! UPDATES & NEWS ON THIS FIC ! are discusssed in the "Chatterbox" thread in the TBDH forum. Link to TBDH Forum is in my profile and included below the A/N.
This chapter was betaed by the wonderful brissygirl to provide a smoother reading experience. All remaining mistakes are my own. See first chapter for disclaimers/additional warnings/summaries.
RECAP:Harry and Co have retired for the night, after an eventful dinner party hosted by Lady Baronsworth, by order of Princess Dawne. In the meantime, Jun, Regulus and George return to Nevarah and Jun's Circle. Upon her arrival, Jun learns that several distressing things have happened in her absence, including the loss of two children-Petunia and Lily. Back at the Torvaks' home base with the Weasleys, Ron accidentally drinks his changing potion too early and is transformed into a grotesque hybrid creature. Luna and Rolf are making progress in their mysterious journey across the magical realms and slowly growing closer to each other.
WIZARDING WORLD – MINERVA MCGONAGALL
Minerva McGonagall strolled down the darkened corridors of Hogwarts, frowning when she glanced through one of the massive, arched windows set in the sturdy stone wall. Albus had finally gone to speak to that bumbling fool of a Minster after all. She already had a slight feeling how it would end though—and it didn't look good.
Albus had listened to her—she'd made sure of it—and so Hogwarts had been closed from the moment the Grey Magic had come hurtling through their wards. She was thankful that there would be no casualties from it. Her knowledge of Grey Magic was limited, but she remembered the first times it had made an appearance in the wizarding world. It was used as a scare tactic, to isolate certain groups and leech off of their combined magical forces. That was why she'd wanted the children out of Hogwarts right away. Albus could play the General all he wanted, but sometimes he forgot to look after the troops. Minerva's scowl deepened another notch as she glided silently down the hallway.
The children had been sent home as soon as magically possible and those that remained, had been privately portkeyed out by the other teachers, notably, Filius and Pomona, who had willingly taken the Gryffindors and Slytherins along with their own Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs. Granted, they'd always worked together, house rivalry between them was rather pointless, after all, but she had worried for them just the same.
With Albus out of the way, her role of Deputy Headmistress had switched to Acting Headmistress and for her own peace of mind, she'd stayed behind in Hogwarts to cast and maintain the necessary protections that would keep their school safe. Hogwarts was home for many and of course the rest of the staff would stay as well. She hadn't asked them to, but they had. She'd known they would stay, just as she knew that she wouldn't leave. The Ministry had attempted to send Aurors, only for the Grey magic to become so thick and dense like fog, that they'd all been forced to retreat—just as she had predicted.
Of course, it was right around that time that Dementors were accidentally set loose and Minerva decided that something had to be done. She'd all but forced Albus to stop scheming in his office and go speak to Fudge. The moment he'd passed through the wards and apparated, something tangible in the air changed.
It was a sudden feeling of complete unease, as if Albus had been holding something terrible back and that with his absence, the darkness thought it was just fine to come wandering on over to say hello. She had expected that, after all, Grey magic would not attack someone that was willing to use it. She didn't like what that said about Albus, but resolved to think about it a different time. It was easy enough to cast her special wards that would keep the magic back and if she had to be the one to maintain them, then she would.
She was currently heading for her office to take a look at the student ledger that she maintained throughout the school year. It held the little snippets of information that she gathered on a daily basis that she couldn't always puzzle through. Later in the evenings, she would reread the entries and piece together some of the mysteries that Albus would never remember to tell her. She left a notice—using the house elves, of course—for the other Professors to meet her there, if they should return before the day was over. It would be best to know where everyone was and how they'd fared for the day. Regroup and strategize and all that.
Evening drew near and though she hadn't thought too deeply on it, she wondered how Severus Snape fared. The man had vanished almost at once and he'd taken Terius with him. He dark, dour and unbearably rude at times, but he'd never said one thing and done another. He was a true Slytherin and a man of his word, however rare it would be. She also knew that he cared for his snakes the same way she tried to care for her lions. For all of their pride and arrogance, the snakes stuck together.
It was listening to some of the Slytherin gossip that she heard a little bit about what had happened with Harry Potter. Especially after it had Severus scowling so ferociously that day when she'd asked him to make sure that Harry went to see Poppy. She'd asked because she was worried about Harry and he didn't seem to be taking her concern seriously. Then again, he'd been very on edge himself the entire week and she hadn't been able to pinpoint why, because with him it could've been anything.
Albus had even made a point of requesting that Harry visit Poppy, but Harry somehow managed to make himself nearly invisible since his return for the school year. It was almost as if he'd had some sort of notice-me-not charm cast over him. She'd tried a few discreet attempts at a 'finite incantem' but it hadn't changed anything at all.
At first, it was a detail that she was grateful for—because Merlin knew that he was ten times the trouble magnet that James had been—and it meant that perhaps the school year could progress a bit more smoothly this time. A true school year, without all of the usual mishaps, meant more knowledge and if Harry was truly to be the key in defeating Voldemort, then he needed to study, learn and grow as quickly as he could.
His escapades had simultaneously worried and amused her, while turning her already grey hair a new shade of silver. When she'd first realized his lack of magic—and it hadn't taken her longer than a day, thank you very much—she hadn't wanted to acknowledge what it meant. Harry Potter without magic? That couldn't possibly be.
But then the weekly faculty meeting confirmed her observations and she realized that except for Severus' class—since Potions didn't necessarily need to use magic in some cases—Harry wasn't using his magic at all. Oh he had his wand out for all the right classes, he went through the motions and he did try with extra effort, but the results simply weren't there. Except for that moment with a sudden, wild burst of desperate magic in that first class, there'd been nothing else. When she'd mentioned that to Albus and it had brought a most peculiar expression to his face.
Minerva hadn't thought of it until later, when Albus had asked them all to keep an eye on Harry and to take turns encouraging him to visit Poppy for some necessary tests. That was when things had become complicated. In all of the years she'd known Harry, had interacted with Harry, had done the best that she could for him, she'd never realized just how independent he'd become. He held some respect for her, she was sure of that, but simple respect was not enough for him to take her word and visit the hospital wing. He was worse than Sirius Black trying to avoid a mandatory check-up.
Poppy complained of trying to retrieve him herself, only to never actually lay eyes on him apart from the occasional mealtime opportunity when she joined them at the staff table. She'd tried to approach him several times, only to find herself subtly repelled each time. At first, she thought it was a charm, so she made sure to use several finite incantems before approaching him the next time.
The result was the same.
Minerva had borne witness to that. She'd tried herself and had succeeded in approaching and speaking to Harry, but he hadn't taken her suggestion seriously and Poppy remained suitably distressed. Filius had tried next and even Pomona, bless her dear warm heart, but the one Harry Potter in question, for all of his apparent lack of magic, was protected by something far greater and more powerful than either of them could fathom. That was when she had genuinely begun to worry.
The protection did not bother Albus and Minerva wondered if it was because of the strength of his magic, until she realized that even if Albus could approach Harry—just like her—Harry seemed immune to their inquiries into his health, magic and personal life. He simply continued to do what he had to and for once, kept his head down.
It was unnerving and disturbing in the same breath.
