CHAPTER 28: A Storm of Death and Fire
Hey guys, I know it's been practically forever. But I've finished university now! My master thesis took a lot of time, so I hope you can forgive me. I hope it's going to become better from now on but it is difficult. I'm a computer scientist and somehow my friends and family take offence if I sit in front of my Laptop during my free time.
My unofficial beta, RighteousHate, mentioned it recently, and she is totally right: I do have the most patient readership of all: no flames, no pressure, you guys just wait patiently for months, I feel so coddled… you are really great and it's a pleasure writing for you!
That's why I'm also totally sorry for not answering reviews this last chapter, I appreciated each and every one of them! Thank you all so much for the support and I hope you'll continue to enjoy Night Flight to its end.
Now here is the last, really dark chapter before it gets a bit lighter again. So be warned:
WARNING: graphic descriptions of violence, blood and gore and minor character deaths!
This was not an easy chapter to write, and I guess it won't be easy to read, so proceed at your own discretion.
As always, the summary of the last chapter is in the "What Happened So Far" Chapter, so have a look there first if you feel you need a refresher after all these months.
Taide felt the acrid taste of bile rise in his throat and still he couldn't look away from where that gruesome vision of blood and death and desperation transformed into a spectacle of terrible beauty, unable to flee or help or do something other than stare helplessly, frozen with the same fascinated horror with which one might behold a volcanic eruption even while the pyroclastic flow raced closer like death personified.
It wasn't as if fleeing was an option anymore. Even if Taide had known where his wand was, the wards prevented apparition and the wrath of a submissive was said to be faster than lightning and deadlier than dragon fire.
It wasn't as if he hadn't known it would happen either. He had been so horribly certain of it.
When Taide had released the submissive from the magical block that had contained his powers only for the boy to lay waste to what had been a beautiful courtyard and his mother's pride; when his grandfather was thrashed to the ground and screamed out his last breath in fear and terror; when the boy crouched over him, shocked and aghast at his own brutality and trembling with the turmoil of his emotions and the effort it took to hold his magic beneath the frail barrier of his skin… that was when Taide had known that he was looking at his own death.
The boy was Pandora's box. And Taide had opened it and released something he had no hope of ruling in or escaping from.
Perhaps if he had warned his family and called out to them, there might have still been time to finish the submissive off during that one fleeting moment when the boy was still teetering on the edge of a magical frenzy. Almost he had done it, wanting more than anything to survive this hellish night, wishing for the sister to live whose daughters he adored, the uncle that had taught him pugna aerea and helped him steal torrone without getting caught, the mother that had reminded him to be strong and not to cry when he hurt but who had sung him through the frightening heights of thunderstorms nonetheless.
Perhaps they might have lived, if only…
But at that crucial moment something had paralyzed his vocal cords, even though Taide had known that he was the only one who could still save them.
Because they themselves were oblivious to the massacre about to happen, didn't recognize the signs because they hadn't played with the idea of freeing the submissive's magic, hadn't researched what might happen as a result. Taide knew that they were blissfully unaware because no one was running, no one was even trying to kill the source of their demise in the one second when that might have been a fading possibility… Valerio even hushed the submissive with deceptive gentleness but the boy didn't seem to notice him anymore.
Even then Taide hadn't said anything at all, watching the drama unfold passively, choked with regret over how badly he had handled his attempt at rescue, with grief for the submissive's pain, the two friends he had lost… and for the family that was dear to him, that he loved despite and with their errors.
Yet for all that he loved them, Taide still couldn't break his silence that was so deeply rooted in the understanding that they deserved everything that Harry's magic had in store for them. All of them.
They had objectified a great young man as a powerful tool, marginalized him in the worst way possible. The consequences of their actions were equally real as they were tragic and the horrifying sense of rightness suffusing this screwed kind of justice burned hotly through his throat.
And now it was just too late either way: the sickly pale body shuddered in painful convulsions, heaving and retching. A flood of utterly black shadows poured from his mouth in wild, swirling billows, spilling onto the tiles of the patio and into a heaving, surging puddle that spread and stretched, crawling along the cracks between the stones like a living thing.
Valerio started back from the shadowy, formless mass as if it was a hissing cobra about to attack, finally, finally realising what his son had known for endless minutes now and the sudden fear robbed him of his usual grace as he scrambled to his feet. He raised his wand with unsteady fingers, a frantic "Avada…" already tumbling from his narrow, bloodless lips…
Too late, Taide thought with grief and horror, tears burning in his eyes; it was endless minutes, perhaps hours too late and now he'd have to watch his father die a violent death. There was nothing, nothing at all that might save him now.
Harry's magic whipped forth with sharp anger, just a tiny, invisible tendril of pure power extending from all that flowing blackness, but Taide could feel it nonetheless as its force rippled the very air and natural magical currents around it, and it made his skin crawl. With precision and furious determination it attacked, flashing brightly for a short moment right above Valerio's far too slowly moving form, a thin curve of light like the gleaming of a knife, like lightning in the nocturnal air. Then it vanished from sight again and Taide felt as if the short moment of sudden silence and the absence of any clue to its whereabouts or doings was more frightful than anything it could have done.
That was until it just wasn't gone any longer. Until it was there at Valerio's wrist like a sharp knife, like burning iron, cauterizing the ugly stump left behind where the wizard's wand hand had been. With a dull thud the severed limp hit the ground, the thin wand still clutched tightly in the grasp of its dying fingers.
For the blink of an eye it was as if the entire courtyard had fallen into a limbo of shock and silence, the situation too unreal for any of the Lanais to grasp; too quick a change from the sure victory of a few seconds ago to allow them any sort of reaction. As if under a spell they stood and gaped, faint and numb and paralyzed, staring at Valerio's wavering form as he clutched at the stump of his hand.
Valerio faltered and fell and suddenly a scream ripped through the air, a horrifying sound of such volume and pitch that the clangourous shrillness pierced the chests of those assembled, hurt their ears and made them flinch violently. It hurled them into panicked, mindless action and those who were still able to – Ricarda and Eleuterio and his father's friend Ignazio – rushed and ran and stumbled towards the gates. Taide could see his brother-in-law Marco trying to help up Alessa, but his sister was so badly hurt already and there was no sign of his uncle Umberto anywhere…
The attempt at escape was for naught of course, and the knowledge filled Taide with equal parts of despair and resignation; it was pointless and futile: the courtyard was too large, the gates too far, and while his family – by Medea, his mother – were desperately trying to reach them, only Taide remained to witness Harry's magic taking form. He and his father, who lay on the ground as if paralyzed, cradling the stump of his wand-arm, staring with wide but empty eyes at that puddle of poisoned blackness.
Then Valerio, too, scrambled up in a last effort to save his life.
He did not look back at his son, or urge him to follow. And Taide didn't even notice, too engrossed with the sight of the as of yet formless darkness that the British Vykélari had heaved up like something vicious that his body couldn't cope with.
