.

"I didn't ask Albus."

"What do we know about Ballari?" Malchior asks instead of answering.

"She's a slow loris," Julius replies carefully. What in merlin's name does Malchior want to know about Quirinus' dæmon that he doesn't already know? "She hasn't spoken much since their sabbatical."

Malchior makes a discomfited sort of noise. "I see."

"You see what?" Julius is patient. He is a cat. He is the king of patience. But this is ridiculous.

"They were concerned that Ballari and her wizard were not the best choice for Defence Against the Dark Arts."

Not the best choice, no, but the only applicants. Ballari had always complained that teaching Muggle Studies was a waste of their talent. Wizarding children only learn the most basic elements and any muggleborn would have the requisite knowledge for the class. Quirinus was far too talented to waste away teaching the difference between a torch and a lightbulb.

And they had been the only applicants. Julius curls his tail around his paws and stars down at the students. "I see. Keep us informed."

"We will try," Malchior says and returns to preening his feathers.

Julius isn't really thinking about it when he checks in on the twins. Aneris and Eris are troublesome dæmons and they can't seem to help broadcasting when their partners are preparing trouble. He has to keep an eye on them so that Minerva isn't left reeling at something they've pulled – informing Molly Weasley is a last resort but her first instinct when she's startled by their pranks.

So he's watching them when the pair suddenly spring up in unison with their partners. The twins dart across the hall and their dæmons beat them to the Slytherin table – jumping up and upsetting platters to plant themselves in front of Harry Potter.

Potter's pulled his breakfast plate away and frowns slightly when his tea sloshes in the cup. One of the girls ducks her head and mumbles what must be an apology – ears pinned a little and eyes fixed on the boy's chin – as the twins plant themselves on the bench opposite.

"Minerva," he says and she replies "I see it."

Harry Potter looks amused when the twins begin to speak – ducking down to keep their conversation private. He listens for a while and then nods agreeably and opens his mouth to say something. The two jackal dæmons stare anxiously until their ears suddenly prick forward and tongues loll out of their mouths in canine grins. Tahmryis swishes his tail and then – without warning – he's a jackal perched with his hind legs on the bench and his front paws on the table proper.

Where the girls are reddish-grey, Tahmryis maintains his burnished-gold colouring from the crocodile form. His fur flashes metallic in the sunlight from the enchanted ceiling and his teeth are flashing white when he bares them. Even his eyes are the same uninterrupted silver.

It isn't until the three of them are leaving the hall that Julius even notices it.

Down the table – studiously ignoring Harry Potter and the Weasley twins blatantly conspiring at breakfast – is Quirinus and Ballari. Ballari has wide round eyes trained on Malchior and there's something – something right there that he can't quite.

Julius sits up and he can feel his fur beginning to stand on end.

Then Ballari blinks and turns her head to whisper into her partner's ear and the thing niggling at his gut vanishes. Minerva murmurs a question and he turns to her slowly.

"We'll have to be careful," he says and doesn't mention the slow loris when she mutters 'Weasleys' in an exasperated undertone.