Minerva had finally given up after stopping by the DADA classroom with a delivery of requested antidotes for Terius and discovering that he really was teaching them Blood Magic—just as he'd calmly stated in his curriculum proposal. He was a quiet, mysterious fellow, who was strangely tolerated by Severus and had no issues dealing with the formerly troublesome Draco Malfoy, but he was also teaching Harry in a very hands-on manner.
Where the rest of the Hogwarts Professors, herself included, were aware of Harry's lack of magic and what to do about it, neither of them had thought of doing things the way that Terius had done. She'd walked in on a class session where the students were instructed to cast an incantation for familial protection, using some strange sort of diagram. Terius patrolled the desk aisles, correcting wand movements, stopping potential squabbles with a look every bit as meaningful as the 'Snape Stare' and pausing at Harry's desk to watch him complete the movements.
He stopped, watching as Harry went through the motions and then calmly reached over, wrapped his own hand around Harry's and guided the wand in the proper pattern—channeling his own magic through Harry to produce the desired result. Once done, he said something to Harry and waited while Harry wrote it down, before continuing on, picking up his lecture right where he'd left off. He hadn't let Harry's lack of magic faze him in the least and he hadn't been afraid to take such a personal, hands-on approach.
Minerva had been stunned. It had never occurred to her—or the others really—to do something like that. True, sometimes parents taught their younger children how to manage their magic by combining and channeling their own, more mature energy through them, so the child would have a familiar point of reference, but for a teacher to do so with a student? Minerva had been absolutely speechless. That sort of magical sharing was rather personal and to see the ease with which Terius had used it, suggested that he'd done it before and that Harry had no problem with it.
Shaking her head, Minerva brought her thoughts back to her original focus. Hogwarts and the children who had been sent home in secrecy and tears. Some of them had nowhere to really turn to and they would be held in temporary homes until someone from their family could come to pick them up.
Aurora Sinestra had taken charge of that and she'd been quick and efficient. Most parents wanted their children back the moment they'd heard the whispers of Grey magic. Minerva tried not to think about it. She knew what it was—the unsettling, disturbing type of magical energy that bridged the gap between dark magic and black magic and Merlin, there was a difference.
Dark magic was forgivable things, like the use of Blood Magic, perhaps—depending on the reasons for its use and whether it was a natural inclination or some poor bloke trying to conjure something he couldn't control. That was the sort of tricky magic that Terius taught, but he was painstakingly careful to keep his spells and lectures very light-magic oriented. She'd wondered several times, just how light his own magic was.
As for the rest of the magical categories—there was only Black magic. Black magic was very, very bad. Minerva stifled a shudder. Black magic had to do with Necromancy, Death magic and spells of immortality so terrible and horrifying that they'd been stricken from the history of magic by Merlin himself, or so it was said.
Personally, she would have preferred that Merlin wiped it out entirely. It was true that sometimes the light side did use things that could be a bit dark, but they didn't give into them, not the way that a certain Tom Riddle had. The hairs on her arms began to stand on end and Minerva grimaced.
Normally, walking through Hogwarts in the quiet times, be it on patrol or otherwise, had often been soothing and comforting to her. Now, it felt as if a dark oppression lingered in the air, sucking out the very life within the magical walls. Sharp ears picked up on the sound of something approaching—an approach that she could only hear because of her animagus form. A smile started and faded as Minerva recalled her last encounter with the finicky Mrs. Norris.
She did get along quite nicely with her own feline kind, every now and again, but lately, Mrs. Norris had been putting on airs and had chased her up two flights of stairs the last time she'd gone to stretch her legs. Now that she was back in her human form, Minerva wasn't of the inclination to forget that particular experience. She'd nearly fallen between the moving staircase that had proved to be her saving, because Mrs. Norris hadn't dared to take the same jump.
Minerva sighed. Wherever the blasted cat went, Argus Filch was sure to follow. The last thing she wanted was the headache that came with the conversation that was sure to follow if they actually ran into each other. Recently, she'd worried about Argus Filch. There was something off about him, had been for nearly the entire year, but most noticeably since the arrival of the students for the new academic year. He was angrier, more easily rattled and had begun to shout insults of a less pleasant nature at the students who accidentally ran into him—or Merlin forbid—actually pranked him.
She'd had actually rescued two of her own first year lions from his angry shouts, fist-waving threats and an ugly sneer that she'd never seen on his face before. Granted, she didn't understand why Albus kept the poor Squib on, as it seemed to her that he'd be happier retired somewhere, living on a pension, than having to deal with the children—a feat that did indeed drive her to drink at times.
She heard his mutterings as he rounded the corner, cradling Mrs. Norris in his skinny, bony arms. He went right by her, never even looking up as he passed, grumbling and—wait, trilling? Minerva opened and shut her mouth, wondering at how he hadn't even seen her when she'd been standing right there. She barely managed to hold her tongue when a ruff of black feathers sprouted from his neck as he stomped and limped down to the end of the corridor, in his usual awkward gait.
It couldn't be possible. Filch was a Squib and therefore, unable to cast glamours of such an unusual kind upon his person, so that meant that she had seen him sprout feathers from his neck and wrists. Casting a silent charm on her own feet, Minerva started forward, then stopped. It was probably best to follow him in her feline form, even if she loathed the prospect of another encounter with his pesky familiar at present. She'd just have to remember to transform back, if it came down to that.
Blurring into her speckled tabby form, Minerva loped off down the hall after the caretaker. She followed him down almost to the dungeons where he detoured through a shortcut she hadn't even known existed. He followed it down a completely different section of the castle, into a small, short hallway with three doors.
He entered one and Minerva hurriedly slipped in after him. She found herself standing inside of a brightly lit, neatly ordered and stocked office—with potions ingredients lining the walls. If she had been human, her jaw would have touched the floor, as her shock was far too great for the inquisitive mew that desperately wanted to escape.
It took some effort to keep her silence and she stared, slipping under the large oak desk to hide from his possible sight, while keeping her ears pricked to listen for anything useful. She heard him muttering to himself in what she could now make out as a language that was most definitely not English. He was searching for something along the shelves and seemed to be gathering things to make a potion.
It was that detail that she realized was rather realistic, as a Squib, he didn't have much magic, but he could make a potion—and depending on whether he could impart his magical signature to it or not, the potion might actually be useable and effective. But it was odd, because she'd never known him to take an interest in potions before.
He crouched down on the floor to drag something out from a bottom shelf and here, Minerva poked her whiskered face around the corner to have a better look. She stared as he drew out two tall corked phials of pale blue, potion with a very familiar set of handwritten initials on the label. If she had a hairball to choke on, Minerva knew she would have hacked it up right then and there.
Those are Albus' potions! I've seen them in his office before. He's—what is Argus doing with them? Surely he won't drink them, will he?
Her confusion was easily answered because he wrestled the cork off and downed the contents in a few, large gulps. He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and tossed the emptied phial and cork into an empty box in the corner, marked for washing and reuse. She slunk out from beneath the desk to follow him around and see where he was headed with the second phial.
To her surprise, he went to the desk which, she had now begun to wonder at its great size, but Mrs. Norris was somewhere on top and Minerva couldn't see anything from down on the floor. She could make out the fact that Argus was administering the potion, right about the time when her human mind caught up to her feline musings.