Something moved within, denting the shadows upwards towards the sky. For a moment it looked like a long dead tree whose naked skeleton had been swallowed by a bog until only the sharp tips of broken branches remained afloat. But these branches shoved upwards towards the sky and the tips joined into thicker limps which joined again and again until only two of them remained, two smooth boughs that were perfect mirrors of one another, arching towards an invisible centre between them.
They were antlers, Taide realised, just as an enormous shadow stag reared its massive head, breaking through the darkly swirling surface. With a powerful leap it jumped onto the terrace, the tiles bursting beneath its hooves with a sound like thunder, magical discharges dancing over the muscular legs like little lightning bolts.
It was a frightening sight, this embodiment of Harry's magic, perhaps his subconsciousness. Not because of the hide that was so dark that it seemed to swallow all the light that fell onto it, dripping with the shadowy substance that had birthed it; and not because of the sharp steely antlers crowning its proud head, or the deadly coldness of its white glowing eyes. No, the sleek form of a hunting nundu or a raging dragon should logically have held more horror than a stag – a flight animal, delicate and graceful – even a nightmarish one like this.
Yet hate and malicious rage and the unquenchable desire for revenge streamed from the darkly majestic beast in suffocating waves, soaking the very earth and air around it. There was hateful intelligence in the white of its glowing eyes and Taide couldn't help but shudder and cringe under the force of all that ominous intent.
It wanted to inflict pain, to torture and kill only slowly. And it knew how to.
Almost leisurely the enormous stag stretched its long neck forward and began to shake itself, working the graceful, lean muscles of its neck and shoulders and the long torso, slowly at first, then with ever more force until larger dollops and small drops of the black, viscous mass were flung everywhere.
One especially large lump flew right at Taide and he cringed, raising one arm in reflex to protect himself. But it wasn't necessary: before it could splash against his skin, wings sprouted from its magical core, delicate and raven black. Within the blink of an eye the shapeless thing grew and elongated and formed a broad tail of fanned out black feathers, long legs with vicious claws, and a hawk-like head that ended in a curved, deadly gleaming beak.
One beat of its powerful wings, and the downs on the underside ignited themselves, white and blue flames licking at the gleaming feathers without burning them. It flew as if carried by the fire, a herald of destruction and death.
Taide could feel his heart stop, expecting, knowing that the thing was coming for him, would hack and claw him to pieces or burn him to a cinder. He buried his face into the crook of both his arms and turned away even though he knew protecting his head wouldn't save him, might only prolong his vain fight for life and his pain. A moment later an unbearable heat was above his head like from a thousand suns and singed his hands and hair and then the demonic bird was past him, hunting for some other prey, no doubt. Hunting his family.
Scared stiff, Taide looked around with his eyes only, not daring to move his head. Hundreds of burning birds of all kinds and shapes circled above the courtyard, forming a tornado of fire and feathers, a bright torch that bathed the courtyard into an eerily flickering, bluish light, throwing long dancing shadows ahead of those who were fleeing as if taunting them with its unescapable presence, with the futility of their attempts.
The twister was strengthened by ever more beasts, while others broke from the formation, heading for houses and plants and foliage and humans, hacking and picking and burning. Swarms of them: Falcons and hawks and vultures and crows, and countless others.
They reached his precious sister first and her husband, who hadn't been able to flee with Alessa's back a single open abrasion and Taide could no longer stay silent.
"MARCO!" He screamed in warning and his brother-in-law whipped around. His face became lax with shock, his mouth falling open, eyes widening comically. The tall man must have realised that it was over, that it was too late. Taide saw him hesitate for a single, terribly short moment, before Marco turned, threw his arms around his wife and protectively covered her lean form with his much broader body as best as he could in a futile attempt to shield her.
When the demonic birds reached them, Taide felt his breathing catch, his lungs refusing to draw more air. Sharp claws ripped into Marco's back, burning wings beat against his skin and the man cried out in white-hot agony, but only tightened his hold on his wife, whose own fearful screams filled the night. Unholy crows landed on his back and arms and any part of Alessa that they could reach, their sharp beaks tearing into unprotected flesh.
By Medea, they were hacking them to death!
Taide called his wings back into his body and jumped up, rushing towards the submissive without a thought, and he honestly didn't know what he'd do when he reached the boy, he just wished to stop the carnage about to take place. This were his brother-in-law and sister! The brilliantly witty older sister that had always been as much of a nagging nuisance as a reassuring, supportive constant in his life.
Immediately the stag was in front of him, its antlers lowered threateningly against him. Taide could not stop in time, ran right into the sharp dagger-like tips. The force of the impact and the agonizing pain from multiple stab wounds all over his torso pushed all air from his lungs and he couldn't even scream as he was thrown away like a puppet, crashing against the broken remains of a tree and the world darkened to a merciful black around him.
Taide wasn't awake as the birds hacked Marco's carotid open or when they disembowelled his sister. He did not see a swarm of them press Eleuterio into the ground and eat him alive.
He was not conscious to witness a dozen falcons enveloping his mother in their burning wings and holding her screaming, struggling body until her blood was boiling like Harry had wished for in his own last moments of consciousness.
While the air at the Lanai country estate became pungent with the smell of burning flesh and biting smoke, Draco and Blaise rushed to that very place of destruction with desperate haste, driven by foreshadowing visions of what might await them if they couldn't reach Harry in time, one more bloody and violent than the other.
Thus, for once dependant on their servants, for once hand in hand with the diminutive Elves that were usually disregarded as nothing more than possessions, the two noble wizards were apparated to that manor somewhere in the south-eastern hillsides of Tuscany.
Blaise wasn't even sure he knew the name of the young Elf taking him side-along, but its magic felt strange to him, wild and untamed as it encompassed him with a whirl of colours, much like a regular apparition, but even more dizzying and unsettling – though maybe that discomfort rooted in that disturbing feeling of utter helplessness crawling through him, nourished by his need to be apparated in the first place… by Merlin, how he wished he could have apparated by himself, how he longed for his wand at his side!
Instead Blaise was sucked along the magical tunnel with no means to influence the journey, his muscles tensing under the strain and his hands clenching around spindly, greyish fingers, holding on, because there was nothing else to do.
Gritting his teeth, Blaise waited for the uncomfortable travel to be over and wished it would never end. Because at the end of it there would be Harry, insane and dangerous according to Draco. Or worse: broken or even… dead.
What if any of his family were still alive and in any shape to fight them? And what if the guardia didn't come? What if they were actually on his family's payroll like he had feared from the beginning? They'd be unable to defend themselves properly, might be overtaken…
Suddenly a powerful jolt went through the arm he held onto, a violent jolt that mercilessly whipped him around like a puppet, ripping the scrawny hand out of his grip. Blaise's heart seemed to try its hardest to leave his ribcage through his throat as he desperately tried to grasp onto something, anything of the young House Elf that apparated him – if he got lost now, he might get splinted!
