Thank you again for all the reviews! This is the last chapter of this particular story, but there will be at least one sequel, Wondrous Lands and Oceans, because it isn't the end of the story of Harry, Draco, Teddy, the Weasleys, and Hurricane.
Chapter Nineteen—Learning to Hunt
Harry twitched his shoulders as he felt Malfoy's thoughts press against him like knives. Or talons, as if one of those hatchling birds was riding on his back and he was responsible for feeding it with his blood.
He could feel Malfoy's free-blowing offense, like flags whipping in the wind, trail through his head. Harry ignored it. Malfoy was coming close to the same edge Bill had dropped off. He was too aggressive, too interested in one primary thing. Harry reckoned they could all be grateful that it was sex instead of meat, but when he could hear every thought about it that tended to cross Malfoy's mind, he thought it still counted as legitimately annoying.
Harry blinked, only then realizing that Primrose had stopped walking in front of them. She looked at them with a patiently tilted head, then sighed and knelt down, parting the grass.
Harry knelt down next to her, damning Malfoy when he had a silent fit about that, and peered at what Primrose was talking about. The grass was flat here, though hard to see from a distance because of the way that other stems rose above it. There was the slope of a tiny hill, Harry thought, and the holes Primrose pointed out were scattered along that, and Harry could see loosened earth when he peered more closely.
That made him swallow and smile, because if there were identifiable characteristics to the place where these creatures preferred to live, then they could find more of them, and not annoy Primrose into staying with the group because she was the only one who knew how to find them.
She should stay with us anyway, Malfoy's voice whispered in the back of his head. She won't survive on our own.
So says someone who never thought anyone else's fear but his own mattered, Harry snapped, and then refused to listen to the wordless thoughts that assaulted him next. "What do the animals look like?" he asked, glancing around and wondering if he would spot one for himself. Of course, by now they had probably smelled all the humans—assuming they had noses—and gone underground for protection.
"Like fatter rabbits, with shorter ears," Primrose said, and sketched a fluffy ball in the air with her hands. "Most of them are gold and white, the color of the sunlight and the grass."
"Do they use the wild magic?" Malfoy, mature enough now to join the conversation instead of raging in the back of Harry's head. Or maybe he just wanted a bigger audience for his objections, Harry thought, and received the sting of a whip from Malfoy's direction. Harry laughed in silence. He had endured much worse pain in his life.
Malfoy shoved frustration at him, in enough time that they could both listen to Primrose's answer. Harry had wondered how he would be able to keep up a silent conversation and one out loud at once, but that seemed to be the answer: he and Malfoy "spoke" much faster than someone could respond with their voices, even someone who didn't have reason to pause and think about the question, the way Primrose had.
"Yes, they do," Primrose said at last. "I suppose that I didn't think it was very effective."
Malfoy's claws rippled along Harry's spine, and Harry nodded to show that he suspected the same thing. Primrose's wild magic could manifest in this way, or possibly through a variation on keener eyes, like Teddy.
"They go thin." Primrose lifted her wand and waved it, and a glamour appeared in mid-air, spinning between them. Harry blinked. Yes, the rabbit-thing did look fat and golden, a dull color that would almost disappear against the background of the plains. As Primrose continued casting, the rabbit rose and stretched out, arching its legs like a running horse. The fur melted into mist, and the body became shadow-like. "When I put my hands down where one had been, sometimes it wasn't there, even though I had just seen it disappear a moment before."
Harry felt Malfoy's gaze on the back of his head, and nodded again. It sounded like wild magic, all right, a variation of the trick that the mummidade did when they leaped out to hide in the grasses. "How did you first see them?" he asked, leaning back and looking up at Primrose.
Primrose's face reddened. "You'll think it's stupid," she muttered, ducking her head.
Probably, Malfoy's voice whispered. Harry gestured him away as he would a fly and shook his own head, keeping his eyes gently on Primrose's face. "We won't," he said. "I won't, at least. How did you see them?"
"I was keeping watch on the edge of the camp." Primrose's hand grew still for a moment, as though she was just remembering that she would never do that again, but then it moved on in a smooth arc and came to rest on her wand. "And I stared at a clump of grass that was swaying against the wind. I didn't know if it was a danger, but I kept watching it for a long time. And then I saw the head poke out of it."
"How far above the ground?" Malfoy asked. Harry started. He had been about to ask that question himself, although he didn't know why. Once again, Malfoy picked things up from him and translated impulses into words before he was ready.
Get used to it, Malfoy whispered, and dropped to his knees behind Harry, his hands resting on Harry's shoulders. Primrose blinked at them and answered.