Retreating to the far end of the little storeroom-turned-office, she barely managed to stay out of sight, as she tried to find a nice, vantage point. A quick, carefully timed leap, allowed her to perch on a small, dusty corner table, just out of view. She stared at he poured the potion over Mrs. Norris and muttered a bit more.
A pale blue glow surrounded the figure and the large fluffy cat became a petite woman with fluffy cat ears and long, unruly hair, splayed over bare skin. Red, cat-eyes blinked up at the caretaker, before she began to cough and choke, spitting up a saliva-coated glob of hair. Argus shook his head, limp strands of hair smacking against his face. "Waited a bit too long this time, didn't ya?" He grumbled.
"Get away from me, you filthy beast!" Mrs. Norris clasped one arm over her bared chest, drawing her legs up and out of reach of his hand, edging to the other side of the desk.
A desk, Minerva noted, that looked a bit too much like a rather large table, now that she thought of it. Shock settled over her as she watched the duo interact for a few minutes, until it became quite clear that Mrs. Norris was most definitely human and Argus Filch was a strange, black-feathered bird-creature. He was tending to the many cuts, scrapes and bruises that she'd acquired, smearing on a thick, healing paste often found in the hospital wing, ignoring her obvious protests. "Thankless as always in this form, aren't ya?" Argus muttered.
Minerva could only stare. Albus took the same pale blue potion—she'd seen him drink it several times, but remain the same—and now, the dark, heavy feeling that had been hanging over the entire school, seemed to concentrate itself in the small room. She'd never felt such a strong, pressing magical oppression before—and concentrated exactly in this room. What was Argus? Should she confront him now? Did Albus know?
"As if you're any better!" Mrs. Norris snapped. She turned her head to the side, her nose in the air. "To be paired with someone like you!"
"Now, now, dearie…" Filch gave her a look. "It's a fine time to make claims t'modesty when you've not got a shred t' spare." His waved a hand at her as he covered the healing balm and stashed it back on one of his many shelves. "You only have yourself to blame for this. I told ya stay away from there, but you couldn't keep your nose out of other people's business." His frown grew darker. "Just like you couldn't keep away from that Snape brat! You almost got us kicked out of here. Going after a submissive—a pregnant one at that. Albus could've killed you and where'd that have left ya, eh?"
Mrs. Norris tried to speak, but Filch held up a charmed pendant from one pocket. "I don't want to hear it," he snapped. "They were our only chance to find out where those scaly little demons live and you had to go and ruin it."
"How was I supposed to know that Grey magic would come into play? It's not my fault!" Mrs. Norris whined. "I was only doing what my instincts told me to."
"And they told ya to cause me a lifetime's worth of trouble, didn't they?" Filch grumbled. "Whatever yer excuses are, I don't want t' hear about them. Now Snape's gone and taken his lot with 'im. We're back t' square one. Stay still. You'll be back as you like soon enough."
Mrs. Norris' words turned into yowls and hisses as he circled the desk, trailing the pendant around the edge, muttering the activation charm as he did. She hissed and spat at him, swiping with one hand, as if she couldn't remember how to use her human hand in the absence of her clawed paw.
Filch merely ducked out of range, moving faster than Minerva had ever thought he was capable of. She stared in horror as Mrs. Norris twisted from humanesque to her natural, feline form. It took a minute and when he was done, Mrs. Norris sat daintily in the center of the desk, her bushy tail curled around her paws. They stared at each other for a long moment, then Filch held out his arms and Mrs. Norris calmly padded over to be carried.
Once settled comfortably for the ride, Filch backtracked to the door, muttering about all the work he had to do to keep an empty school in perfect condition. As he left the room, Mrs. Norris stretched up to tuck her face in the crook of his neck, ruby red eyes looking straight at Minerva's hiding spot.
NEVARAH : ARYTHMOOR ESTATE : PRIVATE COUNCIL ROOM (AIDEN:Hellhound)
"Briar," Thorne stood at the entrance to the private council room within Arythmoor Manor. He looked over his son with a critical eye and then stood back, allowing him to step forward. "You look terrible. Something else happen?" He could see a new shadow on Briar's face, a set to his jaw that hadn't been there before. The stubborn look on his son's face suggested that he would not know what caused it though.
Thorne Macaslan remained as one of the respected members of Lord Aiden's high court, always staying just within the hellhound's favor and as a result, his family shared the benefits of his political dancing. Briar had well and truly earned his place in their ranks, but in the most recent years, he'd been slowly slipping out of public view. He knew it had something to do with the absence of his son's Alpha, the famous Juniper Evanson. She was the favorite daughter of the former Earth Clan Chief, until the Evansons had lost the last election to the Gorgens. Briar and Jun were natural bookends, two fierce individuals who shared their hearts and dreams, while facing in opposite directions.
"It's wonderful to see you again, as well, Father." Briar said, smoothly. He held out a hand to stop Rian from following him. "You know you're not allowed past the door," he said, a faint tic at the side of his head. "Go take a walk around the grounds or something. I'll call you when we're through."
"And how long am I supposed to wander about before-"
"Go, Rian!" Briar turned to glare at him. "Before I lose what little patience is not mine."
"Yours and mine both," Rian muttered. "Don't think I'll put up with your attitude for much longer." He ran a hand through his hair, roughing up the normally sleek locks. "Fine. Call me when you're through." He sauntered off, a faint scowl on his face.
"Still faithful as ever, I see" Thorne observed. He watched the disgruntled Beta slip away and then hid a smile at Briar's equally irritated expression. He had once wondered if they really were suited for each other, but then he'd see them in moments like this and they were absolutely perfect. Something must have set them both on edge, but he dismissed such thoughts almost at once. Their lives were private and he would never think to meddle in them. They were adults, after all.
"As if he would be anything but," Briar huffed. He hadn't meant to snap, but he wasn't looking forward to the meeting any more than he was looking forward to seeing Jun. It seemed like all of his least-favorite scenarios had gathered together for a party without his consent and he couldn't finagle his way out of accepting the invitation.
"True," Thorne said. "Shall we?"
"After you, of course."
"So considerate of your elders," Thorne drawled. "It seems I did teach you something useful, after all."
"That was all mother, it had nothing to do with you." Briar elbowed him as he passed into the room, wishing that he didn't blush quite so easily. He didn't smile, even when his father patted him on the head, a gesture of affection, mixed with amusement.
"Wise woman, your mother," Thorne agreed. He missed her dearly, but he could see glimpses of her in each of their children. He searched the room now, relaxing when his reddening gaze settled on Lord Aiden.
Aiden lounged at the head of the oval conference table, slouched in his chair, his shiny, black-booted feet propped up on the table. The Hellhound was the picture perfect example of supreme irritation. Annoyance was plain from the way his sharpened, dark fingernails drummed against his pale, scarred arm, to the twitch of his shoulders, every time the murmured conversation in the room tipped a few notches too loud.
Thorne moved over to pay his respects, angling for the two empty seats near the head of the table. He would make sure that Briar sat by him this time and didn't slip away into one of the lower ranked seats near the end of the table. "My lord," he greeted. He clicked his heels together, a hand over his chest, offering a deep bow of respect.