The Elf reacted quicker. Lean but surprisingly strong fingers clawed into his forearm, pulled him closer to the small body and now Blaise could feel the powerful force that had disrupted their journey press insistently against him and his guide. It encompassed him completely, too completely. With a sinking feeling Blaise realised that they weren't the target, that something was pressing against the apparition tunnel itself, forcing it to distort around them. Suddenly the tunnel curved away from their original course, the change of direction making his stomach lurch sickeningly, and the magic that had carried them dissolved into nothingness.
Blaise barely had the time to prepare himself for a rough landing before the whirling colours deflagrated and gave way to an inky blackness. Momentarily blinded Blaise fell, his flailing limps breaking through small twigs, rough bark and rushing leaves. One of his hands managed to get hold of something that burst under the pressure into sticky wetness, before he impacted harshly with the dirt covered ground. He rolled uncontrolledly over sharp stones and hard roots that bore painfully into his flesh, scraped at his skin and robbed him of the breath to even cry out.
All around him bodies crashed into the foliage and dirt, shouts and high squeals of surprise and grunts of pain filling the air before being cut off by gruesome thuds, followed by a few seconds of loud cracking and rustling as his companions, too, came to a rolling stop.
Through the sharp pain of fresh bruises, scrapes and scratches, the horrible thought occurred to Blaise that one of them must have been Draco and he rolled around with a choked groan, panting and gasping as he squinted into the nocturnal darkness, holding a throbbing elbow.
"Draco?" He coughed out, unable to spot him amidst the mass of moving elven limbs and rustling plants – vine grapes, he noted absently, heavy with not quite ripe fruits which explained the squishy wetness still clutched in his hand. Blaise let go of it as if it had burned him.
'By Merlin, please don't let him be hurt!'
A pain-filled moan answered him, followed by a tense "fuck!", and Blaise felt something in his chest unclench marginally. Cursing was good. Really good. If his lover had the strength to curse, then he couldn't be hurt too badly. And indeed a few moments later he could make out a distinctly human shadow amongst several small figures, arduously regaining their footing.
None of them seemed to be truly injured – nothing the Elves couldn't heal with a few charms anyway, which they had already started doing. Blaise released a breath that shivered as much from relief as from pain and anxiousness.
"Is everyone still here?" He asked, searching his loyal head Elf. "Alfar!"
There was the rustling of leaves to his left as the small servant tried to disentangle himself from the gnarled remains of the aged vine grape that he had crashed into. Almost immediately, the area around them was flooded with light and the Elf starting to count the other servants off.
Nodding once, Blaise turned, locking gazes with Draco. Scratches littered the pale face, fear was etched into the stormy grey of his eyes, but he was composed, steady, and Blaise's own worried thoughts were mirrored in his grave expression.
They had no idea where exactly they were. Something had ended their journey prematurely, forcefully, leaving them stranded in some vinery, rows of the gnarled plants extending into the darkness beyond the circle of light that the House Elves had conjured. And there was only one possible conclusion: the Lanais had warded their country estate against House Elf apparition.
The protection certainly hadn't been in place the last time Blaise had been there with Draco at his side. His uncle must have installed it specifically for this occasion – no one guarded against House Elf magic, it would hinder the servants in their daily tasks and especially old and noble bloodlines depended on their Elves, couldn't function without them.
Blaise would know…
It was disastrous. Their entire plan depended on them finding Harry before the guardia had a chance to catch and arrest them for running away. Nobody would believe them if they didn't present them with indisputable proof of Harry's … his situation.
They needed to leave, stay on the move, and do it quickly…
In front of him Draco licked his dry lips. "It can't be far."
That at least was true. Installing anti-apparition charms took time, especially if they were to be applied to a large area. Most likely the Lanais had warded only the villa itself and the gardens, causing any apparition tunnel to dissolve when it reached the barrier. They had to be close…
"Master!" Alfar piped up, "We are complete."
Blaise nodded before squinting into the darkness, trying to make out some form of landmark but the magical elven light made them blind for anything beyond it. "Extinguish all the lights!"
Immediately his order was implemented, the night swallowing their assembly once more. For a few moments there was nothing but endless blackness that extended in all directions as if nothing else existed but them and the softly blowing wind that rustled through the vine. It was deceptively peaceful. But even before his eyes had the chance to adapt to the pale star light, Blaise noticed a flickering bluish column of light in the distance like a will-o'-the-wisp, right there at the very top of the vineyard.
The fiery tube moved, bending and flexing like a graceful dancer, rising from a pedestal of flames …
The realisation of what the luminous apparition was, what it meant, hit Blaise like a sledgehammer: he knew the shape of these hills and what should be standing there, at the exact same position where that burning block lit up the night, a fiery socket over-towered by a tornado of pure fire…
Feeling faint suddenly, Blaise stumbled backwards. Harry was burning the manor down! With everything and everyone in it – himself included. He hadn't thought that their Gryffindor would ever do something like this, could do something so unrestrained, self-destructive and ruthless…
"Draco!" He whispered, raising one arm towards that torch, but his lover had already seen it, if the wide eyes and spooked expression were anything to go by.
"Damn it Blaise! We need to fly up there!" He breathed urgently before hurriedly waving for Giallina, Harry's Elf, to approach, raising her into his arms and spreading his white golden wings.
For a moment Blaise hesitated, looking around waiting for those popping sounds of apparition to herald the arrival of the guardia. Why weren't they here yet? Where were those bloody useless morons the one time you needed them?
His gaze flitted to his lover's pale form vanishing into the darkness. By Merlin – they truly were on their own now, up against a whole family of dark, well-trained wizards and a possibly crazed submissive on a killing spree induced by a magical frenzy. Blaise swallowed around the lump in his throat, then he gathered the torn shreds of his determination, trying to hastily glue them back together. This was not the time to panic.
"Alfar!" he looked towards the devoted Elf standing beside him, awaiting his orders. "You come with me. The rest of you follow us as quickly as you can!"
There were no warm winds to lift them, no thermals to soar on. Instead, a strong crosswind pressed against their side and the strain of the flight was burning through Blaise's and Draco's wing muscles like acid. Perforce they flew close to the ground, Draco quite a bit ahead, following the endless rows of vine towards the beacon that Harry had lit. A beacon that more and more took the form of a madly whirling flock of firebirds, beautiful and terrible to look at as their fiery tails and feathers fused almost seamlessly into that bright column of light that they had seen from afar.
Some as small as sparrows and others as large as pelicans, the varied mass of creatures was eerily quiet as they circled over the manor like malevolent spirits. Neither Blaise's nor Draco's sensible ears could make out any kind of noise aside from the still distant crackling of fire; and the unnatural silence was more gruesome, more fundamentally wrong and disturbing than any cacophony of rustling wings and shrill murderous bird cries could have been…
If only there had been any sign of life, even screams or crying, or voices calling out for help …
What if they were too late? What if these birds were nothing more than the requiem for a broken existence, ghosts of a nightmare holding silent vigil at Harry's tomb?