"A good way. It looked as though the rabbit had hopped up into the clump of grass and was eating the seeds near the top."
Harry nodded. The individual grass blades were so tall that it made sense that small creatures would need a way to reach the sweeter parts of their food. "And did it run when it noticed that you were watching it?"
"I cursed it from a distance," Primrose said. "It never heard me. When I went to retrieve the body, I saw another one, and it was so close and watched me so fearlessly that I reached out for it. That was when my hand went through it. They fly, in a way. This one disappeared from the clump of grass as it was hurtling towards the ground and appeared further away. I managed to track it until I found the warren, but I didn't catch anymore that day."
Harry shook his head. He thought any one of them could have discovered this, if they had taken the care and paid the attention that Primrose had, but she was the one who actually had.
"After that, I watched them until I could find a warren reliably." Primrose nodded at the holes. "And I found that they only took flight when I actually moved towards them. You stay in one place for a while, and they get used to you and ignore you. Then you can kill them with a Cutting Curse."
"I can do better than that," Malfoy said, and stretched behind them.
"Maybe," Primrose said, turning her head with a coppery contempt in her eyes that made Harry give up all notion of her being a coward. She feared the bird, but that was a special circumstance, given how many people she had seen it kill. "But if you slaughter a whole cluster of them, then you're going to run out of them sooner." She reached into a pouch slung over her shoulder and took out a chunk of what looked and smelled like dried ham. "This is what it looked like after I skinned it and pounded it flat and dried it in the sun."
Harry reached out a hand after a glance at Primrose for permission. The meat was layered in folds, and felt slightly tacky and dry to the taste. Primrose laughed when she saw Harry stick out his tongue. "It's safe. I haven't got sick or died yet, but it does rather give you diarrhea if you eat too much at once."
"How did you learn that?" Malfoy asked, as quiet and rough as though he had been ashamed instead of stunned by the knowledge. Harry glanced back at him, but for once, Malfoy's closed face baffled him as much as anyone else. Malfoy just looked at the meat with half-shut eyes and shook his head. "We needed much more extensive testing on the meat from the bird."
"I had the training," Primrose said simply. "There was a repertoire of spells that our mission leader thought we all ought to learn before we came to Hurricane, including the ones that the explorers used to test the air and food and water."
Harry shrugged when Malfoy glanced at him. He sure as hell hadn't thought about that. On the other hand, it was doubtful that the Ministry would have shared any but the barest and most essential information about what the Unspeakables had learned with him or the Weasleys, so much did they hate them as political rivals.
I still should have made a push to make sure that I learned them so I could teach them to the others, though. I owed it to my family to make them as safe as possible.
Stop martyring yourself to something no one else thought of, either, Potter, Malfoy snapped back at him, and then faced Primrose. "And you won't stay?" he asked. "We could use you."
Primrose stared at him. Then she said, "And you ask me that? When you are the most arrogant of the lot of them, the most determined to drive me away?"
Harry rose and quietly moved behind Malfoy, to put his hands on his shoulders and restrain him. He thought he might need to, because Malfoy was shaking from the magic and the adrenaline that poured through him. Harry rubbed his shoulders and waited to see if he needed to intervene more than that.
Primrose, for her part, faced Malfoy without backing down. Perhaps she thought Malfoy's own declaration of her usefulness would keep him from attacking, Harry thought. Harry wasn't so sure, but he would wait and see.
Draco was conscious of the desire to carve Primrose's meat from her joints, and he did not like the impulse. He had walked through corridors of people chanting far worse things when he was on trial for his Dark Mark, he thought. What was it about this unimpressive woman that made her criticism sting?
Perhaps simply that he would have expected such words from the Weasleys, not a neutral party. He had done nothing to help Primrose—other than hunting down the bird that had destroyed her comrades, which Draco thought ought to count—but neither had he done anything to hinder her.
"I do not want you to leave," he said. "I never suggested that you should." His claws twitched, and he sheathed them by imagining them withdrawing into the tips of his fingers. The claws struggled against his control for a moment, but then went.
Primrose shook her head. "I saw the way you looked at me, what you thought of me. Weak and silly and incompetent, unable to add to the encampment. Well, maybe I am useless to a camp that has a bird to fly." For a moment, her lip trembled, and Draco found himself leaning forwards, ready to pounce on the vulnerability. Then Primrose's lips thinned. "It made it worse that you weren't conscious of it.