Briar mimicked the bow, dropping to one knee when he felt Lord Aiden's penetrating gaze settle over him, silently demanding an explanation for his prolonged absence from their private courts. "My Lord, please excuse my absence in these past meetings."
"Circle matters of a personal nature."
Aiden growled, softly. That was one excuse that would spare any dragel the majority of any impending wrath, granted that they could prove the truth and sincerity of their need to attend to their Circle. His red eyes glittered, but after a moment, he gave a slight jerk of his head to indicate that the matter was more or less suspended for the moment. He preferred to reprimand his subordinates in private, unless the idiot in question made a public bungle of things. He could tear a few strips of the Evanson submissive—later, if he still felt like it.
Thorne bowed again, catching Briar by the arm, they stood as one and took their seats. A few stood in line behind them, waiting to greet Lord Aiden as well. After a moment, everyone shuffled about for their preferred seats and the meeting was called to order with little ceremony.
"I have called this Council to gather tonight, as the Royals convene within their little white-walled rooms to speak about the matter of the Fabrine." Aiden's lip curled as he spoke, his tone betraying his absolute disgust of the dark manifestations that had attacked. "You know what we are required to do by Lady Death, herself. We must fulfill our sworn duty by showing our strength and repaying our obligation to her."
An excited murmur rippled through the gathered ranks, pale red eyes now darkening with battlelust as magic swelled and flowed through the room. They eagerly awaited the command that would free them from the fetters of politeness and bind them to their true, darker nature.
The smirk that curved across Aiden's face was worthy of Death herself. "Tonight," he said, grandly. "We reap."
Rian tried not to grumble as he shoved his hands in his pockets and sauntered down the hall. He hated the Arythmoor mansion, if only on principle and partially because the entire thing was a bloody maze inside. He was good at mental puzzles, when the situation called for it, but it didn't necessarily mean that he liked them. Briar was also wearing on his nerves and if he had to be honest, then he was quite close to making his displeasure known.
Closing his eyes for a moment, he sucked in a deep breath and held it for a count of three, before releasing it. An idea flickered through his head and he quickly inhaled, sorting through the myriad of scents that came rushing to him. The scent of fresh air was present, but very, very faint and sniffing the air a few more times, he began to make his way down the red-carpeted halls.
It did take some time, but Rian eventually found himself outside on the front steps. He chose a nice, smooth stone step and settled down near the black, wrought railing, leaning against it for support. From his new seat, he had a fairly interesting view of the front half of the Arythmoor Estate and all the way up to the murky, dark purple barrier that stretched to the property line. It was meant to discourage intruders and it worked quite well.
After a moment of simply sitting, Rian snuck a look around before he reclined on the cool stone steps, turning his face up to the sky. He was glad that the daylight was fading away. He preferred the darkened shadows of the night and it had been a very long day. He was looking forward to a nice, peaceful night.
The memory of Jun's presence flickered through his mind. He winced. Any hopes he had of a peaceful night were shattered right there and then. From the stubborn gleam he'd seen in Briar's eye to the sheer, raw emotion he'd felt from Jun, they were in for a very explosive night. A smirk stole over his face. Knowing Jun, depending on just how wound up she was, their resolution would be the all kinds of satisfying and not-meant-for-prying eyes type of reconciliation. It stirred up renewed warmth in his belly. Perhaps they'd let him watch.
It was bound to be amusing and all he really needed was something different from the dreary routine they'd settled into these past years. Life with Jun was exciting. Life with Briar was exhausting. Life with both of them—exhilarating. The soft ache in his chest reminded him of how much he'd missed Jun on his own. It was painful to watch Briar retreating into himself without Jun's vibrant personality to encourage and support him. Then again, they'd all faded somewhat in Jun's absence.
Even Orchid's wings had turned into an almost murky grey and that was proof enough of the trouble within their ranks. He'd tried his best and Arielle knew, so had Briar. He hoped that whatever had kept her was worth the price they'd all paid in her absence. He turned his head to the side, feeling the cool stone beneath one ear, using one free hand to rub at the single earring in the other.
The sound of running, wild feet registered a few seconds too late to be useful.
Rian lurched halfway-up to a sitting position when the large front door opened and a bushy-haired young woman clattered down the stairs and tripped over him, taking them both to the hard, concrete below. He winced at the impact when she slipped and fell face-first into his lap, her elbow clipping him in the chin and stomach, her frantic flails accompanied by her panicked "no, no, no!"
"Hey—hey—easy!" Rian grunted softly as her full weight pushed the air from his body and the front door clicked shut. He tried to sit up, but it took a moment to catch his breath. Sensitive ears picked up a second set of smaller footsteps drawing near and Rian burst into action.
Expert hands immediately wrestled the young woman into a restrained position, one hand over her mouth, as he scooted back to the stairs, pressing himself up against the side where they wouldn't be seen straightaway. "Keep quiet if you don't want to be found," he hissed in one ear. "Technically, I'm not supposed to be outside, so it would help if you could stay quiet for longer than a minute."
She stopped fighting him.
A minute passed with agonizing slowness.
Rian heard the steps stop and he closed his eyes, pulling sharply on the shadows that were available to him. The shadow of the nearby front steps, grew larger and wrapped around them, obligingly shielding them from sight at his request. The door opened and a young head appeared around the corner. The young man looked around, carefully, before ducking back inside. The footsteps continued on and when he couldn't hear them anymore, Rian blew out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.
He released his grip on the shadow and the young woman, standing up to set her on the stairs. "I'm terribly sorry about that, miss," he apologized. "Are you alright? What's the matter?" He patted his pockets, before retrieving a crumpled, plaid kerchief. He shook it out, grimacing at the wrinkles, but handed it over, as it was clean and he didn't have any spares.
She was a pretty young witch, with soulful brown eyes and a head of gorgeous, haphazard curls. She was wearing and odd uniform of a buttoned blouse beneath a jumper, and plain grey skirt. There were scrapes on her hands and one smudge on her face. She sat, perfectly postured, her hands loosely clasped in her lap, her head tall. She did not answer him.
Rian sighed, one hand reaching up to tug at his earring again, an obvious tell for when he was trying to think and really didn't want to. "I'm sorry," he repeated, a bit slower this time. "I wasn't expecting to be trampled this afternoon and if I was found, they'd drag me back inside and I can't stand the inside of that house."
"Try being locked up in a room inside of it!" The witch snapped. Her shoulders quivered faintly and she looked up at him, briefly, before looking away again.
"Locked up?" Rian frowned. "Whatever for?" He dropped down to a crouch in front of her, so he could meet her gaze. He reached out, with slow movements, taking one of her hands in his and gently brushing the dirt free from the scraped skin.
"I don't know and I don't care. I just need to get out of here and then I'll—I'll," she stopped. Her eyes brimmed with tears.
"You'll-?" Rian prompted.
"I'll be free," she said, hoarsely.
"Sounds—wonderful." Rian wrapped her hand in the kerchief and duplicated another with a twitch of his fingers. His eyes flared red, briefly, as the magic he drew on came from the shadowed side of his Nameless nature. He reached for her other hand and found himself floored when she burst into movement, shoving him away.
"You're one of them-!" Her voice shook, as she backed away. "Stay back!"