The sense of foreboding drove them onwards, faster and ever faster towards the burning ruins that illuminated the night so brightly that the outlines were seared into Draco's and Blaise's eyes. Now a mere two hundred metres separated them from their goal, perhaps less, and the gagging, biting stench of smoke, of fire and burned flesh and a thousand nightmares began to fill the air, even the strong crosswind unable to get rid of the poisonous fumes entirely.
But they couldn't see the courtyard yet: they were still a good deal beneath the hilltop's level and whatever happened there escaped their searching gazes.
"We have to go higher!" Blaise called from behind him, his voice tight and Draco nodded sharply. Storming onto the scene blindly might be nothing less than suicidal. With a quietly whimpering Giallina tightly clasped in the circle of his arms, the blonde grit his teeth and ruthlessly pushed his wings down again and again, catapulting himself into the air. His thoughts tumbled over themselves in an attempt to give form to the horrors awaiting them just behind the crumbling stone walls, birthing images of massacres, severed limbs, streams of blood, chaos and death – Harry's lifeless body – while he himself hoped fervently that his imagination would prove to be too crass and overdrawn, influenced by fear as it was.
With a last exertion of force, Draco shot upwards, and the burning buildings finally revealed the former cloister garden in their middle, laying open the entire extent of destruction wreaked upon them. Smoke enveloped him like a smothering cloak, smelling of fire and death and pain and it had him retching and coughing until a bubble-charm like mask covered his nose and mouth mercifully.
Draco didn't thank the Elf for her intervention, his throat and eyes burning, his every breath laboured as he fanned his wings and started to circle the burning courtyard and manor, taking in the chaos stretching out below him. The thought that this seemed like a tiny fraction of hell and desperation was nagging at the etches of his mind, while his eyes jumped back and forth in a futile attempt to conceive all the chaos, to find a certain someone in its middle.
By Merlin, nothing it seemed had escaped their Gryffindor's wrath: The buildings surrounding the cloister garden were well ablaze. The formerly white walls were blackened with soot and the rendering cracked and crumbled under the infernal heat. Flames crawled along the houses and stretched ravenous tongues of fire out of the windows, licking the frames in hunger and anticipation for more to devour: more stone, more wood, more flesh.
The cloister garden itself looked as if a bomb had detonated in its centre and the destruction was devastating. Trees, bushes, decorations… everything had been uprooted, swept away and thrashed to the ground and obviously at some point set on fire. The smouldering wreckage was now lying in concentric lines around the column of burning birds that stretched towards the sky, like nightmarish stylized sun beams that venerated Harry's horrific creation.
And within all that horrendous chaos lay the mutilated sacrifices to that magical force, camouflaged with the same thin layer of soot that covered nearly every surface in the once luscious garden. So well did they blend in with the other debris that Draco at first did not even notice them. But then his eyes landed – more by chance than anything else – on the blackened corpse of a woman, clothes and hair and skin burned away so completely from her body that bones peaked through at her skull and joints, speckles of tainted white within all that charred flesh. The sad remains of her muscles had contracted from the heat and lack of fluids and left her body in a gruesomely distorted pose with her fists raised as if in defence of her killer.
It was a statue of pain and despair … a macabre memorial for the horrors of a battle.
It was as if a veil had been ripped from Draco's eyes because once he had seen her, ever more corpses and severed body parts started to stand out against the smouldering ruins of the cloister garden, like the requisites of a nightmare.
Neatly severed limbs, decapitated or gutted bodies… wherever Draco looked there were more corpses, more body parts, more carnage. Most of the dead were not even recognizable any more. Draco felt his heart beat ever faster, the breath refusing to leave his lungs again, making each new intake a struggle as he realised the new and unexpected severity of the situation:
There was no sparkle of rationality to be found in the chaos he was staring at, no logic or mercy and that left room for only a single conclusion: the Vykélari that they were trying to save was no longer the young Gryffindor hero that they knew. With their cruelty the Lanais had corroded his sanity and who could tell in what fragile state they had left it?
It had been foolish! Utterly foolish to think, to expect that Harry might allow himself to be rescued, to be taken away from his revenge. If he was even still capable of making that decision.
And therefore – just like two months ago during the Battle of Hogwarts – Draco might have to confront one Harry Potter in a magical trial of strength, a wizard much more powerful than him, subdue him and take him away. But this time the young man that had always been more powerful than him, was a fully-fledged submissive; even more than that: this wasn't the eternal do-gooder that would use ridiculous stunning and disarming spells against even the most powerful of his enemies, refusing to cause any undue harm.
No, the wreckage to his feet was the work of a totally different being, an animal half mad with grief and pain and hate, reduced to its most basic instincts. A mortally injured lion determined to take as many with it as it could and all the more dangerous for its injury. He might not even recognize them…
At that moment, the realisation truly hit home for the first time, the realisation that Harry might kill them all.
The gears in Draco's head began to totter, causing the smooth flow of the usually so orderly, meticulous machinery of his mind to slowly disintegrate.
Draco couldn't think like that, he had never been one to deal well with the kind of stress and pressure that came with fear and everything in him balked at the prospect of willingly flying into this inferno, of allowing Blaise to do so, Blaise whom he just couldn't face to lose…
"Master?" A voice squeaked close to his ear, thin and frightful and the weak, a tremulous sound that had the Malfoy heir flinch violently. But it was enough to momentarily distract him from the growing panic in his chest, to finally start breathing again, and he glanced down, noticing how tightly he clasped the Elf in his arms, how his nails bore painfully into her thin, spindly arms. Immediately he loosened his hold but didn't apologize. Malfoy's didn't apologize. And never to House Elves.
Neither did they give up. Strategic, orderly retreats, sure… feigned surrenders, of course; better than failure in any case. But Malfoy's didn't accept defeats, they didn't leave anything untried as long as there was still the tiniest possibility of success.
In all that chaos, in all the bloodshed Harry wasn't anywhere to be seen and while he didn't detect his broken body, Draco would assume him to still be alive and act accordingly.
He took a deep breath. Harry was still alive. No alternatives allowed.
"Giallina," he addressed the Elf, his voice coming out more harshly than he intended it to, rougher, "locate Harry!"
The tiny female didn't hesitate to reach out a thin forefinger towards the courtyard, her entire hand starting to glow in a pale, greenish light. For a few moments it darted from one goal to the other, Harry's magic that was all over the place making it difficult to root out its source, but then it suddenly stopped at that ever moving tornado of firebirds.
Draco swallowed drily. Of course the Gryffindor would be found where the density of deadly monsters was the highest. He felt a chill crawl along his spine. How the hell was he supposed to get to Harry there behind that barrier when it was very likely the most powerful magical protection that he would ever encounter? A sentient wall of magical beasts…
His gaze flitted over the ruins as his mind razed, as if the solution was hidden somewhere in the debris – perhaps something to distract them…
Suddenly his eyes widened, his claws twitching into existence for a brief moment, making Giallina squeak.