"But yes, you're arrogant. And you assume that everyone should agree with you because you can kill things. There are other talents that are needed more." She looked pointedly at the strips of meat she still held before she stuffed them into the pouch hanging from her shoulder and moved away.
"I didn't try to drive you off," Draco said. His voice was not loud, but she paused and looked back at him.
"You weren't welcoming," she said. "And your arrogance is an overwhelming presence all its own." Her eyes flickered to Potter. "You should try to restrain him. As it is, the others are muttering behind your back about what you allow him to get away with."
Potter grimaced and shook his head. Draco didn't know what he would have said, because he was pressing ahead, and it was time that Primrose saw him as rational, if she didn't. "I never spoke a single word to you."
"You're unaware of the way that expressions show up on your face." Primrose glanced down as Draco's claws twitched and the heads of several small grass blades fell off. Potter picked them up with wind, probably because they contained the sweet seeds, and Draco wished he could be less practical for once and focus on what was in front of him, and Potter snapped back that Draco was doing a great job of being that short-sighted. "You think that because the two of you have the visible magic, you're the only two that are worth anything. And the others notice that. Someday, you could find yourself cast out the way I am."
"No one's casting you out," Potter said, in a voice as soft as a breath. "I'm sorry, Hetty, but you're the one who's choosing to turn your back on the people who give you the greatest chance to survive."
Primrose's eyes flickered back to Potter again. "From your perspective, I'm sure it looks that way. But I meant what I said, Potter. You tried to avenge me, you tried to welcome me in your own strange way, and you cared enough to come after me when you realized the bird had hatched out. Something no one else thought about, not even Molly."
"I was the one who told him to check on you," Draco said.
Primrose shook her head at him. Her words still went towards Potter. "But you find yourself encumbered by a schoolboy, someone who's too caught up in his pride over a shiny new toy to realize he's alienating others. And the same thing could happen to you, or so your friends fear. You have that magic, too, and this bond with him. Are they shiny enough to distract you? That's what Molly is afraid of."
Potter bowed his head. "I didn't realize," he whispered. "I thought, because I told them that their suspicions hurt me—that they had realized what they were saying. But of course some of it's just gone underground, and that doesn't do much to heal their fear of me."
Primrose nodded. "Exactly."
You aren't responsible for how they feel about you, Draco flung in Potter's direction, or words to that effect, but less polished and sophisticated than he wanted to make them. You aren't. We discussed this. You won't let them make you give me up. You won't.
Potter turned around. He might have dismissed Primrose from his presence entirely, which made Draco ache with pleasure, but his jaw was clenched, and the look he directed at Draco far from yielding.
We're together. I'm yours. That's not in dispute. Potter's thoughts gleamed and traveled fast, like his winds, like Draco's claws. I'll never let you go. I won't leave your side.
But we have to do more than that if we're going to live among the Weasleys. And despite your fantasies, Primrose is right. We can't survive on our own. That means pulling together and getting along with the Weasleys. I'll do more of that than you will. But remember what you said to me about not using my wand anymore, about relying too much on my wind?
Draco jerked his head down in a sharp nod. He hated that Potter had suddenly remembered and brought that up now. Of all the times for him to listen to Draco…
We're relying too much on each other. We're forgetting. Hermione is the one who assured that we had something to eat here besides bird meat. Fleur calmed Bill. Angelina is our Healer. Ginny is the one in charge of the bird now, and Percy spoke up for us, and Charlie got the others to calm down long enough for the egg to hatch. All things we couldn't have done or won't learn as long as we're this caught up in each other.
Then you do want to walk away from me. It was the only thing Draco could say, and the only thing he could think, and he was stunned and upset to feel the pain that thought caused him, as though he was a tree struck by lightning.
Potter surged over to stand in front of him. Primrose was backing up step by step. Draco wanted to cut her, but Potter was more important, and he leaned forwards, silent, challenging, waiting.
I don't want to walk away from you. Potter cut the words into the air between them, into the connection between their minds, with sharp chisels. I can't. I just said that. But we have to start working with the others, too. Paying attention to them. Learning how to use this bond to the advantage of all in the camp, not just ourselves.
Draco paused. Put like that, he couldn't find much fault with Potter's plan. But it also meant he wouldn't have what he wanted: Potter's full attention, the constant sweet yielding, the ability to fuck him wherever and whenever he wanted. Not if Potter was going to split his focus and spend some of it convincing the Weasleys that they were still their allies.
Potter rolled his eyes. We have to do that, or be driven out. And I'll have to find some way to do it without automatically taking over leadership, which is my first resort in any situation. You can help me with that. Help me use my wand to cast spells, and pull me back when I get too stubborn, and help me focus on you when I would spend too much time answering questions and doing things that they can easily do for themselves.