"One of—what? Ow," he mumbled half to himself, standing up the second kerchief in hand. "I'm really not going to-"
"Your eyes. They—you just," she backed up a step, her hand gripping the metal railing, her knuckles white.
"My what—oh." Rian blinked. He stared down at the kerchief, then tossed it to the stairs and backed away, his hands held out in front of him. "I'm not a hound, but my mother was a Shadow element," He half-shrugged. "I can't help the eyes, but I am not one of those soul-sucking, pointy-fanged beasts that wallow in the despair of the innocents." He gave a self-deprecating laugh. "I'm just unlucky enough to have a very good reason for being here, even though I'd really rather be home with a very strong cup of tea and that new book by-"
"You're not—a hound, you said?" She swallowed, her grip on the railing easing slightly. "Can you prove it?"
Rian stared at her for a long moment, then he swung his arms up overhead and stretched. "If you like," there was a hint of warning in his voice. "Try not to be alarmed."
To her credit, she didn't flinch when the broad, black wings exploded out from his slender body, stretching up and away, showing off pale grey spines and pretty, glimmering scales. Though his wings were black, they were glittering and beautiful in the fading light of the afternoon. His eyes, a dark-reddish brown, seemed to gleam as he held up hands that had morphed into wicked claws. He held her gaze for a moment, then with a shudder, folded everything back in.
"Y-you're one of them," she breathed. Hermione's expression changed at once to one of uncertainty and well-masked fear, to an expression of relief and hope. "A real one. Oh please, you have to help me. I need to find my friend." She took the steps two at a time and stood in front of him, catching herself a moment before she could reach out. "My name is Hermione Granger," she said, quietly. "I'm trying to find a boy named Harry Potter—I think he's a lot like you."
Hermione Granger, Rian discovered, was a very smart young witch, with a great deal of troubles on her very young shoulders. She was also a Silvertongue. He listened to her tale of how she'd come end up in Nevarah and how she was searching for her friend, a young boy named Harry Potter, who seemed to have fallen in with dragels of his own. She shared everything that she could remember, everything that she knew and then asked if there was any possible way he could help her.
From the despairing look in her soft brown eyes, Rian knew that she expected him to refuse. There was a vaguely stubborn gleam that suggested she wouldn't let him refuse without a significant amount of protest, but the weariness lurking at the edges of her magical aura, suggested that she was working on the last of her frayed nerves.
"I'll ask my submissive," Rian said, at last. "He knows quite a few-"
"Who is he?"
"My sub? Briar? He's a pint-sized firecracker with a temper too big for his-"
The front door banged open and a scowling Briar came stomping down the steps, his fiery eyes aglow. Hermione scrambled to her feet and down the steps, reaching out to stop Rian when he started forward, only to be gently pushed behind him in a protective gesture.
"I would say something to the effect of speak of the devil, but that would be pointless," Rian muttered. "It took you long enough, Briar." He gestured impatiently with one hand. "Hurry up, we need to leave the grounds, I can feel the energy rising as if there's going to be a cleansing of sorts and I'd rather not be anywhere near-"
"I have orders," Briar said, bluntly. He made his way delicately down the stairs, a more dignified air stealing over his injured attitude. His red-eyed gaze flickered briefly over Hermione standing just behind Rian and he mentally dismissed her, preparing himself to 'port. He wanted to be home—and away from Juniper—and hacking something to pieces to sate the new surge of bloodlust coursing through his body. He was thankful that Lord Aiden had indeed granted permission for a reaping that night—if he hadn't, Briar would have gone hunting for lost souls anyway, his body craved it far too much. "You're welcome to pop on 'round home and-"
"We're reaping tonight," Briar said, lightly. "So you're right, we'd best not linger."
"R-reaping?" Rian stammered, his already pale face seemed to whiten a few shades more. "Briar, don't tell me that-"
"You don't really think the Royals issued a curfew just because they felt like it, did you?" Briar scoffed. "The Fabrine just so happen to have brought other troublesome friends with them and as a result, his lordship has decided there will be a reaping tonight." His red eyes gleaming with a sudden, unholy flare. "A full reaping."
Rian reached behind him and pulled Hermione a bit closer, keeping up the protective stance. Briar in a temper was not something he wished to inflict on strangers and he knew that Hermione had already survived a rather trying day. "That's lovely, Briar, but a full reaping means-"
"If you think, even for a moment, that I won't be going, I don't have a choice, Rian," Briar said, stiffly. "I've been ordered to do my duty." His smile held a hint more fang than warmth. "Shall we—or do you wish to 'port yourself?"
"I was actually about to ask you to provide sanctuary for this young woman," Rian stepped aside, gesturing to Hermione. "She's had a very trying day and she's not from this realm. I thought we could offer some hospitality."
Briar's red-eyed gaze flickered to Hermione and then to Rian. His eyes narrowed. "No."
Rian blinked. "Pardon?"
"Briar, she's a human witch."
"The answer is still no. We haven't the time nor the energy for guests and if you haven't quite reconciled the latest information in your head, then allow me to remind you—Juniper is home. If you think that someone such as your new friend would survive the reunion between myself and a certain missing Alpha, then you're sorely mistaken. I doubt the house will be standing when we're through with it."
"You are not leveling the house," Rian said, flatly. "We live there and I'm tired of rebuilding it. You'll resolve your differences outside or so help me, by Arielle's sacred breath, I will settle you both myself."
Briar snorted. "You can try."
"If she can't stay at the house, then she can stay with Wistar at-"
"Didn't you say she's a human witch? No human witch is staying with-"
Rian leaned over and helpfully smacked his fuming Submissive over the head. "She'll stay with my niece then," he said, firmly. "And you'll be coming with me while I see her settled." He frowned and turned to Hermione, who'd been watching their interaction with interest. "How are you with children?" He asked.
Hermione gulped. "They're—alright." She said, slowly.
Something must have shown in her face though, because Rian chuckled. "I'm only asking because my niece recently had a set of twins and she has a four-year-old. They are usually quiet children and she likely wouldn't need any help, but if you're not comfortable around magical children, then I'll see if I can ask someone else for-"
"Oh," Hermione said, relieved. "Oh, no, that's quite fine. I don't mind that. It'll be—fine."
"Thank you," Rian smiled. "I know for sure that you can stay with her. Have you 'ported before? Hm, I suppose you would have to arrive here."
"I don't really remember it," Hermione explained. "Is it like apparating?"
"It's—close enough," Rian said. "I'll do it, since it's your first. Briar, stop sulking and come over here. You know you were asking for that," he frowned. A scowling Briar shuffled over to stand closer, his arms crossed over his chest, an invisible energy field seemed to ripple around him—his aura expanding.
Hermione eyed him warily for a moment, then looked at Rian. "You can help me find Harry?" She asked—just to be sure.
"I will do my best," Rian said. "I give you my word on that."
"What do I have to do?"
"Hold my arm, if you would?" Rian held out his arms, his left to her and his right to Briar. A reluctant—still scowling—Briar, took it and Hermione did the same. "This is a bit trickier than you'd expect, so I'll ask you to hold your breath for the first time," he said, seriously. "On count of three—one, two, three—temptrificus-!"
The portal sprang to life and swallowed them whole.
"Olivia?" Rian knocked on the door, waiting.