There, leaning against a splinted tree stump, lay the unconscious form of Blaises's cousin Taide, a small gash on his head bleeding profusely and his dark, torn shirt glistening wetly from hidden wounds. But – as incredible as that was – the man was still breathing; Draco's sharp eyes clearly detected the shallow raising and lowering of his chest. It was inconceivable: everywhere birds were tearing already dead and mutilated bodies apart and here lay Taide, hurt but alive and ignored by the Gryffindor's magic.
Everything fell into place then, snippets of long forgotten conversations and texts he had read at some point or another assembling to form a whole, like the pieces of a puzzle once their frame was complete and their layout known.
Suddenly it made sense, suddenly there was reason to be found in that chaos, some predictable pattern, and that thought alone was reassuring beyond belief.
It was true that Harry had seemingly lost his mind and fallen into a magical frenzy that he probably could no longer control, even if he wanted to. But as much as it looked like it, such a state was actually not mindless. It was a defence mechanism, enacted in the rare event that a submissive got himself entrapped in a hopeless situation. His magic would act on its owner's wishes, healing and defending him, killing his enemies… taking revenge.
But it wasn't actually erratic, bound to its owner's emotions as it was; never in history had a submissive been known to accidentally kill someone he cared for… That was why it was sometimes said that a Vykélari's magic was sentient, after all. It wasn't the magic, but the Vykélari behind it…
Taide was alive because the Gryffindor's rampaging magic had recognized his aura, remembered it belonging to someone who had helped him, who didn't wish him ill. Therefore, while it had made sure he wouldn't interfere, it had not harmed him past that point… he was untouched by fire and even in the fumes he was breathing without difficulty it seemed.
It seemed ludicrous, but Harry was sparing Taide, and thus it stood to reason that he would recognize him and Blaise as well and refrain to attack them… perhaps they might even calm him enough to be saved. Because if Valerio had been right (and Draco thought he was) leading someone through their inheritance created a bond of trust on an instinctive level, so deeply ingrained that his magic, which was after all guided by those very instincts, would see them as someone to look to for protection.
There was no other way of finding out but to go down there. For a moment longer Draco hesitated, considering whether he should set Giallina down on one of the roofs yet to be reached by the fire, or even outside of the manor on the ground that was still entirely untouched.
If Draco was right, Harry might not recognize her, see her as a potential danger to be discarded. But if he was wrong, if the birds would attack him, than he'd need every advantage, however small, to get out alive. Without a wand, the Elf was the only active protection he had…
Tightening his hold on her, Draco looked back towards Blaise, who had followed him with a bit of a distance. He knew his lover would not approve, would at the very least insist on doing it together so that the birds would have to divide their attention; and that could not be allowed to happen, Draco didn't want Blaise down there with possibly murderous beasts, couldn't bear it.
Perhaps Harry was even more likely to spare him, due to the life debt that tied them together… a layer of protection that Blaise did not have.
Firming his resolve Draco whispered to Giallina not to interfere in any way and pushed himself forward with a few powerful beats of his wings, before pulling them closer to his body, plummeting towards the very heart of that flickering bluish column.
If he was wrong, if they'd attack him, then the only way of getting past these beasts alive was going to be the fast one.
Blaise would have sworn that his heart stumbled to an abrupt halt as he saw his lover dive down towards the swarm of birds like a falcon on a hunt. A lunatic, suicidal raptor hunting in a fire storm. Desperately he called his name, screamed it into the night but Draco didn't even give a sign that he had heard.
With a harsh curse Blaise followed, not even wasting a moment on the naïve hope that the birds might let them pass through to their creator unchallenged – their blood thirst was all too obvious. Fervently he kept his eyes focused on the form of his lover who contrasted starkly against the flickering light of Harry's birds like a dark angel, fearing that any glance might be the last he saw of him, that any time now the birds would attack and turn his fiancé into one of the crispy, mutilated bodies littering the courtyard.
Only a few metres…
"Draco!" He screamed again, hoping for the blonde listen to him, to veer away at the last moment. The heat enfolded him in an embrace of scorching sparks and biting smoke that burned in his eyes and wafted around the magical bubble covering his mouth; Blaise called forth the additional protective eye membrane that he had already used earlier that day during their free fall with Harry. His vision dimmed somewhat, impaired by the third eyelid but he could still see well enough to notice that very first impulse ripple through the burning column of magical beasts.
Anyone who had ever witnessed a flock of birds could testament to the exceptional coordination such a swarm showed during flight. As if guided by only a single brain the animals moved as one, acted, reacted and never, ever collided. The origin of this ability was however not a shared consciousness but the quick senses and reactions: a bird's visual sense had such a high temporal resolution that it could see, process and thus act quicker than any human, enabling it to keep track of any flying bodies surrounding it and align its own movements to the flock.
And just like a flock of starlings encountering a raptor these demonic things reacted to Draco's rushed appearance with grace and agility. But where the survival instinct of the small animals would have made them scatter apart to evade a larger predator, these creatures were driven by Harry's pain, his grief and hate.
Like a candle attacked with a heating charm the column of birds melted away, lost its shape and transformed into a swirling cloud that rose up against Draco as if it meant to snatch him out of the air.
Blaise felt a scream freeze in his throat, fear and dread ripping through him like lightning. By Morgaine, Harry was really about to attack them… and he couldn't do anything about it without his wand.
It took him a shamefully long second until he remembered that that was the exact reason why they had taken the House Elves along.
"Alfar!" He hissed just as Draco tucked in his huge wings and moulded himself into a streamlined arrow head to break through the living wall of beasts. "Protect him!"
Draco saw the birds draw together right in front of him, heard Blaise's shout from behind and the sound curled around his chest and throat like a Devil's Snare. Of course it wasn't entirely unexpected that the birds launched an attack: they would have seen him coming long before they could have possibly sensed his magical aura and recognized him; Draco was still holding onto the feint hope that they would veer away as soon as they did, there was still time for them to do so… but the apparent aptness of the bird's every movement made his skin crawl and he knew he had to be prepared to break through their barrier, not with brute force like a magical battering ram, but with the exact piercing power of a quarrel…
A few forceful beats to give him the necessary momentum and Draco tugged his wings close around his torso and the small Elf in his arms and called upon his magic. Within the blink of an eye it pressed through every pore of his skin and directly to the surface of his shoulders and head and the feathers of his wings to form a tightly fitted, gleaming shield, an armour where he would need it the most; but even more than that it was a sign, Draco's very own guideon that would be more flashy and shine brighter than any beacon to something that was made of magic itself.
The birds were so close now, Draco could see the filigree structure of their every feather, the not quite natural glow and the flickering flames coiling around their wings. He made ready to brush past them, pulling his own wings in and hunching his shoulders, expecting to slam into the living wall with bone-crushing force. But he didn't.