Draco watched him quietly. It—perhaps was true, then, that Potter didn't intend to abandon him.
I said that and said that—
Draco touched Potter's wrists, first the right and then the left, because he thought that might make him shut up, and shook his head. "I have to judge by your actions more than your words," he murmured. "And now I'm convinced. Although not that it will be as much fun as what we had before it."
Potter shrugged, as if to say that he couldn't care about that, and then turned towards Primrose again. "You won't stay?" he asked.
Draco didn't know why they needed her to. She had done what she was called here to do, undoubtedly, telling them the truth about the bird and teaching him and Potter to act as a hunting team, and then confronting him with a perspective that had convinced Draco to act with Potter as a team in other areas, too. What more did they need her for?
Potter glared at him. Draco shrugged and fired back at him, I'll try to work better with the others, but I'll always be different from you. I don't see as much inherent worth in them as you do, that's all.
Potter was still finding his tongue when Primrose said, "I can't. I have other things to do, other places to go."
Draco turned around to ask where she was aiming now that all the people she had come to Hurricane with were gone, but her eyes were bright and she trembled like a hawk poised for flight on someone's glove. Draco blinked and shut up. He reckoned he would have to respect her after all.
She's on the journey that I wish Potter and I could have taken. She can leave and go anywhere she wants, and no one will stop her.
Draco licked the salty bitterness from his lips and watched her. Perhaps it was stupid to envy her, after all, when she would go without a companion and her determination that she would survive was more than likely just delusion.
"I'll find something to do," Primrose repeated, in a lower voice that made Draco's bones buzz. "I've left you with the secret of the rabbit-creatures and how I prepared the meat. That's as valuable a contribution as you could ask me to make."
"Yes," Potter said, smiling at her.
But mentally, he added to Draco, And she might have woken us up and got us to realize the way our bond looks from the outside without a sacrifice heavier than we wanted to bear. You wouldn't have accepted those words coming from any Weasley.
Draco started to snap back, but Potter reached out and rested a hand on his wrist, and through the bond flowed and flowered a gladness that made Draco keep still.
They watched together as Primrose turned and vanished into the grass.
Harry sighed and closed his eyes. The weight and thought of work was already bearing down on him.
Things weren't settled with the Weasleys, after all. They would no longer openly poke him about Draco, but holes might open in the ranks if they didn't settle things quickly. Harry hadn't realized that his lavishing attention on Draco would be so resented by them. Or, at least, it would be resented if he kept on doing it the way he had been, with no attention to spare for anyone else and indulging all Draco's whims.
"You aren't responsible for the way they feel."
"I am when it's my actions causing it," Harry retorted, and found, as he opened his eyes, that he was smiling.
What had he come to Hurricane for, if not to work? To struggle. To make a new life. To raise Teddy, too, and keep him safe from the Ministry, and escape from the corrupt wizarding world, but he had known working would be a part of it.
"You called me Draco. In your head."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Yes, and aloud, earlier, even. This is the way things will be from now on, I think. Struggling and bouncing back and forth. Finding a place in a new world and thinking it's the last, permanent one, and then learning something new." He looked down at the small warren whose existence Primrose had revealed to them. "At least we have some animals that we can hunt, it sounds like. We won't become allies with them even if they are sentient, and I think one of them would have tried to punish Primrose if they were."
Draco tightened his hand silently on Harry's wrist and started to say something, but at that moment, the grass trembled in front of them and the mummidade came out.
Two by two they came, the ones who had made up Hornlock and Grassgifted and others that they hadn't seen before, mummid with brown eyes and blue, amber and green. They locked their hooves in place in front of them and stood there, watching, and Harry felt a vast consciousness that was that of the herd, from the number of images of spinning bodies twisting under the claws of birds that they flung at him.
Their name could be Flight, and they wanted to know why there was a bird in the camp.
Harry lifted his head proudly. He would explain this. He would do it without trying to make excuses or put himself in a place of leadership from which he couldn't be questioned, his two great temptations. And he would go forwards into the future with the same attitude, because there was so much to be done, on Hurricane.
"You'll do it without thinking of yourself as alone, either," Draco whispered into his ear, and stepped forwards at his side.
Harry turned towards him, pulled him into a brief, hard embrace, and faced Flight, ready to explain.
Draco was quiet at his side, for a few moments, but not for long, and it was their combined voices that spoke together.
The sequel to this story should start posting within a week.