They were standing in the front yard of a modest estate with a rich garden lining the sprawling white walls and the open courtyard. It was cozy and open, without seeming overwhelming. Two large doors were bolted together and a brass knocker hung in the center. Rian didn't bother to touch it, he simply knocked on the door once more and waited.
A quiet groaning sound signaled the doors opening and soon, a middle-aged woman could be seen. Her greying hair was tied back with a wrinkled headband, she was clad in Healer's garb, a swaddled baby balanced over one shoulder, a burp cloth in hand. Her expression was harried, but it softened almost at once, upon seeing who darkened her doorstep. "Uncle Rian!" she leaned forward, offering a one-armed hug. "You look stressed, hello. Come in—please, do come in."
"You look as stressed as I feel," Rian countered. He hugged her back, careful of the babe and followed her from the outer courtyard into the inner section. "Have you been getting any sleep at all or are those-"
"It's been a long day. You know how it is," Olivia smoothed her sweat-dampened hair back from her high forehead with the back of her free hand. "The others are still out," she said, referring to her bonded. "You'd think the notice of 'emergencies only' would cut down on the number of patients," she sighed.
"No, it didn't." Olivia stepped out and looked behind her for the four-year-old that shuffled after her, clutching the hem of her overtunic. She spoke softly to the child in a mishmash of fae-speak and dragel tongue, before the child leaned out from behind see who the strangers were.
"Unca Bri!" the little boy exclaimed, holding up his arms as he ran over to Briar. "Up!"
"We say please," Olivia said, wearily. "It's nice to say please, darling."
"Up, please!" the little boy repeated. Briar obliged, scooping the toddler up into his arms and cuddling him beneath his chin.
"He's been impossible since the others left," Olivia eased herself down to sit on the low wall that circled one of the ornamental garden displays. "The other one is sleeping," she tipped her head at the twin on her shoulder. "Please, come in and sit wherever you like. What can I help you with?"
"The others are out?"
"I'm too tired to heal properly," Olivia said, bluntly. "I'd be more of a hazard than a help, so I'm home, which means yes, everyone else is out." She sighed. "I also had the joy of losing two decent healers and the excellent Gheyo that worked with them, which meant-"
"I thought you were short-handed at the Clinic already."
"I am. We are. We were—still are," Olivia stumbled over the words and yawned. "We probably always will be at the rate things are going."
Rian frowned, noting her tiredness and the too-relaxed manner she had at present. While it wasn't unusual for her to invite them into the courtyard—they were family after all—she hadn't taken any notice of Hermione, a stranger. "Have you taken any blood at all?" He asked, sternly. She was a touch too pale for his liking. "Which healers did you lose?"
"The Kalzik one," Olivia wrinkled her nose. "I probably shouldn't have pushed them so hard, but all those people—I hate Hunting season. So many idiots and too little time to cure them of their stupidity."
Rian perked a brow. "You had a Kalzik healer and you lost them?" That was news to him, but then again, there had been rumors that one of the Kalziks had actually deigned to work in the public healer system.
"It's—far more complicated than it sounds," she said, weakly. "I had the mute one—you know the one I'm talking about, don't you? Nearly everyone does. He Soul Casts—that one? And his Medic friend, the Fae. They were invaluable really. We've helped so many since their arrival, but you know how it is when you have one of them around."
"They have their own following," Rian said. "I know. Their mother is very much the same. I'm guessing that it brought far more than you were expecting?"
"I don't think anyone can properly prepare for the kind of cult following a Kalzik has," Olivia said, bitterly. "The Clinic is supposed to help people and yet he had all these fancy clients coming in from nowhere for the 'famed Kalzik' expertise and if I dared to turn them away, to try to get him to put his talents to better use—I was the villain." She laughed, but the sound was sorrowful. "I just-" she began to cough, her shoulders shuddering.
Rian quickly spun a sound charm over the drowsy baby so it wouldn't be disturbed. "Olivia."
"You're not fine," he said, worriedly. He reached out to feel her forehead. "You should know by now that a healer that can't-"
"I know, Unk, really." Her shoulders slumped tiredly. "A healer that can't look after themselves has no business healing others. You know that I would never have reached this place if there wasn't a good enough reason. The Clinic doesn't have anywhere near enough room or funding for the overhaul it needs—and that idiotic Calamaris brat seems to think that he can throw around weight that isn't his yet. Everything's just a mess. I'm stressed. Fine, but stressed and it doesn't help that the Hunt is in session."
"Calamaris, Calamaris…" Rian muttered. "I can't place them." He smoothed a hand over her hair, stopping to pick out a few smooshed vegetables. "Let me guess, someone is going through a phase?" He took the burp cloth from her hand and began to pat it in a few places.
"His father doesn't like vegetables either," Olivia huffed. "But he'll have to learn—just like his father."
"What's happening at the Clinic? What made it turn out so terribly?"
"It's actually pretty simple. You know that new Sub, the one in the Inner Courts that's been making waves? Yanek something or the other. I'm pretending he doesn't exist." She stifled a shudder. "He's been sticking his nose and fingers where it doesn't belong and I hate doing this sort of thing, you know. I'd really rather just-"
"I know," he said. He set the cloth on his lap and turned to see how Briar and Hermione were faring. His toddler nephew was currently keeping Hermione occupied with a colorful charm bracelet and the story behind every single colorful charm. Rian hid a smile. "I'll try speaking to your father again, if you like."
"I like, please—I like." Olivia said, wearily. "All I wanted was to be a good healer, not a manager, an accountant and the problem-solver for every empty-headed idiot within fifty paces of where I stand. I wanted to do art therapy and here I am stuck in a place where all I can do is shout about cheating over time-cards."
"Shhh, easy." Rian murmured. He unbuttoned his shirt-cuff and began to roll his sleeve up his arm. "You shouldn't be home alone when you're in a mood like this. Did they all have to go? Every single last one of them?"
"Pareyic Coven," Olivia reminded him. "It hurts to leave me behind, but everyone else went—even the children. They couldn't take me and these little ones, they're too young. I chose them. I knew what I was getting into. You don't need to scold me for it. I'm a big girl now. "
"So I see," Rian said. "Am I scolding or simply worrying for your well-being since my brother is an idiot?" He sighed. "Don't answer that. I'm actually here to ask you a favor and I'm in a bit of a rush, because your Uncle Briar can't wait to throw himself headlong into the hole he spent the past few years digging for himself."
Olivia winced. "I already feel sorry for him," she said, sincerely.
"Whose side are you on?" Rian countered. "The young woman with him is a human witch from Earth. She wound up here through some very complicated circumstances and landed in Lord Aiden's personal mansion. I'm asking you to grant her a safe haven until I can come for her. She's looking for a friend of hers, a young boy by the name of Harry Potter."
A faint furrow made itself known in Olivia's brow and she frowned.
"Name's almost familiar," she muttered. "Can't think of why though." She shook her head. "I suppose I can look after her for a bit. Not like I have anything else to do."
"I've taken administrative leave," she sighed. "So I'm not professionally suspended, because if I—do you know what happened this week? Do you have any idea what I've been through, Unk? I sent word, since it was first-hand, but I didn't hear back, so I couldn't be sure that you knew." She looked over at Briar, a gleam in her eyes. "The Immortals are waking—probably up by now, even—though I'm sure you and yours would be the first to know."