Right before he could collide with the swarm, a dark bluish light whizzed past him. It cleaved through the ravens and falcons and crows and vultures, ripping into their bodies until they combusted and burst apart in an explosion of light. Draco's heart leapt into his throat in fear and the change came upon him in an instant. Vicious claws buried themselves into the pale flesh of the young Elf in his arms, a crown of feathers erupting from his hair while the skin around his eyes paled and his front teeth sharpened. Even more magic pushed into the shield he had raised around himself instinctively, swirling over the surface of his wings just as he plunged into that supernova.
It was like falling through a burst of dragon fire: so blindingly bright, searing and painful. And very quickly over.
The air – even pregnant with smoke and the heat of the smouldering courtyard beneath him – seemed blessedly cool in comparison and Draco ripped his eyes open as soon as he felt it. For a short moment he caught a glimpse of Harry's still form on the ground only a few metres away, a spot of colour amidst all that grey ash and destruction that was half hidden behind the dark, lean legs of what seemed to be an ungulate. The leech dagger was still embedded in his stomach, the long dark lashes of his closed eyes a disturbingly stark contrast to the sickly paleness of his cheeks.
That short glance was all Draco got before he was already past and the ground seemed to jump at him, so sudden was its appearance in his field of vision.
Crying out in surprise Draco straightened and angled his wings to try and prevent himself from smashing into the debris. The brutal pressure under his feathers threatened to make them give way, it was so strong. But Draco held against it, forced his wings into a steady, controlled position that would lift and level him. Just in time he managed to turn his course, the tips of his primary feathers barely grazing the ground, whirling up a cloud of hot ashes and sparks.
The manoeuvre had slowed him down considerably and with a few more forward flaps he came to a stop entirely and let himself fall to his feet, crouching behind the smouldering skeleton of a large bush. His heart drumming madly in his chest Draco set Giallina down into the burned dirt and with a last warning to her not to interfere at all he made to turn around, already fearing what he would see.
Because the magic attacking the birds had held that strange, inhuman foreignness that Draco knew to associate with House Elf magic. And since Giallina hadn't been the perpetrator, he knew exactly who the source had been. What had Alfar been thinking? Why had he attacked the swarm when all it could possibly achieve was enraging the beasts?
Draco turned and just as he had feared, the sight presenting itself made his breath freeze in his lungs.
The swarm was dispersing.
Like a hornet's nest poked with a stick the birds scattered, filling the entire sky above the courtyard in their search for the intruder, the enemy which to kill. The sound of hundreds of furiously flapping wings and piercing screeches exploded into the silence, shrill and rough and horrible and it hurt, beating against the eardrums with vicious, unnatural force.
Draco cringed and pressed his palms against his ears, crying out and feeling more than hearing Giallina do the same behind him. Merlin, it was deafening!
Then a single note suffused the cacophony, clear and high and victorious, and the birds answered with excited glee.
"Oh shit!" Draco groaned, watching them converge towards where they had found the source of the attack resting in Blaise's arms. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of birds with sharp beaks and sharper talons… they would rip them apart and there was nothing Draco could do. Even if he flew to his lover's side, there were too many of them to fight off, too much wild, powerful magic…
A spark of helplessness pierced his lungs like a multitude of frozen daggers, embedding themselves in his lungs, his heart, his throat… painful stabs that made breathing almost impossible for a moment, let alone thinking.
All he knew was that he needed to act, and quickly. The urge to attack the birds, to draw their attention away from his lover was overwhelming, but Draco realised that there was really only one being within hundreds of miles who could possibly put a stop to this force – and Harry was unconscious. He'd kill them, and die of his wounds himself, never knowing … never realising…
And his magic…
Draco stopped short. By Merlin, his magic! It was very much sentient… whether in its own right, or because it was a part of Harry's subconscious, it didn't matter… it was capable of feelings and logic, as primitive as it might be. Even with Harry out cold, his magic would still be capable of making decisions.
Not all was lost as long as he could appeal to it!
Draco started running towards the centre of the courtyard where Harry lay in a heap on the ground, scrambling over the debris, over fallen and burned bushes and plants and he didn't want to know what else, using his wings to balance himself and help him over larger obstacles. Fervently he tried to ignore the cacophony of bird cries and flapping and rough shouts, but it was impossible and his fingers were trembling.
"Harry!" He called out over the ruckus, even though there were still several metres between them. "Harry, stop it!"
A shadowy figure moved there in the darkness above the submissive, the same hooved creature he had seen when flying past Harry. Its long, graceful legs framed the Gryffindor's fallen body protectively, like the pillars of a canopy.
There was darkness within, a perceived darkness that had nothing to do with the shadowy colour of its coat, and everything with the unholy intelligence deeply embedded in its coldly gleaming eyes, ghostly white orbs that followed Draco's every move as he stumbled towards it over the debris. A pair of long ears swivelled towards him, twitching.
It reared its massive head, stretched it forward and roared at Draco in a voice so deep and all-pervasive that it vibrated through even the marrow of his bones. Draco froze, all too aware just how powerful this beast was. But he didn't retreat, couldn't have moved in this moment even if he wished it, and the shadow stag jumped forward in irritation, stamping its long legs threateningly. A shower of bluish sparks sprayed into the night where its hooves smashed onto the stones and magic danced around its legs like electric currents.
Draco licked over dry lips. "Harry…" His voice was thick and rough and not nearly as confident as he needed it to be.
"Harry." He tried again, stronger this time.
"You know me." Praying to whoever would listen that it was true, Draco curled in his claws to hide the faint tremors that shook them. A short outcry cut through the air but he didn't dare to turn around. It had sounded like the high, squeaky voice of a House Elf and Alfar's face flashed through his mind – they shouldn't have taken the Elves along. By Merlin, they shouldn't have. And Blaise… Draco fervently hoped his lover was okay, but he still didn't dare to take his eyes away from the deadly beast in front of him.
"You know me." He repeated, letting his wings slowly slide out of his back. The stag leapt forward before dancing back again, back to hover over Harry's body and Draco realised that this central part of his magic would not leave the Gryffindor's side, was not so mindlessly drowned in the rage and grief that Harry had been feeling in his last conscious moments to leave him unprotected. That at least was a good sign.
Crouching low to the ground in the vague hope of appearing non-threatening, Draco fanned his wings out and did what his instincts told him to: he pushed his magic to the surface of his body, letting it swirl over his feathers, suffusing it with the soothing, calming touch that they had already used on Harry in the hospital on the night of his 222nd full moon.
Carefully Draco moved forward as quickly as he could, as slowly as he must. The stag could attack him at any moment, would attack him if it thought for only a single second that the Slytherin might pose a danger and Draco was afraid, his heart beating so fast and forceful that he thought it might just burst his ribcage apart.