Rian's eyes flared red, briefly. He held his wrist out to her. "Bite."
Her miserable eyes flicked up to his face, before her face flushed. She bent her head and opened her mouth, delicate fangs surging up through her gums. She notched them gently, in his wrist and drank quickly and efficiently. He kept his blood clean—a requirement that was necessary for a Healer—and a detail that was very much appreciated in times like this.
When she'd taken enough, she pulled away, licking her lips. "Thanks-"
"Keep drinking," Rian pressed the wound to her lips. "You haven't taken nearly enough."
Olivia made a soft sound of distress in her throat. "Unk-!"
"Knowing your Bonded, they'll be out until the wee hours of the morning and you'll be alone, exhausted and without a good blood source." His eyes narrowed, meaningfully. "I'm not leaving a human witch in your care unless I know you'll be able to take care of her and yourself—drink!"
Reluctantly, she did.
When he was satisfied, he tapped her head to have her stop. She pulled away, licking her lips and offered him the burp cloth to wipe it clean. Licking the bite wound was a bit too personal and she didn't trust herself to pull on the healing talents that would urge it to heal faster. Rian smiled, faintly, taking the cloth and pressing it to the slowly healing mark.
"Her name is Hermione Granger," he said, at last. "If she wishes to tell you her story, then listen. I only ask that you look after her. I'll be back for her as soon as I can—and if I can speak to your father before then, I will. Don't worry about the clinic. Worry about yourself." He tipped her head down and kissed the crown. "Make a sloppy dinner and call it an early night."
"There'll be a reaping tonight," he said, grimly. "A full reaping and since you'll hear it by tomorrow at least, your Aunt Juniper is back."
Olivia went from a flushed red to a pale white in the space of a single minute. "Aunt Jun?" she breathed. "No—that's not—she's really?"
"She's really," Rian confirmed. "Which means it might be a little bit before I'm back, so if you could look after Hermione until then, I'd be grateful."
"Take all the time you need," Olivia said, fervently. "I can't even begin to imagine-!" She shuddered, clutching her baby with both hands.
"Thank you," he smiled, warmly. "You always were my favorite niece."
"I'm your only niece," Olivia said, dryly. "You'd best introduce us and get going." She bit her lip. "If she's from Earth, then she's clueless, isn't she?"
"Er, that would be putting it nicely."
"May I take her to the library?"
"Take her wherever you like." Rian said. "She might like that, the library. Seems like a smart girl. A bit sad, but smart and sharper than she looks."
Olivia smiled. "A girl after my own heart."
NEVARAH - JUNIPER EVANSON
Juniper had cried every single tear that she had to spare. By the time she'd managed to pull herself together, the Pareyas had begun to bustle around, rustling together an evening meal, playfully including Regulus and George into their routine without a single hitch. It made her chest ache just watching them. They'd accepted her back—not completely, as yet—but enough to be welcoming to the two that she'd brought along with her.
The fact that they had, made her wonder at Briar's reaction. None of her Bonded would give her straight answer on him and she'd stopped asking. Their answers wouldn't have really satisfied her anyway—not when she wanted to see and hold him for her own. There was a deliberate itch crawling atop her shoulders and back as time ticked by and Briar didn't return.
Rian was with him so that meant she didn't have worry too much—but then again, it was Rian and Juniper knew that for all of his quiet patience and strength, he was more than well-equipped to deal with her and Briar. It was what made him such a good Beta. If he wasn't happy with her and Briar, they'd have to settle that imbalance first. She rubbed her arms briskly, starting faintly when Ivy came up behind her, wrapping her in a warm embrace.
"Ivy-love," Jun hummed softly, turning her face for the kiss to her cheek. She'd forgotten how nice these spontaneous hugs felt.
"June-bug," Ivy said, chuckling at the childish-nickname. "They'll be home soon, why don't you come and eat something?"
"What about the children? And the Gheyos? The rest of them?"
"Worry about them when it comes," Ivy said, softly. "They'll all be home soon. Come. Eat. Rest. We have missed you. Dramatics and guests aside, we have missed you." She unwound her long arms from Juniper's tingling frame and extended a hand in silent invitation. "Your Regulus and George are already at the table. Come join us, please?"
Jun didn't need any further prompting.
NEVARAH - PEVERELL TRAVEL HOME
Lewis sighed, cradling the sleeping Nytura in his arms as he padded down the softly lit halls, heading for his Alpha's personal chambers. He hadn't expected the little creature to seek him out, but it had and then it'd promptly refused to leave. It hadn't bitten him, so he was forced to communicate with it through an awkward series of signs, mixed with trial-and-error. In the end, he'd only been able to understand that it wanted to stay with him and wouldn't be put off.
He'd just come from his Submissive's room—after profusely apologizing for his absence for a good chunk of the morning—and had been grudgingly forgiven, though partially because Cora had seen Shadow and decided that whatever story he was telling that involved a Nytura was enough of an excuse. He'd just left her to the care of the other Pareyas. The tremors shook them all up, even though they were Air types and had been in their temporary, floating home when it had happened.
Feelings of unease and worry had overtaken him at once as he worried now for the new great-nephew he hadn't known existed. He wondered how Harry was fairing and hoped that the Deveraines would continue to take good care of him, even if they disliked the Peverell name. Harry had been a delightful surprise, yet the first impression of the green-eyed young man still lingered, making his heart ache in a way that it hadn't for many years.
Harry had looked up at him in one moment, completely unguarded and said—Dad.
Lewis swallowed, feeling his chest seize up once more. Of all the regrets he had, letting things turn out as they had was the very worst. He silently resolved to make sure that he could maintain a connection with Harry, whether the Deveraines approved of it or not. Those soulful green eyes had said so much more than Harry ever could have in those few moments when he'd been trying to help him after the broken portal.
There was a depth of pain hidden in their emerald shadows and a strength that seemed as if it had come straight out of sorrow, yet tempered so expertly that it could be nothing but the proud fire that he'd seen when Harry had walked out into the arena for his formal introduction. He hadn't thought that Harry would do it, but the moment he'd decided to go ahead—Lewis had caught a glimpse of a fighting spirit that was so fierce and beautiful, that he didn't doubt their relation for a moment.
Only a Peverell could show such confidence in such circumstances.
He was sure that proving their familial connection wouldn't be too difficult. There had been a few imposters over the years who had attempted to claim some portion of the Peverell fortune and fame, but their current family Head had seen through their disguises. He'd tested them both magically and with the usual trials that every Peverell youngling was required to take upon coming of age.
They had failed.
Harry, Lewis was sure, would do just fine.
Reaching the double gilded doors that opened to his Alpha's private rooms, Lewis reached up to tuck Shadow on his shoulder, before he knocked. There was an answering murmur from within and Lewis smiled. He pushed open the door and entered, leaving his slippers outside of the room.
"Lewis—I was starting to wonder. How is Cora?"
"Excited and exhausted from the day," Lewis said. He crossed over to join Henry on the bed, who sat up, braced against the headboard, holding a newly gathered sheaf of papers in his hands. "Excited because it was a good first day, I think and exhausted because of the tremors." Lewis cast a careful look around the room.