"Stop fighting, Harry, it is safe now. I promise it is. Trust me." Draco begged, knowing that he couldn't trust him in turn. Not this night.
Suddenly the stag reared up, beating with its front hooves into the air in a feigned attack as if it wanted Draco to know he would be trampled into a bloody pulp if he came any closer. Draco flinched, taken aback by how truly huge the beast was at just this moment. Only barely he kept himself from falling as he took an involuntary step away. But he couldn't run now, instinctively he knew that running would be a fatal error at this point, for him, for all of them, and he forced himself to resist, even when the stag smashed its large hooves against the ground with a sound like thunder.
With clenched teeth and ducked close to the ground Draco crept forward, slowly reaching out with an open palm, sparks of magic on his skin.
"I'm not your enemy!" He breathed, before conceding to a short "not anymore".
Again the beast shook its massive legs and snorted angrily, but it took a step closer and Draco waited anxiously with bated breath. 'Come on!' He begged inwardly.
At that moment a scream ripped through the air, barely perceivable over the ruckus of Harry's birds, but it made the blood freeze in Draco's veins.
That wasn't the sound of a magical creation, not the sound of one of Harry's birds and unlike the clear outcries of pain or surprise or fright that he had heard from Blaise and Alfar and used to track their movements with, this was one of mortal terror and death, high and shrill and loud and abruptly tapering off into a horrifying gurgling and coughing that planted the nightmare of a pierced lung or a cut throat in Draco's mind.
So all-consuming and cold was the fear that took him that Draco whipped around unthinkingly, expecting to see his lover's dying body fall from the sky, a shadow against the stars framed by the gleaming copper of his wings…
It was a grave mistake and Draco realised it as soon as he heard the aggressive snort to his right. He froze, seeing from the corner of his eye the steely gleam of the stag's antlers, poised to spear him. A thousand half-formed thoughts rushed through his mind, vague images and notions and the one certain knowledge that he could neither outrun nor dodge the impersonation of Harry's rage.
There was only the one thing…
Soothing magical sparks once again sprung to the surface of his hands, tingling like the comforting heat of a fire on cold skin.
The stag leaped forward and Draco tried to roll with the movement, tried to grab the enormous antlers to keep them from stabbing him and let his own magic hopefully calm the raging beast.
Almost he managed it, his right hand closing around one of the horns, sliding over the surprisingly smooth and icy cold surface before coming to an abrupt stop pressed against the next forking. But with a quick jerk of its head the animal evaded his other hand, driving the sharp tips of its antlers into Draco's side. Sharp pain exploded around each of the wounds, a firework of agony culminating in a furious crescendo as it hurled him around with brutal force, driving all air from Draco's lungs and ripping him off the ground.
Out of pure instinct Draco didn't let go as he was lifted, one hand buried in the coarse hide at the stag's neck, the other clenched tightly around the antler, enforcing his hold by making the palms of his hands sticky with magic.
For a moment gravity had no hold on him, for a moment he was flying, then the daggers in his side were dislodged as his feet crashed against the ground, his legs giving way. He stumbled against the stag, only supported by the cold snout under his chest and his painfully tight grip on the stags head.
The pain was overwhelming, shocking, flooding his mind and superseding any rational thought and so it took him a moment to actually realise just how he stood: leaning against his attacker, still on his feet only by virtue of the magical beast's support.
"Shit." He groaned, gazing through tears of pain into the ghostly pale eyes of the stag. He couldn't make out any emotions in those icy depths but the animal stood frozen just as he did. Unmoving because it had recognized him? Draco hoped so. He hoped it was over, he hoped Blaise was alive, hoped they'd all be still alive in a few minutes.
It all depended on Harry, depended on whether Harry trusted them enough to let go. Wearily Draco lowered his forehead unto the stag's, whispering to it quietly. "You're safe now. Promise."
Alfar's shrill cries still echoed in Blaise's mind even after the small body had vanished in a flurry of burning wings and dagger-like talons and beaks as if he never had been.
Morgaine! He had ripped him away! Harry – Harry's beasts – had just ripped his most loyal, his most trusted servant from his grasp effortlessly, ripped him away and apart while disregarding Blaise entirely.
In fact, they had never been interested in the Vykélari in the first place, focusing the brunt of their brutal attack on Alfar with single-minded determination. Driving their claws and beaks into the Elf's flesh viciously, they had no more than scratched or superficially burned Blaise, always steering away from him as soon as they touched him. Even now they almost ignored his very existence, except for a few that fluttered around him, brushing him with their hurtful, fiery wings only to veer away immediately.
It was as if they recognized him, Blaise thought; but if that was the case, they had recognized Alfar as well, recognized him as the Elf that had attacked Harry with a stunning spell when he had tried to flee Lanai Manor after being brought there against his will, and as the Elf that had attacked them just now.
Blaise felt himself trembling with shock, shaken not by the loss of a mere House Elf, however loyal or valued it had been, but by the sheer brutality of the attack. A cold cruelty that he had never known Harry to be capable of.
At least it sparked in him the hope that their Gryffindor would not really attack them at all if they proceeded carefully, that Draco was safe, wherever he was.
He turned away from the gruesome display with only a hint of hesitancy and regret, trying instead to catch the sight of his wayward lover anywhere in the courtyard beneath him. Oh, how he was going to have a talk with Draco about his sudden penchant for rushing into suicidal situations like some moronic Gryffindor!
It was difficult trying to detect anything specific in the chaos, especially since the birds had already scattered again and now crossed his vision randomly, and he had to carefully evade others that were getting at him aggressively before steering away in the last possible moment.
But little by little they settled down onto the courtyard, covering almost the entire ground with their demonic bodies, a sea of black feathers and bluish white flames. Silence once more spread across the ruins, broken only by sporadic fluttering and the odd angry screech that proved how very ready the beasts were to rise again in a moment's notice, to rip and claw and hack and kill.
Finally amidst all the confusing movement, there was a hint of platinum blonde. But the spark of gladness soon turned to ice as Blaise noticed his fiancé's slumped position, draped over the head of an enormous shadowy stag. Almost artfully the two of them stood frozen in their grotesque pose with birds settling all around them, like in a strange snow globe. It would have seemed so very peaceful a sight if not for the spot of dark wetness blooming on Draco's shirt, making it cling to his skin.
Suddenly Blaise's eyes were burning and his throat was closing up. No… oh Morgaine no, this could not be happening! Not ever, but especially not now!
Not daring to breathe he glided down towards the pair. Draco's chest was still rising with shallow breaths, he was still holding on, this much Blaise could see and the stag was not attacking... at least that! But this didn't necessarily mean that Draco was not injured gravely, nor that the thing didn't intend to just watch him die, watch the life fade from the silvery eyes Blaise loved so much... all he knew was that his lover was hurt and he wasn't rising… and that the stag was swathed in ominously dark magic that clung to it like tar…
"Draco?" He asked the moment his feet touched the ground, blackbirds and crows scattering in all directions around him. He didn't have it in him to pay them any attention, not even to the heat they exuded; His voice trembled so afraid was he of not getting an answer.
"Draco!" Once more called into the eerie silence, a hint of desperation tinging his voice.
Then a barely perceptible hissing and the blonde's fingers twitched where they were entangled in the multibranched antlers.
"Shut… the hell up." Draco pressed out through gritted teeth, his voice pained and muffled, as if it was pressed against the short, coarse animal hide. But Blaise breathed a sigh in relief, his shoulders slumping as some part of the tenseness left them.
Stiffly Draco turned his head in Blaise's direction, still letting the stag support his weight. Their eyes met briefly, one glance enough to share the worry and apprehension they were both feeling so acutely, the confusion over this entire horrible situation and the behaviour of Harry's beasts; but first and foremost the relief at seeing each other alive, and the cast-iron determination to keep it that way and to prevail.
Valerio might be dead and gone but they would not grant him any kind of victory, would not let him have any part of Harry, least of all his life. That was not something they'd let him claim!
"Go 'n help him." Draco muttered and Blaise nodded once, his eyes flitting to their submissive's fallen form and he swallowed drily, his throat clicking in the silence. Although he could not see much of the young submissive, the jewelled handle of the dagger protruding from his back was hard to miss. Their gryphon didn't have a lot of time left, that much was for sure.
As quickly as he dared to, Blaise moved closer to the younger man, careful to avoid all too sudden movements and always keep Draco and that beast in sight whose pale eyes followed his every move. He could hear Draco whisper to it, hushed words of safety and comfort and he hoped it would be enough to keep Harry's vengeful magic at bay.
Birds with far too intelligent eyes stalked slowly out of his way, staring at him, observing him with an intensity that made his skin crawl. They were slowing him down intentionally, Blaise realised, controlling his movements so that he wouldn't be able to launch a surprise attack.
Or to flee.
They awaited him even, there where the submissive lay, sitting on his shoulder, his hip and all around him. Like silent, grim sentinels.
Carefully Blaise crouched down next to Harry, tense and ready to act should it be necessary. But the birds showed no hint of aggressiveness, no inclination to attack and Blaise turned to the young missive, licking his dry lips. How could he look so vulnerable and small after all the death and destruction he had caused? Pale and drawn, with skin the colour of clotted milk and bluish lips. Tear streaks marred his cheeks like ugly scars that Blaise feared would never fade.
What had they done to the brilliant, passionate young man that had laughed and danced and kissed with a contagious fire only hours ago?
'Please don't be dead!' Blaise begged in his mind, his throat closing up as he pressed a finger gently into the soft skin of Harry's throat, aware of the many eyes observing him. Mordred, he was so cold to the touch. But he could feel Harry's pulse returning the pressure, far too softly for his liking and far too slow and unsteady, but it was there nonetheless.
The demons around him forgotten, Blaise focused his attention on that long cruel knife that he vaguely recognized as a leech dagger, having seen a similar thing displayed in Lucius' office once.
How proud the Malfoy patriarch had been when telling him and Draco of the artefact's powers, how weapons like this had been forged by mated Vykélari pairs and used to target the strongest link of another mating.
The submissive. Someone like Harry.
Blaise hadn't been very impressed then. Why show off a magical artefact if there was no one and nothing to use it on anywhere in the world?
Now he felt just sickened at the ignorance of his own thoughts.
With a swift, fluid movement he laid the fingers of one hand around the dagger's handle, and with the other he grasped Harry's torso to hold him still. As steadily as he could, so as to not injure their nightingale further, Blaise pulled the cursed thing out of the younger man's back. Harry didn't even twitch and Blaise could only think how fortunate it was that Harry was already unconscious!
As soon as the weapon was free, Blaise flung it aside carelessly and turned to Harry once more. Gently he eased him onto his back, causing the few birds on his shoulder and hip to flutter and resettle on his chest and legs. Blaise tried not to let the beasts disturb him and cradled Harry's cheek with tender fingers to push a burst of magic into his limp body, knowing that he must be magically depleted to a near fatal extent.
At least that was what he tried to do, but like a magnet held against another of the same polarity, his magic was repulsed. Blaise could even feel the weak streams of Harry's own magic recoil beneath his fingers as if encountering something distasteful, wreathing agitatedly like a bundle of snakes poked with a stick. The large magpie sitting on the submissive's chest lunged forward with a shrill shriek and pecked into his fingers.
Blood welled from the small wound and quickly Blaise pulled back. "What the hell…?"
Behind him Draco cried out in pain and Blaise turned just in time to see the stag ripping away from his lover who fell to the ground with a soft thud, bereft of the only support that had kept him standing in the first place.
Frozen Blaise watched as the large animal began to circle threateningly around him and Harry. Malicious eyes speared him, letting him know he and Draco were only still alive because this beast wished it and how quickly that decision could be revoked.
Swallowing nervously and frustrated with an audible click in his dry throat, Blaise turned to look towards his fiancé who was pushing himself up on his hands and knees with obvious difficulties.
"Draco!" He called out. "Something's wrong with Harry – Harry's magic." Blaise corrected himself. Hell, everything was wrong with Harry at the moment. But this went further than the trauma he'd gone through. This was… unnatural. Wrong. And it scared him, because Harry needed magic, needed it now and he couldn't see them talking the birds into returning to where they had come from, didn't even know if that was possible.
"He's not… I can't transfer magic to him."
"Fuck!" Draco moaned. Whether in reaction to what he had told him, or from pain, Blaise didn't know.
"I knew it wasn't a normal calming draught." The blonde muttered, directing pain filled but serious eyes to his lover. "Wrong… wrong colour."
Gingerly Draco sat up and started to fiddle with the as of yet invisible bracelet on his wrist, trying to get it off with his unsteady fingers.
"Severus. He'll know." With that he threw the emergency portkey at Blaise who caught the silver chain in one hand.
Yes, Blaise thought, Severus would know, there could be no doubt about it, he was after all one of the most talented potion masters in Britain, perhaps the best. And the portkey would also put Harry under a stasis spell that would give his rescuers whatever time they needed to help him.
But Narcissa and his own mother would be informed of someone arriving at the safe house the moment it happened and if Severus was not there already… especially in his current condition Blaise didn't want to hand Harry over to the next greedy bastard trying to exploit him.
There was nothing to be done however, regardless of how much Blaise wanted it to be different. He'd rather have Harry forcefully mated to himself and Draco, rather have to endure his hate and scorn than see him dead.
One last time Blaise indulged himself with a short gentle caress over the raven hair, then he fastened the bracelet around Harry's wrist.
Immediately the portkey was triggered by Harry's grave condition, and he vanished into a whirl of colours.
CHAPTER END NOTES:
Okay, I hope you could find some enjoyment in it despite all the gore and body parts and violence.
I wish you all a wonderful Christmas time and I'm looking forward to hearing your opinions!