"And how are you?" Henry set the papers on the nightstand and beckoned his Bonded a bit closer. "I heard from your formation leader about a particularly spectacular dive to save a-"
"Ah, well," Lewis looked away. He started faintly when he felt Shadow's tiny paws digging into his neck and shoulder. "Shadow!"
"Shad—oh." Henry said, amused. "Is that a Nytura?" His gaze fixed on the small scaled creature with interest.
"It is," Lewis said, somewhat grumpily. He eased himself onto the bed and reached up to pull Shadow back into his hands. To his surprise, Henry calmly took the little scaled creature and stroked it with careful fingers. A quiet chirring sound filled the room and after several minutes, Henry let Shadow rest in his lap, before he reached up to catch Lewis with one hand at the back of his neck.
Any protest Lewis had was swiftly muffled by the warm, open-mouthed kiss that followed. He relaxed almost at once, reaching up to brace a hand against Henry's shoulder and enjoying the moment. It ended too soon and Lewis found himself awkwardly stretched across the bed, his head pillowed on Henry's shoulder, Shadow cuddled between them.
"Anything you want to tell me?"
"You can't stay here by yourself," Lewis murmured. The day's events were catching up to him and he stifled a yawn, feeling his body growing heavy. It played havoc with his instincts, since he was naturally inclined to protect and falling asleep went against that urge.
"And you can hardly stay awake," Henry said, fondly. "Cora ran you all ragged, didn't she?" He reached up with one hand, patting Lewis' cheek. "Will you tell me who you stole this from or should I assume that we are courting again?" He scratched Shadow's chin with one tapered fingernail. The Nytura chirped happily at the attention.
Lewis managed to stutter a laugh, even as his eyes slid shut. Henry's soft hand on his cheek brought comfort that warmed him inside and out. "Something like that. It belongs to a new Submissive, his name is Harry—he's my," Lewis hesitated. He felt Henry's hand shift from patting his cheek to cradling his head, gently pulling him closer. "My great-nephew."
"I'm sure we can prove it, which means that-" Lewis said, hurriedly.
"That Aldor did make it to earth after all," Henry sighed. "That is quite a change of events."
Lewis mirrored the sigh, the tension fading away as he realized that Henry's reaction had been rather mild and accepting. He hadn't even hoped for that. "Yes. Yes he did."
Henry was quiet for a moment, studying Shadow and then taking note of Lewis's current state. He scooped up the Nytura and deposited it in Lewis' lap, before pulling said Pareya properly onto his lap. He cuddled him close for a moment, nuzzling along his jaw and neck, before wrapping his arms securely around Lewis' exhausted figure. "And?"
"And what?" Lewis hummed contentedly, soaking up the individual attention showered on him. Moments with Henry were sometimes few and far in between because their Circle shared everything. Even now, the moment wouldn't last, because he could feel his Bonded approaching down the hall. They would disrupt the moment, but it was also all he needed to be able to finally relax. Having them close and being able to see them would ease his mind significantly. He was not the head Pareya, or else he would not be able to even think of sleep at such a moment, but having his Bonded closer would ease the instinctive urges.
Henry patted Shadow's head, directing his gaze from Lewis to the Nytura, waiting for the answer.
"Oh, it's named Shadow. It followed me. I'm not sure why," Lewis felt his eyelids grow heavy as his gaze fixed on the bedroom door. "But Henry—Alpha—he has one of our seals on him. Harry, I mean. It's there. I saw it and I felt it. It's real."
Henry twisted around to look at him. "A Peverell seal?"
"Yes." Lewis straightened up, rousing himself to be more awake, both eyes opened. "He actually has several seals on him, but I could feel our seal. The Peverell Clan signature—that's how I knew he wasn't an imposter and his eyes, Henry. His eyes are green."
"Green?" Henry repeated, incredulously. That was a very telling detail. "He's not an Air element?"
"I believe he's Nameless, though he's bonded to an Earth Alpha and a Fire Beta. It remains to be seen if he has an affinity to either of them though. I haven't seen him use his magic."
Henry made a sound in his throat, but did not comment. That was intriguing and worrying in the same thought. He would have to do some research on this Harry. "Is he actively hunting?"
"Yes, they were formally introduced today. It's his first Hunt. He was the Silverwing."
"The Silverwing? Who was?" Cora stood in the bedroom doorway, wearing her favorite long nightgown, clutching her favorite pillow, surrounded by the rest of their Bonded, dressed in sleepwear. "I'd ask if I'm interrupting, but your faces are saying quite a bit." She stepped into the room and the others filed in after her. It only took a few minutes for everyone to be situated on the large bed.
The Head Pareya, Vincent, herded them to the center of the bed, prodding Henry to leave his spot by the headboard and Lewis to take up one of the usual traditional positions for a Pareya. After a bit of rearranging, the pillows were piled on the center and everyone settled down, the Gheyos interspersed between them, the Pareyas settled on the outside.
"We should have gone to the sleeping room," Lewis grumbled, trying to make himself comfortable on the edge of the bed. His instincts had finally and truly roused, Henry's subtle aura no longer keeping him calm. He felt edgy and his shoulders itched, his wings wanting out.
Vincent rumbled in warning.
Lewis huffed and settled down, unhappily. It was an unspoken scold and he didn't like it.
"Who was the Silverwing?" Cora asked, when all was quiet again.
"I'll tell you in the morning, dearest," Henry said, quietly. He pulled her closer to him, tucking her head beneath his chin. "And I'll see that it happens for him, Lewis. I'll contact the Clan head in the morning. Now sleep, all of you. There's a very long day ahead of us tomorrow."
Lewis chirred in answer and curled up as best as he could. He felt Shadow's tiny paws padding over his arm and it prompted a slight smile, as the little Nytura clambered over him until it could curl up in the hollow of his throat. He began to count his breaths, summoning up the meditative trance of his rank. It would allow him to rest somewhat, while still remaining alert and therefore able to protect his Bonded in case of any emergency.
A/N: Hey everyone! I did my best to rush this chapter out as soon as brissy got it back to me. Three cheers to her for managing to beta this chapter, even while she had computer issues this past week. The entire month of June was a crazy mess-ay yi yi. A HUGE THANK YOU, to everyone who has been so incredibly patient while waiting for this new chapter-your understanding and encouragement has meant the world to me. As some of you know, checking the "chatterbox" thread in the TBDH forum is where you can always find updates on the next chapter's progress and whether there are some issues in RL keeping me from writing/updating.
Next chapter, 93, we'll have Harry and Co. coming back, we'll see where Scout went and we'll get some Quinn and family in there as well. Thanks for reading!
~SHAMELESS PLUG FOR NEW ONESHOT~ 4 Time he did, 1 Time he didn't. Check it out for Harry kicking butt in defense of his Circle.
REVIEW RESPONSES are in the FORUM for Ch 91 are being answered. Copy and paste to get there, click on the appropriate chapter number and scroll down to find your review and my reply. Replace the (heresadot) with actual dots as FF eats all urls. Live link is on my profile.
STATE OF CHARACTERS:
Theo-(with Charlie, Harry at the guest beachhouse)
Charlie-(with Theo, Harry)
Harry-(with Theo, Charlie)
Deveraine Circle members-(Home to meet with the rest of their Bonded.)